Friday, May 6, 2016

A jacket for 'Billy Gibbs'

Now that I am faced with self-publishing the next Steve Martinez mystery, The Riddle of Billy Gibbs, I have been thinking about a cover for the print-on-demand paperback as well as the e-book.

To illustrate the theme of race and murder on the shore of Lake Superior, I needed a good hanging tree. Hanging trees with simple, even plain, backgrounds are hard to come by. Most are to be found in the deep woods.

But there's one just a few miles west of our cabin on Lake Superior, a maple right on the beach that possesses a sturdy hanging limb. At this time of year in the Upper Peninsula, the trees haven't yet leafed out, so there could be a nice branchy silhouette in that maple.

So I drove out last night with the Pentax and captured several angles of that tree. Under it a young couple sat spooning, and there was also a barbecue kettle in the middle of the shot.

It wasn't difficult to get rid of the people and the grill with a little work with the Photoshop Elements clone tool. Then I applied the text, using the Stencil font to suggest the military subtheme in the novel.

Finally I attached an illustration of a hangman's noose found on the Internet and altered heavily beyond copyright worries. Reducing the noose to a proper size took a little research into the depths of Elements.

I'd thought whatever I came up with would be quick-and-dirty, something to tweak over the next few months before Billy Gibbs is published as an Amazon CreateSpace softcover in January.

But maybe it's good enough to stand as is.


  1. Looks good! Nice misty mysterious background. From what little we know about the story, I think this works.

  2. I like it, for the most part, but I have a serious concern. If a knowledgeable person were doing a hanging, they would know a certain amount of foot-pounds of torque is required to dispatch the hanged humanely. I have no idea about the circumstances in your book, but if an average american male of 180 pounds were hanged from that tree, the proper distance would be greater and the limb in the photo would likely snap like a twig after "the long drop and sudden stop." Details like this may elude the average reader. My best advice, make the loop 3x smaller than the above. Since there's nothing in the photo to suggest a scale, the loop's size will shrink or grow your tree.

  3. Steve, you must have been a hangman in a previous life! I will take your professional advice under advisement. Your solution would be easy.