When I first began uploading stories to Smashwords, they had to be accompanied by a “cover”, which was basically an illustration from the story, plus normal title page material.
I was only too happy to oblige, since one of my hobbies was fooling around with (the equivalent of) Photoshop. For the people in the images, I went to a website that had royalty-free images; that is, photographs of almost everything under the sun, which customers could buy, but not have to pay something to the people in the photos on a per-commercial-use basis. It was using this resource that I made up practically all my covers.
Eventually, though, I thought the stories deserved truly original covers, and for that purpose I joined a website called DeviantArt, whose purpose was to showcase the artwork of artists, and also, connect artists with those who needed artwork.
Members of DeviantArt were considered primarily artists, though a large proportion of them are, like me, more art afficionados than artists. To my excitement, I found that there was actually a genre of artwork based on modification of photographs! So now I could upload the best covers that I had created by photo-modification, while I looked for an artist to create original covers for me!
The old covers were duly uploaded, and I set out to look for suitable artists to commission new covers. I found two of them: Sreya Halder, whose professional name is HALCHROMA, and Lisa M. Schwartz. Schwartz's style was what is called ‘comic style’; the pictures are the type of illustration with a black outline, colored in with minimal or no shading. In contrast, Halchroma supplies actual paintings, in the style of oils on canvas. (It isn’t really oil on canvas; she uses electronic painting equipment.)
If you’ve been following this blog, you know that HALCHROMA has painted several artworks for me, starting with one just of Helen, then one of Helen and Sharon, then one of Helen and Lalitha, and most recently Helen at Westfield.
Helen and Lalitha was partly super successful, and partly a minor disappointment. Why super-successful? Because her depiction of Lalitha was completely on the money! Why a minor disappointment? Because her depiction of the 30-year-old Helen, while it looked plausible, had minor features that weren’t quite right, but I am quite unable to pinpoint what those features are. (If I did tell HALCHROMA what they are, she would fix them in a flash!)
But, to my amazement, the old cover for that book, which is now of mostly historical value, is collecting lots of admiration on DeviantArt! Not a day goes by but I get a notification that so-and-so has given a star to Helen and Lalitha, meaning the old cover.
If you look at the cover (shown above) closely, you will see that the photograph has been textured in two ways. Firstly, I have overlaid a pattern of curves on their faces that follow the contours of their faces. This was a favorite technique of mine, which, unfortunately, I cannot do any longer, because my software does not run on modern computers. (The company was bought out by a competitor.) Secondly, I overlaid an allover floral pattern on the sarees. The two processes, together, gave the images an enormous amount of texture, which is at least partially the reason for all the love this cover is getting.
There’s not a lot more to say. I recently re-read Helen and Lalitha, and I was once again struck with how well I had written a large part of it; in fact almost all of it, except for the chapters that dealt with what happened between when Helen left California, and arrived in Philadelphia. This is all despite tons and tons of editing, in which I ripped out vast quantities of text which I had considered too self-indulgent, and bordering on pornographic. Now, seventeen years after I wrote the original story, I can’t even write that sort of prose; I have grown too old for it.
I hope everyone is distancing successfully! So far, so good. Friends and relatives of mine, unfortunately, are in circumstances not conducive to avoiding infection. So, those of you who live in relatively low-infection parts of the world: be grateful. And help your circumstances along by wearing a mask when you go out in public. It does three things: it filters out bacteria—and viruses—from your breath when you breathe out; it filters viruses coming into your lungs, if someone in your vicinity happens to be infected; and finally, it encourages other people around you who are wearing masks, or are thinking of wearing masks.