Saturday, February 09, 2013

Bad Book Covers

I read a blog about bad book covers this morning and it occurred to me that I had a "Can  you top this" story for historical inaccuracy. The above is the cover of the 1994 edition of my historical novel, Libbie, based onb the life of Elizabeth Bacon Custer, wife of George Armstrong Custer. As a book designer friend of mine commented, Libbie looks like Madonna in nineteenth-century garb. She's stand knee deep in the grassy plains of Kansas; in the background is the bare, red earth of Arizona. Libbie stands next to a barbed wire fence--barbed wire was first introduced at the Menger Hotel in 1884, and Custer died in 1886. There is no way the plains of Kansas were fenced when Libbie wass there. And finally, there's the fort--a stockade, such as they built a century earlier in the East to fight off Mohicans and other eastern Native Americans. there was not enough wood in the American West to build such a sturdy stockade. In the book, Libbie makes a big point of being surprised that forts of the West had no fences nor barricades. They consisted of clusters of buildings set close together on the prairie or wherever. It is, as another friend said, "the ubiquitous West" with all the western symbols the artist could think of thrown in. I do have to say this book sold more than any other I've ever written, which says something about the lure of romance and the dimissal of history by most readers.
Today, Libbie has a much more appropriate cover, if not as eye-catching. It is available through ePubWorks on a variety of digital platforms. The costume is much more like waht Libbie would have worn--she sewed fishing weights in the hem of skirts to keep the prairie wind from blowing them up around her. And there are lots of pictures of Libbie living out of a tent.
She's a favorite of mine for what she put up with in that wild and crazy husband, and I'm glad to see her story available again.
Let me hasten to add that I love the covers on the Kelly O'Connell Mysteries that Turquoise Morning Press has done for me, and I'm expecting compliments on the cover to Murder at the Blue Plate Cafe when it appears next week.

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