Actually, I only want you to pick one of two (now three) choices. Easy, right?
A couple of months ago, I mentioned I’m trying a new type of promotion for my work–giveaway short stories. I have two in print: “Spymaster” and “Blood Cover.” Using canva.com, I came up with great covers for them, which I’ll share in an upcoming post. I have a third story about ready for printing, and this cover is proving to be a challenge. That might be because of the subject matter.
Writing from Current Events
I characterize myself as an “historical/political thriller” writer, meaning my works use history and current events as a basis for the fictional story. With these giveaway stories, I’m practically in present day, i.e., they have been prompted by news items I’ve seen this summer.
For example, “Spymaster” is based on a series of real events where American diplomats in Europe and Moscow have been harassed allegedly by the Russian security services (think, the old KGB). “Blood Cover” is about the perils of living in a theocracy with harsh methods of punishment.
The next giveaway short story to come out is called “Best Served Cold,” and it involves something that invokes either sympathy or ire, the Black Lives Matter movement.
Cultural appropriation aside, I write stories essentially where the characters tell me to write them. Sometimes those characters look or are completely unlike me. I believe a straight person can write about gay issues, a black person can write white characters and vice versa, that cisgender writers can write trans characters, etc. However, it is incumbent upon us to be authentic to all our characters and not to devolve into stereotypes.
I had a painful experience a couple of years ago where a contest-winning story was pulled from publication because I, as a western white woman, had dared to write a story wherein the protagonist was an aboriginal man from Australia. I had carefully and thoroughly researched as I wrote, and that aboriginal man “dictated” his story to me. Someone complained I wasn’t following Australian cultural guidelines, and the publication’s editor caved to a single person’s criticism and removed my story. (Joke’s on them. That story was later published in an anthology.)
All that being said, I was skeptical of my ability to write a story about the murder of a black man without offending anyone. But, sometimes writers have to offend. I did my research, I drew on distasteful things I’ve witnessed in my life, things that have made me angry but which I, as a white person, thought it best to be silent about.
That’s the thing. Silence is tacit acceptance of injustice. So, I wrote the story, “Best Served Cold,” and I took measures to make certain it was authentic.
“Best Served Cold” Back Cover Copy
To help in your choice–coming up in a bit–here’s the back cover copy for “Best Served Cold” to give you an idea what it’s all about:
Nathan Hempstead has long been the United Nations Intelligence Directorate’s cyber-guru. A hack, a tracking app, anti-eavesdropping tech, you name it, he can do it. For nearly four decades he’s worked in an environment that not only honored his genius but also kept him free of bias and racism and let him indulge in his favorite pop-culture fandom, Star Trek.
A critical Directorate mission fails because a dictator’s access to social media didn’t get blocked as planned. In fact, Nathan didn’t bother to show up to monitor the operation. The Directorate’s operational head, Mai Fisher, wants answers, not only for why the mission failed but why a critical employee, and a friend, let her down.
In his office Mai finds Nathan, seething with anger he directs at Mai, but when she presses him for what’s wrong, he has a cardiac emergency.
In hospital Nathan tells Mai about a son he thought no one else knew about and how that son had become another statistic in a deadly standoff between law enforcement and black men.
Mai knows how to get revenge; she’s done it before. Nathan, however, doesn’t want her help. He already has a plan, and it involves the most unlikely ally in the world.
Nathan teaches Mai the subtlety of an old Klingon proverb: “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” She comes to understand, as well, that black lives do matter.
“Best Served Cold” Cover Possibility 1
Let me give you some background on why I picked this as a possibility. I liked the sense of movement, the blurred background, the indistinct human figures. I could write a dissertation on why, but that’s not the point.
The “BLACKLIVESMATTER” overlay is supposed to be graffiti-like, but I’m not one hundred percent happy with how it turned out.
I’ve used blue on the title and my byline to imply cold. I didn’t really want a cover which implied warmth, given the subject matter and the allusion to that famous Klingon proverb.
What I like about it is its modernity and mostly, the movement aspect. That appeals to me for some reason.
What do you think?
“Best Served Cold” Cover Possibility 2
This possibility has a number of things going for it. It’s bright and stark.
There’s a scene in the book where someone likens the flow of blood over asphalt to how the ocean flows over sand, and I thought this implied that.
The red on the cover isn’t quite blood red, and, unfortunately, it’s something I can’t change.
The warmth of the cover color contrasts with the title. You don’t look at this and feel cold.
However, the meaning of the “best served cold” proverb is that you’ll enjoy your revenge if you let some time pass, i.e., that the person won’t know what hit them when revenge comes. It’s not a cooling down period; it’s to make the revenge “hotter.”
What do you think?
New! “Best Served Cold” Cover Possibility #3
It’s great when you have friends who are real graphic designers, unlike moi, who is a hopeless wannabe. Thanks to Becky Muth, here’s a third possibility you can vote for:
Since computers and hacking figure in the story, this may be the ideal cover for this story.
It’s stark, like the story, has a bit of an air of mystery about it, and ties in more obviously than cover possibility #2 (or #1).
I have a new favorite. What about you?
You Pick the Cover
In the comments below, tell me which cover you like and why. Here’s why you should vote: I’ll pick a winner at random from the commenters and send you a copy of the three giveaway short stories when they’re all in print.
What do you have to lose? You get to express an opinion and have a chance to win free stuff!
I look forward to reading your comments.