Red Ned Tudor Mysteries

Thursday, December 30, 2010

At last, the Most Glorious Cover!!

A Cover! A Cover! My Kingdom for a Cover!
Part 3

Good day my well regarded viewers, I hope this missive finds you all in excellent health, now in the midst of the twelve day yuletide festival! I hope that the huge Christmas Day feast has left you satisfied and replete. Rather than as some of my patients who were in urgent need of a purgative to cure from the pain of excessive indulgence? I know it almost did me in and our Christmas repast erred on the lighter side of dinning. If not for the swift recourse to my handy medicinal cabinet and a cinnamon and ginger hippocras. I too would have succumbed to a groaning stomach. I cannot recommend it highly enough a wonderfully efficacious restorative! I have included a simple recipe from the popular The Booke of Kervinge and Sewing (London: 1508) Tudor period tome on housekeeping.

Take ginger, pepper, graines, canell, sinamon, sugar and tornsole, than looke ye have five or sixe bags for your ipocras to run in, and a pearch that your renners may ren on, than must ye have sixe peuter basins to stand under your bags, than look your spice be ready, and your ginger well pared or if it be beaten to pouder, than looke your stalkes of sinamon be well coloured and sweete: canell is not so gentle in operation, sinamon, is hotte and dry, graines of paradice be hot and moist, ginger, grains, long pepper ben hot and moist, sinamon, canell and redde wine colouring.

Now knowe yee the proportions of your ipocras, than beate your pouders, eache by them selfe, and put them in bladders and hange your bagges sure that no bagge tough other, but let each basinge touch other, let the first basin be of a gallon, and each of the other a pottell, than put in your basin a gallon of red Wine, put these to your pouders, and stire them well, than put them into the firste bage, and let it ren, than put them in the second bagge, than take a peece in your hand and assay if it be stronge of Ginger, and alay it with sinamon, and if it be strong of sinamon, alay it with sugar, and look ye let it ren through sixe renners, and your ipocras into a close Vessel and keep the receit, for it will serve for sewers, than serve your souvraign with wafers and ipocras.


Book Covers ... Our road to artistry?
The background
distilling the true essence
Now after the slightly alcoholic digression back to the burning matter of the day, Book Covers! As I have mentioned in the last two blog articles we did an extensive search for Tudor period fiction book covers for inspiration. The results were not impressive except for a small handful of designs. I have received a few comments and criticisms regarding the last two articles (thank you my well regarded readers) and have taken their suggestions on board. (and we didn’t make any of them walk the plank!)
So I submitted the results to the design team and we spent several days going over the options. The cover had to fulfil six essential criteria:
1. Fit the Tudor Period
2. Identify the story as fiction
3. Be attractive as a design
4. Look professional
5. Get the attention of browsers
6. Not look like a headless bimbo

When broken down into simple components the whole enormous task looks easier, well it did to me. Though I must admit to starting out with a distinct advantage; several years of design experience, so that I understood the elements of the process which I will outline step by step

Step the First

Review the research;
Okay the easiest part is cancel out the losers; the horde from headless bimbodom get axed!  Now I must
admit to being picky so as a committee
(Jocelyn the Uber editor and Alexander the artist extraordinaire ) we sat down and went through the remaining hundred odd images. We cancelled out strictly historical option like portraits since we felt they referred too specifically to individual Tudor characters. In the end the winners were representational or composition covers such as those for Sacred Treason and CJ Sansom’s novels. Overall the committee felt they looked very impressive and pretty speccy. So those were to serve as the basis for our design.

Step the Second

What elements to use?
The story background
The basis of the Cardinal’s Angels (without giving the whole story away) is the trials and tribulations of apprentice lawyer and sometime rogue Red Ned Bedwell and his pursuit of golden angels. The Angels in question in part refer to one of the gold coins of the realm of Henry VIII stamped with the figure of St Michael on one face. In his efforts to secure a convenient fortune Ned stumbles across murder, possible heresy, threatened betrayal and potential treason. All this mayhem and strife because of a set of letters and a secret consignment of gold. Now Ned could listen to the alluring whisper of the angels as his daemon counsels or heed the urging of his better angel to follow the path of honour and friendship. For a Tudor lad on the make it’s a difficult choice and either one could led to a lingering death on the scaffold.

Step the Third

The Design components

With all the above and more now being slotted into the design brief, the ‘committee’ set to work. As per the decision in stage one ,we’d use a version of the composition style of cover, including simple and readily identified elements from the story. That was the easiest decision. Afterwards we engaged in as they say robust debate and discussion. The next victim for the block was, the use of any Tudor figures in costume. In the first draft I suggested a dagger since it’s in the murder and other sections of the story. The committee voted otherwise. Thud! It was chopped. I then sensibly pushed for the inclusion of a leather satchel since it was a key item in the story progress. Ah no, a quick walk to the scaffold and it was all over, once more the committee in their collective wisdom crushed the suggestion cruelly underfoot. Finally we were left with four main style elements; falling coins, A Tudor Rose seal, the incriminating letter and the title in Tudor period text. At that point I yielded to the powers of reason and democracy as well as the salient fact that the too much detail would be lost in a thumbnail image.
Though I can claim one victory, all the covers will have a background based on that of a Tudor period fabric or painting.

Step the Fourth

Bringing it together
Thus we arrive at the individual components for a cracking good cover, once more I skimmed through the Internet searching out examples and came across the following

The Fishpool Hoard
A collection of twelve hundred odd gold coins buried during the abortive rebellion against the Yorkist King Edward IV in 1464.
To bring the coins up to date I found an image of a gold angel of Henry VIII. I chose the yellower colour to indicate an earlier coin of pre debasing vintage, since the later ones had a redder tinge from the copper alloy. Our talented and obliging artist Alexander quickly rendered the face with the figure of St Michael (thus the reason why they’re called angels) into a sketch and the design was away.

The next item on the list was the letter, more valuable and dangerous than gold. The committee wanted three messages in this part of the cover, the first was its official nature thus the red seal. Originally we thought a facsimile of the Lord Chancellor’s seal would do the trick, however it proved to be rather obscure and didn’t scream Tudor power to modern eyes so we went for the traditional Tudor Rose. As you can see it was similar to the concept in Sacred Treason, though this one is broken symbolising (we hope) the breach of royal trust by Cardinal Wolsey and Ned’s daring an act of treason to escape the noose. It also has a bloodstained tear caused by a dagger thrust slashing through the latin script, once more the implied message of murder and official treason. As a basis for this image we looked at some of Holbein’s paintings and found the mother lode.
Letters from Holbeins Gisze painting

For the upside down latin script that you can see on the outside of the letter, we sourced a very famous piece of Tudor writing as an example of lettering style to copy. Princess Elizabeth’s ‘Tide Letter’, which she wrote out supposedly on a Thames wharf while waiting to be conveyed to the Tower. It was addressed to her sister Queen Mary pleading her innocence and begging not to be arrested for treason. Some historians believe this delay saved Elizabeth’s life, since Mary began to reconsider the hasty action as Elizabeth’s supporters petitioned for mercy.

Thus began the refining process to turn our ideas into a similar rain of golden coins.
The title is simple, Alexander used a Tudor font and imported it into Photoshop then embossed it used a matching parchment colour and finally added shadows.
For the author’s name (mine of course) we chose a more subdued Garamond font and a smaller text size that I hope portrays dignity, modesty and style.  As well as placing it at the bottom of the image to balance out the title and frame the cover. I assume it will maintain that position until I reach Clive Cussler levels of fame, then straight to the top!

To give depth to the background once more we looked to Holbein and reworked a section of the backing curtain from the Ambassadors as you can see it brings the script, letter and coins forward in space.

The second last version
On reflection it needed a little extra to make the title stand out so Alexander added more shadows to give some extra depth and not have the pile of coins suspended in space.  So far this is the final version any suggestions of comments please let us know

The final version!
Before NYE we should also be able to attach a YouTube film and voice over of the entire process.

The finished novel will be available from Smashwords early in the new year, soon to be followed by book two the Queen’s Oranges a tale involving murder, smuggling, heresy, oranges and gunpowder.

Just search for the Cardinal’s Angels and download the sample chapters.

As the good doctor says keep taking the pills!

And Happy Waeshael and keep safe for New Year’s Eve!!!
Post Additions
In response to suggestion from my loyal and extremely intelligent fans the design committee has burnt the midnight oil and slaved away at two more versions of the cover
The first has an addition of a cardinal's red cloth background sourced from Wolsey's portrait behind the book title. Then some gradient fading down the bottom beind the author name to obscure the base of the green curtain fabric.  the coins have also gained more of a shimmer as they fall and reflect the light.  I'm afraid the that the light gold colour has to stay to reflect the pure rather then redder debased coins.

After further reflection the design committee felt that the tudor text was too heavy for the title as well as difficult to read in thmubnail. So we swapped it with a clearer medieval text and thus have this the latest and who knows maybe the last version.

Let us know what you think?


  1. Maybe it's the colour, but the coins are reminiscent to me of dried bananas.


  2. The cover doesn't work for me. I would not pick up the book based on the cover design alone. It's too muddy and doesn't convey a simple message, IMO. I would play with only one element and maximize it against the Tudor fabric background. You might also want to consider a red fabric to play off the title for both Cardinal and for the MC. Then maybe use a really large image of one side of the angel (I prefer the side on the left of the coin image).

    Well, that's my 2¢, hope it's helpful.

  3. thanks to both Glenda and Joansz we've take those suggestion on board and will post an reworked cover soon.

  4. I think the title needs to be a little bigger re text. Stand out more.