(Art) Cover Madness!

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The latest cover designs for my forthcoming occult mystery, FEAST OF SHADOWS. Covers are not for fans but for those unfamiliar with the book, so hopefully this is intriguing.

The book is split into two parts, which is not a function of verbosity but of the story’s unique qualities. It is actually five mysteries, five short (pulp-length) novels, each with a separate narrator, where the POV character is never the main character.

The main character appears in each story and plays a key role in the development and solution of the mystery, and in that way he functions as the detective.

I wanted to tell a mystery from the point of view of a “secondary” character, someone affected by the crime — a family member or friend of the victim — rather than from the point of view of the detective, which is how almost all mysteries are told.

That presented some interesting challenges. Secondary characters in a standard mystery are basically passive. They appear, like NPCs in a video game, at just the right time to give the detective vital clues.

This is because the standard rules of narrative storytelling dictate that, even if there are shifts in POV, there is one character (sometimes two, very occasionally three or more) who “stitches it all together” for the reader.

This is not a bad thing. Reading is supposed to be fun. In my experience, odd narrative constructions, no matter how clever, are usually more of a hindrance to the story than a benefit.

Thus, in most mysteries, the people affected by the murder basically sit around waiting for the police or profiler or P.I. to do their job.

If those folks are active in any way, one of two things will happen: they will be a hindrance to the detective, someone whose wild and undisciplined actions jeopardize the investigation; or they will join the detective as an assistant. In either case, a single narrative thread is maintained.

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Such a contrivance is “anti-real” in that it almost never happens that way in real life, where a murder investigation will be handled by many people and the person who, say, gets the confession might be a lawyer or law enforcement officer who had nothing at all to do with the initial gathering of evidence.

In breaking that single narrative thread, I was not simply trying to be tricksy.

The occult and mystery genres go well together. Like two wind instruments in the same register, which can be played at the same time, they’re both about the sinister movement of unseen powers.

It serves an occult mystery, then, if in the process of following the trials and resolution of one character’s eerie crisis, the audience gets glimpses of deeper movements still, of the battle between the main character, a shamanic sorcerer, and his unseen adversary — with dire consequences for those caught between.

As you might expect, as an independent creator, I’m a bit obsessed with what others are doing, including the big guys. Here are some of the covers I have collected.