Tag Archives | cover design

Illustrating: How To Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings.

Meet Ernie D’elia, illustrator for How To Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings. He received a degree in illustration from the American Academy of Art in Chicago and currently lives in Massachusetts.

I invited Ernie to talk a little bit about the thought process behind designing the cover. I had the privilege of meeting him last spring at New England SCBWI. Of course, at the time I didn’t realize he’d be my illustrator.

I absolutely love that Pugalicious Press chose an upcoming talented artist from New England to design the cover. His artwork is incredible. Now, here’s Ernie.


“How do you feel about Mayans?”

That’s what Jennifer Carson from Pugalicious Press asked me.

“I love Mayans!”

I said, and in a few short days I had the manuscript for “How to Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings” in my hands.

When I finished reading it I started sketching some loose ideas. A couple of the earlier sketches had some drama, but lacked an overall vision. As I worked I realized the feel of the book, to me, was very cinematic, so I decided the cover should have an adventure-movie poster feel. Once I decided on the movie poster approach, it all fell into place.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the elements:

First, everybody knows that every good adventure-movie poster has the villain looming menacingly in the background somewhere, so the “Crazy King” had to loom, and he had to be menacing. Head down, scowling, and about to pounce, his body language doesn’t say happy and friendly. I thought the jaguar headpiece from the story would be a great way to add to his ferocity.

 Second, to establish a setting I placed the Mayan temples below the “Crazy King”. Now there was no mistake: he was a crazy Mayan king.

Third, the necklace gives us the “Ancient Spell” part. It was also an important piece of the story, linking our modern day heroes to this ancient setting. In the painting it loops around them, pulling them into this world.


Lastly, I placed the main characters, Bianca and Melvin, right in the middle of it all, surrounded by the dangerous villain and the mysterious glowing green jade necklace. But do they look scared? No. They’re confident, determined, and daring!

There are an additional six black and white illustrations at key points inside, but to see those you’ll have to wait till the book comes out.

From creepy to scary to joyous, “How to Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings” is a great adventure, and I loved doing the artwork for it. Thanks to Laura for writing such a thrilling adventure, and thanks to Pugalicious Press for asking me how I felt about Mayans.


Pugalicious Press sent me the sketches and I chose the one that appealed to me the most. So the following sketch…


…turned into the cover!

Thanks Ernie! I love the cover! I also love the black and whites that will grace the inside print copies. They’ll be fantastic! Can’t wait for everyone to see them.

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Book buzz, cover design, and a confession.

Looking back on my past year of reading, I’ve come to some decisions.

I will no longer buy a book based on book buzz and cover design. This will be hard. But I will wait.

Too many times this year I just had to, I mean just had to read certain books. The premise interested me. The book had a rockin’ cover. The kind you want to hold next to you and stroke the pretty picture on and off during the day. And the book got major buzz. Call me a sucker.

Okay, sometimes this paid off. Most recently I bought these three books for the previously mentioned reasons and it paid off. I loved them!

Sadly, there were several books I purchased for previously mentioned reasons and they disappointed. I shoulda waited. I shoulda read the reviews because it turns out I wasn’t the only one who had certain issues with them. I shoulda gone with my gut when I read the first page and didn’t get that confirmation of insta-love.

That’s not to say these books were badly written or weren’t entertaining. I finished them.

On the other hand, I will be willing to try books that have a terrible cover. As in at least read the first chapter, especially if it’s at my library!

Because I almost missed out on this incredible book.

(Seriously? Is that the best cover they could come up with?)

And, okay, here’s my confession. I’ve had this one arc for a few months. I didn’t even read the first page because the cover was so unappealing and I didn’t get the title at all. When I finally opened it, I didn’t make it past the first page. It wasn’t the book. It was me. It’s the kind of book I need to give more than a page. But sometimes I end up loving those kinds of books.

Can you guess which book I’ve shrugged off for months?

Yeah, that’s right. I feel like such a schmuck.

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