DEADLY BINDINGS: Kales and Barratt


The Art Of The Mystery Cover

Book covers are something that, in my opinion, taken for granted and really used and abused. Why on earth would I say such a thing? Don’t we love our covers? We as readers rely heavily on them, yes. Browsing shelves full of books can be overwhelming when looking for the next great thing to read. If the book’s cover isn’t great I don’t even give the book a second glance unless I know that the author if really good. Then what? We read the book and the cover isn’t given a second thought.

Do you ever look inside the cover to see who designed it? You my fine feathered friend are going to learn about these unsung and in your face but often not spoken of heroes of the book world; the cover artists.

In my new series, Deadly Bindings, I will be introducing you to these amazing artists and gabbing with the authors you know and love about working with the individuals who put a face to their books.

Jenny Kales-Author-A Callie’s Kitchen MysterySecrets & Pies-Web

Booth Talks Books: How was Renee hired to be your cover artist?

Jenny Kales: I did a lot of research.  As an indie author, I had control over who my artist would be, but I also had to make sure the person was a great fit. Renee was without a doubt the most responsive and professional. I felt that her covers were varied and beautiful and would fit my book series really well.

BTB: Do you have a favorite cover produced by her?

JK: I can’t choose — I love all the covers that she created for me — the latest one is stunning. I love the house and the pies (especially the dripping pie).

BTB: From the author’s point of view, tell me the process of getting a cover made.

JK:I provide a detailed synopsis of my book. I also am asked to provide themes, setting, time of year, anything that will make an impact on the cover. For each book, I fill out a very detailed questionnaire and I think that really helps both of us know what the cover should look like. For example, I want my covers to convey “cozy mystery” but I also want them to be beautiful and inviting. I feel like Renee really achieves that. Initially I was asked if the book was part of a series, and as you can see, Renee created that wonderful blue and white awning to represent Callie’s Kitchen.

Vintage silverware

BTB: Do the covers ever influence the writing or vice versa?

JK: Once I have a title I start thinking about the cover. The book comes first and then the cover. That said, I think that each cover in my series tells a “story” of its own and that is really exciting to see.

BTB: How important do you think a cover is to a reader to is browsing books but may not know your work?  Talk to that a bit.

JK: It’s extremely important. Readers get a first impression of a book when they see a cover. I feel my specific voice is definitely conveyed by these covers. I’ve heard from readers several times that my cover was what initially attracted them to the books, which is a great compliment to Renee. Covers are a part of the whole package. A professional-looking and engaging cover gives readers a good feeling about your book and makes them more likely to take a chance on it. With a mystery, I want the cover to give readers an idea of the story without giving everything away. I think Renee has been excellent at creating that!

Renee Barratt-Artist-The Cover Counts

BTB: How long have you been producing covers for books?

RB: I’ve been a professional graphic designer for a couple of decades (shhhhhh… don’t tell my kids. They still think I’m in my 20s!)  But I started doing book covers almost exclusively in 2010. I still do other things like graphics, brochures, marketing tools, pretty regularly, but the majority is book covers. I love it that way. Book covers are so much fun.

BTB: How long does it take to put a cover together.

RB: That really depends on the book! Some of them are a few hours. Others take days.

I’ve done some covers that have dozens of images worked in together and take multiple dozens of hours.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00073]

Once I’ve sent the initial design to the author there is sometimes a brainstorm period where we work together to figure out if there are changes they want to make and whether those will actually make it better. there is a lot of give and take in that stage of the process.

BTB: Can you describe the process of putting a cover together from the author or company getting in touch with you to the finished product?

RB: Once someone contacts me to create a book cover for them, I send them a detailed questionnaire that I’ve developed over the years that gives me a really good feel for the story line, the symbolism and the characters. I can generally work directly with that information, but occasionally I’ll want some additional clarification from the author on a few things. Then I set off on a journey through the internet, researching their genre, investigating the current best sellers, making sure I’m aware of what is selling the best, and just generally looking for inspiration related to the themes in the story. Getting to a final product generally takes a week or two from the time I begin the creative process on my end. The faster the author and I can respond to emails to each other, the faster things generally get done. 🙂

BTB: Talk about your working relationship with Jenny Kales and how you began producing covers for her.

RB: Jenny has been a gem to work with. She is always up beat and easy going, and takes a lot of well-deserved pride in her work. She has a clear idea of the visual symbolism for her stories and communicates it so fluently that the designs just seem to flow so easily. We have fun conversations, and she’s got great ideas. She contacted me when she was ready to publish her first book, and it’s been a great experience working with her as she completed each new installment in her series. I love the concepts she’s developed throughout the series, and I think the designs show that!


BTB: Do you get to read the story before you make a cover?  How does this influence the final product?

RB:In a perfect world, I would read every single one before I start designing. But there is only one of me and no matter how many books I read that are set in magical worlds, I haven’t figure out how to make an hour last any longer. 😉 The questionnaire I’ve developed is pretty detailed and usually gives me plenty of information about the story to create a great design. It’s important to me to have all of that in written form. The written questionnaire, the emails back and forth everything I can get from them in writing, all give me a feel for the author’s aesthetic. The way they use the written word to describe their stories is actually a great tool. I will sometimes be asked, or ask to read a chapter, or a scene that the author feels should be an anchor for the design and I’m happy to do so.

BTB: What is your favorite part of cover design?

RB: I love playing with images and type. A well-crafted title design is often what truly sets a design apart. And typography is one of the hardest things to master. Books and I have had a love affair since before I could walk. I love to read. I love working with authors. And I love that I get to spend my days melding two of my biggest passions together, art and books.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00074]

BTB: Do you have other artistic outlets?  Do you do art for other products or on other mediums?

RB: Performance art is my other thing. I have a degree in theatre and love to sing. I haven’t done anything “organized” with that for a long time, but I used to own a local community theatre company with some very talented, very good friends.

BTB: What do you think is the most important piece of advice for authors when they’re planning for their next book cover?
RB:Plan ahead. Start looking for your designer right now… before you’re even anywhere near being done. Find the artist, or artists whose art you are drawn to, and who you think would do the best job creating a kick-ass cover for your book. Contact them. Find out what their lead-time generally is and how much they charge. Start planning to fit that in your timetable and your budget. Most really good designers are booked out months in advance. If you wait for the last minute, you’re going to end up with the artist who is available, rather than the one who is best for your book. If you start now, you’ll know when you’ll need to get on their schedule, and if necessary. You’ll have more time to save up for the artist you really want. It kills me to have to say no to an author, because they thought they were going to publish in 2 weeks, but my next opening is in 4 months.

Thanks to Jenny Kales and Renee Barratt for their amazing information and insight. Please feel free to leave a question or a message for either or both of these creative women.

S’More Murder Please!

Smore Murder CoverIt’s National S’More day! What a better way to celebrate than to grab a cozy mystery and make some s’mores and Summer Prescott’s, “S’more Murder” is full of everything a CM should be and more.

“Carla and Echo are at it again. With the Inn constantly booked, Chas and Missy barely have enough time to say hello to each other twice a day. But it isn’t long before Carla’s would-be lover Kel teams up with Missy to solve the mystery of the mysterious victim of an accident at sea and discover the story of her past.”


S’More Cupcake


  • 12 baked chocolate cup cakes
  • 1 cup chocolate frosting
  • 12 large marshmallows
  • 12 graham crackers or graham bears
  • 1 chocolate bar broken into 12 piecessmore-cupcake-recipe-4


  1. Frost the cupcakes and set them aside.
  2. Place the marshmallows on a baking sheet and bake them in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. If needed, broil them for just a minute to get them the color you’d like, but watch them carefully!
  3. After you’ve removed the marshmallows from the oven, place one marshmallow on the top of each cupcakes. Put a Teddy Graham and a rectangle of Hershey bar on each cupcake top. The chocolate will melt a bit, so be sure to let them cool completely so the chocolate sets.

Doesn’t that sound amazing?  And, it looks like the one on Summer’s cover!  Let’s think outside the graham cracker though. Let’s think cheese, fruit and cookies! Do you have a special alternative S’More recipe? Leave a comment with your signature and one-of-a-kind s’more creation!

While I wait for your comments, here’s S’More fun recipe links to inspire you! (see what I did there?)

smores-strawberry-shortcake-recipe-15-copyStrawberry Shortcake S’Mores

Peach Brie and Dark Chocolate S’MoresPeach Smore

Alternative S’MoresFun-Variations-on-the-Traditional-Smore-lg

BUY S’more Murder: A Frosted Love Cozy by Summer Prescott to read while you make all these amazing delicacies.

I’m not crying, that’s just mud in my eye…

I just finished E.j. Copperman’s Night of the Living Deed and did NOT expect a book to be so personal and effect me! I am going to be doing a book review in the coming months for this, but for now I just have to say that everything doing with plasterwork in this book just sent me into a spiral of emotions. 
You see, my granddaddy Hagan was a master plaster mason in town. He would come home, and his white coveralls and white cap, would be totally covered in dust and plaster or as they called it, “mud.” No one was as good as he was here in the city or anywhere around.  

I’m not going to ruin the book for you, but the end bit of the book really just was the end all for me. Could one of those have been my grandfather in this fictional world? I would certainly like to think so. What in the world are you talking about Sheryl? Well, I suppose you’ll just have to read the book. 
If you have already read the book, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You know, after everything is solved and Alison comes home knowing she’s going to have to fix all of the issues after the whole show-down dealing with the deed. The walls…the walls. Totally lost it.  
Thanks E.J. for making me “ugly cry” while I was reading. That has never happened before. If the rest of the series is as good as this one, then I hope that you write for the rest of your existence. Wow! Great book.  

Buy on Amazon: Night Of The Living Deed

Stain Glass Rocks! The Book Effect; Crafting Between The Pages

I adore the Webb’s Stain Glass Mystery series by Cheryl Hollon. Have you read it? If not, the link to buy it will be at the bottom of the page.
For my first craft, I wanted to start out with the newest craze of painting rocks! Are you into painting rocks? Today I show you how to turn a rock into faux stained glass.

I hope you like the video, share the video and post photos of YOUR finished faux stained glass rock project.

Oh…and count how many times I say “um” in the video. Seriously, it’s a lot.



Buy The Book

A Mysterious Walk…

Do you love walking through bookstores? Do you have a favorite? I sure do! I had a chance to go with my best friend to Barnes & Noble and we spent… I don’t know how much time exploring the stacks with our kids. 

Of course, I had to spend an inordinate amount of time in the cozy mystery section.  I find myself saying hello to the books when I see the names because the names seem like friends to me.  The looks I get, ha!

Take some time this week to look on the inside covers too, to find out who creates these pieces of art that catch our eyes as we stroll by the shelves at our local bookstores. It’s usually on the inside left cover, a couple of pages in.   And, don’t forget to buy, read, review and repeat.

Oh, and let me know you were here by commenting.  I wanna say hi!


The Book Effect;Crafting Between The Pages

Hello fellow readers and authors!

I am in LOVE with the rock  I just painted today that celebrates my love of reading and supporting the artists that pen my world of make-believe. Two books and a cup of coffee just about sum it up for me.

In a couple of weeks, I will be starting a bi-monthly series posted on Thursdays called, “The Book Effect; Crafting Between The Pages with Booth Talks Books.
During each episode of The Book Effect, I will create a craft to accomany one of our favorite mystery books and show you how to produce it. Each craft will focus on a specific aspect of the book that is vital to the plot. These projects will be perfect for using at your book club or even while you read alone. 

 It’s a fantastic way to tangibly connect with the story, characters and author in a new and different way! 

If you have a book and craft you would like me to feature one week, please contact me.  I will be looking for new ideas all the time and would love to hear from you.

My goodness…I hope you are as excited as I am.  Tell your friends and join me, won’t you?

A Ghostly Light by Juliet Blackwell


A Ghostly Light
Written by Juliet Blackwell

Cover Art by Brandon Dorman
Cover Design by [TK]

I have never been to a lighthouse nor have I ever wanted to visit a lighthouse. I am not a fan of being out in the middle of the sea among the crashing waves, secluded from society. It has never sounded like something that would be of interest to me. Well, Ms. Blackwell, “A Ghostly Light” has now made me want to make a trip to the nearest lighthouse and go ghost hunting on my next day off. Well done!

“The tower reached high into a gray sky. A faint glow—ghostly-light-225-shadow.pngdare I say a ghostly light? — seemed to emanate from the lighthouse’s narrow windows.”

Mel Turner is a talented head of a renovation team, hired to renovate an 1871 lighthouse and home on Lighthouse Island near San Francisco. She also has the ability to see ghosts, which to me, is amazing. Spirits fascinate me. She struggles with this gift, however, but seems to be coming into her own thanks to the help of her boyfriend and family.

After her best friend is accused of murdering an abusive ex-husband, Mel must help solve not only that murder with the help of the ghost of said ex husband, but also get involved in solving a century old mysterious disappearance of a young boy whose family used to live and watch the lighthouse.

If you love ghosts, this one has three of them. They aren’t in the backstory either. They are right there in the mix with the living. There is also a ton of interesting history that, if you look into it via online and books, actually happened.

For instance, female light keepers make the same as their male counter parts during the Victorian era. Wow, that’s a fun bit of information you don’t get everyday. Like I said, sign me up to visit the nearest lighthouse. The history alone on these must be fascinating and I love history.

The character of Mel helps the reader really get into wanting to care about these old structures and the contents within. From the original woodwork to the old books and personal belongings of the former keepers, there is nothing in the adventure that the reader won’t enjoy. And yes, it is an adventure.

In “A Ghostly Light”, I as a reader discovered a new interest wrapped within other interest I had, lighthouse exploration! Juliet Blackwell brought me into a fictional world that I can now take out into the real world and really experience…without the dead body hopefully.

I haven’t read any books from the rest of her Haunted Home Renovation Mystery series but plan to after reading this piece. If you haven’t read the others either, don’t fret. This story stands alone.

So, get on your life jacket, hard hat and your EMF detector and catch a boat to Lighthouse Island to meet with Mel and her crew. An adventure awaits.

About Juliet Blackwell:
Juliet Blackwell was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, the youngest child of a jet pilot from New York and an editor from Texas. She graduated with a degree in Latin American Studies from University of California, Santa Cruz, and went on to earn Masters degrees in Anthropology and Social Work from the State University of New York, Albany.

While in graduate school she published several articles based on her research with immigrant families from Mexico and Viet Nam, as well as one full-length translation: Miguel León-Portilla’s seminal work, Endangered Cultures.

Juliet taught Medical Anthropology at SUNY-Albany, was producer for a BBC documentary about Vietnamese children left behind by US soldiers, and worked as an elementary school social worker in rural New York. Upon her return to California she became a professional artist and ran her own decorative painting, historical renovation, and domestic design studio for more than a decade. In addition to mainstream novels, Juliet pens the New York Times Bestselling Witchcraft Mysteries and the Haunted Home Renovation series.

As Hailey Lind she wrote the Agatha Award-nominated Art Lover’s Mystery series. She is past president of Northern California Sisters in Crime and former board member of Mystery Writers of America. Juliet lives in a hundred-year-old house with extensive botanical gardens in Northern California, but spends as much time as possible in Europe and Latin America. She believes in the magic of language, travel, and cultural exchange to open hearts, minds, and souls.

Purchase on Amazon: “A Ghostly Light”

Connect with Juliet Blackwell:
Juliet Blackwell’s Official Website
Amazon Author Page