The gorgeous artwork on the cover of Sword of the Spaniard is by Alan Flinn, who also designed the cover of Flying Conquistadors:
Once again, the cover is a tribute to travel posters of the late 1920s/early 1930s. While the Flying Conquistadors cover was inspired by early Pan Am posters, the Sword of the Spaniard cover borrows from a range of Spanish travel advertisements:
This first poster gave rise to Wendy’s red dress, the matching red title and the “impressionistic” sky against a cream backdrop. I felt this vintage look would help the title, and Wendy, “pop” and grab the reader. The online book market is a thumbnail-driven world, so I needed both the central figure and the catchy title of this book to stand out.
The Iberia Air poster inspired the Wendy’s flamenco moves and better reflects the dress in the final artwork. An early author-created cover design for SOS more directly borrowed from this poster, with characters from the book taking the place of the people surrounding the dancer.
The iconic skyline of Seville is featured in countless travel posters, almost always containing La Giralda, the bell tower of the Seville Cathedral. As the Cathedral serves as a backdrop for an important scene in the story I felt this worked.
The sword that Wendy is holding is based upon a real-life sword attributed to Hernan Cortés. This sword is listed in an extensive 1907 catalogue of the Spanish Royal Armory in Madrid, which you can find here (note: it’s long!). A sword like this features prominently in the tale … but I don’t want to give too much away!
Side note: for both Flying Conquistadors and Sword of the Spaniard, I had Alan do the cover art long before the manuscript was finished. I had the Sword of the Spaniard cover hanging on my office wall for a full year as I completed the book! I find having the cover in front of you is a great motivator, an extra kick-in-the-pants to keep a writer glued to her/his keyboard.
Just to take a dusty road
And climb a jagged hill
To rest beneath a cherry tree
And hear a blackbird trill,
To plunder wild red berries
Where my slow steps part the grass
And count the ground bird’s sudden flight
A rapture as I pass;
To see an old-time farmhouse
With a broad door standing wide
And know that love will welcome
And bid me pause inside;
To dream when shadows lengthen
And the fragrant night is still –
Save the frogs’ sweet-silver singing
Save the cry of the whip-poor-will;
To dream in flooded perfume
Of lilac, rose and dew
‘Till days between are blotted out
And only this is true.
Notes: Maude Wheeler Pierce was my great-grandmother on my mom’s side. The Hill Road was included in a little blue book of her poetry – “Dream Burdens” – published by The Driftwind Press (North Montpelier, Vermont) in 1929. It has long been an important “family poem” and I felt it was time to share it with the world!
Flying Conquistadors will be released on Tuesday, March 28.
You can buy the paperback or ebook from Amazon, BN.com, iBooks and directly from me. You can also pre-order from any of those sites. (Note: the iBooks link on the “Buy the Book” page is not active yet, but the book is available for pre-order in the iBooks store.)
You can also order the book from your local independent bookstore! The world needs more good bookstores, and that’s not gonna happen if we all buy our books online. If your wise and wonderful independent bookseller has interest in stocking the book, they can find the wholesale information here.
Reviews and ratings are critical to the book’s success . . . so if you enjoy the book, please show us some love on Amazon, BN.com, and iBooks.
Thanks to my family and friends for putting up with me! And thanks to everyone at Mill City, Hillcrest and Salem for all they did in getting this crazy book ready to fly.
Just a few weeks until Flying Conquistadors is released! The paperback is already up for pre-order on Amazon, BN.com and my website. The e-version should be available for pre-order on those sites (and on iBooks) shortly.
As I patiently await (ha!) my first book’s birthday, I figured I’d use this space to let people know more about how the book came to be. I also want to pay tribute to the real-life individuals and organizations that inspired this fictional story.
We’ll start with the artwork on the front cover.
The cover of Flying Conquistadors was designed by Alan Flinn (www.alanflinn.com). Alan took a rough idea I had in my head and ran with it. I was beyond pleased with the results, and since the cover was done before I was done writing the book it served as a great personal motivator!
Let’s break this beautiful cover down in a bit more detail:
The Pyramid: Yes, that is El Castillo – also known as the Temple of Kukulcan – from Chichen Itza, located in the northern part of the Yucatan Peninsula. Chichen Itza, perhaps the most recognizable of Mayan sites, has a long and fascinating history: it was an important center of late-period Mayan culture, overflowing with ancient archaeological masterpieces. Like the rest of the Mayan world, Chichen Itza went into decline and was but a shadow of its former self when the Spanish arrived in the early 1500s. The Spaniards attempted to settle Chichen Itza themselves, only to be driven away by continued Mayan assaults.
Deserted, Chichen Itza fell into decline and the jungle slowly took over. The entire site became overgrown with vegetation, the roots taking hold in between the limestone blocks laid by the ancient Maya. Over the centuries, those roots grew and pushed the limestone blocks out, and many of the structures collapsed.
That was the state Chichen Itza was in when two unexpected visitors arrived in the early 1840s. John Lloyd Stephens was an explorer who had gotten himself appointed to a diplomatic post so he could explore and catalogue the Mayan world. He was accompanied by Frederick Catherwood, an artist who used a camera lucida to create unbelievably detailed illustrations of the incredible ruins they came upon. When Stephens’ first book Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatanwas published, Catherwood’s drawings revealed to the outside world a mysterious “lost” civilization – the Maya – of which little was then known. Stephens’ books, and Catherwood’s remarkable illustrations, would inspire generations of archaeologists and adventurers, eager to see the remains of this ancient civilization. (note: I’ll be posting a longer piece on Stephens and Catherwood at a later date.)
In 1875 French photographer/archaeologist August Le Plongeon and his wife, Alice, made the journey to Chichen Itza, exploring the site and unearthing a “Chac Mool” statue. A few years later the site was visited by explorer Teobert Maler and archaeologist Alfred Maudslay. Maudslay was a pioneering architect, using papier-mache to duplicate carvings and taking numerous photographs of the site. On one of Maudslay’s many expeditions, the below photograph of El Castillo was taken. It almost looks like one of Catherwood’s camera lucida drawings:
I was captivated by the image of this iconic structure in its pre-restoration glory and knew it would be a good model for the cover. You can see how little trees and shrubs worked themselves into the cracks between the stones, and began to eat away at the pyramid itself. And I was intrigued by the little man standing in the doorway of the temple on top. It might be Maler, maybe even Maudslay himself. But I asked Alan to incorporate that little dude into his artwork, as it fit well with my story.
(Full disclosure: Flying Conquistadors is set in the late 1920s, meaning this particular photograph predates my story by a few decades. By the time of Flying Conquistadors, the Carnegie Institution – under the direction of Edward Thompson and then Sylvanus Morley – had almost finished restoring El Castillo to the condition we are familiar with today).
That beautiful bird is a Sikorsky S-38, one of the first widely produced “amphibious aircraft,” meaning it could land and take off on land or water. Pan American owned 24 S-38s, and the aircraft was indispensable as the young airline established routes throughout the Caribbean and then into South America. (Historical note: Prior to the S-38 Pan Am operated a handful of Sikorsky S-36s, a less glamorous but still functional amphibian).
Despite its fame, and the fact that it was the “air yacht” of choice for millionaire and adventurers, none of the 101 original Sikorsky aircraft survived to present day. But two were “re-created” in the 1990s, and one of those two was featured in the Martin Scorsese film The Aviator. It’s the plane used in the scene where Howard Hughes (Leo) takes Kate Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) flying over nighttime Los Angeles. During that scene Hughes reaches down and pulls a pin to move the entire steering column over to the co-pilot’s side, giving Hepburn a surprise flying lesson. That movable steering column was a feature unique to the S-38.
Interestingly, a few years ago the owner of the replica plane used in The Aviator was able to use his S-38 for a transatlantic crossing, taking advantage of some strong tailwinds. My understanding is the plane is now in storage in Florida (note to family: would make a great gift!).
The S-38, despite its modest cabin size, played an outsized role in helping Pan Am during those early days. Getting into it was no easy feet: the hatch for the passengers was located on top of the plane, requiring airline crew to have ladders at the ready. But it was an important milestone in the development of passenger-focused aircraft, and it allowed Pan Am to establish regularly-scheduled flights to locations that didn’t (or couldn’t) have a landing strip. The success of the S-38 led to the creation of the bigger S-40, the first “true” Pan Am Clipper, and those Clippers would in turn revolutionize air travel in the Americas and beyond.
Charles Lindbergh was a frequent operator of Pan Am’s S-38s, not just for mapping out the early routes but also for more relaxing pursuits. He used an S-38 to take Doctors Kidder and Ricketson from the Carnegie Institution on that first archaeological reconnaissance mission over Central America and the Yucatan. Later, after his marriage to Anne Morrow, the Lindberghs and the Trippes used S-38s to tour around the Caribbean and Central America, including the Panama Canal.
It’s a fascinating airplane from a fascinating time in history, and if you are interested in learning more about the S-38 you can find a wealth of resources online. And if you want to see the S-38 in action (and in full living color) click here!
That’s all for today, class . . . remember Flying Conquistadors will be released on March 28th! Thanks for reading!
As a lifelong supporter of locally-owned independent bookstores, I’m working to get Flying Conquistadors into as many indy shops as possible. If you are a bookseller interested in carrying Flying Conquistadors, please contact me for a complimentary copy so you can read before ordering.*
More details, including wholesale ordering information, can be found on the Sell Sheet!
(* offer may be revoked if I get too many requests!)
Flying Conquistadors will be released on March 28th, and the paperback version is already available for pre-order on Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com and through this website (click on “Buy the Book” to see your options). We’re making some last-minute adjustments to the electronic versions, so you’ll also be able to enjoy Flying Conquistadors on your Kindle, Nook or other electronic device.
I should point out that the paperback is $2 cheaper if you buy it from me directly. $2 and one cent cheaper, to be exact!
As I countdown to my first publication date, I thought I’d use this blog to let readers know a bit more about Flying Conquistadors and how it came to be.
At the beginning of the book there is a note to the reader. I wanted to people to understand that this was a fictional story, a story that I made up in the dark, musty recesses my mind. But many of the fictional characters populating this story were inspired by real-life individuals, some of them famous, others not as famous as they should be. After forcing these caricatures to go through hell in service of my story, I think it is only right that I spend some time letting you know about the “real” people behind the characters in the book.
I also have some great photographs and other materials focused on Pan American Airways and the Carnegie Institution, two legendary entities that are featured in the book. And lest anyone think I’m nuts for writing a story involving Pan Am and the Carnegie Institution, you should know that Charles Lindbergh did, in fact, fly Carnegie Institution archaeologists over several Mayan site in the Yucatan in a Sikorsky S-38 owned by Pan American. I”ll post some of the pictures taken on those early flights.