Sure, I love my book cover at first sight. Wow! The colors! A full rainbow of them. And, how about that lovely little lady who’s taking ‘a flying leap’ over what seems to be a stairway of rolling hills, each mound a hue of its own. Take a closer look. There’s more going on here. The ridge across the top of every bump reveals a clearcut silhouette. The lowest shows a girl child. Moving upward, the next summit outlines the face of a young woman. A step up the ascending hills, and it becomes clear we are watching one female mature as she moves along. The third knoll shows the face of a mother. And look, at the highest row of hills, mid-cover, right under the title, Whistler of Petty Crimes, there’s the profile of an elder.

Above it all, suspended in mid-air, is that tiny jumping figure we can assume is the author (and at some point, once absorbed into the stories inside the cover, the reader too becomes that gal). Together, author and reader dip down onto those hillocks and experience a sampling of events from within the four life stages. I imagine the hills ring out in poetic whistling as emotions are cleared from the minds of the women-in-profile. And as we progress, I’m betting that tiny dancer bounces lighter on her dainty feet. Fantastic!

(Thank you, Beste Miray, for the charming cover art. You nail it—or chisel it in the rocky ledges of Whistler’s cover.)

Ok. That’s that. Now, here’s the REAL cover story. It’s more the cover’s back story. (And by that I don’t mean the story ON the back cover. Or the story OF the back cover. Oh, never mind.) Let me set the scene. Picture this: it’s late. Midnight-ish. Tired does not touch the weariness that blankets my dark home office at this point. But there’s no leaving. Not yet. Haven’t checked emails in forever, and sadly, guilt trumps tiredness. Plop down at the computer and crank up the email list, see it’s as long as Santa’s at holiday time. Scroll through, eyeballing the page for what’s important.

Oh! Here’s one. It’s from Ronaldo Alves, Art Director at Atmosphere Press. Been expecting this email, in a backburner-esque bin of my mind. With a deep sigh, and eyes half closed in slumber, I tease myself into alertness so I can see what’s on the screen. Lordy! It’s a batch of questions. A page of them, and he says the answers I’m about to give are aimed at making the book cover design unique, distinct, or at least far from generic.

(Here I think: Ok, ok. Just leave it. Tomorrow’s another day. And lots of other peppy-talk expressions to break me free of the quasi-resolve I discover, just because Ronaldo sent me an email. His name is exotic. That’s one thing. Then there’s the other thing: he’s emailing from Brazil. How many emails do people in the USA get from an enchanting South American country?)

So, I quasi-rally for the chance to rub brain cells with his. (Lots of quasi- going on here to indicate how difficult it is to get properly excited, and think straight at the same time. Way outside midnight by now, and this mental debate takes me a long, long time—like it’s happening in slow motion. And under water. A body of thick, dirty water that covers deep layers of quicksand. All this, inside my sleepy head.)

Right or wrong, I read Ronaldo’s query list from head to toe. I must be dreaming. This can’t be real. Can it? I read it again. Again and again. Far into the wee hours. Then again, many times over the next day. Let me tell you. It’s been decades since I’ve had a blast answering a survey. First, I’m to find ten favorite book covers. Not books. Covers. Huh?

Dear Ronaldo, Exactly right this month, I’m in the process of moving from one US state to another. My library of books—along with their covers—are deep in the coffers of storage in a building far, far away from the middle of the night.

(Let’s pause here, precious reader, while I go look up book covers online. Beg your pardon, while I search.)

Unbelievable. There are book cover AWARDS in the Americas, and Europe, and around the globe. Who knew. (I mean outside Ronaldo’s art department.) No problem finding favorites. Problem: whittling them down to a mere ten. Especially in my sleep-deprived state. But mission not impossible. Check it off.

Next on Ronaldo’s list (or somewhere down the page, honestly, I have no chronological memory of the night’s escapade): Pick out ten nouns from anywhere, on any page, paragraph, sentence in Whistler. Huh? (Pause. Read that bit again.) Still, Huh?

(Ok. Let’s pretend it’s not in the middle of the night, and this crusade is possible too. Will do, Ronaldo. And, excuse me once more, most-patient reader.)

(Oops.) In my close-to-comatose state I compile the list. Unfortunately, in the light of dawn, it’s apparent there’s not one noun among the ten words I send on to Ronaldo. Nope. The entire list is composed of adjectives that might describe nouns, but not the critters themselves. Time to reconnoiter. Fix the dang list. Wrestle actual nouns off Whistler’s pages.

(Trust me. This could take a lot longer. Might I suggest, gentle reader, you whistle a petty crime or two. Never mind if you go off key. Remember, where we’re sharing this page, it’s waaaay late at night. Nobody’s listening.)

(Well, I’m back.) Suddenly, in every nook and cranny of Whistler, I found nouns galore and could compile an actual row of them worthy of Ronaldo’s consideration. And in case the cover’s back story loses something in the telling, I’ll stop here. I think by now, the general idea is plain. Suffice it to say that I feel very blessed by my participation in the cover art process. No chance that I wouldn’t love the cover. It was in the cards from the get-go, when my creative juices were stoked ablaze by that crazy questionnaire.

(So, that’s the REAL cover story. And I’m stickin’ to it. I swear it’s what happened. I kid you not.)