Christmas came early this year! 🤓
Some of you may recall, just a short time ago, how I was blessed to receive a new cover for my book Mirror, Mirror (if not, check it out here). Well, there was another cover of mine that needed even more love, but because I was getting ready to do print on demand paperbacks for Mirror, Gulch took the backseat. Once I was done with the POD project, however, I approached the ever-amazing Katie Cody Designs about tackling one more cover.
Here’s the original:
Not so hot, huh? Don’t worry; I had no delusions of grandeur with this one. It was simply a matter of expediency. Gulch was the first of my self published works, I knew absolutely nothing about cover design, but I happened to have this landscape shot that “would do.” Believe it or not, there is something to like about this cover version (for me at least): this is the actual landscape that inspired the story. Beautiful but desolate, harsh yet alluring, the high desert of Eastern Oregon is a spellbinding place and ultimately I wanted my cover to convey a little of that.
When I conversed with Katie about this cover, I told her about the story, the reasons behind my original cover image selection, and then told her she had free rein to make whatever she wanted. I was completely open. I did offer to send her a few additional landscape shots I’d captured of the region and told her she was welcome to use them, but only if she wanted and if they fit her vision. After my first cover with Katie, I had total faith in her and really wanted to see what her ideas might be. Ready to see what she came up with? It’s brilliant!
Now, if the cover update alone isn’t enough to make you want to visit Desolation Gulch, keep reading below for an excerpt from the book’s first chapter…
That was the only thought in my head, but I was frozen in place. My mind was completely unwilling to process the images my eyes were trying to feed it. My hands clenched convulsively at my sides and I could feel beads of perspiration spring up on my brow as I tried to will my petrified body to move.
Cold, dead eyes gazed up at me, pleading for help, but the woman was beyond salvation. Bruises marred her pale body and wove a tight, roping pattern around her neck. A dark pool of red blood bloomed beneath her torso. I wanted to look away, but the murky, clouded eyes held my gaze.
A muffled noise from somewhere behind me, a footstep, startled me and sent goose bumps running up and down my spine. I whirled around on the spot and saw him standing behind me, his eyes alight with dark fire as he watched my every move.
“What are you doing down here Valerie?”
His voice was smooth and sweet. He spoke in the same voice I’d become so deeply infatuated with months earlier, but I knew now it was a voice he hid behind. It was something I had learned at some great personal expense.
“I… I thought I heard something,” I stammered stupidly.
He only smiled. “Of course you did.” He moved forward assuredly until he stood even with me in front of the dead woman. One of his pale hands indicated the broken shell on the ground. “You heard her.”
I was shaking with fear. I tried to hide it, even though I knew it would be a wasted effort; he would know every emotion raging inside my body.
I had seen this woman before, mere hours earlier, vibrant and alive. “What happened to her?” I breathed, fearing what his answer would be.
His response was preceded by a guttural laugh. He seemed to find my inquiry truly amusing. “Use your imagination Valerie. Can’t you guess?” I shook my head stubbornly and he laughed again. “Better that you don’t think about it then,” he suggested, one of his hands closing around my arm in an iron grip. My heart hammered so loudly I felt sure he could hear it as he pulled me from the room.
I was mildly surprised when he paused to close the door behind us, blocking the nightmare scene from view. I had no idea what was coming, but I was at least thankful to be away from the thrall of the dead woman’s eyes. I could still see it all when I shut my eyes, but it came as a great relief not to be confronted by the dead woman’s face anymore.
He turned back to face me and his voice was light, almost jovial as he said, “Now what are we going to do about this Valerie?”
“Wh-what do you mean?” I stammered. I couldn’t make my heart stop hammering.
His eyes flickered to the closed door. He suddenly softened, lessening his grip on my arm. “Why don’t we go upstairs? It’s late and I imagine you must be tired.” I nodded warily, confused by his change in demeanor, and allowed him to half-lead, half-drag me back to my quarters in the house. Once there he smiled at me again, but this time his smile was not reassuring: it was menacing.
He pushed me roughly into the room, his usually velvet soft hands suddenly hard and unyielding. “Stay in there,” he growled. He looked at me again, his eyes hard. His lips remained motionless, but I could hear his voice loud and clear inside my head, threatening me.
You should have minded your own business Valerie.
Then he left my thoughts, closed the door, and locked me inside. I collapsed on the bed, my mind filled with only one thought.
I’m going to die.
If you want to know what happens next for poor little Valerie, download the full version from Amazon HERE.