Bobbi A. Chukran is the author of Lone Star Death and the "Nameless, Texas" story series. The first novella in the Lone Star Death series, Dye, Dyeing, Dead also features Aunt Jewel and the folks from Nameless and is coming in August. Read more about Bobbi and her work at her website and blog.
Original Photos on Short Story Covers
When I launched my "Nameless, Texas" short story series, I wanted to tie them together visually. Although I write full-time now, I have been a visual artist/craft designer and still practice my creativity whenever I can. My writing uses one side of my brain and the photography/cover design uses the other. It's a good balance.
I love taking still life photos, so I decided to use some for the covers. With a (cheap) digital camera, I can take hundreds of photos and it costs nothing but time. I then use Photoshop Elements for enhancing the photos and adding the text.
As I write the stories, I think about how they can be illustrated. My "Dewey Loudermilk & the Peckerwood Tree" cover was inspired by two healthy pecan trees that my neighbors cut down. To remember the ancient trees, I took a series of photos, including the stump and logs that were left over. These incidents stuck in my mind, and it wasn't long before I had hatched a proper revenge story. One of the photos ended up on the cover.
My "Aunt Jewel & the Poisoned Potlikker" cover features a colorful bowl and pitcher I use daily. I was "brewing" the story in my head while a pot of succulent collard greens simmered on my stove. I wanted it to evoke the feeling of down-home, handmade goodness. It's definitely a dish that Aunt Jewel would cook up for the annual Thanksgiving celebration. I often visualize her chopping, cooking and creating her meals on the pine butcher block countertop in my vintage kitchen.
The photo I used on my "Aunt Jewel and the Purloined Pork Loin" cover was one I took years ago at our former ranch house, right before Thanksgiving. The pumpkin, pine table and ladderback chair evoke, for me, old-fashioned holidays, and I hope it will also evoke those feelings for my readers.
I intend to keep using my photography to spawn ideas for my stories, and my stories to spawn ideas for photos. Both of them enhance the other, and it just makes the whole process a little more fun.
Aunt Jewel and the Purloined Pork Loin
The women of Nameless, Texas are under the influence of their new favorite cooking show, The Butt Nekkid Texas Chef, and the annual Giving of Thanks community gathering may never be the same again. Things spiral out of control after Kendra Louise Harper offers to pick up some meat from a local farm for her Aunt Jewel, and turn hilarious when she and her friend, Jeffrey, end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and are snatched by two cross-dressing bank robbers.
Dewey Laudermilk and the Peckerwood Tree
When Dewey Laudermilk decides that his grandma’s old pecan tree has to come down, he won’t take no for an answer. Pretty soon, his hilarious redneck network is on hand to help with the process. Dewey's Grandma is heartbroken because she remembers when she and her husband planted that old tree, home to a family of woodpeckers (called “peckerwoods” by Mr. Laudermilk.) After a series of unfortunate accidents, and a mysterious illness, Dewey is reminded that sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone.
Aunt Jewel and the Poisoned Potlikker
When Kendra Louise Harper's Aunt Jewel decides to make a traditional "mess" of turnip greens to take to the annual Giving of Thanks community dinner and gathering in Nameless, Texas (population 2,354), little does she know that her special dish will become the source of widespread illness and even a death.