It’s been a while since I’ve gone behind the design, and this week one of my designs just released, so it seems like a great time to feature it. =)

Forgiven is author Carol Ashby’s debut novel–an impeccably researched tale of love in first century Judea. Obviously I was excited to work with Carol, this being one of my favorite genres and settings. And as I worked with her, I quickly discovered that Carol knows her history very well. If you check out her website, you’ll find a TON of extras on the history.

For the cover of this first book in her Light in the Empire Series, she wanted something that showed her Messianic Jewish heroine, her Roman centurion hero, and the distance/tension between the two.

Now, there aren’t a ton of stock photos out there with women in biblical era dress. Trust me. I’ve searched and searched for it. And I wanted to give Carol something very unique for her cover. So rather than go with one of the photos of a woman in a head scarf that I’m seeing on covers everywhere, I actually started here.

Now, there are a lot of things wrong with this photo. Her jewelry. Her makeup. The fact that the sash crosses over her chest. The shoes. The dress has no sleeves. And she’s not wearing a head covering at all.

But thanks to the wonders of Photoshop, I could turn her into this:

How? Honestly, it took a lot of work. I started by cleaning the makeup off her face and duplicating some of the folds of the dress to create a v-neck. In this version, I’d also used the fabulous clone-stamp and smudge tools to eliminate the jewelry.

Changing the sash to red, per the author’s instructions, was actually quite easy–red is one of those colors that you can add with a few clicks in Photoshop, but which it’s a pain to try to get rid of.

Of course, our Rachel here needed sleeves too. So I added those by copying and reshaping parts of the dress, and then changing their transparency.

And then the veil. For this, I actually borrowed a veil from a lovely Indian model…

Did a bit of adjusting, of course, and got this:

The only thing left to change was her shoe. It was a pretty simple matter of switching out the original toe —

with one in a sandal.

At this point I was happy with Rachel, and it was time to turn to the hero, Lucius.

Oh. My. Gracious. He was complicated. Why? Because no stock photos have centurion garb right, and the author is a stickler for authenticity (understandably!), so I had to do a LOT of manipulation and combining of photos.

So I started with this guy…

Used the leather bottom part of this guy…

The face of this guy…

And then had to give him a scar from this lovely fellow.

The author actually has a collection of swords and daggers (or her son does, anyway), so she provided the photo of the appropriate weaponry to have at his side.

Putting him all together (and off-setting for correct positioning on the cover), we get this.

Now we had our characters, so it was time to turn to the background. I wanted to keep part of the stone archway Rachel is leaning on–I loved how it framed the cover, and it gave a nice old-world vibe. But to have stone completely behind her as in the original photo was too dark and boring. So I took out that back wall and replaced it with a view of the Galilean countryside.

So here’s our complete picture, minus the words.

For the title, I combined two fonts (Cinzel Decorative and Maphylla) and used a cool design to set it off.

I echoed the design behind the series title up top, added the author name in one of my go-to, favorite fonts (Linux Libertine) and voila!

When it came time to do the full cover, I went RED. It echoed both his cape and her sash, which I loved. I did a fairly simple combination of red with that archway, and framed the text within it.

So here’s the official blurb!

Are  some  wounds
too  deep  to  forgive?

With a ruthless father who murdered for the family inheritance, Marcus Drusus plans to do the same. In AD 122, Marcus follows his brother Lucius to Judaea and plots to frame a zealot for his older brother’s death. But the plan goes awry, and Lucius is rescued by a Messianic Jewish woman. Her oldest brother is a zealot and a Roman soldier killed her twin, but Rachel still persuades her father Joseph to put his love for Jesus above his anger with Rome and hide Lucius until he heals.

Rachel cares for the enemy, and more than broken bones heal as duty turns to love. Lucius embraces Joseph’s faith in Jesus, but sharing a faith doesn’t heal all wounds. Even before revealed secrets slice open old scars, Joseph wants no Roman son-in-law. With Rachel’s zealot brother suspecting he’s a Roman officer and his own brother planning to kill him when he returns, can Lucius survive long enough to change Joseph’s mind?

Sounds great, doesn’t it? I read little bits and pieces while I was laying out the interior, and let’s just say it’s a book I’m looking forward to purchasing and reading when I have some time!

You can find the digital on Amazon now, and the paperback will be available November 20.

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