The Great Cover-Up with Guest Charlene Sands + a Giveaway!

Hey everyone! I am super delighted to have my very first guest on Magical Musings today. I met Charlene Sands through my local RWA chapter and was so very lucky when she and I were paired for the mentoring program. She is the best mentor ever, and I’m happy to say she’s now also one of my dearest friends. Thanks Charlene, for being here, and for being one of the best parts of my writing journey! I’ll let her take it from here…

THE GREAT COVER-UP by Charlene Sands

charlenebio-244x300One of the very nice things about being traditionally published with a New York publishing house is that an art department deals with making marketable covers.  They take care of appointing models to represent your story on the cover of your book.  The author is assigned an Art Fact Sheet to describe the hero and heroine’s physical traits.  At the same time, the author also describes the theme of the story, any major turning points and locations of particular interest that would enhance the cover.   For me, the majority of the time, they’ve gotten it right.  Not that I’m always thrilled with my covers or titles, but for the most part I am.

The one negative about being traditionally published is that the author has no control over the final artistic vision of the cover.  So when I received the rights back to a story I’d written, I decided to self-publish it.  It was a long arduous process but I trudged along, maintaining my Harlequin deadlines as well.  But when it came time to finally put a face to my story via a dynamite cover, we hit a major roadblock. I know, I know, how much does it really matter, you might say?  But for me, not portraying the story with the right cover is one of the Top Ten Deadly Sins.

It’s right up there with not having the right title to suit your story.


Doing the Fox Trot to Salsa music


Naming your baby Gertrude Louise, when she really should be Heather Renee


Eating celery when there’s perfectly good chocolate in the house.

You know?

The pre-made covers I found just didn’t connect or give the right “feel” of a contemporary western and who could afford a real cover model and set? Not me.

Well as luck would have it, my son-in-law is a photographer and he suggested that we do our own cover shoot.  He’s a talented guy and I only had to think about it for a few seconds before agreeing it was a great idea.  But that still left us with who to use for our hero and heroine.

The Cowboy ContractThat’s where my daughter Nikki came in. She’s auburn-haired and petite and about the same age as my heroine.  Her dear friend, and Zac’s brother-from-another-mother, ( the best man at their wedding and Godfather to their little girl), Tony was willing to help out.  As you can see in the pictures, Tony is tall, dark and handsome- the perfect hero.

We chose Paramount Ranch for the setting. If you’re not familiar with the area, it’s where the series, Medicine Woman was originally filmed and the historical town is still set up, complete with livery stable, sheriff’s office, wagons, train depot and gorgeous landscapes of the Santa Monica Mountains.  On a side note, we took a field trip there with my nephew’s class years ago and saw them shoot one of the episodes. Jane Seymour made a special point to come out to speak to the children and she was lovely to them.   So, the area had always stuck out in my mind.

The Cowboy Contract 3We had a few poses in mind and I learned a lot about placement and lighting.  Believe it or not, near dusk is the best time to shoot.  Bright sunshine and the shadows are gone. We only had an hour of good lighting that day, but I am happy with the results.

So not only was I the babysitter of the cutest new little cowgirl in town, but I was helping to direct. I never thought I’d hear these words slip through my lips to my daughter and a man other than her hubby.  “Get closer. Hold him around the waist and look passionately into his eyes like you really mean it.” Many shots were tossed out because everyone was laughing too hard. If nothing else, we had a great time!

The Cowboy Contract 1

Once the shoot was done, we developed two covers. My only stipulation was that I wanted to stray away from the Harlequin look, and develop something unique. I loved putting it to a vote with my Facebook and Twitter friends and fellow bloggers. I liked both covers equally so I left it up to my readers to decide. It was pretty cool. Which one do you like best?

Cowboy Contract  Pic jointer

Can you guess which one was chosen?  Post a comment and you’ll be entered in a drawing for a $10 Amazon Gift Card.  (One random winner will be selected and that winner’s name will be posted tomorrow, 1/24.) You can see which cover was chosen here:–ebook/dp/B00FEXO8II/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1380124264&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Cowboy+contract


Trey Walker thought he was cursed when it came to women, but after a disaster destroyed nearly everything veterinarian Maddie Brooks owned, Trey offered the petite redhead shelter at 2 Hope Ranch. Maddie was smart, sexy and good with animals… impossible to resist, yet he vowed not to break her heart. 

Maddie knew the temporary arrangement she made with Trey was strictly business. For over a year she’d tried to get the handsome rancher to notice her, but the man never seemed interested. Now, she’d be living under his roof and using his barn to treat animals.

Could she be the woman to break the Walker Curse?

Special thanks to Robin Bielman, a great friend and talented writer for inviting me to be a guest blogger today!


Charlene Sands is a USA Today Bestselling author of sexy contemporary romances and stories of the Old West. She’s been honored with the National Readers Choice Award, the Cataromance Reviewer’s Choice Award and she’s a double recipient of the Booksellers’ Best Award. She belongs to the Orange County Chapter and the Los Angeles Chapter of RWA.

Charlene knows a little something about true romance–she married her high school sweetheart! When she’s not writing, she enjoys sunny Pacific beaches, great coffee, reading books from her favorite authors and spoiling her two baby granddaughters.

She invites you to read her self-published romance, The Cowboy Contract along with her upcoming continuity from Harlequin Desire, The Texas Renegade Returns releasing in March 2014.  Join Charlene’s newsletter for upcoming releases and fun contests at

You can find her on Facebook and Twitter too!

The Texas Renegade Returns

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36 Responses to The Great Cover-Up with Guest Charlene Sands + a Giveaway!

  1. Edie Ramer says:

    Charlene, welcome to MM! I love the story of how your covers were made, and I love both covers you ended up with as choices. And, wow!, you have some gorgeous family members!

    I’m guessing you went with the one on the left. The curving box with the title on the bottom gives an impression of movement that catches the eye, plus the “USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR” shows up better there. I’m going to check it out on Amazon right now. 🙂

  2. Hi Edie,
    I’m so glad to be here today! We really did have a lot of fun doing the cover shoot! I’ve love to do it again. Thanks for the warm welcome!

  3. Hi Charlene! Thank you again for being here today! <3
    Robin Bielman`s last blog was …January Musings

  4. Love this story and more importantly the final result. Great cover. Also a great cover for your Desire. wowza to both.

  5. Katheen O says:

    Charlene you know I love your books and I can’t wait to get my hands on this book. This is the book that tells it all.. 😀

  6. Robena Grant says:

    Well, the internet ate my first comment, so if you get two don’t think I’m nuts. Although you wouldn’t be far wrong. : ) Love the cover #1 and I really enjoyed reading this book. The setting is great for the photography. Is Paramount Ranch open to the general public?

    Looking forward to the new release. You certainly do write great cowboys, Charlene.

    • Hi Robena,
      Yes, we love going to Paramount Ranch. It’s a great setting for inspiration!

      Thanks for double posting… but it looks like only one showed up after all.

  7. Tanya Hanson says:

    Hi Charlene, you are indeed a great mentor and beloved friend to me, too! I love the story behind this cover. All y’all did a masterful job. Way to go, Zak. And Paramount is the perfect setting. Oh, and the story is great too. Congrats on the self-pub. And of course your Desire! (hubba hubba.) Love and success to you, my friend! xoxox

    • Hi Tanya,
      Thanks for blogging today with me. I’m so happy that we met all those years ago at OCC. You are a great writer and friend!! Glad you like the Desire cover too.

  8. Dale Mayer says:

    Hi Charlene,

    Welcome to Magical Musings! Love the way you pulled those covers together (I love getting my kids into my work as well. lol)

    And I prefer the first cover!
    Dale Mayer`s last blog was …Knock, Knock… book 5 of the Psychic Visions series is on SALE now!

  9. Hi Robin & Charlene,

    I’m not going to guess which cover was chosen, (but I proudly cast my vote for option 1 back in the original contest)! I give “The Texas Renegade Returns” cover a big thumbs up too. 😉

  10. Alicia Reynolds says:

    Great story, Charlene! I agree that a book cover is very imortant. I do sometime judge a book by it. I once read a historical western where the hero on the cover wore modern clothes and the heroine wore a historical dress. And then there are always those where the people on the cover look nothing like the description of the the hero and heroine, LOL. That photo shoot looked like so much fun and your cover is fantastic. I remember voting for cover #1 during the contest. 🙂

    Oh, how I love cool western sets. I’ve got a great one here at NBC Universal, the kind John Wayne used. Did you know they make the doors smaller for the cowboys to come out of (to make them look bigger) and they make them larger for the women to come out of (to make them look smaller). I thought that was interesting.


    • Hi Alicia,
      Wow, that’s pretty cool info about the western sets. Come to think about it, everything does look a little smaller even at Paramount ranch! Thanks for stopping by!

  11. elena k says:

    hi Charlene! I love the first cover, the letters are cute! the book seems very interesting also and The Texas Renegade Returns is hot!

  12. Hi Lynne
    Oh, thanks so much. It was a great adventure!

  13. Janine says:

    I love this story and I still enjoy hearing about the photo shoot and how the cover was picked.

  14. marilynbrant says:

    Welcome to MM!! Loved your post and seeing the cover designs (I like both covers, but I’m guessing the one on the left…). Sounds like a great story, too!
    And this line made me LOL: “Eating celery when there’s perfectly good chocolate in the house.” 🙂
    Definitely not something that would happen in my house!
    marilynbrant`s last blog was …THE ROAD TO YOU ~ 99-Cent Special & Book Club Event!!

  15. Shari says:

    Love the cover. Covers have come a long way. I have a kindle fire just so I can enjoy the pretty covers.

  16. Hi Charlene! I love the cover and prefer the one that was chosen :-))) I’ll have to check your book out!
    Hi Robin! Thanks for introducing us to Charlene!

  17. Hi Linda,

    I’m happy you liked the one chosen! Thanks for stopping by today!

  18. Hi everyone! *waves* Thanks so much for stopping by today! I had a long day at work and it was so nice to get home and read all your comments! <3

    Thanks for holding down the fort, Charlene! <3
    Robin Bielman`s last blog was …January Musings

  19. Chelsea B. says:

    I like the one to the left!

  20. Kimh says:

    I like the first one, conngrats on the book, have a great weekend 😎

  21. Misty Evans says:

    Hi Charlene! Welcome to MM.

    I love the behind-the-scenes look into creating a cover from scratch. What a fascinating story, and sounds like a lot of fun. The end results are wonderful and I’d vote for the cover on the left!

  22. Thanks again to everyone who stopped by! The random winner of Charlene’s gift card giveaway is Alicia Reynolds. Congratulations, Alicia! I’ll forward Charlene your email address and she’ll be in touch. Happy weekend everyone!
    Robin Bielman`s last blog was …January Musings

  23. Charlene, sorry I’m late, but welcome to MM and what a fun blog post about your cover. The final result was so good! I liked the one on the left best, but both of them are good. All the best with this book!
    Michelle Diener`s last blog was …Mistress of the Wind Tour Grand Finale

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