TOUGH TRAIL HOME BOOK COVEROne of the biggest conundrums for a writer is book cover design. The experts hammer this into anyone who publishes. While the saying is “you can’t judge a book by its cover” the reality is most shoppers do.

According to ProWritingAid, you must be sure your book cover design matches others in your genre, does not violate copyright rules, is not too busy, does not tell the whole story….yada, yada, yada. If you violate these norms, you are toast. Your book will not sell.

And the pundits are correct. I read a synopsis of a historical novel that intrigued me. It followed the Trail of Tears where the Native Americans were forced from their homeland in the southeast and were marched west to what is now Oklahoma. However, the cover picture was of wagons making their way in territory that appeared to be in the west—looked like Utah to me. Most of the evicted  indigenous people made to trip on foot. I declined to read it.

My latest book will come out March 28, 2024. The cover decisions ate me alive. I would like to share a few prototypes with you.


When I published my first novel of the Warriors for Equal Rights series, I commissioned a beautiful cover with the American flag. Unfortunately, the flag had been highjacked by the far right and it sent the wrong message, so I redesigned it. I do not want to make a mistake like that again.



The Cause Lives book cover design 2






Here’s the back cover so you can follow my journey.

The Dunwhitty family is flying high until their carefully choreographed life falls apart during the 2008 Great Recession. Lisa’s firm goes belly-up while Michael’s shuts down after selling faulty heart valves. Desperate, Lisa insists they regroup by seeking refuge in rural Central Texas on land she inherits from a distant relative she barely knows.

It’s not the ranch Lisa remembers, but a ramshackle money pit. Michael and their teenage son, Andrew, despise the place. Only their young daughter, Jessica, is happy. After a bitter argument, Michael moves to the city. As his job search drags on, Lisa begins to plant roots; friendships develop for her and the children. With the help of Michael’s parents, her neighbor, and the remains of her savings, she begins to return the ranch to its former glory. The couple continues to drift further apart, Michael turning his attention to another woman.

A call from the sheriff’s department that their son is in custody jolts the couple to the core. Can they repair their relationship for the sake of their son? Or is it too late?



tough trail home cover design money tree



The book was originally titled Ka-ching! Kapow! I thought I was being clever because money looms large in all decisions the Dunwhitty family makes.


Finally, after so many negative comments—What is this, some kind of farce? (one of my favorites)—I polled many people and decided on Tough Trail Home.






tough trail home cover design original picture




I took this picture near my house in January after a heavy rain. As the Dunwhittys made their way along Dog Run Road, this is the scene they would have encountered.


Alas, the publisher said that the photo’s resolution was not high enough.




tough trail home cover design liked

  A fellow author found this picture, which we all loved. However, my publisher, Black Rose Writing, discovered that the picture had already been used by another book.






We then sorted through pictures of barns, but they just did not seem right. Eventually we ended up with the cover you see at the beginning of the blog.


Publication is scheduled for March 28, 2024.



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