Anatomy of a cover: Spell Sweeper

Anatomy of a cover: Spell Sweeper

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts for Spell Sweeper (thank you so much, Intraweb) and every time there are comments about how amazing the cover is—no kidding!

I feel like I won the cover lottery, with artwork done by the amazing Maike Plenzke and some incredible design and typography by Jessie Gang.

Here are a few notes pointing out details and aspects of the cover:

Early sketches of the cover showed the picture frames hanging straight, so that was one detail that was amended in the final. There was no advice offered for the portraits in those frames, but in my mind they definitely represent some of the characters from wizard history that Cara references throughout the book.

Below are some of my own sketches and the photo of the broom reference!

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To all those kids . . .

To all those kids . . .

My dedication for SPELL SWEEPER. 

Over the past eighteen years, I’ve met thousands of kids at school visits, library events, writing conferences, and creativity workshops—many of them while visiting overseas. 

One of the things that has come up, time and time again, is how much they love books about magical schools (hello, Harry Potter!)—but what also comes up is how they can’t see themselves as a part of the story, except maybe as a periphery character.

This was something that played heavily in my mind as I wrote Spell Sweeper. I wanted the kids in my life (including my own son) to see that the “Chosen One” in this type of story can look like them—not just in another time and place where all the characters might look like them, but in the world at large. Does that make sense? 

I also liked playing with this idea that you might have the most wonderful thing in the world happen to you, like being chosen to go to wizard school . . . but then you’re NOT the “Chosen One.” How many of us had dreams come true (like being published!), but then don’t become New York Times bestselling authors, and either beat ourselves up or stew in jealousy? But even if you’re not at the top of the ladder, does that mean you should devalue the fact that you made it on the rungs in the first place?

It’s a struggle that I am witness to all the time: in myself, in my friends, in my kids. So, I guess I wanted to say…welcome to the magical world. You’re in it, no matter who you are.

The Spell Sweeper Code of Conduct: Rule #12

Here is the next rule from the Code of Conduct, as described in Spell Sweeper, my latest middle-grade novel, with commentary by the main character Cara Moone.

THE SPELL SWEEPER CODE OF CONDUCT

(Do as I say, not as I bespell)

Rule #12

All magical entities, or traces of magical entities, must be immediately turned over to the proper authorities. Do not attempt to keep these creatures as pets. 

(I take this rule as more of a suggested guideline.)

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Readers of Spell Sweeper will know that this is the rule that Cara wholeheartedly breaks by adopting a baby squix. I really wanted this creature to be something that was so ugly it was cute. Below, is my concept drawing.

Yep, I definitely nailed “ugly.” Thankfully, cover artist Maike Plenzke came up with a MUCH better alternative . . . something that was ADORABLE.

I definitely want a stuffy version of this critter! Maybe I’ll figure out how to do that eventually, but I have had fun making squix eggs (when Cara first encounters her illegal pet, she’s still in the shell).

Spell Sweeper is available now in hardbound, digital, and audiobook formats from your favorite outlet.

The Spell Sweeper Code of Conduct: Rule #11

Here is the next rule from the Code of Conduct, as described in Spell Sweeper, my latest middle-grade novel, with commentary by the main character Cara Moone.

THE SPELL SWEEPER CODE OF CONDUCT

(Do as I say, not as I bespell)

Rule #11

Do not attempt a purge if a magical creature is in the vicinity. If in doubt, summon the local wizard Secretions from magical entities—blood, mucus, urine, venom, yolk, etc.—can be as dangerous as feral spell dust. Ensure all surfaces are scoured and cleaned of these substances before departing a site. 

(I’ve heard dragon pee leaves an odor that can last for decades.)

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Below is a photo of me in Spell Sweeper costume, but maybe when it comes to dragon urine, I should go with costume option Number 2!

Spell Sweeper is available now in hardbound, digital, and audiobook formats from your favorite outlet.

The Spell Sweeper Code of Conduct: Rule #10

Here is the next rule from the Code of Conduct, as described in Spell Sweeper, my latest middle-grade novel, with commentary by the main character Cara Moone.

THE SPELL SWEEPER CODE OF CONDUCT

(Do as I say, not as I bespell)

Rule #10

Do not attempt a purge if a magical creature is in the vicinity. If in doubt, summon the local wizard authority. 

(You guessed it!)

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Yep, Cara has opinions. And some issues with authority (unless, SHE is the authority, then it’s all good). 

My own dealings with wizards are limited, but I did once visit a castle full of them and you can see my photo of them idly standing around chit-chatting while a cart full of brooms sits nearby, begging to be swept into action.

Spell Sweeper is available now in hardbound, digital, and audiobook formats from your favorite outlet.

The Spell Sweeper Code of Conduct: Rule #9

Here is the next rule from the Code of Conduct, as described in Spell Sweeper, my latest middle-grade novel, with commentary by the main character Cara Moone.

THE SPELL SWEEPER CODE OF CONDUCT

(Do as I say, not as I bespell)

Rule #9

If you cannot contain it, rope it off and summon the local wizard authority. 

(Seriously, why don’t they just scrap this code and replace it with the phrase: “Just call a wizard!”)

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In Cara’s own words from Spell Sweeper: You’re probably familiar with the bright yellow “caution” tape for securing the scene of an accident. When we do a purge in Bliss territory, it’s procedure to rope off the entire area to ensure no one stumbles upon any magical activity. Our tape reads: Chemical Spill Containment Site: Do Not Cross—because no Bliss would take Danger: Feral Magic at Work seriously.

Spell Sweeper is available now in hardbound, digital, and audiobook formats from your favorite outlet.

The Spell Sweeper Code of Conduct: Rule #8

Here is the next rule from the Code of Conduct, as described in Spell Sweeper, my latest middle-grade novel, with commentary by the main character Cara Moone.

THE SPELL SWEEPER CODE OF CONDUCT

(Do as I say, not as I bespell)

Rule #8

Do not be seen, heard, or smelled. 

(They should add “tasted” to this list, because I’m not even a real spell sweeper yet, and I’ve already been nearly eaten twice.)

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If you’ve read Spell Sweeper, then you know Cara runs into a dangerous “mouth-thingy” in the fabric of magic—followed soon after by an angry mama squix. That encounter? Well it’s a bit of a train wreck. 😉

As for me, I have never met a squix or a mouth-thingy in real-life. Though you can swipe to see the time I once faced off against an ornery orc.

Spell Sweeper is available now in hardbound, digital, and audiobook formats from your favorite outlet.

The Spell Sweeper Code of Conduct: Rule #7

Here is the next rule from the Code of Conduct, as described in Spell Sweeper, my latest middle-grade novel, with commentary by the main character Cara Moone.

THE SPELL SWEEPER CODE OF CONDUCT

(Do as I say, not as I bespell)

Rule #7

Do not attempt explanation if you are accosted by a Bliss during a purge; summon the local wizard authority. 

(“Nothing to see here, folks—this is definitely not dragon egg yolk smeared all over your porch.”)

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BTW, Spell Sweepers are not only responsible for cleaning up spell dust left behind when wizards cast spells, but also any other magical . . . er, secretions.

Spell Sweeper is available now in hardbound, digital, and audiobook formats from your favorite outlet.

The Spell Sweeper Code of Conduct: Rule #6

Here is the next rule from the Code of Conduct, as described in Spell Sweeper, my latest middle-grade novel, with commentary by the main character Cara Moone.

THE SPELL SWEEPER CODE OF CONDUCT

(Do as I say, not as I bespell)

Rule #6

Do not wander off on your own during a purge of a contaminated site.

(Spoken like a true wizard who has never actually had to deal with the results of a Magical Occurrence. The debris from a wizard’s duel can be strewn across a six-mile radius.)

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FYI, most wizards require a talisman to amplify their innate magical ability. Common talismans used in Spell Sweeper are wands, amulets, or rings, but they can be anything. There’s a story that Riva Dragonsong (the founder of Cara’s school) once used a wet noodle to repel an entire horde of hydras. Swipe to see some talismans (sorry, no noodles featured).

Spell Sweeper is available now in hardbound, digital, and audiobook formats from your favorite outlet.

The Spell Sweeper Code of Conduct: Rule #5

Here is the next rule from the Code of Conduct, as described in Spell Sweeper, my latest middle-grade novel, with commentary by the main character Cara Moone.

THE SPELL SWEEPER CODE OF CONDUCT

(Do as I say, not as I bespell)

Rule #5

Trim your broom after each spell sweep. If an untrimmed broom is used on a different site, it could result in DDo not leave your gear unattended in Bliss areas. This includes when visiting the bathroom.

(Which is convenient if you have contracted Demon Orc Flu and have a sudden bout of magical diarrhea—you can just whip out your broom and make quick work of the mess.)

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FYI, non-wizards are called “Blisses” because they are ignorant to the existence of wizards and, as the saying goes, “ignorance is bliss.” Also, swipe to see some of the essential spell sweeper gear: goggles, mini-broom, and some “neutralizer”—in this case, it’s a bottle of “Moone Brew,” Cara’s self-made solution to combating toxic spell slime.

Spell Sweeper is available now in hardbound, digital, and audiobook formats from your favorite outlet.