Female pirates

The Makings of a Cover

I’m so excited to announce that DAUGHTER OF THE PIRATE KING has a cover. Here it is!


Artist Credit: Jen Wang; Design Credit: Liz Dresner

I thought it would be fun to talk about how the cover came to be, and I received permission from the good folks over at Feiwel and Friends to share some earlier versions.

I had no idea how long and complicated the process of creating and choosing a cover was until it was happening to my book. So many people have a say on the cover, such as the sales and marketing teams, design team, the publisher, etc. Surprisingly, the author is actually not one of the people who has a say on the cover. We may be asked for an initial idea of what styles we like or on our opinion between two different options. But the general direction the cover goes in? Not something we’re a part of, which makes sense if you think about it. Writers write. We’re not usually illustrators or design specialists, and we’re not as aware of the cover market as the professionals.

I’m so thankful for how hard the Feiwel and Friends team worked on this cover. It was an especially long process for my cover in particular, I’m told.

At first, they tried a cover more realistic with a photograph of a girl dressed as a pirate on a ship. Think of something reminiscent of Robin LaFevers’ GRAVE MERCY, but with pirates instead of assassins.

Grave Mercy

I believe it was decided that cover didn’t quite stand apart from other books on the shelves, (which isn’t to say LaFevers’ books don’t stand apart, just that they came first) which I’m sure is usually the reason why original covers are discarded. After this, they decided to try a title heavy cover. Something decorative. Like EVER THE HUNTED. I’m told all the attempts at this kind of cover (and I believe there were around twelve different mock ups) also weren’t working. (By the way, I love Erin’s cover. Isn’t it gorgeous?)

ever the hunted

After that, the team wanted to try an illustrated cover. There’s an illustrated trend happening with adult covers, and the team wanted to try fitting DAUGHTER OF THE PIRATE KING in with those. (Such as the covers of UPROOTED or A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC.)

Uprooted_cover_pictureA Darker Shade of Magic

While these are decidedly dark, the team really wanted a light cover, something that would hopefully stand out among all the dark, grittier covers in YA (don’t get me wrong, though, I love dark and gritty covers). Now this whole process happened without me seeing a single cover option. There’s little point in showing the author anything when it could be shot down by the people in sales or marketing or design. So the very first time I saw a cover for my book was when these two images showed up in my inbox (there was a little confusion on whether or not “the” was in the title, but we got that fixed right away):


I was entirely surprised. I hadn’t pictured anything like this at all, and when I learned just how much work F&F had already put into the covers, I was blown away. It’s amazing to know that other people have worked so hard on your book. I expressed my preference for the blue color scheme rather than the purple and yellow. I also preferred the corset to the pirate coat.

F&F also wanted to try a more muted look so the illustration wouldn’t look too cutesy or lean toward middle grade. DotPK is an upper YA, and it’s an action adventure/fantasy/romance with pirates. Not exactly a cutesy book. So they altered it to this:


I loved the new color scheme, and the picture above is what got put on the ARCs (advance reader copies). The colors looked even better when they were printed, and it was incredible getting to hold an actual book in my hand.


Even so, the cover wasn’t final. They wanted to make some more changes. Yesterday, I was shown two new covers, the one below and another that looked exactly the same except without the blood. (If you look closely, you can see more texture was added. Particularly to the sword and Alosa’s pants.)


I like the addition of blood on the map in the background. This is, after all, a pirate book, and swashbuckling is a must. So this is the cover we went with!

I’m sure the journey is different for every author, but there’s a slight look into the makings of a cover. I’d love to hear thoughts and questions below!



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Real Female Pirates, Part 3

It’s been far too long since I’ve done a post on real life female pirates. So far, you can find info about Ching Shih, our Chinese prostitute turned pirate here, and Grace O’Malley, the Irish pirate queen here. Today’s post features Jeanne de Clisson, a French aristocrat who turned pirate as a means of obtaining revenge.

Jeanne de Clisson

Ancient Origins Photo Credit

Jeanne was born in 1300 to a wealthy family and had a proper aristocratic upbringing. She was married three times in her life. She married her first husband when she was twelve and had two sons with him. He died fourteen years later, and Jeanne later married Olivier de Clisson.

At this time in history, the War of Breton Succession was occurring, in which the French and English were fighting for control of the Duchy of Brittany after the duke had died without a male heir. Charles de Blois sought to claim it for the French, and John de Montfort, for the English. Naturally, the Clissons sided with the French. Jeanne’s husband served as a military commander during the fighting that ensued.

Though there is no proof that Olivier was anything but loyal, the French suspected him of aiding the English, and King Philip VI of France had Olivier tried with treason. He was beheaded, and his body was displayed publicly.

Jeanne was furious. She sold all of her lands, purchased several warships, rallied herself some loyal supporters, and started attacking French ships. To invoke more fear, she had her ships painted black and her sails dyed red. After capturing a ship, she’d kill everyone on board, save a couple of witnesses who could report back to King Philip. She wanted the king to know exactly who was causing him so much trouble. When she captured any French noblemen, she personally beheaded them. They called her the Lioness of Brittany for her brutality.

Jeanne kept at it successfully for thirteen years, even after the king had died. She fell in love and married her third husband, an English nobleman; retired as a pirate; and lived happily ever after. In a castle.

Wikipedia—War of Breton Succession

Wikipedia—Jeanne de Clisson

Ancient Origins—Lioness of Brittany

Fact Fiend—Story of Jeanne de Clisson



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Real Female Pirates, Part 2


Grace O'Malley

Click picture for photo credit


Grace O’Malley was the daughter of the O’Malley Clan’s chieftain, whose holdings were located off the west coast of Ireland in the 16th century.

Grace wanted to be on the sea from the time she was little. She would beg her father to take her with him when he went trading overseas. But of course, Grace was told that a ship was no place for a girl. Grace was determined to prove that she could do what it took to be a sailor, so she cut her hair short and dressed as a boy. After much pushing, Grace finally convinced her father to let her accompany him overseas.

Grace was a hard worker, and she did everything she could to learn about the sea. She married twice. Both were matches that initially gained her more power and holdings, particularly near the sea. Her first husband died in battle, and she proposed marriage to her second in order to create a more impressive stand against the invading English.

Upon the death of her father, Grace inherited the family trading business. She taxed anyone who wanted to fish off her land or sail through her waters. If anyone refused to pay, Grace and her men would help themselves to whatever they wanted. They pillaged ships and castles, kidnapped notable people for ransom, and retaliated against any who offered her insult.

She caused so much trouble that the English tried to put a stop to her exploits, but Grace beat their initial attacks. She was an impressive strategist, which is clear from the way she negotiated her own advantageous marriage and convinced her father to let her engage in traditionally boy activities, but she also must have been an exceptional fighter, since she literally led her men into battle again and again.

Alas, Grace’s influence and power didn’t last. As England’s power in Ireland continued to grow, Grace’s power lessened. It is unclear when and how she died, but to this day, her descendants celebrate her life at the Westport House Estate, which was built upon the old foundation of O’Malley’s castle, with an adventure park, a statue, exhibits, and tours.






Ancient Origins

Westport House

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Real Female Pirates, Part 1

It bothers me when I hear people discredit movies and books because “women can’t really do that.” The phrase is usually in reference to women having impressive fighting skills, whether it be May in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or Celaena in Throne of Glass. And the simple truth is, yes, women can. Women can throw men twice their size over their shoulders, they can be assassins, and they can be pirates. In fact, they were, and this is the first post dedicated to real female pirates.


Click picture for photo credit

It might come as a shock to many to learn that the most successful pirate of all time was, in fact, a woman. In many senses, she was even a real pirate princess. Her name was Shi Xianggu or Ching Shih, and she was active in the early 19th century.

Shi was a Cantonese prostitute who was captured by pirates and ended up marrying one of them, a very successful pirate captain. When he died, she took control of all his ships and men. Yes, you might say she inherited them, but only a skilled pirate captain could maintain control over so many. And the pirates were more successful under her command. Shi expanded her fleet to around 80,000 men. The men learned quickly to follow orders because Shi had very strict rules and consequences (Wikipedia).

You don’t attack anyone without getting the okay from Shi first. You don’t have sex, consensual or not, without permission. Don’t desert. Anything you plunder goes to your captain for distribution. Etc. (Today I found Out).

Failure to obey usually resulted in beheading. The “no sex” seems strange. Why would it be a big deal if it was consensual? It’s understandable that Shi, being a woman, wouldn’t allow the female prisoners to be raped. But Shi was also a prostitute, and she knew the behaviors of men. And so she would force them to be celibate for weeks or months on end. That way, when it was time to plunder, the men would have extra, pent up energy and be more effective.

Many governments tried to stop her, including those of Portugal and Britain, but they couldn’t. Shi was brilliant, and she outsmarted all the strategies used against her (Ancient Origins).

Shi ended up retiring after negotiating a pardon for her and her men. She got to keep all her loot, and she died an old woman at the age of 69 (About Education).

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