All authors have a story. Boy, is that an understatement! However, I am referring to the authors themselves. This story is how this author is tied to this cover and how far back it goes. As they say, everything happens for a reason. This is no exception.
Twisted Fate is the fifth novel centered around Ruthorford, a fictional town in Georgia, where being paranormal is normal and nothing is as it seems. This particular novel started about a year ago and evolved into a long story about how things can go wrong or, at the very least, not go as they were planned or expected. As with all my other stories, I had planned to turn to my cover artist toward the end to design a great cover for my book. Except, when I reached out to her, she was nowhere to be found. No one had heard anything and, to this day, I have no idea what happened to her. I suddenly found myself with a very long novel approaching publication and no cover.
I tend to take pictures for my Facebook posts with my cell phone, almost daily. Even so, I am not a photographer. I take pix and upload them to folders, occasionally finding one I want to share. In the process of transferring some old files to a hard-drive, I transferred a bunch of files mistakenly into the wrong folder. When I went into the folder to straighten things out, there were two pictures next to one another—a picture of an amazing sunset I took off my front porch and a graphic I’d turned into a jpg years ago—the background and the hooded figure on my cover. I opened up Photoshop Elements and, as if by magic, I had a cover.
Now, let me tell you about the hooded figure. Many decades ago, my husband (before he became my husband) and I were offered a place to stay until we could get on our feet. Both of us had found ourselves between jobs and living in a place unworthy of our precious puppy. A friend told us she happened to have a townhouse without a tenant and offered to let us stay, rent free, until our circumstances improved. We packed up and, with the help of her and her sons, moved in, sight unseen. As we stepped into this gorgeous townhouse, I burst into tears because it was far prettier than anything I could have dreamed of.
I was in heaven—for a few months. At first, I noticed some cold spots and tended to avoid them. Then, I started hearing a mewling sound, but could find no cat. We had none, just Rufus, our chow, and he didn’t seem to hear anything. One day, I heard him upstairs, growling, in a lower pitch than I’d ever heard before. I went up the stairs to find him staring into one of the bedrooms, his hackles raised. I came up beside him and tried to look around him into the dark room. He kept moving, placing himself between me and the door, until I finally had to put my leg over him, straddling him, because he wasn’t budging. I leaned forward and looked into the room when a cold burst of air hit me in the face. On the window sill sat an animal the likes of which I’d never seen (and, honestly, hope to never see again). It was mostly an outline, except for the eyes, which glowed at us. I grabbed Rufus by the collar, pulled my leg back over him, and pulled him downstairs and outside with me. As soon as he was outside, Rufus returned to normal. Me, not so much. I was cold and shaking like a leaf. When my boyfriend came home, we searched the entire house, finding nothing. Never did see that thing again.
Luckily, we both soon found jobs. Mine was as an assistant editor for a regional magazine which provided long, but odd, hours, so I got to spend some time at home with Rufus. One day, as I was coming down the stairs, I felt a pair of hands shove me. Instantly, I was off my feet, flying down the stairs, head first, toward the wall at the bottom. Then, just as instantly, I was lifted by some energy over the half-wall railing and dropped, none too gently, on the floor on the other side of the stairs, stunned but safe. Rufus was on me in seconds, whining and licking the side of my face. I squinted and saw the edge of a billowing grey robe right as it disappeared. After that, several times a week, I would dream of this hooded figure. He seemed to be trying to teach me something, but it was in a language I couldn’t grasp as it was in my head, filling my mind. After I got over my fear (maybe because I was grateful to him for having saved my life) I came to think of him as Mr. Grey. I never saw his face and never felt any warmth from him. He was more mentor than friend. And, honestly, I don’t think I was a very good pupil. It was at that time that I decided to write my first novel, Capricorn’s Child, which would have been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, had my son not found it, dried out the musty papers, and bagged them for me. I still have dreams of publishing that one day.
For a while, several, mostly annoying, things happened. Just as I was getting comfortable, however, I came home to find the large window fan lying on the floor upstairs with its sides crushed in. Then, a week later, I found all of the living room furniture upstairs in the room where I’d seen the animal (while I was napping on the couch in the kitchen/office). We decided it was time to move.
On our last day in the townhouse, when I was cleaning off the tops of the kitchen cabinets where we’d kept some decorations, I found several piles of fresh wheat, dry and sweet smelling. I cleaned it up, thanked Mr. Grey, closed the door, and thought nothing more about it until my friend called. She told me her son didn’t last a month in the townhouse and, when he left, they found piles of maggots. I guess whatever it was liked us, after all.
That was close to thirty years ago. When I was publishing my first novel about Ruthorford, my publisher asked me to use a pseudonym. My son thought that was a great idea. I chose Shanon, since it had always been a favorite name. I told my son to choose my last name. He went to the bookstore and, after a couple of days, presented me with my new last name, saying it was in the middle of the alphabet, putting it in good spots on shelves, was short and easy to sign (it is). He knew nothing about the townhouse and, honestly, I didn’t think anything about it until I saw those two pictures together in that file folder, years after I’d been signing my pen name with a flourish.
Truly, that cover represents Twisted Fate, not only for the descendants of Ruthorford, but for their author, Shanon Grey.