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Creating the New Look for The Woodhead & Becker Mysteries


Previously, I announced a change to the Murders of Substance series to The Woodhead & Becker Mysteries, as well as a change of the book titles to The Winterstone Murder and The Bridegroom Murder. After fixing the title pages and other pages of the books’ interior where the titles appear. Once that’s done, I re-published these books with their new titles. The next Woodhead & Becker release (coming in 2023) will have the new title format and cover style.

I’ve written about the origin of the original series and the influence of the 1987 album Substance from the British post-punk band New Order, and why I made the change. This post discusses the process of coming up with the concepts for the new covers, and shows the full visual transformation!

I work with Ziad Ezzat of Feral Creative for my book covers, and I absolutely love his designs. The original covers of the Murders of Substance series are haunting and gorgeous—so I was really disappointed when I realized I gave him bad directions on what readers would be looking for. 

After studying many covers of hardboiled mysteries (LJ Ross, Anne Shillolo, Braylee Parkinson, and many others), Ziad and I decided to move forward with a cover depicting the setting of the book.

The Winterstone Murder (formerly Ceremony) is set in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a medium-sized city about 70 miles (120 kilometers) north of Chicago. The cover depicts the wooden riverwalk along the Milwaukee river, very close to where I’ve set the fictional freshwater lab of Kilbourn Tech (based loosely, of course, on the real freshwater science lab of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, with the location mirroring aspects of Marquette University).

The Bridegroom Murder (formerly Everything’s Gone Green) is set in Bend, Oregon, a city of about 100,000 in the high desert east of the Cascade Range in the central part of the state, about 160 miles (250 km) southeast of Portland. The cover depicts downtown Bend—specifically NW Wall St, two blocks away from Bond Street, where some of the action takes place.

So here is the full visual transformation from the original covers that paid homage to New Order, to the misleadingly zombie-themed version, to the final redesigns that clearly and proudly showcase their murder mystery identities.

I hope you have enjoyed learning about the journey through the revision process. I feel confident now that the series names and covers accurately represent the series, and I look forward to continuing Woodhead & Becker's adventures in Book 3 next year!

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