How a Dragon Dawned by Deborah O'Neill Cordes

I've been invited by author M. J. Schiller to describe how the cover of my recently released novel, Dragon Dawn, Book One of the Dinosaurian Time Travel Series, was created. As you may have discerned from my title, Dragon Dawn is a sci-fi adventure, and the cover needed to evoke that – and give a hint of the time twisting incarnations of my heroine, whose "soul" exists in two bodies, in two separate times and universes. Not only is she Dawn, a human female astronaut from our near future, but she is also Dawann-dracon, a highly evolved dinosaurian, who exists in a parallel universe where non-avian dinosaurs did not go extinct on Earth. Imagine the difficulty of creating a cover which gives potential readers a sense of this transformation? As I pondered how to do this, on Ms. Schiller's advice I hired one of the best cover artists around, the talented Steven Novak. But, before Steven could go to work, he had to know something about my story.

Here's the book blurb I sent him for Dragon Dawn:

Time snakes between alternate universes. Ever watchful, an alien intelligence survives on Mars, waiting to be found by spacefarers from Earth. The alien’s ultimate goal is to send human astronauts back in time, where they will alter the past and thwart the extinction of the dinosaurs. A race of intelligent dinosaurs, resembling the alien’s extinct species, subsequently evolves to rule the world. But a human female astronaut, through a strange twist of fate, survives the change in the space-time continuum. After finding herself in a dinosaurian body, she must race against time – and the formidable alien – to restore the universe to its rightful course.

Now that Steven knew the basic plot of Dragon Dawn, I felt he needed visuals that would give him a hint of what I'd envisioned for the cover. But first, let me backtrack and tell you what I didn't want. No hokey sci-fi painting. No photos of models in a cliché romantic clutch. You see, in addition to the time travel and science fiction elements of my tale, there's a romance between Human Dawn and her astronaut-commander, Gus Granberg. However, I didn't want a cover depicting Dawn and Gus holding each other. I also didn't want anything reminiscent of many science fiction, "time travel back to the Cretaceous" novels, like depictions of astronauts in spacesuits standing on Mars, or of dinosaurs roaring and stomping through the Cretaceous jungle, or any strange combination of the two. This old sci-fi cover serves as a reminder of what I wanted to avoid:

Source: "Stories of the Stars – Aldebaran," Fantastic Adventures back cover, December 1945; Artist Frank R. Paul.

So, I knew what wouldn't work for me. With Steven Novak hired and ready to work on my cover, I needed to get cracking. What did I want for Dragon Dawn?

I took a long shower, which always helps me to think, and while scrubbing my hair I envisioned an eye, but not a human one; it was reptilian, with a vertically slit pupil. Bingo! I raced through the rest of my shower, toweled off and threw on a robe, and headed straight for my computer. A Google search provided me with a host of reptilian eyes, but most, while eerily beautiful to zoologists and reptile lovers, might be deemed creepy by the general public. For a sampling, please click on the following link:

As you have seen, those eyes just wouldn't do justice for my dinosaurian heroine, who I've described as one of the most beautiful creatures in the Solar System. I gave Google another shot, as I did have her kind descending from the most intelligent species of dinosaur found on Cretaceous Earth, called Troodon. Here's a model of a troodontid, without the feathers it is now purported to have possessed, and with the vertically slit pupil.

Source: Wikipedia Commons.

Once again, it looked rather strange and creepy. I continued to research and found a model of the very thing I was writing about – a hypothetical dinosauroid, a creature that might have evolved to intelligence had a comet or asteroid not hit the Earth 66 million years ago, causing the dinosaurian extinction. The idea for the dinosauroid was first postulated by paleontologist Dale Russell in the 1980s, and this museum display model of his "thought experiment" is surrounded by depictions of her ancestors, the troodontids, whose bodies have been updated with feathers, which they are now thought to have possessed:

Source: Wikipedia Commons; Photographer Jim Linwood.

This model of Dr. Russell's dinosauroid is not in the least bit beautiful, is she? I returned to my manuscript of Dragon Dawn, to reevaluate what I had written about the appearance of Dawann-dracon. Here's the excerpt, as Dawann looks at herself in a mirror and ponders the echoes of another universe:

Tasha. Earth. Harry. NASA. Kris.

Sometimes, at the oddest moments, the unintelligible words of a strange language filled the head of Dawann-dracon. Some words were even pronounced with a blunt “s” rather than a proper hiss. Never in her life had she heard anyone utter such sounds.

Puzzled, she looked around her bed-nest chamber, then into her hand mirror, and studied her reflection. A lovely face, pale green with finely wrought features, stared back. Feathery black lashes framed her green eyes, while long feathers cascaded off her head, black with a rainbow sheen. She had been told she was the fairest saurian in the Solar System, yet she found herself out of sorts, for the image in the mirror brought no satisfaction. Waves of uncertainty coursed through her.

Tasha. Earth. Harry. NASA. Kris.

What is happening to me? she thought. Why do I seem to remember the words of a foreign tongue? Or is it merely gibberish? Am I losing my mind to madness?

Was it possible to create an image of a dinosaurian who would dazzle everyone in the Solar System? By now, I was having my doubts. She couldn't look like the museum model, or possess spine-chilling eyes. And then I realized I had faith in Steven Novak's artistic abilities, having seen his work on many other book covers. I wrote to him, sent him some visuals, and asked that he create a beautiful face for my dinosaurian. To my delight, he got back to me that very day. My gorgeous green dragon lady was born, with not a creepy vibe to be found. You can even see her "morphing" from Human Dawn into Dragon Dawn, if you let your gaze rove from left to right. In my estimation, Steven hit the proverbial home run with this cover.

And the ball flew straight out and far away, to the stars!

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I'd love to hear what you think of Dragon Dawn's cover. And a big virtual hug to M. J. Schiller, for hosting me on her blog (and for telling me about Steven Novak). XXXOOO

Deborah’s bio and website links:

                                                                                                                                                                    Deborah O’Neill Cordes is an award-winning
screenwriter and novelist of historical and speculative fiction. She is the author of the sci-fi time travel novel, Dragon Dawn, Book One of the Dinosaurian Time Travel Series, which blends fields of study she loves in equal measure; Deborah holds a bachelor’s degree in zoology and a master’s degree in history. She is also the co-author of the Morgan O’Neill time travel novels, which she writes with Cary Morgan Frates. Deborah resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two West Highland White Terriers, who, alas, are precocious terriers and therefore never white.

Deborah’s website:

Morgan O'Neill website:

Buy link: Buy It On Amazon


Today I am very happy to be featuring the lastest release from my friend, Tara Mills, INTIMATE STRANGERS!

Can she ever forgive herself? Will she ever forget him?

When newly engaged couple Mac and Kate, take a celebratory fishing trip off the island of Pelican Cay, they never dream their romantic bliss is in jeopardy.

What happens will test Kate in ways she never saw coming, make her question what she understands about her own heart, and lead her into the arms of another man.

This exciting short story has it all; romance, terror, passion, betrayal, and a happy ending, of course, but perhaps not the one you'd expect.

Sneak Peek
There was a spring in Kate and Mac’s steps when they hustled down the dock, clasped hands swinging between them on this bright and early morning. In truth, it could have been simply the give of the walkway under their feet, but she chose to attribute it to their blissful mood. Her skin still tingled from making love with him back at the hotel. Both wore smiles that wouldn’t quit.

Kate turned her wrist, and his, to admire her beautiful new ring. The breathtaking diamond caught the light and shimmered back at her, utterly captivating her all over again.

Mac shot her a quick glance and chuckled as he gently tugged her along. “Come on. You’ll have all kinds of time to stare at that rock once we’re on the boat.”

“I can’t help it.” She laughed, still thrown by his unexpected proposal. “I love it!”

He turned her hand so he could admire the ring himself then winked at her. “It looks good on you.” Mac craned his neck and spotted their chartered boat. “I see ‘em.” He shared a nod with a man watching them from a fly bridge just ahead.

The man chuckled as he made his way down a chrome ladder to the deck to meet them. “You beat my other crewman.” Turning, he reached for Kate’s hand, hauling her into the boat as Mac boosted her by the hips from behind. Her fiancé leaped gracefully onto the boat after her and they both faced the captain.

“Welcome aboard the Sea Sprite. I’m Brady Finn.” Still holding her hand, he gave it a hearty pump.

He didn’t look any older than they were, but his sharp features were weathered from the wind and sun. The lines framing his smile gave his tan even more warmth. Her eyes strayed to his sandy hair. Generally, she preferred men who were more clean-cut, like Mac, but the way Brady’s shaggy hair fluttered and feathered in the breeze, with the sun glinting off his natural bleached highlights, was undeniably appealing. As if saving the best for last, only now did she meet his unusual blue-green eyes. Set off by fine lines radiating out from the corner of each, they were beautiful, so striking she was thrown for moment.

No question—most women would find Brady Finn attractive. Trying very hard not to think about it, she blushed at her delayed response to his introduction. “Kate.”

As always, Mac saved the day. Offering his hand to their skipper next, he grinned. “And I’m Mac Schafer.” He looked around, taking it all in. “Wow, this is some boat.”

“Thank you.” The captain was noticeably pleased at the compliment. “Ah … here’s Rome. He’s going to help you haul in your monster fish today.”

“Rome?” Kate raised her eyebrows as she shook the Latino’s hand.

His lips tightened. “I prefer it to Romeo.”

Brady gave him a good-natured cuff on the arm and told the passengers, “He’s not as big a fan of Shakespeare as his mom.”

Chuckling, Mac clasped hands with him and brought back the man’s easy smile. “Good to meet you, Rome.”

A sigh of contentment escaped Kate as she gazed at her fiancé. Mac had a way with people, a gift for diffusing tense situations. It’s what attracted her to him in the first place.

Stepping back she was startled to catch the captain watching her, studying her. She had an uneasy suspicion he was very aware of how carefully she’d examined him minutes ago. Looking evasively away, she reached for Mac. Pressed against his side while he chatted, Kate rubbed her hand up and down his spine, in dire need of a little of his calming mojo herself all of a sudden.

Oblivious to her tension, Mac smiled at Brady. “You said there’s a bathroom on board?”

The captain pointed to his left. “Through the salon and down the stairs.”

Mac gave Kate’s waist an affectionate squeeze. “See. Told you. You’ll be fine.”

“You can’t miss it.” Brady’s eyes landed on her again. To her relief, they didn’t linger this time. “We’ll head out as soon as Manuel gets here. Excuse me. I’ll see what’s keeping him.”

Rome waved the couple into the cockpit. “How about a quick tour?”

Buy Links: Crimson Frost Books — Amazon

About the Author

I'm a lifelong wordaholic, contemporary romance writer, pampered wife, and proud mom. Escape with me into books.

If you like fun and flirty, saucy and sexy, exciting thrills and suspense, or simply a good chuckle, I've got a story for you.

Please visit my website, Tara Mills Romance, for more information on my titles, sneak peeks, and my quirky blog.

I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Google+


Joining us today on the last day of their joint tour are Wild Rose Press authors Margo Hoornstra and Jannine Gallant! Here's a little bit about the books they are touring with:


All of the pleasures and none of the pain, that’s what Cynthia Buckingham wants in a relationship these days. A one-night stand with Jonah Colt seems to fit that bill perfectly. Newly divorced, she’s too busy planning her daughter’s wedding for any serious involvement. Besides, her true passion is helping victims of PTSD reclaim their lives.

Waking up after spending the night with a woman he barely knows, Jonah is stunned to realize sex for the sake of sex isn’t enough for him anymore. A veteran of more military battles than he cares to count, he wants to forget it all and focus on peaceful civilian life. Except flashbacks won’t allow it.

Falling for Cynthia makes Jonah regret his weakened state, but he’d rather hide the truth than face it. When she sets aside everything she believes in to help him heal, can he accept her help–and her love?


From the very beginning, Jonah made the evening perfect. Taking them around to her side of the car, getting her safely settled and shut inside before he took his place behind the wheel. Then reversed the process after they arrived at Cornell’s, a high priced seafood restaurant, with the very best shrimp cocktail ever created.

“My favorite place. But how did you know?”

He paused to take her hand as they approached the entrance. “Let’s just say I used my powers of observation.”

Their evening together was wonderful to say the least. So why did an unusual sense of regret slide through her every time she and Jonah took a short break from laughing?

Because their time together like this, like a normal, happy couple who enjoyed each other’s company—outside the bedroom as well as in—would soon end?

Then what?

Had she so diverted from the no strings and no commitments plan she had laid out for the rest of her life? Who knew if she had the ability to pull it off?

If she concentrated hard enough, she could see them going on this way for years. When she allowed herself to imagine the two of them together beyond the one night stand that had drifted on for the better part of a few weeks now. Truth was, she could see them together, but not too clearly.

Life’s simple pleasures. That’s what she intended to share with Jonah Colt. Life’s simple pleasures. And none of its pain.


Margo Hoornstra hails from the Midwest, land of the—this year at least—never ending snow storms. It’s beautiful to look at but has put a crimp in her second love besides writing, long walks outdoors.

You can find Margo at:

Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Google+

You can find ONLY IF YOU DARE at:

Daycare owner, Miranda O’Neill, isn’t looking for a miracle. But that’s what it’ll take to convince Cole Matheson the American Dream isn’t a trap designed to suck the life out of him. She wants a house with a white picket fence. He wants adventure. She yearns for babies of her own. He’s perfectly content claiming his aging hound as his only dependent. The one thing they agree on–they can’t keep their hands off each other.

Six months ago, they’d admitted love wasn’t enough and parted ways. But when Cole finds himself in charge of his nephew for the ten longest days of his life, only one person can save him.

Will Miranda put aside her heartache to jump into the fray? Can Cole find any redeeming qualities in a demon in a diaper? Either way, both know they’re just asking for trouble.


Rising to his feet in one smooth movement, Cole gave her a hand up. His palm was warm and a little rough as it curled around her fingers. With an extra tug, he brought her close against his chest.

“Oops, I guess I don’t know my own strength.”

For a moment, she leaned into him. The afternoon had been relaxing, but stimulating at the same time, like the man standing before her. With Cole, there was always the question of what he’d say next, what he’d do next…

His free hand rose to touch her hair before his thumb stroked along her jaw in a whisper soft caress that sent a quiver sliding through her.

Drawing in a breath, she forced herself to step back. “Why don’t you get the horses while I wake Jackson?”

A pained look flashed through his eyes and was gone. “Sure.”

When he released her and turned away, she pressed shaking hands against her thighs to steady herself. After a long moment, she bent and picked up the rose, then lifted Jackson into her arms and hugged him close, breathing in his clean, baby scent.

No more innocent outings with a man who had the power to trample her heart beneath his boots. She’d been a fool to think she could spend time with Cole without falling in love with him all over again. Truth was, it would be a short drop into heartache. She touched the rose to her lips. Because she’d never stopped loving him the first time around.


Jannine Gallant lives in beautiful Lake Tahoe where she enjoys hiking and snowshoeing in the woods around her home. Her stories are set in small towns and reflect the beauty of nature.

You can find Jannine at:

Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

You can find ASKING FOR TROUBLE at:

Free on Amazon!

Thank you for joining us, Margo and Jannine! 


Blurb ~

For the last fifteen years, Rose “Manny” Mankowski has been a very good girl. She turned her back on her youthful fancies and focused on her career. But now, at the age of 45, she’s questioning her choices and feeling more and more disconnected from her own life. When she’s passed over for promotion and her much younger new boss implies Manny’s life will never change, something snaps. In the blink of an eye, she’s quit her job, sold her house and cashed in her pension, and she’s leaving town on a six month road trip.

After placing a personal ad for a travelling companion, she’s joined in her mid-life crisis by Zeke Powell, the cynical, satirical, most-read – and most controversial – blogger for the e-magazine, What Women Want. Zeke’s true goal is to expose Manny’s journey as a pitiful and desperate attempt to reclaim her lost youth – and increase his readership at the same time. Leaving it all behind for six months is just an added bonus.

Now, armed with a bagful of destinations, a fistful of maps, and an out-spoken imaginary friend named Harvey, Manny’s on a quest to rediscover herself – and taking Zeke along for the ride.

Excerpt ~

“All I ever wanted was a life less ordinary.”

Manny lay flat on her back, eyes wide, staring at the ceiling while she waited for her clock to hit 6:00. Another day of work, she thought. Another day older and deeper in debt.

She had the alarm timed to the millisecond. The jarring noise had barely begun when she clicked it off. She sighed then threw back the covers and got out of bed.

She padded into the bathroom, glanced without interest in the full-length mirror that doubled as her shower doors and took her morning inventory.

Plain face? Check.

Looking tired? Check.

Thirty pounds overweight? Check.

Dark circles under deer-caught-in-headlights eyes? Check and check.

She shook her head at her limp, mousy hair and wondered when she’d gotten so old.

She sighed in resignation then conjured up her Perfect Fantasy Man–or Harvey, as she liked to call him–to give her a morning lift. She cocked her head to one side as she stared into the mirror and imagined him standing behind her. She smiled at the handsome man, and he smiled back, putting his hands on her shoulders. Everything about him was warm, in stark contrast to the cold shades of grey in which she lived her life. He had warm brown eyes, warm brown skin, and a warm smooth voice that always reminded her of golden honey. Today his hair was black with greying temples, and yes, even that seemed warm to her.

He was perfect, everything she considered ideal in a man–and extra-perfect, of course, because he was a fantasy. Just the thought of trying to establish a relationship with an actual man felt too much like work.

She sighed and Harvey disappeared.

“Instead I ended up in a rut–everything planned and executed to the minute.”
She finished her shower and padded out to the kitchen wrapped in a worn terrycloth robe just as the coffee pot finished perking her morning coffee. She pulled a white cup out of the cupboard, filled it and took it with her to the bedroom, where she drank her coffee while she dressed and pulled her hair into its habitual bun high on the back of her head. At 6:45 sharp, she was back in the kitchen where she rinsed out the cup and put it on the rack next to the other three cups from earlier in the week; they marked the passage of time like scratches on a prison wall.

She walked out the door at 6:55 as usual, called good morning to Mr. Abinash from next door, as usual, got into her car and drove to work. As usual. She walked in at 7:37, called good morning to those of her staff already at their desks, and settled herself in her office.

As usual.

She sighed silently as she logged on to her computer and realized she couldn’t remember the last time she’d had a sick day or had come in late. Even her car and traffic and the sometimes-harsh Edmonton winters had given up trying to throw off her schedule.

She sighed again as she rifled through her stacks of paper, searching for the information she needed to review before the staff meeting at nine. The last staff meeting before their new boss arrived at ten, and Manny went back to her old position. She’d enjoyed being the boss and thought she’d had a good chance to win the promotion. If she was honest with herself, though, she hadn’t really been surprised with the decision to offer the job to Steph. If she had the energy, she’d almost wonder why she didn’t even care that much.

“I told myself it was security. But all I was doing was sleeping with my eyes open.”

Manny glanced up as her assistant energetically bounced in.

“Morning, Manny.”

“Morning, Roxie. How was your evening?”

“Great–went to that new Robert Downey Jr. movie–rrrooowwwrrrr! Phil wasn’t too impressed with my drooling though.”

Manny laughed. “I’d expect not. I guess I need to go see it then.”

“Yeah, sure. When was the last time you actually went to a movie in the theatre?”

Manny paused, considering the question then shrugged carelessly. “Can’t remember, actually.”

Roxie shook her head in exasperated fondness and sat down in front of Manny’s desk. She leaned forward and lowered her voice. “So, the new boss starts today?”

“Yep,” Manny replied absently, reviewing the e-mails in her inbox.

“Are you going to be okay with this? I mean, you–”

“Of course I’m okay with it. Steph’s a nice person, bright, energetic, competent, levelheaded, full of new ideas. She may have a bit of a learning curve ahead of her, but she’ll do just fine. She may be just what we need around here. Perk us up a bit.”

“Yeah, but you–”

Manny took her hands off the keyboard and turned to face Roxie directly. She gave her a reassuring smile and calmly held her gaze.

“I’m okay with it,” she said. “Really. I didn’t want to be the boss anyway.” She paused then continued. “Everything’s going to be fine. You’ll see. A new boss will be fun!”

Roxie grimaced cynically and Manny shook her head in mock disapproval.

“We should get to work,” she urged gently.

Roxie nodded and stood. “Yeah, that at least never changes. But Manny…”

Manny raised a quizzical eyebrow.

“It should’ve been you.”

Bio ~

Victoria Bernadine (a pseudonym) is, as the saying goes, a “woman of a certain age”. After twenty-something years of writer’s block, she began writing again in 2008. Victoria enjoys reading all genres and particularly loves writing romantic comedy and post-apocalyptic science fiction. What those two have in common is anybody’s guess. She lives in Edmonton with her two cats (The Grunt and The Runt). A Life Less Ordinary is the first novel she felt was good enough to be released into the wild.

You can find Victoria at:

You can find A LIFE LESS ORDINARY here:

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