Finding a Threatening Sky

I wanted to keep the sky theme for the sequel to Mackerel Sky, because originally these two novels were just one giant novel under the working title, Watching Clouds. That title because I love watching clouds and, naturally, so does the main character, Owen.

Up until the end of 2016, Watching Clouds was still going to be the title of the first book. It changed to the mackerel version because that cloud formation happens to be one of my favourites and it has a pivotal scene in the novel.

Threatening Sky came about as the sequel’s title to represent the darker nature of the story within. And, as with the mackerel sky, the threatening version plays a physical part too.

The Clouds

What I didn’t quite realise, when coming up with this title, was how hard it would be to find a sky that could be considered threatening. Or to articulate what ‘threatening’ meant to me. Big? Black? Streaky? Rainy? Flat? The following three images are top of my list at the moment, and they’re all rather different from each other.

Sky One

From 2016, this was taken on my way from Denver to Houston. Houston at the time had been suffering heavy storms and was dealing with the aftermath of floods. We skirted around this monster cloud, allowing me to see quite a lot of it. It’s totally gorgeous, but now that I’ve looked at it again, I can’t see that it’s threatening enough for a cover image (even if it was to have a change of colour).

Sky Two

Part of my daily commute consists of a beautiful coastal train journey, and I’ve taken countless photos of the sea and skies at dawn and at dusk. The view is different daily and I just love it. I like the grey/black of this photo (March 2018) but perhaps the peeking sun might rule it out of being considered threatening.

Sky Three

Ever since I told my mum what the title would be, she has been on the look out for threatening skies. She lives in an area that’s plains on one side and mountains on the other, and temperatures can be extreme. This particular photo was one of a series (December 2018) just before the storm arrived, and I really like it. It’s angry and patchy and promises rain.

The Full Cover

I envisage the cover taking the same format as Mackerel Sky because I want the pair of novels to be recognisable as a pair. So it’s all about clouds and Chicago.

However, because the John Hancock isn’t as significant as it was in the first novel, I don’t need such a close-up view of it. And, with the clouds I’m considering, I’m not sure that their threatening nature is visible enough when half the cover is of buildings.

When I visited Chicago in April/May this year, I walked along the wonderful waterfront trail. I did this because Owen walks there and I needed to see how far he could go from the downtown area and still see the John Hancock. Well, the building can be seen from Evanston, which is a perfect miracle for both novels. I have some good images of the building and general skyline from different distances that I think will work on the cover.

The novel, itself, is going through yet another edit/rewrite/reposition phase. (How many times can you reposition scenes? Turns out, a LOT.) Though I’m sure on the title and the general cover design, I won’t speak to my cover designer until nearer the end of January. The novel should be in a more stable position by then and I should have settled not only on the cloud image but also the novel’s blurb.

Threatening Sky will be published 5 April 2019.