A new cover for The Good Cemetery Guide

This latest e-book cover version arrived quietly,  over time… As small good things do. 

eCover-GoodCemetery-22Nov2016version2a_FINALWhat can I say? I suffer from book cover OCD. It explains everything. The long hours, the diversions, the steep learning curve as I hunted the right image and then the right cover design down…

Evocative cover art attracts me as a kingfisher might spot the glinting scales of a fish about to surface from far off.

Gazing and appreciating is a long way off coming up with a good cover for your own story.

Lesson 1 Learnt: Setting out to find the ultimate cover yourself is a time and energy draining exercise. I experimented with and discarded so many covers and so much good advice – it’s certainly not fashionably minimalistic with a punchy simplicity. Something felt right about this one.

When I first saw the Zebra stripes girl I had a feeling of deja vu, as if Lily, the unintentional cause of a small town funeral director’s life taking an unexpected turn, had somehow stepped out of fiction into life. There she sat, dreaming and remembering and contemplating the future in her quirky outfit, inhabiting an artwork done by a faraway artist who had not read my novel. My nocturnal visitation – the haunting impression of a striking big-boned redhead hovering, trembling with nervousness, waiting near the stage for Anthony Loxton to finish his guitar gig in a dimly lit music bar – plucked from the ether. The balloon was a bonus.

Lesson 2 Learnt: Be persistent and have faith in your own visual acuity. The font I really liked for the title turned out to be problematic – the letters weren’t sharp enough making it look hand drawn and unclear. Eventually after we’d both searched through hundreds and hundreds of fonts my cover designer came up with the existing font, which had the chalk writing look but was still legible even in thumbnail size. It wasn’t a popular font on any of the “best e-book covers” websites I checked out but nothing else looked right so I went with it.

Lesson 3 Learnt: Here’s the biggie – the truth is that just because you love a certain picture doesn’t mean it will easily transform into a book cover. The position of the daydreaming woman had to be adjusted to the right for the title to fit, and the colour hues had to be tweaked with variations so that it was lightened but the white text still stood out, and then more shifting and more colour hue adjustment went on so that the all-important balloon (as per the storyline) didn’t disappear into a lightened background. Using your own mind can be time-consuming and costly. It’s definitely a good idea to get your cover designer’s input on the matter before purchasing the artwork.



Okuribito_(2008)Departures is the cool name of an astonishingly beautiful Japanese movie (academy award for best foreign-language film) about an out-of-work cellist who ends up working in a funeral home by mistake and proves to have a calling. It makes one think of a Departures lounge at an airport – as if we’re all just in transit from here to somewhere. In the movie the father bequeathes the wonderful idea of stone letters to his young son; he disappears out of the boy’s life but the quaint story remains behind.

I experienced the pang of writer’s envy – what a fantastic idea… wrapping the fingers of the mother of your unborn child around a stone you have selected… a simple powerful image to weave past and present together, as well as make the emotional high point (see the movie!) –  a potentially corny moment – totally believeable.

In The Good Cemetery Guide the only thing Anthony Loxton’s father left him was the ability to speak to the dead; imagination and a reaching out for grace was not permitted; so Anthony unloaded onto a Mexican puppet and dreamt of Mexico which was as far away from Kalk Bay as any place he knew. Being the kind of person who picks up random stones and rocks everywhere she goes the delightful idea of the look and feel of a stone evoking unspoken thoughts and emotions – a wordless letter – resonates with me in a big way.

One can almost hear the beating heart of a stone as it rests quietly in one’s hand; it’s 41uD0FfHGTL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_sometimes warm and sometimes cold but always oddly mystical, this nugget of rock created by cosmic activity and ancient weather patterns. Hence the borrowed category title: Stone Letters. The entire significance always seems to escape one: the felt whole is always greater than the sum of words written on the page. Maybe stone letters will work better…

It turns out that the movie is loosely based on Coffinman: The Memoir of a Buddhist Mortician, by Shinmon Aoki.