newsletter header tie dye roman column

Jim Ure is at it again, with his novel-writing high jinks. But this time, it’s a WWII home-front romance, so I had to move out of my comfort zone of designing covers for him that feature cartoon fish (see newsletter #8). It’s about a woman who needs to find herself—away from home, away from the husband who pilfered her job, away from the memory of the romance that crashed in France. Or was it Belgium? Is there a difference?

newsletter laughing trout LeniI kept waiting for a fish to become a major character, but alas, this was not to be a second installment in The Laughing Trout trilogy. Mr. Ure was deaf to my suggestions to have the pilot be a halibut in a Hawker Hurricane. Authors!

This is a self-published e-book, so we didn’t have the advantage of Random House’s budget. But we had the decided advantage of Hilary, who has a collection of photos of herself taken in vintage outfits. She’s the one in the vintage outfits, not the photographer, just to be clear. Or maybe they both are. It’s always a mystery what the photographer is wearing. Why the secrecy?

Leni covers tunnel horizontalOne of the front-runner layouts has take-your-pick-of-the-many-faces-of-Hilary with her head as a tunnel. You see, the heroine flees on a train, the disappearance helps define who she is, it shows mystery and that she’s far away, there’s the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, and she may or may not be a cyclops. (Spoiler: like a halibut, heroine Helena has a minimum of two eyes, but not as weird as a halibut’s.)

Lent newsletter train stationAn ideal picture of a 1940s train station appeared in an image search. I tracked down the artist, a 3D illustrator in Sussex, England, and learned this was a rendering he made in school, 10 years ago. He said to feel free to use it, but what I plucked from the Internet was the best resolution I’d get. It had to be blown up 3x, which would usually melt it into a puddle of cheesy grits, but it looked surprisingly not-horrible. Not-horrible isn’t as desired as, say, exquisite, but it’s better than horrible. One must have standards, even if they have the flexibility of Gumby’s Slinky.

Lent newsletter book cover finalOf course, my motto is, When life hands you blur, make blurmonade. I wanted Hilary to “pop” anyhow, so I made the closest and furthest points even more blurry, making the middle ground seem relatively normal, and the whole thing just came into focus. Metaphorically. Making it more blurry didn’t literally make it more in focus. This isn’t Schrödinger’s Train Station.

Let’s rebrand “blurriness” as: a lonely ambiance, the chill atmosphere that rolls in with the fog of war. Now we’re playing with intent!

The only thing left was to alter the overall color, move the train and benches closer together to better work on a vertical cover, change the color of Hilary’s shoes to match the coat, shade her to match the dim surroundings and splat down a shadow to attach her to the floor, since her method of escape isn’t to float away as a human Hindenburg. And because I needed more ownership, I made it so she has just eaten a halibut fillet on toast for lunch.

Read Helena is Missing here!