Cozy Up

I meant to do this yesterday, but I came down with some terrible bug.  So, sorry to be horribly late and perhaps a little less detailed than usual. As in, I completely forgot to save the art in progression.  Which is just as well or I’d be posting this at two pm. Most of them are fairly self explanatory.

Doing covers for cozies is probably the easiest thing ever, because almost all sites, including free sites like Pixabay have cartoony figures. It’s also one of the most difficult things ever, because you can’t have the same figure/cat/whatever every book, since few artists have series of 20 or 30 pictures of the same cat or person, in cartoon.

As a refresher, this is what we’re aiming for  Cozy mysteries with cats.

It runs the gamut from really cartoony to kind of artsy drawing.You don’t even need to have cats on the cover, or you can just put a cat silhouette, but except for a couple, which are a little odd, I’ll be honest, the covers all seem to be “drawn.”

This is where you say “oh, shoot, I can’t draw.”  Go ahead. I’ll wait while you say it.

Good thing then that when it comes to cats and Victorians and such we have a veritable embarrassment of riches on Pixabay, and more — I’m sure — on the paying sites.

You probably just won’t find the elements you want together.  Thank heavens we have photoshop.

For this I’m doing the cover for my (started. Yes, I know) first orphan kittens mysteries.  I could have Jack Wylder do this series too, but I hate to be dependent on anyone else, even a good friend and great artist (He does the cover for my furniture refinishing mysteries.) Not that he’s ever late, but I’ve had the cover for A Well Inlaid Death for months and at this point I am late, and I feel guilty.

Besides, I wanted to try the DAZ cartoon figures, including a new kitten, so…

These mysteries are crimes solved by a 40 something year old woman, with two teens, a boy and a girl and a husband who is a mathematics professor. She used to be an art teacher, but stayed home with the kids because her husband is the stereotypical absent minded professor.  She’s now trying to do some art (because she always wanted to) but they just moved to Goldport Colorado, where her Mother In Law lives, (When she started having memory problems.) So she has a Victorian to renovate, a Mother in Law and two teens to keep an eye on, and a husband who is much like Einstein in that she has to pick his clothes for him and give him two maps: one to walk to the college (five blocks away) and one to walk back. Into this comes a litter of kittens inside a plastic bag thrown into her yard. The kittens are suffering respiratory issues from something. She tries to find where they came from and discovers a body. (In subsequent books she joins the orphan kitten rescue group that helps her save the three kittens.)

I had a lot of latitude to the background, and did searches for professor and teens etc. but settled on the simplest both to find and to render: a woman and kittens/kitten.

So, for the first one I thought I’d go for a painterly background


And a woman


And a cat


Now obviously since both woman and cat are sitting, I need something for them to sit on.  I tried several things from porches to park benches but they all overwhelmed the picture. Belatedly I think a wall would have worked. Ah, well.  So, I got this:


The result was this, which I wouldn’t be incredibly proud about… would fit in, and I’ve seen worse:


If I were doing this for real I’d find another font, because those circles give the impression it’s paranormal, and it really is not.

Not particularly satisfied, I went looking again.  Same background, but woman:




Note this woman has a lot of cats, so it could be useful if you’re doing cat mysteries.

The result was this:


Note that I took a bit of the background, copied it off and splashed behind the author’s name.  I like this one better, but it’s still not quite right.  I could run with it, mind, but it might give the impression this woman’s main interest in life is drinking coffee (it’s not.)  Since there are genuine coffee cozy mysteries that could get weird.

So, I decided to go outright cartoony, which I probably wouldn’t because the book isn’t a no-stop funny romp.  OTOH I’ve read some that aren’t and have cartoony covers.  And cartoons are easier to move/change.






I wanted a more pastel palette, so I made the house pink.  I removed the folder from the woman’s hand and the bowl and mat from the cat’s picture.

Put it all together and… there’s no place for name and title in the very busy background.  So I put in new layers and drew oval-negatives to put the title and name on.  The result was this:


Totally not disgraceful, and it would have worked for a cover.

But I’m doing this book because I’d already rendered a cover and put it through filter forge to make it look drawn.  Which, look, it’s nice if you can get it, but if you can’t and are working with very little money to hire someone and very little time to learn DAZ 3-d and/or filter forge (which also has a ramp up) any of the above would do.

What I’d caution is to pick an artist that has the woman/cat (or whatever your elements are) in five or six poses.  You can start mixing it up after that with radically different backgrounds/colors.  No one will know. It will do.


I need to put the series title under the author’s name.  I didn’t even notice.  Grrr.  Will do before it comes out.

Meanwhile, next week: Why historical anything makes me pull my hair out by the roots, an introduction to covering historicals.




17 thoughts on “Cozy Up

  1. The thing is that, if you follow enough true crime, there are real cases that could be cozies. And some of them were even solved like cozies. (A lot of kids grow up determined to get their parent’s murderer/s thrown in jail, and there are busybodies who really do find out what happened to their neighbor. Or exonerate their neighbor/relative and find the real culprit.)

    Of course, there are a lot more cases covered that feature extreme sex, violence, drugs, and psychos. But it is not like you don’t have cases where someone is murdered, or attempts to murder, someone for straightforward reasons, using straightforward methods. Or theft. Or counterfeiting. Or fraud.

    The chick who.was treasurer of Dixon, Il. and embezzling millions of dollars to run her horse farm? Who got discovered when the mayor got inquisitive while she was on vacation? Cozy in real life.

    1. Or the doctor who had two girlfriends, one a paramedic and one a nurse. He started poisoning the paramedic’s iced tea with poison provided by the nurse. So the fire department figured it out, and this bunch of firefighters put surveillance webcams in the paramedic’s kitchen, and then hid in the back bedroom to do a citizen’s arrest on the doctor, once they got the footage.

      1. There’s a lot of stories out there, of ordinary people doing what might seem to others extraordinary things. But I think they’re only considered ‘extraordinary’ because of the good that is done, versus the evil that is somehow ‘expected’ these days.

      1. Probably because they imply that sometimes amateurs can do things that “trained professionals” can’t/won’t. You know, like write, edit, and publish books? And it’s harder to shoe-horn the Cause Of The Week™ into a cozy plot.

        Catty? Who, meeeeeow?

  2. One of the covers at the Amazon link (at least for me) has a photographed cat on a drawn background. It looks horrible.

    I’m not a big fan of the all/very cartoon ones; they signal Young Adult to me, but that could be because I’m old. South Park and The Simpsons were never my favorites.

    The first one goes well with the title, since the woman and cat are both paused. I like the last one – especially the door – but she looks a bit more interrupted or startled than paused.

    I’m going to have to start working on this. You created more and better for this blog post than I’ve ever done.

    1. Yes. Coherence in your cover requires everything to be at least apparently the same sort of thing. You don’t want the reader to go UGH even before noticing genre signals.

  3. I rather like the characters for the cartoony one, although I’d go with a different backdrop.
    It says “fun” to me, with some zany– although no mystery, so it’s probably just as well.

  4. Nice. I’m starting to see how you do it, and why. My only comment is that the one with the pink modern house background would probably work better with a Victorian house background, since renovating a Victorian is part of the plot. The last cover sample illustrates that perfectly.

    So, when can I read this? 🙂

  5. In the first one, why is the title over the wood, rather than the neutral sky? I think it would stand out more there.

  6. I picked up a book that struck me as a cozy, from the cover drawing. It wasn’t–no murders, but it was a mystery, of sorts. The title: Aunt Dimity’s Death. I enjoyed it immensely, and on the last page there were listings of 3 sequels, but Amazon has 20 more.

    1. The same writer has a new series, where a clever housekeeper and staff solve mysteries for a good-hearted, rich, but naive Scotland Yard inspector.

      Yeah, it is pretty much at right angles to reality, but it is pretty entertaining crackfic.

  7. If you wish to see an example of cover AND Genre selection done wrong see Firstborn by Hamilton Bell. This volume shows up on a search of SF&F, new releases, english. It is actually a Regency. The description is no help as it could apply to many different genres. The cover has NO relationship that I can discern to the contents of the book. It’s not a bad cover just misapplied. The only thing that keeps it from being a total disaster is that it can be read under KindleUnlimited.
    The book itself is not bad. The style is a little choppy but not inappropriate to the Regency genre. The only thing missing is the lightness I associate with Regency novels.

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