Tag Archives: death

Beyond Words

The art of creating a book cover goes beyond selecting an image and a font. It must create an instant impression with a reader while conveying important themes of the book.

When the graphic artist started working on my book cover, I was asked to supply some ideas. I immediately gravitated toward the themes symbolized by the title: red eggs for birth and orange blossoms for good luck. Red egg parties celebrate birth. In the Chinese culture, you are born twice, once into life and once into wisdom when you are sixty. Oranges are symbols of good luck. I didn’t want actual oranges to compete with the red eggs on the cover. That’s why I suggested orange blossoms.

What I didn’t consider was color.

When the six cover images were sent over for my review, I was immediately impressed. Scrolling through the images, my gaze caught on the symmetry and simplicity of a white orange blossom fading into the middle of a white background with a single red egg to the side with the word, memoir, written across it. I thought of how it captured the essence of the book quite simply. I was about to contact my publisher with my choice when a cold wind brushed against my arm as I reached for the phone. I glanced at the image again. Suddenly, I remembered the Chinese believed white was the color of death and misfortune and ghosts.

Yes, ghosts.

As a Catholic Chinese American, I believed there was life after death. The soul was eternal. Spirits could travel between worlds and contact the living. Did I really want to be visited by an ancestral ghost?

I showed the book covers to those around me. Almost everyone chose the white background cover, which confirmed my initial impression that it was the best cover for the book.

But I didn’t sleep well that night. I dreamed of the white book cover haunting me. The white book cover was the fourth one in the selection. The Chinese believed four was an unlucky number. Why was I suddenly so superstitious? After all, I’m not 100% Chinese. I have an American mother. I wore white to my wedding, not red, the color of happiness. There was no red egg and ginger party for my children who were baptized in the Catholic Church. I prayed the rosary instead of lighting candles and incense on an ancestral altar. Yet I could not shake the feeling of dread that encompassed me.

In the coming months, I will reveal the cover image I chose, but for now, rest assured it will not arouse the wrath of any ghosts.

Short Story, “No Sleep,” in Snail Mail Review

Check Out Snail Mail Review

It’s like a catchy song you can’t get out of your head. It plays over and over again, that same melody, and just when you think it’s gone, someone says something to start it over again.

It’s just a silly dream
, I keep telling myself. Let it go.

But it follows me like a mist, shrouding my thoughts, collecting itself around my body, until I feel like I am walking through sleep. In my dream, I’m being chased by my mother dressed as the Grim Reaper. In her tangled dark robes, she slices through fog with a Kill Bill machete and screams, “I brought you into this world, I’ll take you out.”

My mother has been dead for 10 years. I haven’t thought much about her, hardly at all. I’m a practical man, a stock clerk studying to be an engineer, and I know from my professors that only the facts count.

But this dream unsettles me. For three days, I drink coffee in the afternoon, double espresso with two packets of sugar, a makeshift elixir of go-go-go. In the evening, when my co-workers head over to the cantina for margaritas and chips and salsa, I down a bottle of Gatorade and an energy bar to hurtle me through the commute home. My boss says, “You should take a vacation. Get some rest.” But the last thing I want to do is sleep. Ever since that dream of my machete-wielding mother three nights ago, I’ve been keeping myself up. By choice. I don’t tell anyone. They’d think I’m crazy.

To read the rest of my short story, “No Sleep,” purchase a copy of the Spring 2012 issue of Snail Mail Review.

On another note, it does not look like I’ll be going to New York this year. Thank you to everyone who voted for my blog on the Goodreads website. I appreciate the support. Maybe I’ll have better luck next year.