To be or not to be


I think I’m supposed to be. I’m told I should be. My neck twitches just slightly when I know I ought to be. But I don’t think I am. Am I?

Bodice ripper.

I just can’t muster up the outrage necessary to protest the term. I mean, there are seriously a bunch more important things to do in life and better battles to fight and more important wars to wage.

A friend of mine refers to The Proviso as a “Mormon bodice ripper.” To my recollection, no bodices were harmed in the making of this book, but a pair of shorts was. So…shorts ripper? Cause, that’s where the goods are, folks, and Some People’s Hero really needed to get to Some People’s Heroine’s goods. Right then.

Okay. Anyway.

No, sorry. Can’t be outraged today. Try me tomorrow.

Judge. Book. Cover.

Th., give thanks and be glad! You are no longer alone in your opinion on my cover. 😉

LDS Fiction has very kindly listed my book amongst the LDS fiction released in the last little while. You have to request this, along with sending its information and the cover (because the poor blog owner can’t be expected to keep track of all the LDS authors and fiction out there). If I recall correctly, I didn’t send a pic of the cover with it because, well, it has bewbies on it. It’s entirely apropos to the story thematically (on about three different levels), but unless you read the book, you aren’t going to get that. On the other hand, I know the audience there and while I didn’t think it would appreciate the cover, obviously the blog owner did what she thought consistent with her blog.

So I’ve garnered a one-star review. Oh, wait, did I say REVIEW? I meant to say, a one-star disapproval rating, based on the cover.

That’s an awful cover. I don’t think I would pick up based on the cover. I couldn’t have it in my home.

To be fair, it does say “rate this book,” not REVIEW this book, but in my world, you kinda have to read a book to rate it, so I think I can be cut some slack for assuming that a rating = review.

This kinda reminds me of the “reviews” Eugene’s book got wherein some folks flew up into the rafters over the fact that there was a bishop’s wife and a vampire together. (Or, better, when the back blurb SAID there was a bishop’s wife and a vampire together, and the reviewers didn’t get it might not be something you’d buy from Deseret Book until they got to the sex scenes.)

I can so appreciate that someone wouldn’t want the print version in the house, so the Lord has provided you with a SOLUTION!


Give thanks and be glad.

Book Review: The Truth About Roxy

The Truth About Roxy
by Jenny Gilliam
published by The Wild Rose Press

I like the longer single-title contemporary romance (no suspense, thanks, and the category lengths are just way too short) and lately, the ones I really like have been coming out of the smaller e-presses. They’re not as well edited as I’d like, but they’re fun reads whose story lines seem to stick with me quite a while.

The Truth About Roxy was a light, fun read that still managed to make me laugh and cry. I’ve read another of this author’s non-suspense novels (Letting Luce) and it was just as light and fun. Even *I*, lover of all alpha heroes monied, adore that Jenny’s characters are normal people like me, with normal-people jobs and normal-people problems.

Here’s the blurb:

Roxy Palmer is a walking, breathing cliché. And darned tired of it. Working as the assistant librarian in her small, Southern home town, Roxy also anonymously pens the local love column, ASK PAULA ROCKWELL–Thorton, Georgia’s answer to Dear Abby. But when the door leading to Roxy’s lifetime dream is slammed in her face by one of the good ol’ boys, Roxy brings out the big guns–and turns the genteel town upside down with her racier, feminist, home-wrecking new format. Paula Rockwell is making Sheriff Noah Kennedy’s life crazy. He’s got angry husbands lined around the block, demanding the cancellation of the column, fights breaking out and women catching their boyfriends’ trucks on fire. If he ever gets his hands on that woman… But he’s got his hands FULL of Roxy at the moment, and if he ever discovers the truth about Roxy, all hell will break loose.

Beefs first:

I thought Noah’s extreme reaction to Roxy’s coming-out (as it were) was too much, because he’d known her all his life and he should’ve understood her better.

And oh, that cover, bless their hearts. [Insert longsuffering sigh here.]

Good stuff:

Again, fun, light romp. The characters were engaging and I believed in the nutjobs and the goofy backwater Southern town because they were drawn so vividly.

I had a really good time with this book, and that’s all I care about.

The book as art

I said something in my little rant the other day that’s stuck with me: The book is the art.

To me, Harry Potter’s fabulous because it’s a whole experience. The cover art and the story work together. It’s got color, movement, focus, texture. You’re sitting there in your reading chair on a cold day (possibly snowing), drinking hot chocolate, bundled up with this heavy hardback book in your hands.

Your head’s in the story. Your eyes are seeing the specialized fonts in the header and the brilliant colors of the edge of the binding. Every once in a while, your eyes get a treat in the form of a graphic buried in the text denoting handwritten notes that give you a sense of intimacy with the events that you don’t get with typesetting. Your arms feel the weight of good storytelling. Your fingertips brush the dust jacket and feel the texture of the thick mottled matte paper, they pinch heavy paper between them and turn the pages.

I have a leatherbound edition of Alice in Wonderland. It, too, is an experience, with a little bit of the feel of age. Deckle edges are the best.

I can tell you all the usual reasons I decided to publish independently, and give you another half dozen reasons why Dude enthusiastically encouraged me to do so (the biggest being that he has faith in my work). But after my little temper tantrum, it occurred to me that there was one other reason I really hadn’t thought about much:

The whole book is the art. I had a vision for my book, the series. Even when I was sending out queries galore, I had a vision and I’ll tell you, I was vaguely depressed to think that even if I got The Call, someone else was going to take my vision and put his own spin on it–and he may or may not give a fat rat’s ass what I want or what I see. That’s not to say a graphic artist wouldn’t have done better than I could have and surpassed my vision by light years. It’s simply that I would have no control over it, a little input that might or might not be taken into account, and perhaps no veto power, especially if he was up against a deadline. This is not a client-vendor relationship between the author and the artist.

Interior design is a relative static: You design so as to make the reader unaware of your design. You don’t give him a headache, you don’t wear his eyeballs out. In short, as Zoe put it, you don’t piss him off.

I can give no advice with regard to other indies and how they handle cover design. All I’m saying is that I’m a very visual person and for me, the story is not the art.

It’s the book.

Book design: ur doin it rong

Thank Mike Cane for this rant.

I’ve read a few self-pubbed books lately. None of them were egregiously horrible in the design department and a couple of them were even fairly decent. And frankly, after I converted them to digital and put them on my ebook reader, it wasn’t an issue at all. But let me take the opportunity today to piss off everybody right up front and then we’ll get to the good stuff.

1. If I hear one more word out of self-pub haters that someone self-pubs because she sucks as a writer– Oh, wait. I hear that all the time and move along on my own business. Nebber mind. You go ahead and keep doing what you’re doing, Mr./Ms. Author, because obviously it’s working for you. (Note: I saw the writing on the wall for me when an editor said, “We love it and it’s well written, but we don’t know where to put it.”)

2. If I hear one more word out of proudly proclaimed self-publishers that no one can typeset anything in MS Word and make it look right, I’ll scream. Yeah, I have seen your books and yes, like you, I can tell who did and didn’t use Word for typesetting. Yes, you proud InDesign/PageMaker users, I can tell that you (or the interior design person you hired) used InDesign/PageMaker. How can I tell? Because you (or the person you hired) suck at InDesign/PageMaker. I cut my teeth on PageMaker in J-school, so I know what it can and can’t do and how well you have to know it to do it right. GIGO.

Design, people. Design is the first reason independent publishing gets no respect. If a reader can’t get past the design, doesn’t matter how good the writing is or isn’t.

I’m not going to worry about discussing cover art today, because, well, I can’t speak. I winged that and after about a year and sixteen different covers, I had enough skills to put this together:

The Proviso print cover


So let’s talk about interiors, shall we? In this I have a wee bit of knowledge, but mostly it comes from J-school.

In my opinion, there are a few basics that should be fairly commonsensical but I’ve seen violated as of late:

1. Don’t use Times New Roman 12 pt single spaced. Please. Pleasepleaseplease. Pwettypweeze with sugar on top. (And as a personal favor to me, don’t use Garamond or Palatino Linotype, either. Ask Lulu to please add some more fonts to their repertoire you don’t have to embed OR learn how to embed your fonts, but then you wouldn’t need Lulu.) If you choose to use a sans-serif font, pick one that’s easy on the eyeballs like Calibri or Candara.

2. Justify your margins.

3. Don’t use 1/2-inch paragraph indent. Use something a lot smaller.

4. White space!!! You can get away with using a smaller font size if you make sure your line spacing is adequate.

5. Don’t put your headers on the chapter page break.

In my case, I had a 283,000-word book. I wasn’t going to be able to mess with font sizes much and still fit it all in one spine, which meant I had to do a couple of things I wasn’t happy about, but won’t do on books any shorter. One thing was having to make the font 11 pt. Because in Adobe Jenson, that’s really really really small; on the other hand, the line spacing is 14 pt, which, according to some typography books I’ve read, is a good ratio and I must say my eyeballs agree. The other thing was:

6. Start all chapters on the odd page, not the even. This isn’t a “rule” so much as simple polish. I couldn’t do it because of my page count. On the other hand, I haven’t read a book that stuck to this “rule” in so long I’m not even sure why I care.

Okay, so here’s an example from The Proviso:


Let’s break it down.

1) No header on chapter page, and no page number, either.

2) Right margin justified.

3) 0.5 inch on the outside margin, but wider margin on top and bottom (not much, admittedly, but enough).

4) 0.2 inch paragraph indent.

5) Drop cap and first line small caps. It’s nice. It means you notice details. Neither of these is necessary, but it polishes without going overboard.

6) Nice line spacing = plenty of white space, or at least, as much line space as I could afford, given the length of the book and Lightning Source’s printing limitations.

So what’s my point?

If you are going to try to do these things yourself, learn what makes human eyeballs happy. Read the books. The one I lived and breathed by was this one: Type & Layout

Practice. Experiment. Study the way other books are designed (especially the high-end ones). Notice details. Take notes. Don’t be afraid to throw out your pet specs (the same way you shouldn’t be afraid to throw out your words that don’t work).

Independent publishing is a business just like any other business that sells goods to merchants, which makes it difficult enough for us in an industry that doesn’t do business that way and has a vested interest in keeping the status quo. But you know what? If the last week of handselling has taught me anything, it’s that the readers don’t care who published your book–unless it looks like an unprofessional job.

If they take one look at the book and ask to see it, read the back copy, then flip open the pages to read a little bit, and then whip out their checkbook (especially for a book this expensive), then you’ve done something right. If they aren’t intrigued enough to make it to the back copy, and then the first couple of pages, all the good writing in the world isn’t going to help you. They won’t know why they don’t like looking at it and they’ll care even less, but they will know they just don’t want to look at it.

Bottom line: Once you’re finished with the story inside, forget about it and concentrate on the visuals. The book is the art. It all works together in a symbiotic fashion. Don’t believe me? Ask all those authors whose publishers killed their sales straight out of the gate with a bad cover and bad back copy.

“We don’t know where to put it.”

I do. Right in the readers’ hands.