Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Books are more than just the words on the page.

I’ve been thinking a lot about books as physical objects lately.

One thing I’ve been thinking about is how they have been used in ways they were not intended. 

In the English class I’m taking right now we are learning about the Exeter Book, which is an anthology of Anglo-Saxon literature made from vellum that is around a thousand years old. Researchers have performed analysis on the book itself and found traces of beer on it and particles in grooves on the book that suggest it was used as a board for cutting cheese at one point.

The office I’m editing this post in had a book propping up the leg of a wiggly table for several years before it was removed.

Even when books are used the way they were intended, there’s a lot to consider and appreciate about their form.

It’s funny. I’ve been a big reader my whole life, and, on the whole prefer print books to ebooks, but up until recently I hadn’t put much thought into the act of making the book itself.

Sure, I knew that most of the time books are released in hardcover first, followed by a paperback run, and I knew artist must put a lot of thought and effort into the cover design or image. It never occurred to me that there would be other designers working behind the scenes to make a book what it is when you see it in the bookstore.

I attended a publishing program in New York this summer and it was an amazingly in-depth overview of the publishing industry and what it entails. I already knew what people like editors, publicists, and literary agents were and did (though I learned an incredible amount of new things about those professions too) but one day we had a presentation on book production and it was so surprising to me because I’d never heard of it before.

Book production is essentially the creation of the book that you see in bookstores. The dimensions of a book, paper used for printing, whether or not the outsides of the pages are smooth or ridged or colored – all of this is the job of the book producer. And yes, the cover designer lays out the look of the book. But if the cover is embossed or has a cut out or the paper has a textured or holographic element to it? That’s the realm of the book production department.

Another thing we learned in that program is that around five to ten years ago, publishers were very worried that the physical book would soon become obsolete, replaced by the ebook. If you look at the charts, there was a boom in ebook sales and a decline in print sales for a while, but eventually the levels plateaued and, actually, ebook sales are declining somewhat.

I’m sure there are multiple factors for this, but I think a big part of it is that people do really appreciate books as physical objects, not just words on a page, and have for thousands of years. Hopefully, people appreciate the physicality more for its beauty of design like the book of Kells or some tome one might see photographed for the #bookstagram tag and not its utility as a cheese cutting board like the Exeter book or a block for propping up a wobbly table leg.

Either way, books have an inherent value as objects that cannot be replicated in digital form, though perhaps one gains the convenience of being able to read on their phone.

The next time you take out a book, I encourage you to really look at it. Look at the things that you might normally overlook like the type of paper it’s printed on, the textures on its cover, whether the pages lie flat or have ridges, how the spine is bound – and know that a team of people spent hours weighing options and looking at price points to bring you the final product that rests in your hands. How does the book itself help tell the story in its pages?

Friday, September 14, 2018

Spotlight: The Legend of Sassafras House

About the Book:
Twelve-year-old Kale Flores knows life is not fair. He needs a friend, but more than that, he needs money. When he learns there could be a fortune hidden in the Sassafras house, he thinks his luck may have changed. Never mind the house is supposed to be haunted. When Jasmine Palmer revealed the legend of Sassafras house to Kale, she never thought it could lead to so much trouble. She says it's a place someone could go into and never come out. Is she right? The only thing Kale is sure of is that his problems will be solved if he finds the money. He doesn't know the deserted house holds secrets from the past, secrets that are waiting to tangle him in a dangerous web.

About the Author:
Anita Stafford makes her home in the peaceful hills of northern Arkansas. She grew up on a dairy farm surrounded by a large, loving, and always entertaining extended family. She is a wife and the mother of a son and two daughters. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and has worked in public school as a teacher and a counselor.

Books by Anita Stafford:
The Legend of Sassafras HouseA Vegetable Garden is Not for Cows (coming soon)

Also find Anita at:
Author website

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases. 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Guest Post: Jeffrey Bardwell

Many sources swirl together within an author's head to shape the overarching theme in a long form narrative and The Knight's Secret is no exception. Theme isn't usually conscious at first: it arises from the depths of your mind like Excalibur, guided by the wet, icy hand of your muse in lieu of The Lady of the Lakes. Now, many reading this will understand that allusion because we share a common history. I was inspired by that history and a nasty recurring pattern I saw there. Now, I don't claim my book will break the pattern or even warp it a little. Time is a wagon wheel, and we're all tied to the damn thing as it goes round and round again. However, the crushing cyclical nature of history does not magically rob those living through it of their free will.

There are numerous parallels between our mundane world and my dark little fantasy realm. Oppression comes round time and time again like a wheel rolling through different versions of the same putrid puddle of muck. You may have been reminded of stories of the parading auto da fe, the nightmare of the Holocaust, the cruel political machinations of McCarthyism, or the recent draconian changes to American immigration policy. Whenever those in power encourage bigotry and oppression, using a minority demographic as a scapegoat to distract the populace from the regime's own glaring flaws, we the people have three options within the confines of society and law: wink at the regime, turn a blind eye, or let the rage bleed from our eye sockets.

I bleed from my fingertips instead. We all fight oppression in our own way. Some wave placards. Some give speeches. I write books. I would be lying if I said that was the sole source of my inspiration for this series, but it played a large role, and writing these words has been very cathartic. I won't waste time repeating that old saw about those who ignore history and history repeating itself. History will repeat itself century by century on a scale of civilizations whether we acknowledge it or not.

The smaller scale of day to day human lives is more malleable, but I do not wish to dictate how you live your life. I only ask that you ponder what you've read. I seek to pose questions. The most relevant question is this: What will you do with your turn of the wheel when it splashes through the filth?

About the Book:
A terrible secret. A vengeful empress. An unstable empire.

When Sir Corbin, retired Hero of Jerkum Pass, dies on the eve of an urgent mission, his granddaughter Kelsa dons his armor and wrinkles. She ventures to the capital of the Iron Empire. The city is in an uproar. The emperor has been slain by rogue mages. The new empress is livid. Every mage is suspect, including Kelsa's mother.

Hidden behind a magic ring, Kelsa infiltrates her grandfather's old regiment. As the mission leads her down a path of dark suspicions and lurid adventures, Kelsa struggles to live up to her grandfather's legacy. Yet the more she examines it, the more holes she discovers, until Sir Corbin's secret past threatens to expose her.

Unravel The Knight’s Secret, the first fantasy adventure of The Mage Conspiracy series. Discover a world of romantic entanglements and political intrigue where lies cut deeper than any sword.

About the Author:
Jeffrey Bardwell writes epic fantasy with elements of darkness, steampunk, and romance set in the Metal vs. Magic Universe. His character-driven books are guaranteed to include gritty realism, political intrigue, lurid entanglements, dry wit, and dragons in differing proportions.


Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.