Can You Judge a Book by its Cover?

What do you think? Can you–or anyone else–actually judge a book fairly by its cover?

I think a more reasonable question is whether any of us can fail to let a book cover affect our decision to at least look at the back cover copy and possibly open the book and read the first few paragraphs.

Yes, there are exceptions. A hideously covered book may have been recommended to us by someone whose opinion we find to usually be in line with our own. Or the cover on the new book by our favorite author may be what we consider awful. In cases like those, our eyes may not see the front cover as a stop sign. And I don’t recall seeing Bibles with covers that would draw readers in; those covers tend to be pretty plain.

I doubt that any publisher fails to at least ask an author for recommendations about the cover. Sometimes the author’s contract specifically prevents the publisher from using a cover he or she disapproves of.

I’ve learned a lot about book covers during the years I’ve been writing, seeing my novels published, and now publishing novels myself. Gone is my opinion that a good cover must show at least a hint of one of the scenes from the book. And gone is my naive opinion that what looks good to my wife and me will automatically be equally attractive to other people.

At a marketing class for fiction writers some years ago, one of the teachers, a well-known literary agent, told the tale of a book by popular young adult novelist Jenny B. Jones. The cover depicted a cow–a black and white cow, if I recall correctly–with a tiara on her head. Hilarious, right? Adults, the agent/teacher said, thought it was hilarious. And wonderful.

Unfortunately, teens–the intended buyers and readers of Jenny’s book–thought the cover was horrible.

Ah, so teens and adults have different tastes? Why should that be so surprising!

When I self-published the quirky teen romance, Project Muffintop, I thought this cover would be perfect.

I spent the better part of a day taking pictures. At first my wife and I tried baking muffins in the tight jeans muffin mold I’d ordered from China, but we couldn’t get a muffin top to form quite correctly, and I ended up cutting the top off a store-bought muffin and sticking it on top of the muffin mold.

I published the book with that cover, but apparently nobody gave it a second glance. Ultimately, I had to admit it just wasn’t appropriate or professional looking.

So I found a stock photo I could use part of on top of what I’d used originally. It looked like this, and I thought it looked more appealing. Fun. Surely it would at least make a potential teen buyer take a second look.

I made the fortunate mistake–that’s an oxymoron, isn’t it?–of asking the opinion of an online group of readers. By and large, they didn’t care for either that cover OR the original. Not only that, they objected to the title. Strenuously.

Hmm. Back to the drawing board. But first I unpublished Project Muffintop. I didn’t want anyone else to see and be turned off by the original cover. (Fortunately, I never used the intended replacement cover.)

The relationship between the male and female protagonists was more important in the story than her diet, and I believe God inspired me to re-title Project Muffintop as Just Friends?–yes, the question mark is part of the title.

After numerous revisions, this is the current–and, I hope and pray, the final–version of the cover. It doesn’t portray a scene from the book or necessarily portray the protagonists accurately, but it gives the potential reader something to connect to emotionally and hints at the fact that there’s a question about the relationship between the two teens.

 

What’s your experience with book covers?  What’s your opinion about their importance? A comment would be welcome–and quite possibly helpful.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

P.S. Do you recall the original cover for The Devil and Pastor Gus, the one with a stereotypical devil at the upper right-hand cover? Or its replacement, the one with the church? When I got the rights to Pastor Gus back, I wanted something totally different, and this is it below.

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The First Rain and the First Rainbow

Okay. I admit it. Writing about rain on a nasty snowy/winter mix day is a little strange, but it’s what came to mind this morning.

I’ve always been told that the forty-day rain–the rain that caused the “Great Flood” that Noah and his family (and two of all living creatures) were the only survivors of–was the first time earth had ever received rain. While I didn’t question that “fact,” I couldn’t keep from marveling at it. How could I be sure that was correct?

If you read the Creation story in the Bible, you won’t see any references to rain. Certainly the Garden of Eden had to have had a source of water to maintain its unimaginable lushness. But I’ve always pictured Eden as the world’s first rain forest–perhaps huge terrarium would be a more accurate description since it was a perfectly maintained ecosystem.

Situated between four major rivers, it undoubtedly had access to all the water it needed. Irrigated by underground springs? I couldn’t say.

But we still haven’t established whether rain fell on the earth before Noah’s day, although I can easily imagine his neighbors questioning why he was building a humongous boat in his backyard. Even if he planned to use it as a houseboat (which, of course, he ultimately did), how would he ever get it to the nearest body of water that was large enough to hold it?

(Picture the pond in the movie Second-Hand Lions after the two brothers bought a humongous yacht that took up almost the whole pond.)

The following picture is a life-size reproduction of the ark at the Ark Encounter.

I think the answer to my question about whether the flood rain was earth’s first rain can be found at the end of Noah’s story.

While Noah was standing there on a dry mountaintop, possibly watching the water down below receding, God created a rainbow and announced that it symbolized His promise never to destroy the earth again with water. So that must have been the first rainbow; how would “just another pretty rainbow” have been sufficiently special to be worthy of symbolizing God’s promise?

Although not every rain results in a visible rainbow, rainbows always exist when the circumstances are right–even if no one is in the right place to see them. So God’s rainbow must truly have been the first one, and the first rainbow would logically result from the earth’s first rain.

Whether or not you believe the biblical story of creation and the story of Noah’s flood–I believe both–I hope you’ll remember God’s promise the next time you see a rainbow. It’s a promise He’s made to all of us. How about leaving a comment?

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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On Color Blindness

You know what one of my pet peeves is? When I tell people I’m color blind and they ask, “What color is THIS?”

Although I’ve always been color blind, I didn’t know I was for a number of years. I do recall marveling at my sixth grade school picture, in which I was wearing a red sweater–I KNEW it was red–but it appeared green in that picture. In the years since then, I’ve concluded that the picture was printed in just the right shade of red for me to see it as green. Who knows?

Once as a high school senior I was visiting in the home of a friend. His father was an eye doctor of some sort. I don’t recall what brought this up, but he got out a book of charts used to determine color blindness and tested me. Yep. Color blind. A red-green deficiency. Uh, okay.

That didn’t exactly wreck my life, but it did lead to a couple of interesting events several years later.

Before I tell you about those, however, let me explain that color blindness doesn’t mean someone sees only in black and white. I see everything in color. Well, except things that really ARE black and white. The problem is I don’t see them the same way people with normal color vision do. And in my case at least, learning of my color blindness made me distrustful of my ability to correctly distinguish the colors I don’t have problems with. For example, blue and purple.

After graduating from junior college, my parents and I failed to notify the Selective Service that I would be enrolling in a four-year college to finish my degree. That was during the Vietnam War, and I had to go for a physical to see if I was fit for the military. Although my flat feet  and the fact I had to avoid contact sports because of acute viral encephalitis in the eighth grade both should have been enough to fail me, surely color blindness would be a serious factor in making me unfit for service.

Don’t ask me how or why, but when they tested my color vision at the draft physical, they apparently thought I was faking. How I wish! I passed the physical! Thank goodness we got things straight when I got back home, but passing a physical I should have failed was scary.

The other interesting tale has to do with my learning to drive. I have NO problems telling the colors of a traffic light, but when I went to take my test–I’ll tell you some other time about what I went through learning to drive–the machine told the tester that I was too color blind to get a license.

But bless the State of Maryland DMV’s heart. I must not have been the first person the machine had falsely rejected. The tester got out a strip of wood with three colored reflectors fastened to it. I correctly identified the colors without any problem and received my license without any further problems.

 

TrafficLights

 

I’ll admit it. Being color blind is a nuisance at times. Like clothes shopping. And getting dressed.

But I know what color my clothes are, whether they look like those colors or not, and I know what goes together.

What about you? Are you color blind? More guys than gals are, but not all of us. Do you have anything to share regarding color blindness? We’d love to see it in a comment.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

P.S. I’ve gotten the rights to The Devil and Pastor Gus back, and I’ve just re-released it with this brand-new, more intriguing cover.

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Electrifying Kisses

 

We’re not totally in freezing weather yet, but it’s coming soon…and far too fast.

I’m not overly fond of cold weather, although it does kill the grass until spring and frees me from having to mow the lawn at least once a week.

And, my word! My Honda Civic, which automatically calculates gas mileage, goes down from an average of 29 mpg in-town driving to 21 or 22. Partially because I have to run the car a little while to defrost it and warm the inside just a tad. And partially because the tire pressure warning light comes on periodically and it takes me a while to use the plug-in tire inflator.

I used to like cold weather better than hot weather. But, with the coming of age, I’ve reversed my preference. And it has nothing to do with gas or grass.

It has to do touching. Touching almost anything.

Cold weather at our house means almost everything I touch shocks me. I always hear it, and—more times than I like to think about—I even see the spark.

Once the weather gets cold enough for that to happen, I’m tempted to put on gloves before touching the front door handle, even if I’m not going outside. Or a light switch.

 

DoorKnob     LightSwitch

 

I touch the plastic part of the pet gate latch first in the hopes the static electricity will leave me alone for once. I tiptoe across the carpet to try to prevent static buildup.

I haven’t totally given up the idea of dragging a chain wherever I walk inside to ground myself. (Yes, I know that probably wouldn’t really work.)

Remaining well grounded is important for a seventy-two-year-old man, anyhow, isn’t it? In every way.

But the most shocking problem occurs when Kathleen and I kiss. If one of us has just scuffed across the carpet,  kissing becomes an electrifying experience. Kissing isn’t supposed to be painful, is it? Or something to be apprehensive about doing?

I don’t know how to solve other shock problems, but now Kathleen and I touch  fingertips before kissing. Better to do that and get the shock out of the way so we can have a safe, spark-free kiss.

 

FingerTouch    kiss

 

Exciting kisses are one thing. But shocking ones are awful.

If you have or have had any shocking experiences during winter, how about sharing a comment.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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Living in the Past, Present, or Future?

We older folks are often accused of living in the past and thinking everything back then was so much better than now. I’m not one of them.

As a few of you may recall from a former blog post, I don’t seem to have nearly as many memories of my childhood and teen years as adults typically have. I attribute that, whether correctly or not, to the acute viral encephalitis that could have killed me or left me in a vegetative state, but from which God restored me to a reasonable normal condition. But one that was somewhat fuzzy about the past.

That was in the eighth grade. I wouldn’t want to relive that part of my past.

College years were fine, but not exciting. Neither was my teaching career or my years at the Maryland State Job Service as a counselor/interviewer.

Life grew more meaningful when I took some computer programming courses and went to work at the International Mission Board. Working behind the scenes of something important gave me a feeling of significance I’d never experienced before. I had some wonderful successes before I started having problems with a new job assignment.

And then I got downsized after almost nineteen years.

Those memories aren’t things to dwell on. Despite the many good moments, I’ll never think of those years as “the good old days.”

 

What about the future?

As a Christian, I’m not afraid of death, although I would love to have the assurance that the process of dying would be quick and painless…and that my wife, Kathleen, and I would die at the same time so neither of us would have to face life without the other.

But the future–at least the part where I’m still alive on earth–isn’t knowable.

I don’t have many dreams about what I’d like the future to hold. Yes, of course I’d like for my novels–some of them, anyhow–to suddenly take off and start selling. Not because I care about the income, but because I want to know they’re blessing and entertaining readers.

I can’t help wishing and hoping (yes, and praying, too) that at least one of my songs will end up in a collection of praise and worship songs. Maybe even in a hymn book!

I hate to admit it, but when I’m expecting a shipment of some tiny something-or-other from Amazon, you’d almost think I was a little kid waiting for his parents to wake up on Christmas morning so he can start opening presents.

That’s a bit weird, maybe, but that’s how I am. My future on earth doesn’t promise to be the best time of my life. Especially as my body falls apart a little more year by year. I hope and pray my mind doesn’t do the same thing.

And the present?

That leaves the present. I’ve ended up with two skills–two things I love using–I’m not able to use the way I’d like to. Yes, I’ll keep working on developing them even more, but knowing I may be doing it only for my own benefit is discouraging.

Until yesterday–or was it this morning?–I was super-frustrated at what I perceived as my lack of usefulness. I couldn’t see myself accomplishing anything, and that thought was more depressing than I’d like to think about.

It’s no wonder. Many–maybe most–of the authors I know have more book ideas running through their heads than they can use in a lifetime. I don’t.

I’d started working on a sequel to one of my teen books. I’d even designed a cover for it and written a few chapters.

But I just couldn’t get excited about it and haven’t been able to proceed. It’s not a matter of writer’s block, but of questioning whether this was what I should be doing.

You can better understand now why I was feeling useless and insignificant, at least in the areas of my life that are so important.

But I prayed, and I kept praying, and God led me back to an idea I had begun considering in January of this year. Why I set it aside then, I couldn’t tell you.

But I’ve fallen in love with it. Working on it won’t restore my losses in other areas, but I feel good again. Great!

Living in the present seems to work best, as long as I don’t totally forget the past or fail to consider the future. And when today’s present becomes the past, I’ll find something in that future time to make that present time the best.

Where do you live–past, present, or future? How about leaving a comment?

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

P.S. Here’s the new cover and title for what was previously published as PROJECT MUFFINTOP.

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How Will You Be Remembered?

What probably sticks out the most in my mind from last Saturday’s luncheon for people who graduated from Frostburg State University fifty years ago wasn’t seeing a few familiar people, but having a time of remembrance for former classmates who’ve passed away.

 

A good-sized list of those stood on a table at one end of the room, and co-master of ceremonies Pat Garrett went through that list name by name as part of the luncheon’s events. He told whatever he knew about each person and asked attendees to share anything they knew or remembered about the deceased.

A number of the deceased were remembered only as having been good people–or nice ones. But those were still positive memories.

Many of the deceased either weren’t commented on at all, however. Whether they had truly been that inconspicuous during their college years or attendees didn’t feel it was right to say bad things about them, I couldn’t say.

I can’t help being curious. Once I’ve passed away, what will people at future reunions remember about me? I wasn’t an athlete. I wasn’t in any activities except the Baptist Student Union. (If any of my friends from the BSU came to the reunion, I didn’t see them.) I did play my guitar and sing at the Leaves of Grass coffee house on Friday nights, but that probably wasn’t overly memorable, either.

Hmm.

Death for a Christian is a good thing, not something to dread or regret. We believe we’ll be in a better place. Such a perfect place it makes the best earth has to offer seem trivial and worthless.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to be remembered–and hopefully in a good way. I don’t know about other peoples’ legacies, but I hope and pray that my novels and songs (maybe even some of my blog posts) will prove to be a worthy legacy, even if they’re not overly popular.

Success with the masses now or later isn’t the important thing. Blessing lives–eve a few lives–is, even if people don’t remember my name.

Twenty-five years ago I wrote a song called “What Will You Leave Behind?” Several years ago I did a video selfie of myself playing and singing that song. I keep the DVD in a lock box under the bed…to be played at my funeral, which I hope won’t be anytime soon.

The lyrics go like this:

When you die, you can’t take it with you,
But what will you leave behind?
Precious memories for your friends and family
Or relief that you’re no longer there?
Will the faith you’ve shared bring them comfort
Or your hopelessness cause them more grief?
When you die, you can’t take it with you,
But what will you leave behind?

When you pass away, you can’t take it with you,
But what will you leave behind?
Will your words continue to encourage
Or the harm they’ve engendered linger on?
Do your teachings tell of God’s Kingdom
While your actions point the other way?
When you pass away, you can’t take it with you,
But what will you leave behind?

When you depart this life, you can’t take it with you,
But what will you leave behind?
Will the good you’ve planted bloom like flowers
Or the problems you’ve sown spread like weeds?
Is your life well invested in others
Or will your influence die at your death?
When you depart this life, you can’t take it with you,
But what will you leave behind?

How I hope I will be remembered for the good. What about you? How do you think you’ll be remembered?

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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Seniors on the Move: Why Your Loved One Should Join Adult Swimming Lessons (conclusion)

Thanks once more to Chris H of backyardpoolsuperstore.com for this interesting and worthwhile guest post article. If you missed part one, you’ll want to go back and read it to get the complete picture.

 

Increasing Flexibility

Stretching and extending the body can be a challenge as we get older. Joints and limbs don’t seem to stretch as far as they used to after a certain age. But seniors can get in touch with their bodies and increase their flexibility by participating in swimming lessons and classes for other water-based exercises. Swimming forces you to use the body in new ways as you kick and extend your limbs in all different directions. Learning a new stroke or how to hold their bodies in the water can lead to some surprising results as seniors learn how to be more comfortable and confident in the water. With the help and support of a class, elderly people can learn from their mistakes and discover how to use their body in new ways without worrying about injuring themselves.

Improving Balance and Control

As we get older, we tend to struggle with balance issues and tend to be more prone to slips and falls. Just one wrong turn can lead to a lifetime of pain if the person isn’t careful. But instead of watching your loved one’s physical condition worsen over time, you can help them improve their balance and control by enrolling them in adult swimming classes.

Learning a new stroke and helping them perfect their swimming abilities shows them how to steady themselves in the water. They’ll learn to work their core muscles as they move through the water, which they can use to help them stay upright as they climb the stairs, get in and out of the car and other accident-prone situations where older adults might be at risk of suffering a fall. They’ll be more independent, and you won’t have to worry about them injuring themselves when you’re not around to supervise.

Staying Social

Making friends can be difficult as we get older. If your loved one is feeling lonely and isolated from the community, enrolling them in adult swimming classes might be just what they’re looking for. They can meet other members of the community, learn a new skill in a group setting and create shared experiences with people they might not have gotten to know otherwise. Staying social also helps improve the person’s mood, physical health and cognitive abilities, so they can continue developing these relationships after the class ends. Getting old is so much easier when your loved one can depend on the love and support of their community.

Reducing Chronic Illness

Seniors can experience all kinds of chronic illnesses later in life, including arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. That’s why water-based exercises like swimming can be so beneficial. These exercises can reduce their pain and improve their functionality without worsening their symptoms. Overall, this improves your loved one’s overall quality of life, helping them ward off the unpleasant aspects of aging like chronic pain, fatigue and lack of independence.

If you’re looking for a surefire way to boost your loved one’s mood, physical abilities and reduce their chronic pain, look no further than adult swimming classes. Trying something new and learning a new skill can be difficult for some older individuals, but if they stick with it, it’s only a matter of time before they see the benefits.

 ~*~

Thanks again to Chris for this interesting and worthwhile guest post. I hope this won’t be the last of Chris’s articles we can use.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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