The Journey

Sunday in the Park with Brian: Therapy Session #41 (The “Design Decisions, Dancing Decor, and a Definite Degree of Desperation” Version)

Dear Beloved Friends Who Make My Life Complete,

  No, I haven’t been drinking, despite that suspect, gushy opening and my whispered-about reputation in certain circles. (I did think about doing such, earlier this evening, so there is a certain element of truth behind the gossip, but I also have focus issues and I never got around to swilling the demon hooch.) But you would still be right in assuming that my effusive salutation hints of planned nefariousness, hooch-scented or otherwise.

Because I need your help.

I just wrapped up this year’s National Novel Writing Month experience, that frenzied “writing challenge” I relish every November, wherein I scribble madly for 30 days in pursuit of a demanding and somewhat-irrelevant goal of capturing 50K words that fell out of my brain and into a file on my laptop. For those who are interested in the details, and I realize said folks are in a minor, possibly miniscule contingent, I managed to pass the 50K barrier, just a tad. Actually, the 100K barrier fell, as well. I was a very busy little boy.

End result? Much to my surprise, I’m almost done with the short-story collection I’ve been planning to publish for some time now. I still need to do a final edit of the selected pieces, and many of you fellow writers who’ve published their words know that the Final Edit can burn your soul with its relentless proofreading and tiny changes and constant, does-this-work tinkering. It can take forever, without the right degree of perseverance. That aside, I’m almost done, aside from a few quibbling points.

And this is where you come in, Beloved Friends Who Complete Me. (Really mean it! Pinky swear! That blouse looks really cute on you.)

Some of you may recall a relatively-recent “Past Imperfect” post I shared (memory-trigger found here) wherein I babbled about one of the characters being aware I needed something to fill a gap in my story collection, a gap known as “Chapter 12”. This part of the post was actually true. (The rest of it? Not so much.) Also true? There is currently a gap at Chapter 30, as well. The two gaps are intended to be transition pieces between the three sections of the story collection. Those pieces are not necessarily necessary (my eighth-grade English teacher just spit out her coffee), but the flow-designer in me is saying “you need bridges here. Find them.” But I haven’t, yet.

To set the scene of the structure: The first third of the collection concerns my Wee Bairn days, as a single-digit and barely double-digit child, age-wise. The second third of the collection involves a multi-part serial concerning my internment at a certain convenience store in mid-80s Tulsa. (Those of you with a sharp memory will recognize said serial as the “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” stories. I have greatly expanded that run of reflections into a very sizeable chunk of this planned book. Risky maneuver, granted, but it feels right, as it was a pivotal period in my life.)

The third third of the collection involves more recent stories, with “recent” being a relative term, as some of the entries involve flashbacks to what happened during the first and second timelines in the book and… well, I’m probably losing you as I’m already losing myself with this cryptic meandering. Suffice it to say that the third third has a hole that needs to be filled.

Ergo, we have the first of my implicit, essentially co-dependent requests for the Faithful Readers of this blog: Can you think of a past story of mine which could be that bridge between Little Me and Freshly-Adult Me? I realize this is a lot to ask. But there have been so many times in the Journey of Bonnywood wherein one of you will make a comment about one of my long-buried stories, a comment that inspires me anew, and I hope that can happen again, in some way.

Second request? That gap at Chapter 30…

This slot has been reserved for an excerpt from my book “Screaming in Paris”. (I already have an excerpt from “Unexpected Wetness” nestled into the “younger years” section of this new story collection.) I’m not sure of which scene to pick from the Paris travelogue, so perhaps those of you who’ve read “Screaming” can provide inspiration. What scenario first pops into your mind when you think of that book, assuming that you think of it at all? (I realize this is a taxing and formidable task. Frankly, right now I couldn’t tell you where my car keys are in this house, never mind recall even the slightest whiff of a plot detail from a book I read years ago.) Still, perhaps someone out there can provide a trigger.

Okay, moving on with my List of Pitiful and Unrequited Requests for You, Dear Reader.

I need to come up with a cover design. With traditional publishing, this would be something I wouldn’t have to worry about. All of that mess would be left to the devices of a cadre of artsy people who are paid to create alluring images that will beckon the masses. The actual author is generally excluded from any participation in the alluring. As a self-published author, I don’t have cadres of people doing anything. It’s all on me, from the initial concept to the actual words, followed by the relentless editing and on to the final, tidy bow topping the package of my madness. Me. Not looking for sympathy (no one is forcing me to do this), just putting it out there.

As I’ve worked on this collection, for far longer than I should have (focus issues, I have many of them), various cover-design concepts have flitted through my admittedly-fevered brain. Two of them keep reappearing, so I trust that they must mean something to me, somehow, even though I’m not a graphic designer nor a member of any artsy cadre. (Unless I’ve been drinking. Then I think I’m a member of everything, and I’m convinced that I have a mellifluous singing voice that can enchant nations, when in reality my tonal qualities are more offensive than rabid cats mating in a dark alley. But I digress.)

The name of this story collection is “Peppered Fruit”. (Yes, go ahead and relish in the double entendre, if you know me well.) The first cover concept goes something like this:

Thin slices of lemons and limes are the featured element, thin enough that they are essentially translucent. There’s an initial row of them at the top of the cover (three, I’m envisioning, lime, lemon, lime.) Then we have “Peppered Fruit”, naturally in a font bigger than anything that might follow.) Two more rows of slices (lemon, lime, lemon, followed by lime, lemon, lime). Insert subtitle of “Stories from Bonnywood”. Another slice-row (lemon, lime, lemon), insertion of my name, and a final slice-row (lime, lemon, lime). Crisply-white background, so the fruit slices pop, cleanly, as if they are suspended in air. I’ve thought about minimal sprinkles of pepper on the slices, but it might make things look a bit sordid, not sure.

Second cover concept:

Think Rubens or Cezanne, style-wise and period-wise, and voluptuous images of fruit. Perhaps a cornucopia basket of some kind, at the top of the image, with fleshy fruits (pomegranates, figs, whatnot) spilling out of such and down the page and across a faded tablecloth on a worn table. In the lower foreground, perhaps on the right, a wooden pepper mill has been knocked over, contents strewn. The same three text blocks are used (“Peppered Fruit”, “Stories from Bonnywood”, Me), in a highly-stylized script font with delicate, flowing lines. Said text should not be overwhelming; the image should win in this case.

Of course, these are just two options, designs that are admittedly difficult to imagine if you don’t have my brain. (And trust, you probably don’t want to have it.) I may change my mind tomorrow and decide that both ideas are no longer working for me, especially when I sit down and try to create them. But I’m very interested in what you might think about the two concepts, especially those of you out there who I know are designers and artists. (Can you feel me nudging you, certain Dear Readers? I think you can.)

Taking this a step further, you might even have cover ideas of your own, based on merely the book title, that “Bonnywood” tagline (which I want to keep), and the notion that most of the stories in the collection are nostalgic and semi-autobiographical in nature. In fact, you might even be interested in fiddling around with design examples. (Hint, hint.) But there is a caveat: I ain’t got no money. There wouldn’t be any financial compensation, just a warm nod in the book credits and a copyright notation. I’m just being honest and hope anyone who steps forward understands that.

Okay, that felt somewhat raw and wrong, leaving a bad taste. (Honesty often does that.) Then again, doesn’t that describe the whole situation with book-publishing these days? Millions of people self-publish; three of them might actually make any money in doing so. Moving on…

My final needy request involves the just-mentioned “publishing” angle. I fully admit that I did not handle the release of my first two self-pub books in a responsible and professional manner. I just threw them out there and hoped for the best. I want to do better this time, and part of the “better” is actually promoting the release instead of letting the ship sail without posting a notice of embarkation on the walls of a local pub whilst serving wenches frolic and card games end in violence.

I follow scores of folks who do book reviews and book promotions. I’m hoping some of you who do so have noticed my following (and my efforts to share your efforts on Twitter), and perhaps you might be interested in letting me know what I should do to make the release date a good thing. Any information you can share will be embraced, with great thanks.

And really, that previous line applies to anyone who provides advice, guidance, design suggestions or mere thoughts on any of the above matters in the comments below. I always appreciate anything that is ever shared here at Bonnywood. (Aside from those wretched spam violations.)

Thank you for reading this far. I realize it was a bit tedious at times, but I wanted to share and I do need a little bit of help. If nothing else comes from this post, at least folks are aware that I have a book on the verge of being ready, and my knowing said fact has been surfaced will give me the kick in the ass that I also need. Get it done, get it out.

I promise to get back to the typical Bonnywood whimsy in the next post, most likely a revised “Past Imperfect”. (It’s my go-to thing. Perhaps you’ve noticed?)


Note on the opening photo: This is an image I’ve used before, in a post concerning my finding of what I thought was the long-lost final draft of a manuscript I penned in 1990. (Trivia: What was previously known as “Chapter 17” in that draft has now become “Chapter 2” in this new collection, albeit considerably re-imagined and extended. Everything old is new again, eh?) The photo is a bit mundane for a post wherein I babble about art design, but that’s just the point, as I don’t HAVE a design. But I’d like to have one, soon. (Nudge, nudge.)

Secondary Note: This is the first post in the “Sunday in the Park with Brian” series that did not open with Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” painting. Said development may or may not (emphasis on “may not”) appear as a trivia question during a heated final round on “Jeopardy”. Still, mark this day down in your personal diary, says the writer, with an emphasis on self-indulgence…

27 replies »

  1. Ok I’ll bite. I like the first cover concept best but would suggest perhaps having a single circle in whatever appropriate fruit slice colour replace one of the slices and inside that have a close-cropped head shot. Yes your head since this is autobiographical Perhaps the last slice of the bottom row. Or perhaps peppered somewhere else in the slices. Then make an Instagram account under the name of Peppered Fruit and run with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m rather intrigued by the concept of the last slice in the bottom row being a head shot, mostly for the reason you mention (autobiography) but also due to a lingering bit of defiance from the past. When I was prepping my first book for release, all of the “supposedly in the know” publishing-advice folks were babbling in their posts that a writer should never feature themselves on the cover. Well, I took that as a challenge, which is part of the reason why that first book has my mug all over the cover. (It’s just in my nature to go against what I’m told to do, with good and bad results.)

      The Instagram angle is an excellent suggestion, as that platform has far more of an “influence” cache than many of the social media platforms. But I must confess that Instagram mystifies me, never having been able to figure out what “works” and what doesn’t. Still, I’ll see what I can do.

      Thank you so much for the input, greatly appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, Brian, wish I could help with the first two questions, but I used most of my memory cells this morning just trying to figure out what day it is (and why I should get out of bed). As for the cover, based on your description, I’m drawn to version two, the voluptuous images of fruit. Sounds very eye-catching. I will say that when you first mentioned the title, in my mind, I pictured a saucy and stylized Carmen Miranda image.
    One of the few good things to come out of this pandemic has been the creative efforts we’ve see by authors—self-published or not—to launch their books on a shoestring and without travel. There’ve been some really entertaining Zoom launches, YouTube videos, stay-at-home book tours, and enticing countdowns.
    I see small spikes in sales after I do speaking engagements—be they Rotary clubs, interviews or—especially—podcasts. I think you’d be a great podcast guest. I’ve used and to find and connect with possible podcasters. I’ve also gotten some good publicity from local papers—both where I live now and where I grew up—not the big city papers, but the local ones.
    Wish I had more to offer. I’ll keep thinking. Maybe after an infusion of coffee.
    I really liked the above suggestion for an Instagram promo of Peppered Fruit (even though I don’t do Insta and don’t understand it–other authors seem to swear by it).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, Donna.

      Despite your “wish I had more to offer” line, you’ve provided a treasure trove of possible options, a generous gift that warms me greatly.

      I flip-flop daily between the two cover options, and now you’ve inadvertently added a third: The Carmen Miranda angle. That image could actually be a lot of fun, with my sly-smirky mug at the bottom, topped by outrageous fruity headgear that grows upward and outward, spilling off the top of the book. Hmm.

      I’ll definitely look into the podcast angle. I’ve often thought about launching one of my own. Perhaps I can pursue both angles?

      And yes, Instagram is apparently key these days. Surely I can come up with something in that arena. We shall see.

      Thank you for taking the time to help light up this runway that I need to land on, in some way…


  3. I shall presently attempt a few cover design ideas, as my memory and retention for reading things is high suspect just lately. I came, I read, I probably over-commented, and then some new shiny toy grabbed my interest and the retaining of wonderful words and essays and thoughts is *POOF* gone like that long-lost dust in the wind. My bad.

    Now is there a deadline to this? I can whip out a design based on your ideas with little effort, but they’ll look cheesy and we don’t want cheesy for a book cover, should my efforts catch your eye. I have a few ideas too, and would like to know when I need to stop ‘fixing’ them (editing a book is a *itch, true, but trying to get a design ‘just right?” OmyBigG. I can tweak the thing for days and weeks.

    I’ll check back periodically to see what’s happening.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, Sister.

      First, there’s no immediate rush on this. As of the moment, I’m thinking of releasing the book on January 26, my birthday. I wasn’t specifically targeting my birthday, initially, but as I reviewed what still needed to be edited (and you know I edit and revise the hell out of things) I decided I needed about a month and a half to get the job done, which just happens to coincide with that date.

      Second, I would love to see what you might come up with for the cover design. And please, don’t stick with just my two suggestions. Those are just the two that keep popping into my brain. I really don’t know what I want, but I know I’ll know when I see it, that sort of thing. And since YOU know how my nostalgic pieces go, you might be able to formulate just the right thing, a concept I haven’t considered…


  4. Hi Brian, don’t know if this is helpful but I found my favorite cover designs were the ones of me and/or my family from past actual photos? Not sure how this would go with the Peppered Fruit title, but it might give you some fresh ideas.
    Congratulations on getting this together!
    I am happy to do a review if you become desperate!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, Shelia.

      I agree, the “personal” covers that some authors use are often some of my favorites, sharing an intimacy that resonates with anyone who instantly recognizes them for what they are, what they express.

      And I would be thrilled if you would review the book. That’s another area where I have failed with the past launches, the seeking of reviews. I just wait and hope for them to come in, forgetting that promotion means “reaching out to others”… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ten Classic Movies Re-engineered for 2017 is one of my favourite posts, but I don’t know if it would fill a gap. I’ll keep mulling, but my brain cell count is starting to dwindle (18 months to retirement!). If it helps, you’re welcome to use any of my photos (I only take landscape and animal photos – not artistic otherwise!). 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, that’s one of my favorite past posts, as well. I just enjoyed the hell out of doing that one, and I’ve tinkered with it many times over the years. It’s not quite the gap-filler that I’m looking for, but I DO plan to include it another project entitled “The Numbers Game”, wherein I collate some of the “10 Things About Whatever” posts I’ve shared over the years. I have tons of book ideas in my head; making them real is another matter.

      Thank you for offering your photos. As we’ve discussed, many of your shots would make great book covers, and I have several tucked into a file, gestating whilst my mind zigs and zags about the possibilities…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Congrats on the almost book!
    I wish I could offer help but my memory and my executive function ran off together without even leaving a note☹

    I like the 2nd design idea better if that helps at all.

    I’d offer a picture, but the only fruit pictures I have are blueberries and worms in Sven’s dish🤣🤣🤣 not quite the look you’re going for😉

    If the Gods grant me a brilliant idea to help with any of your requests, I will immediately notify you. If I remember 🤪💕

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, Angie.

      Yep, I realize asking folks to remember particular stories that would fit the gaps was a bit of a reach. After all, if I can’t think of one myself, how should anybody else be able to remember? But it was a whim and I ran with it…

      Right at this particular moment, I’m favoring the second design. But I change my mind constantly, and I’m fully aware that there’s probably an even better option out there, somewhere.

      And I already have several photos of yours as cover options for future books. I think I’ve mentioned it to you every time I snagged one and tucked it into a folder, but it’s possible I’ve snagged without consent. I do know that the one you snapped of a decaying lawn fixture still resonates. There’s a book in that photo, somehow…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Umm…what? LOL. I never heard the part about not putting your picture on a book. But…being SO well-read…Bwahahahaha! I put my mug on my book, albeit one from my youth. I say…your book…your mug…your choice. 🤗

    Liked by 1 person

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