Don’t Judge a Book by it’s Cover – Even though we all do

17nc0rmlk0dcejpg.jpgThe old adage takes on a more literal message in the world of books. We may tell people not to judge a book by its cover but we all do it and there’s a good reason for that. More people choose to pick up a book based on its cover design. And this industry is only growing with the rise in self-publishing, indie print houses and e-books.

The book industry is a never ending one. Formats may change from print to digital but the cover remains. Most books are bought via browsing (either online or in a book store) and this means that covers become one of the most important factors in selling a book. Even a bad book can have an intriguing cover. Trends in covers come and go but the attraction of a good cover be it for design or familiarity is still a big driving factor.

Why is a good cover so important?

A recent online survey by thebooksmuggler.com revealed that when asked, readers responded to the question ‘Do covers play a decisive role in your decision to purchase a book?’ 79% of respondents said yes.  And according to the Self Publishing Advisor statistics show that ‘the average person will decide to buy your book within 8 seconds of seeing your cover’.

 Current Cover trends

In the New Yorker article by Tim Kreider he says ‘the covers of most contemporary books all look disturbingly the same, as if inbred’. This statement rings true in most mass market books. It seems publishing houses are relying on a sense of familiarity to create covers.

The rise of John Green’s novels have created a plethora of ‘handwritten’ text on super simple background style covers throughout the YA market. This simple approach to recreating a personal feel through fonts designed to look like the scrawled handwriting of the angst-ridden teen protagonists seems to work. Green’s books are best sellers and other writers are getting their work picked up for these covers.

The popularity of paranormal romance both for adults and YA have also created the trend of red and white images and text on a black cover trend. This is most apparent in the Twilight novels; many readers did pick it up because of the cover of white and red on black. The stark contrasts of these colours draw the eye. This theme can be seen repeated in many books in this genre.

twilightsagabooksSymbolism based covers are also very popular. A single striking image or symbol being the only image has become popular with the Game of Thrones and Hunger Games covers. This also stretches to other genres such as action adventure and crime.

The lone figure cover is slowly working its way back into the fiction area. Be it a man with a gun or a woman in a cloak, this trend did die down but has begun to lay claims in cover design again.

However, with the rise in independent publishing houses and self-publishing, this trend is being bucked. With authors having more control over aspects of their designs, more freedom to hire a cover designer that matches the aesthetic they want for their books, the styles are starting to expand. We are seeing a return to customised artwork both digital and traditional being used and the ability to twist old clichés into modern pieces that stand out from the cookie cutter covers of mainstream publishing.

In the world of nonfiction covers still follow this same trend in mainstream publishing. Plain white covers with simple text and maybe one small, hand drawn image is commonplace or alternatively full photo covers. This trend has been around for quite a while now and for the nonfiction world this will probably remain the same for some times to come.

In the independent world, most nonfiction book covers follow this same formula but this is where we find the subpar covers of people attempting to publish their own works and make their own covers.

Problems in cover design when following trends is that due to the heavy use of stock images (in both traditional and indie publishing) is that without significant artistic reworking we are starting to see similar images showing up on several covers. Without moving from the current trends, and without the use of cover designers willing to artistically render original pieces using said stock images, we run the risk of a market flooded with carbon copy covers.

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 What are the skillsets for cover designers of the future?

For future cover designers to keep pace with industry trends, a combination of artistic and technical skills will be critical. Digital art and photography are two skills at the forefront as to capture the perfect cover, stock images just may not be available, but also a return to traditional art methods could be on the cards. The more versatile a cover designer is the more work they will be able to do as trends change.

A good eye for colour is also important with foundations in traditional art and colour theory. This coupled with having a broad knowledge of what is out there in the industry is going to cement a designer in the cover design world.

Graphic Design and Art classes are a great foundation for the theory and technical aspects of the skillset required, but prior skills in art do certainly broaden the scope of work a person can do.

 The world of cover design is an unmapped piece of territory. With such a broad range of genres available to design for, the future is bright with ideas. For major publishing houses it will most likely depend on what the next best seller is in any given genre. Although with the current trends unlikely to fade quickly we will most likely see more John Green’s and more Twilight’s in the near future.

In the indie and self publishing world we are seeing major changes as more writers are using high concept designs and quality cover designers. This is raising the standard and we are now seeing resurgence in original art and digital imaging being used to create covers that are more specific to the books they are for than the mass market, ‘inbred’ covers of the major publishing houses.

For nonfiction I honestly hope that cover designers will be able to step up in the independent field. The times of homemade covers that look unprofessional needs to end for the self published world to be improved. These ‘homemade’ covers are quite common among the self published nonfiction world as many people are beginning to publish their life stories or self-help manuals on platforms without any form of quality control. I believe that nonfiction covers will mostly stay the same, either very stark covers of text and a small image or the full page colour image we see most commonly on memoirs and cookbooks.

As for the major publishing houses, I can’t see too many changes in the near future although more graphic based covers would be a nice change from the black on white covers and photo montages of late. We are slowly seeing a return to these styles of covers with a feature image dominating the cover, overlaid with text. More colour is being used as well which is a nice change from the tri-colour fare of late. This trend will also open up the cover design market to more artistic cover artists, both digital and traditional styles.

 So should we judge a book by its cover? No but it doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. We go looking for something that catches our eye and if we believe the major publishing houses we strive to find the familiar. However these trends, as all trends do, will change. A slow but inevitable change and we merely need to wait for the next big thing to tell us where the mimicry will lead. The exciting changes though are in the independent published books and their new faces in the cover design world. It’s definitely a space to watch in the design world for originality.

-By Sabrina Gidley

 

 

 

The Apprehensive Critic

ImageIt’s really hard for me to hate something if everyone else thinks it’s amazing. I feel like I might not be ‘getting’ it, or that I don’t understand it. For example, I had ordered a new graphic novel that had been given 5 out of 5 stars in almost every review it had. The write ups about it had been extremely positive and it appeared in all the horror website lists and so forth. On top of that, it was written and drawn by someone that I’ve admired for a long time.

When it arrived I flipped through it, eager to look at the art and contents inside. It seemed ok. Just a horror story with some splash art. Reading the first few pages, I got confused. It was as if it started in the middle somewhere. I had no idea why the character was where he was, why they were buying this house or why their dog suddenly ran off. The story didn’t progress steadily, like I would have hoped. Instead it staggered into the basement and became a mash of strange flashbacks that never explained enough to fully grasp a hold of what the story was about. The artist/writer tried to give you someone to hate, to give you the person responsible for the horror that you saw, but you never saw him in that light because he was in it for two, maybe three pages. It missed the mark by a very long shot. Also, every panel was splash art, up-close shot of faces and over layered with computer effects. The whole book seemed like it was missing something form the story, and the art was totally over done.

This happens a lot with movies too. I wanted to love Dark Knight Rises, I really did. But it just didn’t hit the mark for me. It was pretentious, over written and skipped a few key elements that needed to be explained a little better. A few people I know also didn’t like it, but then there are those who loved it and I often wonder if they are afraid to hate it, or to say so. I remember seeing Phantom Menace on opening night and walking out thinking ‘did I like that? Am I allowed to say I didn’t.’ When people asked me next day, I said it was great, but I knew perfectly well I didn’t think that. It was heresy to say you didn’t like a Star Wars movie, especially one we waited so long to see.

I’ve been reading the DC comics New 52 run of Batman. Written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Greg Gapullo. Scott Snyder created, amongst others, American Vampire, which was awesome. There was even a short run where he wrote it with Stephen King. Currently Snyder is the big name in the comic writing field. I’d admit it, his writing is easy to read and the story chugs along nicely. Every twist and turn Imageseems to be well thought out and planned a long time in advance, which is what I like from writers. I believe that makes you a good writer. But saying this, issue 11 of Batman, which rounded off the year long story arc and had the big reveal was hugely disappointing. The entire run up to this point had revolved around an ‘underground’ group called the Court of Owls. For a start, I thought was pretty cool having ‘Owl’ vs ‘Bat’, but however, if you google a real bats enemy, you’ll find its main predator is the owl (also the hawk and snakes). So, it kind of left my initial impression in shreds as I felt that if I could find this out in three seconds, there wasn’t much pre-thought into the new Batman villain. Maybe not though? So, back to my point, I’ve picked up issue 11, and the big reveal is about to happen, who is this mysterious Talon that has been kicking Batman’s ass the whole year, turns out ***SPOILERS*** its someone who claims to be Batman’s brother. I wanted to slam the comic closed and throw it out onto the road for the vultures. For me, and this may be because I write a lot and read a lot, this was a stitch up. I felt robbed. This, in my opinion, was an easy go-to. This was the first exit door and was very obvious. But, can I tweet Scott Snyder and tell him? Nope. Too many people praise him and tell him he’s the new king of comic writing. I’m  guessing I’m not the only one who felt robbed of a good twist, but we are few and far between.

Since I’d read issue 11, I’m really not that keen on Scott Snyder’s work. I’ve looked him up on Goodreads and he’s given himself 5 out of 5 stars for every comic he’s ever written. To me that’s a sign of an egomaniac. However, I gave my book (Everdark Realms) 5 out of 5 also, but 80,000 people aren’t reading that every month. I find it hard to be a critic at times in fear of being wrong, even though an opinion can’t be wrong, it does feel that way. If I swap positions and someone is criticizing my work, I get defensive and Imagequite attacking. It’s part of being creative, it makes you vulnerable and overprotective. But saying that, if you’re in the spotlight, like Snyder, maybe negative feedback is what you need from time to time.

Mitchell Tierney

PRAY FOR VILLIANS

ImageOver the last few weeks I’ve received two batman comics in the mail; one was Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and the other was Batman: Cacophony by Kevin Smith and Walt Flanagan. Now, I’ve never been a huge Batman fan, but I was more interested in who wrote these titles than the Dark Knight himself. Alan Moore and Kevin Smith both wrote about the Joker. Although both their ‘Jokers’ had similar qualities, they were written differently. It got me thinking, out of all the villains they could have chosen to write about, why Joker? They could have picked Penguin or Riddler or Poison Ivy or whoever, but both these writers chose the same villain. Why?

ImageLuke Skywalker has Darth Vader, Harry Potter has Voldermort, Optimus Prime has Megatron. With heroes that live up to a high caliber, they have to have an equal and opposite opponent. Penguin is short and can’t really go one on one with Batman by himself. Riddler has riddles? (and not much else). Mr. Freeze has his equipment etc. But the Joker has something the rest really don’t have. He wasn’t born disfigured, but he doesn’t look quite normal. He doesn’t have gadgets or cars or planes. He has the Charles Manson quality that these writers want to write about; an ultimate villain, a completely twisted and deranged psychopath.

Without a major villain, who would Batman fight? Street gangs, shop lifters, muggers. All of these enemies are faceless and pointless. You don’t need a bat-cave and bat-mobile and bat-copter and gadgets to beat off some junkies snatching a handbag. In order to justify a lot of heroes you need the rival to be beyond the normal street crook. All these faceless enemies are used as fodder. Take the Stromtroopers or the Foot Soldiers, they have no character, no back story, nothing. They can be thrown into the meat grinder and no one cares.

With Luke Skywalker, the rebel alliance was created to rise up against the Empire. It makes you want to cheer for the underdog, especially when the villain is a military-type, nazi-esque brigade with countless soldiers and weaponry. The Rebels are dressed almost haphazardly, with no distinct familiarity or recognizable figure head. Now the Empire on the other hand has Darth Vader, who is very recognizable. He’s tall and solid with large shoulders and points a lot. He seems to not even care about his own men, choking one at the table in New Hope. With Vader, the whole idea of the Rebels winning is so farfetched that you believe it’s nearly impossible. If you look at all the Star Wars toys and games and posters, they all have Darth Vader on them, either his whole mask, or full body. He’s recognizable and you’re instantly attracted to walk over and check it out because he’s the ultimate villain.

In The Killing Joke by Allan Moore, Joker broke out of Arkham Asylum and shot Chief Gordon’s daughter (Bat-girl) and put her in a wheelchair. Moore wrote the Joker as a Manson type leader with a band of merry, deformed, individuals that did his bidding. Joker was written as someone pushed to the brink of lunacy that never really came back from it. He wasn’t Batman’s equal in physical strength or mentality, but was so insane that it brought him up higher in the scale of opponents. Joker didn’t care about the law or human life one iota. His clown makeup really drove home the point of his state of mind.

When I write, I try to invent a great villain. Someone who is above the hero, so the hero becomes the underdog. It’s important to show how strong the villain can be, and also to show the hero’s limitations, this way, we, as readers, can compare the two. Who ever thought a moisture-farm boy, who wasn’t even allowed to go see his friends because of his chores to do, would take on a great sith lord, and win?

Heroes and Villains should balance like yin and yang. But Villains rarely get any victory. We don’t hear of villains winning. This may be deliberate to introduce this to children, to let them know the good guys always come out on top, but in the real world…it may be a different story. Maybe that’s why we can’t stand by and let awful things happen, because we can see when a savior is needed. I wrote a short story once, a long time ago (and I’ve forgotten the name) where an old hero is wandering the streets with his Imagecape and boots on, looking for crime. A van pulls up and it’s the old age home coming to get him because he escaped. They tell him that he fought all the crime, and there were no more villains. He’s rejected from society now because he did his job, now everyone lives in peace and no one cares about him. Heroes exist because of villains, and villains exist because of heroes.

Mitchell Tierney

*please note this blog was written before the Aurora Dark Knight Rises shooting. Ouroborus Book Services and all of its writers wish to send our deepest sympathies to those affected.

Book vs. Movie: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I actually saw the movie on opening week but I thought I’d give everyone a chance to see it before I wrote this blog. Firstly, this is your warning: here thar be spoilers, so if you haven’t seen or read The Hunger Games, you might want to stop reading now (although I will try and keep them to a minimum). Granted most people seem to have the gist of the story any way so make your decision.

Firstly I would like to address an issue I have come across. This series seems to be a love it or hate it book series. The movie seems to be much the same. I am a fan, albeit only a new one to the series so that’s the angle I’m coming from. If you hate the books you will probably hate the movie, for good reason, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

For those who are yet to hear anything about the Hunger Games, here’s a brief run down. The region of Panem is led by The Capitol. The Capitol is in charge of the 12 downtrodden and pretty much slum-like districts. In punishment for past defiance, the Capitol makes each district chose two children (one boy and one girl) each year to be entered into the Hunger Games; a to the death battle royale, put on purely for the entertainment of the Capitol and to watch the districts squirm in subordination. From the coal district (District 12) come our heroine Katniss Everdeen and her team mate Peeta. The rest I will leave for you to watch/read.

I had read the books first, having practically inhaled them the weeks previous. I had approached the books with curiosity but no expectations, expecting another monstrosity like Twilight. Instead I found a story that was actually well written, had strong characters, interesting (although sightly rehashed) plot points and a well flowing backstory. As I read though I was wondering how it would translate to film.

This is probably one of the better movie adaptations I have ever seen done by Hollywood. What does make it into the movie from the book is 95% accurate to source material. This I believe is for one reason alone: the screenplay was mostly written by the author of the books.

I’m a fan of movies being as ‘canon’ as possible. Sure there are some things that couldn’t be done on screen without killing the pace of the story, or just couldn’t have been done successfully (for the fans of the books, the mutts resemblance to former contestants doesn’t make it in, but the mutts do), and then there is the removal of characters (the mayors daughter which sort of removed some of the backstory of the mockingjay pin, that could have been done but wasn’t) which I felt lessened the strength of the film. I must say though, characters appeared on screen as I imagined them, the costumes as well. Scenes seemed to have been taken word for word from the books. It was a novel experience seeing it so faithfully reproduced in parts.
However, as usual the movie is the weaker of the two. There was too much added and unnecessary Capitol related scenes on how the Games were being run, in favour of the back story between Katniss and Gale, reducing him to such an unimportant character that I fear his role in the future movies will not be as strong or as conflicted as it needs to be. The movie is slow in parts where it doesn’t need to be and rushes through large parts of the Games footage that could have been extended. But all in all, I was happy with the film.

My recommendation is see the film first, and let the book fill in whatever gaps the movie missed. However if you have read the books, you should still go see the film (as I’m sure most fans already have) as it has many of the moments from the book as you would imagine it.

The book I rate a 4/5 and the movie a close 3.5/5, both on my must do list. Now to see what they do with book two.

~Sabrina RG Raven

Sneak Peek at Everdark Realms: The Darkening

Everdark Realms: The Darkening 

by Ella Hazelwood, Sabrina RG Raven and Mitchell Tierney

Prologue

Everdark Beginnings

When the isle of Amitav was new and still part of the mainland, the Ancients of the races there lived in harmony. They fashioned the diverse landscapes of their homes, and imbued the lands with their own magic and guardians.

The Ancients, of course, were just that – ancient. They witnessed many things in their time, but most sacred of all was the Everdark Alignment.

Every sixty years, a cosmic alignment of stars was pierced with a blue comet known as Everdark.

It was discovered by the Ancients, living much longer than any other creature on Amitav, that this alignment shone its sacred blue light upon the children who would aspire to greatness. No one could discern how Everdark knew who would be the best leader for their people, but the chosen ones were always gifted whether anyone realised it or not.

As the races grew, thelandofAmitavgrew with them, splitting from the mainland. Some left the island almost entirely, leaving only a few of their kind to wander and mix with the main races of the land; some travelled to the far corners of Amitav, to the lands that suited them best. The Luna Lukkos journeyed to the canyons, the Aistríonians to the forest, the Sapphyrians from their palaces in the south and forced to tunnels below, the Jishakus roaming the land and eventually inhabiting the Tendril Valley, the Aquillians expanding their underwater kingdom off the coast, and the Illumiens to their lofty tower.

Peace reigned for many generations. Traditions were born and legends were made. Four of the races kept the Everdark Alignment sacred, using the mighty power to select their new leaders.

Nevertheless, peace does not last forever. Soft words turned bitter and spiteful, and for many years war raged between the races. Times of peace became fewer and further apart until eventually the lands became a war zone and it was dangerous for even the brave to leave their home. Fear began to confine all but the wild creatures and the few traders willing to risk travelling. Blame was laid by all, on everyone else and never on themselves, becoming a part of life with every person ready to fight even if the conflict was, in essence, only kept alive by the mob mentality their history had created.

By chance, circumstance or perhaps something more, there was a meeting of three children of Amitav, moons before the Alignment, and though they had all pressed the occasion from their memory, knowing it would be frowned upon, in their hearts they wanted something to come from it, they wanted the peace they had shown to each other for all the people of Amitav. A life without fear.

Now, once more, it is the legendary coming of the Everdark Alignment and the finding of leaders new. A selected few would gather, all hoping to be chosen as leader. They would unite under the eyes of their ancestral kin. At their own sites of sacred power the Everdark Alignment would shine and illuminate the leader of nature’s choosing.

That is the ritual of the Everdark as it should be, but not all is well in thelandof Amitav…

 

Part One

The Luna Lukkos: The Curse of the Calaveras


Chapter One

A Not-so Family Portrait

In the family tree of the Mantilla’s, Saboo would be somewhere near the bottom… and a little to the side. It wasn’t that his parents didn’t love him; he was born eighth out of sixteen children and often got lost in the throng of family members when they had a reunion. In the picture over his mother’s stove you could see only his left ear, broad and round as a dinner plate… and that’s it. Saboo would tell you that you could see some of his whiskers if you squinted and got really close to the portrait.

Saboo was a Luna Lukkos, a tribe of tree dwelling natives that thrived on adventure and fun. He could often be found swinging from branch to branch, catching animals in his traps or just playing a local game called hide-and-come-find. Saboo’s fourteenth birthday had come and gone recently and with little fuss. He received a small apple, picked from a far away orchard which he had never been to; a new hunting rope, which had been cut in half so his parents had something to give him for his next birthday; and small sack of beetleberries, which he was allergic to. His parents often forget he was allergic to them, but they couldn’t be blamed, they had sixteen children to buy gifts for.

Saboo was small for his age; all his brothers towered above him and often mocked his short stature. His coat was a sun kissed reddish-brown, whereas his brothers’ coats were just brown, better for hiding in trees and less visible. Saboo had one other abnormality that made him different from his siblings; his tail was shorter. It was severed at the tip after a run in with a lepordconda as a child while playing hide-and-come-find with his brothers. His brother thought it would be funny to hide the rock in the lepordconda’s nest just after it had laid its eggs – talk about an over protective mother – and the dangerous animal had bitten the tip of Saboo’s tail off. The end was now a small, fleshy stump, a frayed fuzz of fur around it. Saboo looked at the portrait, his large, brown eyes reflected back at him, when suddenly his mother yelled for him.

Saboo!

‘Right here, mum,’ he said, standing right beside her.

‘Always disappearing… one day you’ll turn invisible and we’ll never find you.’

‘Mum,’ he protested, ‘I’ve been here all along.’

‘Go get all your brothers and sisters, it’s dinner time.’

The pot over the stove was huge. Saboo had once used it as a hiding spot when they played hide-and-come-find. His mother had not been impressed.

Dinner time at the Mantilla’s was always chaos. Hand over paw reaching for spices and juice; tails sneaking extra dessert and after dinner sweets.

The family had been gathered around the table, basking in the afterglow of a home cooked meal, when Uncle Bajool opened his big mouth about Everdark.

‘So Taboo, are you going to try out for the contest?’

Taboo was the tallest of the Mantilla clan. His shoulders were broad and his muscles were well built and structured. His hair was grey on the top, a feature thought highly of in the Luna Lukkos community.

‘Well, you know me, Uncle. Not only will I try out, but I will get in and win… and when I’m leader, you can come over to my palace for supper.’

All the other children rolled their eyes.

‘I’m gonna try out too, Uncle Bajool,’ came a voice from the far end of the table, slightly around the corner and into the lounge room. Everyone craned their necks to see where the peep had come from.

‘Saboo?’ his sister Shiloo said.

‘I didn’t even know he was here,’ his older sibling Masoo answered.

Uncle Bajool laughed while holding his bulbous stomach. His long beard bounced up and down.

‘You, enter the contest, Saboo? I think not.’

‘Leave him alone,’ his mother cried out, slapping Bajool on the arm.

‘Saboo is… well… a runt?’ he said, waving his arms in the air like he was juggling.

‘A runt?’ Saboo echoed, taking offence. ‘I’ll have you know, Uncle Bajool, that I have climbed the Gargantuan Tree twice!

‘That means nothing,’ his uncle snapped, even though everyone knew that it was indeed a mighty feat.

‘You can’t even see the top of the Gargantuan Tree, Bajool, it’s out of sight!’ his mother said, passing yet another bowl of food down the procession of Mantillas.

‘It took me four days. Up and down.’

In his anger Saboo picked up his mashed Poa-Poa Yam and tossed it right at Bajool’s ugly face. It struck him square in the forehead, knocking his head back. The other fifteen children burst out laughing.

‘Saboo… to your room,’ his mother said quite solemnly, although Saboo thought she may have been stifling a laugh.

‘Mum?’ he whined.

‘Come on, mum,’ Masoo said. ‘Bajool deserved it!’

Bajool wiped his face. The creamy goo was in his hair and his mouth; some was on his ear and a little was up his nose which had blushed as red as his face. He slammed his fist down so hard on the table that drinks toppled over.

Saboo’s mother shot up from her seat. Her eyes were warm when they wanted to be and stern when they had to be; today they looked fierce. Everything stopped when they saw her face.

‘Saboo… to your room. Bajool, it’s time for you to take your drunken tail home.’ They both looked like they were going to question her, but thought better of it.

***

 

Saboo sat on the edge of his parents’ balcony. The stars were brighter than usual, shining down with delightful intensity. Saboo looked up and let out a long sigh. He ran his filthy fingers through his long hair and huffed as Lazarus, his pet lizard, crawled up beside him and gave him a nudge, nearly setting him off balance.

‘Hey, boy,’ Saboo said. ‘Wow, you really are getting big, almost as long as me now.’ Lazarus nudged him again in agreement and almost knocked Saboo off the city.

‘Whoa, boy… steady there, it’s a long way down.’

The city ofMonkishwas hundreds of metres off the canyon floor. From up close it looked like a massive cubby-house. Panelling and antennas sticking up from various places. From a distance the shrubbery covered most of the framework, and the canyon hid the rest.

They both peered down to the canyon floor below. In the darkness they could just make out the guards of theMonkishCitychasing glow-wasps, instead of being at their posts.

‘I don’t wanna end up some ground-dwelling guard, Lazarus… I wanna be… something,’ he said, patting the giant lizard’s head. Lazarus gurgled slightly.

‘Saboo,’ came the soft voice of his sister Shiloo.

Saboo turned around. She had snuck him some dessert from the dinner table – a small round plate covered with little purple cakes slathered with rich dark sauce. She handed it to him with a smile.

‘I don’t blame you for what you did; Uncle Bajool can go too far sometimes.’

Saboo nodded and threw Lazarus a cake.

‘If you give him too many he’ll leave mess around the house again and mum will seriously kick your –’

‘Look at that!’ Saboo shouted. Above them a falling star exploded and descended towards them, burning away in a fiery glow.

‘The first signs of the Everdark,’ she said, crossing her arms to protect herself from the cold breeze her tail tucked in beside her.

‘Do you think I have a chance of getting in?’ Saboo asked.

‘If Taboo can get in, I’m sure you can… when you see the Elder, just pick your words carefully.’

Saboo thought about this for a moment.

‘I wanna show everyone that I can be a leader, that I am not a chimp anymore. If you could just see me out there.’ He waved his hands towards the dark, dense jungle. ‘I can swing higher than anyone I know. I’ve invented new traps to catch the pot-belly twisterpigs. I’ve created new weapons and learned moves that Taboo doesn’t even know about!’ He put his cake down, too distressed to eat, which was odd for a young Luna Lukkos.

‘It’s more than that, Saboo. It’s here,’ Shiloo said, as she touched his chest with her finger, ‘in your heart… and here.’ She pointed to his head. Saboo nodded.

‘Your heart will tell you what to do and your brain will tell you how to do it, and these will make it happen,’ she said lifting her paws up to the afterglow of the falling star. Saboo looked at his hands. He had the feeling that if he was going to get in, he would have to push himself beyond the limits of anything he had ever done before.

***

 

When Saboo awoke, his head was pounding, his eyes dreary. He shifted his legs and kicked something hard in his bed.

‘Ouch,’ he cried, lifting his sheets to see what intruder was in his bed.

A filthy, oddly shaped rock lay near his throbbing toes.

‘What the?’ He lifted it up.

The window beside him let in the cool morning air. He looked through the window to see a few younger kids arguing outside.

‘Hey!’ he yelled as they looked up. ‘Who put this in my bed?’

One of the small children, whose name was Razzy, slapped his forehead.

‘Saboo!’ he hollered out. ‘That was the best hiding spot I could find!’

The kid next to him whipped his tail back and forth. He had seen the rock, making him the winner.

The rules of hide-and-come-find were simple: one person hid the rock and the other person had two days to find it. If the first person didn’t find it they had to do a dare. If they did find it the other person had to do the dare.

‘Thanks a lot, Saboo!’ Razzy said. ‘He would have never found it up there!’

‘Go play hide-and-come-find someplace else!’ Saboo said, tossing the rock down to the now irritated adolescent. He limped into the kitchen where Taboo was flexing his muscles. No one noticed Saboo pulling up a chair and wiping the sleep from his eyes.

‘…and then what will you say?’ his father asked Taboo.

Taboo scratched his chin and thought for some time. Saboo almost fell asleep again.

‘…Oh yeah! I’ll say how my family is one of the original ancestors that helped build theMonkishCity…’

‘…and…’ his father pressured him on.

‘…and we helped set the traps around the borders and we make up a large number of the voting tally for next year’s Mayoral elections!’

His father dropped his head and shook it from side to side. The Everdark comet had been seen soaring through the sky late in the evenings, and everyone was getting nervous that it was so close. They thought the Elder would announce the contest any day, so some early practice was in session, but none knew exactly when it would be called.

‘What?’ Taboo asked.

‘What about honour and the skills needed to bring this city into the new era?’ Saboo said nonchalantly.

Everyone turned and looked at him in stunned amazement.

‘Saboo?’ said one of his sisters.

‘How long have you been there for?’

‘Saboo,’ his mother told him. ‘Go check the traps for meat, we’ll need to celebrate if either of you get in to see the Elder.’

Saboo nodded and yawned again.

‘Have two brothers ever been in the contest, dad?’ Taboo asked.

Their father was a large man whose shoulders arched forward, his back was curved and sore from years of building and construction.

‘When the last Everdark Alignment occurred, I was only a toddler. I can barely remember it,’ he laughed heartily. ‘All I can remember is that the ones chosen to receive the clues and start the contest are very brave. They have something inside them that only the Elder can see.’

Saboo’s mother wrapped her arms around him and hugged him close.

‘They are excellent in battle,’ their father continued, ’and swift on their feet. They don’t need the local markets and canteens in the city to survive. They can live off the forest and canyon floors.’

Their mother rolled her eyes and patted Saboo on the shoulder.

‘Now, Saboo, before we all have to start eating off the floors, go get meat from the traps.’

As Saboo dragged himself off the chair and went to his room to get his utility belt, Razzy was climbing back through his window with the hide-and-come-find rock.

‘Razz!’ Saboo shouted.

‘Saboo?’ he said guiltily, having been caught red pawed.

‘You can’t hide it here. I don’t want the entire population of Monkish searching my room for it.’

‘But I wanna be the hide-and-come-find champion!’

Saboo picked up his utility belt and strapped it to his waist. It was full of pockets and compartments. It was packed with smoke-cluster bombs, wire, trip-string, scent-disguise pellets and knock-out throwing discs. He grabbed his spear, which was compacted down to a foot long, metal rod. A button was positioned in the middle, so with just one touch, it extended to full length. He put it in a pouch that was flung over his back.

‘Give me the rock,’ Saboo finally gave in. Razzy’s eyes lit up.

‘You’ll hide it for me?’ he said.

‘Sure I will,’ Saboo replied.

‘Great! They’ll never find it!’

‘Ok, good, now go… I’ve got work to do.’

***

 

Once Saboo had left the gates, the guards went back to their normal sleeping positions, spears left lying on the ground and empty, fermented juice bottles by their feet. It had been a while since anyone had dared attack the city; but visitors were still common as Monkish was one of the only mixed race city’s left as far as Saboo knew, although most the population were Luna Lukkos like himself.

I would hate to know what would happen if we were ever really under attack, Saboo thought. The guards are more like baby sitters for the iron doors, making sure they don’t get too rusty.

He continued on his path. After some time he came to a deep valley. The trees angled down towards the bottom of it, almost pointing the way. Saboo could smell the rotting meat. He knew there would be no animal in this one, but he better take a look anyway. He grabbed onto a branch and lifted himself high, swinging between the branches. He leapt off a huge, thick tree arm and soared through the air, gracefully snatching a hanging vine and landing on his feet on the valley floor. He walked over to the middle. The trap was near invisible. Just where his feet were was a stinking heap of grey meat, tempting to any wandering animal. He bent down. A thin piece of wire hovered gently over the rancid mess. He dare not even breathe near it, or it would send several razor sharp spears into him before he could blink twice. Saboo stood up, grabbed the vine and climbed it. This was the first of many that he had to check.

The Luna Lukkos were excellent inventors. They loved setting traps on the ground as well as up in the trees. They preferred the trees because they disliked being on the ground for long periods of time. It felt unnatural to them. They favoured their homes high in the trees. It felt as if they were being pushed up and away from danger, and the water. The Monkish hated the water, in fact they dreaded it. The city was the farthest place they could find that was away from any water. Many lived in caves and tunnels on mountain ranges, but most lived in the City ofMonkish, high in the trees, connected by cables and flying-foxes, lifts and conveyer belts. Once up in the city you forgot the fact that you were up so high. The ground was level and covered many, many acres of sky. Sometimes the height of the city scared some of the visitors, but once they were up in the city they forgot all about the ground far below. As the city grew and grew, more outsiders came to investigate and ended up staying. Now the Monkish City was a bustle of different races and creatures, but most were still the Luna Lukkos.

The day moved on with dismal slowness. The heat stuck to the bottom of the forest like a fog. It was thick and difficult to walk through. Not many animals were out hunting, preferring to stay in their caverns and holes and sleep the hot day away. The green moss turned yellow, as it sometimes did when rain was days away. The air above the canopy was cool and welcoming on Saboo’s face. He knew he couldn’t spend all day jumping from tree to tree, he would have to, at some point, check his ground traps.

As he landed his stomach grumbled for food. His eyes still felt puffy from only being awake a few hours. He reached into his bag and pulled out a compass. He flipped it open and several small dials whirled to life, buzzing as electronics calculated his position. The circular screen lit up and a little red arrow spun around and around, finally resting to his left. He looked up into the trees. There, hidden among a mimica bird’s nest and a vine, was his mark: a yellow paw print to remind him where he had set the trap. He closed his compass and placed it back in its compartment. One of the first things he noticed was an absence of smell. That meant one of two things: the trap hadn’t gone off, letting an animal have a free feed, or meat for a feast!

Saboo walked into the thicket, pushing large plant leaves out of the way. He got closer to the trap and could see his make shift vine ropes had released the cage. He ran the last few feet without fear of getting caught in the trap himself. An upside down bowl-shaped cage made of branches and wires sat where he had set the trap. Inside the cage, carved spear heads chewed down on the back of an animal. As Saboo poked his head through the bars of the cage he could see it was a gawk-antelope, a slow moving animal that ate ants, scraps of meat and dead leaves. They often got lost from their herds and wandered over this side of the island in search of food or a dry spot to lay eggs.

Saboo ran to the nearest tree and pulled a lever he had made from his mothers old clothes-line retractor. The spears squished as they were slowly pulled out of the gawk’s skin, the cage withdrawing back up into the leafy awning. The gawk was slightly bigger than the ones that had wandered here in the past. Saboo picked it up and heaved it onto his back, thinking it was good luck finding some meat before it got too dark. The forest could be quite scary after the suns went down.

The body being so heavy, it would put a little strain on swinging home, so he opted to walk it.

The gawk’s head, flopped over his shoulder, looked almost mummified. He stopped and examined it some more. Teeth marks were located on the outside of its face and neck. That’s strange, Saboo thought, I knew they were stupid, but how could it bite itself there?

A deep rumbling growl echoed around him. Suddenly, the forest was deathly quiet. The heat had intensified. The rumbling noise of a beast rattled the twigs and shifted the dead leaves. Saboo dropped the gawk and stood dead still. Something had killed this animal before his trap had a chance to. Now it was here, and he was the meat.

Out from the dark shadows of the forest trees came a silhouette of a huge creature. As it came closer, Saboo could see the redness of its eyes, the stringy hair on its back and the huge paws… a crimson wolf. Due to their hypersensitive eyes being very distracted by the light of day, they usually only hunted at night.

Saboo circled the crimson wolf. Its fangs were like picket spikes; not made of bone or flesh, but wood as hard as rock. Its eyes were sunken back into its head like pits of flaming red anvils. The crimson wolf’s eyes never left Saboo’s.

‘Okay wolf,’ he told it. ‘Let’s do this the easy way… you take my meat and I’ll starve.’

The wolf bared its teeth. Hundreds of dark, splintered stakes spread across its mouth. Its hind legs compressed, lowering it to the ground. Saboo knew the crimson wolf breed; they could pounce hundreds of feet into the air, coming down on their victims with such force it left craters in the ground, being able to pinpoint its prey’s future location with alarming ease. He had seconds to think of what to do but that was more than enough.

He reached into the utility belt that hung low around his hips and pulled out a black cube, no bigger than a die. His eyes shot down at it at lightning fast speed. He flipped the safety switch off. When he looked back, the wolf was gone.

Damn, he thought. Rule one with crimson wolves: never take your eyes off them. He knew it was above him, claws extended and seconds away from landing on him. He threw the cube down and green smoke spewed all around him. The wolf thundered into the ground the smoke throwing him off target. Nearby trees shook violently, sending birds and animals scurrying for cover. The wolf was frantic, tearing at the smoke, gnashing its teeth, its jaws snapping open and shut. Pieces of the ground were sent into the air. Then it stopped suddenly. The green fog floated gently around its black fur, the wolf’s red eyes glowing through the mist. Breathing heavily, its rib cage heaved in and out.

‘Pssst… wolfie. Up here!’ Saboo sat up high in a very tall tree, holding the gawk over his shoulder. His tail was wrapped around the branch.

The wolf went berserk, racing up the tree with the speed of an arrow. Saboo gulped. He had forgotten the crimson wolf had the ability to hunt prey in the tallest of tree tops. He swung down, his tail catching his weight and catapulting him into the next tree. He gripped a branch with his spare hand, continuing his motion, swinging to the next. It was not easy with the weight of the gawk over his shoulder. The wolf followed, biting branches clean in half. Splinters showered down and leaves fell to the ground. Its breath was beating on Saboo’s neck.

Saboo moved horizontally through the foliage, behind him the deadly creature gaining momentum. Saboo leaped high into the air, standing out in the suns’ rays. He reached over his back into his pack and pulled out a small staff. It was the size of his forearm and brown in colour, with silver patterns engraved up the handle. In midair Saboo turned, dropping through the trees like a heavy stone. Twigs slapped his back and face, cutting him under his eyes. The huge wolf followed him, bearing down on him from the tops of the trees. It was just feet away, its paws extended, massive talons bared, ready to tear flesh.

Saboo’s tail was curled up beside him, guarding it from the wolf’s blood-thirsty mouth. He aimed the spear at the wolf. Its huge body flew through the air, hair in waves behind it. Its eyes were a scrub-fire red, burning with the hunger for fresh meat. Saboo pushed the button, at the same moment that his arm smashed into a stray branch. The spear head shot out, whizzing through the air and tearing through the crimson wolf’s ear, ripping it in two. The wolf let out a howl of anger. His aim would have been a bullseye if the branch hadn’t redirected it.

The spear was attached to the handle by a single strand of wire, tough enough to hold ten gargar-moths. He fell faster and faster, smashing against large branches. The spear tip zoomed up into the air; the small barbs attached to the sides ripped a giant hole in the leafy canopy. The ground was coming closer and closer. He could almost feel his body smashing against the hard surface, shattering all his bones. The blue sky flashed in his eyes for a split second, the white clouds formed images of the Elder looking down at him, displeased. He looked at the wolf’s open maw. Saliva poured from its mouth. Saboo reached for his kill and threw it at the wolf. It rocketed through the air and straight into the wolf’s mouth – much to its surprise. Saboo used both his arms to yank the spear back towards him. The spear head turned in mid air and plummeted back towards earth. The barbs struck the wolf’s back, digging into its hair and skin.

Saboo could now smell the dust of the forest floor. The wolf looked up, the kill still wedged in its mouth, and it saw the spear sticking into its back. With its attention diverted it lost track of its fall and plummeted into the fork of a tree, crashing into instant death. The spear wire twanged as it was stretched tighter than a drum skin. Saboo closed his eyes and tightened his grip as he prepared for the slack to catch up. His fall stopped dead quick, sending him jerking into the air and dropping the last few feet onto the hard ground. Wham!

The wind shot from his lungs, he gasped for breath. A large dust cloud puffed around him from where he landed. The staff handle swung idly just above his head. Far, far up in the trees the massive wolf was nothing but a mangled mess of skin, bones and teeth. He sucked in air quickly, filling his lungs once more. His breathing returned to normal, his head hurt a little and his tail felt bruised. He wiped his brow.

All of this for meat? he thought. If getting meat was this hard, maybe I’m not cut out for the Everdark contest.

Out of the tree the gawk-antelope dropped and landed on his head.


Plan vs. Not Plan

There are two very different schools of thought when it comes to writing I’ve found – the planners and the free writers. This difference becomes widely apparent at this time of the year, especially in my house. That’s right folks; NaNoWriMo is once again upon us. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, please see last year’s entry on NaNoWriMo here.

It has become a bit of mother-daughter rivalry at my place; as we both battle to beat each other on daily word counts, rushing to fit in writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days while still holding down full-time day jobs and keeping the household running smoothly. Things get a bit crazy.

But it’s the lead up where the planning styles, or lack of, show themselves. My planning involves purchasing copious amounts of sugar free Redbull/V/*insert energy drink*, candy and food I can eat one handed. I am a free writer. This how I approach most my books. On November first I will be up at 4am to start writing and at this moment all I know is a general premise and my main protagonists name…  and that’s how I like it. For me planning a story makes me feel bogged down. It stifles my muse. I like to let my characters write themselves and take me on their stories like I’m merely a ghost writer for a group of fictional entities. Being made to write outlines for stories at school was hell for me. Most times though I had awesome English teachers who understood me and let me write my stories and then write a synopsis. (Thank you Mrs Morris)

And then there are writers like my mum. My mum, Mara Harrison, whose beautiful illustrations for the next Ouroborus Book Services’ book Everdark Realms can be seen at www.everdarkrealms.com, is a planner. She approaches her writing and art with surgical precision, planning meticulously every detail before even starting to write/draw. Watching her during NaNo is an experience. Whereas I sit typing on the couch, caffine in reach; she sits surrounded by notebooks and bits of paper. She stops at intervals to rifle through her papers, rustling away as my dog looks on perplexed from the safety of my side.

I guess deep down though our planning styles match our personalities to a tea. Although I like to know where I’m going in advance in life, I certainly am more of a head first, try it and see person. My mum on the other hand is a meticulous list maker. She’s very ordered and things don’t get left to chance. And they both work. We stare at each other in shock at the approach we each take to our writing, and life in general, but in the end, the goal is the same. We’re in it for the words and in the end, as another NaNo comes to a close we will both hopefully have our 50,000 words or more ready to be enhanced once the insanity dies down and I lower my caffine levels enough to actually sleep.

So my advice is do what works for you. Don’t get bullied into planning and mapping because it’s what is expected. Alternatively, if you are a planner, especially if surrounded by opinionated free writers, don’t feel that you’re planning is wrong or cheating. If it helps you to write and keeps you going, more power to it.

For those doing NaNo this year, good luck. Feel free to friend me. My name on the site is theravensclaw. Have Fun and happy NaNo-ing.

Book vs. Movie – The Mist by Stephen King

I was planning on writing about Planet of the Apes but I realised that I couldn’t remember most of the older movies so gimme a few weeks on that one. Now before I begin SPOILER WARNING. If you read through these book vs. movie columns and it spoils the ending of either then it is your own fault. Okay, now that that is over let us begin.

I was eight when I first experienced the joy and terror that is Stephen King. My mother was always pretty liberal on what I could watch and read (within reason of course) and she knew of my love for the odd, creepy and downright gross from an early age. At seven I had devoured most the Goosebumps books by RL Stine and by age eight or so I had moved onto Christopher Pike and other teen horror books. One night on a school holiday I was up late and watched the movie Cat’s Eye (which consisted of three short films: Quitters, Inc., The Ledge, and The General) and from that day I had to find more of this master’s works. Little did I know how much more I would love the books as my life progressed.

 I was around nine when I got my first Stephen King book, not having convinced mum to buy me any of my own just yet. I remember vividly that day mum and I went shopping with my aunt. We passed a second hand book store, that musty, dust smell wafting from the semi-lit doorway. I dragged at her hand, begging her to let us stop for a minute. Even at that age I was enthralled with the smell of old books. With a smile she let me run free into the stacks and overcrowded shelves. I emerged after a few minutes holding a thick paperback, its pages and cover dog eared and creased. The spine so bent you could barely read the title. Its cover held a cracked image of a skeleton holding a scythe and the title Skeleton Crew by Stephen King.

 It took a bit of convincing but I persuaded her to let me buy it with my pocket money for the pricely sum of $1.50 (that was a lot of money in 1991 especially for a nine year old). I started reading as soon as we got in the car and amongst all the gems there were two shining stars The Raft and one of the longer stories in the book, The Mist. I hoped to one day see either of them as movies so when they announced they were making The Mist  in 2007, I was stoked but apprehensive. I was a lot more discerning by that age and had seen how most of my idol’s books had been made into bad telemovies or just changed way too much.

 When I went to see it on the big screen it was at a small cinema with a few friends and the cinema was mostly empty as it was the end of the movie’s run. And I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. There were a few changes but only one that really split the King fans down the middle on opinion. I’ll get to that one soon.

 The Mist for those who haven’t seen/read it (seriously you should stop reading if you intend to) sees a thick, soupy mist begin to spread across the town of Bridgton, Maine, making it nigh on impossible to see more than a  few feet in front of you. In the movie the storm that brings the mist and the aftermath that leads to the story is very rushed through (albeit containing a an easter egg for King fans with a painting of a movie poster of Roland Deschain from the Dark Tower series), but the book, along with King’s usual demeanour, ambles along, showing the intricacies of the characters’ ‘normal’ lives. A tree has fallen in the storm and crushed the boathouse of our main character David Drayton (played in the movie by Thomas Jane) falling from his neighbour, Brent Norton’s  (Andre Braugher) yard. Despite the ill feelings between the two, they head into town for supplies together with David’s son Billy (Nathan Gamble).

Once at the store we meet a mixed group of people, from checkout chicks and bagboys, some soldiers from the military compound nearby working on a secret mission named the Arrowhead Project (the book hints at this being the cause of the mist, the soldiers following suicide being further hint of this. The movie straight up blames this project of ‘opening doors to other realms’ for the mist and the monsters from it – another Dark Tower reference perhaps), and the crazy Mrs Carmody. This is when stuff starts going pear shaped. Creatures start to attack from the mist.

I won’t give away too much of them away because it’s rather cool. But one of the other differences between the book and movie is Mrs Carmody. Although personally they both work well for me, the book Mrs Carmody is more strange crazy in the book than religious zealot crazy like in the movie. But as I said both work and by the end she had convinced most the people in the store that the mist is part of the end times and that God wants a blood sacrifice to appease him – in the form of David’s son, Billy. (For the fans: please note in the movie all the King paperbacks on the book shelves). Her getting taken down by a well aimed can of peas to the head certainly brought cheers to the people in our cinema.

Things happen more or less like in the book until the end, and this is the BIG change that personally pissed me off, but some fans loved it. In the book the end sees David, Billy, Amanda the checkout operator and an elderly, yet tough, school teacher Hilda Reppler, escaping in a car driving into the mist. The very last part reveals that they hear a single word come through the crackling radio, ‘Hartford’, giving them hope that there is something out there, and THAT’S IT. And I would love to have seen the movie end this way, but to placate the masses they gave it a ‘real’ ending.

There are still David, Billy and Amanda but swaps Hilda for Irene (same character as Hilda, just different name) and Dan. They drive over to David’s house to find his wife dead – victim to the creatures. Then they start driving away again. Eventually they run out of fuel and pull over. While Billy sleeps, they discuss their fate and with 4 bullets left in the gun David had they decide to end it, having not seen any other survivors on the way. David shoots Billy, Amanda, Irene and Dan and then resigns himself to the fate of the creatures ending his life. He steps out of the car when all of a sudden he hears the rumble of a truck. The mist begins to clear and he sees military personnel and survivors. He falls to the ground screaming realising how close they were to rescue and that his son and wife are now dead.

Yeah…

So my recommendation is read the book first. Get the Skeleton Crew book (because it’s full of awesome stories) and not the novelisation of the movie because it’s not the real deal.

Also if you’re new to Stephen King and his 1000 page epics of fear seem a little overwhelming, this is a great way to start, with bite size stories you can read in one sitting.

As for the movie, it’s good. Personally I stop it before the stupid ending so it’s more like the book but if you’re not a purist or you don’t intend to read the book, the movie is probably one of the better King adaptations.

~ Sabrina

 

 

 

Judging a Book by its Cover

“No!” Screams a friend of mine in disdain as she stares despairingly at the cover of a book I’ve just slid to her, across the table.

“Look just read it, it’s actually quite good,” I tell her, soothingly.

“No!” she cries out, a bit louder now, as the people in the cafe we’re at, turn around curiously, trying to get some tidbit of gossip to pass onto their friends. “I already know, by the cover, I’m going to hate it.”

I scowl. I wish I’d painted the damn cover black. I try telling her that the cover does not accurately reflect the contents of the story it’s wrapped around, but to no avail. She points out that she’s lent me good books and this is what I give her in return. I try not to throw the book at a passing cyclist, in frustration. As people start whispering excitedly at the unfolding action, I push it towards her and manage through gritted teeth, “Just read the damn thing, it’s good!”

She reluctantly takes the book, like a child being made to eat a piece of spinach, with an unhappy, “Fine.” I doubt she’s even looked at it since.

We all know the famous adage. Never judge a book by its cover. And we all know that it is, really, about how we treat other people. But, I do find it interesting that the majority of us are guilty of not adhering to its more literal meaning.

I’ve done it. I’m sure you have. Whenever I browse bookstores, libraries, look over at what someone else is reading while they wait for the bus, I do it. I have to see what the cover will tell me. Because, as much as we would like to be creatures who are not easily swayed by suggestion, the cover of a book gives us a glimpse into what we can expect to find in the pages of the stories we are promised.

It is often the cover of a book that gets our attention, and makes us stop and look at the book before us. Does this make us shallow? Does it make us visual creatures, brought up as television generations who have lost our ability to see past a cover to the “personality” of a book? I think it just makes us human.

Every writer works, among other things, with a very important element – imagination. The stories we write, and tales we tell, the yarns we spin, if you will, they all need to be able to engage the imagination. Even, the non-fiction works out there, get us, not just by fact, but by the way they are written. At least the good ones do. And so it follows, that if we can visualise the world of a character through the words on a page, the cover that holds the book takes it just a step further.

A good cover will get our attention because it works to engage our imaginations. It kicks our belief in possibilities into a sort of over-drive. When I pick up a book beholding its magical cover, I get a small rush of excitement, because the cover looks great. It tells me that this book is about a dark story, or a funny story, or an independent character just trying to make things work. The teaser to the book has done its job and grabbed my attention.

Having said this I have also picked up books, with seemingly simple covers and felt the same little rush of intrigue. Whether it’s a leather-bound book, with just the title of the story and the author’s name or book with the jacket fallen off, it does the same thing. It captures my imagination. I pick up leather bound books, and am immediately taken to the 18th century, where I imagine this book has come from and wonder at the sort of people who picked it up and read it. I wonder at the world it’s come from, what the people looked like, what the done thing was in those days. And in the case of jacket-less books, I just enjoy the curiosity as to what this book might be about. Surely it’s a special, chosen book. I’ve read about tomes like this. They are discovered, their contents breathlessly poured over until they reveal astounding secrets. And sometimes they’re not.

And yes, I do enjoy penguin classics, but even those famous orange and off-white covers promise me something. They promise me a story that has been assessed by many people before me and has been chosen to be part of the all-time literary greats. They are the Penguin Classics. We know them and some of us love them.

Promises, intrigue, curiosity and above all else, imagination. That’s what these covers show us. A small preview of what to expect from these stories. I don’t think it makes us shallow to get a little excited about a book, because the cover looks so good. I think it just makes us human.

 

~Sandy