How to Draw a Mirror

mirrorWords are magic. I mean this in a very literal sense, not as a metaphor. Words have changed the world, some would say the world was created with a word, as was life. When I write I am casting a spell, or attempting to.

If I do it right, there is a sequence, a certain combination of words arranged in a very particular order which will effectively transform the page, turn it into a mirror.

I think as much introspection and soul-searching and self discovery you indulge in, if you never attempt to put it down on paper where it can reflect back up to your eyes, you still have much to learn about yourself.

When I moved away from learning the fundamentals and experimenting with every aspect I encountered and really started to write, a window opened up through which I was finally able to see myself and face myself.

I think to some extent this is what all art attempts to do, to draw a mirror, to allow the world to witness its reflection and possibly learn, become wiser because of it. But the combinations change and do vary from person to person, so the job is never complete.

We must continue to cast our spells, find the new and ever altering patterns which unlock our perspective, and allow us to see ourselves and the entirety of existence hanging just out of sight behind the black ink structures we have laid upon the page.

© Robert Emmett McWhorter

Judging books by their cover

catacombsI think it’s one of the most used metaphors in existence, ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover.’ And while I agree with the sentiment, in general it’s not wise to judge people or things on appearances, the truth is — at least as far as the world of book publishing — this rule just does not apply anymore.

I think the saying comes from the not too distant past, when all books had hardcovers, and the most decorative thing you could manage was splurging for the good leather.

These days the cover seems like a vitally important part of the book, I would say they are as important as cover art for albums back in the day when albums mattered.

I have seen many authors lately sharing some of their cover ideas. Some are better than others. Many authors still just do not recognize the importance of this step.

We spend countless hours writing and rewriting and then editing and re-editing, I think it is important to give the book cover the same degree of time and devotion. These are the containers we use to package our product, and they are so much a part of the product themselves. A good cover can persuade sales, and likewise a bad cover can keep a great book from being read.

I learned a lot putting together Meowing on the Answering Machine. I am glad Kat Mellon jumped in when she did, otherwise I would be on the other side of this article and probably simmering.

There was a time when book reviews in newspapers or magazines were not accompanied by a picture of the cover, because at the time it wasn’t considered important or relevant. These days are gone. It’s probably the internet to blame once again, the market is cluttered with publishers and independents fighting for a sliver of attention for their work and will use any means they have to hook a potential reader. And these days so much of our retail world and social lives are online, the chances are good that a majority of people will first encounter your book as a thumbnail.

This is important to keep in mind when you design your cover. Besides looking at how it will look when printed at say 6 by 9 in paperback format, you want to also make sure it looks good, the title and your name are legible when the image is reduced to 110 x 75 pixels.

I believe it’s important to recognize what the cover is and what its purpose is. It is meant as a representation of your product, if you are writing horror your cover should convey this. If the image and feel doesn’t complement the story, you run a risk of frustrating your readers.

When we get down to basics, your cover is the packaging of your product. Every detail should be aimed toward describing the product, as well as attracting attention and persuading people to take a chance. Your blurb should be short, direct and intriguing. Give them some mystery, a struggle or a contradiction, something to make them want to investigate further.

It was a dark and stormy night,‘ and almost any talk about the weather or the atmosphere or the ‘tension in the air’ probably should be snipped out of your sixty thousand word manuscript, descriptions such as these have absolutely no place in your two-hundred-words-or-less blurb, where they will stick out like a sore, but boring, thumb. Show us conflict and intrigue, make us want to crack the book open.

Get professional help if you can. I generally believe in the ‘you get what you pay for’ adage. But there are a ton of cover artists on the internet with a variety of different skills and a wide range of prices. Some of them are authors themselves and may be willing to help out a fellow writer, especially if they believe in your work.

But even if you do it yourself, take the time and do it right. If possible, don’t do it with the cover creator programs that createspace and lulu offer. These are functional and ‘okay,’ but do not give you many options and make it difficult to get a really professional look. I believe even using free software like GIMP, or even Paint, will let you make a more professional looking product.

But recognize what your cover is, it will be the first impression many people have of your work, and in some cases it will be the factor between tossing it in the cart or putting it back on the shelf. Make sure you honestly represent your work, and take this opportunity to hook a new reader, make it impossible for them to put that book back down.

Rave Reviews for MEOWING

MEOWthumbSome very positive reviews have been coming in for MEOWING ON THE ANSWERING MACHINE. I really want to thank everyone who has taken the time to read the book, and especially those who take the extra step and write a review. These customer reviews are more precious to we writers than almost anything else. And it’s not only a stroking-of-the-ego, so much of the average readers decision on whether to try out a new book or not can often be persuaded by the opinions of others, especially their peers; what another ‘average reader’ thinks of the book often carries more weight than the opinion of a professional critic or reviewer.

If you have read please take a few minutes and write a review for AMAZON or GOODREADS or both and others and more. I will be forever grateful!

What folks are saying:

Extraordinary wit and imagination! (5 out of 5 stars)
CRies — February 13, 2014
Highlighting a crazy cast of characters, this collection of stores emotes beautifully with a distinct twist of outrageous. At times, I found myself laughing out loud, and others, giggling at the absurdities. The authenticity of the artwork and the clarity of the writing are a reflection of both the author’s unique creative side and the gift of an extraordinary imagination. I am both enlightened and inspired! Fun read.
[amazon permalink]

5 of 5 stars
Cindy — February 05, 2014
I loved this book. All the off the wall stories reminded me of all the weird and off the wall dreams I have and wish that I could remember enough to put on paper. I am glad I won this one and will be passing it along to others to enjoy it. I hope to read more from this author.
[goodreads permalink]

Short Stories Spun Strangely/ Slightly Silly/ Spell Weaving
(5 out of 5 stars) — Sherry — January 15, 2014
This book is stuffed spine to spine with bizarre, fascinating, thought provoking and thoroughly enjoyable short stories spun strangely/slightly silly/ spell weaving. Witty+ wise and wise+cracking, Hilarious in a subtle, subversive way. There is a remote chance the author is only slightly deranged. But i make you no promises.
[amazon permalink]

Thanks Everyone!

Quantum Eraser

Quantum Eraser

Quantum Eraser

You’ve returned with a quantum eraser, a strange muddy mess of particles, a subatomic demagnetizer. You rub it against my mouth.

“That should shut you up for a while,” you wink a ruthless grin.

I find a crayon and draw a mouth as fast as possible before I suffocate.

“эюЯᴔЂᴟбЪ!” comes out of the new orifice. I’ve drawn it sideways or skewed somehow.

You rub your eraser to my face. But I keep drawing new mouths as frantically as I can.

I’ve got a half dozen holes in my head, all babbling chaos at you, before you regroup and erase my hands.

~Jettison, MEOWING ON THE ANSWERING MACHINE

21 Dodge Ball Salute

21 Dodge Ball Salute

21 Dodge Ball Salute

Everyone waved goodbye as the gym teacher ran off, struck and tumbling, in a twenty-one dodge ball salute.
~Cleansing, MEOWING ON THE ANSWERING MACHINE

Subroutine

SUBROUTINE

SUBROUTINE

Challenged by the inexplicably small tip left for her, the waitress turned into a seven-headed fire-breathing serpent and torched the party of cheapskates to a blackened crisp.
~Subroutine, MEOWING ON THE ANSWERING MACHINE

MEOWING: The New Guise

On the other side of town, at the end of the one-way cul-de-sac, the one with no legal way in, there was a party, in the house at the funny angle on the hill.

~The New Guise – MEOWING ON THE ANSWERING MACHINE

NEWGUISE300

In the Bowels of the Bookstore

I snapped apart the chain and rolled the stone away. Behind it was the mouth of an earthen tunnel. An opaque darkness hid any further information. Fortunately I was at the crumbling end of the Romance section. I easily found a book to light for a torch.

~The Comma Sutra, MEOWING ON THE ANSWERING MACHINE

catacombs

©M²XIV/REM

 

A Stolen Pause

‘At night I might climb up the sign above the bowling alley or the bars announcing birthday specials and the drink of the day and when to show up for karaoke. I stuffed their transparent tiles into my coat pocket.’ ~MEOWING ON THE ANSWERING MACHINE, ‘The Comma Sutra’

AStolenPause-300dpi

©M²XIV/REM

Meowing On The Answering Machine

1meowthumbMEOWING ON THE ANSWERING MACHINE
A Collection of Short Fiction and Prose by Robert Emmett
(2014,  164 pages, Paperback & Ebook )


Robert Emmett creates odd but familiar worlds and fills them with a bizarre cast of characters attempting the impossible. His stories come from the fringes of reality, sometimes evoking a dreamlike feeling, other times a sharply focused reflection of the world around us– hilarious and spooky, absurd and authentic.
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within the US only

 

The Elusive Humors

Aristotle_HumorsWith the Snowpacolypse we have been experiencing here in the Midwest, driving has become especially trying. I commented in a thread recently that it took me nearly forty-five minutes to get my car out of the driveway the other day.

It has been snowing all year, and there is quite a bit of it accumulated on the ground. The subarctic temperatures makes everything a little tricky, and it seems to freeze the snow into a solid sheet of ice. The following day more snow falls, adding a new layer, and reenforcing the solid frozen foundation.

I said in my comment that I may have saved myself time and aggravation had I taken the wheels off the car and fashioned skates of some sort or possibly a sled.

A friend soon replied. She said she never knew what to expect from me, and this comment, the image in her head, had her laughing near hysterically. She noted that she is not known as the easiest person to draw a laugh from, her son had told her she only laughs ‘once every seven years.’

So I was flattered, I take that as high praise.

Later in the thread there was another note from the same friend. It seemed she was rethinking her reaction, and she wasn’t certain I had intended my words as a joke, and thought she should maybe apologize for take my comments as a joke.

I was able to reply that it was, indeed, a joke. I said I thought it was a defense mechanism of sorts; no matter how terrible I feel, no matter how bad my day may be going, I am usually able to find something funny, some tiny little aspect I can twist into the ridiculous or otherwise see an opportunity for humor.

When I can’t, when I stop smiling and cracking wise, I said, that is probably a good time to turn around and run away.

I’m really not sure where this comes from.

People have remarked on my writing. A lot of my stuff is comical and filled with one liners and comedic occurrences and situations, but even in my most dry and somber, deep and reflective, serious efforts, there is almost always at least a little glimmer of the light shining through.

Readers do remark on this. Some writer friends have said they wished I could teach them how to write ‘funny,’ or how to develop their sense of humor. And believe me, I do wish I knew how. For many reasons.

Believe me I wish I had a marketable skill I could pass along to others and provide a decent living for myself. It’s one thing to be funny and make people laugh, but if you could teach humor and make people funny… I almost relate it to the ‘give a man a fish, teach a a man to fish’ proverb. Plus, if I could teach a good portion of the population and instill my sense of humor, I would probably personally find the world that much more enjoyable.

But I’m really not sure where it came from and I’m less sure how to pass it along.

I will sometimes say I was exposed to Monty Python at too early an age, but if was all it took, there’d be an island of comedians, comic actors and humorous writers when in fact these currently make up barely a majority in England.

I sometimes say the circumstances of my early years forced me to find the humor in the small details around me, but in truth –while I have had a few rough patches over the years– I haven’t had anything close to a tragic life, I definitely count myself as one of the luckier ones on this random and confusing planet.

So I’m at a loss. It begs the question, is your sense of humor something you are born with or something you develop or maybe a combination of the two? Nurture or nature, if you will. I can’t say.

I never intentionally learned to write a joke, but I did read hilarious authors and can usually only stand a movie or TV show that makes me laugh, and I certainly take note of what works and what doesn’t.

But I never took a class to develop my comedic styling. I never had any routine for working out my funny bone, other than reading, watching, and sampling, and then trial and error with paper and pen. I was mostly too shy in school to be the class clown, but I usually sat next to him and fed him lines. At first this was great because when the joke failed, it wasn’t me that was met with that hot, red silence.

The only thing I can really do is hope it’s contagious, and sometimes it seems like it might be. Sometimes it appears like my twisted sense of humor may be rubbing off on friends, a wry remark or snarky line comes out that I doubt they would think of, speak aloud, or find funny prior to meeting me. I hope so.

If I could consciously teach the world to laugh a little more I know I would. But maybe the best I can hope is some of it seeps in through prolonged exposure to my funny little tales and osmosis.

©M²XIV/REM

Apologia Absurdum

Perpetual Motion Machine w/ Solar Lamp Attachment and Self-Writing Novel.

Perpetual Motion Machine w/ Solar Lamp Attachment and Self-Writing Novel.

There is a method to my madness. I write what I do to try to show a part of the world I truly believe in, a part of human existence that doesn’t often get a spotlight, and some will say doesn’t exist.

I grew up with the word ‘CAN’T‘. You can’t do this, can’t do that, that can’t happen, people can’t fly.

“BULLSHIT!” I say, and I am glad I never listened. Sure I have run into some brick walls being defiant and proving to myself I can’t walk through walls, but I never let the ‘CAN’T‘s keep from trying or doing anything.

I believe this world, this reality, is a lot more magical than we usually give it credit for. This is why I write the weird things I do. To show possibilities, to show that there are miracles in this world.

I have done impossible things. I have seen things that shouldn’t exist. I believe in miracles and magic, and I think if everyone else believed it as well, we could move forward as a species.

So, look at my works as silly little tales about Spanish speaking cats who moonlight as copy-editors, ridicule me for the stories about talking furniture. But I am trying to show something real, I am trying to convey a truth that I cannot easily put into words.

This world is magic! If you believe it.

Sometimes the impossible is a lot more attainable than the highly improbable.

Only fifty years or so ago, it was improbable that we would ever find life on another planet, but it was impossible for man to walk on the moon.

Was…

We still haven’t found life elsewhere, but we have all seen Neil’s footprint in the regolith.

©M²XIV/REM