Eye-Catching Book Covers

I saw this article in my Twitter #Discover feed nestled between an article about some busy-body Americans who fear that the Austrian tradition of the Krampus (link to a video of the annual Krampuslauf in Graz, Austria in case you are unfamiliar with Austrian traditions) is going to corrupt the children–because. . .the Devil, that’s why–and some anecdotal tweets about the best books of 2013. Between all this chaos of moral uproar and best of lists, I found Flavorwire’s “Best Book Covers of 2013“, which made me wonder if this year was really not that great of a year for book covers. Or maybe I just disagree with them on what the criteria are for a good book cover. Although, I’m not going to outright say that because I directly linked to them and I think that they have a right to an opinion, just as anyone else does. Also, I haven’t seen all the book covers of 2013, so maybe I can’t really say that this year was just not a good year for book covers. (But I kind of said it anyway, so oh well.)

But Flavorwire’s article has inspired me to write my own list of good book covers–as in, the book covers that would make me actually pick up a book and read the plot description or the first page. So this–Nikki’s list of Good Book Covers through the Ages (classic reprints and alternate covers also included)–now exists.

1.) No Saints or Angels, by Ivan Klima (English edition)

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Why this is a good cover:

There is something hauntingly beautiful about the angle at which the photo of this already hauntingly beautiful angel was taken. It’s also a great representation of Czech culture, with a little bit of irony thrown in (with some help from the title). But Klima’s (I don’t have a Czech keyboard, so I apologize for the misplaced accent) books usually have some interesting cover images. I don’t know if it is because I just like the Czechs’ visual preferences, or if perhaps the theme of the book itself makes these kind of cover image choices an option.

Another good book cover belongs to Klima’s Waiting for the Dark Waiting for the Light:

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The nude woman with a fit body aside, I think the photograph offers not only a lovely setting (old fashioned windows thrown open and that broad sill), but also the photographer has made good lighting and coloring choices and the pose of the model evokes really strong emotions in the viewer, considering it is a book cover. The model seems deep in thought and as though she is waiting for something–like she’s tormented by something, but also perhaps that she is anxious and on the look-out for something or someone that she expects to come. If the cover photo/image itself can make me speculate about what is going on in it, then I’m going to pick up the book. I expect the book to be an explanation of what is going on in the cover, or the cover somehow relating to the theme(s) of the book.

2.)Voluntary Madness: My Year Lost and Found in the Looney Bin, by Norah Vincent

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I picked this book up to read because I was writing a research paper on the differences between the various options we have for people with mental illness in the United States (spoiler alert: the best options are financially out of reach for a majority of people with mental illness). After going about 5 years since I’ve read this book, I still recall loving the cover. Even if the subject of the book was not relevant to a project I was doing or I didn’t have to read it for whatever reason, I still would have picked this book up and read it from cover to cover. I guess I like this cover because it is relevant–again–to the content of the book. It isn’t just a colorful gimmick intended to catch a book store browser’s eyes. It gives a visual point-of-reference to the settings explored within the book.

3.) The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath (Multiple editions)

2000 Harper Perennial Classics Modern Edition:

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2005 Harper Perennial Classics Modern Edition (I own this version):

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1971 Harper & Row Edition:

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While writing this, I’m recalling that I have a bit of a flare for the dramatics in my daily life, so of course these covers are going to be on my list. Why do these images visually appeal to me though? I guess the same could be observed about the lighting choices and the way that the 1971 edition photo was developed (I’m not a photographer and my friends who are well-versed in old-school photographic technique also only speak German. . .so I lack the proper terminology to describe this.) I guess I also like the choice of props and subjects represented within the photos. I like the distance expressed by the models in all the photos. It appears as though they seem to be hiding, or someplace distant that one must work hard to get to. Plath’s narration in the novel seems emotionally distant at times with a bit of insight thrown in every so often, but told in a way that you really must work and think over the words to get the full implication behind them (just my interpretation, feel free to disagree).

4.) A Great and Terrible Beauty and The Sweet Far Thing, by Libba Bray

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After I had graduated high school, I started reading solely literary fiction and the classics that I did not read in high school (with some adult fantasy and horror thrown in for good measure). If it weren’t for the cover image of the first book in this series (A Great and Terrible Beauty) I wouldn’t have read it, because it’s teen fiction. But I am a huge fan of this series now, even after stumbling upon it when I no longer considered myself a YA reader. The reasons why this cover is good are pretty obvious. The attention to historical detail and the pretty laces and corset are visually appealing. I’m not sure how relevant this is to the underlying theme of the series, but it gives a somewhat shallow point of reference to a piece of the wardrobe worn by some girls and women of that time period.

5.) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

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I suppose that without such a concept, such a book cover would never come into existence. But this is just a very unique cover image. I’m not sure how creative it is, but you can tell that an artist put a lot of work into it. It’s just gorgeous, creepy, and so explanatory at the same time.

In conclusion, perhaps what makes a good book cover is ultimately subjective and not something that can be organized into a tight, marketing formula. Yes, colors definitely affect a person’s attitude toward a book. But, if the book deals with a somber or solemn plot/theme, perhaps yellow and red would not be appropriate for the book. Furthermore, what makes a good book cover completely depends upon the audience the author is writing for. Many of my selections were intended to appeal to a more solemn, less excitable audience. I don’t think it would be appropriate for The Bell Jar to have the same color scheme as any of the cover editions of Naked Lunch, for example, because both novels are written in completely different tones. Many of the book covers I see often do not reflect upon the actual tone of the book, and so this confusion created by a cover that doesn’t relate to the story or capture the tone of the narrator very well leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. I can think of some really great books that were written in a somber, slow tone, but featured colors that inspire excitement and anxiousness in the viewer (like my edition of Love in the Asylum, ordered online because I was interested in the theme and the story, featuring a very red cover). Also, many bibliophiles just gravitate toward visually stunning covers. To them (and to me), everything about the book (the writing within it, the cover, the inside of the jacket, and the font and layout of the pages) is a part of a work of art.

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Back in the States after a long Few Weeks of Travel

It was brought to my attention that I haven’t updated¬† the blog for a very long time. First of all, I apologize if anyone else happened to be looking out for one of my random posts. But I must explain myself. In the beginning of June, I started work on another post that requires quite a lot of research and thought. I underestimated how much time exactly it would take to put it together. As a result, I ended up burning myself out and I just had to give up temporarily on it. Then, my German history exam and all the studying I had to do to prepare for that came up. Right after taking this final exam, my boyfriend and I left for his parents’ house. That was when I became too busy to update my blog or work on my writing projects.

The last few weeks have included a day trip to a small town in Poland (the name of which I can’t remember–maybe my boyfriend will comment and remind me of the name of the city we were in ūüėČ ), a weekend trip to Slovakia, a weekend with my host family in Graz, Austria, moving out of my flat in Brno, three last nights in Prague with my boyfriend, being detained by security in Poland because my visa had expired the day before, and finally returning to the United States. (If anyone is interested, today I also got a haircut.) I’ve been back in the States for almost a week. I’m wondering if I should start texting people on my own, or continue to wait for them to text me, because I haven’t hung out with any of my friends since I’ve been back and everyone was so insistent that we hang out as soon as I came back. (Now, I understand there are busy exceptions who I’ve made plans with but we unfortunately cannot get together until a few weeks from now, but the amount of people bummed that I was out of the country and the amount of people calling my phone now are not equivalent. It’s an odd phenomenon, but also an experience I’ve had before. The last time I returned from a year abroad the same situation occurred. I’m at peace with the fact that people who were my good friends before I left last September will probably no longer be friends of mine next September. It happens. But nothing can make this not feel weird.

I hate how many of my international and Czech friends I will probably never see again. Or, if we do see each other again, it won’t be for a very long time. It is so weird that last month I woke up every morning next to my boyfriend and told him immediately about the nightmares and weird dreams I had. Now though, if I want to talk to him about the dreams of the night before, I must go downstairs, turn on the computer, and hope that he is on Skype. (This is another reminder that I need to ask for more people’s skype I.D.s because I only have two contacts.) It frightens me that a few of my international friends are returning to countries, which have recently become a lot less safer than they were before my friends had left (Egypt, Turkey, Syria) and I hope for the best for them and that we can meet again in the future someplace safe.

Every year for the last four years, I have felt like my life was starting over again or everything was changing and I had entered some kind of new era of my life. This year is no different. I feel like I’m starting over again from the beginning. I don’t want to do exactly what I did the last year I spent studying in the U.S. I want to try something new. I want to gain more experience working either as a German tutor or translator. But the lack of opportunities that I am finding in St. Louis right now is frustrating. I feel like I’m about to attempt to push a boulder up a hill, honestly. I’m just warming up. It’s really hard not to be overwhelmed by the frustration though, and I’m bracing myself for the next few weeks. I keep telling myself that I just started looking and that it will take some time. However, I don’t listen. I’ve always been stubborn.

The Kind of Dilemma that can only Arise from being Scatter-brained and unable to make a Decision

There’s a quote from Virginia Woolf that describes me very strongly:

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.” (from her diary on May 11th, 1920)

I’m in the doubt stage currently. I feel like if I could just get over my doubt of my current project and finish part II that I would go on writing parts III and IV smoothly and then the editing process could begin and I would finally have SOMETHING to show to publishers (that isn’t a teenager’s first attempt at figuring out how to construct a novel). But the more time I spend not focusing on my piece, the more my mind wanders and I begin to contemplate new projects. Also, I’m kind of risking damning myself anytime I attempt to write a short story. Thus far, half of my short story attempts in the past two years surpassed 12k words and could go even longer to form a novel. So I had to put the project on hold in favor of my current two projects.

This is what my workload looks like (concerning novels and compilations, I won’t even list the unfinished short stories sitting on/around/in my desk at the moment):

Mind Terrorist

Main Character/inspiration: Lenore, a voice of a character in my head who happened to be the loudest when it came time to write a short story for my Short Story writing course last spring.

Plot Synopsis: Lenore is an American expat living in Austria who is having a very serious breakdown. She is convinced that a specific man has found a way into her mind and found a way to control her thoughts and sexual desires and that he is seeing all of her thoughts. The problem is that she does not know who it is, and is suspicious of any man she comes across because even if they found a way to placate her and convince her that they are not the ones inside her mind, that this could just be another mind trick. Lenore, needing a holiday, is invited to spend the weekend partying with two musician friends in Prague and she accepts. But during the train ride through Austria to Prague, she realizes that perhaps it could be her friends who have been reaching into her thoughts.

Themes: Coping with sexual assault/rape, alcoholism, mental illness, mental illness and sexual trauma, travel, Central European culture and history

Status: I shopped this around in its original form as a short story. It was considered for 3 months to be printed by an American literary magazine, but in the end they declined it because they felt that the word count was too long to be a short story, and that the story needed to continue. When I turned it in to my teacher, she said basically the same thing. . .so here I am trying to finish this novel.

But doubt creeped in and I started a new project while I was dealing with writer’s block:

Short Story Compilation (“The Sea Monster’s Bride” and other Stories)

I found myself writing a lot about love and mental illness in the last six months, and aside from my novel, I’m beginning to move past this fixation. However, mental illness and love are and probably will always be recurring themes in my writing for personal reasons. This particular short story compilation has a focus on love within institutional settings between someone who society has deemed to be mentally ill and someone who isn’t but may be missing some important things. I would like to release it on smashwords, but I’d like to first get some of the stories published in literary magazines and therefore attract publicity and more public interest for the short story compilation in the first place.

Now, within this project I started writing a short story which takes place in a Victorian workhouse, and then later an asylum. The narrator has a romantic relationship with Satan (or she thinks she does) and this is why she is in an asylum. I’ve realized after rewriting it that this story could not be told in its entirety in just a short story, and that since she is in her late teens and I have the opportunity, I’d like to send her to a haunted finishing school in Scotland and extend her narrative into a book series. This is my¬†Darling¬†series, which I posted about earlier this week. Now, I have three projects going because I am still missing a short story since I’ve had to pull Darling from the compilation. Mind Terrorist only has 15,000 words, and I want it to at least have 30k. But these are just the projects I’ve started fairly recently.

During my time on Mibba two years ago, I completed an internet fantasy serial story. My readers on Mibba really liked it and I have been asked to expand each weekly section into a full chapter. I’ve been doing that since 2011, and have ended up splitting the book in half so that now there are two books–both from different points-of-view. The story line is done. The rough draft is written. I am just editing this now and going back and rewriting some passages so that they connect more smoothly and there are less plotholes. I even have an idea for the sequel to each of the points-of-view, a book that combines both by making one of my narrators have a bigger part in the life of the character who shall be narrating. But it’s a fantasy project: imaginary world, intricate religious and cultural beliefs, and a political system, and all. My senior year of college is not a good time to embark on such an endeavor. Though, I will admit that when I’m frustrated with Lenore and writing short stories and queries to literary magazines, I find myself editing my fantasy novel, designing costumes for my main characters, and even writing new scenes. This is a particularly bad habit for me, because it’s taking away from me time that I would be spending working on my projects that I’d like to get done before the end of 2014, when I’ve told myself that this fantasy novel could not reasonably be finished at least until 2016 if I put all my free time into it, and should just focus on one thing at a time.

But no, I don’t listen to myself. I’m too scatter-brained to listen to myself. There are too many voices inside of my mind for me to listen to, and as a result I’m having trouble picking which one I’m going to listen to when it comes to my writing projects.

 

Reasons why Setting aside time for studying Results more often in Completed Short Stories than a Good Grade on a Test

At least, for me it does.

For the past week, I’ve been setting aside 3-4 hours per day to read through the sections of my German linguistics text book that I am guessing will be on the exam later this week. But it’s a really heavy, yet dry task. Nearly all of the vocabulary is new and there are so many unfamiliar abbreviations within the texts that my professors copy-pasta’d into some Word documents and did not bother to explain in class or on the text itself, that I am constantly having to google. I feel like I am learning more about German shorthand than I am about linguistics.

Not to mention, nearly all of the vocabulary is new and it doesn’t help that with the introduction of every single new word, they are also giving me the word in Latin and Greek (yes, Greek letters included), as if this is helpful or important. As you can guess, I am becoming frustrated. This weekend, I have completed more stories and made more progress on my ongoing saga about Lenore, the Schizophrenic who someone let move to Austria against their better judgment and take a holiday in Prague, than any actual studying. I feel really good about my writing career, but terribly uncertain about my future in translation. Also, I’m not even sure when the exam is, so wish me luck. I think I may end up like poor Lenore: mad, raving, and wandering around Prague in search of absinthe.