Category Archives: books

Writer Interview: A.D. Vick

Al VickEvery family probably has a writer or two in it. Previously I’ve interviewed a first cousin who is a writer and who’s published her books. Today is an interview with another cousin, in this case a second cousin, A.D. Vick. A.D.’s dad and my dad were first cousins. They spent a lot of time together growing up, and were in touch regularly as adults. It helped that our two families attended the same church, the Vicks sitting right behind the Todds on the first and second pews, left side.

A.D. is the oldest of three children, and three years ahead of me in school. We saw a lot of each other before college years, even at the shore in summers. I remember visiting his grandfather (my great-uncle) a number of times while his family was there also.

A.D. was from Providence, Rhode Island. In the late 1970s he moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas, and has lived there ever since. I got to northwest Arkansas in 1991, but didn’t know he was 30 miles down the road from me, something I learned in 1997. It wasn’t until May 2016 that we saw each other, though through the miracle of Facebook we had reconnected earlier than that.

At some point I learned A.D. was a writer. His tales could be considered part of the goth subculture, that…well, I think it’s best now to let this be in his own words.

You state you are part of the Goth Culture. But many people don’t really know what that is, or they think of it as a teenage phase. Can you give us a quick summary of what it means to be Goth?

Vick: Modern goth culture grew out of the post-punk movement during the early 1980s in Great Britain. The music that came to be called goth rock and dark wave had a darker feel to it than the better-known new wave that enjoyed a lot of popularity at the time. If the goth culture has a theme song, it would have to be Bela Lugosi’s Dead, by Bauhaus.

Goths in general, see beauty in darkness and accept darkness as a part of life. Yes, many enjoy the macabre, like to spend time in cemeteries (as do I) and enjoy dark fashion, which exists in great diversity. We are a harmless lot however, and would rather spend time reading, watching horror movies, drinking tea in graveyards, or writing poetry than causing any trouble.

Contrary to belief, there is no age limit to goth. While there’s little doubt that for some teenagers, goth is just a phase, many embrace the culture for a life time. It’s who they are.

Al Vick book thumbnailYou have a book out, Tales of Dark Romance and Horror. Tell us a little about it. How did you come to write it?

Vick: I see Tales of Dark Romance and Horror as sort of a documentary on my writing style. The book contains 12 short stories and one novella. I’m a romantic at heart and most of the material in the book reflects that. Still, I can look at the work contained within its pages as a reflection of my evolution as a writer.

My greatest literary inspiration is Edgar Allan Poe. I can vividly remember being stretched out on my bed reading his fiction as a child, and I firmly believe that it was he who inspired me to stay firmly in the realm of the short story. Other inspirations include H.P. Lovecraft, Anne Rice, and Charles de Lint.

I can still remember being taken somewhere with my parents as a child and at times, sitting and writing fiction to amuse myself. I always enjoyed writing and have indulged myself in many different aspects of that craft over the years. Still, I really like using grammar and punctuation creatively, which is something you simply cannot do if you’re doing technical writing, for example. So, between my love of fiction, my enjoyment of the macabre, and my love for romance and the creative use of language, I decided to write the book.

Are the stories stand-alone, or are they part of a series?

Vick: Some is part of a series and some is stand-alone. Three stories comprise my Raven series. Raven is a dead woman who comes back to this reality from the land of the dead to meet with her love, who still lives in the flesh, and to play violin in a metal band. Then, there’s my Sea Haven series, which I place on North Carolina’s outer banks. These two stories center around a couple of goth women who are best friends and the last of what was once a thriving culture in their locale. There are two other stories contained in the book that belong to my A Fall From Grace series. This is vampire fiction.

Even though the other stories are stand-alone, there are ways in which some of them intersect. For example, both my Raven series and the novella Rosalie center around a fictitious town I call Fox Grove, which I place in Newton County, Arkansas. The characters differ but I like using that locale.

Give us an idea of a typical plot. Take one story and walk us through it.

Vick: My style seems to be evolving and I’m not sure that there is a typical plot. The one constant, however, is that most of my material involves a mix of both romance and horror. So, I would like to use Night of the Harvestmen, which made me the 2014 Writer’s Workshop winner at Horror Addicts Dot Net.

The story, which is told in the first person, opens with the protagonist shouting with glee as he watches his house burning down. After the opening scene, the plot flashes back to a seemingly chance encounter he has with a young woman on a street in North Charleston, South Carolina. The lady has an incredible effect upon him and it takes days for him to get over her; this, even though nothing of significance took place between them.

Our hero returns to his rural home to find that he must deal with an infestation of harvestmen (daddy long legs), which seem to be gaining control of his house. After a week or two of battling with them, his abode is finally free of them. A friend reminds him that there is a goth music festival coming up on the weekend; and after battling the harvestmen for so long, he’s excited about attending. Upon his arrival, he spots the same lady he’d briefly encountered in North Charleston. They hit it off and she goes home with him. Our hero has found the love of his life and is in bliss until something goes terribly wrong.

What’s in store next? Are you working on more stories, or another book?

Vick: I’m currently working on a story called The Arrival of Narkissa Laveau. This is to be the last story I’ll  write for a new book. This new publication will be smaller than the first and will contain seven stories. Still, I feel that it would be advantageous to get a second book published. While I haven’t settled on a title for this upcoming publication, I’ve arranged for someone to do a bit more art work for it and I have a picture that I believe will serve as an excellent cover photo. I hope to publish by the end of winter or early spring.

Al’s book can be found at Amazon.com:

Tales of Dark Romance and Horror [at Amazon]

Author Interview: Lori Ericson

I may have two college degrees, but sometimes I have trouble putting two and two together. I’ve been Facebook friends with author Lori Ericson for a couple of years (I think), having “met” through some FB writing groups for this neck of the woods. I was also aware of Lori Ericson, city planner for the City of Rogers, Arkansas. Since I don’t deal with cities much any more, in my capacity as corporate trainer, I hadn’t actually worked with Lori the planner. But I knew about her, and knew others in our company worked with her.

Lori Ericson
Lori Ericson

Well, we had Lori and some other people in to our office a couple of weeks ago to hold a panel discussion for us on the city planning process. While everyone was here, having lunch right before the session, I heard someone say something about Lori’s books. As an civil engineer who hopes to be a writer when he grows up, my ears perked up. While the panel discussion was going on I looked for Lori the author on my phone, and found her. I discovered we were Facebook friends. I’d just never realized this is the same Lori. And, checking her out in Linked In, I discovered we live kind of close to each other.

Okay, that’s much too long of an explanation/introduction. Lori has two novels published, and has had some short stories anthologized. But she has many more writing credits than that. So on with the interview.

Lori, your bio indicates you held positions as a print journalist for a number of years. Now, however, you work as a city planner by day and a creative writer by night. Why the change?
I saw changes in the newspaper business that didn’t match the type of journalism that I wanted to do. As a newspaper reporter for 20 years in Northwest Arkansas, I had covered planning issues in both Benton and Washington counties and knew the basics of the field. So, it was a good fit for me when I saw the opening. The change also gave me a chance to concentrate on my dream of becoming a novelist. It was hard to come home and write at night or on the weekends when I’d been writing all day as a journalist. 
So, the bug to write creatively bit you, as it did me. I was diagnosed incurable around 1999. You?
I wanted to be a writer when I was a child. I read a lot and wrote short stories since I was in elementary school. Then in junior high they did some testing, asked us about our dream job, etc. I said I wanted to be a writer. The school counselor pushed me toward journalism, saying I’d need to make money. I didn’t know how true that was! I joined the school newspaper and then majored in journalism and English in college. 
Tell me about your first novel, A Lovely County. What is the genre? Give us a teaser of what it’s about.
a-lovely-county-frontA Lovely County is a thriller/mystery. It’s about a reporter in the Ozarks who has moved back to her hometown after being fired at a statewide daily newspaper. Now working for a weekly paper, she stumbles across a big story when a young boy’s murder turns out to be at the hands of a serial killer. Reporter Danni Edens struggles to beat the competition to the story and redeem her career while she’s out trying to sort out the facts of possible corruption at the county jail. All the while, she’s also dealing with her mother’s mental illness and rumors that could hurt the reputation of her family-owned cemetery. 
And now, you have a newly released novel, A Lovely Murder. Is it a sequel? Tell us about it.
lovelymurder_front-copyYes, A Lovely Murder is a sequel, but it can stand alone as well. Here’s the jacket brief on it: 
Life is finally coming together for reporter Danni Edens. Her mother’s mental illness seems to be under control, her career is taking off after a major setback, and she’s found love.
But a mistake from her past comes back to rob her of that newly found happiness and possibly more.
As Danni struggles with the biggest loss of her life, the challenges start piling up. She fights to keep her grief at bay while searching for the killer who took her fiancé, but soon realizes the culprit wants more blood. Her vehicle is deliberately sabotaged causing a wreck that injures her best friend. Then she’s accused of murder and forced to defend herself. All the while, more bodies are piling up.
How can she prove her own innocence, protect her family and friends, and rebuild her life when a killer lurks? Will she lose all she holds dear, including her dream of a happy future? Or even her life?
What’s in store for the future? If you’ve released novel 2, you’re probably well into novel 3, and planned novel 4.
 
A Lovely Grave is in the works and set for release late 2017. It involves the investigation into the disappearance of young women, most of them students at the state university. Danni Edens has finally made the leap back to a daily newspaper, but struggles with some sexual harassment may have her wishing she was still working at the weekly, even though she’s proving her worth as a reporter by beating everyone to the punch on the facts of biggest crime spree to hit her Ozarks hometown in years. 

Lori’s books are available at Amazon and other places, including directly from her publisher. Be sure to check them out. Here’s a link to her Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Lori-Ericson/e/B00S5MJGM8

And here’s a link to her web page: https://loriericson.com/

It rains! It rains!

Today, Friday, we are having band after band of thunderstorms pass over us here in Bentonville. As I’ve mentioned before, I like the rain; it does my heart good. So, on a Friday afternoon, I’m upbeat. I have completed a number of miscellaneous tasks this week, including today, and am ready for the weekend. If the storms continue (as, I believe, they are forecast to do), I shall read and write, file and discard, clean and organize to my heart’s content. If the rain holds off, I have plenty of outside work to occupy my time.

My writing work has been slowly progressing of late. I add a little every now and then to Preserve The Revelation. I do the same to Thomas Carlyle: A Chronological Bibliography of Compositions. Almost every day I review and add to my Bible study titled “Entrusted to My Care”, which we are scheduled to study in our adult Life Group beginning in four weeks or so. Of poetry, I add nothing. The villanelle I wrote last month I hope to get back to in a week or so, tweak it, then submit it to the anthology; the deadline for submittals is Oct 31.

Then, the other major task I have at hand is the cover for the print version of In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People. I’ve been waiting for two talented cover artists/creators to get to it. For a variety of reasons, some legitimate, some not, they haven’t gotten to it in over a month’s time. So, my top priority is to get it done this weekend, uploaded to CreateSpace, a proof copy ordered ASAP, and the book published ASAP. It won’t be as good as if a pro did it, but it will be done, and the book will be available before the Cubs win the World Series—if they do.

My cell phone just gave me a severe weather alert, the first one I’ve received on this. Yet, the thunder has about quit. I may not go by Home Depot on the way home. We’ll see.

Author Lori Stanley Roeleveld

Lori Roeleveld publicity photoYou can take the boy out of Rhode Island, but you can’t take Rhode Island out of the boy. Even 42 years after leaving there, I keep up with news from the state (as best I can in fly-over country), with old friends, and occasionally make a new friend or contact. Lori Roeleveld is one of them. I “met” her, the self-proclaimed “disturber of hobbits,” if I recall correctly, from an on-line writers group at Yahoo. Seeing she was from my home state, I made contact with her. We’ve attended the same conference, but I don’t know if she was there the year I was. If she was, we didn’t meet in person. I asked Lori if I could interview her for a blog post. Here it is.

Oh, but first, here’s a link to Lori’s author’s page at Amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/Lori-Stanley-Roeleveld/e/B00KZP8T26

DAT: “Disturber of hobbits”? You’ll have to explain that one.

LSR: Why Disturber of Hobbits? I care about hobbits, ordinary people, common Jesus followers like me just trying to survive from the ground to glory. Hobbits are all of us who like to be comfy and cozy, eat our meals on time, and who resist unsettling adventures. The problem is that settling in interferes with traveling on the narrow road to the heart of Jesus Christ, our true home. I write posts about faith designed to disturb the hobbit in all of us and inspire us to forget second breakfast long enough to join the adventure. I write to incite the faltering believer to join the ancient adventure.

The adventure is upon us. We are those who refuse to skim across the surface of faith. I write for all of us who have been unsettled from comfortable places and moved to follow Jesus into the adventure of our times. We may be common souls from small places and simple lives, “But, we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” Hebrews 10:39 ESV

DAT: When and why did you begin writing creatively?

LSR: I’ve always written, as long as I can remember. When I was in first grade, back in the sixties, I could read on an 11th grade level. I sped through my classroom work and my teacher would send me to the library to “read a book and write about it.” That went on through my elementary years until by high school, I was writing book reports about books that didn’t exist. My first published work were two poems in American Girl Magazine when I was fourteen.

DAT: Your first book, Running From a Crazy Man, was published in late 2014. Tell me something about it.

LSR: Running from a Crazy Man (and Other Adventures Traveling with Jesus) is a siren call to the modern believer that the God-adventure can happen even when, like King David, you’re running from a crazy man. Some Christians leave their relationship with God in a sealed box like a collectible that will be worth something “someday.” I write for believers who exercise their faith and break open the box, those who wholeheartedly answered the call to follow Jesus. But then, something happened and now they’re gasping beside the narrow road. They thought they were on the God adventure but suddenly it feels as if all they’re doing is running from a crazy man. Still, they seek the strength to continue the journey.

Crazy Man is a series of short, non-fiction chapters adapted from my most popular blog posts. It isn’t reading for the happily comfortable. These are words for the restless Jesus lover, the long-suffering disciple, the openhearted believer. Be forewarned. The challenges inside are designed to unsettle as well as to incite readers to relish the narrow road even when trouble is their travel companion.

DAT: What is the main takeaway you hope readers will have from RFCM?

LSR: I want readers to walk away convinced they can continue walking with Jesus even though they’ve encountered trouble, trial, or tribulation, and they can live the adventure they dreamed, even in the midst of trying circumstances.

DAT: How has the reception been for it?

LSR: Running from a Crazy Man has received all five and four star reviews on Amazon and I’ve heard from many readers who are in their second or third reading. Some use it as an unconventional devotional. Many are sharing it with their small groups or book clubs.

DAT: I see that your next book was Red Pen Redemption, which was published in late 2015. What’s that about?

LSR: Red Pen Redemption is a novella that takes place entirely one Christmas Eve, much like A Christmas Carol. What would you do if God took you up on a dare? Helen Bancroft’s led a good life and feels no need for her daughter’s Savior. When God accepts Helen’s dare to edit her autobiography and prove her righteousness, she’s in for a lesson in her own history. One woman’s journey from unbelief to acceptance turns into the Christmas Eve adventure of a lifetime beneath the red pen of Christ’s mercy and grace.

I wrote this story with love for all my friends who pray for unsaved parents and hold out the hope of Christ to them even into their eighties and nineties. God has surprises for us even when we think the adventure is close to an end. If you love history or could use a new perspective on your own history, you’ll love Red Pen Redemption!

DAT: Was it difficult to switch from writing non-fiction to writing “holiday” genre fiction?

LSR: Not at all. I like to choose the genre or literary vehicle that is best for each message or story I want to tell. Red Pen’s theme is most engaging through fiction.

DAT: You have a new book coming out in September. Tell me about that.

LSR: Jesus and the Beanstalk (Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life) is my second non-fiction book. I started by asking the question, What if a fairy tale and ten Bible verses could free you to live an effective, fruitful life in Christ?

We live in a world populated with giants. Giant obstacles to sharing faith. Giant barriers to godly lives. Giant strongholds of sin. We come from a long line of giant-killers so, why aren’t we dodging more fallen giants? Jack and the Beanstalk could hold part of the key.

Jesus and the Beanstalk explores 2nd Peter 1:1-10 using fairy tale, humor, and modern culture to show today’s believers how to unleash that promise of an effective, fruitful life. Designed for both individuals, discipleship, small groups, or ministry retreats, readers will find this fresh take on spiritual growth engaging and motivating.

DAT: What do you see in the future for your writing? Since book 3 is in the publishing queue, I imagine you’re well along, or perhaps even finished, with book 4.

LSR: I have several fiction projects I’d like to write (or rewrite) and I’m developing a follow up non-fiction book in the vein of Jesus and the Beanstalk – right now titled, “Jesus through the Looking Glass.” And, of course, I keep on blogging. This summer, I’m taking a master class in screenwriting, so, who knows?

Author Interview – Faith Blum

HotWest - The Solid RockFaith Blum, who is a fellow member at an Internet writers site, has a book out that I suspect some readers of my blog might be interested in. It’s The Solid Rock, which is available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Solid-Rock-Hymns-West-Book-ebook/dp/B01CWCDBJK DAT: The Solid Rock sounds like a title for a non-fiction Christian book. But your book is a novel How did you come up with that title? Faith: All of the novels in my series are named after hymns and the hymns are woven in throughout. I chose The Solid Rock because the theme of the song fit the theme of the book so well. I didn’t know exactly how well until I finished the rough draft, though. It was perfect! DAT: Give us a 60 second tour of the book. Faith: The Solid Rock is a Christian Western Mystery about a talented detective with a mission to find his kidnapped colleague who ends up working undercover with a heinous outlaw who has more plans than first meet the eye. DAT: The description of the book at Amazon gives no hint of any romance element. Is there one? And if so, tell us a little about it. Faith: There are a couple of slight romance subplots in the story. I’ll try to tell you about them without giving spoilers away. One is between the daughter of the missing detective and another young man. He’s been waiting for God’s leading to ask her father’s permission to court her and finally gets it. There are also five mail order brides in the story, although their romances are mostly told in the three novellas that will be coming out this summer. The other romance subplot happens mostly in the final chapters and epilogue, so I can’t really tell you anything about it without major spoilers. DAT: What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

Faith: I hope readers will see that Christians aren’t perfect and that’s okay as long as they continue to let God guide them.
DAT: This is book five in the Hymns of the West series. What are your plans for this series? When might we expect the next book in it?
Faith BlumFaith: For now, I plan to end the series with The Solid Rock. My spin-off series, Hymns of the West Novellas, still has three novellas coming this summer, though. And I am currently writing a series called Orphans of the West about some of the orphans who have been introduced in either a novel or a novella. I am also planning to write two other series’ about the descendants of characters from either the novels or novellas leading all the way up to current times, and possibly a slightly futuristic novel or two. That will depend on how long it takes me to write the other series’. So even though this particular series is coming to an end, the characters will live on.I hope some of you will buy Faith’s book. Check out her website:http://www.faithblum.com/and her series page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HymnsoftheWestOh, and Faith is doing a giveaway: a full set of paperback books! Fill out this form to earn entries to the giveaway. Each entry gives you one point, plus there are opportunities for bonus entries.

2015 Book Sales Report

Well, let me start right off with the 2015 sales table, then I’ll break it down. You might have to click on the table and view it full size to read it.

DAT Book Sales 2015

So in 2015 I sold 83 books. That’s one more than I sold in 2014. A few outlets I sell at via Smashwords haven’t reported all of 2015, so it’s theoretically possible I’ll have a couple of more sales. However, I never sell any books at those outlets, so I feel okay posting results now. Here’s some breakdown

  • Titles published in 2015: 51 sales
  • Previously published titles: 32 sales
  • Print books: 63
  • E-books: 20
  • Personal sales: 24
  • Sales through retailers: 59
  • Items with at least one sale: 13
  • Items with no sales: 8

So, I had a better year with print books than with e-books, a complete turnaround from prior years. But that’s not an accurate picture. Two of my news books, Daddy Daughter Day and Seth Boynton Cheney: Mystery Man of the West , I published only as print books. Since they were my two best sellers, naturally that would skew my results toward print books.

The Seth Cheney book was my best seller, at 29 copies. This was a book for members of my wife’s family, prepared prior to a family reunion in Dodge City in the summer. It had about 100 pages of narrative with photos and maps, and 200 pages of genealogical data, also with photos and maps. I completed it a month ahead, had time to market it to the family, and they bought it. I have only one unaccounted for sale that may have been from a non-family member. Sales of this will not be repeated in 2016.

So, was it a good year, or a dismal year? I suppose any time your sales increase, even if the increase was less than 2 percent, you should consider it a good year. On the other hand, selling only 4.17 copies per book published is rather dismal.

Oh, well, onward into 2016. Next post will be goals for the year.

And, I’ll link a smaller image of the table for linking at Absolute Write.

DAT Book Sales 2015 smaller 298x130

Book Sales through August 2015

Book Sales Graph 2015-08Oops! I’m a day late making a blog post. I had planned on something else, but instead I think I’ll give a book sales report. Excuse me a moment while I check my posts and see when is the last time I did that…

…I’m back. It looks as if I’ve not made a formal sales report at all in 2015. If that’s the case, the easiest way is for me to simply post a table from my spreadsheet. There it is above, through the end of August.

I’m on track to sell more books than last year. Sitting now at 71 sales, which equates to a yearly rate of 106. However, my sales this year are mostly driven by my issuing Daddy Daughter Day in April and Seth Boynton Cheney in September. Both of these are print-only books, and have sold mostly hand to hand. Without those, I’d have less than 20 sales this year. But, then, I’m up to over 400 sales all together in 4 1/2 years. I’ll take them.

Of course, that’s with almost zero publicity or promotion. I still don’t know what type of promotion would be effective for the books I publish. Perhaps next year I’ll do more promotion. Or perhaps not. Osmosis isn’t very effective I’m finding out, despite what some of the self-publishing gurus say.

 

 

July 2013 Sales


Here’s the book sales story for July 2013. Eight sales total. Seven of those were e-books and one a print book. That’s of six different titles. So that’s down from my 20 sales in June, but otherwise is way ahead of what I sold in February through May, and just behind the nine in January. Still not even thinking about bestseller lists.

I added one book in July: “Charley Delta Delta”, a short story. I’ll past in two sizes of my sales table, one easy to read and a smaller one of the size I have to use at my self-publishing diary at Absolute Write.

To Justify or Not

One website/blog I monitor with some degree of regularity is Joel Friedlander’s The Book Designer. Joel is very big on taking great care in the interior design of a book. He encourages people to use a high-end program, such as InDesign, to create the interior. He does acknowledge, however, that the standard Microsoft Word is going to be used by many or most self-publishers, and so he has done some work with that.

One thing Joel encourages is that the book text be fully justified—that is, that the text be flush against both the left and right margins. This leads to decisions and action needed to avoid the odd spacing that comes from justification. When my dad set type for The Providence Journal, he would handle this with hyphenation and spaces of different size, all with a hot-lead typesetting machine. Today Word does a lot of that. You can set hyphenation zones, and you can even tell it, to some extent, how to adjust spaces.

Another caution Joel warns about is eliminating “rivers” of text, often called “ladders.” You probably know what I mean. This is when the white space between words aligns in a mostly vertical pattern between lines. It tends to capture your eyes and pulls you away from reading. This can be solved, says Joel, with careful attention to typesetting techniques, including adjusting word spacing, changing hyphenation from what may be optimum, and in some cases kerning or compressed type on a word or two.

Along the way Joel also talks about widows and orphans—not the people, but the single lines of text at the bottom or tops of pages that are cut off from the rest of the paragraph. You can fix those easy enough, but then you might have a “spread” (i.e. two pages of a book facing each other) with the last lines not aligned with each other. Again, techniques are available to solve the widows and orphans problem without creating the spread problem.

It seems to me, however, that all of these (except maybe widows, orphans, and spreads) are solved by simply not right justifying the text. Let it be a ragged right edge. What’s so awful about that? The spacing between words is constant, as it is between letters. This is the most comfortable reading. When spaces vary between words to allow the right side of the text to be all at the same vertical line, reading can be more difficult. It takes a very skilled typesetter to adjust those spaces and hyphens so that the text justifies and the comfort of reading is not diminished.

It further seems to me that the most important thing in laying out a book is to make the reading easy. Margins, text size and spacing, the presence of page numbers and running heads—all of these make reading the book easier. Right justification makes it harder. So why do we right justify?

My three print books so far [Documenting America, The Candy Store Generation, and Documenting America, Homeschool Edition), are all left justified, ragged right text. I did it that way because it was easier to typeset and because it is the most comfortable reading, with the latter reason being the main one. Full justification is possible with Word, but I decided against it. I don’t even hyphenate words with the ragged right text, which is possible, because I think hyphenated words detract from the comfort of reading. Joel would not approve.

When I was first making my decision concerning this, I made trips to both the library and Barnes & Noble to randomly check books for justification vs. ragged right. I found almost none that were ragged right. I found many that, with full justification, had awkward words spacing, hyper-hyphenation, and rivers of white space. They were distracting to read. The few that I found with ragged right were easy to read. And, to my eye, the text looked as attractive as fully justified.

So my question is why does anyone do justified text? My conclusion is that someone, possibly readers, probably printers, for sure typesetters, thinks is looks better that way on the page. Joel did a guest post at a blog and I asked that question. His answer: reader expectations. I’m not sure about that, however. I kind of think the readers don’t care all that much. Will they go to the bookstore, pick out a book for browsing, find the text ragged right, and put it down as something less than professional? Maybe, but I kind of doubt it. I doubt most readers will even notice.

This weekend I spent a couple of hours reading in Not A Fan, by Kyle Idleman. This is a book were are doing an all-church study in right now, with sermons and life group classes all using the book. I was well into my second or third hour of reading when I suddenly realized that the text was not justified: it was ragged right! With no hyphenation! I’m very attuned to that, and yet I was more than 50 pages into the book before I noticed it. If I didn’t notice it, I doubt anyone else did. This is published by Zondervan; it’s not a self-published book.

So how did Zondervan manage to typeset a book with ragged right, non-hyphenated text, and do it so well that it took someone looking for it over 50 pages of reading to notice? Why is this book selling tens of thousands of copies when it has what some would call an unprofessional layout? You can be sure I’m going to spend some time studying the layout and seeing what I can glean from it. I think I know what it is, but want to study some more before saying anything. The print version of Doctor Luke’s Assistant is in the mail to me right now, and the print version of China Tour is only about two weeks away from beginning production.

An Evening at Barnes and Noble

So I put in a lot of hours at work this week, about 50 through Friday, and I’ll work at least seven today and maybe five tomorrow. The work load demands it, the wife is out of town, and I’m able to do my writing for a couple of hours in the evenings, so why not try to get ahead of the workload curve? I’m not getting much recreation, and little exercise (though I walked at noon yesterday, ten minutes in 20-30 mph winds). Still, I’ve been eating well, my weight is falling, and I have little or no desire for snacking. Maybe giving up chips and soda for Lent is a good thing.

I decided to treat myself last night and after leaving the office at 6:00 PM I drove 2.2 miles out of my way, a true expense with gasoline at $3.459, to go to Barnes and Noble. I usually do this at least once each time Lynda is out of town, though didn’t the last two times she deserted me for the grandkid(s). I browse through the remainders tables, and sometimes find a bargain. I look through many of the aisles, looking at lots of books, and every third trip in have to buy one. I daydream that mine will be there someday, though I know the odds against that are astronomical. Eventually I grab a magazine or three from the rack, buy a vente house blend, and sit in the coffee shop and read. Normally I can’t do that for very long, for Sidelines Syndrome takes over and I feel I should be writing. So I leave halfway through the vente and head home and thence to The Dungeon to write.

But last night I was in the store almost two and a half hours and suffered not at all from Sidelines Syndrome. I didn’t buy any books tonight, though I found three that were tempting. The first was The Kennedy Detail, written by Gerald Blaine, one of the Secret Service agents assigned to JFK. Focusing much on Dallas, he speaks of how the agents felt in losing the man they were sworn to protect. I read in this for over an hour. Someday I’ll buy it, but not for $28.00. The second one was Founding America. This caught my eye because it is mainly a compilation of original documents from 1774 to 1791, with a few editor’s notes. The idea is sort of what my Documenting America is. We have no reason to be ignoring source documents in favor of historians’ sifting through them and in the process giving opinions. Read the documents; they aren’t difficult to understand. I didn’t buy Founding America, though I was sorely tempted, and the price was better at $12.95 (I think it was).

It seems to me much has changed in Barnes and Noble. I find fewer shelves of books and more display tables. These tables hold fewer books than the shelves they replaced did, and some have games, puzzles, or other non-book items. At the front, where latest releases were once displayed, is a Nook display. In some places in the store a major amount of shelves have been removed in favor of even larger display tables.

The teen book section seemed to be larger than before, the poetry section smaller that the even minuscule size it have been previously, if that’s possible. Reference books seemed to occupy fewer shelf-feet. Cookbooks even seemed to be reduced, as maybe were travel books.

These latter things people now get on line. Google for a reference. Google a recipe, Google a destination. Or Bing them. As a result B&N doesn’t need to stock as many books because they don’t sell. What will happen when Nook and Kindle take over the world? The brick and mortar stores are shrinking, and will soon be shrivelled. Such are the observations of an occasional B&N patron. And, as always, I set off the alarm as I left, even though I bought nothing and carried nothing out of the store I didn’t bring in except the vente. I warned the cashier that I always set it off, so was not arrested for shoplifting.

Oh, the third book that caught my eye? It was in the remainders section, on a lower shelf, a neat stack of perhaps twelve copies. When I saw it, I almost whipped out my cell phone and called good friend Gary in Rhode Island. The book was The Screaming Skull, & other Classic Horror Stories. The Screaming Skull? Who knew a college freshman prank, quite minor at that, in which no animals were hurt, no feelings were hurt, no one was bullied, no hate speech was uttered (except maybe by the subject of the prank) would find its way onto a remainders bookshelf in B&N in Rogers Arkansas in 2011? Maybe I should have invested the $7.95 plus tax just to say I had it. Gary, check it out at a B&N where you’re at.