Ten special diets

These days it seems everyone’s on a restricted diet.

Here are ten of them.

  1. Kosher. This means the historic Jewish restrictions. You know, no ham. But that’s just for starters. And even the plates must be blessed.
  2. Halal. The Muslim equivalent of dietary laws. By the way, Ramadan still sounds like cheating. I mean, what’s the hardship of refraining during the day if you can eat like a pig, uh, beast all night?
  3. Eastern Orthodox fasting.  Food’s allowed, but the options are highly limited. No olive oil, for instance, and no meat. It can be tricky.
  4. Caffeine-free. The Mormon church recently lifted this restriction from carbonated drinks, though it still holds for hot coffee or tea. Some other disciplines, including yogis, also ban it.
  5. Vegan. Or its less restrictive vegetarian alternatives.
  6. Gluten-free or lactose-free or peanut-free. Based on a medical diagnosis, OK?
  7. Healthy Heart. A little broader, largely to reduce cholesterol levels.
  8. Weight-loss. Oh, my, these are endless and ever so trendy.
  9. Alcohol-free. Sometimes as a religious tenet, sometimes as a consequence of addiction.
  10. Hindu. No beef. Those cows are sacred … and sources of milk.

Are you observing any dietary restrictions?

Why don’t novels have subtitles?

“What’s it about?” is one of the more difficult questions for an author. A novelist wants to reply with a summary of the plot, while a non-fiction writer is tempted to launch into a lecture.

Coming up with the right flash reply is a blessing.

My elder daughter, for example, pointed me to the “recovering from deep personal loss” theme of What’s Left. Yes, that’s what it is ultimately about.

Finding an appropriate – and hopefully catchy – title is hard enough. One or two words, if you can.

And then there’s the cover design – another long consideration regarding a quick impression.

For books on paper, there’s the back cover and the spine for added impact.

Ebooks have the blurb on the screen beside the cover.

A related challenge comes in giving a potential reader a good welcome to the volume at hand – a sense of what to expect. Is it playful or tragic, insightful or superficial, emotional or witty?

I’ve often flipped a book open and sampled a sentence inside, which has often been all that I’ve needed. Not an option with an ebook. You first have to download a sample of the book itself.

~*~

Over the past month, something that should have been obvious all along has finally come to my attention.

Novels don’t have subtitles. Non-fiction usually does, as you know all too well if you’re doing scholarly citations.

So why doesn’t fiction?

I’m sure there are exceptions, and maybe mention of being part of a series could be considered one of them. But none of what I’m pulling off the bookshelf parts from tradition.

Still, I started playing and realized a subtitle would be a big boost.

Rather than redoing the covers or the blurbs, I decided to put the subtitle on the title page inside as an extra touch in easing the reader into the text.

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

~*~

  • WHAT’S LEFT … Within a daughter’s own living Greek drama
  • DAFFODIL UPRISING … The making of a hippie
  • PIT-A-PAT HIGH JINKS … Of housemates, lovers, and friends
  • SUBWAY VISIONS … Along the tubes to Nirvana
  • YOGA BOOTCAMP … Welcome to Big Pumpkin’s ashram
  • NEARLY CANAAN … With an enduring promise of snowy mountains
  • THE SECRET SIDE OF JAYA … A vagabond’s surreal and fantastic encounters
  • HOMETOWN NEWS … Reports from Trump country

~*~

What do you think? Do the subtitles help?

And by the way, how do you settle on a title? As a reader or as a writer?

Blessed bliss

My novel YOGA BOOTCAMP describes group meditation as a central discipline in the daily life at Big Pumpkin’s ashram. As a real-life example, here’s a photo taken at the Poconos Ashram in mid-1972. I’m struck by how young we all look and the fact that most of us could sit in a full lotus position. Makes my knees hurt just thinking of it now!

Yes, I really lived this.

I’ve been playing with their magical Meatgrinder

One of the blessings of publishing ebooks, rather than books on paper, is that they can be updated easily – at least at the publishing outfit I use. If you format the manuscript properly, the Smashwords converter – playfully named the Meatgrinder – can turn your text into six different kinds of digital versions in a couple of minutes. It’s amazing.

If you don’t format properly, though, it can output your precious work as garbage or insert characters that will confuse your reader. You want to follow the guidelines carefully.

Ebooks aren’t formatted like traditional print books, especially if you’re planning to issue them simultaneously on multiple platforms like Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. You don’t want to add too many blank lines, they can turn into a series of blank screens. What you get aren’t standard pages anyway – each of the formats is sized differently, as are the reading devices. (You don’t number your pages. Think of those who will be reading on their Smartphones or tablets, while others will be at their laptops or desktop terminals.) I think of the appearance more as a scroll.

By the way, I still can’t design my books to get a new chapter to come up at the top of the next page, though some of the ebooks I read manage to do so. I’ll keep trying.

~*~

About a month ago, I experimented with changing the appearance of the text itself in one novel and was so pleased with the results that I then applied the new look to all of my other ebooks.

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