This might actually be brief. Structurally, nothing fancy happens in the middle of the middle, and I prematurely covered some of the content that otherwise would have gone here.
Subjects touched upon herein: boys
are can be jerks, foreshadowing, stage-2 gardening, and last-minute inflation.
Ben and Tally’s first kiss in second grade is based on a true story. Real life differed in that there was no hamster and I left town at the end of that school year so was spared the indignity of facing my first non-familial crushing disappointment daily for the next 11 years.
In real life, you minimize and try to find the bright side and make everything as okay as possible so you can continue living your life. A writer’s job is finding ways to make things more excruciating, so Tally was denied escape from the boy who giveth the sparklies and then taketh them away.
Stop hitting yourself
What else was there to do but smile back? upon the mood-killing reminder that Ben is leaving echoes Tally’s response to learning she was Ben’s last choice to kiss in second grade: smile, everything’s fine, nothing to see here (making everything as okay as possible so she can continue living her life…)
Omens, portents, and prophecies, oh my
- that tough exterior hid a core of festering pain that needed to be treated with more care than she would ever let on she needed — that wound has been festering for decades with careful handling; expect it to heal faster when it’s cut open and debrided
- That’s the last time I let Jules in my kitchen — expect this to not be the last time Tally lets Jules in her kitchen
- Nobody would stay in this town if they had anywhere else to go. — expect having somewhere else to go to result in leaving this town (one of those spoiler thingies you were warned about earlier)
- In Chapter 1, local law enforcement issued an advisory regarding locking the doors of motor vehicles — now we see the folly of ignoring Officer Beaver’s advice.
- Earlier, Ben said his artificial-cherry-flavored petroleum beverage “tastes like my first love’s lips” — now, for those who had any doubt, he verifies the identity of his first love with “You left cherry ChapStick on my lips.” Tally didn’t get the reference the first time because (a) being loved by anyone is NEVER the first thought in her mind and (b) she doesn’t have a strong association with flavored lip balm because it wasn’t her signature thing; she just put whatever was available on her chapped lip. It’s a strong association for Ben because it was the only taste of her he got until ten years later, a singularity, not something familiar and therefore unremarkable.
I know how I can plump up this post!
I had a vision for the cover. This is not it.
If you are not an illustrator or photographer (as I am not) and cannot afford to hire one (between two editors, copyediting, web hosting, and NetGalley, I was already in the hole to a financially irresponsible degree on this book, so paying a professional to create an amazing cover wasn’t a viable option), you are at the mercy of stock art, where “visions” go to die.
After wasting weeks searching in vain for the image of my dreams, I wised up, adjusted my expectations to fit the options that actually exist, and broadened my search to ANYTHING even remotely relevant to the story. Only then did a few of possibilities surface — most of which, upon a second look, had to be discarded for design reasons (poor orientation, insufficient white space, low contrast, etc.). The only image left in the Possibilities folder was of these forks, which I had bookmarked for the dumbest reason.
Friend: “Aww, how sweet! It’s like they’re holding little fork hands.”
Me: “Wow, you’re wholesome. I was thinking they’re FORKING.”
But it was all I had after months of sorting through images, it had decent lines, I could move it on the page to create whatever space I needed, and the adjustments required (erasing the fork manufacturer’s marks and the white background) fell within my limited Photoshop capabilities, so it won by virtue of being the only candidate that wasn’t disqualified.
Now, in my original vision, the focal object was going to be dark and the background pink. I spent the weeks of searching for the “vision” image also trying to mix the perfect shade of pink (to be accented with chocolate and vanilla, like Neapolitan ice cream), in anticipation of realizing this vision. Pro Tip: Do not spend ANY time fucking around with background design until the focal point of your foreground is in your hot little hands, JUST IN CASE it turns out to be a mismatch with your original “vision.” Every second I spent agonizing over that color was wasted because silver forks against a pink background have very little contrast (which looks washed out), and in grayscale (as the cover would appear on many ebook devices), the forks are damn near invisible.
So the color scheme had to be changed to work with the forking forks. First rule: Contrast, contrast, contrast. I still liked the chocolate/vanilla/strawberry theme, and the only dark color in the bunch is brown. Turns out, a decent brown is even more difficult to mix than a decent pink and can go in so many wrong directions by virtue of how many icky things are some shade of brown, so I quickly opted to eyedropper the colors from my favorite Clinique Pink Chocolate eyeshadow quad.
Cover image: check. Color scheme: check. It’s not a big image, so there will be plenty of space to put the title… Oh, right. I still didn’t have one of those at that point (other than The Ben Train to Happyville).
Occasionally, a good title falls into my lap at some point during the writing process. Mostly, I desperately comb through the manuscript looking for any usable words, obsessively plug words into title generators, and weep bitter tears as I settle for the least-stupid option, but even that tried-and-true method wasn’t working this time.
I expressed my frustration to my editor, who said, “Can’t help ya, kid, but I’ve been meaning to ask if you really have a recipe for something you call Whatever Comes After Dessert” (words that come up in the final chapter). She knows I bake. She’s murdered a few of my recipes and still thought they were pretty damn good, so if had something to top that, she wanted in. I told her I do not have the better-than-foreplay ultimate dessert, at which point she abandoned me to wallow in a puddle of my own misery.
I was still perseverating on the title problem and our conversation when I went to bed, and I thought, Weird, that’s the one thing everybody who’s read it has remembered and asked me about.
When your head is falling toward your pillow, the fluid shifts in your brain, and thoughts that had settled into the Chasm of Dumb Ideas float to the top of the swell and seem genius, which is how the title came to be What Comes After Dessert.
WHICH, IF YOU PUT A QUESTION MARK AFTER IT, BECOMES A QUERY THAT CAN BE ANSWERED BY “FORKING,” SO IT ALL CAME TOGETHER NICELY IN THE END.
The design is basically sound. I was mindful of thirds placement. I opted for the highest contrast (ditching the vanilla in favor of crisp white text and choosing not to put a reflection of the background color in the silver because the forks started to disappear again). Minimal font usage (one primary, one accent). I took grayscale into consideration. The keyword is visible even in thumbnail size. It contains the necessary information. It performs the basic function of a cover, even if it doesn’t create the feel I would have preferred.
I don’t love it, but I don’t think it’s embarrassing enough to deserve a place of dishonor at Lousy Book Covers.
In the unlikely event I’m a perfectionist being unnecessarily hard on myself (INCONCEIVABLE!), for my future cover-designing endeavors, I have created the following guide:
As if that will spare me a nanosecond of angst.
The print cover had to be adjusted slightly for different dimensions (taller and narrower), and I made the background a bit darker for increased contrast because there’s a great deal of small white text on the back.
In real life:
Contrary to how it may appear under flash photography, the color came out significantly darker in real life (I thought it was black when I first opened the box, but now that I’ve backed away from the ledge, it does register as really dark chocolate). Not precisely what I wanted, but not upsetting enough to go through the time and expense of changing it. The text on the back is, after all, quite readable, which is the important thing. If I gave in to perfectionism, I’d also rescale the forks, return the edge spots to the front, add the title to the dead space in the lower left corner of the back, and put the year on the spine (since I seem to always be looking for year of a book’s publication and bitching about having to flip to the copyright page), but as soon as I finish typing this sentence, I’m going to quit obsessing about it and move on with my life — please refer to the above diagram.
There’s something satisfying about having a book in my hand again. It’s really not the same looking at it on a screen. It never feels finished when it’s in the same pixelated form as when you were working on it. Paper-and-ink has weight and permanence that declares, “I finished my job, this is what I have to show for it, and I will now display it prominently like a trophy so there can be no question that I AM A WINNER.”
(I opened it right to my favorite line: “Could you not reduce my beautiful feelings to a crude and accurate penis metaphor?”)
Still slightly stumpy, but such seems sufficiently sufficient to me. Should you suffer sufficiency shortage still, seek sufficing service in the site situated subpost. Otherwise, on to Chapter 23.