Random publishing thought for the day: never, ever get stuck with a bad book cover. Certainly, cover aesthetics are to a certain extent in the eye of the beholder, but if you want to see some covers that are O HOLY GOD MY EYES MY EYES bad, visit the Lady Aibell section over at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. O my eyes.

Kids, I don't care if you're writing horror erotica. I don't care if you're writing in a genre ghetto to beat all genre ghettos. I don't care if all your friends have awful covers: don't let a cover like that happen to you. I've seen covers that were intentionally ugly (notably The Best of Crank! Magazine) but mostly cover-ugly is unintentional.

We all hear it: don't judge a book by its cover. But ya know what? Everybody does it. Big chain bookstores like Barnes and Noble and Borders regularly make their purchasing decisions based solely on how a book's cover looks. If they think it'll appeal to readers, they buy more. If they think the cover's crap, the might not buy at all unless you have a very solid sales record. In the end, if your book has a bad cover, most readers won't bother to pick it up at all.

How to avoid a bad cover? First, educate yourself about the basic principles of good graphic design so that you can communicate with artists/art directors on their terms. Study some classic art if you haven't done so before. If after that you still find yourself unable to tell good from bad ... find an aesthetically-sensitive friend you can rely on. Second, avoid dealing with publishers who put out bad covers. If this is unavoidable, do your utmost to steer them in the right direction -- and if you're dealing with a small press, they should be entirely steerable. If you're with a bigger publisher, make sure the right to approve the cover is in your contract. Throw a diva fit if you have to. Don't let a muddy Poser cover happen to your book. Seriously. It's worth offering to pay for a decent cover out of your own pocket if you have to (but you shouldn't have to).

(Notice how I cunningly demonstrated that being able to post graphics here at E2 would be a right handy thing? Don't fear the JPEGs; we're not turning into Flickr.)

Last night (and early this morning), I was on what I thought was a date - my first. She was a co-worker who I couldn't quite believe was real: intelligent, very attractive and with a similar sense of humour to mine. Initially immensely excited, gradually it dawned on me that she clearly believed we were just friends.

We sat outside a cheap pub and shivered. We sat on the balcony of an expensive bar and shivered. I beat her at Connect 4. We talked randomly, not on any meaningful topic. I suppose I could class the questions I asked as wanting to get to know her, but to be perfectly frank the knowledge that she likes coffee and doesn't like Megadeth is a) disheartening and b) not terribly getting-into-pants-amatory. All this, and I'm not drinking a drop of alcohol since I live quite a way beyond walking distance from town. Ho-hum.

But! Once we arrive, following my suggestion, at the best pub in town, things look up - sort of. We find a sofa and some stools, gather up our Pepsis and J20s and relax. Pretty soon she complains that it's too cold, at which I chivalrously offer my mammoth trenchcoat. Only...since we're sitting down, it has to go over us.

So with the passing of roughly two hours we have gone from excited first-daters to bored mis-matched teenagers to...well. I don't quite know. If you're practically spooning with a girl you hardly know (and one-night-stands don't count), what does that mean? When you sit there until 3am on a Wednesday morning, talking softly about Noam Chomsky or Nintendo or hardcore punk or who's more tired.

It might have been a shitty (or non-existent) first date, but it was a brilliant night out with someone I feel is going to be a very good friend.
Whilst cycling to work this morning I thought of a new sport, or pastime. I call it Dart Fishing. The idea came to me as I went up a bump. Perhaps the sudden jolt dislodged some of my thoughts, and shook them up. If it is the case that sharp physical jolts are creative catalysts, we must expect genius from the trampolinists, because their sport consists entirely of sharp physical jolts. Perhaps, however, the action of trampolining does not leave the thoughts enough time to settle. Therefore, I believe that the key to creativity is trampolining, but in moderation, and with frequent breaks.

The sport I thought is a combination of darts, and fishing. There are fishes in a bucket, and they each have a point value painted on their backs. Do fish have backs? They do not. The points are painted on their sides. And they are forced to swim sideways, so that the points are visible from above. Perhaps the fish could be different colours, rather than having numbers painted on them.

The fish are different colours, and they swim around in the bucket. The players stand over the bucket, and drop darts onto the fish - the scoring system is just like darts. The smaller numbers are represented by larger fish, which are easier targets, and vice-versa. If it is shown on television, the footage would have to be dubbed, in order to mask the squeals of the fishes as the darts pierce their flesh. The squeals might disturb the audience.

It may sound a cruel sport, but somewhere in the universe there is a world where intelligent, ambulant fish throw darts at human beings. Do the fish on Earth feel guilty about this? They do not. It all balances out. Perhaps the fish on this alien world swim around in a giant pool, and fire darts up out of the water into the bodies of human beings who are pinned to the roof of a low cave just above the water. All for the benefit of the fish television audience. I admit that the analogy does not work very well in reverse. It is hard to think of a hypothetical situation where fish are the masters of men. Daryl Hannah in "Splash".

And somewhere in the universe there is a world where a higher form of life forces fish AND human beings to fight EACH OTHER for THEIR pleasure.

Which leads me to a great joke I have thought. I will post it to Vic Reeves.

Bob: Hey, Vic, do fish squeak?
Vic: No Bob, they don't.
Bob: (pulls out a plastic fish, rubs it with his fingers, it makes a squeaking noise) I think you'll find they do, Vic.

I think I'll go off and rewrite my article on Opus Dei, the album by Laibach. Yes, I shall do that.

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