Greetings! And thank you for subscribing to our Oak & Linden Newsletter.
As promised, the newsletter will come out roughly once a month, with occasional extra numbers when we’re in the throes of a book release.
Personal Update (from Brendan)
We’re in a brief quiet period in the headlong rush that occurs when you decide, in July, that you want to bring a novel out in time for the Christmas shopping season. August was a madness of editing, with Cat sometimes up as late as four in the morning re-working and slightly expanding what is now Unstable Felicity, her Hallmark Christmas riff on Shakespeare’s King Lear. Now the text is set, because the manuscript is currently with our audiobook narrator. While we’re speculating about what may come down the road, we can’t jump into the next phase of marketing until we have a couple key ingredients, such as a finished cover.
It’s just as well we’re not consumed with publishing at the moment, because it’s the season for getting school off the ground. Our eldest is off at college, and our youngest is still only three, but that leaves five school-age Hodges needing various levels of supervision during the school day. With luck, that will all be running like a well-oiled machine by the time we need to ramp up our publishing efforts again. Well, like some kind of a machine at any rate--whether it’s the broken-down-in-the-back-pasture variety or the mad-robot-taking-over-the-world kind.
Self Publishing Details (from Brendan)
I mentioned briefly in our first self-publishing post on the DarwinCatholic blog that we’d purchased a copy of some self-publishing software called Vellum. Now that Cat has used the software to do a first version of the ebook for our early readers and blurb writers, it’s worth taking a moment to discuss Vellum. The tagline says “Create Beautiful Books” and we can attest that it does what it says.
If you love handling a book as an object, you know instantly the differences between a quality edition and a book which is just words crammed on a page. In a handsome volume, the typeface and the chapter header styles complement the genre and tone of the contents. The margins are pleasing. There are numerous little touches which blend in when they’re done well, and jar when they’re done poorly. I see this especially when I pick up a classic, out-of-copyright work, and find myself holding an ugly reprint. The typeface is ugly. The margins are too narrow or too wide.
Had we laid out our books manually, we would have done our best using our favorite novels as guides. Vellum, however, is specifically designed for formatting both ebooks and print books, and it has templates with numerous variations that allow you, with an hour or two of enjoyable choices and no very technical work, to turn an imported word document into an attractive book. It’s a bit pricey at $249, but we hope it’s an investment which pays off in the years to come.
Writing Notes -- Loving Your Characters (from Cat)
I recently set aside the novel I'd been dutifully reading. With each page I turned, I hoped that the story would finally catch fire, or find its purpose, or become loveable, but eventually I decided that life is short to read a novel written by someone who, judging from the evidence on the page, doesn't love any of his characters. If even the author despises these people, it's a good bet that no one else will love them, either.
Writing is an act of sub-creation, a tiny reflection of the creative power of the Almighty, who despises nothing He makes. As humans, we are flawed, ridiculous, and pathetic; what we never are is unloveable. And an author who constructs a world only to mock the stupid characters with which he's peopled it is not only cutting himself off from the love that moves the stars, but he's probably writing a tedious story, to boot. And a bored reader is a reader ready to throw a book across a room on the least provocation. Bad for the author, bad for the nearest wall, bad for the state of literature in general.
So write characters who do terrible things, or who do ordinary things badly. But like God, keep holding out grace to them, whether or not they accept it.
Of course, we’d very much like you to read our books, but we’ll only be bringing out one or two a year of those, and besides it seems a bit self centered to only talk about our own works, so we’ll endeavor to bring you a couple of brief book reviews in each newsletter.
While comparing the sizes of various books on our shelves to determine which of Amazon's pre-determined trim dimensions was right for Unstable Felicity, we kept coming back to our 5"x8" sample, a slender volume called A Time to Keep Silence, by Patrick Leigh Fermor. Leigh Fermor is best known for his memoirs about walking across Europe as a teenager shortly before World War II started, and about his wartime exploits with the partisans in Crete. But A Time to Keep Silence recounts a journey of a different sort, a pilgrimage to several of Europe's most notable monasteries. Either agnostic or atheist (he is reticent about his own spiritual convictions), Leigh Fermor is nevertheless intellectually honest, and respectful of the monks on their own terms. He grapples with the contradiction of acetism's gloomy reputation, and its lived joy in the monks that he meets. He ponders the history of the monasteries: St. Wandrille, Solesmes, La Grande Trappe, and the abandoned monasteries of Cappadocia, hewn from rock formations. And all in effortlessly mellifluous prose that brings the reader a small measure of the peace Leigh Fermor found within the walls of the monasteries.
Thank you for being an Oak & Linden Newsletter subscriber. We appreciate your attention and will attempt to amuse, educate, perhaps even at time edify.
Cat & Brendan Hodge