SermonsSamurai Champloo

Why the cover of Because the Angels looks the way it does

I am nothing but thrilled by Davey R. Jones’ Amazon review mentioned in my previous blog post. I mean, “Most Surprisingly Good Read of the Decade?” Last night I went through the last 40 of his 81 reviews on Amazon, and mine was the only self-published novel that he had reviewed at all. So what follows should not be interpreted as a criticism of him, or of Taylor Ramage, one of its earliest reviewers who wrote, “Because the Angels is a classic example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (or its layout, for that matter). Although it’s very sweet that the author’s family got involved in the design process, it’s honestly not too impressive.”

They did not like the cover. In fact, I think I could posit a mathematical theorem based on the titles of their reviews: Taylor titled her review, “Because the Angels: What Christian Fiction Should Really Aim For.” ∴ Grandiose praise of Because the Angels in review titles is in inverse proportion to the reviewer’s regard for the cover design.

imagesSo why did I choose to have the cover look the way it did? Well, my novel heavily featured the anime series Blood+, so in my writer’s fantasy, an editor would be bowled over by the novel’s unique concept, of course, and consult me about the cover design. I would suggest that they contact the production company that owns the copyright to Blood+ and get permission to have the main character, Saya, slashing through a collage of photos representing the Iraq War (blood, explosions, Abu Ghraib, etc.) with her sword.

This event did not happen, so I thought about getting a picture of a samurai girl—as a nod to Samurai Champloo, also featured heavily in the novel—doing the same thing. My brother mentioned that my niece was a member of her anime club at school and liked to draw anime characters. That took me on another train of thought. Spike and Marcus, two of the main protagonists, are writing cut-above average fan fiction based on Samurai Champloo into which their anxieties for Spike’s kidnapped sister Margie subconsciously intrude and that eventually gets turned into a trashy fantasy novel. I thought having a somewhat amateurish drawing of a samurai girl against the background mentioned above might actually be in keeping with that subplot. As it happens, my sister-in-law is a professional graphic designer. If you see this ubiquitous design all over the web, that’s her:

because-the-angelsShe took my idea and designed a much more understated background, which I realized was a better choice, but when I said, “Could you put Gandhi heads on the samurai’s kimono?” (Margie, the hostage, is fully committed to nonviolence.) My sister-in-law said, “Sure.”

I had wanted the samurai figure to be wearing sneakers, but neither my niece nor my sister-in-law could get the feet right; hence, the explosion.

But overall, I am still pleased with the result. If the book is ever picked up by a another publisher and they say they want a different design, I will be open to that, of course, but for now, as an indie author, I can only be grateful to have artists, professional and amateur in my family, who listened to my ideas for the cover and for independent reviewers who liked my book—and also didn’t charge me.

To Do list

I’ve been running a low-grade fever the last couple days and have had accompanying cankerimages sores that took over half my mouth and restricted to me to a liquid or very soft food diet.  I was kind of stressing out over my To-Do list, but then I thought that my To-Do list, unlike my pre-sabbatical lists, was a real writer’s To-do list:

  • Sketch out an outline of questions for the friend whose memoir I will be working on with her in Los Angeles from February 25-March 13, to get her thinking
  • Get my column for Mennonite World Review done before then (Writing on the Idle No More movement currently sweeping across Canada, and implications for White settler Mennonites.)
  • Get the first 50 pages and an outline of my novel ready for the James Jones novel contest before then
  • Get the query letter for the agency I really want to represent my third novel polished and ready to go
  • Get a more generic query letter for agencies ready to go
  • Check out some Samurai Champloo and Joss Whedon sites for Because the Angels promotion.

When I go back to work for Christian Peacemaker Teams in June, it will be nice to look back on this list, and remember there was a time when I really spent most of my creative energy on writing.


My First Webpage, or, someone else could have done in minutes what I have just spent days doing

She Writes logo

In the past year I have been participating in She, and the thing that has been impressed upon me most is that every author, especially ones who are trying to sell self-published novels, must have her own website.  The great thing about She Writes is that there are people who could point me in the direction of how I could go about getting my own site  ( was already taken–it redirects to Mutual Managed Health Solutions Inc.).  But I have been putting it together with a lot of trial and error and a lot of calls to the good people at  Props also to Rebecca Forster who showed me what I could aim for at, the surnameless Karma, and Petrea Burchard for help they have given me on She Writes in recent months.

As you can tell by my front page, I am promoting my novel Because the Angels, now available on Kindle.   If you liked Samurai Champloo, Blood+ or anything by pre-Avengers Joss Whedon, you’ll probably like Because the Angels.  If you liked the Avengers, you might like it too,  but his previous work had a little more of the delicate blend of pathos and humor that I strive for in my writing.

I have also just gotten out my third novel “Shea” to my most loyal first line readers, and you will be reading more about it here in the coming months.  For those of you who are biblically literate, it is a retelling of the Hosea-Gomer narrative, with the gender roles reversed, taking place against a background of Christian-Fascist religious syncretism instead of Israelite-Canaanite religious syncretism.

If your eyes just glazed over, here’s the synopsis:
About 100 years from now, serial philanderer Islam Goldberg-Jones is writing his memoir from prison, recounting how he, his wife Hoshea Weber, and hundreds of other people in various resistance movements helped bring down the Christian Republic that ruled the United States between 2049-86.

If you’d like to see some of my other books check out my Amazon author’s page.