Category Archives: Education

What Is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World? — Post by Michael J. Findley

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Aldous Huxley called his Brave New World, “The nightmare of total organization …” As one of the most widely read books written in the 20th century, many people, like myself, read it as an English requirement without spending much time thinking about it.

“The nightmare of total organization, which I had situated in the seventh century After Ford, has emerged from the safe remote future and is now awaiting us, just around the next corner.” Brave New World Revisited 1958 (Aldous Huxley, about Brave New World, 1932)

When Aldous Huxley contrasted his fantasy world with Orwell’s 1984, he believed that his fantasy world, Brave New World, was more likely to become reality.

“The society described in 1984 is a society controlled almost exclusively by punishment and the fear of punishment. In the imaginary world of my own fable, punishment is infrequent and generally mild. The nearly perfect control exercised by the government is achieved by systematic reinforcement of desirable behavior, by many kinds of nearly non-violent manipulation, both physical and psychological, and by genetic standardization.” Brave New World Revisited 1958 Aldous Huxley

“We who were living in the second quarter of the twentieth century A.D. were the inhabitants, admittedly, of a gruesome kind of universe; but the nightmare of those depression years was radically different from the nightmare of the future, described in Brave New World. Ours was a nightmare of too little order; theirs, in the seventh century A.F. [After Ford], of too much. In the process of passing from one extreme to the other, there would be a long interval, so I imagined, during which the more fortunate third of the human race would make the best of both worlds – the disorderly world of liberalism and much too orderly Brave New World where perfect efficiency left no room for freedom or personal initiative.” Brave New World Revisited 1958 Aldous Huxley

Both 1984 and Brave New World are fantasies of total government control. Only the methods are different. The question Aldous Huxley raised is “Which method is more effective: fear of punishment or desire for acceptance and reward?” “In the light of what we have recently learned about animal behavior in general, and human behavior in particular, it has become clear that control through the punishment of undesirable behavior is less effective, in the long run, than control through the reinforcement of desirable behavior by rewards, and that government through terror works on the whole less well than government through the non-violent manipulation of the environment and of the thoughts and feelings of individual men, women and children.

“Punishment temporarily puts a stop to undesirable behavior, but does not permanently reduce the victim’s tendency to indulge in it. Moreover, psycho-physical by-products of punishment may be just as undesirable as the behavior for which the individual has been punished. Psychotherapy is largely concerned with the debilitating or anti-social consequences of past punishments.” Brave New World Revisited 1958 Aldous Huxley

I, and many others, am not too certain that Brave New World Revisited is not an entirely accurate view of the fantasy nightmare published in 1932. Brave New World ends with John, also called the Savage, hanging himself. John certainly viewed that civilization as an inescapable nightmare. The very terminology of Brave New World is the language of a nightmare. Yet if Aldous Huxley did not believe these principles to be good and desirable, he seems to at least believe that they were inevitable. “…impersonal forces over which we have almost no control seem to be pushing us all in the direction of the Brave New Worldian nightmare; and this impersonal pushing is being consciously accelerated by representatives of commercial and political organizations who have developed a number of new techniques for manipulation, in the interest of some minority, the thoughts and feelings of the masses.” Brave New World Revisited

It certainly shows a lack of understanding to deny the influence of evil spirits. It seems odd, even hypocritical, that Huxley believed representatives of organizations are impersonal.  Yet the justifications for total organization spoken by Mustapha Mond, Resident World Controller of Western Europe [one of ten throughout the world], when talking to John, Bernard, and Helmholz in a private meeting to banish Bernard and Helmholz, seem to represent what Aldous Huxley believed in 1931. “Because our world is not the same as Othello’s world. You can’t make flivvers without steel—and you can’t make tragedies without social instability. The world’s stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get. They’re well off; they’re safe; they’re never ill; they’re not afraid of death; they’re blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they’re plagued with no mothers or fathers; they’ve got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they’re so conditioned that they practically can’t help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there’s soma.” Mustapha Mond Brave New World p. 245

This view, expressed by World Controller Mustoapha Mond, is very similar to the written goals of Secular Humanism. They believe it to be a good goal. Plato’s Republic uses very similar, though not identical, goals for his ideal government. It is similar to the stated goals of the French Revolution, Karl Marx, and even Fascism. All of these found that the reinforcement of desirable behavior through rewards failed to control enough people and turned to force as in the 1984 fantasy. These governments believed in control first and foremost. While reinforcement of desirable behavior was preferred, control was essential and whatever methods were necessary were used. This was historic reality.

Aldous Huxley believed that the tools to manipulate desirable behavior would be improved and become more pervasive. However, even in the total fantasy of fiction, Mustapha Mond had to lie, perhaps even deceiving himself to make his case. The phrase (sentence actually), “they’re not afraid of death” is a lie. It might be that citizens of the Brave New World are too busy and too conditioned to face or even think about death. But the death of John’s mother Linda shows death when they actually faced it. She returned to civilization after living for decades on an Indian Reservation in New Mexico.

“At forty-four, Linda seemed, by contrast, a monster of flaccid and distorted senility.” p 223 She choose to escape reality and live entirely in a drug (soma) induced wonderland until her death shortly after her return.””Every one belongs to every …” Her voice suddenly died into an almost inaudible breathless croaking. Her mouth fell open: she made a desperate effort to fill her lungs with air. But it was as though she had forgotten how to breathe. She tried to cry out-but no sound came; only the terror of her staring eyes revealed what she was suffering. Her hands went to her throat, then clawed at the air–the air she could no longer breathe, the air that, for her, had ceased to exist.

“The Savage [her adult son John] was on his feet, bent over her. “What is it, Linda? What is it?” His voice was imploring; it was as though he were begging to be reassured. “The look she gave him was charged with an unspeakable terror—with terror and, it seemed to him, reproach.  “She tried to raise herself in bed, but fell back on to the pillows. Her face was horribly distorted, her lips blue.” pp. 227,8

They were conditioned to believe that death ended everything. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. The individual existed solely to support the community. Solitude and independent thinking were heretical. It was a society with no moral purpose or even reason for existing.  Any attempt to obey any form of tradition outside of society’s conditioning was wrong and produced a guilty conscience. Huxley uses the third person omnipotent point of view to explain this.

“In the taxicopter he [John] hardly even looked at her [Lenina]. Bound by strong vows that had never been pronounced, obedient to laws that had long since ceased to run, [marriage and chastity] he sat averted and in silence. Sometimes, as though a finger had plucked at some taut, almost breaking string, his whole body would shake with a sudden nervous start.” p. 186Mustapha Mond shows that this moral vacuum is the result of rigidly enforced choices.

“”The author’s mathematical treatment of the conception of purpose is novel and highly ingenious, but heretical and, so far as the present social order is concerned, dangerous and potentially subversive. Not to be published.” He [Mustapha Mond—Resident World Controller of Western Europe; 1 of 10 world controllers] underlined the words. “The author will be kept under supervision. His transference to the Marine Biological station of St. Helena may become necessary.”

“”A pity, he thought, as he signed his name. It was a masterly piece of work. But once you began admitting explanations in terms of purpose-well, you didn’t know what the result might be. It was the sort of idea that might easily decondition the more unsettled minds among the higher casts-make them lose their faith in happiness as the Sovereign Good and take to believing, instead, that the goal was somewhere beyond, somewhere outside the present human sphere, that the purpose of life was not the maintenance of well-being, but some intensification and refining of consciousness, some enlargement of of knowledge. Which was, the Controller reflected, quite possibly true. But not, in the present circumstance, admissible.

“He picked up his pen again, and under the words “Not to be published” drew a second line, thicker and blacker than the first; then sighed. “What fun it would be,” he thought, “if one didn’t have to think about happiness!”” p.195

The fantasy nightmare Brave New World government exists solely to produce happiness. This happiness can only be brought about by conformity “”Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the over-compensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, one of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrown by passion of doubt. Happiness is never grand.”” [Mustapha Mond]  p. 246

Like the very real European Dark Ages, the greatest crime is novelty, something new. The established religion of government declares itself to be infallible. “Every change is a menace to stability. That’s another reason why we’re so chary of applying new inventions. Every discovery in pure science is potentially subversive; even science must sometimes be treated as a possible enemy. Yes, even science.” [Mustapha Mond]   p. 250

“Yes,” Mustapha Mond was saying, “that’s another item in the cost of stability. It isn’t only art that’s incompatible with happiness; it’s also science. Science is dangerous; we have to keep it most carefully chained and muzzled.” p. 250

Is this so different from today? Today, people today also claim to believe in science. “”Yes; but what sort of science?” asked Mustapha Mond sarcastically. “You’ve had no scientific training, so you can’t judge. I was a pretty good physicist in my time. Too good-good enough to realize that all our science is just a cookery book, with an orthodox theory of cooking that nobody’s allowed to question, and a list of recipes that mustn’t be added to except by special permission from the head cook. I’m the head cook now.”” p. 251

“Helmholtz laughed. “Then why aren’t you on an island yourself?” “Because, finally, I preferred this,” the Contoller answered. “I was given the choice: to be sent to an island, where I could have got on with my purer science, or to be taken on to the Controllers’ Council with the prospect of succeeding in due course to an actual Controllership. I chose this and let the science go.” After a little silence, “Sometimes,” he added, “I rather regret the science. Happiness is a hard master-particularly other people’s happiness. A much harder master, if one isn’t conditioned to accept it unquestioningly, than truth.” He sighed, fell silent again, then continued in a brisker tone, “Well, duty’s duty. One can’t consult one’s own preference. I’m interested in truth, I like science. But truth’s a menace, science is a public danger. As dangerous as it’s been beneficent. It has given us the stablest equilibrium in history…” p.253 Brave New World, written 1931, published 1932

This mythical “stable equilibrium” has never existed and never will exist without God. Aldous Huxley observed the advances the ruling elite have made. “why has the nightmare, which I had projected into the seventh century A.F., made so swift an advance in our direction?” Brave New World Revisited 1958 Aldous Huxley

For those who deny God and claim that His purposes cannot be known, the warnings of Brave New World are the best they can do. They understand the results of certain forms of evil. They understand that this vision of the future is a nightmare. But without God, their solutions are only other nightmares of various forms. Without God, there are many other possible nightmare scenarios besides a totalitarian 1984 verses a manipulative Brave New World.

“But as it is written, No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9 quoting Isaiah 64:6 ISV)

“You cause me to know the path of life; in your presence is joyful abundance, at your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (Psalm 116:11 ISV)

“And since I’m going away to prepare a place for you, I’ll come back again and welcome you into my presence, so that you may be where I am.” (John 14:3 ISV)

“Dear friends, we are now God’s children, but what we will be like has not been revealed yet. We know that when the Messiah is revealed, we will be like him, because we will see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2 ISV)

“For everything that is in the world–the desire for fleshly gratification, the desire for possessions, and worldly arrogance–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world and its desires are fading away, but the person who does God’s will remains forever.” (1 John 2:16, 17)

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Isaiah Chapter 3: Culture of Youth and Beauty — Post by Mary C. Findley

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Sounds like Jerusalem and Judah had it pretty good, right? Look over that list of material provision (support system, food, water) and leadership (military, judiciary, teachers, advisers, craftsmen, and someone who may have been a charismatic speaker or influencer). The use of the phrase skillful enchanter gives us a hint that they weren’t sourcing any of their things or their leaders from the right place.

We worship a culture of youth and have for a long time, and here God gives people what they want, youngsters in charge, with disastrous results. People begin to take advantage of each other and the honorable suffer at the hands of these childish rulers. One guy with an intact coat will be grabbed and thrust into leadership, if anybody can make him do it. Apparently nobody will have much more than a coat in those days. Certainly not a will to give proper leadership.

Verses 8 and 9 make it clear that the people oppose God and flaunt their rebellion. When disaster comes, they can’t pretend it wasn’t their own fault. Public sins have public consequences.

Time to reassure the righteous in verse 10. No matter how bad things seem to get, it will go well with them. And in verse 11 another reassurance we often need when, as the Scriptures say in other places, this question hangs in the air: “Why do the wicked prosper?” God says things will turn bad for the wicked. “Let the punishment fit the crime,” Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado says. God says the wicked will get what they deserve.

Once again God restates in verse 12 that His people are oppressed because they wanted unsuitable rulers – immature, inexperienced, leading the people down twisting paths.
God will judge these rulers. Make no mistake. I’m pretty sure those crushing and grinding references refer at least in part to taxes. People tend to think that government takes care of the poor with welfare and social services. But it doesn’t work that way when corruption takes hold. God is outraged at the twisted mentality that steals from people who already have too little.

Verses 16-24 detail a culture that should be very recognizable to us today. Is it a sin to want to be beautiful and have pretty things? Look at the words used: proud, seductive. Women can bring down a whole culture by worshiping self, sexuality, beauty. Dressing little girls in revealing outfits is starting them down the road to sensuality without reserve. Females scream about their rights and their freedoms Modesty has become kind of an obsolete term but God hates that mentality.

God will send scabs into that beautiful hair. He will make it fall out, or pluck it out. All that long list of pretty things will disappear and be replaced by stench, coarseness, and disfigurement.

The men they have gotten themselves dressed up for will be dying in battle, trying to save their women, but failing. All that emphasis on self, on attracting attention, will change to mourning and loneliness.

Questions for Further Study, Discussion, or Thought
1. What clues indicate that God’s people were prosperous but not by depending on Him?
2. Briefly explain what kinds of oppression take place when the wrong kind of rulers get into power.
3. What are some proofs that these people deserve what they get when destruction overtakes them?
4. Give examples in modern culture of women lacking understanding of modesty.
5. Do you think women have in some cases made it more difficult for men to protect them? Explain your answer.

Your Turn in the Microcosm
Can you see any way in which Isaiah 3 resembles Leviticus? God spelled out laws, described beautiful garments, and even gave proper age ranges for his different kinds of servants. The story of Nadab and Abihu might help provide an example that parallels how people sometimes respond to God’s expectations. There are rewards and punishments in Leviticus. Step into the microcosm and share your observations on how we should really be seeking God’s blessing or avoiding His wrath.

Image Credit: Artist August Riedel Title: Judith Current location: Neue Pinakothek Source/Photographer: Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen Wikimedia Commons

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Isaiah Chapter Two — Post by Mary C. Findley

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What are “the last days?” According to many Bible teachers, they are the time when the Lord has returned to govern the earth. Some people think they want to go to Heaven and be with God forever. Some think we never actually go there, but will live forever on earth. The beginning of this chapter seems to indicate that God will establish a place of worship on earth, in the New Jerusalem.

Whatever and wherever this place is, I want to be there.

And all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.”
(Isaiah 2:3)

What would it be like to just have everyone want to go to God’s house and learn God’s ways? Right now we do everything we can to wriggle out of it. Commentator Matt Walsh said we are insane in America, trying to find reasons why going to church isn’t really a thing anymore when people in other parts of the world are dying to be able to go to church.

Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:25)

When the Lord is the judge of all the world, there will be peace. Weapons become farm implements. Whoever says they are working for world peace and isn’t willing for God to be in charge is deceived or a deceiver. So many people know that verse about the plows and the swords but so few want that dominion to come. Submission to God means we lose our freedom, right? (I speak as a fool.)

Verse 6 says God abandoned His people? What? No! God never does that, does He? Well, if He did, why would He do it? Verses 6-9 explain that there seems to have been so much stuff in the land that there wasn’t any room for God. There are those influences of the east again, like we brought up in the last chapter. Mystical things and just plain things have crowded God out. Every class of people found itself devolving, losing touch with spiritual reality, forcing God out. And so, He went, because He wasn’t wanted.
He’s coming back, though, whenever “in that day” is, to humble mankind out of those feeling that they are on top of the world. Hide under the dust and rocks, people. Only the Lord should be on top of the world. This day of reckoning is when God says, “No more. No more idols, no more stuff, everybody down on the ground. Hide if you can …” but you can’t.

Terror and splendor don’t usually go together. But they look good on God. At least, they would, if we could look at Him. People will be too busy trying to survive, to hide, to toss away those objects of worship. Did Adam and Eve eat that whole fruit they took and shared? Or did they toss it, dig a hole and bury it, try in some way to hide it?
Some people hunt for buried treasure. Looking at the passage where it describes the mountains of riches these people accumulated, and their idols of silver and gold, I wonder how much buried treasure there will be when the Lord rises to make the earth tremble. (v. 19) No one will go hunt for it though.

The key to what people are really putting ahead of God is in verse 22. “Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; For why should he be esteemed?” People don’t really worship those false gods or those things. They worship themselves. Until they accept God’s humbling, they will never understand how terror and splendor can bring salvation.

Questions for Further Study, Discussion, or Thought
Briefly comment on what you think “the last days” means. Use two or three Scriptures as support.
What are reasons people give to justify not going to church? Are there any legitimate ones?
Why would God abandon His people?
What is man really worshiping instead of God? What is necessary for that to stop?
Your Turn in the Microcosm
Does Isaiah 2 in any way echo the message of the Book of Exodus? Does it show people insisting that they want to follow God? Any incidences of people seeing God’s clear provision and commands but shoving off in the other direction? Please share your thoughts on these parallels you find on your trip into the Isaiah Microcosm.

This is part 2 in an occasional series for a future book I am calling “The Isaiah Microcosm” Please let me know your thoughts on these posts, and how you would answer the questions at the end.

Image Credit: Composite of sunrise image by Paulbr75 and crowd scene by puzzleboxrecords on Pixabay Public Domain

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A “To God” List

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Yesterday in our Sunday school class we were talking about the true meaning of the Sabbath. Some people believe the Sabbath is obsolete because it was part of the law. But Jesus kept the Sabbath, and never said we shouldn’t. He often said, however, that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. He also said the Jewish leaders burdened people with wrong ideas about the Sabbath. They condemned Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, but He quite rightly pointed out that they would not hesitate to water and feed their livestock or pull them out of pits on the Sabbath. To these Jewish leaders, their Sabbath rules were a means to control people.

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Sometimes we think God is trying to control us. Many people say that is why they reject Jesus Christ and salvation, because they see it as a loss of freedom. They will be burdened with a heavy list of rules to follow, a life filled with “don’ts” that will make them miserable.

I want to share the whole 58th chapter of Isaiah because it is so fantastic on the subject of real reasons to do real things for God. But I’ll just share verses 13 and 14 and stick with the Sabbath discussion. God had a very different view of the Sabbath from the Pharisees and Sadducees, I think.

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“If because of the Sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and honor it, desisting from your own ways, from seeking your own pleasure and speaking your own word, then you will take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (NASB)

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Yes, we have to turn away from our own pleasure. But look! We can call the Sabbath a delight. People are fond of “name it, claim it” theology and visualization. This is a place where it works. Call the Sabbath a delight and it will be. You will also get to take delight in the Lord. Imagine how it would feel to “ride on the heights!”

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What is the heritage of Jacob? Maybe he’s not our father, if we are not literal children of Israel, but God gave Jacob, who was a most imperfect man, as are we all, huge blessings. Salvation is by grace, and was even for Jacob, and salvation puts us into God’s family. In Christ we can claim God’s blessings. God wants to feed us, and send us soaring like that daddy who swings his little one up in the air and makes him scream with joy.

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So instead of grumbling about all God is going to make us do, why don’t we make a change in our thinking? That’s all God really wanted us to do, with all the laws and regulations and commandments. Love God, love your neighbor. Jesus said these fulfill the commandments. It’s not a burden. It’s a delight.

Some people make “To Do” lists. What if we made a “To God” list, committing our day to God and seeking just to delight in Him, to honor Him, and see if we can’t get that ride to the height, and that feeding from His bounty?

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What would your “To God” list look like? We’d love to have you share it with us.

All images Public Domain from Pixabay

 

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The Basics of EBook Cover Design — post by Mary C. Findley

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(Pictured above is one example of an ebook cover I made as a sample of my work. It incorporates many of the elements covered in this post. Can you spot the layering, use of vectors, and making the font complement the genre-specifics of the cover?)

This post may get a little involved and technical, but I hope it will help struggling authors who are trying to make their own ebook covers. I posted about print book covers in the previous post, and you can refer to that too. This post will help you even if you are making a print cover first, from scratch. Some authors pay a designer to make the ebook version and then create the print book cover themselves. Either way you do it, these two posts together will hopefully give you some help.

I will say that there are many photo manipulation programs, from costly to free in price and from relatively simple to difficult in use. I won’t say any are easy, and I will say that there can be a big learning curve because of all the features and variations some programs have. The different interfaces can be easier or harder to cope with.

I use PhotoImpact, formerly made by Ulead, now sold by Corel, and have for many years. It is comparatively inexpensive and can be purchased here: http://www.paintshoppro.com/en/products/photoimpact/  I had a Photoshop Lite version before that, and I think the features are in many ways similar. Both are feature-rich, meaning they have many tools and many options for designing, tweaking, and creating. I also know that even experienced professional designers mostly only use a fraction of the features a program has available. Familiar tools that do the job become old friends. Trying new things can be time-consuming and difficult. The last thing a designer wants to do is spend tons of time on a single cover, particularly if he is also a writer responsible for producing the story that fits that cover.

I don’t know what program people will choose to use so I am going to try to make my references to tools, menus, etc., within the program as generic as I can. As I said, my reference is PhotoImpact so bear with me if not everything specifically applies to, or is easy to find an equivalent of, in your program. My purpose is not to teach photo manipulation. That takes a long time to learn to do well. I just hope to be able to make it possible for some people to expand their do-it-your-selfer skills.

Determine the size of your final book. We make ours 5.5 x 8.5, a standard size for paperback books. Many people prefer 6 x 9. If you say, this will only be an ebook, why does it matter what size it is? I reply that you may wind up making a paperback someday. Formatting your manuscript for a print size is not a waste of time. There are details of print formatting that don’t apply to ebooks but if you set your ebook up with appropriate margins, page breaks, and proper beginning and ending chapter formatting you will have an easier time if you later want to make a print book. It will also look more professional to readers who grew up with “real” books.

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This is a 5.5 x 8.5 cover, or, 1650 x 2550. If it is not showing full size in the post you should be able to click on this or any other image to get a full-size version. The image at the top of the post is a 6 x 9 or 1800 x 2700

If your cover is for a 5.5 x 8.5 book, create a blank file that is 1650 x 2550 pixels, 300 DPI. If it is 6 x 9, make it 1800 x 2700. Always make the image resolution 300 DPI. That’s a required resolution for print. Again, think of the future, and the possibility that it might be used for print someday. 72 DPI is all you need for screen resolution, and it will make a smaller file size, but your image will appear clearer and sharper, even in smaller sizes, if it’s 300 DPI, and therefore be more attractive to potential readers. What is DPI, you ask? It means dots per inch and refers, simply put, to the level of realistic detail in an image, which in digital form is just a bunch of dots, or pixels. The more pixels crammed into an inch of space in an image, the clearer and sharper and better it looks.

The image size is in part determined by the requirements of the ebook upload sites. Last time I checked, iTunes, or, in this case, iBooks, sets the standard for minimum dimensions of a book cover. It doesn’t have to be either of the sizes I suggested above, but it has to be at least 1400 on the smallest size and 2500 on the longest size. Dimensions are typically given with the width first and the height second. (1400 x 2500, in this case) And they are given in pixels, not in inches. The dimensions I gave above are larger than those minimums, which will keep you in good shape on major ebook retailers for upload.

[Now for the bad news. PhotoImpact was designed many years ago and seems to have become an orphan as far as updates are concerned. There have been a few but it is a bit slow and clunky with these large file sizes, especially when doing the much larger print layouts. You will have to be patient through the slow wait times for it to catch up with your process, especially if you place a large amount of text and then try to change and move it around.]

You now have a blank image of the correct size and resolution. Time to fill it with a wonderful book cover. First you must determine the genre of your book. The most important thing a cover does is attract readers. But it must attract the readers that really want the book you wrote. If you put a kissy-face couple on there, or a rose and a string of pearls, or a heart, or anything that looks romantic, it had better be a romance. If you put a sailing ship on a stormy sea with a crew struggling to keep from wrecking, it had better be some type of historical adventure. I can’t tell you the exact cover that’s right for your book. I can say it needs to send a clear signal about the subject, immediately, to people who might see it 1/16th of full size (or smaller) for one second. It must at least say STOP AND LOOK CLOSER! before the potential reader just says “Meh …” and moves on. I can give detailed instructions all day long about how to put an attractive cover together but I cannot make the point too strongly that you have got to nail your genre or few people will give it a glance. Genre is a category or subject into which your book fits. Maybe you will say, “My book is nonfiction. That’s not a clear genre.” But it still has a subject. Bible Study. Cooking. Home Repairs. Overcoming Depression. Whatever it is, keep looking until you find the perfect image that stands up and screams, “THIS BOOK IS ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT TO READ ABOUT!”

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Try to guess the genre of this cover in the comments below.

So you may ask, “Where do I look for images?” That depends in part on what you want to pay. There are stock photo sites that charge a lot of money for what are sometimes excellent images. Two examples are iStock and Getty. You can pay $20 or more just for one image. Some sites charge $5 or at least under $10 per image. CanStock is a good one, and so is Fotolia. There are many others, and, if you plan to make a number of covers, you can get a subscription or a package, paying so much for a certain number of images at discounted prices versus single images. You may not want to pay for images. That is your choice. Many photographers and even “photoshoppers” offer free images on sites like Pixabay. That is one of my favorite free image sites. But remember the quality of images, especially free ones, varies considerably. You will probably have to look at hundreds before you find an excellent one, paid or free. In the next section I’ll give some suggestions on why you want to keep looking.

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(First imageis from Depositphotos. Second is Public Domain from Pixabay.)

Why use a paid versus free image? It depends on what you need, want, and can afford. The first image above is a free one. It’s very nice as pictures of horses go, but the second on, which is paid, shows the exact two horses I needed as a promo for two young adult historical books I had written. That’s why I paid for it, to get just what I wanted, and also because of the surrounding finishing touches — the lighting and cloudy shapes. I also have been able to twice purchase a highly-discounted image pack from Depositphotos. Look hard for deals if you want a lot of great images.

You need an image, whatever it is, to have certain qualities. These include clarity, simplicity, lighting, and composition. There are other things, but these are the basics. If you are tempted to use a homegrown images, such as your son’s picture of your dog, it had better be professional quality in size and resolution. Don’t use grainy or blurry or too small pictures unless you are going for a specific artistic effect and can truly pull it off and convince people you didn’t just thoughtlessly put a crummy picture on your book cover. The same goes for handmade art. If your cover needs refrigerator art, okay, but don’t use unprofessional art just because it has some personal significance to you. It has to attract readers. Use the largest size you can get. Stretching it often makes it distorted.

I am more and more convinced that all book covers attract more readers if they make proper use of light. Thomas Kinkade attracted millions by being the “painter of light.” Find a way to incorporate light into your cover. Find an image that has excellent light to start with and you don’t have to manipulate anything. Even if it’s a creepy thriller, incorporate a haunting, eerie light. If it’s inspirational, use a candle or oil lamp or glow of sunlight or moonlight. Light attracts attention. Find a way to use that to your advantage. Learn the different light-enhancing techniques of your program. Don’t just stick in a spotlight or bolt of lightning. The idea is to make it glow invitingly.

  delicate and fragile 25 phoenix 25 gothic unwilling 25

Examples of the use of lighting to get your cover some attention, no matter the genre.

A note about using a single image as your cover: I discourage it for several reasons. Some stock sites include in their very lengthy and complicated terms that you should not re-use a complete single image in something you mean to sell. Some specify that you must substantially change an image to avoid copyright issues. Even if you “buy” an image from a stock site, you don’t really own it. There are restrictions on how you use it and how many times you can reproduce it and all sorts of limits. You are responsible to use that image in a responsible manner. It contains digital information that is kind of like a GPS. They can find and track it. So, what you need to do is follow their terms of use, and, also, incorporate two or three images in a cover to be on the safe side.

People, animals, genre-specific objects, and backgrounds are the usual image components of a cover. I don’t recommend putting more than about three images together into a cover. It becomes cluttered and you lose control of the ability to make them all appear to blend and belong.

     teen sleuths 25 dystopian end times disaster 25 historical chekov 25

Examples of using people on covers. The first includes a “free” image. use such images with caution. The second includes silhouettes, which can be free and there is no need to worry about model releases because no one is recognizable. You can also use free images that show the back or lower parts of individuals. Anything that does not show a face is fair game if the image itself is pubic domain. The third cover is a composite of two paintings. These are great options for historicals, and allows for including people without incurring the need for model releases. As long as the painting is more than 100 years old, and the photographer just took an unaltered image of it, his photo can’t be copyrighted and the image is public domain.

A few special notes about including people on a cover. Even if you use images labeled “Public Domain,” if they include people, you should try to ensure that there is a model release. That means the person or persons gave permission for commercial use. If there isn’t one, you could be sued by that person. Some images are labeled “editorial use only.” That means you can use them on a blog or for educational purposes but you can’t use such images on something you mean to sell. Some models also specify that they don’t want their images used in any way that they or other people might object to. That can be a broad objection that’s hard to answer, say, if they object to the image on a Christian book cover because they are atheists. It’s up to the cover artist to walk the fine line of compliance when using people. Rules are even stricter for copyrighted images, logos, or things that are very famous. Be careful about images you use. Get permission, when in doubt.

If you choose to make a cover with no people, you can make a very striking cover just out of text, which I’ll deal with momentarily. You can use inanimate objects like fruit, weathered wood, or seashells. Doing this makes clarity, lighting, and simplicity all the more critical. You can use animals, landscapes, or interesting room settings. The possibilities are almost endless. Just choose the best of the best and remember the keys of clarity, simplicity, and lighting.

 sherry chamblee flaire 25 funny little love drops 25 tea time troubles 25

Some examples of covers with no people. Can you guess the genres in the comments?

Don’t crowd or clutter the cover with all the elements or subjects in your book, unless your book is about crowding and clutter. One author wanted me to put a host of characters from his book on the cover. At least seven, I think. Can you imagine how impractical that would be? If it’s an ensemble cast, you still should focus on the leader, or maybe the two or three most important characters. Remember the first impression people get of the cover is probably going to be tiny on a search page. If a reader sees nothing but blobs of color he may not stop to figure out what it is. I’m going to expose myself to some extent here, and show you a very early cover I made for my first Benny and the Bank Robber book (the most recent version is pictured below the next section of text.) This is an example of how NOT to do a cover more than anything.

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Quickly going through some of the no-nos I have learned since doing this cover: “Floating heads” are mostly bad. I have a whopping FIVE of them, which makes it five times as bad. I painted a fake hat on one character and boy does it look fake. The Bible and the cougar (oops — SIX floating heads) makes seven images, plus the forest background … and the attempt at painting texture looks … amateurish. The only good thing about it is that the text is fairly readable. Don’t let this happen to you.

So, whatever elements you have chosen, it’s time to see if they work together on your cover. This is called compositing. Each object you add to a cover goes on its own layer. You can move them up and down the “stack” and around on the “page” at will with tools like “send backward” or “bring to front” or “center horizontally.” You can also resize, flip, or rotate. (Just watch out for any lettering, such as on a T-shirt) that might end up displaying backwards.)

This is not an art or design course, so I can’t go into a lot more dos and don’ts. But here are a few. Do match up shadows and lighting. Imagine where the main light source is in the composition and make sure all the elements fit with that lighting. If they don’t, find something that does. There are people irritated enough by shadows falling the wrong way to reject your book. However great the story is, you’ve got to convince them to pick it up. Your cover’s got to impress them, not make them say, “Hey, the guy has a shadow on the left side of his face but the girl’s is on the right. that looks weird.” or “That woman is so faded she looks like a ghost next to that bright, colorful guy.” Somehow you have to make the elements match. This is where learning to use your brightness and contrast settings can help. Play with them and if you can’t get them right, consider another image. Match quality, intensity, light and shadow, and everything you can.

Use the tools you have, such as erasers, faders, feathering, and other types of edge-softeners, to get rid of unwanted backgrounds in the images you put together. Be especially careful with hair and spaces between fingers, elbows and waists, and other spots that could stand out and make the final image look amateurish. Match the edges of the images to the background if at all possible — dark on dark, light on light.

Watch tutorials on techniques. Strive to improve. Magnify until you can see tiny details. Add shadows and directional lighting if you can. Play with the direction objects are facing and something might just click into place in your mind to improve the overall look. My best advice when it comes to placing objects for a cover is that you may not be able to realistically match, say, people to a scenery background, without some tricks. You’ve no doubt seen people that look pasted onto a background. You might not be sure what’s wrong, but it’s just clear they don’t belong in that scene. Sometimes a light mist or smoke or fog can really help blend a scene.

  i just don't see it good bad angel painted benny ebook 3 12 2017

Do the elements “match” among these images? Why or why not?

The three images above represent different phases of my cover design career. The first, entitled “I Just Don’t See It,” was made quite a few years ago and includes so-called “free” people images. In fact, the man has two different images composited. His head did not come with his body. That’s why I included it, to see if I hid it well enough. I probably wouldn’t use it at this phase of my career, both due to the permission issues with the people, and the fact that I am not convinced my compositing skills are that good. The middle image is an attempt at a “painted” fantasy cover requested by an author friend. He didn’t think it was what he wanted but I did sell it to another author who thought it was perfect for her. I composited a whole bunch of photographic components in this image, especially on the demon figure. Again, it was made a few years ago, and my skills and image choices have improved, I think, since then, so I would do it differently now. Still, I was pleased with the results of my experiments on the whole. The third image was made very recently and consists of three images — the sunlit forest background. the boy with the suitcase, and a cloudy mist layered over the top. Simple but effective, I believe.

I could go on for pages about compositing but this is supposed to be a brief explanation. So, to help blend images, try the light screen overtop idea. I have used that with success more than once. It can be as simple as a picture of mist or sunlit rays made transparent and laid over the image. One thing you can do is just set the images on a textured background like a collage, as in the “Tea Time Trouble” cover above. Don’t try to make them fit together. Just include them, perhaps fading or shadowing, and present it as a sort of shadowbox or scrapbook page. Those can turn out quite well. Divide the cover into sections and include separating elements or make them framed by the title to aid the composition.

 civil war 25 middleastern military romance 25 unlikely romance 25

As you go along creating your final cover image, don’t forget that you need text. Author and title at a minimum, and possibly a tagline or subtitle. Those should, if possible, not cover your images, or, at least, not important parts of them.  Text placement can be great fun and should harmonize with the rest of your design.

armor inside out

This example of a cartoon-style cover uses multiple images, which were relatively easy to composite because these art-style images are usually vectors or .png files, which means they often don’t have a fixed background and can be resized any way you like. They look a bit like Colorforms and can be set in place without worrying as much about blending in. As long as you choose artwork of similar styles, hopefully by the same artist, you can do exciting things.

The capitals text on this cover is a free font, in a series called Kingsthings. This font designer makes charming, detailed fonts and offers them for free. I made the capitals larger, aligned them within the chain of the heart locket, and tucked everything together in a technique called “nesting.” Try not to get too many different fonts going on a single cover. Remember, we are concentrating on simple. I used the same font on the subtitle and the author name.

Mix up ornate fonts with simpler ones, straight with curly. Try different sizes, such as tall at the beginning and end of a title to create a sort of mirror effect. By the way, be very careful about getting free fonts. Font sites are common sources of viruses. Stick with a few reputable sites, like 1001 Free Fonts, Dafont, and FontSquirrel. Check carefully because not all the fonts on these sites are free. Some are pay, some are donation, some are other arrangements with the creator. One font creator asked that if I use his font I send him a copy of what I did with it.

I have hundreds of fonts, including a package from MyFonts that I downloaded for $20 with many classic fonts. If you can use 10 fonts out of a package like that it is worth buying, because fonts often cost $20 or more just for one set of one good design. Beware of free fonts that are missing punctuation or other elements. You can sometimes substitute from a complementary font and still get a good result. Some font packages also include “dings,” which are shapes that can be very useful. You can pretty up a title treatment with dings, vector objects, and even small images, as on the series covers below, the second cover being for a book I am currently working on. In the first, the Baron’s Ring is incorporated into the B in the title, and in the second, the “T” is formed by the sword. Swirly vectors add some flourish to the text. The similarity of the placement of the images and text styles and ornaments tie the series together. People can see at a glance that these two books go together.

     baron ebook 10 22 2015 25     the captain's blade 10 21 2015 25

When your cover is completed, (and please, save and make backups all along the way) save it as a project (In PhotoImpact that is a UFO format. In Photoshop it is a PSD. There are many options to save but those are two to help you keep projects straight.) This is critical if you need to come back and make changes later. The other file format, the one you will later upload to ebook publishers, is either a jpg or a png. The png format is a larger file size, but better quality. Also insert your ebook cover into your text file at the front. Many sites require this and remember, if you ever change your cover, you have to upload a new version of the text with the updated cover included, too.

Just for fun, I will close with a book I have yet to write, but I had a lot of fun designing the cover. It’s inspired by a character in Treasure Island. Look for the ideas I’ve discussed in this post: making the genre clear (hint: remember that humor is also a genre), making the images fit together or at least complement each other, text treatments, and anything else you notice. Please comment with your observations. Also, let me know what I missed in this post. Remember, I want to help.

blind pew not so 25

Though making excellent covers is not easy, it can be enjoyable. Don’t try to get too complicated as you learn. Remember clarity, simplicity, and lighting.

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Working With Your Own Hands — Post by Michael J. Findley

Tom_Roberts_-_Shearing_the_rams_-_Google_Art_Project

The Law and the teachings of Jesus allowed for 3 classes: business owner (such as shepherds), hireling, and slave. In reality, there were other classes such as politicians, professional soldiers, and destitute poor people who were not slaves. Though not an exhaustive list, the Law, Proverbs, the apostles, and Jesus recognized that financial freedom offered greater opportunity for righteousness. Certainly we cannot serve God and mammon, and the love money is root of all sorts of evil. But as Solomon said, “Keep well informed of the condition of your flocks and pay attention to your herds, because riches don’t endure forever, and crowns don’t last from one generation to the next.” Proverbs 27:23,24 ISV.

An owner of a small business is glorifying God, if he is obedient to God’s Word. This blog is more of a reminder of principles most believers already know. These points are along the line of water is wet and the sun is shining. But we tend to forget.

First, God is more important than our businesses. This is more important than just reserving time to worship. It means spending time alone with Him, studying His Word, and sharing the Gospel. It also means a proper attitude in whatever we are doing. Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 ISV It matters to God how we spend our time, how we respond to people, and how we think.

The expression “time is money” is not found in the Word of God because God values our time more than our money. So wasting money is wasting time, which is more valuable in the sight of God. Do not spend more money on equipment than is necessary. At the same time, do not waste money on poor quality equipment.

People are more important than things. Numerous businessmen say that you do not have a real business until you have at least one employee, someone you are responsible for.

Your family is more important than your business, so as quickly as possible, move your business away from your home. It might be just around the corner. But when you are home you are not working.

Do these goals seem like a faraway dream? If they truly glorify God, then they are goals we can pray to meet some day.

Image Credit: Tom Roberts Shearing the Rams wikidata:Q7492201 Photographer lQEDjT-_MXaMJQ at Google Cultural Institute Wikimedia Commons

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How God Preserved His Word History 1

Christ_and_His_Mother_Studying_the_Scriptures_by_Henry_Ossawa_Tanner

A dozen times the New Testament refers to the Old Testament as the Law and the Prophets. In Luke 24:44 Jesus said “the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms.” Yet most of the Hebrew Old Testament, Joshua through Esther in the English arrangement, are primarily historical. They are quoted in the New Testament as Scripture. For example Paul in Romans 11:4 quotes 1 Kings 19:18.

It is easier for us to think of Judges through Esther as history. There is some poetry, a few prophecies, a few proverbs and a few random commandments. But over 90% is narrative prose, written as history. It even includes genealogical records which are pure history.

Ezra is credited by tradition with preserving the entire Old Testament. He collected, arranged, and wrote it in the form we have it today. But there were many authors, from the time of Joshua around 1450 BC to Ezra around 400 BC. Some of the known authors of this history are Joshua, or people writing for Joshua, Samuel, the sons of the prophets, set up by Samuel, royal scribes, paid for by the northern kings as well as the southern kings, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Baruch, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. It is not possible to know how much any of these men contributed, though Baruch under Jeremiah might have gathered together all of the Scriptures available at that time.

It is also known that under King Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, every known copy of the Scriptures was destroyed and a single copy was preserved in the temple. So all existing copies from that point come from the single text found in the temple by Hilkiah the priest around 735 BC, 2 Kings 23:24.

Image Credit: Henry Ossawa Tanner Christ and His Mother Studying the Scriptures circa 1909 Dallas Museum of Art Wikimedia Commons

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