Visiting the Spiral Jetty

The summer after Marathon Girl and I were married, we took a trip to the north end of the Great Salt Lake to visit Robert Smithson's earthwork Spiral Jetty. At the time, the Spiral Jetty was something most people didn't know about or had no clue how to get there. We drove out and spent an hour walking on salt encrusted rocks amid pink waters and enjoying the silence. Since it had been about 14 years since we went out, we thought it would make a fun day trip to take the kids out to see it.

I knew before we left that the Great Salt Lake was near record low levels but seeing just how low it was really surprised me. As you can see below, the water is at least a half mile from the jetty.


The dry lake bed didn't deter the kids from running out there and walking on the black basalt rocks that the Spiral Jetty is made from.

Apparently the cool thing to do is to write your name on the packed sand between the rocks. As you can see, one of the kids decided to use a pseudonym. He's always been a bit of a joker.

After that the kids wanted to hike out to the lake. About a third of the way to the water, the bottom of the lake bed turned from mud to rock hard salt. 


Near the lake we spotted a glove on a pool waving to the water.


Once we reached the shoreline, the kids had to play in the one small section of mud. Kids will be kids, I guess.

Aside from some minor sunburns, the trip was a success and the kids had a good time.

My favorite part about going out there, however, is how quiet it is. Just the desert, the lake, and the Spiral Jetty. No cell phone service, paved roads, lights or any other sign of civilization. You can sit on the rocks overlooking the area and think. Think without distractions. A place like that is difficult to find today.

Really, Really, Really Bad Book Covers

A couple years ago I stumbled across a blog dedicated to bad book covers. The blog was hilarious but, sadly, inactive soon about a year after I discovered it. Thankfully there's another site out there that's picked up where the other blog left off and is posting such cringe inducing beauties like the following.

Check out more covers at Lousy Book Covers when you get a chance.

Hat Tip: The Passive Voice.

Vote for Your Favorite Marrying a Widower Cover

Based on feedback received on the initial cover last week, I've had my graphic designer come up with two other designs. What I'd like you to do is review the three covers (the initial one and the two new ones) below and leave a comment below to let me know your favorite. On Thursday I'll announce what the final cover the book will look like.

Thanks for voting!

Update: Don't worry about the different subtitles. "What You Need to Know Before Tying the Knot" is the official subtitle for the book. It's the rings I'm looking for you to vote for.

Cover #1

Cover #2

Cover #3

Photo of the Day

The above photograph is the beginning of a 1952 nuclear test explosion approximately 1 millisecond after detonation. Photograph was done by Harold Edgerton using his innovative rapatronic camera.

Oddly beautiful and terrifying at the same time.

Hat tip: NPR

People Do Judge Books by Their Covers

Bound on Earth by Angela HallstromFool me Twice by Stephanie BlackThe Hero of Ages (Mistborn, Book Three) by Brandon SandersonTraitor by Sandra GreySun and Moon, Ice and Snowby Jessica Day GeorgeSpare Change by Aubrey Mace

As I’m working on my Dating a Widower guide, I’ve been amazed how hard it is to find a good book cover designer. I posted an ad on Craigslist and so far have received about 50 emails—49 of which were deleted after seeing their online portfolio. Just because you know how to use Photoshop and/or Illustrator doesn’t make you a good designer. (I’ve made similar complaints about writers.)

To be fair, I’m probably hold designers to a higher standard than most people. Both my parents are artists. In addition, I’ve worked side-by-side with designers in corporate marketing environments for over a decade. During that time I’ve learned that finding someone who has a good eye for design—especially design that can help sell a product—is extremely difficult.

A book cover is a vital piece of marketing—especially for new or unknown authors. (Established, well-known authors can get away with an okay book cover because their name takes up half the cover space.) A good book cover should entice someone to pick it up and, at the very least, read the back jacket copy. Even with the growing popularity of e-books, an attractive cover can help make people take your book seriously.

Yet many authors and publishers put their heart and souls into making the inside of a book a well crafted while giving little or no thought to the cover. The result? The produce a product that people don’t want to be seen reading or assume is a self-published piece of garbage.

The books we read say a lot about who we are or who we think we are. If you’re embarrassed to be seen reading a book because of the cover, it doesn’t matter how good the content on the inside is, you won’t read it.

One example: Back in college I took a class where no one wanted to read one of the books on the syllabus because of the cover. Though the book was science fiction, the cover looked more like a Harlequin romance novel. And in a class that was 80 percent male, most didn’t want to be seen reading the book.

When it came time to discuss the book, the majority of the discussion revolved not around the book or the content but the different ways we had hid the cover while reading it. Some people made their own covers. Others would hide the book in another book so people would think they were reading that one. (I decided that hiding the cover was just too difficult. Instead I read it in my room late at night when no one would bother me.)

To some extent art is a matter of taste. You’re never going to produce a cover (or a novel) that everyone is going to like. But it is possible to create book covers that 95 percent of the general public will find repulsive.

So the search for a graphic designer continues. When I do find one, I hope most of you like what he or she will produce.

The World’s Worst Book Covers

Shatner Quake: A Horrible Book Cover

While looking for a book cover for my post on self publishing, I stumbled across a blog run by a former librarian dedicated to “truly hideous” book covers. Then again, the subject matter of some of these books derserve awful covers. (William Shatner? Shattner Quake? What the...?)

Unless you’re self publishing, the cover is one of the few things out of the writer’s control of the final product. Bad covers can make a good book unappealing. That’s why any publisher will contract with or employ talented graphic designers to make their books pop off the shelves. Whoever did the covers on these blogs should be fired.

Just a few bad book covers you can find at that blog are the following.

Awful book cover

Bad book cover

Crappy book cover

You can see more bad covers here. Happy looking (or not).