Fun with formatting

One of my favorite parts of the writing process may very well be the formatting aspect, both in setting up documents and at the end, while preparing documents for publication. I love how it lets me use the left (non-creative) side of my brain for a change.

I assumed I had to go back onto my 11-year-old computer to format my alternative history and hyperlink the table of contents, like I’ve done with every other manuscript, but Word just wasn’t cooperating when I C&Ped it into a pre-formatted 6×9 template. It kept going into spinning pinwheel of Death mode when I tried to change certain pieces of formatting, and inexplicably changed certain sections into Helvetica.

The newest version of Pages can hyperlink to bookmarks within a document just like Word, though it’s a more time-consuming, less straightforward process. I also discovered how to custom-set the size of the pages within a document, set mirror margins (facing pages) and the various margins on every page (inside, outside, etc.), make the right and left pages different (to allow for headers with page numbers on alternating sides), and so many things I thought only Word could do.

When I justified the entire document in Pages, my 0.3″ indents were retained, unlike in Word. I only had to re-center my headings, a few of the front matter pages (with quotes, the dedication, and publication information), the numbers and three-asterisk markers denoting sections within chapters, and the headlines and bylines of newspaper stories.

I then changed my chapter, part, and back matter headings to Wellingborough Text, the typeface the title page, cover, and “The End” are in. I want everything to match.

I’ve set the release of my print copies for 12 August, what would’ve been Aleksey’s 114th birthday. I don’t want to rush through the rest of my formatting just so both formats come out on the same day. I still have to set it so no page numbers or other headers appear on the first page of each part, and to set page numbers as footers on the first page of each chapter.

I changed my leading from the normal 2 to 1, which shrank my page count by almost half. I’d planned to leave it in my belovèd Palatino, but came to realize my typographical soulmate doesn’t convey the type of mood I want. Not only does Baskerville shrink page count even further, but it also is very elegant, timeless, literary, and evocative of a bygone era.

Palatino:

Baskerville:

I’ll continue writing just about everything in Palatino, but for actual typesetting, I really like Baskerville. I’m also fond of Cochin and Janson. XenonMedium helps with shrinking page count too, but might not be so readable for long stretches.

Cochin:

Janson:

XenonMedium:

Do you enjoy the formatting part of the writing process? Do you save the less immediate aspects for last, or do you set everything up when you create a document or chapter file? Do you have a favorite typeface for writing, and does it differ from what you like to see in printed books?

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Typography dos and don’ts

There really should be a basic Typography 101 class required in high school or university, since so many people don’t know jack about what constitutes a professional, serious, mature typeface. You have failed at understanding font selection if a cartoonish, unevenly-kerned font is your go-to for everything, or if you feel compelled to stick with the default font and never experiment to find out what you like most.

The verboten fonts (all of which I’ve deleted from my computer, or kept only because they’re needed to keep the system running):

Comic Sans. My eyes twitch every time I see this abomination. I’ve even seen it used in the photo display of a local synagogue’s past presidents, and as a several-page homework assignment from the local Orthodox day school. Besides being massively overused and misused, it’s just not designed very well. This font sends the immediate message of unprofessionalism.

Papyrus, fast giving Comic Sans a run for its money in massive overuse and misuse. I refuse to buy any product or patronise any store using this ridiculous, faux-exotic font.

Brush Script, so dull, overused, generic, cliché.

Mistral. There are much better casual script fonts.

Arial, a cheap-looking Helvetica imitator.

Handwriting Dakota, which I actually initially liked until I saw it being used more and more. I’m glad I replaced it with Journal, which is much better-designed and is a much more professional-looking casual script typeface.

Curlz, another eye-twitching font often used on party invitations.

Times New Roman, the epitome of conformism and dullness. This font is so tiny and ugly it almost makes my eyes bleed looking at it. I refuse to worship at its altar like it’s some saintly, perfect, go-to font. It was a good newspaper font at one point, but that was decades ago.

Courier. Seriously, there are much prettier typewriter fonts. It looks ugly, is too big, and is very hard to read for extended periods.

Kristen, a thoughtless go-to font for many elementary schools and daycares.

Waltograph. Never use this font unless you’re designing something Disney!

Lucida Handwriting. I liked this font at first, till I began seeing it more often. That’s the mark of an amateur, choosing a default font that looks like handwriting instead of going to a professional website like MyFonts.

Bradley Hand, another faceless, overused font.

Monotype Corsiva, which only looks like a pretty handwriting font until you’ve started seeing it all over and realised there are much more creative, professional, casual script fonts.

Bleeding Cowboys. Please, step away from this one!

Best serif fonts (which most books should be written in):

Baskerville and Baskerville Old Face
Bell MT (though you might want to increase the size, since it’s pretty small at 12 points)
Big Caslon
Bodoni (which has a large family of variations, as all good, professional typefaces should)
Bookman
Calisto MT
Century
Cochin (another smaller font it might do to size up slightly)
Didot
Garamond
Janson
Palatino (my font soulmate for over 20 years)

Best sans-serif fonts (generally best for subject headings, not fiction):

Helvetica, a classic for a reason (albeit overused in the corporate world)
Skia (Greek for “shadow,” with a fittingly old-style shape)
Futura
Gill Sans
Optima
News Gothic
Quay Sans
Tahoma
Verdana

Typewriter fonts (best for title pages or short papers, but could work for a novel):

Cassandre Graphika, which must be sized down, as its 12 point size is huge! Most of these typewriter fonts I’ve downloaded need scaling down.
Byron Mark II
Lucien
Olympia Congress
Reiner Graphika
Royal Vogue
Testimonial
Underwood Champion (normal-sized, and much more attractive and realistic to a typewriter font than Courier)
King (which unfortunately doesn’t have quote marks)

The calligraphy/handwriting/fancy fonts (best for title pages and chapter headings only!):

Wellingborough, which has a number of variants in its family. It reminds me of a cross between Gothic and Edwardian script.
Tangerine, formal without being too ornate and fancy, or hard to read.
Edwardian Script
Chopin Script
Polonaise
Savoye LET (albeit a bit overused), which evokes a 1940s feels for me.
Zapfino, which some people do feel is badly-designed or not the best script font out there.
Journal
Harrington, which conveys a very 1920s feel to me.
Exmouth
Freebooter Script
Aerolite

A professionally-designed font always has its time and place. A picture book may look best with a sans-serif font; a title page may be best-served by a calligraphy, typewriter, or Gothic-style font; a heading in a magazine article or the font on book swag goes best with a basic sans-serif font; a very long book could do well with Cochin or Baskerville to make it shorter; and a short book might become longer with a larger serif font like Didot or Lucida Bright.

A to Z Reflections Post

A-Z 2013

Now that the A to Z Challenge is over for another year, it’s time for participants to write about their experience—what they liked, what they didn’t like, positive discoveries, negative discoveries, how the Challenge could be better next year, how they handled it, etc. Participants have until 9 May to write this post and link to it on the main site.

I discovered a lot of interesting new book and writing blogs, and was very glad the list was organized by categories this year. I also didn’t really encounter the hated captchas on any of the blogs I commented on. This year I was very proud to keep all of my posts under 1,000 words, and that I even edited a few posts for length before they went live. I’ll never be the type of person whose average post is all of 300 words, but at least I’m no longer routinely writing posts between 1,000-1,600 words!

I was kind of surprised at how many people didn’t schedule their posts in advance, and so bowed out early or had a hard time coming up with topics on some days. I wrote all of my posts before April except T and X, though originally I had written a T post but decided, as the month wore on, to use something different. I’d like to move the first T post out of my drafts folder eventually!

While clicking through the list, I found a number of blogs that never started the Challenge, as well as blogs that stopped early. With over a thousand people on the list, I suppose it was hard to cull it down to only the active participants. I was also a bit disappointed that a number of bloggers never returned visits. I’m not necessarily expecting a return visit on that very day, since I didn’t always get to return visits on the same day, but it seems kind of contrary to the spirit of the Challenge to never reciprocate with the other participants.

My stats (including links to each post, and not including my own replies to comments):

Allen and Lenore’s Romance (American Typewriter) had 22 hits and 10 comments.

Brouhaha at the Buffet (Bookman) had 13 hits and 5 comments.

Crossing the Point of No Return (Calisto MT) had 25 hits and 7 comments.

Daphne and Rózsika (Didot) had 15 hits and 6 comments.

Ellis Island (Euphemia) had 24 hits and 8 comments.

Facing the Music in Minnesota (Footlight MT Light) had 13 hits and 3 comments.

Goodbye to the Motherland (Georgia) had 19 hits and 7 comments.

High Holy Days (Helvetica) had 9 hits and 4 comments.

Ins and Outs of Prohibition (Imprint MT Shadow) had 10 hits and 4 comments.

Jakob’s Leap of Faith (Janson) had 14 hits and 6 comments.

Katrin Discovers Anastasiya’s Secret (King) had 12 hits and 4 comments.

Lyuba Hits Rock Bottom (Lucida) had 2 hits and 0 comments.

Meet Ammiel and Micah (MS Sans Serif) had 7 hits and 2 comments.

Naina and Katya in North America (News Gothic) had 13 hits and 4 comments.

The Odd One Out (Optima) had 12 hits and 5 comments.

Paternity Warfare (Palatino) had 10 hits and 4 comments.

Quintina’s Birthday (Quay Sans) had 10 hits and 3 comments.

Rendezvous with Destiny (Rockwell) had 3 hits and 1 comment.

The Sacrifice of Gemma (Skia) had 11 hits and 4 comments.

Trading in His Shelter for Danger (Tahoma) had 8 hits and 3 comments. And if anyone were wondering, the song I took the title from was “The Seventh Stranger.”

Union with a Snake (Underwood Champion) had 13 hits and 5 comments.

Valentine and Ajax (Verdana) had 11 hits and 4 comments.

Who Will Stand, Who Will Fall? (Weekdays Roman Slant) had 20 hits and 8 comments.

A Xenial Welcome (Xenon Medium) had 19 hits and 7 comments.

Young Wives of Wildwood (Young) had 23 hits and 9 comments.

Zofia Stirs Up Trouble (Zapf Elliptical) had 13 hits and 5 comments.

Of the fonts used, 8 were ones I downloaded, 14 were serif fonts, 12 were sans-serif fonts, and 3 were typewriter-style fonts. Of the decades covered, 10 took place in the 1920s, 1 took place in the 1930s, 6 took place in the 1940s, 1 took place in the 1950s, 3 took place in the 1960s, and 5 took place in the 1990s.

Four were written in the 1990s, 7 were written in the Aughts, and 15 were written in this decade. Seven were from Atlantic City books, 11 were from my Russian novels, 3 were from my contemporary historical family saga, and 5 were about my Shoah characters, both during and after the War. I wrote 13 in Word 2004 on this computer, handwrote 6, wrote 1 in AppleWorks on a 2004 eMac, wrote 1 in Word98 on a ’96 Mac, wrote 2 in MacWriteII on the ’93 Mac, and wrote 3 in ClarisWorks on ’96 and ’99 Macs.

I’ve already got ideas for themes for at least two more years!

Zofia Stirs Up Trouble (Zapf Elliptical)

Font: Zapf Elliptical 711 BT

Chapter: “Zofia Stirs Up Trouble”

Book: Newark Love Story

Written: 2007

File format: AppleWorks

Computer created on: 2004 eMac

Last year’s A to Z theme started with Allen and ended with Zofia, so it’s kind of fitting that this year’s theme is also bookended by them. Zofia is such an entitled, delusional, often mean-spirited bitch, like Anastasiya, but that’s part of what makes her so fun to write. I can predict exactly what she’s going to do, say, or think even before she does it.

Zofia is a young Shoah survivor, born in Warsaw in 1931, but that doesn’t give her carte blanche to do whatever she wants. Not everyone who survived was a saint. It would be beyond inaccurate to depict every single survivor as a good, moral, loving person. Zofia certainly didn’t earn her own survival. Her sister Maria saved her ass on more than one occasion.

It’s now February 1952, and the Roblensky siblings have come to Newark for third-born Jozef’s wedding to Svetlana Juric. Svetlana, who survived the brutal Croatian Ustashi camp Jasenovac with her mother and four sisters, was raped a number of times and later slept with a number of the sadistic overlords to save her family from deportation and to get them better rations. Jozef knows she was an innocent victim and did it to protect her loved ones, but Zofia is convinced Svetlana is a whore and is horrified Jozef is marrying her. In the wake of this discovery, Zofia is even more of a troublemaker than usual and acts up so much she’s eventually barred from the wedding.

Some highlights:

“This must be Zofia.” Mrs. Juric took a long hard look at the third-oldest Roblenska sister in her low-cut skintight blue blouse and a skirt coming up well past her knees.

Zofia would have no part in traipsing around a city she didn’t even know.  After fifteen minutes, she whined that her feet were tired and headed back to the empty apartment.  She went into Dalibor’s room, shut the door, picked up the latest issue of Life, and started reading.  An hour later she heard her brother and his fiancée coming into the apartment but didn’t give herself away.  When they went into another room and shut the door, she slipped off her high heels and skulked off to listen in at the door.

“Welcome to our family,” Elizabeth gushed. “We’re so glad to be adding another sister, particularly one who might soon be making us aunts and uncles.  And according to Jozek, you’re quite the intellectual.  I love a woman who isn’t afraid to be smart and who likes things like museums, art, and literature.”

“How can you marry this woman, Jozek?” Zofia began crying. “If only our parents knew their second-oldest son would grow up to marry a whore.”

“I listened at the door, Jozef.  You didn’t know I was in the house when you came in.  I’m so ashamed and embarrassed that you want to marry a whore, let alone a whore who willingly copulated with the enemy.”

Jozef slapped her so hard her jaw ached. “First of all, only God has the right to judge.  Second, this woman is going to be my wife and your sister-in-law, so you had better respect her.  Third, you had no right to be eavesdropping on our personal conversation.  I am your older brother and you need to respect me and my future wife.”

“How dare you strike me!” Zofia was in shock from anyone standing up to her with more than words. “And who are you to tell me what to do?  You no longer even live in our house, and you’re only two years my elder!  Hoch mir nicht ken chaynik!”

He slapped her even harder across the other side of her face. “Any more questions, you pathetic inhuman excuse for life?  I swear to God, Mania should’ve left you behind in the bunker!  Get out of this house right now unless you want me to do something even worse to you!”

“Don’t worry, whatever it is, I’ll accept your wife no matter what,” Elizabeth said. “As we all know, I’m not a virgin myself and don’t intend to keep that a secret from my eventual husband.”

“That’s just what she told me,” Maria nodded. “Don’t worry, we’ll accept them as our nieces and nephews.  We won’t have any doubt that Jozef is the father, though Zosia is welcome to live in a land of unreality.”

This afternoon she was dressed even more scandalously, in a mink-edged pink silk blouse showing more than cleavage, green suede heels even higher and spikier than her other pair, red fishnets, heavier makeup, and a black leather skirt well above her fingertips.

“Special as in modest, demure, and classy?  You dress like a prostitute most of the time anyway, so why should tomorrow night be any different?” Jadwiga asked.

Zofia stalked out of the room offended, still wearing her scandalous clothes.  Nobody else in their party would let her in their rooms either, so she resorted to sleeping on a pile of towels in the laundry room, uncaring she was putting clean towels onto the dirty floor.

At 6:30, Zofia was discovered.  She was outraged to be jerked awake by a bunch of angry maids and the hotel manager, who thought she was a prostitute, a thief, or someone who’d tried to be cute by staying overnight without paying.  In her exhausted huff, she gave Samuel’s name.

Samuel was irate when he was called down to the laundry room, before he could even get dressed or say the morning prayers with his little brothers, just to positively identity Zofia.

“Mania really should’ve left you for the Nazis to find and finish off.  I have nothing further to say to you.” Samuel dropped her onto the floor like a limp ragdoll and stalked away. “And don’t be surprised if, when we get home, you’re suddenly asked to move out.”

Young Wives of Wildwood (Young)

(Quick note: This is another font I downloaded, not one from the system defaults. It might not show up for everyone.)

Font: Young

Chapter: “Young Wives of Wildwood”

Book: And the Lark Arose from Sullen Earth

Written: Summer 2012

Computer created on: 2008 15-inch MacBook Pro

File format: Word 2004

This is the 13th chapter of my second volume about Jakob DeJonghe and Rachel Roggenfelder. I’m so glad I decided to use the remainder of the material for a separate volume with its own storyline, since it gave me the opportunity to write a lot of new material. This book was written a lot more organically than I usually do, but working without a concrete outline was a fun challenge.

Feisty, progressive, brash Rachel has been roped into attending the inaugural meeting of a new social club in her new hometown, Wildwood, New Jersey. (I decided to move them away from Atlantic City because Wildwood actually has an established Jewish community, as compared to the Jewish community I made up for my fictional Atlantic City neighborhood.) She doesn’t really want to go, but her quasi-friend and fellow Dutch immigrant Henriette (Jet) Vos was insistent.

Rachel is the exact opposite of these parodies of postwar housewives, women who hate sex, are constantly smoking (even while pregnant), wax on and on about how much they’re in love with their doctors, and live for baking brownies, PTA meetings, ironing, and knitting. They’re horrified at how she kept her last name, is trying to find a midwife for a homebirth, is seeing a very radical female doctor in the meantime, plans to go to university when her child is in school, reads a lot, loves sex, never smokes, and has a hearty appetite.

These women are intended as parodies. I know not all housewives in the postwar era were like this, but it was so fun to spoof that mindset. (And it is a known fact that many doctors in this era enforced some outright dangerous, non-evidence-based prenatal care, like letting women smoke and insisting they only gain 10-15 pounds.) It made for some great culture clashes.

Some highlights:

“It’s just getting started.” Jet took a seat next to her and looked longingly at a plate of cupcakes with thick double chocolate frosting and crushed peppermints. “My doctor will have my head on a platter if I gain one more pound before the end of the year.  Can you please put that away?”

Rachel burst out laughing. “Do you realize I’ve been masturbating since I was eleven or twelve years old?  I also greatly enjoy Jaap touching me there.  I also broke my own hymen years before we became lovers.”

“Okay, I can leave my bicycle in your entryway.  No harm done.  Best to keep bicycle safe, where it may not be stolen.” Rachel pulled her bicycle into the house with one hand and held Ben’s leash in the other.

Rachel shrugged and took off her shoes only after she’d gone into the living room with Ben.  She tossed them across the room, ignoring the stunned looks of the other guests.  These women were just more of the same, matronly-looking young housewives who didn’t seem to know how to have a good time.

The woman rolled her eyes and put her cigarette out. “You’ll probably start smoking soon enough, after you’ve been in America for a little longer.  I smoked through all three of my pregnancies, right into the delivery room, and my children turned out fine.”

Rachel sat stunned as every single woman, without fail, introduced herself as Mrs. Husband’s Full Name, and no one asked for the real name.  Not only did she not remember half of these women’s names, but she had no idea what to call them.  It seemed so bizarre and overly formal to call a peer by a title instead of her first name.

“That is my own name.  Dutch women keep their surnames.  I have my own mother’s last name, and my baby will get our name too.  So, what am I supposed to call all of you?  Do your husbands and friends really call you all Mrs. John or Mrs. William?”

“Unfortunately for you, my parents were murdered in Sobibór in the summer of ’43,” Rachel said loudly. “You won’t be able to meet anyone in my family, because I am only survivor.  Jetje also is only survivor in her family, and in my husband’s family, there are only him and his mother.  Perhaps next time you shall think better before you talk about another person in the room as though she can’t hear you.”

“She’s seeing Dr. Dagny Landvik of Atlantic City,” Jet said in disgust. “And Dr. Landvik’s backup doctor is Simon Ives.  Both radicals I’m shocked are allowed to practice medicine at respectable hospitals.” [Dr. Ives is also Sparky’s doctor.]

“This doctor seems to think he’s God’s gift to expectant mothers,” Rachel scoffed as she bit into a boiled potato. “I am afraid for Jet’s and her baby’s health because she follows his dangerous advice about not gaining any weight and not getting any physical activity.  And he’s making her come in once a week for pelvic exams just for the hell of it.  What a pervert.”

Mrs. Gilbert laughed. “What woman wants to read on anything like that?  God gave us smaller brains than men.  We shouldn’t try to overexert ourselves by doing too much reading or research.  A woman’s brain can only handle things like women’s magazines and tasteful love stories.”