Lest I Know Your Weakness Pre-Order Links

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Pre-order links are now live on Amazon and Barnes & Noble! Wanna wake up on 2/12 with some wlw poetry in your hand or on your ereader? Now, you can make that happen.

Amazon (ebook): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07MGFDZ1L

Barnes & Noble (ebook): https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lest-i-know-your-weakness-taylor-ramage/1130202500?ean=2940161501207

Barnes & Noble (paperback): https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lest-i-know-your-weakness-taylor-ramage/1130202500?ean=9780578435992

Paperbacks will be also available on Amazon on 2/12/19, but for now you can order your hard copies from B&N.

Cheers!

New Poetry Collection: Lest I Know Your Weakness

Ah yes, time to finally share with you all one of the reasons I’ve been so quiet on this blog! But first, some quick links.

Facebook Page

I’m on Facebook! Like my page there for book updates, sketches, and more blackout poetry (including extras from Forgive Us Our Trespasses).

Goodreads

Follow me on Goodreads and remember to leave a review. Ask me questions there about my writing!

Alright, now with that out of the way, time for The Big News™.

A picture says a thousand words, so…

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I’m pleased to announce that my new poetry collection, Lest I Know Your Weakness, comes out on 2/12/19! You’ll be able to get an ebook or paperback from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

A twisted love story told in alternating poetic snapshots.

Intrigue, tension, darkness, beauty–Carmilla and Laura experience it all as they traverse the ups and downs of their relationship through poetic dialogue. Love is alluring and terrifying.

Yes, I took the text of the Carmilla novella (published in 1872) and made a bunch of erasure poems. The result? An experience that made one beta reader want to cry in a good way and gave another the sensation of peering through a keyhole at two tumultuous yet beautiful lives.

No need to be a fan of the web series or have read the original book to enjoy my collection. Either or may give you some different context as you read the poems, but this stands as its own work.

I’ll also be guest starring on Friday, I’m in Love; Monday, I Post Podcasts later in February where I’ll talk more about my work, so stay tuned for that!

So, that’s all of my news! Thanks for sticking with me!

What I Learned from Publishing My First Book

Finishing and publishing my first book has been an immensely rewarding experience, and helped me increase my focus on current and future projects.

Of course, I learned much about the process of creating and publishing a book by doing most of the work myself. For both the ebook and paperback of Forgive Us Our Trespasses, I went through a lot of trial and error to make the book as best I could. Here are some of the challenges I faced.

Challenge #1: Kindles are Not Kind to Images

Making an ebook full of images probably sounds like a crazy idea and it is, but I did it anyway. Kindle Comic Creator made it possible, though I went through a learning curve as I got used to the program. I lost track of how many .mobi files I built and how many times I sent those files as personal documents to my own Kindle to test the display, but I knew I had the wherewithal to figure it out. I wasn’t sure how much I could trust the book’s appearance in Kindle Previewer, which is why I wanted to look at the display on an actual Kindle.

Aiming for Consistent (or Near Consistent) Display

Every page in the book is an image and they’re all the exact same size, yet I found that when viewing the .mobi files as personal docs, some poems would fill the whole screen and others wouldn’t. I went through various cleanups in my images to try and correct this. It worked and the personal docs filled the screen.

However, the conversion process a .mobi file undergoes when uploading to KDP must be different from what happens when you email a .mobi directly to your Kindle. The final version of the ebook does create white space around the poems when viewing on a Kindle. Of course, you can get the Kindle reader app for free on your computer and see much larger (and colorful) images.

Contrast and File Size

Kindle e-readers only display in black and white. This didn’t concern me as much because you can still read the poems, just not see the colors. However, I wanted the poems to show some contrast between the background color and the spray paint color, so I went through a revision round where I edited some poems for contrast.

An ebook full of images also results in a “heavy” file, and Amazon will charge you a “delivery fee” against your royalty if you choose the 70% option (which I didn’t for precisely this reason). I ended up with a 50MB file, and this was after using ImageOptim to strip each image of metadata and other junk that I didn’t need for my purposes.

Challenge #2: People Want a Paperback?

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You’re going to think me silly, but I initially intended Forgive Us Our Trespasses to just be an ebook release. I thought this for two reasons.

  1. Blackout and erasure poetry has always been a side project for me, something fun and quick to make. I am primarily a prose writer, and after my next poetry collection publishing later this year, all the projects in my queue are prose.
  2. Ebooks are everywhere and they’re not going away any time soon. I know people who almost exclusively read ebooks and I now read ebooks, so therefore I thought no one would want a paperback of my collection.

This means that all through my creation process, I really wasn’t thinking about print, even though I mimicked some aspects of print books like including page numbers on each poem and a table of contents.

Yet when the book published, I constantly had people ask for a paperback. At first I said I had no way to do it because I didn’t think Amazon’s KDP paperback process could print a color book or do it well. I thought it was much, much more bare bones than it is. I also didn’t think I’d be able to do it without InDesign, but I managed it in the end.

Manuscript PDF Creation

Once I looked into the paperback process on KDP, I found that it was actually feasible. All I needed to do was upload PDFs of the interior pages and a print-ready cover. I used a combination of Paint and Preview to edit the images as needed and resize them. Using Amazon’s guidelines, I calculated the size for a print-ready cover and asked my cover designer, Corrie Liotta, to work on that.

“Feasible” doesn’t mean I got it all together in one shot. Oh no, I had to make all of my images 300 dpi and change the dimensions to 8.5 x 11, my chosen trim size. These dimensions caused the least distortion of the original images.

Additionally, I made the images .jpgs so I could PDF them and changed the position of the page numbers on the even pages to follow correct verso/recto formatting. I also adjusted my front matter so that the first poem would be on a recto page (really, I just added an interior title page and that did the trick). All in all, I went through four full interior PDFs to fix display issues and errors that I got from Amazon’s book previewer.

KDP Errors

One of the first errors I received said that the book had no content. Yikes! Turns out I didn’t PDF the images with the correct settings. A quick Google search told me what boxes to check during the conversion process. Once I fixed that, the biggest error I received was not having enough room for bleed–puzzling since the large background space around each poem already accounted for that. I figured, though, that Amazon’s previewer had no way of knowing the content on my pages. It just saw files that left no room for the printer cutting the pages too close.

I changed my trim size from 8.5 x 11 to 8 x 10 and that solved the issue because my images were still 8.5 x 11. Therefore, they had plenty of room for bleed. Still, I then had to go back and edit all of my images to be within the safety zone that shows in the previewer. I did this by simply opening the poems in Paint, selecting the text, and dragging it down about an inch, as the length is cut from the top in Amazon’s system.

Lastly, I went through a few rounds of adjusting the cover size with Corrie since I kept getting errors about that through no fault of her own. Finally, I had no errors in the previewer and could approve my manuscript. Yay!

Yet just when I thought I was finally finished, I got an email from Amazon saying the spine text was too small. Thankfully, that was an easy fix–Corrie just got rid of it altogether.

KDP’s paperback previewer is meticulous, but it’s not the most difficult platform I’ve worked with. My day job has given me quite a high tolerance for troubleshooting and figuring out how platforms work. I’ve also worked on many print publishing projects for the day job, so I wasn’t totally clueless about publishing terms. I’m actually glad that the QA process is as rigorous as it is because you know what? My paperbacks turned out beautifully.

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I still have a lot to learn and a lot to look forward to in 2018, but I’m proud of myself for doing this!


My blackout poetry collection, Forgive Us Our Trespasses is available as a paperback and an ebook! The poems explore faith, doubt, lament, and hope. Check it out and discover why readers have called it “pithy,” “insightful,” “visually stunning,” and “emotionally challenging.” Be sure to add the book to your Goodreads list and leave a review when you’re finished!

Also, check out select poems on Redbubble, available as prints, stickers, and many other products. They make great gifts!

Forgive Us Our Trespasses–Now in Paperback! Posters now on Redbubble!

Hello, Internet!

At long last, I’m stoked to announce that the paperback version of Forgive Us Our Trespasses is available on Amazon! Please buy, rate, and review it!

I was pleasantly surprised at the number of requests I received for a paperback and am glad I can offer that option.

In related news, I have a Redbubble store where you can buy posters of some poems from the collection!

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Thanks to all of you for your continued support!

The Tunes Behind “Forgive Us Our Trespasses”

Music is a huge influence for my writing. The songs and bands I listen to every day seep into my subconscious and work their way into my projects. This is especially true for my fiction–I have playlists in my iPod for several different projects.

While creating the poems in Forgive Us Our Trespasses, I often listened to mewithoutYou, one of my all-time favorite bands. So, here’s a list of their songs that, to me, connect to the vibe of the poetry collection.

“Carousels” is a chill jam that I connected to The Legend of Korra in this post a few years ago. If you pay attention to the garbled back vocals in the verses, you’ll hear, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” At church, we had a period where we’d end our monthly communion/spiritual formation nights singing this line, and I made use of it in the poem I shared last week.

“My Exit, Unfair” is hard yet soulful. It’s reflective and sorrowful yet somewhere in there are admiration and questions for God, which is characteristic of all of mewithoutYou’s music.

“The Sun and the Moon” has some more overt allusions to Biblical figures (Daniel, Peter, and Job), yet also blends the speaker’s own experiences of shortcoming and desire for forgiveness.

“In a Sweater Poorly Knit” feels like a journey from earthly concerns to God.

“Seven Sisters” is yet another song that addresses pain and shortcomings at God.

I referenced “Paper Hanger” a couple times in the sermon I preached at my church. In addition to being one of my favorite mewithoutYou songs in general, “Paper Hanger” plays with Biblical imagery to create a new, powerful message.

“Four Word Letter pt. 2” transforms “Down in the River to Pray” into something that blends doubt with togetherness in God.

“Messes of Men” has this vibe of navigating doubt, vice, and insecurity while God is still present anyway, somewhere. It’s honest and real, which is how vibrant faith life is, in my opinion.

I hope you enjoyed listening to some awesome music–Forgive Us Our Trespasses comes out NEXT WEEK. Buy it here.

Memories of “Trespasses”

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I first heard the Lord’s Prayer in the Catholic church my mother brought me to every week when I was in elementary school. Sometimes, I liked going. The lady who usually sat in the pew in front of us always smiled and waved at me. I liked trotting up to the marble altar at the point in the service where the children left the sanctuary to receive our own lesson, which I always found interesting.

But sometimes, I hated going and only trudged through it when my mother promised to take me to McDonald’s afterward. I didn’t like being the only kid not “officially” in the Sunday school and therefore not knowing anyone else. I didn’t like kneeling on those plush pads for long, silent prayers. Most of all, I didn’t like that I wasn’t allowed to partake of the bread and the cup because I hadn’t had my first “holy communion.” I didn’t know what that was, but I did know that not having a “holy communion” meant I couldn’t have a cracker like everyone else.

Many aspects of Catholic church were a mystery to me. Why was an entire book called “The Word of God?” Which word in the book was God’s word? Why did the people lighting the candles at the altar dress like ghosts and sit in chairs that looked like they belonged in a castle?

Why did we say, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”? The only other time I’d ever encountered the word “trespass” was in those signs posted on private property that said, “No Trespassing.” No sneaking in. No jumping over the fence in the dark of night, which I often imagined when we prayed the Lord’s prayer.

Throughout middle school and high school, I was part of a non-denominational (evangelical) church where I learned that “trespasses” were “sins,” but we rarely prayed the Lord’s Prayer anyway because it was a bit too Catholic, a bit too traditional, and a bit too structured for a church culture that claimed to just teach the Bible without all that extra doctrine.

In college, I was surrounded by people who knew a lot more about church and Christian tradition than I did. Many of my friends and classmates had come from mainline Protestant churches or from some other denomination that rooted itself, in some shape or another, to a very long and ancient history–not to mention that many of these kids seemed to know a lot about social justice and Christianity. By that point in my life, the Lord’s Prayer was the only traditional thing I knew–the only “Christian” thing I could recite in whole, from memory, if asked. I had never been the type to memorize entire Bible chapters or Psalms.

So when I found myself standing in a prayer circle after my first excursion with my college’s homeless feeding program, I felt a little more comfortable when the leader asked us to pray the Lord’s Prayer. I knew this one, and I wouldn’t feel silly in front of all these people I didn’t know plus the person I had a crush on.

Then, they threw me two curve balls. First, they said “debts/debtors” instead of “trespasses/as we forgive those who trespass against us,” throwing off the rhythm I’d grown accustomed to. It sounded so…financial. Second, they added, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.” I had never heard this addition before.

Yet when I started attending my current church and I prayed the Lord’s Prayer with the congregation for the first time, I paused and waited to hear which version this church would go with. Were they trespassers or debtors? Turns out, they’re debtors and I rolled with it. I still do, even though I like the cadence of “forgive us our trespasses.”

So I chose that phrase as the title for this poetry collection. In just four words, it invokes grace and ownership of our wrongdoings. It is a gentle request and acknowledgment of our flawed state. It is traditional language tied to a contemporary style of poetry.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses engages with old language and often transforms it to mean something new. This is my favorite aspect of applying the blackout poetry form to an old text. Pre-order the collection here.

What Is Blackout Poetry?

To celebrate the upcoming release of my poetry collection Forgive Us Our Trespasses, I’m running a blog post series about it, starting with the most basic question:

What the heck is “blackout poetry”?

Blackout poetry is a form of poetry where you take a newspaper article, a book, or some other pre-existing material, box off certain words, and cross out the rest to create something new. Rather than writing new words in a blank document, you take an existing text and remove everything you don’t want.

It’s like plain old editing, but artsier and with a hipster aesthetic.

Blackout poetry falls under a wider category called “found poetry,” where you create poetry from words and phrases you encounter out in the world like billboard signs and postcards.

I first heard of blackout poetry back in 2010 when Austin Kleon popularized it with his book Newspaper Blackout. I spent a good portion of my summer break from college that year cutting up newspaper articles and inhaling the tantalizing scent of sharpies as I got the hang of this visual form.

I kept experimenting with blackout poetry throughout the rest of my college years and  afterward. As I got more comfortable with it and figured out my own style, I thought it’d be neat to create a collection of blackout poems from the same book. I first tried it with my high school Dover Thrift Edition copy of Pride and Prejudice, a book whose intentions I appreciate but whose purposefully detailed and trivial prose I just can’t get through (sorry, Jane Austen fans). I’d called the thing Ride and Dice, and had gotten through all of five pages before I realized that I couldn’t weave a cohesive narrative among the poems, nor could I digitize them in any legible way. So, I set that project aside permanently.

A couple years later, I found an old daily devotional booklet and decided it’d be both hilarious and fascinating to make blackout poetry out of each entry. While that booklet is not the source text of Forgive Us Our Trespasses, it opened up to me the intriguing possibility of making a blackout poetry collection from a religious source text.

That intrigue led me to consult my good friend Project Gutenberg, whose free, public domain ebooks I rely on constantly in my day job. I searched “Christianity” or “theology” or something along those lines, picked a random title, downloaded the PDF, and started making poems.

Blackout Poetry and Copyright

Now, you might be asking yourself, “Does making this type of poetry out of someone else’s work violate copyright laws?” While I would argue that blackout poetry changes the source text so much that it no longer resembles the original and therefore doesn’t infringe (e.g., it’s a transformative work), I am not a legal expert nor did I want to be living with that uncertainty in publishing my own collection of these poems. That’s why I chose a public domain book as the source text. When a work is in the public domain, you can reproduce it, edit it, and make derivative works without giving attribution, paying licensing fees, or worrying about copyright infringement. You can create new works based on public domain works that are copyrighted to you, but you don’t have rights of the original work you used.

But aside from making myself sleep easier at night, using public domain works offers tons of creative potential. Since blackout poetry for me depends on finding the most captivating words and phrases, I discovered that these books with a lot of old, religious language create so much vivid imagery. It’s fun to repurpose that language and draw out or change the tone it has in its original context.

How I Made the Poems in This Collection

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Most blackout poetry is made by physically altering a printed page with a pen or marker and then scanning it into a computer. I did this for the first several pages of my source text, using a freeware Mac version of Paint to add the simple coloring that I wanted. This got tedious when I realized that going through the entire 250+ page book would take forever, so I switched to taking screenshots of each PDF page. This saved me a ton of time from printing out a few pages only to mark them up and scan them back into the computer. It was much easier to get through the entire book using only digital tools.

A handful of poems incorporate artwork that I found on Pixabay, a stock image website where everything is in the public domain via a CC0 license. I cropped and edited them as I saw fit.  Last but not least, I hired an old friend of mine, Corrie Liotta, to design my book cover. Working with her was fantastic and certainly saved me a ton of trouble trying to throw something decent together in my freeware programs. That, in a nutshell, is how these poems came to be! Be sure to preorder Forgive Us Our Trespasses so you can enjoy the entire collection.