Judging by the Cover

Never judge a book by its cover?!

Recently a major publishing house sent an e-mail asking me to vote on two different proposed book covers for a non-fiction work on financial scams. Clever marketing: Use a focus group to judge a product then market the product to that same group.

Obviously, the publisher knew enough to profile me and chose well, as both author and topic interest me.

Advice abounds on building a platform and knowing your readership.  Key question: Who is your reader?  Answer: Female. Romantic. Curious.

I asked my friend, a graphic artist, to design a mock-up cover for my manuscript One Dress, One Day. Naively, I believed accompanying artwork would make my proposal stand out. I sent mock-up covers to only two publishers. Nothing.

Of course, all the how-to-get-yourself-published advice columns and websites tell you the opposite. Perhaps I was influenced by Céline Dion’s story about how as a teenager, she wrapped her demo cassette with a big red bow then sent it to her future agent and husband, René Angélil. Too enthusiastic? Too late.  A lesson for me.

Fortunately, my artist friend became so involved in the manuscript that she begged for more. As a reader and artist, Joy responded to the drama, setting and pop culture but primarily became fascinated by the characters.  “What happened to the thief?” Joy kept asking me.  “And the baby?” [NO SPOILER ALERT]

At that point, my concept was a short hybrid text, a novellario, but now I am fleshing out my cast of quirky characters.  The thief, his lover, … this sounds like a lush Greenaway film with cannibalism. Rest assured, One Dress One Day resembles Almodóvar’s colourful cinema. A romantic romp in bittersweet Barcelona, circa 1990. Tapas and Sangria plus pop music within one dramatic 24-hour period.

Joy’s professional perspective not only led to the eye-catching illustration seen here but also reminded me to keep telling the story.  Rather like gossip, readers want more…   about the stolen wedding gown ensemble and how it touched the thief, the barmaid, the farmgirl, the blindman, the politician, his wife, the bride and groom plus the middle-age couple.

Here are the mock-ups. Which illustration did I prefer? The cover with a vague romantic couple in the background or the other with a blurb at the bottom of the image?   Flamenco? Taxi? 

Honestly, both covers inspire me to keep chronicling the lives touched by a stolen wedding gown.








From Silent to Soap

My manuscript originally read like a scenario with suggested actors and actresses

As a novel, there are still classical Hollywood references. What follows are quick extracts. The first describes the wedding dress thief, Francisco, startled while talking to Inma. 

“At that moment, Iñaki, the Centenar‘s faithful bartender, came tucking a sports newspaper under his arm. He was exactly ten minutes late and probably had been the one telephoning. Nodding knowingly to Inma, he lit up his second cigarette, the breakfast equivalent, after the day’s first which he lit while still lying in bed. This smoke also served as a signal for the intruder to leave.  Francisco leered like some Rudolf Valentino with a touch of Jack Nicholson but left fast.”

Some characters have a love-hate relationship with soap operas and behave like telenovela stars.  Inma always dresses as if life were a stage. 

“Inma always fell for the bad boys. Listening to the incessant stream of inane game shows on TV, Inma focused enough to fish out her favorite leggings plus her most feminine flowery camisoles in case she stayed the night. […] She zipped up her carry-on, zapped a few channels and paused at a doe-eyed Latina with braids wearing a beige polyester maid’s uniform.  Yet another predictable South American telenovela: luscious palm trees, pastel villas and turquoise swimming pools.  Inma turned the set off abruptly.”



The power of a pair of shoes! We know the feeling. Ever wish you could click three times and be home? Home could also be a psychological home, a good place or a safe place. 

The divine Miss M (Bette for her friends) once said that with the right pair of shoes, she could play any role. Who could forget Judy Garland wearing Dorothy’s ruby slippers?!  The FBI just retrieved them in a scenario worthy of Hollywood. In ONE DRESS, ONEDAY, Inma knows the power of shoes. Hers was an established family in the Spanish leather trade. See extract below photo.

“Honor, like revenge, is a delicacy to be enjoyed cold. Thank God. Inmaculada had little money for much else. The night wind stung her cheeks. Her nerves and fatigue made her feel even colder. Near the María Cristina hotel were jewelry boutiques, chain-link grills rolled down over the window displays full of Hublot and Tag-Heuer posters, Cartier signs plus ROLEX display cards. Solid in her wedge-heel, open-toed leather pumps, Inma began retracing the taxi route back to the station.”

A Short Evocative Title

Dolor y gloria (2019)

A Short Evocative Title, à la Almodóvar    

The director’s Julieta was supposed to be his English-language debut – a sweeping adaptation of the Nobel Prize-winning Canadian author’s work with Meryl Streep. But then, much like an Alice Munro story, life got in the way!

To use a cliché, no problema.

Pedro Almodóvar is getting the band back together. The Spanish filmmaker will reunite with two of his former stars, Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas, for Dolor y gloria. The movie ( literal translation: power and glory) becomes his 21st feature film.

Unlike many of Almodóvar’s most famous works, Dolor y gloria  will center around a male protagonist.

The protagonist, played by Antonio Banderas, is a movie director in his twilight years reflecting on his career. Some of the people the retired director recalls are his first loves, his mother, and actors with whom he worked from the 1960s to the 1980s.

The plot details confirmed for Dolor y gloria  might sound like Almodóvar is creating his own version of Federico Fellini’s 8½. The storyline suggests Banderas’ character (Dolor) may resemble that of  Guido Anselmi, played by Marcello Mastroianni in the Fellini film.  Actresses Penélope Cruz and Julieta Serrano play women from Banderas’ past.

Dolor y gloria will mark Banderas’ first Almodóvar feature since 2011’s The Skin I Live In. The actor was a staple of the director’s early career, having starred in Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989).  Of course, Cruz has won best actress at Cannes. In fact, she was nominated for an Oscar for her work in the haunting Volver (2006), considered one of Almodóvar’s finest works.

Why Pedro Almodóvar?

As a Canadian translator with some Spanish blood, I have been a fan of this famous cineaste since his first international hit, Mujeres al borde de una crisis de nervios (1988), frequently shortened to Women on the Verge in English. I follow on twitter his film production company El Deseo, now run by his younger brother. I have contacted El Deseo twice and received a polite acknowledgement of receipt at least.  My desire (pun intended) is to be able to meet Pedro Almodóvar someday.  I tried to meet Jean-Paul Gaultier who has created costumes for two of Pedro’s films but failed last year in Montreal.  It is starting to sound like I’m a teenaged fanatic or a stalker, no? I simply would like to discuss my novellario project with him, maybe over tapas! I do dream in colour, as they say. Vivid colour, like Almodóvar’s films.

Again, Why Almodóvar?

Almodóvar’s tales lend life a sense of the uncanny mixed with 
telenovela chic. Casts usually include strong, daring women.  
At times playful, Almodovar’s cinematography corresponds to my vision; i.e., his energetic use of space, shape and colour.
His original choice of music always strikes a chord with me. 
The soundtracks of  his films evoke both the multi-faceted character of Spain and incredible plot twists.
The latest film has reportedly wrapped up filming and is slated to open in 2019.
PROXIMAMENTE as they say in Spanish. I say “I can’t wait”!

Inma’s Shrine Includes Famous Almodovar Poster

Inma’s appartment was like a doll’s house. Amazing how her aspirations could be seen in every nook and cranny.  Of course her lover, Rubio, did not pay attention to much beyond her bed and butt.  A quick glance around her humble abode reveals…

“In the south corner, above the old-fashioned radiator, there was a shrine to each of her idols or goals.  Half a wall was filled with celebrity clippings and classic or blockbuster movie posters including a tough John Travolta and angelic Olivia Newton John embracing in Grease; the loud, colorful images from Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios. Another corner held miscellaneous memorabilia of old Hollywood, including the Casa Blanca classic frame of Bogart and Bergman, plus a laughing Marilyn on her fishnet haunches in Bus Stop. Sloppily painted ceramic souvenirs lined a simple shelf above her bed:  an orange burro whose side baskets served as toothpick holders, a terra cotta bonbon dish Saludos desde Granada and a miniature Asturian clog inscribed Para mi madrina on one side and Oviedo on the front.  This last clunky thing she treasured as a gift from her sister’s twin boys for whom she was both aunt and godmother. Her library included El Feng Shui para todos, Cantos nuevos by Lorca, something by Castaneda and a warped abridged Spanish-English dictionary from her school days.”

How much do your surroundings tell about you?  How deep into your dwelling can a visitor dig?

In method acting, an actress would want to know what is in her character’s handbag so as to prepare for the role.

What would be in Inma’s medicine cabinet or pantry?  These details speak volumes.



via Daily Prompt: Core

In One Dress, One Day, Francisco, the streetsmart thief, lives in Barcelona.

“His universe was the inner core of Barcelona, a labyrinth of old neighborhoods proud of their original parish names and mentalities. He rarely smelt the salt air or gazed out onto the murky sea. Any experience of a beach, like la Barceloneta, was limited and likely illicit.”

ALMODOVAR in Inma’s Apartment

Inma’s tiny apartment is that of a barmaid, would-be singer, starstruck señorita.

The décor describes her best.

“Half a wall was filled with celebrity clippings and classic or blockbuster movie posters including a tough John Travolta and angelic Olivia Newton John embracing in Grease; the loud, colorful images from Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios.

Of course, Inma’s books, magazines, bibelots, and furniture have not been mentioned yet.

Books may be deceiving. People often keep books to keep up appearances or because they hate to throw away school material. (Maybe there will be a test?)

I once visited the room of a new beau whose books matched my tastes, Camus, Genet, Nelligan, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, … Later I found out these volumes were left behind by a roommate. To my chagrin, I found that out too late. In One Dress, One Day, Inma also learns about judging and appearances.