A book from start to finish

Last April I worked on a rough draft of what I hoped would be a novel that became a novelette that then changed its mind and became a novella… or at least that’s where it is now. Dragon/Mage is just over 51,000 words and unfinished, so maybe it’ll grow up to be a real novel someday.

The main character is the dragon L’ra, named for my friend Laura.  I’ve been writing stories for her for Christmas for the past few years and this novelette/novella was written to be this year’s present.

As Christmas 2019 approached, though, I was feeling like it wasn’t the gift I had in mind.  I had gaps in the manuscript that I hadn’t written yet and no time left to write them.  So I figured hey, I’ve always wanted to make a book, so why don’t I just bind the pages of this manuscript. It’ll be a unique present that I’ll be proud to give

No matter that I’ve never bound a book before.

Day one – two days before Christmas

I plunged into the project the way I always do:  no prep, a lot of optimism, and a willingness to wing it as necessary.  

I spent all that morning figuring out how to print the pages in folio form so the manuscript could be stitched and glued like a regular hardcover book.  I wasted a bunch of paper, and I ended having to painfully print folios individually (pages 1-16 using 8 sheets of paper, pages 17 – 32 using 8 sheets of paper, etc).  Then I stitched the folios on my sewing machine and I figured out how to make a press to hold the folios together so I could glue it.  (Note to self: remember to replace the sewing machine needle — stitching paper has dulled it and it’ll mess up fabric)

Stitched folios for bookbindingThe so-called press was a wood clamp and two vise-grip pliers that applied pressure on window shims (approximately 1″ wide x 12″ long thin strips of wood). (Note to self: research DIY book presses and make that my next project. Or pretty soon. At least before I make my next book, whenever that might be.)

By that evening I was gluing while talking with my mother on the phone.  I don’t have a headset so most of what I was doing on the book was one handed. Sometimes I crooked my head to hold the phone between my chin and shoulder so I could use two hands… well, let’s just say that it’s not the best glue job I’ve ever seen.  I have cleaned the mess off the table and various objects nearby that failed to duck when glue came out of the bottle in huge globs.

I hoped the glue I used would work.   Elmer’s Craft Bond is recommended for book repair since it’s acid-free and flexes when dry.  Seemed to me that would be good glue for making a book. I could have sworn I had some white Elmer’s glue but I couldn’t find it.  I figured Elmer’s Wood Glue would have to do.  Maybe not so flexible when dry — but heck, this isn’t meant to be a book to last the ages, right? It’s not even an ARC.  At any rate, it was wood glue or no glue.

And it fought me the whole way. (Note to self: Buy some Elmer’s Craft Bond. Also more Elmer’s Wood Glue).

Glued foliosGlued foliosThe glue dried in no time at all. When I removed it from the “book press” I started giggling.  It actually looked something like a real book! 

I decided to end the day’s work on that high note.  Sure, the next day was Christmas eve, but that still gave me lots of time to put the cloth binding on and make the covers.  

 

 

Day two – Christmas Eve

After putting the cloth binding on the back of the book — a fairly simple process (emphasis on ‘fairly’) — I moved on to the cover.

Did I mention I did no prep work before starting this project? First thing I had to do was disassemble a matted photo to steal the backing cardboard for the covers of my book. I could have used something thinner or thicker, but the matte cardboard was perfect. (Note to self: get more cardboard and repair the photo).

Cardboard for the coversI very carefully cut the covers. I swear those were perfect right-angled corners when I measured, but somehow… never mind. Then I carefully measured and cut the fabric. I swear…

Then I used more globs of wood glue to glue the fabric to the covers. Um. Apparently the glue is to be used sparingly, but the cap had broken off the glue bottle and it would only come out in globs suitable for furniture building but not so good for book binding. I spread the glue as thinly as I could but it soaked the cardboard and warped it.

Time out to press the cardboard while the glue dried. And to calm down before the next step: gluing the folio to the back cover.

I will admit, there was a certain amount of cursing going on while all this was happening. The glue would not allow for repositioning, for one thing. I know for a fact that my inside paper covers were squared but then of course the cover itself wasn’t, so…

So I just let it go. If I was going to give this book to Laura for Christmas I couldn’t take till New Year’s to make it perfect. I got everything all glued together and then I stepped back and looked at the results.All glued together

It was a book. An ugly book, to be sure, but I had done it. The cover was wrinkled, the inside covers were wrinkled, as were the first and last few pages, due to the moisture in the glue. The instructions said that I could iron out the wrinkles but I wasn’t sure wood glue would take kindly to ironing. So I decided to just press the book overnight and see what it looked like in the morning (the title page photo shows still-damp pages that night).Title page showing wrinkles from moisture from glue

 

 

Day three – Christmas

What it looked like in the morning was… almost done. The wrinkles weren’t too bad. But there wasn’t any way to tell the front from the back cover. I needed to put the title on it. I had this idea of using iron-on transfer of the lettering but I still wasn’t sure about the heat factor and that glue.

So I cheated and used a metallic ink Sharpie. That certainly gave it the home-made look to match the rest.

I gotta tell you, when I wasn’t cursing, I was giggling as I made this book. I knew the end project was kind of ugly, I knew the manuscript was not complete — but I didn’t care.  The making was the joy for me. I can create a complete and polished looking book someday if I want to — but there will never be another first book that I ever made.

The Dragon/Mage bound book is no longer in my possession but it’ll always have a special place in my heart: a book that’s all mine, from the first word written in April to the last word written on the cover.

 

I can’t wait to do another!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#amwriting #bookbinding

Website renovation

Raven in Flight 2019 Lif Strand photoI can’t believe it took me the better part of two days to renovate my website.  I did it because of advice on what an author’s website should include in order to get literary agents and/or publishers to bite the hook.

Oh whoops, that sounds so crass.

Except it’s the truth, the whole truth, and I’m sticking to it.  An author’s website is supposed to be professional.  I confess I’m having a hard time toeing that line.

What an arduous task, but it needed doing and I did it.  Now I’ve got a static home page — meaning it doesn’t change each time I post something to the blog (what you’re reading now).  That alone took a bit of reconfiguring of the website.

Most of the work went into the About page, the one that literary agents and/or publishers will go to to learn about me and my fiction writing without having to actually read any of that writing.  The About page includes a link to my resume, which had to be updated, and a link to a bibliography of my writing.  I had to figure out how to upload the PDFs to my domain via WordPress and a few other tricks.

Now that this task is done, it’s time for me to get back to the literary agent/publisher hunt.

Oh, and the raven photo?  Because I love the ravens that live in my valley.  Thought I’d share the love.

So Happy I Could Cry

♪ I’m So Glad (Skip James, ca 1931) YouTube

What is it about joy that has such power to make me teary-eyed? How can I be grinning like a maniac as I’m hauling wood from the woodpile in a wind so cold it freezes my snot?

I want to ask how I ever got to this place, this happy place I am in this moment, but I don’t need to ask – I know the answer: Even though it seems like a miracle bursting into my life it’s actually the result of decades of work of purposefully changing who I am.

Purposefully creating a life as opposed to being tumbled through the stream of time willy-nilly. Making my own choices even though they often pit me against the flow. Risking drowning in order to save my life.

No – to create it.

We each have our own life story and we each are the sole author of that story. The question is how the story will be written: by chance or on purpose?

I’ve known my answer since I was a kid — but knowing isn’t implementing.

The problem is I keep forgetting to choose in spite of the fact that it feels so good when I do. It’s not my fault. It’s simply the nature of living as a human being. We have epiphanies but we are bound to lose them. We spend more time seeking than basking in enlightenment. It’s not our fault! We’re human!

Thank the gods for art, what we humans do to memorialize our connections with enlightenment and to remind us to remember them again. Doesn’t matter what kind of art: writing, music, dance, painting, sculpture – and yes, the art of being ourselves, too, if we allow it. Art stretches our inner selves, makes us high. What’s not to love about that?

But enlightenment is an impermanent state of being. We don’t live in the Zone, we aspire to it. While we bask in instances of great art our souls are hauled up to a higher level – but we don’t get to stay there.

We have to choose it over and over again. On purpose.

Enlightenment for human beings is not a state of being but moments of bliss. The trick, it turns out, is not to try to grab those moments and hold on to them, for they are ephemeral in nature and will slip away. The trick is rather to choose have lots of those moments, one right after the other, until miraculously it feels like they are all the moments there are.

Chop wood, carry water. That’s said to be the way of the path. Most people take it as a metaphor. Much to my surprise, in doing the wood and water thing in real life I discovered that those tasks have kept redirecting my feet back onto the path. The path is not to enlightenment but of enlightenment.

So, hey, make your choices. Choose to have a blissful moment or a million! Here, have a tissue.

♪ I’m So Glad (Cream, 1966) YouTube

This post was originally published on my Patreon site.  You can be my patron for a buck a month!

The Mother of Invention

A fabric wall hanging being worked onNo, I don’t mean Frank Zappa, not that he and his Mothers aren’t worth a listen.  But discovering that you don’t have what you need when you’re at a quilting retreat far from anywhere doesn’t mean it can’t happen there.

We’re sewing in a restaurant.  Long story… READ MORE

PS – would appreciate your patronage.  Check out my Patreon account.  Thank you.

I got the blues

Title pageI have a sad case of postpartum blues. No, I haven’t given birth to a squalling, pooping little bundle of joy, but I did send my manuscript — supposedly the final edit — off to my professional editor. Now I wait till she goes through it and (hopefully) tells me it’s good to go.

I thought I’d be bouncing around today with a big weight off my shoulders. Last night I couldn’t sleep for going through all the things I’d be free to do today now that I wasn’t shackled to my manuscript. My house looks like a crash pad. And why not? That’s basically what I’ve been doing for the past few months while I focused on this book.

Envelopes are piled up on my desk. I shudder to think what might be in them that I’ve been ignoring. Dirty clothes are spilling out of the laundry baskets. When was the last time I changed the bed sheets? Stacks of books I’ve used as references, or read in the evenings and never reshelved, or borrowed and never returned are on top of my sewing table. One the rare days when I felt like I had to swamp out the house but didn’t want to take the time, I just put things in empty Amazon boxes. Who knows what might lurk in them.

Ick, the cat boxes need emptying. No point in scooping. They’re beyond that – gotta just dump the contents and replace with fresh… um… I do have more kitty litter somewhere, don’t I? I did do dishes almost every day, but the clean ones are piled high in the dish drain.  Why bother putting them away? I just kept using the same ones over and over.  Other than baking a few loaves of bread, I haven’t cooked much of anything since Christmas. I can go a long time on peanut butter sandwiches, salads, and wine.
Fabric
I look around the house and there is stuff everywhere! Not only stuff that needs to be put away, but projects that need to be completed. Fabric that I’ve purchased but not stored for the wall hangings I’ve started but abandoned. Houseplants that need repotting sit on windowsills and on the kitchen counter and on the floor. Tools that I’ve used to band-aide things that broke that I had no time to fix while I’ve been living in the dream world of writing need to be put away. And of course, the interior walls of my tiny little straw bale house still have not been plastered.

I have so much to do and now I’m free to do it.

But no. I’m sitting here feeling no motivation at all. I’ve got postpartum depression. I’ve had my creative baby, so to speak. The creation process took all my psychic energy and now I’ve hit the post-creation let-down.

Or maybe not.

Maybe it’s just the massive amount of work that I need to do to get my house back in order that is off-putting.

Maybe I should write about it instead of doing it.

Hey – I feel better already!