31 December 2011

2011: Achievements

Way back at the beginning of the year, I wrote a post boldly proclaiming my goals. I'm pretty sure I didn't hit any of them. But let's look back:

  • I will write one new short story a month
  • I will write fiction for at least an hour, 5 times a week.
  • I will blog at least once a week, but aim for three times.
Yep, I failed on them all. Except "failed" is not really the right word. No, I didn't meet any of the three goals, but if you look at the intent behind all of those goals, it was primarily to get me writing regularly again. And at that, I was actually very successful. It just took a lot longer to get back in the habit than I had thought.

At the bottom of that same post, I also mentioned some immediate goals:
  • put together a simple but eye-catching cover for short story #1: "Come-From-Away," either photo-based (it's set in St John's, NL) or something I drew.
  • Get the story formatted properly for e-pub.
  • Get myself registered on the appropriate sites and publish away.

Not only did I get that done, I did it over and over for 12 short stories, two mini-collections (one of two and one of three stories), three YA/middle-grade novels, and a collection of eleven stories. And that's only what I did under my own name. Under two pen names, I also got five serial novel chapters done, published, and published again in a magazine (well, three of them so far in the magazine), finished a novel, and wrote substantial parts of two novellas.

In another post a couple of weeks later, I added another goal to stop sending out the same short stories over and over and e-publish them instead, clearing the decks, so to speak, for new work. And that I did.

So I actually got a lot done this year, especially if you add in that I taught several letterpress and books arts extended studies courses, did a whole lot of letterpress printing and even (finally) got some of it into shops in Halifax and Mahone Bay, had some litho and intaglio prints in a group show in New York (okay, Brooklyn, but still), did a lot of freelance writing and little bit of freelance editing, and got considerably more comfortable using Adobe Illustrator.

There are still a few things I'd have liked to have accomplished, like getting the second issue of Fey into print form, and doing the same for the novels, but those are now at the top of my list for next year.

Pop-Up!


The last class I taught this year for NSCAD Extended Studies was a pop-up holiday card workshop over a whole weekend. I ended up with only three students (though four registered), so it was an intimate class, but it meant I was able to give each student more one-on-one time if they wanted it. I'm notoriously bad at taking photographs of my classes, but I did take some pictures of a prototype I started during the class--at first to demonstrate the process and then for something to do when the students reached the point where they didn't need my immediate help (I love that, but it does make me feel a little useless).


Because I wanted this card to be the sort of thing that the recipient could use as a holiday decoration year after year, I needed it to be able to lay flat and stay flat when opened. So instead of cardstock covers, I built it like a book. That also allowed it to be a more substantial-seeming gift, and meant it didn't even need wrapping.


I was cutting this quite quickly from a very rough sketch (so I didn't bore the students while they watched the process), so a lot of the final shape is more-or-less freehand. So the deer are a proportioned a little oddly. You can also probably tell that my knife was not quite as sharp as it should have been.


I really like, though, how the simple white shapes layer on each other to create something with depth. You can, of course, use coloured paper, or draw or paint on the shapes, but I wanted something simple and elegant. White-on-white is simple and elegant, right?

28 December 2011

More New Books, Plus a Kickstarter Campaign Worth Supporting



New Book: Frisland Stories: Eleven Tales of Folk Magic

Frisland is--or was once--an island in the North Atlantic, created by the gods of the sun and moon on a whim, and full of subtle magic. Now and then, there are dragons, but more likely you'll encounter magical foxes who are really fairy folk, people who can turn into reindeer, or a woman who built her beloved a pair of wings so he could fly.


Frisland Stories: Eleven Tales of Folk Magic includes all eleven Frisland short stories, including the two previously published in Two Tales of Frisland:

  • Hollow Bones
  • Remembering to Fly
  • Sealskin
  • Sharper and More Fragrant
  • Cobbleshore Knit
  • Daughters of the Sea King
  • Fox Point Dragon
  • Perilous Child
  • Raven's Wing
  • White Foxes, Full Moon
  • Great Skerry
Buy from Smashwords
Buy e-book from Amazon
Coming soon in paperback from White Raven Press.

New Book: Vixen

Su just wants to sit in a dark corner for a quiet drink when she spots a newborn vampire across the bar. He's confused, and he's starting to draw attention to himself. And he's hot.


So Su decides to give him a few pointers. Then she realizes that the reason this baby vamp is wandering around without a protective escort is that she killed his parent vamp earlier that night.

Now Su feels responsible. A newborn vampire is helpless until he regains his memories and learns how to act like a vampire. Su knows enough about vamps to be able to teach him that. But Su has her own problems. She doesn't have much of a memory, either, and while she's not a vampire, she's not exactly human.

Su doesn't know what she is, and she doesn't have a kindly stranger in a bar to tell her.

Buy from Amazon
Coming soon in paperback from White Raven Press.

Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders Kickstarter Campaign

Doc F's is the magazine that publishes my (as Calliope Strange) serial novel Aeryn Daring and the Scientific Detective. They're trying to raised enough cash to have the first issue of 2012 offset printed, to avoid the enormous cover price the POD magazine costs. There's lots of great fiction in here besides mine, plus articles, reviews, and more on steampunk-related topics.

Support Doc F's Kickstarter

27 December 2011

Book Review: Unexpected Destiny by Ariana N. Dickey

I meant to have this posted ages ago. My, how time flies. Anyway, here's my first (and so far only) review for Self-Publishing Review, which describes itself thusly:

Self-Publishing Review is a central site devoted to self-publishing news and reviews. It is also a social network where writers, readers, and everyone can join and connect. . . . The aim of the site is to improve the attitude toward self-publishing and help authors find readers.



Book Review: Unexpected Destiny by Ariana N. Dickey

First impressions are vital with self-published books, especially first novels with few user reviews. Unexpected Destiny has a fairly bland cover, rendered unfortunately dark and murky by Lulu's printing process. The interior layout is mostly professional-looking, with a few odd formatting choices (most notably in the way non-human dialogue is set, which is not only strange, but inconsistent). Typos are mercifully few, and though I did notice a slight increase the farther I got into the book, I've seen much worse in mass-market paperbacks from top publishers.

But I don't expect you really care that much about the physical book, as long as it's not distractingly badly done. You probably really want to know about the story, the characters, the writing. Curiously, those things, the things that make you want to read a book or not, mirror the book's physicality. By which I mean, there's a lot of heart in Unexpected Destiny, but it's very apparent that this is a first novel.

Ms Dickey has no lack of imagination. The pages of this book are bursting with colorful characters, made-up fantasy species (and some that are more obviously based on myth or folklore or previous authors of high fantasy), and lovingly-imagined locales. The plot proceeds at a breakneck pace, sending the three main characters off on a quest and putting them in harm's way immediately--a different sort of harm on every page, it sometimes seems.

Our three heroes, Ely, Colin, and Faythe, are the latest reincarnation of the Blessed Ones (yes, in caps every time). It is their destiny to free their world from its tyrannical king and the depredations of some nasty gods and their even nastier minions, or to die in the attempt. Which makes me wonder exactly how their destiny is unexpected, since we (and they) know about it in the first chapter. The heroes have a magical map they must follow in order to meet said destiny, and it takes them from place to place where they save people, get attacked by people, kill a lot of people (both on purpose and by virtue of others trying to help them and dying), and learn how to harness their Blessed powers. It often feels like the writer also had a map, or a plot outline, that she followed from incident to incident, in as much of a hurry to get to the next plot point as her characters are to get to the next location on their map. Quite often, I wished she would just slow down, breathe and enjoy the journey.

Unexpected Destiny certainly isn't a bad book, but I can't quite say it's a great one, either. I give it 3 out 5 stars because though there's a lot of promise here, it's promise a good editor could have gone a long way towards bringing out. The writing is grammatically competent, but there are too many stock phrases and clich├ęs, too much telling and not enough showing, for it to ever become truly absorbing. And though the story does reach a sort of resting place, it's not over, as this is the first in a series. To get the whole story, you have to read the rest of the series, which isn't out yet. I certainly wish Ms Dickey the best with her writing, as I think she could produce some fine stories if she's willing to put the work into developing her craft.

14 December 2011

New Book: A Madness of Kentaurs



A Madness of Kentaurs

Octavian wants two things: to see the kentaur herd pass by on the plains, and to have a horse of his own. Ixion is a kentaur shaman-in-training, considered special by his people, but also set apart from them. During the season of madness a runaway horse brings the two together, where they learn that humans and kentaurs have more in common than they thought, and that their nightmares are connected.



It is the time of year when once wild things become wild again, still wild things become wilder, and civilized things shut their doors and pretend they had never been wild.

During the season of madness, the kentaurs of the Pelion foothills—those half-horse, half-human creatures that humans call “centaurs”—journey from their home villages to the sacred lands across the Acheron River. Horses find the kentaur herd irresistible and often run away from their human masters to join the herd. One day, Octavian, stable-boy and floor cleaner at the local inn, gets carried off by the innkeeper’s horse, and ends up trapped in the kentaur herd. He is placed under the charge of Ixion, a young kentaur shaman-in-training, who begins to teach him that kentaurs are not the barbaric, half-sentient beasts he had thought they were.

And then the dreams begin. Dreams in which ancient, cold things with too many teeth steal the boys’ tongues and threaten to steal their sanity. Now Octavian and Ixion both have to learn enough about the otherworld to make it though a grueling initiation ceremony across the Acheron, River of Woe. But first, Octavian has to gain acceptance from the kentaur herd.

Coming soon in paperback

13 December 2011

December Giveaway

I still seem to be trying to catch up with life post-craft-fair (how do people do multiple fairs several times a year?), and can't think of a good giveway for this month, so, in the spirit of the biggest commercial holiday of the year, and the tradition of leaving offerings for the fairies (or something), I've decided to give everyone something this month. Happy Holidays (or insert preferred greeting here)!

So from now until the end of the year, both my short YA fantasy novels are free to anyone who uses the appropriate code on Smashwords (you'll find formats for all e-readers and computers). So download one, the other, or both, and if you like it how about leaving a review? (but don't feel obligated to leave a review--please download and read anyway).

The Coming of the Fairies



Click here and enter coupon code CK38P at checkout for 100% off the cover price. Coupon will expire on January 1, 2012.

Milk Sister



Click here and enter coupon code YK42K at checkout for 100% off the cover price. Coupon will expire on January 1, 2012.

06 December 2011

November Winner

And the winner of November's giveaway is (according to Random.org):

stampernancy

Yayyyyyyyy!!!

I'll send you an email shortly, and if I forget you can send your choice of eBook and your mailing address to me at anagramforink at gmail dot com.

(Sorry Jade, I know you wanted this one . . .)

A new giveaway will be up soonish.

18 November 2011

November Giveaway: Do You Love Books?

Eep! I didn't realize how late I was getting this posted. But here is the prize for this month's giveaway:


It's 9 by 19 inches, letterpress printed from wood type and a linocut in two colours. By me. And if it hasn't sold, I'll throw in the last copy of this card (which I will eventually reprint, should you wish to buy one):


It can't remember the size off the top of my head, but it's about 4 by 6 inches or somewhere in that vicinity. Also letterpress printed, from hand-set metal type and an old printer's cut. (Little trivia aside: the quote is actually, "So many books, so little time." I couldn't find a period in the typecase, so I had to change it to use a comma instead.)

And finally, the winner gets a digital copy of either The Coming of the Fairies or Milk Sister, both of which have books as important items in their stories (and so does the novel I'm working on now, come to think of it).


Leave a comment to enter, and make sure I'll be able to contact you.

10 November 2011

October Winner

So the winner of October's giveaway is (as decided by Random.org):

Jarreds1

Yaaaaay! Shoot me an email with your mailing address and I'll see if I can get your prize in the mail in a more timely manner than I got this giveaway wrapped up.

And stay tuned for November's giveaway. 

05 November 2011

My Week in Books (October 30-November 05)

My headlong reading spree has been checked somewhat by my considerably increased writing output (not just for NaNoWriMo--I've been building toward this for a couple of months anyway), so there aren't quite as many books on this week's list.

New Books in the House
I've taken on another freelance gig (yes, another one) reviewing indie-published books for Self-Publishing Review, and got my first review book this week.

  • Unexpected Destiny by Ariana N. Dickey (available from Lulu)
Currently Reading

  • The Man Who Found the Missing Link: Eugene Dubois and His Lifelong Quest to Prove Darwin Right by Pat Shipman (non-fiction)
  • The Art and Craft of Handmade Paper by Vance Studley (non-fiction)
  • Unexpected Destiny by Ariana N. Dickey
Recently Finished

  • The Eerie Book edited by Margaret Armour (fiction anthology)
    This was my Hallowe'en reading. It's a 1980s reprint (or facsimile, really, because the type and everything appears to be the same and illustrations are intact) of an 1880s (I think; I don't have the book to hand) anthology of eerie stories. There was (of course) some Poe, a lengthy extract from Frankenstein, traditional ghost stories, and various other spooky tales. It was the perfect book for All Souls' and would only have been better if it was the original edition.

02 November 2011

Experiments in Papermaking: Goldenrod

So after several years of not making much paper, a request from a client got me working on it again. I ended up making a big batch of recycled paper from 100% cotton rag printmaking paper--mostly proofs and misprints, with a stack of book pages I had done and then decided not to use to round it off. The result was a lovely, soft, speckled-grey paper then took letterpress printing beautifully. I know I've already showed this photo, but here's the result of the job I did for the client.


But I decided that if I'm going to start papermaking again, I want to do some real papermaking, starting with raw plant materials and ending with paper. So I looked around my property and decided we had plenty of goldenrod and tall grasses in the back field. Goldenrod is also a dye-plant, and Nova Scotia has 19 native species. I think I had two different species in what I harvested. I've showed this photo before, too, but here's what I had after an hour or two of cutting plants.


The next step, once the plants are thoroughly dry, is to cut them into pieces, about an inch long or so. When I was done, this blue plastic bin was just about full (for size comparison, it's about half the size of the big bins in the previous photograph). You may notice that even dry, goldenrod stays green.


Then comes boiling. Lots of boiling. I boiled even longer than my book recommended, as the plants just didn't seem to be breaking down at all. Then I rinsed--lots of lovely golden brown water that I'd do something with if I knew anything about dyeing (an experiment for a later date maybe: hand-dyed bookcloth). Then a shorter boil. Then I drained the plants until I'd have time to blend them.


Still quite green, you'll see. And for those curious about the results of my canning-pot quest, I found this one at Value Village. It's even bigger than the one my mom always used (and still uses) for preserves.


Then comes blending. I didn't take a picture of either that or the resulting pulp. But it stayed very green. Dark, lovely, grey-green. Something to do for next time, perhaps, is to file the blades of my blender so they beat rather than cut the pulp.

I tested out the pulp when I did the demo for the awards gala. I mixed it half and half with my recycled rag paper pulp, because I hadn't had time to blend all of what I had boiled, and I wasn't sure how quickly I'd go through it.


Even mixed with the other pulp, the goldenrod still looked very dark when formed into a sheet, so I was glad I hadn't used it for the menus. However, by the time it dried, it became much lighter, and much less green. it's hard to tell from the photo, but the final paper is a greenish grey with straw coloured inclusions (mostly stem pieces) and darker speckles (the larger, greyer ones are from the recycled pulp and the smaller, darker ones are goldenrod).


I still have half a bin of dried goldenrod, plus a pot full of boiled waiting to be pulped, so next I'll try pure goldenrod pulp. At some point, too, I'm going to try boiling with a little bit of lye, to see if it breaks down better and eliminates more of the stem chunks. I'll be making a new postbound book to keep track of my experiments, with a sheet of the resulting paper and a plain sheet with notes on what I did. It'll probably be nicer than this sample book I made sometime in the late 90s.


The next thing I'm going to do, is make a two-colour linocut of goldenrod to print on this paper to make greeting cards. I just have to decide if I'll print directly on the paper, or print on a separate sheet and tip the illustration on. More experiments, I guess.

31 October 2011

Folklore: Food Offerings to the Fairies

I was going to write up a blog post about Hallowe'en fairy lore, but I'm so stuck into getting my latest short story written that I don't want to take the time. So here, instead, is an extract from my MA thesis (completed in 1999) on food offerings to the fairies. How is this relevant to Hallowe'en? Because the Celtic festival of Samhain was one of the two most active times of the year for the Good People (the other was Beltaine, or May Eve), and thus a time when humans had to be most cautious about fairy encounters. A traditional Irish Hallowe'en fairy offering was a plate of mashed potatoes--the first to be served up from the pot--with lots of butter.

Leaving a food offering for the fairies is usually a domestic event, occurring within the home. The offering is commonly left in the kitchen, either in a bowl on the table or hearth, or in the case of some beverages, poured on the hearthstones. Less commonly, domestic offerings are left outside the door of the house. Non-domestic food offerings, left outside the domestic sphere in liminal areas closer to the fairy realm, may be placed in the barn, at the edge of the woods, or in the sea. These liminal offerings are usually given to specific beings or for specific purposes. Liminal offerings often consist of household provisions like bread, but certain kinds of fairies may require specific food items. Beverages are offered in a bowl or hollowed stone or are poured on the earth, since “all liquids spilled on the ground are supposed to go to their [the fairies’] use” (W. G. Stewart 124). In some cases, it is believed that the fairies eat the food itself, but in other cases it is thought that they “extract the spiritual essence from the food offered to them, leaving behind the grosser elements.” For that reason, food that has been put out for the fairies “is not allowed to be eaten . . . by man or beast, not even by pigs. Such food is said to have no real substance left in it. . . “ (Evans-Wentz 44). Food that has had its essence consumed by fairies may even make humans and animals ill (Evans-Wentz 164).

It is often important that offerings not be made obviously. Fairies are “shocked at anything approaching to the name of a bribe or douceur, yet . . . allow [their] scruples to be overcome if the thing be done in a genteel, delicate, and secret way” (Keightley 358). Though Keightley indicates that some types of food and drink were inappropriate as offerings, it is more important here to note the results of the way the food is given:

. . . offer Brownie a piece of bread, a cup of drink, or a new coat and hood, and he flouted at it, and perhaps, in his huff, quitted the place forever; but leave a nice bowl of cream, and some fresh honeycomb, in a snug private corner, and they soon disappeared, though Brownie, it was to be supposed, never knew anything of them. (Keightley 358)

In the one case the item is obviously offered, and in the other it is quietly left. Drawing attention to the offering can be seen as bragging on the part of the offerer, and gives it the connotation of charity rather than hospitality. Briggs writes about how, in the case of brownies, “the housewife was careful not to offer the tidbit to the brownie, only to leave it in his reach. Any offer of reward for its services drove the brownie away; it seemed to be an absolute TABOO” (Dictionary 46, caps in original). There are also indications in other stories that leaving an obvious offering, especially of clothing, constitutes payment, after which the employment of the fairy is at an end, and it departs.

I've decided to make my thesis available as an ebook, but who knows when I'll get to actually formatting and posting it. At least I have located rtf files of all the chapters, so I know I can actually do it.

30 October 2011

My (Two) Week(s) in Books (October 16-29)

I guess I'm not so good at these weekly update things. I keep being late or forgetting altogether, like last week. Then again, I have been awfully busy in the last month or so. But enough of that, here's what I've been reading the past two weeks.

New Books in the House
I made a trip to Value Village recently and could have brought home a huge pile of books, but I was carefully restrained and only picked up a couple of urban fantasies.

  • Dime Store Magic by Kelley Armstrong (fiction)
  • Greywalker by Kat Richardson (fiction)

Currently Reading
I'm still juggling a pile of assorted non-fiction (mostly), which you can see in previous book posts if you're really curious, but what I'm actively reading most right now are these:

  • The Man Who Found the Missing Link: Eugene Dubois and His Lifelong Quest to Prove Darwin Right by Pat Shipman (non-fiction)
  • The Eerie Book edited by Margaret Armour (fiction anthology)
  • The Art and Craft of Handmade Paper by Vance Studley (non-fiction)

Recently Finished

  • House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones (YA fiction)

    A book by Diana Wynne Jones never, ever fails to cheer me up. The main character in this one is a very bookish girl, which puts me on her side right away. Also, there are improbable houses, odd creatures, a magic dog, and lots and lots of books. Also, Howl, Sophie and Calcifer (from Howl's Moving Castle) put in an appearance. Yay!
  • Common Wild Flowers and Plants of Nova Scotia by Diane Larue (non-fiction)
    There's not a whole lot to say about a book like this. It's a good introduction to the plants of NS, which was exactly what I was looking for. It told me that the woody shrub taking over much of what used to be landscaped garden in my yard is a native plant called sweetfern (which, incidentally, smells like pot if you burn it), and that there are 19 species of goldenrod native to the province.
  • Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley (YA fiction)

    This is rather different from what I expected, based on the many Robin McKinley books I're read, but so, so very good! I don't often have books directly affect me in real life in a tangible way (in intangible ways, they affect me all the time), but this one gave me dragon-headache-dreams (you'll have to read the book to find out what those are). If you think dragons can't be done well any more, read this. These dragons are good.

29 October 2011

Updates of Various Sorts

This was going to be a long long post will all kinds of exciting things (and pictures!), but I'm coming down with some form of sickness and I want to get in some fiction writing time before I fall asleep sitting up. So here's a quick rundown of what I've been up to (with a couple pictures).

Letterpress
I finished reprinting the fox-catching-snowflakes and the blue jay cards (my two biggest sellers), and got a brand new design done, which I've titled "Misquoth the Raven" (anyone want to guess where the title comes from?


I also printed a menu for a client, a photo of which you'll find in the next section (I only have two to show you, so I have to spread them out).

I still have two more cards to reprint (the Pirates Santa) and one to print that I have plates for, plus two more I have film but not yet plates for (the rest of the seasons). I would still like to do a calendar, but it's looking less and less likely. I have a grand idea, but no actual designs, let alone film or plates. I suppose I could see if I can re-use a past year's number plates and do a basic wood type with numbers and maybe add images if I get time.

My intro letterpress class has ended, and my pop-up book class (not letterpress, but I won't have a bookbinding update section because I haven't done much of any recently) just got cancelled. Poo.

Papermaking
My experiments are progressing slowly (slowly because all my time seems to be taken up with doing things for other people) (yes, I get paid, but still). I've had some success with recycled printmaking rag paper, on which I printed the menus for a recent awards gala.


And speaking of said gala, I was there in the reception area for a while, demonstrating papermaking. I have a photo of my set-up (and also of paper-marbling-demo-er Rhonda Miller), but it's still on my phone and I'm too lazy to go get my phone and plug it in (didn't I tell you I'm *sick*).

For the demo, I used a mix of recycled paper pulp and the all-new goldenrod pulp. The goldenrod didn't break down as much as I hoped with boiling, and I was beginning to think I might have to buy some lye (I might still, to do this as a proper experiment). But once I ran it through the blender, the big twiggy bits were minimalized, so maybe I don't need lye. Of course, my blender is rather new (thanks, Canadian Tire, for your fake money that I saved up until I had a huge fat wad that the poor cashier had to count), and therefore sharp, and probably cut up the pulp more than it should have. So another future part of the experiment will be filing the blades dull.

Oh, and a trip to Value Village on the way home from Halifax one day netted me the most enormous canning pot I've ever seen (and my mother has been canning since before I was born, so I've seen canners). It is now my pulp-boiling pot and is currently full of boiled, wet goldenrod waiting to be blended.

The paper resulting from the recycled-goldenrod mix isn't dry yet--maybe I'll take an iron to it if I feel less lazy later--but it's quite dark, and really a rather nice mossy green. I was expecting paler, and golden-browner, especially after seeing the dark gold-brown liquid I poured off after boiling. But it has stubbornly remained quite green through drying and boiling and pulping and papermaking.

Maybe tomorrow, if I am feeling more capable, or less lazy, I will photograph some of this.

Writing
I seem to have stalled with Aeryn Daring and the Scientific Detective. I have chapter five waiting to be edited and had hoped to have chapter six written and edited by now. If I can get editing-for-other-people done quickly, maybe I'll get caught up before, well maybe not before the end of the month, but soon.

So Calliope Strange is lazy, and Niko Silvester is anxious to get A Madness of Kentaurs formatted and covered and out at least as an eBook, but that is also stalled, mostly due to lack of time. Sometimes I feel guilty that I am too lazy, but then I actually list all the things I get done in a day and realize that I don't really take any time off except a few times a week to watch TV (even my videogaming is mostly for work these days), and for an hour or so before bed to read. (I rather feel that read should be capitalized. Read. It's very important to me.)

Nic Silver, on the other hand, while not caught up to where he should be (yes, alter ego Nic is a boy--didn't I mention that?), has been writing a fair bit. Brother Thomas's Angel (which will soon have a new title, once I can come up with one) has become insanely long (considering it was originally meant to be a short story), and is still not done. I have about one and a half sections to go, but each section has been around 10 to 15 thousand words. Well, the ones word processed, anyway. The last several are in longhand and will have to be typed. Also he has begun writing "A Pearl Beyond Price" which will be the spooky story the winner of this month's giveaway gets, assuming it is done. I think it's about halfway. Or at least 1/3. I hope. Also it's not so much spooky as kind of creepy. And it will get more creepy, and maybe not in such a good way.

Okay, this ended up being pretty long after all, so I will stop there and apologise for the headlong blather. I have a books to finish now. One that I'm reading, and also one I'm writing. Or several I'm writing.

Oh, wait, one more thing. I have decided that by the end of 2012 I'd like to be making a living solely from writing fiction. Or, rather, making enough from my fiction that I could at least scrape by. Because I don't intend to stop letterpress printing or bookbinding or papermaking or teaching all of the above, but I do intend to stop freelance editing and freelance writing and freelance reviewing and freelance whatever-elsing  and the sooner the better. Yes, it could all go wrong, but I have to try. I've always thought of myself as a writer--a fictionist--first, and a maker-of-things-related-to-books second.

19 October 2011

The Seasons Cards (All 4 This Time) Digital Proofs

I posted the finished version of the summer card a few posts ago, but here are all four designs in digital form (colours are not final--I generally mix them right before printing and tweak them as I go until they look right.

Spring: oak and hare


Summer: bamboo and fox


Autumn: maple and grouse


Winter: spruce and raven


As mentioned, summer (fox and bamboo) is printed. I have the plates made for winter (spruce and raven) and may start printing tomorrow before I teach, though my time will probably go mostly toward reprinting the winter holiday "Catching Snowflakes" fox card and the blue jay card, as they're my best sellers and the first colour on both is a soft black. As for spring (oak and hare) and autumn (maple and grouse), I've just sent the files to film, which (if I'm lucky) might come back tomorrow so I can make the plates. But we'll see.

17 October 2011

My Week in Books (October 9-15)

Yeah, yeah, late again. But here's what I've been reading . . .

Currently Reading
  • Common Wild Flowers and Plants of Nova Scotia by Diane Larue (non-fiction)
  • The Man Who Found the Missing Link: Eugene Dubois and His Lifelong Quest to Prove Darwin Right by Pat Shipman (non-fiction)


Recently Finished
  • The Search for the Red Dragon by James A. Owen (fiction)

    I think I liked the first book in the series better, but this one is still pretty great. If you love books that include real historical people--in this case many, many favourite writers of fantasy from days past--in stories that didn't actually happen (but what if they did?), you should check this out. I won't spoil it and tell you who the three main characters actually are (if you read much, you should be able to figure out two of them, and if you know those two, you should be able to get the third, and if you don't, you need to read more), but if you've read Here, There Be Dragons, you'll already know. Actually, so much of the joy of this book (and this series) is figuring out who everyone is before it explicitly says, and having all the connections snap into place, that I don't really want to say much at all. If you can, though, get the hardcover, because it's beautiful, and the illustrations benefit from the higher quality paper.

16 October 2011

The Pan-Chronic Adventurers Guild

Here's something I seem to have spent most of the day working on (and which has confirmed the fact that I really need a new computer as every little thing I did seemed to take a million years for my poor little old Macbook to process).


There are still things I'd like to tweak, but I wanted to finish it for a contest that ends tomorrow, and I was getting frustrated with how long everything was taking, and I still can't figure out where all the weird grey cloudy bits in the dropshadow are coming from, because (I thought) I got all the weird stray bits of colour out of the original image (results of a background mistake early on). But anyway, for now, it's done.

Once the files are done processing, it'll be available for purchase through Indy Planet (where you can also get issue 1 of Fey).

I do want to do another version, because I was especially happy with how the satyrs' feet turned out, but then I ended hiding them behind the text in this version. Here's just the satyrs so you can see what they look like uncluttered:


The colours are actually rather brighter in the pre-adding-to-Blogger versions, but whatever Blogger does to compress images always seems to dull and blur them a little.

15 October 2011

Things Printed and In Progress

It's only mid-October, but the Halifax Crafters winter sale will be here soon, so I'm madly trying to get at least some of the things I had planned finished and ready to sell. I still don't know if I'll get a calendar done or not. I hope so, and I have a great idea, but with so many other things to finish . . . well, we'll just have to see how it goes.

But I did get one of the four seasons cards done the other day. I still have to trim and fold them, which I will do this evening while I'm hanging out in the printshop for Nocturne (if you're in Halifax, stop by; we're open 6 to midnight and will be doing demos, selling our wares, and helping folks print a keepsake on a vintage Vandercook Universal 1 proof press). I have the plates made for the winter card, and almost have the files for autumn and spring ready to send to film, but summer, at least, is printed:


My letterpress class has been going really well, and last class we had reached the stage where the students don't need my help very often. So while they were busy setting type, I assembled some wood type for the first in a series of fun and silly posters I have planned. I decided to use some of rather venerable, already-cut paper that's been around the shop for eons, and just throw the type on the press and see what happened. Because one press had black ink on it and the other had red, those were the colours I used. Then I added the linocut at home yesterday.






If I were to print this again, I'd shift the red type to the left just a little, to line it up with the black type, which would also put it just about in the centre of the page. I'd probably also print it on off-white paper, but I like the black and red--very bookish colours. Both this poster and the summer card will be for sale tonight, and eventually in my Etsy shop.

And one more fun thing that won't be ready for tonight, but will be done for the Halifax Crafters sale, is this (ignore the smudged line of type--I was trying to proof without actually setting up my press, so it shifted):


It will be available both as a little print on my own handmade paper, as above (it's just a little smaller than half letter size), and on the cover of hand-bound blank pamphlet journals. Also, the type won't be smudged or crooked. It's a linocut with hand-set wood and metal type.

I have lots more in the works, but that's all that's ready to show you.