New Ways With Old Books

I’m excited to say that in a couple of weeks, I’m going to the Lakewood Art Council’s gallery in Lakewood, Colorado for a book signing event.  These promotional affairs are still new to me, so I don’t feel cynical if I end up with only two or three people at my presentation.  But I have to admit, I’m a bit nervous about this particular event because I’ve committed to doing an “art project.” Yikes!

Now, many of my friends know that I have been sketching and doing watercolor painting since Eisenhower was president, but to be honest, I’m not that great at it.  I don’t remember if it’s cadmium yellow that stains a paper or winsor yellow.  I’ve never achieved “vibrancy” the way professionals do.  I mostly work hard at painting and have a ton of fun with it.  There is no way I’m qualified to “teach” a bunch of artists anything about painting.

In desperate hopes I turned to the Internet for ideas.  I typed in “books in art” because, after all, I’ll be doing a quick reading from my own book.  The images I found were beautiful, but ancient looking. Hmm. Ancient.  What could I do with that?

"1455 portrait 100" by Darjac (personal collection) - Scanned by Darjac. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -

Johannes Gutenberg on a Hungarian stamp in 1962. Portrait by Darjac, thanks to Wikicommons.

Finally it dawned on me that the whole concept of “book” is ancient.  Johannes Gutenberg is considered one of the greatest inventors of all time because about 600 years ago he invented the printing press, and made reading available to all as a result.  Until his books, people had to rely on oral history and tales passed from mouth to mouth and generation to generation for news and learning. Book printing was the “latest technology” and threatened to destroy campfire tales and other forms of storytelling.

Yet, here we are today with both books and storytelling still going strong.  But a new threat to reading in a “traditional” sense is here.  Books held strong through the advent of the radio, the television, and even the movies.  But can books survive the invention of the computer and the e-book?  Do they need to?

Let’s face it.  Books are fun to read once, and if they’re exceptional a second or even third time.  I remember my dad reading “The Night Before Christmas” every year as I grew up.  But today, for the most part, we read to be entertained for a few hours, educated (at least through the final exam of a semester in college) and inspired to be a better person. When a book is complete it usually sits on our shelves collecting dust and acting as a gentle reminder of good times and thoughts past.

It occurred to me that doing something with books that we no longer use might make a good craft project, even if it isn’t art.  In my internet search, I stumbled across such things as “book carving,” “bookmarks,” and “turning books into purses.”

In a way, this seems like a sacrilege.  One time, when I was in grade school a kid came in with his subject report illustrated by pictures he’d cut from his parents’ encyclopedias.  Oh the uproar!  That boy had “ruined” great books!  It didn’t matter that his folks could afford to buy new encyclopedias.  It didn’t matter that every project Rene brought in was constructed with the finest, most expensive materials around.  He had the audacity to treat an encyclopedia, an encyclopedia for goodness sakes, with irreverence! That scandal flashed through Vaughan Elementary with the speed of a summer lightning storm.  And for every child who was not the hapless Rene, we trembled with the thought of destroying something as precious as a book.

Fast forward to my kids’ growing up (which is still ancient history).  With my pack-rat tendencies, I always had plenty of magazines on hand to cut up for report illustrations.  But even when a National Geographic magazine was years old, I had a hard time letting the safety shears and Elmer’s glue go. Some magazines were as precious as books.

Finally, when the kids had gone and I had enough spending money to be able to buy books regularly, I began to dispose of them.  It remains hard to do, even today.  My big break-through came when I was trying to decorate an office for a company my good guy and I started in 1999.

For the first time I bought a book with the sole intention of cutting it up.  I used beautiful illustrations from the book to cut and glue onto computer discs.  My goal was to combine the idea of gleaming technology and the beauty that is Colorado together.  I ended up with about 10 of these discs mounted and framed.  The project came out well, and for years we received compliments on pictures that would otherwise have been lost in a book on a shelf somewhere.  Who knew I could do this?

So the question is, can we as artists, have a love of book and still create art with it?  Is it bad to cut up books and repurpose them, or should we let go and move on to the compact nature of an e-reader, never to thumb through, smell the ink, or enjoy a quiet afternoon rolling around on the couch to find the most comfy position to read the next page?

If you’re in my area on Saturday, July 26th from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm, I hope you’ll join me for Literary Arts: Meet The Author at the Lakewood Arts Council Art Gallery, 85 S. Union Blvd (Union & 6th Ave. behind the Wendy’s burgers), Lakewood, CO.  We’ll be talking mysteries and doing crafts with used books.


Daisy Update: Yipee!

My friends, it’s official.  I received word from my editor last week that Five Star Publishing will produce Sliced Vegetarian.  Yipee!  I am so excited. So what does all of this mean in terms of getting out to the bookstores and library shelves?

Book Offer from Five Star

Whoo Hoo!!

Step One: Contracts

Within the next three or four weeks, I’ll receive the legal document that forms the agreement between Five Star and me.  In this document they’ll outline where, how, and in what form(s) Sliced Veggie will come out, what royalties are involved, who has what ownership rights to the product, what the legal obligation is for getting the book out in specific times, copyrights, editing limits and obligations and more.  The contract is intimidating but well worthwhile.  Hopefully by August, this contract work will be done.

Step Two: Blurbing and Input

As my book is handed off to marketing and other people within Five Star, I will be asked for things like the back of the book blurb, cover ideas, profiles of the main characters etc.  While I have been working on this all along, the official work document may take a couple of weeks.  That puts us into the later part of August.

Step Three: Editing

If this goes like last time, there will be at least two rounds of editing.  The first will be someone who will read the book for glaring errors in plot and general content. He or she will either give it a go signal or return it to me for corrections.  At any rate this is about a month of back and forth.  Then things, from the author end, go quiet for a couple of weeks.

A second round of editing will take place that’s more detailed. This line editor will go through the book word for word, looking for spelling, grammar, or punctuation challenges. He or she may also comment or question details about passage of time in the story or other layers that aren’t obvious on a first read.  That will probably take another six weeks or so.

Hopefully editing will be complete by the end of November.  But, with all of the books Five Star has to produce, these “deadlines” are not carved in stone.

Step Four: Rough Production

In this step, I think the editors, marketing people, and all the magicians at the publisher’s will be making decisions on how the cover will look (authors giggle over the fact that they send in a lot of good ideas, but the cover never truly ends up how they would expect), where in the market it will be placed, how it will be promoted from their end.  They’ll also work on the ARCs, or Advanced Reader Copies.  I’ll get about 40 of these for my own promotion work (hint: if you missed the last writing contest, now might be the time to sharpen your pencils-heh, heh, heh!). Guessing I’ll get ARCs sometime around June of next year.

I would appreciate your help when the ARCS to come out. If you know book reviewers who have popular blogs or columns in newspapers near you, I’d really appreciate their contact information.  The same goes for library media purchasers.

Step Five: The Waiting Game

There will be months of waiting after the ARCs ship.  I’ll have one last time to make corrections, but mostly, at this stage everyone will be looking for feedback from the big names in publishing–Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly.  I’m also hoping for positive feedback from Gumshoe Press and others who were kind enough to review Faith on the Rocks.  I’ll be using this time to send out news and promotions.

Finally: The Launch

I’m not 100% sure, but I believe Five Star launches books twice a year.  My best guesstimate is that Sliced Vegetarian will hit the shelves December of 2015, but please don’t hold me to this.  I’ll keep you up-to-date on what’s happening as we go.  Meanwhile, I’ll need to have been working on Pot Shots all along, so hopefully that book will be ready to submit to Five Star just after Sliced Vegetarian comes out.


E-Book Autographs

I have electronic signing now.  How cool is that?  There is a website called Authorgraph, in which you can request electronic signatures for some of your favorite books or authors.  Go to the site, and simply request an autograph by clicking a button under the book you’re interested in.  The request is sent to the author who then scribbles his or her name using an artwork software.  This way, you get the “real” author connection.  If you bought Faith online, please click that button, and I’ll be happy to send you an “authorgraph”.  Then you can start a collection of these.  Something fun to do.

Presentation Coming

If you live in the Denver area, I have a book talk coming up.  Hope you can join me at the Lakewood Arts Council gallery on Saturday, July 26 at 1:00 pm.  I’ll be reading, selling, and signing, and doing an art project with regards to either murder or Daisy’s adventures.  Should be fun.


Date: Saturday, July 26
Time: 1:00 – 2:30
Place: Lakewood Arts Council Gallery
85 South Union Street – Suite B
Lakewood, CO 80228
Details will be kept posted on this site until the event.

Wishing you a great week.