Just Sittin’ Here Watchin’ the Fiddleheads Grow

After a long stretch (for Vermont) of very warm, very dry weather, rain moved in on Sunday night.
Fern in sun for web
Well, maybe “moved” isn’t quite the right verb. It was more like the rain came lookin’ for a fight because the wind accompanying it tore up trees along Route 14 in Sharon and uprooted two HUGE maples near Route 4 in Quechee.

But last night and today, we got the soaking we really needed. (Red flag warnings for fire danger are pretty rare around here but we’d been in one since late April.)

The green of our northern New England world grows more intense by the hour, and the riverside plants that we walk among just needed a good shot of H2O to take over their flood plain home.

At this time of year, my favorites are the ostrich ferns, the ones we eat as fiddleheads when they are barely out of the ground. They should be shoulder high today!

What’s the Best Way to Publish my Book?

Not that long ago, the only path a writer could take to get herself published was a murky trail through a wilderness of gatekeepers known as agents and editors. That wilderness, now known as traditional publishing, grew up around printing technology that not only made the mass printing of books possible, it made the mass printing of books necessary.

In other words, it was economically impossible to print a single copy of a book from the time of Johannes Gutenberg’s many inventions (around 1440) all the way through the end of the 20th century.

Like so many other industries, the staid world of book publishing has been completely upended by digital technology. No author has to bow before the tastes and vagaries of agents and editors if he doesn’t want to. The ability to publish one’s own books is now back in the hands of authors where, in my opinion, it belongs.

Now the question isn’t “May I publish my book?” but “What’s the best way to publish my book?”

The best way to figure out your answer is to understand how you intend to use your book. Is it genre fiction? Ebooks only might be best. Is it an art book full of imagery? Then a full-sized coffee-table, full-color book may be the best option to suit your material. Is your book going to be used to teach? Then it might be best to do both an ebook as well as a print book.

Of course costs are a consideration. Books-on-paper are far more costly to produce than electronic books, more time-consuming as well.

So what are my intentions for String Theory I?

It’s primary purpose is to provide easy-to-use patterns for folks interested in making lap quilts for people with Parkinson’s disease. It is also going to be used as a fundraiser for the Comfort Project.

There’s also my intended audience—quilters. What works best for them?

Quilters are, by nature, a tactile lot. We stroke fabric, rub batting between our fingers, move blocks around on design walls as we create our masterpieces.

Yes, many of us use online video tutorials to learn certain techniques, look at photographs on the web, learn patterns from bloggers. But we still love our paper, our books.

In addition, it is much easier to provide a premium for a donation in physical rather than digital form. Not that we can’t do both paper and electronic versions of this book. Chances are good that we will. But with a fundraising opportunity coming up at the end of June, the print version is the most pressing.

So that’s where we’ll begin.

Book Construction 101

Now that my Thieves of Fire project has moved from production to publicity, I have cleared production space in my days to produce a quilt book for the Parkinson’s Comfort Project.
Chloe's quilt top-2015
The working title is String Theory I but that could change.

I do a lot of workshops on publishing which give me the chance to realize how much of the process I take for granted because I’ve been doing it for so long. So I thought this would be a good time to capture the ABCs of creating a book from start to finish.

I chose a how-to book as my sample because it is relatively short, it is easy to illustrate and it covers all the basics in a single package. And when this series of blogs is complete, I will have an ebook to share.

When I start to work with a client, my first question is always: Why do you want to publish a book? What are you going to do with it when it’s done?

Answering these questions determines a book’s path through the production process so the answers are key.

My thinking about String Theory was sparked a year ago with a question from someone who does not quilt but would like to participate in the Comfort Project. “Do you have a pattern for something really simple that I could follow?” he asked.

Not really, at least not at that time. But his question lingered with me because I figured there had to be an answer.

The second genesis event was the Comfort Project’s first Piecing for Parkinson’s Day. I was so busy organizing the event, I never stopped to think about its results—a stack of quilt tops that had to be finished.

For the un-quilters among you, quilts are basically three-part sandwiches—a top (usually of several pieces of fabric sewn together in a pattern of some sort), a backing fabric (most often a single piece of fabric) and a middle layer of insulation, most often cotton or cotton blend batting nowadays.

When you sew the three layers together, you have a quilt. (This sewing-together process is called quilting, by the way.)

So the Piecing for Parkinson’s Day was great but the end result was a tsunami of unfinished tops flooding my quilting inbox.

What I needed was a simple pattern and process that gave folks the opportunity to make an entire quilt from start to finish.

That’s where String Theory began.

And who is my audience?

Friday Photos

Some folks create out of chaos, some out of organization.

Me, I’m the organizational type. I make chaos while in the midst of a project but as soon as it’s done, I clean up. This happens in my writing life as well as life-life, if you know what I mean.

With Thieves of Fire off my plate, for the moment, I needed to make a new header with the book’s final cover so I’ve been rummaging around in my photos to try out some header possibilities.

Rummaging is a good word for it, I guess. What I’m really trying to do is figure out what my kayaking-on-Grafton-Pond photos are doing in six different locations.

So in no particular order, here are some of my favorite pix, rediscovered as I rummaged along.
Two turtles in the sun for web
Red:green oak leaves in sun for web

Honey bees on bright pink asters, October 2014
Honey bees on bright pink asters, October 2014

Sunflower 3 for web
Sumac leaf with a little red for web
Esargot leaves for web

A Cloud of Covers

I sent the final, final, final version of Thieves of Fire to the printer yesterday. The text will be off to the ebook conversion division of Full Circle Press tomorrow.

I’m done.
TOF cover cloud
One of the most difficult aspects of any book is its cover. I’ve been designing covers for a fair number of years and no matter how much I read about “what makes a successful cover,” I still think that no one really knows for absolutely sure.

My friend and fellow quilter, Nancy Graham, made quilts for both of my Carding novels and I love what she created for Thieves. However, I’ve had to take a step back from my admiration to critically assess what I can use on a cover because the size of a book (6 x 9 in my case) is so much smaller than the canvas that Nancy uses.

The “cover cloud” that I posted here shows a few of the cover incarnations that I tried for Thieves, including using one of my favorite photographs, “Sunrise on Holland Pond.” I took the Holland Pond picture when my husband and I were there on vacation a few years ago.

I used this photo as a placeholder on the advance reading copies of Thieves because I was still not happy with my treatment of the crow.

Once the advance reading copies were out, I took a break but then went back to Nancy’s quilt.

The crow and the key dangling from its mouth are critical elements of the story so I wanted them to grace the final version of Thieves. For this incarnation, I opened up Photoshop, did some cutting and erasing to get the crow and the key just so, scanned a fabric from my stash that I thought had promise for the background, layered them together, added text…and then I was satisfied.


A Little Spot of Yellow

The sun hasn’t been very strong yet and I suspect that there’s frost still making its way out of the ground in the woods. So the wildflowers are taking their time.
Coltsfoot flower for web
But hunkering down amid the leaf litter are the brave little flowers of coltsfoot.

And the honeysuckle is starting to leaf, the stems of the river willows are greening up, and there are robins everywhere.

Must be late April in Vermont!

Author of the Carding, Vermont novels, quilt books, and book publishing guides.