Monday, June 26, 2006

readjusting our aim

It's the announcement you didn't want to hear, but here it is all the same:

For the publication of Water from a Skull, I'm going to be aiming for my fallback date of July 4th, which marks this blog's third anniversary. Charles is gonna be pissed, but there's little I can do.

One setback I'm currently dealing with is PDF generation. On a Mac with the OSX operating system, you can use a simple "print to PDF" option to create PDFs, but the catch is this: I can't print in the page dimensions I need. In my case, I need to be able to print a PDF with page dimensions of 6.625" x 10.25". I can create a document on Microsoft Word that matches these page dimensions, but when this document is printed out as a PDF through the Mac-native software, the end result is a PDF that is 8.5" x 11". As I said, those dimensions are adjustable, but I'm confined to a set of pre-set page dimension options and cannot create "custom" pages. This is problematic, and I've been emailing the CafePress gurus about what I can do. One CP staffer said they might be able to accept my Word document and do the necessary formatting themselves, which is very nice of them. I'm awaiting confirmation.

Another setback is the sheer volume of editing I'm engaged in. Organizing the book into sections and chapters was nothing: I've managed to break the content down into five major divisions, all given nifty one-word titles:

Section 1: Interface
Section 2: Christianity
Section 3: Buddhism
Section 4: Mind
Section 5: Insights

Within each section are numerous chapters. As I mentioned, that's been the easy part. The hard part is my four-headed hydra:

1. Remove contractions and most slang/swear words; replace with more genteel prose.
2. Find and format all block quotes.
3. Create footnotes.
4. Rewrite sections that are too "Internetty" in tone to give them a more book-like feel.

Obstacle (3) involves some Internet research, because I don't have every single book I cite. Luckily, it's simply a matter of hitting (or the Barnes and Noble site) and looking up bibilographical information.

Obstacle (4) presents a special problem: many of my essays contain references to previous essays. Since I obviously can't include hyperlinks in a dead-tree book, I have to scramble through my manuscript to determine what chapter I need to cite instead. This has been difficult, to put it mildly.

I also have yet to write three essays that will appear in the book. They're in me noggin, but I need to get them on e-paper post haste. I present the essay titles for your amusement:

1. Can a Real Christian Say "Fuck"?
2. The Problem with NOMA
3. Conversion to a Moderate Point of View

Hard slog to the finish, and this week-- my final week of vacation-- I have to go to Smoo campus and get to lesson planning (which also means nudging myself back into a human sleep schedule). I should be able to make the July 4th deadline, but to be honest, I can't guarantee it. We're looking at nearly 400 pages' worth of work, here.

Along with all this, a strange idea popped into my head: how about offering, along with the full edition, a stripped-down version of Water from a Skull, limited primarily to the long essays? Some folks might prefer that. Anyway, it's something I'm thinking about.

So at this point, what's done is the following:

1. Front cover, back cover, and spine are done to CafePress specs and ready to go.
2. The book's "front matter" (title page, copyright page, dedication, etc.) is done.
3. The book's introductory chapter is written (it weighs in at only four pages).
4. The table of contents is almost done, but I can't fill in the specific page numbers until I've finalized editing.
5. Content has been organized according to sections.
6. Major editing has been under way for some time.

This means that the book has resolved itself almost into its final form. This week is essentially a mopping-up operation, because all the pieces, except those three essays, are now more or less in place.

I remain somewhat apprehensive about the quality of a CafePress book. I ordered a copy of a 400-page sci-fi novel from CafePress and have had shipped it to my brother David's office, where I hope he'll flip through it, toss it around, check the print quality, and let his coworkers have a chance to mangle the book, too. I've been reading online about what various customers have to say about CP's quality; one customer rather disturbingly wrote that they moved from CP to, which was an improvement.

I say that's disturbing because my copy of Shawn Matthews's Island of Fantasy, printed by, has not held up over time. I received Shawn's book in December of 2004, and have read it through maybe twice or three times. The book was poorly printed, with some blocks of text appearing cockeyed on the page. Other pages were poorly sliced and didn't match the book's overall shape. The print quality of a Lulu book isn't much to write home about: it looks like cheap laser printing. Worst of all, the pages of Shawn's book have been falling out, likely because the padding compound in the binding was very cheap. If Lulu is an improvement over CafePress... yikes.

Anyway, we'll see. If worse comes to worst, I'll save my pennies and print a short run of Water from a Skull through a more traditional vanity press. I did Scary Spasms in Hairy Chasms that way, using Morris Publishing, and the results were great. Morris books have durable binding and feel like real books. Lulu books, if Shawn's Island of Fantasy is any indication, are cheap and flimsy. A shame: Shawn's book is quite entertaining and deserves a better presentation.

Apologies to the two or three folks who might've been waiting to purchase my book right on the 26th. Just hold on: the book's coming. It's simply going to take a bit longer than expected. Better to do it right than to do it fast.


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