Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

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By now, if you haven’t heard that Jeff Gerke, creator and owner of Marcher Lord Press, has sold his formidable redoubt in the publishing world to Steve Laube of the Steve Laube Agency, then you must have been under a rock or boulder somewhere.

This is NEWS.

I can sure sympathize with those groaning into their coffee at this change, (I like change as much as I like being hit in the head with a rock) I groaned too.  I have to admit I was as  startled by my reaction to the change.  My  foremost reaction was surprise (totally understandable)  followed by anger (not understandable) and the idea that Jeff somehow had betrayed a segment of the Speculative Fiction population (not really getting this at all).  That segment of the population would be ME.

I know, I know, it’s ugly. Selfishness is ugly. Narcissism is ugly.    This shouldn’t be  a surprise seeing as both of those are sins, and sin is ugly.

I will issue this warning right now: This blog is going to go to some  very nasty corners of my heart at times.  Why?  Well for one thing I’m going to be writing a lot more exhortation specifically focused on  writers who  claim the name of Christ.  Since exhortation often comes with a denouncement of some sort of practice, I don’t want this to turn into a form of my shaking my finger at the rest of the Scribes I know. To avoid doing that  I’m going to share how the Holy Spirit has pointed out my own sin nature  and admonishing me to change, before I turn around and address some of the things I’ve seen others do that are “missing the mark“.

Consider yourselves warned.  Now, back to my struggle with my self-centeredness.

Close on its heels of my surprise, anger, and betrayal,  came the Holy Spirit with a “HEY” moment. It was a sharp mental pinch, like the door catching my foot as I stepped through the doorway.  The sin was  slithering around my brain, and  in a flash-instant He was on that idea  like red against black.

I groaned. Really? This was my first reaction?  Well that’s just great, I thought, I’m starting off the day sinning. How long have I been following Christ again?   The Holy Spirit, thankfully, didn’t allow that rabbit trail to go on for too long.  He redirected me back to the original mis-thought and poked me to start looking at things from a different perspective.

Jeff has taken it on the chin for years.

He came out of the Christian publishing industry and did something different and new.

I know how well different and new ideas go over in the Body of Christ. 

The secular market hasn’t been a whole lot easier on him.

You know, I haven’t seen any of Jeff’s fiction writing recently, other than that short story in Ether Ore

On and on came the thoughts hammering at my citadel of self, cracking the foundation, breaking the walls, and shattering the windows.   Could it possibly be, that the Lord was calling Jeff to stop holding the publishing door open for everyone else, and put Jeff and his writing in their place? Could it be that the Lord knew what was best for Jeff, and was moving him from the good of owning and operating the premier speculative publishing company, to the very best?

Could it also be, that the best for other speculative fiction writers would be to have Steve Laube take over Marcher Lord Press?  Dizzily, I could feel the  defense of my selfishness sliding away like grains of sand caught in the draw towards the ocean.

If I really believed that the Lord was moving all things together, that His plans were better than mine, that His love stretched to cover my dreams, Jeff’s dreams,  and all the dreams of speculative fiction writers striving to honor Him, I had to stop holding so tightly to Marcher Lord Press and Jeff Gerke. They were in the dangerous place. They had become an idol.

Gently, gently, like the murmur of water over soaked  sand when the sea is as still as a mirror,  came this verse: Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. *

The verse caught the last of the debris of my dark stronghold, and pulled it into the sea of forgetfulness.

I was sorry that I had entertained such thoughts about another Christian, and ashamed of my  sin, in putting another flawed human being in a place that really is Christ’s alone. And saddened that I hadn’t even been aware that’s what I’d done.   I repented.   I won’t go into details, some things you just don’t need to know.

I will tell you this; My Jesus didn’t leave me in a place of shame. He took that, and in its place left a marker of holy conviction. His goal, always, is to do what is best for me and to make me the best and truest me possible. One that looks a lot like Him. He is jealous about how I look, and desires for the family resemblance between us  to be more apparent each day.

At the very end of this process,  I was able to do what I love most, and that is to encourage Jeff as he undertakes this new venture. I’m excited to see what stories he’ll now have the time to share with the rest of us, and excited too that the Lord is working out the best for him, and for me.

Now it’s your turn, Scribes.  This week rummage around in the dark, cobwebby places in your hearts and take Christ with you. My prayer is that His gentle work in destroying your own idols will bring the same sense of wonder and excitement that He has brought to me.  And if you have any thoughts to share on the transition of Marcher Lord Press, don’t hesitate to pop them into the comments here.

* Romans 14:4 ESV

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This started out as a simple reply to an article that Speculative Faith ran,  written by a man who knows what he’s talking about when it comes to writing and you can go and read his excellent thoughts here: Wayne’s thoughts on writing new.   

As soon as I had finished reading his tips, a sense of insurmountable dread washed over me. There was absolutely no way that I could do what he recommended.

Honestly, I’m not that imaginative. I can’t play the ‘what if’ game any more. Part of my imagination, I think, has been damaged. Like  a limb that’s lost feeling it fumbles and bumbles around in the writer’s plane while  I watch other writers imaginations dance and twirl with ease. Mine lumbers along, barely lifting its feet, having as much life as a Golem, but at least it is moving.  The tips Wayne gave however made it slow down, slow down, slow down.

To keep my  ungainly imagination from sitting down and imitating a mountain for the rest of time, I began to really think about what Wayne said,  and a glimmer of hope came and flitted about my dulled sense of wonder.

A writer can’t really write anything new. The Lord, speaking through Solomon reminded us all that “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Eccl. 1:9) 

There are between 30-40 plots that exist in the storyteller’s library.  Let me say that again, there are no new plots, only new twists on  the old standbys. To that,  a writer can add roughly  16 master character archetypes, and 3 different narrative points of view (first person, second person, third person)*.

So that means every writer has in their recipe/story box the same ingredients:

30-40 plots
16 character archetypes
3 narrative voices

These are the same ingredients  that ever storyteller has had to work with since one person sat down at a fire and said to the others “A long time ago in place quite like this one…”  And yet from that moment until now, people have told stories.  And not the same story either.

So how can a writer come up with something exciting?

There’s one piece which is different in each story, and that is the  tale-teller.

We  writers each get the same ingredients; plot, character, and  narrative voice. It is our unique perspective and experience that makes the stories different. It’s the writers choices of how much of each item, and which of each item to use that makes the story memorable. The writer is the chef who manipulates the  ingredients of the story and  makes their tale a savory dish, different from all the others.   This is especially true within a genre or story type.

Here’s an example:
Dream Treaders by Wayne Thomas Batson
Wake by Lisa McMann
Gossamer by Lois Lowry (author of The Giver)
Dream Hunter by Elizabeth Knox

All of the above books are about characters who can enter/manipulate/use dreams to get to another country.  All of them are different, because of their writers took the ingredients and shifted them around in a unique way. Same ingredients, different dishes.

So don’t be intimidated, be bold! Be daring! Study the writing ingredients, create a story,  and let me taste your creations!

As for me, I’m going to add a little more  drama/spice to the short story I’m working on and see if that doesn’t get my Golem imagination two-stepping.  Below, you will find links to resources about the 30-40 plots, 12 character archetypes, if you want to look more into these tools.

Theme & Strategy (out of print but seriously worth hunting down)
The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes (out of print except for eformat)

Now I’ve shared how my imagination is doing (bumbling fumbling Golem) how are you starting out the new year as a writer? Is your imagination hibernating?  Is it dancing? Rearing and ready to go? Let me know in the comments.

* Omniscient Narration is a type of third person and there are other types of third person as well that I’m not listing here.

 

Ah, school

Ah, school

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What happened? I mean I was going along blogging  like gang-busters and then *fwoosh* I disappeared of the face of the planet.  Well, there’s a very simple answer for that disappearance. I started school at Colorado Christian University online, and this first course is a ten-week six credit course, in apologetics and philosophy.  It’s called “Understanding Worldviews” and it is hard. It’s also taking up every spare minute I have. Literally. I mean right now I should be watching a two hour video from Dateline called “Faith& Doubt at Ground Zero” and composing an Assumptions Paper with thesis statement and conclusion on that topic. But I’m here desperately pegging away at my blog because it’s been over a MONTH since I posted anything and I am rather desperate to write something not APA format.

Anyway, HI!

School is hard, but I’m doing all right, slogging away and maintaining a low A in the class so far. Not bad for my first time back in a long time. Work is insane, I have  three signing events in 5 weeks and with Resurrection Sunday fast approaching, not much time at all to do anything but react at work (not something I like). I’m working on a scene with my characters, and each month meeting with a friend for two hours to really keep me accountable, and that’s really helping writing wise. *AH* I’ve spent more time here than I meant to!  I might start sharing the papers I’ve been writing just so I feel like I’m keeping the blog somewhat useful (you’re warned) and as a final note here’s what I’ve read recently:

Fiction:
Tuesdays at the Castle (subpar)
Kneebone Boy (excellent)
The Humming room (above average)
This Rough Magic (excellent)
The Gabriel Hounds (above average)
The Moon Spinners (excellent)
Counting Backwards (excellent)
Scarlet (excellent so far, not finished yet)

Non-Fiction:
Making Sense of Your World (phenomenal)
Walking in the Dust of your Rabbi (excellent)
Victim of Grace (above average)

All right, till next time Scribes!

Coriam Deo

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So, I’m reading along in the second day of the M’Cheyene Bible Reading Plan (that I wanted to start in January and totally messed up on but moving on) and it happens that one of the chapters to read is Romans 12.  I’m reading along, and I’m reading along, and I’m reading and I’m all innocent and making notes ‘gifting, yes that’s nice, Pastor Riddell touched on that last week and that’s kinda cool to be here again’ I’m la-laing along as I do when I’m reading and enjoying the Scripture and then this happens:

Bless those that persecute you; bless and do not curse

*wthwap* right between the ole’ eyeballs, it hits like a pebble.  So I rub the bridge of my nose, and continue onward, a little more cautiously this time.  I know better than to be running pell-mell through the chapter once one verse hits. Conviction and these suckers travel together, and where one convicting little pebble verse is, there are sometimes, most times, others.   So I continue reading, rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep, nothing too pebble-of-conviction like there. And then, it avalanched  straight onto my soul.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to hat is honorable in the sight of all.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written ‘Vengence is Mine and I will repay’ says the Lord.

To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry feed him;

If he is thirsty, give him something to drink;

Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.

Ow. Ow. Ow. OW. Ow.

Yeah, apparently there’s going to be more to this “loving my enemies” for six days than I thought. Oh, I’m all ready doing it, but the way. Through gritted teeth, and  with labored breath with sweat pricking along my forehead, but I am doing it. It’s not pretty taking a long sobering look at the ugliness of my own flesh (I’ll spare you,  no need to  terrify you)

I do think, however, Jesus is pleased with His Valentine’s Day gift. And really, that’s all that matters.

What about you, scribes, when was the last time you OUCHED over something in the Bible or the Holy Spirit pricked your spirit with an admonishment? C’mon now, I’ve shared some of my ugliness. I promise, no one will be surprised at yours. We all share the same nature, sadly.

Coram Deo.

Bought By Blood T-Shirt

In exactly six days, the dreaded “V” day will be upon us. People will scramble dreadfully to remember to get cards, and chocolates, and flowers. The level of commitment in relationships will be measured out in gifts and tokens, and those that forget this day will have some rough times ahead.

It is rather glaringly hard, to miss the fact that Valentine’s Day is coming. Stores are chock full of red, white, and pink stuffed animals, and piled with boxes shaped like hearts holding chocolate bonbons. But, who or what is Valentine?

(Other than a rather well-developed character of mine with his own fan base who hates his own name)

The name Valentine means  “Strong, vigorous, healthy” according to Behind the Name

A little bit of research on St. Valentine will bring you into a swirling, whirling vortex of controversies. Some people will claim that he married lovers in secret, in Rome in the third century when marriage was being outlawed. Others will tell you that he was a tutor to a wealthy Roman patron’s daughter and dared to share his Christian faith with her as well as teaching her to read. He was summarily executed but left her a note farewell signing it “Your own Valentine”.

While there is precious little evidence for any of these stories, I like the last one, best. However, there is proof that Valentine or Valentine’s existed according to the Catholic Church record of martyrs.  You’ll find a synopsis here, of what I think is closest to the truth.  Chaucer is mentioned in this history of Valentine and also in the Wikipedia entry on him.

While people will probably never agree on the origin of the day, or why it came to mean expressing romantic love, one to another, I have been doing some thinking of my own over the idea of Valentine’s Day. I’ve never had a sweetheart to run madly around, trying to find the perfect gift for on this day, and it really has never bothered me. In fact, it’s been a bit of a relief to not have the pressure I see others struggling under on February the 14th, but it’s also a bit of a pain to tell to those who ask on the 14th “No, I don’t have a Valentine” and then smile tiredly through their assurances that “One Day You’ll Have One, Dear.”

Last year, I bought a  t-shirt from a new t-shirt company called Bought By Blood, and I love it. In fact, I’m planning to wear mine ON  Valentines day this year. It features the image at the top of this post. Those words got me thinking which is always dangerous. The thought ran along these lines.  Since Jesus is my True Love, and He has given me all of Himself as a life-long Valentine, what can I give Him as a Valentine?

Immediately, the words What good are you if you only love those who will love you in return, even the heathen do that? I yelped, and grabbed for my Bible.

The whole passage runs like this in the ESV: Luke 6:32-35

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those that love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend expecting nothing in return and your reward will be great and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful even as your Father is merciful.

And then of course I had to go looking at the cross-reference which is even MORE specific.

Matthew 5:43-48

You have heard that it was said  ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’ But I say to you  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those that love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Talk about asking for a specific thing. I shut my Bible and said “There is just no way I can give this to you for Valentine’s Day. You’re asking for the impossible here. And I know You, You want this gift for more than just a day.”  I could almost feel Jesus smiling. Waiting. Oh, there are days I know His eyes twinkle when we talk.

So, here is the resolution I have come to: From now until Valentine’s Day (six days) I am going to live and on purpose love those who don’t love me. I’ve selected several I know would like to see me vanish completely from their lives (like you don’t have those people in your life) and not only am I going to pray for them, react in love when they attack me, but I’m going to actively seek their best. For six days. Only six.

I’ve also roped my True Love into helping me with this project. His idea, He gets to help me pull it off. That’s how it works with He and I.

If want to join me on this insane journey which will, I’m certain, make Valentine’s Day very memorable, leave me a comment below. Loving enemies has got to be the hardest thing to do, for me. I’d appreciate prayers. On Valentine’s Day, I’ll repost this, with an update. Also, if you’ve got any interesting ideas about Valentine’s Day I’d love to hear those too. Stick them in the comments.

Coriam Deo

Gathering

With Valentine’s Day being now 10 days away, I thought I’d share a really tasty treat Mom came upon and we tried out this week. While the prep and baking time isn’t short, and there’s a good amount of work involved these are delicious little morsels, they are amazing! They’re only 119 calories a piece too, which mean you can feel decadent without being decadent.

First let me give credit where credit is due,  Mom found this recipe on Taste of Home and I’m so glad she did. The full directions and nutrition count are listed there, as are other people’s comments and ideas about this yummy dessert.

Fear not, all you readers who think this is going to be a boring point-by-point how to bake post. Where would the fun in that be?  Cue dramatic music! (please play whatever music YOU think is most fitting here, its your cue)

Dramatis Personae

1 Cup all-purpose flour

1/3 Cup sugar

1/4 Cup baking cocoa

1/2 Cup cold butter

2 Tablespoons cold water

(this is the crust)

~`~

2 Packages (three ounces each) cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup of sugar

2 Tablespoons of milk

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

1 Egg, lightly beaten

(this is the filling)

~`~

1 Can of cherry or strawberry pie filling

(this is the topping)

~`~

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The awesomeness which is 1 Cup of flour I scooped into the cup, and then plopped into the bowl.  Tiny want-to-taste hobgoblins danced around the counter (oh I know that most of you would say it was currents from the vents on the floor coming up but I say it was hobgoblins)  making the measurement difficult  enough that I went to get stabilizing scissors. Not really but then how do I explain the scissors there?

Beginning
To the awesome flour, I added the 1/4th baking cocoa of power. You can see here  the two having their molecular battle for dominance straight away. Adding the 1/3 cup of sugar did nothing except make the cocoa more rowdy.   It was getting out of hand, and also, out of the bowl. The pushing the shoving, the calling of names, it all happened right there on the counter then  Mom suddenly added in the 1/2 cup of cold butter. That was just like throwing oil on a bonfire. This is immediately ensued:

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Do you see those lumps in there? Oh my. They were my enemies. Sworn enemies. The butter was refrigerator cold, and the flour and cocoa were dry. Four large squares of unyielding fat had to be battered into tiny pieces by my hand whisk. And by battered into pieces, I mean smashed, snarled at, despised, wept over, and given several Al Capone like threats that they had BETTER COMBINE or life would not be pleasant for their families. The result?

Crust done

Something that looked like I’d pooper-scooped it from the neighbor’s yard. But while I was battling MY cooking goblins,  and the ingredients were battling each other, Mom was tripping through the her part of the recipe which was the filling part. Sadly, you don’t get to witness her finesse with the ingredients, only my hacking and slashing through the ranks of the tiny cheese cake sprites.  I did snap this neat picture of her ingredients working together in sweet harmony in the mixer.

whirr best

Then came the time to combine my rebellions crust concoction (that looked like something that should be left in the yard) with her supremely fluffy and good enough to eat on its own filling.   Go on, take a peek.

Dark and Light

The reason mine doesn’t look so sickening in this shot is because I haven’t added the water to the mix yet. Still, see all those lumps? All those rebellous clots of fat that REFUSED point blank to be smashed into elegant crumbles like the pictures on the site? And because of their refusal, when I went to put them into the tiny cups, it looked even worse. I would advise you to go ahead and scroll quickly down past this one and concentrate instead on the creamy filling shots.

crust in cup
I know what you’re thinking. And you’re right, it’s rather disgusting looking. The crust is both sticky, and dense. Mom and I finally resorted to using the back of a floured mellon-baller to get the shape of the  cheese cake crusts correct. It was important that they come up the entire side of the cup, otherwise the filling might have  run all over and possibly attempted world domination. It needed to be contained.

filled pan

However, it smelled very lightly of cocoa and that made it bearable.  Then, this happened.

filling the pan
Creamy goodness, that dropped lightly off her spoon and into my malformed custard cups with the greatest of ease, made the filling of these crusts the easiest thing either of us did all the morning long. By the time  we had filled them all up, I was ready for a nap. It took much longer than the “twenty five minutes” to get to this stage so if you undertake this for the first time, don’t feel bad if getting to this point takes forty minutes like it did for us.  In the end, Mom and I prevailed, that’s what counts. That and the fact that these were delicious.

Best tray
We put them into  the oven for 15-18 minutes  at 325 degrees, or until they stopped jiggling when the tray was gently shaken.

Best Rack
Then they had to sit on the rack for another 30 minutes to truly “set”
But I didn’t wait that long. After five minutes, I did this.

Cherry Rack

And also, this:

Bitten

Delicious!

Directions:

MY PART
In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar, and cocoa; cut in butter until crumbly. Gradually add in water, tossing with a fork until dough forms a ball (this was the struggle, right here) Shape into 24 balls. Place in a greased miniature muffin cups; press dough into the bottom and up the sides of each cup

MOMS PART
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in milk and vanilla. Add egg; beat on low until just combined. Spoon about 1 tablespoon full into each cup (true, it takes a lot to fill the cups)

Bake at 325 for 15-18 minutes or until set (no jiggles) Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Carefully remove from pans to cool completely. Top with pie filling. Store in the refrigerator. Yield 2 dozen.

So, there’s my sweet treat show and tell for Valentine’s Day.  What do YOU have planned? Remember, Valentine’s Day is not just for couples. Take a moment to tell everyone in your life, just how much you love them.  And you don’t need to buy them lavish gifts though they might tell you to make them several dozen of these after you allow them to eat one.  But do tell them how much they mean to you, life is short and love never lessens, it only grows when its shared.  So, SHARE. Especially on Valentine’s Day.

Best

And so it begins. While I still have a queue of books to get through that are Christian from Marcher Lord Press (The Restorer’s Son, Freeheads, Throne of Bones) after that, I am officially out of a reading pile for The Christian Manifesto. It’s a weird feeling, having nothing to review and at the same time, very liberating too. I talked with my editors, and they’ve decided to give me enough freedom to hang myself. I mean rope to play with. Something.

We  (The Christian Manifesto) want to do more secular market interviews and reviews. Unfortunately, we don’t have contacts for a lot of the secular publishing houses and that just stinks. Mainly because I’m bored and am tired of reading the tripe that is often handed out from the Christian* publishing companies. Now, there are a lot of hard-working people in those companies, but they’re still mass producing fiction tripe. And there’s only so much I can read before I start vomiting up plot points and sweating platitudes.  So it’s time to go to  the secular companies that also produce tripe, but at least a different flavor of it.

If you are a friend of mine on GoodReads, you have helped me pick out these books to try. If you aren’t a friend of mine on GoodReads, why not?! I’m constantly crowd sourcing for my next book to try. Find me and friend me.  You can do that by checking out the new widget over there on the side bar, and this ALSO lets you keep track with that I’m currently reading.

In fact, if you check back after I get ten or so answers from the  question I’m about to pose, you’ll SEE the results over there, in the book that I add to my shelf. Ready for that question? Of course you are!

Of the six books in the picture above (I’ll be nice and type them out too along with a link to their spot on Good Reads) which should I try after I finish my current queue? Or possibly interject into my queue?   Which of these titles peaks your  curiosity?

Tuesdays At the Castle by Jessica Day George
A Tale Dark and Grim by Adam Gidwitz
The Clockwork Three by Matthew J.Kirby
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter
A Drowned Maiden’s Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz

Let me know what YOU would like me to read from the above list in the comments below. Or, if you have other suggestions for me, I’d love to hear them.

* Marcher Lord Press is  not one of those turning out the tripe. I don’t always like what they produce, but their work is   always solid in its structure, tone, and editing.

ouch

Today began like any other day; one where I’m surrounded by  things I ought to do on one side, and things I want to do on the other.  In the middle of my procrastination (actually I’m still procrastinating by typing this up but I wanted to share and I have most of the review done in my head) I was discussing Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart with Megan, and went to grab my copy. I was all set  to happily thumb through the story I  love while encouraging her to read it. To my horror, pages fell out of the book.

Okay, so I got my copy in an omnibus edition, so it’s over forty years old, so I only paid a dollar for it at a library book sale. It falling apart in my hands is not acceptable!  Thankfully, I know someone who knows about bookbinding.

My Dad worked in a book bindery as a young man.

The first thing he tells me, is that this is a perfect bound book, not a folio binding.  The good news for the book, is that we can fix it. Folio bindings are a little more complicated than perfect, they’re stronger and more expensive too.

Before I go any further in my adventure in book repair, let me say that this is an amateur fix on a book  with the sole goal  being that I can read the tome without it falling to pieces.

All right, onward for the step-by-step how to perform perfect bound spine surgery.

Step 1: Acquire the help of someone who has some experience in bookbinding

This is very important. Without the aid of someone who has some experience in this, you could wind up with a mess.  So as tempting as it is, don’t go this one alone.  If you don’t know anyone who has experience in bookbinding (and it’s becoming somewhat harder to find those with this skill) click here for some advice. He has a great video series on book binding, and this shows how perfect binding is done.  Also, don’t try this with any book you can’t throw away. Remember, I’ve only got $1 invested in my book.

Step 2.: Acquire tools.

It’s important to use the right kind of adhesive with a perfect bound book. It needs to be able to flex and hold at the same time.  Most of the book pages are still holding together with the original glue which make the work simpler for us.  I also dabble in folio hand book binding and have some adhesive in the basement.

glue

To apply the adhesive, we use a foam brush, the kind that most craft stores sell. I use these for mod pod too, and wait until the craft store puts them on sale for $0.10 each  then buy as many as I’m allowed to, usually there’s a 50 brush limit or something like that. A paper cup to put the glue into, a set of adjustable clamps, two pieces of scrap wood, and a vice are also needed to do this.

brushes

Step 3: Prep the book

Dad aligns the sections of the book that are still holding to the glue and cloth of the spine, then clamps the loose pieces to the top of the pile. This gives him a block of paper to work with that is stable.  It’s important to make certain all the pieces are even, because ones the glue sets its going to stay like this.

clamps

The pages here are clamped to the back of book, not to the workbench.  It takes several tries to get everything lined up as it should be and careful adjustments are made until he’s satisfied that the pages are right, not necessarily ramrod straight, but aligned. After all, I’m going to be opening this book and closing it quite a bit.

Step 4.) Apply the adhesive

adhesive

Dad applies the adhesive with the foam brush, carefully coating both the paper edges, and the membrane that has become disconnected from them. Originally, after the paper was treated and glued the cloth was rolled over the naked spine and allowed to dry. We could cut the paper spine away and do the same but then we’d have to re-attach it using the proper tapes and that’s more work that either of us are interested in doing for this book. Carefully, Dad matches up the upper portion of the book with the lower now-glued portion, and I stroke/press the spine through the cover, making several passes to make sure that the cloth and pages have met and any excess glue is squeezed out and wiped away.

Step 5.)  Position the book in the vice and allow the glue to dry for 24 hours

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The end piece  that you see dangling here  is not really connected to the pages, it’s a different piece of cloth than what I smooth through the spine. See how our alignment isn’t perfect?  And also note the chunks of text that you can clearly see even now that it’s in the vice. It won’t win any book beauty pageants, but then again, that isn’t the goal.  The goal is to have a repaired, readable tome.  And that, I have.  I’ll update this tomorrow with the last picture and the book open to the repaired section so you can see how it turned out. Until then, if you have any questions, post them below and I’ll pester Dad with them.   Also, if YOU have any tips for repairing books, post them in the comments below.

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The movie opens with Bilbo working on his book, and planning his one-hundred-and-eleventh birthday party at the same time.  I liked this, it harked back to Fellowship of the Ring where Bilbo is working on There and Back Again  setting off to the elves so that he might escape the hangers-on and the wasters of his time, and finish his book.  I liked that, very much.  It was a warm wink from Peter Jackson to the fans that have waited for him to get to the Hobbit since The Return of the King ended.

Now, I know, that beginning irritated several of my friends who are purists, and its common knowledge on the internet that Christopher Tolkien is not happy with any of Jackson’s work  based on his father’s work.   Christopher Tolkien  is caught on one horn of a dilemma.  Tolkien’s work is part of him, left behind for the rest of us to see. It is the tangible essence of J.R.R. Tolkien brilliant mind. From his perspective  changing the story is like  redrawing  his father’s features.  I can understand his anger, and his outrage at Jackson’s doing that.

Christopher has also sacrificed a huge chunk of time and talent to bring all of Middle Earth to us, laboring over his fathers incomplete work so that the rest of us could see its glory.  He has a right to be grieved, and a right to “turn his face” from the movies. I can also understand the upset of the purists. They love Tolkien’s original vision and like his son,  want everyone to see that vision, and love it as much as they do.  They want to share the moments of sudden insight, the pictures in their mind’s eye of the characters, and how they felt as they read the book for the first time.

The problem with this, is its like asking everyone to enjoy cauliflower soup.  If you’ve ever had cauliflower soup, you’ll remember it. I’ve not met a person yet who was ambivalent about it. They either think it is a wonderful, hearty, filling comfort dish, or rapidly excuse themselves from the table to spit the mouthful they took into the trashcan and then go scrub their mouths for forty minutes to remove every last micron of flavor that might try to hide within its chamber.  Tolkien’s work is very distinctive, very rich, and very hearty in its verbosity and ideas.

The culture of today is different from the culture of Tolkien’s day; and the way he wrote then wouldn’t be published now. The rules have changed.

Even in his own time, J.R.R. Tolkien was not esteemed for his ‘frivolous dip’ into writing fantasy. Those in the white stone halls of Academia sneered at his offering of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Fantasy has never been upper-class reading. Maybe they wondered why in the world he took all of his learning, all the ancient culture he had absorbed and gave it to the rabble in tomes like those instead of penning something that could only be understood by those blessed with enough intelligence to be admitted into the ranks of the educated elite.  Maybe they thought he was slumming.  And the truth is, he was. But he wanted to give something back to Britain, something that was lacking in the culture (which was not part of Oxford or Cambridge) and his gift was accepted by the man on the street long before it was accepted by those who taught in his college.

As I watched the movie, watched the dwarves come and eat and clean up after themselves in the strange way that they do, watched Bilbo run to catch up with the adventurers, watched  the trolls catch them unawares I marveled at the way Jackson drew from the text and added to it or told things in a different way. It had to be a tough job, not only adapting the book to a movie format but then updating it for this generation.

The attention span is shorter, the average intelligence and working knowledge of a person is much less than Tolkien’s day, and as a culture we are used to in-your-face-heroes, not the more subtle ones that had value in his day.  How do you take a subtle hero like Bilbo, and show him off in a world used to Neo from the Matrix and Harry Potter from The Sorcerer’s Stone? How do you make a small, plain, rather plump and content fellow like Bilbo into a character people want to emulate? Well, you turn him inside out. That’s exactly what Jackson does. He flips Bilbo inside out like a pocket, early on.  It’s Bilbo  who talks down the trolls (in the book it’s Gandalf that does that) and plays for time. That shows that he’s intelligent as well as compassionate (he wanted to see the horses freed).  Later on in the book, Bilbo makes the iconic decision to spare Golem’s life, and then escapes with the Ring. The same scene plays out in living color on the screen as in the book as Bilbo squeezes through the tiny opening and his buttons fly in all directions.

Instead of facing the quandary about whether to turn into the mountain to rescue the dwarfs that have been so wretched to him throughout their quest, or out into freedom on his own, Jackson’s Bilbo faces much higher risks as the movie draws to a close.

There is a powerful climax as the Wargs and Orcs which have chased  Thorin throughout the movie, finally catch up with them on a cliff ledge.  Bilbo, who has taken a verbal beating from Thorin since the start of the movie deliberately steps off a place of safety to defend the man who has bullied him and derided him.

I actually got chills, and looking over at my brother, caught a flash of his features, taut, as he leaned forward.

It is an incredibly piece of cinema story telling. For the sake of those who haven’t seen the movie yet (HI JAKE ::WAVES LIKE CRAZY::) I’m being rather vague. Those  who  have seen the movie know there’s a lot more that happens, a lot more powerful images I could comment on, but I don’t want to spoil this amazing climax for those like Jake, who have a rather longer wait for it.

~`~

David and I tried to frame the movie experience as we darted back through the traffic to his car in the parking lot.

“I think” I said, at long last after a geek-heaven of dissecting different scenes “That what Jackson has done is crept into Tolkien shadow, and used his characters to tell an epic and sweeping, heartbreaking, soul lifting story. But it’s not the Hobbit.”

“It’s definitely not the Hobbit” he agreed and grinned. “Did you like it?”

“I loved it” I grinned back at him. “Best Christmas Present in a Long, Long time.”

So, that’s my conclusion. Jackson’s movie is Hobbit-like but it’s not the Hobbit.  In my book, this isn’t a bad thing. Writers have been cribbing off one another for years. Tolkien cribbed off a historical sources, Shakespeare cribbed from the Greeks, and the Greeks from the Meades and the Persians.

As far back as you trace the art of storytelling, you’ll find ideas and characters borrowed from one storyteller and bent into a slightly different shape by another storyteller.  It’s what we do.  My hope, is that this icecream sundae version of The Hobbit, might make some viewers interested in trying the cauliflower soup.

I know this is one of those topics where there’s a lot of polarization, so let me know how you feel in the comments below. Be respectful, and  be honest.

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Dave ( my brother ) took me to see The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey today. We’d worked all of our scheduling out in advance, and after a delicious lunch prepared by Mom and a time for Dave of visiting with Mom and Dad (while I worked on a side project) we were off! Off to see the 2:40PM showing of The Hobbit. We’d called earlier to double-check the time, not thinking to ask what version the 2:40 showing was going to be. Chagrined, we listened to the clerk rattle off that the 2:40 showing was for the IMAX 3D HD faster-frames-per-minute version of the film.

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That, was unexpected.  I really had no desire to see the faster frames, have never been a fan of 3D or HD, and only have seen the IMAX film documentaries at the Smithsonian.  Plus, the price was rather outrageous. Dave however, took it all in stride and popped the $14.99 a piece price down on the counter, waiving off my attempts to pay for my own ticket.  “I told you, it’s part of your Christmas present.”

He waved the tickets around some  for good measure before handing me mine. I was reminded of my wonderful card, and also “special Christmas bear” he gave me which is *void if ingested* (uh-huh, I’m not the only one in the family with an off beat sense of humor). People were looking at us as if we were nuts. Well we were, but it  was not polite to stare unless they thought we were  wax works and if they thought that they should have paid us. Lewis Carrol said so.

We walked in through the double doors, surrendered our tickets, and claimed our glasses. As we walked up the ramp to the seats Dave sighed.

“You sure you’re going to be all right with this?” he asked and I nodded.

“I know the trick, take the glasses off and shut my eyes if I get dizzy or nauseous” I assured him.

“I know, but I wanted this to be really fantastic.”

“It is going to be fantastic because” I said looking at the nearly empty theater “I’m seeing it with you, and that makes it fantastic. It’s been a long time since we shared something this epic.”  He grinned, and we moved through the vast emptiness to find seats. We were careful not to sit in front of anyone. It’s a pet peeve of mine, people sitting in front of me in a nearly empty theater.  If you have nearly the entire theater to choose from, DO NOT SIT IN FRONT OF SOMEONE ELSE. I don’t care if it’s stadium style seating or not. It’s RUDE.

There were six people in the whole of the theater yet some where sitting right in front of others. I told myself, they had to be family or some such thing. But, over heard bits of conversation made that seem unlikely. As did the fact that one pair moved  so they were not behind another pair of film watchers. We settled ourselves up in the nose bleeds (always a precaution in the 3D movies) and I pulled out  this;
BestJust in case Gandalf had misplaced his copy. I mean, it’s important that Thorin have his key.  Kinda hard for the heir to the “Kingdom Under The Mountain” to access his inheritance without it.  David grinned and shook his head “I think the Wizard will remember to bring his copy.”

The previews started (some in 3D HD and some not) and we spent the next forty minutes ribbing them. Star Trek looked ‘meh’, and the others were so non-memorable that I sighed and said “It’s going to be a long year.”

David chuckled. “Just wait till Disney(TM) starts on Star Wars.” I rolled my eyes behind my oh-so-fashionable 3D glasses