Parallel Universe

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‘Are you in there, Gregor?’
Thomas peered through the viewing window into the swirling gaseous mass that filled the laboratory interior. The chromatic cloud was peppered with pulsating, sparkling spots of light. Quite beautiful he thought.
‘Gregor!’ He shouted impatiently into the microphone.
‘I’m coming, Thomas, I’m coming!’
The ghostly figure of Gregor emerged from the foggy cloud and entered the viewing pod accompanied by a faint metallic smell.
‘You’ll set fire to the building one of these days with your experiments!’
‘It’s really quite safe’. Said Gregor, brushing away glowing beads that clung like embers to his suit. ‘How can I help you?’
‘Bad news I’m afraid. The Grand Council have decided to terminate your experiment.’
‘Why? It’s producing significant data.’
‘Yes, I have read your preliminary report. A number of the species you are studying are quite remarkable. Their constant development of social structures is fascinating. But the time overrun of the project is unacceptable…….you need to be doing something more relevant.’
‘I realise that it has taken longer than expected, Thomas, but observing such micro species has been difficult. A few more days would yield far more information; a day of our time represents many epochs of theirs. We could learn so much more.’
‘I am very sorry, Gregor, the grand council have made their decision. The technicians will clear the lab tomorrow; get rid of this toxic cloud.’
‘To terminate seems cruel; It’s been enjoyable watching them. In all sectors the various beings have evolved physically in different ways, but all are equally resourceful. In one particular group I have detected signs that they are attempting to reach and colonise the adjacent sphere, the one they call Mars. I regret that I won’t see if they manage it.’

‘Gregor. Have you ever thought…?
‘Thought what, Thomas?’
‘That we might just be part of some experiment too…..!’

Birth of a book

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It must be a year now since our book ‘The Pulse of Everything’ was conceived. After a meeting of our writing group I stood in the freezing cold outside the Otley Courthouse Art Centre with a fellow group member, Martin Fuller. We were talking about what to do with the stuff we were writing; how to get it out ‘there’. The suggestion that a group blog should be set up had not proved popular with the members who submitted their work to competitions; works previously published on the internet are not normally accepted by competition organisers. On that cold winter morning, I’m not sure which of us suggested publishing a book, but as a retired designer the idea stirred me; learning about the process of publishing would extend the knowledge of the group beyond just writing.

Once the idea of independently publishing a book was agreed, our group mentor, poet James Nash, set up an editorial team of four: Glenda Brown and Chris Moran, both published poets, John Ellis, a retired English teacher who brought obvious professional skills to the process and me, with no obvious formal qualifications.

The group members were invited to submit the pieces they would like included to the editorial team, a process that took some time; those who worked in longhand had to have their pieces transposed into Microsoft Word. Then, during several afternoon sessions, we sat around Glenda’s dining table and sifted though a pile of poems, fictional works and memoirs. We had to decide what pieces to include and how many to allow each author. We had already decided to give each group member an individual section prefaced with a short biography.

Eventually, we agreed the position of each author in the book and the sequence of their works within each individual’s section. Now we were ready to publish, but we still needed a book title. Numerous ideas were floated and rejected until Chris Moran spotted a phrase in a sonnet by James Nash: The Pulse of Everything.

We considered a number of ‘Indie Publishing’ options. CreateSpace, an Amazon company, seemed the best; it was free and seemed simple to upload the book onto their system. And it is simple, but like anything in life there is a learning curve. For me, it was a steep curve!

One of our group, Alex Williams had experience of publishing children’s books on CreateSpace and so a training session was arranged at Alex’s home; for me to learn how publish the group book and also my own boyhood memoir ‘Memory Spill’ and to help John Ellis publish his crime novel ‘The Mystery of Jingling Pot’.

Enlighten, enthusiastic and slightly apprehensive I started the publishing process. Once I noticed the problem, I changed the laptop settings from metric to imperial measurements (CreateSpace is American), set up a Word document to the recommended margins for a book then started to set out the book. It all looked neat. Very neat. Until I loaded the document onto CreateSpace.

The process is this: You load the Word document then wait while the system converts it into a PDF, a wait that can last 7 or 8 minutes. A clever virtual reality picture of your book appears that you can leaf through to check the alignment of the words on each page. The first time you do this it’s an exciting moment. You start flicking through the pages; page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4 – bugger! The top line has slipped down the page. Back to the Word document where I push the piece up into the page above the reload the document onto CreateSpace, wait 7 or 8 minutes for the virtual reality book to reappear. I flick through the pages. Page 4 is now okay. Flick, flick, flick; page 7 is out of line. Bugger, bugger, bugger. And so I proceeded, laptop on lap, watching TV between endless loading, editing, flicking and blaspheming. An amateur publisher with Tourette’s. My wife, Val was relieved when it was done.

I have since discovered, when loading my memoir onto CreateSpace, that it is a lot easier loading one continuous document. But, I was dealing with multiple pieces of writing of different lengths, and separating the book into individual sections. I also wanted the author’s biographies to face the reader as they progressed through the book, not hidden. I felt also that if a poem ran onto a second page both pages should face each other, that the reader should not have to turn a page unnecessarily. Small design points, but the cause of added complications.

We needed a book cover design. James Nash suggested using images by an artist friend of his, Kevin Hickson. From a number of images we chose a stunning photograph with an upward view through silver birch tree branches. Luckily, my son-in-law Andy Driver, is a graphic and website designer and through his input we have a stunning and exceptionally professional book cover design.

With the cover loaded and the book approved by CreateSpace we were then able to order proofing copies. John Ellis, with his experience as an English teacher, took on the responsibility for proof reading. Quite a few grammatical errors resulted in more loading, editing, flick and swearing while watching X Factor and football matches.

John did more than editing; he had been thinking. At one of our group meetings at Wetherspoons in Otley John leaned across the table.
“I’ve been thinking.”
“Yes?”
“Y’know the blank pages? The blank pages that face the bio pages.”
“What about them?” I said.
“Illustrations.” John said. “Illustrations would look good.”
“Yeah, right.” I said, thinking, bollocks! More evenings of loading, editing and flicking. But, the designer in me liked the idea. I knew John was right.

To fill the pages I invited everyone to email their favourite literary quotes, then looked for royalty free illustrations and images to combine with the quotes. Filling the blank pages was worth the effort and has enhanced the book.

To complete our publishing journey we have a launch evening planned for the 10th March when all the contributing authors will read a selection of works from their section of our book ‘The Pulse of Everything’.

The book is now available from Amazon here.