Wednesday, October 28, 2015

book cover reveal: froelich's ladder

I love book cover projects where I get to geek out. With Jamie Duclos-Yourdon's Froelich's Ladder, which takes place in the late eighteen hundreds, I got to geek out nineteenth century style.

Here's the book description from Forest Avenue Press, to give you a sense of the magic and whimsy of the story:

Uncle Froelich nurses a decades-old family grudge from his perch atop a giant ladder. When he’s discovered missing, his nephew embarks on a rain-soaked trek across a nineteenth century Pacific Northwest landscape to find him, accompanied by an ornery girl with a most unfortunate name. In their encounters with Confederate assassins, European expatriates, and a general store magnate, this fairytale twist on the American dream explores the conflicts between loyalty and ambition and our need for human connection, even at the highest rungs.

I brainstormed lots of ideas and tones for this cover, from photographic and realistic to goofy and cartoony, but I kept coming back to these lovely old book covers from the time period:

I just love the ornate lettering and the fancy borders and, well, everything about these old book covers. What works of art. I loved the idea of doing a modern spin on them, something that retained the lavishness but also added a hint of the whimsy that is a part of the book.

The two books I drew the most inspiration from were both published in 1871, the year when most of Froelich's Ladder takes place. This first is an edition of The Count of Monte Cristo, published by George Rutledge and Sons, Limited. I wish there were an easy way to find out who created these covers. The listing where I found this book said that the book is illustrated with 20 etchings by M. Valentin, but the cover artist was probably someone completely different.

Wish the image were bigger - but you'll see I used some of the border as influence in my piece.

The second is a book called Burns Illustrated. I know nothing about this book except that it was published in 1871 by Belford, Clarke and Company. I loved the typography and the title banner in this one. And the nearly non-stop ornamentation.

I let myself soak in these fabulous book covers like some fancy, gilded bath, and I picked and chose what to glean from them, musing on how best to incorporate all the elements we needed, including a kick-ass blurb by Brian Doyle. Then I used a color scheme that was reminiscent of the classic red and gold but updated into something modern. Funny to be tootling around on Adobe Illustrator, making minute movements with a mouse, creating something electronically that nonetheless hearkens back to book covers that fabulous artisans created, more than a century ago, using such a very different process.

You'll find out what the foot is all about when you read the story.

Here's a quick sneak peek at Jamie Duclos-Yourdon's voice. One thing you need to know is that the characters in Froelich's Ladder have a special method of communication that borrows from Morse code, using thumps and vibrations to create combinations of words. That method is called TAP.

In all of recorded history, Froelich’s ladder was the fourth tallest that had ever been erected. The tallest, of course, had been Jacob’s ladder—which, even if it were fictional, had still been conceived of by man, and therefore had to be counted among his many accomplishments. In truth, neither Gordy nor Binx had any idea how tall the ladder was—not precisely, anyway. Froelich claimed The Very Big Tree had never ceased to grow. He claimed never to have seen the top of the ladder, suggesting it might be infinite. When Binx reminded him that Harald had carved the other end, and therefore the ladder couldn’t be infinite, Froelich had given the TAP equivalent of a shrug.

More info on Froelich's Ladder and Forest Avenue Press is here.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

a moment in the day: laundry

It's a rainy Saturday morning and laundry day in the new house. I step into the bathroom that looks so unlike the bathroom we bought a month and a half ago. New blue paint where it once was mauve, new vanity, toilet, cabinet, rugs and towels, shower curtain. Even the grate in the floor, new. We've spent a painful amount of money but as I look around, there's something so surprisingly satisfying in knowing we've bought so much. How much we've made this place new and our own.

I stop at the laundry hamper, one old thing in this very new room. The basket is halfway across the house full of curtain supplies, so I figure I might as well just grab the hamper itself and take it downstairs. I heft the thing - it's tall and thin, probably a lot easier to take around the corners down the stairs, actually. Nice not to have to transfer the clothes from one container to another just to take it downstairs. Jeez! Why didn't I ever think of this before!

There's a sound that starts out crackle, quickly moves to crunch and ends a second later in a satisfying crack. And, you guessed it, the bottom of the hamper falls out, spilling my dreams of laundering efficiency all over the floor.

Ah. Well, I guess it's never too late to buy one more thing.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

a moment in the day: galley

Mid-day, catching a quick bit of lunch in the midst of all my move-in chores, I sit down at my desk upstairs and flip over to facebook, and one of the posts I see is this picture.

-along with the caption, "To hold a book with your name in it..."

What a lovely thing. The picture is of a page of the early galley for City of Weird, the anthology I'm editing for Forest Avenue Press. Sadly, we weren't able to give galleys out to all the contributors - they're for booksellers and blurbers and the media - but along with being a writer, Leigh Anne Kranz is a radio personality (sssso not the reason I chose this gorgeous story, which, like all of the stories, I chose blind), so she got a sneak preview. How wonderful to witness, even in cyber form, a writer's pleasure at holding a publication for the first time.

I stare at the picture for a moment: the story title, Leigh Anne's name, the tiny bits of phrase. Empty of the pink-fleshed fishThe sonar of hunger.

I remember when I held my own first contribution to an anthology for the first time. 2009, Portland Noir. I was at Powell's, mid-day on a Friday, running up to the fourth floor to grab re-sorts to take down to my displays, and out of the blue, sitting stacked in three face-outs on a cart in the Publicity book corral, was a whole mess of Portland Noir. I just stood there looking at it. It took me a long time to pick it up. I don't know why.

From my journal:

It was a full cart and I stood there sort of moving the other books around, putting Orange Room books with Orange Room books and Green Room books with Green and… well, hovering around. The appearance of Portland Noir in the store changed everything. I had slipped from the anticipation Portland-Noir-Is-Being-Published phase, the I’m-going-to-be-published phase, to the Portland-Noir-Is-Out. The I’m-published. The thing against whose absence I’ve judged my existence ever since… I don’t know when. As early as Sophomore year in high school?

I’m distracted by the fact that I’m not sure if that sentence I just wrote about measuring something against an absence of something is correct. Oh well, what the hell. What do I care? I’m published now. They can’t take that away from me.

Ha, my silly words. But a moment like that is worth some silly words.

I click like on Leigh Anne's post and scroll down, reading people's comments of congratulations. Somewhere along the thread of comments, Leigh Anne says that it made her cry, which makes me cry, and I think, my goodness. Holding my first publication for the first time was a wonderful feeling, the best, but sitting here, looking at Leigh Anne's picture of hers, which I had a hand in, feels even better.


City of Weird doesn't come out until October next year, but here's a little sneak peek at Leigh Anne's story:

The Seattle pod moved south. The sonar of hunger echoed between them. The homewaters were empty of the pink-fleshed fish they loved. They swam fast and close to the shoreline. They followed a troller in the fog, moved in with stealth to pull the fish from the hooks. The grandmother killed a great white shark easily, turned it belly-up and held until it drowned. She learned the technique on her first long migration, from a pod in the Farallons, the triangular islands where sea lions lounged golden on the rocks and bled scarlet in the choppy water.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

a moment in the day: crow

I get, wet, out of the shower in our new bathroom with the new blue paint and the new vanity and the new toilet and the new cabinet and the new floor. I throw on my old robe. Taking a nice, hot shower in the new house is wondering how much bigger that spot in the basement is now, that wide, dark spot where the water spreads out from the leak we discovered yesterday. It's two o'clock in the afternoon and I'm cleaning up after a morning of unpacking, organizing and cleaning in the kitchen, not to mention cooking up all the fresh greens in the refrigerator so we can freeze them since, yes, on this second official day in our new house, the fridge decided to die like the last of my dreams of financial security.

Through the window, two crows, one after the other, fly straight at me so that for a moment, here without my glasses on, I think at least one is going to land on my head. Then one, then two, they swoop up and land on the edge of the roof. My roof; what a strange thing. I put my glasses on in time to see one dip down from the house and land in the center of the backyard. Crows are odd creatures - so sleek, yet they walk like toddlers. She toddles through the sparse grass and willy nilly dandelions that will someday be a garden when we can afford it. Her head jerks and twitches as she looks for things to eat. Finding something I can't see, grabbing it in her beak, she flies up and lands on the fence that separates my yard from the neighbor's. Sits there for a minute. Surveying. A fence is such a different thing to a bird. A perch, a place to rest, as she looks around for where she wants to fly next.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

a time to say...

Goodbye bay windows and French doors.

Goodbye lovely, little dinky kitchen with black and white tiles and beautiful, old wooden cabinets painted white.

Goodbye mysterious periodical pee smell coming from the back closet, which we could never find a source for.

Goodbye streetcar rattling by below our third-story windows on a street with the fabulously redundant name of Lovejoy.

Goodbye four trash bags of old video tapes we never played because they were old video tapes.

Goodbye too many coffee cups.

Goodbye pocket doors that turned one main apartment room into two, the art studio and the bedroom, and that Stephen ritualistically closed every night when we got into bed and opened again with a creek and a crash every new day.

Goodbye too many vases.

Goodbye layer of kitchen grime built up on the too many vases that we decided to keep.

Goodbye ten minute commute to work.

Goodbye bottle of coconut syrup in the back of the cabinet that I don't remember when we bought and I don't remember when / how we used half of.

Goodbye stacks of chipped plates given to me by Mom, given to her by Noni, which I couldn't bear get rid of even though I have so many unchipped Noni plates left.

Goodbye view, far off against the horizon, of the off-ramp to the Freemont Bridge, suggesting the river.

Goodbye black and white checked hat, which was Stephen's grandmother's and which I wanted to wear in the winters but which was too big for my head.

Goodbye Stephen's old records, which someone in this building will have to have really eclectic taste to want to procure for their own.

Thank you mysterious neighbor woman who came into the laundry room and took the Prince, the Duran Duran and the grandmother hat.

Goodbye big grass lot down the block where Nicholas liked to walk, which I used to like to call The Old Pooping Grounds. [We cleaned up after him, of course.]

Goodbye periodic bear walking down the street that I would than realize was a squirrel crawling by on the wire just outside my window.

Goodbye two-minute walk to Kathy's house.

Goodbye horse rings all along the curbs.

Goodbye used twisty-ties and expired batteries and takeout Chinese soy sauce packets.

Goodbye carpet under the bed that Kitty threw up on and that José peed on, the day Stephen and I got engaged.

Goodbye big tree across the street that filled the bay window in our bedroom so that when we lay in bed, it felt as though we were lying in a tree house.

Goodbye nights sitting in bed watching movies and periodically looking out the window, past the tree, to where the rain poured off the streetlamp and made a spray of gold.

Monday, October 12, 2015

a crybaby's guide to moving out

Things that make you cry as you're packing up your life and fixing up a new house and moving out of the apartment where you've lived for ten years:

  • The suggestion that you weed out your grandmother's dishes and only take the ones that aren't chipped.
  • Listening to old Rufus Wainwright CDs as you paint the bedroom and thinking about how much living you've done with this man you met because your aunt once sent you a copy of Poses, and thinking about that poor woman in that song who never fell in love with anyone except for "The Art Teacher."
  • Radiolab.
  • David Sedaris Live at Carnegie Hall - the story about the parrot, the one you used to get tired of hearing because you had it on two different books-on-tape that you used to listen to when you walked around the Pearl District looking for help wanted signs when you first moved in.
  • The poor bug who suffocated in your paint tray.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

a moment in the day: pizza

It's ten o'clock at night, but we're in bed eating pizza and watching Strangers with Candy. Last pizza night in the apartment. We've been painting all day and Stephen's coming down with a cold and we have to be completely moved by the end of the day Tuesday, but you see, we don't have a working oven at the new house, so this will be our last pizza night for a while, and we had frozen pizza burning a hole in our freezer.

All the lasts. Last load of laundry in the apartment basement, last time driving home from work to the apartment, last night eating pizza in bed in the apartment. Red Christmas lights framing the bay window.

Something funny happens on the TV and I laugh out loud and my heart is full of grief and the pizza tastes good.

Yesterday we were working on the woodwork and I heard a sound, a soft, mournful discordant chord. Stephen started saying something, and I did something I never do, I said, "Shhhh!" And we listened. Faint, but a train whistle heard in the house. A first.

Friday, October 9, 2015

a moment in the day: out loud

It's just the Baseboard Guy and me at the house. I'm on the top of a ladder in the second bedroom, painting the edges of the ceiling with a brush to prep for when Stephen takes over later with the roller. The Baseboard Guy is just through the open doorway in the dining room, hard at work fashioning a new length of baseboard for that empty spot in the first bedroom, which is why I'm calling him the Baseboard Guy. Later, he'll be installing some new windows, and I suppose then he'll be the Window Guy.

The Baseboard Guy makes a lot of noise. He pounds on stuff and he scrapes at stuff and he uses some sort of nuclear robot machine to pound nails into stuff - but underneath it all is a murmur. I keep thinking he's talking to me. But he's not. I realized it the first time I thought he was talking to me and he wasn't: he's talking to himself.

"Mmmm, OK, OK," he says. And he pounds on something.

Pretty much every time he's about to pound on something, he says to himself, "OK."

Then the murmur is numbers. "Five, five and twenty-five." He's calculating something or measuring something. "Two-forty," he says, low under his breath, "Five, no, six. Six. OK."

All afternoon, he talks to himself, a kind of nice, comforting drone under the staccato of the scraping and pounding and drilling, the sounds of destruction that really mean whatever is the opposite of destruction, oh yes, construction.

"Alright, alright, OK," he says.

I like that each person who has a hand in making this house different - the Baseboard Guy, the plumber, the roofer, the cleaner - is such a particular person. Each one has some quirk. This Baseboard Guy, I like that he talks to himself.

"I like that he talks to himself," I say.

Out loud.

Oh yeah. I guess I do that too.

"OK," the Baseboard Guy says, "Two-oh-five, yeah. OK."

Sunday, October 4, 2015

a moment in the day: two weeks

It's six o'clock on Friday evening, and I'm off to dump the last of my green tea in the break room sink and put the tea bag in the compost bin so my Powell's coffee cup doesn’t collect a mold forest during the two weeks I’ll be off work. Two weeks for finishing the fix-up on the house, packing up, moving in. Saying goodbye to the apartment where we've lived for ten years.

I've been working late to tie up any loose ends I can think of, and most of the Powell's Industrial Warehouse has gone home for the weekend. As I leave the bright light of the Marketing work space, cup in hand, I find the warehouse dark. There's some light along the rows and rows of bookshelves far off across the huge space, but where I walk, past the lockers and the shipping line, it's dark and quiet and almost eerie. A very different thing from the bustle of the day. Almost lonely.

For a second, I feel like I'm moving out of Powell's. When I'm here next, I think, I'll be coming from... and I almost think home, but then I think, the house.

In the quiet, empty break room, I tilt my cup over the sink, and the dregs of my tea run down the drain.

When I'm here next, I think, and the thought is so strange, I'll finally be calling it home.