After Christmas Gifting

From our Shameless Commerce Department…

Image copyright Fred FirstThe Fragments Gift Set (one signed copy of Slow Road Home and one set of Fragments Note Cards — see sidebar–for $25 delivered) is a great way to spend some of that Christmas money you don’t know what to do with.

You might even send the book to Aunt (Aint? Aunt?) Jenny, who you forgot in the first wave of gift giving, using one of the cards to explain to her how a meteor fell on your bedroom, utterly destroying your first choice of gift for her. Now, an even BETTER gift: a slice of life from Goose Creek.

She’ll be thrilled. And tell her I said hello. (Notecards available separately also.)

Sounding Off

A few weeks back, I downloaded a copy of the beta of an Adobe soundediting software called Soundbooth. It ought to be easy according to the promo material–as easy as it was back in the month after I paid for Cool Edit 2000 before Adobe bought it, called it Audition, and then charged me $120 to upgrade, which at the time was out of my budget.

Cool Edit (which Soundbooth is touted as the successor to) was an intuitive program for a casual sound-tweaker like me. You could cut and copy, slide tracks and fade them separately to overdub one sound (voice, for instance) with another (musical interludes, openings and closings.)

If it works, fix it, Adobe seems to have decided. Every sound editor I’ve tried (but not bought) since is a hassle. Soundbooth, for now, is no better, and I haven’t even seen a price for the finished product, but in line with other Adobe full package softwares, it will be more than I want or need for my purposes to spend. Heck.

All of this, to say I’m hoping to do more audio posting this coming year. It is one of my goals, you might say, and first up, I was going to upload an mp3 file (getting it in that form, also a hassle!) simply called “Resolutions” (about goal setting and success) as my new year’s wish for readers (blog and newspaper–where it will appear January 4th). I’ve uploaded the file–without the musical embellishments I’d intended. (5MB and about 5 minutes)

So let me be, in this way, the first to wish you a happy and “rich” new year. (The piece mentions the book “Think and Grow Rich“; if you’re interested in a fairly concise summary of the basic principles in this old but influential book, this is a good source.)

New Years Resolutions: Good Goals to You!

Reciprocal Chicken Soup

Not that I was having a bad day, mind you–anything but–and yet, getting Dana’s kind words and book comments in the email just after the Family Turkey Dinner the day after Christmas was a wonderful lift–a little chicken soup for the soul.

Dana Wildsmith, Georgia poet and teacher, on the other hand, was recovering this week from a spell of gray days, and it was good to hear that Slow Road carried her a little ways back towards wholeness and health.

It wasn’t until the Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative in October that I actually met and got to know Dana, though her face was familiar from a dozen meetings and conferences in the few years since becoming an attendee at Appalachian writing events.

What I discovered at SAWC was that Dana is one of the few poets I consider “accessible”. Another is Colleen Redman here in Floyd. Turns out I had two copies of Dana’s newest book of poetry, One Good Hand, and gave one of them to Colleen recently. That exchange felt like connecting two live wires, completing a kind of circuit between poets, growing new synapses in the collective mind.

I will tell you something: I sat down a month ago and read Dana’s book, front to back, aloud. I got started, and couldn’t stop; it just begged to be heard that day here alone. And after that, I had hoped to do something I’ve never done at the Spoken Word at Cafe del Sol a few weeks back: read another person’s work than my own. Didn’t make it to that meeting, but I still have and highly value One Good Hand (many of the poems are dog-related, for those of you who have affinities that way.)

I put Dana’s kind words up over on the book website, if you’d like to read it.

Oh Bring Us Some Foggy Pudding

At 11:25 last night, the phone rang. It was Ann, half-way home. She had made it part way down George’s Run, and had to turn back. It was so foggy she could go no farther without the white lines along the edges of the road to guide her–something that little country road lacks, though it is paved for all its very dark, winding four miles, a short-cut that drops about five minutes from the trip.

And so I put on my bathrobe and fired up the laptop to have something to do to stay awake for the 30 minutes it would take her to get home down Christiansburg Mountain, along Allegheny Spring road–complete, all the way to our country lane with white lines to show the way.

But what would I do if she didn’t show up in a reasonable amount of time? And just how long should I wait? She would be out of cell phone reception; nobody else would be on the road that time of night, should she end up in a ditch or wrapped around a tree–or a deer. And would it make sense for BOTH OF US to be pulled off the side of the same road in different places penned down by the fog?

At midnight, I put on my clothes, not really knowing what I intended to do, but preferring to be ready to leave the house, should she call from one of the dark and far-between farm houses along the way.

At ten after 12, reluctantly and not knowing how to proceed, I picked up the phone. When I punched the ON button, the dog bolted up the way he does when he hears a car coming. Maybe it was just the phone noise that startled him. I dialed the “9” of 911, preparing to tell the hiway patrol to be aware of her route and situation.

Then I heard what the dog had heard, then saw the sweep of headlights through the pines, and Ann drove up non-plussed at about 12:15. Merry Christmas, welcome home, and such is life in the boondocks.

Ho Ho Hum

Don’t mind me. And of course, I don’t have to tell you that, all you bloggers who are NOT reading blogs or writing to yours today, immersed as you are in family events of the holiday. I, however, am alone and entertaining myself–watching the fog roll down off the ridges, occasionally tormenting the dog, snacking on sugary or fat-sat munchies to wile away the hours til the first wave of company rolls in after dark. Ann left for work a bit ago, won’t be home til midnight.

Not that I have not been busy this past week–hence, some gaps in the regular posting to Fragments–but those tales have only been the kind of thing to blog on a day when nobody is listening–for my ears only, mostly–like today. And hey, it’s my blog, so here’s what’s happening on Goose Creek.

On Saturday, the proof copy of Slow Road Home was delivered–a day late, not overnight by UPS as promised, but over two nights: “item missed at destination” it said on the tracking page. Somebody in Roanoke was asleep at the wheel. And I must tell you, it was with some dread I upboxed the book and took my first look on Saturday afternoon.

Suffice it to say, at first glance, I was relieved. The only option for the laminate was glossy, not mat like the first edition. I had feared it would look like plastic. In fact the colors and edges are sharper and brighter that the original (in addition to the fact that I upped the saturation a bit before submitting the cover file.) I also eliminated the background color from the spine, and so now the text (title, name and publisher) is simply laid down over the cover image that spills nicely without a break from front to back–much more contiguous a scene than before. Downside: the cover stock is not as heavy, and I think maybe a little less durable to wear than the offset-printed book from Edwards Brothers.

Internally, the Table of Contents I think is a good plus for the second edition. I made some changes there after seeing it for the first time in the Lightning Source copy. The interior black and white image quality was another place I dreaded to see in the revised version, but they actually are little different from the offset half-tone versions, and I’m pleased.

However, the subheadings for each little piece that originally were gray (60% black) just for detail came out looking thin and rasterized, so I converted them to 100% black. I’ll have to send in a revised text file now, but that’s all ready to go on Tuesday, and the book should be completed and ready to have its presence made known to Amazon, Barnes and Noble and such by the first of the year–which was my target date! (and Google Books? I rankle at having them scan the book and parse it out to customers. To be decided–next week.)

Busy year? You bet. This time last year, I hadn’t even started compiling the book from the Fragments posts that formed the basis for the book. I didn’t have a clear idea of where I wanted it to go with it, organization-wise, and had no idea how I would create it other than to start out in Word (but ultimately purchased Adobe Creative Suites through my now-expired status as adjunct faculty at Radford U.)

I had little certainty then that I would persevere to complete it and actually ever have it in my hands. This in the end came to reality on April 27 when 24 cartons of 48 books were deposited in our driveway. I did know that, for the first run, I wanted to “do it by hand”, which I have done. Every copy sold to date has been signed. Now I’m ready for step two: making the process run itself via digital printing and order fulfillment while I move on to other things (while still doing book events, drop-shipping to individuals, and keeping some degree of direct personal involvement.)

About future endeavors: more to come!