Category Archives: Books

A Year in the Life of a Poet

My latest novel is now available on Kindle. I set out to write a story about a poet who lives in his Mom’s basement and is enthralled by a book by a professor Schlitzenberger called The Wisdom of Gandalf. No sooner did I begin than somehow my brain hijacked the plot and turned the story into a sequel of my book The Magic Typer! I don’t know how that happened but one rule I follow when writing is to go with whatever crazy ideas come through my fingers onto the paper. So this guy, Warren, lives with his mother, but upstairs there is a girl that he is in love with, named Olympia. She of the Magic Typer, but this is 20 years later. I won’t say more, maybe you’ll read the book! I had a great time writing this one, and it’s filled with excerpts from a fictional book about Gandalf (you know who he is), as well as lots of poems and bits of another novel, plus letters that should amuse.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0923KKV39

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Django & Bilbo

Today, January 23rd, 2021 is Django Reinhardt’s 111th birthday. On Bilbo Baggins’s 111th birthday he threw a big party and vanished. Having just finished editing my latest novel, which involves a fair amount of analysis, letters and discussion of The Lord of the Rings, I couldn’t help but wonder about the coincidence of these two Eleventy-first birthdays. LOTR is a book about magic in some sense, as is the book I just wrote, A Year in the Life of a Poet, a sequel to its predecessor The Magic Typer.

Django Reinhardt was magic too, if you appreciate anything about the guitar. Where this magic came from is impossible to explain, but to accept that there are things we cannot understand.

I leave you with a paragraph excerpted from my latest novel – a few words from the renowned philosopher AF Schlitzenberger, author of The Wisdom of Gandalf:

It happened to me, so I’m telling you – there are things we do not know and powers we cannot understand at work here, right now, on this planet. If they are good or bad I cannot say, but I am sure they exist. And as sure as I am of that, I am also sure that The Lord of the Rings must have been influenced at the very least by some power that is trying to communicate with us.

JRR Tolkian used a Hammond typewriter like this one!

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Bookmaker

When I was at my aunt’s funeral, about 50 years ago, my Dad whispered to me that there was a guy in the hall who was a bookmaker. It turned out he was my Dad’s step brother, and he had been a millionaire and broke again more than once. I am a book maker too, but of a different sort…

Nanowrimo is over and I have printed my book. I started typing on October 30th with several pages, then began in earnest on November 1st and wrote all the way until December 4th, with but one day off. I wrote over 80,000 words and got a serious back spasm along the way. All the writing was done on manual typewriters, mostly a small group that I prefer; the Hermes 3000 & Smith Corona 5 for desktop portables, and the Hermes Baby, Olympia SF/Traveller, Olivetti Tropical (Hermes Baby clone) & Olivetti Lettera 22 for smaller ones that I use on my lap.

Instead of sending my book off to a POD house for printing, I decided to make my own book for the first copy anyhow. I checked out some videos on book binding and researched how to set up a printer to print signatures. I wish I’d known this earlier! It’s not difficult and very enjoyable. I printed the book at half letter size, 5.5 x 8.5 inches precisely, so the signatures are printed 4 pages to a letter size sheet. The PDF print driver allows this to be done and all you have to do is set the number of pages in each signature. I set mine to 5 pages, and then printed 20 pages at a time to fill the five sheets on two sides. You could go ahead and print the whole thing at once however, but then you’d have to sort the signatures afterwards. You need a laser printer that will duplex, I should add.

sewing signatures on the Kenmore with whatever thread was loaded already

Rather than hand stitch, which was taking too long, I decided to sew the signatures on a sewing machine, which went through 5 sheets of paper with ease. My book has 230 pages, which means I should have made 12 signatures of 20 pages each to end up with an even number of sheets. The last signature had fewer sheets, so I added another signature at the end to make up a few blank pages for the cover, and for any correction notes, etc. These next pictures are an example using scraps to show the process.

signatures clamped and glue applied

With the signatures together in order I clamped them and glued the spine with a sheet of paper wrapped down the front and back an inch, using white PVA glue. Then I glued on a heavy card cover to the front and back sheets, but not the spine, and clamped it to dry between two boards. So far it is holding up and looks like a real book!

wrapping a strip of paper onto the spine to bind the signatures together
clamp and wrap the paper tightly, then glue on a cardboard cover later

A better job can be done if you wish to make a fine book, complete with cloth cover. The proper way is to sew the signatures together, but I didn’t bother since I just wanted a copy to read and edit, and didn’t wish to make a work of art for my purpose. If you research bookbinding you will discover there are many more steps that can be done to make a fine book, but for just a sketch or note book this method here will do well enough.

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Ciel the Blue Horse

At last the sequel to Sky the Blue Mouse, which the world has been clamouring for. In these times of trouble, woe and “whoa – don’t get too close to me buddy”, let your spirits have a lift by delving deep into the world of blue animals, hobos, hot air balloons and mysterious stone towers!

Ciel the Blue Horse is now available on KDP in paper and ebook format. Click the picture to go to Amazon and get yours.

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The Social Distance Isolation Blues

Two months, no gigs. For a musician this pandemic has put a halt to that, among everything else. But, we came up with a plan this week – a concert on the front lawn, maintaining 2 metres between players. I debuted the Corona Gold guitar, which performed flawlessly. I however performed less flawlessly, and more so as the temperature continued to drop and the wind picked up. By 8 PM we were done, after 90 minutes straight out fun.

my band –  bassist Larry is behind the tree

the sign says it all

Meanwhile, life in isolation goes on. Meetings are held via computer. Days are spent alone, mostly, making something, or lately – painting again. I made a second guitar following the pattern of the Corona Gold, but this one strictly acoustic. I switched the top bracing from parallel to X, and made the body a little deeper than the previous one. Also employed the X brace on the back, and the same projected neck design. Having a tall bridge allows using a nifty adjustable bridge too, which makes action adjustments dead simple. Body and neck are maple, with spruce top.

Corona Gold II – the acoustic version – Engleman Spruce top

back plate – arched X braced

detail of projected fingerboard

detail of neck heel

Again I finished this using wiped on polyurethane varnish mostly, with a few coats of french polish shellac on the top to make it glossy.

When the guitar was done, I decided it was time to get out the paint again, after a year. My first project was a kid sized card table, which became the canvas for duck. This is for the amusement of my 3 grandsons.

duck on a small card table

Two of them saw it, and were mostly impressed with the little pictures of trucks I painted around the edges. So much for the duck!

Next up was a scene from the Presidential Range of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Once upon a time I spent many vacations hiking along those ridges, and several times staying in the huts. Lake of the Clouds hut is the largest of them all, and commands quite a view from its perch on the shoulder of Mt. Washington.

lake of the clouds hut

Sticking with the wilderness theme, I rendered my vision of a scene along the Cold River in the Adirondacks of New York (corrected from previous label of Raquette River, which was somewhere else). This was from a slide (Kodachrome even) I took while hiking the Northville-Placid Trail in 1979. May it remain ever wild and remote.

I’ve also been working on another picture book for kids, called Ciel The Blue Horse, and intend to publish it any day now.

Ciel frees Aaron the snail from the bucket in which he was captured.

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Sky The Blue Mouse

It was all due to a typewriter. A fellow came to buy a typewriter for making story books with his daughter. After he left, I was doodling with my watercolours and thought I’d give it a try, so I took out a sheet of paper and drew a picture of a tower from my imagination. I didn’t type on it, but wrote a few words. Then I did another sketch, and another, and soon I had the beginning of a story in pictures; so I abandoned the idea of words altogether and decided to tell the tale in sketches.

Perhaps I should have called this book; Sky – or, The Blue Mouse, following Melville’s Moby Dick – or, The Whale. But it’s too late, as this only occurred to me after I had published. Let there be no confusion, this is nothing like Moby Dick – or, The Whale, except that it involves an animal in the title.

The hypothesis is that my version of the story isn’t the only possible version. I tried it out on several youngsters, whose versions were surprisingly different from my own. Here is an abridged version:

Sky The Blue Mouse

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The Mole – Book Launch

Part Four of the Mates & Men saga

After rescuing his best pal Jerry from kidnappers, Miles wants nothing more than to take up a peaceful life with his love Kyra in the sleepy Greek village of Katsantika. Jerry thinks his globetrotting adventures are behind him, until a troubled PhD student vanishes, and the distraught parents hire Jerry to find him. Jerry’s one time boss Nelthorpe has a problem at MI6 that sends him looking for help from the only person he can trust. He believes the key may lie inside a cell of agents-provocateurs which he believes is the conduit to the mole. When the FBI pounce on an organized crime ring, they need Jerry’s help too, despite not wanting it. Meanwhile, in London, MI6 has an empty flat that will soon have a secret occupant who specializes in cyber-security. This is the tale of THE MOLE, the man Nelthorpe fears, despises, and must uncover before another agent dies.

My latest novel is now available. It takes up where the trilogy Mates and Men ends. It took all of November and some of December to write the first draft on my typewriter (mostly a Smith Corona 5A). Click on the red typewriter (Author Page) in the picture to get to the links for all my books.

I finished the editing a few weeks ago, but then had to draw the illustrations. Here are a couple of sketches from the book:

Miles at the pub, waiting for his contact

Francis at a strip joint

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So You Want to Write a Book?

you will need one of these

47,000 words. 25 days. 50 hours. 25 cups of tea. 22 pages of plot notes. 93 pages of typewritten draft. 1 Olympia Traveller. 1 Hermes 3000. 1 Smith Corona 5 (Eaton’s deluxe). 1 sore back. 1 case of nerves. 25 beers (dinner). 10 swims. 6 walks around the lake. Countless hours of pondering the plot. All just to say you wrote a book. A book you will publish yourself and that will not become a best seller, win the Booker, the Giller, the Pulitzer, or the Nobel or a million other prizes. Even if you think it should, which is ridiculous, but so what? Why else write a g–damned book?

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Further Adventures of Sluggo the Slug

The World Tour, and Worms and Ants, the 2nd and 3rd in the series of picture books for toddlers have been published. Thus ends the saga that began with a tale about a slug and a snail, inspired by carvings made from tree trunks in a forest in Switzerland. Click a book cover to go to the site.

The World Tour – book 2 of the series.

Worms and Ants – book 3 of the series.

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A Walk Around Mont Blanc

Exactly one year after I started the walk, the book is published. We began September 1st 2018, and on September 2nd we hung around in the lovely village of Les Contamines, since we goofed up and started a day early. I did not plan that, but it was amusing to write about. I had planned to write about the trip before I went, so I took 2 notebooks and filled them with my observations and thoughts along the way, as well as filling an entire sketchbook journal before I left. There are lots of guidebooks about the Tour de Mont Blanc, and blogs of course, but few paperbacks. My research only came up with one book about hiking the TMB that was not a guidebook. Now there are at least two books on the subject (in English that is). The price is $19.95 (USD). Black and white would have been much cheaper, but in looking at a draft I realized that much of the enjoyment would be lost without the colour photos. So, if you don’t want to spend that much, the E-book is only $2.99!

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