Sunday, August 2, 2009

Starting a Fire with Green Wood

Ricky Camps in Rocky Mountain National Park

The title really describes how Ricky Camps in Rocky Mountain National Park became a book. In 2006, my first book, Ricky Climbs Pikes Peak, was published. My illustrator and I had started working on this project in 2001. After 16 rejection letters, Mother’s House Publishing, a local publisher, was interested in the book and other Ricky books I had described. My illustrator had a “day job” and was trying to get his own business, an animation studio, up and running.

He continued to contribute illustrations to Ricky Rock Climbs in Garden of the Gods and Ricky Rafts the Royal Gorge. Unfortunately, at the completion of the rafting book, my illustrator announced that he was going to devote all of his spare time to his own business. I had already started writing Ricky Camps in Rocky Mountain National Park. Without an illustrator, this project came to a crashing stop.

My illustrator then recommended a relative of his to take over the job. She needed to learn how to use to graphics program on the computer to keep the same style. Months went by and I hadn’t received or heard anything. I finally contacted her and she did not know how to use the program but was interested in using a different style.

Because of the “touristy nature” of my books, they need to be completed and ready to sell in April. Tourist season is Memorial Day through Labor Day. Most of these places buy in April to be ready. It was now December and I had an unfinished text and no illustrations.

You never know what connections you make with people in your life. I am a high school math teacher (starting my 17th year next month). A former student of mine happened to be graduating in May with a degree in graphic design. I gave her some files from the previous books and described a cover for her to do. At this point I was desperate to find an illustrator. But how desperate? Would I lower my standards just to get a book out? How would I react if the cover wasn’t good enough? Once again I started stressing out and still couldn’t write with the uncertainties. A few days later, she stopped by with some covers. Not only did she create the cover I described, she did it four ways to see which one I liked best.

I am happy to say that Stacie did a wonderful job. I hired her on the spot! The problem was, it was January and she was headed back to college to finish her final semester. How could I demand illustrations while she had professors demanding projects for grades? She had to graduate. At least I knew that I wouldn’t be a “3-book Wonder”, I just had to be patient. Stacie would send new illustrations in the email for feedback. The long distance communication was difficult but it gave me the motivation to finish writing the book.

She returned to Colorado in May and we set a deadline of Memorial Day to have all illustrations done. We did in fact have all the text and all the illustrations done by that weekend. But my luck wouldn’t change. We met with my publisher and gave her all the files. Now I had to be patient again (something I am not very good at) and wait for the proof copy. The proof copy is a printing of the book, but it is not bound together. This is so I can check the text one more time for errors, make sure each illustration is matched with the correct text, and give any last minute changes. Unfortunately, things would not go smoothly.

The files that Stacie created for the illustrations were not cooperating with the program my publisher used to create the book. After a few phone calls and some creativity, my publisher was able to put the pictures in to the file with the text of the book. But the dark cloud remained overhead. The printer used to print the book was having issues. It was now mid-June and no book was ready.

The last week in June I received a phone call that the proof copy was ready! I immediately went to pick it up. I met with Stacie and another author in my writer’s group the next morning to go through it page by page. I made the changes to the text and had Stacie make a few changes to the illustrations for consistency and turned the proof copy back. A few days later I received an updated proof copy. I called to give one more change and then it was ready; or so I thought.

To print a book, a large piece of paper is used and four pages, front and back, are printed on each piece of paper. The new file was not cooperating. Once again I would have to wait. The printer technician finally met with my publisher and they worked out the problem. My publisher was then able to print the inside of all the books I ordered! But… the cover was not printing correctly and that caused binding issues. Once again I wait. And now my first book signing of the summer approached and misinformation in the paper caused even more problems.

July 19, 2009 I was at the Garden of the Gods visitor center to sign my first two books, the only ones they carried at the time. But the article in the paper that morning said I would be signing my newest title, Ricky Camps in Rocky Mountain National Park. Many people showed up for the new title that I did not have. I invited these people to the next signing which would be the debut of the newest book. July 28, 2009 at Pikes Perk in the Erindale Center. Would the book be ready in time?

I left for a camping trip on Wednesday July 22, 2009 and wouldn’t return until Sunday July 26, 2009, two days before the big signing. I tried not to think about it and enjoyed some relaxing time in the mountains. My publisher isn’t open on Sundays, this should be a day off anyways, so I’d have to wait another day before knowing the status of my books. I am fortunate enough to have only had three migraine headaches in my life. Well number four hit hard Sunday night. I guess I was stressing a little more than usual. Being a “control freak” is not helpful when I have to rely on so many other people.

Monday July 27, 2009, the day before the debut of book 4, I made a phone call to check the status. Finally I received some good news. All my paperbacks were ready but they were still working on the hardcovers. I picked up the paperback books I ordered and hopefully the hardcovers will be ready by 6:00 tomorrow night for the big debut.

If you are in Colorado Springs July 28, 2009, stop by Pikes Perk @ the Erindale Center (on Academy Blvd., just north of Vickers) from 6:00-8:00 PM for refreshments, coffee, and all four Ricky Adventure Book titles.

Why choose "Starting a Fire with Green Wood" as the title for this blog? If you have ever tried it, I think it is a perfect fit to the situation.

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