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Friday, December 08, 2017

Comic Cuts - 8 December 2017

About 20 weeks ago, at the tail end of July, I conceived the idea of updating a bunch of old Bear Alley essays and putting together a book under the title Fifty Forgotten Authors. Don't laugh, but I thought that this was something that I could probably have done in time for Christmas. Of course, everything takes double the time you expect, and in this case probably a lot longer.

Trying to bring these older pieces up to scratch has been thoroughly enjoyable; I've kept up a reasonable pace and most of them are unrecognisable compared to the originals, some of them expanded by many thousands of words. By October it was obvious the book was going to be huge and I needed to scale back. Hence Forgotten Authors Volume 1 contains probably about a quarter of the contents of the Fifty Forgotten Authors book. But that's still 66,000 words, making it a substantial book in its own rights.

The first volume is now almost ready. Although I spent last Friday and most of Sunday doing the research for one of the authors that will be included (I hope) in volume 2, I've spent the rest of the week working on two versions of the text: an e-book version and a print version. There are no substantial differences between the two, but it's necessary to treat them differently. For instance, the e-book version will have endnotes while the print version will have footnotes. I prefer footnotes, so you can see immediately the source of some quote or piece of information, rather than having to dig around at the back of a book. E-books don't have a foot to each page, so all the notes are at the end, but hyperlinked to and from the main text, so you can zip down to read the note and then zip back to the point in the text you just left.

The first computer I can remember seeing was the giant computer in Billion Dollar Brain. As a child of the Sixties, the only computing class we had at school involved carefully colouring in lozenge-shaped ellipses on a card with a 2B pencil which was then sent off so that, a week later, we could get back a print-out of our names from Honeywell, so I've had to teach myself some rudimentary stuff about html and the like. When I put together The Men Behind the Flying Saucer Review, for instance, I struggled with footnotes and the e-book version looked a mess, so I had to rewrite the text to work footnotes into the text where I could, including lengthy web addresses.

I've now solved the problem... kind of. In my usual, stumbling fashion, I managed to figure out how to place the footnote numbering in line with the text, rather than as a superscript (which is how it appears as I'm writing these essays and how the footnotes will appear in the print version). I had to go through each and every footnote (all 158 of them) and convert them manually. There was one footnote that refused to convert, which I eventually solved by revising the master text, saving this new draft as html, cutting and pasting the new version over the old version, then figuring out how to rename the links... to tell you the truth, I'm not 100% sure what I did, but it seems to have solved the problem and the link now works perfectly.

The print version will have an index, so I spent Tuesday and Wednesday compiling that and by the end of play on Wednesday I had a final version of both an html file for the e-book and a pdf of the print book.

These will be heading off to Amazon later today. I'm writing this Thursday morning while I'm waiting on another printer entirely to fix a problem with one of my old books. POD printers update their software every now and then and it can cause problems with older files. The latest printed copy of one of my books had a couple of illustrations missing (probably due to the layering I'd designed into the pages); so I'm writing this while a proof of an updated version of the book is slowly downloading to my computer. Who says that men can't multi-task!

Once that's sorted, I can start uploading the new book(s). It might take 24-48 hours for them to go live, at which point I'll publish a set of links from the main Bear Alley Books page that will enable everyone to order copies.

It's now some hours later and the e-book has now been uploaded to the Kindle store, which is saying it could take up to 72 hours to process. I've also uploaded the book to Createspace and that, too, should be available within 72 hours. (I seem to recall, having done this once before, that it's actually quite a bit quicker.) Links to follow.

Long-time readers might recall I was putting together a scrapbook of artwork by Don Lawrence, gathering together artwork he had drawn for papers like Bible Story, Once Upon a Time, Look and Learn and Speed & Power. The guts of the book were designed back in 2016 and to the right is the image I intended using as the cover. Well, the collapse of the pound following Brexit put the kibosh on the book... colour printing abroad is paid for in dollars, and the pound dropped by about 13% in value against the dollar in a matter of days. It has since "recovered" to stand 11% lower against the dollar and 15% against the Euro than it was 18 months ago: the pound was worth $1.49 and €1.30 to the pound on 23 June 2016, today those figures are $1.34 and €1.13.

To cut a long story short, the book will now be appearing as a special edition of Illustrators, published by Book Palace Books as a co-production with Bear Alley Books. There will be a few changes, no doubt, but I'm hopeful that the book will come out as the 160-page full-colour collection I originally envisaged.

The last time I spoke to Book Palace head honcho Geoff West he told me that he already has a few plans afoot for other special editions. The next regular issue (#21) will feature Rodney Matthews and J. Allen St. John, amongst others, and then there will be a war special featuring artwork by some of the leading Italian artists – De Gaspari, Biffignandi, Caroselli, Dell'orco, etc. – who worked for the UK through Studio D'Ami. Both of these have "Winter 2017" dates and I'm pretty sure Geoff said they were already at the printers. Hopefully we'll see the Don book by Summer 2018.

Today's random scans are a selection of titles by Dail Ambler under her own name and her most famous pen-name. She used plenty of other names during her days as a "fiction factory" in the early Fifties... but you're going to have to get the Forgotten Authors book to find out more about this very interesting lady. Meanwhile, I hope the following give you some ideas about the sort of books she wrote...


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