Friday, December 01, 2023

Comic Cuts — 1 December 2023

Plenty of news this week, but let's get the "How can it be December already?" out of the way. The year has certainly flown by. I was working mostly on scanning early in the year and working with Mel on some reprint novels that will eventually see the light of day. It took fifteen years to get On the Queen's Service into a publishable state,

OK, so for almost that whole time it was sitting as a proof on a shelf, but you get my point. Life and other projects get in the way. It was the first book published by Bear Alley for eighteen months, and the little set of Andrew Forrester books I put out in September 2021 was actually my Christmas 2020 project; and putting out some new editions of Gwyn Evans' novels was an idea that dates back to 2012!

If I could work on these books without interruption — that is, if I didn't have to worry about earning enough to pay the rent, bills, living costs and the occasional day off — I'd get more done. I started work on the updated edition of The Trials of Hank Janson in July and it was published in September; the work on George Coates' A Laverda Journey is done and dusted, and the book will be officially launched as soon as George has copies in his hands; and Beyond the Void: The Remarkable History of Badger Books is awaiting proof copies to arrive before that, too, is published, hopefully in a few weeks.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it won't be too long before the next project is finished. I'm planning to get back to Action, which I started in September 2021. I was still writing it in February 2022, which was about when I ran out of money and took on more scanning work when it was offered. Scanning, incidentally, is the easy part: it's the repair and cleaning up that takes the time. Some of those comics were over 70 years old and not always in the best condition.

Of course, everything takes twice as long at Bear Alley Books as it might elsewhere because I'm a one-man band, so I'm writing, designing, publishing and fulfilling orders. Not only do I get to write the book, I get to hand deliver copies to the post office, and everything else in between.

All this talk of work disguises the fact that I've had a bit of a lazy week. I had problems with the Badger book at the weekend when I tried to upload it to the printers. It turned out that — and I have no idea why — a couple of footnote numbers had defaulted to an odd font and had to be replaced by good old Time New Roman. I'm not sure why this happened but might be a hangover from the original text being written for Adobe PageMaker, which probably used PostScript fonts. I went through the whole document looking for anything that wasn't a TrueType font and replaced it.

Thankfully that fixed the problem and I was able to upload the interior of the book on Monday; then it was a mad dash to get the back cover finished and uploaded for both hardcover and paperback proofs. It took me the whole day: Mel went off to work at quarter to eight in the morning and I started looking at fonts. She returned home at quarter to seven that evening just as PayPal confirmed that my payment for the proofs had gone through.

Tuesday was a lot easier. I had a tiny rewrite to do for the Guardian obituary of Michael Bishop, which went up that afternoon. It is 300 words shorter than the submitted draft, which itself was 300 words shorter than my original draft; so there's a version that's about 2/3rds longer. This is the case with most of the obituaries I write (I've said it before, but I like to include everything including the kitchen sink, and most of the kitchen utensils, too). Some of them have appeared here on Bear Alley (such as this one for Harlan Ellison), but some just end up clogging up my hard drive. I'm pleased to say that the longer version will be appearing elsewhere at some point. More news when it appears.

George, the author of A Laverda Journey, was over on Tuesday, along with John Chisnall, who wrote And the Wheels Went Round, which I published back in 2019. This was our final get-together as the book was already signed off; I helped set George up his own account with the printer and we ordered up thirty copies of the book for friends and family. It will be available commercially, but only directly from George. I'll link through to whatever site he decides to sell through when the book becomes available.

Wednesday was the Bear Alley Books' Christmas Party, which meant me, Mel and my Mum went out to the pub for lunch. A good time was had by all. I slept away most of the afternoon.

Thursday was a catch-up with everything else day, paying a couple of bills, returning a damaged SD card to Amazon (sent loose in a small envelope — no wonder it didn't work!), changing some passwords (thanks to the British Library ransomware hack), and writing this. Which brings you pretty much up to date.

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