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PostPosted: Thu Nov 11, 2010 3:17 am 
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Joined: Sun Mar 27, 2005 12:45 am
Posts: 535
Location: Ithaca, NY
Working on The Front Cover of ‘Visits With Angels’: A Mystic’s Journal Entries: October 26 - November 3, 2010

Image

Image: The first and second front cover versions of the same angel statue.

Tuesday, October 26

A rainy day, the colours rich and deep; some bare branches here and there now; leaves milling on the ground or scampering in the wind; flames of red, swatches of brilliant yellow everywhere ... The sound of the wind through the trees haunting, a Wuthering Heights day ...

An e-mail from Diana, she wanted a new name for the prayers section and wants to move it to the end of the book. I wrote her back with a new title: Prayers to Angels and Our Lady, Queen of the Angels and agreed it was more lyrical and inviting than Formal Prayers. However, now we face the new problem of somehow telling the readers I did not write the prayers.

One problem always seems to lead to another.

I intend to remain firm about leaving the prayers where they are in the book: an angel brought me the idea of including the prayers, the entire section is the result of that angelic visit. In fact, that section of the book begins with the story: A Chapter on Angels Brought By An Angel. However, I understand Diana’s reasons for wanting to move it to the back, graphically speaking. Nevertheless, in this case, and for the sake of the book - I will remain firm.

It is a wonderful feeling when the most pressing problem of the day is where to put a section entitled Prayers to Angels and Our Lady, Queen of the Angels in a book.


3 a.m.

Tonight almost sinister, feels and sounds as though a storm were on the way. Leaves flying everywhere in the wind ... A hint of rain. Diana just left. We finished all our various tasks and corrections to the manuscript, and tomorrow I will print it all up and recheck everything.

First we went to get something to eat; Diana checked her old files and found that she had already made a title page for the Formal Prayers section of the book. Came back to my house and she set herself up at the kitchen table. Changed the Formal Prayers section title to Prayers to Angels and Our Lady, Queen of the Angels. She placed it carefully on the page, all the intricate and mysterious blue and red guidelines and boxes appearing and disappearing as she worked. Found an error in the text; corrected it. Kept the prayers at the end of Section I.

We fixed the remaining blank page problems with pulled quotes; while starting work on the Table of Contents found that a story was missing, The Vigil. Found the story in the original manuscript; fortunately, it was already formatted. Diana tried to insert those pages into the final text file, but software problems prevented them from pasting in as they should and where they should; called her InDesign tech person in Dallas, who had already gone to bed. Diana struggled with the software as I inwardly prayed: luckily there were no footnotes in that chapter, so Diana did not need to link the story with the other ones (whatever that means - and I did not ask what it meant.). In the end, she was able to more or less cut and paste The Vigil in. Unfortunately, the story was three pages long, which meant that she then had to reverse all the pages following that story, to the end of the book, page by page. Then she had to reverse every page placement and folio at the bottom of every page, one by one. One by one and we had humans walking on the face of the moon over forty years ago ... Meanwhile, poor Diana slogs through page by page to the end of the book because she inserted a three page story into the formatted text file...

Found out that we had done the dreaded Table of Contents for the Dream book months ago.

Wednesday, October 27

A beautiful, warm, sunny day, almost springlike. Am printing out the entire file of Visits With Angels. Will reproof it, look for any mistakes created by reformatting the text.

1:32 a.m.

Went to get something to eat after meditation class. Came back and Diana worked at the kitchen table; I checked page numbers, folios; went through the entire manuscript again, this time checking for spacing errors; got my big notebook from upstairs and checked everything we had done yesterday. Found a few errors; Diana fixed them in the final version of the text. Meanwhile, she worked on the Table of Contents. In the end, she decided to use the book angel from the Prayers section in the Table of Contents - photographs of the same angel statue, taken from different angles, that she will alter in one or more of her many software programs.

Adding the new title pages has brought the book length to 190 pages. Diana and I both hope this is still below a page cut-off point set by the publisher, for the sake of the price of the book. I am almost afraid to ask.

Saturday, October 30

We took a day of yesterday and will get back to work tonight. A beautiful grey day, a bit of rain. The house is cold again today, and suddenly we are having trouble staying warm. Called Bob, to take the last of the air conditioners out of the windows - that should help. There is a definite breeze in the computer room, coming from the window behind me.

Sunday, October 31
3:20 a.m.

An e-mail from Diana, with the first draft of the Table of Contents. Am too tired to look at it; will check it tomorrow for mistakes; she will come over and work on the end pages. Her personal plan is to have everything finished by Thursday, including the front and back covers.

Monday, November 1

Today finally feels like winter - even though it still looks like late autumn and dahlias are still blooming ... More trees are without leaves, more leaves are on the ground ... Colour everywhere, the bright prelude to the coming starkness of winter.

Diana is working downstairs, on the end pages. The Table of Contents is now done, and proofed. I am very pleased: in the first draft the angels were a bit big and the print a bit small, so she reworked it. I have started keeping a blank sheet of paper and pen by me as we work, so that I can scribble down Diana’s comments. Tonight, as I was reproofing pages Diana said: “Designing the Table of Contents is sort of like composing a bridge in a song. It can’t look like all the layouts for the stories, but it has to be visually resonant with them. So I felt free to make the structure of the Table of Contents different than the rest of the book. But it has to be harmonious with the rest of the song ...” Of course, being a musician, I especially loved that analogy ... And could actually understand what she was saying.

Tuesday, November 2
1 a.m.

Diana just left. We went for a treat earlier this evening, and corrected the end pages, my bio and one story over french fries and hot fudge sundaes. Briefly discussed We Meet in Dreams. Then returned here and D. worked at her usual corner of the kitchen table. Diana wanted a new caption for my bio photo for the end pages, and we finally settled on “Interviews, angels and late night snacks at the State Diner, Ithaca, NY.” Of course people will have to read the book before they can understand the caption ... We chose that caption because of the last story in the Excerpts From A Mystic’s Journal section of the book, Angels Walking the Street & Divine Beings at the State Diner. Diana and I did at least one interview - if not more - at the State Street Diner. And when we finished the interview for Visits With Angels, I looked around the diner before we left - and saw angels filling the entire diner, because we had been speaking about them. The point being: one doesn’t have to be kneeling in a church to meet an angel. They will come even while we are munching french fries, in the middle of the night, at a busy diner with harried waitresses scurrying and cooks cooking ... In fact, we are likely to encounter them in the oddest of places and at the oddest of times...

After settling on a caption, we looked to see if the new cover angel photograph could just be dropped onto the old cover - which meant Diana had to find her old front cover files. She began with the ominous words, “I had a photoshop file with the layers I used for the cover, I hope I can find it. Otherwise I have to reconstruct the whole thing.” The second computer file she opened was the one, much to her - and my - relief. Her comment: “This is excellent news.” Then she took the new angel statue photograph and masked the background, so we could more or less see what the new cover would look like.

Diana also showed me some of the layers she had used for the initial cover: one layer with the typography; one with the embossed section between the title and subtitle; the glow around the angel; a pink cast and glow on the angel’s face; the rays of light; the halo; light shadows on either side of the angel, hinting at wings; the stone background which she had also tilted, to match the statue’s angle; white mask over the stone background. And most likely more layers that I have now forgotten ...

Diana also e-mailed me some forms from the publisher fill out, and she plans to call them again tomorrow, to clarify how to send them her files.

We are ready to cross the finish line. And we are both exhausted.


Wednesday, November 3

It is almost 3 a.m. and Diana just left. Diana continued her work on the new front cover, following meditation and class.

We might be ready to cross the finish line, but the line has not been crossed. In fact, it seems to be moving further away from us as we go, each step ahead pushing it further into the distance.

She began the new cover with the simple, yet foreboding statement: “There are twenty ways to do everything”. She also taught me a new graphic designer phrase: “non-destructive editing”. In other words: make a new copy of your graphic to work on, even of every separate layer of the graphic - so that you can always go back to the original version if you wish to. Which made a lot of sense, and has undoubtedly saved many a graphic designer from fleeting thoughts of suicide.

According to my scribbled notes, first Diana erased the background of the new photograph, which took a good deal of time and expertise; I helped her a little, using her interesting stylus and tablet. Then she imported the new photograph of the Sage Chapel angel, and inserted it into the first front cover. Next, she began working and adjusting all the various layers of the graphics: the glow around the angel’s head; the colors superimposed on the angel and on the background; adjusted the background and moved it downward; masked divers parts of the cover; rearranged the rays to converge differently and widened them; changed the transparencies; feathered; adjusted the contrast. Most likely I am leaving out many steps she took, and misunderstood others - I could not follow all the intricacies and twists and turns, especially as the hours wore on.

Finally, she was done. I went upstairs and printed up the new cover. I also printed up the old cover.

We laid them out on the kitchen table, in a cleared space near her computer; she also put them up on her computer screen, next to each other. After a long pause I said: “I like the old cover better.”

I couldn’t stop myself from a brief and involuntary half laugh, which Diana echoed; it had been such an exhausting evening, and to end in such a miserable dashing of hopes... And for whatever reason I am laughing even as I type this, for no real reason I can fathom - except that I must.


After yet another fairly long pause, Diana’s initial comment was that inexplicably the angel had aged - years in the second photograph. After a few more moments of silence, Diana slowly and wearily said that what bothered her most about the covers, both of them - was that the cover needed to somehow visually relate to, or reflect, the graphics of the interior of the book. And neither cover achieved that.

We sat silently for a few more moments, looking at the two covers. Finally I understood why I had always loved the first cover. Diana had objected to it because from a photographic point of view - and she teaches photography - simply stated, the first photograph was out of focus. On the other hand, I had always liked the effect, the haziness of it, as though the angel was not entirely in our earthly realm. But after hearing her words and her objections to both covers, I suddenly realized that the angel being out of focus somehow approximated the altered photographs she had used for the rest of the book.

I suggested that she alter the initial cover a bit, to more match her other angel graphics. Etch it slightly, so that it continued her etched angel theme - or better stated, hinted at the etched look of the angels in the interior of the book.

And that is how we left it, both of us exhausted, Diana with her computer under her arm going out into the night, and hopefully to peacefully sleep. I wonder what she will decide.

A few nights ago, on the way to get something to eat, we were talking about her star strip graphics for We Meet in Dreams - and it hit me that the last chapter in Visits With Angels is entitled Walking on Stars. As though one book led to the next ...

The creative process always highlights for me the intricacies and layers of life - just like the intricacies and layers of Diana’s cover graphics ... Or the unconscious connection between the last chapter of Visits With Angels and her star strip graphics for We Meet in Dreams. How carefully orchestrated it all is, all life - in some way, on some level, if only we could stand back far enough - or see deeply enough ...


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