Communion Of Dreams

Some big news.

So, some big news to share about our care-giving memoir Her Final Year.

Starting tomorrow — New Years Day — and running through this Friday (January 4th), the Kindle edition of Her Final Year will be free to download for anyone who wants it.

But that’s not the big news.

During the same period, Jan 1 – 4, the paperback version of the book bought through our CreateSpace store will be $2.00 off: just use discount code ZZYCFFG2 when you check out.  Please note that this offer is only good through the CreateSpace store, not on Amazon generally.

But that’s not the big news, either.

The big news is that we’re permanently lowering the price of the book — in both Kindle and paperback editions — by $3.00. Yup, the new Kindle edition price will be just $5.95, and the paperback edition price will be only $13.95. These price changes will go into effect on January 1, and will be the new baseline prices across the board.

To date we’ve given away 7,191 copies of the Kindle edition of Her Final Year.  That’s a very good start in terms of getting the book into the hands of people who need it, and the reviews have been *very* positive. But we would like to see it have even further reach. So even though we haven’t yet broken even on the costs invested in the book, we’ve decided to go ahead and lower the price permanently, and to kick off that new price with these special 4 days of promotions.

Help us out — be sure to get your copy of the book, if you haven’t done so already, and to let others know.  Caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other age-related dementia is a huge, huge problem for families all around the globe. Our experience as care-providers can make the journey easier, sharing how we coped with the joys and sorrows, the personal failings and the personal growth.

Thanks — and Happy New Years!


Jim Downey

It’s the End of the Year as we know it…

So, the WordPress Machine informs me that I’ve had a fairly busy year blogging here.

* * * * * * *

As I mentioned a while ago, earlier this month I had fallen prey to the nasty bit of cold virus going around.  Turned out that the damn thing was even more stubborn for my wife, who is still struggling with a hacking cough and various other annoying symptoms.  We’ve been keeping a close eye on it, watching for signs of secondary pneumonia, which would call for antibiotic intervention, but I think she’ll get past this on her own.

Which is good, because there really isn’t much we can do to fight a virus. In this sense, medical science is at about the same place in viral treatments as we were in dealing with bacterial infection 70 years ago:

In 1941, a rose killed a policeman.

Albert Alexander, a 43-year-old policeman in Oxford, England, was pruning his roses one fall day when a thorn scratched him at the corner of his mouth. The slight crevice it opened allowed harmless skin bacteria to slip into his body. At first, the scratch grew pink and tender. Over the course of several weeks, it slowly swelled. The bacteria turned from harmless to vicious, proliferating through his flesh. Alexander eventually had to be admitted to Radcliffe Hospital, the bacteria spreading across his face and into his lungs.

Alexander’s doctors tried treating him with sulfa drugs, the only treatment available at the time. The medicine failed, and as the infection worsened, they had to cut out one of his eyes. The bacteria started to infiltrate his bones. Death seemed inevitable.

* * * * * * *

You may not have heard much about it here, but the norovirus is causing all kinds of grief in the UK. Cases are up 83% over last year, and are estimated to have hit over a million people already. In the UK the norovirus is commonly called the “winter vomiting bug” whereas here we tend to call it “stomach flu”.  As miserable as it makes people feel, it’s usually not a life-threatening disease for otherwise healthy people, and the best thing to do is just ride it out.

Of course, public health authorities have taken steps to try and limit the spread of the disease into populations where the virus could be life-threatening, and a lot of hospitals have curtailed or eliminated visiting hours. Furthermore, appeals have been made to the public to not to go see their doctors or go to emergency rooms for routine cases of the norovirus, since there is little that can be done to treat the virus and this just contributes to the spread of the disease.

Still, people get scared when they get sick, even when they know that it is a fairly common bug that’s going around — and one that most people have had before and gotten over just fine. So they tend to swamp available medical services, overwhelming the health care system.

Just think about what would happen if it was a disease which wasn’t known. And one which was killing people so quickly that they’d drop over in the street on the way home from work.

* * * * * * *

I’ve been thinking about that a lot, since it is an integral plot point to St. Cybi’s Well.  This isn’t a spoiler, since the advent of the fire-flu is part of the ‘history’ of Communion of Dreams.

But it is something which has had me in a bit of a quandary this fall, as I’ve been working on writing St. Cybi’s Well.

Howso? Well, because I kept going back and forth on making one final decision: where to end the book.

See, I know how the *story* plays out — I’ve had that all sorted since I first worked up the background for Communion of Dreams. But in going to write St. Cybi’s Well, I needed to decide exactly where in the story that book would end. Which is to say, I needed to decide how much, if any, of the onset of the fire-flu would be included. Because I could set everything up and have the book actually finish at the onset of the fire-flu — after all, the reader would know what was about to happen. Why drag the reader through that horror?

* * * * * * *

A week or so ago I made my decision, and I’ve been chewing it over since then as I’ve been busy with other things, making sure that I was comfortable with what I have decided, and why. I’m not going to give you the details, but you can safely assume from what I’ve said in this post that at least some of the pandemic will be portrayed.

I decided this not because I have a desire to write about the horror (in spite of what I may have said previously) but rather because it is critical for character development of the main character.

Poor Darnell.

* * * * * * *

So, the WordPress Machine informs me that I’ve had a fairly busy year blogging here. 293 posts (this makes 294), which is a faster pace than in some years. Of course, I’ve had a lot of promotional stuff do to with the launch of Communion of Dreams last January and everything to support that through the year, not to mention the Kickstarter for St. Cybi’s Well.

And while I’ve cautioned that I won’t be writing quite as much here on the blog as I’m working on St. Cybi’s Well, well, it does make for a nice change of pace.

So thanks for being along for the ride this year. Together we can see how things go in 2013.


Jim Downey



There comes a point …
December 28, 2012, 5:56 pm
Filed under: Art, Book Conservation, tech | Tags: , , ,

I love what I do professionally. Seriously, if I hit the (figurative, since I don’t actually play) lottery tomorrow and never had to work again, I would still spend part of my time doing book conservation work, probably as just donation for various under-funded state & local organization who need such work done.

Nonetheless, there comes a point in any project where you’re just glad to be done with it. A couple hours ago I delivered work to a client, including the 1470 legal text I have written about previously. I thought I’d show the end result.

When we last checked in, I said that the book was ready for a cover – one made with fake “cords”. Well, here’s the process of making such a cover:

Prepping the high-density bookboard - using a wood rasp to bevel the edges, which was typical for books of this era.

Prepping the high-density bookboard – using a wood rasp to bevel the edges, which was typical for books of this era.

Goatskin leather. Heavy grain, wonderfully strong and lovely, processed using archival dies and tanning salts. This skin cost about $200.

Goatskin leather. Heavy grain, wonderfully strong and lovely, processed using archival dyes and tanning salts. This skin cost about $200.

Leather cut to size.

Leather cut to size.

I thought I took some pics of the process of mounting the boards and fake cords to the leather, and then the cover to the text block. Guess not. But it is not fundamentally different from the images to be found here.

Here’s the cover, finished and mounted to the text block:


And here it is with the new spine label (calfskin, gold foil) mounted:


Remember, this is how it came to me:

As it came to me. Note the 1960s-era spine added to a 1880-era cover.

As it came to me. Note the 1960s-era spine added to a 1880-era cover.

Big difference, eh?

Jim Downey

Oh, PS: Forgot to mention it yesterday, but I chatted with the librarian at the institution about this book. To the best of his knowledge, there are only about 100 known copies of this book still in existence. One in good condition is probably worth between $50,000 and $100,000.

“My God, it’s full of stars!”*

I’m no mathematician, and I won’t claim that the imagery used of the ‘artifact’ in Communion of Dreams was intended to reference this, but if you think about it (and have read the entire book), this kind of explanation would work with higher orders of dimensional reality:

Mathematical Impressions: The Surprising Menger Sponge Slice


Jim Downey

*Of course. Which also fits with CoD, since it was an explicit homage to the first movie/book.

11 months.

Happy Boxing Day! Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, filled with love & friendship.

Yesterday was also a “Promotional Day” for the Kindle editions of Communion of Dreams and Her Final Year, and both books saw a decent amount of traffic for a holiday.  More on HFY later — right now I want to chat a bit about Communion.

As it happens, yesterday was also the 11 month ‘anniversary’ for the paperback edition of Communion of Dreams — the Kindle edition came out a few days earlier, but January 25th is what I consider to be the ‘launch date’ for the book.

And in 11 months, there have been a grand total of 23,216 downloads of the Kindle edition of the book, sales of 25 paperback copies through Amazon, and something about twice that of paperback sales through me directly (including the Kickstarter copies). Of the total downloads, a bit less than 7% were sales/loans, totaling 1,507. Meaning that I gave away some 21,709 copies of the book.

Selling 1,500 copies of a first novel really isn’t too bad, to be honest, and that would have been about what was expected through a conventional publisher in the past for an unknown writer. And to be quite honest, I’ve earned more from doing this than I would have through a conventional publisher — the ill-fated Publisher Who Shall Not Be Named offered me an advance which was about one-third of what I have made on the book so far. It’s not a lot of money, but it is nice to be rewarded for all our hard work — thanks, one and all.

And “moving” 23,000 copies of the book all-told? That’s downright respectable.  In the previous 5 years when I had the earlier .pdf version of the book available on my website, there were a total of about 35,000 downloads. That right there shows you to power of Amazon’s system and Jeff Bezos’ vision.

I will again offer free a “Promotional Day” next month — probably in conjunction with the first anniversary. But don’t let that dissuade you from going ahead and buying a copy of the Kindle edition, the paperback, or even the hand-bound hard-cover — remember, you’re helping to support good independent writing and art!

Again, happy holidays, everyone!


Jim Downey

Merry Christmas!

Just a quick note to wish everyone a happy holiday, and to remind you that today the Kindle editions of both my novel Communion of Dreams and our care-giving memoir Her Final Year are both *free* all day long today!

If you haven’t already gotten a Kindle copy of both books, I invite you to pop by Amazon and download them — you don’t even need a Kindle, because there are free emulators for just about any electronic computer/mobile device you may have gotten from Santa today.

And if you know someone who likes good classic speculative fiction, or who has someone in their family/circle of friends who is dealing with care-giving, please share the news of this promotional day with them.

Merry Christmas to one & all!


Jim Downey

“First they ignore you…”*

I’ve been sick with the current nasty version of cold/flu going around, so I missed writing about this:

They used to call it the “vanity press,” and the phrase itself spoke volumes. Self-published authors were considered not good enough to get a real publishing contract. They had to pay to see their book in print. But with the advent of e-books, self-publishing has exploded, and a handful of writers have had huge best-sellers.

True, of course, but the piece is also about how the ‘traditional’ publishing houses are now trying to get in on the self-publishing market:

There have been more and more self-publishing successes recently, and the audiences are growing by leaps and bounds, says Carolyn Reidy. She’s the CEO of Simon & Schuster, which recently announced that it’s launching a new self-publishing service. If traditional publishers want to survive, Reidy says, they have to keep up with the rapid changes taking place in the industry. The growth of self-publishing is one of them.

“We actually understand that it is a different world than what we do,” she says. “We want to understand it, and if it is going to … be a threat to our business, we definitely want to understand it and also see how we can turn that to our advantage. And one of the advantages is, it is a great way to find authors, also new genres and new audiences.”

Because I’ve been sick, perhaps, my attitude is “screw ’em.” Yes, I would like to have my books readily available in brick & mortar stores. And realistically, that’s only practical through a traditional publishing house.

But as I have said and documented here for almost six years now, traditional publishing is broken. The major publishers were too inflexible in the face of changing technology, and entirely too insular & inbred in how they sought out new authors. If you were famous or had a connection inside the industry, you had a chance of getting noticed, otherwise it was nothing but a lottery with little or no regard for quality.

I certainly haven’t hit the big time with self-publishing. And I have had to work a lot harder at promotion. But I am *very* happy with how it has gone, and I really appreciate all the help I have gotten from my readers.  Thanks, everyone!

And to that end, let’s do a “free download” day for Christmas: The Kindle edition of  Communion of Dreams will be free to download all day. So if you don’t have the book, get it! And if you know someone who you think might enjoy it, tell them about the promotion!

Merry Christmas!


Jim Downey

* Of course.

December 18, 2012, 11:19 am
Filed under: Art, Book Conservation | Tags: , , , , , , ,

This is post 1,454 for this blog.

There’s general agreement that the first copies of the Gutenberg Bible were finished in 1454 or 1455.

So I thought I would revisit progress on my conservation work on the 1470/71 text.

Last time, I had finished resewing the book using a ‘conservation chainstitch’. Historically, the book would have been sewn onto cords, but given the way I had to re-join all the pages into sections, I decided to use a sewing structure which is more gentle on the folios. When the time comes to make the leather cover, I’ll position fake cords (the ‘bands’ you see on old leather-bound books).

With the sewing done, first I applied a light coat of adhesive to the spine and then a strip of thin handmade paper.  I ‘shaped’ the spine a bit to have a slight curve and allowed it to dry overnight. The next day I put the book into a ‘finishing press’, with the spine sticking up:


In the finishing press.

In the finishing press.


See how the sides of the press drop away from the book? This allows you to use a ‘backing hammer’ to lightly shape the spine more completely with slight glancing blows, molding the curved shape more completely.  This is done to help accommodate the thickness of the sewing thread in each section, and gives the book that very characteristic rounded-spine shape we’re used to on leather-bound books.

Next, I made some endbands (head & tail bands), using a bit of maroon goatskin shaped over a heavy cord. Sewing on nice head & tail bands would most likely been done historically, but it is a bit time-consuming, and again puts stress on the folios of the book. This sort of added-on endband is common now, and they’re just applied with adhesive so they can be easily removed without damage to the folios if/when the book needs conservation treatment in the future.





The endbands serve a couple of different purposes. One, they provide support for the part of the leather cover which spans the spine from front to rear board. This helps to stop that portion of the leather cover from either being mushed down or stressed too much from people using it to pull a book off a shelf. But it also gives a nice ‘finish’ to the sections, in case there were any slight irregularities in positioning during the sewing.


Endcap, detail.

Endband, detail.


Once the endbands are positioned, I apply a section of light, fairly open-weave cloth which will function as a hinge to help mount the text block to the covers. Then another strip of slightly thicker paper goes on the whole spine, from endband to endband, making a sandwich which will help support everything.


Ready to cover.

Ready to cover.


And poof – the book is now ready for a cover.


Jim Downey




We all know grief. The empty place at the holiday table. The hole in the heart. The missing man. Someone who is gone too soon.

In many ways, absence defines us.

But sometimes, those stars which have vanished from the firmament aren’t gone, they’re just removed from our limited sight. They’re not visible in the day, after all.*

And sometimes, the absence defines something else, bringing perspective, even joy:

“I feel this powerfully — not as fear or loneliness — but as awareness, anticipation, satisfaction, confidence, almost exultation. I like the feeling. Outside my window I can see stars — and that is all. Where I know the moon to be, there is simply a black void, the moon’s presence is defined solely by the absence of stars.”


Jim Downey

Hype, or Hyperstealth?

This is starting to get some attention:

A Canadian company called Hyperstealth is reporting that it has developed Quantum Stealth, a material that renders the target “completely invisible by bending light waves around the target.” If the mock-up photos are to be believed, Quantum Stealth basically works like Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak.

Since 2002, Hyperstealth has been in the business of designing camouflage patterns for military uniforms, vehicles, and installations. In 2010, at the International Camouflage Symposium, Hyperstealth’s CEO Guy Cramer demonstrated SmartCamo — a material that could reportedly adjust its camouflage markings to match its surroundings. We say “reportedly” because Cramer apparently published a video demonstration of SmartCamo, but then US military intervened and asked him to take it down. Presumably Quantum Stealth is a follow-up from SmartCamo.

Again, for security reasons, Cramer is saying very little about Quantum Stealth. All of the pictures that you see here, and on Hyperstealth’s site, are mock-ups, because “for security issues we can not show the actual technology.” Cramer says that both the US and Canadian military have seen Quantum Stealth in action, and that they’ve also confirmed that the material obscures the target from infrared (thermal) imaging. Below, you can see Cramer talking to CNN’s Pentagon correspondent about Quantum Stealth.

In addition to the cited CNN video, there’s another news item from a paper which seems to be local to the company. In that article Cramer has more to say:

“That’s the thing that surprises most of the people at these meetings, that it works as well as we’re showing there. It only takes a few seconds for someone in these meetings to verify, yeah it obviously works for the visual spectrum.”

The invisibility cloak also conceals ultra-violet and infra-red heat rays.

“It actually masks the entire thermal signature from the user.”

Cramer added, “We’ve proven it, but I’m not about to show it because there’s no need to show you what works because the only people who need to see this are the people we have shown.”

Uh-huh. He has a magic, er, make that “quantum technology” cloak, but doesn’t want to show anyone outside of the military, even though he’s perfectly happy to discuss how great it is.

Is my skepticism showing? Or has that been masked by quantum effects?

OK, so he’s shown it to the military. Wouldn’t just about any special forces organization in the world literally kill for such technology? Here’s what one such officer said, again from the Maple Ridge News article:

Maj. Doug MacNair, with Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, confirmed that Cramer made a presentation to special operations within the last few years.

But there’s been no decision to follow through.

“We didn’t pursue it further, at least not at this time anyway.

“It wasn’t something we were interested in pursuing at the time. It doesn’t mean we wouldn’t in the future, necessarily. “We’re aware of the company, we have the information. But we don’t have a contract in place at the time.”

Maybe Mr. Cramer is asking too much money for his technology. Or perhaps this is some kind of ruse on the part of the military, to make it seem like the technology ain’t that big a deal. Because the clever thing to do is to promote this all over the web, and then deny that it is something that any government would want. That way no one will pay attention to it. Right?

Er, right.

Don’t get me wrong — I think such technology is possible, and I use something very like it in Communion of Dreams. This is from Chapter 18:

Jon walked to the edge of the pool. He heard a noise behind him, turned slowly to look at it.

From beside a large bush a pile of boulders shifted. The air shimmied, light danced, and a crouching figure emerged, covered in a fabric drape that tried to keep up with the changing surroundings. One hand pulled the drape to the side. Another was holding a very
large sidearm.

But that’s 40 years in the future. I don’t think that this is a tech which has come to be real quite so soon.

Jim Downey