Communion Of Dreams

Final hours.

You have until midnight tonight to get your entry in for a free copy of a full leather binding of Communion of Dreams.  If you haven’t posted a link with your review on Amazon in this blog post, then you are NOT entered into the drawing. And we’ll also be drawing for the last of the “nearly perfect” cloth copies. Full details in that blog post.

And my judge for this drawing has posted some information about how and when she will handle the particulars:  Planning ahead [echo]

Good luck everyone!


Jim Downey

Planning ahead.

It’s been said that our ability to conceive of and plan for an uncertain future is one of the hallmarks of human intelligence. Some ants and other critters might beg to differ.

Nonetheless, today’s crop from the garden is largely going to be canned for enjoyment this coming winter:


That’s about 20 pounds of mixed tomato varietals in the dish drainer, and another 5 or so pounds of Roma tomatoes in the colander.  I’ll chop and can the bulk of them, then sauce all the Romas and the left-over juice/bits from the canning. So far this season I’ve put up 44 pints of chopped tomatoes and about a gallon of sauce.

I like to plan ahead.

And you should too. There’s about 36 hours left to get your entry in for the drawing for a full leather, hand-bound edition of Communion of Dreams. And we’ll also be drawing for the last of the “nearly perfect” cloth copies:

Finished product.

Finished product.


I’ve managed to talk my old friend MargoLynn into handling the drawing for me, so you should send all bribe attempts to her. Winners will be announced sometime Sunday.


Jim Downey

Proof of concept.


Imagine three astronauts, 125 million miles from the Earth, talking to Mission Control with a four-minute time lag. They have seen nothing out their windows but stars in the blackness of space for the last 150 days. With a carefully timed burn, they slow into orbit around Venus, and as they loop around the planet, they get their first look at its thick cloud layer just 7,000 miles below.

It might sound like the plot of a science fiction movie, but in the late 1960s, NASA investigated missions that would send humans to Venus and Mars using Apollo-era technology. These missions would fly in the 1970s and 1980s to capitalize on what many expected would be a surge of interest in manned spaceflight after the Apollo lunar landings. They would be daring missions, but they would also be feasible with what was on hand.


Somewhat surprisingly, I don’t remember this at all. Though of course these were just “proof of concept” studies which were put together for NASA.  Still, they were fairly well thought-out, as the article on ars technica demonstrates. As is often the case, technological limitations are less of an absolute factor in accomplishing something than economic/political limitations are. To borrow from a favorite old movie: “You wouldn’t believe what we did. It’s possible. It’s just hard work.”

What isn’t hard work? Getting entered into the drawing for a leather-bound copy of Communion of Dreams. Full details here. Yesterday’s Kindle promotion pushed us over 500 copies of the electronic version given away this month, and that puts the total number of copies out there somewhere in the neighborhood of 26,000. There are already 65 reviews posted to Amazon. Yet so far only 9 people have entered the drawing. You have until midnight this coming Saturday.


Jim Downey

Via BoingBoing.

The end of things.

This morning, NPR repeated the story of Voyager 1 having apparently left the solar system.

I wonder why?


* * *

Philip James Bailey, Festus:

We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths;
In feelings, not in figures on a dial.
We should count time by heart-throbs. He most lives
Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.
Life’s but a means unto an end; that end
Beginning, mean, and end to all things,—God.


* * *

We went shopping yesterday.

Big deal, right? Actually, it kinda was. It was the first time my wife had been in good enough shape to do so since her emergency appendectomy. Things are slowly returning to whatever passes for normal.


* * *

Dr. David Casarett is the director of hospice care at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He works with families as they try to navigate end-of-life decisions.

At least once a week, Casarett says, one of his patients expresses a desire to end his or her own life. “It’s a reminder to me that I have to stop whatever I was doing … and sit back down to try to find out what is motivating that request,” he says. “Is it really a carefully thought out desire to die, or is it, as it is unfortunately many times, a cry for help?”

It’s a good story.


* * *

Tomorrow’s the last day this month to get the free Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams. And this week is the last one to get entered into the drawing for a hand-bound leather copy of the special edition. Remember, you have to have posted a review on Amazon of the book, and then post a comment with a link to that review in this blog entry. There are currently 65 reviews on Amazon, but only 8 entrants for the drawing — don’t delay, as the end will come sooner than you expect.

As it usually does, for good or ill.


Jim Downey

Toxic Security Administration.

I’m not sure which is more depressing: that this happened, or that I find it completely unsurprising that it happened.  What’s that? This:

…a harrowing story from Aditya Mukerjee about his recent attempt to fly from New York to Los Angeles. After being pulled aside in the security line, he faced hours of interrogation by uncommunicative officials from several different agencies. When he was finally cleared, his airline, Jet Blue, wouldn’t let him on the plane anyway. When he got home, he found evidence that it had been searched.

The entire sickening story, told by the man it happened to, can be found here: Don’t Fly During Ramadan.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve almost given up even mentioning the absurdity of the TSA’s latest actions. Like the revelations about what the NSA has been doing, it seems like there is really little point in it. I just keep filing away the latest news items and go back to adjust what is included in St. Cybi’s Well. Because no matter how egregious the violations of our civil liberties, there’s always someone to come along and say that they’re happy to have the “security” which is being provided.


Jim Downey


“I reviewed the films …”

Some follow-ups to yesterday’s post.


* * *

My wife’s surgeon ordered another CAT scan and assessment, so this morning at entirely too early a time we got up and got her over to the hospital. Once all was said and done, the indications are good and it looks like the oral antibiotics she is taking are finally cleaning up the remaining infection in her abdomen. With a little luck, from here on out she just needs the usual post-surgery recuperation and she’ll be fine.

One curious thing I noted, though. When referring to this latest and the previous CAT scans she’s had done, everyone kept calling them “films”. The nurse in the radiology clinic did it. The radiologist performing the procedure did it. The nurse in the recovery area (where we had to wait following the latest scan, to see whether the surgeon wanted to do another invasive procedure) did it. And then the surgeon did it, specifically saying “I reviewed the films of this latest and the previous CAT scans with Dr. Radiologist, and …”

Which is odd, because I don’t think there’s ever been a practical CAT scan system which uses actual film. Certainly, none of the modern systems use any kind of film — they’re all digital systems and record data on a variety of different digital media.

Yet everyone referred to the results as “films.” I’m not sure whether this was because of their age (all were about my age, +/- a decade), or ours (thinking that middle-aged patients would still think of the technology in those terms).



* * *

Speaking of reviewing, yesterday’s post also seems to have elicited three new reviews of Communion of Dreams on Amazon. Each is short, but together they would be a bit much for this blog post. So I’ll just note the links, and encourage you to check out what they have to say.

Remember, you have until Midnight (OK, 11:59:59) CDT on August 31 to get your entry in. Full information in this blog post.

Thanks, everyone — for your reviews, your interest in the novel, and most of all for your kind thoughts/prayers/good vibrations for my wife through her recent illness.


Jim Downey



Moments of revelation.

“All of life can be broken down into moments of transition or moments of revelation.”

-G’Kar, Z’ha’dum

Sometimes you don’t recognize when things change — the moments of transition — except in hindsight. That could be because the change is incremental enough that you don’t notice it for a while, or it might be that you’re so completely involved in the moment that the realization of what just happened doesn’t sink in immediately.


* * *

This morning there was a news item on NPR which caught my attention: that perhaps the Voyager 1 spacecraft has already left our solar system.

Scientists have known for a while that it was approaching the limits of the heliosphere. The expectation was that there would be a fairly clear change in orientation of the magnetic field when the craft crossed the boundary of the Sun’s influence into true interstellar space.  But perhaps that boundary was less defined than we thought. From the story:

How did we miss that? As it turns out, it wasn’t entirely our fault. Researchers thought the solar system was surrounded by a clearly marked magnetic field bubble.

“There’s one at the Earth, there’s one at Jupiter, Saturn, many planets have them. And so just by analogy we were expecting there to be something like that for the solar system,” Swisdak says.

Scientists were waiting for Voyager to cross over the magnetic edge of our solar system and into the magnetic field of interstellar space. But in in the September issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters, Swisdak and his colleagues say the magnetic fields may blend together. And so in July 2012, when Voyager crossed from the solar system into deep space, “Voyager just kept cruising along,” Swisdak says. All they saw was a change in the field’s direction.


* * *

Last Thursday my wife had a follow-up with her surgeon to see how she was doing in recovering from her emergency appendectomy.  She had been released from the hospital the previous Saturday, but there was some concern over the risk of secondary infection within her abdomen.

Well, without getting too much into the details, tests indicated that she might be developing exactly that sort of infection. The surgeon ordered a procedure called a needle aspiration and scheduled it for the following day.

We dutifully reported to the hospital for the procedure. It didn’t go smoothly, and the upshot was that it didn’t help her condition at all. A couple hours later we left the hospital, and she’s been mostly resting since. We’re now waiting to hear from the surgeon about what happens next. And what it means.


* * *

Some six years ago I wrote what could be considered a companion piece to this blog post. In it I quoted a friend, talking about Communion of Dreams:

“Yeah, but it’s like the way that the people involved in your book – the characters – are all struggling to understand this new thing, this new artifact, this unexpected visitor. And I like the way that they don’t just figure it out instantly – the way each one of them tries to fit it into their own expectations about the world, and what it means. They struggle with it, they have to keep learning and investigating and working at it, before they finally come to an understanding.” He looked at me as we got back in the car. “Transitions.”


* * *

Where Communion of Dreams was largely about transitions, in many ways St. Cybi’s Well is about revelations. How we experience them. How we understand them. How we do or don’t recognize them when they happen.

The Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams is free today. And you have less than two weeks to enter into the drawing for a hand-bound, full-leather copy of the book. So far only two people have entered. Don’t miss the moment.


Jim Downey

Making “French” corners.

This is a small bookbinding lesson to share with some friends, which I am putting here for lack of another good place to put it. Eventually, I plan on doing a video of this and some other techniques just for reference.


Making “French” corners:

There are a number of different techniques to form a corner from covering material, such that the corner is fully covered and protected. Each has advantages & disadvantages, and not all are appropriate for all covering material. This is one common technique which will work with most covering materials. It is called the “French” corner.

For purposes of illustration and clarity, I’m first going to use a large block of wood to represent the overall board material. At the end I’ll demonstrate the process with actual bookboard.

OK, we start with the block and a piece of paper which would be our cover material. Keep in mind that both of these are supposed to be just the little corner bit of a much larger board and piece of cover material:


Same block and paper, but now with guide lines drawn. The lines just represent the continuation of the lines of the board edges:


Now we draw a parallel line along the ‘bottom’ of the edge of the board. This line is the same distance from the edge of the board as the board is thick:


Now we remove the board, but I have marked the paper to show where it would be. Then I cut an approximate 45 degree angle off the corner of the cover material like so:


Remove the triangle of superfluous material, and cut along the line as indicated to create “Tab A”:


Reposition the block of wood, then fold the cover material along the lines indicated:


The first fold positions the cover material up the side of the board:


And the second fold brings it over onto the top surface of the board:


Then fold “Tab A” at the corner, so that it extends up the side of the board like this:


Then fold up the remaining cover stock over the side of the board where “Tab A” now is:


Then fold over onto the top of the board, covering the first piece of cover material:


Got it? This results in clean edges, with the entire corner of the board protected. There is a double thickness of covering material on one edge and on the ‘top’ of the board (which would typically be the inside of the book cover).

Here’s the same process using actual bookboard and one piece of paper. Please note that this just shows the bottom of the cover.

Boards mounted to cover material, with the corners cut as needed:


Turn in the bottom edge of the cover material. This leaves the little tab (darkened with pencil for contrast) ready to be pasted and mounted to the side of the board:


Here’s looking at the whole bottom structure, with both tabs ready to be pasted and mounted:


Mount the tab, then paste out and turn in the side strips of the cover material:


And you can also see how the finished corner looks on the inside. Done.

Jim Downey

Free as in beer.

Curious what that phrase actually means? Here ya go.

Which is exactly how and why the Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams is free today.

Not that that should matter to you. What should matter to you is just that you can get it for free. And read it. And write a review. And then post a link here to be entered into a drawing for a hand-bound, full leather limited edition copy of the physical book. Because while a free e-book is nice, just think how great it would be to have your own leather-bound copy. Mmmm … leather.


Jim Downey

Printed in blood.

While on my morning walk, I was enjoying the beautiful day, the glint of sun on the dewdrops, the company of my dog.

And thinking about blood.

Specifically, about the old notion of a “contract signed in blood.”

Well, what if you had a culture which took books so seriously, that they were always made using blood as the ink?

Just off the top of my head, I could come up with all kinds of justifications for how such a culture might arise, from fantasy (‘blood magic’) to Science Fiction (books could always be traced back to their source through the DNA in the blood) to the plain creepy (“we do honor to our ancestors/enemies/icons by using their blood to write history”).

Yeah, it’s a little scary how my brain works sometimes.


* * *

And after I come up with something like that, usually within just a few seconds, my mind races off to consider what the practical ramifications would be to such a thing.

Economically, there’s some fun stuff you could do with it. Books could be purchased with the buyer’s own blood: “Price – just 750ml – get yours today!” Which also implies blood as the basic economic unit, but that wouldn’t necessarily be the case.

Mechanically, blood itself wouldn’t be a great printing ink without some other elements. So you could have the whole printing revolution based not on the development of a printing press, but on the discovery of how to make blood suitable for mass printing.

As a book conservator, dealing with books printed in blood would present some additional challenges. Depending on what else was added to it to make it suitable for printing could make it damage the paper it was printed on (this is actually a big problem with some printing inks used in history). And if I needed to do restoration work, would I need to find blood of the same type, in order to match the original ink?


* * *

Usually about this point in such speculation, I start to wonder just what in the hell got me thinking about these things in the first place.  What was my subconscious chewing on?

I could perhaps tie it to the odd little movie we watched last night.

Or that my wife had a close call last week. There wasn’t a lot of blood per se, but the symbolism is kinda hard to ignore.

Both good candidates. Both likely elements.

But in the end I decided that it was just that I’ve been thinking a lot about writing. About printing. About bookbinding.

All those things are measures of my life. In some very real sense, they *are* small, tangible pieces of my life.

Not unlike blood, I suppose.

The Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams will be free all day tomorrow. And remember, if you would like a chance to win a full-leather, hand-bound copy of the special edition, you need to write a review on Amazon and post a link in the original blog entry about the drawing. That’s a $250 – $350 value.

Even more, it’s part of my life.

Maybe it will be a part of yours.


Jim Downey