Communion Of Dreams

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


“And it exploded.”*

A bit of an apology to any who feel they deserve it:  I intentionally understated just how bad my wife’s acute appendicitis was earlier this week. Once she had surgery and was admitted to the hospital we knew that she was going to be fine with a few days of intense care, and I didn’t want to get people overly concerned about what her condition had been.  Which was, frankly, really bad. Following the surgery, this is pretty much how the surgeon characterized it:

Seriously, that’s what happened. The surgeon said that the appendix hadn’t just ruptured, it had “basically exploded, with pieces all through her abdomen. A real mess.”

So, now that she’s been cleared to return home tomorrow, I thought I’d offer my apologies. Earlier I wanted to let people know that she was in the hospital, and why, but I didn’t want to get everyone too worked up over a crisis which had already passed. Sorry about being misleading. And thanks for your support.


Jim Downey

*If you didn’t instantly think of this scene just from that phrase … well, you need to watch Galaxy Quest again, as it has obviously been too long. When I discussed posting this with my wife, we both had a good chuckle over the fact that she had also thought of the exact same scene when the surgeon told us what had happened. Yeah, we’re weird like that.

“…while you’re busy making other plans.”*

Last week my wife was at a professional convention. She got home late Friday night, understandably tired. She was dragging a bit Saturday morning, and Saturday afternoon said that her joints were aching and she felt a bit feverish. We figured that she had likely picked up a virus at the convention, since that’s not uncommon.

Sunday she wasn’t feeling any better, and had lost her appetite with a bit of a stomach ache. Mild headache. She elected to just try and sleep it off, taking OTC analgesics.

But come Monday morning …


* * * * * * *

Two weeks ago I had my annual physical. Routine stuff for the most part. My doc and I discussed some alternative pain-management strategies (I have chronic pain from a torn intracostal muscle – basically, it feels like I have a broken rib all the time. On good days it feels like a broken rib about four weeks into the healing process – mostly just a dull ache – and on bad days it feels like I just broke it, with intense and sharp pain). I have prescription meds for the pain, but even though they’re fairly mild as such things go, they dull my mind enough that I can’t really write very well when taking them.

But we also discussed dealing with another issue, for which I needed to start taking something else. A statin for cholesterol management. Which was fine by me, since diet only goes so far. I started taking the meds last week, and experienced the sort of side effect which is annoying but not really hateful as my body adjusted. Not wanting to get too graphic, let’s just say that I made sure to stay near a bathroom for a few days.

Anyway, I lost most of last week in terms of work, both in the bindery and on the novel. Neither one is easy to do when you have to keep running off to the bathroom at frequent intervals.


* * * * * * * *

Which really wasn’t too much of a problem, as far as it concerned writing St. Cybi’s Well, since for the last few weeks I’ve been somewhat … discombobulated … by recent news reports. Specifically, by the revelations of governmental spying, and the scope of the programs involved in it, all precipitated by the leaks from Edward Snowden.

Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows that these topics are ones I have discussed at some length in the past, well before the latest news. Just check the “Constitution“, “Government” or “Privacy” categories or related tags, and you’ll see what I mean.

And the things I have had to say in the past reflect a lot of what informs the background of St. Cybi’s Well.  I don’t want to give too much away, but a lot of the book is concerned with what happens when a government uses tools intended to protect its citizens to instead control them. And working off of what was already in the public domain about the different security programs, I made a lot of projections about where such things could lead.

Then came the Snowden revelations and subsequent discussion. As it turned out, I was very accurate in my understanding of the spying technology and how it could be used. Almost too much so.

See, there’s a problem with that: when writing about an ‘alternate time line’, you have to strike a balance between this reality and the fictional one.  And, well, some of my fictional spying programs are now shown to be just a little too close to real. So now I have to back up a bit and tweak a number of different elements in the book to get back to the correct (for me) balance. It’s not a huge problem, but one which has had me dancing/juggling  a bit.

Not unlike my body trying to find a new equilibrium with the meds.


* * * * * * *

But come this past weekend, things had settled down, at least as far as my body was concerned. So I was able to get back to thinking about the hand-binding of Communion of Dreams, and the promotional stuff related to that. So I went ahead and scheduled some ‘free’ Kindle days, and wrote the blog post announcing that I would also be giving away a leather-bound copy of the book, and outlining how people could enter for a drawing for said book.

My intent was to do a follow-up blog post on Monday, reminding people about that, and the fact that the Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams would be free all day. That was the plan, anyway.


* * * * * * *

But come Monday morning, well, things didn’t go as planned. Not by a long shot.

My wife wasn’t feeling any better. And she was poking around online, seeing if she could find out anything which would help. I popped into the bedroom to check on her, and the conversation went something like this:

“Hmm, it says here that appendicitis sometimes starts with pain high in the stomach.”

“Really? I didn’t know that. I thought the classic was when you got a sharp pain in the lower right quadrant.”

“Yeah, it seems like it can start high, then shift down.”


“You know, the pain I had in my stomach has shifted down …”

“We’re going to the E.R.”

And we did. Pronto. And I am very glad that we live about a mile from an excellent hospital. Again, I’ll spare you all the details, but let’s just say that my wife had surgery that afternoon, and they’re still pushing intravenous antibiotics into her. She’ll be fine, thanks to modern medicine. But it was a close call.

Yeah, so much for plans.

Anyway, about 120 people downloaded Communion of Dreams on Monday. It’ll be available for free next Monday, and the two Mondays after that. The deadline for writing a review and getting your entry in is the end of August. Remember, you have to post a link in the initial blog entry about the contest.

And some advice: don’t plan on doing it later. Take care of it now. You never know what might come up.


Jim Downey

*Of course.

Mmmm … leather.

Time for the drawing for the last nearly-perfect hand-bound cloth copy of Communion of Dreams.

But I want to sweeten the pot. So I’m also going to draw for a single full leather hand-bound copy.  Leather color and type (whether calf or goatskin) to be *MY* choice. That’ll mostly depend on which one I feel like doing when I am in the process of doing the other copies which have already been ordered or are one of the Kickstarter rewards. Either way, it will be one of the leather bindings, worth up to $350. For reasons to be discussed in a subsequent blog post I’ve been a bit delayed in getting to doing these, but you can see a bit of what they will look like here.

So, how do you get your name in for this drawing?

Easy: just link to a review you have written of Communion of Dreams, which is posted on Amazon’s website.

It doesn’t have to be a long review. It doesn’t have to be a positive review.  You don’t have to say anything nice about me, or the book. Just to have read it, and posted a review on Amazon. If you’ve posted a review elsewhere — on your blog, or Goodreads, or anyplace else — feel free to just copy and paste that review to Amazon’s site. Then post a link here as a comment. Please note: if you have already written a review on Amazon, you don’t need to write another one — just post a comment to this blog entry with a link.

To make this even easier, I’ve scheduled promotional days for the Kindle edition for the next four Mondays (8/5, 8/12, 8/19, and 8/26) when you can download the novel for FREE. So you don’t even have to buy the book — just get it (if you haven’t already), review it, and post a link here.

The deadline for posting an entry (that means a link here) is Midnight CDT on August 31, 2013. Anything time-stamped after that will not be included.

One last thing — there will be two winners. One will receive the leather binding, and one the cloth. If for any reason you would rather not receive the leather binding, please say so in your comment, and you will not be entered into that drawing.

So, get writing.


Jim Downey

PS: I mean it about that “positive” review. It’s not necessary. I’m going to ask a neutral 3rd party to be the one to do the drawings. So either the quality of the review or the ranking given in it will not be a factor in my decision at all … since it won’t actually be my decision.