Coloured Inks and Duty

Kage Baker habitually just shut down all outside activities when she was faced with signature sheets.

Signature sheets are nicely printed pages with a space for the author’s name. They are signed in an unbound condition, and then bound into special editions of the author’s books. They are a grace note, a bonus, an automatic signing intact and permanent in the volume.

They usually arrive at the writer’s home in a large, heavily reinforced box. Since they are ordinarily about 4 reams of paper – good end-paper quality paper, too, mind you – they have the density of a neutron star. The arrival of these boxes of signing sheets inevitably means the delivery of boxes of heavy completed books in a few more months: so the author is pleased, but the UPS man is not  … Delivery men hate writers – especially writers who live on the second story.

Luckily, I now dwell in a ground floor house; nonetheless, my family has learned to apologize to the UPS man when he comes staggering up with whatever I am getting this time. He’s being remarkably cool about it, considering that the Corgi and the parrot have joined forces as in-house security, and are whistling and baying at him at the same time.

(This gentleman is much, much calmer about it than the guy who delivered for us 20 years ago in the Hollywood Hills, that summer a friend kept sending us boxes full of armour pieces. After he finally asked what was in one – and was informed it was a dozen gorgets – we never saw him again. Sorry, Simon, your gorgets apparently drove this man to a career change. But, as Kage said, he should have known he wasn’t going to be delivering boxes of feathers every day.)

Anyway, once the signature sheets arrived, Kage would mope around for a couple of days, lamenting her fate. She hated signing them – she had things to write, she had a new game, her hand hurt, she didn’t have the right pen … I don’t really know why she disliked it so much, since she loved the way the finished pages eventually  looked in the book. But it was an ordeal for her: during it, she would not answer the phone or the door, nor tolerate much noise in the house. (I always made too much noise knitting at times like this.) But Kage always did her duty, and was always quite pleased with herself by the time she was done.

So, the signature pages for Nell Gwynne II arrived yestreday. They feature a lovely seascape in sepia and phantasmal pink; hence, my late queries last evening as to where one might find pens with sepia ink. Several of you, Dear Readers, gave me quite specific brands of drafting pens to seek; as well as a lovely burgundy Pilot suggested as a back-up. So today I went hunting, and I found them all! I now have perfectly gorgeous fine-point pens in both sepia and burgundy, and I am signing half the pages in each colour.

They look wonderful with the pastel seascape. Distinctly coloured, but not garish, you know? Refined, like.

And so that is what I mostly spent the day doing – hunting pens, scrubbing down a wooden tray table for a work space, establishing the perimeter beyond which the cats could not venture. I don’t need paw-smudged ink or nose prints on these pages. Especially since, while my initial impression was that I had 500 sheets to sign, I actually have 1,500.

I got through 300 this afternoon – tomorrow I will get through twice that, at least, since I don’t have to hunt for pens. I’m not shutting down as completely as Kage always did, but I discovered today that a certain amount of isolation is, indeed, required … one’s mind wanders. By the time I was halfway through today’s pages, my name had begun to look like a glyph in an unknown language. I found myself wondering why on earth I had those awkward shapes in the letters of my name; I started to forget how to shape the dipthong th in a cursive script.

Kage had no dipthongs in her name. I have two, and a name twice as long as hers, as well.

I think I’ll put on the soundtrack to the Robert Downey Sherlock Holmes movie tomorrow. It’s full of wailing violins and weird percussion. And then when my own name starts looking like a Mayan grocery list, I’ll have some nice atmospheric music to soothe me.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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4 Responses to Coloured Inks and Duty

  1. Tom B. says:

    C.J. Cherryh once said, of the writer’s life, “It’s not all pipe smoke and leather elbow patches, you know.” She was speaking of tax accounting and reconciling of publishers’ accounts – but it’s always the things you don’t expect – special paper! special pens! – that arise to smite you.
    Hope you have a big bag of frozen peas for your wrist, dear lady.


    • Kate says:

      Tom – Ms. Cherryh is one of my favourite writers, in practicality as well as art. It’s quite true, it’s the little things you don’t expect that sneak out to nip your ankles when you achieve some heart’s desire. I am not minding the singing sheets as much as Kage did – stronger wrists, I suspect; thank you, knitting! – except for the moment when my language centers dissolve. I certainly did not expect that.


  2. Michelle says:

    If you get tired of Sherlock Holmes, Try a Dubliner’s Pandora station. That usually gets me exactly the right mix of: songs I know, songs I want to know, drums, pipes and enough Celtic Polka to balance out the occasional Irish maudlin flight of fancy.


    • Kate says:

      Michelle – I have Pandora radiio on now, as a matter of fact! And though it’s an English rock station, they are heavily into Scots and Irish today – Chieftains, Battlefield Band. Great stuff. The parrot is singing merrily. He loves pipes and and penny whistles.


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