Saturday, August 8, 2009

ALMOST ON THE BOOKSHELVES!

From my co-author, William Maltese:

Yesterday, I finished compiling the MASTER CORRECTION LIST, per input from my co-author and niece, Adrienne Z. Milligan, from my sister, Pandora (Adrienne’s mother who so graciously volunteered her time and effort to do her stint at proofing whenever necessary), and from me. The MASTER has been e-mailed to the publisher, based upon our three readings and re-readings of the publisher’s proposed final formatting of THE GLUTEN-FREE WAY: MY WAY by Adrienne Z. Milligan and William Maltese. That mailing is one of the last steps in what has been a sometimes long road from conception of the book to its present nearness in appearing, seemingly full-blown, on the bookshelves. From here, an editor will check our list of final corrections for veracity and, then, physically transcribe them into the final galleys which will then be sent off to the presses that’ll put the book, hopefully, on the bookstands before Christmas.

For anyone who thinks any book, including this one, from conception to finale, is an easy thing, you might like to have a little talk with my co-author, and niece, Adrienne, in that regard. So many people seem to think that writing a book is genuinely easy, requiring merely a few minutes spent at the computer screen each day, as some kind of afterthought, somehow easily squeezed in between the regularly occurring activities of any other busy day. When, in fact, I, a long-time full-time author, am always amazed by how some people who have 9-5 jobs (and this includes mothers and housewives, like my niece) can actually somehow, through super-human effort, manage their regular workloads and write a book or books. Certainly, Adrienne has some tales of how writing this book suddenly seemed to make the 24 hours in any given day not nearly enough in which to cope.

The idea of the book was the easiest part. Adrienne has been dealing with her family’s gluten-intolerance for years, working around it, adapting their lifestyle for healthier and happier living. Along with that, there have been the constant everyday discoveries that thousands of others are either knowingly, or unknowingly, suffering from the same gluten-intolerant health-related condition. Therefore, if ever there was a time for someone who has been there, done that, got the T-shirt, to share those experiences with others who are just becoming aware of being in the same boat, it’s certainly now. I saw that, my niece saw that, and, luckily for us, one of my publishers agreed.

Convincing a publisher of the validity of our idea for the book turned out to be far easier than it usually is when it comes to selling a publisher on a book idea, especially in this day and age where the economy is seemingly headed down the toilet, and money belts have been tightened as regards taking on new book commitments. It helped, of course, that I had a track record established with the publisher, Wildside/Borgo Press. It helped more that I came to them with a book idea relevant to our times as evidenced by several recently breaking news stories on the sudden increase of gluten-intolerance within world’s populations as a whole. Wildside//Borgo in an act of interest still pretty much unheralded in today’s publishing world, issued us a contract before our book was even completed.

Writing the book proved more difficult. Adrienne, a housewife and mother, new to professional writing, was suddenly faced with the daunting task of not only writing down all of her myriad thoughts …doing it in a coherent manner … doing it within the suddenly pre-set time table established by a publisher anxious to get our book into print … but doing it all with her uncle raving and ranting on the sidelines about the all-importance in the publishing business of professional writers always-Always-ALWAYS meeting deadlines. I know that she has personal horror stories to tell of her frustrations and stress and emotional traumas, many of them including and/or because of me, but those are her stories to tell.

My own part in the writing was tainted by years of having to rely only upon myself to get a project done from conception to finish. Suddenly having a second person involved, and one not only so integral to the book’s eventual success, but a niece as well, wasn’t the easiest thing in the world for me to deal with. Though I’ve successfully completed collaborative efforts before (my ARDENNIAN BOY, about the poets Verlaine and Rimbaud, done with Professor Drewey Wayne Gunn, comes most immediately to mind), I sometimes too easily slipped into the easy misconception of thinking Adrienne should be, as I was, devoting her every waking moment to our project  forgetting her husband, kids, and life otherwise. I’m used to wanting the things I want done, getting done now, by me, exactly as I want them, and exactly when I want them. Counting upon Adrienne to produce to my time schedule, and seldom succeeding, was frustrating to say the least.

Even after the long haul of our getting the manuscript to the right word length with everything in it that we were going to manage to put there, that wasn’t the end of it.  There was no time, at that time, even for a breather, because of the imperative that we concentrate fully on the often boring and tedious chore of going over and over and over what we had to make sure that it was error-free, grammatically correct, absent of typos, and that it read smoothly from beginning to end. Sometimes whole paragraphs, pages, even chapters, had to be moved from one place to another. Things duplicated had to be lopped so as not to be repetitive. Even the “way” some things were said were questioned; I thought it should be said one way; Adrienne thought it should be said another. She thought a recipe instruction was clear; I thought it was important to provide specifications on pan size and type. On and on and on…

Even as regards the book’s cover graphic, there was disagreement. I thought a simple sheaf of wheat red-marked to indicate it as off-limits would be a succinct visual message of our book’s beware-of-gluten content; Adrienne was concerned that wheat was misleading, because it wasn’t the only grain in which gluten was found. Though I won that argument  with my insistence that we were using wheat on our book cover merely as a generic reference for all gluten grains  I’m still not sure my co-author is completely satisfied with our decision.

Until finally, one day, exhausted, we sent off what we had to the publisher for reading by its editor who, then, had his ideas that had to be taken into account. Would we, or wouldn’t we, give credit to our cover designer, even though she’d been commissioned to do a work-for-hire? Answer: yes. Did I want my name in larger font, because it appears second to Adrienne’s on the cover? Answer: that won’t be necessary.  Why was brown sugar mentioned in one recipe but no instructions given as to where and how it should be used? Answer: an oversight that needed correcting. Shouldn’t all temperatures include “F” for Fahrenheit, in case one of my European publishers (used to “C” for Celsius) considers the book for a foreign edition? Answer: yes, of course.

All, and so much more, resulting, months later, in the publisher’s proofs of the book, in representation of how the manuscript will physically look, in print format, sans title, suddenly appearing on our doorstep. At which time, anyone, including us, would have thought that all that was required of us was but one final once-over of our long- and hard-won results, and, then, a swift send off to the publisher for direct routing  do not pass Go!  to the presses. Wrong! Mistakes were still found. Grammatical errors were still evident. Things once true, when the manuscript was first submitted, had changed, and needed changing within the text. Jon was spelled as John. A recipe wasn’t credited correctly. A footnote was out of sequence. A chapter heading differed in the index from how it appeared in the text. Until twenty-five pages of corrections had to be returned to the publisher for additional manuscript revision.

And that, folks, is where we are today. Those twenty-five pages of corrections are in the process of being implemented. After which, the book WILL go to print.  Then, it WILL ship to bookstands everywhere. Then, it WILL be yours for the asking (and for the purchase price). Not an easy road, to be sure  from us, to publisher, to you  but not all that different, in the long run, from the road taken by just about every book I’ve ever written (and I’ve written over two-hundred of them). So, be just a bit better informed the next time you think writing any book is a piece of cake, even if, in this case, that piece of cake is gluten-free.

Look for THE GLUTEN FREE-WAY: MY WAY by Adrienne Z. Milligan & William Maltese hopefully available for your reading pleasure before the 2009 holiday season begins!

Ciao!