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Tag Archives: The Last Night of Obon (A Kyoto Tale)

NaNoWriMo Sponsor Offer Review: Lulu.com Hardcover

The other day I talked about Blurb’s BookWright Program as one of NaNoWriMo reward system. Today I bring you the review of Lulu.com’s offer for every participant:

Stand out with a professionally printed FREE HARDCOVER book.

Lulu.com is so thrilled to support all of the Wrimos again this year! We’re the only self-publishing company in the world that allows you to create hardcover, softcover, and eBooks, and distribute them globally.

This year we are excited to be bringing back our FREE HARDCOVER offering. Once you have finished uploading your manuscript and formatting your book cover […] (you can enter the code) for your free First Edition Hardcover! Start your book today!

Participants will also be entered to win free eBook conversions. We will be drawing one lucky name each week for 12 weeks beginning December 1, 2014.

The post did not specify date, which was however locked in another one:

The fine print: This offer must be redeemed by February 28th, 2015, is good for a one-time use, and does not include the cost of shipping.

Then in the Lulu.com forums, the date was changed to December 31st, 2014. Repeated tries to contact them were not successful, so I rushed through the process in order to get it done on time, it was a surely interesting New Year’s Eve! Let me tell you, I am not happy how the company has not answered anyone – not me, not anyone else, as people continue asking questions about it today. I have not heard of anyone getting the free eBook conversion.

Keep in mind that since the whole thing was so rushed in the end that I did not take screencaps to the process, and the ones shared here are from a recreation.

Formatting process

Content: Lulu takes mainly PDF files, so that was easy for me as I have my \LaTeX PDF templates tailored to my liking and the offer’s requirements. Truth be told, Lulu has an enormous amount of options that are great to get for free.

LaTeX formatting ♥

LaTeX formatting ♥


 
Creating the project: After choosing that you want to make a print book, the first step is creating the title, filling up the fields and choosing the options. The professional hardcover includes a dust jacket, which tends to look really cool. Once the project is created, the system allows you to upload the PDF (it needs embedded fonts, if you are using a regular word processor, but I never had trouble with that). The PDF is processed and converted to a PDF-print ready file. During this process requirements such as margins, image resolution, and fonts are checked.
Start creating the project

Start creating the project

Title, author and distribution

Title, author and distribution

Book options

Book options

Uploading the PDF file

Uploading the PDF file


 
The cover Wizard: After the PDF is ready, you can move on to the Cover maker. The online cover maker allows you to choose a design – my usual is free-style. You know the cover and backcover sides, of course, and the smaller images have a label which tells you which size they need to be. The inner cover font is chosen for you, and has a limited character number. The dust jacket spine cannot be personalised further than font and colour, but the default fonts are neutral, so it is quite nice. The process is in general quite easy. I haven’t tried the advanced cover making though.

Cover Wizard Loading (Flash-based)

Cover Wizard Loading (Flash-based)

Inner spine options

Inner spine options

Cover Wizard, photograph-only layout

Cover Wizard, photograph-only layout

Handy Size Notes

Handy Size Notes

Uploading images

Uploading images

Add pictures by dragging them into the cover

Add pictures by dragging them into the cover


 

Ordering process

As soon as you finish the process, it appears ready for ordering. You can make it available to the Lulu marketplace, too. The code is applied on checkout, without any further fuss (Note: for the code to work, you need to be on Lulu.com, and not the local Lulu if it exits).

Finished project details

Finished project details

Book page

Book page

Shopping Cart

Shopping Cart


 

The hardcover

Good and sharp quality printing for the interior, and high quality paper. However, the dust jacket did not turn out too well this time (the Axis 95/11 one came out much better). However, I am not sure whether the problems with the folding are due to the book being too thin, matte printing, or just a different kind of paper or processing for it. I think the thickness issue was important.

The inner covers feel awesome though (^_^).

Front cover

Front cover

Inner content

Inner content

Inner cover and dustjacket lapels

Inner cover and dustjacket lapels


 

The TL;DR

Nice product, not too reliable company. I mean, as a sponsor who make an offer, they have every right to change the conditions of such offer. However, the way the whole date thing has been handled (read: not) would make it harsh for me to trust Lulu.com as a publishing company.

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The Last Night of Obon (A Kyoto Tale) background

A couple of posts ago I said that I’d talk about The last Night of Obon (A Kyoto Tale). Here you go, fact and fiction merged together – rather clumsily, to be honest, but it is my third rewrite by now and I want to be done with it.


Obon (お盆) or Obon Matsuri is a festival celebrated in August in Japan when one honours the spirits of the family’s ancestors. Born from the Buddhist-Confucian custom has become a week during which people return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their ancestors’ graves. It is believed that the the spirits of said ancestors come back to the world of the living to visit the household altars. It has been celebrated in Japan since approximately the 1500s.

Gozan no Okuribi (五山送り火), more commonly known as Daimonji (大文字), is celebrated in Kyoto as the culmination of the Obon festival. Five large fires are lit in different areas of Kyoto and are believed to guide the spirits that come visit for Obon back to the spirit world. It is thought that Gozan no Okuribi is older than Obon, and at some point both of them came together.

The fires are lit from east to west starting at 8pm, and each of them has a different meaning. The first of them to be lit is the East (or Right) Daimonji (大文字), with the character 大 (dai = big or great). The second fire is double; it reads 妙法 (Myoho = “the supreme law” in Buddhism). The third is called 舟形 (Funagata) and has the shape of a boat (fune = boat); it is supposed to represent the travelling of the spirits. The Hidari Daimonji (左大文字 = Left Daimonji) has a 大 (dai) symbol again and is the fourth fire, just above the famous Kinkaku-ji. Finally, the fifth fire represents a torii gate or 鳥居形 (Toriigata). All fires burn together for a few minutes and then are put out in the same order they were lit (See the map).

As ancient as the Gozan no Okuribi are the Four Guardian Beasts of Kyoto. Born from human belief and the dust of stars, these mythological beings guard each frontier of the Old Capital. They are the Azure Dragon Seiryu (青竜) of the East, the Vermilion Bird Suzaku (朱雀) of the South, the White Tiger Byakko (白虎) of the West, and the Black Tortoise Genbu (玄武) of the North.

The Guardian Beasts have nowadays become a legend, but they are very much real. However, they avoid being seen as they don’t consider this world “their world” any more. They can however be found in their lesser forms, roaming the city sometimes. The dragon Seiryu can turn into a lizard or a man with long hair and azure eyes with slit pupils, the firebird Suzaku flies as a red bird or walks as a redhead human with claw-like hands; the tiger Byakko can camouflage as a black and white tabby or a man with a long fluffy tail; finally Genbu can show as a regular turtle or a man with a hard shell-like plate covering his back.

The mission of the four beasts is to guard the city from the souls who come back during Obon and whose power is released in the Gozan no Okuribi. They present themselves as targets and protect the foolish humans who call upon the restless souls without realising it. Without them, the bodiless souls would turn upon their descendants and suck the life force out of them.

According to the legends, the Beasts live in their area of the city, from where they fight when Gozan no Okuribi starts.

Seiryu dwells in the lake of Fushimi Inari Taisha to the East (light blue mark on the map)

Suzaku nests in the Kamikawa Temple (no picture I can legally use, sorry) to the South of the city (reddish mark on the map)

Byakko roams the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest to the West (yellow mark on the map)

Finally, Genbu lives underneath the lake found in the Golden Pavillion / Kinkaku-ji Temple (purple mark on the map)

Lately, however, the Beasts seem to be losing power. The Dragon and the Turtle need to sleep the winter away, the Tiger is restless and the Vermilion Bird can’t seem to find a proper place to rest. In this day and age humans don’t believe in them any more. Immortal beings can die if nobody feeds their existence with belief.

The proverbial clock is tickling, and Obon is drawing near yet another summer…

Sources and Credits: Obon [link]; Gozan no Okuribi [link]; Genbu attribution and licence [link]

Disclaimer: Some truth with lots of fiction here. Don’t take to heart.

NaNoWriMo 2012: Before and After Part 2: After

Does not work. No matter how much I try it, being social, even e-social is not my thing. I keep getting the impression that the famous NaNo-cheering-mood only works for people with a lower wordcount than oneself. If you have a high wordcount you can’t have problems in your writing, you can’t get stuck. Comments regarding high wordcounts put me off about sharing my numbers or mention that I have trouble.

I think that’s part of why I don’t really think I love NaNoWriMo. I think I enjoy it and use it as an excuse to write more than other times, but my non-social nature kicks in more often than not. While through NaNo I’ve met a few people who are fun and all, I am still more a lurker than a participant.

There’s also guilt. I am terribly prone to guilt and having higher wordcounts than my friends makes me feel bad and not wanting to bother them when I run into trouble. Which is stupid, but it’s the way I am, I guess.

That said, let’s analyse this year. I’m around 20k lower than I would have liked, but life got unmanageable and my body gave me a warning I could not ignore – something had to give, and NaNo it was. Being somewhat depressed did not help productivity either. I wrote two stories. Axis 95/11, a yakuza novel, and The last night of Obon (A Kyoto Tale), a Japanese fantasy short story.

I am a bit torn about Axis 95/11 (67025 words). I think it is quite good, to be honest, and not giving into the self bashing. The characters are very grey, most have their good and their bad, they are heroes and villains in the same person, which is good when you’re writing a story about gangsters. As expected, is much less romantised – while at the same time much more heroic – than the Osaka Shikigami. Maybe after lots of work and in 10 years it’s shareable XD

The last night of Obon (A Kyoto Tale) (13740 words) is a rather silly story regarding the four guardian beasts of Kyoto and the Festival of Obon, but was fun to write. Won’t rant about it now as I expect to post about it soon – it’s about half-written, but needs some organisation.

I started a new short story, but I decided not to count that for NaNo, thus the final count is 80765 words. I would have wanted it to be higher, and I do feel a bit defeated, but I had to choose my priorities and after all NaNo was the only thing that I could reasonably quit. As you can see (click for bigger), the last days I wrote were hard:

As last year, the first and second columns are really straightforward, day of the week and date; the third is the Office of Letters and Light’s official wordcount; the fourth is the cumulative wordcount that I need in my 1500/2500 scheme (column five); column six is the actual cumulative wordcount and column seven is the daily wordcount. Finally the eight column is ‘words missing to 50k’. The graphs to the right are my cumulative count (green) vs the OLL cumulative (pink) on the first row, along with sector percentage to the upper leftmost (halfway through the month is in red for missing, green for done), and my actual cumulative vs my own cumulative count on the bottom left.

And speaking of last year, here you can see the comparison between this NaNo and the previous ones (again, click to make bigger). You can see that it was a strong beginning but that the rhythm fell throughout the month:

I am proud of the 14k mark on day one though, and I think it is a mark I can beat. However, in general I can’t say I am satisfied, I’m a little bit disappointed I did not reach the mark I wanted – by far, but I try to remind myself that priorities are that, priorities. Then again, with everything going on in my life I am probably just down in general. I asked a friend who is good with numbers to guest-post here and make an analysis of what and how I do during NaNo, but I never got a reply from her.

Anyway, that was NaNoWriMo 2012. Congrats to any one who tried, whether they got their mark or not.

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