Sunday, August 10, 2008

Synesthetic Part 3: The Grind

[Image: My inks on Paul Milligan's pencils. This is why Paul can be a badass and a bastard in the same breath.]

For two weeks, Jake and I locked ourselves in front of our computers every waking hour that we could. I fortunately had saved up a few months of bills to I could stay home and work on this project full time. Jake on the other hand still had work at the university; though it this was during the summer so he really didn't have anything to do at the office. Which honestly is pretty horrible because the office life can really kill your grind. Sitting at a desk doing nothing is really life draining, especially when you know you could be using your time to do other things that needs to be done and done very soon.

We had turned our dry-erase board into our happy home. On it was the list of pages that needed to be done. Each of the stories had a row of open circles; each circle represented a page. It would get half filled when the inking was done, completely filled when the coloring was done. This was more of psychological than anything else. Being able to visualize the progress and see the goal get met kept us from getting mentally overwhelmed. We could see the big picture when we needed to but could also focus on each step one at a time. With the daunting tasks that were ahead of us, keeping mentally sane was pivotal to our health. Because honestly our physical healths were getting destroyed.

At this point, sleep was the enemy. We did not have a lot time to do what needed to be done. Back in my design college days, I had developed a few tricks to keep the oil burning way past midnight and into the next afternoon. When I needed to sleep, it could only be for a few hours at a time (about three to four). One technique is to leave the lights on. You body rests a little differently when you're under lights compared to darkness. I would sleep on the covers to keep myself from getting really comfortable and had my feel slightly elevated to help with circulation. I also set two alarms (clock and cellphone) as per usual habit. Again, some of this could be more psychological than physical but honestly, it worked. I could sleep for four hours then abracadabra get up like Viagra to start on work right away.

We were getting the work done at a decent pace, but it was really wearing us down. We made sure to tell everyone to not contact us during those weeks. We essentially only saw each other, though briefly at some points because we had different sleep cycles. Jake would be awake for most of the day due to work; I would be up most of the night. Still, the stress was getting to us. There were several occasions where we would just snap at each other; nothing really mean or vindictive, just short and slightly hostile. Luckily we understood what was going on and saw these signs for what they were. "It's not him, it's an honest question/concern, no reason to be mad, I'm just stressed out, calm, keep working, breathe". The fact that no one came out with knife wounds is a freaking miracle. Seriously, our apartment has various sharp and blunt metal objects everywhere. When you live right next to a graveyard, you have to be prepared for the zombie apocalypse. But that's a different blog entry.

We did take a few breaks in that time frame though. Our friend Fran somehow convinced us to take a break one evening and cooked us dinner. Granted, it probably didn't take much convincing. Though it was only for a couple of hours, a home cooked meal and some breathing time felt like a day of rest. Our friend Alex also came by to visit very briefly. If I remember correctly she was on a weekend leave from her FEMA deployment during the floods in central Texas. It was nice of her to drop by because we didn't know when we would see her again. To give you an idea of what condition we were in at this point, when we opened the door for Alex, the first thing out of her mouth was "You guys look like hell". She had wanted us to come with her out on the town with some friends but we were right in the middle of the grind at this point. Though the hour or so of her visit was a good break for us. I don't think the girls fully understand how much that meant us and our psyche. It probably kept us from a complete meltdown and murder.

But there was a lot of work to be done and the deadline was coming up way faster than it should have. With me mostly caught up with the inking, I comped together a wraparound cover and title page. During the last few days, I was adapting the short story for "Down Time" to Grant's pages. When Jake finished coloring a page, I immediately opened it to letter it. At this point I was essentially writing each page as they came in. Luckily Jake's story has no text (it's set to music) so after I finished inking them all was left was the coloring. As he colored those final pages, I started to prep all the other pages to get ready to print. Which meant in the 24 hours before our flight to Chicago, I was resizing pages to fit the final margins correctly, tweaking some pages to ensure proper bleeds, rescaling files that had their dimensions corrupted, and dropping in page breaks as needed to make sure that each story started out on the correct side. Jake finished coloring the last page at noon thirty, seventeen and a half hours before we had to leave for the airport. I exported the layout to PDF, burned the CD, and it was off to Kinko's.

This was cutting it close. The time estimate I got from a store employee was at least 5 hours. This leave very little time to get to Lewisville where a former employer said I could perfect bind the book there for free. Sleep deprived and hungry, I panicked as I stepped through the doors at Kinko's. Behind the counter were stacks and stacks of orders. When I asked if they could print something for us on the Fiery, the girl frowned slightly. "We're kind of backed up, let me ask Patrick how long it would take". I am Luan's brain, and I'm about to have a stroke. Patrick hemmed and hawed for a bit and spouted out a miracle: two hours. Holy Jesus, it's going to work out. Leaving the disk in the hands of St. Patrick, we left for food. It had been about twelve hours since either us ate. We were hungry.

After our meal, we sat at Kinko's, waiting for our book to be printed. From where I sat, i could see the intense blue inside-front-cover come out of the printer. It was a good looking blue, the exact intense, electric blue I had wanted. As the other pages came out, Patrick looked impressed. "Is this your book?" he asked. "Well, kind of, it's us and like twenty other people," we chuckled. The pages kept printing, it was a huge stack. "It looks really, really good." Thank the gods. As I paid for the service, we flipped through the pages. It looked awesome; and it was our only set. Now to Lewisville. Jake was holding on to the pages with the protective nature of a grizzly bear. Mess with the cub and someone is going to get owned.

The binding was a nerve wrecking process. The guy in charge of the print room ran a few tests on the binder. The book was an nonstandard size so the machine had to be calibrated just right. We had one shot at this. We only had the one printout. I had no idea how deep the book would end up so i just guessed on the spine width. So when it came time to cut and glue the book to the cover, I was on edge. And like that, it was done. Perfect bound perfectly. We hugged everyone at the office and left with a skip in our step. We had to show SOMEONE. And who better than the person who started this project with us. We dropped by Evan's place to show him the book. Hearing him get excited about our prospects as a group was great. Jake and I have been locked away for two weeks; and for Evan to tell us "Dude, this is going to rock!" was what we needed to get geared for Chicago.

When we got home, I crashed out for a few hours as Jake did his laundry. Then he crashed out while I did my laundry. As we were zipping up our luggage and printing out the flight itineraries, a knock came to our door. It was our friend Kelly, outside in a world of morning blue, ready to take us to the airport. Bags packed and book safely at our side, I woke up at O'Hare airport about to embark on another four day grind: Wizard World Chicago.

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