Enter Keen (Bradley Keen).
Keen is a musician friend of mine. We met back in 2009 at a songwriter’s contest at the well known (in our parts) Humphrey’s by the Bay in San Diego. He looked just as terrified as me and was sitting right at the hidden corner table I would’ve chosen so I walked right up to him and said “I’m going to share this table with you because I want to hide out just as much as you do”. I think he was relieved for the chatter. We ended up cheering eachother on and by the end of the night I made him exchange numbers with me and said “we’re going to be good friends, I’ve decided”. Once I’ve decided something I’m pretty damn resolute about it. Once I moved up to Oceanside back in October of 2010 to be closer to the cancer center we didn’t see as much of eachother, but thanks to texting and facebook we did stay connected and met up at open mics whenever I was up for it. He also came up to Oside and lent his harmonica, guitar and vocal talents to the two singles I recorded just before starting chemo.
At one point in the spring we had arranged it for him to come up and hang out for an afternoon playing music and he offered to do recordings of my stuff (with his portable recording setup) to help me with the CD II project. That project was placed on hold when chemo started, but we came up with the idea to do “RAW” recordings and put them on Reverbnation so my songs would be out there (just in case, or) to tide us over until we all get back into the studio to professionally record them.
I was in the tiny cottage (maybe 400 sq feet) at the time so, there wasn’t much room to play or setup any equipment. I reserved the back garden room at the Hill Street Cafe down the road. It’s where I frequent the Thursday night open mics and their fish (sushi) joint next door. Plenty of room there. He stopped by my place first just to see first hand this so called box I was reporting to live in. I think he was shocked to experience it first hand. It was also the first time he’d seen me since I started round 3. I was a good 20 lbs heavier and walked like a robot from the stiff joints plus my hair…I’d forgotten to tell him about my hair (I’ll tell that story next). Anyway, he asked me about the book and did I mind showing him what I’d drawn for it. He’d seen the scribbles I’d posted on facebook, so he had a general idea. I showed him, he grimaced, hesitated for a moment and then said “You know I’m a graphic artist don’t you?” to which I smiled in surprise and gave my now standard response “No, I didn’t~ Or at least if I did I don’t remember~” He asked me how long I had before it all went to print. I told him “Friday”. It was Sunday. He asked if I minded if he took a shot at it. A couple days later, this is what I got in an email from him:
Night, meet Day. Day, meet Night~ I just sat there staring at it wonderment. I think I even hugged my computer screen. I called CreateSpace and told them about the switch to be sure they wouldn’t accidentally use my design. A week later the first proof of the book arrived with instructions saying to look over the book carefully and either approve to publish or submit changes. There were a couple typo-s and names I’d meant to add to acknowledgements, but forgot. The kinds of things either and editor wouldn’t know to catch or were done after I approved the final edit (I’m so fidgety). However, there were two things that were obvious from the moment I opened the packaging.
First one was that the coloring was off. The shading around the C Card was more like a highlight and the road and hills were totally off color. I asked Keen what he thought and he didn’t seem to mind. Changing it would delay the publishing of the book by a week or so, it was already the first week of April and I’d already pledged a dollar for every book sold in April to the charity my niece was sponsoring…Then it hit me, like a ton of bricks. Keen and I are so alike in this respect. He didn’t put his name on the book. Y’know, “Book cover by – Bradley Keen”. That was the final straw. I couldn’t have him do all that work, especially since he refused to take anything in payment for it other than a copy for him and one for his mom (who was also a cancer survior), without him getting acknowledgement for it. After all, there is always the chance the book would sell and lead to more book illustration jobs for him. Bottom line, it was the right thing to do. It also meant getting all of the other little changes sorted, so it was the best case scenario. CreateSpace said they couldn’t guarantee a color match, which irritated me because we weren’t talking about slight changes in shade like the disclaimer you see with hand dyed jeans, but full on difference in color. Still, “It’s the content that counts” kept pushing its way to the forefront of my mind, so I submitted the requests for change and hoped for the best.
One week later the UPS truck pulled up and the final proof was in my hands and it was perfect~ The colors were matched up, Keen’s name was proudly displayed on the back cover and the names I’d missed were now rightfully in the acknowledgement sections. I walked over to my computer, logged in and clicked “Approve Proof”. Within hours, the copy was live on Amazon and within weeks it was available on Kindle. I’ve heard nothing but praise for the design and even a couple inquiries so far from authors to be. I couldn’t be happier with it all.
So, there you have it. That’s the cover story. I guess the only other thing to say about it would be in response to people’s reactions when they meet me for the first time after reading it. I can see that they’re a bit surprised by the fact that I, a: have a full head of hair, b: am not a brunette (anymore) and c: soooo do not look like a 12 year old stick figure.
That, we’ll will cover next in the Prelude to a Book series: What’s with the Hair…