Jenn Manley Lee


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Page 19 of Birth

This latest page (which is far too late) includes snatches of lyrics from the lovely song "Trimmed Wing" from gracious Mary Epworth, with permission, of course. Pages ought to start appearing more regularly now that I've been clearing up and getting a handle of various obligations. I've been able to share a couple of other project over on my Tumblr. Not included are the 80 some odd pages of Carla Speed McNeil art colored; though I will as they are actually published.

Page 14 of Part 4 : Birth

At last, a new page of Dicebox. Also at last, there's a new working blog on plus a lot of cleaned up code, restored function, updated links and so on. And perhaps more notable, these darn update delays are coming to an end. In a couple weeks I'll have finished a couple obligations and can turn more time back to Dicebox. This excites me.

Wander dice kits

When I was designing my incentive packages for the crowd-funded print run of Dicebox Book 1 : Wander, it was inevitable that dice would be included in some fashion. As my desire was for the the dice to be of my own design, I was pleased to discover Chessex, a company that specializes in making small lots of custom dice. They were great to work with and the dice they produced were lovely. The flexibility of Chessex's process allowed me to offer a set of four dice with three different "1" pips. For what this did to the cost of each dice set I felt I needed offer a sheet of games you could play with four dice or less as compensation. I looked up traditional games, choosing the most theme appropriate ones, like “Shut the Box,” and “Liar's Dice.” I wrote up my rules for the selected games from various sources in books and on the internet, often combining the rules of similar games, and naturally replaced the generic pronouns with "peh."

For these instruction booklets I wanted to recreate the feeling of those found in card sets and pocket games. the ones with small, compacted text on onionskin paper. After some experimentation, I discovered sumi practice rice paper worked the best. I needed to tape it to another, stiffer sheet of paper in order to run it through my printer, but it did beautifully. Trimming rice paper with an Exacto blade can be a right pain as it often snags and then tears, even with a brand new blade. Luckily I had discovered the wonder that is a rotary cutter which does a clean and quick job of it.

For a finishing touch, I created a "watermark" with a custom stamp I had made of the Dicebox poppy and a stamp pad with ink made for the purpose.

Among the games I wanted to include was Tabula, the precursor of Backgammon, which needed fifteen counters for two players. Which, naturally, I felt I should provide. Besides a few of the other games required counters for various purposes. The glass gems used for vase decoration ended up being a satisfactory and cost effective solution.

The Tabula sheet had its own folding challenges; I created a guide to aid folding it in thirds and learned that whacking the inside of a fold with a metal ruler was needed to make a clean crease.

A set of cleromancy instructions also seemed in order. As with the games, I pulled from various sources and shaped each fortune-telling method to my liking. One of the methods of casting called for a circle to help interpret the shape of the answer. It was a perfect opportunity to incorporate the circular symbol of Book 1, the labyrinth. (for Book 2 it's a spiral, Book 3, a wheel and Book 4, concentric circles) While experimenting with the layout, I wondered what printing it on the back of the instructions would look like. I decided it looked good.

Now, I needed a bag to hold those counters and the rest, didn't I? I began my search for the bags with only knowing that they needed to be black and have a drawstring. I quickly found myself on wedding supply websites looking at the wide variety of favor bags. My favorite of these sites is Save-on-Crafts, full of the most possibilities for future projects.

I found many candidates at a variety of sites but was reluctant to commit to 12 to 24 bags before seeing a sample. Luckily I came across U.S. Box where I could buy individual samples or various items. I chose the black fringed faux suede for the feel, size and vagabond appeal. I might not have chosen something so whimsical without being able to handle it first.

A box was needed to hold the whole kit and caboodle. After much searching and comparing, I ended up finding the absolutely perfect box back on U.S. Box., a red and black jewelry box, square with a snap closure. (It was almost like the manufacturer had me specifically in mind.)

I had already planned to make a custom insert to hold everything separately and securely in whatever box I ended up with. Quite a few prototypes were made in plain white paper before I worked it out. Then I created a final dieline in Illustrator which I then printed directly onto black sheets on Arjowiggins' Curious Skin paper, a very tactile and strong paper I always wanted to find a reason to use. To get the cleanest fold, I lightly scored the lines with the back of an Exacto knife tip before folding.

Time to load up the box.


Finally comes the branding of the box. The labels were made by simply printing black on the black Skin paper, inspired by the effect I saw when printing the insert die lines. As the ink isn't fully absorbed by the paper (which creates the effect), I need wait a day before trimming them out. I then adhere it to the top of the box by spraying the back with adhesive, using a makeshift guide to help me center it.

Finally, I re-use the white board sleeve that each box came to wrap and protect each box again after I stamp the sleeve with the Dicebox logo.

And there you have it. It certainly satisfied the urge to make a certain something. As did creating the dice cups, which I'll discuss in my next post.



Digital color match proofs of select pages for Book 1

Click above image for larger view.
I couldn't afford a full set of color proofs, so I worked with the printer to select key pages on each signature to match to on press. This photo doesn't do the color of these justice. "Wet proof" of the endpapers for the hard cover (PMS 8860 metallic over PMS 1795)
Click above image for larger view.
Oh my goodness, this whole book thing is really going to happen, isn't it?