Among the Earliest Printed Books: Incunabula

Incunabula. What an amazing word. To learn about the history of book printing, read Kristen Twardowski’s post below. My incunabula is nearly ready to meet the printer.

Kristen Twardowski


When people think of the early days of book printing, they often remember Johannes Gutenberg and his first complete book, The Gutenberg Bible (1455). However other books were also published around this time.

Before the year 1500, using a printing press to create books was still a very experimental process. As a result, printed books made during this period have their own special name: Incunabula*. Originally the name did not reference printing. In fact, it had nothing to do with books at all. In Latin, incunabula indicated swaddling clothes or a cradle. The term therefore was intended to indicate that these books were in their infancy and were still developing.

During this early period, two different styles of book printing competed with one another: wood block and movable type. Wood block pages were created by using a carved piece of wood. To create a 300 page book, the printer would need…

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Travel-Inspired Fiction

As I paint the finishing gloss on To Charm a Killer, my mind drifts back to its creation. I can’t remember how the whole story came together–there were many edits, revisions, and transformations along the way. But, I do know some things.

In the beginning, a girl was abducted by a priest.

Hollystone Coven emerged as the hook for the series: a coven of witches who solve murders using magic. Not the blink and it’s done stuff, but by manipulating energy through ritual concentration and manifestation. For example, through focussed chanting, they raise power and bend and shape the forces of nature; something, we all have the capability of doing, if only we believed.


One day while hiking at Buntzen Lake, we came upon a large circle of people hidden in the woods. They were chanting “El Diablo” — whether conjuring or banishing the devil, I do not know. But that was the moment, the witches of Hollystone Coven began meeting there for Sabbat rituals.

I fell in love with Estrada, the High Priest of Hollystone Coven–everyone does–and he fell in love with the woods and with faeries.

“I’m serious, Sara. This forest reeks of life, especially after the September rains. Can’t you smell it?” He loved the primordial odour of wet earth; imagined his beginnings in the first fecund ooze…a microscopic amoebic creature, not yet conscious of the magical transformation that would one day occur.

Then I began scouting locations–walking in the footsteps of my characters.

Old Alexandra Bridge in Yale, BC is a real place, though the intuitive path Estrada follows to meet the killer is purely his own.

Drawn toward the killer by some unfathomable force, Estrada took his first steps across the Old Alexandra Bridge with trepidation. He couldn’t help but look down through the open u-shaped steel decking that stretched like rusty metal waves beneath his boots. Resting a leather-gloved hand on the orange railing, he stared, mesmerized by the roiling green-brown river. Beneath him, the Fraser, rife with sediment and autumn rain, funnelled through a canyon of colossal grey rocks into spiralling white-capped eddies. It was deep, cold, and forbidding.

And, when it was decided that the girl must travel to Ireland to escape the priest, I went with her to co-create her experiences. On Shop Street in Galway, I watched a woman performing street art, and she became an inspiration for Primrose, the Irish fey witch.


Draped and hooded in a forest green cloak that dragged upon the stones in folds, Primrose stood serenely, her hands hidden beneath gaping sleeves. Clustered branches of appliquéd emerald and silver oak leaves meandered over the cloak like a shimmering forest. The tiny elfish face beneath the hood was painted bright green, except for the area around her eyes, which was etched in dark spirals to resemble the knots of a tree. Her ever-changing irises glowed with golden iridescence as she smiled.

“You look like a nature goddess.”

“She’s Danu, Matriarch of the Irish gods,” said Estrada.

Primrose leads the girl on a mystical adventure in Ireland.

And when Estrada arrives, he  experiences Primrose in a wholly different way.

That is as much as I can say; to say more would divulge too many secrets. This is, after all, a mystery.

Ireland is a magical land, and I hope to see you there one day. If this book is your inspiration, I will be smiling.


The Sligo Road



Dolmens at Carrowmore



Communing with the Faeries at Tara, seat of the High Kings of Celtic Ireland

Wake of Vultures


Why do I love this book?
Nettie Lonesome is one tough, sympathetic, orphaned in childhood, raised by abusive idiots, going-to-save humanity heroine. Her friends are shapeshifters; her quest to kill monsters. Bowen has created a world resembling America of the 1870s. There are Durango Rangers, ranchers, indigenous tribes, and one thing more: MONSTERS. All kinds of monsters—the kind mothers teach their children to fear and with reason—vampires, chupacabras, and harpies. It’s Lonesome Dove meets From Dusk Till Dawn.
But this is not just a book about a seventeen-year-old girl killing monsters. That’s what she does; not who she is. This is a sweet and tender story—a coming-of-age story, a finding out who you are and what you are kind of story, a who-do-you-love story.
Wake of Vultures is marketed as Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy but with Nettie in the lead, it’s a great YA read too. What really sets this book apart is Bowen’s writing style. Her prose is tight, pithy, blow you away visceral. She’s a poet in stompy boots.
“Eternity was a wake of vultures, a harem of harpies, a brigade of bragging bitch-buzzards carrying her through the night, flying her toward the gaping mouth of a cave at the top of a mountain that nothing on two legs could ever reach” (313).
And it’s book one in The Shadow series. Conspiracy of Ravens picks up where this leaves off, and Delilah S. Dawson writing as Lila  Bowen is currently writing book three. For some real fun, follow the author on Twitter @DelilahSDawson

Living in Hidden in Libraries

Another fascinating post from Kristen. Have you ever wanted to be a library keeper?

Kristen Twardowski


Book lovers sometimes joke about wanting to live in bookstore or libraries, but in the past officially living in libraries was a reality for many people. Though they are no longer in use as residencies, many of the New York Public Libraries have apartments hidden within them.

When New York City’s Carnegie libraries were built in the early 1900’s, they were similar to a lighthouse; they had to have keepers to watch over them, to guard them, and, most importantly, to make sure that the coal burning fires that heated them never ran out. The keeper or custodian who held these duties often lived in the library with his family. Sharon Washington who lived in one such library apartment with her father, a library custodian for the St. Agnes branch, told the New York Times that “The family mantra was: Don’t let that furnace go out.” Prometheus many have brought fire and…

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