Presto! Just like that, my historical novel formerly known as Presto! has become The Reason for Time. And the reason for that is because my publisher thought Presto! misleading. It's a word usually associated with magic, and while there is magic in the book -- in the content, I mean -- it isn't the primary subject.

Yet there is always a kind of alchemy involved in the transformation of an idea to a story that morphs into a novel that will become a book, forthcoming from Allium Press of Chicago, Spring, 2016. While not a formal process, like the fourteen steps described by Samuel Norton in The Key to Alchemy, I can relate to the fourteen steps as they apply to transforming the thin air of an idea to the solid form of a book, starting from well before publication stage.

1. Solution, the act of passing from a gaseous or solid condition, into one of liquidity, for example, is the beginning, when the thought... this would make a great novel... strikes, and notes begin to accumulate in my notebooks.

2. Filtration, the mechanical separation of a liquid from the undissolved particles suspended in it. The discoveries I made in old newspaper files in Chicago's Newberry and Harold Washington libraries. What to photocopy, what to leave behind?

3. Evaporation, the changing or converting from a liquid or solid state into a vaporous state with the aid of heat.
Out of all that material has to come an idea for a story.

4. Distillation, an operation by which a volatile liquid may be separated from substances which it holds in solution.
Early drafts, and the trial and error of deciding what works and what doesn't.  If I leave a particular part in, the whole idea could blow up on me.

5. Separation, the operation of disuniting or decomposing substances. 
Okay, so restructure.

6. Rectification, the process of refining or purifying any substance by repeated distillation. 
Write another draft. Read through again, and again. Cut out anything that doesn't pertain.

7. Calcination, the conversion into a powder or calx by the action of heat; expulsion of the volatile substance from a matter.
Print out.

8. Commixtion, the blending of different ingredients into new compounds or mass.
Possibly add verbatim bits from actual sources, such as newspaper headlines, to help reveal events.

9. Purification, (through putrefaction), disintegration by spontaneous decomposition; decay by artificial means.

10. Inhibition, the process of holding back or restraining.
That scene that is hard to be true to, given the point of view... just go for it. Imagine it.

11. Fermentation, the conversion of organic substances into new compounds in the presence of a ferment. 
With all the ingredients in place, write another draft.

12. Fixation, the act or process of ceasing to be a fluid and becoming firm; state of being fixed. 
First completed draft sent to potential publishers.

13. Multiplication, the act or process of multiplying or increasing in number, the state of being multiplied. 
This would be the period when I added many thousands of words to replace the section my publisher felt would distract from the whole. When I completed yet another draft, that -- thanks to an editor's eye -- was satisfyingly filled out in places I had neglected before.

14. Projection, the process of turning base Metals into gold.
Let's hope.