A New Life in Seattle

A New Life in Seattle
August, 2018

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What Happens When You Scan a Book?

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You face a huge cleanup and proofing adventure if you're scanning an old book for conversion into ebook form. And you must be prepared. Those of us who wrote some of our books before we had computers have had to deal with the issues and can tell you a few tales.

I'll limit this blog to the proofing adventures I had with MonsterTime: formerly Mastery, published in 1991. At 125,000 words, it was my longest novel. And, lacking the time and equipment, I paid my formatter to scan it. This turned out to to be a smart decision, since Yvonne Betancourt also performed an extensive preliminary cleanup job.

In the scanning process, as I'd been warned by other writers, all kinds of crazy things happen. And Yvonne took care of the obvious things: freaky line breaks, appearances of nonsense signs like
# # % & @@@ & .

The text had also included typographical stunts: attempting to capture, for instance, the sound of a hyena's whoop. And Yvonne had lovingly preserved these bits. Well, you might wonder sensibly, what was left for me to do. The devil's own work is the answer.

Throughout the entire text the number 1 had converted to I. At the start of any word, the letter f  had converted to H. Quote marks were randomly reversed. Periods appeared in the middle of words. Random letters were italicized. And, though I was working from memory, every now and then I knew that words had got lost in the scanning. Once, I was so confused by one paragraph that I knew it was missing a sentence or two. In places, the paragraphing itself seemed confused.

All that said, you'll note that I did call this an adventure rather than an ordeal. Since I was also doing a major rewrite as I went, I welcomed the chance to rethink the novel--without using the paperback original as my safety net. I had the rare opportunity to look freshly at each word--rethinking the sense while I looked for mistakes.

The entire process has taken me three months. And I don't regret one day. The 25th Anny Edition of the book that had been Mastery is 10,000 words shorter--and far better, I think, in all ways.

Two last Kelley Wilde horror novels remain to be rewritten. They too will have to be scanned. No complaints. But I'll tell you, honestly, I'll wait a year till beginning the next! Meanwhile, I celebrate next Month's release of:

Friday, June 12, 2015

How to Get the Most From a Strained Back

The 3-step MacRathian Plan--ACT--resulted from back strain caused by not lifting properly the night before.


1) I needed to get as much rest as possible, time off from sitting before a computer for hours.
2) I needed to accept, chin up, responsibility for the injury.
3) I also needed to accept secondary causes: weight gain in Seattle (working late shifts in The Store, shelves loaded with junk food...and now sitting in an office, suffering from the nibbles)...slippage from religious workouts and stretching, etc.


I found myself faced with two choices--and a real sense of urgency,
1) Decision A: I could rest my back for a day, then return to work and my life as was.
2) Decision B: I could convert this into a mosaic in which the back strain was only one tile. Still other tesserae included physical issues that had troubled me for years--and which too, I was convinced, were food-related. After all, I'd whipped the same issues before when I was eating mostly raw...

The decision seemed a no-brainer: the chance to convert an injury into a golden mosaic of health and positivity. But I only had one day off work--and I knew all too well, from my own experience, how quickly the best intentions slide.

Luckily, the MacRathian Plan stumbled onto its third leg:


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If I worked with the tesserae in the right order and spirit, all the little bits and pieces could support each other--and the process could transcend discouragement and fear of defeat. Like this:
1) I called out from work this morning, then ate my last chocolate bar. (Goodbye, old friend--my love, my Dove!) Then, while I wrote for an hour, I enjoyed the only two decaf coffees I'll allow myself each day. (Theory: I believe the acid in coffee, even decaf, causes a craving for sweets to neutralize the acids.)
2) I decided to fast for one day, since I had ample time to rest and even go to bed early. Weight loss from previous 1-day fasts had always been 2-3 pounds. And the first day is the toughest.
3) I decided to set myself up properly for the return to work: I bought a fresh salad and made a custom snack pack: celery, carrot sticks and apples to nibble on all day.
4) I worked for two hours in the library, free of food temptation.
5) Next, I bought containers in which to store cut-up apples or other fruits/veggies.
6) I returned, for the first time in months, to Pike Place Market to shop for fruit and juicing ingredients.
7) Tonight, after finishing this blog, I'll stop off for a cup of tea and put some more time in on my
WIP's second draft.
8) I'll hit the sack by 7:00 to give my back 9 hours' more rest and to stay out of harm's way with evening food temptations.

Tile by tile, day by day, this golden mosaic will happen.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Great Mustache That Wasn't

Let us begin with a gallery of a few of the world's greatest 'staches. These hair lips are so renowned that I don't need to give you the names:

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And one of my own favorites:

All right, all right. I don't imagine you've missed more than one or two of those. But the most iconic 'stache of all  is one that most of us have missed...but in a different way, You'll recognize it a glance, even without the man's mug:

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Why, yes, of course: it's Groucho Marx! But is it really? Check out these two photos of Groucho. The one that I'd remembered is shown on the right.

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But the other night I re-met the young actor on the left while watching a Marx Brothers film. And  something surpassingly strange caught my eye: Groucho's mustache appeared to be....well, glistening. Almost like an oil slick. What the devil was that thing?

A little Googling coughed up the answer:

Groucho Marx also used a fake mustache during his years in vaudeville and in the early Marx Brothers movies. However, his was drawn onto his lip with grease paint, containing no hairs or bristles. In later life he grew his own, real mustache. It, along with his cigar and waggling eyebrows, were his famous trademark.

My initial reaction: disappointment, a sense of betrayal. But these feelings passed into a mixed sense of amusement and wonder. The more we dig, the more we learn. But sometimes the digging can be self-defeating. Groucho's off screen walk, I'm sure, was different from his screen walk. So were his eyebrows. But who gives a hoot? If we can't see the greasepaint as part of the magic, the loss is ours.

Similarly, I don't care if Mae West inflated her bosom with enough air to fill up a raft. Nor do I give two dings if an actor uses steroids to get his buff physique or if an author's still a dead ringer for his/her more youthful photo.

In fact, if I may close with another iconic mustache. I still prefer to think of Lawrence Sanders, my favorite author, as he appeared for years and years. Much later photos were less kind. But this one still has majesty and it honors both him and his work.

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Meanwhile, hey Spirit of Groucho, pass me the damned greasepaint!