Monthly Archives: July 2015

Hulk Smashwords!

My novella is finished. I have been through a first proofread myself. And my good friend Bonnie Hurd Smith has been kind enough to offer me a professional proofread and the best way I can thank her is to include the link for her latest book and hope that you will be kind enough to take a look at her site as well.

In the meantime, I have been going through the arduous process of trying to make my manuscript compatible to upload as an E-book by following the guide provided at the Smashwords Website. Smashwords offers a free service that allows you to convert your documents to an E-book format and then distributes the product through all of the major online retailers.

If I’ve made any of that sound easy, then I’m telling it wrong.

I’ve hit a snag that I hope won’t be too hard to fix. The guide so far has been full of neat graphic images to correlate with the words on the paper, making it easier for me to see what the writer intends for me to do. This works for me because I am visual learner. Unfortunately, I am at the part that tells me how to properly center the title page and other information that you usually find in the beginning of the book and while I am following the instructions as carefully as I can, there is no additional graphic to show me what I am doing wrong.

It’s not the author’s fault. Obviously, he’s doing something right if Smashwords has been around this long. I didn’t just stumble onto the site and think, “oh, that’s the Magic Path to success”. No, I heard it through a very reliable grapevine that another author whom I am just two degrees of separation away from has self-published through Smashwords. Then I researched the site and I decided I would be better off working with them than through Amazon or Lulu.

The problem is that being a visual learner, I have this extra step to work out and that is going to be notably frustrating to me. It’s even worse when you realize that every time I run into a snag like this, people become dismissive and act as if I have no right to even pursue something if I have to learn it in a way that is different from the other 99%. This is the problem I had in college when I was forced to take a self guided math course.

The problem is that yes, I can follow the instructions on the page reasonably well. I can even, with some basic guidance and instruction, work out a difficult math problem. But if you ask me to do that same math problem the next day, I find it difficult. Not because I have a “math disability” but because I’m just not good at certain math related functions that I don’t have any practical use for. Obviously I can use and manage money and do the four basic functions, but those are all things that I use every single day and so in that way my brain retains that information.

It’s just like how Julia Child wrote a book, but she also had a TV show. I can read a recipe and follow the instructions reasonably well. But I bet you that for every ten readers of her book, there were ten more that preferred to watch her show and were better able to learn how to follow a recipe by watching what she was doing and following her verbal instructions accordingly. No one was ever accused of having a “cooking disability” because they couldn’t read the recipe and apply what they learned without a visual aid.

Now I have to work extra hard to figure out how to format the title page and the Chapter headings according to the Smashword Guidelines. And I bet there’s no shortage of people who will read this and say, “Just find an easier way to do it. Or pay someone. If you can’t do those things, you have no business self publishing.”

Only Lovers Left Alive ~ A Super Short Review

There are movies that I inevitably wind up defending with my life, violently, if necessary. Only Lovers Left Alive is now one of those films.

Starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleton, Adam and Eve are two vampires who live on opposite ends of the world but are husband and wife to one another. Eve is closer to 5,000 years old whereas Adam is a more recent vintage and both characters have a fair amount of respect for life and accomplishment, even if Adam is suffering what appears to be an existential midlife crisis of sorts.

The reason I know I’ll end up defending the movie later on is that this is not two hours worth of “vampire porn”. By that I mean, this is no Twilight, but it’s not Lost Boys either. This is very much a vampire film for adults that is heavier on the story and the character studies and the nighttime scenery (It actually made me want to visit Detroit at night and if that’s not a glowing testimony, I don’t know what is) than it is on the action. Even when I was afraid that it would go to a very predictable end, I was pleasantly surprised when the story’s only real antagonist is simply told to leave and does.

What we really end up seeing is a story about two people who only want to get as much out of the time they’re given as possible, even if that amount of time is slightly more than the rest of us get.

A Bit of Frustration

When people take it upon themselves to offer help, I just wish they would take the time to think long and hard about whether or not they know for a fact that it is the kind of help I need, or want.

There’s a mentality that I should be willing to accept anyone’s help as long as they’re willing to offer it free of charge. In some cases that is true. However here is an example of a time when the logic fails.

Lets say I have washed up on a beach after having drowned. Someone approaches me and does not know CPR, but they do know how to make a top notch splint out of scraps of wood. So they fit my leg with a splint, but I’m still suffering from a lack of oxygen to the brain.

Well, that person had the best of intentions. But instead of admitting they didn’t know CPR and trying to find someone who absolutely did know such, they just went ahead with the only help they were capable of giving and now they’re surprised when I am not responding to that help, because what I needed was to get the water out of my lungs so I could start breathing.

At the same time, it’s not entirely the good Samaritan’s fault. I was the one who went into the water, knowing I couldn’t swim and not even wearing a life preserver. So no, I can’t get angry with the person who only wanted to help me. But at the same time, they were not in a position to improve my situation with their actions and perhaps it would have been better if they had just done nothing, so that the only person I have to blame is definitely myself.

Progressively Slower

If writing the story took long, finding an editor is taking even longer. I had one hopeful prospect, but a comment she made in her e-mail gave me doubts. Let’s just say that it smacks in part of the lip service I have recently denounced. To be fair, maybe she thinks my offer of doing her a favor in return, IE: any much needed chores around her house, is equally superfluous, but then ambiguously offering payment of any kind is always going to be questionable and at least I’m offering something I can actually do.

This is one of those times when it becomes frustrating, relying on anyone, especially when there is only one thing you need from them. I certainly don’t expect them to make me a priority, but the deadline this person gave me was the end of summer. Well, that would be fine if I had any actual assurance of their abilities, but the fact that she said, “From what I’ve read, it doesn’t need much editing”.

It doesn’t tell me if she read the story itself, or if she’s going off of my blog, or if she genuinely has a professional belief that my story doesn’t need a lot of editing.

I won’t rule her out right away, but I think she’s going to be an example of the basket that I’m not placing all of my eggs in.

The Evidence Would Suggest Otherwise

At the Salem Public Library, if you wish to use the Internet you have to put your library card number into the computer and it allots you a certain amount of time. If the computers appear to be taken, you can put your number into reservations computer and it prints out a receipt telling you the time when your session will begin and at which station.

Most libraries, by now, use this system to ensure fair usage and to keep track of who is doing what in the event that something illegal or amoral is taking place. I may have even mentioned this at some point, but I felt that a brief summary was necessary to remind you that this system did not just start yesterday. It’s been in place for quite sometime.

Yesterday, I showed up and all of the computers were taken. However, one couple was sitting at a computer station and I could see their screen clearly enough to know that it was open. You can tell a computer is open because it has the word “available” in big green lettering.

This is something that’s been happening a lot lately, or at least I’ve noticed it enough times to assume that it’s been happening a lot. Someone will be sitting at a computer that they’re not actually using. Either they’re hanging out with a friend who is on the adjacent computer. Maybe they got caught up in their texting. Or, and this one is the more forgivable instance, the user is working on paperwork of sometime, maybe for a class, and they actually did have a reservation but for whatever reason they did not log on at the right time. Or they never logged on at all and they didn’t expect someone else to want to use their computer. Or they were surprised when someone made a reservation and that it was for the computer they were sitting at but not actually using, because they figured it would be available to them at anytime so long as they were occupying the space. You know what, I can’t list and allow for every single scenario that might have occurred for this to happen. Just take my word for it that this happens.

So I see this couple sitting at the computer. I say couple because they were a man and a woman of similar age, but they may not have been an actual couple. Maybe they were students working on the same paper. One might have been a tax agent helping the other with paperwork. Aren’t you so happy that I’m covering all my basis here?

The point is that I could see that the computer they were at was not reserved. If it had been reserved, which would be apparent if they were actually logged on, or if there was a big red announcement that it was reserved, I would have just let it go. But it was the only computer available to anyone at that moment and I wanted to get online. Simple.

Now, I could have politely asked them to move so that I could log on. But people have a funny way of seeming to be reasonable and then turning on you like a rabid dog. So I went with the speaking softly and carrying a big stick approach. I made a reservation and surprise, surprise, the computer they were on switched from “available” to “reservation blah, blah, blah”.

I then informed them of this development. There was the usual confusion that accompanies people who were unaware that they could ever be in someone’s way. Oh, I never knew this computer was reserved, blah, blah, blah.

The librarian in charge of the computers at the time chimed in.

“Well, did you have a reservation?” She asked of the pair.

“Yes we did,” the gentleman said, politely but with certainty, prompting me to produce the receipt.

“Actually, no you didn’t,” I said. “That’s how I was able to make the reservation.”

The librarian couldn’t say anything to this. And in her defense, the confusion wasn’t her fault and she was only trying to keep the peace. Though there was no danger to the peace in this particular instance, as the lovely couple moved on without incident, as I mentioned this has been such a common occurrence of late that you can forgive the librarians if they feel compelled to try to step in just in case.

Get Off My Backpack

Once again, the Peabody Essex Museum wins my heart… burn. For the record, I’m not just making it up when I say that the person in charge of online communications replied pretty quickly the last time I wrote a really scathing Yelp review about my encounter with their over zealous ticket agents. If you to the museum’s Yelp site, you will see similar apologies to many people who reported similar negative experiences.

Here’s the thing: I am a Salem resident. Yes I get in for free and I’m sure after this post there will be any number of people telling me to “get over myself” and the other things that anonymous trolls are likely to go on about. But how I interpret the response I got to my last review, complete with apologies and appeals for my forgiveness, is that the people in charge of PR really do care if one person has had a negative encounter in their museum, especially if they are a Salem resident. Because who are you, faithful reader, likely to trust more when you’re planning where to spend your vacation money? Are you going to trust someone who is paid to tell you how wonderful the place is, or are you going to trust someone who actually lives there and has good reason not to give the place the time of day?

For every nine people who tell me to go F-myself, the tenth person is going to listen and even if only the next one hundred people to read this post over the next ten years are in anyway influenced by this post, it will be worth it. The communications director is going to have to work some serious voodoo to get me to change my one star rating this time.

So what am I complaining about this time?

The backpack rule.

I carry a little side bag. Even in the smaller shops with the most narrow avenues of navigation, no one gives me a hard time about it because of the age old rule of buying what you break. However, even the little bit of weight that is carried in the bag, caused discomfort when I was asked, by a museum guard, to carry the bag in front of me. So for the record, I did try to comply with the rule, but I was incredibly uncomfortable and would have been so if I had stayed in the museum any longer.

Imagine what someone might feel if they had to carry considerably more weight. I know pregnant women don’t have to imagine it, but there could be any number of reasons you would want your backpack on you. Maybe you have medications, medical equipment, or some other necessity on your person that you would need access to as quickly as possible. So checking the bag isn’t convenient, because their baggage area is down on the first floor and you could be up on the third floor when the need arises. But you also don’t want to be physically uncomfortable the entire time, because backpacks have a key design flaw that makes carrying them on your front half difficult and that is the fact that they are designed to be carried on your back!

Why don’t I want to check my bag? Because I have no way of knowing how it’s being treated when I’m not looking. Is it being placed in an area where it’s frequently kicked? Is it being roughly handled? A person who lives in my building, who is also a co-author of local Salem book, once had his bag roughly poked and prodded by one of the security guards I mentioned. As was typical, the security guard made no apology for possibly breaking something vital, for which the museum would certainly not have been tripping over itself to replace.

I actually asked one of the guards why this rule was in place. I would have had a better response verbally supporting Donald Trump’s views of John McCain’s service record. At first my simple request for an explanation to this rule was met with condescension and ridicule. Then the guard gave me a half-assed explanation about how people forget their backpacks and sometimes bump into things.

I tried to point out that if I shifted the weight of my backpack, the risk of bumping into something would be the same. In fact the shift in weight might increase the odds of someone tripping and therefore falling into the very things you’re so concerned about breaking. The lackey just replied with, “The rules apply to everyone.”

Okay, let’s address the logic of the rule. Aside from my observation, if it’s that easy to knock something over in a museum than you probably have failed Museum Set Up 101. In every museum I have been to, exhibits are usually set up so that even on the busiest days it is not possible to accidentally damage items. I assume this is because museums are being trusted with rare and valuable collections of both monetary and historical value and that it is the museum itself that will be held responsible if these things are damaged. If something is that prone to damage than greater care tends to go into protecting it, such as a big glass case and if someone knocks that over, they’re probably committing a felony and your little backpack rule would still be arbitrary.

The Story Has Been Written

Now the challenge is finding an editor. And by finding an editor, I don’t mean finding some middle school kid on a forum who is very possibly failing at reading comprehension. (Although least he has an excuse, what do the adults with degrees have to say for themselves?)

After six months, I finally finished the story I told you all about here. Like before, I’m not going to go into too much detail regarding the progress I’m making with getting it published, accept to say that I am very likely going to go the self-publishing route.