The Man on The Plane

Yesterday I had to fly. Flying used to be fun, sort of exciting, but as we now know, everything has changed about the experience. Now it’s just, well, tedious. So many things to accomplish before I lay my head down. Or, in other words: Miles to go before I sleep. (I always liked that.)

There’s all the preparation to go. Don’t forget anything. Make sure there’s enough time. Count backwards. Let’s see. Flight leaves at 10:40 so let’s call that 10:30. Need an hour and a half at Tampa International Airport. (Actually, that’s a stretch, you really only need an hour, so I’m probably overcompensating by forty minutes at this point.) Allow thirty minutes for the shuttle to the airport from the rental car place. And thirty minutes to get to the rental car place.

Okay, we’re at the airport. Stand in line at the ticket counter to check two bags. Here, a slight diversion. These are bags designed to be carryons but of COURSE we can’t do that anymore because of silly rules about liquids in 4 ounce containers (thank you Mr. Shoe Bomber!) and other forbidden items which may become weapons, like nail files and miniature socket sets. Check the bags, reprint the boarding passes, show ID.

Next, stand in line to (again) show ID and boarding pass in order to get on shuttle for a one-minute whisk to the terminal. Once deposited safely terminalside, prepare for the TSA IPP (Invasion of Privacy and Patdown). Show ID and boarding pass (yet AGAIN), where a uniformed Security Specialist shines a light on your driver’s license and makes his secret little mark on your boarding pass. Take laptop out of case, disrobe and try to remember whether you need ID and boarding pass again. Try to keep track of belongings, get x-rayed, retrieve belongings, get dressed.

We are now ready to board the plane but, as usual, we’re about two hours early, having grossly over-estimated the amount of time everything will take. Play the waiting game and listen to lame pages. Will Ruth Quackenbush please pick up the nearest white courtesy telephone? Every ten minutes we are instructed that we are in an indoor clean-air facility and no smoking is permitted. And also a reminder that any unattended bags will be im-pound-ed.

Line up, get on plane. We usually board first, since I’m one of those anal people who has my right mouseclick finger poised at exactly 24 hours before boarding time so we can be part of the esteemed A Group.  The seats are three across, so if it’s a full flight, someone will be joining our cozy little party of two. It was a full flight. Okay, I’m in the middle seat, so let’s make eye contact with someone who is relatively slender and looks like he or she won’t want to make much conversation.

Woman and her husband approach, and she sits across the aisle and he sits next to me. He is a small, wiry sort of fellow with a thick crop of untended black hair. He looks a bit like he is continually on an adrenaline rush. He carries a book which is a good sign.

“Good place to sit!” he says. “More leg room here!”

“Yeah, I guess so,” say I, while I don’t believe there is any more leg room at this particular location than anywhere else.

His wife requests her “reading material” so he stands up in the aisle and proceeds to fumble in a suitcase in the overhead compartment holding up approximately forty passengers waiting to proceed to the rear of the plane where there are still empty seats remaining.

He gets to the material his wife has demanded and hands it to her and settles into his seat. He eats (rather noisily) a peach and half of an overripe banana before the plane takes off.

As we take off and are climbing to 10,000 feet where we can turn on electronic devices, he and his wife pass a small turquoise bottle filled with something that produces a pungent aroma back and forth. It smells a bit like smelling salts. What the…? It’s a bit stinky actually, and they reverently pass it back and forth and inhale deeply the fumes. Does anyone know what this is? I didn’t ask. Something for ear pressure problems? Air sickness? Maybe just good karma?

The flight attendant asks him if he’d like a complimentary juice, soft drink, tea or coffee. He orders a mixture of half cranberry juice, half diet sprite. It seemed a bit demanding to me, that he be served some sort of special refreshments. Let’s just keep it simple, shall we?

Snack? Peanuts and Ritz Mini Snack Thins (only 100 calories!) are offered.

“I’ll have four peanuts,” he says.

Four peanuts! Who says you can have four? You’re supposed to get one! What if everybody on this plane asked for four? He got his four, and later he accepted his Ritz Mini Snack Thins too. Then he proceeded to ask for two refills of his special concoction of cranberry juice and diet sprite. Clearly, here is a man who likes to take advantage of free stuff.

He read, did a crossword puzzle, and then fashioned himself a bookmark. He carefully ripped the back cover of the Southwest Spirit Magazine down about one inch, and bent the page down, flipping the magazine back and forth as he did this, elbows flailing and invading my personal space. Fold, press, run thumbnail firmly over the fold, flip, repeat. Finally he tore it off. Voila! Bookmark!

What?

When we stood up to get off the plane, waiting in perhaps the last line of the day, he said to his wife, “I did some verrrrry deep thinking during this flight.”

I think this guy might make his way into a novel somewhere down the line.

Malapropisms for a Monday Morning

A malapropism is the (usually) unintentionally humorous misuse or distortion of a word or phrase. It includes the use of a word which sounds somewhat like the one intended but very wrong in the context. This is one of the funniest vehicles to portray a character who is clueless or misinformed.

The terms malapropism and the earlier variant malaprop come from Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1775 play The Rivals, and in particular the character Mrs. Malaprop. Sheridan presumably named his character Mrs. Malaprop, who frequently misspoke (to great comic effect), in joking reference to the word malapropos.

The alternative term “Dogberryism” comes from the 1598 Shakespearean play Much Ado About Nothing in which the character Dogberry produces many malapropisms with humorous effect.

So the malapropism has been around for a few hundred years or so, and is still as populace as ever!

Here are some by famous (sort of) people:

  • “Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child.” (Dan Quayle)
  • “We cannot let terrorists and rogue nations hold this nation hostile or hold our allies hostile.” (George W. Bush)
  • “It is beyond my apprehension.” (Danny Ozark, baseball team manager)
  • “This is unparalyzed in our state’s history.” (Gib Lewis, Texas Speaker of the House)
  • “Gentlemen, get this straight once and for all—the policeman isn’t there to create disorder, the policeman is there to preserve disorder.” (Richard Daley, former Chicago mayor)
  • “He was a man of great statue.” (Thomas Menino, Boston mayor)

Ringo Starr was famous for his malapropisms which became Beatle’s songs:

  • “Tomorrow never knows”
  • “It’s Been a Hard Days Night”
  • “Eight Days a Week”

 Archie Bunker was known for malapropisms of all kinds:

  • “A witness shall not bear falsies against thy neighbor.”
  • “The hookeries and massageries…the whole world is turning into a regular Sodom and Glocca Morra.”
  • “Off-the-docks Jews.”
  • “A woman doctor is only good for women’s problems…like your groinocology.”
  • “I ain’t a man of carnival instinctuals like you.”
  • “All girls go cockeyed during pooberescency.”
  • “A menstrual show.” (minstrel)
  • “Irene Lorenzo, Queen of the Women’s Lubrication Movement.”
  • “Buy one of them battery operated transvestite radios.”
  • “In her elastic stockings, next to her very close veins.”
  • “Last will and tentacle…”
  • “Patience is a virgin.”
  • “A Polack art exhibit!” (Jackson Pollock)
  • “As youse people say, Sh-boom.” (Shalom)
  • “A kuzeeknee.” (zucchini)
  • “In closing, I’d like to say Molotov!” (Mazel Tov)

The Sopranos:

  • “He was prostate with grief.” (Tony Soprano)
  • “Create a little dysentery among the ranks.” (Christopher Moltisanti) 
  • “He could technically not have penisary contact with her volvo.” (Tony Soprano to Jennifer Melfi)
  • “There’s no stigmata connected with going to a shrink.” (Carmine Lupertazzi Jr.) 

Ricky (Robb Wells) from Trailer Park Boys has many well known malapropisms, known by fans of the show as “Rickyisms”. Here are a few:

  • “Get two birds stoned at once.”
  • “Worst case ontario.”
  • “I’m not a pessimist, I’m an optometrist.”
  • “Survival of the fitness.”
  • “Passed with flying carpets.”
  • What comes around, is all around.”
  • “It’s clear to see who makes the pants here.”
  • “Tempus fuck it.” (Tempus fugit)
  • “It doesn’t take rocket appliances…”

Of unknown origin:

  • “He had to use a fire distinguisher.”
  • “Dad says the monster is just a pigment of my imagination.”
  • “That looks like an expensive pendulum around that man’s neck.”
  • “Good punctuation means not to be late.”
  • “He’s a wolf in cheap clothing.”
  • “Michelangelo painted the Sixteenth Chapel.”
  • “My sister has extra-century perception.”
  • “’Don’t’ is a contraption.”
  • “Flying saucers are just an optical conclusion.”
  • “A rolling stone gathers no moths.”
  • “Their father was some kind of civil serpent.”
  • “The flood damage was so bad they had to evaporate the city.”
  • “Well, that was a cliff-dweller!”

As coined by various members of my family:

  • “He must be rich, he lives in a high-rise condom.”
  • “She went to an ivy-covered college.”
  • “He plays the cello in the Philharmonica.”
  • “He has to have surgery on his coroded artery.”

Got a favorite malapropism to contribute?

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 Blog Updates, 1 Household Hint and A Song

(Originally I planned to include three updates to previous blogs. But then something really surprising happened, so it’s four blogs to update.)

Blog Update #1. Last week I blogged about the book on writing, Spunk & Bite by Arthur Plotinik and Mr. Plotnik himself commented on it! In that post, I had noted twelve words, the meanings of which I wasn’t sure, from The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. This week I am re-reading Freedom, Mr. Franzen’s most recent novel. Naturally, I’m finding more words that are I’m not familiar with, and since I am reading on my Kindle, I note it (handy Kindle feature) so I can look up those words later, and re-examine the sentences in which they appear.

As Mr. Plotnik says: “What if a word is likely to be outside the reader’s active or half-known vocabulary? Then even undefined it should lend some special aura, some majesty or exoticism, to the context.” So even if the reader couldn’t give the exact meaning of a word, the sentence in which it appears is crafted such that he still gets it.

This was a really big deal to me, that Mr. Plotnik commented on my post.

Blog update #2. I reviewed the excerpts from the finalists in the ABNA 2012 Contest in both the General and Young Adult Fiction categories. I did not predict correctly in the General category but in the Young Adult, I did.

A Beautiful Land by Alan Averill wins for General Fiction. It started out with a good hook but ended with a bad simile, the one about the Poe boarder.

But my pick for best Young Adult did win, On Little Wings by Regina Sirois. And the really exciting thing (to me) was that this author actually found the review and commented on my post. Think my post had anything to do with her winning? I doubt it, but I’m glad for her. It’s a good story.

Last year, I was 0-for-2. This year at least I got one right. Congratulations to both winners. What an accomplishment!

Blog update #3. Last October, I published The 24 Most Annoying Phrases for 2011 but I need to bump that up to 25. This phrase has been in use for a while, so it still applies to the year 2011.

Reach out!

This is how you make initial contact with someone in business-speak. You can reach out to someone in many ways: phone call, e-mail, instant message, or just bumping into the person who needs to be reached out to in the salad bar line at the cafeteria. Probably want to skip the rest room for any serious reaching out, but anywhere else is fine.

This phrase is so annoying that I made a solemn vow never to let these two words fall from my lips, consecutively, in the same sentence. Other assemblies of the two words in the same sentence are not considered offensive as long as there is at least one word between “reach” and “out”.

Alas. I was once upon a time on some sort of conference call and after much reaching out was being attempted by others, and before I had the proper amount of time to correctly formulate my thoughts, I heard the phrase “reach out” come out of my mouth. I had said it. Gagh! I have yet to forgive myself for it. I will go to my grave knowing that I once said “reach out” and meant it. (It’s perfectly okay to say it if you are being sarcastic or joking around, but if you say it and mean it, this is a vile happening indeed.)

One commenter on the post mentioned this phrase should probably be included in the list and I realized he was absolutely right, that this is one of the worst offenders and yet I had mistakenly omitted it. My apologies, Reach Out, for not including you, and kudos to you for being one of the most ridiculous, silly, meaningless buzzphrases of all!

Blog update #4. I once wrote a blog about marketing strategies that I didn’t think worked and one of them was the Jos A Banks “Buy 1 get 4 Free!” advertising methodology. They recently sent four coupons to my husband “in honor of his birthday”. How they got that information, I don’t know.  

Yippee! Each coupon was for $25 off on a $125 purchase. Okay, that’s nice. And there are four coupons remember. Or instead, says Jos, take $100 off a $500 purchase! But wait, that’s, uh, yeah, that’s 4 times $25 and 4 times $125… Got it! Obviously they think people can’t multiply. Come on, Jos, your customer base is buying cashmere coats and merino wool suits and silk ties. Which is a real good indicator that they aren’t Joe The Plumber and probably are educated and affluent and they can multiply a couple of numbers by 4. Geesh. It isn’t even insulting, it’s just stupid on their part.   

Household Hint. The e-cloth! Found in Real Simple magazine, this is a great way to clean up. These cloths contain millions of tiny fibers which supposedly grab on to all kinds of household gunk and remove it. You can clean anything with just water. Tile, showers, porcelain, glass and there’s even an eCloth for polishing your wine glasses. There are packs for the kitchen, for the bath, for the car, or “all purpose” eCloths. Dust cloths are used dry, all the others use plain water. No more chemicals. It’s fast and it works.

I have been trying to find a way to clean black granite for years – Voila! The eCloth was the solution. Highly recommended.

A great song. Coast by Eliza Gilkyson. It plays regularly on my Emmy Lou Harris Pandora station. Listen to how beautiful it is, how melancholy. Very moving.

Perigee Moon Available on Amazon!

This past week was spent in the final editing of my third book Perigee Moon, and formatting of both the print version and the Kindle version, which went relatively smoothly. The Kindle Direct Publishing Nice People have now provided us with basic instructions on how to do it, and it is easier than it used to be.

You can get the print version of Perigee Moon here.

I learned that making use of the Styles in Word can make ebook formatting a whole lot easier, so I did that. I fixed my styles and created a Table of Contents and had relatively little trouble getting it published. You can get the ebook version for Kindle here for a mere $2.99.

I can’t decide which I prefer. I still like to read a “real” book once in a while and I go back and forth, between the Kindle and printed books, Amazon and the Public Library.

Once I got the Kindle version published and it looked very good to me, I decided to do the same with my other two books, which had a couple of formatting issues, due to my relative inexperience back then. Well wouldn’t you just know, wouldn’t it figure, that sometimes it works one way and sometimes it works another. I blame Word for this, there is so much crap under the surface of Word, so many options and it seems needlessly complex to me.

I got Whatever Happened to Lily formatted just fine, and is available here in it’s new format, but when I did Second Stories the exact same way, it didn’t quite work. Well, it worked okay, but put an extra space between the paragraphs which I didn’t want. I still haven’t figured it out. It looks okay, but not perfect, so I haven’t uploaded anything for the Kindle for that book yet.

Maddening, that’s what it is.

I check and compare and look at the HTML and can’t find out why it would do that. There are other ways to do it, through other software but the instructions supplied by KDP seemed so straightforward that I had hoped my ebook formatting issues were behind me. Ack! Not so.

Another surprise was in store for me. It takes a few days for a new print book to be listed on the Amazon site so I kept checking each day to see if it had appeared, and guess what I found? Another book called Perigee Moon. This I would have to describe as seriously suckage because I had specifically searched for books with that title when I selected it.

Perigee Moon by Tara Fuller. After a horrific fire claims the life of her mother, seventeen year old Rowan Bliss finds herself in the miniscule town of Ipswich, Massachusetts. It’s here that she meets Alex, a deliciously mysterious boy who holds the key to unlocking her family’s dark secret. As Rowan falls helplessly over the edge for Alex, the secrets that he insists on keeping refuse to be contained. The truth that she uncovers challenges everything she has ever believed. Alex is a witch. And now he’s awakened something within her she never even knew existed. But out of all of this, the one thing Rowan won’t accept is the fact that Alex is destined to die. Rowan must unearth the buried power she harbors within to escape a deadly prophecy, defy the very laws of time, and prevent the hands of fate from taking yet another person she loves.

We’ll call it “The Other Perigee Moon” but I think I will plug it anyway. You can get that book here.

It’s about witches so I guess we won’t be in direct competition but still, it is disappointing.

In other news, next week (Tuesday, May 22) the six finalists for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012 will be announced. I like to read the excerpts from the books chosen and last year I blogged my reviews of each and tried to predict the winner. I wasn’t too successful. Maybe this year will be better.

5 Blogging Insecurities or Will I Ever Be Freshly Pressed?

I started reading an Elizabeth Berg novel yesterday called Once Upon a Time, There Was You. I’m not sure I should have done it and I will now tell you why I say that.

Ms. Berg is one of the very best women’s fiction authors in the country, in the world, in the universe. That’s merely my opinion but I know a lot of people agree with that statement. I was immediately hooked. There was a prologue about a couple who’d planned to marry, from each of their POVs. They each had second thoughts about the other and misgivings, serious misgivings that they might be doing the wrong thing, but went through with the wedding anyway. They were both in their late thirties and felt it was “time to settle down”.

Fast forward twenty years. They have an eighteen-year-old daughter and guess what? They are now divorced. Not surprising, given their reluctance to go through with the marriage in the first place. A few chapters in and I am still hooked, and I really like the main characters. What a lovely book it’s going to be. And what I really want is to be reading it, instead of writing this blog or editing my own novel.

Reading a Berg novel, while it may not educate you in anything other than great food presentation, or perhaps serve as a tool to demonstrate what really good writing looks like, is vastly entertaining.

Uh. All the insecurities rear their ugly heads.

I won’t ever be as good, I can’t compete, I might as well devote my life to chasing after dust bunnies and finger prints. Is it too late to learn how to cook? Maybe bake a pie? Yeah, probably.

My day is divided into thirds while I babysit for my four-month-old grandson. He is remarkably predictable, and has periods of wake, sleep and eat. Three times during my day, he repeats this cycle and while he sleeps and sometimes while he is awake, I can do things other than tend to him. I promised myself, one period of Elizabeth Berg, one period of editing Perigee Moon and one period of blog writing.

This is period three, blog writing. Speaking of blogging, check out my stats from the beginning of time. Not sure I can keep it up but it sure looks good to see the lovely graph of hits go up and up each month.

And even though I see this steady increase, still my blogging insecurities are ever present.

Here are some of the things I worry about, blog-wise:

  1. Have I remembered to answer everyone’s comment? It is not polite to ignore comments and only if one goes viral is it acceptable to lump one response to several comments. A successful blogger should at least attempt to answer each one individually. I think I may have ignored a couple, but wait, crap. There’s one from last week I forgot about. Well, I’ll respond to that one right now.
  2. Does my latest blog post suck? Does it sound like I just wasn’t in the right mood but it was time so I wrote down just anything? Looking back at some of the earlier ones, I think some of them do, in fact, suck. Some more than others. Some are helpful to writers but boring to non-writers, some are superficially entertaining and have no redeeming value to writers but may appeal to non-writers. Some are vents and some are just whatever happened to inspire me that day, like political rallies or food labels or maligning the Kardashians. Do the writing posts suck, or the non-writing ones? Do they all suck?
  3. Why don’t many bloggers “like” my posts? This is a big deal. If I have more readers now, why doesn’t anyone “like” it? Do they hate it? If they do like it, why don’t they tell me, then I can get those cool emails from WordPress telling me Congratulations! Someone liked your post enough to click the Like button!
  4. Why don’t I get many comments? Is it because my posts aren’t interesting enough, or funny enough, or educational enough? Probably all of the above. I love getting comments! Whenever I see emails from comment-reply@wordpress.com I get euphoric with joy. The email has all the information, the name of the comment and the text. It’s so exciting to see these in my inbox!
  5. Will I ever be Freshly Pressed? This may not be familiar to some readers, but other WordPress bloggers know well what this status symbol does for the old stats. This is when the WordPress gurus themselves find a blog that they consider to be original and worthy of a place on the home page. I have started to follow many blogs based upon their Freshly Pressed status. My personal goal is to achieve this someday. What a feather in the old writing cap that would be. I’m not sure how the individual blogs are picked by the WordPress people, but somehow they find them.

So I wonder. I like to post once a week. Is it better to post a so-so article, or a rather dumb article, or a completely lame article, rather than post nothing at all?

I haven’t been feeling all that funny lately, so I hope the readers I have managed to accumulate stick with me.   

Perigee Moon – Beta Reader Results Are In

An abbreviated post this week. I had a wonderful response to Remembering the Pankcake Man. Thanks to all who read and commented. My father was remembered at his memorial service on April 20, 2012. Many people came to honor him, to tell us what he had meant to them, and there were quite a few tears and even some laughs as we remembered the good days. I will always be grateful for everyone who came and shared their memories.

My husband reminded me of something funny that my father had said to him. We asked him, will you be buried here, next to Mom? And he said yes, he would be. And he had purchased additional plots for my brother and me, to be buried there too, but he guessed that probably wouldn’t happen. Those plots wouldn’t be used, so he was considering “turning them into a family room”. That was so typical of his sense of humor.

At my father’s funeral, the pastor read two poems my father had written. I had no idea. He wrote one poem about golf and another about retiring. They were funny, and witty, and everyone enjoyed hearing them. I never knew he wrote poetry.

The reviews are in from my Beta Readers. I got lots of thumbs up of Perigee Moon (between one and twenty per person). Even though these are my good friends from high school, still they all said they thought Perigee Moon is my best work yet. Every single one of them said it, and it is very gratifying to hear it.

They asked me if these characters are based on anyone, and I had to say no, these characters are truly made up. Maybe some of the characters in my first two books were based (loosely) on people I had known. In this case, that isn’t true. I thought a lot about the characters and how they would interact and what they would think and say. They are fictional, yet I suppose there are people who are just like Luke. Kate and Abby.

I will be fixing up the remaing typos and releasing it for publication in early May.

The Flu Yields a Good Book Review

Last week I hinted at the end of my post that I felt like I was getting the flu. Well bring it on! Let’s get this flu thing going and over with, shall we? Not so fast, the evil germ-vermin said. We think we’ll hang around for awhile. And they did, those little buggers, free-loaded for six days before giving up.

Rarely does this happen, that I get anything that lasts more than a day. And some may find the following unbelievable but before I retired, I used to hope for just a teeny spot of flu, maybe enough that I could spend two days groaning and collecting sympathy, without (and this is the caveat) feeling guilty for calling off sick at work. Just a couple of days to watch On Demand movies, or read, while drinking tea.

This time though was a little more than I would have wanted, ever. I was feverish for days, and I’d doze and think I’d slept for hours yet only a few minutes had passed. I hurt and remember thinking how I was going to have to explain to someone (and I had no explanation) how it felt and make them understand the connection between the pain and the fever, and if I couldn’t explain it, then I was never going to get better. Weird fever dreams when you tend to overanalyze everything and focus inwardly to such an extent that the illness becomes your existence, it’s what you are, at least for awhile.

The best I can describe it anyway.

I’d previously downloaded an ebook called January Moon, by Maureen Gill, onto my Kindle, because of the title and a good recommendation, so I read it. I had considered titling my new novel February Moon because I didn’t think anyone would know what Perigee Moon meant, then I decided to go with Perigee. The closeness of the titles was compelling.

Check the cover.  I think it is kick-ass. After I read it, I thought the cover couldn’t have been more perfect.

I thought what a good time to read it but started the book thinking, there are a lot of clichés in this book, which is something to which I have a particular aversion. Some of the characters are clichéd too, the crusty old four-decade police force Lieutenant, ex-marine, chain-smoking, irreverent. Then there’s the handsome thirty-something cop, not someone any bad guy would want to an up-close encounter with, yet oh so sensitive, who is engaged to the beautiful professor who never wanted a relationship with a cop because (of course) her father is an ex-cop and wheelchair-bound after taking a bullet in the spine during an altercation with someone desiring to evade the law. Stuff like that.

But the story kept me interested. It was a page-turner, and I was hooked enough to keep going until I was so committed I could not wait to get back to the book. I found editing errors, and still didn’t care. Nothing could dissuade me from reading it, because it was a damn good story. The author knows so much about the FBI and the Illinois State Police and the Chicago City Police and the Medical Examiner’s Office, that every line about these agencies is credible.

I found there were a plethora of characters and I had just the smallest trouble keeping them straight but not enough that I got horribly confused.

There was action, something happening on every page. Rich surprising characters who do things you would never expect them to, believable dialogue. And an interesting thing about the dialogue, Ms. Gill made use of almost no attributions (he said, she said), which I found interesting. Very well done for the number of characters involved.

And the dog. What a lovely story about him, and he deserves his place on the cover photo.

This is a good example of a plot-driven novel. If you’ve got a great story and characters to care about, you’ve got a winner and that’s what this novel is. I guess we of the character-driven novel have one strike against us, in that if our characters suck, our novel sucks too.

I would recommend this book to anyone. You can find it on Amazon or Smashwords. It is immensely entertaining. I can just see this as a movie, and wouldn’t be surprised to hear it’s been picked up for the Big Screen. Let’s see, Clint for the older cop and maybe Ryan Gosling as the younger?

Kudos to Ms. Gill and this is her debut novel! I am truly impressed and will forgive clichés. Without so many of them though, and the editing errors, I would give this novel 5*****.

In other news, another turn at editing The Infamous Flyer (Savon Spa opening Spring 2012 in Chicago). I hope everything is satisfactory now because my frustration level is way high. Not only do I struggle with software I don’t quite grasp, but my laptop has memory issues, I keep getting a popup – “WARNING!! You are running low on memory! Quick! Save your work to prevent data loss!” (Perhaps not the exact verbiage.) I calmly close the popup but it is annoying. Plus it still has other issues, in that sometimes it can’t “see” my Verizon Hotspot router which sits a mere 24 inches away, or it can’t “see” any networks at all, or it suddenly disconnects for no reason. And it still has the jumping cursor problem too. AND, it has a VISTA operating system which is utter junk.

A new PC is a big investment in time, what with getting everything off the old and onto the new, or re-downloading and re-registering and re-learning and re-configuring.

I’m going to do it – getting a new Samsung. It has an I7 processor (whatever that is only it must be better than the I5) and 8 GB of memory and I forget how much disk space, but it’s enough disk space to, if not “choke a horse” at least cause him to sputter a little.

My new Samsung shall become a beloved member of my electronics family, pampered and lightly touched with my cyber-affection.

The GIMP, CreateSpace and a Great Basketball Euphemism

Yes, last week’s post is really not happening until this week. I could make excuses, and say, but wait, I heard that more people read blogs on Monday than any other day of the week although I’m told they share more on Friday. It makes sense. Monday is a reading day (quiet, introspective, Monday-blues and can’t quite get into the workweek yet), and Friday is happy time. Time to party! Time to be free and share!

Maybe that’s not it, just one mad women’s assessment. I use the word “mad” to mean both crazy AND angry.

Someone I am close to, well, okay it’s my daughter, is opening up a new salon in Chicago. It’s to be the Savon Spa and is on Halsted St. in the heart of beautiful Lakeview. They will offer a variety of services, (things I never do) like spray tans, and facials, and something called micro dermabrasion (doesn’t that sound painful?), nail care, massage, stuff like that.

At one point I must have had a weak moment, or a moment in time when I needed to inflict intentional pain on myself. I can help you! say I. I have some photo editing experience, I’ve designed book covers, and cards, and even tee-shirts. Maybe I can help with your computer-related needs. Okay, says she (and her partner guy). How about helping with business (appointment) cards and a flyer?

Sure, say I. I can do that.

What was needed was a full blown graphic artist (not me) so I quickly learned that my sophomoric little package wasn’t going to work. Not to worry, I’ve also got The GIMP.

GIMP is not for everyone, and probably not for amateurs like me, but it is open source and it does everything except bring your pipe and slippers (two items I do not need anyway). It’s a great package. Here I am again, plugging great software. I can’t believe that The GIMP is available for a free download, it does everything that other sophisticated graphic design tools can do.

What a learning curve. What frustration. What a drag. Here is a picture of the finished flyer.

I have been tweaking and YouTubing and reading documentation and trying things for several days now, so while I like to write funny posts, I don’t feel particularly funny.

More optimistically (see, I could have said “on a lighter note” and that would have been a cliché), I have five copies of Perigee Moon coming, and will mail these out to my Beta reader group. They will arrive in a day or two. I did the final formatting over the weekend, when I wasn’t working on the freaking flyer and trying to figure out why my image couldn’t be moved, or the clone tool wouldn’t work, and trying to understand layers, and alpha channels, and a myriad of other stuff.

This stuff is all in my brain now, but if I don’t use it, it will disappear, as I make room for more subjects that I am required to learn.

Back to the novel, when I did the final preparation of my internal file, I had to go back to a post I wrote, about how to use Word to do your formatting and then create a pdf file, which can be directly uploaded to CreateSpace. So simple, to do, these fine CreateSpace people have made it easy on us poor not-worthy-to-be-published-in-any-traditional-way authors. Yeh! Here’s to CreateSpace.

I couldn’t remember how to do it, and so it’s a good thing I wrote that post, so I could go look at it again. This is the second time I’ve done that, so it’s valuable to me, if to no one else.

So on to my third topic. I heard a great basketball euphemism I thought I’d share.

This was back a couple of weeks ago before we were at Final Four, it might have been Elite Eight, when the interview took place. OU (Ohio University) hadn’t gotten so far in many years, since back in the 70’s and here they were. Finally! We people in Ohio were happy that our Ohio teams had survived.

OU has the dubious distinction of being The Biggest Party School in the Country. If you want to major in binge drinking, go there. A basketball player was asked about a previous win and if he had celebrated and here’s what he said.

“I must apologize that i didn’t contribute more to the elimination of distractions.”

That’s a very nice way of saying he drank himself silly, I guess. Got wasted, gooned, toasted. I thought that was a very nice euphemism. He is certainly a very politically correct young man.

Yeah. I don’t feel funny. Instead I feel like I’m getting the flu.

Two Good Tools for Writers

I had hoped to talk about four writing tools today, but only have time for two. It’s Sunday at 4:00 and I want to get my post out. It’s the dreaded Daylight Savings Time day when we get screwed out of an hour of the weekend although it will be nice to have the hour of light at the end of the day. I wrote a post about DST on the Boomers and Books site, and am reminded of what the American Indian said:

Only the government would believe that you could cut one foot off the top of a blanket, sew it onto the bottom, and have a longer blanket.

But on to the writing tools.

The Cliché Cleaner! I had written a post a few months back about The Cliché Finder which had obvious limitations. It must be a common problem because this post is still being read, and recently, a woman posted a comment which said she was an editor and it was a big part of her day just spotting clichés and she was in the market for something that could cut down on the time spent. I said I hadn’t heard of anything better and she responded that she’d found The Cliché Cleaner. I investigated. What a great tool it is.

I first downloaded the sample and after one try, decided to buy it. It’s only $12.95 which doesn’t “break the bank” (bet that’s a cliché, what do you think?). This tool examines a text file and matches it against more than 16,000 clichés and their variations.

But wait! There’s more. And this is even better, it counts the number of repeating phrases. How many times have you been reading along and you start to think, I’ve read that before? And I’m sure getting tired of reading the same words over and over. Now this problem can be fixed.

The Help File recommends that the files to be examined shouldn’t be too large, and a complete novel should be broken up into four or five chapters per chunk. This seemed like a pretty severe limitation. If it has to be broken up then the results of each file will have to be manually compared to the results of every other file. Didn’t like the sounds of that, so I thought I’d give it a try using the complete file. What could possibly go wrong? I’d run out of memory or some equally horrific computer event and I’d have to reboot. Big deal. It worked fine, took only a few seconds, so I’m not sure why it was suggested that the files be smaller. 

The software opens up a response window once it’s through searching and creates a very nice report, sortable in a number of different ways. I chose to sort on number of instances found, so my list will be ordered in such a way that I can address them from the most to the least problematic.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is there is no way (that I can see) to save the report so it can be accessed later. It can’t even be swiped to copy/paste and this is because of other functionality that it has, which I didn’t care about, that is, being able to click on the instance of the phrase and be redirected to the portion of text where it is found. It’s a TEXT file, not a Word document, so if I made changes to a text file, all my formatting is gone. This isn’t good at all. I don’t want to make changes to that file, I want a nice list of my offenders so I can go back into Word and do the corrections there.

Not possible. Because of a certain issue which I will explain in greater detail, I found myself writing the phrases down. Yes, all of them, and there were quite a few phrases too. I was forced to take pen in hand, and while I was pleasantly surprised to note that I am still able to pick up the pen and put it to a piece of paper and form words and phrases in cursive writing that are legible, still it seems rather like going back to the nineties.

It is a terrible option and I couldn’t figure out a way of bypassing the manual written list because when I tried to examine the report and type directly into another text editor, I had problems. When the cliché report window is clicked on (to move down the list) the window where you are typing disappears. This is a computer thing, having to do with which window has focus and response windows and a few other computer-related anomalies that no one needs to understand, other than it is hellishly annoying.

With the manual labor behind me, it took almost no time to type the phrases in.

The Cliché Cleaner, even with its faults, is better than anything else I’ve found. It is efficient (yet humbling) to see so many problems displayed in a list.  

But now I that I have it, I can go through each one, search for it in my Word document and decide what to do about it.

Four stars (out of five) for The Cliché Cleaner, and if I could print or save or copy/paste the report, it would have been five. But zero stars out of five for Customer Service because when I wrote (twice) and asked questions I have been ignored.  

Wordle! The Wordle website describes this writing tool as a “toy” and it is fun to play with but it provides some valuable insight into repeated words. It creates a “Word Cloud” and the words that appear more frequently are given greater prominence. Once the cloud is created by Wordle, adjusting the font and color will change its appearance.

I have a problem with word repetition and usually have a lot of editing to do to remove extraneous words. Words like but, that, just, so. Meaningless, throw-away words. Using too many of them says “amateur”. Of course, sometimes, these words are necessary. Wordle will point out if certain words appear more often than would be expected.

Then tedious it is, but doing a Find in word on the word in question is the only way to look at each instance of it to determine if it can be removed or not.

Wordle cloud for Perigee Moon:

Book Cover Design Using iStockPhoto and BookCoverPro

This morning I designed a book cover using iStockPhoto and BookCoverPro. This is the third book cover I have done, and it was super easy. Yes, it is a very simple, basic book cover but I like simple and basic.

I took some photos of the Perigee Moon this past March, but I didn’t love any of them. I decided to search iStockPhoto.com to see if I could find something I liked better. This is a very good site to check out if you are in the market to purchase photos, illustrations, audio or video files. People submit their work to iStockPhoto and if the work is accepted it can be purchased by anyone with a need. The owner of the work gets a percentage of each sale.

The purchaser can use the item for any purpose and there is no danger of copyright infringement. So my rule is, for a cover, I either use my own work, or make sure I get it from some place that can’t complain if I use it.

I bought the big one (more pixels) because I didn’t want to scrimp on the cover. If it were a blog or something, then it’s not such a big deal, but in this case, more is better.

This is the photo I downloaded from iStockPhoto:

I mirror-imaged the photo and cropped it so the moon would appear to be closer to the edge of the cover.  This can be done with any photo editing software. I used PhotoStudio which is a subset of PhotoShop.

I use a simple package called BookCoverPro. This software is not free but won’t put you into bankruptcy either. It’s maybe $100 or so. As long as the market trends towards eBooks, I wonder about the necessity of having a book cover professionally designed. If I were a New York Times Best Selling Author maybe, but if that were true, someone else would be doing the design of the cover who would be a lot better than I could ever hope to be at it.

I want simple. Straightforward. Contrast and maybe a little mood setting. This is actually a picture of a normal full moon but who’s to know? I thought it portrayed a certain feeling. This is the moon Luke looks at, the night of his great epiphany.

I recommend BookCoverPro, but I didn’t find the Customer Service all that great. It is simple enough to learn, so you don’t need Customer Service anyway, but trust me, in this case, “Service” is only a name.

Here are the simple steps I did to create this cover, which will be used for the print version of Perigee Moon.

Select the size. My book will be 6 X 9 so the size is 12 X 9. Six inches for the front and six inches for the back. Then the spine is sized, and this can be done by specifying the number of pages. That’s good because it’s difficult to size for a spine, and with this package it is done for you.

I selected a background color, black, because my picture is dark and even though there isn’t background to speak of, there could be a sliver where the photo doesn’t cover and I don’t want it to be white.

I then added my moon photo and stretched it a little to fit over the entire cover.

I then added the text fields: the title, the author name on the front and on the spine.

On the back of the book is a photo of the author, and some other text with other novels I have written. In addition, there is the back blurb which I blogged about a couple of weeks ago which I have yet to perfect so that part is Under Construction.

Now that I have this book cover created, the package will allow me to create a .pdf file of it, which is what gets uploaded to CreateSpace along with the formatted pages of the novel. They print both the cover and the pages, and assemble the book.

It would be very cool if you would comment and tell me what you think of this cover. Even if you don’t like it, or have suggestions, I would love to hear them. It’s very easy to change. I designed this cover in about three hours. The greatest amount of time was spent picking out the photo to use.

I’m sure there is someone out there who is thinking, you designed the cover in three hours? I can believe that, because it sucks, it’s amateurish and ugly.

I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while though, so maybe that counts for something.