Mangled E-Books

A few years ago when Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare was first published, a local book club read the book and invited me to be a guest at their meeting. I really looked forward to the discussion because I thought the club would have enjoyed reading a book where one of their members was a character, and where their town itself played a part. If nothing else, I would have thought they would have been interested in what parts of the book were a true reflection of the dance class, and what parts of the book were pure fiction.

As it turned out, it was a miserable experience. Not one person had a question. Not one person had a good thing to say about the book. In fact, the meeting was dominated by a woman who grilled me about the editing. Who edited it? Did you edit it yourself? Did your publisher edit it? Did anyone else edit it?

Then she said she’d never seen so many typos in a single book. The truth is, I’m sure there are some errors, but considering all the people who proofed it for me before I turned it into my publisher, I have a hard time believing that the half-dozen proofers all missed the same myriad errors, though it is possible. It’s almost impossible for any book to be 100% accurate, especially this one considering that my then publisher had a penchant for making unauthorized changes to my books. I didn’t mind another set of eyes, of course, but I let him publish the book with the caveat that he was to inform me of any changes he made. Which he ignored. Foolishly, I did not do a word-by-word check of the book again when I got the proof copy, but I simply could not handle another argument if by chance I found something that needed to be changed. Nor did I ever see an electronic version of the book, so I have no idea what it would have looked like, though, as it turns out, it would probably have been a good idea to check it over.

But I’m getting off the point, which is that book club meeting.

After that woman grilled me about my editing skills, I asked her if she could tell me the pages she found errors so I could perhaps correct them on future editions. She said she’d read the ebook, which didn’t have page numbers, but that there were errors on every “page.” Then, almost as an aside, she asked if there were ever translation errors when a book was made into an ebook. I told her there were often such errors and mentioned a book I was reading at the time where the name of the love interest, Illyena, was consistently mistranslated as Hyena, which had turned a touching story into a farce.

But even that isn’t as egregious a mistranslation as the book I am currently reading. This current book is so badly mangled that way too many passages were almost impossible to understand, such as this one:

“They made a lovely pair, the two women wand honey-skinned, their laughter gay and slim and young ads ruffling in the sultry Puffs Of and sweet, their dark and he and air off the desert.”

Really? This was a passage in an ebook by an internationally acclaimed bestselling author that had been published by one of the biggest publishing houses. How did they ever let such a mess get through?

Still, I bet if he had been a guest at that book club meeting to discuss his book, no one would have thought to grill him about the mangling.

I do know that the typo discussion was a way of putting me down, though I have no idea what I could possibly have done to those unknown women to merit such disparagement. All I know is that I was glad when they went onto other business and I could gracefully make an exit.

***

Click here to buy: Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare.

Killing friends is a good way to lose friends, even if the murder is for play. When Pat’s adult dance classmates discover she is a published author, the women suggest she write a mystery featuring the studio and its aging students. One sweet older lady laughingly volunteers to be the victim, and the others offer suggestions to jazz up the story. Then the murders begin. Tapped by the cops as the star suspect, author Pat sets out to discover the truth curtained behind the benign faces of her fellow dancers. Does one of them have a secret she would kill to protect? Or is the writer’s investigation a danse macabre with Pat herself as the bringer of death?

Then More Stuff Happens

We live in an strange literary climate where books published by small independent publishers are held to a higher standard than anything published by one of the handful of major publishing houses.

I’m currently reading a book published by one of the major companies, and nothing happens. Well, that’s not exactly true. Stuff happens. Then more stuff happens. And even more stuff happens. But I am now three-quarters of the way through the book, and all I’ve gleaned from the story is that a lot of stuff happens.

But nothing happens to move the story forward. I presume all this “stuff” — murders, crooks double-crossings, political shenanigans, human trafficking — will lead to a cohesive ending, but I’m not sure if I will ever know what happens. For one thing, the story is too convoluted with at least a dozen point-of-view characters, mostly criminals, and I haven’t sorted all of them out yet. (A serious problem is that too many names are closely related, like Donnie and Danbury and Donaldson). So even if I read to book to the end, chances are I won’t know the whole of it. And for another thing, I’m ready to give up. I really don’t care to read about women (and men) crime bosses and gambling and prostitution and all sorts of other nefarious behavior gotten up to by the bad guys. There has to be at least an equal amount of action by the so-called “good guys,” but so far, I haven’t identified any good guys.

I do know that any such book written by an unknown and published by an independent company would have been panned by any readers, not acclaimed as “gripping,” and “raucous” and “unflinching” and “exceptional.” Though, come to think of it, those are rather namby-pamby words to describe a bestseller, as if even the reviewers had a hard time coming up with something good to say about this book. Actually, looking more closely at the reviews, they seem to be about the series as a whole rather than this particular book, so perhaps the reviewers couldn’t finish it, either.

Although it might seem like it, I’m not really picking on this book, just using it as an example of today’s literary climate. Another book I recently finished by a bestselling author who has been around forever, read like a junior high school kid’s attempt at writing a novel, with way too much repetition and explaining, and way too little in the way of characterization. Still, that book made some sort of sense. Stuff happened, but that stuff seemed to tie into the main storyline.

I suppose I have to take the reader (me) into consideration. I have read so many books (about one a day) for so many decades that I could be a tad jaded.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Word Play

I have gotten into the habit of using a walking stick around town, partly because of the rough terrain (the sidewalks here are worse than a lot of the trails I used to hike) and partly because of my iffy knees. The other day I wondered if I should stop using the stick because it’s become more of a crutch than a necessity, and it occurred to me how strange it was that the word “crutch” has come to mean the opposite of what it used to mean as well as keeping the original meaning of being a device to help when one is injured. In both cases, a crutch is something we rely on, but in the first case, there is a hint that the reliance is unnecessary, and in the second case, the physical reliance is a necessity.

This led me to think of other words that have come to mean something different while also keeping their original meanings, such as “moot.” Originally, something moot was a point to be debated. Now in general usage it means a point that is so obvious or so irrelevant that it needs no debate.

Smart is the same. Originally smart something sharp. Then people began calling those with a sharp tongue “smart.” And now, smart is largely associated with intelligence, though it still retains its original connotation when we refer to a sharp pain as smarting.

Other common words have taken on the opposite meaning of the original intent, and the origins have been lost somewhere along the way.

Two that interest me because they show more of a centuries-old prejudice against the poor than because of the words themselves. A villein used to be a bonded servant, a poor person, one who had nothing but was tied to land owned by someone else and could not leave it without permission. Now, of course, a villain is someone bad. Same with naughty. A naughty person used to be a person with naught, a poor person. So, the general idea, which holds today, is that people without anything are somehow bad.

I tried to find other fun words online, but most of them seemed silly to me. At least by today’s definition of silly. “Silly” used to mean blessed or fortunate. “Nice,” on the other hand, used to mean silly.

One word I did find interesting that I wasn’t aware of was “hussy.” A “hussy” was originally a housewife. Wow, what a turnaround to today’s meaning! “Radical” also has undergone a radical change — it originally meant something rooted, basic, fundamental, not, as it has come to mean, something or someone who advocates upheaval of fundamental ideas and complete social or political reform.

And all this because of a walking stick that may or may not be a crutch.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

The Sounds of Unsilence

I’ve never understood windchimes. As mobile art, they are rather intriguing, but when you add in the wind part, they are aggravating as all heck. But that must just be me. Obviously, other people find them pleasing otherwise there wouldn’t be so ubiquitous.

Still, there aren’t many people whose sound of choice is silence. There are a lot of noises I can’t tolerate, such as outdoor machinery, but at least there seem to be a purpose to those noises, and once the job is done, the noises cease. (And now that I have the semblance of a yard, I too am making noise with a yard machine.) With windchimes, though, the noise is arbitrary, based on whatever the wind is doing, and in a windy climate? Ouch. Those things are almost constant.

Luckily, the windchime currently aggravating me doesn’t disturb my sleep. In other places I’ve lived, the windchimes were so constant, they invaded my dreams, so I could never get away from them until I finally was able to move. Even more luckily,, come summer, the air conditioner will be on at least part of the time. The air conditioner has always been a rather hard choice for me to make — silence and sweat, or noise and coolness — but this year, having it on will help drown out the windchimes.

I wish it was just a matter of getting used to the chimes, but it’s not a so much that I prefer silence, but that windchimes, even the so-called tuned ones, grate on my nerves like fingernails on a blackboard. (Do young people today even know what that sound is, or have whiteboards replaced the old-fashioned blackboards?)

From what I remember of last summer, the early morning hours are fairly still, with the winds picking up later in the afternoon. Or perhaps I’m remembering the desert where I was living before I moved here. In that area, I know, the winds picked up as the day went on. Either way, I’ll find quiet times to go outside and sit. Or not. It could be that I’ll just go out to do whatever work I need to do, then come and hide inside where it is relatively quiet.

The windchime problem has given me an idea for a book, though. The poor protagonist is at wits end because of the noise, and she talks of shooting them. People misunderstand and think she’s talking of shooting her neighbors, and then they end up dead. But I wouldn’t want to harm my neighbors even in literary fun because that would seem to bring bad Karma, especially since we’re all planning on hanging around here until the end, whatever that end might be.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Thought-Provoking

This is a hurry-up-and-write-something-post-so-I-can-say-I-wrote-something post. I don’t normally have a busy day, but this is one of those rare occasions. I had to water my garden, go check on a friend’s house and water her houseplants, check with my car mechanic about the brake part he ordered, and stop at the store to pick up a few groceries. As if that isn’t enough, I have to go to work early today. Which means there’s no time to write a thought-provoking post, or rather try to think of something thought-provoking to post (though I often fail in the thought-provoking part, I do try).

Hence, this bit of silliness.

I did get a chance to check out a neighbor’s roses as he suggested. He’s rightly proud of them, and I’m glad I got a chance to see them at their peak

And, since I was wandering around with my phone in hand, I stopped to take a photo of my larkspur. (Which, incidentally, originally came from the rose neighbor’s yard.)

Now that I think about it, I’d take flowers over a thought-provoking post any day.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

A Truly Appalling Novel

I recently finished reading an appalling book, which unfortunately isn’t all that uncommon. What is rare, however is the agitation I’ve been left with. Not only is the premise incredibly silly and the ending utterly nonsensical, but the author went on to bestselling fame. How is that possible? The only thing I can think of is that he either had an in with someone or he was dealing with agents, editors, and publishers who were also men. No woman would have ever countenanced the ignorance rampant in the novel.

(If you are squeamish about the workings of a woman’s body, feel free to decamp. I won’t mind.)

The story starts out with a married woman having an affair and getting pregnant. To cover it up, she makes sure she has lots of sex with her husband so he would believe the baby was his.

Thirty years later, the ensuing daughter falls in love and wants to get married, but her mother hates the fiancé and forbids the marriage, so the daughter elopes. When the mother finds out, she hops on a plane, goes to where the two are honeymooning and tells the new husband she had an affair with his father, that his new wife is his sister, and that neither the girl or her saintly doctor father must ever find out the truth.

Instead of ignoring the mother’s wishes and talking to his beloved new wife, the guy fakes his death, leaving his bride drowning in grief, and then gets plastic surgery. Huh? What sort of idiot does that sort of thing after a single conversation with someone who hates him? Wouldn’t even a halfway intelligent person insist on a DNA test before committing such a folly?

And that’s not the worst. It turns out that the father knew all along about his wife’s affair. He was so incensed, he killed the man, aborted the other man’s baby without the mother knowing about it, then had copious sex to make sure his wife got pregnant by him while thinking she was still pregnant with the other man’s child.

The stupidity of this is mind-boggling. First of all, the affair was in 1960, long before instant pregnancy tests. A woman didn’t know she was pregnant until she’d missed a period, and though she might suspect, it wouldn’t be official until she went to a doctor after missing a second period. So the woman had to be at least two months pregnant. And yet when she gave birth, she was relieved to find out that she had remained pregnant long past her due date so she didn’t have to explain the discrepancy. What, three months past? (Two months before the abortion, another month at least to get pregnant again.) She was okay with a supposed twelve-month pregnancy? No way. And during all this time, she never went to a doctor? Just let her surgeon husband take care of her?

And how in the world could she not know something was wrong after the abortion? She’d been drugged into oblivion, so she wouldn’t necessarily have psychological or emotional problems, but she would know that she’d been drugged and she sure as shooting would have physical issues. After an abortion, the body can go through shock, vast hormonal changes, post-partum depression caused by hormone imbalance, milk production, soreness, and a variety of other biological changes. She could have an empty feeling that has a biological rather than a psychological basis because the oxytocin that was being rapidly produced by the body to ensure the bonding between mother and child is suddenly flowing the other way causing a void where the bond used to be. There can also be something known as microchimerism. Since the mother and baby immediately start exchanging cells, the mother can now have the father’s DNA in her body. And in fact, as weird and improbable as it might seem, that DNA can show up in the next baby. (Which actually would have been a better story than this one.) If nothing else, she could have had a menstrual period after the abortion and before the new pregnancy. That isn’t always the case, but if it was, then for sure she’d have questions about why she was bleeding. And, if her doctor husband had kept her drugged all this time so she wouldn’t be aware of any of this, why wouldn’t she have developed an addiction to the strong drugs, and wouldn’t it concern the doctor that his offspring might be born already addicted?

That’s not all of it, of course. Since it was supposed to be a thriller, it had to do with the doctor going around killing everyone who knew about the affair, the newly plasticized husband going back to try out for his old position with the sports team he’d been a part of, and various and sundry other ludicrous plot points.

A truly appalling story. Now that I’ve passed the horror on to you, maybe I can stop agitating over it and be grateful that at least my books make sense.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Hunting for a Photo

When I was looking through the media files on my blog a couple of days ago to find the clip art image of three witches I wanted to reuse to illustrate that day’s blog, I came across the photo of the first hat I decorated. It surprised me to see the hat because I hadn’t realized I’d taken a picture of it; I hadn’t realized I’d ever uploaded it to the blog, and I had no idea why I’d done so. In the original article I’d written about the grief upsurge the loss of the ribbon had caused, I’d never actually mentioned the ribbon. I only said that the thing I lost wasn’t important in the grand scheme of life and death, but it was important to me. It made me feel good, but more than that, it was a symbol, in a way, of my struggles to create a new life for myself. And somehow, that symbol had blown away in the wind. It didn’t change the facts of my new life, of course, since it was only a symbol. And as I can attest, although the symbol is gone, my new life is still here. I am still here.

And, apparently, the hat with the ribbon is still here, at least as an image even though the hat itself fell apart several years ago. It was seeing that photo that prompted me to write yesterday’s blog entry about hat heads, but when it came time to publish the article, I couldn’t find the photo again. I knew I’d seen it — I mean, I hadn’t even remembered what the hat looked like until I saw the photo, so it wasn’t a trick of memory that made me think I’d seen the hat. I did begin to wonder, though, because I went through my blog’s media library three times, which is a real pain. I seldom tag my photos because it used to be easy enough to find the year I thought I’d uploaded the photo and just look through that year, but with scrolling, that’s not possible. I have to scroll through all the photos to find the one I want (which should teach me to tag the photos so I can find them again).

When I still couldn’t find the picture of the hat after scrolling through all the photos the third time, I checked the photos on my computer and even the photos that are stored elsewhere online, but still couldn’t find it.

After an hour, I finally gave up and used the photo of the second hat I’d decorated with one of my sister’s gift ribbons.

It bothered me, though, that I couldn’t find the picture. I realize I have fourteen years of blogs and blog photos, but still, it’s a finite number. I should have been able to find it within a reasonable length of time. When I came home from work yesterday evening, I decided to try once more. I vaguely remembered it was near a cartoonish clip art image of two men fighting, so I looked for that photo. And right next to it, at the end of the row of photos, there was my hat.

I’d forgotten about checking the edges of the page of photos. From my stint copyediting, I learned that we tend to look in the middle of the page, so any errors that show up (and obviously, images that don’t show up) in an edited page are generally found close to the margins.

I’ll remember for next time. I’m just glad I found the photo (shown below) so I can stop wondering where I’d seen it and why I couldn’t find it again.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Conjuring Literary Genius

I’m reading a book based on the premise that there was a previous version of Macbeth using an actual witch’s spell, but because the spell conjured up real evil during rehearsals, Shakespeare hurriedly rewrote the witches’ scenes. The story also postulates that Shakespeare had observed such a rite, and in fact, the rite was done to imbue him with literary genius.

Despite the pseudo-scholarliness of the book, I doubt there’s any way for anyone to know the truth of the legend — after all, those whose life work is a study of Shakespeare and his writings can’t even decide who Shakespeare was and if he did in fact write all that is attributed to him. Nor is there any way to know if he was divinely inspired, if his gift was an inborn one, or if it was magically conjured up. (Apparently, a lot of cauldron spells and conjuring had to do with gaining knowledge and inspiration.) And not everyone believes he is a literary genius. After all, he wrote for the lowest common denominator in his day, and though that might have conferred a special literary prowess on him, it doesn’t necessarily make him a genius.

All you have to do is look at the writers today who have earned great success by writing rather mediocre or even passably literate novels, to realize that success doesn’t necessarily equate to great writing. (Does anyone think the Shades of Gray books are literary or or even passably literate?)

All of this has led me to wonder about a modern-day Shakespeare wannabe. What if a successful literary hack wants it all — not just the wealth that comes from selling books to the masses, but also wants to be acclaimed as a literary genius. So she tracks down Shakespeare’s spell, and even though it might entail a blood sacrifice, as well as other criminal offenses, she goes through the rite and ends up a literary genius.

The only problem is, who today would even recognize literary genius? Her lowest-common-denominator readers certainly wouldn’t, and in fact, they’d abandon her in droves because they wouldn’t be able to figure out what the heck she’s talking about. To be honest, neither would I. There have been several books over the years that I thought were pure bunk even though they had been hailed as genius and ended up winning all the major awards.

So, in typical fairytale fashion, what would really happen is that the author who wanted it all would end up in prison with nothing because not only would people not find her new style inspiring, they wouldn’t approve of how she got it. Well, some people would think the end justifies the means, but even they wouldn’t appreciate her literary genius.

I guess the moral of the story (at least for me as a writer) is to leave well enough alone. Although it would be nice to be hailed as a literary genius and a brilliant writer, it would be even nicer to be able to sleep at night. Though selling a few more books than I do would be good.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Magic!

Aleister Crowley was an early twentieth century occultist and magician who unabashedly did what he wanted, and hence earned the name, “the wickedest man in the world.” I have no idea how wicked he really was, but I do know he thought his work was good because it freed people from earthly rules and opened them to spiritual experiences. He was heavily involved in a secret group called the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and designed a tarot deck that is used to this day. (I somehow ended up with a slew of his decks in three different sizes, but because a couple of the images on the cards creep me out, I haven’t yet used any of those decks.)

Crowley even founded his own religion based on the idea that the key principle of life was the pursuit of each individual’s will. (“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”)

He was a great proponent of magic, which he defined as, “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will.”

And that’s the point I’ve been leading up to.

I find Crowley’s definition of magic provocative because it basically turns art and writing (and even just living) into magic, which of course, we already knew. We take something that doesn’t exist — a story or a painting — and out of our own will, we bring it forth into the world. Truly magical. By this definition, almost anything can be magic — a garden, a family, a friendship. And, again, of course these things are all magic.

We normally think of magic as legerdemain — conjuring tricks — or even something otherworldly, where a person can conjure something into being without trickery and using only his or her mind.

I’d love to have that sort of magic — conjuring something from nothing but the energy around me.

I had to stop there and think. Would I really want that sort of magic? To be honest, I don’t know. I like the sort of every day magic we pretend to understand. (I say “pretend” because does anyone really understand where a story or a piece of art comes from?)

In many respects, this blog is magic. I can write down whatever I am thinking, and potentially, people all over the world can peak into the world I have created.

Because I have willed it, so it is.

Very magical!

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Saying Goodbye

A dear friend left town today to go back overseas where she grew up so she can be with family and friends as she lives out her last months. I never got a chance to say goodbye, though I’m not sure that matters. This way I can always think of her the way she was the last time I saw her: happy, contented, glad to be done with pain for a while.

To be honest, I am glad she is going to be with her people. Although she fit in well with our small-town America environment, she’s from a major Asian city with food and shopping and friends on every block, and she missed all the bustle.

To be even more brutally honest, though it might make me seem small, I am glad I won’t have to watch her deteriorate. I’ve watched too many people die, and I simply cannot do it again, especially not when it comes to her.

From the first moment we met, we connected, as if we were long-lost sisters. She was so vital, so charming, so interested in everything, that the news about her being afflicted with cancer came as a shock to me. Even worse was when I found out the cancer had metastasized. And now she is gone from my life, though for a time, at least, we can still connect via email or FB messenger.

Her husband, who’s also become a friend, has already been through this before. I can’t imagine the courage it takes to find a new love and then once again, to lose that love to death. He’s got a hard time ahead, not just watching her fade away, but having to be jolly in the face of it because she doesn’t want anyone to be sad.

After the sorrow of this day, knowing she is journeying far beyond my reach without one last hug, I intend to honor her wishes and think of her at home. Happy. With her husband and family and old friends.

There will be time enough for mourning when her days are finished, but maybe even then I will simply think of her as being home where she belongs, and be happy she came into my life.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator