Thursday, November 28, 2013

Editing Pearls II - The Reversal

So when I did the novelization for Men in Black, I went looking for a bit of amusing doggerel to use for a lead-in, and found a poem by Sir Walter Raleigh. I stuck that up front, and shortly thereafter, I got a note back from the "book editor" at the movie house. 

This is opposed to the not-quote-unquote book editor at the book house. All editors are not created equal.

Apparently the movie folks like to pretend that some of them know enough about books to edit them, and while this might sometimes be the case, I have yet to experience this as being true.

Um. Anyway, the ms came back with the poem circled and a note: Do we need to get clearance (to use this)?

I fell out of my chair laughing.


Now the laity might be forgiven for not knowing that ole Walt Raleigh, long dead, has pushed up four hundred generations of daisies, and that anything he wrote, which was quite a bit, has long since been in the public domain, thus no clearance needed to use it, but one assumes a professional book editor would know this! What a maroon!

Here The Reverse. (A technical term for a sudden change of direction in a story, used most often in scriptwriting.)

While I was rolling around on the floor laughing at How Stupid Those Movie People Were, it turned out ole Walt didn't write that funny rhyme. A younger Sir Walter Raleigh did. Seems there is another English fellow, a professor, Sir Walter Alexander Raleigh, who penned that particular verse, and now who is the dickhead, hey?

Yours Truly. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!

However, my error does not give the "book editor" a pass, because Walter Raleigh the Alexander has himself been pushing up the daisies for almost a hundred years, and the poem, written in 1914, long in the public domain. A real editor would have caught this.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Editing Pearls

Writers need editors. No question about it. Once, there was a NY Times Bestselling Author who decided he didn't want anybody messing with his manuscript at all, so he had it written into his next contract that nobody could touch it, save him.

Bad mistake. Not only were there typos and awkward phrases, there was one section that somehow got duplicated in the book …

Me, I'm happy for editorial assistance, copy-editors, too, though we sometimes disagree on what is appropriate secondary to my style. Once had a Texas Ranger character use the term "bidness," in dialog. To show the patois being used. CE changed it to "business," which was technically correct, but wrong for the idiomatic dialog. I changed it back.

My philosophy regarding the editing for content is that if the change makes it better, I'm all for it. If it changes something just for the sake of changing it but doesn't make it better, nor worse, I usually let those pass. If an editorial change makes something worse? I fight tooth and nail against it. Good editors can be convinced most of the time.

In the middle category, I once had an editor on my Conan novels who did some little touch up hither and yon that I thought were mostly unnecessary. I let them slide, until I came to one in particular that told me she was changing stuff just because she wanted to lay hands on the ms and do it.

Here's the set-up. I had my mighty-thewed barbarian enter into a ramshackle inn and order some food. What was a bloody slab of half-raw beast on a wooden platter was delivered unto Conan, along with some ale to wash it down.

The editor, bless her poor, departed soul, changed the line to read (italics mine) so that it was a bloody slab of half-raw beast on a piece of bread on a wooden platter …

I had to laugh. Are you kidding me? What, you think Conan isn't getting enough carbohydrate in his diet? And why didn't you give him, you know, a salad, some bean sprouts or kale or maybe Swiss Chard, hey … ?

Not to even mention that a bloody slab of half-raw beast is going to turn a piece of bread into a gooey mush no right-minded barbarian would eat unless he was starving …

Stay tuned, I will offer more of these as I recall them ...

Monday, November 25, 2013

This 'n' That

The things you learn by accident …

Came across a review in the paper, writer coming to town to do a reading. Guy (Chas Smith) writes for surf magazines, and has done a book 

Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell: A True Story of Violence, Corruption, and the Soul of Surfing

which is mostly about the North Shore of Oahu where surfing is a Big Deal. Fascinating stuff almost none of which I knew. The dark underbelly, which is not something you think of when you listen to Jan and Dean and the Beach Boys singing about waxing down their boards and all …

Lot of good material, albeit the presentation is, um … somewhat obnoxious at times. Smith apparently fancies himself a writer in the Tom Wolfe/Hunter S. Thompson mold, i.e., the "new" journalists. For those you who don't know, this kind of writing revolves around the teller as much as the tale, with the narrator front and center. How it all affects him is more important than what is going on. I generally prefer more transparency in a story, but if it is done well, it's okay.

Smith, a clothes-horse, spends way too much time talking about his neato keen shirts and cool shoes, and how he looks is so important to him that writing about how crappy surfers dress is a major part of this, and apparently every other story, he offers. It detracts from the material, but on balance, I'd recommend the book.

Speaking of clothes …

When I learned to play guitar, I did it in the classic position, that is, the waist of  the instrument resting on my propped-up left leg. Balanced thusly, the back of the guitar didn't usually touch my waist so I never had a problem in what guitar players call "belt-buckle rash."

The uke, on the other hand, sits closer and on my lap, so I have gotten a couple of fine scratches on the back, which is no good. So I have been playing with my shirt-tail out.

Then I discovered something called a "musician's belt," aka "mechanic's belt." This is a design wherein the buckle is underneath a leather overlay. Keeps the metal from scratching your musical instrument, or if you are a car mechanic, from scratching a customer's paint job. A clever device, this.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

New T-Shirt

At least some regular readers of my blog will be up to here with information concerning my efforts to learn how to play the ukulele. In this, I have joined several websites that are focused on the jumping flea, one of which is called Ukulele Hunt.

Likely you know that "ukulele" is often abbreviated as "uke."

Thus the T-shirt.

What? What's that you say? Tsk. What a dirty mind you have ...

Friday, November 22, 2013

Case in Point

Most people who are required to travel via aeroplanes with their musical instruments have heard horror stories of what can happen to a a guitar or mandolin or fiddle that has to be checked. Mostly, these instruments will go into the overhead, if there is room, especially the smaller ones. You can get a violin under the seat in front of you, maybe a mandolin, but not a full-size acoustic guitar. On a crowded flight, sometimes your axe will get gate-checked, and if the instrument is worth anything, that flight is apt to be worrisome.

You sit in your seat, less afraid of crashing than of what is smacking into your unique instrument down there in the dark hold ...

A gate-check is just that. You get a tag, and they take your axe away and send it to luggage hell.

There are baggage handlers who apparently think rolling a fork lift over your prized guitar is no big deal, and you never, ever want to check a guitar in a gig bag.

For those of you who know not, a gig bag is a soft-side sack, nylon or leather, and offers minimal protection for the instrument it encases. In the overhead, if you are careful, sure. 

In the belly of the big metal bird? Bad. Bad. 

I've been lucky. The few times I've traveled with a guitar, I got to take it into the cabin with me, but there's no guarantee that will happen; the airlines are capricious about such things. Some will smile and wave you on, some will demand you check the critter.

A new law starting next year is supposed to mandate that you can take your instrument onboard, if there is room, and the Captain has the final say, so if you can convince him your baby should be onboard, you want to hope he's a musician in his spare time …

Um. Point of this is that if you travel a lot and have to stow your musical instrument, you want to get a sturdy case. One that will protect your axe, even at the expense of its own life.

There are some pretty good ones around, and they aren't cheap, but if you are one of those guys with a Lloyd Loar mandolin or a prime Martin from the 1940's that is worth more than your house, you would probably be served ponying up for a case that is as close to bulletproof as you can find. 

I dunno if this one is bulletproof, but I cringed and had to look away at some of what they did to it in this video, and when it was done, I was convinced. The thing got beat all to hell and gone, but it kept the guitar safe.

This is one tough case Mr. Hoffee makes, right here in America ...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Uke Repertoire

So, noodling along with the jumping flea, taking a blues ukulele class and all, but realizing that for me, one of the best ways to learn new material is to 1) pick songs I like and 2) pretend that I am working on a set list for a gig.

There are a lot of people who play from books. The jam group to which I belong does this, and nearly all of the songs we have been doing regularly for a couple of years with only three chords? Most of the players can't do without the piece in front of them. 

It's a great safety mechanism. If you are playing and you have the chords and words right there in front of you, it's harder to go blank on the material.

Not impossible to get lost, but it's a pretty good touchstone to have the material right there in front of you. Cheap insurance. I saw a broadcast of Springsteen losing the lyrics on a song. He just stopped, grinned, and said, "You know, I knew the lyrics to this song when I started."  

I have heard enough professional singers flub lines in a song they wrote who just shook their heads, so I don't feel so bad if I sometimes skip a verse.

I love watching TV shows or movies wherein a songwriter scribbles down the last line of a lyric, then looks up at a watcher and says, "Hey, listen to this." then proceeds to bang out a perfect rendition of the song from memory, never missing a note or a word. Not in my world. It takes me as long to learn one I wrote as one somebody else wrote ...

But, for me, memorizing the piece is better. You can get into the music, you can make eye contact with anybody who might be listening, and even if you aren't relaxed, you tend to look as if you are.

You know the old Hollywood line, When you can fake sincerity, then you got something ...

Of course, the major orchestras around the world do just fine with music in front of them, and they use sheets even if they know it by heart.

Um. Anyway, this brings us to the current work-in-progress. Most of these, I still can't play comfortably from memory on the uke, but I'm getting there. They are simple blues or rock chord progressions, and songs I mostly know, which makes it easier.

So …

Those with vocals I'll sing

1.  A Summer Song, Chad & Jeremy
2.  Cakewalk into Town, Taj Majal
3.  Dorothy, McKinley
4.  Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen
5.  Hey, Jude, Paul McCartney
6.  Hotel California, Eagles (Henley, Fry & Felder)
7.   Let It Be, McCartney
8.   Political Science, Randy Newman
9.   Woke Up Dead Blues, Yours Truly
10. Yesterday, McCartney.
11.  Blackbird, McCartney 

Yes, four of them are Beatles songs, and there you go. 

And the instrumentals:

1.  Something in the Way She Moves, George Harrison
2.  While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Harrison
3.  Quigley Down Under, Basil Poledouris
4.  Ashokan Farewell, Jay Ungar
5.   Theme from Titanic (My Heart Will Go On), James Horner, Will Jennings.

Most of the instrumentals are arrangements I got from YouTube. Ashokan Farewell is El McMeen's version, from his dropped-D book, and restricted to four strings; Quigley is my own arrangement, very simple, but I couldn't find it anywhere else and had to do it.

Once I get these down, I'll start doing vids or MP3s of them and see if any sound good enough to make public.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Powell's Signing

I was part of a group signing at Powell's on Sunday last, I think there were thirty or so of us, several who came by because they were in town for Orycon. Here's the Star Wars picture, shot by Brian Thomas Schmidt, who was also autographing.

All the folks in the pix are either cosplayers or writers. See if you can guess which are which …

(I'm in the back row in front of the end-cap bookcase, next to Andy, in the red shirt; behind Kris Rusch. Whose hair, I pointed out, matches the wrapping on the Tusken Raider next to Obi Wan.)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Orycon 34


Local SF convention is this weekend, I spent most of yesterday there, panels, reading, autographing, like that. Met a woman writer in the Green Room who had just taken up playing the baritone ukulele, and we had ourselves a fine conversation which left the other writer at the table wondering what the hell we were prattling on about …

A fan shot this picture and stuck it up on FB, and apparently has one of those magic cameras that subtracts ten pounds instead of adding it. I'm not quite that much of a scarecrow …

I'm guessing that particular model will sell like gangbusters, once the word gets out. Hey, take my picture with your magic camera … !

Friday, November 08, 2013

AvP Board Game - Kickstarter

I mentioned the story I wrote a short while back for a lead-in to a new mini-figurine board game in the AvP universe. They have a Kickstarter set up, so here it is ...

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Public Works - Lake Perry

The gutter in front of my house has somehow risen over the years so that it creates a problem when it rains other than lightly. With big rain, the gutter can't handle the flow, so all the water rushing down my street takes a right turn into my yard and suddenly we have Lake Perry, and trying to get out the front gate means wading through standing water at least ankle deep.

This is not helped by the fact that it is Thursday, i.e., trash day, and my next door neighbor upstream has garbage bins that block the gutter, which results in a faster diversion of the run-off.

I got up during a downpour this a.m., moved the neighbor's bins from out the gutter, and tried to block the stream, but with only partial success.


So, I have reported this to the city public works department, for whatever good that might do. Probably get a note back saying they'll get right on that, and by the summer of 2015, will put it on their schedule …

Meanwhile, I will probably get some sandbags, given that it is Oregon and certainly will rain again a time or two the next few months. 

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The Horror!

Computer crashed yesterday. I was trying to record something, and the new mic wasn't picking up any input. So I disconnected it and restarted the system ...

For those you without Macs, the restart is a known fix for many problems, only this time, instead of the little apple, I got the little circle with the line through it, which is bad. 

Got a prompt to run First Aid, which I did. Everything is fine, First Aid said, we're all fine here, how are you? 


Computer is only eight months old, so I had Apple Care™, but but I still had internet connectivity, so I managed to download and re-install the OS, which in my case is one back, Mountain Lion. (I am waiting until the first round of fixes are done for the next OS, i.e., Mavericks. There are bugs, and installing anything that is version xx.0 is always iffy. Having read the comments about problems, I can wait, it's not going to give me stuff worth the risks.)

So after 2-1/2 hours, the download and restart happened, and everything is working now.

How did I trash my OS-X? God only knows, but after updating it, it seems to be okay, so … there you go. Another pothole in the information highway ...