Editing – The Never Ending Story

Home to our comfy cabin in the woods – well it will be comfy again when we build up some heat in the place. This morning I feel like I’m getting back to reality with a jolt. And that means back to the reason I started this blog – to share my self-publishing journey.

When I left on the marathon trip I thought the editing of Disappearing in Plain Sight was done. I clicked the upload button on my author account page with Friesen Press and like magic my four hundred page Word file went off into cyberspace. My overriding thought at the time was good riddance. Now, like the proverbial bad penny, or hot potato, or whatever tired old analogy one could use – it’s right back in my lap.

To quote the editorial evaluation – The manuscript is at an advanced stage of readiness for publication and needs only minor polishing up in mechanical terms. I recommend a professional proofread before publication to catch a few spelling and punctuation errors that will be distracting to the reader.

OK – I admit – my first thought was that any polishing had to be pretty minor. There couldn’t be that many errors – the manuscript has been gone over so many times. And not just by me, thank goodness. But of course, every time I made one change, I was running the risk of screwing up something else. No doubt there are issues.

Before I write the next bit of this blog, I want to qualify what I am about to say. Friesen Press is a business – I totally get that. Businesses are about making money. There is nothing wrong with wanting to run a successful business that makes money. Heck, I would like to make money someday – though the likelihood of that happening seems fantastical at the moment. There is money to be made in up selling – there’s a good reason you get asked if you want fries with that burger every time you go to a fast food restaurant.

I inquired about the cost of the minor polishing up my editorial evaluation called for – $1925.27. The very next day I received an email telling me that Friesen Press was offering a special 15% off of the type of editing I required. Again – no criticism here – this is about up selling and making money. I get that.

I will stay firm on this issue, though – I’m not putting out any more money than I already have to get the book published. One of my first questions to my author account manager at Friesen Press revolved around a fear I had that once I got into the process I would be pressured to spend more and more money. She assured me there would be no pressure and there hasn’t been!

So – it is back to the world of editing for me and two wonderful people I have enlisted to be my second and third set of eyes.

Here is the plan:

First, I must compare each chapter, line by line, with my editor’s suggestions – yes – again! I realize now that I missed a few things, especially in the earlier chapters. I guess real diligence to change came with practice. Someday I will write an entire blog about my use, or more correctly, my overuse, of the word just. I’m wondering if it relates to a way of thinking and ultimately of being in the world – a means of qualifying speech and thought. Anyway, it’s so natural for me to insert the word just all over the place (especially when writing dialogue) that I barely notice I’ve done it. When I reread, my eyes just skim over the word just like it isn’t even there. (You see what I mean – I had no idea I wrote the word just twice in one sentence – crazy!)

After making sure I’ve really done all the changes needed, I will reread each chapter with an eye for any typos that I have missed previously or recently created. Then I will recheck the formatting to ensure nothing has gone out of whack in that department. The next step will be a printed copy of the chapter that all eyes can poring over word by word. Then back to the computer to clean up any typos or issues we have spotted in the hardcopy. I will check the computer copy one last time and then move onto the next chapter. EEEK – but it must be done. I don’t get out of this editing purgatory until I’ve completed the process.

Bruce took this picture in a small grove of Eucalyptus trees near Pismo Beach in California. There were 5000 monarch butterflies in the grove that day. What was even more enjoyable than watching so many butterflies flit through the trees, was the looks on peoples’ faces as they entered the grove and looked up – sheer wonder followed by huge grins. Butterflies are free and right now I am not – but I’ll be flitting among the upper branches soon, too – only forty chapters to go!

“Flight” – A Good Movie for a Writer to See.

Last night my husband and I went to see the movie, Flight, starring Denzel Washington. I had no idea what the movie was about – I had seen an advertisement on a billboard coming out of LA – Denzel looking pretty handsome in a pilot’s uniform and the title. That’s it. 

 

As we approached the theatre in San Luis Obispo our conversation went something like this:

When’s the last time we went to see a movie in an actual theatre?

I can’t even remember.

I think it was Slumdog Millionaire.

But wasn’t that the Christmas Emma was born? Four years ago – wow!

When on holidays one should do many interesting things. That’s our motto. And seeing a movie is good for a writer. If you watch a movie carefully you can learn a lot about the way to move a plot along from scene to scene, characterization, dialogue, and story arc. As an added bonus, you can do all of these things in less than two hours. Of course, reading novels is a great way to accomplish the same thing, but it takes longer.

Flight, is an amazingly ironic and subtle movie – like an onion, one can peel back layer after layer of meaning – it all depends on how deep a person wants to go. And that depends on what the person came into the theatre with in the first place – much as it will be when (hopefully) a reader picks up my novel.

The scenes of the plane crash had me on the edge of my seat with my hand over my mouth so I wouldn’t gasp out loud too often. Denzel Washington was utterly believable in the role of an alcoholic and drug using airline pilot whose life is falling completely apart. The movie is dark and gripping from beginning to end and for anyone who has even a smattering of experience with what addiction can be like – eerily familiar. The type of movie that makes you feel a bit queasy as just what you expect to happen does in fact happen.

But for the writer, there are so many other levels. Here is a story where the hero and the villain are all wrapped up in the same character. There is no doubt that Captain Whittaker is a hero – he managed to pull off a miracle – crash land the plane and only lose six out of one-hundred and twenty people. In simulator tests after the crash, ten pilots tried to pull off what he accomplished and all ten crashed the plane and killed everyone on board. At the same time, Captain Whittaker is a man who blatantly stepped into the cockpit of a plane under the influence of alcohol. He was responsible for the lives of every person on board that plane and he was drunk and high on cocaine taken in order to counteract his use of alcohol. He saved the lives of one-hundred and fourteen people and yet he betrayed the public trust. Interesting juxtaposition – isn’t it?

For the movie viewer who likes to see a form of justice done – Captain Whittaker does end up in jail. In yet another ironic plot twist, hitting rock bottom and going to jail frees him from his addiction and reunites him with his son. A touching moment occurs at the end of the movie when his son comes to the prison for a visit. He asks to interview his dad for his college entrance exam on the topic of the most fascinating person I never met.

The movie raised an interesting question for me. Could Captain Whittaker have done what he did in the cockpit that day if he hadn’t been in the condition he was? Maybe if he had been sober as he was supposed to be, he would have crashed the plane and killed everyone on board as all the other pilots in the simulator did. Now that is irony, for sure. He saved the lives of so many people and yet he went to jail for breaking the public trust – another irony – justice or a miscarriage of justice? Who can say? No easy answers. A movie that makes a person think – good work Hollywood! That’s exactly what I want my writing to do.

 

 

 

 

Photographic Journey

As promised – here is my photographer husband’s guest post. It’s about time he received some recognition on this blog – most of the pictures I have used since I started the blog (at least the good ones) are courtesy of his skill and photographic expertise. So – I’ll turn this space over to Bruce.

Come on a brief journey with me – glimpses and explanations of the processes and thoughts, behind one of my favourite hobbies and creative outlets – ‘capturing’ images in time.

I use a zoom lens with a focal length 18mm – 200mm which allows me to compose photos quickly. Photographing people I’m able to stand further away and zoom in, making a more natural atmosphere. “Up close and personal,” produces candid shots – as people become hyper-aware of the camera it changes their reality; they either ham it up, or clam-up.

A family in the Sierra Nevada’s  

In this mountain scene I had already taken a few shots, when a family came trotting from behind the trees and into my frame – I didn’t believe my good luck!  Usually the reverse happens.

Notice the strong horizontal line of the fallen tree and the blue lake itself – it appears roughly 1/3 up from the bottom of the image. This compositional technique is known as the “rule of thirds” or “the rule of threes”.  Seasoned photographers never center their subject or a horizon line – well, almost never.

Depth is created in the photo with the trees on the left side and the patches of grass and the log in the foreground. To complete the picture the hiking family adds human scale as well as evokes interest.

A Study of Roses

The next 2 shots illustrate how depth of field changes using different lens apertures (f-stops).

1/400 sec.@ f14 – no depth of field

 

1/40 sec.@ f32 – medium depth of field

 

A Waterfall         

1/13sec.@ f16 with the vintage tripod …see Fran’s previous blog!

At 3PM in October, Burney Falls were in the shade – however, a lower light level is exactly what is needed to create the blurred effect. At the top of the falls the sunlight was hitting the trees which were ablaze in fall colours – but sunlight and shade doesn’t mix in photography; I had to frame and focus most of the photo down towards the waterfall. I often fine-tune photos @ the editing stage, so I later cropped out some of the trees on the right, to compose in line with the rule of thirds (again.)

 

An Era Gone By

De-saturating the colour ever so slightly moves this photo back in time, almost to a sepia image. Notice the truck is aligned using “the rule of thirds.” I keep mentioning this rule because it’s so important. I’ll speak if it no more.

 

Ancient Volcano      

The photo speaks for itself

 

Bird of Paradise   

1/250 sec. f4.8 – A very shallow depth of field creates the blurred background.

 

Boy with fish     

I love portraits! In this case, upon seeing the lad with his catch, I seized the moment and asked to take his photo. His beaming smile says it all.

 

Clock Tower   

Buildings! A favourite subject of mine – after all, I am a carpenter. An amazing thing about photographs is what isn’t seen in the picture. For example, located under this tower is a 10kw hydroelectric turbine. Out in the desert, no less!

 

 

 

Fall Colours

In the 3 photos above, I increased the colour saturation to enhance the yellows and oranges. In the last of this series of three, the blue of the sky could have been greatly enhanced using a polarizing filter (which I didn’t have at the time!)

 

Mono lake

Tree framed to the left created depth and interest.  I saturated the colours to give the clouds definition and deepen the blue.

 

Mt. Whitney and the Alabama Hills

 

Jackie and Mack Robinson – remembered and touched

A slight star effect (achieved in post editing) seemed especially appropriate for this photo.

 

Solemn tribute

Manzanar was a WWII internment camp for people of Japanese descent – many of whom were US citizens. The de-saturated colour of the image and the greyness of the background and clouds adds a solemn quality. What I really like is the light breaking through. I believe it evokes hope.

It’s Impossible to Bring a Photographer to Sanity

I’m trying to get your attention with this title but like most attention-getting stunts, a grain of substance exists. Photographers can get crazy when it comes to getting the right shot. When travelling in a motor vehicle with a photographer, this can mean steeling yourself for unexpected U-turns on both deserted and busy streets, sudden jolting stops and a seemingly endless amount of gazing around in all directions except the one you would expect the driver to be looking in. Due to scary experiences in the past, my photographer partner has made a solemn oath that he will never again try to get a shot while driving! To the more cautious people out there this might seem like a given but let me tell you about something I witnessed the other day while standing at a pull out on the winding road of the Tioga Pass in Yosemite National Park. A guy on a very big motorcycle came around a tight corner with one hand on his bike handle and the other hand holding a very large camera that he was shooting continuously as he drove. I mean a big camera, folks – not a little hand-held job like mine. Photographers don’t consider danger in the same way the rest of us do.

If you travel with a photographer you will be regaled with endless talk of the wonders of the light during the golden hours – just after sunrise or before sunset. You can expect to be rousted out of a comfortable bed in the predawn light in order to arrive at some point where the sun is rising. You will see your travelling companion scrambling over barricades, beyond well-marked boundaries, and up dangerous looking slopes – all in the pursuit of the perfect shot. Expect endless delays while various antics take place. My partner demonstrates behaviour that could have a person who wasn’t carrying a camera locked up in a home for the hopelessly insane. Consider what I saw the other day, out of the corner of my eye – he was crouched low to the ground, running wildly across a yard with a large orange pylon under his arm. When asked later what the hell he was doing, he nonchalantly replied, “It was in way of the shot.”

Another important thing to  keep in mind – it is always the photo that got away that haunts the travelling photographer. My partner is worse than a fisherman when it comes to endless lamentation about how the photo he missed would have been the best one he could have ever taken.

The other day my photographer partner jumped out of the car with a wild smile on his face and said, “I love the smell of snow on the mountains in the morning.” He sounded exactly like Robert Duval in Apocalypse Now and looked just about as crazy. I came on this holiday to California for a bit of heat. That morning I was standing outside in a wind that brought the temperature below zero so he could photograph snow-covered peaks. The mountains are breathtaking but it was still freezing out there.

The delays used to get on my nerves but I have come up with my own coping method. I now take advantage of this time to write hurried notes in my writer’s journal – blog ideas, little tidbits of this and that, impressions that I hope will spark my imagination at a later date. All I ask is to be parked in a spot that is safe and hopefully inspiring. I have feared for my life while waiting in a car pulled precariously over on a busy street, to say nothing of time spent with only a concrete abutment to stare at.

To be fair, I own up to the fact that I am no photographer. I love to take pictures but I have an eye for a different type of picture than my partner does. I like to take pictures of signs and odd things that I think will make my four-year-old granddaughter laugh. My observations of travelling with a photographer come from the place of the non-initiated, the non-passionate, the outsider. I’m sure all the photographers out there will say – what is she talking about? That guy is behaving just as I would in his situation. Everything she is describing is perfectly normal.

Since we crossed over into the US we had been searching for a camera store where the photographer might purchase a polarizing filter. In Bishop CA we got lucky. We walked into a quiet store on the main street and chatted with a soft-spoken man. He had the right filter for my partner’s camera. In the corner I saw a really nice tripod, very reasonably priced. I convinced my partner to buy it. His tripod is vintage 1970 – a heavy clunky thing held together by black tape. Days ago he accidentally forgot it at a rest stop and when we rushed back two hours later it was still standing in the same spot he had left it. No one in their right mind would steal that tripod, unless perhaps they were in need of a heavy murder weapon.

While in the store, I had a short and poignant conversation with the man behind the counter. He had been a professional photographer with his own studio but he told me it wasn’t a way to make a living anymore. “Everyone’s a professional now – ,” he said with a sad smile, “ – press automatic and shoot, auto adjust on the computer and there you go. No one needs a professional photographer anymore.” I looked up at him and said, “But you still need an eye.” He nodded thoughtfully and agreed, “Yes, you still need an eye.”

My next post will be turned over to my photographer partner and travelling companion. He will share some of his favorite shots from the trip so far.I told him to limit it to ten and he countered with, “Why not an even dozen – like the apostles?” What the apostles could have to do with the number of photos is beyond me. I do hope you will enjoy his work. I admit to often enjoying the product of his endeavours to a great degree more than the process – but not always. Would I have these wonderfully funny memories if I wasn’t along for the process, too? Nope.

The Sierra Madre Playhouse

We are always looking for interesting things to see and do in the communities we visit. Yesterday, we were lucky enough to take a short Sunday afternoon drive out of Pasadena and into the city of Sierra Madre. I can hardly describe it as a city – it seemed more like a quiet little community nestled in the shadow of the beautiful foothills. We stopped for a leisurely lunch at The Only Place restaurant. It might not be the only place to eat in Sierra Madre but it’s certainly a great place to eat. I discovered the Santa Fe burger – served on sourdough bread with grilled bell peppers and Swiss cheese accompanied by a delicious potato salad – totally yummy.

    Across the street from the restaurant was the Sierra Madre Playhouse. This funky little 99 seat theatre was built in 1923. It’s now a community theatre run by a non-profit board of directors. They are dedicated to presenting culturally sound and family oriented theatre. We had Googled what’s happening in Pasadena and noticed that something was playing that very evening.

The box office opened for an afternoon performance and we ran across the street to check it out. A welcoming older man took our names and told us he could make a special deal for us, his Canadian friends, if we came back at 7:00 to see the evening show. True to his words we got two tickets to see The Liquid Radio Players for $10.00 each. This improvisational, 1940’s style radio show had been listed as LA Weekly’s comedy pick of the week.  

The theatre was lovely – small, comfortable seating and able to evoke a sense of nostalgia for when such venues were the norm. We were greeted at the door by a beautiful young woman giving out small candy treats. As audience members we got to choose the genre for the evening show – science fiction. Fitting, as this was a special Halloween performance. We chose the title – The Alien from Kentucky; character names – a villainous alien named Gorkan (an audience member’s last name); two young sweethearts named Scarlett Rose and Willy; and three 1940’s type radio sponsors – Shooties Oatmeal, Acme Plumbing, and Condom’s Hair Cream. That one got a good laugh.

The next hour and a half was filled with wildly funny antics as the narrator and five actors, plus sound man and keyboardist, improvised their way through a story of aliens from Mars landing in a farmer’s cornfield. In the end the earth was saved and romance bloomed.

We were pleased to explore Sierra Madre – a place with such a small town feel during a time we had thought would be our big city hustle and bustle part of the trip. If you are ever in the Pasadena area, please check out the Sierra Madre Playhouse. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

What are we doing in Las Vegas?

Lots of people take trips that are characterized by spontaneity – a flying by the seat of the pants approach. Other people take trips that are well planned out – everything booked in advance – somewhat of a regimented experience. We try for a bit of both. To be totally honest, what we are doing right now is not only spontaneous – it is totally out of character for us. We are staying in Las Vegas for a night at the Mirage Hotel.

Let’s step back in time for a moment, to a small motel room in Death Valley – no phone and sketchy internet. We had thoroughly enjoyed two beautiful days in the desert – we didn’t eat a hot meal once – picnics out of our cooler for breakfast, lunch and dinner. No problem – we loved it. But we were faced with a dilemma – where to go next? I fell asleep before the travel plans had been finalized. The last I saw of Bruce he was buried in maps.

This morning, before the first rays of dawn, our car was packed and ready to go. We had planned to see the sun come up over the mountains on one side of the valley and wash the other side with light. Bruce stopped at the motel office to ask about the route he had chosen. The guy at the desk said he’d never driven the road we were considering. He mentioned that we were less than two hours from Las Vegas and if we drove in that direction we could hook-up with a great section of Route 66 back into California and down towards Joshua Tree National Park – our next destination.

We loved the idea of driving a piece of Route 66 – our plan was to set the GPS for the Vegas Strip and drive down it – why not? You only live once – right?

The GPS worked great – led us right to the strip. We decided to park the car. It was entirely my fault. I wanted to see a wonderful replica statue of the Nike of Samothrace which is located by the fountains outside of Caesar’s Palace.  As we walked along the strip, we thought – why not check into seeing a show? I can’t say which one of us had that idea. The next thing we knew we had two tickets to see The Beatles – Love – Cirque du Soleil and a room reserved for the night at the Mirage. As we ate steaks at an Outback restaurant on the strip we both concluded that the madness came about because we were scared to drive the car out of the parkade and back into the non-stop party all around us.

So – here we are in our 21st floor room getting ready to go downstairs to relax poolside. Then we will see the show and wander around and take pictures and people watch – earlier I saw Spiderman go by – who knew Spiderman was in Vegas? Apparently the Mirage hotel has a volcano that erupts after sunset – every hour on the hour.

Later – the show was wonderful – a fantasy trip into some great Beatles tunes – wonderful costumes and high-flying antics. The volcano eruption was really something – both Bruce and I gasped when we saw it burst into flames.

What can I say about Las Vegas? I think a young woman from England we met before we left Death Valley said it best – “You have to take Vegas for what it is.” I agree – a sensory overload adult amusement park. Don’t expect it to be anything else.

A writer always welcomes the chance to have a unique experience. If I ever create a character that passes through Las Vegas, I’ll have a real experience to draw on when I sit down to describe the scene. That’s invaluable. But I seriously doubt I’ll ever go back. The picture of the Nike sure turned out well though.

A Travelling Guide for Women like Me

Someone out there could make a bundle of money writing a guidebook for the older woman (like me) who wants a bit of adventure but who is not interested in killing herself in the process.

One of my nieces just posted a blog entry about a seven-day hike she and a friend took up Mt. Kilimanjaro. As I read her description, I pictured them almost sprinting up the mountain. I was put in mind of the way people play through at a golf course when she described how they passed other hikers and left them far behind. I am starting to wonder if most guide books are written by people like her.

We middle-aged, adventure seeking women require a guidebook that tells it like it is. Let me elaborate – the other day we did a hike up to Watson Falls – the highest waterfall in Oregon. It was to be a .3 of a mile hike to a viewing bridge with an elevation of 250 ft. over that distance (facts, by the way, you find out only in the parking lot) Several guidebooks described this as an easy walk– do not be deceived – this is not an easy walk. Though I must admit, it was well worth the effort. All I’m saying here is that we need accurate information.

 

Still on the topic of a realistic guidebook – we wanted to explore the Umpqua River Hot Springs – according to some sources an easy .3 of a mile (why is it always an easy .3 of a mile?) walk from the parking lot. An outdoor, rustic and undeveloped spring – a true wilderness hot springs. I was resolved to push my comfort envelope out a bit by going along with the idea of exploring this hot spring.

I love hot springs – the type where I pay to get in and once inside I am greeted with pretty pools of steaming water. I read through the information we had on the springs and the material was very clear in stating that people should be prepared to wear bathing suits – well for God’s sake – that’s obvious – right?

After a few wrong turns and stopping to study the map we located the forest service road that would take us to the springs and arrived to be confronted by the following sign.

We ran into an older couple in the parking lot who had camped out the night before and had already enjoyed the springs a few times. The woman told Bruce, wearing what I imagine was a pitying smile as she looked in my direction (OK – ya, ya, ya – she was probably smiling nicely – I admit to being overly uptight by this time – refer back to the nudity sign), that the hike up to the hot springs was a bit of a scramble. I’ll say – it looked almost perpendicular to me. She naturally made her way up the incline like a mountain goat – no doubt quite prepared to deal with the nudity issue like it was an everyday occurrence. It is times like this that I wonder if I am really suited for adventuresome, holiday travel.

The next day found us in Ashland and very close to the Jackson Wells Mineral Pools. The place is quite beautiful – nestled among tall pines – my kind of hot springs. Imagine my shock when I get there and see a large sign on the wall that reads – Clothing Optional starts at 7:30pm! People of Oregon – what have you got against bathing suits? Thankfully we had got there with a good hour and a half to spare before the arrival of the clothing optional crowd. We had a wonderful time.

Now, I’m going to just go out on a limb here and describe Jackson Wells as a new age sort of place. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for people being themselves. If you are a person who talks in a hushed tone with a startling number of ooohs and aaaahs thrown into your conversation – then I say, go for it. If you are a person given to going into great detail on the subject of crystals, the things your true heart tells you to do and how your aura is pulsing today – well – more power to you. If you are the kind of person who feels the need to twist your body into Circe de Solei type movements over and under the spa waters of the small hot pool you are sharing with at least a dozen other people – what can I say? You gotta be you. If you want to spend your time carefully scooping up each and every bug from the huge swimming pool and throwing it over the high wall while proclaiming that this bug should go in peace – it’s your life. I’ve sure got nothing against any of these people – but for some reason (all about me, of course) I was hard pressed not to double over laughing most of the time. I controlled myself by focusing on the older lady in a Myrna Lloyd type pink bathing cap who took up one corner of the pool and simply closed her eyes. She had to have been at least eight and the serenity on her face as she soaked up the pleasure of the hot mineral water was quite beautiful.

A nice message at the entrance to the hot springs at Jackson Wells

Loving the holiday while bemoaning the need for a guidebook that tells me what I need to know. Still being my good old judgemental and observant self. What more could a writer ask for?