17 November 2008

Confessions of a Galley Slave, Part One.

Passenger: "So how far will this plane take us?"
Ron White: "All the way to the scene of the crash."


Last summer I finally got my disability judgment and payment. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to buy a pair of cheap computers and upgrade my office. I considered it a business expense, which of course it was.

My husband and I picked up this pair of e-machines for a mere 250 bucks each. It was a sweet deal. They’re brand new, and although they were purchased in June they still have that new computer smell. My husband got one, and I took the other.
The pair worked happily together ever after...that is until, last week, the router connecting the pair died silently while the cable guy was installing our new broad band service. (I'm sure my computer is depressed about this.)
So I can write all I want on my machine in the office, but I have to use my husband’s computer here in the living room.

Of course he doesn’t mind. And I figured, it wouldn’t be such a big deal anyway. It’d be a couple of weeks before we could go out and purchase a new router, but I’d use this computer to my check out email and do research. I’d write on my computer.

Well…Not exactly….
A few days ago Mercer’s Bayou galleys showed up in my inbox, along with instructions and the form to fill out to do error corrections, along with deadline.
I sat and whimpered.
The computers are of course, identical. They have the exact same OS. But working on this computer is like driving someone else’s car. I felt uncomfortable writing on it.

My husband, understanding the situation said it wasn’t a problem. He set up a folder just for me and told me to get to work.

The form looked straightforward, but I have learned, especially after my stint working at an army ammunition plant (that’s now a game preserve) that straightforward could be misleading. But of course, I ignored this lesson from ages past, and decided to plow through it anyway.

I am super author. Able to leap typos with a single bound!

So I soared through the manuscript and grumbling to myself over the number of little nitpicky errors I had left in the earlier mss. These are the exact same kinds of errors I usually rake other authors over the coals over in my book reviews. The last thing I wanted was my fellow horror authors to extend me the same…ahem…courtesy… Besides, I really hate having a book going out only ‘half dressed.’ And I quickly realized as I scanned the lines, that Mercers did indeed go out in e-format with her top off.

Soaring, turned to crawling. After two hours of slow tedious line editing, slogging through misplaced quotation marks, typos, and minor grammatical errors, I developed the bizarre desire to slam my head against the keyboard.

Tsuki, our Akita mix wanted out. I took this as an opportunity to get some fresh air and get away from the computer for a bit. While we’re gone, Georgina our blue cameo crème kitten took a stroll of her own…right over the keyboard. So when Tsuki and I returned I noticed the form had Georgina’s moniker written on it. She was sitting happily on the keyboard, looking smug. I picked her up and told her that under no circumstances could she look up ‘kitty porn,’ much less post about it on my galleys form.

I also jotted down a note to contact the Local Humane Society to help me get both the cats fixed. The last thing I need right now is for strange toms showing up looking for a good time. Especially now that I know how they find their way to my house.

I clear out Georgina’s moniker. I go back and look at the galleys. Great. I finished up 40 pages in nearly two hours. I figured that at this pace I could do roughly 50 pages a day I could be finished well before the December 8th deadline.
Not only can I leap tall typos in a single bound, I’m also faster than a speeding bullet! Who knew?

Feeling happy, (I am after all super author) and thinking about how I could get this done and shipped back to Samhain in a week, so I could return to my own computer and to the two novels waiting in it for me, I took Danny our elderly poodle out for a brief walk. When we came back, Georgina was back on the keyboard. I displace her, and go to the kitchen and make me a fresh cup of mint tea.

When I return my husband is standing over the monitor looking at my work.
“You know you’re doing this wrong,” he said.
“No I’m not,” I said. “I’m the writer I know what I’m doing.”
He laughed at me and said, “Did you read the directions?”
“No, I didn’t need to.”
“Well you should have,” he said, as he picked up a printout of the directions that came with the galleys. “Because it says here you’re supposed to put in the entire sentence, plus highlight what needs corrected. All you did was put in a word or two. You screwed up.”
He handed me the instructions. I looked at them, feeling crestfallen and definitely foolish. He was right. I didn’t do the galleys right and now I have to start over.
“Remember what old Doc, Wright used to say,” my husband said.
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” I grumbled. “When all else fails, read the directions.”
So I’ve lost standing as super author, my kryptonite being the glib expression from my former biology professor. I can’t leap tall errors in a single bound after all. I should never be faster than a speeding bullet. I have to sit down, slog through this slowly and thoroughly, and get the job done right, because God knows, the next time I want to see Mercer’s is in print form and error free. And without the pointing and snickering from my horror loving collegues.
So, sighing, I went back to my oars and resumed my duties as a galley slave.
Row. row. row your boat....
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