Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Importance of Editing

Let the Right One In is a novel -- originally published in Sweden -- which was made into a well-received movie released in 2008. I'd seen the movie and, when I came across the book in a bookstore one day, read the first few pages. I really wanted to read the rest, but wasn't "shopping" that day, so set it down and planned to see about reading it later.

Recently, I splurged on that book and one other (for the free shipping) from Amazon. I started reading the book eagerly. Only about 20 or so pages in, though, I was briefly distracted from the story. The book opens in Sweden in 1981. One part reads: "[he] studied the contents of his bookcase. An almost complete collection of the series Goosebumps..." Huh? Goosebumps books were around that long ago? I didn't remember them being around when I was that young. Well, OK, maybe they started out being written/printed in foreign countries and only made it to the US later?

It bugged me enough that I had to look it up. And, as far as I can tell, the Goosebumps books weren't in print in 1981 and there doesn't seem to be any other sort of book, comic, etc. which I've been able to track down and which was in print at that time. I even considered the possibility that this was just a replacement series name for a series which would be known in Sweden but foreign to English-language readers. Given that, later in the book, some magazines are referred to by Swedish titles rather than having American/English analogs substituted in, though, this seems unlikely.

So, unless there's something I've missed (entirely possible), someone made a mistake here. Either the author or the translator created an anachronistic reference in the story. Whoever made the mistake, the editor(s) didn't catch it either. And, it's not like this is some esoteric topic that you'd never expect a literary editor to know anything about. It's, you know, books.

So what? Well, the confusion it created distracted me from what the author was really trying to do -- tell his story. It seems like book editing in general is less robust than it used to be. It seems as if most recently-published novels which I read have one or more obvious spelling errors in them. With older books, this seems to have been less common, though perhaps not as much among cheap paperback houses. When I come across these errors, it has the same effect, though usually less dramatic, as this Goosebumps issue. For a moment or two I'm thinking about the mechanics of reading rather than being tuned into solely to the story.

And while this may be only a nuisance in fiction, it can be downright credibility-wrecking in non-fiction. Consider the recent kerfuffle over Investor's Business Daily choosing Stephen Hawking as their example of someone who "wouldn't have a chance in the U. K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless." Now, one can discuss the merits and truthfulness of their overall point, but there's a big problem which -- if they'd wanted to be convincing -- should have been caught in editing. Stephen Hawking's, well, British. When such a basic fact as that has been totally botched, it can lead many readers to question the validity of the entire rest of the piece their reading.

Note that this isn't a screed against casual writing in blogs, tweets, etc. There's nothing that says every word written down has to be edited to death and fact-checked by an independent party. But when you're trying to get people to pay money for your books or believe your ideas, it makes sense to put some extra effort into not having glaring mistakes in your writing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New Twitter Fiction(s) & Submission Updates

Three, count 'em, three new Twitter fictions since last I blogged.

Also, The Drabblecast and Weird Tales both rejected my recent submissions. I need to get the stories back out in circulation; I'm starting to have trouble finding markets that seem like good fits for one of the stories.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Nothing To See Here... Except a New Twitter Fiction!

This week's Twitter fiction is posted. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Nothing new to report on either of the story submissions that are out there. I'm ever-so-slightly hopeful on one of these due to the time it's been out since Duotrope shows the market having a slightly-longer response time on acceptances than rejections. Of course, it could also just be that things are slow for the summer and I'm reading a bit too much into an editorial pause.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tuesday (Central, Mountain and Pacific) Twitter Posted

This week's twitter fiction is up. I didn't plan ahead for being out all night at a concert, so if you live in the Eastern Time Zone you're stuck with a Wednesday Twitter this week.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Waking Up to Wakefield

Baseball's All-Star Game is Tuesday night and one of the mini-controversies around the game was the selection of Boston's Tim Wakefield to the American League roster, giving the 42-year-old pitcher his first ever All-Star appearance. Wakefield's 11 wins have him tied for the lead in the AL which, for many people throughout the years, would have made his selection perfectly acceptable. But as statistical analysis of the game has flourished, a larger percentage of people have come to the opinion that a pitcher's performance on things largely within his own control (strikeouts, walks, home runs allowed and, to a lesser extent, hits allowed) are better metrics to use when determining who the "best" pitchers are.

On these other metrics, Wakefield's 2009 season has been only pedestrian. His Earned Run Average is more than double that of league leader Zach Grienke. He's given up more than a hit per inning, alongside another three walks per nine innings. Never one to rack up huge strikeout numbers, he's nevertheless on pace for a full-season career low at only 5.1 K's per nine innings.

I confess... There was a time when I hated Tim Wakefield. When his young career hit a rough patch in 1993 and 1994, I expressed some schadenfreude at his troubles. A friend asked what I had against him, since he'd heard nothing but good things about Wakefield as a person. For me, it was simple. At that point in his career he was an absolute Atlanta Braves killer. Through quirks of scheduling and the fact that his Pirates faced Atlanta in the 1992 National League Championship Series, five of Wakefield's first 21 major league starts came against Atlanta. In those five games, he pitched 45 innings (three complete games, 10 innings in one start, eight in another) and went 4-1 with a 2.60 ERA. This was one guy I was really glad to see end up in the American League!

In baseball terms, though, that's all ancient history now. (Well, OK, I'm sure it doesn't hurt that Wakefield's 1995-2009 record against Atlanta is 2-3 with a 5.84 ERA and one save...) He's crafted a very solid career, shifting roles from starter, to closer, to general reliever, and back to starter. I'm glad to see that he'll be in the All-Star Game Tuesday night and I'll be rooting for him to get a chance to pitch. Just not against Brian McCann...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fictitious Updates

No replies yet on the two stories out for review. This isn't really a surprise, though. Most of the time you're looking at a wait of several weeks to several months for a reply. The waiting may not be "the hardest part" but it sure is the most boring!

This week's twitter fiction is posted.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

Fiction Submission #2

2009's second fiction submission went out this evening, via email, to The Drabblecast. This is the first time I've submitted to an audio-based publication.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Several Brief Updates

So summer is here. And now the days are getting shorter. Even though I know this is the way it works, every year it sort of seems weird to me. It's like my brain thinks "But the days are supposed to be longer in the summer. Not getting shorter." Silly brain.

This week's twitter fiction is up. Something a little different this time. The last three were all arguably crime stories. This one is more of a romance. A very short one. :)

No word from Weird Tales as yet on my fiction submission from a couple of weeks back. This isn't surprising, though. Their response times average over a month. I need to work on getting a few more stories back in circulation. My goal for the next week (between now and when I post the next twitter fiction) will be to get one more story out the door. Baby steps...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Big Ball of Almost-Summer Blah

Another one of those titles that, I suppose, sounds worse than it is. I've been getting stuff done the last week, just nothing much that's actually, you know, interesting.

I got this week's new twitter fiction online yesterday. That's about the only news of note.

Greatly enjoyed last week's NHL Finals Game Seven. It ended up being exactly the type I've game I'd said I hoped it would be.

The less said about the current run of games for the Atlanta Braves, the better. Though, as I type this, they are up 2-1 tonight. Hope springs eternal...

I do plan to have news of another new weekly feature here soon, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Also, another "What I'm Reading" post should be coming before too long as well.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Game Seven

Game Seven. Two words that tell you pretty much all you need to know. Whether it's baseball, basketball, or hockey if it's playoff season and you hear that there's a Game Seven, you know that both teams will be giving it their all as they are in a win or go home situation. The whole thing comes down to a single game.

A Championship game seven in any of these sports represents one percent or less of the season for both teams, but it will forever serve as the divider between Champions and Also-Rans. Tomorrow night will see Game Seven of the Stanley Cup finals in the NHL and the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins will each end up with one of those labels.

Championship game sevens don't come around every year. The most recent one was in June, 2006 when Carolina beat Edmonton to win the Stanley Cup. The year before, the Spurs topped the Pistons in an NBA Finals Game Seven. Baseball's last all-or-nothing World Series game saw the Anaheim Angels beat Barry Bonds's Giants.

So I know what I'll be doing this Friday night. But don't ask who I'm rooting for. It's hard to say whether I want to see the Wings lose as revenge for them beating (up) the Blue Jackets in the first round of the playoffs or if I want to see them win so I can say "Hey, we lost to the eventual Cup winners." I gave up trying to decide which was better and just want to see a close, hard-fought game where both teams are still in it at the end of the game and the season's still on the line when the third period clock starts counting down the tenths of seconds.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Vintage WWW Humor - Nine Types of HTML Authors

One of my friends' Facebook entries today referenced "a hilariously hideous, eye-gouging, 1996-style HTML disaster." Suddenly that reminded me of one of my minor claims to "fame" and it seemed like a good time to visit the wayback machine.

It's 1995, and I'm still at Bowling Green. This whole web thing is pretty new and pretty cool. Google does not yet exist. Yahoo hasn't been off of for very long. AOL is the hottest thing in electronic communications.

One of the people I knew at Bowling Green, Jeremy, had set up a box (named "pizza") for some of us BG computer folks to play around with webpage development. I created all sorts of pages during that time. A couple on the serious side (one on composer Vasilly Kalinnikov, another collecting birthday greetings from around the world for our about-to-be-one daughter) and some more frivolous (including a fake UFO sighting page).

When "pizza"'s hard drive bit the dust, most of this work was gone. Backups? Pshaw.

But one piece lived on. It had been copied (usually unattributed) into various collections of on-line humor before the drive failure. Amazingly enough, nearly fourteen years after I first penned my Matt Groening-inspired Web Page Design humor bit, it's still floating around the internet. (What does any of this have to do with Matt Groening, creator of Futurama and The Simpsons? Before he worked on those efforts, he created "Life In Hell", a comic strip which frequently had "Nine Types of ..." cartoons.)

I won't link to any of the unattributed sites, but if you go to this Google Groups link you can see my original rec.humor posting referencing pizza and also my username "mhaynes". Sadly, since I cross-posted to the non-public "bgsu.general" newsgroup, Google Groups appears to not be able to pull up the message itself.

14 years is a long time in web terms. I can't decide which is more impressive -- that half of the comments in this bit will mean nothing to 90+% of current Web-izens or that half of them still may hit a nerve!

And so, for the first time in over a decade, under my own name, I present:

The Nine Types of HTML Authors (1995-style)

Joe/Jane Average College Student

Traits : Owner of a new university-supplied computer account with http access. Complete lack of originality. Multiple references to beer/Disney movies. Several photos of Student with college buddies (high school, if freshman Student).
The Good News : They don't know how to get their page linked to the outside world, so only they and their friends download their 16.7-million- color pictures from the last party.
The Bad News : They, their friends and their 16.7-million-color pictures might be on your server.

Mr. "Enhanced For Netscape"

Traits : The second thing you see on his page is a Netscape logo and a link to an ftp site where you can download Netscape <blink>NOW!</blink>. The first thing you see is about 80 different <title>s scrolling back and forth across your screen.
The Good News : You won't have to look at their pages for long, because there won't be much there to see.
The Bad News : Half of the rest of the people who look at their pages are going to think "Hey, that's cool!" and copy the source.

The Old-Timer

Traits : Pages compatible with HTML 1.0, no graphics and very few attribute tags. Normal-text-size message at top says "This page not enhanced for Netscape. Cope, whipper-snapper."
The Good News : He's likely there because he has something of importance to say.
The Bad News : Whatever it is will likely be boring or far too
technical for you.

The 5-Year-Old

Traits : Pictures of their parents, the family pet, etc. More data about the daily life of a kindergartener than you thought possible. Cute "kiddy-talk" dialect to the text. <address> contains the note "such-and-such's mother helped her build this page."
The Good News : The first few of these you see give you a warm, fuzzy feeling.
The Bad News : The last few dozen of these you see all look the same.

The Computer Science Major

Traits : Links to the linux FAQ, the Geek Code, Star Wars theme music and DOOM .wad files. Cautious use of Netscape enhancements. Picture of Darth Vader instead of personal pictures. HTML 3.0 (Beta) compliant seal-of-approval at bottom of her page.
The Good News : If you're a geek, you'll find what you're looking for here. Even if you're not, you'll like the page design.
The Bad News : Complete lack of socially redeeming qualities. Unfortunate tendency to upload specs of their home PC.

The Businessman
Traits : Pages without fancy backgrounds and with only one nice, clean, imagemap. Unfortunately, there are no text-links for those using Lynx.
The Good News : You won't go blind staring at his pages.
The Bad News : You might wish you had once you see the prices of the goods/services he's offering.

The Newbie

Traits : Very little created text on their pages, it's almost all links to other people's pages. Missing right brackets in <A
HREF>s kill whole lines of information. Several image files are not able to be loaded. <center>.
The Good News : They'll almost have to get better.
The Bad News : They just might not.

The Egotist

Traits : Large image of themself greets you when page is loading. 1/2 Meg .au file of him chatting with his dog. Access counts shown for every page. Several lengthy pages devoted to his compact disk/Magic card/beer bottle collection. More personal details than you'd ever want to know.
The Good News : There isn't any.
The Bad News : Frequently friendly with Mr. "Enhanced for Netscape."

The Maniac

Traits : Last counted 1267 .html files in his public_html directory and 100+ CGI scripts in his cgi-bin directory. Is known as a "Close Personal Friend of Bob [Allison]." Thinks the people at Yahoo! "don't keep up with the Web fast enough." Will be the first on his block to have an ethernet cable hardwired into his brain.
The Good News : You could go through all his pages and never find an error.
The Bad News : You'd never make it through all his pages.

New Twitter Fiction Up

I just posted this week's twitter fiction earlier this evening.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Fiction Submission #1

2009's first fiction submission went out in the email today, to Weird Tales.

No Longer in Jeopardy

You would think with a blog post titled like this, I'd be sharing some sort of good news or -- at the very least -- the absence of bad news. Alas, such is not the case. This is more in the "absence of good news" category. You see, today is 18 months since December 8th, 2007. And that means it's 18 months since I went to a contestant tryout for Jeopardy. And 18 months is the length of time you're (potentially) in the contestant pool after trying out. "The Call" never came, so, by my reckoning, as of today, I'm out of Jeopardy.

The good news is that I can try again, starting whenever they do on-line qualifiers again. In January 2007, I took the on-line qualifying test. I'd pretty much forgotten about it by the time October rolled around and I got the email inviting me to come to an in-person tryout in December.

The tryout itself was a very cool experience. There were probably about three or four dozen people there in total. There was a somewhat lengthy introductory period where the staff went over the procedure and filled us in on things like the "18 month rule." While you're potentially in the contestant pool, you're not allowed to start trying out again. So, the 2008 and 2009 on-line qualifiers were out for all of us.

The two apparently-main focal points of the tryout were a written test and a mock game. When I'd done some research before the tryout, the impression I got was that getting about 75% of the questions on the written test correct would give someone a fair shot of eventually getting "The Call." My recollection is that I knew I was probably very close to that, give or take a few percent either side. Only two questions truly vexed me. Many I knew outright, a handful I didn't know and had only a barely-reasonable guess, several others I put down a reasonable guess on. Two, though, I knew I should know, but I just couldn't come up with. It wasn't a "King Kong" moment (inside joke for old Region 7 College Bowlers) but it was frustrating to have to punt on both of those as time ran out.

While I obviously didn't get to have the evaluators' perspective, my personal impression of the mock game was that I did well. I answered some questions, used the buzzer gizmo appropriately, and think that I was relatively pleasant during the "pretend Alex is getting to know you" piece of the mock game. There was never a moment where I thought to myself "OK, I just blew it there."

On the whole, the Jeopardy tryout experience was very positive. The evaluators tried to make everyone feel at ease and I left feeling that I had done essentially as well as I possibly could have on that day, with those questions. I didn't get The Call, but I don't have any regrets. If they have on-line tryouts again this coming winter, I'm sure I'll try again and wait and see if I can once again put myself possibly in Jeopardy.

Friday, June 5, 2009

What I'm Reading: Lawrence Block's "A Dance at the Slaughterhouse"

Lawrence Block has, to date, written 16 novels featuring ex-New York City police officer and unofficial Private Investigator Matt Scudder. Based on recent comments by Block, it's possible that there won't be any Scudder novels (or, for that matter, any other Lawrence Block novels) soon, if ever.

Then again, this wouldn't be the first time that Block thought he was done with Scudder, only to find out that he had more to say about the character. After the first five books (three paperback originals and two hardbacks), ending with the dynamite Eight Million Ways to Die, the character's arc initially seemed complete. After that, there was only one new Scudder novel in a seven-year stretch and that one (When the Sacred Ginmill Closes) was a flashback novel.

Then, in 1989, Block brought Scudder back with a vengeance. Every year from 1989 through 1994, there was a new novel featuring the character. A Dance at the Slaughterhouse falls in the middle of that run, coming out in 1991. As the 9th Scudder novel, it also falls right in what may prove to be the middle of the overall series.

While Eight Million Ways to Die is my favorite Lawrence Block novel, and one of my favorite books, period, A Dance at the Slaughterhouse may be the quintessential Matthew Scudder novel. The major characters which show up (and, sometimes, depart) throughout the series are virtually all in evidence here. The New York City millieu may not be drawn quite as strongly as in some of the other books, but the City is still a strong presence. The grit and grime are out in full force. (The cover photo shown here hints at one of the main plot elements. There are no "cheerful" Matthew Scudder novels, but this one is one of the more-intense in the series.)

If someone was looking to get a good sense of the overall arc of this series, they'd be hard pressed to choose a better title than A Dance at the Slaughterhouse.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Columbus Blue Jackets Arena Info and L'Affaire Glavine

A couple of sports items of interest today.

Light The Lamp has an excellent writeup of a blogger get-together with Blue Jackets big-wigs about the recent Arena issue. There's a lot of information there about the background of the whole issue and some insights into where things may go from here. There's obviously a lot of spinning going on here -- who'da thunk it with a confluence of Sports, Big Business, and Politics? Worth the time to read over the writeup if you're interested in learning more about what happened and might still happen with that situation.

Yesterday, the Atlanta Braves released pitcher Tom Glavine. Today, bloggers and a notable former teammate of Glavine's (bet you can't guess which one!) are claiming that this amounted to mistreatment of Glavine by the Braves. I certainly won't deny that it had to be a frustrating end to the situation for Glavine, but it sure looks like the Braves ended up in a lose-lose situation and chose what they deemed to be the less "lose"-y option.

Sure, the Braves could have brought Glavine up but it's been a couple years since he was more than a #4 starter. (Even his 2006 stats show a real drop-off in the 2nd half, from 11-2, 3.48 in the 1st half to 4-5, 4.33 after the break.) Between Kawakami, Medlen, Hanson, Campillo, Reyes, and Morton (now traded) the last thing the Braves needed was another 4th or 5th starter option.

So, their choices were to bring him up, let him block the kids while probably not being any better than them AND pay him millions for the privilege or deal with the sunk cost of the money they'd spent on his rehab and let him try to catch on with another team who might have more use for a veteran at the back end of their rotation. From the position of a baseball team trying to compete with a fairly fixed budget, I can't see how this is anything but a no-brainer.

While Smoltz and others might try to claim that "it's just not how you treat people," it's hard to get too worked up about the plight of someone who was just paid $1,000,000 for 3 1/2 months of work even accounting for the fact that injury rehab in pro sports certainly isn't a cushy job. Finally, if someone says "He came this close to making it back and he just wanted to pitch in the bigs one more time" -- Well, there's 29 other teams out there. If none of them think he can be a valuable component, why should the Braves have felt any differently?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Starting Out

Though the meteorologists, astronomers, and neo-pagans might not recognize it as such, in my mind Summer has already started. Tonight we had two of the last three school "events" for the year. A fundraiser dinner tomorrow night (Yay, no cooking!) and we're done for the year.

What's that? There's day camp, and soccer camp, and sleepaway camps, and state fair choir, and... Oh, never mind. It's still going to be less busy around the Haynes house for the next few months.

So, with all this lovely Summer free time on the horizon, it seemed like as good a time as any to get to work on some new projects. One which I just rolled out tonight is a Twitter feed named Weekly Fiction. Now, given that name, I'm sure that some would expect daily political screeds, or fortnightly breakfast mini-recipes. Won't they be surprised when they find a (very) short fiction, once a week!

The first micro-story was just posted a few minutes back, so check it out if you're so inclined and come back every Tuesday to see the new story.