Coffee heat rising

The Scaredest Moment…

I love the Quora site as a source of writing exercises. The site’s modus operandi is to throw out questions and ask people to respond with little essays.

Because they open the questions to everyone who signs up, of course this MO generates a spectacular amount of stupid trolling from real or de facto eight-year-olds. Some people never do grow up. 😀

However, every now and again someone poses a query that functions handsomely as a writing prompt. One such was this:

What Was Your Most Frightening Moment?

There’s something wrong with me, I guess, that causes me not to get scared until after the fact. It’s ever been thus…the first time I understood that was what happened occurred when the driver of a steam roller almost ran me down as he was flattening asphalt in an alley behind our house. I managed to jump onto a fence and haul myself out of the way, feeling the thing brush my clothes. Not scared till a few minutes later, after I realized how close to death I’d come. I was a little kid: 8 or 10 years old.

Adrenaline makes my world slow down. One day I was driving in to my first job from a suburb. At the time, you had to drive several miles across a country road through cotton and onion fields. A dumb kid, I was flying low across this two-lane road, driving a ’67 Ford Fairlane, one of the most dangerous pieces of junk ever conceived by an American carmaker. From the right, some farm worker ambles onto the road — he doesn’t see me coming and now he’s smack in front of me and I’m going 60 miles an hour. Or more.

I slam on the brakes. In those days there was no such thing as anti-lock brakes. Or adequate seat belts. Or air bags. Or any other such debris. And I’m a kid, remember: a dumb one, at that. I don’t know any better than to tromp the brake pedal to the floor.

The car actually JUMPS into the air. No Joke! It leaps into the air and comes down in the oncoming lane, its wheels presumably still spinning at 60 miles an hour. I look up and there’s a car in the oncoming lane, flying straight at me, a horrified look on its all-too-visible driver’s face.

At this point a series of thoughts goes through my mind.

The clown who pulled out in front of me is now in the lane that my car leapt out of. He’s moving right beside me, fast as he can go because of course he figures he’s about to get smashed, too. The choices are three:

Pull my car back into my lane and broadside the guy beside me.
Pull left onto the left-hand shoulder and pray the guy in the oncoming car doesn’t also try to pull off the road.
Head-on the guy in the oncoming lane.

Literally, I’m thinking this stuff through: it’s weird how clearly you can think and how fast you can think, given a large enough dose of adrenaline.

I decide on option (b): Pull off the road to the left. At 60 miles an hour.

Well, probably a little slower than that, because of course I have slammed on the brakes at one point…to little avail. The car is probably moving at about 40 to 50 mph at this point.

Incredibly, the dirt on the shoulder was hard enough that the car’s wheels didn’t sink into it.

Incredibly, the guy in the oncoming lane didn’t think fast enough to pull his car to his right, onto the same shoulder.

Incredibly, my car did not careen into the irrigation ditch beside the road.

Incredibly, my car did not spin out.

There’s only one explanation: God was on my side that morning. And on those other two guys’ side.

No, I was not scared at any time while this antic was occurring. Only after the other two cars sailed off and I caught my breath did a moment of terror arrive. I managed to make it to a gas station at the intersection of the country lane and a freeway, where I had to stop, go inside, and sit for a good half-hour or 45 minutes before I could get back in the car and proceed to work.

Not a bad little squib, eh?

Et vous? What was your most terrifying moment?

MacBook Is Back!! So…

…sooooo I get to work my pea-brained self to death.

Client has a paper in R&R (revise & resubmit) phase for a journal she’s been targeting. She sent that along late last week, at which point I made yup yup yup putting-off noises, because working at the iMac on the desk in my office causes excruciating hip and back pain.

That was 7600+ words that needed to be re-edited. Argh. It wasn’t completely put off, but the truth is I didn’t make much headway because I couldn’t sit in front of the big computer any length of time.

Apple called yesterday saying to come pick up the refurbished computer. It was late in the afternoon by the time I managed to get there (like I have nothing else to do but drive around the city, Dear Apple?). Meanwhile  Gerardo was underfoot and I had to cook 10 days or two weeks’ worth of dog food and I had to go by the pool store and baby, it’s hot out there and by the time I got back I was pretty whipped.

So by this morning the fatlady was running mighty late on the client’s project. Spent most of the day moving that off the virtual desk.

The new keyboard is MUCH easier to type on. It feels a lot more like the old MacBook’s — and presumably is a lot more like it.

I see they’ve done away with the accursed sliding wacksh!t touchbar blandishment. Had I not hated it with a passion, I would be mightily pissed, because of course I paid more for a machine that had this fine new doo-dad. But given some experience with the damn thing…oh, my. It’s soooo much better to be without it. Now instead of a stupid fussy sliding thing that you have to take your hands off the keyboard to fiddle with, it has a row of buttons with icons, which include the all-important sound buttons, brightness buttons, and a variety of other rarely-used gimmicks.

After finishing the client’s project and shipping that off to her, it was over to Plain & Simple Press Press to update the last of the dedicated web pages for the three FREE books I’ve been publishing there. A PDF for the entire first section of If You’d Asked Me is now online. How exactly one uses a PDF as bathroom reading escapes me. And bathroom reading is what it’s intended for.

Got a message from a reader who kindly passed along her experience reading the PDF for The Complete Writer. She said it looks fine on her PC but is not visible on her iPhone or IPad.

Hmmm… So I’ll have to figure out what the deal is with that. Later.

It’s almost 5 p.m. I forgot to pick up something at Leslie’s yesterday and should go over there right now, since they’re closed tomorrow.

But it’s rush hour.

But it’s non-rush hour: NO one is in town.

Guess I’d better get up and get down there, before it’s too late.

And so, away…

The Complete Writer…Completely Crazy-Making Writer?

This week’s serial installment of The Complete Writer — chapter 17 — is online at Plain & Simple Press. In today’s suspense-filled story, we navigate the perils of libel, defamation, and slander as we cling to the tight-rope of fact-checking.

Hand-over-hand across the Gorge of Electronic Peril…

This week, too, Ella finally gets it on with Lohkeh and a twit whines about his coworker injecting himself with insulin.

Friday is always Hell Central in the serialization department. For some reason, WordPress hates…just HATES…that writing book. Every. Single. TIME I go to post a chapter of The Complete Writer, some effing snafu keeps me sitting there for-freaking-ever wrestling and banging and whacking with the damned computer.

Honest to God I do not know why this happens, but it has happened every goddamned Friday since Week 1. Every time I try to post a chapter in the accruing “book,” WordPress just doesn’t wanna do it. And every time it has some new, unique, unheard-of, clever way to not wanna do it. No two snafus have been exactly the same.

Often it will have something to do with building an internal link from the table of contents to the chapter of the week.

Understand: there’s nothing very difficult about an internal link. Let’s say you want your reader to be able to click on the title to chapter 10 and be taken down the page to lovely chapter 10. Let’s say, for simple lunacy’s sake, that we have titled said passage in the magnum opus “Chapter 10.”

So you type the passage’s title, in the “text” mode, embraced and resting within a wee bit of code:

<h2 id=”chap10″><span style=”color: #0000ff;”>Chapter 10</span></h2>

This should cause your chapter title to look approximately like this:

Chapter 10

Dramatic, eh?

Well, “id=chap10” tells WordPress that the squib “chapt10” can be linked to. So back at your table of contents, you highlight Chapter 10, go ⌘k (or, if you prefer, point and click on the link icon), and enter…


This link will then take the inquiring reader to the coded copy that reads Chapter 10.

How hard is this?

Extremely, if you believe WordPress’s antic of the day.

Among many evasive tactics, when you hit “update” on the page to publish the new data, it deletes the code around the chapter title. So the link in the TofC goes dead.

After 90 minutes of fucking with this, I finally gave up and sent it off to Grayson (guru par excellence) to figure out. No doubt he’ll have an explanation for why it can’t be done. Possibly I’ve maxed the number of internal links you can put in a single WP page? Who knows…

WhatEVER…I damn near lost my mind trying to make WP perform this very simple trick. It has done it before (true: unhappily) in the TCW page. It does it without arguing in the pages for Ella’s Story and If You’d Asked. But it just ain’t a-gonna do it today.

So I’ve gotten virtually nothing else done today.

Well. That’s not entirely true. Inventory:

Walked dogs 1 mile
Watered desert willow tree in front that Luis says is suffering from drought (a trick, what with the stupid springy hose I bought, which has to be secured to a tree limb so it doesn’t rewind itself back to the damn faucet)
Pulled out dead flowers in front courtyard; planted new flowers
Fertilized the paloverde tree and three citrus
Presently pouring the state’s entire allotment of Colorado River water to those, to soak fertilizer in
Cooked a package of pork; ground that with precooked chicken and veggies and mixed up a week’s worth of dog food
Watered potted plants in back
Swam in pool; ascertained that (thank god) it doesn’t need to be cleaned today, or at least not this minute
Inspected workman activity down the street
Soaked toes in tea tree oil
Posted two links to articles in The Economist for homeowners at NextDoor, re: ongoing discussion of homeless drug addicts
And miscellaneous stuff

And do I feel like working now? Hell, no!

Askin’ and Writin’

In the writin’ department…

The current Answer to the Great Questions of the World is online at Plain & Simple Press, as is this week’s serialization of Ella’s Story. So…avail yourself of the FREE READS…and if you would please, kindly plug them on Facebook, Twitter, & waypoints, that would be lovely. 🙂

Finally, at last, I’m getting a little traction on the Drugging of America proposal. Can’t recall whether I mentioned this here, at P&S Press, or not at all…but the plan is to peddle this book to a scholarly press (since it’s richly researched). First on the list of prospects is U of Toronto Press, which recently published a rather slight book (as academic books go) about the length of the planned Drugging opus. Short, that is…

I need to make a run on the GDU library to compile a full list. Figure I’ll need at least a dozen. What I used to do — and probably will do again, even though it’s considered dreadfully bad form — is send out proposals to six publishers at a time. Back in the day, I’d have a list of around 20 likely publishers. Then as a rejection came in, I’d just turn it around and send it off to the next outfit on the list. So at any given time, about half a dozen proposals would be on the float.

This is highly problematic. In the first place, editors hate it. In the second, the scholarly publishing club is quite small, so if your idea is striking and your proposal strong, the risk that you’ll get caught out is pretty high. Piss them off and they’ll reject you, no matter how great your idea is.

Creating a book proposal is a project. You need to have completed an introduction and two or three chapters, a table of contents, and a chapter outline. Then you need to survey the market to see what’s out there on the same or related subject and explain how yours is different and why it’s better. You need to articulate the proposed audience and find out how large it is. If you have half a brain, you’ll also suggest some avenues through which the book might be marketed.

For Toronto, I’ll have to update my CV…oh, ugh! An academic CV is a gawdawful long thing, and this one of course will reveal my age, which will make it harder to talk them into buying anything I write.

I’ll also have to unpublish the Drugging of America blog series, because of course they will NOT want to know that this material has been informally distributed online. That will be something we accidentally forget to mention in the proposal.

At this point, the posts amount to draft chapters. So I have seven chapters reasonably close to completion (which will need to be elaborated on), plus I need to write two more from scratch: one on the FDA & its conflicts of interest and one on the practice called “disease mongering” and the medicalization of conditions that do not need treatment or that may not even exist in the patient.

Because seven of the proposed chapters are pretty much in hand (they’ll need some work, but nothing very crushing), I think I can crank the book out by the end of the summer. Today I wrote an introduction and rewrote the bloggity “Overprescription” into full-fledged chapter form. Remaining: revise, edit, clean up the documentation.

If a contract comes in with greater speed than one would expect — say Toronto buys it and they do so within eight or ten weeks — then I certainly will put the thing together by the end of August, at the latest. There’s not that much to do…and some motivation in the form of a check or at least a promise to publish will move what is left to do right along.

A contract in hand will give me access to the Mayo, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, and waypoints, thereinat to interview experts on the subject. Some quotes will help a lot, as long as they don’t come across as too very journalistic.

Sometimes academic presses do not pay an advance against royalties. Really, for an academic author, “pay” for a book comes in the form of promotion and tenure, both of which mean substantial salary increases.

Obviously, I’m past the P&T stage of my career. But y’know, I’d like to get just one more book — just one — in print through a real publisher. I mean…well…it’s not like three aren’t enough. But still. Just one more real book through a real publishing house. Please?

Putting your squibs up on Amazon and pretending that makes you a “published author” is great fun in a hobbyist-y way. Sort of like…I don’t know…knitting baseball caps. But it’s totally self-absorbed and self-centered. It doesn’t prove you’ve done anything other than click “post” to upload a file to a gigantic electronic scam. Publishing it is not.

Not real publishing, I mean: in the sense of fazing a book idea past a canny editor and a team of marketers who know what’s good, who know what sells, and who know what the hell they’re doing, then engaging battle with peer reviewers, revising and editing passages again, and so on. When you come to the end of that process, then you feel like you’ve accomplished something.

The overprescription issue is big in Canada. Canadians being brighter than Americans these days are all over the issue, with government-sponsored programs to alert pharmacists, doctors, and members of the public. Although the US has a small effort going, it is as nothing compared to the program Canada has. So I think I can use that interest to my advantage with a Canadian press.

The more I look at the matter, the more astonishing it appears. People in this country are outrageously overmedicated. There’s no question folks in the medical profession know about it — with the exception of some investigative reporting, most of the published reports and assessment of the issue appear in medical journals. But it doesn’t seem to be registering with practitioners. As far as I can see, though, there’s almost nothing out there that is science-based but written for the average Joe or Jane, which is what I propose to produce. Worst Pills, Best Pills, which was the best thing on the market this side of PDR, went out of print years ago, replaced by a pay-to-peek website.

I’m dead sure there’s a market for a plain-English book that describes the problem, how to recognize when it’s happening to you, and how to deal with it.