Michael Haskins

Monday, April 28, 2008

So, where did the errors come from?

I wrote my book. It took about a year, but if you put my actual writing days together it would have been a full six months. It took a lot of sweat, a lot of rewriting and mental anguish. The publisher sent it to an editor in NYC and it came back to me with a few minor corrections.

I was asked if I really wanted to leave mention of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in the final chapters. At that time, Castor’s illness was all over the print and electric media and, of course, the Cuban exiles in Miami were celebrating his expected death.

I couldn’t avoid mention of Castro and assured the editor that the Washington CIA, who were predicting his death, would have a hard time finding the island of Cuba if they left Key West and headed south. The government’s view of Cuba is tinted by the Miami exiles and, a lot like Iraq, what it knows about Cuba is what it believes the exile community wants to hear.

So, I did a bit of a compromise and assumed Castro would be out of power by the time the book came out. So I referred from the present tense of Castro to something along the lines of “now that Castro was out of the picture,” this and that . . . (you’ll need to read the book, because I am not giving it all away here).

As it turned out, my book’s Cuban segment reads like something out of today’s news!

So then the book was sent to an other editor, who I believe was in Texas, for continuity in punctuation and those things we were supposed to learn in high school English, but didn’t.

Eventually, I received the manuscript back with a gazillion corrections. So much for high school English. I had to reply line item by line item. The editor questioned my use of commas, quotes, and other punctuations. I had to note if I agreed or not and, if not, what I wanted done. My reply filled 20 single lined pages! But, some of that was for mistakes I found and that they somehow screwed up from my copy. For instance, the word “lightning” was italicized throughout the book. Why? I did not send my copy in that way. Also, all Spanish was in italics in my copy, but not in what was sent back to me. Some Spanish was, some wasn’t. I italicized all the Spanish, again.

I did spelled the Bahamian beer Kalik wrong (Kalick), but sent in the correction. In the first half of the book it is spelled wrong and then it's correct in the last half. Go figure! The list goes on, but you get the point.

So, you can image my surprise as I read my author’s copy and found about half my corrections were not made!

In reading other books, especially from the big NY publishers, I am often surprised to find mistakes, but I do find them. I have had good sales in Key West and even my good friend Dick Wagner, once my editor at the KW Citizen, called to say he enjoyed the book. When I asked him about the mistakes that bothered me, he said he didn’t notice. I guess that’s a good thing, but how do the error make it in after two editors and then my own corrections?

Oh yeah, the best one. I misspelled Ronald Reagan (Regan) and no one caught it, so, when speaking at libraries I always get a laugh when I say it is obvious that the editors were Democrats, because no Republic would misspell his name!

What kind of mistakes have you found in your readings?

Monday, April 7, 2008

My Key West book signing

Key West Island Books took out print and radio ads for my signing on April 5. I also had mention in Solares Hill*, Paradise (weekly newspaper art/entertainment supplements) and the Keynoter, as well as interviews on US1 Radio, 104.1 FM; SUN 99.5 FM, and WGMX/MIX 94.3 FM. We don’t really have local TV in the Keys, but if we did, I would’ve found a way to be on!

Of course, I have heard the horror stories from writers about book signings from hell where no one shows up and I lived with that anxiety for about a week! Imagine, my hometown and no one shows. Okay, I knew some close friends would be there, but the public was another story.

I showed up at the store at 4:30 p.m., much to the laughs of Marshall Smith, owner of the shop, as he pointed out to Suzanne, his sales assistant, that he predicted I’d be early. What Marshall didn’t know was that I inherited being early for everything from my father. Suzanne told me people had showed up Friday, thinking the signing was that night. Now that’s being early!

Well, at 4:45 p.m. Tom, an old sailing friend, showed up and bought 10 copies for members of his family who live off island. A good contingent from ROTARY arrived and bought copies, as did Paul Clarin (the man who took my book jacket photo), lots of old friends, and some people who just heard about the book and wanted a copy. There was also a fair turnout from my Monday lunch group, the Luncheonaires.

From years of attending book signings, I know that the average book sale during a signing is as low as 10 - 15 copies. That’s what I expect, at best, when I sign outside Key West, but Saturday the bookstore sold out its 50 copies. I had a box-and-a-half of books in my car and all but six of those sold! Marshall said he sold80 copies! When I asked if that was a good thing, he laughed and said yes.

I know Marshall deserves most of the credit, because I think the radio ads reached a lot of people, since it ran for a week and up until about 4 p.m. on April 5.

It was a high and I enjoyed singing until 7:30 p.m. and then met with many of the book buyers at the Hog’s Breath Saloon and celebrated. I think I still have writer’s cramp in my right hand, and I say that with a smile!

I also want to add that on Friday, I was on 99.5’s "Hoebee in the Morning" show and he paid me a complement, long before I arrived at the studio. Bill told listeners that Thursday night his cable TV went out, so he figured he’d skim the book, so he could talk to me about it Friday morning. Then he said the first few pages captured his interest and he read until 12:30 a.m. and had to force himself to put the book down and grabbed some sleep, since he had to be up at 3 a.m.! Hoebee said he never read a novel (or textbook) in his life! But, he loved “Chasin’ the Wind.”

I’ve known Hoebee for about 10-years and take his comments as my best review to date. The fact that he said this on the air before my arrival, I took as a major compliment. Thank you Bill Hoebee!

I will be signing this Thursday at Murder on the Beach, 7 p.m., in Delray Beach, and on Saturday, 3 p.m., at the Bookstore in the Grove, in Coconut Grove. I will sign again in Key West on April 25, 4-7 p.m., at the Hog’s Breath Saloon. If you are in town for Conch Republic Days Celebration, come on in and say hi.

*You can read the full Solares Hill feature review of “Chasin’ the Wind,” by Mark Howell, on my website: www.michaelhaskins.net.

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