Sunday, August 14, 2016

Grizzly Bears, Computers, And A Sore Back. The Surprises Of A Life As A Writer...

I'll give you the essence right up front. I'm pretty sure I'm the first person on the planet to go on a mountain hike carrying three computers in a backpack.

Phelps Lake, Jackson Hole, where I hiked with 3 computers in my pack...

Here's how it unfolded.

Before a novel goes to print, the author gets a proof of the finished product - text pages as well as cover - to inspect and make sure that there are no serious mistakes. Once the author says, "Go", the book manufacturer hits PRINT, and the book printing machines start whirring.

As my latest novel TAHOE DARK neared the point where the book manufacturer was ready to send off the proof last June, I realized I'd be on the road because my wife would be painting in Jackson Hole. So I told the book manufacturer that I would work with what's called a "Soft Proof," PDF files of both cover and text rather than hard copy. The problem was getting those files onto a computer while on the road so I could go over them page-by-page.

Here's why it was a problem.

The book manufacturer sends the files to one of those "upload/download" websites. I'm not sure of the reason, but I think it's because they have learned that large-sized PDF files (35 meg) are sometimes rejected by the author's email service. So they don't like to send them as email attachments.

I've learned from past experience that the files those download websites send out are not reliably opened by someone with my dismal tech skills. I've also learned that computer systems are picky. Some files download best with the Chrome browser, some best with Safari on a Mac, some best with Internet Explorer on a Windows machine, and some best with Firefox, etc.

So what to do?

Well, I always travel with my Chromebook, because it is the most reliable computer for much of what I do. I also have a laptop with Windows and Internet Explorer. Further, my wife uses a Macbook with the Apple universe of software.

Worried that I might not have the right operating system to download the Tahoe Dark proofs on the road, I brought along all three computers along with my phone's Hotspot internet connection.

It was a good decision. It took many tries on multiple machines before I figured out how to successfully download my proofs.

The next day, we planned a hike in Grand Teton National Park. It was a 3-mile stroll from the Rockefeller Preserve through the forest to Phelps Lake. Along the way we would be accompanied by astonishing views of the Tetons.

This presented another problem. There were lots of bears about, black bears like we have in Tahoe, as well as grizzlies. There were signs everywhere about making noise as you hike so you don't surprise the bears. Bears don't often kill people. But when they do, a grizzly is the usual culprit, so no one wants to get caught between a mama and her cubs. We also read about not leaving food unattended.

Well, that was a Hmmm moment. We had food in the car. We could load it into our packs and bring it on our hike. Which might bring the bears straight to us. We decided to leave it in the car and take our chances that the doors would still be intact when we got back. Added to that was the concern that dirtballs sometimes see parked cars at a trail head as fair game.

Because all three computers are critical for our businesses, I didn't dare leave them in the motel or the car, especially considering that a bear might rip off the doors to get to the food and then hang a "help yourself" sign on the other contents.

So I loaded all three computers into a pack and carried them on the hike.

We enjoyed the hike to Phelps Lake, which was as spectacular as what you find in Tahoe. And we had no problems with bears or dirtballs.

At the end of the hike, as I took a heavy pack off my shoulders, I said to my wife, "I think I might be the first person in history to hike to Phelps Lake with three computers." She gave me one of those looks. I added, "In other words, I might be the dumbest person to ever hike to Phelps Lake." She smiled.

Enough said.

P.S. The proofs looked good, so I approved the printing, and I now have my new book in print form.

P.P.S. I guess Tahoe isn't the only pretty place in the world. This is the Grand Teton and her companions...

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