Category Archives: Articles

Of Marathons and Brick Walls

That title fairly describes my life over the past few months. Anyone who’s published a book will know what I mean by marathon. But is mine published yet? Nope. That’s where the brick wall comes into the story.

Back in the summer, my publishing platform, Smashwords, merged with Draft 2 Digital (D2D). The books would eventually be migrated, they said. But I took the opportunity to apply the things I’ve learned over the past years to my already-published books, trimming and tweaking what are still essentially the same stories, with every word counting. Three of the four were done. Or so I thought. They are successfully released as e-books, but the paperback has been a huge headache.

D2D now offers the option of paperback books, which Smashwords didn’t have, and I was relieved to have that format again. Their claims were that they could simply apply the e-book file to a paperback version, and would create a full book cover from the e-book cover I provided, or I could upload a full cover myself. I chose the latter because the former was simply taking the main colour of the front cover and slapping it on the back and spine. With some tweaking to my inside document, I gave the okay for an e-book release and ordered paperback proof copies.

Oh. My. Goodness. Everything that could be wrong with a book printing was there: No gutter margin adjustments (“gutter” refers to the inside margin at the spine of the book; you should be able to read the entire line without breaking the book spine!); the spine of my design was partially wrapped to the front cover; the cover colouring was way off; the size of the actual book was too large (not the standard size which I’ve always chosen); there were orphans and widows all over the place (those refer to “abandoned” text, such as “Dear John” on the bottom of a page with the rest of the letter on the next page, or a single line at the end of a chapter on an otherwise blank page); centred elements were NOT; the divider images, clear on every other printing I’ve ever had, are fuzzy. The list goes on. Brick walls.

What it all means is that, as much as I’d worked toward a pre-Christmas release, it will now likely turn into a Valentine’s Day release. I will have to reformat not one, but five books for their paperback versions. Picture five brick walls to surmount that you weren’t planning to face at all. It was work that I had hoped D2D’s claims would relieve me of. But I guess the old adage is still true:

If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

For a few days, I was in shock at the poor quality of printing (and the first proof book took weeks to arrive), and I wondered why I was putting myself through this. I seriously thought about just throwing in the towel on writing. But I know myself; I’ll give myself a few days, and then I’ll be spit-fire again. And then D2D will be getting comprehensive feedback on their paperback program (in all other ways so far, I’m satisfied with their service and tools). After that, before I can move on to the next story, I’ll be working for months getting re-releases and my new release ready for paperbacks.

In all this time, I’ve heard that real life has gone on outside of my library (where I write). I had a craft stand at our annual local Christmas market, which meant weeks of preparing when I wasn’t writing. Someone usually cleans our house (me), does our shopping (me), and cooks our meals (me). I’m also part of the decoration trio in our church, which has meant regular stage design changes and creating elements for that – some as simple as wire figures, some as complex as giant wheat stalks.

And I’ve heard the rumour that Christmas is coming! Somehow, with all the editing, graphics, publishing and not publishing lately, I’ve not gotten into the season’s mood yet. But now that the Christmas goal has been ripped away, I’ve allowed myself time. Time to breathe. Time to think about and write something other than manuscripts and blurbs and bios. It’s not that I’ve forgotten this blog, and it’s not as if I’ve had no ideas for it – I’ve had dozens; I’ve just had no time to pursue them, and if you’re like me and don’t write them down as they come, the ideas flit away like startled sparrows. So, I’ll start writing them down – and when I need a break from the editing marathon, I’ll investigate those ideas, and start sharing them with you! Thank you for hanging in there in my long silence!

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Virtual Tour: Vintage Switzerland

I’ve been preparing my manuscripts for new releases through a new publisher, and making crafts for our church’s annual craft sale; in the latter process, I’ve discovered a wealth of images through Pinterest (nothing new to me in itself). How many of you used to collect stamps, or postcards, or specific objects? For me, the new method is Pinterest. You can find stamps on any topic, and rare ones; you can find coins, bank notes, and just about anything you used to collect physically, now available at a click with historic backgrounds and full details you could never have fit into an album.

But today, I’d like to focus on Vintage travel posters, specifically for Switzerland. So far, I have nearly 350 in my collection, and it’s likely a drop in the bucket of what was produced; every region advertised itself to attract tourists or travellers, and it’s fascinating to see what they highlighted, how they did so, what their perspective was, and how the people dressed (if they’re shown – in Switzerland, at least, a big focus is on the Alps). Did you know that the word “homesick” in English came from Switzerland? The Swiss merchants that travelled abroad in the 17th century took the word with them; when they spoke of “Heimweh”, however, they weren’t referring to people, or their home, or even their town, but of the mountains. They missed the Alps when they were away… and I can understand why. I think it must run in the veins of every Swiss-born person; when my husband and his mother speak of the mountains, it’s a foreign language to me (even though I’m fluent in Swiss German!).

We might tend to think of tourism as a modern thing; but Grand Tours began in the 17th Century, when wealthy young men, and sometimes women, would embark from the UK on a European tour. At the beginning, Switzerland was a sleepy backwater in some ways – there were few, if any, hotels – if a traveller arrived in a town seeking accommodation for themselves, their servants, postillions and horses, they were often invited to stay in the home of the local politician, who likely had the largest house… But the Swiss soon caught up with the trend, and tourism became a vital source of income, especially for small settlements in the mountainous regions.

The three images below are, from left to right, from 1897, 1865, and likely the early 19th century. The house shown in the Zinal ad is typical of Wallis (Valais in French): It is built on stilts with round, flat stones between the pillar and house base; we chatted with an elderly man when we were on holidays in the region and asked him about it; it is a way to keep rats and mice out of the houses. It also means that the back, and sometimes even the front, is only accessible by ladder.

The 1865 poster is about a tour organized by Thomas Cook, a well-known name in the British travel industry even today; Cook took his first tour group of around 485 people on an 11-mile train trip from Leicester station to Loughborough, in 1841. Soon, he began to expand his scope, and by the 1860s, that included Switzerland.

The Spiez poster below shows the castle and lake; The Zürich poster shows a view over Lake Zürich from atop the Uetliberg mountain, the summit of which is called Uto Kulm. To see a live-cam panorama from that vantage point, just click here. The Mürren poster is a view typical of every Alpine pasture, even today.

The next 3 images are firmly in the Alps: The glacier shown in the first image is the Aletsch Glacier, the largest in the Alps, covering around 80 square kilometres (31 m2), with a length of ~23 km (14 miles) with a maximum thickness of ~1 km of ice. As with most glaciers in the world, it is retreating. Gotthard (officially the Saint-Gotthard Massif) is an impressive region connecting north and south Switzerland between Uri and Ticino, German- and Italian-speaking cantons, respectively. It has long been a major axis of Europe, with a road across, a vehicle tunnel through (built 1980), a cargo and transport train tunnel (opened 1882), and now a passenger- and vehicle-transport train tunnel which opened in 2016 and is the world’s longest railway tunnel and the deepest traffic tunnel, as well as the first flat low-level tunnel through the Alps. The 3rd poster highlights the Lötschberg, a massif with a train transport tunnel linking the north and south of Switzerland through the Berne and Valais routes. We often take this route when going to Valais or Ticino on holidays; the train is an open, continuous carriage, meaning you drive on, sit in your car, and watch the tunnel fly past.

The next 3 posters highlight something nearly ubiquitous in Switzerland: Lakes. They’re everywhere. We even share Lake Constance with Germany and Austria, and Lake Geneva with France. From border to border, we have over 100 main lakes and countless smaller ones (in an area what easily fits within the state of Maine, US, to give you a size comparison). The first poster is encouraging locals to explore, commemorating the 650th anniversary of the formation of the core of Switzerland. The second shows Lake Lugano from the perspective of Monte Bre, with the city of Lugano along the shore. It’s a perspective I know well, as the family had a holiday home on the flanks of Monte Bre until last year. San Salvatore is the mountain peak shown. The third poster is of the Vierwaldstättersee (“Lake of the four forested settlments”): This is the most complex lake in Switzerland, and not only for its names: In English it’s known as Lake Lucerne, although that is just one arm of the sprawl. Sections are Lake Lucerne, Lake Urner, Lake Kussnacht, Chrüztrichter and Lake Alpnacher. The many-armed lake is shared by the cantons of Uri, Schwyz, Obwalden, Nidwalden (originally one canton known as Unterwalden) and Lucerne. Signs of settlements found by archaeologists go back to at least 3,000 BC. To see this lake through live-cams, just click here. The site is in German, but just click on the view you’d like to explore.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this virtual tour! And perhaps you’ll come to Switzerland one day to see it for yourself!

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History Undusted: Spiez Town, Church & Castle

Let’s take a virtual tour of a beautiful little castle on Lake Thun, here in Switzerland: Spiez Castle is a grand but pocket-sized edifice that sits on a spit of land jutting out into the lake, with the town of Spiez surrounding it. The area has several substantial bronze- and iron-age settlement sites, which shows that the area has been rich in natural resources and populated since time immemorial. The town and its church were first mentioned around AD 762, when Bishop Heddo of Strasbourg disposed of the church and tithes in his will. In AD 933, the King of Burgundy, Rudolph II, had Spiez castle built, and soon the Freiherr of Strättligen settled there. [Freiherr was a rank of nobility within Germanic-speaking areas that would have roughly translated to the English rank of baron.] Sections of the current shield walls and tower were built in the 12th century, and though the town was originally located within the castle walls, by the 13th century it had outgrown the walled enclosures. The small church, which is on the castle grounds, is one of the twelve Lake Thun churches mentioned in the Strättliger Chronicle [a Swiss dynastic and national history of the rulers of Bebenberg and Strättligen and their lands and churches – all within canton Bern, covering from AD 1100 through 1464].

The castle changed hands numerous times, whether through political manoeuvring or through dynastic extinction. Last week, my article touched on the French invasion of Switzerland; After that 1798 French invasion and the creation of the Helvetic Republic, the von Erlach family lost the rights to hold the lands as well as their jurisdiction over the village, but retained ownership of the castle until 1875. In the church is a panel in Latin about the titles of the baron von Erlach and of (who I assume was) his wife, Johanna Graffenried (from another noble family in Berne), with the family crest (see the images below).

This past summer, my husband and I toured the castle and the church; it was an awe-inspiring feeling to know that we were walking where people have walked for well over a thousand years; where nobility and peasants, servants and pilgrims have stood, walked, talked, lived and passed. Here are a few impressions of the castle, church and the views we enjoyed, and I hope you enjoy, too.

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Finally Back!

Hi everyone! As I mentioned in my last blog in June, I thought I’d solved the problem of accessing my blog; but after that, I was blocked out until 10 minutes ago! Finally, I got the help needed; until now, every time I’ve logged in and started to do anything, it would log me out again. I figured it was a clash between WordPress and some other app or program, but I couldn’t figure out the connections. Now it’s sorted, and I’ll know what to look for in the future if it happens again.

Since my last blog, life has hit a bump or two in the fast lane: We caught Covid a second time just before our summer holidays. Since that time, I’ve had frequent Covid migraines, which are a different monster than the usual species of migraines in that there’s nothing you can do about them – no medicine works. They start at the base of the skull and shoot into existence in a flash sometimes, and then they hang on for up to 24 hours. Not conducive to focus or creative writing, so I’ve used what time I can in my craft room to get things done toward a Christmas market at which I sell things every year.

At the same time we had Covid, we had a very sick senior cat that ended up needing surgery to remove a few impacted teeth; antibiotics and pain medicines both ended just in time to hand over cat-sitting without the extra complications before we headed out for much-needed holidays. She’s now doing better, though her diet is mostly soft food – which seems to suit her just fine.

Summer holidays this year were spent in our own back garden, so to speak, here in Switzerland. We rented a small motor home and spent most of our time in the French-speaking area for a week. After that, we’d planned to take day-trips out from home; we managed to get in one or two until my right knee decided to blow out; that took a few weeks to heal, so I was basically house-bound, but we’ve got a nice, large flat to be stuck in, if need be.

July and August flew by in a blur, and September is following suit. I’m hoping to get my next novel out before Christmas, but with the delays of migraines and life catching up to us after summer holidays, it’s been a challenge to block out the world and focus on graphics and all the technical bits and bobs that go along with launching a book.

Now that I can access my blog again, I’ll take you on a few virtual tours around Switzerland next!

I hope this finds all of you well!

Spiez Castle: View from an arrow slit in the tower

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Humanity Highlight: Redeeming Toxic Land with Lavender

I came across this story today, and wanted to share it: In the US, coal mining used to be big business; but with the move away from fossil fuels toward solar and other less destructive sources, companies have been in decline; before the mid-1970s, mining companies could just abandon the scarred land, but laws were passed that would require the companies to revitalise the wasteland; but if a company simply went bankrupt, the land sat barren, polluting the surrounding environment for decades, as rocks and minerals that had been buried forever were exposed to air and water, releasing their substances into groundwater and the air. Millions of acres of scarred land are the result.

Now, Appalachian Botanical Company in West Virginia has begun reclaiming the land in a beautiful way: Hiring ex-miners who’ve lost their jobs or other people who need a second chance just like the land, such as ex-drug addicts, they are now working in fields of flowers. Lavender is a hardy plant in the mint family that likes to grow in poor soil; it’s a perfect match for the rocky wastelands around coal mines. Every part of the plant is used: The flowers and upper stems are distilled down to make lavender essential oils that are then also used to make various creams and lotions, honey, salts, and hand sanitisers; when it’s done, they transform the biomass into compost to revitalise the land. The lower leaves are first removed, dipped in rooting powder, and planted to make the next harvest.

It’s an amazingly holistic approach to the problems: Creating jobs in the regions that have been hard-hit by economic downturns; revitalising the land through restoration – lavender will help prepare the land for other less hardy species to take root; and on a larger scale, it provides an example of what could be done with scarred land. To watch the Business Insider video, just click here. To check out the ABCo website and their products, click on the image below. Enjoy, and if you’d like to support what they’re doing, check out the pages on their websites, too.

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History Undusted: Rabbit Holes & Licorice Candy

This week, I did a major shopping at a couple Asian food stores; I stocked up on the ingredients I know, and some I didn’t; I like to get things I’ve never heard of, and do a bit of research on how to use it in cooking; things I picked up in that category are Iranian Kashk, which is a tangy fermented, yoghurt used as a condiment; canned palm hearts, which make a nice topping on desserts; and fermented black beans, which can be used in a variety of Asian dishes, including in a black bean sauce. I also bought several fresh vegetables and herbs to dehydrate and turn into a greens powder for adding flavours to dishes (I have a more usual greens powder with standard greens, like cauliflower leaves, spinach, etc. that I use daily).

One of the herbs I used was acacia leaf: When I opened the package, a pungent, sulphur-like smell hit me, and I wasn’t sure I’d use it. But when I began de-leafing it (much like you would thyme, though carefully as it’s got some vicious thorns!), it began to smell like mint! As I added lemongrass, Thai water spinach and other herbs, you can imagine the cacophony of fragrances in my kitchen – which filled the house as they dehydrated.

So what does this have to do with licorice? Well, one of the fresh herbs I also processed was Thai basil; I’d never used it before, and when I opened the packaging, a wave of anise- or licorice aroma hit me. And as usual, that set my mind off, thinking about the history of licorice!

Licorice is a flowering plant native to parts of Asia and Europe; its scientific name, Glycyrrhiza, comes from Greek and means “sweet root” (the linguistic roots are related to words like glycerine and rhizome); it is the ingredient that gives the signature flavour to black licorice, though today anise oil is often used as a substitute because the Glycyrrhiza can have toxic effects if ingested too much.

In looking into the history of this flavour, I came across a fascinating documentary: Ostensibly, it covers the history of the Switzer Licorice candy company. But in truth, it’s a fascinating historical insight into the history of Irish immigration, social unrest, the Irish famine, Irish revolution and exile, union labour foundations, World War 1 through the eyes of a family, the economic upheavals of war, rations and the company’s creative solutions, the history of sugar, post-war recovery, the Great Depression, the American Dream, candy-making, the rise of a family from Kerry Patch (the Irish ghetto of St. Louis, Missouri) to the suburbs, the history and development of St. Louis, and the demise of a family company resurrected by later generations. All in a 55-minute video!

 To watch this fascinating slice of history, click here. To check out the company’s website, click here.

I hope you enjoy this short history, and while you’re at it, enjoy a piece of licorice!

Image Credit: Switzer website (see link above)

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Cutting Room Floor

I’ve been squirrelled away, editing. Editing. Editing. Once in a while, I come up for air or a tea. Then back to it. Then take a walk. Cook dinner. Back to it.

Everyone has their own writing techniques, and over the course of my career, I’ve tried most of them: I’ve outlined a plot and characters to a T; I’ve written out scene cards on post-its and rearranged them until I had the story down. But my tried-and-true method is to open a Word document and make use of their post-it function (that’s what I call their review/comment function), then type out 10 scenes that cover the arc of the story. After that, I toss my characters into the room (parameters of the scene) and let ’em loose. That comment function is worth its weight in gold, as I can slice out something and pop it in a comment off to the side, move it, scrap it, or take out the core and put it somewhere else. I can put reminders to check continuity in there, along with plot development thoughts, what-ifs, alternatives, etc. and try them out whenever it’s time, then delete them and move on. I tried the popular Scrivener program once, and it ate a manuscript for lunch (fortunately, I’d saved a Word version!)! Besides, I’m more organized than that program will ever be!

In my current manuscript, which is science fiction, I tossed the characters on an alien planet (a character in its own right) and let them figure it out. As they talk and move through the scenes and through time, they ripen and develop into full characters with a deeper story as a result. But that can also result in a chunky manuscript, that then needs to go through the toning process – cutting away the excess fat of characters, scenes, and dialogues and making them lean… in the film industry, it’s called the “cutting room floor” process. And that’s the current stage I’m in. When I started out, I had no idea how I’d reach my goal: My starting point, which was the completed manuscript in December last year, was a whopping 148K! My end goal, with a marketable science-fiction range of 100-115K, was over a few hills. But every journey begins and ends with small steps. I started going through my usual edit/proofing list, and I’m now in sight of the goal, just under 117K, and I’m not done yet. The trick is taking off my writer’s cap and putting on my editor’s hat; that means letting go of favourite scenes, plot points, and even characters when necessary. If it doesn’t serve the main- and sub-plots and character development, then out it goes. My husband, who was once a black belt in Lean Six Sigma, has called it my “lean sigma process”.

Sometimes I feel like this squirrel… and that’s where that comment function comes in handy again!

So… I’m off to make myself lunch, then dive back into the editing. I’ll reach my goal, with a comfortable margin, within the next week!

If you’re a writer, what is your approach? Copious amounts of pre-notes and hundreds of questions to develop characters and plot in your mind, or winging it? Please spill the beans in the comments below!

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Rabbit Holes

These past few weeks have flown by so quickly, I’ve hardly had time to look up from my keyboard! Except when I went to the optometrist for new glasses (there might have been a slight connection between the two). I’ve been editing my final sci-fi draft. When I need a break from editing, I’ve been reading into articles by the new ebook company I’ll be working with, Draft2Digital, which has recently merged with Smashwords (my current and former platform). And in the context of editing, I’ve been down several rabbit holes:

Dashes

Back when I learned English, we had the good ol’ hyphen and the dash. Somewhere along the way the en-dash and the em-dash moved in, and they turned out to be worthy additions to the conversation. Now to make things confusing, 2em-dashes and 3em-dashes have elbowed their way into the punctuation party. I’m not sure how I feel about them yet, but their definitions seem to have squeezed the others so close that they often overlap or exchange places on the definition and usage dance floor. Until I need them to fix me a drink, I’ll probably ignore the party crashers.

Strunk and White’s The Element of Style is a cornerstone of grammar and writing style and is widely considered timeless; in fact, it was listed by TIME in 2011 as one of the 100 best and most influential books written in English since 1923. The irony of this cartoon is that when I recently pulled out my copy to find out the nitty-gritty of using en- and em-dashes in dialogue, I found not a jot or tittle about them in the entire book. It covers hyphens and dashes, both briefly, but nary a word beyond. Every website that I looked at had contradictory definitions and usages of all types of dashes; so until an authoritative source comes up with a defined set of rules, I will continue to use them the way I’ve learned them, and just be consistent in my punctuation within my current manuscript.

Dialogue Tags vs. Action Tags

Another rabbit hole I went down was a learning curve on the two types of tags. On one hand, I’d never honestly thought about the fact that there could a difference in punctuation between the two; on the other hand, for the most part, I’ve intuitively done it right, though not always, which is why I’ve added it to my checklist of edits – and something I will keep a closer eye on in the future. Here’s an example:

He said, “Oh, the irony of ignorance!” – This is a dialogue tag with its attending punctuation. Dialogue tags are any verb that can be spoken – said, cheered, whispered, etc.

He nodded. “I hadn’t thought about it, but that makes sense.” – Nodding is something done, and this is, therefore, an action tag. Notice that its attending punctuation is a period separating the action tag from the dialogue.

Two things make less logical sense to me; if you have insight on them or experience using them or reading them in novels, please comment! [Keep in mind that these are American English rules; I am writing my current novel in American English, though until now, I’ve written in Commonwealth English (I use that term rather than British English because it is used beyond Britain).]

  • How often have you spoken and laughed, chuckled, or smiled simultaneously? These are, for me, nuances in spoken vocabulary, and not action tags. Would you rather write: He smiled, “I thought you might say that.” or He smiled. “I thought you might say that.” ? In this particular instance both would work, but there are times when it has the potential to break up the rhythm of a sentence or scene too much. Which do you prefer?
  • When an action interrupts dialogue, it needs to be separated with (IMHO) rather odd punctuation, for example: “From what I’ve read about these dwellings” –he looked at the woman kindly– “they’re far from mud huts.” My years as an English teacher mean that missing commas and attached en-dashes hurt my eyes; maybe that’s why I needed new glasses!

Euphemisms

Another tangent this week has been looking for creative swear words. Nothing irritates me more, when reading a book, for the author to fall back on standard F-bombs. That just says too lazy to be creative to me. It’s unimaginative. It doesn’t make a character stand out from the rest of the lazy crowd. There are so many fun alternatives, there really is no excuse! Here are a few I’ve come across and found myself smiling:

  • People cussing in a foreign language; it sounds better to them.
  • Fart knocker (e.g. “you little fart knocker”)
  • Sun of a nutcracker! Sun of a biscuit!
  • Cheese n’ crackers!
  • Shoot a monkey!
  • Shiitake mushrooms!
  • Well, butter my bum!
  • Clusterfluff!
  • In a type of Chinese Whispers, “Hells bells” became “hells bells, conker shells”, misunderstood by kids as “hells bells, taco shells” – now that family just yells, “Taco shells!” when they’re upset!
  • Names as swear words might backfire if you happen to meet someone by that name; here are a few: Christopher Columbus; Gordan Bennett (in Scotland); Gottfried Stutz (here in Switzerland – I actually taught English in a company that had an employee with that name!)
  • Sugar Honey Ice Tea!
  • Sunny Beaches
  • Fudgenuts
  • Someone I used to know would say things like “bug knuckles” or “dog feathers” or “ants pants” when she was upset.
Credit: Getty Images

These are just a few of the areas I’ve delved into in the past few weeks; I’m still deep in the editing/proofreading process; once that’s complete, the “behind the scenes” checklists begin – those are the things readers will never see: The number of hours put into finding the right images and designing the best cover art possible; choosing the right fonts; formatting for the various mediums online and print; writing blurbs, preparing marketing bits and bobs, and setting up all the dominoes in a row for the final push of publishing!

Clusterfluff! I’d better get my fanny in gear!

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Just for Fun: Back to the Office

I don’t know what the current situation is like where you live, but here in Switzerland, Covid restrictions were officially lifted 17 February; that means that, if people want to, they can return to their desk jobs rather than working from home. My husband used to say that he’d never like working from home because he liked the stimulation of the office; but after working nearly 2 years from a cushy home office a few steps away from the kitchen and the coffee machine and home-cooked lunches, he’s decided to do half-weeks from home. Someone from work sent him a funny skit by Foil Arms & Hog, an Irish comedy group, about returning to the office. Just click on the image below! Enjoy!

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How It’s Made: Umbrellas

Before we dive into our virtual tour of the world of umbrellas, I’ll take a moment to let you know what I’ve been up to the past fortnight: Editing. I’ve been working on the final draft of my next novel, and I call this phase the “cutting room floor” phase. If any of you have written a novel, you know that there are many ways an author approaches a story. I personally tend to toss my characters into a room and see how things develop. I start off with an idea of where it will end, but how it gets there is the fun part! Once the story is fleshed out, character arcs and story arcs complete, it might be too wordy; and every word needs to count, so tightening the dialogues or prose is a necessary step in the process. My current manuscript needs a fairly good “chop” to bring it into market norms for Science Fiction. So that’s what I’ve been working on. Looming on the future horizon is the fact that BOTH companies that I’ve been working with in the past have been acquired by other companies, meaning that I will now need to chuck out everything I’ve learned about their formatting requirements and processes and reinvent the wheel… Joy. But hopefully, working with the new companies will be a positive experience.

When I need a mental break from writing, I read, or I watch something interesting on YouTube. Recently in our local news, I came across a story about the only umbrella repairman in Switzerland, Erich Baumann. Every one of us has an umbrella; but I’ve never really stopped to think about the fact that each one is different – different mechanical parts and different tools needed to bring them all together. When I lived in Scotland, umbrellas (“Brollies”) were often considered “one-use” objects – the wind would swirl and suck the umbrella’s canopy upward with such violence that the ribs and stretchers would often snap. It didn’t matter whether it was a cheap or an expensive one – they didn’t last long.

Today, many umbrellas come from Asia; that means that replacement parts are hard to find if you live elsewhere; that also means that umbrella repairmen need the spare parts of those throw-away brollies. If you have a moment, go and get one of your umbrellas, open it, and take a good look inside. Appreciate how complex such an everyday object is. And now, take a look at two videos: The first is how an artisan umbrella is made by hand; the second is a look at how they’re repaired. Enjoy!

Learning something new every day keeps us on our toes!

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