Monday, August 31, 2015

Typos Mean You're Brilliant

There's this little thing called your brain. And inside that brain, as you may have heard, are lots and lots of neurons. Our thoughts and memories are dependent upon those neurons connecting through intricate pathways. Once they connect through those pathways, over and over again, memories can be easily stored and retrieved. These pathways are like flattened grass in a field, dirt-covered trails in the woods, and those welcome tire tracks on the highway after a heavy snowfall. They are the easiest paths to take.

But what if that memory is incorrect, i.e., you've typed the word "on" but you meant the word "one"? Once it is set in stone, or goo, or however you want to describe that gray matter in your head, it's hard to see it another way. And that's the problem.

So, what causes typos in the first place? Much of the time it's simply that we are not able to type as fast as we think. Take, for example, this typo I caught in my Drug Commercials on the Evening News poem:

It makes we wonder, and gives me a fright
Why they show these ads, night after night

What happened here was my mind was thinking about the word "wonder" while I was typing "me." So the "waa" sound got imparted onto "me" and turned it into "we." I was ahead of the game. Brilliant. See?

We make mistakes because these things called computers with their keyboards and such still aren't up to par with the capabilities and speed of the human mind. Should we slow down our thoughts until our hands catch up? What good would that do? Some of the best ideas come when our minds race at breakneck speed. Why interrupt that flow to catch a few typos?

When it comes to editing, everyone is guilty of missing typos. It's back to that old pathway thing. When you read a sentence or a paragraph over and over again on the screen, seeing it the same way on a letter-sized document on the screen, for instance, it sorta digs the trench deeper. Our minds fill in the mistakes with the way we heard them in our head. We are so brilliant that we autocorrect. The best way to jump out of that trench and recreate a new pathway is to look at your writing in a different way.

Print it out on paper. Reformat the document with different margins so words shift around. View it on a different device, like a tablet or phone. Have it read back to you with a text-to-speech program. Or have a proof copy printed and read it like a finished book. Suddenly, typos jump off the page. They scream back at you. It makes your stomach ache and your heart plunge. Oh my god, I look so stupid. How did I not see that?!

You didn't see that...because you're brilliant.

Also read: How to Edit Your Own Book

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Smart Car Hacking Predicted in Horror Story

It's happening. Just as planned. Well, just as I had predicted it would in my short story "Bad Drivers" from the People Who Need To Die collection of satirical horror stories. Smart cars are being remotely controlled by hackers, giving them the ability to control steering, braking, and other driving functions.

It's been in the news over the past few weeks. Cars connected to the Internet can be as vulnerable as your mobile phone or computer. And no one thought about protecting them. Also as predicted, entire traffic systems can become compromised. Imagine having your steering wheel wrenched from your grip and your accelerator pedal dropping down to full throttle. The light suddenly changes to red and you are about to plunge through cross traffic like a speeding bullet. You probably won't survive.

In my story, set in 2021, I go a step further. Not to spoil the outcome, you'll want to read "Bad Drivers" on Amazon. Or, do yourself a favor and read the entire collection to see what happens to obnoxious cell phone users, horrible bosses, litterbugs, spammers, Internet trolls, mean neighbors, even Black Friday shoppers in six years.

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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Little Free Library at The New School in Manassas

Today was the ribbon cutting ceremony for the first Write by the Rails Little Free Libraries, which will reside at The New School building (also the Old Town Historic Post Office) at 9108 Church Street, Manassas, Virginia. Little Free Libraries will be placed around the area to encourage reading for both children and adults. "Take a book, leave a book" is the motto of the project, which has spread across the country.

Among those attending were Councilman Ian Lovejoy, Alice Mergler, Lee Mergler, Jim Barnes from the Washington Post, Gary Miller, and authors Belinda Miller, Dan Verner, Nick and Stacia Kelly, June Forte, and Victor Rook (me). Here are some of the pictures of the event:

Authors from Write by the Rails and Councilman Ian Lovejoy gather outside The New School building.

Belinda Miller, Stacia Kelly, and Councilman Ian Lovejoy place books into the Little Free Library.

The New School founder Alice Mergler adds a book to the library.

The first to make use of the library. Cooper Mergler (right) gets copies of Belinda Miller's Phillip's Quest book.

Nick Kelly with another Little Free Library.

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