Tuesday, January 8, 2008

On to Idaho!

With a last-minute push that took most of the day, I finally finished the manuscript for Gem Trails of Oregon, a guidebook covering rock and gem collecting in the state of Oregon. I thought I'd give you a peek into the frenzy of only missing my deadline by a week.

On December 31, I emailed the publisher with a plea for one more week, and they were fine with that. On January 4, I thought I was done, after putting in a solid weekend that also included taking pictures of various rocks and crystals. But after I made a print, I immediately started making more changes, so it took one more day to really nail it down. Even at that, I imagine I'll keep tweaking until they demand that I stop. Such is the nature of writing docs.

To keep the publisher happy, I created a DVD with the data files for the maps, plus all the pictures, and some Google and Topozone images for the map-maker. (My maps are just a starter; the book publisher's map-maker does an infinitely better job. ) Then I took a look at the Word file and discovered I hadn't run spell-checker in a long time, so I finished that, made some more tweaks even to front and back matter, and then burned a CD with the truly latest and greatest files. I put it all into a UPS envelope and sent it off, then emailed a copy of the PDF file, set at the lowest of the low resolutions.

Actually, I could probably tweak that Acrobat file some more. The Word file is 180 MB in size, which makes me smile, because it used to be that you couldn't trust Word to handle something that large. After all, that's why we have FrameMaker...Anyway, the Acrobat file was about 100 MB after the first time I ran it, so I had to reset the options for "smallest file size." That got it down to 7 MB, but at the risk of no cross-references or links. But I think the pictures are still 300 dots per inch, so there is more room to work. I could probably get my links back and run the pictures down to 72 dpi, but I haven't played with it yet. I'm kind of sick of it right now, actually.

Over the last month, I probably worked on the book every single day or night, and yes, that includes not only Christmas but New Year's Eve. I took my laptop with me to Bend for the family trip, and I used it. Sometimes I'd only get in an hour or two, but I slept better as a result. I think that in total, I probably put in about 200 hours in December to get everything up to where it is. And I can still think of a lot of things I could be doing on it. But now it's time to sit back and wonder what questions I'll get from the publisher, and how fast they can turn it around and get it to the street.

So, I'm pretty happy to be done. I'm ready for another state; we did Washington in 2006, and Oregon is now wrapped up. This summer, the team will be covering Idaho. I expect to use about a dozen helpers, log 15,000 miles, put in about 250 man-days in the field, and take over 100 GPS readings to get to about 75 truly excellent sites. I have a list of about 200 places that serves as a master; we'll see how I do.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Quest for Closure

By working every day over the break, including the holidays, I managed to get to a reasonable first draft for my upcoming book, Gem Trails of Oregon. The book is a list of 101 top rockhounding spots in Oregon, complete with photographs, maps, and write-ups. Getting to a good place in the end game feels good.

It wasn't pretty -- I was up until four in the morning some nights, and the pressure I put on my family was a bit extreme. But I managed to do it without causing my wife to file for divorce, so I can nearly claim "Mission Accomplished." If this was my full-time job, I wouldn't have to worry so much about squeezing in time for writing alongside walking the dogs, attending family functions, and keeping a household going.

On the other hand, it helped that my day job went on winter break at just the right time. Plus teaching is on holiday, so there weren't any distractions there, either.

Now that I have a printed copy of the entire book, I see a lot of things to fix. Several maps need more work, the print quality is low, and some of the headings are off. But the text is in good shape, and there is a lot of research material for each locale to assist the corporate map-maker. He was slowed down a lot on the Washington book just trying to make sense of everything. I created subdirectories this time with Google maps, topographic maps, and any brochures I could find.

The last days were pretty fun, actually. I had a photographic "studio" set up to take detailed pictures of some of the crystals I found over the summer. Plus I had all my samples out, to make sure the write-ups were accurate. I had maps all over my home office, and piles of books. The whole thing seemed to reach a crescendo right as the University of Oregon was creaming Southern Florida in the Sun Bowl. As the score mounted, I started cleaning up, putting samples away, and taking down the lights for the studio. I folded up a few maps, archived everything off onto a trusty USB drive, and went out for a New Year's Eve party. The next day, I went in to work and used the powerful two-monitor system there to finish off the last map and make a print.

Over the last 24 hours, I've amassed an entire page of corrections to make, but I already begged for forgiveness from the publisher and got an extension to hand everything in over the weekend. So...one more final push and I should be able to relax. A little.