Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Hyphen is Mighty Indeed

I just threw out five brand new copies of one of my books that I had ordered for a GoodReads giveaway.   They were free, a  perk for finishing NaNoWriMo.

I  had updated the book's cover.  When you do that, you have to resubmit the text.  And there was the rub:  there had been a problem with the text: my laptop had been stolen, and with it my final version of that manuscript.  (Yeah, I know.  I'm backing everything up now.)

It's easy to retrieve the text of a Kindle book, and I retrieved the MS that way, plugged it into the book setup, did a perfunctory final text check - the text had been fine before, and I had simply updated the cover image - and gave the go-ahead.  Then I ordered my five copies for the giveaway.

I'm beta testing a new feature for manuscript editing on CreateSpace.  It's a good feature, and since I had this book up in the  program, I went through that manuscript.   I sat back and went to one of my favorite scenes, one toward the end where Ramesses the Great, having extricated himself from arrest ordered by his eldest son, arrives at the palace to get some answers, is denied admittance by an over-zealous servant who isn't aware who's waiting outside the door, pulls out all the stops and, in the scene, is questioning the servant, a man he's known for fifteen years.  The scene is related from the servant's point of view:

"Let me see if I understand you," Pharaoh said thoughtfully. He raised one long fingered hand and ticked off the points as he spoke. "One  the Crown Prince has gone haring off to parts unknown. Two  you have no idea where Prince Khaemwaset is, but  three  you do know that he tried to drug his brother, and  four  a spy sent the Crown Prince's ring back to him as a sign of urgent danger to Prince Khaemwaset. Five  the army is in a state of alert, and  six  the city of Memphis is virtually under siege. Am I correct so far?"



It took me a moment to realize what was wrong with the text. Actually, it doesn't look so bad, even now, but I'd placed hyphens in to highlight the way Ramesses was ticking off the points on his fingers. And the hyphen between 'long' and 'fingered' described the sort of fingers he had on his hand. Without it, His Majesty had a long hand equipped with fingers.


It should have looked like this:

"Let me see if I understand you," Pharaoh said thoughtfully. He raised one long-fingered hand and ticked off the points as he spoke. "One-the Crown Prince has gone haring off to parts unknown. Two-you have no idea where Prince Khaemwaset is, but-three-you do know that he tried to drug his brother, and-four-a spy sent the Crown Prince's ring back to him as a sign of urgent danger to Prince Khaemwaset. Five-the army is in a state of alert, and-six-the city of Memphis is virtually under siege. Am I correct so far?"

In looking things over I discovered, to my dismay, that the file transfer from Kindle to print had stripped every hyphen from the text.  And I hadn't caught them.

I started looking for them.  I went to another scene where the servant, newly captured after a battle between Egyptians and Hittites (his country), gives everyone a piece of his mind using a coarse expression that draws a parallel between their sexual propensities and Oedipus'.  (I am not going to quote it here; it's about an eighth of the way through Chapter XIX; the bottom of page 121 if you have a paperback copy of the book.)

In my defense, the text had been perfect when I sent it to Kindle; the manuscript in my (stolen) laptop had been lost, I had retrieved it (I thought...) and simply plugged it in.  But my father always told me never to make assumptions.

Ultimately, I pulled up the adobe document for the manuscript and manually searched it for hyphens.  When I found one, I went to the manuscript and replaced it.  I was able to do global searches for set expressions, but when I relied solely on that method, checking afterward, I kept stumbling across hyphens that needed to be inserted.  (To be honest, I would never have found Mutallish' epithet directed at Pharaoh if I'd done a global search and replace for commonly used hyphenated words.)

Things were fixed.  Finally.  It was too late to cancel my order of the printed books.  So what to do about them?

Well, they're defective.  I've read enough diatribes on the subject of defective books, whether self-published or not.  These are all, every one of them, being consigned to the trash.  Sigh.

Lesson Learned.



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