Guest Blog Post
In the first book of my new Dangerous Type mystery series you’ll meet Clare Henry and her grandfather, Chester. Chester opened his shop, The Rescued Word, back in the 1950s. Along with repairing typewriters, Chester had a vision: he wanted to save all kinds of words, including those in books. He decided to learn how to repair books, bring them back to their original glory. This included mastering how to reprint badly damaged and unsalvageable pages.
Back in the 1950s there were no personal computers that might help with this task. Besides, it would have gone against Chester’s ways to use something like a computer to repair an old book. He wanted his own printing press, and he wanted one of the best. Of course, owning an original Gutenberg press would have been out of reach, so he decided to build his own – a perfect Gutenberg replica.
A quick look back in time – clay tablets were probably the first books. From there, books took on many different forms with their pages being made of things like papyrus, bone, wood, silk, and parchment. Paper was invented in China around the first century A.D. For a time during the dark ages, silent monks would copy books. They weren’t allowed to correct their own mistakes (some historians believe this is because they were illiterate, and couldn’t read what they were copying) which is why the amount of errors grew as more manuscripts were copied.
The first moveable type printing presses appeared in Asia almost a thousand years ago with ceramic type (letters). It was Johannes Gutenberg, a goldsmith, who created the first press in the West for the Roman Empire around the year 1440. Gutenberg used metallic types and adapted screw presses to create his printing system. He created his own hand mold into which the liquid metal would be poured to create the type as it cooled and hardened. This was the beginning of the mechanization of bookmaking which led to the mass production of books in Europe. The world was changed. In fact, in the early 1600s English philosopher Frances Bacon said that printing was one of the three inventions that changed the world. Incidentally, the other two were gun powder and the compass.
They don’t pour their own molds at The Rescued Word, but with their typeface collections, they can reproduce almost any page from any book ever printed. Inside The Rescued Word, visitors and customers from all over the world can also have their old typewriters brought back to life, or find fine papers and writing instruments. There’s no sort of word that Chester and Clare can’t save.
We hope to see you there.
Thanks for letting me post today, and see you in the bookstores.
TO HELVETICA AND BACK: A Dangerous Type Mystery by Paige Shelton, First in a new series, January 5, 2016, $7.99)
Have you ever read a book that contained a main character whose name changed part way through? Well, if you haven’t and you’re a big reader there’s a chance you’ll still come upon this phenomenon. Other things too, eye color, hair length, etc. It’s one of the bizarre things that happens when you’re writing a story. A detail will change on its own – yes, on its own. Wait. The writer is in control, isn’t she? There’s typically only one person at the keyboard when the characters and chapters are being born, so it must be the author’s fault, right? Or what about the editor’s fault? Shouldn’t we blame them? A character made up of only words on a screen can’t possibly have a shape shifting superpower that blinds everyone to its changes.
Well, that’s technically correct, however . . .
That thing that takes over and makes the changes isn’t any sort of fantastical creature, but there’s something mystical – or at least mystifying – about the spontaneous evolutions, and sometimes it feels like magic is at work.
Characters change. Maybe there’s a revelation, or a turning point, and suddenly they become different. However solid they might have been in the writer’s mind, something in the story or setting changes them so profoundly that there’s no going back to seeing them how they used to be. It’s a vague explanation but that’s why writers miss the difference. Even though they go back and edit the book again and again, there’s no way for them to see the person or the detail they created any other way than the most recent way they exist – their true from, in the writer’s mind. That’s what happens to some editors too – they get in the middle of the transforming moment and they can’t go back either.
So, why doesn’t that happen with readers? Why can reader catch even the smallest differences when all the previous read-throughs didn’t? I think it’s a couple things. One, readers are smart. It’s a pretty general statement, but I happen to believe that if you read you’re smart. Not saying non-readers aren’t smart, but just being a reader is one of those indicators that is pretty reliable most of the time.
The other reason is because readers are reading with fresh and eager eyes that don’t want to be critical; they just want to enjoy. It’s always interesting what you discover when you aren’t looking.
And, of course most editors do catch these errors, but even the best of the best aren’t perfect. So far, I’ve yet to have one of these blunders publish in my books, but that’s only because the problem was caught before it got too far. I’m up to five catches, or maybe we should call them interceptions. That tallies up to five gigantic ‘thank-yous’ to editors and five moments of ‘oh, that would have been bad.’
But, mostly, it’s five exuberant and relieved ‘phews.’
Thanks for letting me stop by today. See you in the bookstores.
Paige Shelton is the New York Times Bestselling author of the Farmers’ Market and the Country Cooking School mystery series. For more information see http://www.paigeshelton.com
BUSHEL FULL OF MURDER: A Farmers’ Market Mystery
By Paige Shelton (June 2, 2015; $7.99)