About this blog...

Here you will find information, musings, and pictures about life, the natural world and writing.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

MS Word for Authors: Buried secrets of Find and Replace

MS Word's Find and Replace is a feature probably very familiar to you. When "Amanda" must become "Bobbie Sue", you probably use Ctrl+H (or Apple + shift+H) or the Edit menu to open up the dialog box and get Word to do the swap for you.

In case you haven't stumbled on this yet, it's perfectly valid to "Find" something and "Replace with" nothing. Word interprets as "find it and delete it".

Another tip: To eliminate those old-fashioned double spaces after periods, enter two spaces in the "Find" box, which will be invisible, and one space in the "Replace with" box, also invisible. Click "Replace All" and the double spaces will be changed to single spaces. Click "Replace All" again in case you put a few triple spaces in there also.

For additional thrills with Find and Replace, click the little "More" button (PC). On a Mac, look for a tiny down arrow in the lower left corner. Run through that list of options for finding and replacing. "Find whole words only" is handy, especially if you are replacing a short word, if, for example, "son" is to become "daughter." Check this box or "Hudson" can become "Huddaughter," which will mystify you when you are editing text a week later!

Still at the dialog box, click on Format and review that list, too. One example: you can search for a particular font and replace it. This is useful if you've changed the manuscript from, say, Courier New to Times New Roman, and you suspect that some of the New Courier is still lurking in the document. It's easy to set up the Find and Replace--Click in "Find what", select Courier New, then click in "Replace with" and select Times New Roman. The font names display under the boxes, which should be empty since you are not searching on specific words. Click "Replace All" and rest easy that the inappropriate font is now banished. (Click "No Formatting" to get rid of this before you start a new test.)

Explore other options hidden behind that Format button. You can, for example, replace one style with another.

One more tip: This time, click on Special, which is next to Format. This is a very cool feature: you can Find and Replace double hyphens with the classier em dashes, get rid of tabs after you set Normal style to indent five spaces automatically, and perform other formatting gymnastics (with caution, please!).

Open a test document, perhaps a copy of your ms. (clearly named "Test"!) and play around.

Hunt and peck. Isn't that the same as find and replace?

Friday, October 29, 2010

A visit to Reid Park Zoo, Tucson, Arizona

After Bouchercon, I flew to Arizona for a 3-signing book tour and took in 3 zoos. Here's a few shots from Reid Park Zoo in Tucson and A LINK HERE to see the full slide show.

Giant anteater. Reid Park manages the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for this species.

African elephant working for her lunch, a good stretch!

African crowned crane lounging in a pond.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bouchercon Bits

I put on my best elephant earrings and hopped a plane for Bouchercon 2010 San Francisco, which ran from Thursday, 10/14 to Sunday 10/17. I was caught up immediately afterward in the Arizona book tour for Did Not Survive, but the SF memories are still vivid. I tend to get overwhelmed by Bouchercon (this was my third), but this time I had Angie as a buddy. She's a pre-published member of my writing group and great company. You'll be hearing more about her mysteries! Another member, Doug Levin, hit the ground running--we saw only glimpses as he hobnobbed with one author or mystery fan or another.

Meeting and greeting, panels and parties--I tried it all. My panel was at 10 AM Thursday, the first day of the conference. About 45 people showed up, which was 40 more than I expected, and we had a good time. Avery Aames did a great job as moderator. Mysteries featuring race horses, fancy cheese, stray frogs, wacky actors, and (of course) elephants made for a lively panel.

I especially liked the panel of international writers and that leads to a couple of mysteries to recommend to you.

The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu by "Michael Stanley"--Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. These are a couple of South Africans who were on the panel and who write a nice series starring Kubu, a Botswana police officer with a hearty appetite. Kubu is a nickname, meaning "hippo." (I once raised a baby hippo named "Kubwa Sana" so of course I have a warm spot for the name.) Botswana seems to be fertile ground for novelists and I enjoyed the characters and plot as well as the setting.

The Risk of Infidelity Index by Christopher G. Moore. Moore is a Canadian living in Thailand and a keen observer of his adopted country as well as his fellow ex-pats. His series is labeled "noir" but I did not find this one particularly dark or grim. I envy his ability to construct a complex plot that holds together and appreciate his way with characters.

Barbara Corrado Pope wasn't on this panel, but she writes a foreign series so I'm adding her to the list. Cezanne's Quarry is a tour of 19th century Italy with a young magistrate as our guide through a complex social and emotional landscape that includes the artist Paul Cezanne as a suspect. Besides, Barbara found a great little tapas restaurant in a San Francisco alley where she and I and Angie ate and drank and talked until it got dark. But, really, it's a fine book!

It wasn't all panels and smoozing. There were free drinks, too, thanks to Lee Child and Poisoned Pen Press. Sometime maybe I'll blog about disco dancing. Picture me doing the Village People's "YMCA". Or not...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bouchercon followup

So I'm at the airport, waiting to fly from San Francisco to Phoenix on a book tour set up to follow Bouchercon, the big mystery conference. I spent 3 1/2 days hanging out in San Francisco with mystery fans and mystery authors. 3 1/2 days in total imersion in plots, character, sub-genres, etc.

It's over and here I sit at this Asian bar/restaurant waiting for my spring rolls. At the table next to me are two 20-somethings, a narrow-faced blond and her dark-haired girlfriend.

And the blond chick is mid-story about her mom's first husband, who was a Mafia hit man. "He, like, had all this money from killing people and his whole family was Mafia. I googled him and there were all these articles about him and how they couldn't catch him with, you know, evidence. But he did get stuck in prison and my mom was divorcing him and she started dating my dad. My brother was a little kid and my dad would take him to the prison to see this guy and he liked my dad for that. He was going to get out in like two days when he died of a heart attack or something."

The girlfriend breaks her interested silence. "So you never met him?"

"No, he was just my brother's father. But I know some cousins. And this one time my mom had to live with his mother for months because it was safer, when my brother was a baby, and that's why all she can cook is Italian."

The girlfriend leans back and purses her lips. "Well, I can tell you one thing. It's very hard to cook healthy Italian."

"Yeah, all that pasta."

And they paid their bill, got up, and left.

A parting gift from Bouchercon...

Arizona signing schedule change

Arizona zoo-dunnit fans! There has been a teensy glitch in my reading at Clues Unlimited in Tucson. I'll be there Thursday at 5:30, not tonight (Wednesday) at 5:30. Sorry for the disruption.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Here, there, and everywhere...The Roaming Author

Awk! Bouchercon is here! I've been distracted by a son getting married, but now it's time to put my author hat back on. I'm off the big mystery conference tomorrow.

I'm packing semi-dressy clothes for that, then regular clothes for readings in Arizona afterward, and stuffing in hiking boots for a few days of vacation. One little suitcase isn't enough. I'm looking forward to seeing all the mystery writers and fans, but I'm taking a couple with me. Well, two members of my writing group are going also. Check out Davy Crockett's Almanack for details.

Here's where I'll be in Arizona. Drop on by and say howdy if you are in the area!

October 18, Monday, 2 PM. Velma Teague Library in Glendale, Arizona, hosted by the famous mystery reviewer Lesa Holstine.

October 19, Tuesday, 7 PM, Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona. I'll be signing with "Michael Stanley", the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip, authors of the Inspector Kubu series.

October 20, Wednesday, 5:30 , Clues Unlimited Bookstore, Tucson, Arizona.

Now where is she?

Monday, October 4, 2010

A zoo blog, for a change

I've been blogging each week for authors using MS Word, and now I'm also writing a column for Third Degree, the newsletter of Mystery Writers of America, on the same subject. So I've decided to cut back and blog on that particular subject only once or twice a month. Time to get back to other topics!

At readings in Portland and Seattle, a few people have asked me about justifying zoos--keeping animals in cages. I have a couple of thoughts on that to share, then a recommendation or two. First, I see my zoo mysteries more as describing zoos than as defending them. Zoo keeping is a strange and wonderful way to relate to wild animals, and I love writing about it. As for defending zoos, Yann Martel did that better than I ever could in Life of Pi. If you haven't tried it yet, it's a great read.

I also would remind people that The Wild is hardly Eden. At a lecture I attended on hyenas, the scientist was asked if any of the animals had died a natural death. She had studied dozens if not hundreds of hyenas in the wild for decades. She thought for a long moment, then said, yes, one had died in her den of kidney disease. The rest had all succumbed to violence of various sorts. Out there in the natural world, animals die young from predation, fights with con-specifics, parasites, drought, starvation, etc. Let's also not forget shooting, poisoning, and trapping.

The wild is getting worse, and zoos, at least in developed countries, are getting better. But saying that is not a justification for zoos. We ought to be protecting natural habitats from the excesses of our species, and plenty of zoos need to be improved or closed. Read about Chinese zoos and shudder. But also read about the best zoos, full of animals born in zoos, and the remarkable efforts of zoo staff to keep them healthy, active, and mentally stimulated.

Most books written by zoo insiders are full of fun stories and successes. They don't much address the realities of funding, politics, antiquated facilities and techniques, sourcing animals and finding homes for superfluous ones. That brings me to my second book recommendation: Zoo Story--Life in the Garden of Captives, by Thomas French. He's not a zoo professional, he's a journalist and therefore free to tackle the tough topics. His tale of Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida, and its animal staff and management is very well done. This is the first book I've seen that describes, among other challenging topics, the inevitable conflicts between the animal people and the money people. It's got lots of good animal bits as well--elephants and chimpanzees and tigers--so it's fun. An insightful book that shows what a good journalist can do when he invests years in a project.

Hyena, Sacramento Zoo