The Reporters Guide to Firearms

October 2nd, 2017 | Posted by Steve in Odds and Ends - (0 Comments)

The Reporter’s Guide To Firearms

(NOTE: sadly, this article is what we journalists call “an evergreen” meaning it’s written once and then re-used many times.)

UPDATE: As of Sunday, October 1, 2017, I have to retract the statement about no shooter ever using a fully automatic weapon in a mass shooting. The Las Vegas shooter did NOT have a fully-automatic weapon but instead used an adaptation called a “bump fire stock” that permits the semi-automatic rifle it’s mounted on to fire very rapidly — almost as rapidly as a fully automatic weapon. So, for all practical purposes, a “bump fire” is an (almost) automatic weapon that anyone can buy for a few hundred dollars. Disregard my older comments below about fully-automatic weapons. We live in a new time now. Get used to it.

This is not an attempt to take sides in a gun debate. But it does the discussion no good to use incorrect, misleading, often inflammatory terminology in your reporting. If nothing else, it focuses readers on your ignorance when they should be focusing on your story.

So here’s a short, handy primer:

The notion of mass shooters using automatic assault rifles is a myth. Let’s get our terminology straight. More on assault rifles to come. First let’s look at the weapons themselves:

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WEAPONS: Guns that are privately owned are divided into long guns and short guns. Long guns are shotguns or rifles. Short guns are handguns and are either revolvers or semi-automatics.

Automatic versus semi-automatic weapons. An automatic weapon is one that, when you pull the trigger, fires and keeps on firing until you let go of the trigger or the ammunition supply runs out. Think of a machinegun you saw in a war movie. Almost no one in civilian life has access to automatic weapons. (It’s possible but requires special licensing. To my knowledge, there has never been an instance in recent memory of a mass shooting in the U.S. with an automatic weapon.)

A semi-automatic weapon (rifle, shotgun or handgun) is one that must be cocked first to fire the first shot but which thereafter loads in the next round from a magazine and cocks itself again. It’s not fully automatic; you still have to pull the trigger for each shot. That’s why we call it a semi-automatic.

A shotgun may fire various sorts of shot (lots of little pellets) or a big slug. At close range it’s about the worst thing to be shot with, regardless of the load in it. At longer ranges it quickly becomes useless.

A rifle is much more powerful (see below about ammunition) than a handgun because it uses much more propellant from a much larger cartridge. It’s the choice for long range and lethality.
Short guns are handguns and are either revolvers or semi-automatics.Revolver

A revolver holds, typically, five to six rounds in a revolving cylinder. They’re what Wyatt Earp used and they’re still popular for their high reliability. Reliable, yes. Lots of shots, no.

Semi-automatic handguns are often called ‘pistols’ though the term may be used for revolvers too. They have a magazine (not a ‘clip’) that holds the ammunition and feeds a fresh cartridge up into the chamber each time the previous round is fired. They shoot each pistoltime the owner pulls the trigger. They’re popular mostly for ease of reloading (you just slide in a fresh magazine when the old one runs out of cartridges) and because they typically hold more ammunition than do revolvers. Reliable? Not so much; unless carefully maintained they can jam. Lots of shots, yes.

Mixed-Ammunition Weapons: Some rifles shoot handgun ammunition (the popular .22-caliber, for example, is used in both handguns and rifles. The iconic Thompson Submachine gun shoots .45-caliber pistol ammunition.) A subset of rifle called a carbine is a shorter-barrel rifle that is sometimes designed to shoot pistol ammunition.

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magazine and clipMAGAZINES versus CLIPS: This is one of the most-abused terms. I saw a Connecticut highway patrol spokesman, in a television interview, refer to “thirty-round clips” and he should know better. No one in the history of mankind has used a thirty-round clip.

A clip: is a metal strip that holds some rounds of ammunition ready to load into a rifle (or, sometimes, into a magazine). Once the bullets are loaded, the clip is pulled out and discarded. It’s not a magazine. Its simply a faster way to reload than pulling the cartridges out of the box, one by one.

A magazine is an enclosed box that contains both the cartridges and also a spring. It actively pushes up on the cartridges so that the next one in line goes into the gun’s firing chamber when it’s time. Most semi-automatic weapons today use magazines, not clips. A magazine may hold anything from five to a hundred cartridges, depending upon the gun design.

Any time you refer to a ”clip”, it’s a good bet that you’re wrong.

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AMMUNITION: Caliber, bullets, cartridges, more:

Cartridges: A cartridge is a brass casing that holds the propellant, the primer, and the bullet. When you pull the trigger a small pin or cartridge c-section phammer hits the rear of the cartridge where the primer is. The primer is sensitive to shock and makes a small fire. This sets off the gunpowder in the cartridge. The expanding gas forces the bullet out of the cartridge and down the gun barrel. The barrel has spiral grooves in it called “rifling” (confusing, no?) that imparts a spin to the bullet, increasing range and accuracy.

Only the bullet goes down the barrel. The brass cartridge case is then ejected (semi-automatics) to one side or the shooter has to remove it (revolvers) to load in fresh ammunition.

Shells: Though this terms is often used generically, technically a “shell” is the brass-and-plastic case that goes into a shotgun. It’s got a primer, gunpowder, and lots of little balls. Shotguns are usually smooth-bore (no rifling).

Rifle versus Revolver versus Pistol Cartridges:

Pistol cartridges tend to be short — an inch or so — since they have to fit into a magazine that slides up into the handgrip of the pistol.

Because a revolver has its cartridges in the revolving chamber in front of the trigger, revolver cartridges can be longer. More length equals more powder, more powder equals more velocity to the bullet.

Rifles typically use longer cartridges and those are usually bottle-shaped to hold even more powder. Rifles offer long range, greater penetrating power to go through obstacles, and greater lethality.

Magnum rounds are just longer cartridges with more powder, designed for certain handguns. It’s a way to get some of the rifle-cartridge advantages in a relatively small handgun cartridge.

Cartridges and Fornsics: The act of “chambering” the cartridge inside the gun to make it ready to shoot can scratch small marks on the soft brass casing. The rifling and accumulated wear and tear on the interior of the barrel can mark up a passing bullet. These two items — the cartridge casing and the bullet — can be examined, microscopically, to determine which gun they came out of. Sometimes. That’s why the mafia killers drop the gun and only take home the canoles.

Caliber: Refers to the diameter of the bullet in inches. Thus a .25-caliber would be a bullet one-quarter-inch in diameter. A .45-caliber is 45/100ths of an inch in diameter. The smallest shotgun is actually called a .410 and is a caliber measurement. Most other shotguns are the larger 12-gauge, with some other types used for specific sorts of game, and “gauge” is a complex formula.

Dum-Dum Bullets: Which I’ve sometimes seen referred to as “military” ammunition are anything but. These are bullets — technically called hollow-points — designed to expand to maybe one-and-a-half times their original diameter when they hit something. They often cause more severe wounds and they tend to stay inside the body rather than passing on through and hitting someone else in the background. Expanding bullets are banned by Geneva Convention rules so armies generally don’t use them. But many police forces do because they regard them as safer for bystanders.

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ASSAULT RIFLES: Simply put, almost no one owns an assault rifle (see fully automatic, above). It’s a term first used in World War One for a fully-automatic rifle such as the Thompson sub-machinegun or the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR). It’s a portable machinegun. An M-16 or an AK-47 is an assault rifle, capable of firing single-shot or full-automatic.

But almost all civilian rifles are semi-automatic. Some are designed to look like military rifles and shoot anything from the 7.62mm (.30-caliber) round used by the NATO armies to as small as the .22-calibers used for target practice. But the look doesn’t make them assault rifles. The caliber of ammunition used doesn’t make them assault rifles. Frankly, nothing about them makes them assault rifles.

Is Writing Long a Sign of Senility?

Was James Joyce senile when he wrote Ulysses (at 265,000 words, one of the longest novels in English literature)? Was William Faulkner habitually drunk when he wrote his famously-fragrant

.             James Joyce in Dublin

prose? Probably not.

But “rambling and long-winded anecdotes could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, according to research that suggests subtle changes in speech style occur years before the more serious mental decline takes hold.” Read the article here

“Sherman cites studies of the vocabulary in Iris Murdoch’s later works, which showed signs of Alzheimer’s years before her diagnosis, and the increasingly repetitive and vague phrasing in Agatha Christie’s final novels – although the crime writer was never diagnosed with dementia. Another study, based on White House press conference transcripts, found striking changes in Ronald Reagan’s speech over the course of his presidency, while George HW Bush, who was a similar age when president, showed no such decline.”

My fiction writing problem seems to be the opposite. More than thirty years of writing nonfiction — articles, news, even grants — has made me habitually spare. When I’m told, a few thousand times, to be as brief as possible (often more brief than possible) to meet 1800 to 2000-word magazine lengths or 250 to 500-word news reports, it’s hard to relate to writing a novel 70,000 words long.

So my stories’ rough drafts usually end up at about 50,000 to 60,000 words and must be 70,000 to meet the standard length for the type of mystery I write. It’s worse in fantasy where my final-draft 80,000-word stories fall well below the standard of 120,000.

This is not all bad, though. That 50,000-word rough draft gets better as I rewrite to add depth and color. And with each rewrite it gets longer. After ten or a dozen rewrites it’s no longer nonfiction-news telegraph style but a more rounded, colorful, pleasing story.

And I love rewriting. Someone once asked me who my favorite author was. “Me,” I said. The obvious danger is that I could rewrite and rewrite and end up ruining the story through overblown padding. I try not to do that, pad. I notice that later rewrites are less and less rearranging or adding verbiage and more and more focusing on grammar and punctuation.

This is as it should be. To continue to expand each sentence might be considered — senile.

 

*NOTE: WhenI wentto Wikiopedia COmmons to find a graphic to use, I typed in the search box “big books” and it asked me if I really meant “big boobs”. What have we come to?

 

Tampa Bay is the best cockroach-infested, nonreligious place to sweat in. But it has great beaches.

When it comes to those “best/worst” lists of cities, it’s been an up-and-down few weeks for we residents of Tampa Bay. (I know, I know, nobody but fish live in the actual Tampa Bay. But I’ve given up on explaining this . . . .)

First came the cockroaches. The U.S. Census Bureau declared the Tampa Bay region as the most roach-infested area in the nation. Take that, New Jack City!

http://www.tampabay.com/news/humaninterest/no-thats-not-a-palmetto-bug-tampa-and-st-petersburg-ranked-among-nations/2239669

Of course there are three chief types of roaches. The worst are German roaches, smaller and numerous and living indoors. If you spot even one in your house you know there are tens of thousands. Best thing at that point is to strip naked and walk away from the home and never go back. Start a new life somewhere else. The only effective German roach treatment—near as I can tell—is a 20-megaton thermonuclear bomb. But, come to think, roaches are supposedly less affected by radiation than we humans.

palmettobugThe other kind is the American cockroach. This brute is two inches long (up to four counting legs and antenna) and mostly lives outdoors eating small trendy electric cars and other passing foodstuffs. They may come inside to look around, mostly to open the fridge late at night to check your beer supply. They also fly and hearing one of those monsters buzzing through your bedroom at three a.m. is not likely to help you get a sound night’s sleep. Cats in west Florida are sold on the basis of roach-killing prowess and a “good roacher” can fetch a pretty penny.

Last are the “palmetto bugs” which are a myth. We call ‘em palmetto bugs because (a) they actually do seem to like to live in palmettos and (b) we don’t want to terrify the paying tourists by admitting that these are just American roaches with a P.R. firm.

Just as we were living down the roach-motel-capitol of the Americas, along came sweat. Yes, according to Honeywell Fans —who ought to know — Tampa is the sweatiest city in America.

http://www.tampabay.com/news/humaninterest/study-ranks-tampa-as-americas-sweatiest-city/2234899

I may have contributed more than most to this statistic this summer. I’ve been cleaning up an old woman’s overgrown yard behind my house, a project likely to run on into the fall. This involves cutting down everything from grass to vines to bushes to hedges to some fairly large trees. Working three hours a day in a “feels like” heat index of 101 degrees and humidity higher than my age (and I ain’t no spring chicken) made me wetter than if I stood in a shower. And that’s if it was not raining at the time. It rained so much the past weeks (27 inches in six weeks) that the city emergency workers gave up on sandbags and just handed us snorkels.

Then we learned just why we have pestilence and flood. Radio, TV and any-available-soapbox deep thinker Glenn Beck set us straight. Turns out that St. Petersburg is seriously religiously-unaffiliated, so much so that Glenn Beck suggests you not come here. (The mayor of St. Petersburg replied, to this news, “Good.”)

http://tbo.com/pinellas-county/radios-glenn-beck-avoid-st-pete-other-least-religious-cities-20150812/

Apparently, we’re the least-religious people in the South. Portland, Oregon has it over us in Godlessness. But do they have palmetto bugs? Hah. I thought not. And we are hosting a three-day Jehovah’s Witness convention at the Florida State Fairgrounds later this month. But somehow the notion of St. Petersburg, Florida — known locally as God’s Waiting Room — as the first slippery step to Hell is a little overblown. Still and all, a day without Glenn Beck is a day with sunshine.

Finally, some relief. Money magazine “ . . . ranked Tampa as the best large city in the Southeast and one of five “urban gems” across the United States offering an abundance of culture and amenities at “livable prices.”

http://tbo.com/news/politics/magazine-ranks-tampa-as-no-1-city-in-southeast-20150817/

Though, I have to admit, reading their article, they’re as off-base as the other articles. They raved about Tampa’s beaches. Tampa has no beach. Well, there’s a small “beach” which is the be-there place to score drugs or meetups in the men’s room, but when we need a break from that, we mostly drive over to the Gulf beaches for a swim.

Still, I see an upside. I refer, as you have already guessed, to the signs we can post on the edge of town. I’m thinking something like those old Burma-Shave signs of yore that posted short poetry in sequential signs alongside highways.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burma-Shave

If you don’t know what I’m talking about then you ain’t old enough to shave. Here we go . . .

Welcome to Tampa Bay, our own sweaty town

Where our cockroaches’ wings can cool you right down

We got no religion but we got creepy creatures

And you can see those at our drug-dealing beaches.

Burma-Shave

 

 

 

 

 

 

We can’t hide from history, even the warts

The Confederate flag issue. Heritage or bigotry?

Here in Tampa, Florida, the Civil War is not exactly a large topic of conversation. But one man owns a plot of ground next to Interstate 4 just east of town and he has long displayed a huge Confederate battle flag, on a very high pole, visible to anyone driving past. Needless to say that came up in discussion after all the rest of the South seemed to erupt in another battle —  of words, this time —  over the continued reverence by some for that flag.

(Incidentally, I have not heard, in a very long time, a Southerner refer to the Civil War as “The War Between the States.” Maybe they gave up on that. By conceding that it was a civil war they are admitting to the illegitimacy of the Confederacy. Hummmm … )

And I always enjoy the irony of people screaming about their First Amendment right to proudly wave the flag of a confederate flagsecessionist movement that opposed the government now granting them that right.

I was inspired by all this fuss to do some reading. And I learned — as if I didn’t already know — that the whole point of the secession was to protect the institution of slavery. Nobody up “Nawth” was objecting to white Southerners living in grand brick plantation houses. Nobody cared about the small-time Southern farmer who had forty acres and a mule. No, the South’s major export was cheap cotton, made cheap by the use of slaves.

So I read both Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address and the Constitution of the Confederacy. I had never read either before. Davis never mentioned “slave” or “cotton” in his speech (in that speech anyway). But he referred, several times, to agricultural needs and to the South’s single most important export. Everyone knew what he meant.

The Confederate Constitution was a word-for-word copy of the U.S. Constitution, with modifications. The most frequent modifications had to do with slavery. The document almost obsesses about slaves:

“No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves, shall be passed.” – Article I, Section IX

“The Citizens … shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any State of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in such slaves shall not be impaired.” – Article IV, Section II

“The Confederate States may acquire new territory, …In all such territory the institution of negro slavery as it now exists in the Confederate States shall be recognized and protected by Congress and by the territorial government, ..”. – Article IV, Section III”

It’s obvious that the leaders of the South’s secessionist movement and Confederate government were determined to keep slavery – and it’s obvious that this is why they seceded.

A side issue I expected to come up eventually did. Someone asked if we should rename Fort Lee in Virginia. Well, it’s hardly alone. Growing up as an Army ‘brat’ I lived a time at Fort Hood, Texas, named for a Confederate general. There’s also Fort Polk, Louisiana; Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Gordon, Georgia; Fort Pickett, Virginia; Fort Rucker, Alabama; Fort Stewart, Georgia and perhaps some I cannot think of offhand. It has always struck me that we Americans name military posts for generals who rebelled against the United States. I know of no other nation that does this.

I regard all this as mildly-interesting history. I don’t propose we rename army posts. Or schools. As for the battle flag, the real issue is not the piece of cloth. What we as a society need to do is make that flag irrelevant. For me, probably for you, it’s just history. For too many, it’s a reflection of their poor education and all-consuming bigotry. That’s what we need to fix.

I’m not much of an expert on advanced computer technology. That’s a generational thing. I still use a fountain pen and words Chaucer might have recognized. I’m of the generation that is barely hanging onto the tail of the technological  tiger and trying not to let go, lest it turn and consume me.

IBM Selectric I started freelance writing for magazines back in 1982. I was a part-timer, still working for a company in a downtown office and I wrote in evenings and on weekends. I used a typewriter, a portable at that. I dreamed of the day when I could afford a genuine IBM Selectric II, the crème de la crème of office typewriters, the one with the “golf ball” in it. (Those cost $1200 in 1984 and years later I bought one for $25 in a Salvation Army store, paid the last living IBM typewriter repairman in the area $100 to make it perfect once more—and then never had any use for it. I finally mailed it to another writer who had also long dreamed of owning an IBM Selectric II. The shipping cost me more than $50.)

At first I was concerned with perfection and if I made a typo or a small change in the manuscript I would re-type that entire page. Eventually I came to realize that it was sufficient to just make some pen-and-ink corrections and nobody would hold that against me. It was  one reason to double-space manuscripts, the other being that the editor and/or proofreader would use the extra space to make proofreading marks.

When the manuscript was complete I either drove to the magazine office and turned it in (I wrote for, at one time or another, every local city and business magazine) or I mailed it. Often I sent it by Federal Express.

I used FedEx because I’d learned about the sloppy and lackadaisical attitude of the USPS “Express Mail” system which rendered it useless to serious businesses requiring serious overnight delivery. In fact, at the company I worked for in the 1970s-1980s we used FedEx, the airline freight system overseas (seriously) and a nifty program called Delta Dash wherein airline pilots would hand-carry our mail to the destination airport and hand that over to someone there. Sometimes I even hopped an airplane and flew to airports around the country to hand-deliver papers. Sometimes we hired couriers to do the same.

epson QX-10In late 1984 I went full-time as a writer. I also bought my first computer, an Epson QX-10. It had two 5 1/4-inch floppy drives storing a vast 250 kilobytes of data (except that one was the program too), making it the Cadillac of computers. There was no hard drive but I added a memory card with an incredible 2K of storage and a separate power supply to keep that active.

I was the hottest thing in local writerdom. With my computer and my new printer (a daisy-wheel version that sounded like a .50-caliber machine gun) I could now make corrections and rewrites and those didn’t matter because I could print only when the manuscript was complete. I had one editor tell me that she was almost afraid to edit my work because it looked so perfect. I now sent or delivered both a floppy with the manuscript in digital form, and also a printed version. Even back then I thought that was dumb.

I recall two events from those times where I found myself astonished at the technology. First, I discovered that I could transmit a document—a manuscript in my case—direct to a publisher in Sweden for which I wrote articles about maritime trade. This was not called e-mail. I don’t think it was called anything at all. Before, I’d needed to mail those manuscripts and allow almost a week for delivery, just in case. Now I had an extra week before my deadline. It was very liberating to know that I could piddle around for an extra week before starting work once my deadline was upon me. Sometimes technology doesn’t make work more efficient, it only makes work happen later.

Then I discovered the Internet. There was no “web” yet but I could navigate through endless lists of connections and one day I found myself looking at some document stored in a library in Japan.

I’m in Japan, I thought. I’m inside a library in Japan. This is amazing. Wonder who’s paying the phone bill? Never did get an answer to that one. Most research involved phone calls to experts or visits to the public library to do long and tedious research. I learned to make a lot of phone calls; those were a more efficient use of my time.

Phone bills were a major issue. Every job had to have a separate phone invoice to be submitted for reimbursement. At more than a hundred manuscripts a year for me, that was a lot of time spent adding up phone calls. There were instances where the phone bill was more than the fee I was being paid.

Fast-forward thirty years. Computers with good solid, capacious hard drives and backups. E-mail, Dropbox and whatever for transmitting documents. Word processing programs easy to use and capable of almost any layout. I write articles and books in single-space in Word and editors still want those sent in double-spaced—why, I have no clue. Proofreader marks are an arcane thing of the past. We do editing now using Word’s Track Changes option.

For information we have web sites and blogs. The World Wide Web with all the information we could ever want at our fingertips—not to mention that latest cute kitten video. (When Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web, was asked once what most surprised him about how it was used he instantly replied, “Cats. I never expected to see so many cats.” Me? I don’t think I’ve been inside a library in twenty years. Libraries, at their best, can access the same information sources I can use from home. At worst, they’re where printed books go to die and where street people go to stay warm.

Phones? I still have a land line only because it’s  free, bundled with my computer modem and it has a serious big ugly headset good for freeing up my hands for typing during interviews. But everyone has cell phones. More important to my sanity, everyone has phones with unlimited plans. No more toting up phone bills to submit with my invoice. Even overseas calls are too cheap to bother invoicing for. If I did a lot of those, I’d use Skype.

Back to modern technology being a generational thing and how some of us barely have hold of the tail of the tiger. And, apparently, some have lost their grip. Got a call a few days ago from a fellow freelance writer. In fact he was the first freelance writer I ever met and he’s been doing it a decade longer than I. He wanted to interview me for something about writing memoirs and I had just completed one for a client. I mentioned how I had interviewed the client, an hour at a time, each Tuesday and Thursday for about two months. The client lives in Los Angeles; I’m in Tampa.

“So . . . who paid for all those long-distance phone calls,” he asked me.

Your jaw just dropped. I know this even without seeing you. I said nothing at first because I was stunned by the question.

“You must use Skype,” he said into my incredulous silence. “Save on phone charges that way.” At least he knew what Skype was.

“Um . . . there are no phone charges,” I managed to say. “Nobody pays for long-distant phone calls within the U.S. any more.”

“Really?”

Pong“Yeah. Everyone has unlimited-calling plans.”

Long silence from him and then he changed the subject. We hung up shortly thereafter. I stared at my land-line phone, itself a relic most people today would laugh at.

He’s still paying for long-distance calls, I thought. How is that even possible?

One answer is that he’s one generation older than me. And technology is a generational thing. For all I know, he may still have a Pong game in his rec room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, 4 May, 2015

Busy week last week. Now I can relax and catch up. Last week I had:

– A May 1 (Friday) deadline for a ghost-written book.
– Corrections and discussions from editor and proofreader about a mystery novel.
– Urgent cry for help from a client wanting me to review/rewrite/write a portion of a grant proposal.
– Urgent (aren’t they all?) request to update a web site for a website client.

I think I got to bed at 3 am. Friday morning and was up at 7 a.m. to get that completed manuscript for the ghosted book off to the editors. Goes without saying (why do people write that when they fully intend to say it anyway) that later that day, and even the next day, I was getting changes of mind/changes of wording from the client. No surprise; some people don’t react to a deadline until it passes. I expect it. Just  part of the game.

The proofing of the mystery was an exercise in total humiliation. I’m pretty good at self-editing but seeing a professional proofer tear my work apart was embarrassing.

By Saturday things were under control and then I get a phone call from a longtime writing friend. He’s doing a piece for one of the local newspapers about memoir writing and can I help him? I’m not sure if the ghosted book qualifies but I offer words of Great Wisdom—which will likely never appear in print anyway. But then he asks me how many interviews I did.

“I talked to the client twice a week,” I said. “An hour each time. Noon for me and 9 a.m. for him because he’s in Los Angeles. For about six weeks. And there were a dozen or so other interviews too, with other people.”

“That’s a lot of telephone time,” he says. “Who paid for all those long-distance phone calls?”pagecontact2raw

I didn’t answer that at once. I was too stunned.

“You must use Skype,” he said. “Save money that way.”

“Um . . . no. I just picked up my phone. Nobody pays for long-distance any more.”

We both then reminisced about the Days of Yore when we had to keep phone logs and bill clients or editors for phone bills. But, in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, He still pays for long distance? How is that even possible?

I did eventually come up with a few tidbits of use to the aspiring memoir writer. I’ll add those below:

 

We have two powerful tools today that we didn’t have in the past. And those are Google and maps. In my writing I have been able to check on client statements by reading old newspaper accounts or other documents available online. It’s not that the client is a liar, it’s that people’s memories aren’t all that good after decades. Today we can look up things in minutes that would have been all-day tasks in the past. And with the mapping programs we can zoom right in on locations and write our own descriptions (bearing in mind, of course, any passage of time that might alter what we’re looking at).

Some examples:

– Told by my client that a theatre he went to as a kid was ten miles from his house, and that he and his friends used to walk there to see movies, I checked the maps. Ten miles is a long walk for an adult. Each way too. In fact, the theater was about one mile from his old house. But back when he and his friends walked, he had short legs and probably remembers it as ten miles.

– As long as I was looking at a street view of the theater (it was still there) I could add some descriptive about the neighborhood.

– Told about an incident where an armed robber killed six people, I checked decades-old newspaper accounts. There were just three killed and a mention that the robber’s gun had jammed.

In short, we no longer always have to rely on the client’s memory of past events, or on whatever paperwork he might supply. (I have a big box in the corner of my office full of everything from his sixth-grade report card to his contracts with publishers. One good thing about completing a ghost-written book is being able to FedEx the materials back and clean up my office.) Today we can—often—double-check for factual accuracy.

—end—

 

 

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January 20th, 2015 | Posted by Steve in Odds and Ends - (0 Comments)

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