Friday, June 26, 2009

Meet My Guest, Mystery Author Robert W. Walker

Robert W. (Rob) Walker with his dog, Pongo

Welcome to a very special guest, a good friend, a great author, and diligent editor.

Rob Walker is a prolific mystery writer with about 47 books to his credit. It's hard to keep track.

He's one of the regulars at my group blog, Acme Authors Link and also was gracious enough to provide a great blurb for my upcoming release, Killer Career.

For a change of pace, Rob's stepped over to Double M. Here's how he turned an author's computer nightmare into a sweet dream.

And Now Here's Rob - (No, that's not him hanging from the tree. At least, I don't think so.)

New HP Scanning Hardware for a Hardboiled Writer
by Robert W. Walker

My Mac went “south” on me through no fault of its own; people who have seen it, the condition it is in, my beloved G4 Mac Momma laptop know that the label on its cover is not far from the truth: Shake Before Each Use.

The keys are so worn that the letters are gone, especially on e, t, l, m and n…completely obliterated from, I assume, secretions of the finger against metal or just plain worn away from pecking, pecking, an more pecking. Two keys are gone altogether, thanks to the cat. Again my fault. I left it open and running to go get a cup of java and on returning Clark Kent was asleep atop it. Must be great to fall asleep at the drop of a dime or catnip.

Worse yet about the Mac, the WIFI thingamabob that allows wireless internet was fried…this due to a little known mishap soon after I got my lovely and quite expensive G4 notebook. A certain friend, and I am naming no names, was drooling over the Mac while I was staying overnight at his place. In fact, his whole family, the dog included, were drooling over it and as the battery was run low, I took it upstairs and plugged her in and left her I thought safely alone and sleeping…her little light-emitting blink on and off thingamabob winking at me as I left the room. Then sometime later, maybe two hours? I returned to find that someone had slipped in and had slipped the Mac into its tight little carrying-case sleeve that fits like a pizza carrier, and digging it out I was burned by the touch of it against human skin—my human skin. It was hotter than any pizza I had ever laid hands on. Outside temperatures in Chicagoland at the time were in the single digits, so I raced the Mac outside via the front door, everyone following me and asking what was up….I wanted to stick the entire machine into the nearest snow bank, but my host whom we will call Joe for anonymity, restrained me, thinking that I had gone berserk after so many years of writing about berserk characters.

I put the machine in Joe’s hands and he gasped at the level of heat emanating from the Mac. I removed the battery, playing hot-potato with it until I found a chair on the porch to place it on. This was all some ten or so years ago but seems like yesterday. After some judicious detecting on my part, I ruled out the wife and kids and it remained to be seen how my host might apologize for this awful set of circumstances. There was nothing to be done about it as my host was also a writer and had less in the way of finances than I, and on taking my baby back to where it was born, the Mac hospital, the thingamabob inside that made wireless possible, I was told, was fried, but fortunately everything else was A-OK.

Of course over the years, I had dropped the Mac not once but thrice, but the last drop was a baddy…so bad that the screen had a blue ink “rupture” of the spleen. This about three and a half years ago. There was no fixing a ruptured screen, no way to replace it. I thought I had the problem licked by purchasing a second humongous screen upon which I could just move everything over. Sure it would be now a desktop but I was pretty much by this time using it that way anyhow…and for how many years I was the geek at the coffee shop who “appeared” dumb and uninformed about wireless ‘cause I was always plugged in at the coffee shop—not to wireless but to a wall. Tied down! In any case, the second monitor did not suffice; failed to do the job….well not the monitor but the MAC failed me this time as while I could move whole files and screen images over with ease, the screen guides and drop downs—all those necessities for me—were not moveable! They stayed put.

I worked around the growing cancer of a blue disease slowly eating away at more and more of my screen and covering more and more of my guides. I did a great deal of drop-down memorization. I learned as much as I could about keyboard commands. I stretched this baby to the limit, and you gotta give it to her, she delivered. For years she delivered. Until recently. Now she goes off on her own. I mean off. The screen goes blank and then it displays all the colors of the rainbow, and it takes effort to resuscitate Mac Honey Momma who has become Mac-Madinajad!

So as serendipity would have it, a number of “things” in the world coalesced for me at once. I knew I needed to back up all my files at once, and so I loaded up everything on thumb drives between Mac’s tantrums and working around the blue disease. As I did so, I learned of the program that pretty much amounts to going into partnership as a self-publisher with Amazon, and I learned of the program from the very Joe who had smoked Mac Honey. What with all my out of print titles, all of which I have rights to, I could go into business with this new digital text platform publishing. All I needed to do was upload out of print titles, but guess what…most all of said titles were not written on my Mac and they were not stored nowhere no how except as old hardcopy manuscripts or the book itself on my shelf….Most had been written at a time when no one had ever heard of the term eBook or electronic thingamabobs or eBook publishing.

Anyway to make a long story short if that is possible at this point, I went out and got a 500 dollar HP Pavillion and a 120 dollar 4-in-1 copier, printer, fax, SCANNER so as to scan and scan again all the out of print titles onto the Pavillion whereupon I can edit, proof, rewrite, bring up to date these titles and generally spiff them up for publication as eBooks for the Kindle via dtp publishing. Thus far I have put up six titles for Kindle Store browser—some of the most voracious readers on the planet. I put up the easy stuff first, recently written and even more recently rejected books such as a great horror tale of spontaneous human combustion called Snake Flesh Wars, an exotic suspense novel set in old Havana called Cuba Blue, co-authored with Lyn Polkabla, a fantastic co-author and friend, Deja Blue, sequel to PSI Blue, Dead On Writing, a how-to for the disorganized among us writers, hehehe… and as I have always wanted to throw together an anthology of short stories, I done done that too! It’s called Thrice-Told Tales, and a couple of others that share space with three HarperCollins titles that have been Kindalized, City for Ransom, Shadows in the White City, and City of the Absent.

All told I have nine Kindle books up, and it’s a great buzz tool as well.
I am currently scanning (at 250 pgs of a 317 pgs.) the prequel to Snake Flesh Wars, the horror-science fiction title once known as Flesh and Fire that I plan to publish either as Fire Wall or Snake Flesh Wars #1 so there’s no confusing which came first, the snake or the fire. Let me just add that the 650 dollars spent on HP products to get these books up and selling at the Kindle Store was in my estimation a great bargain. The new line of HP scanners does OCR scanning, optical character recognition, a dream software that comes built into the HP 4-in-1s. Scanning this way at a box store or a university can cost up to 25 dollars a page!
Rob Walker


  1. Good gracious, Rob, you are committed, or should be. When I get a blue screen, I panic, shut it down and race to the Nerd Squad. I lost two hard drives last year so I'm paranoid. Which reminds me, I need to back up. Been too long. Incidentally, I can no longer read these keys on my keyboard - s-d-e-r-t and can barely read a-l-n. Apparently, I type the word stadlern a lot.

    Straight From Hel

  2. I lost the paint on some of my keys, but since I had a contract with Dell and the keyboard was less than a year old, I got it replaced. The tech warned me they wouldn't do it again, since it's considered normal wear and tear.
    I've been typing for years, but still need guidance now and then as to where the keys are.

    Morgan Mandel

  3. LOL, Robert. I loved the saga of your Mac.

    Gotta say you are one of my favorite mystery authors. I have several of your books and wish I had a Kindle to get some of the others as e-books.

  4. Anonymous1:43 PM

    I'm on my... lessee... sixth laptop now. We won't talk about all the desktop computers in my past!

    Stuff happens to them all the time, sadly. I think the most frustrating was when I was doing a presentation at a client site (multi-BILLION dollar client) and the department head walked by my laptop, kicked the cord and jerked the thing completely off the table. BANG! This was an IBM laptop, and it was tough, yet it cracked the case and bent the corner. (Have a MacBook Pro now, with the little magnetic power cord that prevents such things from happening!)

    The guy didn't even apologize. Thankfully, that one was supplied by my employer, so they replaced it... eventually.

  5. Great post! We are all so tied to our gadgets in today's world, to be without one is totally unthinkable. Now that I have an IPhone, I wonder if I will ever be able to DIS-connect.

  6. And I thought I was attached to my computer...This is one of the few "techie" articles that I've really enjoyed reading and understood!


  7. Hola everyone...sorry it took me so long to get back here to reply but have been scanning...and have learned the HARD way that when you go after fixing all the scanned pages, you GOTTA clik on the button that shows all your indents and paragraph breaks, and you gotta clean all of them up, else when you go to convert it is full and I mean chock full of problems. This clean up I could have done while doing the full edit job but NO, no one tells me until that was all done. Now having to redo the entire thing again and this is not editing but mind numbing cut-your-throat dull busy work that a right brain person purely, purely HATES.
    So that is keeping me busy.
    Thanks for all the replies!


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