Is the Townsend Brown biography project cursed? These Harry Potter kids seem to think so.


I’m starting to wonder…

…if this project is some kind of cursed.

I just don’t seem to be able to get it over the ‘finished’! line. 

There was a moment about a month ago when I seriously had the feeling, “it’s done.” It was a strange feeling, a sort of ‘authorial post-partum,’ a case of “OK, now what do I do with myself?”  

A strange feeling… probably because it was wrong. 

Here I am a month later – done, but not done. 

The current installment of this seemingly endless saga starts a little over a month ago –  February 11, to be precise.  FWIW, February 11 is my late brother Arthur’s birthday.  It is also Thomas Edison’s birthday.  The date seems almost poetic since Townsend Brown first came to public attention when one of the Zanesville, Ohio newspapers dubbed protégé ‘The Second Edison’ back in the 1920s. 

Anyway, February 11, I thought I was ‘done.’  

Thirteen years after the first attempt went off a cliff, a year since I got fired and decided to see if I could ‘sell some books’ (ever the wishful thinker!), I was ready to send a file off for design and layout. 

Just prior to that ‘done’ moment, I’d spent almost two weeks fabricating an index.  That meant going through the entire manuscript… twice. The first pass turned into something of a learning experience. I didn’t really understand how the indexing feature in Microsoft Word works, so a after spending one week on the first attempt, I scrapped it and went through the whole thing again.   

After six years of continuous effort from 2003-2009, after a thirteen year hiatus until 2022 (a total of twenty years but who’s counting?), I was ready to upload the file to a designer in Pakistan I’d hired through who would deliver the print-ready material.  

That next step should have taken a week, maybe ten days.  

Here we are over a month later. 

Right away there were issues.  The designer couldn’t get my file to load on his his end.  He wrote to me: 

I have no idea why it messed up. Every time, I imported the file in InDesign, the software crashed. This never happened before.

Of course that never happened before. 

That might be when I first started to think ‘it’s cursed!’ 

I compiled the 2022/23 version of the manuscript in a word-processor-on-steroids called ‘Scrivener.’  In Scrivener I did a lot of text formatting – the indentations for the various quoted segments, chapter title formatting, just basic things that reflected how I wanted the finished product to look.  Then Scrivener to compiled the chapters into a single Word file that the designer would pour into Adobe InDesign to layout the book. 

Only he couldn’t get my file to load.  I don’t know what the problem was. It might have had something to do with the section styles I’d baked into the compiled file.  Or maybe it was because I’d created my Word file on a Mac and he was working on a PC.  Whatever it was, he had to spend an unexpected amount of time manually recreating all the styles I thought I’d automated. 

Still, when it did arrive I was generally quite pleased with the layout/design.

I thought we were nearly done when I discovered an issue with the endnotes.  Why is the very first endnote numbered ’41’?? Suffice it to say they were all out of order after that.  

Our original goal for the print-ready layout was February 28.  That got pushed back a couple of days, and I had the finished file in hand on March 3.  On March 4 I signed to my account at IngramSpark to turn the file into an actual dead-tree book.  

I literally had my cursor on the ‘pay and print’ button when I got this message from Pakistan: 

Ah…. Index is messed up. I WIll have to put all the entries again. and recreate index.

So, literally… hold the presses.  We had to rebuild the entire index. Again. 

Then he wrote, 

Re-checking and updating the index will be the first thing that I will do – once I get back from the hospital.

Wait! What?  You’re going into the hospital???

That’s when I became convinced this whole enterprise had gone from “Oh boy, it’s done!” to “Oh, fuck. It’s cursed.” 

He wrote back, 

Yeah, taking my ailing uncle to the hospital.

I guess that was a relief. But, still… done/not done = cursed? 

That was March 4.  Today is March 16.  I’ll spare you all the gory details, but it’s been a two week slog to get the index straight.  At one point that meant me going through the entire 450 pages several hundred times to manually find every page number of every entry in the index.  He then he had to bake that info into the software so that the eBook edition will be linked.  

Did I mention cursed??? 

Yesterday he finally delivered a file that I could use for the print editions (hard-and-soft-cover).   Followed by this bit of bad news:

Hi, My uncle just died; I am going out for three days. The ebook needs some modifications; I will send it once I get back.

Umm, what part of ‘cursed’ still confuses you?

OK, let’s not panic here.  I still have the file for the print edition…

So I went back to Ingram this morning and started to proceed with the (soft-cover) print edition.

Not so fast.

It turns out that the soft-cover and the eBook editions are tied into each other.  I can’t publish one without the other.  Well, maybe I can, but I surmise I’d have to pay the $49 publication fee for each one, where as currently set up I get both for the one $49 payment.

I just wrote to Pakistan:

The way I set all this up with Ingram (two weeks ago), I cannot separate the paperback edition from the eBook. I’m not sure, but I surmise that if I do separate them, I’ll have to pay the $49 publication fee for each. So I’m still dead in the water until I get a eBook file I can upload.

On the grand scale of things, maybe it’s not really all that bad.  Maybe I’m just whining.  I suppose I could  proceed with the hardcover edition. That was always gonna be a separate ISBN title and pub fee.  But at the moment I’m more inclined to wait until I can do it all at once.  And I’d still like to do an Audiobook – I have some novel production ideas for that – but that will probably have to wait until I figure out which bank to rob.  

Or sell a few thousand books.  


I am such a funny guy!

The Townsend Brown Biography – One of These Days
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