Tuesday, August 25, 2015


I knew the road was bright and fair
Or once it seemed to be,
But it has changed so much of late,
It has few charms for me.
- From the epitaph of Roswell Stowell
Who died in 1875, Aged 59

I have suffered a loss that is about the worst that can happen to an author.  My computer had been acting up the last couple of weeks.  I thought it was me, doing something wrong.  I’d boot up after lunch and the paragraphs I’d written in the morning would have vanished.  Sometimes Ellen could make them return, sometimes not. And sometimes the thing would perform properly.  But this past weekend, the computer became downright malicious.  Whole chapters would vanish.  I re-wrote some of them – and they’d vanish.  I would save what I’d written of the whole book as a new file and it would vanish.  I kept being interrupted while writing by a new file opening without warning.  When I did get a file back, it would be changed.  Paragraph indentations would be gone.  The font would change, or the size would.  And all this while a deadline was screaming at me: Monday, Monday, Monday the 24th!

I finally surrendered on Sunday afternoon, broke down in tears, went in another room, sat down and began stitching furiously while Ellen struggled to regain control of the beast that used to be my helpmate.  But no longer.  She came out and said it was no use, what I’ve lost was gone forever and the computer could no longer be entrusted with my deathless prose – or what passes for it in my case.  So we went out and I bought a brand new laptop.  I wrote my editor and my agent and told them what had happened and that I was in default of my contract.  I was furious and ashamed.

So now Knit Your Own Murder won’t be published as scheduled next May.  I am taking my traitorous laptop to a specialist today at noon to see if he can retrieve more of what wanders like a specter in the depths of my insane hard drive.  (Unless it is less than a ghost, and is gone forever.)  Meanwhile Ellen is educating my new computer in my ways.

What else?  Well, when I went off to water aerobics Monday morning, I was shocked to get out of my car at the Courage Center about quarter past six and discover that the temperature was fifty-eight degrees.  That’s October weather!  But guess what?  Four of us are going to the Minnesota State Fair next Monday, and I’d like something of this weather to hang around, because it’s far more pleasant to walk outdoors when it’s a little too cool than when it’s way too hot.  As my mother used to say, you can always put on more clothing, but there’s only so much you can take off.

And today’s another day.  I can begin to work on the book again on the new computer, editing what remains of the manuscript until I discover if any of the lost text can be rescued.  And if not, starting the task of recreating the scenes to link what remains together.  I won’t know how bad it is until I hear from my specialist.  I am not optimistic – see the poem above.


Linda O. Johnston said...

What a sad and scary post, Monica. I hope your specialist is able to retrieve it all.

Christine Thresh said...

Oh, I hope the experts can restore your manuscript. I've heard it can be done. Best wishes for a recovery.

Betty Hechtman said...

How terrible, Monica. My fingers are crossed you are able to get back what you lost.

Anonymous said...

I wish you luck.

Anonymous said...

HI Monica, In the event of something like this ever happening again (God forbid) Can I suggest you make a separate backup onto a memory stick?

Monica Ferris said...

I have a separate box that I save to. I put at least one of the versions of the ms onto a thumb drive. What was happening is that the little part of my old computer that saves text wasn't saving. The computer would act as if it were saving - and when this was starting, I was saving about every five minutes - but it wasn't saving at all. I was leaving the computer turned on, only putting it to "sleep" at night, but not turning it off, so the next day, everything was still there; but when I would turn it off, the next day, all my work was not there. It was also doing weird things like turning all the text to italic, or removing the indenting of paragraphs.