Friday, December 29, 2006

I'm buying WD-40 today

I got up this morning at 5:30, which is ridiculously early. I hate waking up when it's still dark outside, but I do enjoy having a quiet house to myself. So I was happily curled up on my couch reading and drinking coffee, when suddenly I heard a loud creeeeeeeeeeeeeeeak. I spilled half a cup of coffee on myself (which had, thankfully, cooled down to lower-than-magma temperatures) because I practically levitated off the couch. I knew which door it was right away. The door to the basement closes but doesn't actually latch; it has a lockplate that takes one of those old-fashioned keys, and I don't lock it because it's a pain in the ass. Besides, there's a locking door to the outside at the basement stair landing. The hinges need to be oiled, so it makes a creepy creaking noise, much like the sound effect starting off the radio program "The Shadow," every time we open it.

Anyway, I was convinced an axe murderer had broken in a basement window or the coal cellar chute, and was now inching that door open on his way to chop me into a bazillion pieces. I meant to dash upstairs to wake Kevin but was frozen in place, and I couldn't convince my legs to move. Just when I thought my heart was going to pound its way out of my chest, my cat Cairo strolled into the living room, trying to look nonchalant. That damn cat had been skulking around the basement; I suspect she goes down there to stalk mice or bugs or critters I don't want to know about. If we close the door while she's down there, she's figured out how to hook her paw under the bottom of the door and open it. If I'd had my wits about me, I would have remembered that, but a creaking door in a quiet house is one of the scariest noises I can imagine, and it set off my paranoid fantasies, I guess.


I don't mean to sound like a cranky old lady, but lately the publishing world has been taken over by kids just out of college. They have little to no work experience and don't know much about managing a project. It's not their fault; project management takes time to learn, and having an experienced person show them the ropes would be helpful. Like most businesses, however, publishing companies are going through heavy budget cutbacks, so these kids get thrown, without any preparation, into management jobs meant for people with far more experience.

One of these poor kids is managing a book I'm editing now; I worked on the previous edition with the same group of authors, who are hell to keep on schedule. The previous manager warned Kid Manager about them, and I had a long talk with her before taking on the book about the challenges of working with them and the importance of riding herd on them to keep the book on schedule. The first chapter was a week late--clearly a red flag--and it's been downhill from there. Kid Manager is supposed to send out weekly status reports to the authors and me, listing what's been done and what's due that week. She's done nothing to check on the book's status, however, and it's not my job to tell her how to do HER job.

We're now a month behind on the production side; the first chapter was supposed to have gone through its second author draft and my second edit on December 7. Kid Manager finally called me this morning to ask "How's the book going?" Uh, I've been sending her my own weekly status reports, yet she was shocked to hear no author seconds had been turned in. I know she has a heavier workload than she should because of personnel cutbacks, and as I said, she's young and inexperienced, but damn it, it's not rocket science to look at a schedule, compare it to a list of what's been turned in, and see that things haven't been done on time.

So she's trying to coordinate all four authors for a conference call next week in an attempt to get the book back on schedule. I don't have the heart to tell her--nor is it my place, really--that when a book is this far behind, there's no realistic way to make up for the lost time. I guess the silver lining is that she's going to learn a lot, and quickly, about book management with this project, but it's going to be a painful lesson for her, I'm afraid.