Sunday, May 29, 2005

We met just north of Century...

Her name was Loretta.
She wasn’t from around here — just passin’ through, you know? She had a taste for the high life, one might say, if one was likely to say such things about someone you didn’t even know and had only just met.
And as it turned out, she had a need for speed.
She was sleek, and just by looking at her you could tell she was of a different time. So what if she was older than me? She was well-traveled, experienced.
It was just a passing thing, after all. She came from Wisconsin, which doesn’t sound very interesting at first blush. Anyone could see that, if they let their eyes wander round back and down low.
Go ahead, Loretta wouldn’t mind. She had that covered.
I met Loretta at a BP station off U.S. 31 in Flomaton, Ala., last week. She was on her way to Speed Week in Charlotte, N.C., with her driver, Jeff Lewis.
Jeff had his pilot’s license, though he drove a bus instead, and he said he was a former drummer for the Coasters, the Drifters and the Platters. He also claimed to have an enormous collection of belt buckles, though you couldn’t prove it by me as I only saw the one he had on.
One thing I can vouch for: Jeff doesn’t meet strangers.
Jeff and Loretta were gassing up in Flomaton on their second annual cross-country road trip, cruising the highways and by-ways of America. Wisconsin seemed like a dream to them now, a bad dream from which Loretta had been saved a slow rotting death — ’cause here’s the thing:
Loretta is a bus. She’s the Miller Brewing Co.’s "High Life Cruiser," a mobile museum, a 1950s-era red-and-white guzzler painted with slogans like "The Champagne of Beers" along one side and with an image of Loretta, the "Girl in the Moon," swinging just above the Wisconsin plates.
A bus very much like her first hit the road in 1954 as part of a direct promotional tour. Several years later, the bus was retired. When the company got the idea of finding and reviving the bus, they located Loretta rusting out in the back 40 of a farm.
They gave her a new frame, new body — the ultimate makeover — and painted her namesake on her rear end — the ultimate modern tattoo.
"Loretta," said driver Jeff, is the real name of the original "Girl in the Moon" on the 1907 neck label icon and named for the granddaughter of the company’s founder. In 1948, Jeff said, they changed the young girl "to look more like Rita Hayworth."
That’s the Loretta you see on the current incarnation.
In 1968, Philip Morris Tobacco bought a controlling interest in the company and decided to get rid of the Girl in the Moon. And in 1997, a new company bought the controlling interest and said, "bring back the girl."
Jeff smiled a lot as he talked. He never offered to give me a beer, or even a coupon for a beer. Never asked me if I drank beer, or what beer I drank. Gotta respect that.
(Cue the Bela Lugosi voice: "I don’t drink ... beer.")


(The preceding was my "Undercurrents" column in today's edition of The News Herald. Flomaton, Ala., for those not yet in the know, is Century, Florida's conjoined twin, with the L&N railroad tracks acting as a semipermeable membrane between the states.)

Friday, May 27, 2005

Back to what this was conceived as...

This blog was supposed to give a glimpse of what the process of manuscript-to-finished-book entailed. Without going into some of the drama of personal life, there's quite a bit of drama involved in the mechanics of publishing, and I'm not even on the inside edge of the publishing house.

For some time now, Michael Lister has been building a new Web presence for Pottersville Press, trying out various covers for books in the line and uploading information about authors and upcoming conferences. Meanwhile, my novel has been converted to a PDF file for proofing, a sort of electronic galley, that I went over with a fine-tooth electronic comb and sent back a list of "fixes" I spotted. The next post will be a foreshortened version of that seven-page (often redundant) list of mostly formatting problems created when the manuscript was converted for the PDF, apparently.

After that, I'll be posting what may be an early version of the inside cover flap copy -- the "teaser" stuff you might read in the dust jacket, as well as the info you might find under the author's photo on the inside back flap of the dust jacket. And I've found a photo that we might be using on the back cover. It's from a parade in Century and involves a man dressed as a giant pig in a white grocer's suit. Look for it. Soon.