Abominable Firebug
Since I’m not an English scholar, I hired a copy editor to make the text correspond to accepted standards. It cost me five-hundred-fifty dollars! The worst part was that I had to approve or disapprove of all the marked-up text. This took longer (it seemed) than writing the book from scratch. After I reviewed the manuscript for the zillionth time, I noticed that the copy editor had concatenated sentences, making them complex, thereby opening the door to subsequent editors. He was planning something —possible future work for other editors. Also, I noticed that some proper names were misspelled to the form usually found in word processor dictionaries.

So, I made some corrections to the names and hired another copy editor to correct the corrections. The result was a subsequent seven-hundred-fifty dollar fee. Now, after the editors had cost me much more than I had planned to spend on a mere book, I sent it off to the publisher.

Of course, the publisher will publish anything you send them. However, if you want your book actually to appear in stores, you need to become part of the “Publisher’s Choice” program:



This means that you pay them another seven-hundred-fifty dollars to read the manuscript. This done, they required another fifteen-hundred dollars to “fix” what had already been fixed twice. You see, you must use their editors in order to comply with their rules du jour. So, after the money changed hands, I waited. Three weeks later, I got back the edited manuscript and, again had to waste several days accepting each “correction” in order to correspond to their rules. Do you detect a pattern here? Methinks one could edit English text forever.

Of course, while the editorial review board was inspecting the text to make sure that there were no commas missing and that none of those ghastly semicolons were used, they conveniently ignored that I left the real name of a man that I am accusing of a crime in the text! Guess they wanted to make money for lawyers as well. One of the editors did question if I thought it was proper to use the word “Black” instead of using “African American.” I think I will start to use African American as soon as I am being called a European American. Also, why can’t I use “an” before European? It begins with a vowel doesn’t it? Don’t bother to answer. It’s for the same reason “however” doesn’t always have a comma attached. It’s one of the many exceptions that provide work for copy editors as they continue to edit —edits.

Anyway, that’s not the end! After I sent the manuscript back with the editing that they required, they decided to review it again! Yes, you guessed it! They found other things “wrong.” They wanted to “correct” their “corrections” again. I finally said; “Better is the enemy of good enough.” I threatened to cancel and take the work to another publisher. The threat didn’t do any good. In fact, it probably prolonged my agony, as the publisher seemed to become more punitive as I had questioned their capability. The last time I contacted them for a status report, the response took two weeks! That’s apparently how they get even!

The publisher even refused to use the cover art that William Tin, a professional artist, had produced:



The artist actually read the manuscript and tried to capture some of its contents into its cover.

The publisher instead, provided its own cover art after writing a specification that I approved and they ignored. The resulting cover was completely unlike the specification, and it contained the most amateurish errors so that, in low light, the text was indistinguishable from the background:



The designer had no clue about the color triangle or the relative intensity of colors. In low light, where colors tend to disappear, the cover is unreadable. Notice the orange text on the orange background!

I’m going to start a diary. This way everybody will know what’s going on so I won’t have to answer so much email.

Today is April 24th. I was supposed to be at the NAB convention in Las Vegas; giving out copies of my book to broadcasters I had met throughout the years. I didn’t have any books. Instead, I sit by my computer hoping that the publisher, iUniverse, will get off its duff and answer my email.

Not a chance. I composed a letter and put it in a mailbox before I could change my mind. I had just fired the publisher! I feel a strange sort of relief. Three months of hell lifted off my back in an instant!

Tomorrow, I will find another publisher. I can’t imagine how such a company could stay in business.
Today is April 25th and I just received an email message from Janet Noddings, my contact at iUniverse. She stated, in part, that she had discussed my letter with Ms. Susan Driscoll, the CEO. Ms. Driscoll has offered to refund my submission and editing cost if I would let them finish publishing the book. I have already lost the spring window of opportunity so I will have to wait, even for another publisher. I would be provably insane if I didn’t let them refund my money and finish the book.
Today is May 5th. I had planned to fly to Taos, New Mexico, for the Cinco de Mayo celebration. I used to live in Taos and this has been my spring vacation destination for many years. Instead, I wait by my computer, hoping to hear from my publisher. Still, no book. Maybe I should fire them again
Today is May 8th. Another week has gone by and I still don’t have a book. I did get some kind of certificate in the Saturday mail, sort of like a gold star from a grade school teacher, declaring how wonderful it was to be in the Publisher’s Choice program. I quickly hid it away before I could be overwhelmed with destructive impulses, resulting in tearing it to bits. By the way, the certificate came with an embedded bug smooched into it so it’s not really suitable for framing anyway! There’s a similar mark on the cover letter where the two became a bug sandwich.
Today is May 12th. Guess what? I just got an email saying that the editing is complete, the book will be moved to final production today, and that final step in the production process takes about a week. Yawn! I will believe it when I see it. I’ll keep you posted!
Today is May 16th. I just got some email from the publisher that says the book is ready! They verified my home address, where they should send the initial samples, and I checked that the iUniverse link for purchasing books actually works! So, I enabled the buttons on my web-site so somebody could actually purchase the book! Now I have to take a work-break so I can remain a successful engineer!


So, that’s the Reader’s Digest version of the start of a new book!
Richard B. Johnson

So, why in the world did I write this book? Many have asked me that question since it was first published.

I think there is something that I can do about what’s happening right now. In the roughly one-hundred-fifty year history of the Lyman School there was an average of three-hundred boys who went through that institution every year. That’s forty-five-thousand boys whose lives have been affected by that institution. Roughly ten percent should still be alive. That’s forty-five-hundred for that institution alone. Multiply that by fifty states and you have about one-quarter million men that spent most of their lives with the “guilt” of attending a reform school. They don’t dare tell anybody. Even their wives are often left in the dark, because of the stigma attached to attending a reform school.

The only thing one hears about reform schools are the bad persons that attended them like the “Boston strangler,” and Jesse Pomeroy.

What I want to show is that successful people also attended these dreadful places and, often through no fault of their own. I want to show that not only was I successful but also many others were successful as well. We didn’t get good press. Mark Devlin, the author of Stubborn Child, wrote a “woe is me” book. He wanted the world to feel sorry for him and, frankly, the world’s population has more important things to do. He died as a homeless alcoholic at the age of fifty-six. Basically, he never grew up. He never understood that most people don’t give a damn. One needs to make ones own happiness -and, incidentally, this usually requires one to touch other lives in positive ways just like Rev. Bob Brown who wrote the Afterword in my book.

Incidentally, I wrote the on-line encyclopedia entries for Mark Devlin as well as the Lyman School for Boys. The Lyman School article will probably soon be deleted because I am not qualified to have written it, according to an arrogant administrator. The Mark Devlin article has already been deleted once, but I found a friend who restored it. That’s politics in its most egregious form.

One of the most important things that I want people to understand is the resilience of youth. There are too many people, often employed in positions of authority over children that think, or demonstrate by their actions that children “gone bad” are to be cast aside, thrown away, abused, or used for the pleasure of perverts. Right now the juvenile corrections industry is being privatized in many states. States like the Commonwealth of Massachusetts did such a poor enough job of protecting the children under its care in the past that one should never think that a company, organized to maximize the return upon investment for its stockholders, would ever do better. The general public needs to know something about these institutions. Basically, it’s an out of sight, out of mind situation for much of the public because there are so few juvenile delinquents (juvenile delinquency is not a big problem). Until some parent in a small community needs to handle the strife of their child being “remanded” to the custody of the state, nobody even knows what is happening. By then, it’s way too late.

I hope my book starts to bring some light upon what’s been a very dark secret. Check out “About reform schools” on my web site.

Next, my book is a validation of many who dedicated their lives to helping displaced children. I mentioned Bob Brown. Most of the staff at Lyman School was dedicated persons who tried to help undo some of the damage that the state had inflicted upon the children in its care. There were a few bad apples but, for the most part, the cottage masters and matrons tried their hardest to create a reasonable environment.

Finally, my book demonstrates the extremely damaging environment suffered by children when they are not considered to have any civil rights. Police, teachers, and even corporations tended to ignore even the most basic attributes of humanity when dealing with children in the fifties and sixties. The rights of children could again be revoked and it would take a million dollars to bring an action all the way to the Supreme Court. We need to have a Constitutional amendment that states that all persons under the protection or control of the United States of America, regardless of age, are protected by the Constitution. Of course I can’t do that, but I can show why it must be done.

As a post-script, right now, it is impossible to find out what kinds of “therapies” are being used to restrain children in detention centers. People who work at these places are, under pain of termination, prevented from discussing anything to anybody outside their clique. As long as this clique remains, I think it’s an avenue by which perverts help other perverts get hired at these institutions, thus maintaining the damaging abuse that I’m sure continues.


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