Books by Melissa Bowersock

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Author Interview: Bill Munns

Today I’m sitting down with William (Bill) Munns, author of When Roger Met Patty. No, it’s not exactly a romance. It’s actually a very intensive non-fiction investigation of the famous Bigfoot sighting in Northern California in 1967. You may not remember hearing about it back then, but I’m pretty sure you’ll recognize the most iconic frame of the video that was shot that day.

So, Bill, can you give us a quick rundown of the events of that fateful day as they were reported?

Munns: Roger Patterson had a strong interest in researching the Bigfoot phenomenon for over seven years, and he spent a tremendous amount of time exploring wilderness areas where sightings and trackways were known to have been. Bob Gimlin was a very experienced horseman and had some tracking experience as well, so Roger frequently enlisted Bob’s participation in these excursions. In August, 1967, a trackway was found in the Blue Creek Mountains near Bluff Creek, CA. and Roger was told of this so he decided his next trip would be Northern California in October. Bob Gimlin agreed to come along and other men were invited but couldn’t be away from home for several weeks. So Roger and Bob began exploring the Bluff Creek region in early October and spent weeks searching but finding nothing. On that fateful day, October 20, 1967, they were on horseback riding north along Bluff Creek when they encountered “Patty” (as she is known to Bigfoot researchers), an apparent female Bigfoot. Roger had a 16mm camera loaded and set to film on a moment’s notice, and he grabbed it, chased Patty and filmed as he ran after her, capturing the most controversial home movie in history, the Patterson-Gimlin Film.

What’s the genesis of this book? What made you want to tackle this very controversial subject?

Munns: My interest in the film, and Patty, has been casual since the filming was announced in 1967, because I was in college and studying filmmaking and makeup for films. There was immediate suspicion the film was a hoax, and Patty was just some guy in a fur ape suit, and because I was learning about “creature effects” and ape suits, I was curious about why Patty didn’t look like any ape suits I was aware of. But it wasn’t until around 2008 that I thought about contacting one of the prominent Bigfoot researchers and simply offering my appraisals based on my work as a “creature guy” (a makeup artist who does creatures and special makeup effects). But once I actually researched the film images in depth and the controversies around the filming, I felt that I could make a valuable contribution to this research. Once I applied myself to this project, I soon became recognized as a researcher who could bring a unique perspective and professional expertise to resolving the controversies.

The arguments for and against this being real are very complex. What expertise do you bring to this discussion?

Munns: My expertise in the special makeup effects profession was initially what I felt I could contribute, but as I studied the film controversy more, I realized that there were issues of cameras, lenses, film editing and image analysis that I could also apply to the analysis of this film and the suspicion of hoaxing. In my seven-year effort, I also assembled the finest film image scan database of research material ever held by any researcher, and so I was able to study and analyze issues that no prior researcher could resolve.

I believe the general public thinks the sighting was faked. Can you tell us why you disagree?

Munns: The subject figure in Patterson’s film (called a creature by many) is a real biological entity as she appears, and is not a human in a fur costume, to a certainty. There are many specific aspects of her anatomy which could not be accomplished with a human in a fur costume back in 1967. The most compelling are: (1) The head shape and size presents a challenge for a costume mask that no makeup artist creating ape suits has ever successfully done, even now; (2) the breasts have a fluidity and natural shifting of form when she walks that no costume prosthetics in 1967 could replicate, and this has been tested scientifically; (3) the skin along the side of the torso going down the leg to the knee has an elastic shifting that occurs on real human anatomy, but no fur materials of the 1960s could replicate; (4) the contours of the back and lower spine area have a shape that was never designed into costumes but perfectly matches human anatomy, when the combination of muscle mass, adipose tissue deposits, and posture are all factored together.

All of these considerations scientifically support a real biological body and refute a fur costume worn by a human performer.

There are also many subtle but meaningful facts that can be revealed by analysis of the film simply as filmed footage, and what the camera operator did, and these facts also verify the event was spontaneous, frenzied, and not staged or planned.

What would someone have to do to prove this is all a fake? What would they have to do to prove it’s real?

Munns: To prove the film is a fake, one simply has to find evidence in the film of some kind of act of deliberation on the part of the filmmaker, editing the original before copying, taking more time than just a minute or two for the whole event filming, or some discontinuity between the actions of the camera operator in relation to the actions of the filmed subject. Any of these would be an absolute and factual proof of a faked film, a hoax. But the film has been meticulously examined for such and no evidence was found.

The primary proof that the film is real lies in the analysis of the filmed subject figure, “Patty”, because there are many subtle aspects of her anatomy that simply could not have been created with a human in a fur costume in 1967 (and some couldn’t even be done today). But the proof requires an extensive knowledge of makeup effects technology of the 1960s and few researchers today truly understand how things were done back then. I started makeup work in 1967, so I can confidently say I am truly familiar with the materials, processes, and effects that could be accomplished then.

You’ve got some very technical arguments in your book. Would you say this book is more written for film insiders or for anyone who has an interest in this fascinating subject?

Munns: I tried to find a balance between the general reader and the more technically astute reader, and give both an explanation in layman’s terms, as well as a more detailed and technical explanation. But for the more technical matters, I also tried to include some foundation knowledge to educate the reader as to the basis for the technical discussions. So in many respects, the book is an educational text as well as a remarkable investigation into one of the great mysteries of the 20th century.

What else are you working on? Any more books in the future?

Munns: I am considering a follow-up book with a higher level of technical discussion of the research work, and a primer for future researchers and people wanting to study this in depth. But I also have interest in other varied factual topics, and do enjoy writing fiction stories based on humanistic themes and offering some measure of hope. I am intrigued by what people can accomplish, and I am attracted to ideas that inspire people to reach for the highest accomplishments they are capable of. But this book, this whole endeavor, is quite unique, because there is no other controversy quite as profound and bizarre at the same time. My satisfaction dwells in the confidence that I made a difference, and helped find a truthful answer to a question people have been asking for 48 years.

Bill, thanks very much for taking the time to explain to us about your book and the fascinating mystery it's based on. If people want to find out more about you and the book, where should they look?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Joy of Editing

Ever since I hung out my editing shingle late last year, I have been fortunate to have a nice flow of work coming in--not a flood, but more than a trickle. Just enough to keep me busy. And I'm enjoying it immensely. I've always had a knack for spelling, punctuation and grammar, and I enjoy getting it right, but it goes beyond that. 

I get to help people bring their dreams to life.

Several of my clients have been first-time authors just beginning the process of transferring their ideas into reality. I love the dance as we explore their vision for the book. I will generally take the first chapter to read and edit, giving suggestions or asking questions, then ship it back to them to see how my ideas gel with theirs. If we're lucky, we have similar ideas and we can move forward as a team toward the ultimate goal of making the book the best it can be. 

That doesn't always happen. I've had a few instances where my ideas were not even close to the author's, and we've agreed quickly that we're not a good fit together and move on. Such is life, and of course it's better this way. Neither one of us would enjoy the process, and the result would not be as good as it could be, if we were on different pages. 

But with those whose ideas do dovetail with mine, we make an awesome team. It's pure joy to take a rambling, sometimes disjointed conglomeration of sentences and give it structure, flow and punch. It's great fun to take a Word doc and mold it into book format so the author can see, sometimes for the first time, what their brainchild will actually look like. And of course, it's ecstasy when the author holds that first book in their hand, when the idea in their head becomes a real, tangible thing. It's not even my book, but I can feel the satisfaction and the sense of accomplishment right along with them. 

Can't beat that with a stick.

Check out my services here.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Open Letter to all Beta-Readers

Dear Beta-Reader:
Dear Beta-Reader:Okay, I’ve written my magnum opus. I’ve elicited friends, family and beta-readers to read it, and I’m waiting on pins and needles for the feedback. I’m sitting with fingers and toes crossed, holding my breath, checking e-mail every five seconds, hoping against hope that the readers will like it. Then I get the first response: “I liked it. It’s good.”
Helpful? Yeah, no. Of course I would love to have my first readers ooh and ahh over the book, but this very non-specific comment is not constructive. Nice as it is, it tells me nothing.
The purpose of beta-readers is not to stroke my writer’s ego. That job belongs to my mother. The purpose of beta-readers is to find all the shortcomings in my writing before I push the publish button. They need to take that puppy out for a rigorous shake-down cruise and find every bug, every glitch, every typo, misplaced comma, and inconsistent tense. It’s painful to get feedback with a laundry list of problems, but would I rather see that list now, in a private e-mail before publication, or see it pasted up in a lambasting Amazon review for all the world to read?
(And if you have to think about that, writing is not the business for you.)
The two things writers need from beta-readers are honesty and specificity. Honesty because, “I liked it,” when you didn’t is not helpful. I know, we all want to encourage our friends, we want to be supportive. But tough love is the rule here. Did you have to force yourself to finish the book when you really just wanted to throw it in a corner and forget about it? Did you find yourself groaning again and again over the wrong use of it’s for its? Did you roll your eyes at every exchange of dialog because, really, who talks like that? Or did you have to re-read sentences or even whole paragraphs because they just didn’t make sense?
Really. I need to know. I’ll thank you for it. (Well, maybe not right away. But eventually. Probably.)
Okay, I can hear it now: How do I tell her the book stinks? How do I tell her it bored the pants off me? I’ll make her mad. I’ll hurt her feelings. I can’t do that.
Yes, you can. I need you to do that. My ruffled feelings will heal. If I publish a book that’s full of errors and bad writing, that stays out there in the public eye for a long, long time.
Enter the next criteria: specificity. Be as specific as you can be in your feedback. Cushion it if you like in the soft cotton of personal opinion (which is perfectly valid) to soften the blow, but remember always that you and the writer are working as a team toward the same goal: making the book the best it can be. In this vein, here are some examples of what you might need to say and what the writer needs to hear.
I like your main character, but he’s so blind to the lies of the female lead that I just found him frustratingly stupid. I understand he thinks he loves her, but I felt it was unrealistic of him to not notice how she was using him.
You change POVs a lot, jumping from one character to the next and I found it hard to keep up with who was thinking what.
I found the premise of using human sacrifice to gain power to be totally unbelievable, and you never really established why the character thought that would work.
All three of your main characters have names that start with D. I found it difficult to separate them out at first, and it made it hard to get to know each one individually.
You introduce 15 characters in the first three pages without giving me any distinguishing characteristics to separate them. I need fewer names, more descriptions to keep them straight.
On the first page, you said the main character’s last name was Johnson, but in Chapter 21, you say it’s Jones. Pick one, then do a search and replace to make them all the same.
By the same token, give positive specific feedback when you can. Believe me, writers love to know when something works.
I love your description of the mountains and the valley below. I felt like I could actually see it in my mind.
The twists and turns of the story really had me guessing and the ending was a total surprise. I never saw that coming.
I thought your dialog was excellent; it sounded completely realistic.
And finally, one last point. If you can respond to me in this way, YOU ARE GOLD. Having an extra set of eyes look at the book, having a fresh, open mind take my text journey, and then giving me your honest impression is worth more than you know. Because I have the entire story in my head — everything from what happened to my character when he was five years old to what he had for breakfast this morning — I’m not always sure if I have put enough of that on the paper — or too much. Your feedback is priceless. Believe me, Beta-Readers, you seriously rock.
Originally posted on Indies Unlimited on May 27, 2014.