Friday, May 10, 2013

Reading, Editing, Proofreading

A friend recently got a group together to offer free reading and editing help to authors who wanted this type of service. Apparently the group is off to a bit of a rough start. My friend's goal is pretty grand: get better-edited works out there in the self-published world.

The kerfluffle got me thinking about some of the technical stuff behind the craft of editing. Here are a few thoughts for anyone interested in how I approache the art and craft of editing. And a comment about reading for others too.

You'll notice right off that I call it "reading" and not "beta reading." Beta-testing is about finding errors to fix; reading before publication should be about offering an opinion about the effect a work had on you, the reader. If I am reading for someone I don't say much about grammar or spelling errors. I would make a general statement that I found the grammar awkward or difficult to read if that were the case. I try to state my observations in a fairly neutral way using comments, like, "I'm not sure how this section relates to the plot," or "this bit seems out of sync with the hero's character." And then I'll add some details about why I felt that way. And, yeah, I have to pony up to a yes or no about whether I'd purchase the book.

I would correct a typo or some odd usage if the manuscript was generally pretty grammatical and well-typed. In this case I'd consider myself "proofreader for a moment" and make sure the problem was pointed out. But notice that this is only when it really is a small something not a real edit.

Readers should be there to tell an author whether or not they enjoyed reading the piece. Even a piece that is warmly received by readers should have a lot of work ahead in the editing stage. Don't edit unless the work is really at the editing stage.

I believe that editing is truly an art and a craft. But, of course, there is no art without craft and well-crafted works are art. Here is a taste of my philosophy about editing.

Do no harm. Like doctors, the first thing I want to avoid is adding error, confusion, or unnatural weight to a work or completely erasing the author's voice.

Global changes. Often we misspell the same word over and over or favor an odd usage. When I see the same concern cropping up frequently I'll stop marking it and make a margin note that describes why I think the spelling or usage should be changed and how and then I'll circle that and write "global." Whew, think to myself, I've said my piece about that bit that concerns me and now it's the authors responsibility to make their choice and do a global find and replace. I stop thinking about it.

Content. Usually content includes plot, characters, setting, point of view, and such to an editor. I need to read for a few pages and get a feel for the author's style and way of developing these points. I will sometimes make small margin marks and write myself notes on separate paper so that I can find the place easily if some concern isn't resolved by the author later on. If I have a concern in any of these areas I'll write what's bothering me. I'll explain my concern. Note the words "bothering me" and "explain." This is my part of the job.

The attitude of the editor should reflect the business relationship here. If I am an editor at a publishing house and we're putting money into your work I expect to have oodles of authority. If I'm a freelance editor and you're paying me to make your work polished in the hopes of buckets of sales I'm responsible to give you the  best professional advice I can for creating a well-crafted book. If I am offering my best efforts for free, well, I feel responsible to offer yo the best advice I can for what I think will create a well-crafted book.

Proofreading. Believe it or not proofreading is really a special ability. A proofreader reads a manuscript looking for typos, weird text flow, line-end punctuation, misplaced words or really unpleasant usage errors. The proofreader should mark all these things but not mention plot or other content unless the problem is huge and would be glaring to anyone who reads it. This is the high-gloss polish every manuscript benefits from. I don't think I've ever read a whole book that doesn't end up with at least one typo. No worries, it's just life.

Notice that in all this work I don't critique. That is what I might do when I review a book. If I want to, I might offer an informational review that doesn't include a rating or critique. If I do want to critique, then I will. Until a piece is offered for sale I'll offer my thoughts but I won't agree to call that a critique.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Book review of Twisted Tales

Book Review of the Twisted Tales trilogy
Author: Stephanie Fowers

My disclaimer: Stephanie is a friend and I have read the Twisted Tales as a reader as well as a reviewer. This post review is for a blog tour organized by Xpresso Tours. Bloggers were given an electronic copy of each novel in return for the review.

Fun stuff: There is a U.S. giveaway for a hardcopy of each of the three books—one winner gets a copy of the trilogy. And, I have one ebook of With a Kiss to give away. International entries welcome for this copy. Here’s how I’ll run my contest: the winner will be the first to guess the total (or closest to the total) number of Fowerses, extended family included, involved with the production of the Twisted Tales series. In case of a tie, the first right guesser will be the winner. Leave a comment with your guess!


Right away, in With a Kiss, we are thrown into the action with Halley Starr and her high school classmates during their opening performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Something besides the play is going on. And Halley’s as mystified as we are! What is it? Who to trust? What on earth will happen next? And, above all, what should Halley do? 

Join the madcap adventure as Halley, her siblings, and their high school friends find their way into the Sidhe, the world of the faery folk. The rules are different: time isn’t the same, Halley can’t eat in the Sidhe, but oddly, she’s not hungry either. She’s barefoot in the snow but not dying of exposure. And maybe scariest of all Halley must trust Puck, the most unlikely of traveling companions, as they go forward hunting for answers and thwarting curses. Oh yeah, and there’s nobody else to take care of baby Babs is there?

The Tales are madcap adventure. Stephanie hobbles and cobbles fairy tales from all over Europe to create this fun work. The plot moves fast and furiously but the characters are well drawn and interesting. Usually the elements of character and plot are what draw me to a story but I found the setting and descriptive prose of the Twisted Tales are very fun. I especially liked Halley’s adventures in the Sidhe and Daphne’s time in the beanstalk in As the Sun Sets

In this short excerpt from As the Sun Sets the tendrils of vine that make up the beanstalk serve the every need of their visitors:

“I want that in tangerine . . . and blush.” The vines came charging back, flicking the rolled-up shirts into my hands, faster than any store clerk in Okanogan. I had a whole new wardrobe. I still couldn’t get the shoes off, but the adorable skinny jeans more than made up for that. What made me think I wanted to leave this place anyway? Therapy shopping had never been so fun. I held the slouchy shirt up to me. My only complaint was the Otherworldly’s recall on mirrors. “Oh, I think I want this in bone.”

The vine rushed away then hurtled back to my side. Its shoulders heaved with the exertion—well, not shoulders exactly. It was a beanstalk. It laid a bone in my hand, and I almost laughed. “Um, no, white. I meant I want it in white. Oh!” And I waved to stop it from going too far. “Get it in butter, too.”

“Are those even colors?” Hobs browsed distractedly through the faerytale book.
“Oh, you’re so jealous.” I stomped over to him in my new outfit. “You should change what you’re wearing.” I motioned over him and his checkered black and white mime-ness. “You’ve got . . . uh . . .”

 “. . . blood all over it?” His brow went up. “What’s with the shopping spree? I thought the vines only provided our needs?”

“I need new clothes. Lots of them!” I sighed, giving into the luxury of a deep yoga stretch. This was all I needed. New clothes to make me feel so, so . . . me. The vine stacked a neatly folded white shirt over my hair, along with something heavier and smaller, but soft. I reached up and pulled the stick of butter off my head. I gave it a cross-eyed look—it was the move that got the most laughs.

Hobs at least complied with that. It didn’t take much to get him to laugh. I played with Halley’s cameo at my neck, and coming to a decision, snapped it off. His hands stiffened over his book. “What are you doing with that?”

“I don’t need it anymore.” I laid it over what I assumed was the vine’s head, and Hobs’ hand slapped over it. He pocketed it, watching me closely. I didn’t feel like explaining, but there was a definite lecture in his eyes. With what looked like an extreme act of will, his eyes drifted back to his book.

Author Stephanie Fowers chose an ambitious schedule for the Twisted Tales trilogy. Each story moves cleanly into the next. Read them all to really know the tale. Stephanie chose to indie-publish so she could maintain concept control and release all books at once. She doesn’t like to wait for the next installment of a wonderful story so why ask it of her readers? 

Give them a read and have fun!


Stephanie Fowers loves bringing stories to life, and depending on her latest madcap ideas will do it through written word, song, and/ or film. She absolutely adores Bollywood and bonnet movies; i.e., BBC (which she supposes includes non-bonnet movies Sherlock and Dr. Who). Presently, she lives in Salt Lake where she's living the life of the starving artist. Stephanie plans to share more of her novels, films, and even a musical in the near future. May the adventures begin.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Remember, you can also win an ebook by commenting below (international entries included), and making your guess on how many Fowerses were involved in the making of this book (this includes extended family).

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


I started thinking about perfume the other day. I do this every now and then. Scent—well, um, smell—is really important to me. As are all the senses really. I think this bout of heigthtened senory perception started when I walked down a certain hall on my way to lunch the other day. I was very near the our company cafeteria when suddenly I was having sensations and memories of Amble, England. I like thinking about Amble: I have some great memories of castles, vistas, petrol stations, and seagulls along with a couple of not so great memories of a beating and pub-clearing brawl down the high street. But the most incredible thing is the scent that brings all of those memories back instantly—a whiff of Magie Noir perfume.

There was a storage room in the flat where I lived that smelled strongly of Magie Noir. The scent permeated the whole residence. I never did discover if there was a forgotten, leaking bottle of the stuff or just discarded clothing from a heavy user.

I don't wear Magie Noir. I had tried it and rejected it long before living in that Amble flat. And I tried it later too to see if the magic had changed after that time spent in Amble. No, the magic wasn't there with me so I rejected it again. That day in the hall on the way to the cafeteria I actually stopped for a moment wondering why the Amble prompt had been so strong. I detected a hint of Magie Noir lingering—I'm sure someone had walked through wearing that perfume.

Those experiences remind me that I don't have a perfume of my own. I miss it! I don't like to be awash in the stuff but sometimes I need my smell. So, once again I'm off on a quest to create or find the scent that want lingering on air when I sail past. I'll let you know what I find....

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Downton Abby: Or Dynasty Done Properly

Season three of Downton Abby has aired here in the States. And with this year's cliffhanger ending I caught my breath and asked the empty room, "Who shot J.R.?"

Then I remembered that was Dallas and it happened a very long time ago. And then I remembered how much people still talked about Dallas and Dynasty when I lived in England. (By the way, pronounce it DIN-ess-tea please.) Somehow folks couldn't—I supposed—come to grips with American-style over-the-top prime-time soap opera fantasy. I kept being asked why did they write that kind of story if it wasn't really the way we lived?

At the time I didn't think much of it. I thought it was just something fun to wind us Yanks up about. After all, plenty of Brits were there every episode for Eastenders and Home and Away, the Aussie import. How could American soaps be that odd? Like fussing about Coke Cola, it seemed a reason to gripe that we were turning them into the 51st state.

With all the Downton hype I think I finally have my cultural studies answer. Britian was jealous at America taking early honors in the pop-culture phenomenon of prime-time soap operas disguised as regular drama. They don't mind at all when we adopt and adapt their cultural norms: The Beatles, but they are the older culture and naturally meant to take the lead. Actually Britain feels nature-bound to take the lead so now they can over the top more than we did.

On the one hand Brits with Julian Fellows doing the writing that Downton Abby has street cred for life-in-a-big-country-house reality. On the other, even he is subject to actors, money, time, and whatever else goes into making a successful show.

But, really, does it matter? Downton Abby is fun. Soon it will even more Dynasty than ever. And, as always, if Britian would like to consider becoming the 51st state they'll need to fill in an application, be ready to fire the queen and dissolve parliment upon receiving statehood status.

Whew, I need some shopping therapy. Selfridges here I come!!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Yep, Valentine’s Day

Some years ago I spent a most unusual Valentine’s evening having dinner with my parents. It was six weeks before my dad’s death. Not that we knew the day was so close but his strength was failing and we we could see that. Not known really for his romantic gestures Poppa wanted to give my mom a special dinner. I’ve learned that when we can’t do something it often becomes a thing we want to do very badly. And dad wanted mom to have a real Valentine’s Day dinner. A proper celebration. Prime rib and all the fixings. So mom took the assignment to make sure that she had a nice dinner and enlisted my aid to make it happen. We ordered prime rib take out from a favorite hotel, packed up a tablecloth, china, silverware, flowers, and were sure to get permission to use a conference room at the skilled-care facility as our dining room for the evening.

We got there, got Poppa down to the conference room and found it full of family. Not our family—another family. Somebody had given them permission to use the room too. A teen in a wheelchair-cum-gurney laden with equipment needed a Valentine’s dinner too. We would have been glad to share a dining room but the conference room barely held all his family so we were glad to find another spot. 

We ended up in the mini cafeteria that served as the employee break room. Actually it was one of Poppa’s favorite spots. He had full permission to wheel himself down and have all the diet soda and snacks he wanted. I was never sure it was truly policy, but the staff encouraged his movement, decision making, and independence. And for Valentine’s dinners they didn’t charge mom and I for soda. So, the break room it was with all the clinical ambience of hospital white melamine and fluorescent lighting for our formal little table. We ate, we talked. Poppa was grateful. It was a prime rib dinner for Valentine’s Day.

That dinner was a object lesson about how love (the noun) requires love (the verb). Caring about each other and showing it matter and take effort. A friend of mine says that location doesn’t matter only who you’re with. I like that. Recently he even stoically sat though a stage performance of Les Miserable (his spelling, it wasn’t his thing) because, hey, it was a long date with his wife! Love (the noun) requires love (the verb).

So on this Valentine’s Day here are my suggestions:

To all—
Remember that advertisers say what they say and show the images they show to make money not to enhance your relationships. Same goes for sappy shows. Don’t base your emotional health on somebody else’s money-making needs.

To those without a sugar—
Be glad love exists.
Don’t envy lovers the joy they have in each other.
If you have to mourn, do it privately.
If you have to eat a whole carton of ice cream, well, enjoy it don’t just shovel it in.

To those of with a sugar—
Love the person more than the gift.
If the roses wilt in a couple of days gently pull the petals off and dry them.
Don’t give the gift you want to give, give the gift your sugar wants to receive.
Enjoy the labor of love.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras isn’t really my thing anymore. I’m not Catholic so there’s no preparing for Lent. I’m not a huge party person, so, you know, the revelry doesn’t appeal much. But, I was born in New Orleans and lived my first years looking forward to the annual Mardi Gras festivities. 

Here’s the Mardi Gras I remember—
For about a month we got to have a slice of king cake once a week during our reading group time at school. Once I even got the baby! It was a little nerve-wracking since I had to be queen for the week and I didn’t know how to handle that kind of attention. But, true to my New Orleans sweet tooth I would not have given up cake once a week for a month at school for shyness sake! King cake was one thing I really, really missed when I moved away.

We also had great fun at the Boy Scouts parade in our neighborhood. The troop was sponsored at church so I knew most of the paraders. Once my brother drove a little covered wagon pulled by a Shetland pony. I think it was a Shetland anyway. At this little event I could learn how to yell, “Throw me somethin’ mister!” and run and grab for treats and beads. I’m sure that I was too quiet for anyone to really hear and didn’t scramble like some of the other children but I learned how to do it all the same.

My mom and dad always took us to a parade downtown too. And sometimes a night parade. Those were exciting to a small girl. The parades by those big krews, Rex, Zulu, et al, were pretty raucous even way back then. I doubt mom and dad would have taken us to too many more. 

One of the most joyful things was going home and assessing all the treasures. Truly, Halloween candy hauls have nothing on Mardi Gras hauls: strings and strings of bead necklaces, ratchety noise makers, kazoos, candies—ahhh, the sweet life. I felt like I had a pirate treasure. Each year I remember how my stocks of Mardi Gras giveaways would slowly diminish and how I’d look forward to loading up again. 

I do, however, have one Mardi Gras heartbreak. I never got a dubloon. I wanted a real dubloon more than anything I could imagine. The gold, silver, and copper dubloons represent the coins that the Spanish grandees were once supposed to have tossed as they paraded down the streets on their horses. New Orleans has a lot of history and I loved the idea of the catching a dubloon and feeling like I had gotten a coin from a Spanish grandee. And it almost happened. At the very last Mardi Gras parade I attended I was standing on a step-ladder and a dubloon came my way. I couldn’t catch it but it fell at my feet and I stomped on it hard. It was mine! I thought it was probably only a copper dubloon but it was a dubloon—the thing I’d waited my whole life for. But, alas, before I retrieve it a little boy pried my foot up and snatched MY dubloon. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to yell thief, thief! But Mardi Gras is Mardi Gras so laissez les bons temps roulez, y’all!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


At church on Sunday there was a family with a six-month-old baby sitting behind me and baby was just over my left shoulder. On the row in front of me was a family with a two year old sitting just one spot to my left. Needless to say, the two year old caught sight of the baby. And she did all the things we do when we spot a baby: she gazed at him, she smiled, she made a face, she wiggled her fingers, she alerted her dad that there was a baby, she kept the baby's attention as long as she could.

Of course, time goes by and a baby she can't touch, talk to, or hold can't keep her attention engaged forever. Twenty minutes later she and I had prettty much the same exchange. We gazed at eath other, she gave me her "shall we play" look (this is the one that's going drive her dad crazy in a few years), she teased me as to whether she'd share her pretzels, we wiggled our fingers at each other, we smiled, and we touched our hands together a bit.

Engaging each other is pretty simple really. Some of us are really skilled at it and some, like me, do better with children and friends. But I'm working at it. Smiles are good. Just looking up and being aware of people around you is good. Be a little engaging today, it's good for you.