The New York veneer

If you live in New York (and possibly other big cities) you may have noticed how people de-animate when they are in public. They walk with purpose, look straight ahead, and ignore everything and everyone around them. I think we all do it to varying degrees in this city. I suppose you have to. Essentially, we delete 99.99999% of humanity from our world view. How would you ever get where you’re going otherwise? Conversely, and this is the bit non-New Yorkers maybe wouldn’t get, when we see someone we know, arms are outflung, voices raised and eyes widen as we smile and hug and remark how truly amazing it is to see someone on a sidewalk on a Tuesday at 4:15 in the afternoon. We say how great it is to see each other, and it is, because up to that point we really hadn’t perceived a single soul.

My ARC isn’t flood resistant, but I do hope it floats

Sorry, bad pun. The ARC (advanced reading copy) for A Darkness Forged in Fire arrives the middle of this month. In essence, this is the book in first pages, bound in trade paperback format with a draft of the cover. It’s aimed primarily for reviewers, blurbers, store accounts and subrights and as such notes among other things marketing, publicity and co-op plans. As it’s not the final version they stamp “Not Final Version” and “Do Not Quote From This Version” and various other warnings on the cover. By sending them out in February the hope is that reviewers get enough time to read and write up their review to coincide with the pub date in July. Of course, you hope the review is positive, but that’s a subjective decision made by the reader. ARCs also go to certain buyers at major chains and stores/people of note/sway in the field with the hopes that they read it, like it, and then champion it. I sound like Obama, but it’s all about hope. If you can get a few people behind it, this can lead to a bigger buy by one of the chains. That can in turn spur the other chains to do the same and things build from there.

Six month countdown

I’ve now gone through the copyedited ms and am starting to deal with the queries. For anyone unfamiliar with this I’ll explain. The copy editor is given his or her marching orders from the editor – “Dear god, this is a mess, fix it!” to “A light pass is all that’s needed.” When the copy editor returns the ms there are typically post-its with queries throughout asking for clarification (more places are moving toward doing this electronically, but thankfully for this dinosaur we’re still using paper) and noting any incongruence. The queries will range from noting that the color of a character’s hair has changed from one chapter to another to questioning if a word or term sounds appropriate to the time period in question and so on. The editor will look through these first and deal with or remove any queries that are easy to deal with and/or may enrage or otherwise upset the author. The editor then has his/her assistant make a copy of the copyedited ms to ensure all this work isn’t lost (and what loads of fun that is copying a ms with post-its sticking all over it.) The copy is then sent to the author with a very short time frame to get it back to the editor. This is done for two reasons: 1, because time is always of the essence, and 2, because it gives the author less time to make massive rewrites. As I’ve been reading I’ve found a few areas I want to tweak, but overall I’m pleased with the copyedit (the copyeditor made some great catches) and looking forward to the next stage.

I’ll try to keep a running post as the book moves toward the pub date in July and am happy to answer questions if anyone is curious about how all this works. Keep in mind, though, that my split personality of editor-author makes me about the worst possible example as I know just enough to be really, really dangerous.

My debt to MacDonald Fraser

I’ve never tired of talking about the works of George MacDonald Fraser. While a lot of people knew his Flashman series, fewer knew of his nonfiction work, especially his masterpiece Quartered Safe Out Here. I first read it while doing my Masters after my thesis adviser gave me a copy. Not only is it aggressively honest, its observation of the tiniest details is like staring at a Faberge egg and finding new and even more intricate bits you missed the first ten times before. I would highly recommend Quartered Safe to anyone looking to improve the writing of characters, narrative, humor, poignancy, action, and most definitely dialogue. The man was a master.

As it happens I just received the copyedited ms of A Darkness Forged in Fire yesterday and am going through the corrections now. I had always planned to acknowledge my admiration and debt to MacDonald Fraser and had hoped he would have been pleased that he inspired someone as profoundly as he did me. It’ll be a bitter sweet moment when I write that acknowledgment now.