Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ten Questions for an Editor:

Odyssey Reviews caught up with editor William Greenleaf. We asked him ten questions:

Odyssey Reviews: Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background, and what compelled you to become an editor.
William: My career as an editor evolved from my career as a novelist. My first novel was published in 1980. When I started writing full time in 1987, I also began helping other writers through workshops. I discovered that I loved helping new writers break into print. I can think of nothing in life more satisfying than helping another writer bring out the best in his or her manuscript.

Odyssey Reviews: What type of book do you enjoy working with most?
William: I work primarily with novels (all genres) and story-oriented nonfiction such as memoirs and autobiographies.

Odyssey Reviews: What are the most common mistakes you find in the manuscripts you edit?
William: Many newer writers fail to employ writing techniques that pull the reader into the story and maintain a sense of anticipation. If the reader doesn’t care what happens next, he or she won’t keep turning pages. So I would have to say that the most common problem is lack of sufficient development in the central conflict. Viewpoint errors are also very common. Newer writers will be more successful at writing vivid, compelling scenes if they stick to the viewpoint of one character through each scene. When it comes to mechanics (grammar, punctuation, etc.), the most common error is in paragraph structure. Paragraph breaks can become dramatic spotlights when handled correctly. A good editor can often turn a confusing manuscript into a gripping story simply by combining and splitting paragraphs at the right points. Of course, a good editor must also fix other common mechanical problems such as misplaced commas, capitalization errors, and the overuse of passive voice.

Odyssey Reviews: In your opinion, what are the worst mistakes an author can make with a manuscript?
William: The worst mistakes are: 1) failing to spend enough time with the manuscript to make it as good as it can be, and 2) sending it to the publisher before it’s ready. If your story deserves to be told, it deserves to be told well so it will hold the reader’s interest from first page to last.

Odyssey Reviews: In your opinion, what are the most important qualities of a good, marketable manuscript?
William: It must appeal to a wide audience of readers, it must respect the reader’s intelligence by living up to the promises made in the cover blurbs, and it must build and maintain a sense of anticipation in the reader.

Odyssey Reviews: What is the oddest editing experience you’ve ever had?
William: I was once given the task of turning an academic treatise on chaos theory into a romance novel. It turned out to be easier than it sounds, and it launched my client’s novel writing career, which is still going strong.

Odyssey Reviews: What is the best way for an author to choose an editor?
William: Find an editor who has genuine credentials such as verifiable writing success and membership in professional organizations like the Authors Guild. Have a heart-to-heart talk with the editor and make sure he or she has a real interest in your book and feels positive about it. Make sure your editor is easily reachable via email and telephone.

Odyssey Reviews: Having a manuscript edited can be an expensive endeavor for some authors. Do you have any advice for authors on how to keep the cost down?
William: First of all, don’t spend money for something you don’t need. If you’ve decided to use a specific editor, look closely at the various literary services offered by the editor. After the editor has read your manuscript, ask for his or her advice about which services would be of most benefit for you. When I evaluate a manuscript, one of my goals is to determine how I can be of most help to my client. If the client is on a limited budget, then my decision becomes: How can I best serve this author within that budget?

If you can’t afford to hire a professional editor, take stock of your circle of friends and family members. Getting feedback from several avid readers can help, though it’s often difficult for friends and relatives to be objective. You may want to consider checking with your local college or university. Graduate students often moonlight as editors. If you do this, don’t assume that the person is qualified just because he or she is a graduate student in English or literature. Ask to see samples of the editor’s work. If you’ve written a novel, don’t hire someone who hasn’t had experience with novels. If you’ve written your memoirs, make sure the editor has experience with memoirs or autobiographies. In other words, no matter how much you spend, make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.

Odyssey Reviews: What are the three most misused words you've noticed in your editing work?
William: Alright (not yet accepted, should be all right), misusing to and too, and misusing there and their.

Odyssey Reviews: Do you have any other special tips, anecdotes or advice for first time authors?
William: Take time to learn about the book publishing business. If you decide to self-publish your book, consider your options. Should you go with a print-on-demand publisher, or a traditional publisher? Will you retain the rights to your book? Be aware that printing your book is the easy part; selling it is quite another matter. What will the publisher do to promote your book? Does the publisher have a solid (and verifiable) track record for book sales? Take time to educate yourself before you sign on the dotted line.

Thank you Mr. Greenleaf; your insights are extremely valuable.

Here is William's website:
Greenleaf Literary Services:
Contact information:
William Greenleaf
2717 La Luz Circle NE
Rio Rancho, NM 87144

Phone: 505-796-6895


Our next interview: A book cover designer.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Keith Rowley; "The Aquarius Key"

Sue and Bill Williams live normal contented lives: Sue is a handsome woman in love with her husband, and Bill, a successful, hard-driving businessman. In the blink of an eye, everything changes. They are thrown into a reality where they come face-to-face with true evil. People they’ve known and trusted for years suddenly become their greatest peril—and neither of them would have ever guessed that they would play an integral role in bringing evil into their world. Bill not only discovers that an occult group is responsible for this madness, but that his brother Peter is part of it all.

I never give the 5-medallion rating easily; however every blue moon you come across a book that just knocks your socks off for the quality of writing and the complexity and magnetism of the story. I’ve stumbled onto one right here. The Aquarius Key is in my opinion, the technical standard to which all self-published authors should aspire. The writing is clean and as sharp as a blade and the story tight and cohesive, with that incredible pull that makes you wish your day would go faster so you can go home and read it some more.

There are some scenes of a violent sexual nature in this book, as well as other themes that are appropriate for adult readers only. This book touches on the darker nature of the occult and esoteric practices that may not be palatable to certain people. I will openly admit that many parts of this book just screeched right over the top of my head; I claim no great knowledge of the esoteric practices, nor do I pretend to understand it all in great depth; however the well-researched glimpses Mr. Rowley paints of the ceremonies and teachings of Kabbalah and magic were vivid and enlightening. He showed with credibility what a fine line it can be between good and evil, using fiction, history, science and fact in a graceful dance of words.

Keith Rowley introduces the reader to the dark history of Aleister Crowley, to the Thelemic texts, and to the darker side of the practices. He follows the spiritual schooling of a young Peter throughout the book, giving his reader a cursory edification into the practices of magic. It was fascinating but the flow of information was a bit overwhelming at times, which is the only criticism I have of this book.

I give The Aquarius Key five medallions. It is an excellent read; and I recommend it to anyone who likes an intelligently presented novel and a thrilling, hair-raising story.

Author: Keith Rowley
Genre: Fiction/Occult
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc. (August 24, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN: 0595393732

Thursday, August 16, 2007

To Edit or Not To Edit?

Okay; so it costs money. As my father said; you have to spend money to make money. And if you want your book to sell, or be noticed, or to have some credibility, it needs to be a clean manuscript. Period. That’s a hard truth, and it’s probably why many, many authors get their manuscripts and query packages hucked into the slush pile.

But editors are expensive you say. Yes they are. And they are not foolproof. I personally had my book edited, and I still found little things here and there after publication. It happens—even with the best books. You also need to keep in mind that when you work on Word, with auto-formatting, that when iUniverse, or whatever other self-publishing company takes your work, and drops it into their page setting software, that those little auto formatting doodads will vanish, and leave some sentences with no period at the end, and various other little quirks. Those are excusable and easily preventable.

BUT, I digress; editing is really a necessary evil. Some publishers are willing to take on that cost, but us wee little self-published folks cannot always afford the expense. However, it can never hurt to find out how much it could cost you. Maybe it is affordable; you just haven’t found the right editor. Allow me to recommend this site:

This lovely site has a network of editors. You submit to the general site for a quote; a simple process where you sent an excerpt of your work, and the site will broadcast it to their network of editors. It’s like lending-tree for authors! You get all these bids. The editors will do a sample edit of your work and quote you a cost per word. I didn’t choose the cheapest one, I chose the one whose editing resonated best with me, but at least it gives you something to shoot for. It may not get you in with a traditional publishing house, but at least when and if you self-publish, it will be a nice, clean book that looks and sounds professional. So simply; getting your book professionally edited can never hurt.

So, they cost is still too much! What to do?

Well, there are alternatives; which will not be as good as a thorough editing, but maybe at least enough to make your book as professional as it can be.
  • Do you still have access to your old English teacher/professor? Perhaps they can be prevailed upon to assist you in this regard.
  • Line up six friends or relatives, and have them pass the manuscript on, each marking up what they find and initialing the work of the prior ‘editor’ if they agree with the edit. Leave the back side of each page blank so that your ‘editors’ can write questions about the plot, continuity, consistency… notes that there are probably research of factual errors, character flaws that are gaping wide.
  • The little red and green lines under your text on MSWord. Yeah. Those are trying to tell you something. No MSWord? Find somewhere where you can use it, but Word may not be the dream editor, but it will help you tremendously.
  • Get a homonym dictionary. Figure out the difference between their/they’re/there, you’re/your/yore; horse/hoarse, bridle, bridal, mantel, mantle… and all the similar little gaffs that can make a reader’s eye come to a screeching halt.
  • Figure out what apostrophes signify. You may think you know these things, but you really might not… What’s plural, what’s contraction, what is possessive? What’s right? Pies or Pie’s? Hers or Her’s, CDs or CD’s? These may seem like innocuous mistakes, but to many readers they are maddening, and they can be an instant turn-off.
  • Get a Roget’s Thesaurus. You might not see that repeated word until it’s too late.
  • Get a dictionary. Don't use $10 words without knowing their full meaning.

In summary: You may think your story will stand on its own. It might. Chances are; what you might perceive as superficial things like spelling, grammar, flow and continuity are really pulling it down. You could have the next Harry Potter series, but if it looks like a third grader wrote it, well… how far do you think your readers are going to get before they toss it aside?

You have to be honest with yourself about your work. No matter how confident you are in how good it is, you need to be objective about how it is presented on paper. And if it takes extra work or extra dollars to make it worthy, then do it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Dwayne G. Anderson; "Partially Human"

Joshua Plofard grows up in 1980's Los Angeles, polite and kind, popular, loved, and respected -- and, the unwitting incubator of alien DNA. His mother is contemplating the right moment to share this with Joshua when he is wounded and the secret is prematurely revealed. When the citizens of LA discover what flows in Joshua's blood, everything changes. Those who once sought Joshua now shun him. He is ridiculed, taunted, and targeted. Joshua launches a crusade to convince the now intolerant community that he is still just Joshua and not the freak they have come to see him as. With the support of a few friends and his mother, Joshua valiantly opposes the small mindedness of the ignorant, eludes The Prejudice (a cold-blooded eliminator), and saves an alien race on the verge of extinction.

Mr. Anderson's words are delivered entirely sans pretense. No smoke and screens; no circuitous plot. What remains is a simple tale of goodness versus the evil of intolerance. His characters are compelled to be unguardedly honest and straight to the point. If you are looking for an intricate, word-woven story, this may not be the book for you. But, if you are interested in writing that dispenses with the fluff and unabashedly contends with the age old struggle of discrimination, then you can curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and this soft cover for a nice afternoon read. The author says "the theme of the story is that of friendship, love, compassion, and loyalty triumphing over human ignorance and prejudice." Toward that end, his delivery is unfailing.

Odyssey Reviews gives “Partially Human” 2.5 medallions.
Genre: Science Fiction
Reading Level: Child to Young Adult
Author Blog

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Scott Allen; "Survival Op: The Fear in the Wilderness"

Author Scott Allen brings us the story of Marcus; an orphaned, homeless pre-teen who is abducted off the streets and taken to a mysterious island in the enigmatic Bermuda Triangle, and subjected to an existence of harsh survival for the experimentation of a covert government agency. Marcus is joined by Lynn, a young girl who is also orphaned, and the two young people struggle together to find the basic necessities that will keep them alive in a bizarre jungle wilderness replete with creeping, shadowy, carnivorous beasts and government hunters who are hell-bent on destroying them.

The reader will follow these two characters as they struggle to find the things they need to subsist in this harsh wilderness, and as they fight to stay alive. The characters use their smarts and their wits, developing creative weaponry with found and salvaged items; obtaining food, finding and furnishing a hidden shelter; and offer an array of crucial skills anyone could benefit from knowing. These characters must accomplish all these things while simultaneously dealing with the constant threat of being murdered by the assassins dispatched to hunt them down, not to mention the mysterious monster that gobbles up the aftermath of each bloody battle with these child-hunters.

There are some scenes of significant violence and gore depicted in this novel, and perceived by an adult, it might take away from the concept and message. There is also the question of the dialogue, which sounds a little stiff and un-teen-like. The author could benefit from consulting with members of this age group in order to make the dialogue more real. Those issues aside, this is undeniably an exciting, suspenseful read, with lots of action and mystery to compel the reader to keep reading.

Survival Op: The Fear in the Wilderness is a commendable endeavor by the author for his debut book in this genre and age-group, and doubtless, as Scott Allen adds more volumes to this series, they will only get better.

Odyssey Reviews gives Survival Op: The Fear in the Wilderness 4 medallions.

Reading level: Ages 9-12 (Young Adult Fiction)
Paperback: 156 pages
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc. (March 1, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0595420621