BOOK & BLOG
February 14, 2011
Books of the Week
If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool paranormal reader, Trisha Telep’s anthology is the perfect birthday present. There are twenty-four short stories in The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance, and some of them are by big names like Kelley Armstrong, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Cheyenne McCray, Rachel Caine, Jeaniene Frost, Ilona Andrews . . . really, there are some heavy hitters. Though I haven’t finished the book, and I’m skipping around in it, so far my favorite is Holly Lisle’s “Light Through Fog,” running very closely with Ilona Andrews’s “Grace of Small Magics.” Though I’m enjoying the quick world-building necessary to a short story, I’m struck by the awkward endings on several of the offerings. I suddenly realized that probably romance writers aren’t called upon for short stories too often. Is there a regular venue for romance short stories?
Dana Stabenow has long been one of my favorite mystery writers, and Though Not Dead is her eighteenth entry in the Kate Shugak series. Eighteenth! I’m amazed. Stabenow’s books about Alaskan native Shugak are some of the strongest books out there, and they just keep on giving. In Though Not Dead Kate is dealing with the aftermath of the death of her surrogate father, Old Sam, and the unusual will he’s left. She has to find Old Sam’s father, who of course is not the man who was supposedly his father, and in the process a complicated plot of a stolen icon, illegitimate sibs, and many other elements has been forced to work overtime to get everything wound up by the end of the book. Chopper Jim Chopin, Kate’s lover, travels south to California for the death of his biological father, and he learns news that shakes his life forever. Even Mutt, Kate’s half-wolf half-dog, goes through some hard times.
Finally, I read a manuscript that was so interesting I have to mention it here. I don’t even have a pub date for debut novelist Christopher Buelhlman’s Those Across the River. When I have a date, I’ll try very earnestly to remember to put it here on this website. In the meantime, write the title down. Buelhlman’s great at ladling out the dread in even doses, and this amazing werewolf novel is set during the Great Depression in Georgia.
The role of the editor is changing as fast as everything else in publishing. I’ve read a lot about that this week. New writers always want to know if they need their book “professionally” edited before they send it in to an agent or a publishing house. And the answer is . . . that depends.
Let me digress for a moment to point out that e-publishing is one of the new trends in the field. There are three main viewpoints among the e-pubbed. One is, “We don’t need no stinking New York publishing house. We can get our own books out there directly to the reader!” The other is, “I’m doing this in the hopes of attracting the interest of an established publisher who might not get to see my work otherwise.” And the third is, “I’m so tired of trying to do the agent/publisher thing. It’s like beating my head against the wall. I’m just publishing the book!” There’s some validity in all these attitudes. I’m not deriding people who choose to go this route, not at all.
Having gotten that out of the way, I think you can see after reading a sampler of ebooks that there is, indeed, a need for an editor in the publishing process: both the editor (who not only selects the book to present to the rest of the company as a likely winner, but who also helps the writer produce the best possible book through offering notes on the pace and content of the book), and the copy editor (whose job is to correct spelling, structure, and logic flaws throughout the narrative). Some ebooks have obviously never seen an editor’s pen, and they contain so many errors in structure and spelling and terminology that the reader can’t settle in to enjoy the content, no matter how compelling it might be.
So I do think almost any work can be improved by a good editor. Are freelance editors the right place to go? Depends on the freelance editor. There are as many unqualified editors as there are qualified. Don’t use an editor from whom you can’t get a list of references. Check those references out. And be aware that each person edits according to his or her own taste. My editor, for example, hates the word “just” used as an adverb, and she will delete it every time. Isn’t that just crazy?
Seriously, if you have doubts about your own editing ability and if you’re smart, you DO have such doubts and you want to be published, at least check with someone you know is smart about spelling, structure, punctuation, and correct word usage. Give that person random sample pages, so he/she can tell you if you need a drastic overhaul. No editor will turn down a manuscript because of an occasional blooper. If there are six or ten per page, that’s another question.
Above all, don’t let the desire to be published make you a victim of an unscrupulous person. There are many such people who creep around the edges of publishing, offering services they cannot deliver. Let your common sense be your guide.
© 2011 Charlaine Harris