Editors: Satan or Savior?

Some of you may have noticed I’m not haunting my usual stomping grounds as much as I used to. The reason for that is simple. I’ve been up to my ears in editing!

Editors are always a hot topic among writers. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen or heard someone complain, I’d be sitting pretty by now on millionaire’s row. We’ve all heard the long list of gripes ranging from “they don’t get my story” to “they nitpick every little thing.” You hear horror stories about these people, and somewhere in the back of your mind the fear starts to grow. You wonder what sort of monsters wait lurking around the bend. Images of hideous beasts with hooked talons for fingers start cropping up left and right. Then…the day comes when you learn your story is going to be passed along to…*gasp*…an editor.

*cue creepy music*

The nightmares start, lingering well into the daylight hours. You toss and turn, wondering how your precious baby will fare at the hands of such a murderous stranger. You cringe, thinking about the blood bath certain to follow. Days pass. You lose weight, hair, and any quick glimpse in a mirror makes you wonder if perhaps you suddenly aren’t half raccoon.

These are all the things I’d expected. The day my publisher called to tell me my edits were waiting in my inbox, I almost got sick. I’d just finished eating dinner, and I was certain that spaghetti was going to come back up as I clicked the link with trembling hands. I shook like a junky going through major withdraws.

Then, a funny thing happened. I started reading through the long list of comments. After a minute, some of the tension started to ebb. Eventually I sagged with open relief. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected!

Don’t get me wrong. My book was not perfect. Far from. But, my editor posed a lot of questions. She made me think even more about the how and why behind the story. She pointed out things that I thought were clear as I was writing…but in hindsight, to readers, perhaps not so much. Not to mention a few things that made me burst into a fit of laughter.

Example: “Such a pretty girl,” it leered, the words spoken backwards in a guttural nuance.

The depraved growl made my blood run cold. As if to prove its point, the dresser swung out from the wall and crashed against my legs, pinning me as Ava’s shirt crept higher. A red wheal erupted across her abdomen.

My editor’s comment: “It’s proving Ava is pretty by hurling dressers at Seir?”

Oops! LOL See what I mean? I knew what I was trying to convey here, but THAT was NOT it! Maybe it would have made sense to a lot of readers, as is. But, I am guessing the vast majority (especially you more analytical and writerly types) would have been scratching their heads and laughing at my blunder. *blush*

Good call, editor! Good call.

Reading through the list of edits, I realized certain things. I have a strong tendency to cling to certain words or phrases. Lyrical beauty only goes so far when if you are beating people over the head with the same thing over and over again! There were places where the whys and hows of my mythos were not explained enough. There were places where my prose became a little too purple. Thankfully, I only had an occasional missing word or typo. Truth be told, I still felt bad…but not for me. For my poor editor who had to point out every single last one of these flaws. Flaws that I thought I’d buffered out over the course of two revisions. Boy was I wrong!

And damn am I glad I didn’t decide to go at this on my own. (I obviously didn’t know as much as I thought I did!)

A lot of editors get a bad rep. Maybe some of them earn that badge. I really don’t know. I can only speak from my own personal experience here, but I love mine. Tanya was efficient and nothing if not thorough. Though there were a lot of comments or questions…they all made sense. I knew halfway through, this was going to make a HUGE difference in my story. One that I would be proud of once all the extra hours of work were done. (Dear God, do I wish they were done!)

In fact, I called my publisher the next day, gushed over my editor like a giddy schoolgirl, and practically begged for the same person to do my sequel once it’s done. You cannot imagine my relief when she laughed and told me “that was the plan.”

I’ve heard of others who were not so fortunate, and left feeling resentful after their experience. I recently read a blog where an author was stunned that her editor wanted a pivotal part of her story removed. I have a friend who relies on his editor to weed through, as he puts it, his “endless pages of shit” (which really, reading his work, I find it hard to believe he produces anything of the sort…) But maybe that is the point. Perhaps his editor is just really good at their job. And maybe he is really good at his, right down to being able to set his ego aside when all is said and done and go with the flow.

I’m new to this whole publishing an entire book thing. The experience is vastly different from the ones I’ve had with my short stories. (Maybe I just have that arena a bit more down pat.) But it is not one I would change for anything. I’ve learned from my mistakes, and thus had a chance to grow. I can see both weaknesses and strengths, thanks to the time and effort a stranger has poured into my work.

That, to me, is priceless.

So what are your thoughts on editors? Have your experiences been good or bad? Are editors Satan or Savior when it comes to you and your writing?

I, for one, wouldn’t dare brave this world without one!

~Best wishes and happy haunting!~


A Kiss Before Dying: Sunshine Blog Award


Sunshine and I typically don’t mix. After all, I am Damned, and despite the fashion trends, I remain quite fond of my pale skin. There’s something to be said about a creature with a healthy undead glow, and I’m partial to not having to worry about getting wrinkles, leathery flesh, sun spots…or those nasty little blisters that crop up whenever I’ve been exposed too long. (Damn do they itch!)

Yet, despite it all, here I am, the unwitting recipient of The Sunshine Award. Thank you, Lisa McCourt Hollar. (I am required to say that, because my mother raised me to be gracious and always appear appreciative of such things.) I would say it must be my personality that earned me such glorious prestige, but I wouldn’t want anyone to choke on their morning cup of coffee and get hurt. Then again, maybe I do…

According to the rules set forth by my conjurer, I must now divulge ten secrets with you, my precious audience. I do so hope you will enjoy the experience as I prostrate myself in supplication and bare the innermost workings of my soul—dark and demented though it be.

  1. When I get really excited, or think something is too cute . . . I shake. This progresses into my fingers hooking like claws. Eventually, I seize the nearest person or object in sight and squeeze with all my might. It can’t be helped and tends to be a bit painful for all involved. However, it is something I have done since I was a child and probably will never outgrow! Warning: Panda bears can be lethal.
  2. I avoid the news at all costs. It’s not because I don’t care about what is going on in the world, but because I absorb human emotions like a sponge. My empathy levels are off the charts. This is not something I am proud of, as it often results in me crying often and easily for people I don’t even know.
  3. Spiders terrify me to the point of giving me panic attacks, and I’m allergic to June Bugs. That said, I adore bats and bumblebees. I even got a bat house this year for my birthday.
  4. I’m ritualistic when it comes to writing. I have certain songs and soundtracks that I have to listen to in order to get into the flow. My surroundings have to be clean and organized, and candles and Vampire’s Blood incense are preferred.
  5. I’ve been accused of having OCD by those closest to me. I say see above.
  6. I come from a very creative gene pool. My beloved mama is a published and award winning poet. She also dabbles in writing and art. I also have a cousin who is an accomplished artist, a few in the music fields, and an aunt who is a prolific poet and writer. Family gatherings are always fun!
  7. I am fascinated by the concept of angels (both good and fallen) and the walkers said to roam among us. Being born on a Monday, my patron angel is the Arch Gabriel. I guess this explains my lifelong love of the moon!
  8. I’m convinced muses are more than just the subconscious whisperings of our minds. Too many strange things have happened. Mine also never shut up. Seir likes to offer a running commentary on everything from people in the grocery stores, to whatever happens to be on TV. You try not laughing out loud in public….
  9. I’m painfully shy and self-conscious. I also worry way too much—or so I am told.
  10. Last but not least, things are not always what they seem. My eyes are sensitive to light. My mother claims this is due to my “vampire blood.” She may be right. When I was young, my parents had to have my teeth filed. Top and bottom—I had fangs. As a young girl, I once bit my uncle’s leg hard enough to draw blood.  My family frequently tells the story of how I smiled up at him soo sweetly and innocently right before I sank my teeth in. *sheepish grin* Some things never change….

So there you have it, my beloveds. Ten of my sacred secrets and thoughts. I do hope you found something in there of interest. If not, that truly is a pity, because as the saying goes… I can tell you, but then…..well, you know the rest. 😉

Rather than pass this along directly to ten other unsuspecting souls, I invite you all to open up and give it a try. Show me what you’ve got. Revealing the truth is not always as simple as it seems.

 ~Best wishes and happy haunting!~


Falling Stars…

For this edition of telling it like it is Tuesday, I’m sitting on my front porch, watching the dark clouds and rain roll in. Listening to the wind rustle the trees, I can’t help but think of the winds of change sweeping across other aspects of my life as well. This month has been a rollercoaster ride. It’s charging ahead full speed and showing no signs of slowing down.

I can’t say I’ve always dreamed of being published. When I was little, I was haunted by dark, repetitive dreams. I think they skewered my desires. I can still remember the feeling of roaming through those darkened tunnels, looking at the shrouded figures hanging overhead. I sensed danger, yes, but there was a stronger sense of being home. Strange, eh?

So instead of dreaming about publishing, as many writers claim they did from the time they could talk, I had a more twisted vision of the future. I wasn’t a frilly child who yearned to be a princess or a magical fairy. I wanted to be something as dark and beautiful as the sleeping shadows in my dreams. Sure, I went through the phase of thinking it would be nice to be a teacher or a marine biologist. I even went through a phase where I wanted to play with Shamu. (I kind of still do.) But, it wasn’t until I was “published” in school that something started to tick. (Back then, it was still a distant, muffled noise.)

As a teen, I read . . . a LOT. I’d devour anything I could get my hands on. From my mom’s old bodice rippers (damn, I miss those things!) to Stephen King, nothing was off limits. Then something happened. I started to think. I started branching off into my own plots and immersing my mind in the worlds I created. I discovered fantasies.

I can honestly say, it wasn’t until I was twenty that the idea of being a writer truly stuck. By then, I couldn’t pull myself away from the places and characters now crowding my head. It was an escape, a way to experience anything I wanted . . . be anywhere I wanted, and all of this was just a few pen strokes away.

Yes, I started out writing everything longhand and still have the bump to prove it.

My first computer was a blessing. I could edit, polish, and revise without having to scrap and rewrite entire pieces of paper. Long story short, I was in love. But . . . I still had a long way to go. I spent eight long years learning the ins and outs, formulating my own voice and style, and taking in every bit of advice that I could. Some of it hurt. Some of it stung, and something left me just plain frustrated. Despite it all, I didn’t give up.

In 2009, I was published. The whole thing was really surreal. You always hear how an editor won’t come knocking on your door. They won’t find you, but that is exactly what happened. One stumbled across my story on Writing.com and asked for permission to use it. I can’t explain the high, but damn was I hooked.

A few more followed, along with various wins and awards along the way. Still, I was hungry for more. I was no longer content to just see my name listed alongside others. I wanted my own spot. My own line. I wanted to simply be ME.

I started and stopped numerous projects until Requiem was born. In the summer of 2010, Seir surged to life. He was a demanding, insistent muse, unlike any other I’d ever encountered. At the time, the whole concept of fallen angels and demons had not yet started to clobber the mainstream. Vampires reigned supreme (mostly those of the sparkling and kind variety *wince*)

Ours was a beautiful relationship from the start. Given my own fondness for things dark and cruel, I couldn’t help but fall in love with his biting sarcasm and, at times, dour outlook of the world. We worked well. We played well, and within a year, Requiem was done.

I’m waiting to get the edits back from my editor, and I can’t wait to unleash him upon the world. I think my beloved muse is unlike anything it’s ever seen.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy a brief glimpse into his mind and what makes him tick here on Pen of the Damned. http://penofthedamned.com/

It’s been a long and arduous journey, but my dreams are coming true . . . and soon, very soon, I’ll find myself exactly where I want to be.

~Best wishes and happy haunting~