Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘Editing’ Category

Moving on, again (Plus: Answering the Q, “How Can You Still Edit?”)

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As my last blog said, I am no longer a member of the Racine Concert Band.

It’s been a couple of very strange weeks, I must say. Every time there’s a rehearsal, I keep thinking I need to go (until I correct myself); every time there’s a concert, I feel how wrong it is that I’m not there.

All I can do, though, is move on.

I’ve had many experiences lately where I’ve had to move on when I wasn’t ready to do it. It never gets easier. But I will keep working at it, because as I know well, much of life and life’s experiences remain out of my control.

Let’s move on to something else.

One of my friends asked me why I was so forthcoming in regard to admitting I had a pulmonary embolism in 2020 and haven’t been the same, health-wise, since. She was afraid I might mess up my editing prospects, as there are a lot of folks out there who don’t want to deal with anyone who admits to illness, much less chronic illness.

(To put this in perspective: my friend also deals with chronic illness and has for years.)

So, I figured I’d discuss the elephant in the room, which is this: “Barb, if you’re not able to play your instruments right now, how can you edit?”

Simply put, they are two different things.

Yes, both are creative pursuits. However, there are many ways to edit once you get past the grammatical aspect, and I tend to be as creative as possible while making my points to various clients.

As most of you no doubt know, music is usually performed with other people; even if you’re playing a recital with a pianist, you still must play with another person at a scheduled time and place. (Yes, sometimes there are late cancellations for different reasons, but then you have to find a makeup date.)

Editing is done by me and can be scheduled at any point in any given day. (I tend to edit at night, when there are fewer distractions, but I’ve proven I can edit at any time of any day if need be.)

I hope this answers the question as to how I can continue to edit despite all that’s gone on in my life since 2020.

In conclusion, I appreciate my clients. They are all great people, and many of them have become my friends, which is something that pleases me greatly. I enjoy their company, I enjoy their manuscripts, and I appreciate the work.

Oh, one final, thing (I know I sound like Lt. Columbo from TV, years back): My Elfyverse “holiday” story was accepted into the Fantastic Schools: Holidays anthology. Thank you all who asked me privately about this and reminded me to come say something about it.

What’s going on in your life, writing or otherwise? Tell me about it in the comments!

A Sunday Throwback (and Other Stuff)

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Folks, Facebook has a memories feature, and it reminded me of a blog I wrote in 2015 called “A Writer’s Work is Never Done.” (Link is here.) As lately I’ve been editing far more than I’ve been writing, it was nice to have something positive show up in my Facebook feed (yes, I shared that puppy; what, you expected me to say anything else?)

See, editing can be draining. And the most recent project I’ve been working on was a monster of an edit. (It might be the toughest edit I’ve ever had.) It consumed me, at least when I wasn’t sick and was being consumed by something else.

I am still sick, mind, with an asthma exacerbation and some sort of untreated allergic reaction. (I have an Epi-pen, and I know what to do if/when something bad happens of an allergic nature. Still, I hope I won’t have to use it anytime soon.) The new meds I’ve been put on should do some good, but it’ll take a few weeks for them to ramp up.

Anyway, the point to this Sunday post is this: No matter how awful you’re feeling, something will remind you of better days. (Even if it’s not exactly what you’d thought about, at first.)

Of course, the other memory I had pop up in my feed was that my dog Trouble died on this day two years ago. (Well, two years and a few days ago, now.) Thinking about Trouble is bittersweet, at best, ’cause I loved that little guy so much. He really did see himself as a badass, but he was a sweetheart. (Hey, you can be both, especially if you’re a dog. But I digress.)

I don’t have a picture that’s shareable, or I’d show you one. But Trouble was about fourteen pounds, had a black and white coloring, was mostly Shih Tzu but mixed (the back legs were shorter than the front, which isn’t common for Shih Tzus), and was one of the most interesting and funny dogs I’ve ever been around. Big brown eyes, an expressive face…Trouble had empathy galore, though of course he didn’t bruit it about (as again, he was a badass and don’t you forget it).

Finally, though my Facebook feed didn’t throw this memory up, I remember my good friend Jeff Wilson on this day. He would’ve turned 58 today, had he lived, and it’s been ten long years since he died.

How time flies.

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be able to forgive myself for not being able to go out to Colorado and be with him (as I was still working on financing that at the time of his death). I wish I had made it there, as maybe Jeff’s passing would’ve been a bit easier…and even if not, I would’ve had people to mourn with (rather than mourning alone so many miles — almost half a continent — away).

So, on this day, I remember Jeff. I remember Trouble. I remember that once upon a time, I was excited for my second novel to come out, and was working on my third.

All of these things remind me of my most intrinsic, essential self. And my hope is that as I continue to heal that I will be able to resume my fiction writing, along with being able to play my saxophone and clarinet regularly, along with editing.

Because while I do enjoy editing, doing only that stifles me.

I must be able to create, you see. Or it all builds up to the point I feel like I’m going to spontaneously combust (and not in a good way).

At any rate, what are you thinking about this Sunday? Do you ever think about the people (and beloved pets) that have gone before us? Let me know in the comments, if you would. (Still feeling all alone in the void, here.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 21, 2021 at 5:23 am

Chris Nuttall’s Newest Book, STUCK IN MAGIC, Is Out…

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Folks, Chris Nuttall is a good friend of mine, and also an editorial client. I lead with that, because I recently edited his newest novel, STUCK IN MAGIC, for the reinvigorated Henchman Press.

This book is a spinoff of Chris’s popular Schooled in Magic universe (which so far has spawned 23 full novels, at least five novellas, and a few other short stories). Instead of starring Emily, a girl from Kansas in our world who finds out she has magic (and thus can change her new world), it stars Elliot, also an American from our time and place. He is a military man, describes himself as “big, black, and beefy,” and one day he’s driving along the Interstate, very angry at his cheating wife. Before he knows it, his car is wrecked, he’s in the middle of a primeval forest, and a young woman — not Emily — has worked a spell so he can understand the local language.

Mind you, Elliot quickly figures out there has to have been someone from our world who’s shown up there, as books use English letters and numbers use Arabic numerals. There also are “new” inventions — new to the Nameless World, anyway — of muskets, flintlocks, and steam engine-driven trains. (All of these are thanks to Emily, but of course Elliot cannot know that.)

Elliot has no magic at all. What he has are his quick mind, his military knowledge (including knowing a great deal of military history), and how to fight insurgents bent only on his destruction. (No, he’s not faced actual magicians before. But he has faced insurgents galore in “the Sandbox,” i.e., Afghanistan, Iraq, and quite possibly Pakistan as well.)

So, what would you do, if you ended up stuck in magic? How would you deal with the wrenching sense of loss, of losing everything including that of the world of your birth, when you don’t have a major talent (as Emily does)? Would you be able to adapt?

At any rate, the ebook came out at lightspeed, and is out now. (Here’s a link from Amazon, in case you’re interested.) And the cover art is spectacular. You have to see this. (Thank artist Lydia Kurnia for coming up with this great cover.)

So, go forth, and read this! (You’ll be glad you did.)

Thinking Hard…Or Something Like That

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The last few days, I’ve been thinking hard about a manuscript I’m editing. While I do this on a regular basis, I don’t always have to stop and think for several days in a row. But that’s why I decided to write this blog, as I thought it might interest someone out there…and at least it’s something different.

When I am editing a manuscript, I tend to narrow down to a laser-like focus. (An actual laser, of course, would wreck my computer.) There are many things I look for, including continuity issues, clarity of thought, whether there’s enough description (or, very occasionally, if there’s too much that has to be pruned away), and much more.

But the one thing that always makes me stop and think about a book in a lengthy series is this: Will this book represent the series to date as it stands? And if it doesn’t, what does it need in order to do so?

When you’re in a series, readers have an expectation of how well-known characters are going to act. Even if the characters are doing something completely different — as they should, or you’re just writing the same book over and over (and what in the Hell is the point of that, anyway?) — the way a character acts has to ring true.

Right now I have two different series books by two different authors on the table. One, right off, I told the author I loved it and I thought she got her characterization down cold. For the second book with the second author, I said that I enjoyed the book, but it needs more in several places to flesh it out some in order to make it truly shine.

Mind, when I realize a book is missing something, sometimes it takes me a few days to figure out just exactly what that is, much less what I can suggest to fix it. Here, I saw some of the issues right away, but not necessarily all. And until my mind figures out enough that I can go back to the manuscript with, I have to leave that manuscript alone until it does.

It’s most vexing, trust me.

Anyway, I once read an interview with a writer who said that her subconscious mind blocks her if she is missing something in a plot. I sometimes wonder if that is what’s going on with me with regards to editing someone else’s work in a situation like this.

What I’m going to have to do is, with that second author/second book I’m talking about, is hope that I can sleep on the problem and wake up with a solution. (With the first book/first author, it’s just a matter of me finishing up the second editorial pass, then sending it on its merry way.) The author in question is very good with making changes, so once I figure it out I’m sure my input will be understood and taken into account.

(When you edit independently, as I often do, all you can do is suggest. You can’t insist, as that won’t get you anywhere. If your suggestions are cogent, usually an author dealing with you is going to try his/her/their best to address your editorial concerns.)

So, at the moment I’m thinking hard, but coming up empty.

Other than that, I did want to clue you in on an interesting blog I intend to write later today or tomorrow on behalf of writer Kayelle Allen. Her newest book is called SURRENDER LOVE, and it’s a far-future male/male romance. I loved working on this, as one of the two men in the relationship, Izzorah (or Izzy for short) is just a sweetheart. Izzy has empathy to burn, and I enjoy seeing that in my romances. The far-future stuff is all well-done, too. And the other man in the relationship, Luc, is complex, sometimes difficult, but takes on new dimensions once he gets involved with Izzy. (If you think you’ve seen me talk about Luc before, you’re right. He’s also the hero of A STOLEN HEART, a lovely story about an alienated man fostering a three-year-old half-human, half-alien child, and how that relationship between them changes Luc for the better.)

So, look for me to talk more about that later. (I still have plenty to say about Luc, Izzy, and their milieu.)

What did you think of this blog? Do you have any tips or tricks you use when editing either for yourself or someone else when you get stalled? Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 2, 2021 at 5:05 am

Posted in Editing, Writing

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Thank the Deity, 2020 is Over…and Other Stuff

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Folks, I wanted to start the New Year off right with a blog, but as you see, it took me a few days to write.

Why? Well, as I said in my last blog, I had a ton of editing to do in December. This is highly unusual but very welcome. (Publishing as a whole tends to take December off, I’ve found. Though the pandemic more or less uprooted everything, of course. As it does.)

I also am dealing with yet another sinus infection. This is frustrating me because it’s already getting in the way of the one meaningful 2021 New Year’s Resolution (TM) I have: to write more. Sinus infections sap my strength. They definitely get in the way of my creativity. And I wish there was a way to stop them, so I could be considerably healthier in the wintertime.

That said, so far, no Covid. (Thank the Deity.)

And of my friends who’ve come down with Covid, they’ve all recovered. (Again, I give thanks to whatever the Deity is.)

I have a jam-packed January planned, too, editing-wise. At least five books are planned by my various author-clients. And I want to work on all five. So I’ll figure it out, and shoehorn some writing in there now and again, too. (Just as soon as this sinus infection leaves me be, that is.)

Years ago, I read a short story by Rosemary Edghill in her excellent anthology PAYING THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN. In that story, one woman more or less confronts her fate. She either writes, or edits. If she writes, she does little to no editing; if she edits, she “confidently works on a novel she has no intention of finishing.”

This does come to mind, often, with my editing schedule as it stands.

However, there has to be a way to do both. Ms. Edghill herself has done both for most of her career, and done it brilliantly. So I just have to find my own way toward the same end…

Of course, Covid did change everything in 2020. And not just my writing to editing time-ratio.

For example, the Racine Concert Band, which I play in and have for years, could not perform any concerts for obvious reasons. And we’re not sure what will happen to the upcoming year, as it all depends on how well the vaccine rollouts go, much less how well they’re tolerated. (I think I can say this without breaking any confidences, as it’s all common sense.)

I haven’t managed to practice very much or very often since mid-2020. My energy had to be kept for things I absolutely needed to do for much of the year. Anything else — even things that give me heart’s ease from pain — was put on the back burner.

Did I want to do this? Of course not. But I’m an adult. Adults figure stuff out, as best they can, and try not to get too frustrated about things that do not go their way.

Writing-wise, I’m still battling two demons, which are:

  1. How to turn off “Editor Voice” long enough to get a first draft (so I can manipulate things as needed later), and
  2. The thought that none of my writing will ever matter to anyone, so what’s the point? (That last is an existential issue.)

The first is a technical thing. And since my friends who are good editors have found a way to do this, I should eventually be able to find my own way through that thicket, too. And as far as the second thing goes, it’s a matter of telling myself it’s OK if no one cares about my writing but me and a few of my friends.

Plus, there’s a strategy I can use to try to get my next series out there, and that’s putting out at least two books in the same series in the same year. That builds anticipation and excitement, or at least can do the same…plus, writing short stories in that milieu to get your name recognized by readers can’t hurt anything, either.

For that matter, I have a good friend who sells a ton more than I do who’s told me for the last three years he wants to write a book with me. The reason I haven’t done it yet is because he writes over ten full-length novels a year, and my writing time has been limited to maybe 35K in 2020 and 60K in 2019 (all projects). I don’t want to slow him down, in short, and I can’t figure out how to make our writing time issues palatable to him. (Unless he looks at it as a side project for him, with it being a main project for me. Perhaps that’s the way?)

Anyway, my hope is that 2021 brings joy, peace, happiness, creativity, and all good things to you and yours.

What are you hoping to accomplish in 2021? Leave me a note in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 3, 2021 at 6:00 am

Posted in Editing, Writing

Who Edits the Editor?

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As I wanted to talk about editing today — especially since I’ve been doing a great deal of it over the past few weeks (thus almost no blogs) — I figured a catchy title might lure you in. (Did it work?)

Anyway, the question of “who edits for you, Barb?” has come up among my devoted readership. And as the answer is complicated**, I thought I could maybe make a blog out of this, remind you all I’m still alive and kicking, and help give you some idea of what I go through when I talk with my editor(s).

I am fortunate to have two very good mentors. Both are excellent editors in their own right. They are so good, that when I feel overloaded, I tell people to please check with them. (As they are both in high demand themselves, I am not going to name them. But trust me: they exist, and they’re damned good.)

Now, because I haven’t had anything ready to go for over a year, I mostly have just talked with my mentors over this when they have been able to come up for air. I trust them, I trust their judgment, and I believe them when they say something needs to be cut, something needs to be added, and/or something needs to be changed.

Because I can speak frankly with them, I try to offer the same level of frankness to my editorial clients. I want those who deal with me to know they can trust me, and my judgment, and be able to bounce ideas off me if they’re in distress…or even if they aren’t, and just want to chat about stories with someone they know who “gets it.”

But frankness does not necessarily equal bluntness. (Trust me, though; I can be quite blunt, when need be.) It does mean I try to give praise as well as criticism, and I hope my critiques are constructive rather than destructive. And it also means that I do my best to let my clients know I understand their stories, and what they’re going for; if I didn’t, how could I possibly do any good for them?

My view, as an editor, is to help my clients refine and improve their own work. I want them to sound like the very best versions of their writing style, in order to bring out all the specialness and sense of wonder they have in their own creation, while polishing up the various rough edges as much as I can without taking the freshness/uniqueness of their viewpoints out.

And what I look for in an editor, and have been privileged to find it with two wonderful editors who happen to be my friends, boils down to this:

  1. How well do they communicate?
  2. How well do they understand what I’m doing?
  3. How can they best help me help myself?

Ultimately, it all comes down to trust. Without trust, there is no communication; without trust, there is no understanding; without trust, there is no willingness to work together to find better solutions.

So I urge you, when looking for an editor, to find someone you can trust who has the skills you need in order to help you polish your work to its utmost.

And if you, like me, manage to find a good friend in your editor(s), so much the better.

———

**As I said, the answer is a bit complicated. I, myself, can look at something if I’ve had some time in between me writing it and me going to edit it and get the ball rolling. But unless time is pressing and my editor-friends are unavailable, I am going to ask one or both of them to help me every single time. Because I’m not stupid; I know I tend to see what I think is there, rather than what actually is.

And I do this for the same reason everyone else does. I have it set in my head that I wrote X, which means I’ll only see X. But I might actually have Y, Z, AA, BB, CC, DD, or something totally incomprehensible…which is why I, too, need editing. (You expected me to say anything else?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 4, 2020 at 5:39 am

More Musing About Editing

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Most of my life, I’ve worked hard at being a reliable, steady person.

(My family might laugh at this, but it’s the truth.)

A big part of that is embodied by the phrase “finish what you start.” And I try to do that with everything I do, even if it takes me longer as a writer to finish things than I’d like…even if my overall writing process has changed drastically since my late husband died, and I’ve never quite regained my fluidity or facility since.

It’s easier with editing, mind. For whatever reason, my mind goes into a mode there where I can see the story, manipulate the story (or at least ask the author to manipulate it for me), fix what needs fixing, suggest what needs suggesting, and try to do the best job I possibly can for my editorial clients.

Working hard is important. Even if I’m the only one who knows how hard I’m working, I still want to work hard, do everything possible, and make a positive difference in someone’s life. Even if it’s “just” in helping them realize their own artistic vision a little better, with a bit more clarity and sharpness…because these things are important, too.

A good friend, years ago, told me that when I started editing, I’d see manuscripts — even my own — differently. It’s a hard thing to turn off, Editorial Vision (or as I call it, “Editor Voice”), and that can get in the way of my own writing.

Mind, I do appreciate Editor Voice. I can do many things with it that others can’t. Including, of all things, being able to look at a manuscript as if I’ve never seen it before, even if I’ve seen it several times in the past. This ability seems unusual; the other good friends of mine who are editors don’t report having this type of track, though they have other things that work just fine for them.

(I also see, at the same time, what I’ve done, what I want to do, and what the author hopes me to do if I haven’t already figured out a way to do that, which makes it a way of looking at a story in two ways: with great knowledge, and with almost no knowledge. I call it a “dual-level ability.”)

I take what I do seriously. (Maybe too seriously, at times. Though I also try to be humorous when I can…or at least laugh, as life is too short to live it without laughter. Really.) I give everything I’ve got, and then some, toward helping others find their unique voices, and give them (in the buzzword of the moment) “agency.”

I’m glad to do whatever I can to help my clients, most of whom become good friends in the process, tell the best stories they need to tell, in the clearest and most distinct manner they can possibly tell their stories.

And otherwise, when I write? I try to tell myself I don’t have to do everything today. If I get down at least some of what I need, I can add to it tomorrow. Refine it. Maybe reimagine it, if need be…work with what I have, and make it as strong and resilient a story as I can make it. And tell the stories I need to tell, too, so I can say with good grace to clients that I know exactly how they feel, as I, too, have been there. (Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, etc.)

That’s what I’m thinking about, now, as I continue my journey forward.

Oh, one more thing…next week, I’m going to tell you about the newest anthology I’ve placed a story in. So don’t go anywhere…I’ll have a table of contents, even, to pass around. (Yes, I am a working writer. Thank God/dess.)

What’s going on with y’all? (Tell me in the comments.)

 

Six Things for Saturday

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Folks, I know I didn’t write a blog all week, and I’m sorry. So without further ado, here are six takes on six different things. (Why six? It’s Saturday. I like alliteration. It makes sense in my head, anyway…)

  • I’m very happy that my favorite baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers, are in the playoffs. They haven’t had a team this good since 1982, and that year, the Brewers (in the American League back then) made it to the World Series. I don’t know if this year’s team can do that or not; much remains unclear at this time. But they have had a great year, and their bullpen is the main reason, along with the play of MVP-candidate Christian Yelich.
  • I’ve thought a lot about editing this past week. Some books that I’ve otherwise loved end up with odd errors in them. One such error is “fairing” instead of the proper word, faring, as in, “How are you faring?” (Meaning, how are you doing.) I don’t know why this keeps showing up in books, except that I’m guessing the authors either didn’t have good editors or they relied too much on spellcheck and/or grammar check. (No spellcheck or grammar check in the world is as good as a real, live editor.)
  • I am far from indifferent to the political situation we have going on in the US right now. I am frustrated with the descent into tribalism. We cannot get any traction if those of us in the middle are either vilified or ignored. And yet, if you try to take a middle stance on anything, that’s exactly what happens. As I’ve said before, change usually is incremental. (Mind, it may show up, all of a sudden, as a huge one, such as when same-sex marriage was legalized in all 50 states in 2015. But it took decades of progress to get to that point.) And to get that incremental change, you need people who are willing to look at the problems — take a good, hard, rational, fact-based look — and then compromise to get the best solution possible.

Now, is this hard to do? Damn straight it is. Most people do not have the wherewithal to truly serve the public rather than themselves, or worse, special interests/big moneyed interests. Maybe they want to serve the public, but can’t figure out a way; maybe they get to state capitals (or even more challenging, Washington, DC) and get blinded by the “bright lights, big city” phenomenon.

But this is what must happen to have good, positive public service. And right now, because no one trusts anyone else politically and there’s very little bipartisanship to be had at any level, those of us who just want to fix the potholes and make sensible public policy get pushed to the side. And that’s wrong.

  • Someone asked me if I believed Doctor Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. The answer is that I did. Something definitely happened to her, and she was definitely sexually assaulted. Her behavior afterward is characteristic of that, as is the fact it took her years to put herself back together. So yes, I believed her. And yes, I believe we need to listen to sexual assault survivors, and make better public policy overall if we can in that regard, too.

(Before someone says, “But Barb! That doesn’t say Judge Kavanaugh did anything! You have no proof! She has no proof either beyond her bare word,” I will point out that I am answering only the one question. I wait for facts.)

I am very pleased Doctor Ford put herself back together, mind, and used her experiences to better inform her life, make better and more positive choices in the long run, and get her doctorate (which is a very big deal). That’s hard to do. She did it. She deserves credit for it.

And the people who are angry with her for telling her story need to show some compassion. Even if they think she’s flat wrong, they should be praying for her; they shouldn’t be doxxing her or sending death threats. (That should go without saying, but somehow, it no longer does.)

  • Weather is the last bastion of bipartisanship in the United States.

Weather is a great equalizer, you know. We all face it. We all have to deal with it. We all have to learn to live with it. And we all have to figure out ways to cope with it.

In my area in Southeastern Wisconsin, we’ve had lots of rain lately, with some of it overflowing the banks of the various rivers. That is never good. (We also are getting more rain and the ground is super-saturated already. Also not good.)

So, weather is still bipartisan, and is still a safe subject. (Hallelujah?)

  • Sixth and last, if I’ve learned anything from this life, it’s that I can’t change anyone else. I can only change me. (And that happens very, very slowly.)

Why am I talking about this? Recent events in my personal life, mostly. I have had to face the fact that no matter what I want, certain folks just aren’t going to change. I have to deal with the problem as it is (or as a golfer would say, “Play the ball as it lies”); I can’t prettify it up or hope for better.

Now, this can be depressing, if you take it one way. But it also can be liberating.

See, if you’ve done everything in your power, and nothing has affected the outcome, that just shows you’re in the wrong place. Or maybe with the wrong people.

So, going forward, I will keep working on myself, and my craft, and my art. And if I can find like-minded souls willing to walk with me on the journey, good.

If not? Well, I’m going to have to stop bending myself into pretzel-shapes, and save steps.

Any comments from the peanut gallery? (Preferably not about politics?) Let me know in the comments!

Language, Editing, and THUNDER AND LIGHTNING

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Folks, my most recently edited book is Chris Nuttall and Leo Champion’s THUNDER AND LIGHTNING, about first contact with aliens gone spectacularly wrong. I was very happy with this book, because I thought it showcased Chris’s gift for political machinations of the interplanetary sort plus Leo’s gift for the nuts and bolts of warfare. Putting them together in one book was a worthwhile challenge for me as an editor, and one I welcomed.

Both of these men did what they did best, and did it superbly. And I was not disappointed.

thunder and lightning cover

But, you must be sitting there asking yourselves, “Barb, what is this about language? Why are you talking about that with regards to editing and THUNDER AND LIGHTNING?”

Some of what I’m going to say is blindingly obvious, but here goes: When you’re writing about soldiers, you cannot take the high road all the time. And you certainly can’t use what I derisively call “sparkly language,” in that you dumb-down what soldiers say during a war.

Chris and Leo’s soldiers start off in a nasty fight in Africa against terrorists they call “the Wreckers.” These Wreckers are abysmal human beings who, like others in the past, have corrupted a holy book — in this case, the Koran — for their own purposes. The soldiers call them “radical Islamicists,” which is not that dissimilar to what is said overseas now in the Middle East or in other war zones.

And there’s a reason they do this. The reason is very simple. They are fighting a war. They cannot afford to see these people as worthy of redemption, for the most part, and they have many reasons not to see them that way either as the behavior of the Wreckers is truly abhorrent. (Hell, they even take female slaves.)

So, when I saw that, as an editor, I left it alone. I’ve heard from my own cousin, who’s served overseas any number of times in the Middle East as a member of the Armed Services, that what’s said about those we’re fighting (ISIS now, Al Qaeda earlier) is far worse than that.

But will some people be offended by this term? Probably.**

My job, though, as an editor, is not to dumb down what anyone says or feels even if I think it’s something someone out there will dislike. My job is to make that soldier sound and feel real. So you can get caught up in the story. And keep going.

If that soldier says some things you don’t like, well…I urge you to read James Clavell’s KING RAT. There’s lots of stuff that’s not said in “sparkly language,” but if it were, you’d never buy into it.

And you shouldn’t.

Anyway, THUNDER AND LIGHTNING isn’t just about soldiers. It’s about an idealistic woman scientist, Samra, who first finds evidence of aliens we later come to know as Oghaldzon (kind of like three-legged deer), and believes that any aliens coming must be peaceful. (She’s wrong, but you can see why she’d believe otherwise.) And what happens when she finds out the Oghaldzon are almost completely incomprehensible to humans, and humans to the Oghaldzon in terms, is scary, difficult to read, and sometimes incredibly sad, in turns.

We see her in lighter days, when she’s just a scientist at work. We see her finding the aliens’ signal (a fleet) in space, the scientific high point of her career.

And then, we see her disastrous fall, and with her fall, the attempted subjugation of Earth.

We also see a cyborg commando soldier, who saves Samra and stays by her side as they try, somehow, to stay alive and hope for better days. (Perhaps the commando is hedging his bets. Or waiting for a better opportunity. But it’s important to know that without him being there, Samra likely wouldn’t have a reason to fight so hard.)

Along the way, we meet numerous others. Some are politicians. Some are just average Joes. Some are Rockrats — that is, asteroid miners, extremely isolationist in outlook and incredibly hard-headed, to boot.

We need every last one of them to come together, in whatever ways they can, or we cannot save our own solar system from the Oghaldzon.

And along the way, the Oghaldzon are found to be, oddly enough, a different type of idealist entirely. But their idealism doesn’t match ours by any standard, and that is part of why we end up in a protracted war.

I don’t want to spoil the outcome of the book. So I will stop there.

Just know that as an editor, I maximized everything I could for the sake of realism, verisimilitude, and dammit all, for the sake of a damned good read. That is my job.

And if you read the book, and you like the book, do tell Leo and Chris that you enjoyed it. (You can come tell me, too. I’d enjoy that, also.) Reviews matter.

(I know that from personal experience. But I digress.)

In other words, when I edit, I try to find the authors’ voices. And I believe I did exactly what I should, to make THUNDER AND LIGHTNING the best it could be, in the hopes that people would feel, think, and enjoy the book and tell others.

Or in shorter form: Sparkly language, get lost.

—–

**Note that I, myself, have a Koran and have read it many times. My late husband admired the Sufi Muslims, and often called himself a “Zen Sufi Pagan.” And Chris Nuttall himself was exposed to all sorts of different religions when he lived in Malaysia, certainly including Islam, and knows, as I do, that people come in all flavors in all religions: that is, followers of the prophet Mohammad are mainly very good people.

Those who’d chain and enslave women, though, are hardly that. And if they’re using Islam as a way to make that palatable to their (mostly male) believers, that is disgusting.

There are bad apples in any bunch. These Wreckers definitely fit the bill for the type of people who’d try to turn religion to their own ends, rather than live in loving kindness and generosity, as I believe Mohammad truly wanted.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 19, 2018 at 6:45 am

Musing on Sunday: Making Difficult Choices

with 6 comments

It’s Sunday, so I thought I’d try a different type of post today.

What do we do, as writers, and as people, when we have to make a difficult choice?

In our writing, sometimes we have snippets of dialogue and characterization that leap off the page, but don’t go with anything in the story. What do we do with it, then?

And in life, we never seem to get exactly what we want. The people around us — and we, ourselves, for that matter — make bad decisions from time to time. Or maybe they make good decisions for them, but bad ones for us…because they’re human, and they make mistakes. (Just as we do, but I digress.)

In writing, it’s easier to figure out what you’re going to do with a difficult decision. First, you can turn that snappy dialogue or great characterization into a new story that doesn’t conflict with the one you already have. Second, if that doesn’t work, you can simply excise it — the whole “kill your darlings” thing that all writers know, and all writers hate. And third, you can try to find a way to incorporate the good stuff into your manuscript anyway…though that last is the most difficult choice of all, as if it had been easy, that bit that stands out but doesn’t go with anything would’ve been incorporated already.

Note I said “easier.” It’s still not easy. You have to think, long and hard, about what you’re going to do, and make a choice that you have to live with.

In life, sometimes we can only react to what is put in front of us. Where we are today might not be at all where we want to be. (I think I can safely say that, under the circumstances; if I had my druthers, my husband would still be alive, we’d be about to celebrate fifteen years of marriage, and we’d have I don’t know how many books out, together and separately.) Because we’re in uncharted territory, we don’t know what to do, and we feel our way toward the best solution possible.

We have to have faith in ourselves that we can find a good answer, even when the question itself seems like it has no answer. We have to believe that we can reason our way out, think our way out, know ourselves well enough that we can stay on an even keel while everything around us feels unsteady, almost as if we’re enduring a long-lasting earthquake that doesn’t quite — quite — swallow us whole.

This is hard.

It’s especially difficult for our friends, who watch as we struggle, and give advice, and give comfort and support, and try to do their best to help you keep your body and soul together another day, so you can continue the fight.

But ultimately, the choices you make are up to you. You have to live with them.

So please, make your best decisions. Use your reason as well as your gut reaction. And then act accordingly…knowing full well that you can revisit your decision if and when the situation changes.

What do you do when you face a difficult choice, in writing or in life? Let me know in the comments.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 12, 2017 at 4:21 pm