Please welcome Caleb James and
The Haffling #2
Liam Summer, with the face of an angel and the body of an underwear model, has done bad things. Raised as the cat’s paw of a murderous fairy queen, his beauty has ruined many. When Queen May’s plot to unite and rule the fairy and human realms fails, Liam wakes naked and alone in a burning Manhattan building. Unaware the blaze is arson and he its intended victim, Liam prepares to die.
Enter ax-wielding FDNY firefighter Charlie Fitzpatrick, who Liam mistakes for an ogre assassin. As Charlie rescues Liam, he realizes the handsome blond has nowhere to go. So he does what he and his family have always done… he helps.
As for Queen May, trapped in the body of a flame-throwing salamander, she may be down, but she’s not out. Yes, she failed the last time, but Liam and others will pay. She knows what must be done—possess a haffling, cross into the human world engorged with magic, and become queen and Goddess over all.
As Liam realizes the danger they all face, he discovers unexpected truths—that even the most wicked are not beyond redemption, and that love—true love—is a gift that even he can receive.
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Caleb and Liz’s Pearls to Get You Published
Caleb James/Charles Atkins with Guest Appearance by Editor Liz Fitzgerald
In yesterday’s Facebook Feed one of my friends bemoaned the shoddiness of several recently purchased self-published books. “I couldn’t make it past the few pages,” he wrote. “The editing was horrible.”
I can relate, and where time is precious, starting a book only to wrinkle up your nose and say, “This is crap,” a few paragraphs or pages in, is a waste. And while I get how my FB friend thought the editing was bad, there’s a bigger question. Was it edited?
Before I go further, let me vet myself. I have over fifteen traditionally published books to my name… er, me, Caleb James, and Charles Atkins, MD. They range from murder mysteries and thrillers to the Caleb James high fantasy novels, including my latest with DSP Publications—Exile. I’ve written a textbook on co-occurring psychiatric and substance use disorders and plainspeak books on Alzheimer’s and Bipolar Disorder. I’ve even ghost written a published memoir. Outside of books, I’ve had well over two hundred essays, articles, and short stories. I’ve published, I’ve won contests, and in 2015, I was a Lambda finalist for best lesbian mystery−Done to Death (Severn House). That last one gave me a chuckle, and the award ceremony−even though I didn’t win−was awesome.
So let’s talk about editing and how to take a messy first—or rough—draft and prune, polish, and perfect it. If you’ve been following this blog tour, yesterday’s piece was about spitting out that rough draft, free from editing and all of the negative voices that can shut down creative process and forward movement. Now that you’ve got that manuscript, whether it’s a blog post, or a fantasy novel, it’s time to sculpt.
For those−and I’ve met many−who view editing as an unhappy chore and something to be endured, the first step is to rethink that attitude. The revision process can be creative, inspired, and mindful. And once you’ve mastered the basics, it’s quite enjoyable. For me it’s like doing a crossword or jigsaw puzzle. Everything needs to fit together and flow. While any author must acquire some editorial skills, assistance from a trained eye makes all the difference between getting a thumbs-up from a publisher or literary agent or getting a form letter that begins:
“Dear sir or madam:
We regret to inform you… “
To flesh this out, I’ve enlisted the help of my dear friend and editor, Liz Fitzgerald. She has over thirty years in the industry, is a senior editor for a publishing house, and also freelances.
Me: So Liz, what exactly does an editor do?
Liz: An editor makes you look good. It’s our job. We take what the writer produces and turn it into something presentable.
Me: That’s vague. If you were to come up with a top ten list of dos or don’ts, what would be on it?
Liz: The first is spell-check. When you’ve finished any piece, go through and spell-check it at least once.
Liz: Do searches for the words really and just. Delete them wherever possible. They’re junk words that bring nothing to the table.
Liz: Do a search for all words that end in ing−gerunds. Replace them with active verbs. “She was walking to the fair” becomes “She walked to the fair.”
My number four would be to put it aside for some length of time and come back to it with fresh eyes.
Me: How long would you recommend?
Liz: Six months is golden, but that’s a luxury not everyone has. But a month, if possible, should do the trick. Number five on the list is to read what you’ve written and correct things that won’t show up on the grammar or spell-check. For instance epithets are descriptors that appear in place of your characters’ names—when you refer to Bob as “the tall man.” He should be “Bob” or “he.”
Autonomous body parts, where body parts act independently, are the next to go. “His hands played violent arpeggios on the Bösendorfer” should be “He played violent arpeggios on the Bösendorfer.”
Next I’d recommend you remove almost all dramatic punctuation. That includes exclamation marks and unnecessary colons and semi-colons.
Eight on the list is tidy up your dialog. Everywhere you’ve used quotation marks, check the attributions. Use said, asked, and answered, as those are regarded as invisible. Don’t’ feel the need to insert fancier words. They’ll read as pretentious and/or unprofessional. They also interrupt the flow of natural speech. You can make an exception for a big moment where you can combine action and attribution—“‘I love you,’ she wheezed and fell back dead..”
My ninth is to make sure your point of view is clear. In each chapter or book section, it’s best to keep things in a single character’s point of view. Head hopping tends to confuse readers.
And last on my top ten list? Give it another read. You might want to do this aloud, as your ear will point out any awkward bits.
Me: And what do you say to authors who balk at these suggestions, or at the amount of work needed to bring a piece up to snuff?Liz: Too bad. Life is hard. You want to have a piece of quality prose, you have to put in the work.
About the author:
Caleb James is a pen name used by psychiatrist and author Charles Atkins, MD for his paranormal fiction. He lives and works in Connecticut, is a member of the Yale volunteer faculty, loves a flea market, gives a lot of workshops (including experiential writer’s trainings), and lives with his partner and too many cats.
Connect with him on his website, blog, Facebook, or Twitter.
Promotional post. Materials provided by the author.