In my line of work, there are some unwritten rules of good behavior.
- One must always do one’s best work within the parameters assigned.
- One must not review books in which one has had a hand.
- One must always remember that it’s the author’s book. It was the editor’s job to make the author look as good as possible, and s/he got paid to do so.
- One must not go to review comment sections in any way that could remotely upstage or embarrass the author.
- One must accept that invisibility is praise. It’s like officiating a sporting event: if your work is excellent, it goes unnoticed.
I don’t think I’ll be breaking the rules if I do a little endzone celebration here, because I did something I feel pretty good about.
As blog regulars know, the e-book Shadows by Terry Schott was published about a week ago. Terry’s genre is dystopian contemporary science fiction, and he has a significant following. He engaged my editing services on this newest book. Before I got to work, I took a look at the reviews of his previous works. They were mostly very positive, and the only nagging complaint was that a few reviewers remarked upon the ‘editing.’ We’ve been over the ways in which that can be a shortsighted review comment, but I did take note of them. Terry didn’t need me in order to get people to like his stories better. The best service I could offer him was to make the ‘editing’ remarks go away.
Sixteen reviews in, and it’s clear that his fans love the story.
Not a one, so far, mentions the editing. That means that not only did those reviewers have no issues with it that they cared to mention, none so far even noticed much of a change. And if there are potential purchasers on the fence, ones who would be put off by adverse commentary about editing, it may hearten them that the reviews make no such mention. They may attribute it to the author’s strides, or to some unknown factor.
I smile, invisibly, with fierce satisfaction.
This contemporary SF e-book has been published. I was copy editor.
Shawn Inmon, for whom I’ve done steady work over the past couple of years, was kind enough to refer Terry to me. Most of the referrals I receive involve unpublished authors, which was not Terry’s case. His current (and the subject) project was kicking off a new series, having concluded another after something like seven books.
When the author is previously published, that must inform editorial decisionmaking. Terry made clear that his previous editing experiences hadn’t been what he’d hoped for. It seemed illogical to propose to duplicate their undesired efforts. What I did was look up Terry’s body of work and find out what readers liked and didn’t like about it.
Most of his reviews were favorable. Those that were critical mostly blamed the ‘editing.’ When I read that, my ‘you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about’ hackles usually go up. There is no way to know if the editing is at fault, for close on a dozen reasons, and the comment in a review shows ignorance of the process. At the same time, take it however I might wish, I had to absorb the feedback in terms of its true meaning. ‘It needs an editor’ is reviewer-blurt for ‘I found errors and they shouldn’t be in a finished book.’
Damn right they shouldn’t. No argument. However, most people liked the books, which meant that Terry had something to lose. What if I talked him into making some significant changes to his approach, and the reviews came back tepid? Picture it: “I used to like these stories, but now, not so much. The writing has improved in terms of less errors, but the story isn’t as good, and that was what I cared about.” That, dear reader, is what goes under the hammer every time an established author engages a new literary witch doctor. It would be one thing if previous books had been met with a wave of launched javelins. These had not. I might be entirely capable of talking Terry out of pleasing his audience.
In my world, that is the rough equivalent of an arsonist firefighter.
No one hires me hoping to alienate his or her reader base.
So I proposed to Terry: how about I limit this to copy editing, so that we address the unhappy minority’s biggest complaint, without depriving your happy majority of what it loves? He liked the idea, and I got to work. The story is set in Ontario, although the Canadianness isn’t really emphasized. This was an orthography factor for my work, because Canadian English has subtle differences from US English. I am not sure Terry anticipated that I would know that, but after brief conference, we agreed to conform the ms to Canadian orthography.
The result is a modern game-related SF/thriller that comes into clarity much as does an image when one increases the resolution. At, say, 80 x 50, one would see a lot of squares. Bump it to 160 x 100, more detail; 320 x 200, still more, and so on until the plot and backdrop come into full focus. If that is your genre, you may very much enjoy the milieu Terry has created.
There’s more than one new project out there in the genre. I’ve known Mike Lee Davis, aka Studio Dongo, since he was Sloucho back at Epinions. A good guy who was one of the best writers at the site, he’s also writing contemporary/conspiracy SF these days. He is currently promoting Vanishing in a Puff of Logic, a gaming story, whose Amazon blurb reads:
Vanishing in a Puff of Logic is the story of one neurotic gamer’s attempt to win at Nethack while tripping on shrooms.
On a slightly deeper level, the story is about that same gamer’s desire to triumph as a female elven wizard who is, literally, naked.
And on an even deeper level . . .
Let’s face it. There is no even deeper level.
If you get the impression that Mike’s pretty down-to-earth, capable of surprises, and has a sense of humor about his work and himself, you’re correct. His book is free today and tomorrow, August 11 and August 12, and if you check him out, I think you’ll like what you see.
My wife recently posted something about toxic relationships. Since she and I have both experienced those, we know a bit about why people don’t just leave them.
As I thought about the difference, I recognized that in broad terms, there are two ways to maintain a relationship. I think some people commingle the two. The paths are simple: one can either make it perilous, cumbersome, or guilt-fraught to leave, or one can give a partner incentives to stay because life is better.
In other terms, one can run a relationship as a jail, or as a resort. Some relationship jails are humane enough, just hard to escape from. Others are places of constant, brutal interrogation. I know people who, if their partner transgressed against them, would never leave the relationship–and not out of fear. “And miss the ability to punish him/her for years?”
If one manages one’s side of the relationship like a resort, giving him or her reasons to stay, one is a partner.
If one manages it like a jail, presenting mostly barriers to escape, one is a prison warden. And if the reason for confinement is to inflict suffering, one is also a terrorist.
Then again, the same could apply to much of life.
If a parent assures filial devotion through kindness, wisdom, support and gratitude for past sacrifice, that’s a parent.
If a parent commands filial devotion through browbeating, passive aggression, fear of disapproval, withdrawal of affection, and/or threat of disinheritance, that’s not a parent. That’s a jailer and and a terrorist.
If a supervisor retains employees through competitive pay, a positive environment, quality leadership and personal growth potential, the workplace is a resort.
If a supervisor keeps them through fear of starvation, gaslighting, constant dicking over, and changing expectations on the fly, the workplace is a jail. The supervisor isn’t a manager, but a terrorist.
If police spend most of their energy in the primary role of preventing harm to people who generally do the right thing, and helping them when they have problems, they are resort security.
If police are mostly occupied with reasons to catch right-doers in the occasional wrong, they are jailers. If the purpose is to intimidate, they are also terrorists. If the purpose is revenue, they are organized criminals. If the purpose is their personal gratification, they are sadists.
If a soldier points a weapon at your enemies, and blocks their path to reach you, s/he is your defender.
If a soldier points his or her weapon at you, to compel your obedience or submission, s/he is your jailer.
If government spends most of its energy figuring out ways to empower and help people, it is resort management, inspiring voluntary compliance for the common good.
If government spends most of its time inventing new reasons why people can’t go here, do this, have that, it’s a prison warden. If it does so mainly through bullying and fear, it engages in terrorism. Its minions who take pleasure in this are sadists.
Maybe if one spends a portion of one’s life in a virtual jail under intimidation and terror, it’s easier to accept that jail, intimidation, and terror are just normal life, the eternal state of humanity.
Maybe if we’re going to fight against terrorism, we should begin with our families, homes, workplaces, streets, and highways.
Aging is when:
You finally start to figure out what is baloney, and what is real.
It’s too late in life for you to profit much from that.
You look around for people who can, who have more time.
You learn that most of them just aren’t ready to absorb it.
You understand, because at their age, you wouldn’t have absorbed it either. How else did this take you so long?
You either make peace with that, or not.
If you do, you at least aren’t alone.