Thursday, October 23, 2014

Time for a Blog Break

Well, everyone, you may or may not have noticed I've been posting infrequently and sporadically over the past month or so. I'm here to tell you it's not going to improve anytime soon, sad to say.

I find myself in need of a blog break. My time lately has not been my own, and it's been increasingly difficult to find the time to sit down to gather my thoughts and write up a decent post. It's even been hard for S.K. and me to meet up for coffee, if you can believe that. No coffee = no fun. And let's be frank: if you know us at all, you know clarity of thought is elusive even on a good day. Without coffee, well . . . just be thankful we haven't posted most of those chats.

What bums me out even more is that I've been missing the great posts all of you have been putting out there! I won't allow myself to skim through and give the much-despised "Great post! Thanks for sharing!" just to prove I've been there. I really enjoy what you all have to say, and want to give it the time and attention it deserves.

The good news here is that I'm lacking time because I have two jobs I really love. My full-time job takes up almost 40 hours in a four-day span, but I get to be very musical and get money for it. Who wouldn't love that?

I've also been editing like crazy, which means business is great but also means adding about 20-25 more hours in a completely different direction. Since last fall, I've quadrupled the number of authors I'm working with, and each of them has brought a new dimension to my work. I've also found the more variety I have, the more efficient I've become, and the edits are easier overall. Yet another winning situation that gives me a great deal of satisfaction.

Homeschooling our youngest has to fit in there somewhere, too, but thank goodness she's in high school now and very flexible about my teaching help coming at odd hours of the day and night, weekends, via text/email, in the car, etc. The beauty of homeschooling is truly the "no classroom needed" aspect, and as I go into my 17th year of it, I think I have a grasp on what's realistically doable.

All this adds up, though, and doesn't leave a whole lot of time for other things. I knew it was time for a break when I realized it's taken me three weeks to write up this post. Hmm . . . talk about confirming what I already knew!

I'll miss everyone, and I hope you don't forget about me while I'm absent, because I'll be looking forward to when I can join up with the blogging community again. Happy blogging, and I'll see you soon!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Author Interview: Dave Rudden

Today, I'm featuring Dave Rudden, author of the Age of Humanity series. I featured Dave's first book, Born Hunter, back in February of this year, and recently had the pleasure of working on his second in the series, I Am a Ghost.

I Am a Ghost continues the story that began in the first book, following the lives of a community of monster hunters.

I caught up with Dave so I could ask the really tough questions nobody else was willing to ask. Unfortunately, he outright refused to tell me what he's bought me for Christmas and where it's hidden. Um . . . and he wouldn't tell me his address so I could do a proper search of his house, either. Because of this, I was forced to ask a bunch of other questions on my Plan B list. Here's what Dave had to say:

ER: Did you have a favorite book as a child? 
DR: I read a wide variety of books growing up. For a while, I was on a Hardy Boys kick, and then there was my Terry Pratchett stage. I think my favorite books were a series of "choose your own adventure" books call Lone Wolf.  Every book in the Lone Wolf series allowed you to carry your weapons and such to the next book. I died most of the time, but it was fun to go back and try over and over again. I liked them so much that I even took Lone Wolf as my CB handle when I was into running around St Louis County with a CB Radio in my car.

ER: What was the first thing you wrote that you showed someone else? 
DR: I was never big on showing my work to anyone, except when required to do so.  My grammar and spelling stink to high heaven so I was always a bit embarrassed to show anyone anything I did (I just fixed 3 typos in that sentence). However, the story I developed has been brewing for over ten years and I finally had to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. My first inspiration to become a writer came during a college creative writing class I was required to take.  I wrote a story about a sniper who put his life on the line to save a group of villagers, and then escaped into the deep woods. My fellow students thought it should be a book and I started working out the details of my overall story.  Now, I still have horrible grammar, but I have a proofreader and a great editor.

ER: [Stops patting self on back to ask another question.] Do you prefer quiet when writing, or can you ignore everything around you when the mood strikes? I know you have little boys, so that can certainly factor in. 
DR: I can ignore everything but my kids, especially when they are in my ear yelling, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.” If things are too quiet, it throws me off. I have to have music or something in the background.  My wife always makes fun of me, because I actually do some of my best work while I have a lot of background noise.

ER: Do you write linearly, or do you write scenes as they come to you and then put them in order later? 
DR: When it comes to actually writing my books I write linear, but I have notes of different scenes I want to play out.  The way I create my stories is that I actually start with the ending and then it is up to the characters to get there.  Each one of my books leads to the bigger overall story, so things need to line up correctly. 

Funny story about this: the very first book I completed is set in 2000BC and is about a boy named Von, who's lost from his family and thrown into the world of magic.  I wrote the entire thing out, but toward the end, my characters were not lining up correctly.  Instead of forcing the issue, I went back and rewrote most of the book so the characters moved the way I needed them to.  It was a lot of work, but when I get around to publishing it, I am sure the readers will appreciate my efforts.

ER: The hard work is always worth it, and readers do appreciate it. I've noticed you seem to have no qualms about killing off major characters. Have you ever gotten attached to a character you knew had to die at some point, and did you question your decision to do it? 
DR: I actually hate killing off my characters, but there are a couple I can’t wait to kill off. I try to make my heroes likable, but these first books are meant to set up future character states of mind. In order to do so I have to create pain and suffering at times.  In BORN HUNTER, I really wanted to write a different ending, but it sets up a bigger story later on.  In I AM A GHOST, I wanted to find a way for things to go differently, but Jack and his daughter are meant for bigger things. Unfortunately, when you hunt the paranormal, people are going to die.  Don’t worry, reader, I will never bring someone back from the dead without a great explanation and the good guys win in the end. Well, they sort of win.

ER: What type of books do you read for pleasure? Within your writing genre, or completely opposite? Are you secretly a Harlequin Romance junkie?
DR: You figured me out. There is nothing I love more than to cuddle up with a steamy romance novel and dream of being swept away by a handsome pool boy (insert dirty look here). 

Seriously, I enjoy reading science fiction and fantasy. A good mystery is always welcome, along with some action novels. Currently I am reading some of the original James Bond books that I found a few years back.

ER: You recently held a contest where people could win an opportunity to have themselves in your next book(s). Did you warn them they'll most likely be killed by the end of the book, or are you going to surprise them when the book is published? Did anyone ask you to give them a particularly grisly death, or to make sure they're beautiful with genius IQ?
DR: First, let me explain the contest.  One of my characters is a man named Oni, who was once a wizard. Oni was a mentor and friend of Von.  Oni lost his ability to use magic but he doesn’t age.  The current series of books takes place 4000 years later. Since Oni has been alive that entire time, I thought it would be fun to write a back story for him. The contest allows the fans to create a character to be part of and actually drive his life. Every character will teach or make him realize something about his life without magic, making him the man he is today. To win, the person simply had to answer a question about one of my books.

The first time I did this contest, three women posted the correct answer at the same time so they all won. One woman wanted to be a dark fairy of sorts, one wanted to be a hawk and the third wanted to be a demon who wants to be good.  I told every one of them that I control their characters and can do what I want with them. I also warned them that they could die. Only one of them said that since she was going to die, she wanted to die a certain way; the others have left it up to me.

Since this book will take years to write as I continue to hold contests and create characters, I write it chapter by chapter. When I finish each chapter, I send it to the person whose character is depicted in that chapter and make sure they are pleased with it. I also draft the story out with them before I get in too deep so they know what I am thinking. As the story progresses, some characters will carry on to other chapters and maybe even the entire book, depending on the relationship they have with Oni.

Once I receive their approval, I post each chapter on my Facebook page.  One of these days I will have a website up so people can see all of them. I was even thinking of starting a page where people could ask Oni for advice, just for fun.

If readers want to have a chance to be a part of Oni’s life, there are 4000 years of characters I have to write about so I will need a lot more people to take part. 

ER: Anything else you'd like to add about the book, the series in general, or your own plans?
DR: My story is not just one or two books. I have over thirteen in mind, plus a bunch of side stories and books after the final book.  The overall story is that 4000 years ago, magic controlled the world. During this time, humanity was seen as weak until a boy stood up to magic and empowered the rest of humanity. 4000 years later, magic comes back with a vengeance. Once again, humans have to fight for their freedom. When evil rises up and magic returns to power, it will take everything humans have to win.

I hope that people enjoy reading my story as much as I am enjoying writing it. 

You can find Dave Rudden's books on Amazon, and you can find Dave himself on Facebook

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Coffee Chat 24.0 with S.K. Anthony: S.K. is LOST! Have You Seen Her?

The beginning of the fall season must have inspired S.K. to start some serious shenanigans. I can not find her anywhere. I've put out signs, figuring if anyone has seen the cup, S.K. will be attached to it.

The strangest thing is that some of Live Bacon's boots have gone missing with her. 

Though the two of us are not known for being on the ball (shocking, I know), at least I realized within 24 hours that today was not Thursday anymore. The last I heard from S.K., she was talking about Daylight Savings Time and turning back her calendar a month . . . maybe I should be worried. I can't remember where I left her in August.

We'll be back with coffee and chatting when I find her, I guess.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Editor's Notes #18 : Does Your Editor Go the Extra Mile?

I'm sure each of us has been the recipient of the phrase, "It's not what you said, it's how you said it!" when we've inadvertently offended someone. I would be willing to bet there's not a person on this earth who hasn't said the right thing in the wrong way at least once. Heck, I do it all the time, so I probably skew the statistics a bit for everyone else. 

Is tact really an art form, or can any ol' schmo learn it? I do think some people are naturally more tactful than others, but I think a small helping of tact can smooth over a plethora of situations. In our family, we have the two ends of the scale, right under one roof. Lucky us, right? Hmm. Well, on one hand there's me:
PERSON: Would you like to come over on Saturday? We're having a picnic with a bunch of people you don't know and probably won't ever see again, but you're always good for a fun time.
ME: [I'm tired and do NOT want to go but can't lie about it, either.] Well, I have a lot going on this week, and Saturday's the only day I can catch up with my family, so I'll have to bow out this time. But thanks for inviting me! That was really sweet of you.

And there's my husband:
PERSON: Would you like to come over on Saturday? We're having—
The man does have it in him to be tactful when necessary, like when I say, "How does this look?" and he replies, "Well . . . I know you really like that outfit and it doesn't look bad, but it's not the most flattering thing you own." More often than not, he prefers to be blunt. Because he never does it with the intention of being hurtful, people who know him appreciate that they'll always get an honest answer.

I associate honesty with caring. If I care about you, I'll tell you if you've hurt my feelings. I may wait a bit so as not to react in knee-jerk fashion, but I need to the relationship to be healthy and therefore won't let it fester. It may not always be the comfortable thing to say, but I'll put it out there and if the other person also cares, the issue will get fixed.

How does this relate to editing, you may ask? Let's put it into the proper context. I get paid to do the job of a copy editor. I can correct typos, fix those tricky semicolons, and correct your homophone use. I can do the bare minimum required. I sends da bill, I gets da money. Fair and square.

But what if the manuscript needs more than what my job description entails? Furthermore, what if I know what needs fixed and have suggestions on how things can be made better? Am I obligated to tell the author these things? No.

But . . .

My personal standards don't allow me to skip that step. If I care, then I am, indeed, obligated to say something. Sometimes the improvements are light, easy fixes, and other times, a whole lot of work is involved.

Perhaps this word might work more effectively here than the one you've used sounds a whole lot nicer than Do you even know what this word means? The first suggestion implies there's a better option out there and it may improve the book to use that option. The second implies that the writer is a moron who deserves to be charged double.

This is not to say it's kinder to only say easy things. There are times that hard truths need to be said, and saying them kindly doesn't mask the fact that they may still be hard to hear. If someone truly wants to improve his work, he'll at least ponder those truths and confirm them with others. If ego takes over, the truths will be stubbornly ignored, and the work may never improve. 

It's my hope that those I work with will always see my comments and suggestions as stemming from a desire to see the book at its best. I would rather tell the truth than stroke the ego any day of the week.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Coffee Chat 23.0 with S.K. Anthony: The Loudermilks Band

[Shake, shake, shake.]
Oh good morning everyone! I'm waiting on Lynda. How is it she manages to be late in her own house? Anyway, gimme a second. [Frowns.]

ER: [Yawning.] I was dreaming there was a rattlesnake on my pillow, and I kept backing away but it kept rattling at me with the strangest rhythm pattern. Huh. Coffee will make it all better. [Looks at SK with dawning horror.] What do you have in your hands?

SK: This is so weird! I thought I'd return the maracas you loaned me, so I went out and bought myself a new set, but they must be broken. Look. [Shakes maracas.] What's that noise?

ER: That's the sound . . . um . . . that other types of maracas make. The imported kind. [Shifts uncomfortably.] You know those crazy foreign maraca players, always trying to get attention for themselves. You really didn't have to give mine back—they were especially suited for your style of playing.

SK: I know you made them special for me, but like it these. Look, they’re black and blue and have our pictures on them!

ER: Ohh! Those are pretty!

SK: The only problem is the music is awful. I think you have to tune these up too. Oh, and I like that I have my own style of playing! That's so cool. But what's my specialty?

ER: You think the music is what's awful? Never mind. If I had to pin it down, I'd say your specialty is dancing. And you should probably stick to the maracas I loaned you; they appeal to the finest of musical palettes. Truly. [Takes maracas from S.K.'s hands and quickly hides them while she's filling the coffee mugs.]

So what on earth were you trying to do, anyway? The Loudermilks won't be going on tour for a few more months.

SK: Well, I just needed something easy to do. Writing books is kicking my butt so I’m exploring my other natural talents. That’s all.

ER: Your natur—right . . . well, we still haven't found the rest of the band members. You'd think they were actually trying to not be found or something.

SK: Well everyone gets busy. Should we put out a notice for new members? We can always play a video of an actual concert on a big screen and dance in front for our tour. That's what you musicians do all the time, right?

ER: Oh, yeah. [Rolls eyes.] All the time. There's no practicing or learning an instrument. We all just dance in front of a big screen of someone else's concert.

Haven't you ever heard the phrase "practice makes perfect"? It's no different for musicians than it is for authors.

I think I'm sensing sarcasm here . . . but I need more coffee before I decide if it was. Hey, I could swear I left my maracas on the table . . . where are they? [Frowns.] Anyway, so when I find them, you're saying we have to practice, revise, edit, and beta?

ER: The procedure is pretty much the same for any product. And yes, the Loudermilks' music is a product, just like any book. You choose what you're going to do. You practice. You practice more. You revise. You beta by asking others for their honest opinions—uh, like whether you should use the "special" maracas or store-bought ones with stuff inside—revise again, put the final edit/polish on it, and boom. A terrific result comes blasting out of the cannon.

SK: It will be easy since we're both so talented. I just hope the other members we find are just as good. What do you think? More authors or more musicians? I think we can go either way since it's pretty much the same product.

ER: I can't imagine we'd sound any better or any worse, no matter which group we'd choose from. Just prepare to work hard if you expect me to go out on stage with you.

SK: For sure! But by hard work you mean drink coffee, right? Because I have a surprise for you!

ER: Oh dear . . .

SK: [Pulls Lynda outside the kitchen door.] Ta-da! I present to you our newest band members! Donkey will play the bells around his neck, Live Bacon will carry the singing banana, and AndyAndy will play the drums.

ER: Against my better judgment I’ll ask probably the most disturbing question: a singing banana?

SK: Yeah he’s our lead vocalist and lyricist. He’s really good. Look:

Ooh, I suddenly want a PB&J sandwich. Want one?

ER: Oh, SK . . .

As always:

You can find S.K. Anthony in a number of places. She's on Twitter @SKathAnthony, her website is, her Facebook page is S Katherine Anthony, and on occasional occasions, she'll be right here with me, drinking coffee and laughing it up over our latest plans and schemes. And possibly even talking about books and writing. 

You can find me here. I'm always here. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Editor's Notes #17: Does Personality Matter?

When it comes to hiring an editor, does a compatible personality really matter all that much? Do you care whether he or she can relate to you as a person? After all, you're just hiring them to do a job. In many cases, you may never meet them face to face, so you don't have to deal with them in the traditional way. Though I respect those who are interested in a "just business" transaction—and I do accommodate them—I think being compatible does matter.

I surround myself with people who are generally pleasant. I don't care for mean people (really, who does?) and it makes me uncomfortable to be around people who talk down to others.

I need to have people pour into my life as I pour into theirs, and this applies on a professional level as much as it does on a personal level. Even though the personal level is . . . well, personal, and therefore maybe a little deeper, I believe it's important to encourage while doing the job well and not skirting around the truth.

I don't think most writers appreciate those who take and don't give. Everyone appreciates encouragement and a kind word, as long as it's not false flattery. I do "take" in the sense that I take compensation. That's business, plain and simple. But there's no need for me to take their self-esteem by implying that they're not smart enough to know all "the rules." If that's the case, then I have to face the truth that I'm not smart enough to write an original story myself. We all have our gifts. A good mesh of personalities should enhance those gifts and encourage them.

When you develop a relationship with a coworker (in any job), helping each other is part of the deal. Whether you work directly together or on individual aspects of a project, all components must match up and make the final product shine. Normally you see this person every day and you know if she appreciates constructive criticism or if he has a hard time accepting he’s not perfect. You know if they can “take it” straight up or if you have to dance around how you communicate a mistake. And vice versa: they understand our personalities and how we work as well. 

The author-editor relationship isn’t all that different. If my authors know me, they’ll be able to differentiate between whether I’m offering a helpful critique or criticizing them in a condescending way.

If our sense of humor matches up (I like sarcasm), we can laugh about mistakes found in the manuscripts. Because let’s be honest, some are pretty funny. Things I'm allowed to share (yes, I asked): S.K. Anthony had one of her characters "flowering the plants" and in another area couldn't figure out why the word "payed" looked so odd; Raymond Esposito wrote that "deaf people hear things others might miss" when referring to a blind character's uncanny hearing, and in the same book had a character throw a boilermaker in a fistfight, rather than a haymaker (all I could picture was the guy throwing whiskey at the other guy, followed by a splash of beer); I'm forever telling another author to stop naming people he's going to kill, because I'm tired of writing down their information on my style sheet, only to add "dead" beside them ten minutes later. My margin notes hopefully show that I'm laughing along with them rather than laughing at their expense.

Don't get me wrong: I get it back as often as I give it. Raymond said he told his family I was his special-needs friend to "explain" my Facebook posts. And it's no secret, I think, that S.K. and I share the same brain (sometimes we take turns and one of us gives it up entirely), so when I ramble, she tells me. In fact, I was having trouble organizing my thoughts for this post, and when I sent it off to her for help, she sent it back with the document labeled "Lynda's Disjointed Blog Post." She's also been known to preread my posts and tell me to "cut this part out, because you're whining." 

I want the authors who hire me to feel comfortable—confident in the knowledge that I have the ability to do a good job for them, and secure enough to know that I won't talk in a patronizing way when I make suggestions. Besides, getting to know an author a little better gives me a deeper understanding of how his mind works. By having that extra insight on his individual communication and expression style, I’m able to grasp the written word in his manuscripts on a whole new level. 

Getting along encourages a smooth and fun transaction all around.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Coffee Chat 22.0 with S.K. Anthony: Editing with Style

Good morning, everyone! I'm finally up early enough to make the coffee before SK gets here. She's usually so early that it feels weird to come down the stairs into a dark living room. [Trips over rug.] That's weird; I don't normally have a rug right there . . . 

[Music suddenly begins to play as colored lights turn on, aimed at a—] Is that a disco ball in my living room? And why am I standing on a long red carpet?

SK: Good morning, Lynda! When I was stalking your blog, I couldn't help but catch your Editor's Notes about Style Sheep, so I decided to bring him here for you to meet. He even graciously agreed to put on a fashion show just for you! [Grins.] 

ER: Well, he certainly is . . . um . . . stylish. I can't say as I've ever seen a sheep with a nicer scarf than I own. And that hat!

SK: Cute! Right?

ER: Uh, yeah. Except I think you may have misunderstood me. I use a style SHEET when I edit. You know, a document that has all the pertinent information about a manuscript. A notebook. A bunch of paper. A Word file. A—

SK: Nonsense! I read between the lines and understood as bright as a star: the style sheep is your first go-to when you start editing. Why is it, though? You dress to match? Like each MS gets a specific outfit that inspires editing?

ER: Really, there is no "between the lines." I really do use words on paper. You know, like a character's name, hair color, job, physical description, quirks . . . 

SK: Well, yeah. I mean of course you'll need to know their name, hair colors, and physical description if you want to dress appropriately to edit them. I so get it. But can you just watch Mr. Style Sheep walk down the carpet now so we can go have coffee?

ER: [Sighs heavily.] All right, get that sheep to walk down the red carpet and get him out of my house. What's up with the animals inside the house? You're freaking out AndyAndy on a regular basis. And now he'll probably want a hat and scarf, too. And for goodness' sake, get the lights and disco ball turned off before Tim comes downstairs . . . can the sheep walk any faster? I don't care if he's trained to take his time and preen for the cameras. [Prods sheep with toe.] Move it, mister.

SK: AndyAndy is in on it; he just frets to you so you can scratch his back. Aww, look at Style Sheep go. Good thing the carpet goes straight out the door. And now COFFEE!

I didn't make or bring anything this time, I hope you have some goodies for us. [Looks around kitchen.] So tell me, when you're editing, it's like Superman isn't it? A secret that isn't so secret identity but can only be done with the cape—or whatever—on?

ER: I don't know how to convince you, but I'll say it again: I have no super-duper secrets when I'm editing. I'm not Superman, wearing a cape. I'm just plain Lynda. I sit down with my laptop and my Chicago Manual of Style, and I write things as I read them. I see a name? I write it. Is he tall? Dark hair? Of course all the best characters have dark hair, right? I write it. Later in the book, if there's a squiggle under that person's name, I check to see if it's really a misspelling or if Word just doesn't recognize it. If an author tells me she doesn't like semicolons, I note that. If he loves adverbs exceedingly much and I think he needs to ditch them, I'll note the ones used most often and count them.

SK: Oh yes, dark hair! [Stares into space.]

Ahem, anyway . . . I almost believed that! You said it with such a straight face, too. Oh man, you're so good! I get it, though. We shouldn't be publicly sharing your editing secrets. [Winks at Lynda.] But since the sheep is out of the bag and we've already officially acknowledge the outfits—

ER: We haven’t acknowledged any—

SK: Can you tell me what this one is about?

ER: Oh. That was when I was working on Kinetic. What's so odd about that? And where did you find it? I was at Wal Mart, shopping for more Red Pens of Doom.

SK: [Frowns.] I don't get it. It's 'cause you're both superheroes? 'Cause I mean, Annie doesn't wear a crown or a one piece swimsuit. And what about this one? 

ER: Uh . . . that was when I was working on The Devil’s Hour. I’m not sure what you’re getting at—


ER: [Looks sheepish.] That’s my Kestrel Saga outfit. It has . . . um . . . a voice-changer . . . and I can make the bad guys sound scarier if I read the text aloud. [Blushes.] Gosh, I guess I never thought about it. I really do dress for success when I edit. The Style Sheep knows where it’s at.

SK: Dressing for success is half the battle. I mean look at me; that’s why I’m naked.

ER: You’re not . . . undressed. And why—

SK: Well, under my clothes I am. I’m just trying to channel my ol’ pal Ernest Hemingway. He wrote naked and made it big! Fake it ‘till I make it and all that. [Shrugs.]

Are you sure you want me to take the disco ball with me? Don’t you need lighting when you’re editing?

ER: . . . 

As always:

You can find S.K. Anthony in a number of places. She's on Twitter @SKathAnthony, her website is, her Facebook page is S Katherine Anthony, and on occasional occasions, she'll be right here with me, drinking coffee and laughing it up over our latest plans and schemes. And possibly even talking about books and writing. 

You can find me here. I'm always here. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Editor's Notes #16: How a Beta Reader Works

Today, I thought it would be nice to have an opinion other than my own for you to read. Don't get too used to it.

As much as I love the editing process, my specialty leans more toward line edits. I make sure your commas and semicolons don't get mixed up, I fix your odd quotation marks so they're all facing the proper way, and if you're using a homophone, I will ensure it's the correct one. But what about all the tweaking that happens before the manuscript comes to me? Sometimes a book has more global issues that need fixing. That's when a beta reader can come in handy.

There are those for whom beta reading simply means, "I'll read your book and tell you if it's good or needs more work." Other betas will give stronger, more specific opinions. Many of them do the work for free because they love to read and have the time. The person you're hearing from today is a professional beta reader whose thoroughness rivals that of any content editor, and one of the few people whose work I trust completely enough to recommend.

Allow me to turn things over to Sarah from Your Beta Reader.

As a professional beta reader, I’d like to share with you a little of how I do my job. Why? Because maybe you can take something from my process for when you swap manuscripts with your author friends. Helping others and each other never hurt anyone, after all.

In my line of work, I see manuscripts in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they’re only a few chapters; sometimes I’m the last eye on a full manuscript right before it goes to the copy editor. Each author has his own set of strengths and weaknesses along with his own process. Some need help when their MS is in the roughest shape, because they don’t like to spend time fixing something they’ll end up deleting. Others like me to double check inconsistencies only. Either way, if I see something that needs addressing, I bring it up in my reports. It is my job, and if I don’t mention things, I’m doing my client a disservice. 

Once the report is in the author’s hands, it’s up to him to fix or ignore me—or most importantly, ask for more outside opinions. If, on the other hand, you’re swapping with an author or just helping a friend out, I’d suggest you stick to what they ask of you, unless it’s something major. Overstepping is easy and is a fine line you don’t want to cross.

Here are some general steps I take as a beta reader when I’m working on a job:

  • I take a full week when working on a manuscript, and I read it twice. During the first read-through, I make comments and notes along the way to make sure everything is answered or to remind the author what was brought up and never addressed again, as well as for me to understand the story. I take one or two days in between to clear my head from the story, and then I go back. On the second read-through, I’ll look for inconsistencies and make suggestions based on the ending that will help strengthen the story itself. 
  • I keep notes for dates, timelines, names, descriptions, facts, etc., and I make sure to point out where they’re off in the MS so the author can fix them. The note includes a reminder of the options, along with page numbers, so the author doesn’t have to go looking. 
  • I help identity any problems with the readability or saleabitity of a manuscript by keeping on top of what reviewers (especially the mean ones) are looking for. How? Well, they enjoy bashing the overuse of storylines, clichés, and overly perfect characters, etc. I read reviews, I read books for pleasure and for work, and I share my finds with my authors. 
  • I pay attention to structure, POV, dialogue, show v. tell, and more. When dealing with structure, for example, if there are scenes that would make a bigger impact in another part of the MS, I’ll make a note and explain my reasoning behind it, and make suggestions of what can replace its original location. 
  • I keep on top of characters’ personalities and make sure they’re staying true to themselves. For example, an OCD or neat freak, getting bad news while walking on the street wouldn’t start littering by throwing his coffee cup on the sidewalk because he’s now under stress. Some writers would think it might show just how stressed he is by acting with such opposite behavior, but wouldn’t it be more true to himself if he suddenly stopped and started picking up garbage off the street and putting them in the cans while processing his problems? Two birds, one stone (cliché intended)—but you’re showing and staying true to character this way. 
  • Most importantly, when it comes to delivering feedback, I can be brutally honest . . . but tactful, always tactful. I’ve said this in the past, but its true: I’d like to think I’m a very sweet—but serious—defibrillator . . . I shock my authors with nice (truthful) praises until they’re too numb to know better when I’m gently crushing their hearts. Honestly, it’s tricky to find a balance between being too kind and being too cruel. In the end they really do need to hear the truth; that’s why I also bring up their strengths and make sure they know they’re on the right path.

There you have it. I hope my work process was helpful, or at the very least, interesting to read. Thank you for having me over, Lynda!

You can find Sarah at Your Beta Reader. Her prices are extremely reasonable and her work is exemplary in its thoroughness.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Coffee Chat 21.0 with S.K. Anthony: Make Mine a Double . . . Negative

Hey, guys!
SK here. Boy, is Lynda in for a—Donkey, shhhh! Sorry, where was I? Oh, I'm waiting impatiently for Lynda to wake up and join me for Coffee Chat. I have someone special here today for Lynda's 101st post: the one and only guest who's ever been thoughtful enough to gift us with our pet Donkey: C. Lee McKenzie! And she brought us— . . . oh, I hear steps . . .

ER: [Stares incredulously at Donkey, strapped to a chair in the kitchen.] Oh, SK, you've done a lot of things in your day, but—well, first of all, where on earth did you find a booster seat big enough for a DONKEY? And why on earth is he in the—

CLEM: [Jumps up from behind Donkey.] ’Tis me, the soreprise guest.

ER: [Faints dead away.]

[Thirty minutes later. Lynda is calm and Donkey is back outside, running around with Live Bacon and AndyAndy.]

SK: Sorry, ladies . . . I thought it'd be funny. But Lee, thank you for joining us today! Don't worry about Lynda, she'll be fine. It's not our problem she can't take a joke.

CLEM: I had no idea she’d topple like that. Can we do it again? That was so amazingly fun! Oh, sorry, Lynda. Let me help you to the chair. [Looks to SK.] I really am sorry. Tell her so when she can process again. Please.

SK: I will. [Nods.] She’ll blame me anyway. See that murderous look? It’s all for me. But I’m about to make it better with coffee. A cup o’ Joe always cheers her up. We’ll even give her whatever you have in that bag you brought. What did you bring? It smells delicious! [Wipes drool.] Oh, and you’ll definitely be in her good graces since you even brought her a book to talk about.

ER: [Takes coffee and gulps it down.] More, SK.

Did I hear something about a book?

SK: YES! You know that formula rule thingy? One positive and a negative makes a negative. Well get this: apparently, a Double Negative makes . . . wait for it . . . A BOOK!

CLEM: Come to think of it, I should have gotten two books out of that formula. I was never good at math.

SK: Good thing we don’t care about math too much around here. So this Double Negative book, I think I can relate to your Hutchison McQueen character. Gets in trouble, eavesdrops and memorizes what he hears? A boy after my own heart. Ahem, way to throw a hint in there about his reading.

CLEM: I did a lot that eavesdropping and memorizing in school, too. Are we related? You’re kind of silly. (No offense, but I mean Bacon? Donkey?) I’m kind of silly. You seem to like coffee. I like coffee. You like Lynda, too. And I find her a joy. She makes me laugh, and she falls for our pranks.

SK: Hutchison seems like he’s full of layers, Lee. Would you say his personality and behavior came to you easily? What separates him from other characters you’ve written?

CLEM: For one, he’s a guy. My other MCs are of the other sex. Small difference there. Otherwise, I think they have a lot in common—big problems that kids shouldn't have to manage alone, older people in their lives that either are helpful or hurtful, some growing pains and reversals of attitude.

Hutch came fully formed and ready to go. All I needed was a place to put him and a series of events to make a plot that wouldn’t put people to sleep. [Nudges Lynda.] Stay with me, Lynda. I haven’t finished yet.

ER: Oh, I'm awake, all right. At least I think I am. I could have sworn Donkey was in my kitchen, and that can't be right . . . [Shakes head, looking confused.] Anyway, Hutch does sound fascinating. So many people have issues they assume no one else has, or can understand, and they end up feeling very alone. Putting on the tough guy act only works to a certain point.

How difficult was it to write from a guy's point of view? I've heard people criticize JK Rowling for writing some of Harry Potter's dialogue to sound like how a middle-aged woman thinks a teen guy feels, but not how a teen guy actually feels or speaks. Did you run Hutch's dialogue or thoughts by a few guys to see if he sounded authentic, or do you simply have a good feel for that sort of thing? I read a snippet of the book, and he sounds guy-ish to me.

CLEM: JK and I discussed the matter of middle-aged women and young boys. Wait! That didn’t come out right. We discussed the matter of middle-aged women writing teen boy dialogue and how challenging that was. She knows nothing. I tried to set her straight, but she’s on to new ventures and busy counting gold. As to my technique . . . I turned to my male brood for input.

ER: And by the way, your jam is delicious! I'm so glad you brought some—and not another large animal.

CLEM: Oh, no! I forgot Hannibal. Just a sec. Won’t be a moment. [Grabs jam and hurries to the door. Leaves. Returns shortly with empty jar.] Sorry about that. I forgot my yak. He needed a jam fix. Now where were we?

SK: But . . . I didn’t even get to taste the jam after Lynda took the jar away. That’s it. I’m not buying that Hannibal any cute boots.

ER: But—the jam— [Suddenly realizes what Lee just said.] A YAK? [Mutters to self.] Pleasepleaseplease let that be her ride home.

[To Lee] I thought maybe you'd had some words with JK. She could really use some advice from a strong writer like you. Honestly, I have no idea how she would have managed if you hadn't been helping her out all these years.

CLEM: You’re the first to mention my role in her success. Thank you, Lynda. Here. [Reaches into bag and presents a new jar of jam.] Hannibal should be on a diet anyway. So about JK. Did you notice her switch to a new genre? [Points finger at self.] But enough about JK. Let’s talk about something more exciting.

SK: I love you, Lee. Can I get a jar of—no? Okay. [Sinks in chair.]

You know what’s exciting? Your cover. I really like the colors and the pose, and I think it fits perfectly with the blurb. Maybe next time if you need some models, you’ll call us up, huh? For the female characters, that is.

CLEM: I audition models on Sundays about 5a.m. You’d be perfect for my next book. But you have to leave Donkey at home. I haven’t written a part for him. Glad you like the cover. I wanted a flowing gown, pink I think, but they said I had to write a different kind of book to get one of those.

SK: So that jam?—err, how long did it take you to write Double Negative? What was the most difficult part of writing it?

CLEM: [Takes jam from Lynda and hands her a napkin.] Sharing is good, Lynda.

And about your question, SK . . . Oh, here’s a small spatula. Lynda left a bit of jam in the bottom.

The hardest part was starting the darned thing. I had one idea that maybe I should start with Hutch already in Juvie (translation: Juvenile Hall). Then I thought, “That’s depressing and there’s usually orange involved in Juvie, so my book could become confused with that other one, the Orange Is the New Black. Have you heard of it? Not many have, and I wanted my book connected to winners. Nothing personal, Piper. It’s all about marketing.

And SK, if you change your mind, Hannibal wears size 20. He prefers open toes so the polish shows. [Reaches across the table, takes napkin from Lynda and gently swipes her chin.]

ER: Oops. Thanks, Lee. You're a doll. [Compulsively continues to check chin for jam "bonuses."] It's your own fault, really, for making such delicious jam. And to be fair, I hadn't quite noticed I'd started eating it straight from the jar, or I would have shared earlier . . . I think.

Ahem . . . weren't we talking about a book or something? Since SK asked about the most difficult part of writing it, you know I have to ask if you had a favorite thing about writing Double Negative that made the process unique or particularly satisfying for you.

CLEM: Typing THE END was pretty darned satisfying. I didn’t think I’d ever do that. But seriously . . . I can be that for a sec, right? Good. Putting different generations together in a story is always a challenge, especially when each older character must contribute to my teen's story, but not take over. When I can get that together, I’m really happy. I loved Maggie (70+) and I loved Jimmy (40s). I really wanted them to have their own stories, but I wanted Hutch to out-shine them. I think I made that happen. Readers will tell me if I didn’t. Believe me. They will really tell me about that.

SK: Oh yeah, readers will share their honest opinions. That’s for sure. In general with your books, but especially with Double Negative, what message do you want your readers to get from your work?

CLEM: When I started the book, I wanted teens to follow Hutch through the roughest of times and see him, not only survive, but start toward a decent life. When I’d finished, I’d become an advocate for literacy. That happened because of what I found out about illiteracy in the U.S.

Here’s a stat that will set Donkey on his ear: 33% of people (over 7 million) living in the L.A. area are illiterate or semi-illiterate! I really want kids to appreciate their ability to read and pass that on.

[Smiles at SK and ER.] And I’ll bet you thought I was just a writer out to make the big bucks.

Thanks for the fun and a chance to yak it up about my book. Please ask me back and I’ll bring more jam, promise to keep Hannibal outside, and not play any more practical jokes.

SK: No more practical jokes? [To Lynda] Does she know us at all?

ER: I have to wonder. But I still like her just fine.

You can find C. Lee McKenzie most often at her own blog, The Write Game, and you can find her books, including (but not limited to) Double Negative, on Amazon, Evernight Teen, and other places. We're so glad she visited us today! And we're even more glad she took Hannibal the Yak home with her.

As always:

You can find S.K. Anthony in a number of places. She's on Twitter @SKathAnthony, her website is, her Facebook page is S Katherine Anthony, and on occasional occasions, she'll be right here with me, drinking coffee and laughing it up over our latest plans and schemes. And possibly even talking about books and writing. 

You can find me here. I'm always here. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Editor's Notes #15: The Process

Just as writers have a process that's as individual as they are, editors have a process when faced with a manuscript. I have my own that's evolved over time, and it seems to work for me. I'd like to think it makes me more efficient with my time, and more effective overall.

I've found that no matter whose book I'm working on, there are certain words that are either overused, misused, or misspelled across the board. I like to look for those right away during my "preliminaries" phase. If I take care of these before I read anything in the story line, it makes the entire edit go smoother.

I search for my favorites first. And by "favorites," I mean those words that cause me to run, screaming, when I see them. Words like "alright" instead of "all right" are downright wrong. Misuse of "to" and "too" will drive me to the brink of insanity. Other words are, I believe, autocorrected or misspelled when typing quickly, like "filed" rather than "field," or "personnel" instead of "personal."

"Farther" v. "further" is a little trickier, as is "compliment" v. "complement." Trickier, but doable.

Still, it pays to take care of these things in one swoop. This is what I simply adore about the age of digital editing: FIND & REPLACE. I don't know of many inventions I appreciate more than that one. Wrong word? Fix them all right away. Character name is misspelled, or inconsistently spelled? Go to that Find & Replace, see how many times the name is spelled each way, and fix it up. 

Still other changes are author-specific. Each author has his or her quirks that I know to look for. I know to expect them and I look for them early in the process.

At the end of all that joyful finding and replacing, I get busy making a style sheet. For those not familiar with a style sheet, let me assure you, you want one. You need one. You probably keep one without realizing what it's called. A style sheet lists character names, complete with eye/hair color, physical traits, military rank, and more. It also lists places, company names, ship names, planets, and anything that's important enough to be mentioned more than once. Some authors keep their style sheets as a notebook for each character or each book. Some have post-it notes decorating their desks. Whatever works for each person is the "right" way to do it.

The nice thing about a style sheet is that I can tell at a glance when a character's hair color has changed, or his job is not the same job he had at the beginning of the book. If I know I'm editing a manuscript that's going to be part of a series, the style sheet becomes even more important, because I won't have to do 75% of that legwork again for the subsequent books.

These are my best time-savers when editing. Authors, do you have any surefire tricks that help you to edit quickly? Editors, is there one "go-to" method that always ensures speediness for you? I'd love to hear them.

Until next time!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Coffee Chat 20.0 with S.K. Anthony: Chatting 'Til the Cows Come Home

I'm waiting for S.K. to arrive. At least, I think she's not here yet. Lately, I've found her visiting the animals before coming in the house. She's really spoiling Live Bacon. He has three sets of boots now! What does a pig need boots for, anyway? . . . he does seem to like them, though, and they look adorable on him.

Well, she said she had an idea for this week's chat, but she always has ideas, so I don't know if this one is normal, or another of her harebrained schemes to take over the world. I guess I'll know it when I hear it.

SK: [Walks in carrying a large shopping bag from L.L. Bacon.] Oh hey, Lynda! You're up . . . Man, the pets are growing up so fast! Anyway, I'm ready to get this ball rolling. What do you have up your sleeve this time?

ER: Ahh, here's the gal after my own heart, bringing treats for the animals and ready to swig coffee like there's no tomorrow. Nothing up my sleeve, man. You said you had the best idea EVAH—"an ace in the hole," I believe was your exact quote.

SK: Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle! I did say I had an idea for today's chat, didn't I? I haven't had my coffee yet, and two heads are better than one, so I’m sure you'll help me remember what I wanted to discuss. Won’t you?

ER: Oh, you can count on me. Look on the bright side: we are always chock-full of ideas. We haven't scraped the bottom of the barrel yet—I'm sure there's an oldie but goodie we haven't used.

Sit down and have a cuppa while we put our heads together to try and remember.

SK: [Takes sip of coffee.] Ahhh, this really makes me feel like mi casa es su casa! Err, well it is your casa, but that's not the point. All right, so let's buckle down and get busy painting our nails or something. Smart cookies don't crumble and idle hands are the devil's workshop, after all.

ER: Speaking of idle hands, what have you been doing this summer? Working like a dog on your book revisions, no doubt. You seem to be burning the midnight oil on some project or another every time I talk to you.

SK: Goodness, I'm at my wits’ end with revisions. It's almost like Static has an ax to grind with me. [SK grabs Lynda’s hand and starts filing nails.]

ER: Take it easy on my hands! Those are fingernails, not sheet metal.

SK: Don’t be a big baby—no pain, no gain! I’m almost done. Either way, I'm taking it easy on Static. Rome wasn't built in a day, you know. On the other hand, I’ve been as sly as fox this summer: I'm reposting our chats on Mondays. What about you? You've been busy as a bee.

ER: I have been busy! Running around like a chicken with its head cut off, in fact. This "working outside the home" stuff? It’s for the birds. Still, I do like my job and the people I work with. They're the bomb!

I'm still editing at home, too. No time to twiddle my thumbs. [Twiddles just for the novelty of it because there is, in fact, time to twiddle thumbs on Coffee Chat days.]

I love that you're reblogging our old chats from the beginning. And did you notice? If you read between the lines, we actually make sense in some of them, believe it or not.

SK: I just hope you don't burn the candle at both ends. Sometimes you just have to stop and smell the roses with a friend over coffee and some goodies. Speaking of, what are we eating? I'm hungry as a bear.

ER: Oh, stop the crocodile tears. We have enough food here to choke a horse—you won't go hungry for long. You thought last week's bacon was great? You ain't seen nothing yet! I made blueberry crepes.

SK: What color you want on your nails? [Holds up red and black nail polish.] I thought red would suit you; the black is for me. Let’s stuff our faces first, though.

ER: [Nods.] Red does bring out the best features in my glasses. Not that I really had a choice in the matter, as usual.

I just wish you could remember what our topic was supposed to be for this week. We're not getting any younger, you know. The suspense is killing me!

SK: [Absentmindedly pours coffee into a large bowl, obviously distracted.] Eureka!

ER: Eureka?

SK: By Jove, I think I’ve got it! [Flaps hands in the air.]

ER: Do tell. [Takes bowl & pours coffee back into pot. SK never notices.]

SK: Clichés. I wanted to talk about clichés. [Sighs heavily in plops back into a chair.] And now time’s up.

ER: Well, there’s no use crying over spilled milk. It is what it is.

SK: [Instantly cheery again.] You’re right. Live and learn. Clichés aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, anyway. Let’s have more coffee—and get those crepes over here.

As always:

You can find S.K. Anthony in a number of places. She's on Twitter @SKathAnthony, her website is, her Facebook page is S Katherine Anthony, and on occasional occasions, she'll be right here with me, drinking coffee and laughing it up over our latest plans and schemes. And possibly even talking about books and writing. 

You can find me here. I'm always here. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Coffee Chat 19.0 with S.K. Anthony: Where'd That Come From?

[S.K. taps fingers on Lynda's kitchen table with a frown.]
Good morning, guys. I'm waiting for Lynda to get her behind down here so I can question her. I need some answers from "her kind" and I won't be able to think clearly until I get them. [Reaches out to the big plate of crispy bacon and starts munching.]

Oh Lynda, there you are!

ER: Hey! Is the coffee—

SK: So yesterday morning it dawned on me that it was Wednesday, and I was spelling it out for the kids so they can familiarize themselves with days of the week. Now, can you explain what's up with all the "odd" rules the English language has? Why isn't it just Wensday?

ER: Uh, my coffee cup—

SK: I don't know who Wen is, but he's probably nice enough to have his own day. Who is Wednes anyway? Exactly. In fact, it should be Wineday, I mean, really.

ER: [Finally reaches the cupboard, only to have S.K. grab the cup away.] Wen who? Wednes? Wine? Aren’t we having coffee?

SK: Sit, sit, I'll get coffee while you answer.

ER: Okay, Wineday first. I mean, Wednesday. Isn’t it named after Woden, that Germanic god who was kind of like the Norse guy, Odin? I wasn’t around back then when they named these things, so I—

SK: That’s like a cheap excuse though, isn’t it? I mean I wasn’t around either. If anybody has the answer it’s you, I know it.

ER: Okay, yes, you’re right. It had nothing to do with Woden. The real story is that halfway through the week, kids all over the world would get very whiny. It happened then and it happens now. “When is it going to be Friday? Why isn’t Saturday here yet?” Whine, whine, whine. It was unbearable. And the elders in the villages started really laying down the law as soon as the kids would even open their mouths during the middle of the week. They’d tell them to stop their complaining, but of course it was the olden days and they spoke a little more formally back then, so they’d say, “Whine not, children.” Eventually, the midweek day became known as Whine-not Day. 

Unfortunately, as the name became popular and other villages adopted it, a few towns misunderstood—because they were villages without whiny children—and thought it was Wine-not Day. They abstained from wine in the middle of the week, but they weren’t really crazy about it. Still, they assumed all the other villages were doing the same. Since they weren’t drinking wine on that day, nobody wanted to get married midweek because they couldn’t put on a proper celebration. It gradually began to be known as Wed-not Day. I’m sure you can connect the dots to see how lazy spelling and improper pronunciation caused it to be known as Wednesday the world over.

SK: I knew it! I knew there had to be something fishy but acceptable behind the name.

ER: However, I should note that the word from an alternate source (my eighteen-year-old) is that it was always supposed to be pronounced as “Weddin’s Day,” the day most people wanted to get married. Having a wedding in the middle of the week would guarantee a person the most time off work before having to return to the old grind on Monday.

SK: That makes sense and it makes me think of cake. So while we're on it, what's up with the phrase "have your cake and eat it too." Why would I have cake and not eat it? Staring at it does me no good. Or is the one I "have" hidden so I eat it later? What is it?

ER: You hide cake? And . . . my coffee . . . can I—?

SK: I know it's a lot of questions. Don't you think I know? I'm all riled up. I've been up pondering on them while you've been busy getting your beauty sleep. Here's your coffee; you can have bacon after you answer each question.

ER: What is this, a game show? Ahh. Coffeeeeeee . . . [Sighs into the cup.] Wait—what? Bacon? [Runs to the window and sighs in relief to see Live Bacon outside, splashing in mud, still wearing his cute little red boots.]

SK: Yes, it’s straight up bacon. I'm stressed out.

ER: Hey, as long as it’s not our little buddy, I’m good with it, though we should probably keep him outside so he’s not offended that we’re chowing down on his kinfolk. Pass that bacon this way. I think coffee and bacon could possibly be the perfect breakfast, all in one tidy little package. Chocolate for dessert and we’re all set.

What? Nobody ever said breakfast shouldn’t include dessert.

SK: Word, sistah! But no bacon for you until you answer my questions. Rules are rules, you know.

ER: Okay, the cake. Um . . . having cake and eating it was never really a thing. Because . . . because back in the old days, they only had really bad cakes . . . like fruitcake. So if you had cake—and a brain in your head—you didn’t want to eat it. Wanting to “have your cake and eat it too” meant you were deranged. Yeah. [Nods.] And if someone accused you of wanting to have your cake and eat it too, then they were basically calling you a crazy person. In fact, that’s why Marie Antoinette said, “Let them eat cake.” She was, in effect, telling people to just haul off and die somewhere from eating bad fruitcake. You know, choking on it since it’s so dry, or digesting that candied fruit poorly, or . . . whatever.

Why they made the cake in the first place really doesn’t factor into the equation. So why are you stressed?

SK: I don't understand why we have noses that run and feet that smell.

ER: That has you stressed?

SK: And why a ‘fat chance’ and a ‘slim chance’ are the same thing. Is it the same 'chance' before and after a diet? Like, does he yo-yo diet constantly?

ER: Chances are that a yo-yo diet will allow you to be fat first, and then progressively thinner because yo-yos don’t move through your digestive system very quickly. Still faster and easier than fruitcake, though. True fact. Next?

SK: The Oxford comma, yay or nay? Why can't your kind stick to the same rule?

ER: That’s an easy one I can actually answer. I’m a huge fan of the Oxford comma. Oxford shirts, too. In fact, the Oxford comma came from the old days, too. I’ll bet you didn’t know that.

SK: You can actually answer? What does that mea—

ER: —The Oxford comma used to be called the Oxen-ford comma, stemming from a place where wandering writers used to allow their oxen to cross the streams. The oxen would have to pause, you see . . . um . . . I kind of forget the rest, but you get the idea.

SK: And I like starting sentences with conjunctions. But some people hate it. Yet I see it all the time. Just old-timers, right? RIGHT?

ER: I suppose I should say “right” right about now. I’m getting conjunctivitis just listening to it. More coffee, please. And more bacon for sure. I’ve earned it.

SK: Yes you have. [Passes the bacon and gets a coffee refill for Lynda.] Also "e-mail" should now be written as "email." Why was the correct abbreviation of "electronic mail" such a big deal?

ER: I’m with you on that one, but I need to obey the Chicago Manual of Style overlords until they give me permission to eliminate that hyphen. The Old School of writers and publishers is really resistant to any electronic forays, so keeping that hyphen in there is their way of creating distance between the written word and the electronic world toward which it’s migrating. It’s not me, baby, it’s them there overlords, cramping my style.

SK: Can't your kind just chill? As if hyphenation wasn't already a pain in the . . . ahem, grammar world.

ER: My kind?

SK: Yes, editors. Grammar Enforcers, Punctuation Queen and Kings. Your kind.

ER: I hadn’t realized we were a whole different species, but it does make sense in a way. I’ve always felt queen-like. I even wore a crown to the grocery store once, but that was an accident.

SK: Man, I’m just glad I’m friends with one of you, at least. I feel better now. More bacon? I have something to show you! Your kind will love it!