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 www.skanthony.com, 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!


Monday, July 14, 2014

Editor's Notes #14: Do I Have to Listen to Every Suggestion?


Editors are paid to fix things.

Whether it's a misplaced comma, a misspelled word, or a complete overhaul on sentence structure, if we see a wrong, we need to right it or we can't sleep at night. My blog's tagline sums it up nicely:
I read books. I correct books. I read more books.
One of the beautiful things about self-publishing is that the author has creative control over every aspect of his work. Overall, this is a wonderful thing. He won't have a publishing house hacking his book to pieces or changing the story line because they think it would sell better if his hero was a twenty-something woman living in the city rather than a grizzled sixty-something man who lives a reclusive life in the wilderness of Washington state. He won't have a cover designed for him that has no real connection to the book's contents or his own vision—though a quick look at lousybookcovers.com will show you why an expert is still needed, regardless of how you choose to publish. He won't lose the rights to his own work (or in some cases, his own profits) for a period of time.

The flip side of this is that some self-published authors don't see the value in constructive comments when it comes to their work. When designing a cover, an author may have an idea of what is desired, and the cover artist can present choices based on the author's vision, with tweaks here and there. Ultimately, though, if the cover artist says (just pulling a random example from nowhere), "No. Zebra stripes would NOT look good on this cover," then the author should trust that his cover artist has the eye and experience to know what he's talking about.

It's no different with an editor. The type of editing I do most often, copy editing, is pretty cut and dried when it comes to what gets changed and what doesn't. The punctuation is either correct or not. The subject and verb either agree or they do not. If something might be questioned, I make good use of margin notes to explain myself. The bottom line is this: I either know the rules or I look them up when in doubt. I'm paid to know.

I often dip my toes into the other end of the editing spectrum, though, and here's where the lines blur. I can't see something that needs changed and ignore it. I don't have the attitude that says, "They're not paying me to make the ideas flow; this job is a punctuation-only gig." I want the book to be seen favorably by the readers, and I would like to think it's a help to the author as well. If a character isn't staying true to himself and it's not part of the plot, I'll point it out and perhaps suggest an alternative. There have been times when I've said, "I know what you mean here, but I don't think this passage is conveying it very clearly. Maybe you could rephrase it this way . . ." or "This person is reacting pretty calmly, considering x and y just happened."

I'm happy to report that the authors I've worked with actually listen to me. Imagine that! They don't take every suggestion and run with it, and I try to only give ideas that are necessary, rather than changing things because that's how I would have told the story. But I've read an awful lot of books, and I can usually spot a cliché or overused plot device a mile away. If I tell a writer he may not wish to go a certain direction because too many people have done that same thing lately, I've done my part and he can choose to accept or reject that bit of advice.

That's the terrific thing about self-publishing: you can take or leave those suggestions and still come away with a product you're happy with. Rules are rules, and there aren't many ways of getting around them. Advice, though . . . if you trust the person offering it, you just might end up with something even better than you started with.



Thursday, July 3, 2014

Coffee Chat 18.0 with S.K. Anthony and Stephen Fender

During today's Coffee Chat we'll be discussing—what is that smell? I could swear I smell blueberries . . . [Enters the kitchen to find S.K. pulling some yummy-smelling things out of the oven.] Scones? And are those . . . bannocks? What's up with the Scottish treats? I thought we were having cinnamon rolls today.

SKA: Oh, Lynda! You’re so cute. It’s okay to try different things once in a while you know—and today I felt Scottish! I’m so excited it’s my first time making bannocks; I burnt the first three sets but I think I finally got it now. By the way, you’re all out of oats.

ER: I suppose I should be grateful we're not having haggis, right?

SKA: [Looks over Lynda’s shoulder to see through the window.] Uh huh, sure. I can try to make you haggis. Sorry, I mean no. No haggis. Whatever. Umm, why don’t you let AndyAndy outside to play with Live Bacon? Go, go! Open the door. [Grins.]

ER: C'mon, AndyAndy. [Looks outside.] S.K., is it Girl Scout cookie season again already? There's a really tall Girl Scout down the street, walking our way. I mean, really tall.

SKA: No, that’s just Stephen! I told him to come over for Coffee Chat so we can discuss his new release.

ER: But why is he—is he wearing a—?

SKA: Well, because you like kilts, and he’s gullible. I told him first time guests must wear them and he agreed. It was so easy! I can’t believe we never tried that before. Never mind that I usually end up kidnapping our guests, he came willingly and look at them legs—miles and miles. Ahem, I think we should make our coffee Irish.

ER: I'm starting to think we'll have to. I hope he doesn't talk to any of our past guests, because they'll blow it about the kilt thing. Best to keep him sequestered. [Looks back out the door.] He's almost here. I hope I don't have a tough time acting casual about it. I LOVE kilts!

SKA: I know! We'll tell him it's against the rules to mingle with past guests. Oooh, here he comes. Play it cool, Lynda. [Waves casually as Stephen walks up to the door.] Hi, Stephen!

SF: Can I come in? It's a little breezy out here.

ER: Hey, Stephen! Welcome to my—and sort of S.K.'s—home. Um . . . I was actually thinking it might be a great day to have our Coffee Chat outside. Wasn't I just saying that, S.K.?

SKA: Ooh [winks at Lynda] yes! That's better than sitting inside where we had everything set up.

SF: [Pulls kilt down to cover his knees, then looks around worriedly.] Are you sure? Someone might . . . see me.

SKA: Well, if you'll let your guard down, we can stay inside.

SF: Yay. Sounds GRRREEAAAT.

ER: [Sighs heavily.] Yeah, come on in. So as usual, I didn't realize we were having guests [shoots a glare at S.K.] but this is pretty cool that you're here, since I was going to tell her all about the fourth Kestrel book.

And the kilt is just a bonus. [Clears throat.] What I mean to say is, I'm glad you're following the first-time guest rule about wearing one.

SF: So I can't change into pants yet?

SKA: That's neither here nor there. How does it feel to have your fourth Kestrel book out?

SF: It feels great, bordering on spectacular. It's nice to be back with my old Kestrel Saga friends.

SKA: I hope you were kind to them. The title In the Presence of My Enemies has my heart racing for Shawn and Melissa. With the crazy adventure they're on, every bit of luck they can get—courtesy of you—will be greatly appreciated by us fans. What can you tell us about this part of their journey? Give us a teaser!

SF: In the words of George Takei: "Oh myyy!"

After the battle with the Meltranians above Second Earth (at the end of the novel of the same name), our heroes find themselves nose to nose with Kafarans, their once-hated enemies, who are now presumably fighting alongside the intrepid Sector Command fleet.

The new novel takes off right from that point.

A band of high-ranking officials come on board the current Sector Command flagship, the Rhea, and inform the crew that a cease-fire agreement has been reached with the Kafarans, and they are now considered a "temporary" ally in what is assumed will be a war against their common foe, the merciless Meltranians.

However, their combined forces will still fall short of an assured victory. They need one more ally in their cause, and it's one Shawn has extreme reservations about. He, along with a small team, sets out on a diplomatic mission to recruit a band of cutthroat pirates into the upcoming campaign.

However, things go sideways rather quickly, and the team members soon find themselves in over their heads. 

ER: Normally I would think "great, bordering on spectacular" is just hype, but I really thought it was great, too. There was more action, 
more tension, more places, new characters, a serious death—all that good stuff. As an editor, it felt good for me to be back on familiar ground with characters I know; I'm betting the Kestrel Saga fans are just as eager to get back to it as well.

SF: I hope they are. I think this is the best one yet. 

SKA: Hmm, I've been observing you—no reason—

ER: Uh huh, me too—also for no reason—

SKA: —and I've come to the realization that you're a man of few words. I really hope it has nothing to do with my scones.

Anyway, how do you find inspiration to put down thousands of words into a book? Do you draw from real life? Like, did you physically have to fight against Kafarans and Meltranians? Or is it just a love for sci-fi or . . . well, what is it?

SF: It's all of those things, really. Writing is like playing a board game designed for six, but you're only playing against yourself. You have a lot of roles to fill, and everybody has to want to win for their own reasons. I have to fight against myself all the time, and the only edge I have is ultimately I know who is supposed to win.


SKA: I love that! A game of multiple players but we play only against ourselves. Very true.

ER: I guess I never thought about a writer having to "be" each character—with each one wanting to win, of course, or survive at the very least.

SF: Of course, there is a deep love of science fiction in there. Also a deep understanding of the dynamics of a good space opera. 

ER: [To S.K.] I’ve been the recipient of the “it’s a space opera, not a space infomercial” speech. Trust me, the man knows and loves his science fiction.

SKA: So tell us, is there a favorite scene, aspect, or approach you had while writing In the Presence of My Enemies? Something that might have been different from the previous three books in the Kestrel Saga?

SF: There's an aspect—well, more of a revelation—that in order to overcome the impossible, you sometimes have to let things go.

You can't climb Everest with 300 pounds of gear. You've got to keep what's important and drop the rest. That goes doubly for emotional baggage. 

ER: We can talk about your emotional baggage after we've enjoyed more of S.K.'s "special blend" coffee. But that other baggage . . . do you always know ahead of time what's important, or does the list of "keepers" morph a bit as the story unfolds? 


SF: Baggage is important to back story. You can convey a lot with just a little bitterness about something that happened "in the past." It's also a good goal for your characters to get over. It shows growth, and no reader wants to read characters over a long arc that never grow beyond the first few pages of book one.

SKA: Yes! For good character arcs, they need to have baggage, and in order to grow they need to drop it . . . like it's hot. Mount Everest isn't for the faint of heart, after all.

ER: I like when baggage is hinted at, rather than spoon-fed to the reader. One of the things I like best in the Kestrel books is that the characters aren't growing and changing so quickly that it's unrealistic. It feels a lot more natural this way—a gradual change, just like in real life.

I know you're an outline-maker, Stephen, so I guess my next question deals with wanting to know how closely you stick to it. Do your characters surprise you?

SF: I love outlines, and I love diverging from them. It's hard to begin to write without a blueprint, but I give my brain plenty of freedom to go beyond the foundation. So yes, my characters often surprise me. 

SKA: So what can we expect from you in the future? What are your current projects?

SF: Well, I've got Kestrel Saga Book 5 in the works, which I'm really excited about. I've also got something of a wacky sci-fi space comedy on the drawing boards.

ER: That makes me want to watch Spaceballs.

I'm pretty sure I'll be begging you for snippets of Book 5, probably even before we let you leave today. No matter that you haven't written them yet. I think the sign of a great writer is that you can do these things off the cuff for special friends who feed you scones and great coffee. Just start talking and we'll type it all up for you. It will actually make your job easier, if you think about it.

SF: Well, I don't know about snippets, but I can tell you that Book 5 will tie directly into events that took place in Origins: Traitor Winds.

I can also tell you that Book 5 will feature some courtroom drama, with one of our heroes taking a fall.

ER: Oooooh! If that's what you can tell me, I can't wait to hear what you can't tell me.

Oh. Wait a minute.

SF: I can't tell you what the cover is going to look like, but I can tell you the working title is World Killers.

ER: Nice title! Sigh . . . the cover . . . am I going to be on this one? I think it's pretty selfish of you to always have your own photograph on those things. 

SF: If you connect all the letter e's on page 178, it makes a picture . . . of something.

ER: I can hardly wait! I'll have to write down the page number so I don't forget.

SF: It's representative of an abstract version of a flux capacitor. Which, of course, makes time travel possible.

ER: You artists. If it's "abstract" that only means I can't argue with you that it doesn't look like what it's supposed to look like. And I’m not entirely sure what time travel has to do with my picture being on your covers.

SKA: It’s an abstract connection, Lynda. And now another Coffee Chat rule: you must absolutely share a line from the book with us. A favorite one, obviously . . . and GO!

SF: [Laughs.] How am I supposed to pick ONE line? There are thousands of them, and all are amazing.

ER: Mine was "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . ."

SKA: For me it was "It was a dark and stormy night . . ."

ER: But enough about the books we’ve written. What about yours? A favorite line, please.

SF: If I were to choose a favorite line or verse, it would have to be this one. It was written as an epigraph, and is a quote from the President of the Unified Collaboration of Systems on the eve of declaring war against their new enemies:

“The skin of evil has no one color; the voice has no one pitch. Its origins have no set date, nor was it born in any one particular place or have one ultimate destination in mind. But it has an agenda, it has an unquenchable hunger, and it lives and breathes on the sufferings of others . . . and it must be stopped, even if it’s the last thing we do. Nothing short of the continuation of our very way of life depends upon it.”
ER: Also a favorite of mine from the book! Readers can see these and a whole lot of other great passages by going to Amazon and checking out Stephen's newest book, In the Presence of My Enemies, Book 4 of the Kestrel Saga.

Head on over to Stephen's website to find out about his other books, or the latest sci-fi project he's supporting.

[An hour later, all coffee gone, waving and watching as Stephen walks back down the driveway . . .]

ER: [Puts down binoculars.] So do you think he'll fall for the "second-time guests wear swimsuits" line?

SKA: I dunno. Guess we'll have to invite him again someday.



As always:

You can find S.K. Anthony in a number of places. She's on Twitter @SKathAnthony, her website is www.skanthony.com, 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.