“Last Run” Topped Out

By Leif Ørnelund – Oslo Museum: image no. OB.Ø59/2680 (Byhistorisk samling), via oslobilder.no., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23247983

When a building’s top floor is in place, especially for tall buiildings, they’re “topped out.” Usually a tree, sometimes a flag.

Authors should have something analogous for a novel. Even if we’re not trying to appease the tree gods.

Sunday I pitched two projects to an agent at the Writers League of Texas Agents & Editors conference. A win for me, at my first pitching, would be “sure, I’d like to see the first ten pages and a query letter via email.” The agent with whom I chatted wanted to hear about two of my projects: my current novel, Last Run, a post-apocalyptic tale, and my Induction series, a “hot” SF set of novels. She wanted the first three chapters and a synopsis of the first, and then maybe the second. Yoiks.

Yesterday I “topped out” the novel, tearing up at the last scene. Last Run currently stands at around 173k words, and the sweet spot for novels in that category is closer to 85k words.

So… behold the mighty editor’s pen, out and primed in red.


Words and Transoms

Transom over a doorI have nothing against Kim Harrison. She’s a successful author who balances a myriad of internal emotional states in a chaotic (to say the least) universe of her creation. It has the same there’s-no-time, I’ll-kick-my-way-out-of-this, gee-magic-comes-to-me just-as-I-need-it. I just bought the first three books of her series, and Friday’s payday, so that’s where the money’s going — for the rest of the published volumes in the series.

That said, I’m disappointed in something I’m seeing more and more in e-books, at a rate I hadn’t seen in print copies: vocabulary mistakes. There’s somewhere between 125,000 and 150,000 distinct words in the English language [1]. That means that there’s more choice to use the right nuanced word. It also makes it easier for a “valid” word to be the wrong word choice. And these errors can change the meaning of a sentence and, even with mental correction, jars a user out of the story.

The first time I read “slacked” in Kim’s novel “Every Which Way But Dead.”, I tried to correlate “loosening the pressure” with the scene. Given the high-tension story line, some loosening was most welcome. But no, the word was supposed to be “slaked,” as in relieved of thirst. (Blood, in this case.)

Once is a typo. But there were at least three instances. And I found myself anticipating the wrong word’s next appearance on the page.

Sorry, Kim, for picking on you for this. It’s not just you, rest assured. Even e-book versions of existing books I find containing both typos (weird, right?) as well as incorrect or just plain wrong word splitting. Sure, reader software might be to blame, but e-book converting software does mangle texts by inserting font changes in inexplicable places[2]. Ang again, publishers need to have skin in the game to ensure that they understand the technology they’ve adopted, at least to the extent they can do QA on their own work.

Perhaps what bugs me more is that this is the kind of mistake that a paperless editing process can create. I make no assumptions about Kim’s process, but I know that a close visual read by someone knowledgeable in English would catch these. More than that, I know that editors producing 20,000 trade paperbacks were a lot more persnickety about typos fifteen years ago than they are now. Part of it is the wonderfully listened-to urge to give readers what they want. Another is to get the book out there to hit in time for this -Con or another.

As a paying reader, however, I find this slipping in details irritating. It smacks, clearly unintended, of an author losing control over her or his work. Or, as was said in the “olden days,” ‘tossing it over the transom.’

Appearing at a Drash Pit Near You…

I’m a regular contributor to Drash Pit, a Jewish webzine composed of snark triggered by Torah. This month’s issue was devoted to “shunning.” My poem is up there, on the DrashPit.com site.

(Oh, and if you like buttons like the one at the right, check out zazzle.co.uk.)

A Return? On a 99 cent short story?

I’m going to take the high road and assume that someone accidentally purchased Consent, meaning to buy a $200 tome instead. And I’ll make that my final answer, since I didn’t get an accompanying lashing of a review.


I doodled on a Generation to Generation cover, and quickly realized that if my stick figures weren’t awful enough, stick figures in perspective, spinning back in time, arranged as a double helix certainly didn’t showcase any nascent talent I might believe I have in that arena.

Splitting today into cooking, finishing G2G and getting it up online, and continuing to work on a WordPress plugin to integrate Google Charts into a blog site.

Dusting Off “Finished” Pieces

The problem with writing is that, with practice, it improves. I went back to a really nice piece I’d written, intending to slap formatting on it and bring it up as an e-book short story. (As I did with Consent a few days back — thanks to all of you who’ve purchased it for the exorbitant, crazy price of under a buck!)

My writing friend JNE calls ’em ‘vampire words.’ They suck energy from scenes, dull down dialog… and the dang story dripped with them. ‘Began.’ ‘Felt.’ ‘Seemed.’ ‘Was.’

Rewriting is a recursive experience. One sentence leans on the next, paragraphs on their neighbors, and the whole short story on it’s scenes. The patient lies still on its word processing operating table, mostly put back together, but with yet a distance to travel.

Hopefully I can figure out how to create a cover for it — I really need to learn how to draw.

CONTEST!!! Speaking of publishing, with all the folks buying Consent there aren’t any reviews. Any and all would be much appreciated! I’ll pick a reviewer at random and write them into a story I’m just wrapping up. The higher the rating, the better the character in the story!