Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Concert--And Truth

Sorry for the late post, especially for you east-coasters. This is what happens the day after a Bon Jovi concert. :) We had a rather late night. This morning my ears still aren’t back to normal. Feel like there’s cotton in ’em.

We had a terrific time. Great mother and daughter night out. Met some fun people around us, which made the night all the more entertaining. Our seats were very good—17th row. And we were near the end of the row, so we got a great photo of John Bon Jovi as he came down the aisle, close enough to touch him.

The band started out with “Last Man Standing.” Very appropriate for me, as it has my line in it—“Don’t forget to breathe."

The band played for over two hours. Man, that’s a lot of energy expended on John Bon Jovi’s part. Guy surely gets his exercise. Good exercise for me, too. On my feet the whole time, rocking out. I love the energy of a concert. I love the just-let-it-all-out scream and yell and show excitement momentum. That’s something we adults don’t get to do often enough. (Well, maybe if you attend sports games, which I don't.)

But you know, two things strike me when I go to a secular rock concert. These two thoughts come back to me again and again during all the music and fun and noise and adoration of the players.

The first is that this has to be just a taste of what it’ll be like when Jesus restores earth into the new world. No doubt the first time I see Jesus, I’ll be so overcome I’ll fall prone to the ground to worship. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of those times. But I have to believe there will also be those times of out-and-out screaming and jumping up and down and applause and excitement over Jesus and what He’s done for us. And listen, there’s gonna be rock music in the new world, or it won’t be perfect. Case closed.

Second, as much as I can be pained by some song lyrics, I am also blessed by some of them. I see truth in the words. And I know that all truth comes from God. Now the musician may be singing the words and meaning something totally different, but I immediately apply the words to my spiritual life. In Matthew 6:22 Jesus said, “The lamp of the body is the eye. If the eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.” I feel this light within my soul—God’s light—when I look at the secular world. I automatically see the truth that abides in that world, and it can feed me spiritually.

Consider the Tom Petty song the band sang (I Won’t Back Down):

Well I won’t back down, no I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down
Gonna stand my ground, won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground and I won’t back down

Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out
Hey I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down.

Well I know what’s right, I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around
But I’ll stand my ground and I won’t back down

Hey baby there ain’t no easy way out
Hey I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down
No, I won’t back down
Now I don’t know what they’re thinking when they sing this, but I hear Ephesians 6:13-14—standing firm, clad in the armor of God.

Or how about this one (Welcome to Wherever You Are):

Maybe we're all different but we're still the same
We all got the blood of Eden running through our veins
I know sometimes it's hard for you to see
You're caught between just who you are and who you want to be
If you feel alone and lost and need a friend
Remember every new beginning is some beginning's end

Welcome to wherever you are
This is your life; you made it this far
Welcome, you got to believe
That right here, right nowYou're exactly where you're supposed to be
Welcome to wherever you are

When everybody's in and you're left out
And you feel you're drowning in the shadow of a doubt
Everyone's a miracle in their own way
Just listen to yourself, not what other people say
When it's seems you're lost, alone and feeling down
Remember everybody's different; just take a look around
When you want to give up and your heart's about to break
Remember that you're perfect; God makes no mistakes
And this one—I Am. Every time I hear it, I think of the Great I AM. In fact I have to laugh at myself. First time I heard this song I ran to read the lyrics, almost expecting to see the words written as I AM.

How you spend your minutes are what matters
All tomorrows come from yesterdays
When you're feeling broken, bruised and sometimes shattered
Blow out the candles on the cake
Like everything's a big mistake
It seems you always wait for life to happen
And your last buck can't buy a lucky break
If all we've got is us then life's worth living
And if you're in, you know I'm in
I'm ready and I'm willing

I am
When you think that no one needs you, sees you or believes you
No one's there to understand
I am
I'll be there to be that someone
When you think that no one is there to hold your hand
I am

We're just who we are, there's no pretending
It takes a while to learn to live in your own skin
Say a prayer that we might find our happy ending
And if you're in you know I'm in
I'm ready and I'm willing

I am
When you think that no one needs you, sees you or believes you
No one's there to understand
I am
I'll be there to be that someone
When you think that no one is there to hold your hand
I am

Bottom line, even this fallen world is still permeated by God’s truth. I can see it everywhere, because my soul longs for it and seeks it. And if I can find it while I’m screaming and rocking out to great music, so much the better.

Monday, February 27, 2006


Happy Monday, BGs. I'm rambling today with various updates on myself in no particular order. Why am I rambling? See #1.

1. I am brain dead from a weekend of doing our personal finances, after a heavy week of writing. Even with my careful filing system, it takes me 8-9 hours to prepare our information to take to the tax guy so he can actually do the taxes. When did life get so complicated?

2. Wait a minute, I can’t be brain dead. I have to finish Coral Moon in the next three weeks!

3. Next three weeks? Oh, no! I might have a problem with that, seein’ as how I don’t know how I’m going to make the whole thing come together.

4. Tonight—guess where I get to go!! I’ve got 17th row floor seats to the Bon Jovi concert. Yowsa. I was going to take my husband, but . . . hm, suddenly he’s very busy with business in San Diego. (When I told him I wanted to go see Bon Jovi, he said, “Bon Who?”) So my 16-year-old daughter’s going with me. Okay, so it’s not a boy band concert we can both scream at (they’re SO old news), but she’ll still have fun. A mom/daughter night out.

5. Do you know after 1 ½ years of working to get “Don’t forget to b r e a t h e . . .” trademarked, my attorney says he has to start over because the bureaucrats keep changing their minds about what “category” we’re supposed to pick or something. It’s all insane. Anybody ever tells you hey, no sweat, you can do your own trademark—don’t believe ’em. We’re working on trademarking “Seatbelt Suspense” too, but that one’s a year behind. Which means next year I’ll probably get to start over on that one. Sheesh.

6. I will be at Mount Hermon again this year. Who out there’s going? I’m gonna lead one of the mentoring clinics. With about 10 mentees, I guess. Gayle Roper’s doing one, and Randy Ingermanson’s leading a second, and I guess MH keeps getting more people asking to be in a group, because they asked me if I’d do one, too. I’m already on the critique team, which is work enough, but I said okay.

Okay, that’s the ramble for me. Some of you might check in and let us know what you’re working on, or reading or whatever. I hope to be more coherent tomorrow, but . . . we’ll see.

Friday, February 24, 2006

My Take on Ghosts

Well, what a lively bunch of comments yesterday. Thank you for your responses.

Here are some of my thoughts on the subject of ghosts. Disclaimer: I’m no expert, and my opinions should weigh no more than anybody else who commented.

1. Over and over, the most common agreement among Christians to whom I’ve asked this question is that most “ghosts” can be attributed to demons. I agree with this. I’ve witnessed enough demonic activity in my life to believe the critters are quite prevalent (probably more than we’d like to think), and have no end of imagination when it comes to tormenting us. Now why some demons choose to become visible, or hang around particular houses, I don’t know. But they do seem to be rather lazy once they’ve taken up an abode, so it probably has to do with a past history of the place. They like to claim their territory and stick to it, and don’t relish having to leave. I base this opinion on two passages in the Bible. First, when Jesus drove the demons out of the deranged man, and they begged to go into the pigs. (They didn't want to be homeless.) Second, in Jesus’ parable (Matthew 12: 43-45) about a spirit who’s driven out of a man and restlessly seeks a new home, only to return to the man (swept clean but unoccupied) with seven of his buddies. Party time.

One of Paul’s most famous passages (Ephesians 6:11-12) talks about putting on the whole armor of God so we can stand against the “devil’s schemes." He says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” As I understand from the NIV study Bible, this series (rulers, authorities, power of this dark world, etc.,) refers to the hierarchy of demons. Even talking to Christians, Paul made it clear that demons are out there, and we’d better be prepared to stand against them. And that it can be a hard fight.

Christians aren’t without their “ghost” stories. But, again, many of these sightings appear to be demons, not really ghosts. (Of course, these are two entirely different entities. Demons are fallen angels—beings created by God who are not human and never were. Ghosts would be the spirits of dead humans.) One person told me of the “ghost” of a child in her family’s house. It looked to be about four years old. Her children saw it. But it didn’t “have the heart of a child,” as she put it. The thing was evil. She felt it even when she couldn’t see it. They sent it away through prayer.

That “feeling of evil” is the certain common denominator among demons. If you’re ever in one’s presence, you’ll know it. There won’t be an ounce of doubt in your mind.

2. Second point that Christians agree on, biblically based: Do not go there! Don’t consult psychics, don’t attend séances, etc. Again, not because of ghosts, but because demons tend to hang around these kinds of activities. God commands knowledge of the supernatural and the future (and the dead). If he wants to impart supernatural knowledge, He’ll do so through dreams, prophecy, words of wisdom, etc. Or in an extreme case He might even allow a spirit to return to deliver a message, as He did with Samuel. But in any case it’s God’s purview. We’re certainly not to consult psychics for knowledge outside our world. The Bible puts it in absolute black and white. Supernatural knowledge (including what happens to the dead) comes either from God or from Satan. There’s no gray area. So when people choose to go to Satan’s realm for it (mediums, psychics, séances and the like), why should they be surprised to stir up the demons that hang out there?

3. I have a hard time believing in a ghost that’s hanging around earth like it’s stuck. I can’t make the notion jive with the Bible. So I’d tend to think these are demons. But as some of you mentioned, what about a dead relative who appears with a message? Are we to say such instances are all imagination and hooey? Problem with that is, you’re likely to find some pretty rational people with these kinds of stories. Are we to say they’re demons? Then why is there no feeling of evil? (I suppose you could argue here that Satan and his minions can pose as bearers of light, which is true.) But maybe, just as God allowed Samuel to return with a specific message, He sometimes allows a spirit to return to comfort someone today, or to bring a message. I can’t find scripture that absolutely denies the reality of this type of ghostly appearance. In fact, with that story of Samuel, I find just the opposite.

Bottom line, I believe God is in ultimate control. If demons are hanging around, whether posing as restless spirits of the dead or not, prayer in the name of Jesus will drive them away. And if God chooses in His wisdom to send back a spirit to give someone a message, He can do so. He created all, including the curtain of separation between worlds seen and unseen, and if He wants to open that curtain, I imagine He’ll open it. God is ultimately more mysterious and wonderful and awesome than we can imagine and know on this earth. I'm not about to put Him in a box and say no, no, He'd never do that. But I'm gonna leave it up to Him to decide. And when I get to heaven, I'm gonna ask a lot of questions.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Here's a Question for You

Good comments from yesterday. Thank you. Just as clarification, I’m not going to turn into a seat-of-the-pants writer. I can’t, with the kinds of stories I write. I’ve got to know the twist I’m writing toward. But I do think the “non-rejection” attitude can be helpful to me in the plotting phase. Not that I can end up keeping every idea, but allowing myself to consider them for a while and see where they go rather than immediately tossing them out may cause me a little less grief.

All right, now turning a sharp corner . . .

Do you believe in ghosts?

Hah. That got your attention.

I can’t decide whether I do or not. On one hand, I can’t figure how to make the idea of ghosts fit with biblical theology. God apparently has places for spirits to go, and it isn’t wandering around this earth like some lost soul.

However . . . there’s that perturbing story of the witch of Endor (I Samuel, chapter 28). Saul asks her to call up the spirit of Samuel, which she does. And he appears, much to her apparent surprise. A definite ghost story. In the Bible.

Then there’s the Transfiguration, with Moses and Elijah—both dead—appearing and talking to Jesus.

Then there’s this interesting scene which proves nothing but is provocative. At the end of Luke, when Jesus appears to the disciples after His resurrection, they think He’s a ghost. Jesus doesn’t say, “Hey, guys, don’t be idiots—there’s no such thing.” Instead he says (my paraphrase), “Look at me, touch me. A spirit doesn’t have flesh and bones as you see I have.”

There’s also the scene when Jesus walks on the water, and his disciples think he’s a ghost. (Evidently this ghost belief stuff goes way back). Again, Jesus doesn’t say, “Hey, guys, no such thing.” He simply says, “It is I.”

I do believe many “ghosts” are really demons. And The Bible makes it very clear we are not to consult mediums or chase the dead, or look to any supernatural source for knowledge other than God Himself. So I advocate no séances, got me? In fact séances and the occult in general are undeniably fave lurking grounds for demonic activity.

But what about every ghost story you’ve ever heard? Are they all rubbish? Can they all be explained away? Are they all demonic activity? Can we ever really know the answer this side of heaven?

How should a Christian approach this topic?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Improv Rule

Thanks to all of you who commented on yesterday’s post. I was so heartened to see how that scripture spoke to you. Becky and Bonnie, thanks mucho for the tips on the online Bibles.

Recently I read Blink, the nonfiction title by Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point. Both are fascinating books. I was struck by a passage in Blink in which he talks about the spontaneity of improvisation theater. Gladwell tells of a comedy group in New York who creates a thirty-minute play on the spot, based on ideas called from the audience.

The tagline for Blink is “The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.” Gladwell says improv theater is a “wonderful example of the kind of thinking that Blink is about. It involves people making very sophisticated decisions on the spur of the moment.”

On the surface, he says, improv seems “random and chaotic,” but it really isn’t at all. Every week the cast of the group gets together to practice. Why? Because their art is governed by a series of rules, and everyone must abide by these rules and become very good at appearing to be spontaneous within these rules.

Gladwell explains that one of the most important improv rules is “the idea of agreement, the notion that a very simple way to create a story is to have characters accept everything that happens to them.” In this way a scene can be built. “Bad improvisers block action” while good improvisers “develop action.” He runs a few lines from an improv scene in which a crazy doctor suggests amputating someone’s leg just because he’s “having trouble with it.” The patient tells the doctor he “can’t do that.” The scene goes nowhere because the patient character has blocked the suggestion course of action. Run the scene again, with the patient accepting the amputation, and a wild and zany story is built.

I reacted to this idea with a nonplused shake of my head. It seemed totally backward to me. After all, isn’t an author’s story created by conflict? Character A wants something, and character B blocks it. Yet this is exactly opposite of what the improvisers do. Now maybe this rule applies more to comedy, I don’t know. But as I pondered this apparent dichotomy and what it could mean for my writing, a crack of light appeared from a new thought, not quite complete. Sort of like a door was opening in my mind to some major aha, but I had yet to push it open. I’m not sure I’ve opened it completely yet.

Apparently it has to do with plotting a book. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I have major problems with that. Ideas don’t flesh out for me easily. Usually because I reject an idea the minute it pops into my head as “not good enough” or “boring” or “I’ve already done that” or “not twisty enough” or something.

What if, next time around, I rejected the rejection response? What if I acted like a member of a comedy improv group and simply ran with whatever ideas surfaced from my subconscious? The “idea of agreement.” Block nothing. Accept a premise, accept the compounding ideas that follow, and see how far I can go in creating a story.

I don’t know how well this will work until I try it. (Which will be very soon. After I finish this book—the 6th in my 7-book contract—I must create new ideas to sell for my next contract.) But I am going to try it.

Y'all have thoughts about this? I'd love to hear 'em.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Starting a Blaze

Recently in my devotions I was reading II Timothy, Paul’s last letter, sent to his spiritual “son.” From the tone, Paul evidently knew his time was running short. He talks about having run his race, having fought the good fight. Paul knows he will soon be in heaven.

What would you write to a son or daughter if you knew it was probably your last letter? Paul writes numerous points of counsel to Timothy about how to run his church. I’ve read this book many times. Have to admit I have little creativity when it comes to reading the Bible. I simply read it through, and when I’m done—I start over. Usually I read in the New American Standard Version. But this time through the New Testament, I’m reading an NIV linear version. That is, books and passages from books appear in order of their events instead of the typical biblical line-up.

One line absolutely jumped out at me, probably because I don’t usually read in the NIV. Fan into flame the gift of God.

Fan into flame the gift of God.

Paul was talking about a particular gift God had granted Timothy “through the laying on of hands.”

(By the way: I’m in Idaho at the moment, and without an NIV Bible. Somebody please look for this line in II Timothy and post what verse this is.)

A visual jumps in my head as I think of this sentence. A picture of someone bending low over a stack of twigs, struggling to help them catch fire from a lit piece of paper underneath. The person alternately blows and fans, but carefully. Not enough, and the fire won’t catch. Too much, and the flame will be extinguished. The person must shelter the fire from wind. Must nurture it, have patience with it, believe in it. Work it.

God gives gifts to each of us in the form of talents. The ability is from Him. He created it. But we must fan it into flame, with God’s help. We must tend it, believe in it, nurture and protect it. Work it. And once it’s crackling and bright, giving others heat, we must continue to stoke it.

As an author who often struggles, I immediately applied this passage to my writing. God may have given me an ability to write, but that doesn’t mean that fire just blazes away on its own. I have to fan that gift into flame. It takes work, diligence. It’s not always easy and often not fun.

Paul did not say, “Sit back and enjoy that bonfire God started for you.”

Fan into flame the gift of God. What is your gift? Are you fanning it just the right amount? Have you just started nurturing it, and already expect a bonfire? Or are you forgetting to stoke it at all?

Friday, February 17, 2006

Copyediting Follow-up

Happy Friday, BGs. There was one question from the copyedit post (on Wednesday) that I wanted to follow up on.

Dineen: How many times is a word considered overused? Sometimes you can't help but repeat a word in a paragraph if you’re describing an action within a time, like searching through multiple drawers in a desk.

I echo Dineen's question. I usually try to only use a word once every 100 pages, and if I remember using it in the past 200 pages, I'll still take it out. Is that too extreme? There are only so many words for walking, or crying, or singing, or whatever.

There’s no set number for when a word is overused. It depends on the word. You’ll remember the copyeditor noticed I’d used the phrase “fetal position” twice, and he thought that was too much. I agreed, because of the power of the phrase (referring to someone being very emotional). But other verbs may be used five times, or ten or more depending on how common they are.

I do try not to use the same verbs and adjectives close to each other. Two “wafted” verbs three pages apart is too much for me. (Another copyeditor catch.) Using a word only once every 100 pages isn’t a bad rule—good way to catch yourself. Again, that is if we’re not talking about an everyday verb like said or looked or sat. Of course, those can be overused, too, because they are so common. And they’re boring. I’m always trying to use the more exciting verbs, particularly in action sequences or to create tone, but then I end up using those too much. Sigh. This is why I love to have a good copyeditor. I just can’t catch everything.

And now a quick update on Coral Moon. It’s due four weeks from today. Agh. I have too many pages to go, and I’m just dragging through the thing. As usual, I think the book’s lousy and boring. But—type on, type on.

Have a great long weekend, y’all. I will be taking Monday, President’s Day, off. Meet ya back here Tuesday.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A Special Hop

BGs, thanks for your comments on the copyedit post yesterday. I will do some follow-up answers to questions about that post tomorrow. If you have any more comments about that, please leave them here today.

For today's post, I'm a guest at Camy Tang's blog. Please follow me over there for, well, kind of a layperson's sermon, I suppose you could call it. (Oh, great, you're saying, we'll never shut her up.)

Camy's also giving readers a chance to win a copy of Web of Lies.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Copyedits for Violet Dawn

When I first started publishing with Zondervan, I was assigned a great copyeditor. I worked with him through numerous books, then lost him for a while. Boy, did I feel the difference. I’d grown so used to this guy’s hard look at my manuscripts that I didn’t realize all copyeditors weren’t made of the same cloth. Whereas he would give me pages of queries, the other copyeditors would send along a half a page. In the first printing of one of my novels in which I hadn't worked with this guy, I found numerous grammatical mistakes (which were fixed in the second printing). I’d discovered some myself during proofing, but apparently hadn’t caught all of them. They should have been caught in the copyedit process, but they weren’t. If I’d had my old, hard copyeditor, they would have been caught. So I demanded him back.

In the copyedit for Web of Lies, this fave Copyeditor (CE) of mine queried about the stair banister in Annie’s house. In one sentence I referred to it as a “white banister.” CE went back and did a search in each of the three earlier Hidden Faces books to check for consistency. Sure enough, I’d never explained it as a white banister before. I’d never mentioned its color at all. “Are you sure you want to say this now?” he asked. “Readers may have imagined it differently for three books’ running.”

Now that is a detail-oriented copyeditor.

I deleted the word white.

In the copyedits for Violet Dawn, CE had over 170 queries. This is not counting all the “overused words” he listed. I’ll tell you, it’s one thing to note something that stands out in a sentence. It’s another thing to note a certain word’s usage throughout the entire book. But CE apparently keeps a running track. Here are just a few he caught:

Tilt, 17 times. ("People tend to tilt their heads and look up, instead of merely looking.") Flick, 25 times. Whoosh, 5 times. Survey, 19 times. Swivel, 14 times. Grunt, 16 times.

Really? I had no idea my characters did so much grunting.

There were about a dozen other words he found overused. It takes me a long time to fix these. I have to do a search on the computer, then come up with another appropriate word (that I haven’t used too much.)

Here are a few examples of his queries for Violet Dawn (with some blanks so as not to give away any content):

AQ14: Please establish in this scene that the garage is on the north side of the house. Otherwise readers may imagine the scene incorrectly and be forced to reimagine it later.

This is an astute catch. CE had to read further chapters before he could determine what side of the house the garage is on, and then come back to this first mention of the garage and ask me to clarify here.

AQ29: Two paragraphs ago ___ tossed the flashlight into the hatchback. Here she closes the hatchback door and then grabs the flashlight. Please clarify. (Keep in mind the flashlight needs to end up on the passenger seat, where she picks it up in a later scene.)

AQ37: Earlier it was said there was a “curved, descending path through forest down to water’s edge”; here there seems to be no path at all. Please clarify.

AQ47. Second use of word waft in three pages.

AQ50. There was already “something in her voice” two paragraphs ago. Does it make sense for her tone to change again so quickly?

AQ55: Consider deleting the phrase “and the broken lives inside” and allow the metaphor you’ve created to stand on its own.

AQ60: Who is Paige addressing here, the woman or the girl?

AQ68: Doesn’t adrenaline travel through the bloodstream, rather than the nervous system?

AQ78: Bailey is always [doing this same task.] Do you think it would be better to vary her actions?

AQ92: Please make it clear she’s standing outside her car, not sitting in it.

AQ97: Leslie “clicked off” the last time she ended a call in this scene.

AQ110: “Fetal position” is used twice in this book. It’s such a strong image that I recommend using it only once.

AQ123: Vince’s next objection makes sense, but I’m not sure this one does. [Continued explanation of why CE thinks this.]

AQ126: It may be a good idea to note what time it is here, since Nancy is home from work so soon. You might want to mention she only works part-time.

Oops—a real booboo on my part. And a keen detail catch for CE. Nancy does work full time. A good 25 chapters earlier I’d mentioned what time she left for work—and it was the wrong time. Had to move it back so when she gets off work it’s 8 hours later.

AQ130: Should this be “fellow officers” instead of “policemen?”

AQ147: “Lay in his hand” implies that his hand was open, palm up, which isn’t the case here.

AQ153: “Heaved” was used two paragraphs up.

AQ159: Metaphor needs to be reworded. [Explanation of why.]

AQ165: Nancy just huffed toward the end of the last scene. I’d reword one of these.

AQ168: This sentence is trying to say two things at once. [Explanation of what should change.]

AQ171: Third instance of “tsking” in final pages of the book.

See why I love this guy? He catches the small nuances. He’ll note something that doesn’t jive with what I mentioned five chapters or even 25 chapters previously. Sure, I suppose it would be great to zip through an easy copyedit in half an hour rather than take up my whole weekend. But the things a lesser copyeditor would have missed!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Editing Question/Hopping

Becky had a question about yesterday's post on editing: It seems that everyone has the title of editor and yet the jobs you describe seem quite specialized at Zondervan. Does your macro editor do copy editing for someone else? Is your copyeditor going to conferences and acquiring other authors? In otherwords, how specialized are the people you work with?

The editor's jobs are quite specialized. I think this is true for most houses. However, it's common for the acquiring editor (the one who goes to conferences and looks for manuscripts, as you mention) to also be the macro editor. This person knows fiction. He/she knows what makes a good story and what the house needs to rounds out its fiction line. This person will typically take the book through the macro editing process--and perhaps the track edits, if the house includes that step. Sometimes the house works with a freelance editor who steps in to do the macro edit. Often the acquiring editor doesn't have time to macro edit every novel, so he/she may do some of them, and a freelance editor will be hired to do the rest.

As for copy editors, these are a specialized breed. They're taught to look for the details. Many would have no idea how to do a macro edit. By the same token, a macro editor would not necessarily be a good copyeditor. A copyeditor is supposed to stay within his purview and not stray into macroediting, because that stage has already been done and agreed upon by the time he receives the manuscript.

Now for today--I've hopped again. Please join me on the Charis Connection for my post. Please leave your comments there.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Editing--Part 2

After our three-day break (while my three-part interview was posted on Chris Well’s blog), I return today to the subject of editing. If you didn’t read my post last Tuesday about the various stages of edits a book goes through, you might want to do so before reading on.

Here are some comments/questions that came in regarding that post:

Dineen: Ah, so somewhere between Track Edits and Copy Edits, the type gets laid out and you don't get to edit a computer file anymore? That's interesting. I thought it happened later than that. So you wind up with a file different than the finished book, unless you add the changes.

For clarification, the book is laid out after copyediting. Remember, the process of editing is macro edit, track changes, copyediting, proofing. (At least, this is how it works for me at Zondervan.) So while I’m working on copyedits, I’m working on a hard copy still in manuscript form, double-spaced. The copyeditor uses software that allows him to insert numbered cues to his queries. For example, for his first query, he’ll insert: [AQ1]. (AQ = Author Query.) On separate sheets of paper are listed the numbered queries and comments that he wants me to look at. For example: [AQ1]. She was “staring” two paragraphs ago. I recommend rewording one of these.

One important note: The copyeditor points out passages I should look at, but the last call is mine. I can make a change or decide to leave as is.

Second note: At the copyedit stage I don’t read the manuscript in its entirety. I simply can’t—I’m deep into writing another book and must remain on schedule. Besides, I don’t have that copyeditor’s eye for detail—that’s why I’m an author and he’s the copyeditor. I only look at the queries the copyeditor has posed. This is why I rely on him to do his job well and be hard on me.

You are right, Dineen, that since I make the changes directly onto this hard copy, what’s in my computer file is no longer the latest version. I am careful to save a copy of my copyedits so when I receive the proofs, I can check that they all were done as I requested. At the proofing stage, I see the book in layout form for the first time.

Lynette: I wonder if it is easier to edit a book once you're pouring yourself into another one. Is the emotional attachment there, just like when you're going through it the first time?

The emotional attachment isn’t there, which is a good thing. I have fresh eyes for the project once again, which I lose during the day-to-day writing of the book. Easier to edit objectively this way.

Vennessa: ARC's always contain the warning that it is an unproofed edition. Problem is, I've noticed a lot of final editions with the same mistakes in them as in the ARC's.

Yes, unfortunately this can be true. It’s very hard to catch every mistake. Most houses have more than one person proofing. If it’s a typo, the proofers should spot it. But if it’s grammatically wrong, that’s the copyeditor’s purview. If the proofer is reading syllable by syllable and punctuation point by punctuation point, she’s not reading for content. She may well miss the grammar stuff. This is why every person’s job is so important. Each kind of editor is looking for something different, starting with the biggest picture and working down to the smallest period. A macro editor who’s worried about overall story structure and characterization can’t notice every typo. Nor will the copyeditor, although he’s looking for them. Because he, too, is looking at a little bit bigger picture. (You’ll see specifics of this in my next post on the subject.)

This is why, when I spot a mistake in a book, I’m not so quick to blame only the author. The author has to create the entire story from scratch, and I can assure you in that process she’s gonna miss things. The macro editor looks to close gaps in logic, tighten story structure, smooth characterization. The copy editor worries about word choice and consistently of details. The proofer catches typos. If I see a typo in a book, I blame the proofer. If I see a gap in logic, I’m likely to think, “Why didn’t the editor catch that?”

This isn’t coming from defensiveness because I’m an author. It’s coming from my understanding that it takes numerous people to create the end product. I’m very quick to give my editors lots of kudos for making my stories better. Believe me, the final book is much improved from the first draft I turn in, thanks to their expertise. Knowing this about my own books, when I’m reading someone else’s story, I’m likely to hold editors accountable for certain kinds of errors.

Because I know how much a good editor can improve my own books, I am very grateful for hard, thorough editing. I ask for it. Makes me work harder, yes, but I’m going for the best product I can deliver. I can tell you, by Zondervan’s own admission, I have the hardest copyeditor they’ve got. I insist on him. The guy is incredible. In the next post on this subject, I’ll show you what I mean.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Interview Part 3

Please follow me once again to Chris Well's blog for the final part of my interview with him. Meet ya BGs back here Monday.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Day 2 of Interview

Please follow me on over to Chris Well's blog for day 2 of my interview with him. You can leave your comments over there.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Happy Birthday to Us!

How could I miss our birthday bash yesterday? On February 7, Forensics and Faith was one year old. Happy Birthday, BGs! Hope you’ll stay with me for a second year.

Today, please follow me over to the blog of Chris Well for Part I of my interview with him. Chris is a novelist and magazine editor. His first novel, crime thriller Forgiving Solomon Long, published last year, was recently named one of the top 10 Christian novels of 2005 by Booklist. Chris’s next novel, the quirky crime drama Deliver Us From Evelyn, will be published in March. By day, he is the editor for Homecoming Magazine and a contributing editor for CCM Magazine.

You can tell Chris has done a few interviews. He asked me some provocative questions. I mean, what do you say when someone asks: What's the worst thing anyone ever said about your books?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Copy Editing

Over the weekend, I did the copy edits for Violet Dawn. Took the better part of two days, which meant I didn’t get much of a break this weekend. But I am so thankful to have a very good, very hard copyeditor.

Copyediting is stage four for Violet Dawn. In another post I’ll go into specifics of some of the copyedit issues within the manuscript (as much as I can without giving away any plot point). For today, here’s a recap of stages each of my books goes through, and the general timeline for those stages.

Stage 1: Write draft of story. Definitely the hardest part. Takes about 3 months. (Longer if I manage to waste a lot of time in the beginning, which I’m prone to do.) Violet Dawn was written in April, May, June and first half of August in 2005. Deadline 8/15/05. (I can’t write in July due to all the traveling and conferences in that month.)

Stage 2: Rewrite, based on macro editing feedback. Takes 1-2 weeks of intense work. In previous posts I gave you all an inside look at the macro edit to Violet Dawn. (Starting 11/2/05). This is the edit dealing with the large, overall picture of the novel—characterization, story structure issues, etc. When a novelist speaks of “my editor,” he/she is generally referring to the macro editor, who does so much to help shape the story. I received the macro edit letter toward the end of October and sent off the rewrite on Friday, 11/4. Violet Dawn’s rewrite took 1 week.

Stage 3: Track changes. Takes 1 full day. These are sentence-by-sentence changes, still working with the macro editor, using the track changes option in Word. Typically these come about a month after the rewrite is sent in. Violet Dawn tracks changes were sent back to the editor on December 4.

Stage 4: Copy edits. Takes 1-2 days. After track changes the book leaves the macro editor’s hands and goes to the copy editor. This is a different breed. Whereas the macro editor looks at the large picture, the copyeditor looks for tiny details, down to the use of a word. Violet Dawn copy edits were received 1/27/06. They are due back at Zondervan headquarters this Friday, 2/10. I let them sit on my desk for a week before getting to them this past weekend. (With my regular page count for book #2 in the series needing to be done during the week, I knew the copyedits would have to be done on a Sat./Sun.) Copyedits are done on hard copy, not on the computer, so the changes must be snail mailed back to Zondervan. The edited manuscript was dropped off to be Xeroxed yesterday (lest the mailed copy gets lost along the way, egad!), and today it will be taken to the post office.

Stage 5: Proofing. Takes a full, long day. After copy edit changes, the book goes to yet another person (usually more than one) who proofreads. Proofreaders do not suggest any changes. Their job is to find typos. The manuscript is sent to me for proofreading also. The only good way to proofread is syllable by syllable, punctuation point by punctuation point. I’m not supposed to edit at this stage either, but I am allowed a few changes if I really must make them. However at this point the book is in galley form—that is, the type appears as it will on book pages, with the layout design in place. So we’re talking small changes only, like the use of a word. Proofing usually comes about a month after I send back the copy edits, so I’ll receive them around mid March.

Meanwhile, before proofing is done, the manuscript in its designed form is sent to the printer for printing ARCs (advanced readers copies) and galleys (bound manuscript pages). This is why ARCs and galleys carry the disclaimer that proofing has not yet been done, and that quoting from the ARC should not be done without checking it against final copy. The publisher needs ARCs and galleys for early marketing and to send to reviewers. Zondervan has promised me ARCs of Violet Dawn by May 1 because I need them in my own marketing campaign (to be announced in the future on this blog.)

Violet Dawn will be released in August, making it a September publication. (Meaning that by September most stores should have received their shipments and have it on shelves.)

And that’s why it takes a year from turning in the manuscript to publication.

When we return to this subject—an inside look at some of the copy editing for Violet Dawn.

Monday, February 06, 2006

I've Hopped Today

Some of you may have experienced difficulties with this and other blogs Friday and Saturday. Blogspot was having problems, but all seems to be better now.

Thanks to all of you who left opinions/ideas for me on Friday regarding amazon.com. I'll be updating you on my participation in the Author Connect program in the future.

For today's post, I'm over at Charis Connection (link at left). Please hop on over and join me for a most erudite discussion. Leave your comments over there. I'm looking forward to your creativity.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Sundry Items/amazon.com

I forgot yesterday to mention an interview I did on 1/31 over at Dineen Miller’s blog. Take a look if you haven’t already stopped by there. Dineen asked a few questions that, well, got me going.

In the near future I’ll have another interview up on
Chris Wells’ site. I’ll let you know when that happens. Interestingly, Dineen and Chris asked completely different questions, which was quite refreshing.

Also, coming soon here, I want to give you another inside look at editing with a publishing house. Remember when I covered the macro edit for Violet Dawn? Well, guess what’s back on my desk, this time for copyedits. We’ll take a look at how this go-round is different from the last, and what makes a good copyedit, etc.

Oh, I want to remind you all of our discussion board (link at left). You’ve probably forgotten about it—because I know I had. For a while last year it was going good there, but I happened to check it for the first time in a couple months, and there’s an obvious lack of recent chatting. Frankly, it’s not a big issue to me whether you use it or not. I know plenty of other writing blogs offer message boards for discussion. But if you’d like to open up some topic, or perhaps continue a topic started here, please note that you’re doing so in a post comment, so BGs will know to mosey on over and take a look.

Now for today, here’s a bit of cool news from Publisher’s Weekly regarding amazon.com’s new venture:

The day before it is set to release results for 2005, Amazon announced another marketing initiative designed to drive traffic to its site. Amazon Connect will let authors post messages directly to their readers via the Amazon.com home page. Authors' posts will be limited to customers who have purchased that author's work in the past, or to those who sign up to receive that author's posts.

Amazon said about 1,000 authors have enrolled in the program. In addition to the Amazon.com home page, posts will appear on book detail pages, a blog page and on a special author profile page that features the author's three most recent posts and entire bibliography. In addition, customers can sign up to receive posts from authors whose books they have not previously purchased on Amazon.

I’m already in the process of signing up as an author.

It’s interesting to note that in the grand scheme of book sales, the Internet plays a very small percentage. According to the ECPA’s recent survey for sales of Christian books in 2004, the Internet came in at only 1.4% of sales. It does form a little larger percentage in the general market, but still not much.

But here’s the thing I notice with myself. I may not buy all the time from amazon, but I do use it as an information site. I can easily look up an author and everything he/she has written. And now much of the time I can read a few pages inside the books. This author thing sounds way cool to me as a reader. It will drive me to amazon.com more frequently now, I think.

I’d like to take an admittedly less than scientific poll here. Do you use amazon.com for information more than you use it for purchasing? If you use it for information, what kinds of info are you seeking? And—in this new Amazon Connect program—what kinds of information from an author would you like to see (if ya already didn’t know all her inside stories and read her blog every day, that is)?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Latest News on Frey

Thanks to those of you who left comments for yesterday's post. I agree that controversy is a sobering topic in light of making us all look at ourselves and make sure we're following biblical principles in addressing issues we disagree with.

This will probably be my last post on Frey. I've continued to follow the news not so much for the man himself, but to see how the issue of lying in a "memoir"--and getting caught at it--is affecting the writing world at large. The following are two articles from Publisher's Weekly.

Doubleday posted James Frey's Author Note at the
www.randomhouse.com Web site this morning, and said that it is now going back to press for 100,000 copies of a new A Million Little Pieces edition that will include Frey's note and Doubleday's own note, which it released last week. The company is also taking out ads in several publications, including Monday's PW, with a letter explaining its position on the matter.

In his note, Frey acknowledges embellishing many details about his past, admitting that he "altered events and details all the way through the book" to help create a better story. He said he didn't set out to write a fiction or nonfiction books, but to tell his story about addition, recovery, faith, love and hope. Frey said he made alterations in the portrayal of himself in the book, partially as a way to help him cope with his past. "My mistake, and it is one I deeply regret, is writing about the person I created in my mind to help me cope, and not the person who went through the experience."

Frey said he "never expected" that the book would sell as many copies as it did, calling the experience "shocking," "humbling," and "terrifying." And Frey defended characterizing Pieces as a memoir. "I believe, and I understand others strongly disagree, that memoir allows the writer to work from memory instead of from a strict journalistic or historical standard. It is about impression and feeling, about individual recollection. This memoir is a combination of facts about my life and certain embellishments. It is subjective truth, altered by the mind of a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. Ultimately it's a story, and one that I could not have written without have lived the life I've lived."

This second article is PW’s interview with James Frey’s agent.

Brillstein-Grey literary manager Kassie Evashevski has represented James Frey for the last four and a half years, and has remained mum of the debate swirling around the publication of A Million Little Pieces. "I have purposefully chosen not to comment on the controversy until now because I felt it was important to let James speak for himself," Evashevski told PW editor-in-chief Sara Nelson in an exclusive interview. "I also needed to sort out for myself what was happening." While she declined to quote from private conversations in which she questioned Frey about the controversial events in the book, she says that she spoke to him many times about specific incidents in A Million Little Pieces. She also said she learned about Frey's deceptions in the papers and on TV "along with the rest of the world."

In light of recent questions about the roles of agent, editor and publisher, Evashevski said, "I now feel compelled to address the matter."


KE: I told all the publishers that it was the true story of James's addiction and recovery, which is what he had told me. He did say he had changed the names and identifying characteristics of his fellow rehab patients, but, until recently, always maintained the veracity of his account.

I think the confusion over fiction vs. nonfiction may stem from the fact that early in the submission process, James raised the issue of whether he could publish it as an autobiographical novel--ONLY, he said, to spare his family undue embarrassment, NOT because it wasn't true. I told him I would bring it up with a few publishers, which I did, and the response was unanimous: if the book is true, it should be published as a memoir.
James personally explained to his editor that the events depicted in the book took place as described. Based on the information given us by the author, [editor] Sean McDonald and [publisher] Nan Talese believed in good faith they were buying a memoir, just as I believed I was selling them one.


KE: It was sent to me by a mutual friend of James and mine who works in the film business.

KE: I thought the book was the most visceral and vivid description of drug addiction I had ever read.


KE: No, I really don't, but I'm not going to speculate about what went on his mind.


KE: James called me a few days before the piece ran to say he had learned they were doing a negative story on him, but I didn't learn of the specifics until I read it on 'TSG' Web site along with everyone else.


KE: No, I am not. In the last week, it became impossible for me to maintain a relationship once the trust had been broken. He eventually did apologize, but I felt for many reasons I had to let him go as a client.


KE: I still believe he's a very talented writer and suspect we haven't heard the last of James Frey.


KE: Certainly after this experience, I have to wonder if there is such a thing as a "nonfiction memoir." One can fact-check facts, but how do you fact-check memory and perception? I'm less clear on whether or not I think publishers have a responsibility to carefully check nonfiction works of a journalistic nature. Ultimately, I feel an author should be responsible for his or her own work, but I leave that to the legal minds.


KE: I think the book's success and the tremendous interest in its subsequent controversy are because of its subject matter. Nearly everyone in this country seems to have been touched by addiction or knows someone who has. Still, I've never personally seen a media frenzy like this regarding a book before. It's been surreal.


KE: This experience will definitely make me more cautious. But, at the end of the day, I guess I hope I'll still be able to take people at their word--even while I'm checking out their stories.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Controversy over End of the Spear

First, a quick answer to Cara who asked in her comment yesterday: Do you go into a book knowing the spiritual theme and then weave it in the second time through, or is it so settled in your mind that it twists and turns seamlessly with your whodunit plot?

Neither, Cara. I don't a story's spiritual theme when I start writing. I know only the suspense plot, and the spiritual aspect grows naturally from events in the plot, plus the characterization. This is why my novels aren't consistent as to level of spiritual issues. For example Brink of Death, first in my Hidden Faces series, had less of a spiritual emphasis than the third book of the series, Dead of Night. In the first book Annie wasn't a Christian and knew very little about Christian teaching. It wouldn't have felt natural to take her from such a place in her life to a sudden conversion (given all the pages that need to be spent on the suspense plot.) By Dead of Night, Annie is a Christian and during a crisis is called to pray with power. That book is heavy on the Christian emphasis. But much or little, readers tend to react favorably when the spiritual journey arises from the plot in a natural, believable way.

So my encouragement to you is, focus on a rip-roarin' suspense plot and let the spiritual part develop out of the characters' needs for help beyond themselves during such a crisis.

Now to today's topic. If you blitz around the Christian blog world, you may be aware of the controversy over the recently released movie End of the Spear. The brouhaha began when one Christian blogger took to task the movie’s producers Mart Green and Steve Saint for hiring Chad Allen, a gay man and vocal advocate for homosexuals, to play Steve Saint’s father in the film. Unfortunately, the blogger quoted information related to this issue that was not true. This information then was passed around the Internet, resulting in over 100 pastors calling upon Green and Saint to “repent” and also resulting in boycotts against the movie. Green and Saint, two men strong in their Christian faith, were badly hurt in the fallout, and few seemed to want to hear their answers to the charges.

How unfortunate that any Christian would call upon others to avoid seeing this film, which carries such a message of Christ's redemption.

Two things are evident to me. One, in the blogging world, it’s so easy to pass untested information around as fact, and hurt people by doing so. Two, how sad that Christians are sometimes worst hurt and judged by other Christians.

For the truth of the story, I send you to Randy Alcorn’s site. (Many of you either know, or know of Randy as a respected author and pastor.) I and a few other bloggers are doing this to help spread the word of what really happened in the casting for End of the Spear. Even though the initial blogger of disinformation is correcting himself online, some who’ve read his previous opinions may somehow miss the follow-up corrections. If you know anyone who has been upset over this controversy and refused to see the movie as a result, please send them to Randy’s site.

First, Green’s and Saint’s answers regarding what happened:

Second, Randy’s lengthy article about the controversy and how it is being corrected. And more important, how we Christians should watch out own behavior in situations such as this:

Once you have read the articles, please return and post your comments here.