Thursday, October 8, 2020


Brewing tea in my grey tea cup as I hold the tea-bag tag that says: You Are Unlimited

  Nitpicking…nitpicking. I’m sure I’ve got something to nitpick about, I mean—I can vent with the best of them. 



Well…maybe I can’t. I’m not much of a complainer because I’d rather focus on the what’s going good. So, what positives have I got going on right now? 

I’m in the editing cave which means:

  • Coffee’s on tap
  • I get to close the door (meaning the kiddos know they can only interrupt for really really important stuff…if they come in it’d better be for more than my brother took the last granola bar)
  • I’m focused—zeroed in, end in sight, can’t distract—

Ullr pup just walked in! Aww, he misses me and needs some belly scratching. Never mind me, I’ll be over here getting some puppy kisses. 

Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck ~Dalai Lama

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

How To Tell if Your Manuscript Nitpicker Is Qualified

This week on SFF Seven we’re talking about nitpicking, which puts me in mind of the wonderful folks we hire to do these things: proofreaders and copyeditors. Back in the olden days of publishing (and still the case for some folks), our publishers took care of interviewing and hiring manuscript-polishing professionals, but now we don’t always have access to those experienced individuals. So how do we find qualified nit pickers for our work? How do we trust that they’re finding all the errors in our manuscripts and making the right changes? It’s tough out there both for freelance book prep folks and for the writers, but I’ve been on both sides of the writer/editor divide and can, hopefully, offer a few insights. 

What Qualifications Should a Proofreader/Copyeditor Have?

Proofreaders and copyeditors are not licensed professionals — we mostly find these services through online searches or word of mouth — so it can be really hard for writers outside the book-publishing industry to find a qualified contractor. Literally anyone can claim to be qualified to edit your words. Very few people actually are.

Heads up: a degree in English is not, on its own, enough to qualify someone as an editor or proofreader. Most college English degree plans don’t even require a grammar class. It’s almost better for a person to have linguistics or extensive foreign language knowledge because those courses of study actually look at how language has evolved and is structured. An English degree means you’ve read a lot of classics and have written a bunch of analytical papers. 

Similarly, years spent teaching English is not a qualification that can stand on its own. If you think English degree holders have slim credentials in the grammar, punctuation, and usage realm, check out education degree requirements. (Disclosure: My degree is in English, from a biggish university, but I also went through teacher training and have a minor in secondary education. I learned nothing appropriate to an editing or proofreading career in college.)

One Way to Tell Whether a Proofer/Editor Is a Fit for Your Manuscript

So that potential proofreader who claims they know what’s what because of a English or Journalism degree and/or teaching career? Nice start, but you need more.

What you want is a work sample.

(Note: Editors/proofers, looking at a writer’s sample pages beforehand can also help you.)

Here’s what I suggest: send a prospective roofer/editor/copyeditor ten pages before agreeing to a contract. You won’t need more than that to assess their work style, and honestly, they are likely to be thrilled at a chance to see how dense an edit they have in store. If they read those ten pages and your prose is so messy they’ll need a ton of extra time to do the project, that’s something they will want to know in advance and charge accordingly. If your manuscript is super clean, that should affect their pricing and scheduling as well.

You don’t order a wedding cake without tasting a baker’s samples, right? The cost of a good cake and the cost of a good edit is comparable, so you should invest at least as much due diligence in selecting a book baker.

How To Know When Your Edit/Proofread Has Gone Off the Rails

Jeffe Kennedy’s anecdote from earlier this week (Sunday) provides a crap-case scenario for how to tell when your manuscript has been savaged by someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. A few quick tips for judging the work if you’ve already had the edit/proofread done:

1. Look for comments. The best late-stage editors will only change text where they see an obvious error or typo. They will never, ever make in-line changes that affect an author’s voice. If they notice you have a bad habit (e.g., a lot of dangling participles, too many proper nouns), they will highlight a few instances and comment. The best editors will explain, either in the comments or in an edit note, what the persistent error is, how to find instances of it in your manuscript, and a couple of ways you might go about fixing it. Extremely diligent editors will comment every instance of this error and in the comments suggest a possible sentence recast. Those editors deserve public praise and maybe chocolates.

2. Look for a ton of identical changes. If, for instance, you have written an entire manuscript without using the Oxford or serial comma but your editor has a passion for the thing and has decided every manuscript needs to use their personal punctuation headcanon, you’ll see a half dozen nasty red inserts per page. That is a problem. If you’re self-publishing, you have the right to adhere to whatever style you want so long as it’s consistent. Caveat: If you’re writing for a publisher, that publisher will have a house style, so it’s possible all those added (or removed) commas are an attempt to adhere to that. However, a publisher is more likely to just send you the house style at an earlier stage, probably before developmental edits, and ask you to implement those changes yourself. A late-stage copyeditor or proofreader should never bleed that much red ink over your book. 

3. Look for voice changes. An editor at any stage should not significantly rewrite your manuscript. Any changes to your author voice (e.g., “fixing” sentence fragments, adding or removing details in order to speed or slow pacing, rearranging scenes) are not in within the purview of an editor. A good early-stage, or developmental, editor will send you a (sometimes really long, bless them) edit letter outlining spots where pacing sags or continuity is a problem or a scene needs you to delve deeper or hit a moment harder. Sometimes those edit letters will have suggestions or examples of how you can fix things. Beware of any editor who tries to apply a big fix in-line. A good rule of thumb is you should never accept-change for an entire scene. I would submit, you should never accept-change for an entire paragraph. Writing is your job. 

Signs of a Nitpicking Job Well Done

All that said, a good nitpick read is a beautiful thing. You can tell your money has been well spent if your finished product reads smoothly both for you and your advance/review readers. Don’t be alarmed if you get your manuscript back and changes are minimal: that’s just a sign that your manuscript was clean to begin with and did not require a lot of correcting. A competent proofreader will not manufacture errors just to have some mythical minimum amount of red ink. 

Of course, the ultimate sign that you’ve been edited well is ... crickets. If no reviewer comments on weird punctuation choices or “typos,” and your audiobook reader doesn’t point out a bunch of problems, and you  yourself are content in the knowledge that you’ve produced a quality piece of fictional entertainment, that’s the best feeling.

And the final step is to then recommend that manuscript polisher to everybody else, because they’re a unicorn and we all want to do business with that person.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Release Day: PETS IN SPACE 5 (A Charity SFR Anthology)


Need a break from all the chaos and negativity roiling through the real world? Want to do some good without risking your health? We have a (very biased) suggestion!

For the fifth year, our own Veronica Scott and eleven other talented Sci-Fi Romance authors are releasing an anthology of stories starring romantic leads and their scene-stealing pets! A portion of the proceeds from the first 30 days of sales goes to (Service Dogs for America's Heroes).

So, grab the ebook and settle in for action, adventure, and romances sure to make your pulse race.

BUY IT NOW: Amazon  |  Apple Books  |  Nook  |  Kobo  |  Google Play

Monday, October 5, 2020

Down the Rabbit-Hole

 This week we're all about the editing, or rather about editing horror stories. I'm going to keep this short and sweet. 1) Hire an editor or two. 2) Know what you are getting into and PUT YOUR EGO IN CHECK.

Sounds easy, right? It's not. It's a damned sight harder than most people think. Do you know why? Because it's your baby. Y0u have spent God alone knows how much time writing this book. (My fastest was three weeks. My longest was over a year.) You have poured heart and soul and passion into this work if you're doing it the right way, and when you're done, you have to (gasp) Show it to other people!

And those people will tell you what they think of it. And the odds are decent you'll pay them to do so. 

Listen, I get it. It sucks. People who know what they're doing (if you've done your research and found a good editor or five) will actually show you the changes they recommend. Some of them will merely do grammar corrections. others will make suggestions on story structure. Inside, you're probably going to bleed a bit. That's okay, it just means they're doing their jobs. 

Now for those other rules you should follow: don't assume they're right. Some proofreaders are flawless in their approach and will do nothing but enhance your stories. That's a lovely thing. Don't assume that's the person you've hired, even if they have a long track record of success. Once they're finished looking everything over, YOU look over their work and approve or reject the suggested changes. I don't care if you hired them yourself or if they work for one of the Big Five. At the end of the day, this is still your baby. Take the time to do it right. Failure to do this can and doubtlessly will lead to awkward tense shifts and the occasional typo sneaking through. 

It's a project for everyone but you. For you, it's a labor of love and sweat and passion and pain. for them, it's a gig where they're trying to make you better at what you already know how to do. The simple fact of life is that new eyes can see mistakes that you gloss over without consciously doing so. Wait six months after you write something and MAYBE you can see all the flaws but before that? Good luck!

Editing is a job. The people who do it well are worth the money. Those that don't? Well, they don't get hired as often, now do they? That's not me being mean, it's just a matter of fact. 

Your mileage may vary. 

Keep smiling, 


PS: Working on Book Five: THE GODLESS. It's different being back in the world of seven war gods and two cashing civilizations. But I rather like it!

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Nitpicking: When Editing Goes Horribly Wrong

I'm sending a shoutout to my bestie Grace Draven this week, celebrating the long-anticipated release of THE IPPOS KING on Tuesday, October 6, 2020. I read an early copy and this book is amazing and wonderful and totally worth the wait. (I know her website still says September, but it really comes out Tuesday!) (Also, Grace might be a dear friend, but she became my friend because I read and loved her books. So, I'm biased, but in the best possible way. This is really is a wonderful book!)

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is  Nitpicking - venting about things or thinking about the value of attention to detail.

I want to tell you all a story.

Recently, a good friend self-published a book. This is not Grace, btw. (I also discussed the initial part of the story on my podcast on September 24.)

But this friend is an accomplished author - more than two-dozen traditionally published books, multiple appearances on the top bestseller lists, winner of top industry awards - and she knows what she's doing in writing a book. 

As a responsible self-publisher, she lined up an editor to proofread the book, scheduling them for two days to read an ~60K book. She'd also factored in a couple of other reads: one from her continuity editor and a couple of betas, including me. I read - and loved! - the book in about a day. I marked the very few typos I happened to spot and identified a few word-choice questions and one continuity error that could be fixed in five minutes. 

In other words, it was a really clean manuscript.

Or, it was, until the "proofreader" got a hold of it.

H.G. Wells is credited with saying "No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft." There's a lot of truth to this. It seems particularly true when the editor is also an author.

Unfortunately, the proofreader succumbed to this passion and began making vast changes to the book. When I say "vast," I'm not exaggerating. It was on the level of a deep-dive developmental edit. Scenes were rearranged. Sentences deleted and new sentences added. Her personal opinions added to change aspects she didn't approve of. 

Reader: this was not a proofread.

The resultant manuscript was in such terrible shape - with almost no time to sort it out - that my friend was reduced to stress tears multiple times. I was hugely upset on her behalf. So, I went to another proofreader, one I thought could be trusted to help sort it out, for help.

That person, however - also an author as well as an editor - scrambled the manuscript further. They didn't listen to the writer of the book either and made huge changes again. It took my friend days to sort it out. Time she did not have. Worse, they didn't even catch the typos as was the job they'd been hired to do.

Finally I - chagrined that I'd thrown my dear friend from the frying pan into the fire - found one more proofreader for her. By this time, so many people had made changes to this manuscript that it desperately needed another set of eyes. I'm going to tell you that I asked Crystal Watanabe at Pikko's House. I'm giving you all her name and link, because she did an amazing job. And you know what? She did exactly what she'd been hired to do: proofread. She submitted a quote, performed the turnaround in the agreed upon timeframe - and she didn't attempt to do any more than that. No bragging on social media about "saving" the book. No rewriting or trying to make herself look special by her affiliation with the author. She did her job and she did it well. 

I've hired her to proofread my next novella.

All of this is by way of a cautionary tale. It's not always easy for Indie authors to find professional services that aren't predatory - and that aren't primarily a path for the service provider to advance their own interests - but it's critical that we do. And that we share those resources with each other. 

My friend and I both learned a good lesson here. 

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Pets In Space 5 and Titanic On My Mind

Our topic this week is whatever is on our mind. Aside from current politics and the COVID pandemic, neither of which I'm discussing here, I'm excited about the impending release of the 5th annual Pets In Space anthology! Especially since I'm the co-creator of this anthology concept and we're in our fifth year...

I recently wrote a post for my own blog on why I decided to write STAR CRUISE: RETURN VOYAGE for this year's anthology, plus an excerpt and here's that discussion:

Every year it’s a fun challenge for me to figure out my alien pet for the annual Pets In Space® anthology. Some years the choice of a pet is driven by a plot I already have in mind and other years the plot arises from the development of the pet and its attributes.

This year I went into the whole process fascinated by the Afghan hound. I’d seen snippets of the big national kennel show on the news and watched an Afghan hound prance by the camera. No offense to the aficionados of this dog breed but I find them to appear a bit alien just the way they are, so the animal made a good jumping off point for a PISA pet. I decided Verlaine the Tajikka Hound would have some vaguely equine characteristics as well, like black hooves and a somewhat horselike face. Our artist did his usual fabulous job in creating Verlaine for me. (The animal just seemed to require an aristocratic name, doesn’t he?!).

I like to make my PISA story into my annual entry in my STAR CRUISE series as well, located on the interstellar luxury liner Nebula Zephyr. I enjoy revisiting some of my characters from previous STAR CRUISE stories and I feel the concept of a huge cruise ship gives me plenty of latitude for telling a variety of stories. My next challenge for 2020 was what would bring such a sizable animal onto the ship as a pet? This past year there had been so many true stories about people bringing odd animals onto airplanes as service animals and I read about someone who had a miniature horse they wanted to travel with! Since I visualize Verlaine as being about the size of a very small horse that seemed perfect to me. So he became a genuine service animal of the far future.

But who would need such an animal to support them on a trip on a big luxury liner?

Enter Gianna Nadenoft, who survived the wreck of the interstellar cruise liner Nebula Dream in my very first published scifi romance novel. She was a (precocious) child of three at the time of the events in Wreck of the Nebula Dream so I felt it was a safe assumption she’d have had post-traumatic stress symptoms of various kinds and might have needed a service animal to help her cope with life after the wreck. Now she’s determined to travel the stars to her brother’s wedding and reunite with old friends but hasn’t left her own planet in the twenty or so years since the wreck. So of course she travels with Verlaine on my new cruise ship, Nebula Zephyr.

It was a fun opportunity for me to revisit the original story and to ‘see’ the events through the eyes of a child, and then to figure out what her private agenda might be in forcing herself to travel on the Nebula Zephyr as an adult. And oh WOW, did I have to check myself to make sure I typed the correct ship name every time! I’d previously established that the two vessels were sister ships in overall design, hence the similar names.  Dream was destroyed, Zephyr sails on…

Wreck of the Nebula Dream was loosely based on the 1912 sinking of the Titanic and Titanic inspired some of the futuristic conspiracy theories about the Dream and the Zephyr which are a minor plot point in the current novel. There actually is a theory that instead of the Titanic sinking on that icy cold night, her sister ship the Olympic sank and that everyone from the builders to the owners was covering up the fact. Why anyone would do that, I’m not entirely sure but I came up with a justification for my novel. After all, the essence of a conspiracy theory is whispers about a sort of plausible explanation, right? No matter how thin!

Over the years I’ve received some snarky comments about my original book’s title, basically to the effect it isn’t a true “wreck” because it happened in space yadda yadda yadda. I greatly enjoyed having Gianna speak to that very point early in this book! (And I picked the title for the first book because it was based on an actual wreck. Plus it’s a dramatic, evocative title…)

I also enjoyed dropping in a few references to other things in my Sectors universe throughout this story, not enough to annoy anyone who hasn’t read my other books, I hope, but…for example there’s a nod to the Khagrish, who are the evil alien scientists in my Badari Warrior series.

The PISA authors try to make the pets an integral part of the story we’re writing for the anthology, not just “and she had a dog” walk-ons, so I had to really think through the events that would occur to make sure I gave Verlaine enough to do to be a substantive supporting character. Hopefully I succeeded!

He did make an immediate connection point between Gianna and Lt. Trevor Hanson, the hero, who has PTSD issues of his own, stemming from his prior military service. Now Trevor’s a security officer aboard the Nebula Zephyr, charged by his captain to make sure Gianna reaches her destination with a minimum of stress.

Here’s an excerpt, with Captain Fleming giving Trevor his unusual assignment.

A yeoman was waiting for him. “Captain Fleming wants to see you in the wardroom. This way.”

Trevor followed the other through the short corridor and was left outside the conference room to key the arrival button and receive permission to enter. Stepping across the threshold, he saluted. “Lt. Trevor Hanson reporting as ordered, sir.”

The captain was seated at the head of the table, drinking real Terran coffee from the battered mug which bore the crest of his last battleship command. “At ease, Hanson. Get yourself some coffee and come sit down. I have a special assignment for you on this leg of the cruise.”

He wasn’t thirsty but no one refused the captain’s invitation and especially not when the beverage on offer was the rare and costly real coffee. Trevor picked up a Nebula Zephyr mug, filled it, spurned the sugar and cinna spice, preferring to drink it black, and joined the captain. His curiosity coiled in his gut. Highly unusual for Fleming himself to skip protocol and give orders directly to any crew member. He was a firm believer in the chain of command and military protocol, even now, commanding a cruise ship.

The captain was staring at the big vid screens which showed the planetary system the ship was fast approaching, a series of reddish tinted jewels scattered across the black velvet of the galaxy, circling the yellow sun in the eternal rhythm decreed by astrophysics and the laws of the universe.

Trevor sipped the strong coffee and waited.

“What do you know about the wreck of the Nebula Dream?” Fleming asked, still watching the planets.

Pop quiz time I guess. “Worst passenger ship disaster in the history of the Sectors, thousands of lives lost, heroics by a Special Forces officer who happened to be aboard and saved hundreds. We had a module on it when I was in training, sir, mostly regarding the decisions made by the soldier. One of those ‘what would you do in his place’ type classes.”

“Nick Jameson,” Fleming said, supplying the name of the officer under discussion. “His decisions in what regard?”

“At each point, I guess. To stay on the ship, to use what is politely called classified means to contact rescue ships, and to fight the enemy when they boarded.” Remembering more details as he talked, Trevor added, “Guy was gutsy, smart and lucky. Oh and the cruise liner was way off course, in enemy territory. May I ask why the interest, sir?”

“We’re a sister ship, did you know that? Not the exact design but close, and of course we have different engines. No one uses the Yeatter unstable technology nowadays, not if the shipbuilders are sane.” Fleming sat upright. “What do you know about the survivors? The ones specifically who were with Jameson?”

Suspecting the discussion was getting closer to whatever point Fleming was driving at, Trevor shook his head. “Two women, a D’nvannae Brother, couple of kids…oh and a Mellurean Mind but I believe she died on board.”

“The main reason we’re in this system is to pick up a woman named Gianna Nadenoft,” Fleming said. “She was a very little girl when Nick Jameson saved her life on the Nebula Dream and she hasn’t flown in space since her father brought her home after the rescue.”

Trevor absorbed the information and asked the obvious question. “May I ask why she’s traveling now then, sir?”

“Her brother is getting married on Xcelon Four and she’s agreed to attend and be a bridesmaid.”

Obviously the lady would be a celebrity passenger. The Sectors’ fascination with the tragedy of the Nebula Dream never went away. But what was his role in this? Maybe the Cruise Director should be here, not him. Trevor abhorred being unclear on mission parameters and right now he didn’t see his role in this discussion or the woman’s travel plans.

The captain stared at him over the lip of his mug. “Ms. Nadenoft apparently has PTSD resulting from the events on board the Nebula Dream and this trip is going to be a huge challenge for her. She does have a service animal.”

Now Trevor had a sinking feeling and the captain’s next words confirmed his suspicion. 


It’s time for an escape! Pets in Space® 5 is back for the fifth amazing year! Escape to new worlds with twelve of today’s top Science Fiction Romance authors. They have written 12 original, never-before-released stories filled with action, adventure, suspense, humor, and romance that will take you out of this world. The giving doesn’t stop there. For the fifth year, Pets in Space® will be donating a portion of the first month proceeds to, a non-profit charity that supports our veterans and First Responders. If you are ready to forget the world around you and make a difference while you are having fun, grab your copy before it’s gone!

STAR CRUISE RETURN VOYAGE blurb: Gianna Nadenoft is a reclusive survivor of one of the worst interstellar cruise ship disasters in the history of the Sectors. Now a renowned artist, she hasn’t left her home planet in decades, not since returning there after the wreck as a traumatized three-year-old. With her service animal at her side, she’s going to attempt to travel across the star systems to attend her brother’s wedding and reunite with her fellow survivors.

Trevor Hanson is a security officer aboard the cruise liner Nebula Zephyr with his own traumatic past as a former Special Forces soldier and prisoner of war. He’s assigned to provide personal protection to Gianna during her time aboard the ship but soon finds his interest turning from professional to romantic.

Onboard the Nebula Zephyr, powerful enemies are watching Gianna and making plans to seize this rare opportunity to gain access to her and the secrets they believe she’s still keeping about the wreck. Can Trevor overcome his personal demons and rise to the occasion to save Gianna from the danger waiting on his ship, or will she slip through his fingers and suffer a terrible fate deferred from her last disastrous voyage? 

Amazon      Apple Books      Nook      Kobo      Google Play


The award winning first book Wreck of the Nebula Dream ("Titanic in space...") and Star Survivor, the sequel featuring Khevan and Twilka are available at all major ebook sellers...

Friday, October 2, 2020

Day's End


Sunset out the back tonight. We don't normally get vibrant sunrises or sunsets in Florida. It's a land, sea, and sky of pastels. Colors washed out and faded by the sun, mostly. And then, this.

Most of us enjoy sunsets. We'll pause to marvel at the exuberant color and texture brought on by the day's death. Some of us make a ritual of stopping for the sunset, taking a seat to watch the show with a beverage at hand.

Why then do so many of us falter when faced with our loved ones' final days? 

An uncle on my mother's side of the family lays in an ICU not all that far from here. Pneumonia. (Not Covid, not that it matters at this point.) The prognosis is grim. No one is allowed in to see him or sit with him or hold his hand. Not even his wife, my aunt. This is the part that Covid has stolen from us - the comfort and distraction of loved ones at a dying man's side. And you'd think that at this moment, that would be my aunt's sole occupation - worrying over her dying husband. 

It isn't. It isn't, because it can't be. Not here. Not now. Not in this world where our lives have been forever altered by pandemic. No, at this moment, my aunt's worries are the business of dying. Who will pay the hospital bills. Where are the living will documents the doctors need should someone have to make the decision to pull life support. It's all lists and hurry and busy work.

There's no time (or safety) to sit at my uncle's bedside and pause of the final exuberant flush of life. Even without Covid, while we could sit at bedsides, most of us did so as a means of talking over death. We made timid small talk and watched shitty hospital TV to avoid the specter of death, no matter how close it hovered.

I don't say any of this to propose any kind of solution. Other than to maybe pause for a moment at endings of all kinds because sometimes there's breathtaking beauty to be found there.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Life doesn't need a filter...only Peace

A calm lake at twilight, the far shore's oak trees are in shadow and the sun is about to slip behind them.

 Happy October 1st! Here in Minnesota it smells like fall and I love it! 

I also love our topic of the week: what’s on your mind. Frankly, there’s a lot on my mind, as I'm sure it is with you since our world's on fire...literally and figuratively. And it's October which means I’ll be hiding out in my editing cave—busy busy—but with so much uncertainty it’s difficult to concentrate. Maybe the post should be what isn’t on my mind…hmm.

C’est la vie, and so the most important thing on my mind right now is finding peace. 

I did a brain retraining class in the spring and one of the key points that stuck was the need to settle/calm the mind each day. Step one was breathing. Breathing! Easy…right?

Take one hand and place it on your chest and place the other hand on your belly. And breathe.

Which hand moves? My chest hand was the one going up and down…and it should be the hand on your belly. Chest breathing happens when your body’d limbic system is stuck and keeps you in stress-mode = not good.

Ever watch a baby sleep? Their bellies move, not their rib cage. Babies don’t stress, they sleep…like a baby. 

Seriously, who breathes wrong?! Me, that’s who. I had to consciously breathe from my belly, and it wasn’t easy to consciously breath differently, but after a week or so I’d only catch myself chest breathing here and there. And it definitely made me more calm which made that whole calming the mind easier and also helps with yoga. 

One step at a time. Now that I’ve done my yoga for the day it’s time to EDIT!

For those a step ahead of us chest breathers, coffee cheers to you! And tell me—how do you relax?