Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Knee Deep in the Alligators of Editing

We hear you're editing, and we came to help.
As I mentioned last week, I'm making a deep editing pass through the new Markhat book, The Darker Carnival.

Writing a book is one thing. I've found that my best way to write is to just dive in and keep going, letting nothing (except snakes or large hail) slow me down. Can't remember what I named the doorman in Chapter 3, when we see him again briefly in Chapter 6? I type  **** and keep moving, knowing that I'll come back later and look up the name and fix that.

Which brings us to the edit phase, when all those **** entries have to be fleshed out and made whole.

That's the first and easiest part of editing, at least for me. I took care of all that in an hour. The next pass saw me searching for grammar mistakes, omitted words, or transposed letters. Those are quick fixes too, as long as you spot them. 

Now I'm reading through the corrected manuscript as I imagine a reader will, and my main mission is to spot passages that invite the reader to close the book. Those are the passages that must be re-written, and that can take a lot of work, depending on the nature of the text.

The author, upon confronting the horror that is Chapter Nine.
So far I've used the scalpel, but not the machete, and that's great news. Snipping a paragraph here and there requires the literary equivalent of a few stitches, and no more. But when that awful realization that an entire chapter or subplot just isn't working engulfs you, you know you've got a mountain of work to do just to get things back on track.

With any luck I'll get The Darker Carnival submitted this week. Then I'll return to the Meralda and Mug book and give it the very same series of re-reads.

Isn't the writing life glamorous?

Below, for no apparent reason, is a short sample of the new book.

Excerpt from The Darker Carnival:
(Not taken from the beginning of the book. Markhat is posing as a newspaper man to poke around Dark's Diverse Delights, a traveling carnival encamped outside Rannit).

I learned a lot about circus folk, that day.

First of all, they drink, and drink hard. Especially the side-show wonders. I met the Man of Bones when he stumbled out of his tent, went down on all fours at my feet, and vomited between my boots. I was amazed at the volume of liquid he expelled, given the emaciated state of his spindly frame.

The circus master kicked the Man of Bones unceremoniously in his gut. "And here we find the Man of Bones, who has terrified audiences from the Sea to the Wastes," said Thorkel, as he sent the scuttling wretch away with a kick to his backside. "A living skeleton, whose grinning skull will haunt your dreams forever."

I nodded and scribbled in my notebook. It didn't seem polite to point out that the Man of Bones was entirely covered in skin.

We met the Queen of the Elves next. She wore a moth-eaten flannel gown she hadn't bothered to fasten with a belt. A pair of mis-matched work boots adorned her dainty feet. She puffed on an enormous cigar between swigs of dark brown liquid gulped from a dirty jar.

"Say hello to Mr. Bustman," said Thorkel, to her.

"Go to Hell," she opined, before sprawling lengthwise on a bench. 

"Men have traveled the world to pay homage to the Queen of the Elves," said Thorkel. The Queen responded with a raised middle finger. "Her beauty and charm are unmatched in all the mortal world."

"She wears flannel as only an Elf could," I added. Thorkel's brow furrowed beneath his immaculate top-hat. 

"That is to say, her ethereal beauty blinds, so dazzling is she to gaze upon," I said, quickly. Thorkel rewarded me with a  jackal's quick grin.

I love the book so much I suspect someone with more talent than me is sneaking out here at night, erasing what I've written, and replacing it with tight, colorful prose. 

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I don't have that book. One day soon I should get a copy, because I do a lot of motorcycle maintenance lately.


My faithful Honda, after hibernating all winter, can't quite wake up even though spring has sprung. She tries to crank, but doesn't, which led to a choice -- either take her to the nearest bike repair shop (in Batesville, a forty-mile round trip) or take up my wrenches and attempt the repair myself.

The 83 dollar-per-hour shop rate made that decision for me. So I bought a book detailing the viscera of my model of bike and started taking her apart.

The carburetor, between the warp core and the shield emitter array.
The problem lies with the carburetor, which is a twisty metal thing composed of floats, urchin barometers, and hemorrhoids. It mixes fuel with air or air with better air or, possibly, does nothing at all except keep the gas tank and the air cleaner from banging together. I wouldn't really know. What I do know is that my carburetor didn't look like the ones featured in the book so I took it all apart and scrubbed the pieces with gasoline until they gleamed. 

Who knew gasoline has such potent cleaning properties? But it only works on metal things. My dress shirts didn't fare too well, and my black dress socks simply dissolved. I wish I hadn't been wearing them at the time, but I'm told toenails grow back.

Fig. 1, a carburetor. Or maybe that's a pasta maker. Frankly, we're not sure, but if the bike emits perfect angel hair pasta instead of exhaust we'll know why.
The book I bought is a Kindle book, and at first I was apprehensive about using it around oil, gas, and tools. But now that I've done it, I find that having good clear photos I can enlarge and clickable hyperlinks and a working TOC makes repairs much easier than trying to leaf through a dog-eared printed manual. 

I wasn't able to clean my idle jet (see how I toss around mechanical terms as though I've been doing this for years), so I ordered a new one. Total cost of repairs: $23. I haven't put the bike back together yet, but if she cranks I'll have spent about six hours repairing it and less than twenty-five dollars in parts. Not bad, as opposed to the $300 or $400 bucks a shop would have charged.



Obligatory Plea for Reviews

Hey, not to be a pest (okay, I'm being a pest, might as well own it), but if you've read any of my books and liked them but haven't had a chance to leave a review on Amazon, now would be a great time!

Brown River Queen could use a few more reviews.


The new Markhat book, The Five Faces, goes on sale in a few weeks, on June 17. 


Okay, the alligators are getting restless, so it's back to work for me. Take care all, and see you next week!

2 comments:

  1. I haven't gotten to Brown River Queen but I will leave a review when I get there - loved the excerpt you wrote above. I believe I'm on book #4 of the series. Excited to read the new Meralda and Mug one. Mug - what an awesome character. Things are moving along for you, Frank! Great job!

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  2. Aww thanks Lyse! Mug says hello!

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