Tomorrow (in case you have been skipping my blog for the last week) is the release of a chilling anthology titled Tales from the Mist. My review will be here bright and early if you want one man's opinion...however, it has been my pleasure to give over the space of this blog to many of the fine contributors. Today, I have to make a confession as I step aside for the delightful Catie Rhodes. And this is something I've never shared with her up to this point so...here it goes. When I discovered her blog after she had some very kind things to say about Dead: The Ugly Beginning, my first thought was "Holy Cow! Kyra Sedgwick read my book!" I have to admit that I am a HUGE Kyra Sedgwick fan. She is beautiful and talented, and I've had a bit of a crush since I saw her in Pyrates. I just thought it was time that I make my forlmal confession as I am honored by this visit by the equally beautiful and talented Catie Rhodes.
What has led you to writing?
I grew up in a rural area where we had one channel on TV. This was in the dark ages when there was no video games or Internet. There wasn’t much to do. Before I learned to read, my parents read to me. A lot. I developed an early love of books and the written word.
As I got older, I began to make up stories to entertain myself. It didn’t occur to me to write those stories down until I discovered THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton when I was in the 4th or 5th grade. That book made me want to write books.
I quickly found out that stories don’t just write themselves. There is a certain amount of skill involved, and I didn’t have it. Worse, I had no idea how to learn. I wasn’t the most motivated of kids, so I let my dream of writing stories languish. But I never quit making up stories in my mind.
Cut to 2007. I was at a crossroads in my life and fairly discouraged. The idea of writing with the intent of publication occurred to me again. I decided to put everything I had into learning how to write fiction. I figured trying and failing was better than never trying at all.
Has your experience thus far been all you expected?
Yes and no.
I knew I’d love writing if I could ever figure out how to do it. But I never expected it to be this hard.
I knew writing had the potential to be a career (rather than just a job). But I never expected it to be this fulfilling.
I knew I’d meet other writers and that would be fun. But I never thought I’d make friends I want to keep for life.
Poor editing seems to be a big issue in the Indie scene. As an editor, what is your take on the subject?
First off, let me say I’m not really an editor—other than in the sense that all writers must be editors.
I did read submissions for TALES FROM THE MIST. Part of that job was to extensively critique the submissions we decided to accept. I acted more as critique-partner-for-a-day than I did a true editor.
All disclaimers aside, you’re right. Poor editing is a problem within the indie community. From what I can see, there’s no cut and dried solution. The poor editing happens for a variety of reasons.
[Editor’s note: Catie was concerned that the following part may come across as mean. I have made some very similar statements here and am pleased to include this portion of the interview. No disclaimer needed as I agree with a lot of what she has to say. I also formally invite Catie to return as a guest blogger on this topic whenever she has a free moment in her schedule.]
Every indie author I’ve talked to wants to publish his or her best work. The desire is there. It’s the follow through that is full of pitfalls.
Many indie authors do not have money to pay for editing. The more conscientious authors in this group exchange beta reading and proof reading services with other authors.
These efforts sometimes turn out fantastic results. I’m talking about indie published novels that could stand side-by-side with traditionally published novels.
More often, however, I see relatively error-free novels that have thin characterization, uneven pacing, a general lack of cohesion, or all of the above.
I think these authors are doing the best they can. Perhaps they’ll use their profits to fund better editing on future projects.
Then there are indie authors who spend money on editing but still don’t turn out a great product. This is due to a couple of factors.
Some of the problem is ignorance.
Many authors don’t know if they are paying for a developmental/content edit, a line/copy edit, or just a proofread. All they know is that they have X number of dollars budgeted for “an edit.”
If asked what they want done, they’ll exclaim, “Everything!” They shop around for someone who will perform “an edit” for X dollars. And they get what they get.
[Note: if an editor says they’ll do “everything” for one low price, be careful. I’m not saying they can’t do it. This editor might be the Superman of editors. Just talk to a few of this editor's clients and even read a free Kindle sample of those authors' books. Be informed.]
The above comes from a lack of research and experience. The good thing about life is that we learn as we go. Most authors will learn from each publication and improve on the next one.
Unqualified editors are another part of the problem.
Indie publishing has a frontier feel to it. Everything is so new, and there aren't any set procedures in place. There are no gatekeepers.
This is both good and bad. For the first time, authors have the final say on whether their work gets published. This is great when wonderful books get published and bad when stinkers get published.
Still comparing indie publishing to an old west boomtown, dozens of businesses have come into existence overnight to serve self-published authors. Again, there is no gatekeeper. Anybody, regardless of actual qualifications, can sell editing services.
Some of these editors are the real deal. They know their business and can help authors spit shine their novels into gold bullion.
But there is another group of editors who are snake oil salesmen. They are neither qualified nor capable of providing the services they advertise.
Despite their best intentions, a lot of indie authors fall prey to these snake oil salesmen. Their books show the results.
The bottom line to hiring an editor is a) know what service you’re buying and b) do your research.
First, learn the difference between a developmental edit, a line edit, and a proofread. Authors should have an idea which service they need.
Some authors forgo the developmental edit and use beta readers for that part of the process. Some authors pay for a developmental edit and use betas on the line edit or proofread. Some authors outsource all three services. There is no right way as long as you put out a great book.
When substituting beta readers for a professional editor, remember this: a beta reader’s writing skill is commensurate with the usefulness and depth of his or her comments. Authors should look for betas who have a more advanced skill set than their own.
So you’ve decided which editing services you want to outsource. You've found an editor who sounds like a good fit. Now it's time to research. Contact other authors with whom that editor has worked. See what they thought of that editor.
Indie publishing is a business. As more indie authors begin to treat it that way, we’ll see better and better books by indie authors. I suspect the snake oil salesmen will get squeezed out.
The writing community can be its own worst enemy at times. What are some of the problems (if any) that you see today?
1) The divisiveness. Traditionally published authors blast indie authors who in turn blast traditionally published authors. Both groups have a wealth of knowledge to share. Right now it seems that never the twain shall meet. That’s a shame.
2) There is a mean girls aspect to the writing community that bothers me. I have seen a few catfights and was shocked that adults who call themselves professionals acted like that.
3) Misinformation spreads like wildfire. It’s important to research everything rather than taking it at face value just because so-and-so said it worked.
The social media is…
At its best: a place to network with other authors and learn about the business. I can’t begin to list the useful things I’ve learned just from getting into conversations with other authors.
At its worst: a place where writers do everything BUT write the next book or short story.
Share some information about your work with us:
I started out planning to write urban fantasy mixed with elements from traditional murder mysteries.
When I say urban fantasy, I’m thinking about shows like True Blood, Teen Wolf, and the Vampire Diaries. I’m thinking about books like Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels series, Patricia Briggs's Mercy Thompson series, and Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series.
I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t want to write about vampires or werewolves or faeries. I wanted to write the kind of books and stories I wished I could buy at the bookstore.
I went back to the drawing board. This time, I thought about the ghost stories, folktales, and urban legends I love so much. I ended up using elements from those stories to create my fiction. Somewhere in there, I realized I still wanted to write murder mysteries.
If you read my blog, you already have an idea of the kind of stuff you’ll see in my fiction.
What is one question you are sick of being asked—not in interviews, but by individuals who know you write?
So when are you getting published? (eyes glaze over as I explain that I have a short story coming out in TALES FROM THE MIST and that I’ll have a book out in 2013)
Why not just send your book to a publisher? (lips stretch into a big toothy grin like they’ve come up with the cure for cancer)
How will you deal with negative reviews?
I started to answer this with “not read them.” But then I started thinking, which is always dangerous.
Reading negative reviews might help me spot problems in my writing that could be improved. I’ve seen some really constructive negative reviews that call attention to craft issues.
Granted, some negative reviews are useless in that respect. Those are the ones along the lines of “This sucks. My cat can write better than this.”
The bottom line on negative reviews: that negative reviewer has every right not to like my book or story. No matter how well I write, not everybody is going to like what I write.
How much reading do you get in, and can a writer excel at his or her craft if they do not read?
Let me answer the last question first. I don’t see how writers can excel at their craft if they don’t read.
The number of books I read in any given month depends on what’s going on. If I’m very busy, it takes me a long time to finish a book. I get in five minutes here and ten minutes there. It takes a while for it to add up. But I do read fiction every day of my life. I love it too much not to.
Share some editing wisdom with the writing community.
As you wade through the mess of your first draft, you’ll be tempted to start moving commas and changing the word blue to “sapphire.” Don’t do that.
Fix your story first. Write out plot cards or an outline showing every scene you have in your story. Look for plot holes and slow pacing. Looking for things that don’t make sense.
Fix all that before you move the first comma or change your heroine’s hair color from blonde to sun-burnished honey.
What other projects are you currently working on?
I’ll have a book out in Spring of 2013. Right now, the book is with the developmental editor. I’m excited about making the changes we are discussing, and I’m dying to see the finished product.
This book is the beginning of a paranormal mystery series starring a woman who has the ability to communicate with the spirit world. This ability causes my heroine trouble in every area of her life, but it’s something she can’t escape. She has to learn to deal with her gift and adjust her idea of what happily ever after really means.
I’m also working on a collection of short stories. I’d like to release those during the holiday season of 2012. If that doesn’t work out, they’ll be out in early 2013.
What is one thing about you that would surprise the readers who do not know you personally?
I am allergic to perfume and cologne. I can’t go into an Ulta or near the cosmetic counters in department stores. I’ll start sneezing and wheezing. If I spend time around someone who wears a lot of perfume, I’ll usually get a migraine headache.
If you could team up with any Indie author, (no fair if I let you choose from one of the big names), who would you choose, and what would be the subject matter of the book?
I’d love to write serial killers with Blake Crouch. He’s not doing his Luther Kite books any more, but I loved those.
Is there anyone you’d like to give a mention?
If you like stories that are scary and weird, check out John Paul Allen. He has recently released a revised edition of his novel GIFTED TRUST. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but it’s awesome writing.
If you like dark suspense, keep an eye out for Stacy Green’s debut novel INTO THE DARK. It’s coming out from MuseItUp Publishing November 30, 2012. Stacy will be releasing a related short story before the book comes out.
What is the most misunderstood thing about being an editor versus being a writer?
The only editing I do is in the spirit of peer critique. But I’ll say this: if I want to get any really good writing on the page, I have to turn off the editor. Too much analysis kills my creativity dead.
What is in your “to be read” pile right now?
Tons of stuff.
I downloaded the first book of Cate Dean’s Claire Wiche Chronicles. That looks like a neat series, and I can’t wait to get into it.
I’ve recently discovered Lori G. Armstrong’s Julie Collins PI series. I’ve read Book 1 (BLOOD TIES) and am looking forward to reading the other three books in the series.
Biting Dog Press has released a short story collection called FRESH BLOOD AND OLD BONES. The book features stories by authors like Joe R. Lansdale, Nancy A. Collins, John Paul Allen and a bunch of other great writers. It’s on my TBR list.
Add to that the next instalment of the DEAD series—even though it's not out yet. I’m always hungry for one of those.
Gifted Trust by John Paul Allen:
Stacy Green's website: