26 September 2011

A Chat with Jay

My latest release, Seeker, is with Devine Destinies/eXtasy books. I managed to snag Jay Austin, their Editor-In-Chief, for an interview today. Not only does she assign manuscripts to her army of "Track Change"-wielding editors, but she supports her authors with solid advice. She's also a strong believer that readers are intelligent people who should be entertained…emphasis on the entertaining part. That includes enjoying an error-free read and not using a thesaurus every few minutes.
Please join us.

Su: Jay, thank you for accepting to sit for this interview. Please have a seat and tell us a bit about yourself. For example, does the "J" stand for anything or is it just "Jay"? (Yes, I've been dying to know the answer to this one)
Jay: I could tell you the J stands for a misprinted smiley face in an email and is something I adopted on a spur of the moment, that it has been my mark ever since, but would you believe me? Jay Austin is real, the name, the person, the experience, all of it, and I’m just Jay. Do I hide behind an alias? Most in the writing field do for various reasons and there’s nothing wrong with that. I sidestepped that question because I want to leave at least one secret behind this Mystery Meat. ;)

Experience? It’s been said one needs this degree or that degree to be a good editor. Truth is, you don’t need any degree, but journalism experience is a huge benefit. There’s far more to editing than just mechanics and grammar. A good editor excels at communication, at working with and encouraging authors, at teaching, at explaining the why behind the reason, at researching and always keeping up-to-date and in practice on the rules.

I did a few years of journalism, do a lot of researching of language do’s and don’ts on a daily basis, accept that all characters do not speak proper grammar and work with my authors and editors as needed, even one-on-one. I may have the last say about what does and doesn’t get put in a published book, but if an author understands why something is and not just that it is, the author is more likely to learn, understand, accept and avoid repeated mistakes.

Su: If we take a glance through your bookshelf, what types of books will we see?
Jay: The electronic shelf contains every ebook by eXtasy and Devine and it is from there I select for reading pleasure. The physical shelf contains a variety of genres and treasured gems. On one shelf is a collection of Reader’s Digest hardbound books, on another is a group of nonfiction, on a third is a series of romance novels from infamous bodice rippers to today’s erotica and on yet another are age-old books dating back over a century—I even have a 1910 novel and 1870 grammar book, revised edition. Some books are perfectly intact, some have the covers worn off them, all are valued.

My work books—Little Brown Brief, Chicago Manual of Style, Strunk & White: Elements of Style—those are on a bookshelf at my fingertips.

Su: What's your editing style?
Jay: Up front and honest. I correct errors, but also tell when I laugh. I do what I can to make a book the best possible before it sees the world. Reviews affect us all, one way or another, but I am right there with each author when a review appears.

While all editors try, not one can catch every mistake—it’s impossible for any human and there is not a single editing program that can come close to spotting a head hop and many other issues.

Please note, we do not un-language our authors and this means our authors use their native spelling—Australian writers use Australian, Canadian writers use Canadian, British writers use British and American writers use American. Depending on the author’s home, flavour and flavor, neighbour and neighbor, colour and color, etc. are correct.

Su: What do you look for in an editor when hiring one?
Jay: An editor needs to spot errors ranging from POV’s/head hops, needed rewrites, grammar and mechanical issues, word misuse, passive instead of active, telling instead of showing, loose writing, misplaced modifiers and hyphens, misused punctuation, ellipses, em dashes and commas, use of semicolons, colons and parentheses, plot holes, story flow, consistency, etc.

While experience is a nice benefit, it is never a prerequisite. No one knows it all so the ability to learn is vital. Most of the above I can teach, but some is more experience, more familiarity than trained knowledge, like head hopping, telling instead of showing and story flow.

I look for someone who enjoys reading, hates mistakes, is willing to learn, is willing to research language on a daily basis, is communicative and is willing to mentor. Reviewers tend to spot flow and consistency very well in addition to so much more.

Su: What makes eXtasy and Devine Destinies different from other publishing houses?
Jay: Not sure, but I know what makes us who we are. We’re very upfront with our authors in the business sense. We have a House Style PDF along with ten Tips & Tricks Guides available to every author and editor in the company via the company loops. The editing team edits the same way I do, so authors know what to expect and there are no surprises. Communication is always open and Tina (founder/owner) and I do our utmost to answer within twenty-four hours. We work with our authors. We consider quality and honesty highly valued because reputation and honor matter.

We have recently acquired a brand new website that is much faster. The lines are cleaner and crisper, and the shopping cart works better than ever. The links are more precise and we’ve added a wish list.

We’re now doing a 5% cash-back reward—solely at company expense—for all customers. New customers receive $5.00 toward a first purchase of $20.00 or more after creating a new account.

Su: What genres do you accept in eXtasy and Devine Destinies? What genres you do not accept?
Jay: Any on the front page of the site at http://extasybooks.com but here’s a short list of accepted genres:
Action, Adventure, BDSM, Chick Lit, Contemporary, Erotica, Fantasy, Futuristic, GLBT, Historical, Horror, Humor, Interracial, Mainstream, Mystery, Paranormal, Romance, Science Fiction, Suspense, Thriller, Western. Devine also accepts Juvenile and Young Adult. I’m unaware of a genre we do not accept, but there is a list of unacceptable material quoted in our submission guidelines at http://www.extasybooks.com/index.php?route=information/information&information_id=9

Su: Give us a glimpse of a typical day in your life as an editor?
Jay: Something most often forgotten is editors have simple, common human needs—family, food, sleep. Here’s the simple routine process for us:
·       Acceptance and into editing queue where wait time depends on several factors: company process, available editor and more.
·       Manuscript to editor where time depends on how many corrections are needed or if a manuscript is ninth on an editor’s desk.
·       Manuscript to writer is a process lasts as long as the author and editor feel it should.
·       Second round manuscript to writer after a second pass by editor.
·       Manuscript to EIC where I read and double-check every book possible and that’s usually all, even going back to the author if needed. The end of this process is formatting books to house standard.
·       Manuscript to galley is where the manuscript becomes a PDF.
·       Galley to writer is the last and final chance to read and find any and all errors that might have been missed in grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc before publication. The author controls the amount of time this takes to get back to the EIC.
·       Final galley back to the EIC is where the ISBN is added, then each book is made into the ten formats we have available for the buyer.
·       Release day is decided after a galley is finished.

This is how we work at eXtasy and Devine, but the process can vary from company to company. I usually take the first and fifteenth off because I spend two to three days before releases doing a final prep of all new books. When someone points out an error, I fix the book, re-make all ten formats and re-upload the corrected version.

Su: I know from personal experience that you have cool tricks to avoid confusing issues in writing. My "Confused Manual" is built on your tricks. Can you share a couple with us here for common mistakes writers make?
Jay: Word confusion is a major one. I use a general rule of thumb: when in doubt, look it up. Some of the most common are:
·       Who’s (who is)/whose (belonging to someone)
·       It’s (it is)/ its (owner)
·       Lie (recline, done by noun)/lay (place, done to subject)
·       Site (location)/sight (see)
·       Loose (not tight)/lose (can be removed or misplaced)
·       Their (pronoun-possession of more than one)/there (location)/they’re (they are)
·       Except (preposition, conjunction-not included)/accept (verb-receive, give approval)
·       Effect (noun-result)/affect (verb-impact)
·       You’re (you are)/your (belongs to you)
·       Then (time)/than (comparison) (hint: leave off then when if starts the sentence)
·       Lead (noun-soft gray metal, verb-guide)/led (verb-past tense of verb lead)
·       Reign (control, influence)/rein (guides a mount)/rain (water from the sky)
·       Past (far side, later, beyond amount, previously)/passed (move, overtake, give, transfer)
·       Worse (adjective-less good than something else, more severe, adverb-worse degree, noun-something worse)/worst (adverb-least good or well, noun-least good thing, verb-defeat somebody)
·       Could or would of is always incorrect and should be could or would have
The absolute worst I encounter is head hopping/POV jumping. It’s the hardest one as it requires re-writes to fix. Head hops are both difficult to explain and avoid, but devastating to story flow and reader attention. Head hopping is shifting perspective from one character viewpoint to another while in a scene.

My pet peeve it the disappearing, the forgotten, the lacking use of the Direct Address Comma. It has a specific name because it has a specific purpose. The use or lack of makes the difference in a character saying:
Don’t eat that Aunt Martha -vs- Don’t eat that, Aunt Martha
…or this one…
I have to help my uncle Jack off the horse -vs- I have to help my uncle, Jack, off the horse.

Su: On average, how many books go under your microscope per month? Do you take an active role in editing some of them?
Jay: Twenty-eight every month—twenty at eXtasy, six at Devine and two at Trapezium. How many do I read? I do my best to read every book before it is released, but I am human and am not perfect. This means that one might be a scan rather than an intense read. I do familiarize myself with each author and do focus on each individual weakness.

For fun, I checked the last six months and my average word count per release day was 387,983, which breaks into an average of 27,500 words a day—and I do occasionally have a day off. Oh, and contrary to popular belief, I actually do sleep—sometimes.

Su: Jay, what advice would you give to writers? Do you have anything to say to readers?
Jay: Writers, if you feel the need take any courses, take a journalism course as it’ll teach you more about writing fiction than any other instructional course out there. Research the spelling and correct use of a word as well as the correct use of punctuation. Nothing will get you rejected faster than for an editor/publisher to open a manuscript only to see it riddled with misspellings. Research the genres of the publisher to whom you wish to submit. Submitting erotic romance to a YA publisher indicates you failed to research. Follow the publisher’s submission guidelines because sending content to a publisher who doesn’t accept such indicates you failed to read the submission guidelines. Research the publisher you wish to submit to, poll their authors even, but make sure you select the right publisher for you and one that has a strong background. Do not add weird formatting, pretty fonts, graphics and other little things to make the story look great as the story content is what will earn acceptance, not the fancy things you do to it. Read your manuscript aloud to help eliminate errors. There are programs that can do this for you and it’s the best thing any author can do before submission. There are several free reader programs out there. The human eyes and mind have the ability to see and translate misspelled words and typos when you are reading and you never even realize it. I’m sure all of you have seen the misspelled paragraph floating around the internet. It’s not a joke—it’s the mind’s ability to translate. Don’t rely on the opinion of family and friends concerning your story as family members and friends may be afraid of hurting your feelings and will tell you what they think you want to hear. Seek out someone not close.

Readers, please remember, editors and authors are human and do make mistakes. This EIC is more than happy to fix any mistakes you find in our books. All you have to do is send an email to jmmeditor@gmail.com and in the subject line please put error found. Tell me the book title, the flawed sentence and the specific flaw. I will happily fix any discovered error and re-upload the corrected version as well.

And thank you for purchasing, for reading and for being what authors and editors treasure because it’s for you, the reader, that we do what we do.

About Jay Austin:
Jay is closing the gap on fifty fast and lives in Tennessee with her husband of almost thirty years. She enjoys occasionally reading, loves editing and happily works for eXtasy Books and Devine Destinies at http://extasybooks.com/ .

Jay, thank you for taking the time to visit Vivid Sentiments.

18 September 2011

Latest news

So I've been AWOL for a while, not blogging regularly. It was for  good reasons.
As you many know, Seeker -Book 1 in the Unsettled series- is out. This book is close to my heart. Not only because its heroine is a kick-ass, stubborn, Hapkido expert who falls in love with her ward, actor Andrew Taylor (Psst: Spirit Hunting is his secret job. Keep it to yourself. Nobody knows.)
No, not only because of all that, but also because it approaches the topic of possession from a different angle. It's a paranormal romance, but it has its little dark moments.

Double Dragon Publishing has contracted Hellbound, a horror novella. It is scheduled for a March 2012 release. Yay!
Lately, I've been going through a "hellish" phase. Every concept I think of is related to hell. What gives?
I'll share the book cover as soon as I have it.

I've also designed a couple of book trailers:

A Run for Love by Callie Hutton

Better Off Without Her by Rita Hestand

What else?
Oh, yes, my son started school. Now, any of you might know that school is a time consumer of its own.

I also had an idea for a horror novella that simply put my work on Avenger (book 2 of Unsettled series) on hold.

In the back of my mind, I feel guilty that I haven't been painting. There aren't enough hours in a day 8-|

That's it for now. I have the sincerest intentions to blog regularly, but life happens. I'll keep you all posted on any developments.

Till next time.

15 September 2011

Interviewing Adoria

To celebrate the release of Seeker (book 1 of the Unsettled Series,) author Fiona Dodwell interviewed Adoria.
Adoria Hall is movie star, Andrew Taylor's, personal bodyguard.

A lot of her personality shows in this interview. Please join us, and if you will, leave a comment. We would love to hear from you.

Till next time

13 September 2011

Happy birthday, honey!

Today is my husband's birthday :-D

Many happy returns of the day, Erik.

PS: We ate this deliciousness today...Yum.

05 September 2011

Guess who's on BBC Good Food's FB Page

No, not me :-)

But you're close. My sister (owner, operator, and photographer of MunatyCooking Magazine) shared one of her simple and delicious recipes on BBC Good Food.
Now they have wisely chosen her recipe as Recipe of the Month of their Facebook page
Congratulations sista, you've made me proud :-)

Also, before I forget, the magazine's latest issue is out. Here's the link:

Yumm ;-)

01 September 2011

A Chat with Author Fiona Dodwell - Obsessed Release

Author Fiona Dodwell is joining us today for a friendly chat about her latest book, Obsessed.

Fiona, you've been to Vivid Sentiments before, but tell us about yourself again.
I'm 29 years old, and I live in the UK with my husband. I work part-time for a care charity, and around that, I write horror and paranormal novels. I have been writing since I was a child, it's something that's been a part of me for as long as I can remember now. Over the years, I have written poems, short stories and novels, but it's only been in the last few years that I have taken the craft more seriously. In March 2011, my first novel – The Banishing - was published. Obsessed, my second novel, is being published this September.

What's your latest news?
I've been busy editing, promoting, writing and working! Balancing a job whilst trying to put time into writing isn't easy. It's so hard to get into that mental space where you feel inspired and creative when you work a lot, which is why I work part-time at the moment. That way, I get a healthy balance between me time, writing time, and working time! I spent a great deal of September editing, preparing for the release of Obsessed, and I've also been updating my blog, writing some short stories and perfecting my third novel – The Shift. I also spent time working on the trailer for Obsessed, with Su Halfwerk!
:-D  Now, tell us a bit about Obsessed.
Obsessed is story about one man's descent into obsession and desperation. It follows my character, James Barker, as he experiences what he believes to be a haunting. After witnessing a suicide on the railway tracks, he experiences what his therapist tells him is post-traumatic-stress. However, James starts to wonder if there is something more sinister going on. Are the visions, nightmares, disturbances and paranoia really about his mental state – or is there something paranormal going on?

What inspired you to write Obsessed?
I've always been fascinated with the paranormal, all of my life. I've always been drawn to studying spirits, hauntings, possessions and spiritual issues. Obsessed was inspired by a series of conversations I had with people regarding the reality of hauntings. Many skeptics argued that it was not likely, that spirits were probably the manifestation of a broken, troubled mind, whilst others believed the dead could possibly visit the living. These twists and turns of peoples beliefs made me want to create a character who experiences such dark and disturbing things that he has to explore those troubling questions in order to save himself. I also wanted a story that could pull the reader in and make them ask of themselves such questions. I wanted to provoke people to see how they'd react. Could men of science, medicine and psychology sometimes get it wrong? Could ghosts sometimes wander this world?

Is there a message in Obsessed that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, although I don't think it's something I was necessarily mentally aware of at the time. I think the main thing I wanted to get across to people was that sometimes, some of the more “logical” and “rational” symptoms we apply to mental illness or stressed minds can also be the same as somebody experiencing something paranormal. I'm not saying I believe in every paranormal report. I'm also not denying that mental illness is a wide, genuine problem across the world. But what I am saying is this: when somebody says they have seen and felt a spirit, they often are told, “You hallucinated, because you were tired. You felt eyes on you because you're paranoid. You felt a cold spot in your home because you must have left the window open – you're forgetful lately.” All of these sound, logical reasons that can explain away a million ghosts – but can the voices of logic sometimes be wrong? I guess, when I get to the bottom of it, I just wanted to make people aware, to open people's minds, to try to open closed minds.
Author Fiona Dodwell

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Susan Hill, because her darker books (such as The Woman In Black, The Man In The Picture and The Mist In The Mirror) are so eerie, unsettling and disturbing, whilst also being elegant, beautiful and poignant. She always manages to write something scary whilst also drawing the reader into other, unexpected realms and places. I usually always find reading her work a emotional experience, on some level.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Yes, I am enjoying the work of Joe Hill, especially his short stories in 21st Century Ghosts. I also found Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson rather powerful.

What are your current projects?
Well, I am submitting my third novel, The Shift, to publishers, so hopefully that story will find a home soon. I am doing a lot of thinking and planning at the moment – cooking up ideas for my fourth novel. Very early stages!

Can you share an excerpt from Obsessed with us?
“Father, what’s wrong? Do you need a doctor? An ambulance?” His own voice trembled. He stumbled over to the older man, his arms outstretched, uncertain.
The priest didn’t answer. His eyes remained fixed on James, a wild look of horror splashed across his face. “No…” he finally whispered, stepping away.
James shook him, as if to snap him awake from whatever had gripped him. “Father!”
Then, he realized. The priest was not looking at James at all. His eyes were firmly fixed on the mirror directly behind him.
“What is it, Father? Tell me!”
The priest didn’t answer. Instead, he turned and ran frantically down the stairs. He was already fumbling at the front door when James caught up with him. “Father! Wait! What happened? You saw something, didn’t you?”
The priest halted at the door, his hands still on the door knob. His face was pale. The blood had drained away, leaving the old man looking ill and washed out.
“I saw something,” he whispered. “In the mirror.”
“What? Tell me.” James didn’t need to ask. The answer was already in his mind.
“In the mirror, I saw a man standing directly behind you. Oh, he looked angry, so angry.”
“You saw him, too?” James whimpered.
The priest nodded, pulling open the front door. “He is evil, James. His eyes were cold and hard with evil. I’d leave here if I were you. I’d never stay here with it.”

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Staying motivated when times are difficult. Like anything in life, there are times when it just seems harder, more difficult. Sometimes you want to write, but the ideas don't come. Or you have the idea, but the writing isn't up to scratch. It's sometimes a battle with the self to get past all of that, but normally, when you do, it's such a good feeling. I don't normally feel too good if I go too long without writing and being creative – I believe it's good for the soul!

I totally agree with you. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that sometimes the character or characters that didn't mean so much at first can become the ones you fall in love with! My character, Croft, who is a therapist, is one of my favorite’s now. I loved his time in Obsessed.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yes – if you want to do it, go for it. No amount of thinking about it, wishing for it or hoping for it will get you to your dream destination. Don't be frightened of putting in hard work – and, if you do, don't expect everything to turn out as you planned. With writing – especially making a career of it – so much of it is out of your hands, so be realistic in your goals but remain hopeful. Always remain hopeful! Do it for the love of writing, and you can't go wrong.

Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?
I just want to thank the readers who bought and enjoyed The Banishing. As it was my first published novel, it was a very significant thing to me. The response was very good, and people seemed to come away having positive things to say. I had emails from happy readers and a lot of helpful and inspiring comments – it kept me happy, hopeful and inspired. I hope Obsessed will be enjoyed as much as The Banishing was.
That's all I hope for.

Where can we find you online?
Twitter: @Fiona_Dodwell
You can also email me anytime, with feedback, questions or comments:

Thank you!

Fiona, thank you so much for stopping by. This was a light chat that we must repeat, I might even offer you some coffee and biscuits next time :-)
People, The Banishing and Obsessed are both available in paperback and e-book formats from Amazon, Damnationbooks.com and Barnes and Nobel. Get shopping.
Till next time!