Sunday, January 29, 2012

In praise of editors

This week was a mad frenzy of work completing the copy edits for The Faceless. The timing was a bit crappy as it was the last week of the holidays and I'd been looking forward to kicking back and relaxing with the boys. But the timing was also brilliant as my editor happened to be down from Auckland the week before to help her daughter shift house, so we got to meet for a coffee and a chat and discover we were on the same wavelength - which is always good!

One of the things she said made me smile. She was concerned that I'd think her editing was a bit too detailed (she is a grammar and punctuation Queen) and that I might think she was being picky. I said are you kidding - I love that. I love that there is someone there with that eye to detail for all the things I miss or don't think are important. As I said to her, when I send my manuscript in to my agent and publisher, it is the first time anyone other than me has clapped eyes on it. That's the way I operate. I can't bear the thought of anyone else reading it while it is a work in progress, I'd be embarrassed. I have many writer friends who pass segments of work around to trusted friends to critique and give feedback, and that works for them, but for me writing is a solitary art, not even hubby gets a look. So I need my team of editors; my agents editor and publishers editor who first read the manuscript and make suggestions about how I can improve things, because I am so involved in the story I sometimes don't see the obvious. I know what's going to happen and who is who, and of course, I think what I've handed in is perfect, when naturally it is not! I need my copy editor who graciously points out that I've used a favourite word 34 times, and that I might like to think of some other synonyms or restructure the sentence.

As a writer you go through various stages of love and hate with a manuscript. After a couple of lots of revisions I was feeling utterly over this book. But after doing the copy edits, and seeing how changing a few words could polish it up sparkling, I have fallen in love with it again, I feel it has reached its true form.

So a toast to the editors. Bless you all.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A book or two...

Those of us addicted to books always look forward to Christmas, harbouring hopes of solid rectangular packages under the tree. That didn't happen so much this year, at this point my family have given up hope of knowing what books I do or don't own, so don't buy me books. But fortunately vouchers take the risk out of it for the darlings and some were kind enough to bless me with book shop gift cards. Books that were under the tree were the wonderful Al Brown cook book Stoked. We've test driven a number of the recipes, and salivated over the other pages. I was also delighted to receive a special surprise of Nothing that Meets the Eye by Patricia Highsmith.

I did do a bit of purchasing over the holidays (it would have been rude not to contribute to the local economies of the towns we were visiting), I fell in love with Bruce McKenzie Booksellers in Palmerston North where I found an interesting little number called The Making of Mr. Gray's Anatomy by Ruth Richardson, an account of the making of Gray's Anatomy that covers everyone from the Mr Henry Gray and Mr Henry Vandyke Carter, to the publishers, wood engravers, the printers and even the women who folded and stitched the pages together.

I also felt the need to buy a little Christopher Hitchens so have Arguably to work my way through.

The books I'm reading at the moment are The Hungry Heart: Journeys with William Colenso, by Peter Wells and The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Detective Stories, edited by Michael Sims. These are both rather large books, so I may be a while!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Killer songs

One of the serendipitous discoveries on holiday was music, one album or CD in particular, an album that I loved from my childhood and I'd been carting the vinyl record of it around for the past 25 years but had nothing to play it on. So I couldn't believe my luck when trolling through the vast racks of music at JB HiFi that I spotted a CD of Angel Clare by Art Garfunkel. I know you're all going, seriously? Baby faced Art Garfunkel? Yes seriously. Some albums define your childhood, for me it was Angel Clare, and also ABBA, but hey, we wont go there.

So the other night I got to sit down and listen to this album for the first time in 25 years, and to my delight it was still as fabulous, and charming, and surprising as I remembered. The kids loved it. One of the songs I had forgotten about is a nasty little number called Down in the Willow Garden, and boy did I smile as I listened to the lyrics because this very gentle sounding, folksy song is about murdering his love, Rose Connelly. A year or so back Peter Rozovsky over at Detectives Beyond Borders had a post about songs with killer lyrics and I knew there was a song floating around in my consciousness, but I couldn't quite identify it. Well here it was, with it's gentle tune, and sung by this benign looking white guy with a fro, with lyrics like

'I drew a saber through her,
It was a bloody knife,
I threw her in the river,
Which was a dreadful sight.'


You've got to watch the quiet ones.

The full lyrics are here on Art Garfunkel's website. No wonder I turned out to be a crime writer, filling my brain as a child with songs like that!

Monday, January 16, 2012

A new year? Bring it on!

All has been quiet on the blogging front for a while, the grand reason for the silence? - we actually took a holiday! I mean a real holiday, the first holiday we've had in three years, and boy -oh-boy it was good. It was road trip time, from Dunedin to Auckland and lots of places between. So 3566km later, I feel refreshed and rearing to go. And would you believe it, I didn't read any books while I was away - it was a reading holiday too. And a computer holiday. Instead I indulged in lots of newspapers (we can't get The Dominion Post or the New Zealand Herald in Dunedin) crosswords and Sudoku. Bliss.

Highlights for anyone touring New Zealand with a car load of kids?

Prawn fishing at Taupo - yep, bamboo pole fishing rod + a couple of pleasant hours = yum dinner.
The Auckland Maritime Museum - brilliant. We also hit the Auckland Zoo & the War Memorial Museum.
Walking around or up Mt Maunganui.
Southward Car Museum, north of Paraparaumu. Petrol head heaven.
The Lynley Dodd retrospective at Te Manawa in Palmerston North. She is fabulous.
The cook straight ferry crossing - there's nothing quite like cruising down the Marlborough Sounds.
Driving - you certainly feel like you've seen the country when you've actually traveled every flaming kilometre of it!

The holiday also saw the transition of Mr Nine-year-old into Mr Ten-year-old. Wow, double figures. The occasion called for a cake, and this one was thrown together in a bit of a hurry, but the results were Smurfalicious.

So now I feel rested, restored and ready to face a new year head on. Excellent!!!