Where Have All the Editors Gone?

Where Have All the Editors Gone?

by Vicky Burkholder, Wantz Upon a Time Reviewer

Over the years in the field of publishing, I have worn many hats. I’ve been a journalist, a novelist, technical writer, a reviewer, and an editor, but above all, I’ve been a reader. I’ve traveled the universe in a wide variety of space craft, gone 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and walked on the moon. I’ve experienced life from cave man times to the distant future. I’ve read almost every genre of fiction written and a wide variety of non-fiction. Why should this matter to you? It all serves to show you that I do know a little about the field of writing. And what I’m seeing in recent years saddens me. Not because the stories are lacking. Far from it. But because the attention to good writing is lacking.

In more and more books, newspapers, and magazines, I’m seeing a deplorable lack of skill in the basics of spelling and grammar. And it’s not just in the smaller publishers where occasional mistakes are almost the norm, but also by the so-called “Big Boys” coming out of New York. The misuse of words, misspellings, overuse and under-use of commas, things that should be caught by any good copyeditor, are being overlooked.

What is the reason for this lessening of standards? Good question. I’m not sure there is a good answer. Maybe the economy has publishers tightening their belts and cutting back on copyeditors and proofreaders. Maybe those editors, copyeditors and proofreaders are the products of a lessening of standards in the education system. Maybe nobody cares about spelling and grammar anymore. No, that’s not true. I see comments from many people on my writers’ lists about the terrible editing that is coming through in books these days. In at least one case, an author complained about an error that showed up in her published book that was not in her manuscript, the edited version, or the galleys. In this case, the fault lay with the publisher.

What about those writers who can’t be bothered to learn the basic techniques of writing? They assume their editor will “fix the problems” when the manuscript is accepted. Many times, these days, editors simply don’t have the time to correct errors and the books go through with mistakes intact. Not only do the errors reflect poorly on the writer, but on the publisher as well. One expects poor editing from a vanity publisher, but not from respected publishers, and yet this is happening at all levels of publication.

I know not all published works can be perfect. Typos slip through. Misspellings happen. Commas get missed, or stuck in where they don’t belong. Unfortunately, it seems of late, that there are far too many of these goofs slipping through. It is up to everyone in the publishing industry, from the lowest writer all the way up to the head of the largest publishing house to pay attention to the details, for it is in the details that the story is told.

As a copyeditor, I was often tasked with teaching a writer why his or her manuscript needed the corrections it did. As a writer, I hope I don’t make as many mistakes as some do, but I know I’m not perfect. As a reader, I find it difficult to enjoy a story that is rife with problems and will often discard the book rather than finish it. As a reviewer, I’m going to let other people know about those problems. I would like to believe the publishing industry would get a clue and figure out that they need help.

I’d like to believe this, but I don’t hold out much hope. If the last few years have shown me anything, it’s that grammatical expertise is on the wane. And that’s bad news for us all. So I send up a plea to all writers out there – learn the basics. Open up a dictionary and learn the difference between peek and pique, between bring and take. Learn what an infinitive is and why we shouldn’t split them. Learn where commas go and what makes a compound sentence. Learn when to capitalize something like queen, king and prince and when not to. In other words, learn your craft. Tell a good story, but tell it in the best way possible. That will keep readers like me coming back to you.

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Arrow’s Flight… by Mercedes Lackey

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Arrow’s Flight

(The Heralds of Valdemar, Book 2)
by Mercedes Lackey

Published By: DAW Books, Inc.: A Member of Penguin Group (USA)
ISBN-10: 0886773776


Disappointing

Reviewed by Christina Wantz Fixemer
on 10/01/2008

Talia has earned her Herald whites (see ARROWS OF THE QUEEN) and is ready to embark upon her eighteen-month internship with Kris, her mentor. Together, they are to ride through their assigned sector to settle disputes and perform other duties as Heralds.

The circuit is in trouble from the start, however, as Talia learns of rumors that she has abused her powerful empathic Gift. With her fragile confidence shattered, her Gift gets out of hand. She must regain control, or she’ll be a danger to everyone around her.

Talia must successfully complete her internship. The Queen and many, many others are depending on it. Can Talia finish the year and half without driving herself, and her mentor, insane?

I was disappointed with this novel. The first one was enjoyable, so I was eager to dive in to this, the second installment of The Heralds of Valdemar. Unfortunately, the main conflict in this novel was over the lack of control over Talia’s Gift. She didn’t talk about it with her mentor until it was almost too late. The slow degradation of her abilities over many, many months was painful and repetitive to read. For being a smart character, she didn’t act with much intelligence in that regard. One might argue that this lack of communication was due to her long-standing poor self-esteem, but that excuse only goes so far.

One of my pet peeves is when the author expects the reader to swallow a series of misunderstandings that should never have gone beyond the first few scenes. It feels like a deliberate machination on the author’s part. If the author feels the need to use this to make the story fit their idea of the plot, then there’s a fundamental flaw in the plan. The author should figure out how to work with the conflict without using tenth-grade tricks.

Another thing that annoyed me about this novel is that there were events that seemed important to the story and weren’t included. By this, I’m referring to a visit Talia took to her family of birth and was basically turned away. This event was mentioned in passing, but I never saw it happen. The rejection by Talia’s family is a critical key to the formation of her as a character, and it needed to be in the book. Whether Lackey didn’t feel the need to write this event or whether the editors chopped it to save on page count, I feel it was a mistake.

After all that, it probably sounds like I hated this novel. In fact, I liked it well enough to finish it in less than a day. These two major issues, however, made it difficult for me to enjoy this book to its potential.

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Arrows of the Queen… by Mercedes Lackey

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Arrows of the Queen

(The Heralds of Valdemar, Book 1)
by Mercedes Lackey

Published By: DAW Books, Inc.: A Member of Penguin Group (USA)
ISBN-10: 0886773784


Good, but not Spectacular

Reviewed by Christina Wantz Fixemer
on 10/01/2008

Talia would rather die than be wed at the age of thirteen. When she tells her father’s wives that she wants to be a Herald, to be Chosen by the mystical equine Companions, the women are horrified. To Talia’s complete shock, she is found that very day not only by a Companion, but by the most important Companion in the land.

Chosen to be the Queen’s Own Herald by the Companion Rolan, Talia is overwhelmed by a world completely different from oppressive Holder life. Responsibilities far beyond those she imagined are now hers. As Queen’s Own, she is to be the Queen’s confidant. Her far more difficult task is to help reform “the Brat,” the presumed Heir to Valdemar. Certain parties don’t want the Brat to ascend to the throne and will go to extreme measure to see Talia fail. Clearly, there is more going on than young Talia can fathom.

This is the first novel of Mercedes Lackey’s “The Heralds of Valdemar.” She has built a highly detailed and complex world in which readers can be lost for hours. The characters are deep and scenery richly painted.

In this introductory novel, I was pulled in and sucked through to the end. It seems like some scenes may have been cut out to make a page count. This isn’t as big an issue as it is in the next two novels (ARROW’S FLIGHT and ARROW’S FALL), but it may bother the readers who are more particular about such things.

Overall, I recommend it as a good, but not spectacular, fantasy read.

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Vamps… by Nancy A. Collins

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Vamps

by Nancy A. Collins

Published By: HarperTeen: An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers
ISBN-13: 978-0061349171


Lukewarm Teen Vampire Drama

Reviewed by Christina Wantz Fixemer
on 10/01/2008

Lilith is the New York vampire underworld’s queen bee. Young, filthy rich, and still flame resistant, she lives for high-end labels and adoring lackeys. Other Old Blood vampire girls are expected to bow to Lilith’s whims at Bathory Academy, the prestigious school where hunting prey and shapeshifting are core classes.

So when a night spent “slumming” in Central Park results in the death of Lilith’s right-hand vamp—no thanks to a trashy New Blood—things start to change. That nasty New Blood suddenly shows up as Bathory’s newest student. Lilith sees her as a threat, not just on the social scene, but also with her boyfriend, Jules.

Cally couldn’t detest the idea of Bathory Academy more if you paid her. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have a choice. What’s worse is that Old Blood brat, Lilith, blames Cally for something that wasn’t even her fault. Why can’t Lilith just leave her alone? Then there’s that vampire hunter guy who can’t seem to leave Cally alone, either…

Nancy Collins’s new novel, VAMPS, is an interesting take on the vampire subgenre. Take one part “Beverly Hills 90210,” one part “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and throw in a dash of “Sex in the City,” and you have a New York vampire buffet with plenty of teen angst.

The writing is solid, but the characters are mostly shallow. Cally shows the most depth with her secret history and personal code. Lilith is clearly the “bad girl” here, but she is so utterly shallow that I couldn’t respect her even as a villain. This is epitomized in the scene where she’s more concerned about her father cancelling her credit cards than about the death of her supposed friend. Many of the things she does or tries to do to Cally are cliché, especially when it comes to her obsessive attitude toward her boyfriend, to whom she’s been “promised.”

There are twists and turns enough to keep a reader’s interest. If you can get past the unbelievably shallow Lilith and a handful of clichés, you’re likely to enjoy this novel. Otherwise, I’d look to other paranormal choices.

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Geek Chic: The Zoey Zone… by Margie Palatini

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Geek Chic: The Zoey Zone
by Margie Palatini

Published By: Katherine Tegen Books: An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers
ISBN-13: 978-0061138980


How Cool is Chic?
Reviewed by Christina Wantz Fixemer
on 09/22/2008

Zoey Zinevich is almost-but-not-quite eleven years old. It’s less than 200 days until sixth grade, which means it’s less than 200 days to get molto chic. If she isn’t by the time sixth grade starts, she will never be cool! That’s what Venus’s (read: Zoey’s magnifico best friend) sister says.

It seems like nothing Zoey and Venus do can get the other kids—especially the Bashleys—to admit they’re cool. What’s not cool about catching bullfrogs, or bowling shirts with fedoras, or owl pellets? Zoey’s only hope lies in getting a fairy godmother. It worked for Cinderella! So what if other ten-almost-eleven-year-old-double-digit kids don’t believe in that kind of stuff anymore?!

This is a very creative middle-grade novel that deals with the preteen’s most pressing concern: coolness. Author Margie Palatini enters into Zoey’s story with great intentions and a sense of offbeat style. Unfortunately, there’s a little too much style. Literally. There are so many font styles and embedded sketches that the pages—just as literally—made my head hurt worse than it already was. The pages are so busy that the reader’s eye jumps helter skelter all over the place. It distracts from the story.

The story is full of heart. It speaks to the basic need for most American preteen girls to fit in with the popular crowd. Zoey is a free spirit who can’t be leashed, and this will become quite apparent, especially toward the end.

The end of the story is one that parents will appreciate, even if it’s a touch unrealistic. Even though the pages are visually busy, I recommend this for all preteen girls.

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Good Night, Sleep Tight, Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite!… by Diane deGroat

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Good Night, Sleep Tight, Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite!
Written and Illustrated by Diane deGroat

Published By: HarperTrophy: An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers
ISBN-13: 978-0061340611


Gilbert’s Camp Story
Reviewed by Christina Wantz Fixemer
on 09/21/2008

Gilbert has his first overnight trip to camp. All his friends are going, as well as some kids that aren’t as nice. Lewis keeps trying to scare Gilbert by telling him Camp Hi-Dee-Ho is haunted. Everyone knows there’s no such thing as ghosts—or are there?

Gilbert’s experience is one that many children face when going to camp for the first—or fifth—time. The fear of the unknown may stem from the kind of teasing Gilbert gets from Lewis, or it may come from the imagination with no prompting. Either way, facing fears is something every child eventually endures.

Diane deGroat handles this fairly well, although, as a mom, I question how Gilbert handles Lewis when the tables are turned. As long as parents remember the importance of reading with their children, they can address whether Gilbert does the right thing. For reference: Gilbert gets even with Lewis for scaring him.

As always with this series, the illustrations are attractively done. Some “spooky” scenes in the middle can be revealed to children as not so scary (i.e.: that tree doesn’t have faces, it has knots and broken-off branches).

This book is a decent pick for children ready to go to camp, and it may also be well-suited to Halloween time.

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Foundation… by Mercedes Lackey

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Foundation
(Valdemar: Collegium Chronicles, Book 1)
by Mercedes Lackey

Published By: DAW Books, Inc.: A Member of Penguin Group (USA)
ISBN-13: 978-0756405243


Set the Foundation for a New Series
Reviewed by Christina Wantz Fixemer
on 09/21/2008

Mags has been a virtual slave in a mine since he was a little tyke. To survive, he scrabbled for food and learned how to dig out “sparklies” to keep the mine owner off his back. The day the Herald arrives is both the most wonderful and most terrifying of Mags’s life. After more than a decade of abuse and neglect, Mags is brought into a new life that defies comprehension. All that keeps him from panic is the gentle white horse with blue eyes… a horse that is as smart as any human… a Companion who has made Mags his Chosen, a future Herald.

Mags and Dallen must travel to Haven, the city where the Heralds are headquartered, and where the Collegium awaits Heraldic Trainees. Mags must overcome thick layers of defense in order to see the world as more than hunger and beatings. If he can, he’ll find more than he imagined possible—both good and dangerous.

From grubby child worker to a Trainee in the middle of growing intrigue, Mags has the chance to do more than most people experience in a lifetime.

There is no doubt that Mercedes Lackey is extraordinarily talented. This novel is imbued with her spirit and a strong sense of justice. Depth of character, setting, and story are all present in this orphan’s tale, opening readers to a new glimmer of understanding of those less fortunate and the appreciation for having what is needed.

There were some holes in the story that were distracting. As someone new to the world of Valdemar, it took some time to understand what constituted the bond between Companion and Chosen. The story is told from Mags’s point of view, so the reader shouldn’t be told everything right away, but there were basic questions I can’t believe Mags didn’t ask of Dallen. Other “holes” are things that I assume to be lead-ins to the next novel in the series.

Overall, I think fans of Mercedes Lackey will find this to their liking. It seems more targeted for a young adult, or even middle school, audience, but it’s a good read whatever your age.

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