Touching All The Bases

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I’d be in a good mood.
“Why?” you might ask.
I’d tell you that I finally finished all the identified corrections on my latest manuscript.

Getting a book published is a process and you need to know you can’t skip any component parts of that process.  Well, to be more correct, you shouldn’t skip any of the steps.  If you’re lucky enough to get your manuscript accepted by a publisher and are offered a contract, the publisher proceeds to edit your manuscript. This is humbling because you, as an author, have been pouring over your own manuscript with a fine-toothed comb, striving to deliver the best possible work. When you get the manuscript back you find out just what a fumble-fingered oaf you really are.  I’ve reviewed some of the corrections wondering to myself, “who the hell wrote this crap?”

Yes, you get your manuscript back with hundreds of corrections, each of which you must review, and accept or decline. Sometimes you have instructions to rewrite a sentence or paragraph. Those must be flagged for the editor to review. It’s a process, usually involving two, three, or more rounds of correction/review.

At that point, it goes to the copyeditor, a process that can take several weeks.  This is a period of waiting, a chance for an author to revert to lazy habits. Or, sometimes, a really good author might take this opportunity to work on the next novel. I’ve done both.

When the copyeditor is finished, the publisher proceeds to package the book into something close to the final form and sends you a test edition, called a galley.  My publisher concentrates on ebooks so my galleys come in the form of a PDF file. This is the author’s most important step in the process. We’ve written the book.  We’ve spent months, sometimes years, revising the manuscript, crafting it into the product we sold to the publisher.  Now it is our turn to painstakingly read our own work. I mentioned a fine-toothed comb earlier. At this stage, we really need to sift the work for any errors we can find. I generally go to the library and sequester myself into one of those little study rooms for this process.

It is surprising, after revision, editing, and copyediting, I always find several dozen errors that need to be corrected. The corrections are listed with the full line, then on the next line, you put the full corrected line with the correction highlighted. You double-space after the correction. This allows the editor to easily find the exact line in the text and differentiate between corrections. Note: some of the “errors” are spacing corrections since the fully justified text sometimes results in inordinate spacing between words. This is your last chance to be creative.  For Lucky Strike, I submitted five pages of these corrections.

Once this stage is completed, the publisher applies the errors you found and sends you a corrected PDF.  You’re finished, right?  Nope. There is one more base you need to touch.  You need to double-check the corrections.

With my first novel, I neglected to do this.  I trusted them.  I was writing part-time, it was a busy time at work. I was new, I didn’t know what I was doing.  If I had checked even a few of those corrections, I’d have immediately realized that they had somehow not saved any of the galley corrections and the “final” version was, in fact, the uncorrected galleys.  Two weeks after publication I started getting reports of errors … very familiar errors.  The enormity of the problem became evident very quickly but I had a heck of a time convincing the publisher what had happened.  This is a story for another blog entry, but in short, I learned a very valuable lesson … double-check the corrections.

So, after I completed my corrections for the Lucky Strike, I double-checked the file and found a handful of errors that were either missed or were miscorrected.  In most cases, these were instances where there were multiple corrections in the same sentence. We call the corrections errata, so I sent a new file of errata errata.  This is what I just finalized. I got the new corrected PDF.  Yes, I checked it again.  Done!

But you know, it isn’t over there.  On publication day, an author should actually order all versions of their own book, just like a normal reader.  It is in our best interest to do this, so we can again spot check the published versions and also determine delivery times and availability.  Again, if I had done this with the first book, I would have discovered the error much earlier than my readers.

So, like the title says, touch all the bases!  Is it going to be perfect? Probably not.  There are always things that slip through the process.  How do other publishers do it? They do the same thing.  I used to never see errors in books, but after going through this process, I spot things all the time.  I don’t fixate on their errors, I just take a moment to feel the author’s pain.

What publishing nightmares have you survived?

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Thomas Fenske is an author living in North Carolina. His latest novel, Lucky Strike, is due out in October.  Now is a great time to catch up on his Traces of Treasure series … get more info on his web page.

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Disquieting Thoughts

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I would be happy if the waitress brought us our drinks.  I don’t much like to see the backside of anyplace I eat or drink. Out of sight out of mind, I guess.

I was just talking to somebody about restaurant practices.  We all hear horror stories.  I’ve had quite a number of jobs and second and third jobs.  I was a maintenance man in the student center in college and saw the food service areas up close. That was before I realized what to look for though.  At that time, I was more involved with things like pulling the mangled remains of a bent fork out of drive chain of the huge dishwasher. (One time, I mounted one on a piece of wood and gave it to the manager to give out as an award.)  This happened a lot. It was great for the workers. They didn’t have to load/unload the dishwasher for a period of time.

My first duty in my first job was sanitizing a soft serve shake machine. We took it apart every night, washing all the inner components and in the morning we’d actually sanitize it with bleach and a half dozen rinses before reloading the precious cargo.  Every day.  Why? Because the health inspector would periodically take samples from it to check for bacteria.

But wait, what don’t they check?

I’m talking about things I learned at other jobs.  Take lemons.  You get lemon in your tea or water, but did you ever stop and wonder for just a minute … do they actually wash the outer surface of those lemons?  Actually, some places do.  Most don’t.

Most everybody loves to get butter on their popcorn at the movie theater.  First of all, it’s not butter.  It is some vaguely-butter-flavored-foodlike-substance out of a can. Nobody knows exactly what it is or where it comes from.  But that’s not my point.  When I worked for a movie theater, I never once, not ever, saw anyone wash the dispensing container.  It’s low? Open a can and pour some more in.

I was a barista for quite a while.  My pet peeve when I got to work, usually after my day job, was the towel used to clean the steaming wand, you know the one that creates that wonderful froth and heated milk for your precious lattes and cappuccinos? After that frothing action, you need to clean off the scalded milk residue.  When I arrived for EVERY shift, I would pick up that towel with the tips of two fingers and carefully deposit it with the soiled linens.  I’d go through five or six towels a shift but I’d assume the towel I removed at been on duty since the early morning. Hint: forget about the towel … take a look at the wand before you order your expensive drink. I’d rather they wipe it down with a dirty towel than not wipe it down at all.  You ever scald milk in a pan on the stove then try to clean the pan?  THAT happens to the wand every time.

Espresso machines have another pitfall: the screen.  There’s a metal screen up where the espresso head clamps in.  Nobody can see it, but if you work the machine you are supposed to know it’s there.  You should take it off and scrub it with a bristle brush every day.  It screws in with a single screw.  It’s a pain.  A lot of people skip it because of the pain part but it’s a necessity.  Oh, it’s bathed in super-heated steam again and again, but it also sits quiet and warm for a while too.  It’s also a good idea to just blow it out several times a shift, run water without the espresso head locked in. That at least blows out the tiny coffee particles that stick to it.

We washed all our drip coffee stuff in the dishwasher, thankfully.

Let’s return to tea. You go someplace and it is self-service ice tea. It’s in that big, dispensing urn, right?  It’s big.  How often do you think they actually pull that thing down and really scrub it? It probably won’t fit in the dishwasher. Places I worked might swish some hot water through it, maybe once a day.  Sweet tea sits in that thing for HOURS at room temperature every day.  The health department checks the soft serve? They should check those things.

Some more drip coffee?  Sure. The basket and pot have likely been through the dishwasher.  Oh and some water, please?  No, no lemon, thank you.

What sort of health-impacting issues have you encountered?

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  You can get more information about his books here: http://thefensk.com

The Reviews are NOT In

reading the book

The third book in my Traces of Treasure series is coming out this October and I’m looking for new reviewers of this book and the other books in the series.

Why would anyone be interested in these books?

The answer is: I seriously don’t know.
I just write them and hope people find them entertaining.

But what I do know is this: the people who’ve read the first two books in the series really like them. But hey, not enough people have read them yet.  I also know that although the subject matter seems a bit male-oriented, seriously,  these books appeal to women as well as men. Check out the current reviews on Amazon if you don’t believe me.

These are mysteries centered on a sense of adventure,  with a good dose of obsession.  The hero of the series (so far) is Sam Milton.  He’s a bit of a loner and loser in the first book, The Fever.  He’s obsessed and he can’t help it.  He got arrested at nineteen and while in jail he helped a sick and dying wino who rewarded him with the riddle. It, the broken little man said, would help Sam find a long lost gold mine out in west Texas.

img_5454The Fever is a bit of a what-if scenario.  What if this happened to you?  Well,  you’d think about it, first dismissing it has hogwash. Then you might wonder to yourself late at night … what if? This is where the title comes in.  Eventually, you can’t help it. You catch the FEVER, gold fever.  When the book opens, a very tired and frustrated Sam is hiking out of the wilderness after yet another fruitless search. It’s dangerous terrain, the home of rattlesnakes and mountain lions.  He’s trespassing.  He sneaks in and out and drives the eight to ten hours back to his regular life, only to plot and plan his next trip. He’s careful. He has a set routine of procedures designed to keep him safe.

Then, after this latest trip, he stumbles upon the solution to the first clue in the riddle. It’s something he missed for years.  It was so simple. Yet, he’s at the end of his hiking season; or is he? The book is about his rush to get back into the field to check out his hunch, throwing out many of the safeguards he had built into his past searches.  Love? Family? Job? Who cares … this is gold we’re talking about.
A riddle and an obsession … what could possibly go wrong?
img_6739The second book, A Curse That Bites Deep, follows closely on the heels of The Fever.  Sam has relocated to the area, relieving himself of the strain of those long drives.  I’m trying not to add spoilers here, but suffice it to say, he’s much happier than he’s been in a long time.  He’s in love with a cafe owner who befriended him in the first book. Things are finally looking up for him, well, that is until people start dying.  One-by-one, people close to Sam seem to pass away.  Some deaths can be explained as accidents, but others are obviously murder.  As the situation continues to get even more complicated, he must take the initiative to confront the killer before the circle of death tightens around the love of his life.  Is it just a random homicidal maniac or is it the curse he had earlier been warned about?

LuckyStrike-WEBThe third book, Lucky Strike, due out in October, definitely proves that Sam’s lost gold mine is not the only treasure-oriented mystery in this small west Texas town. But our friends have a problem: something is definitely wrong but the details are not obvious.  They must claw and scratch their way through a bunch of muddled clues to put the pieces together. All the while they are facing a ruthless villain who seems to be everywhere at once.   It is a top-notch mystery, sure to entertain. This story is as much about Sam’s girlfriend Smidgeon Toll, as it is about him. See that image on the cover? That’s not blatant sensationalism–she does that more than once in this story.

I need reviews, so I am willing to provide PDF review copies of all three books to people who are willing to read and review them. Books 2 and 3 do have a bit of exposition so they could probably be read standalone. Of course, any review for Lucky Strike would be an advance review but if I get good taglines from an early review I can use that in the book. I have an early August cutoff for that.

I’m wanting to sell books, of course, so if there is a massive rush to the box office I might need to be selective.

So if you are looking for something to read, like to leave reviews on Amazon or even better … are a book blogger — help a guy out and drop me a line.  You can get more information on the books at http://thefensk.com — My email info is there as well.