The November Round Up!

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First snow of the season!

11 months down, 1 to go! 177 books down, 23 to go to meet my third reading goal of 200 books for the year!  I have to tell you that I’m shocked at how fast this year has gone.  This past month our days were filled either being with/helping family or beginning to prepare for the holidays. (We also got hit with our first snowstorm!)

As many of you are already aware, Hurricane Sandy came rip-roaring through NY, NJ, and CT earlier in November.  The amount of damage and destruction left behind was absolutely shocking.  Mother nature’s power is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  I’ve got family in NY and NJ so it was interesting to see and hear the stories of how the same storm hit all of us yet did different things to our states.  Being where we are in CT, Todd and I were fortunate to have minimal damage.  Downed power lines and trees scattered our town, but that was the extent of our damage.  Closer to the shoreline there was a ton of flooding, fires, weeks without power, etc.  My parents in NJ lost their power for several hours but were lucky to get it back so quickly. My sister and brother-in-law live in Manhattan and had no power for 5 days.  They and their menagerie of animals wound up going to my parent’s house to stay so that they could have access to heat and water.  My aunt on Staten Island unfortunately fared the worst.  Her home was evacuated at the beginning of the storm, and upon her return found water in her basement up to the ceiling. The several feet of water took a few days to drain and that’s when we got to work.  We began tearing her basement apart, bringing up all the furniture, appliances, and other odds and ends that were down there as it all needed to be trashed.  We then proceeded to gut the entire basement literally down to the studs.  Framing, molding, heating baseboards, dry wall, etc.  It all came down.  At this point construction workers were able to come back in and begin working, beginning with putting up the drywall for all the new walls.  My aunt has a new ceiling, new framing for closets, and has picked out new appliances and cabinets.  Cable, internet, and power have all been restored as well.  Thankfully things are looking up for her personally, but the island is still an absolute mess.  I urge all of you to participate in any clothing, supply, or food drives taking place near you for Sandy victims.  There are still homes with no power, people with no food, and construction going on everywhere.  The cars that were flooded and totaled by the insurance companies are still being towed away.  It’s truly a very sad sight and any and all help is truly appreciated.

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Thanksgiving with my in-laws!

Not all of November was a downer, though. Todd and I spent Thanksgiving with both of our families where lots of good food was consumed.  My mother-in-law makes this fantastic jello dish that comes from a recipe from her grandmother.  It has celery and apples in it and a great sauce on the side (it truly is fabulous!)  My grandmother makes my other favorite Thanksgiving dish, rice and sausage stuffing.  She throws in craisins and it is just a heavenly dish!  There is almost never any left (of either dish) once Thanksgiving dinner is over.  I think in 2013 I’ll have to fight for these dishes to get made more often, and not just at Thanksgiving.

To recap my reading in November, I completed another 10 books.  My favorite of the ten was a historical fiction novel called In A Treacherous Court by Michelle Diener.  That novel has quickly restarted my love of reading about the Tudor period of British history all over again.  I’ve found myself gearing up to read a good amount of historical fiction novels in December.

Looking forward, December will be a lot of catching up for me.  I’m working on getting all the reviews I have to finish by year-end up, along with what challenges I’ll be participating in for 2013!  Todd’s working on his review of Targets of Deception and has some author interviews in store! Adam’s working on a review of the film Lincoln and a review of the historical fiction novel Tragedy and Triumph (he’s excited about December since both of his review items relate to the Civil War!)  Sam’s in the process of reading an illustrated sci-fi/fantasy novel Elfhunter, and Charlie has film reviews of The Hobbit and Lincoln coming as well.

It looks like we’re going to have a busy and productive month!  Until next time, happy reading!

Leftovers with C.S. Marks, Author of Elfhunters

Guest posting for us today is C.S. Marks, author of the graphic novel Elfhunter!  Sea Lion Books will be releasing the first part of the series in June of 2012.  The staff and I are eagerly awaiting its release!  Special thanks to C.S for joining us today, and giving us this hilarious post on what it’s like for an author to have their work edited! We also want to give a very special thanks to Hope HooverElfhunter’s illustrator for the custom drawn design (see below) she did for this post!

The first time an author turns a work over to a content editor is a bit of a traumatic experience. The author, having heard all sorts of blown-out-of-proportion horror stories from colleagues, imagines red pencil-marks all over his/her beloved manuscript which, as every author knows, has been carefully crafted so that not a single, perfectly-crafted word should be deleted. Yet it’s more than likely that the editor (if professional and worthy) will  not only suggest some re-writes, but will actually recommend trimming the work down, omitting superfluous lines, scenes, dialogue…even a sub-plot or two!

Superfluous? There must be some mistake!

Now, if you are an experienced author, you’ll no doubt be smiling right now, older and wiser being that you are. Yet you still dread hearing the words refinement, streamlining, and, yes, delete! (‘What? Delete Fluffy’s big death scene? But…but that’s one of my favorites! I weep every time I read it!)

I’ll fess up now–I’ve got a book in the hands of a content editor at this very moment. I’ll also admit that it’s not the first time; my fourth novel has been through two content editors, who made a few very worthwhile suggestions for re-writes. The flow and clarity of the story was improved immensely as a result, so…

…why do I still fear content editing?

Because the novel in the hands of the editor at the moment is my first one. I know it needs more editorial input than my successive works–I’ve improved with each book I’ve written. What if this editor, who is highly competent and professional (therefore I will have little defense) decides to delete, streamline, and refine away some of my favorite early prose? I must now remind myself of an incident which took place many years ago, and I still have not admitted it to my family. It seems to fit this situation.

Hope Hoover's drawing for Reflections of a Book Addict!!

As anyone who knows me is aware, I am a dog lover. No…take that back. I am a dog SOOK! I have owned and loved many dogs in my life; currently there are no fewer than a dozen bouncy canines sharing the farm with my husband and me. At the time of this incident, I had a beautiful, intelligent, sensitive Dalmatian named ‘Siren’, who was the light of my life (other than my horse).

I was in graduate school, working on a Master’s Degree. I had come home for Thanksgiving break to share my favorite holiday with my family, accompanied by Siren, the dog. My family knew there was no point in trying to thwart me–I was always going to bring a dog (if not the horse) to any family gathering. Didn’t mean they were happy about it, my sister in particular. (She was always a ‘cat person’.)

The usual strategy for Thanksgiving dinner was this: We set the table, then my sister and I would bring in dishes of food as they were made ready in the kitchen. Usually someone was in the dining room doing something every couple of minutes. But this year, something (I don’t remember now, as subsequent events dominate my recollection) drew the family outside in the back yard. All except me.

The turkey had been carved and heaped on a platter, then placed in the center of the oblong table. I had carried in a bowl of steaming hot vegetables and set them down (near my sister’s plate), when I noticed that the table-cloth had been pushed up in front of the turkey platter, half of which was not only bare, but licked clean. To my horror, I realized that Siren had eaten HALF the turkey in five minutes.

A glance under the table confirmed my suspicions–my now-bloated, unrepentant Dalmatian was wallowing in a tryptophan-induced euphoria. She was Lassie in the Sky with Diamonds, man! I was dead.

Nothing induces swift action and abandonment of ethics like the threat of withering remarks from ‘cat-people’. I could hear the family tramping back into the kitchen through the rear door! Hastily, I picked off the short, black-and-white hairs clinging to the platter and tablecloth, wiped things down with my napkin, and rearranged the turkey as best I could. Smoothing out the rumpled table-cloth, I then pretended to be quite busy with a nearby pair of candlesticks when my sister appeared bearing a basket of bread. She set it down, scanning the table with beady, suspicious eyes looking for imperfection (no doubt promulgated by the ‘dog person’) but found none.

The family sat down to dinner, and I, of course, pretended as though nothing had happened (occasionally punctuating my probably-far-too-jovial demeanor with surreptitious nudges of the offending dog, which were in fact suppressed kicks. At first, no one noticed. Then my mom, who was sharp (but thankfully not very suspicious), examined the turkey platter.

‘I could swear I sliced more turkey than this,’ she said. I held my breath.

‘Well, it’s really good turkey this year,’ said my Dad. ‘I think it’s even better than last year!’

‘Uh, yeah!’ said I, utterly abandoning what was left of my ethics. ‘It’s so good, we must’ve eaten more than usual already!’

The cat person stared at me with her beady, cat-person eyes and said nothing.

As mom got up and returned to the kitchen to slice a little more turkey, I ‘kicked’ the now-comatose dog again. But no one ever knew what had happened, and the worst outcome was that we had fewer leftovers. Everyone loved the meal–they all said it was the best turkey they’d ever had.

We’re all afraid the dog will eat our most beloved bits of turkey while we’re out of the room; that our manuscript will come back to us a half-empty plate strewn with dog hair. We’ll have to rearrange it and hope for the best. But the truth is, we didn’t need all those words any more than my family needed all that turkey.  An experienced (and talented) pair of eyes can help us weed out that which is unnecessary, keeping the essence of the work, the ‘voice’ of the author–you know. All that ‘good stuff’.

I guess I’m not really afraid of the editor, after all. When you think about it, the only real consequence is fewer leftovers.