Editors Aren’t Your Enemy

I don’t hate you. Really I don’t. These are phrases that often go through an editor’s mind as they work through your manuscript. We don’t hate you or your story; we’re not evil trolls ready to destroy your work. We’re not monsters who hack and slash at your words with wild abandon, our red pen dripping with the life-blood of your characters.

bloody pen

We’re not the enemy. We will, however, be your story and your characters’ advocate – devil or otherwise. That’s our job. And editors love their job. I know I do. We get to help a writer push the limits of their storytelling, to advise and collaborate to bring out its best. We question plots and sub-plots that aren’t cohesive, characters that appear to be acting out of character. We see what you don’t. Why? Because we’re not as close to your story as you are.

Objectivity is what we bring to the table, and it’s why all stories, no matter how they’re published (self or traditional) need another set of eyes (or more) to look over them. We haven’t been in your head developing the character(s), we don’t know the intricacies of their backstory – how they came into being. All we get is what’s on the page. If we question a particular point, or are confused about a character’s motivations, chances are so will your reader.

When going through a manuscript, we’re constantly aware that any edits, questions or suggestions may not sit well with an author; I mean we’re taking their lovingly-crafted baby and making marks all over it. We understand the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into bringing your work to life, especially those of us who are writers as well. We don’t laugh maniacally when we ask you to consider changing something, or deleting a scene altogether – we know it hurts, but we also know it could be the best thing for your baby.

One of my clients had a character she had been living with for a very long time, and about halfway through the manuscript, I noted the character was acting and speaking in a way that didn’t reflect them or their purpose. When I mentioned this to the client, they were surprised they hadn’t noticed it – I had the objectivity the client no longer had. When I saw the next draft of this manuscript, the character was better than even I could have imagined. I couldn’t have rewritten it – that’s not an editor’s job, they’d never be so presumptuous – but I could point out the issues and return it to the creator who knows their character far better than I ever could. Collaboration: when it works, magic happens.

book imagination

I know a lot of writers dread the editing stage of the manuscript, but this is a stage that needs to be embraced and enjoyed – you’re getting down to the nitty-gritty of the publishing process. Yes, if you misuse a comma or your verb-tense is a little off, we’re there to pick those up for you. We ensure your syntax is just right, that your characters and places are consistent in description and spelling, and will explain why.

Editing is a place where a writer can learn those intricacies of the English language, and we’re happy to share our knowledge. Why? Because we’re word nerds. I will happily walk through the reasons why you can or can’t use a semi-colon; why I’m a proponent of the Oxford comma, or how short, sharp sentences convey tension within a scene. I will explain why ‘showing’ works to create a deeper connection to the reader than ‘telling’ ever will, and why the passive voice can make the reader feel like a spectator rather than a participant, and why there are very, very few instances where punctuation exists outside speech marks. (This is usually where you’ll need to tell me to shut up, as I can wax lyrical for hours. Just ask my husband – he’s the one over there with the perpetual glassy-eyed look.)

So yes, editors are an essential part of the publishing process, whether you’re going the self-publishing route or traditional, and perhaps more so with self-publishing as this is a step quite a few SP authors overlook (or, sadly, believe they don’t need). I’m here to tell those authors you’re not only doing yourself a disservice but that of your potential reader. Nothing will piss off a reader more than a poorly written, non-edited book they’ve paid money to read. I know; I’ve been one of them.


With the enormous amount of choice out there for readers, it’s getting harder to have your work, your stories noticed among the millions. But what will always help, what will always bring a reader back is when an author takes the care to put their very best work out in the world. Part of that process is to work with professionals. I read a post from a self-published author on this very thing – read it here; it has some great insights about finding a professional. (Yes, I’m her editor, and you absolutely should read her collection of short stories when it comes out – I can’t recommend it enough.)

And a professional is what you need. When sourcing an editor (or proofreader, cover artist, formatter/layout artist), check their credentials! I’ll say it again: CHECK THEIR CREDENTIALS! A professional will have studied, they will have qualifications backed up by paperwork, and they will have experience – all of which should be available to you. Ask. And ask for a sample edit – most will provide one.

There are a plethora of sources to find professional editors, but word-of-mouth is your best bet. Ask other writers who they’d recommend, ask forums and social media. If you can, source someone who specialises in your genre as they’ll have insights other editors may not. And speak to at least five editors before you make a decision. Not all editors will be the right fit, but when you find the one that clicks, you’ll make magic.

magic book

Weaponised Darwinism – SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest

I have many hats, both real and virtual, and today I’m wearing a pretty swish fedora with sparklers for added flair, and for very good reason.  *dons promotion hat*

SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest (the fourth in the series), hit the shelves the other day and it’s going great guns, as well it should. Sure, as one of the editors of this awesome tome, I’m biased but I’ve every right to be – *points to promotion hat* – the hat says I can.

As of this afternoon, the anthology sits at #3 on Amazon’s horror short stories, behind two of Stephen King’s books. NUMBER THREE! *does snoopy dance* (which looks spectacular with the sparkler-laden promotion hat, I gotta say.)

SNAFU Survival

The title of this anthology says it all – this is military horror at its most primal. Live or die. We’re not talking that peaceful slip into the abyss but, you know, flayed of flesh annihilation. We’ve got some of the best writers in the genre penning their soldiers and breathing life into their monsters. And oh what monsters they have for you! Think re-animation, demon and devilry, alien and elder creatures, mythos, and those birthed from nightmare’s bowels. What stands between you and these horrors are elite forces, para-military, mercenaries, and the (not-so) ordinary grunt from battles both modern and historical.

And lets not forget the art. The amazing cover is the creation of the ultra-talented Dean Samed, and each story has internal art by the genius that is Monty Borror.

As  co-editor of this kick-arse anthology with the equally kick-arse, Geoff Brown of Cohesion Press,  I’m immensely honoured and privileged to work with authors of this calibre – without them, SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest, wouldn’t be the book that it is.

To say I’m proud of this band of SNAFU authors is an understatement. So do yourself a favour, and check out these amazing authors and the monsters they’ve unleashed upon the world.

Table of Contents:

Badlands ­– S.D. Perry

Of Storms and Flame Tim Marquitz & J.M. Martin

In Vaulted Halls Entombed Alan Baxter

They Own the Night ­– B. Michael Radburn

Fallen Lion Jack Hanson

Sucker of Souls Kirsten Cross

Cold War Gothic II: The Bohemian Grove Weston Ochse

After the Red Rain Fell Matt Hilton

The Slog Neal F. Litherland

Show of Force Jeremy Robinson & Kane Gilmour

(Available in ebook, paperback and limited-edition hardcover with signature pages.)

Now I’m off to put out the sparklers before I set myself on fire…


Confessions of a Book Hoarder

Hello, my name’s AJ, and I’m a book hoarder.

They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, but I don’t have a problem, I have books. I have worlds and characters and cultures and magic, and if you go near them I’ll cut you.


Back up.


So books I have. Lots of them. What I lack is space… and bookshelves. (That faint stream of cursing is from my husband as he trips over yet another pile of books in our home.) I read. A lot. Always have done.  And print is my go to. Why? Well there’s nothing quite like the feel and smell of a print book; that tangible feel of pages beneath your fingers, the anticipation of what’s to come as you slowly, slowly turn that next page… it’s book porn. There, I said it.


And bookstores are the bastion of imagination – there dwells magic. I have my favourite stores of course: Kinokuniya (the pantheon of bookstores), Galaxy Bookshop (amazing genre floor), and Kings Comics (nuff said) – all of which are in Sydney’s CBD. But for those quick fixes, it’s my local Gleebooks, which has a reading nook at the back of the store; or Berkelouw Books. Hours I can spend trolling these stores, new and used books an intoxicating perfume.

The middle of the year is also when the cons arrive, and I hit Supanova and ComicCon Melbourne this year, where not only did I buy more books, I could get them signed by the authors. And while I was an exhibitor at ComicCon, it in no way stopped me from buying books (it just meant a mad dash from stall to stall – easy as).

I’ve just finished a two-books fantasy series from Donna Maree Hanson, which I picked up at Supanova in Sydney (review of book one here; review of book two to come), and it was decision time for the next book. Easier said than done. I scoured the ‘to read’ mountain beside my bed, then the ‘to read’ stacks beside my desk, the ‘to read’ pile on the floor near one of my bookcases…


Panic set in: which one? Do I pick a trilogy? A collection? A stand-alone? Graphic novel? *wrings hands* What about genre? Fantasy, horror, grimdark… Ah, spoiled for choice. So many books… some of which have been in the pile for a while, watching, waiting, as others are chosen before them, their covers screaming: pick me, pick me!

My husband’s suggestion is to not purchase any more books until I finish reading what I already have, but I’m not buying into his kind of crazy. He’s long given up trying to get me to rid myself (and our house) of some of my old books, but I just can’t. I’ve tried. I’ll pick up a book and remember where I was when I read it, what time of my life it was when I journeyed into those pages, and I know they’re not going anywhere. Some are packed away, sure; carefully and lovingly bundled to ensure they’re safe (and easily moved from one house to the next).

So yes, I’m a book hoarder, and I’m okay with that. I’m more than okay, I’m freakin’ great. I’m surrounded by books, by words and worlds, characters and creatures, monsters and mayhem – my happy places. You can’t ask for more than that.

Oh, and the winner of the ‘what to read next’ dilemma? Return of the Ancients (The Valkeryn Chronicles) by Greig Beck.


Review: Shatterwing by Donna Maree Hanson

Well it’s the first of the month here (those of you in the northern hemisphere will catch up soon enough), and I’ll be leading August off with a review. Yes, it’s review time!

Today (tonight) it’s Australian author, Donna Maree Hanson, and her book Shatterwingbook one of her Dragon Wine series. I met Donna at Sydney Supanova when I was trawling for books. Now the only thing better than books, is signed books; as an author, I know there’s not much better than having someone ask to sign the book you wrote – so it was a win-win on both sides of the table.

It was great to have a chat about the books, too, as I really had only a vague idea about their content, although the cover does point you in the general direction.


Now before I move on, it’s requisite spoiler-alert time:


Okay, so yes, from the cover, Shatterwing is a book with dragons, but dragons form only part of this story. At its essence, this is a story about a world on the brink and how society (or what’s left of it), deals with an apocalyptic world – not well, I have to say. The white cover and golden wings are a great juxtaposition for a tale that firmly sits on the grim-dark side of things.

The book is divided into two parts, and in the first we’re introduced to the major players: Salinda, Brill, Danton and the Inspector. The Inspector runs the winery, which is more prison than lush vineyard, and from the beginning the reader is left in little doubt the Inspector is a cruel, sadistic son-of-a-bitch.  The scenes underground with both Brill and Salinda are brutal – not at all for the faint-hearted, you’ve been warned.

The vineyard is where they make Dragon Wine, which is vital to those of Margra for not only its healing powers, but as a source of currency and political power.

The story is told mostly from Salinda and Brill’s point of view, but even so, I found it difficult to connect with either of them. It wasn’t until under-dweller, Nils, is introduced that I felt that connection. I slowly warmed to Brill and Danton (Danton especially), and it took longer to really connect with Salinda, which was a shame as she’s quite vital to the story.

Now there are dragons, but they are creatures to be feared, especially by those working the vineyard. Run and hide or become a meal. All but one dragon – Plu – a fledgling Salinda briefly raised and to whom she can call on when needed.

Shatterwing, however, isn’t a dragon as I’d first thought, but one of the moons that orbits Margra. Only Shatterwing is a fragmented moon, and those fragments are continually falling to the earth. There’s a lot going on with this world, and Hanson does a great job of drip-feeding the world and its culture through her storytelling rather than the laborious info-dumps I’ve found in other books (authors take note!).

It’s a slow piecing together of what’s happened to bring the world to the brink, and how the different cultures within this world interact and try to survive – some for purely selfish reasons, and others for the good of all. And I have to say, there isn’t a lot of good in this world.

blood spatter

There are those, however, who have magic. Salinda is one, although she doesn’t quite know its power or how to harness it. The ‘cadre’ (a collection of memories and untapped power) was passed to her via her mentor. Another with power we discover in the second part of this book.

Here, we’re introduced to Thurdon (rather briefly), and to his apprentice, Laidan. Thurdon has the cadre, which he passes to Laidan before his death. Of course she has no idea what’s happened or what it is that she now possesses. Held prisoner by the fratricidal prince, Lenk, she has a rather fortuitous rescue from a childhood friend, Garan who has the cool job-moniker of ‘Skywatcher’ (note: this is the title of book 2 in the series).

Fortuitous might be the wrong word, as things really don’t go well for the pair. At all. This really is a fucked-up world, and that Hanson doesn’t shy from the brutality humanity can bestow on one another is to be commended.

This is a desperate world made up of desperate people, which makes the journey of Salinda, Brill, Danton, Laidan and Garan all the more treacherous and desperate. It’s Nils, though, who sees the world and its people for whom and what they truly are – he’s almost the conscience of Margra. It’s to him, though, I believe the fate of this world rests.

I liked this book, and it was an easy read as well. I would have liked to have found that connection with the characters a lot sooner, and I think a lot of that has to do with being unable to find something within each of them that resonated with me. It came, just later than I wanted.

I’m looking forward to reading the second instalment, as the book really did pick up the pace from about the halfway mark. I’m invested now, and that’s all a reader (and writer) wants.

I’ll repeat my warning here that this isn’t a high-fantasy book about dragons, but rather a grimdark, brutal fantasy that delves right into the depths of inhumanity. For me, it’s these types of books that show humanity at its best. Small band though they may be.

On a Goodreads scale, I give Shatterwing 3.5 stars.