Editing a Manuscript to Death

A couple of years or so ago I was seeking a new publisher for my Mac McClellan Mystery deadlyseries. Despite very good reviews the previous publisher decided to cut-back their “private eye” series to focus more on legal, medical, and international thrillers (or so I was informed). With a couple of new books in the McClellan series already completed, my agent and I set out to find a new home for the retired Marine sleuth before an extended absence caused readers of the first two books to forget about Mac and Kate Bell, Mac’s squeeze and sometimes Girl Friday.

While my (then) agent beat the bigger bushes, I began querying small and mid-size houses in hopes of finding that gem in the haystack of the publishing world. Within a few days a small press (who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons) its-a-mysterycontacted me, requesting the full manuscript which I promptly sent. They were a startup house with two published books–one by him, and one by his wife. But you never know; it could’ve been an opportunity to get into something good from the ground floor. Fast forward a couple of weeks:

“We love good mysteries, and this is a very good mystery! But . . .” (ellipsis added by me).

What followed was a list of “major problems” with the manuscript, and the editor’s ideas of how to fix this, that, and the other. Ultimately, his suggestions amounted to an entire overhaul/rewrite of the manuscript.

My initial thought? Not going to happen! My reasons were sound. Without going into endless detail, trust me when I say I wondered if the guy had read the same book I’d written. Every issue he had, be it with the plot or otherwise, I came back with a logical explanation. I’ll give a few examples and leave it at that:bad_guy

(Editor): The bad guy is brought in way too late. You’re not playing fair with your readers. Have him show up early.

(Me): Um, the bad guy strikes in Chapter Two. His/her identity isn’t revealed then, but he/she does make an offstage appearance by murdering his/her first victim in Chapter Two. He/she strikes again and again later in the story just to stay in the picture before he/she is finally revealed. Is Chapter Two really “way too late?”

(Editor): Your backstory is overwhelming.


(Editor): I realize this is a series and you can’t retell the whole backstory on that but give us enough to explain why the character and the relationship is important.confused1

(Me): Huh? First my backstory is overwhelming, and in the editor’s next breath I’m being asked to give more backstory? Hmm, am I missing something here?

(Editor): You have a huge amount of clichés in here; get rid of all of them.

(Me): I counted eight of what could be considered true clichés. Eight. My protagonist, Macavoid-cliches1 McClellan, has a sense of humor, and he will occasionally use a “dreaded” cliché in conversation or to make a point. People use clichés in real life. I choose not to ban all clichés. Don’t fill up your manuscript with them (unless it’s a book about clichés), but don’t treat them as anathema, either.

(Editor): Semi-colons and ellipses should be cut. (I love them, too, and when I write, I keep them all in until the last edit and cut them out.)

(Me): Since when should all semi-colons and ellipses be cut? Who made that rule? Instead of an ellipsis to indicate a pause in conversation, should I use (beat) instead? Okay, don’t overdue either, but sometimes compound sentences are called for, and what the heck is wrong with an occasional ellipsis? That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

(Editor): Get rid of all the bad words that are nothing but busy noise (just, very, pretty, repetitive wordsreally, still, some, perhaps, maybe, which, since, etc.)

(Me): Are you kidding me? ALL of them? Wow, talk about dry, boring dialogue, especially if your book or characters are located in the South. Okay, per the usual unspoken writing rule, don’t overuse these words and others so that they jump off the page at you, or every character says these words over and over. But get rid of all of them? Really? I think not.

Here is the shocking conclusion to this semi writing rant: I told this editor and his publishing house “No thanks.” And a short time later my agent landed a new home for the next four books in the Mac McClellan Mystery series. The lesson? You are the writer; (oops, semi-colon, sorry!) you know your characters, you know where your book is going, and you are not averse to listening to sound advice from a competent editor. But watch out for wolves in sheep’s clothing (oops, cliché!) that lurk out there in the publishing world. Don’t destroy your book at another’s whim. After all, it’s your baby, not theirs.


Time to Celebrate!!

Mystery Writer/Blogger Margot Kinberg Releases New Book!

Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...

Hi, it’s Margot,

Thanks for calling. Sorry I’m not in right now, I’m at a champagne party to celebrate the launch of my new novel, Downfall! That’s right, it’s Launch Day! Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you when the champagne wears off as soon as I can.

It’s a very special party, too! I’m at Col’s Criminal Library, where I’m answering some questions about Downfall and some of my other writing.

Please join me at Col’s – good times for everyone! Grab a glass of the bubbly and help me celebrate!

Thanks, Col!!


You can get your Kindle copy of Downfallright here!

Prefer paper? Pick up your copy right here!

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Fore! Mystery Author Judy Penz Sheluk Talks About Golf

If you love golf as much as Judy Penz Sheluk, then you’re probably looking forward toBermuda the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Ga., starting Thursday, April 5th, and culminating in the green jacket finish on Sunday, April 8th.

“I don’t watch a ton of golf on TV,” Sheluk admitted, “but I never miss the Masters. It’s like a right of passage: If you love golf, watching the Masters is mandatory. These are the best golfers in the world, past, present and future. It’s history and tradition and hold-your-breath moments, right alongside of “I can miss that putt” moments. It’s heartbreak and magic all rolled into one.”

Sheluk has been golfing for the last “15 or 20 years” and considers herself to be a golfer for all levels of ability. “I’m good enough to play with decent players and not annoy them too much, and bad enough to play with beginners and not intimidate them, especially since I always remember what it’s like to start out. As long as you remember the etiquette and don’t cheat, most people will be willing to golf with you.”

The idea for her latest book, A HOLE IN ONE, came to her when she was golfing— not hole-in-onethat she actually found a corpse in the woods. “What can I say? I’m always thinking of the next idea for a story.”

Synopsis: Hoping to promote the Glass Dolphin antiques shop, co-owners Arabella Carpenter and Emily Garland agree to sponsor a hole in one contest at a charity golf tournament. The publicity turns out to be anything but positive, however, when Arabella’s errant tee shot lands in the woods next to a corpse.

They soon learn that the victim is closely related to Arabella’s ex-husband, who had been acting as the Course Marshal. With means, opportunity, and more than enough motive, he soon becomes the police department’s prime suspect, leaving Arabella and Emily determined to clear his name—even if they’re not entirely convinced of his innocence.

Dogged by incriminating online posts from an anonymous blogger, they track down leads from Emily’s ex-fiancé (and the woman he left Emily for), an Elvis impersonator, and a retired antiques mall vendor with a secret of her own.

All trails lead to a mysterious cult that may have something to do with the murder. Can Arabella and Emily identify the killer before the murderer comes after them?


Excerpt: Arabella Carpenter let the others go first. All three managed to clear the pond with their tee shot and land on the green, but not one was anywhere close to getting a hole in one. Arabella breathed a sigh of relief—since they were sponsoring the contest, their foursome might not be eligible to win, but it still freaked her out to think someone else might. She went through her mental prep, took her swing, and watched as her ball went directly into the woods.

“Hey, you made it over the water,” Hudson said, hopping into his cart. “For someone just starting out, that’s not a bad shot.”

Arabella caught Emily’s look and smiled. He really was a nice guy. “Thanks, Hudson. Whether I can find my ball is an entirely different story. Why don’t I look for it while you guys putt in? I’m sure one of you will be able to make the shot.”

They crossed the pond on a wooden bridge just wide enough for their golf carts, parked on the path next to the hole, and grabbed their putters. Luke, Hudson, and Emily went to the green and began debating which ball to hit. Arabella trundled over to the woods, feeling stupid and hoping like hell it wasn’t infested with poison ivy. The woods were thicker than she’d expected. She walked in a couple of feet, using her putter to push the branches aside.

That’s when she started to scream.

Bio: An Amazon international bestselling author, Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of two mystery series: The Glass Dolphin Mysteries (THE HANGED MAN’S NOOSE and A HOLE IN ONE) and The Marketville Mysteries (SKELETONS IN THE ATTIC). Her short crime Judy Sheluk, mystery writer.jpgfiction appears is included in several collections, including LIVE FREE OR TRI.

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she currently serves on the Board of Directors as the Regional Representative for Toronto/Southern Ontario.

Find Judy on her website/blog at http://www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she interviews and showcases the works of other authors and blogs about the writing life.

Social Media Links

Website/Blog: http://www.judypenzsheluk.com

Facebook Author:  https://business.facebook.com/JudyPenzSheluk/?business_id=736294013145101

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JudyPenzSheluk

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.ca/judypenzsheluk/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Judy-Penz-Sheluk/e/B00O74NX04

A HOLE IN ONE is available in trade paperback and all eBook formats at all the usual suspects, including:

Amazon: http://authl.it/9f0

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-hole-in-one-judy-penz-sheluk/1127967500?ean=2940158640827

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/a-hole-in-one-3

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Judy_Penz_Sheluk_A_Hole_in_One?id=IERMDwAAQBAJ

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/book/a-hole-in-one/id1350574649?mt=11

Barking Rain Press: https://barkingrainpress.org/a-hole-in-one/ – 1473022241950-de2dbbf6-9e98

More Breaking News…

From Mystery Writer/Blogger, Margot Kinberg’s new book, DOWNFALL

Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...

Apologies if you stopped by hoping to read one of my usual posts about crime fiction. Feel free to move on to the rest of your blog rounds, especially if you don’t care for authors to talk about their own releases. I won’t be offended…

…still here? Thanks!

Downfall, my newest Joel Williams novel, is now available for pre-order in Kindle format! The paperback version will be available on 16 March.

Here’s an excerpt from the novel:

Out there on that beam, three stories up – that was where he wanted to be. Curtis Templeton was going to be king of the world. He was proud of himself, too; he’d managed to get out of school without anyone knowing he was gone. Well, almost nobody knew. He’d been wanting to check out this construction site ever since the weather had started to get warmer, and now that it was…

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Brotherly Love

From Mystery-Crime Writer/Blogger Margot Kinberg

Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...

Matt saw Amanda the minute he walked into the café. She looked excited, so whatever she had to tell him, it was probably good news. He smiled a little as he approached the table.
‘Hi, there,’ he said.
‘Matt! You made it!’ She got up and hugged him, and then they both sat down.
‘So what’s this big news you have to share?’
‘Let’s order first, and then I’ll tell you, OK? I don’t want to be interrupted.’
‘All right.’
They picked up the menus lying next to their place settings and soon made their choices.

Amanda made Matt wait until their sandwiches and coffee arrived. Then, she held up her left hand and showed him the small, but elegant, diamond ring on it.
‘Seth proposed last night!’ she sang out. Her hand shook just a bit as Matt took it to look more closely at the ring. He smiled…

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This Just In!

Cover Reveal for Crime-Mystery Writer/Blogger Margot Kinberg’s Upcoming New Book, DOWNFALL (pub date March 16, 2018)

Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...

This is the cover for Downfall:

Isn’t it beautiful? That’s because it is the work of gifted Montréal artist and writer Lesley Fletcher. I am so fortunate that she agreed to do the artwork for the cover.  Please, go pay her a visit at her web site and consider her art. You won’t regret it!

I’m also very grateful to germancreative, at Fiverr, for the sleek, sophisticated professional design of the cover. Writers, if you need a cover designer, please consider her work!

Here’s the blurb for Downfall:

 They Said It Was a Tragedy. They Said It Was an Accident. They Lied.

Second Chance is a Philadelphia alternative school designed for at-risk students. They live on campus, they take classes, and everyone hopes they’ll stay out of prison. And then one of them dies. When Curtis Templeton falls from a piece of scaffolding near the school, it’s…

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Interview & Book Review| Deadly Spirits by: E. Michael Helms

Moohnshine's Corner

31146881Deadly Spirits

by E.Michael Helms (Goodreads Author)
 4.46  ·   Rating details ·  37 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
When PI Mac McClellan’s girlfriend convinces him to join the Palmetto Paranormal Society, he becomes embroiled in a case of whooodunnit. The society president, while investigating an old hotel, is found dead at the foot of the stairwell, his neck broken. The man’s secretary and current squeeze stands horrified beside his body. Authorities rule the death an accident. Mac has doubts—no one heard the man tumbling down the stairs. Then the secretary dies in an apparent suicide. Two deaths in two paranormal investigations, and not a peep out of either victim. Mac suspects there’s more going on than a vengeful spirit.
Book 4 in the Mac McClellan Mystery series, which began with Deadly Catch.

Goodreads | Amazon | Kobo | B & N


My Review

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