Interviewing Todd Barselow

For today’s post, I’m very excited to present an interview with Todd Barselow! In the lead up to the paperback release of The Worlds Traveler on December 1, 2015, I thought it would be fun for everyone to meet the man behind its editing. As an independent author I take full responsibility for the final product I put out there. Part of that process involves finding a good editor like Todd to help polish a manuscript to as professional a shine as possible. I’m so pleased with the work he did for me and I am really happy to have had the chance to interview him. So without further ado, I present to you…Todd Barselow!

Thank you, Todd, for taking the time to do this interview! I know you’re a busy man. When I was searching for an editor, I noticed several authors had only heartfelt thanks for your work on their books. That must never get old. What is it like for you to see a book published with your name listed as the editor?

Honestly, it’s quite thrilling but maybe not as much as it used to be, though. The first few times I saw my name on the Amazon page for a book or I took a quick peek at the Kindle edition and saw my name in the Acknowledgements, I sort of freaked out. I mean, I worked on this book. I took a lot of time to try to help the author make this book be the best it could possibly be, so what happens if someone hates it? What happens if someone blames me, as the editor, for the book not being as good as they thought it could be? I got over that pretty quickly, though. No book ever written has pleased every single reader. It just doesn’t happen, no matter who the author or the editor is.

What are your goals when you first pick up a manuscript?

The first thing I do is read the manuscript from cover to cover. I make notes in the margins regarding things which could or should be addressed. I generally don’t make any changes during this initial read through. At this point, I’m just familiarizing myself with the story, with the setting, the characters.

The second round is where most of the surgery takes place, where I make the vast majority of my suggestions for change and/or improvement.

What do you feel are an editor’s biggest challenges?

For me, I think it’s in preserving the author’s voice, their vision with the story and how they want to tell it. It can be so easy to insert your own influence into a manuscript when making or offering stylistic changes, or changes to plot and pacing and character development. I think it’s really important to avoid this as much as possible. For me, preserving the author’s voice is one of the most important aspects of what I do, and that’s one of the reasons the authors I work with enjoy working with me; they know I’m not going to come in and gut their manuscript, destroying the hard work they’ve put into it. That doesn’t mean I’m not critical, mind you. If I think something just doesn’t work, then I’ll say so. I’ll make suggestions to make it work. Ultimately, it’s up to the author to decide what changes—if any—to make.

As far as the technical issues found in a manuscript—grammar, spelling, punctuation—there can be little room to compromise. Sure, alternate spellings of certain things can be used, and maybe punctuation can be a little fast and loose in certain circumstances—if it fits the stylistic choices the author has made—but really you have these guidelines and rules and you have to abide by them; that’s why you have them. I follow what’s in the Chicago Manual of Style—unless told otherwise—but there are other guides out there, too. And in the editing work I do for Imajin Books—I’m their senior editor—I have other certain stylistic guidelines to follow aside from CMoS.

How do you turn off your ‘editor’s eye’ and just read for fun?

That’s one of the hardest things in the world for me to do now. Before I began my career as an editor, I would always make mental notes when reading. I’d think about things I would have changed, different word choices or turns of phrase, that sort of thing.

Since I do all of my work now in Word documents, I find that reading physical books sort of snaps me out of the need to ‘offer improvements’ as it were. I do read e-books sometimes on my tablet—I have upwards of 2,000 books there—and I find that it’s harder for me to get out of that mode then. I make use of the note feature in the Kindle app a lot when I read that way. I think maybe being an editor is more of a calling than a choice. I suspect I’ll have to deal with my ‘editor’s eye’ forever, but I’m good with that.

What opportunities do you see for editors in today’s publishing climate?

I know with the rise of self-publishing there’s a definite need for competent editors to help authors put forth the best, cleanest work possible. For a long time self-publishing had the worst reputation because authors weren’t using editors—or I should say professional editors—and the work was, well, pretty grim. It still happens a lot, too, but there are more folks like me out there working with indies to make the difference.

The key is to put yourself out there, let people know about your services. When you get a few books under your belt, let people know about it. If you specialize in one certain genre, find pages on Facebook related to that genre and ask permission to post about your services. Do the same with other social media channels. Before you know it, you’ll have more work than you can handle. That’s the way it happened with me.

Congratulations on your new publishing company Auspicious Apparatus Press! How has the transition from editor to publisher been?

Well, it hasn’t really been a transition, per se, as I still edit full time. It’s just another hat added to my collection. I vaguely had the goal of becoming a publisher eventually when I first started editing for a living and not just as a hobby. Now when I switch hats, it’s from ‘editor’ to ‘acquisitions editor’ or ‘marketing director’ or any of thirty other positions that go along with owning and operating a small press.

For anyone who would like to submit a manuscript to Auspicious Apparatus Press, what are you looking for and where should one go?

In 2016, we will specifically be looking for full-length novels (45k to 100k; longer works may be considered) in the following genres:

  • steampunk (an emphasis on comedy will move you to the top of the slush pile)
  • comedy/action/adventure
  • police/detective/investigative procedurals
  • psychological suspense/terror
  • certain horror works

What we WON’T be considering for publication:

  • previously published works with the exception of acquiring audio rights
  • works in genres other than those mentioned above
  • works with excessive sexual content (we get that ‘sex sells’ but we’re not interested in selling it at this time)

More info can be found on our website here: http://www.apparatuspress.com/submissions/

Now for a mini lightning round!

  • Favorite quote?

This may not actually be my favorite quote, but it’s the most appropriate quote I know.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ~ Stephen King

  • Favorite book to TV/Movie adaptation?

I thought King’s The Green Mile was really well done, and quite faithful to the book. The same with The Shawshank Redemption. Too often movies and television series made from books just don’t cross over the medium well enough to suit me. And I guess you can’t fault Hollywood for trying, but I find myself disappointed more often than not with adaptations these days.

  • You’re stranded on a deserted island with one book. What is that book?

It would have to be King’s Dark Tower series (okay, so that’s 8 books, but I’m sure they will all EVENTUALY be published as one massive tome…and are you starting to see the pattern involving King here? Ka was a wheel; it was also a net from which none ever escaped…)

  • Reading on the beach or with a view of the mountains?

I live just near the beach so I would have to say the beach. I love working from the beach and try to do so once or twice a month if possible. Although, I live really close to the tallest mountain in the Philippines, as well, so conceivably I could do both within the same week—on consecutive days if I wanted to be a real champ about it.

Thank you again, Todd, for allowing me to interview you and for your work on The Worlds Traveler. It was a great pleasure on all counts! Best of luck to you and all your endeavors.

About the Next Book…

Well, the sequel to The Magician’s Doll is in process for publication! The first draft was completed almost three months ago and after all the time it took to write, it’s a bit of a shock to feel how these three months have passed with barely a blink of the eye. So without further ado, here is where things stand:

The title of the book is…

*****   THE WORLDS TRAVELER   *****

Life on the run from a madman named Martin gets in the way of everything.

For fourteen-year-old Phillip, it means having to stay hidden, unable to use his gift of moving through maps to search for his missing father. But the arrival of a stranger named Delroy brings unexpected opportunity, for Delroy is a man with the ability to travel worlds hidden within our own, and he was sent by Phillip’s father. Now Phillip will do everything he can to find his dad, even if it means tricking Delory into helping him, or a quest through those hidden worlds.

Even if leaving home means Martin can now find him.

You may have noticed that the point of view this time around is Phillip’s whereas in The Magician’s Doll, it was Natalie’s. I thought Phillip’s point of view would be more compelling since this story is about the search for his father. Natalie is still a main character, though, and the two work very much in tandem.

I’m excited to be working with Editor Todd Barselow on The Worlds Traveler. Todd is a busy man, having just formed his own publishing company, Auspicious Apparatus Press, and I feel lucky to have booked him. If you get a chance, check out Auspicious Apparatus Press. I’m sure we’ll all be hearing great things about the works coming from Todd’s publishing house!

I’ve been fortunate to work with really great artists, from Candace Foy Chabot for my first two novels, to Julius Camenzind for The Worlds Traveler.

I had a feel for what I wanted for the cover of The Worlds Traveler, and once I saw Julius’ work, I just had to contact him! Not only did he not disappoint, he went beyond. My exact words when he sent the final illustration?

“Do I really get to put this gorgeous cover on my book?”

I’ll be doing a cover reveal soon, but you should check out Julius’ site in the meantime to get a feel for his magic. I can’t wait to share the cover with everyone!

The ebook version of The Worlds Traveler has been listed for pre-order at Apple iTunes, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. A release date is required for pre-order, so I listed a tentative one for December 11, 2015. The emphasis, though, is on “tentative.” As more of the publishing pieces fall into place, I’ll be better able to firm up that release date. My hope is to release sooner! I’m offering a special pre-order price of $2.99. The price will go up to retail shortly after the book’s release, so please feel free to take advantage of the special pricing!

You don’t need to have read The Magician’s Doll to enjoy The Worlds Traveler, but why not give it a try anyway? It is available as a paperback and ebook at most major retailers. Check for details here.

And that, folks, is all the news that’s fit to print. I’ll have more to share as we move towards publication!

From Fear to Finished

I happened to find a rough draft of a blog topic from early 2013 that I never got around to posting. It was about fear. Fear that I would not be able to write the sequel to The Magician’s Doll. To read it now is a bit of an eye-opener. I figured it’s as good a time as any to finish the post and put it up. So, from 2013, here it is:

Fear – oh, it’s there all right.

It hit me recently. I have another novel to write after The Magician’s Doll, and I found that even though I have ideas for it in my head, I wasn’t sure how to make them fall onto the page. Sorting them out suddenly seemed like a task so impossible, I froze. And once I froze, it all hit the fan.

I am in HUGE trouble, I thought. I am going to fail! What the heck was I thinking, trying to write a story that was going to require even more story? I wanted to crawl under the covers and huddle in a tight ball.

Yes, fear will shut.you.down.

Fear stuck with me for days. At times I could push it away, but it stood by, waiting for the moment my guard was down to steal over me and remind me that I had nothing.

Darned fear.

I finally started writing my worries down. If I couldn’t write the story, might as well write something, even if it was a jumbled mass of pessimism, right?

One thought stuck out from all the clutter on the page: the story I wanted to tell was there. Maybe it wasn’t clear to me just yet, but it was there. And even though I was terrified, on some level I could feel it.

So the next morning, I let the mind wander.

And suddenly the beginning was clear. And I was excited with the idea. And other ideas started to flow…

Now I find myself in 2015, and the first draft is finished and moving through the process for publishing. It took a while, but who would have thought?

As it turns out, not me in 2013.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” 

~Eleanor Roosevelt

Teaser From the Sequel to The Magician’s Doll!

As promised. Keep in mind, this is a work in progress and subject to change and editing. That said, I’m very excited to share it. I hope you enjoy!

After a moment Natalie said, “We’ll find your father, Phillip.”

“Is that something you know, or are you just saying that?”

“It’s what I believe,” she said.

Phillip turned back to the inscription. “I hope you’re right. We’re no closer now than we were a year ago.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Natalie’s hand reach for his shoulder. He tensed in anticipation of its touch, but then a chilling wail pealed through the rain, filling the street with an ominous presence.

Phillip straightened with a snap and he whirled with Natalie in the direction of the sound. It had come from the cemetery.

Prologue – Should I?

I went back and forth about whether to use The Magician’s Doll’s prologue.

The prologue was the first scene I wrote for the story, and the idea behind it was the basis for inspiration. I’m also a bit of a prologue person. Some of my favorite novels had one, and as long as it was done well, it helped the stories sing with resonance once its relevance was revealed.

It’s a tough call. Prologues are not always popular, and it is easy to see why; sometimes you just want to get straight to the story. I’ve heard it said that if you can leave the prologue out, and the story is still complete, you don’t need it. For that reason I did try leaving it out.

I don’t know, though. Somehow, I wasn’t happy with it gone. For me, the prologue gave that added oomph, that little bit of heft. I could be way off. I could be clinging to an idea that I should let go.

I decided to go with the gut. I liked the story better with it, so it stayed. I know not everyone will care for it, and I do understand. The good thing about prologues is you can skip them over if you like.

But you never know, you might miss out on something…;)

Chug…Chug…Chugging Away

The sequel to The Magician’s Doll is coming along!

Although I have long accepted that I am more of a marathon runner than a sprinter when it comes to some – okay most – aspects of my life, I admit there are times when I glare at my draft, with all those chapters I’ve written, and yell, “Why aren’t you done yet? You know this is killing me! Be finished already!” Of course, the manuscript always wins those battles.

I want this novel to be better than the last. I want to improve with each one. I agonize over my words, looking for the exact way I want to express something. That’s been the fun of it for me, always, even when I want to tear my hair out sometimes over what I perceive to be an appalling lack of progress.

But even the bits I get out on a daily basis are adding up. I can see how the threads are starting to tie together and how the end of this part of Natalie and Phillip’s journey will play. I’m getting to the finish line, slowly but surely, and to be honest, there’s never been a doubt in my mind that I would, even as I’ve been frustrated with the struggle to get there. I am dogged, in the least appealing form of the word, and even though at times I might scream at the process, with each project I finish, it’s also been the thing that’s given me the greatest feeling of accomplishment.

So I continue to chug along, bit by bit, to get where I need to go. But keep your ears open, and if you hear a “Whoo hoo!” in your corner of the world, followed by a bunch of yelps and squeals, check this blog. It might have been me writing the final word of this first draft! 🙂

Re-discovering Neverland

I caught the tail end of Finding Neverland today, right at that section where Barrie brought in the 25 orphans to watch the opening of Peter Pan. Remember that? High Society was in the audience, and the opening moments of the play – which included a man in a silly dog costume interacting playfully with the young characters – was greeted with austere silence. Then the children started giggling at the dog’s antics, and within minutes their delight spilled onto the adults, sweeping them along in the ensuing enchantment of the play.

It’s something to remember for children’s books, isn’t it? Like the orphans in the audience, it seems the very best stories have the ability to coax adults into leaving grown-up perspectives at the door to tap into the magic of their inner child. It allows them to join in children’s enjoyment, to be captivated and enthralled right with them.

Writing that kind of story seems near-impossible, like searching for a needle in a haystack. What within a child also lies hidden in the adult? And how does one write to draw it out?

‘Tis a question I will be pondering… 🙂

Work Has Begun

I’ve started work on the sequel to The Magician’s Doll! It’s so nice to be digging into a new piece and experiencing all the elation and frustration and outright fun that comes with creating new stories. I know I’ve written about how difficult I find writing to be at times, but there is a reason people write, and I tend to forget that there’s real pleasure in the process, as well as excitement and joy in the discovery. I’m so happy to be working again with Natalie and Phillip (my characters from The Magician’s Doll); I get to catch up and reacquaint myself with them and see what’s been going on in their lives, and that’s a total blast!

On some days writing is easier, on some days it’s harder, but when you’re hanging with Natalie and Phillip, it’s all good…. 🙂

Gearing up

I got the edits from my editor today. Surprisingly, there were few. Still, there were corrections on my manuscript that confirmed there are things to be learned. Always. I am so glad I decided to get an outside eye to do the final proofread!

Now I’m nervous. The editor had some wonderful things to say about the story, and I feel like I really need to try to make sure The Magician’s Doll stands a chance of being read. I love the story myself, and it’s interesting how responsible that makes me feel.

It will be a difficult task for me. I tend to be a private person, but marketing requires you to put yourself out there. Each decision I make, I scrutinize and question myself. I really admire people who do it with greater ease than I do. But if I want to do right by the book, I must try!

I’ve completed the edits, but I will continue to read through the manuscript, yet again, over the weekend. I forgot to write a bio (ugh!), and will need to whip one up. I need to make the final decision on whether to use Createspace or Lightning Source. I need to get my design for this blog and my Facebook page (on which I have not written – again, private person, here!). Things are gearing up.

I just realized. It’s only ten days until I put the book up. Whoa…