Sunday, December 10, 2017

Secrets and fears

Who knows what goes on in a family? I learned this as a student. 
'You can spend years with a patient and still they'll surprise you,' Wesley told me after we'd shaken hands for the first time, his fingers yellow with nicotine. 
'How so?' I asked.
He settled himself behind his desk, clawed his hair back. 'You can hear someone's secrets and their fears and their wants, but remember that these exist alongside other people's secrets and fears, people living in the same rooms. You've heard that line about all happy families being the same?' 
'War and Peace,' I said. 
'Anna Karenina, but that's not the point. The point is, it's untrue. No family, happy or unhappy, is quite like any other...'


The Woman in the Window by A J Finn, page 98 

The narrator is a child psychologist; Wesley is her tutor.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

McIlvanney's Laidlaw, some quotes

A few extracts from William McIlvanney's Laidlaw, a book full of witty writing. Laidlaw is the first in a series on a Scottish detective with a bit of Rebus approach to life....but written a few decades earlier. Further, it's set in Glasgow, rather than Edinburgh. The other two titles are The Papers of Tony Veitch, and Walking Wounded. 


Sunday in the park - it was a nice day. A Glasgow sun was out, dully luminous, an eye with cataract. Some people were in the park pretending it was warm, exercising that necessary Scottish thrift with weather which hoards every good day in the hope of some year amassing a summer.
The scene was a kind of Method School of Weather - a lot of people trying to achieve a subjective belief in the heat in the hope of convincing one another. So the father who lay on the grass, railing in his children with his eyes, wore an open-necked shirt, letting the sun get at his goose-pimples. Two girls who were being chatted up by three boys managed to look romantically breeze-blown rather than cold. An old man sitting on a bench had undone the top two buttons of his overcoat, heralding heatwave. A transistor played somewhere, evocative of beaches. People walking through the park moved unhurriedly, as if through an air muggy with warmth.  page 23

Just because you've got a wooden leg doesn't mean you've got to go about battering all the two-legged folk over the head with it.  page 167

What I've got against folk like Lawson isn't that they're wrong. It's just that they assume they're right. Bigotry's just unearned certainty, isn't it?  Page 200



Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A rift in the lute

My wife and I frequently do the cryptic crossword that appears daily in our newspaper. Some days it can be so straightforward it's done in a quarter of an hour. Other days some of the clues seem incomprehensible, much more like the ones that appear with the Saturday cryptic, which is much harder - though we've found it more doable as the years go by. 

Yesterday we got stuck with a clue that we just couldn't make head or tail of. The clue was "Musical version of someone rocking the boat."

The answer was scattered around the crossword: a four letter word here, a two letter word followed by a three letter word, and then finally another four letter word. We got the two centre words, which were pretty plainly 'in the'. But what was in the what eluded us, even though we struggled with a variety of word combinations for some time. 

The answer was 'Rift in the lute", as I discovered this morning, when checking the answers. A rift in the lute? It doesn't even seem to make sense, and it's certainly not an idiom I'm familiar with. How does a lute get a rift? I suppose the word can be being used in the sense of a crack, which would certainly cause a bit of a problem for the lute-player. 

Apparently 'rift in the lute' means: "A small problem or flaw in something that jeopardizes the whole. For example, I hope this bit of rust isn't a rift in the lute and doesn't end up damaging the whole paint job."
I've never heard the expression rift in the lute. Is anyone else familiar with it?

Supposedly it comes from a poem by Tennyson - Idylls of the King -  in which he writes:
‘It is the little rift within the lute,
That by and by will make the music mute.’


The phrase must be more common than I think. Someone called Maximilian de Gaynesford has written a book with the title, A Rift in the Lute. Go to Amazon and you'll find he's not the only one to use the phrase as a book title. Much and all as Mr de Gaynesford's book sounds interesting - its subtitle is attuning poetry and philosophy - the hardcover price of US$65.93 (down from $80.00) is a little steep. And worse, the Kindle version is only $3.30 cheaper at $62.63. For a Kindle book!

So there we go. I've learned a new phrase, discovered where it comes from, and realised that far more people know it than I'd have expected. Humbled again.  


Sunday, October 01, 2017

Writing is tiring work

G K Chesterton writing to his friend, Bentley, not long after GK started his first job working for a publisher - Redway, mentioned in the letter. 

There is that confounded 'Picture of Tuesday' which I have been scribbling at the whole evening, and have at last got it presentable. This sounds like mere amusement, but, now that I have tried other kinds of hurry and bustle, I solemnly pledge myself to the opinion that there is no work so tiring as writing, that is, not for fun, but for publication. Other work has a repetition, a machinery, a reflex action about it somewhere, but to be on the stretch inventing things, making them out of nothing, making them as good as you can for a matter of four hours leaves me more inclined to lie down and read Dickens than I ever feel after nine hours' ramp at Redway's. The worst of it is that you always think the thing so bad, too, when you're in that state.

From Gilbert Keith Chesterton, by Maisie Ward, page 67. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

We shouldn't necessarily pay attention to Word's Grammar corrections

Courtesy Pixabay
In a draft of a book I'm writing, there's this sentence: 

They were dressed in a variety of ways, one in an expensive suit, another in overalls; one in a track suit and running shoes, another in a jersey and gardening trousers.

A perfectly reasonable sentence for a Kiwi author to write: jersey being the common equivalent of a 'pullover' or a 'sweater.' Which doesn't explain Word's idea that the following are two better and more grammatical alternatives: 

'...some jersey and gardening trousers.' Or, '...in jersey and gardening trousers.' I'm a bit hard-pressed to know what they think 'jersey' means here. I'm intending the first of these two definitions: 

a close-fitting, knitted sweater or shirt.
or a plain-knit, machine-made fabric of wool, silk, nylon, rayon, etc, characteristically soft and elastic, used for garments. 

A football jersey is a prime example of such a thing. Of course, I could be thinking of a Jersey cow, but it's unlikely in the context. 

It seems as if Word is somehow thinking of the person being dressed in the material called jersey as opposed to the garment. Which plainly doesn't make sense. Few people merely wear the fabric of something, especially when doing the gardening. Most of them wear a garment made out of the fabric. 

Word already has a thing about my not using a comma after such sentences openings as 'Of course he went...' or 'After all it was...' Their idea that this kind of opening phrase automatically requires a comma is false; it's grammatical only in the sense that some sentences do require the comma. It depends on what follows. 

I rely hugely on Word's Spellchecker, because my typing isn't topnotch, and it can be easy to miss a spelling error. Of course Word isn't always right on these either: you have to keep an eye on them, just as they're keeping an eye on you...

PS: I notice the man in the photo is wearing gumboots, so I think the sentence in my draft should read: They were dressed in a variety of ways, one in an expensive suit, another in overalls; one in a track suit and running shoes, another in a jersey, gardening trousers and gumboots.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Marketing for self-publishers - does this idea work

Yesterday I came across a blog post entitled: The Fool-Proof Twitter Book Marketing Strategy You Need to be Using. My first reaction was, Yes, this is what I've been looking for, but having considered overnight some of the things the author is saying, I'm having second thoughts. 

One thing I do agree with is that merely announcing on Twitter that you've written and published a book will probably not add a single sale to your sales chart. I get tweets like this all the time from different authors, and most of the time I switch off, or just flick straight past them. Once in a blue moon I will actually consider buying the book on the strength of the tweet, and occasionally (perhaps five or six times in nearly a decade of being on Twitter) I've actually bought a book. 

So it's not a total loss, but it certainly won't bring big sales - unless you're already very well known as an author. Even then it's only part of the overall marketing strategy. 

Another thing the writer, Derek Murphy, says is that interaction with other readers - not other authors - is necessary. And again don't hammer them with the sales pitches: befriend them as people, and respond to their tweets and talk about mutual areas of interest. 

Neither of these things were news to me. 

However, Murphy starts off his article by encouraging us to add 100 tweeters per day, ones who are interested in the genre in which we write and who are likely to read the sort of book you've published. In three months you'll have 5000 targeted followers, he claims. 

This is where things start to fall down, for me. Finding and following even an additional 100 people a day is quite a commitment, even when you only take a quick squiz at their tweets. Furthermore many of these tweeters will not necessarily just tweet about writing and books and such. They, like me, have other interests. 

But the bigger problem is that just because you follow these particular 100-5000 people doesn't mean they will follow you in return. Some will, many won't. So in fact you won't necessarily have 5000 targeted followers after three months. In fact, it's unlikely. 

You might argue that some of these people will retweet your tweets to their friends and, if those friends are book-focused people, they may follow you. You'll get people on board you hadn't originally followed. Yes, this is true. 

But there's no way you'll have time to have twitter conversations with even a small number of these people. 

Murphy goes on to say that you also need to be writing blog posts about writing and your genre, and cross-referencing other people's posts, and thus building up your profile. Furthermore you need to be following up on hashtags that relate to your genre and area of interest. 

Here's another problem: doing all this work will severely curtail your available time for writing books. From experience I know that as soon as I start to work on marketing, hours flit by, often with very little to show for it. 

I'm beginning to think that there are a number of writers out there who don't actually write very much in the way of books, but spend vast amounts of time writing about how to market. Which means, for me, that their real focus isn't writing, but marketing. 

Some time ago I followed a bloke - his name now escapes me, but no doubt others will know him - who, having written a series of books, basically said that he wasn't really interested in writing any more books but in marketing the ones he'd written. And that was certainly his focus. His aim was to make as much money out of these few books as possible. 

I understand the frustration that self-publishing writers have in terms of marketing. It tears the writer in two. It's no wonder publishers take on the marketing role in the normal way of publishing; writers just don't have the time. 

I'm not sure what the solution for self-publishers is - throwing heaps of money at marketing, maybe - but I know that trying to write and market just doesn't work for me, however enthusiastic I may be about such posts as Mr Murphy's...at first. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Stranger - or Forest of Secrets

Last night we finished watching the 16-part series, Stranger, also known as Forest of Secrets. It's available on Netflix; apparently that company paid its producers $200,000 per episode. It appeared on Korean television in June and July of this year, so it's very new. 

Is it worth that kind of money? I'd say it is. Made in South Korea with an all-Korean cast, it's a top-notch thriller-cum-detective story. The two leads, Jo Seung-woo as the Prosecutor, Hwang Shi-mok, and Bae Doona as the female detective, Han Yeo-ji. 

Hwang is one of the few honest Prosecutors in his department, and thus a threat to those who allowed bribery and corruption to creep into their work. But he has had brain surgery when younger because certain things, such as loud noises, affected his emotional state. Unfortunately, the operation has reduced his capacity for empathy and emotion. Jo Seung-woo has to play a man mostly incapable of smiling or expressing happiness or anger. In spite of this the actor comes across as a man with whom we have great sympathy, and some characters in the story admire him greatly. 

Korean prosecutors involve themselves in judicial procedure by conducting investigations, determining indictable cases, and the prosecution process, a mode of operating that's different to the English adversarial system. Thus in this story the Police and the Prosecutors work hand-in-hand for the most part, while still complaining about each other's methods at times. 

Bae Doona is a wonderful actress, and a great foil for the seemingly straightfaced prosecutor. She's gutsy, generous, sympathetic, warm, sharp, cool...everything you want in a heroine. She comes across to the audience as someone you want to keep spending screen time with. A delight. 

There's a massive cast of characters, and to give even a brief indication of the plot would take several paragraphs. Suffice to say a man involved in offering bribes on a large scale is murdered early in the piece, and this leads to an ongoing investigation that gradually sees men of high status brought down. Slowly. 

When I say slowly I mean that the events play themselves out in such a way that we're fooled by red herrings; confused about who's on the right side and who's not - at times; discovering characters who appear to be playing the wrong game but who turn out to be playing the right one, and vice versa. I don't think you'll guess who the actual murderer is before he's revealed (there are three murders scattered over the story), even though you'll know who the real baddies are in the story quite early on. 

The series isn't concerned with a constant rush: many scenes take plenty of time, and reveal character in detail. There are certainly action scenes, and big crowd scenes (a chase through one of Seoul's airports late in the series, for instance), but there's plenty of quiet space as well. 

The series is subtitled, and this is well done, but it takes a bit of getting used to the names. You have to latch onto at least one of the three names virtually every character has and hold it in your head. This isn't always easy, because there are least a half dozen Kims in the story. Kim is a surname, of course - and a very common surname in Korea - but when the characters refer to each other, they tend to put the surname first. So hang onto the first names, if you can!

The music is great, especially the main theme, and the photography outstanding. Even though it's in colour, you come away with a sense of monochrome. We've been gripped by it, even watching two episodes in an evening on some occasions. 

In addition (25th Aug, 2017): Forgot to mention the constant bowing towards superiors that goes on during this series. I'm sure it's a common factor of Korean life. It shows up a politeness that doesn't exist in European countries or the USA. 
And one other thing: cellphones are ubiquitous in every episode. And they always work and no one ever runs out of data and they always get the person they want (with one or two exceptions). They can even track people at the drop of a hat. But in one delightful moment, the hero is forced to go to a computer (shock, horror!) to view a video that's been sent to him. Which kind of puts cellphones in their place...

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Five top blog posts

I'm always interested in stats, though that doesn't mean I always use them well, or understand their finer points. 

Blogger obligingly provides stats on a number of things related to my posts, and, out of curiosity today I checked the top blog posts of 'all time' from my blog. They're a real mixed bag, and there seems no rhyme nor reason as to why any of them should have been viewed so often. 

But for the record (because possibly they'll change at some point) here are the top five posts as of the 16th August, 2017. 

Top of the list is the Commonplace post which dates back to 2011, and is a bit of a riff on the word insurance, and the sorts of things that came up when I searched that word on my Evernote. A more random post you'd hardly imagine. Perhaps people search for the word insurance a lot! It's had twice as many views as number two on the list. 

Curiously enough, I hadn't checked this post for a while. I'd thought it related to an entirely different subject... 

Number two is Random thoughts on the Zirka Circus which goes back to 2010. This was a positive review of a small circus that was touring New Zealand at the time, and in fact has been back again at least twice since then. You'd think small circuses wouldn't be very impressive, but in fact they often include considerable talents (and these people really work for their money), and are very enjoyable. But then, I'm a circus fan from way back. Though I must say I miss the performing animals, even if that isn't a very PC thing to say anymore. 

Third on the list is Skinny ties, also from 2011, which seems a most unlikely subject to be viewed Twilight series, Robert Pattinson. It's been amongst the top five since it first appeared, pretty much. I wonder if it has to do with the photo that accompanies it, which may possibly be the actor from the Twilight movie, Robert Pattinson. 

Fourth on the list is Debating Compost, which dates way back to 2007. It's a brief piece arguing that cooked foods go just as well in composts as uncooked. Though someone's concern about this was that it encouraged rats. That's possible. We used to have a cat who dealt successfully with any rats and mice around the place, but when my daughter moved out, she took the cat with her - it did belong to her after all. During the course of the move the cat walked out the door of the new house and vanished for a couple of months. The daft thing was living at the park just down the road and was being occasionally fed by some kind person who eventually took it to the Vet. The cat had been microchipped, so the Vet was able to identify my daughter as the owner. 

And fifth is Fat amplification, the most recent of the bunch, from 2016. It's merely a bit of chat about the joys and woes of amplification of musical instruments, particularly in a church setting. Maybe the problem is widespread!

Guest post: Marlena Smith


Continuing a month-long focus on authors from RWISA:
Throughout August we'll be showing extracts from the work of these authors. 
For more information about any particular writer click the link under their photo.
Will it ever be enough?
Will I ever be complete?
These questions haunt me;
They scream out defeat.

A mind vacant of answers;
A soul lost in time;
A heart full of sadness;
And eyes that just won't shine.

A whisper full of sorrow;
A smile full of regret;
A life less than ordinary;
One I wish to forget.

*  *  *

Life is too precious to not make the most of every day.
Cherish memories.
Strive to make more.
Make every moment count.
Tell others you love them.
Forgive quickly.
Laugh often.
Pray every day.
Have a thankful heart.

*  *  *


Author Bio:

Marlena Smith
Marlena Smith is a true Southern Belle at heart. Her home has always been in Alabama and she couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Growing up as a preacher’s daughter, faith and family played a large part in her life.

Her earliest memory of writing was that of 2nd grade when she was selected to attend the Young Author’s Conference in her home state. Little did she know then that her future was being mapped out.

Marlena now wears many hats, including:  writer, author, blogger, freelancer, reader, reviewer, researcher, paranormal enthusiast, traveler, and Secretary of Rave Reviews Book Club. Writing, though, has and always will be her main passion in life.

Marlena has several works in progress, including an upcoming short romance, titled THE POWER OF LOVE. This debut book is expected to be out in 2017. In addition to her debut, she has a romance novel, a cookbook and a horror screenplay on her to do list.
  
Follow Marlena online:

Twitter - @_MarlenaSmith_
Facebook - @AuthorMarlenaSmith
Instagram - @MarlenaLafaye930

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH "RWISA" WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member's writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they've turned you into a fan. We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs. Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent. Don't forget to click the link under the author's photo to learn more about her.




Saturday, August 12, 2017

Guest post: Laura Libricz

Continuing a month-long focus on authors from RWISA:
Throughout August we'll be showing extracts from the work of these authors. 
For more information about any particular writer click the link under their photo.


The writing today is an untitled piece by Laura Libricz:

The lunch bell rings and I set my brush aside, returning the unpainted porcelain Debby Doll head to the tray. A kettle whistles. Sarah runs to make the lunchtime tea.

“Thirty minutes and that’s all!” Mr. Denton barks at her as he hurries towards his production office, whacking his elbow on the filing cabinet as he slams the glass door shut.

The shocked moment of quiet is replaced by the delicate clinking of brushes against glass jars, chairs scraping on the concrete floor, and the idle chatter of the doll painters on their way to the break room.

Laura Libricz
Do you remember Denton’s Debby Dolls? The ones from the 1947 film “Ten Days Till my Birthday,” where Tammy James plays a little girl who got one for her birthday? Denton’s Debby Dolls Inc. make the dolls the same ever since. Tammy is well into her 80’s but is still loved and remembered for that tearful scene where she unwrapped the Debby Doll on her tenth birthday and said, “Well, gee, Mother, all I ever wanted was a Debby Doll!”

All I ever wanted was a Debby Doll but I didn’t get one on my tenth birthday. That year I moved from the city to Krumville, to Aunt Fay’s, and she said I was too old for dolls. She was a recovering heroin addict who hung photos of herself dressed as a vampire on all the walls. I was not allowed in the kitchen and had to eat my meals in my bedroom decorated with Aunt Fay photos. She said if I wanted a Debby Doll, I should petition the goddess Diana. I thought she was being funny.

Aunt Fay’s house was in the oak forest. She made oak dolls with hair from deer. The deer hair was arranged to look like human hair. She said these were petitions to Diana. Under an oak tree, Aunt Fay had an altar where she buried the dolls. Sometimes she burned them.

There were always gunshots in the oak forest. I never went outside that fall. In the city, there was shooting every Saturday night in our neighborhood and I was never allowed out. I don’t remember my city house much. One day Aunt Fay went outside and never came back in. Child Services came and took me away. I was now a ward of the State of New York.

What luck, I ended up in the same city as Denton’s Debby Dolls. When I turned eighteen, I went to work in the factory and I still do.

“Aren’t you coming to lunch?” Sarah asks.

“I’m working on my doll,” I whisper.

“Don’t let Mr. Denton see you doing that,” Sarah says. “He’s in a bad way today. I heard we’re 500K down this year. We have orders but there’s no stock. We can’t work fast enough.”

“I can tell Mr. Denton that I’m experimenting with new colors on my lunch break, which I am doing.” I stroke my Debby’s porcelain cheek with my pinky. “Look at her complexion. It’s lavender oil and China Pink pigment.”

“She’s not real, you know,” Sarah says. “I’ll bring you some tea.”

“Tea. Thank you.”

A year has passed since I’d first started working on my own Debby. I’d modeled what was to be the hollow shell of her head. Each hand painted layer and each firing was personally carried out by me. Today, I am ready to add the final details and fill her empty eyes. It’s ten days before Christmas. She’ll be my daughter, mine all mine. Mommy loves you, Debby.

There had been a man once, just once. He left a few hairs on my gingham pillowcase. And a legacy. My body changed in ways it had never before; swellings in places that had been unripe. Rosy cheeks, like a Debby Doll. I so wanted the child. Although I could not yet feel the child, I could. The growing presence of another life made me feel otherworldly.

But I was unmarried, alone, and I would lose my job when the baby came. Panic set in. It must have been eight weeks into the pregnancy when the fever came, followed by some mild cramping. During the night the cramping pulsed and intensified until I finally passed out. The next morning, the otherworldly feeling was gone. My unformed child had been born, its life over before it even began.

I forced myself up and out of the house, not wanting to be alone. I was working in the molding department that week and I would bear my child. From Denton’s secret mixture of minerals, bone ash, and alabaster, I poured the liquid clay. Before the first firing, I’d made a small imperfection on her cheek, like a chickenpox scar, so the other workers would reject her. I would always recognize my child. During lunch breaks, I stole moments to paint her face and sneak her head back to the kiln.

You’re here with me now, Debby, forever.

The lavender oil calms me as I blend your complexion to a natural sheen. I can almost feel your heartbeat. Light brown eye brows are added one hair at a time, your sense of humor. Would you like brown eyes like mine? Each brush stroke to your iris gives you another fleck of depth. Two dots of white on the left side of the iris ascertain your personality. I cover your eyes with high-gloss tears and now you have emotions. The creation process is almost finished.

See? I’ve made you a soft pellet body, into which I stitched your preserved mortal remains, hair from your Daddy, and oak bark—my petition to Diana. Your body lies hidden inside the top drawer of my workbench, along with your new gingham dress made from the pillowcase Daddy rested his head on. I forged a certificate from a midwife confirming your birthday, today, and your name, Debby.

Mommy’s here, Debby, don’t worry…

“What are you working on?” barks Mr. Denton. “Ten days before Christmas and you’re messing around with that B-stock? Those get smashed.”

I never saw him come up to my workbench. Debby, don’t cry, I’ll sort Mr. Denton out.

“You have a whole tray with these new dolls that have to be painted!” Mr. Denton’s face ran red. “You’ve been messing with that one since I came in!”

“Sorry, sir, it’s lunch,” I whispered.

Now Debby, be a good girl and get in my top drawer.

“You want to hide the thing as well! Is that a pellet body in there? Are you the one out selling B-stock on the weekends?”

“No, sir, I…experiment.” We may have to make a run for it, Debby.

“So, it is you! I’ve been told there’s a woman on the flea market every weekend with B-Stock Debby Dolls for real cheap. Give me that!”

“No, sir, don’t, you don’t understand…”

“Tea!” Sarah plunks my unicorn mug onto my workbench, brushes my Debby’s head into my top drawer, and slides it shut with her hip.  She grabs my hand and pulls me up. “Come on, we got pizza and it’s getting cold.”


Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH "RWISA" WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member's writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they've turned you into a fan. We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs. Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent. Don't forget to click the link under the author's photo to learn more about her.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Guest Post: Wendy Scott



Continuing a month-long focus on authors from RWISA:
Throughout August we'll be showing extracts from the work of these authors. 
For more information about any particular writer click the link under their photo.






Note: Wendy is a fellow-New Zealander, a writer who first introduced me to the Rave Reviews Book Club. 

Navigator by Wendy Scott

Luke's body whirled through the portal in a kaleidoscope of starlight and rainbows. Burnt ozone stung his nostrils, and his stomach roiled as if live dragonflies flitted inside. He clutched his grandfather's palm tighter, the only connection anchoring them together while they spun into the void, guided by the compass in his grandfather's other hand.
"We're here." His grandfather's words whistled with wheeziness.
He released Luke and turned away, pocketing the compass, but his old man's movements weren't quick enough to hide the tremors or his shortness of breath.
Add caption
A mountain breeze, tinged with smoke ruffled the tussock grasses underfoot. In the valley below, Luke pinpointed a chimney on a cluster of shacks beside fenced paddocks. Had the old man's sense of direction faded and cast them adrift?
"Follow me." His grandfather rolled his shoulders back, lifted his head high, and led the descent.
Mindful of their journey's mission doubt dragged at Luke's feet. At only twelve, would he be found worthy? He didn't want to think about his grandfather's declining health if their bid was rejected.
Metallic scent tainted the air as they skirted past the dwellings; a one-room cottage, barn, and a smithy. Orange coals smoldered on the forge, hammers, and tongs lined up in military precision, but the pockmarked leather apron hung empty from a hook on the open door.
Without pause, his grandfather guided Luke out the back to the horse corrals. A bear of a man with arms like anvils leaned against the fence. Leather pants and knee-high boots sheathed his legs, but his chest was bare except for a star patterned tattoo, staining his chest muscles indigo and cobalt. At their approach his head swiveled, snaring the pair with a deep ocean gaze. Dryness etched Luke's throat.
"Navigator, so many years have passed, I feared you would not return."
Luke's grandfather bowed his head. "Farrier, events have been unkind, but I keep my promises. My grandson had agreed to assume the responsibility in the place of his father who died when he was a babe."
The men spoke as if Luke were a phantom, but he remained silent, remembering his grandfather's instructions only to speak when asked a direct question by the otherworld farrier.
Grass scented warmth huffed through Luke's hair. A midnight coated horse towered above his head. A white star marked the stallion's forehead.
Luke clambered up the railings, but he still had to stretch to trail his fingertips along the horse's snout. His breath caught when he gazed into the depths of the creature's starlight eyes.
Firm fingers clasped Luke's shoulder, and the farrier bowed towards the steed.  “Kasper approves of you. Come inside."
The temperature in the smithy scorched the hairs inside Luke's nose, and sweat trickled beneath his tunic, but the farrier worked the bellows until the coals combusted into flames. Next, he sprinkled a handful of sand into the hearth, and the fire danced into violet and malachite hues.
"You understand, old friend, without the enchantment your life span will be reduced to mortal years?"
My grandfather nodded."These old bones grow weary, and the pathways are becoming muddled. My time is past. Luke is young, but he is pure of heart. "
The farrier studied his friend for a moment before he reached out with his palm. "Navigator, of your own free will do you relinquish your powers to your grandson?"
The old man answered by dropping his compass into the farrier's outstretched hand. "I do."
The farrier's otherworld stare scrutinized the boy, and although the being didn't touch him, a prickling sensation rippled up Luke's spine. After several heartbeats, the farrier inclined his head. "Your soul is free of darkness, but perhaps you are too young yet for any temptations to have challenged your values."
"He's a good lad. I vouch for him and will guide his path." His grandfather squeezed Luke's shoulder.
Calloused fingers gripped Luke's chin. "Are you sure you want this? It's not too late to back out and live a normal life. Be warned, once you accept you are bound for life. Each time you enter here seeking my help a non-negotiable toll must be paid."
Before crossing over doubts had plagued Luke's thoughts, but after tasting magic, he couldn't settle for a dull life on the farm when his world had been opened to the lure of other realms.
Luke moistened his lips. “Navigator blood runs in my veins. I'm young, but I'm ready."
The farrier released him. "Do I have your solemn vow you will only guide your passengers by the way of the light?"
Heart thundering, Luke focused on the compass. "I swear I'll follow the true pathways."
Light glinted off the chain as the farrier dangled the compass into the sparking coals. “Hold out your hand.”
Luke flinched, expecting his skin to sizzle when it touched the metal, but the compass was cool. He didn’t feel any different. Had the transfer worked?
The farrier clasped forearms with the older man. “You owe me one last favour, but I will redeem what’s due at another time.”
“As always it will be an honour to serve.” Luke’s grandfather stepped away.
“Navigator, peer into the fire.”
Several moments passed before Luke responded to his new title. Within the flames, he spied a young woman’s face, whose striking features seared into his memory.
“One day she will seek your skills, and when she does you must bring her to me.” The farrier crossed his arms.
Questions burned in Luke’s mind, but he’d been schooled on the protocols, so he suppressed his curiosity, and lowered his eyes. “As you command.”
The farrier ushered them into the yard and bid them farewell. “Keep your promises, follow the light and your direction will always be true.”
Outside Luke paused, blinking. A glittering path lit the way up to the portal.
Unshed tears gathered in his grandfather’s eyes. “The navigator’s sight is now hidden from me.”
Grasping the compass in one hand, Luke held out his other hand. “Come grandfather, I will guide you home.”
***
(Navigator is a prelude and companion scene to Fire Hooves – yet to be released by Wendy Scott).

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Typos and editorial errors

I've come to accept that books published in the last decade or two, both in print format and as ebooks, will have typos in them. It's not entirely surprising with ebooks, since the transition from print to digital seems fraught with typo-traps, and there doesn't appear to be the same amount of time given to the publishing of ebooks that's usually given to print versions. You expect more of print titles, I think, but even these nowadays seem to have more typos in them that I've seen in books published in earlier decades. Even books published in the distant past, such as the 19th century, rarely have typos.

I've just finished reading Elly Griffiths' second Ruth Galloway murder mystery, The Janus Stone, on Kindle. It's a good read, the characters are well-drawn, and the mystery has enough red-herrings in it to keep from guessing what's up until well near the end. However, there were a number of typos in it - mostly words missing from sentences - as well as formatting issues, where there were paragraphs that proved to be unnecessary to the material in hand.

Many years ago I read a fascinating book on the man who edited most of F Scott Fitzgerald's books. This was Maxwell Perkins, a man also credited with getting Hemingway published as well as bringing Thomas Wolfe's books into a readable form. The book about him was, I think, Max Perkins: editor of genius by A Scott Berg.

Perkins didn't just take the manuscript and publish it, he assisted the authors to clarify details, tighten structure, make good decisions about changing things for the betterment of the book, and much more. He was more like a patron than an editor.

I mention Perkins because he's always seemed to me to be the epitome of a good editor: a man who could see faults in the overall book that eluded the writer himself, but also a man who would nit-pick and refuse to let anything faulty go by. He and Fitzgerald had some serious arguments about the latter's work.

By contrast, the editor of The Janus Stone - Jane Wood should have picked up one major error, which I presume is also in the print form.

One of the characters, a Catholic priest called Hennessey, says, "What about the Holy Ghost? The most important one of the trilogy as far as I'm concerned." This statement is repeated a second time later in the book, when Ruth Galloway remembers him saying it.

I thought at first it was a clue that Hennessey wasn't who he said he was. No Catholic priest - indeed no minister of any Christian denomination - would ever call the Trinity the 'trilogy.' Quite apart from the fact that a trilogy relates to a series of three things, usually of books, but occasionally of other art forms.

Hennessey,however, is definitely a priest, and therefore is hardly likely to use the wrong word in this instance.

I know from my own experience of publishing ebooks just how hard it is to pick up every error - missing words are far more common than misspellings. But errors relating to well-known information should be picked up long before the book goes out into the world.

Galloway, as a character, is very prone to dismissing anything to do with religion. But surely Griffiths, although she has some wry things to say about Christianity in the course of this book, isn't so opposed to religion that she would put something so completely wrong in the mouth of one of her Christian characters.

Bring back Max Perkins and his ilk, I say!