The Black Cat monthly round-up: April 2022

I’m glad to be able to report that I have recovered from whatever lurgy I had in March and I was pretty much back to full capacity for April.

What I’ve been working on

I wrapped up the critique I started in March and the manuscript will be back with me for copy-editing in late May. It’s always exciting to see the improvements that have been made between my two stages of involvement. I had two publisher proofreads in April – one a gentle piece of children’s fiction and the other a twisty crime comedy that is definitely for adults. I’ve also been working on the copy-edit of a horror novel, and that will take me into mid-May.

What I read for fun

I had some time without a critique manuscript, so it freed my brain to enjoy a for-fun read. SI Clarke (one of my wonderful clients) introduced me to the existence of a very intriguing novel: Catherynne M. Valente’s Space Opera. It follows a washed-up glam-rock band who are chosen to represent Earth at the biggest song contest in the galaxy, with world-ending consequences should they fail. Valente’s inspiration by and love for Eurovision is very clear throughout, and that’s something I can appreciate. Space Opera is a story of hope and nonsense and some very well-observed truths. I think the writing style is likely to divide readers, though. The text is, generally, beautifully constructed, but sometimes it meanders, and occasionally it teeters on being overwrought. It is prose that seems best treated as an indulgence – many paragraphs are almost stories in themselves, to be experienced as whimsical but insightful detours into the human condition. If you are looking for sharp, snappy storytelling, this is not the book for you, but it is a rewarding read if you have the patience for it.

Looking ahead

I’m going to Scotland at the beginning of May and I’ve decided to use it as an opportunity to do something I’ve wanted to do for a while – I’m taking the Caledonian Sleeper and I’ve booked a room. I will, for the first time in my life, be sleeping on the top bunk like one of the cool kids. Eight-year-old me would be very proud. Later in May the West Surrey & North Hampshire CIEP local group will be having their first meeting in more than two years, and I am very much looking forward to seeing everyone again.

The Black Cat monthly round-up: October 2021

I’m not really into puzzles or adventure games, so it is probably not a surprise that I had never taken part in an escape room challenge before. I have to confess that I wasn’t feeling very enthusiastic about it – it seemed a bit like paying for an hour of concentrated anxiety – but my friend wanted to do one for his birthday and let no one say I won’t make sacrifices for my loved ones. It turns out my entire group was a bit rubbish at it, and my only real contribution was being able to repeat an eight-note tune on a keyboard (my only instrument-playing experience is playing the recorder at primary school for a few weeks before I got too nervous to perform in front of people and never did it again, which is an on-brand origin story). But we did complete it, in the grand time of 53 minutes and 47 seconds. It’s not about the time, though, really, is it? It was an hour of laughter and comradeship, and the experience of doing something new.

What I’ve been working on

I feel like I had a fairly balanced month in terms of work – not too much and not too little. My workload as a tutor has been steadily increasing, so I’ve had to take that into account when I schedule in proofreading and copy-editing projects. I started the month with the critique of the second part of a saga I have been involved with for a while. The author completed their revisions by the end of the month, so it’s now back with me for editing when I can fit it in around my other work. My first copy-edit of the month was of a novel by one of my long-standing clients. Their work is always tightly plotted and beautifully written, and it is a privilege to be their go-to editor. The second copy-edit will finish in the beginning of November – this is for a new client whose voice and characterisation is impressive. I feel very lucky to work on such wonderful manuscripts.

Book reviews

My latest book review for CIEP has been published: Strange to Say: Etymology as serious entertainment. I usually enjoy reading the books they send me, and I tend to look for the positive aspects even if I am not, perhaps, the primary target audience for the text. It’s hard when that is difficult to do, especially as I know how much hard work and emotional energy goes into writing and publishing a book. But I also have to be honest – it is, after all, a review.

Looking ahead

I had hoped that there might be a chance for the West Surrey & North Hampshire CIEP local group to have an in-person meeting this year, but I think that is looking increasingly unlikely. As that is the case, we will be having our last Zoom meeting of the year in late November.

The Black Cat monthly round-up: April 2021

I looked back on the April 2020 round-up before I wrote this and, gosh, that one was bleak, wasn’t it? A year ago things were not looking brilliant, so I’m glad that I find myself in a much-improved situation now. In a bit of symmetry, however, I have had another book review published. I had the pleasure of reviewing Kia Thomas’s A Very Sweary Dictionary and you can read what I thought here.

What I’ve been working on

My run of critiques continues – I completed the critique I started in March and I have just finished another critique (both were psychological thriller novellas). It’s always an honour to be asked to give feedback on something an author has poured so much of themselves into. I have another critique due to start in May. I finished the fantasy fiction proofread I started in March and moved on to the proofread of a family history.

What I read for fun

The latest instalment of the Murderbot Diaries was released in April and it didn’t disappoint. Fugitive Telemetry (I’ve linked to the hardback but the ebook is out already) has a slightly different vibe to the other books – this is basically a whodunnit, but it still contains all the elements that make a Murderbot story. Murderbot became one of my most cherished fictional characters some time ago, so I am looking forward to whatever Martha Wells gives us next.

Looking ahead

The West Surrey & North Hampshire CIEP local group is due a Zoom meeting in May, so I intend to get one organised for the end of the month.

The Black Cat monthly round-up: April 2020

Black Cat Editorial Services_ April round-upApril seems to have been, in many ways, a lost month. I don’t know where much of it went, and I have achieved very little. I think Easter happened at some point. I can only hope this does not turn out to be the new normal.

COVID-19 has hit rather too close: my sister, who is a key worker, tested positive after experiencing fairly minor symptoms. Fortunately, her health is steadily improving, but I am finding it particularly hard that I can’t see or help her, apart from providing grocery and medicine drops.

In a bit of good news, my review of Dennis Baron’s What’s Your Pronoun? has been published by the Chartered Institute of Proofreading and Editing (CIEP). It was featured in the first-ever edition of The Edit, the e-newsletter for CIEP members, which was a lovely surprise.

What I’ve been working on

The COVID-19 crisis has significantly reduced my workload, and I am not going to pretend it is not of deep concern. All of my publisher work ceased in late March and will not resume for the foreseeable future. But, fortunately, I haven’t been completely without projects: I proofread the third instalment of an indie thriller series, and I am currently working on a critique of a young adult epic fantasy novel.

What I’ve been reading

I have the privilege of access to a garden, and I was able to spend much of the sunny weather reading outside. I had been saving Natasha Pulley’s The Lost Future of Pepperharrow for some time off; The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is one of my favourite books and I wanted to savour the sequel. The storyline doesn’t quite have the same magic as in the first book, but I still enjoyed Natasha Pulley’s writing style and being reunited with Thaniel and Mori. For me, though, Six is the standout character of this book.

I haven’t quite finished it, but The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr has been a fascinating read so far. It is focused on psychology and neuroscience – how stories and our brains affect each other and how we can use this knowledge to craft more engaging tales. Some of the concepts will be familiar if you studied philosophy at any point in your life (I did three years as part of my degree) but they are explored in an engaging and straightforward way (unlike anything I read at university). I can see Will Storr’s insights having a beneficial impact on my editing practice.

Looking ahead

Well, your guess is as good as mine, probably. I am tentatively thinking about organising a Zoom meeting for the West Surrey and North Hampshire local CIEP group – we will miss our in-person May meeting and I’d like to make up for that in some way.

The Black Cat monthly round-up: July 2019

The monthly round-up_ July 2019I was somewhat startled to realise that this post will mark a year of Black Cat round-ups. That means Black Cat Editorial Services has been in operation for more than a year – and what a year it has been! I’ve worked on 30 projects, and read (for fun) 30 books. I went to the SfEP’s conference in Lancaster. I attended the London Book Fair and the fiction editors’ mini conference. I joined ALLi and now regularly take part in their Twitter chat (#IndieAuthorChat). And I wrote a book review for the SfEP’s Editing Matters magazine (which technically means I’m a published writer!). Thank you to clients, colleagues and friends for all your support.

Professional news

All of the above has helped me to become an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP. To reach APM level was one of my major professional goals, and I am still extremely pleased to have achieved it. APM is the top tier of SfEP membership. I had to prove I have more than 1,500 hours of editorial experience, show evidence of recent professional development, and provide two references from satisfied long-term clients.

What I’ve been working on

I proofread two very different memoirs this month. The first was a deeply personal account of a difficult childhood and mental health issues. The second was a snapshot of the author’s charity work and related success stories. I finished July with a novel about escaping from Germany at the height of World War II.

What I read for fun

I managed three for-fun reads: one non-fiction and two fiction. Rutger Bregman is becoming a well-known figure and I’d highly recommend taking a look at Utopia for Realists. It contains some big ideas – ideas some may consider radical – but it is written in an accessible and engaging manner.

My fiction reads were Almost Love by Christina James and Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb. I was slightly disappointed by Almost Love: there’s a good story in there, but it needed a bit of a trim, in my opinion. And the text in the print edition is way too small: Sabon 9/10.5 is a no from me. Assassin’s Apprentice is a classic of the fantasy genre, and rightly so. I found the world-building particularly impressive (see the cutting of hair when in mourning) and liked the framing device of Fitz starting to tell a history of the Six Duchies.

Looking ahead

I have been asked to take part in #IndieAuthorChat as a guest on Tuesday 6th August at 8pm (BST). We’ll be chatting about proofreading for indie authors: what it involves, when it should be done, and what the value is to self-publishers. Do join us!