author C.C.Cole's blog

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On The Darkness and the New Author by C.C.Cole

As I’ve stated in prior articles, when I began my writing journey, my husband said, “Great writers read great writers.”  I tried to take in some non-Moby Dick Herman Melville, but got bogged down on page five.  It took a lot of time for me to slowly absorb the great writers that I’m continuing to enjoy.  My hard science education left a gaping hole when it came to literature.

When “Apocalypse Now Redux” came on cable a year or two ago, I finally decided to sit down and watch it, beginning to end.  When it was first released I had no desire to see it and in retrospect I was too young to see such a movie.  But no doubt, seeing it recently, it was a four-out-of-four star film.  It is dark, compelling, and disturbing; the message it carried rang through loud and clear; to me, that’s good storytelling.  (Not addressing the bull scene issue.)

So I go to bed and tell my husband that I finally joined the rest of the planet by watching the famous, controversial, critically acclaimed film.  Then he told me:  The film wasn’t about the Vietnam War.  It’s based on a story called “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad.  What?  “Heart of Darkness?”  Why am I the last to know these things?  There goes my lovely science/math education again.  I had never heard of one of the most famous novellas ever written.

The next step was to cure myself of literary ignorance, so I downloaded it on my kindle for free.  Like other classics, it’s beyond a simple review, being one of the most complex stories I’ve ever read.  Nothing about this novella is light reading, and I didn’t buzz through it like I usually do with other books.  Referencing my prior article on book eating:  I didn’t eat this book.   It ate me.  The writing itself is complex and laborious.

For those that haven’t read “Heart of Darkness,” don’t be concerned that I’m writing spoilers, because this isn’t the kind of story that has spoilers.  The setting is in the Congo Free State in the late 1800’s, ruled by King Leopold II of Belgium.  The narrator is on a riverboat steaming deep into the jungle to find Kurtz, one of the most complex characters I’ve ever read.  Some say “the darkness” is a combination of 1) entering the physical darkness of such a wilderness 2) seeing and experiencing the human atrocities committed at the time 3) facing the inner darkness that we carry within ourselves. 

After reading it, I turned off the kindle, and sat silent for about ten minutes.  My husband asked me what I thought.  I didn’t have an immediate answer.  I was horrified, disturbed, but fascinated at the same time.  It takes a whopper of a story to leave me speechless, but this one did.

So what does “Heart of Darkness” have to do with the new author?  It’s a classic, and it’s a story so dark it drops the reader all the way down. It functions as a reminder of the horrifying atrocities during the time.   From an author’s standpoint, I’d call it a gold standard for dark novels.   For a novella, the questions it leaves unanswered is every bit as disturbing as the details in the story.

So again, go forth, new authors, and if you have a little time, consider taking in this famous novella if you’ve never read it.  It won’t excite you, and it sure won’t make you laugh.  Whether you like it or not, it will make you think. 

And when you hear someone say “The horror, the horror!”  Now you know where it came from.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

On the YA Fantasy Frenzy by C.C.Cole

As the saying goes “You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting….etc. has now transformed into “You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting YA fiction.”  Please, for the easily offended, I have nothing against cats, just using an old descriptive term.  Many of my Tweeps write YA, my FB friends write YA, and I write YA.  Exceptions exist amongst my virtual new author colleagues; some of the horror genre authors and William Butler’s work is not YA.

I went to google (who doesn’t these days?) to find the definition of YA (Young Adult).  Like most YA sites, the main definition is the age of the lead character, age 14-21 on several sites.  Also included are the growth and rite-of-passage elements with a positive note in the ending to show character growth into adulthood, or realization of some of life’s hard lessons.  Peer pressure, heartbreak from young love, body image, and relationships with adults also factor into YA fantasy.

While thinking about this topic, I found myself back-pedaling to why I thought of the reasons behind YA popularity these days.  It makes sense to get into young people’s stories following the mass success of “Harry Potter” and “Twilight.”  But thinking further, I’m not so sure.  Not that the popularity of the above series doesn’t help; these books got young people into the bookstores and on line purchasing books. 

To me, our adolescent years define much of what we are as adults.  It’s a time of so many “firsts” like first date, first love, first kiss (and other...keeping it rated G here), and first car (if we’re lucky).  During this period of our lives is when we make many first choices.  We have some choice of our classes in junior high/high school.  We choose college, and our major or choose not to attend college. Lifetime friendships are sometimes begun in adolescence.  Other “firsts” include introduction to drugs, alcohol, and part-time jobs.  With so much self-identity made during these years, it makes sense to create stories around them. 

Now think about it, new authors:  What a great template to create a story!  Young girl meets hottie guy in high school that’s a protective vampire.  Nerd kid in junior high becomes a great wizard.  A group of kids find themselves in another world, to become respected warriors with noble titles.  A teenage slave soldier transcends from killer to a normal person (the message of my Gastar novellas).  One could use mainstream, medieval, urban, dystopian, or any other backdrop to reflect the changes we recall during our own adolescence. 

Adolescence is a time of milestones.  When I look through my old photographs, most of them were taken between the ages of 14 and 21.  It’s not that the latter years didn’t matter as much, but the points in time that determine who we are later in life can be tracked back to that age group.  I suspect many of us new authors that write YA fiction can easily relate to those days, yielding thought-provoking, entertaining fiction.

So when I read another YA novel by a new author, I don’t consider it a negative because of the immense popularity.  Whatever the backdrop, the plot always moves in directions we can all identify with:  The fun, excitement, and pain of adolescence.  YA is OK.

Review of “Light the Dark Day” by Chris Robertson

“Light the Dark Day” by Chris Robertson is an entertaining group of short stories on the dark side of fiction.  Though not for the faint of heart, I could not put it down until finished, and wanted to keep turning the pages for more!  I recommend this work for horror/noir fans, or anyone that looking for a bit of jolt that’s disturbing enough to keep you interested.  Four stars!

Review of “Toonopolis: Gemini” by Jeremy Rodden (illustrated by Cami Woodruff) by C.C.Cole

“Toonopolis” is a story taking an adventure seen commonly in kids’ books to a new level in a completely unique world.   I admit, I’ve never read anything like it. The world is full of far-out, but fun, entertaining characters, along with some danger element that’s not pushed out of the circle for young people.  I suggest that parents check this out for your kids; to me, it’s well-written, entertaining, and well worth the time and space of a book collection of any age.  Four stars!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

On Finding Your Audience for the New Author by C.C.Cole

Like I’ve stated in the past, when my first novella of the Gastar Series came out in 2009, I hired a publicist to help me get started marketing my book.  While I understand the content of dark fantasy is not for everyone, we decided to cast a wide net to look for potential readers not immersed into playing WarCraft, with no time to read. (While it looks fun, I admit stupidity that I don’t understand it enough to play…how pathetic!)

The process was not simple, not cheap, and partially effective.  It did score me some nice blog interviews like with “Novel Journey” and a nice article surfaced on Sheknows.com about domestic violence, and how to guided me to the path of becoming an author.  This concerned me, and still does, because I didn’t want to use my sister’s death as a publicity tool.  After discussion with my immediate family members, I recall what my mother said, “if it helps a single person get out of such a situation, then it’s worth it and your sister would agree.”  The family support helped a lot, but I don’t bring up her death except when asked and I’ve mentioned it in blog articles.

After much money paid to the publicist, with some sales, I needed to somehow kick through the clear-steel ceiling of the dark fantasy readers.  I found many categories:  The Harry Potter readers, the Twilight readers, and the ones left over that read medieval dark fantasy, usually LOTR fans.  The dark fantasy genre is tough to break through; the above books dominate a lot of the readers’ market, and the competition is vast, including “A Song of Ice and Fire,” which I’m now reading.  Though these books are competition, they’re not roadblocks; bestsellers will always be around, and if some of them are dark fantasy, it means readers remain interested in the genre. 

While blogging away, seeking out blogs to solicit reviews, feature my blog, reviewing other books, I stumbled into a genre I haven’t thought about:  The Horror genre.  To me, these books are divided into two big categories:  Vampire and Non-Vampire horror.  I’ve been downloading many of the works of these Indie writers and found some excellent stories, though some of them are quite “horrifying” as they’re supposed to be.  As far as readers from the Horror genre, while many of them don’t read dark fantasy as a first choice, but some tend to like some dark fantasy stories.  Many horror authors follow me on Twitter, and I applaud their work that I’ve reviewed.

So, new authors, how do we flush out our audience so we’re not promoting dark fantasy (any genre) to a disinterested readers’ market?  Answer: The only way to find out is through aggressive but careful social networking and promotion.  We have to keep going, because once we give up, then the game is over.  The digital age is here, and our Indie books sell.  No, it doesn’t make us billionaires, but continues to be gratifying; it that weren’t the case, every Indie writer would only write one book.

So again, new authors, find your audience. I’m not suggesting that you spend your life’s saving on a publicist; the social network experts are out there to help and keep the financial costs down.  For me, I’ve enjoyed many horror novels I wouldn’t have thought about reading in the past, and some horror authors have been very supportive of my work.  Keep casting out the net, but give a something back to other new authors, and your writing journey will continue.  Nobody can stop it but you.

Friday, August 26, 2011

On Motivation and the New Author by C.C.Cole

While many writers are out there earning a living by their work, many of us new authors write when we have time and keep our lights on by working our jobs and taking care of loved ones.  I'm one of the latter authors, with a demanding career, and by the time I get home, sometimes I go straight to bed with exhaustion.

Besides the "day job" like other people, I get distracted from writing by personal issues, migraine headaches, films, reading books by either other new authors, bestsellers, and classics.  But at one time or another, I have to take time out and work on my own writing.  The "Gastar" series is four novellas when completed and two published.  I love writing Shevata's story, but loving writing doesn't make it easy.  Every time I sit down to write, I appreciate other authors more.

Logic could state that "Hey, with little fantasy novellas, what's so hard about that?"  Well, the fun of writing the fantasy genre is that the author gets to make up everything.  The hardest part of writing fantasy is making up everything.  In fiction, the author must be cautious in designing the world, and if too much is left to be taken for granted, readers can't find the story.  To me, over-embellishments leads to sleepytime.

We new authors have our own back-stories about what events put us on this writing journey, but what keeps us motivated to write?  Gigantic sales?  Well, sure, but most new authors don't have that.  Great reviews?  Sure!  Encouraging fans?  Sure!

What really motivates us new authors is our desire to write, and when we work, we have to make time for it.  As I've stated in interviews, I take my laptop and put something on TV that may be a historic documentary or a film I've seen a hundred times.  I don't want surprises while writing unless it arises from the manuscript.  Background routine helps me resolve my daily stress and open my mind into the Gastar series to allow scenes I "see" to be dropped into words.

So for the part-time new authors earning a living, or taking care of families, or both, find out what works for you to keep the creative sector of your imagination fresh for your work.  If you're one of those disciplined writers who count how many thousands of words they write a day, you have my friendly envy and admiration.  For me, I love my boring lifestyle and my exciting world of writing fiction that I can claim to be my own.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

No Spoilers: Review of “A Game of Thrones” by George R. R. Martin by C.C.Cole

I wrote a prior article when I began reading George R. R. Martin’s series “A Song of Ice and Fire” about the creation of an epic.  When I started reading “A Game of Thrones” I applauded, and still applaud the method which Martin tells this very complex epic tale.  For the so many that have already read these books, and for those curious like me because of the cable series, I will not be re-telling this story. 

The first book of this series held my interest and Martin created a very complex world filled with the various casts of humans, with the upper-class royalty or nobles as the main characters.  Speaking of main characters, this single book has more characters to me, than it really requires telling the story, but in epic tales this kind of background is important and enriches the story.  It’s an effort to keep the characters straight, but it’s worth it.  Nothing about this book/series is for the casual reader, and I’m used to plowing through a book in a day or two, this one took me four days of concentrated reading.  (Less time than “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen took; probably partly is my preference for action/dark fantasy, and partly that I think Martin’s story is more entertaining than “Freedom.”)  But that’s subjective opinion; not everyone likes dark fantasy, and not everyone likes “blaming on the suburbs” stories.

A note to parents, and the easily offended:  “A Song of Ice and Fire” is not a series for small children.  Some gore factor is present, and there’s a fair amount of adult material.  As an adult, I didn’t find it offensive, and creating families of characters with taboos including incestuous relationships and bastard children bring intrigue into the epic, and one does not need to search long to find such customs in historic cultures.  I see so far characters/cultures that remind me of the Huns, the Roman Emperor Caligula, the Byzantines, and Renaissance cultures.  Others better at history than I am are likely to find more or different; but really those type of details strengthen the story without the need of absolute accuracy, which is part of what draws readers into the dark fantasy genre.

This book is full of admirable characters, hateful characters, and immature characters that make mistakes.  Out of all of them, the dwarf character called “The Imp” is one of the most intriguing and offers a bit of humor to an otherwise serious epic story. 

As a new author, I know better than to compare this brilliant, detailed, dark fantasy work to my own books, other than the Gastar series is not an epic.  My stories focus on a single character that follows her journey within herself to become part of humanity.  However, I enjoyed “A Game of Thrones” (better than the cable series).  I believe new authors, especially in dark fantasy can learn from this very popular epic and look forward to reading the subsequent books (between Indie books, of course).  Five stars!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

On Romance and the New Author by C.C.Cole

When I broke through the first chip of slab marble to enter the writer’s world, I was welcomed by a group of talented ladies to Goodreads, which I continue to enjoy today.  These women were and still are, ace writers, have many followers, and many of them write in the “Romance” genre.

I applaud the success of these writers, along with other successful romance authors.  After all, love is one of our most cherished emotions as human beings.  Some say “the opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s indifference.”

Young girls dream about finding the perfect love; I remember those days.  We watched soap operas for years waiting for the “right” couple to finally find each other.  When I read “Little Women” I’m still raw that Jo didn’t marry Laurie.  The pain of young love in adolescence stays with us as adults, whether we admit it or not, most remember their first love (you too, fellas).  In retrospect, we call it “a crush” but at the time the feeling is much deeper.  Not mutual, not sexual, but the first person we used to look at and blush, and avoid to speak to him/her at all times, making our hearts race, and encouraged us (girls especially) to look our best; or our coolest.  (Remember in “Clueless” when Cher sent herself flowers and candy?)  As I read Nancy Drew books, her scenes with boyfriend Ned Nickerson, just took my breath away.  I had only a minor romp into Harlequin romances, because as an adolescent I didn’t have the means to purchase books, leaving old Zane Grey/Louis L’Amour/occasional bestseller paperbacks left over by my parents, who weren’t into romance reading.

When I finally got around to becoming a new author, my first novella “Act of Redemption” is a fast-paced medieval fantasy/action/adventure story.  My mother was the first to point out the lack of a love interest.  What, a love interest?  Shevata’s been distracted by assassinations/vigilance/lost her soul/imprisoned in hell, exactly where would she find true love?  To me, it didn’t fit.  When it came out, more than one reviewer knocked it for not having romance (this was done mostly by email, an example they set that I follow today; emailing if it’s a low rating, or if it doesn’t peak my interest.)

When I re-read “Act of Redemption” and try to think of a place I could’ve added romance, it just doesn’t fit in that particular part of Shevata’s story to me.  But I learned from my author-colleagues; the love story in the second novella “Children of Discord” affects Shevata to the point she takes her first major step to cast her past life aside and become the normal, aging, loving human she wishes so much to be.  And that’s the book that won the Pinnacle Achievement Award (I didn’t enter “Act of Redemption” into any contest).  I’m not stating this was like a National Book Award, but I do believe the romance portion strengthened the story.  Reviewers noticed this as well, and some of them give the second novella the higher rating.

So new authors, is romance required for storytelling?  Answer: Not required, but encouraged.  Even in most of my favorite gangster/action films, there’s romantic love in there somewhere.  Love guides us and drives us as humans into happiness, heartbreak, hate, self-destruction, revenge, jealousy leading to the good/evil we create in our characters.  Romance brings out the best and worst in people (or non-humans, depending on the story).  There’s no other emotion that unleashes so much of the inner soul of a character.

Will Shevata find true love by the fourth novella? As a wee spoiler, yes, she does.  But like everything else about Shevata, it’s as complicated as it is in most of our lives.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

On My E-Reader Obsession by C.C.Cole

Shortly after I completed my first novella, “Act of Redemption” by husband reminded me “to be a great writer, you must read great writers” and gave me an Amazon Kindle (before the price dropped, typical of my luck).

I didn’t embrace my Kindle.  I didn’t sleep with my Kindle.  I absorbed my Kindle; downloading books and taking my reading from once a month to many times a day.  While being almost anywhere, I could simply type in the title, and wow, “instant book!” 

Later, I met people with the now-famous Nook by Barnes and Noble.  At first, I wasn’t curious since I already had a Kindle, but am happy these devices are becoming more popular.  (Hey, if people are reading more, maybe they’ll read my books, right?) While downloading ebooks on Smashwords, I learned about the Sony e-reader, which peaked my curiosity, because I married into a Sony-obsessed family (my husband’s father had the last Betamax). 

Now comes my logic:  with a Sony e-reader available, how dare I not own one?  So I had to buy one, otherwise, what kind of Sony-insane family member would I be?  Also, it would match the other Sony products in my household. 

Then my husband and I had a wedding anniversary, and when you’re married, childless, professionals for many years, anniversary gifts take imagination.  So we got each other iPads (is that Yuppie disgusting or what?).  But wait, that’s another e-reader!  I downloaded the kindle program and did the same with my Mac (another gift from Hubbie, because he rescued my Dell just moments before I threw it into our swimming pool…the software, not the computer itself, almost put me over the edge).

I still didn’t feel complete.  On Facebook and Twitter, I kept hearing more and more about how great the Nook is.  What choice did I have?  Of course I needed one!  Hubbie was ready to commit me when it arrived, as I tore open the cardboard shipping box with a T-Rex smile.  When he asked me for the thousandth time “Why do you need another e-reader?” I said “Because what if I cannot make up my mind?”

Now, than I’m “complete” I can be “wired in,” like they said in the film “The Social Network.” Electric bliss is now mine!  (And yes, I’ve read they cause cancer, always something to spoil the party) Below, I’m going to list these readers, but please, keep in mind of my short attention span, and my “read directions last” logic.

Kindle:  This is still my favorite device.  I’m from the “button” generation, so the keyboard, previous page, and next page buttons make complete sense to me.

Sony:  The one I have is reportedly a “new” one, so I don’t have a reference to any changes Sony may have made to this device.  It’s easy to use, very compact, less ‘fragile’, and I use it mostly to download from Smashwords.  One stump I hit was that I downloaded into the “Library” on my computer from Smashwords, but now unable to move the ebooks to the Sony.  There may be a way to move them, but if not downloaded at first, they’re stuck in my Mac, which I can still read with.  Also, I’m looking for other features; where is that little direction book?

Nook:  This is my newest e-reader, and after some clumsy clicking, I’ve learned to use it after finally reading the instructions. So far, what I really like about it is that I can download a wider variety of formats, but still haven’t found some features I know it has.  Drat, back to the instructions!  I use it for long series of books, such as “Song of Ice and Fire.”  Also, the ebooks that I couldn’t move to the Sony floated easily into the Nook.

Mac/iPad:  I do read books on these devices for one reason or another, but since their main use to me is web-connection, they’re not my first preference.  It’s too easy to wander to the Coach handbag site, and the iPad doesn’t hold a charge as well as my above e-readers probably because I’m using it for Twitter, blogging, shopping, etc. 

So authors/readers, there it is.  A FB friend pointed out I didn’t have the HP e-reader yet, but I think I’ll go with what I have for now.  I like them all, and though my patience with devices leaves much to be desired, there’s one thing they have in common that’s the best feature of all:  They encourage me to read, and I read a lot more of everything now; from a 99-cent ebook to the classic “Heart of Darkness,” that I downloaded for free.

Now I have more space in my house to store other items I can’t do without.

Review of “Death by Student Loan” by L. C. Russell by C.C.Cole

“Death by Student Loan” caught my attention immediately out of sympathy for those out there with student loans having had the experience also.

The story begins with a woman with multiple degrees living in a beachside Victorian house burdened with the stress of the student loan payment.  She gets hurled into the past of 1950s America, where she meets some relatives she never knew and high-profile people when they were younger.  With a twist of solving a decades-old murder mystery, the book ends on a positive, fun note.  I think this is entertaining, light reading, and my only critique is that the story could have been taken down so many other routes to drive home harder the message of the stress of student loan payments.  However, the critique is more likely preference on my part and not against the creativity of this well-written book.  Three stars!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Shevata’s Rebuttal by C.C.Cole

“Have you had enough listening to the endless whining of the walking livestock known as Zermon, so-called ‘Ruler of Hell?’  While imprisoned in hell by this massive beast, the worst torture was listening to his ridiculous banter.  He thinks he knows it all, imagining humans, the god of the dead Abbias, and myself in the palm of his hand. 

“He’s telling the truth about his management problems.  The underworld brims with his underlings, whose intelligence is an insult to most plant life in the human world.
He cannot tolerate the presence of his own serving demons, hence the kicking them back into the hellish flames repeatedly.
Impressed by my survival abilities and my methods of rescuing the living souls, he imprisoned me and used stupid torture tactics considered entry level in the work house where I was raised in Gastar.  With the audacity of thinking he could force me to tell him I paid off demonic informants to find the people, released them to find a beacon to open where Harathgus waited for them, and I killed all witnesses.  Only in Zermon’s limited mind could that be some kind of mystery. By forcing foul unholy water down my throat to make the transition from human-to-demon forced me to accept my fate, so I jumped into the hellish flames.

“I learned the most about Zermon from Mathiam, his twin brother, and personal assassin, who rescued me from the fire.  Mathiam’s tragic story began while he and Zermon were human boys; he was the greater twin, more powerful and intelligent than Zermon (that’s really not much of a comparison), but never accepted the eternal fate of evil that Zermon did.  Therefore he became his faithful servant and followed him into the underworld.  I wanted Mathiam to escape hell with me, but he didn’t want another chance. Unless I helped him, I’d never escape hell.  So I did what I had to do, watch someone I thought could be helped destroyed by my hand. 

“When I saw Zermon this past time, I’m not sure where he went, but hell will always be his final destination.  For a horned hollow-headed monster, Mathiam warned me of something very important about his brother:  He doesn’t use weapons because he doesn’t need them.  Size and strength may not be everything, but in Zermon’s case, it counts for a lot.  And if we meet again, I’ll be ready for him.”

One of My First Reviews

Before you write me off as totally insane by posting a bad review of my own book on my own blog, hear (read) me out.  When "Act of Redemption" came out in 2009, I couldn't wait for reviews; I really wanted to know if I'm a writer or not, at least.  I hired a publicist that didn't read my 45K word novella (like that takes a lot of time? Anyway, I was informed reading was not required).  

As you read this, note I left the reviewer's (and website's) name out, because only in hindsight, I understand where's he's coming from...the publicist sent my book, suggesting it' was written for a young, grade school, faith-based audience.  My publicist was replaced afterward.

Book Review: "Act of Redemption"
Act of Redemption by C. C. Cole
(Author House, Bloomington, IN: 2009)
Reviewed by XXXXXX
Summer’s over, the work of education has begun again, and many parents are looking for books for their children to read.
It’s not as easy as it sounds, especially for Christian parents who are homeschooling. Most of them removed their children from the public schools for two reasons: to give them a real and Christian education, and to rescue them from the shambles of public “education.” Those parents wish to instill in their children a love of reading. They’ll want books that challenge young readers and excite their imaginations.
That’s not enough. If it were, the Harry Potter books would fill the bill. Millions of young readers flipped over them. But Christian parents trying to raise Christian children will want something more—books that are God-honoring, faith-building, truth-telling, and above all, compatible with everything else they’re trying to teach their children.
Idle or Evil
Act of Redemption might look like a good item to put on a young Christian’s reading menu. It’s about “redemption”—we suppose—and Christians are interested in redemption. But as the saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover.
This is a fantasy novel. Some Christians shy away from fantasy altogether. Others think it can be put to use in God’s service, and point to C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia as an excellent example.
We have to deal with fantasy because today’s young readers’ market is chock-full of it. Thanks to the success of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels, the market is awash in fantasy. Young readers can’t seem to get enough of it.
A great deal of this fantasy is idle at best and evil at worst. Far too many of these books offer a seductive vision of teenage empowerment via magic, sorcery, becoming a vampire and being cool and sexy forever, etc. The readers are old enough to crave power, but too young to appreciate the responsibilities that go with it.
This vision of power is satanic: “Ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:5). Unlike adult human beings in the real world, from parents to presidents, gods are not accountable to anyone. They don’t have to work or pay bills, or worry about losing a job because they didn’t do it properly. Miniature gods just wield their power any way they please, and enjoy it.
Christian parents will not want to hand their children books that offer such a vision.
Whose Redemption?
Act of Redemption is about a struggling, post-apocalyptic human race being preyed on by demons who are trying to wipe them out and turn the earth into an extension of Hell. The demons can’t seal the deal because of an immortal, invulnerable teenage superhero, an undersized girl named Shevata who makes the Terminator look like R2D2. She’s more than a match for all the demons put together.
This is the first of a series of four novels “spanning Shevata’s long journey from war-weathered child with a horrific curse to life as a human,” according to the cover blurb. I regret to say that the prose of that sentence is representative of the book as a whole.
The story reads like a video game or a Dungeons & Dragons game written up as a novel. The “demons” are described as legions of hideous scary monsters—but these demons can be killed, physically. In fact, they’re always getting killed, in chapter after chapter.
Real demons are spirits. They cannot be hacked to death with swords. But the book’s theology only gets worse from there.
There is no presence of Christ in this story, under any name; nor is there any sign of God the Father, under any name. Here and there Ms. Cole mentions various “gods,” but they don’t seem to have any power or influence anywhere. Shevata seems to have acquired her special powers through a combination of selective breeding, intensive martial arts training, and a long apprenticeship in Hell.
Where is the “redemption” touted in the title? Apparently the author is thinking of Shevata’s personal redemption. We may infer from the text that this is to be accomplished not by God’s grace, but by works of the flesh: demon-smiting, making human friends, maybe even falling in love somewhere along the way. But as Christians we must not suggest to our children that this is how redemption is achieved! Indeed, it is not “achieved” by us at all: Jesus Christ Himself is our redemption, by the sovereign act of God (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Not One of Our Favorite Books
As literature, Act of Redemption is not the worst fantasy ever written—and bad fantasy is even more revolting than bad science fiction—but it doesn’t even measure up to the rather low bar set by the Harry Potter series. The book stands in need of serious editing, but apparently that’s not available at Author House.
The dialogue, from cover to cover, is a sort of American televisionese, just short of unbearable. We’ve read worse, but that’s not saying much. Given that children learn how to write by reading, and imitating what they read, this book has nothing to offer along those lines.
With the sole exception of Shevata, the protagonist, all of the characters herein are nothing more than names on paper. A good editor might have showed the author how to fix that, but there doesn’t seem to have been one on hand.
Instead of making her characters come alive, Ms. Cole is always telling us what they’re wearing. I do wish she wouldn’t do that, and I can’t imagine why she does.
If this review seems unnecessarily harsh, it’s only because we have made a point of judging the book solely on the text as published. We are not judging the author. The text is all the reader is going to see or know about. We have resisted the temptation to bring in other considerations urged on us by the book’s publicist.
Is ‘Christian Fantasy’ Possible?
In short, Act of Redemption is not likely to contribute anything to the education of young Christian readers.
We will continue to search for fantasy novels that do have something to contribute. There has to be something better than black magic, white magic, broomstick-riding, and vampirism. In our mission to reclaim the culture for Christ, we must not concede even this little square foot of ground to the ungodly.
Why should it not be possible to write fantasy that serves and honors God, and helps readers to know Him better? Certainly that was C. S. Lewis’ objective in writing the Narnia books, and we can see it in J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasies, too. God has given us the power to write about imaginary worlds. We must not abuse it.
Meanwhile, parents would do well to read a novel themselves before presenting it to their children. There’s an awful lot of dreck and sleaze out there. Young people need to read, and with encouragement, they will learn to love to read.
Fantasy, which speaks directly to the reader’s imagination—much as poetry does—is powerful. Parents must choose books whose power is harnessed to God’s service.

Despite the scathing review, at least the reviewer read the book (not finishing the book, the biggest irk of bad reviews to me).  But what really happened here, is that my book was sent to a reviewer that is not the audience.  However I did like the comparison of "Terminator goes R2D2."

I'm not going to blast him over the religious issues because this has happened to me since and I think is part of being a dark fantasy writer. Regarding the parents' concern over what children read, the reviewer pointed out for the parents to take responsibility.  He also pointed out that he blasted my book, not my personal integrity.  Regarding his remark about editing, as I've written before, it seems every editor says every book needs a editor.

To make lemonade out of lemons, I telephoned the editor (not the reviewer) of the website, as I was very upset over this review.  (BTW, I that's the 1st/last time I've tracked down a reviewer over a review). He made 2 points that stayed with me:  
1) He agreed the review was of a non-audience book.
2) He said "I know you'll be really angry for several days.  Promise yourself this: Never, ever stop writing."
I thank him for the last point every day.   

Saturday, August 13, 2011

On Politics and the New Author by C.C.Cole

As I’ve continue to learn the blogosphere, I’ve seen many talented writers put their creative energy into real-life issues important to us all, meaning domestic violence, poverty, and politics.  Like I’ve written before about money, political issues are a very important and personal issue for all of us, and are nothing to take lightly.

Though I write dark fantasy, and read almost every genre, I do try to keep up with current events.  I recall as a kid griping because my Mom had the news on, and she’d say, “We need to know what’s happening in the world.” 

As an adult, now I agree with her.  Also, as an adult, it surprises me how many other adults live their peaceful lives with little attention to world events or politics.   I believe in “To each their own,” but when a controversial events take place, I’m amazed at the surprised look I get when I mention the news, but have some understanding that many adults are busy, working parents, with their minds on picking up their kids from school and making sure they do their homework.

Like people that follow politics, I believe as grown-ups, we bear some responsibility to follow important political issues, as it affects everyone, including (and especially) the youngsters.  But no one has the ability to make people care about anything; to tactfully increase awareness is a better personal approach than derogatory comments to another person.  In print, politics is everywhere; one cannot get in Yahoo without some political news in the headline, and that’s just the Internet.  Cable/broadcast/radio news is nearly ubiquitous.

So what of politics and the new author?  Well, if politics is your “thing” then go for it.  Plenty are out there exposing their passion for what’s right and wrong; and it’s their right to speak/write and the individuals’ right to ignore if they choose.  I will state this:  Politics has been and always will be controversial and passionate.  If you lash out in your blog, or at another blog, be ready for the blowback.  Also, politics is well-saturated by professionals making huge careers from their views, so the competition/credibility may be quite a challenge if you’re aim is to be a political writer. 

As a new author, I try to keep my author/blogger-verse as “politically sterile” as possible, not because I’m not interested, but because I prefer to give a brief release from real-world stressors.  Since I’ve begun reviewing new Indie fiction and some classics, I’ve found a new outlet for dealing with the stress of current events, a little break with a good fantasy or horror read (in horror especially, it points out things can always be worse).  I take time out of my day to update myself on “hard news,” and the balance with creating/enjoying fiction/non-fiction allows exposure to both worlds.

So, new authors, is politics your thing?  Then build a thick skin, go forth, and hopefully inspire for the better.  But remember, you’re touching a topic that’s hot and emotional, so you will get burned at times. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

On the Gore Factor and the New Author by C.C.Cole

Great new authors in dark fantasy, romance, political thrillers, and non-fiction continue to impress me with many stories out there.  Along the way of networking I bumped into the horror genre.  I admit to being a wimp in horror films, preferring the ‘small screen’ after dumping a coke on one of my early dates as a teenager while watching the first “Halloween” film at a theatre.  It’s stupid that I work in the medical field and see blood without batting an eye, but on screen, I cringe. 

As I’ve read more horror genre books, I can see where there’s a bit of overlap with dark fantasy.  Usually both genres have a certain amount of bloody violence.  Some reviewers give my books an eight out of ten “gore factor” but some horror novels to me make my novellas look pretty tame.  A big difference to me between dark fantasy and horror is the lack of a protagonist in horror, which makes sense and what gives me a jolt sometimes when reading.  Unopposed evil makes for a scary story.

Which brings me to the point, how do we define “gore” in books?  Blood/body parts splashed over a stone staircase after a battle?  A bunch of evil priests lying dead after being struck down by their own weapons?  A vampire lying in wait to nab a serial killer to squeeze out the blood by some creative means?  Or a person disemboweled by a demon and hung in a tree?

Other genres have gore factors as well.  Crime, mainstream and non-fiction, particularly war stories, certainly can disturb me with horrific violence.   So how much gore is enough?  Answer: No answer.  Fiction writers (my emphasis here) use scenes to move the plot, and may/may not have more than a drop of blood.  The story stands, and for children’s books, holding back the blood is understandable; for adult books, not holding back the blood may make for a good night’s sleep in the world of entertainment today; but it’s hardly necessary depending on the message the author wants to convey.  I don’t believe bloody scenes are a story; the events that lead to and follow these scenes comprise a more important part of the plot. 

So, new authors go forth and write again.  Is horror your thing?  Go for it, and if it contains bloody violence, show us readers why it’s there instead of it just being there.  For us in dark fantasy, battles are what we write, so some blood will show up on the end of a blade.  For the non-gore readers/writers, stories can be told with excellence without the use of bloody violence.  That’s part of what makes writing great; the creation of a story using the tools the author sees fit to use.

Review of “First Chosen: Tears of Rage” by M. Todd Gallowglas

“First Chosen: Tears of Rage” is a dark fantasy ride-of-a-read that centers on the lead female character, Julianna, who finds herself entwined in political and divine intrigue as she summons powerful forces to her aid at her darkest hour.  What’s also interesting are the events following the darkest hour; her journey continues, with a complex world of good vs. evil, pushing the danger with bladed action and emotional reaction, part of the greatness of epic stories.  My only critique is some confusion in getting the bearings of the numerous, but well named characters, that to me is not a deterrent to readers that enjoy a detailed, dark fantasy epic.  Four stars!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

On Monsters and the New Author by C.C.Cole

On Nik Beat’s radio show “The Howl” from Toronto, earlier this week, he asked what drew me into dark fantasy. It goes all the way back to the film “Creature From the Black Lagoon,” and favorite famous pictures of “St. George and the Dragon,” as pictured above. The little dinosaurs from the Sinclair gas stations stood in my windowsill.  To miss a single episode of “Dark Shadows” meant war in my house.  As we latch on to monsters in early childhood through stories, films, cartoons or pictures, and carry the imagined into adulthood where we complete our journey into creating our own stories. 

Therefore those of us that write dark fantasy have our own favorite mythical creatures, be it dragons (my favorite), vampires (favorites of many), werewolves, ghosts, zombies (the cool thing these days), demons, and the occasional doppelganger, amongst many other monsters.

When I imagine a mythical creature, its form is firmly fixed in my mind.  I went through a snobby period of turnoff by bipedal werewolves, insisting that only quadrupeds weren’t stupid.  (That likely stemmed from my serious crush on the “American Werewolf in London” guy).  After the short-lived series “Werewolf” and the “Underworld” films, I’ve changed my mind. Newer examples of vampires glitter on the silver screen in Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series, and though my vampire preference remains the old-fashioned sunlight incineration, I give her credit for the creativity. 

Therefore, dragons, my favorite mythical creatures, stand out vividly in my mind.  I like to see the lizard-features, and four limbs instead of the bat-anatomy often used in films.  The dragon in old film “Dragonslayer” to me was almost perfect, except the bat like features of the claws coming off the wings. 
Some illustrations of dragons show potbellies, (likely from good eating), but sometimes they look more like winged demons if they’re fat.  I require lots of scary teeth, unique alternative human forms (as in my novellas), genius intelligence, and good/evil variability, depending on the dragon character.  Riding dragons, as in “Eragon” is understandably popular in dark fantasy, but I prefer my dragons to be the fastest flyer in the sky, beyond all laws of physics, which do not accommodate riders.  The “Harry Potter” dragons were impressive, worked with the story, and with the rest of the planet I applaud J.K. Rowling’s work.

If the above paragraph seems completely outrageous to you, then welcome to the world of dark fantasy. Mythical creatures are the pinnacles of the imagination of a dark fantasy writer.  We write monsters, some good, and some evil, alongside humans with similar traits.  Sometimes the creatures dominate the story and other stories center on the humans.  Good vs. evil remains the heart of most dark fantasy stories, and as I’ve written before, good usually prevails at great cost, propelling the reader back to reality. 

So new authors, if you like monsters, go for it.  Big scary unreal creatures stimulate our minds and open up for a nice break from the realities of daily life.  Mythical creatures have fascinated minds for centuries, and I suspect they will continue to do so. 

Review of “Reunion” by Jeff Bennington by C.C.Cole

“Reunion” by Jeff Bennington is a novel beginning with a tragic, Columbine (and other schools)-like shooting of a number of high school students by a lone, disturbed teenager.  As the survivors mature into adults, they have a reunion twenty years later to help find closure of the horrific event.  Afterwards the story takes on more of a horror-novel feel, with the evil of the past still awaiting in the shadows, and how every person involved brings the horrific events two decades prior to their own, separate ends.  The creativity of combining real and paranormal horror is an excellent mode of storytelling, and my only critique is a few predictable clichés that should not dissuade readers.  Understandably popular, four stars!

Review of “Fugue” by J. Joseph Wright by C.C.Cole

“Fugue” is a short story told from the point of view of a man living alone, which witnesses a troubled married couple who fights almost every night.  The more involved he becomes, the story gradually moves outside of perception and inside of reality.  Not all is at it seems, which is part of the definition of the “fugue” state of mind.  An entertaining, well-written read, four stars!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

On Competition and the New Author by C.C.Cole

Since I’ve entered the cyber-sphere a few months ago, I’ve learned “promotion” is the proper word to use, not “advertise” or “push sales” for your book, as a new author.  I finally got it, and enjoy reviewing other Indie authors as well as reading classics.  Instead of making a generalization that writers are the nicest business competitors, sharing the love all over the Internet, there may be other professions somewhere that does the same.  (Though am clueless as to which profession that would be).

Question:  Are new authors competing against each other for sales?  Answer:  Yes, to an extent.  I do not think new authors are on the same level as Heinz vs. Hunt’s ketchup (like people buy Hunt’s??), or to the point of Mac vs. PC (?PC? You’re kidding, right?), but yes, as we promote, a buyer of new fiction ultimately has to make a choice of one book or series of books over another.  I went to the popular e-book site Smashwords, and on the page where the process of e-book publishing is explained, it is clearly stated that the new author will probably not sell many books.

This sounds depressing.  With the digital book revolution, we new authors are competing against at least a million other new authors (depending on which article you read, but if that’s a high or low estimate, the result is the same), not counting high-profile mainstream bestsellers, traditionally published books by new authors (if any are out there), and old classics, which I make a point of reading for my own education, as in literature, my hard science education left a gaping hole. 

What drives potential buyers to the books by new authors?  Again, from the non-expert in marketing, I know what doesn’t sell books:  if nobody’s heard of it.  That’s why the social network experts/self-publishing marketing experts try to teach us new authors all the time; get your name out there, people need to know about your book, don’t’ be a spammer.  I’m glad I’ve come the distance where I haven’t had a spam accusation in many months.  So in our cautious but steady promotions, are we selling our books?  Answer:  probably.  What makes good promotions?  Reviews?  Yes, that’s one of many promoting tools, and I like reading reviews done by readers instead of some newspaper that charged the author $2K to say something nice.

On Facebook, I have friends that continue to say they don’t understand Twitter.  For book promotion, come on new authors; if you went the distance and wrote a book, you can learn how to tweet.  Learn to tweet.  I still like the interaction of FB, but Twitter is where it’s at.  What about ads?  I’m not convinced straight advertising directly leads to book sales, but it’s an old, tried-and-true method for promoting about every other product.  I run ads, sporadically, but keep the money reeled in, and do my best not to spam. 

So with every book I review and post (and I only post the good ones; I do what I do, others can do what they do), am I selling their books but not my own?  Maybe, I am, but I doubt it.  Better question:  will it make a difference in the big picture, meaning, will my five-star review of Bernard Schaffer’s book “Whitechapel: The Final Stand of Sherlock Holmes” do a disservice to me because I wrote about how great his book is, and not my own?  Answer:  Probably not.  Reviewing gives something to the author and helps them with their promotion.  Reviews are part of the process.  I haven’t seen a successful Indie book by a new author yet that sold without reviews.  Bashing other new authors:  I don’t know and don’t care if it would sell my books or not, I’m not doing it, period.

New authors, especially Indies, we’re all in this together.  I’ve said on other articles and many tweets:  If you’re writing to get rich, get a plan B.  Your greatest contribution is your work.  By making contributions to other writers with reviews, features, or interviews, yes you’re helping them, but your name is on the positive message so important to our psyche.  And the biggest point is, never give up.  Why should we give up?  That makes less sense, if we’re truly driven to write, as most writers are.  So write, promote, and tweet about something excellent from your books, your favorite dessert, or your latest zombie obsession (rated G, please).  Bring it; another new author will bring something back to you.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Coming soon: "House of Balestrom" by ace author William Butler!

William Butler's writing (who I featured before with "Bang" is over-the-top, and for grown-ups.  But that doesn't mean he's not a good writer; in fact, to me he's an excellent writer!!  Whatever the message, and it's usually "F'd up" (pardon language, but is very descriptive), very entertaining, and industry-standard prose and dialogue.  I'm looking forward to this book coming out, and will be posting a review!! 

Let's Rock Again with "Ernie's Denial!" by C.C.Cole

 This is my second time to feature the new rock group, "Ernie's Denial," great musicians I bumped into on FB.  I've posted before how I was drawn to rock music from the cradle, with young parents into "Steppenwolf." (if that's a misspell, 'twas a long time ago).  As I listen to this music, I remember purchasing my first car stereo for my Ford Pinto (before it caught fire...bugger), with my first income tax return by working in a Dairy Queen at age sixteen.  It was a Marantz, with a cassette player with the ultra-cool feature then was to have constant music in the car at all times.  If you re-round the tape, the radio came on.  And the Jensen speakers were a must.

Rockers out there, give these guys a listen; I can bang my head against my computer with this music!  (Yea, you'd like to see that vid, I bet!).  Enjoy, and rock on for the new Ace Band "Ernie's Denial!"


Thursday, August 4, 2011

On Over-Dramatization and the New Author by C.C.Cole August 4, 2011

As a new author I’ve spent a lot of time learning from my fellow authors as I read their work, and I remain a movie nut.  When readers note that my writing wants the reader to “see” the story, they are spot on.  When I read or write a book, I “see” the story in my mind.  I’m not convinced that I have a true photographic memory, because there’re too many times I’m frustrated due to stupid memory lapses, usually in social settings.

Because I “see” stories in books and films, it brings me to the topic of “Over-dramatization.”  I used one of the many famous pictures from the film “Black Swan” to make my point.  When I first saw this film, I got it in the mail via Netflix along with the ace-film “The King’s Speech.”  I watched both, back-to-back.  “The King’s Speech” is a wonderful film, starred some of my favorite actors, and I agreed with the Best Picture Oscar it earned.  No doubt, I give the film 4 out of 4 stars.

Then I watched “Black Swan,” a Best Picture nomination, which also starred actors I like.  From beginning to end, I decided the film was overall a strong 3 out of 4 stars.  The difference:  After seeing “The King’s Speech,” it stayed on my dresser a week.  I watched “Black Swan” about five times before sending back both films, and then purchasing the DVD of “Black Swan.” OK, for the non-fans, feel free to question my taste in films.  “Goodfellas,”  “Fight Club,” and “Snatch” are also on my short list of favorites.

In reading the critiques of “Black Swan” I saw many critics who said it was “Over-dramatized.”  And I agree with this, and for me, the over-the-top story, along with some brilliant ballet scenes and the classical music kept bringing me back to it.  Every time I watched it, I’d see something different, a subtle hint as the main character undergoes the psychosexual changes and experiences the illusions that transformed her into the alter ego Black Swan that gave her the “perfect” performance she wished for.

In returning to books, I do the same.  Fiction sometimes needs to push hard, especially these days of over-the top TV, let alone films, to keep the attention of the reader.  I find especially in the YA books, authors don’t push the danger as much as I’d like to see, but this is understandable considering their audience.  One of my criticisms of “Twilight” was Meyer backing off on the danger element, never taking the vampires fully to task in the first story and let them fight it out with the bad vampires. 

In fiction, I like action/adventure books to give me a ride into the unthinkable, out of the ordinary, and to stress me with action/intrigue, instead of with a big buildup that takes up 75% of the manuscript before I get interested. (Note this is genre-specific, as not all my favorite books/films are action).  Over-the-top drama, action, and comedy, though not a needed element in every adventure book, are something to be considered.  Boredom is the bane of adventure.

So new authors, go forth, and when you’re thinking action, make your move.  Push down the gas pedal and crash the characters.  Your editor will help you remove the over-done.  To me, in writing, it’s easier to cool than to heat. 

Review of “The Storyteller” by M. Arthur by C.C.Cole August 4, 2011

“The Storyteller” by M. Arthur is a short read about a young girl named Ruth who by chance acquires an unusual book.  The reader is immersed in Ruth’s life, as she realizes the book has cursed her.  In order to remove the curse from herself, she can only pass the book, along with the curse, to another person.  Though short, the story is an entertaining read, showing childhood curiosity, the results of tragic family events, and the realization that the best results do not arise despite the best of intentions.  I think this story could be developed further as the book is passed on, and could be a potential series reasonable for young readers.  Four stars!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review of “Whitechapel: The Final Stand of Sherlock Holmes” by Bernard Schaffer by C.C.Cole

Author Bernard Schaffer hits it out of the park with a stylish, fictionalized story of the notorious killer Jack the Ripper with one of the ultimate investigators in fiction, Sherlock Holmes.  As expected, it’s not for the faint of heart, but the book reads smoothly and carries the reader into the world of Dr. Watson and his relationship with the aging Sherlock Holmes.  The horrific nature of the crimes returns the love/hate relationship of Holmes with law enforcement officials.  The story carries beyond the investigation by Watson’s narrative of the lives of those involved, and the ultimate destination of Sherlock Holmes, revealing the people that affected his life the most.  This is an excellent book for horror genre, Sherlock Holmes fans, or mystery fans that can handle the graphics.  Congratulations, five stars!

Review of “Xannu: The Prophecy” by Paul Dorset by C.C.Cole August 3, 2011

“Xannu: the Prophecy” by Paul Dorset is the beginning of an epic tale geared to young readers.  A group of school-age kids finds themselves transported into another world, assuming new identities with new abilities they gradually grow in to.  As the story moves forward, the seemingly benign adventure becomes more dangerous, challenging the kids to face their fears.  All around, it delivers in entertainment as well as the messages of friendship and bravery.   Four stars!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

On the Mystery of Editing and the New Author by C.C.Cole August 2, 2011

As a new author, like many others, I attempted to go the traditional route to publication before my transition into an Indie writer.  The query letters had to be just right, to get the agents’ attention, but not too over-the-top.   The agents I found required completed, professionally edited manuscripts, making it clear that the agent’s purpose is not to be an editor. 

So if accepted, the agent finds the contacts in the publishing companies to sell your work to.  Who are the contacts?  Editors!   But this time, one that works for or with the publishing company.  But wait, hasn’t the manuscript already been professionally edited in order for the agent to accept it? 

Here we go, into the mystery of the editing world.  Even in self-publishing, this step is probably one of the most difficult and confusing of the publishing process.  After tiring of blow-offs by a few agents, I sent my story to the editing service provided by the self-publishing company.   Their “package” was a separate “content edit” and a “copy edit.”  (Can you hear the dollar signs?)  The content edit is basically paying someone to read your book.  This may sound stupid at first, but reality is that people you know don’t want to read unedited, or even unpublished work.  Also, an honest opinion from someone you don’t know to just tell you if a story is present or it’s mumbo-jumbo is very important for the new author. Afterward I sent the story for the copy edit because of my non-professional grammar, which resulted in more improvement in the manuscript than the content edit.  I learned to respect grammar.

A book cover later, my first book, “Act of Redemption” was published!  Several people read it, and thankfully, friends and reviewers, liked the story more often than not.  But what was the advice when offered?  “You need an editor.”  What?  I had several editors!  What happened here?  One editor’s “OK” is another editors “lousiest piece of excrement I’ve ever read.”  Like reviewing, editing is subjective (content editing) and to be fair to these professionals, it’s not easy.  They do recommend that writers learn proper grammar, to keep from wasting their time on doing what they see as something time-consuming to them and should be basic tools for any writer. 

In the big picture, I respect editors.  As I commented on a blog recently, an editor cannot make you a great writer, or a good writer, but they can make you a better writer.  What they cannot do is write the story for the author.

And as long as copy editors are out there, they’ll have at least one job from me. I’ve been sent many wonderful emails about grammar, but to be honest, if I wanted a degree in English I would’ve majored in it.  So go forth, and write, new authors!  You do your part and let the editors do their part, and hopefully you’ll end up with an awesome story!