It’s Dr. Doyle’s Question and Answer Time!

Q. Are you really a Doctor?

A. Yes.

I got my Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania, back in the Dark Ages 1981. My primary field was Old English, and my cognate field was Old Icelandic, which makes me the sort of person who once stayed up until 2 in the morning reading a book on historical linguistics for fun. Old Icelandic is a great language – we get “to egg (somebody) on” from there, as well as “ransack”, plus a wonderful verb that we don’t have in English but sometimes I wish we did, ydda (“to show the point [of something] on the other side [of something]”; as, for instance, a sword and someone else’s back.)†

Q. What on earth are you doing here, then?  Shouldn’t you be off in an ivory tower someplace, instead of writing fiction and editing other people’s novels for pay?

A. Hah.  Don’t I wish.

I finished my degree at about the same time as Academia started devouring its own young.  The need to hire lots of new-minted scholars every year to teach the glut of baby-boomers and draft-avoiders was coming to its end, and colleges were starting to use spreadsheets and do the math and figure out that they could hire adjunct faculty (aka “temps with doctorates”) and avoid the extra cost of insurance and other perks, and tenure-track positions got scarcer and scarcer.  (Also, colleges realized that you could dangle the prospect of tenure in front of a new hire, and they’d run after it like a greyhound after a mechanical rabbit for five or six years of high toil and low pay, and then you could turn them down for tenure and start the whole process up again with the next victim.)

So I became one of the science fiction and fantasy field’s renegade medievalists, instead.

Q.  Well, that explains the writing, I guess.  What about the editing?

Money, at least in part.  Writing can pay well, but it always pays irregularly, and almost all the writers I know do a lot of other different things to fill in the gaps.

As for why this, in particular:  Teaching (and marking up essays) was something I learned how to do as a grad student and teaching fellow at Penn, and while at the time I thought I didn’t like doing it very much, I eventually figured out that what I actually didn’t like was working on stuff written by people who didn’t want to be writing it.  (I’ve graded freshman essays, and I’ve read slush – unsolicited manuscripts, for those not conversant with the lingo of the trade – and I’m here to tell you that as bad as slush can get, at least it’s all written by people who are willingly putting words onto paper or pixels onto screen.)

Working with people who are actually interested in improving what they’re doing is, on the other hand, fun.

Q. Do you only work with established writers and self-publishers?

A.  Heavens, no.  I’m just as happy to work with writers who are at an earlier stage of their development.  As I say on my “about” page, I can’t promise that their  work will publishable when we’re finished, but I can promise that it will be better than when we started.

Back when I was laboring the the fields of freshman composition, under whatever name it was being called at the time – Introduction to Rhetoric, Expository Writing, or plain old English 101 – I often found that while working with the one or two natural A-level students in the class was easy and refreshing, at the end of the semester I got more satisfaction from having helped a high-B+ student move on up into the A range, or from helping someone who started out as a C- lift themselves up to a good solid B.


†I’ll freely admit that I picked Old Icelandic for my cognate field because I liked all the bloodshed and violence in the great sagas. But my geekhood is safe – my other big interest was subordinate clauses in Anglo-Saxon poetry.

For a Few Days More

In honor of the upcoming (for those who celebrate it) Easter holiday, and because the cold winter just now passing away kept me from starting my customary spring sale in a more timely fashion, I’m taking this opportunity to extend the seasonal special until April 23rd – or Low Sunday, as it’s called in the liturgical traditions.  (It’s traditionally the choir’s day off after the intensity of Holy Week, or at least such was the case back when I was a grad student at UPenn and singing in the church choir at St. Mary’s, Hamilton Village – which was also the church I was married in, and I was pleased to see, when I Googled it, that the parish is still going strong and is still active in social justice work after all these years.)

As usual, the seasonal special gets your standard-weight novel (or that of a friend) a line-edit and critique for $1000 instead of the customary $1500, and the purchase can be redeemed either now or later, as the recipient pleases.

Springtime Seasonal Special

It’s time again for my traditional springtime special offer:

Sample Spring Gift Certificate2017

Yes.  From today through the 16th of April, my usual rate of $1500 for a line-edit and critique on a typical 80,000-100,00 word novel drops to $1000 (or $1030 for PayPal, to cover the fees for a non-personal transaction; using Google Wallet, if you’re set up for it, avoids this problem and is faster as well.)  You can purchase a springtime gift for a writer friend, or for yourself, and redeem it at any time between right now and whenever.

(If you’ve got a 100,000+ word doorstop of a manuscript, and still want to take advantage of the season, contact me and we can work out an appropriate discounted price for a longer work.)

Business Cards, I Have Them

bizcard

Now all I have to do is figure out the most effective way to deploy them.

Do I press them into the hands of all I meet?

Do I save them for giving out to people who sound like they might actually be interested in editorial services?

Do I stick them up on random bulletin boards?  (If I were selling a used snowblower, I’d tack a notice up at the local IGA grocery store, but that’s different . . . or maybe it isn’t.)

Do I scatter them broadcast over freebie tables and consuites at sf/fantasy conventions I happen to attend?

This self-promotional thing, it is tricksy and difficult, especially if one doesn’t have the natural temperament for it in the first place.

Snowbound

At least until the driveway gets shoveled clear.  Which is going to be a task which is not mine.

SnowDay

And we have more snow predicted for mid-week.  Fortunately, Friday is projected to be cold and sunny, because that’s the day we’ll be heading down to Boston for the Boskone sf/fantasy convention.  Watch this space for the unified Doyle&Macdonald convention schedule, to be appearing Real Soon Now.

Meanwhile, I have an editing gig to work on, which I have grievously neglected the past two days, because the household was afflicted not only with snow, but with a nasty but fast-moving bug that somehow slipped under this season’s flu-shot radar.  (Better last week than this coming weekend, is all I can say.)

Winter Comes, Every Year

And so do the winter electric bills, because we heat our (big, old) house with electricity.  We used to heat it by means of a wood-burning forced-hot-air furnace in the basement, but gave that up after about a decade and a half – wood is cheap, compared to other locally available heating methods, but it’s a hassle from start to finish.

First you have to purchase the firewood, which means finding a reliable Firewood Guy – something that’s a lot harder than you’d think, because your typical reliable Firewood Guy is usually just one year away from selling his chainsaw and his skidder and retiring to Florida, so calling last year’s supplier almost never works.  Once you’ve got the firewood, it has to be stacked, all eight or nine cords of it (a cord, if you’re interested, is a stack of logs measuring 4’x4’x8’, and if you’re ever in the business of purchasing cordwood for yourself, make certain you specify “full cord”, because unscrupulous dealers are not above selling you so-called “face cords” which are only half the width of a proper cord.)

Then the stacked wood has to be heaved down into basement where the furnace lives; this will have to be done repeatedly throughout the winter, usually in the dark on bitter cold nights, because that’s always the time when one or another of the house’s occupants comes into the office and says, plaintively, “There’s no more wood in the basement and the fire is getting low.”  At which point somebody – probably you, because why else would they have come into the office to complain about it – has to suit up in full north country outdoor gear and go move some logs.

After that, you have to go down into the basement and heave yet more logs, this time from the basement into the furnace.  And you’ll have to do it again before you retire for the night, and as soon as you get up in the morning (forget about sleeping in, if you heat with wood), and every four or five hours throughout the day.

So once I started having paranoid fantasies about chimney fires, and about the insidious threat of carbon monoxide, and about tripping and falling on the rickety basement steps – but especially about the basement steps, because I have the sort of ankles that can turn on a crack in the kitchen linoleum – I said the hell with this, and switched to the backup electric baseboard heat.  I have dreams of converting the house to oil or propane, because all the ductwork is still in place, but a project of that expense and magnitude would require major money up front, and Hollywood hasn’t bought one of our novels yet.

Which is why one of the early posts on this blog, back when I was just getting started, was my Fire in Fantasy Rant, and why I’m taking this opportunity to point a discreet finger at the Editorial and Critique Services link up there above the header.  If you’ve got a novel in need of editing, you have it in your power to help me make the electric company very happy.

Seven More Days

A quick reminder that it’s only seven more days before the end of my traditional Midwinter Festival Sale – if you’ve got got a friend who might want a critique and line-edit, or if you want to buy one for yourself to hang on to until you’re ready to use it, you still have some time left.

In the meantime, have some links to pictures of gingerbread houses and a guide to finding local Christmas light displays and last year’s Festival of Lessons and Carols from King’s College, Cambridge, to amuse you during the season.

The Looming Spectre of Christmas Presents

That time of year is coming around again . . . the Northern Hemisphere Midwinter Holiday (exported to the Southern Hemisphere by transplanted Northern Hemisphereans), in which we celebrate, among numerous other things, the fact that the sun has come back for another year.  I never fully appreciated that aspect of the season when I was a young thing growing up in Florida, or even in Texas; it took moving up to live cheek-by-jowl with the 45th parallel to show me just why so many different cultures thought that the winter solstice was a thing to celebrate.  Right now, we’re in the tight and rapid end of the downward spiral, with night closing in at 4PM or even earlier, and the sense of relief when the days start getting longer again is, believe me, immediate and intense.

So we celebrate our midwinter holidays with good food and good drink and the exchange of gifts, and that brings us to one of the perennial worries of the season:  what to give to the other people in your life.

If one of the other people in your life is a writer, I can help you with that.  From now until the 26th of December, you can buy your writer friend the gift of a line-edit and critique from Dr. Doyle’s Editorial and Critique Services for the seasonal sale price of $1000.00, to be redeemed at the time of the recipient’s choice.

Sample December Gift Certificate

The gift purchase comes with a .pdf certificate suitable for printing out and presenting to the recipient in the wrapper or envelope of your choice.  The holiday in question can be customized for the recipient, as well.

(And if the recipient of the gift happens to be you, that’s fine, too – this has been a rough year, and we need to be kind to ourselves as well as to others.)