"In these pages many mysteries are hinted at.
What if you come to understand one of them?"

"Words let water from an unseen, infinite ocean
Come into this place as energy for the dying and even the dead."

"Bored onlookers, but with such Light in our eyes!
As we read this book, the jewel-lights intensify."

- Rumi

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2012 Begins with a Wake-Up Call

"We're all in the dark, and we're all not guilty." This one sentence is the most valuable thing I learned while pursuing my Creative Writing degree at San Francisco State University. Thanks to Matthew Clark Davison for this nugget of enlightenment, not just for characters in my fiction, but also for every single person trapped in the human experience. Since graduating, I've really tried to keep this at the forefront of my mind when looking at myself, my flaws, and where I am in my life. I know I keep blinders on for a lot of things, but I also like to think that I'm raising the blinds slowly over time. This blog chronicles a part of my life where I'm stepping out of the dark and realizing where I am guilty, and the steps I'm taking to rectify the situation. And while this blog post is about my recent Joycean epiphany, I have to start last October, because, like most epiphanies, this one came to me in steps.

Last October I opened the first proof copy of TEARS OF RAGE: First Chosen. I've got to say it was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I'd been published on Amazon since May, and sold a few books here and there; however, not one of those sales or reviews posted compared to the feeling of holding a copy of the print book. I took that book to the Folsom Renaissance Faire and showed that puppy off to anyone who would stand or sit still for more than a few seconds, and since I had 3 stage shows a day, that proved to be a considerable amount of people. Okay, let me be honest. I carried that book everywhere and sometimes forced people to stand still long enough to show it off. I was a author with a book, dammit, and people needed to see it.

Several days after Folsom Faire, I went to lunch with my dad. We have lunch once a week at De'Vere's Irish Pub in Sacramento. We've been doing this for at least two years. Of course I had my book to show off. When my dad dropped me off back at home, I couldn't find my book anywhere. This was odd, because I could have sworn that I'd knocked on it in my pocket to make sure I had it when we got into car after lunch. Asked at the pub - they didn't have it. I called my dad to see if it had fallen out of my pocket in his car - no luck there. As far as I knew, the book was gone.

Counter to form, I did not freak out. I was a bit bummed, but shrugged it off as best I could.

Now, one detail I'd neglected to mention about that day my dad and I had lunch: It was raining.

A few days after that, my mother called me and explained that she found my book on her front lawn - where I'd gone after Dad and I had lunch. She found my book on the front lawn, soaking up water. She had it drying in her kitchen. Again, I didn't flip out. I realized that I could use this as a symbol and metaphor for a writing career. If I don't pay attention and handle career carefully with near constant vigilance,disaster could strike. I carry the book around with my now, all the time, to remind me that I am responsible for my success as a writer.

So here's the next problem that lead to my most recent wake up call: Back in October, I still wasn't taking this whole Indy writer career thing seriously. I sold a few books every month - better than the vast majority of self-published authors, and I'd gathered a modest group of loyal readers. I was getting a nice royalty check at the end of each month - enough to buy a tank of gas or two. I was looking at it as, well, it's not that big a deal if I have little hiccups, because it'll be okay, just like the water-damaged, original proof copy of First Chosen.

Then December happened.

All those people with new Kindles were looking for books started buying. December sales on all my books dwarfed everything I'd done in the previous months. I was giddy with all those sales. I was making it! For the first time, the very real possibility of this self-published career thing was drilling itself into my head. Happy dancing happened. Happy dancing happened a lot.

Then December 23rd happened. I received two reviews, one of them being my first two-star review for First Chosen.

Sarah Smith "Rhubarb" wrote in her review of First Chosen:

When I came across "conscious" when the author meant "conscience", I could read no further. Time and again the author made egregious errors ("to" for "too" for instance), and finally I had to stop, delete it, and go on to another author.
Too bad, because Gallowglass shows a lot of promise as a writer. Needs a good editor.

The same day, my Twitter buddy, Christopher Kellan, wrote this in his five-star review of Halloween Jack and the Devil's Gate:
I do have to deduct minor points for a few technical issues - namely, editing ones. More than once, there is a homonym confusion. The most prevalent one is "heals" to refer to the back of one's feet - the correct word is, of course, "heels". There was one other homonym confusion I noticed which I do not now remember.
On the more technical side, I only encountered one actual typo, and for a ~40,000 word work, that's excellent.
Two different reviews of two different books, while each mentioned typographical/proof-reading  errors. Both with very different star ratings. Now, I didn't take Ms. Smith's review too seriously at that point, just blowing it off that she was one of those overly-critical, spiteful reviewers who likes to bring people down. She's entitled to her opinion, but not that big a deal. Besides, Christopher had given First Chosen an amazing review and named it one of his top five books of 2011. I immediately went and made the changes in each book and loaded the corrected versions to Amazon, as Christopher also said in his review:
One of the joys of indie publishing is that all of these things could easily be fixed with a quick edit and re-upload to the sites, and nothing is committed to a massive print run where these minor mistakes would be set upon parchment in indelible ink.
So, there we go, problem solved.... or not... Because, really, I still wasn't taking it seriously. I'd uploaded TEARS OF RAGE: Once We Were Like Wolves to Amazon without really doing a thorough proof read. But in my mind, I was still of the good enough mentality. I could fix the few minor errors as they came up.

Then came January 9th. Targetswife wrote reviews for First Chosen and Once We Were Like Wolves. Again , another wake up call.

For First Chosen, she said, in her four-star review titled, "Where' is my red pen?"

So first off, the good: I loved the story line, the characters and the mythology. There was intrigue and mystery, deception and heartbreak and the ever important hope. I found myself rooting for and identifying with the heroine with ease. There is obvious planning behind the story, and I appreciate the subtle details that all tie together. The bad: there is a dire need for an editor as the grammatical errors were abundant. I know this may not bug some people, unfortunately it drives me bananas. I found myself reaching for my red sharpie and had to stop before I colored all over my phone screen. Still, when I finished this book I promptly ordered the second one and will also order any future ones. A little proofreading will go a long way (in this case it would have gone all the way to five stars). My suggestion is to give it a read, but take off your teacher glasses first :)
For Once We Were Like Wolves, she wrote a four-star review titled, "Almost" (Which, incidentally is the same title of Ms. Smith's two-star review above.):
I loved this second book in the "Tears of Rage" series. Mr. Gallowglas has penned a comprehensive story line with rich details that leaves me yearning for the next installment. Colorful and imaginative lore make this book a very fun and enjoyable read. My only complaint (and the reason for four stars) is in regards to the type errors that were sadly abundant. All were minor, nothing that ruined the book but a distraction nonetheless. I look forward to the next one!
That Mrs. Targetswife wrote four-star reviews that both praised my storytelling while also calling me on my proofreading (or lack there of) made me sit up and take notice. I printed Once We Were Like Wolves and started going though it for errors. I was horrified and ashamed at the product I'd allowed myself to publish.

Then, one of my Facebook friends posted this to her wall:
To anyone who writes and self-publishes novels: please have someone do a GOOD editing job! Even if you think your spelling and grammar are okay, it's a good idea to have an editor.
I thought my friend was talking about my books. I've spoken with her since, and she assures me she was not referring to my work, but she still helped kick my butt into taking this self-publishing thing more seriously.

Long story short, I got in contact with an editor, and as a trial, sent her a file of First Chosen. While waiting for her to get that back to me, I went through Once We Were Like Wolves. Errors abounded. My editor returned First Chosen, having pointed out errors I'd missed and even making some suggestions on where I could clarify some things. Having finished my proof read of Wolves, I loaded the corrected version of ToR Book Two to amazon and sent the file off to my new editor. I know that even after my proofing Wolves isn't going to be perfect, but it's much better. It'll be pretty close to perfect after I get it back from my editor. I have since made the corrections to First Chosen and loaded it to Amazon. Now, I'm waiting to get Once We Were Like Wolves back from the editor. Then, it's going to be Halloween Jack and the Devil's Gate and so on until all my current works have gone through the process.

So here I am, stepping out of the dark and realizing that I am guilty. I've got to be even more steadfast in taking care of my writing career, and that means that I can't do everything myself, because, like everyone, I have weaknesses. One of my weaknesses, a serious one at that is my proofreading skills. While I am still ashamed of myself for putting out such shoddy work in 2011, I am making the proactive choice to straighten myself out and become a professional. So, to counter my weakness in proofreading, I've got an editor and will not release another title until it's been through the complete process of getting filtered through my beta readers, editor, and copy editor.

For those of you who have stuck by me, despite the errors and shoddy proof reading, thank you. You can look forward to a much more polished reading experience from M. Todd Gallowglas from this point forward. I'd like to thank Ms Smith, Christopher, Mrs. targetswife, and Jen on Facebook (even though she wasn't actually addressing me) for being so candid about my work to get me to take my writing to a true profession-level mindset. 2012, here we come!

Oh, and because I'm in a snarky mood, I can't resist adding this Post Script. While I truly appreciate Ms Smith for being the first to call me on my crap, and while she's unlikely to read this blog, I think if you're going to call a writer out for proof-reading and copy-editing errors, it would behoove you to spell that author's name correctly. #JustSaying.  #MomentOfSnarkDone


  1. Glad to help. ;)

    Even if it isn't cost-effective to hire a professional editor, I definitely agree on having a few of your "über-detailed and willing to criticize you" friends beta-test your books. The fact that you have so many positive reviews despite editing errors just goes to show that you have the right talent. I applaud you for taking the criticism seriously, and being able to look at yourself and your work objectively. I just downloaded your book, and I look forward to reading it on the train home!

  2. Thanks Winter. I'm really big on accountability and owning the results I get from the choices I make. Which ever book you got, I hope it makes the train ride seem shorter.

  3. Yeah, I've noticed that problem in your writing, but I never had the nerve to bring it up. I just finished Once We Were Like Wolves yesterday and I have been trying to figure out how to approach you about it, because there were a lot of homonym errors in it. But lucky me, I didn't have to. I proof a lot of things as a part of my job, and I'm darn good at it (however I refuse to claim to be a good writer because, well, I'm not a good writer). It cracks me up when I hear Management tell our graphic artists to use spell check to catch spelling errors, because spell check doesn't catch those homonyms-and that accounts for the majority of errors I catch in my proofing. My point is, as one of your loyal henchmen, I would love to offer my assistance in proofing/editing your work if you want it.


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