Hello! From May 1 – 7 it’s #MysteryWeek on Goodreads. I’ll be joining in by posting daily bite-sized chunks of the Victorian boy detective’s next outing exclusively on my blog there: Octavius Guy and the Case of the Quibbling Cleric. Oh, yes! There’s a body, there’s a location, and there’s a code to be cracked—join Gooseberry and George in their hunt for clues. In addition, each day I’ll be revealing a little bit of the cover; never quite the whole thing, but—well, you’ll see. I will also be playing the crystal gazer on their “Ask the Author” feature. Ask any question you like—past or future—about Gooseberry and his friends and I will answer you truthfully. You don’t even have to cross my palm with silver! Love mysteries? Love #MysteryWeek
As for this month’s topic, it started with a reader posting a review of Big Bona Ogles, Boy!. I make a promise on my website that I will always try to respond personally if I can and, when I wrote to thank them, it sparked off a fascinating round of correspondence. Do read on…
February 01, 2017
Well written with a tremendous amount of detail. This book transported me to Dickens’ London for a mystery with a metaphysical twist. I enjoyed the trip but sometimes felt bogged down and needed timeout.—Seaside-Reader LibraryThing Early Reviewer
Michael Gallagher emailed:
I’m so glad you enjoyed Big Bona Ogles, Boy!, though I’m sorry if you found it overly-detailed. I’d like to thank you for taking the time and trouble to write and post a review. It really is much appreciated, as not everybody does. I would really like to publish it on my website and use it in future publicity materials for the series. If you are happy to let me do this, please let me know how you would like to be credited—as Seaside-Reader, as you are listed on LibraryThing, or by another name?
Good morning Michael from California,
Thank you for contacting me. It gives me an opportunity to share a personal observation about the format of your manuscript and an explanation about my comment. I thought very carefully about the “detail” comment because I truly enjoyed your story for many reasons, it was charming! I do not want to put off a prospective reader who might not select it because of what may well be a personal preference.
A comment: I liked the italics for internal speculation but I am not sure if it was the font or the spacing that made the page feel so cramped and busy. I asked myself before posting if that visual “business” slowed the development of your story and the path to its conclusion. Yet, there was a quality to the look of the page that was classic and yes, I think, a bit “Victorian”.
Please comment. You may use my review on your website but your response my lead me to offer a revision that you may prefer to use.
Your conflicted and introspective Seaside-Reader from Newfoundland
Michael Gallagher emailed:
Good afternoon to you from a rather grey and overcast London!
Your email gave me so many things to think about, and I’d like to try and touch on them all. Firstly, I really am pleased you enjoyed the book! I love Gooseberry and all his friends (even when he’s being high-handed or just plain wrong). As an author, however, I need to be aware of anything that stops a reader’s eye from moving forward on the page (the use of an unexpected word, for instance), or stops a reader from wanting to know what happens next.
Your suggestion that it may be the font—especially the italicized version—that’s hampering your enjoyment seems perfectly plausible to me. Now that you’ve pointed it out, it feels like it’s been hovering around at the back of my brain for some time (although I might just be suggestible!).
I use Times New Roman for a number of reasons: it’s the one that both KDP (Amazon Kindle) and Smashwords (which makes the ePubs) suggest you use for the conversions they make; I think it does have a kind of classic, Victorian look to it; and I much prefer it to the other serif fonts on offer. But the italics compress themselves in a way that does make them harder to read—they are cramped and busy—and authors are advised to use them sparingly.
I try to—and yet they are an important part of my writing palette: they suit Octavius’s internal thoughts, they’re employed (as Victorian writers employed them) to denote foreign terms, and they’re good for delineating written tracts such as letters. I have a brilliant proof reader, a lovely woman named Lara, who also acts as my editor and copy editor. I send her the chapters as I finish them, then she rings me up and we argue over the phone for an hour or two about every comma (I use too many), every passage of italics (I use too many), every set of quotation marks (I use too many). She normally wins. She wins because whatever it is that has stopped her eye is likely to stop other readers in their tracks too. I will be sure to let her know what you’ve said, and in future I will try harder to limit my use of italics—probably by finding alternatives to representing Gooseberry’s internal dialogue if it goes on for any length of time—so thank you!
There are a number of little things I do to help evoke the spirit of a Victorian novel (the typeface being just one of them) but the truth is I have surprisingly little control over what the reader actually sees. One of the drawbacks of being an indie author is that you are reliant on the conversions that KDP and Smashwords make, and on the devices your readers use, some of which will not support my formatting. No matter how carefully and cleanly I format a typescript, even with the best conversion (which is normally the ePub) weird things can occur: blank pages insert themselves for no particular reason, and, with KDP, font-types (I use a Segoe script for Octavius’s handwritten notebook) are apt to be replaced with standard Times New Roman.
Food for thought?
Hoping that your Californian weather is so much better than ours is,
Your kind and detailed response gave me what will remain a treasured insight into your writing and publishing process. Thank you for taking so much time to assist and educate just one reader! I have come away from this experience with a deepened respect for you, your work and for Lara’s work as an editor/copy editor. I feel privileged to have had this opportunity to correspond with you. I have what may well be a cheeky suggestion for your consideration. Rather than me rewrite my original review, would you consider letting a greater number of your readers enjoy your edifying response in perhaps an edited version of these emails? I think they would be as delighted as I was to read what you say.
I see from the international news feed that the British Isles was battered again by a North Atlantic storm. My summer home is in Newfoundland on the Avalon Peninsula where weather is dictated by the moods of the North Atlantic. Our wee cottage was built by a fisherman for his family over a hundred years ago and clings to the bottom of a pine clad cliff so near to the water edge that we can both see and hear the whales when they visit the 5K strip of water between our home and Belle Island. Newfoundlanders call a narrow body of water between two islands a tickle. So our house is the “the House on the Tickle” in our village of 1,600.
In the winter, we reside in Southern California in the desert of the Coachella Valley where the sun shines 365 days of the year. We drive the 5500 miles between our two homes with two cats, Lily and Mac. Such is the retirement of a school administrator who wanted to go home to family and Canada and NASA scientist who wanted to golf.
Kindest regards to you and to Lara.
I’ve thought of the perfect way to use our correspondence: as one of the monthly posts I write for my website. I’ve edited it to make sure your name does not appear, but there are two wonderfully evocative paragraphs about Newfoundland and Coachella that I’d like to include if they don’t give too much away.
Good morning, Michael! I am honoured that you found my description merited inclusion! I ran it by my husband to see if he had any objections. I could have predicted that because he is a scientist he would make two adjustments to the description; the average rainfall in the Coachella Valley takes place over 8 days (the sun shines 357 days) and the drive should not include the 6 hour ferry passage from Cape Breton to Channel Port aux Basques that traverses the Cabot Straight (making the trip approximately 5000 miles). LOL!
I’ve been at this writing malarkey for a number of years now, and the one thing that never gets old is hearing from people who have read my books, especially if I get to learn a bit about who they are and where they come from. I don’t know about you, but I could practically hear those whales singing, and I now feel I have a personal connection to Newfoundland that I might never have had. It’s a by-product of being a writer that I’d never envisaged, and it’s not an uncommon occurrence. I’ve been lucky enough to forge similar connections with readers from other parts of Canada, Wisconsin and Sioux Falls, to list but a few. I do hope you’ve enjoyed this little glimpse behind the scenes, and will join me next month when I try to pin down what makes a cosy mystery—well—cosy!
To celebrate Goodreads #MysteryWeek, I have two special offers for you. There are twenty free copies of Octopus: Send for Octavius Guy #2 to be given away throughout May. Click on the link, “purchase” it and use coupon code: HS37L. If there are still free books available, the cost should discount to zero (there’s no obligation to continue your purchase if it does not). If you miss out, you can still get 50% off the list price of the book we were talking about, Big Bona Ogles, Boy! (Send for Octavius Guy #3), so you can decide for yourself about the font-style! Purchase it at Smashwords.com and, when it comes time to pay, use coupon code: EH28B. This offer is available until May 31st, 2017.
Finally, as a small token of my thanks for taking the trouble to find this page, I’d like to offer you a 50% discount off the list price of the book we were talking about, Big Bona Ogles, Boy! (Send for Octavius Guy 3), so you can decide for yourself about the font-style! Purchase it at Smashwords.com and, when it comes time to pay, use coupon code: EH28B. This offer is available until June 15th, 2017.