Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Guest Blog by the Amazing Editor--Stephanie Dagg!

Stephanie Dagg is an author and an editor and she was one of the talented people that worked on my Wothlondia Rising project. We discussed her doing a guest blog on my site with an emphasis toward the fantasy genre. She decided to share a bit of her experience editing my story and what she turned in made me blush. It was flattering beyond comprehension. I can't thank her enough for her kind words and fantastic editing talents. Please read on...

First up, a big thank you to Gary for inviting me to write a guest post for his blog. And an even bigger thank you to him for taking a leap of faith and entrusting me, a total stranger at the start of this project, with his wonderful stories to edit. I tell you, I’ve been completely pulled into the fascinating world of Wothlondia.

Steph tending to her hobbies: llama farming and cycling!
I’ve worked on all sorts of books during my 25 years of editing, most of them as a freelance, and it’s true to say that fantasy is one of the more interesting literary genres. Fantasy authors are not only creative, extremely so, but of necessity also very methodical. Does that sound contradictory? What I mean is that because they’re creating a unique universe, they have it all mapped out in their heads, and often physically too. I made plenty of use of Gary’s map of Wothlondia during my editing, to check that when he said certain characters were heading northwest towards Greymoors from Chansuk that they were. (Editors have to keep an eye on everything!) Gary clearly knows his way around Wothlondia like the back of his hand since and he never put a foot wrong there!

Another example of fantasy writer organization. In one of the new stories, A Rose in Bloom, I felt we needed a couple more sentences in one part where a character, Ganthorpe, was rattled by the ringing of the bell for midnight. So I sent a request to Gary. Now, some authors tend to panic when an editor asks for extra material, and rattle something - anything - off. You duly slot it into place, only to find a few pages later that this new stuff proves to be inconsistent with later events, so it’s back to the drawing board. Not with Gary. He sent me a well-constructed replacement paragraph that lent the clarity I was after, and mentioning Brogan the timekeeper, so I put those in. I’m currently reading Covenant of the Faceless Knights and was delighted to come across a mention of Brogan and his bells in an early chapter! Everything fits together perfectly, not only in this story but in the way all Gary’s tales interact.

Fantasy has its own lexicon with words such as phylactery, mage and goblinoid that you won’t find in other genres. The language also tends to be more formal with some archaisms. I’m always delighted to come across those since I’m all for using as diverse a range of vocabulary as possible in writing. And the different races that inhabit the fantastic world have their own way of speaking. You can tell an elf from a dwarf from an ogre simply by listening to them.

Other distinguishing features of fantasy, on top of these elements of a cracking good plot, organisation and rich language, are the idea of a hero (or heroine) on a quest, the common ‘humanity’ of this central figure that means we empathise with him or her, the existence of magic and the supernatural, and the fight of good against evil. Alongside the quest there often comes a journey of self-discovery, and this is very much the case with Gary’s characters. You’ll see this strongly in the Wothlondia Rising series of short stories, particularly in Maturation Process and Reflections.

I guarantee that you will be deeply moved by the latter.

And all Gary’s heroes and heroines are likeable because they’re so real. We get clear, detailed physical descriptions of them and their personalities quickly emerge. We can see parts of ourselves in them, even if they’re elves, or barbarians or half ogres. For example, Rose Thorne enjoys a glass of wine, Rolin Hardbeard doesn’t like riding horses, Saeunn has her eye on the handsome lad from the next village, and Elec lets his personal hygiene slip a little when he’s on his own. They could be any one of us... But imperfect as they are, when put to the test they’ll do what’s right.

Fantasy mirrors not only real people but a real world. Wothlondia has many of the same terrors and threats that we have, such as racism, dishonesty, violence and crime. I’m just grateful we don’t have the added complication of Blood Rot Zombies!

In conclusion then, editing fantasy, and especially Gary’s Wothlandian fantasy, is an interesting and rewarding challenge. And memorable. Here are a handful of sentences from Gary’s stories that have stuck in my mind because of their sheer power or beauty:

Nimaira still lay on the cold ground, rubbing her jaw, with tears—not tears of pain, but tears of what might have been—welling in her beautiful eyes.

His eyes were reflections of the bluest of skies, quite unlike those of any ogre, whose eyes were always as black as the darkest caverns of the Subterrane.

The Paladin felt the darkness closing in on him, wresting control of his soul.

He merely stood frozen in place while a tumult of emotions bombarded him.

She had wept for countless hours and felt there should be no more tears left to cry, yet still they came, unbidden and unending.

You’re going to enjoy Wothlondia Rising, make no mistake.

And who am I? Briefly I’m Stephanie, an editor and author. I was born in England, lived a long time in Ireland and am now in France with the family where, as well as writing and editing, I farm llamas and run a carp fishery. I have a book related website and an ebook editing website.

I'd like to say thanks again to Stephanie for taking such time and consideration with my much so, that she made me sound like I knew what I was talking about! She gives you a deadline as to when your work will arrive and it makes it there on time and professionally edited. Stephanie is the consummate professional and I would highly recommend her to edit any and all of your upcoming projects! Please visit her website above...and tell her Gary sent ya'!

See you in Wothlondia! Cheers!

Please visit MY HOME PAGE to enjoy an extended reading experience, see direct links to purchase my full length novel, Covenant of the Faceless Knights, the short stories: Wothlondia Rising, and to see what else Ashenclaw Studios, LLC has in store in the future!

Cover art on Distant Familiarity provided by William Kenney!

All maps, names and content copyright Ashenclaw Studios 2012 unless otherwise noted.


  1. Thank you Gary. It's brilliant working with you and I'm thrilled to be a guest poster on your blog.

  2. Steph, the honor is all mine. People need to know of your services and your talents. I hope to be able to get you some (minor) publicity.... Thanks again for doing such a a great job!