Friday, November 1, 2013

A week in the life…by Victoria Curran, senior editor

Why does it feel like winter has arrived overnight? We had a wet and windy Halloween up north of Toronto and today (the day after news broke—internationally—that Toronto’s illustrious mayor was caught on tape allegedly smoking crack) I arrived at work in the pitch black at 7 a.m. and had to fight my way across the gusting parking lot.

With the arrival of November comes the new set of Harlequin Heartwarming books, and they mostly have a Christmas theme, which makes winter seem…inevitable and very close. (I blame you Heartwarming authors for this!) The new books are wonderful—and we’re glad to finally see new-to-Harlequin author Jennifer Snow’s The Trouble with Mistletoe come out, along with former Superromance author Cynthia Reese’s Secret Santa. Both Mae Nunn (Cowboy in the Kitchen) and Aimée Thurlo (Homespun Christmas) come to us from other series within Harlequin, and we’re so happy they’re crossing over and writing for us.



The November stories are described by their cover jackets on this site, so instead of giving away more spoilers, I’m going to share the details of my week so far. Self-indulgent? Oh yeah!

A former colleague and friend of mine posted on facebook last night that she was lucky to have entered the biz when there were in-house editors and time and money to develop authors and edit manuscripts. I think I replied, “What am I, chopped parsley?” So I thought I’d remind you all that we’re still here, us in-house editors! And we may be going a little crazy under the workload and some of us are having to freelance out more line edits than we’d like, but who isn’t coping with work stress in today’s environment? (My dental hygienist, who always has her finger on the pulse of the nation, says she’s never seen so many stressed-out people!) That’s why we have yoga in the 5th floor boardroom on Tuesday nights.

Mon., Oct. 28: I got up early to get my notes together about the partial of an author’s second Heartwarming book and sent them to her before dashing out the door to drive 60 km (about 40 miles) down to the studio where we were shooting two years of cover images for the Gold Eagle action/adventure books featuring hero Mack Bolan. After at least five years of the same Mack, we were transitioning from a model who’d been the first to establish Bolan in photo realism (before that, the books were illustrated). I felt as if this was a “Daniel Craig as James Bond” pivotal moment for us. The new Mack is a good 20 years younger…and we gave him more stylish civvies…fingers crossed the fans take this transition well.

2 p.m.: Got into the office from the shoot (would’ve been rude not to stay for the photographer’s lunch, right?) and had two edited and copy edited books back from authors with fixes and it was final pagination deadline that day. Went through the authors’ notes (I’d gone through the copy editors' notes before I sent the manuscripts to the authors, but had left all margin notes in there for authors to see), then accepted all changes and deleted all comments. Two books submitted to Typesetting by end of day. (From there, the clean books go to Proofreading for another read.) Dealt with email issues before leaving with a briefcase full of reads.

Tues., Oct. 29: I got up early to get back to the studio where we were photographing Deathlands covers for the Gold Eagle futuristic imprint. This was a first for us—we’d always illustrated these post-nuclear holocaust stories until this point. Of the small group of survivors, the art director and creative director had cast a Kurt Russell look-alike to play the central hero, Ryan, and a tall young model to wear the fire-engine red wig of bombshell sidekick Krysty Wroth. Again, I wanted to drop by to see how on earth this transition from illustration to photography was going to work. Wish it hadn’t taken me 2.5 hours to drive down (Toronto’s growth and lack of highway infrastructure to support it are the bane of my existence) to the studio, but the shoot was awesome and I can’t wait to see the first covers.

1 p.m.: Got into the office (after accepting another free lunch...so as not to be rude) and caught up on emails and finalized Heartwarming schedules with the managing editor team…and tried to figure out why one author’s miniseries always ends up with a tech glitch subtitle in the file. Long story, but that recurring ghost error seems to take an hour out of the day for three of us to clean up, sigh. Also trying to read several partial and full manuscripts at the same time—one because we have until end of week to finalize the top ten manuscripts for our So You Think You Can Write contest and we had recommended three Heartwarming entries.

Yoga at 5 and then I couldn’t work late because I had a family dinner downtown (back on the Don Valley highway, sigh).

Wed., Oct. 30: I worked at home to try to catch up on reads. One of my April/14 books had come in Sunday night and I need to send the author a revision note very fast because in theory the line edit deadline is Nov. 13. But I also have two agents trying to shake answers out of me about submissions I’ve had that date back quite a ways—not to mention the submission from a former Superromance author I’d gone after who’s been waiting for my feedback ever so patiently. I don’t know where the hours go in a day but I only seem to have read three proposals (while still dealing with emails and approving the Feb/14 Heartwarming “grids” for Production…I have no idea what “grids” mean but it's the final covers).

Thurs., Oct. 31: I knew it was going to be a rainy drive in, so I got up before 5 to avoid the worst of the Don Valley. My cunning plan worked—although only one way. The company let us out early for Halloween and, on the road by 4:15 to get home for the trick-or-treaters…I didn’t make it home until 6. So the Don Valley had the last laugh, growl.

Our performance plans are due to our managers by end of week and one of our editors was taking Friday off, so I had a new priority: read the proposals from a new-to-Heartwarming author the editor had given me at the end of September. Why the urgency? If the editor could contract this author, she would meet one of her key initiatives for this past year. We need books and I’m a deadline girl, so I put aside my Heartwarming revision read so that we could brainstorm the new concepts and the editor could make the Author Call, which was joyously received. (Highlight of the week, yay.)

I was able to touch base with the two agents to help them get a better understanding of the kind of high-stakes contemporary character-driven stories we’re looking for at Heartwarming—and then put a stop action on those manuscripts in our database…. A manuscript comes in, it’s entered into the database and the clock begins to tick. The company and we ourselves know exactly how long it takes us to get back to authors (pubbed and unpubbed) and agents. In fact, part of our performance review will be the calculation of our “on time” rate, which will also include how timely we are with our line edit deadlines, etc. I have a suspicion my “on time” rate will be down this year…launching original Heartwarming books is very rewarding and very hard work!

At 11 I had my bi-weekly meeting with the managing editor team, where the deadlines for Gold Eagle and Heartwarming are highlighted. Turns out I missed one out of seven preliminary matter deadlines for Gold Eagle, due Oct. 21. Oops. Checked in with the rest of the team to get updated ETAs on deadlines not met or about to be not met.

Rest of the day was spent trying to read stories, respond to a Heartwarming author (you know who you are) who has put together an RWA workshop proposal, which will include me, that’s due to RWA...today, eek!...and support our Editorial Assistants, who dressed up as the characters of the boardgame/movie "Clue" for the Harlequin Halloween costume parade at 2 (they won—Dana Grimaldi was Mrs. White and Claire Caldwell was Colonel Mustard—woo-hoo!). Also had a meeting  about a former Gold Eagle series that’s no longer in print.

After crawling home at 6 and trying to inhale spaghetti while trick-or-treaters kept ringing my broken doorbell (what happened to the olden days when we used to scream “trick or treat” and pound on the door???), I sat with my computer open intent on reading one of the manuscripts I’ve started. Instead, I bookmarked #editorcat Millie look-alikes at animal rescue shelters…and vowed I’d get up extra early Friday morning to be at my desk by 7 and write this guest blog so that I could then take care of the RWA workshop entry form, get contract notes to the Heartwarming author who’s been waiting two weeks, and call the other HW author to discuss the revision notes I sent her Monday morning…and then write up my performance review and forward up my direct reports’ reviews. This weekend is going to have to be my revision read/notes turnaround for the author with the theoretical Nov. 13 line edit deadline….

And that's my week so far. Thank you for reading more than you ever wanted to know about the life of a boring senior editor! All to say, in-house editors still exist and still do their best to work with authors to help shape the strongest stories possible. I feel as if I’m calling out to Horton: We are here!

18 comments:

  1. Wow! I'm exhausted just reading your post! I'm not going to complain about my schedule, LOL.

    Excited to see the new releases for November. Once again, gorgeous covers!

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    1. I should only have done "a day in the life"--I think if anyone put down a whole week, we'd be exhausted reading it! I couldn't resist backing it up to include the photo shoots, though, since they don't happen often.

      Aren't the covers gorgeous, Tara???

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  2. I've never doubted your crazy schedule, but seeing it-wow:) I love having you as my editor and will wait patiently for responses and edit notes, etc because they are so worth the wait:)
    Thanks again for taking a chance on this new-to-Heartwarming author! Release day-yippee!

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    1. Funny, I never thought of it as "taking a chance" on you, Jen! This story is so so good....

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  3. Happy release day to our wonderful authors and editors today!!! Victoria, you are here...and thank goodness for it. Despite the eye-opening, non-stop work week you described, you sounded, as always, in control and in good spirits, reassuring for new authors like me. Here's an example: "I have a suspicion my “on time” rate will be down this year…launching original Heartwarming books is very rewarding and very hard work!" You always find the positive, Victoria, and help others to see it too. If your "on time" rate is down, your "maker of miracles" tally will be up :) Launching a new line must be even more daunting and challenging than the keyhole peek you've given us here. But you were chosen to lead because of your talent, your patience, and your determination that will ensure success for employer, your authors, and yourself! Oh- and don't forget to breathe during your Tuesday night Yoga. Those peaceful, quiet moments are what makes a hectic week like yours possible! Thank you for everything you've done to create such an incredible line. Like all Heartwarming authors, we couldn't be prouder or more grateful.

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    1. You know what my least favourite pose is in yoga? Child's rest. I can't breathe during it, even if I spread my knees out and let my belly hang out! (Too much information?) All to say that, yes, sometimes it's important to know to breathe...

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  4. Good Lord! Karen is right - you need a tiara (I'm into tiaras) that says "Maker of Miracles." I hope you're keeping an eye on your blood pressure!

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    1. Ooh, yes, please to a tiara! I think I should start wearing one at home. If I wear one in the office, the other editors might start throwing things at me....

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  5. Heavens and you only gave us a sneak peek at a few days. I felt the stress building as I read to the end. I've always known all of you are weighed down with work, but we out here in writer-land appreciate all that you do. I love to read Harlequin books, and love to write for them, so like Muriel said, please take care of your health.

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    1. I'm so glad I picked this past week to write about--I'm loving the reassurances! And speaking of taking care of my health: it's our United Way campaign week and today there's a silent auction and a bake sale. So I'm lowering my blood pressure with pecan/apple crumble, Skor cupcakes and homemade peanut brittle. Yay!

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  6. Now I feel guilty for once telling you to take the stairs to get your exercise. Your schedule is exhausting. Thanks for all you do!

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    1. I don't remember you telling me that--good advice, though. I took the stairs everywhere I went for about three years. Didn't step on an elevator once. But I'm an all or nothing girl and once I took that first fatal step onto the machine, all bets were off. Too bad, excellent exercise.

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  7. Wow! That's a schedule for four people! Laughing at your bookmarking Millie-alikes. We just adopted a kitten, and we can't stop looking at the still-available ones either. They're like candy! So excited to see the holiday stories! As irresistible as kittens! :-)

    Anna Adams

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  8. I still can't believe the holidays are around the corner! But I guess if they're on the covers of the books, it must be so. (Paula Eykelhof keeps coming in and asking me if I've adopted a new kitten--I think she'd like to adopt one for me...!)

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    1. I have a confession to make-I did adopt one on Thursday...One look at Rula's blog and well, straight to the Humane Society I went:) His name is Lionel:)

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  9. I'm making it around late to this post, but gosh Victoria, my brain is spinning just reading about everything on your schedule! As with other authors here, I know I'm living proof that you've always been there, nurturing authors and taking the time to help them grow as writers. I'm forever grateful for that.

    And congrats to all the new releases and the beautiful covers...and to Jen's new kitten! Lionel...what a cute name for a little kitty.

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  10. I love, love, loved reading how your days are spent. And, I'm going right now to put the new titles on the sidebar. Can't wait to read them.

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  11. Wow. And I thought I was busy. All your efforts are greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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