Wings to Redemption

By: Paul H. Landes
Kristen Rogers

This book is literally being published as I write this article. What a world of difference from the old-school style of book publication. There are many things about this new method of publishing that I really love, and one thing that I truly loathe, and fortunately, this writer had the good sense to avoid that error - even if, in saying that, I risk patting myself on the back.

In the old days, a manuscript and/or query letter would be shopped around from publishing house to publishing house, or agent to agent, in the hopes that someone might take an interest in the book, or idea for a book. Proven authors were often ordered to write something, anything, as publishing houses and agents knew that that author's work sold.

If a book was picked up by a publishing house, the author would work with an editor, who would assist the writer by reading drafts, and picking up spelling, grammar, plot line, character development, and other issues in the manuscript. Depending on the writer, it was often a highly collaborative process - there are some noted relationships between writer and editor in which the writer was highly dependent upon a particular editor, and literally could not produce the same quality of work without that editor's input (think of Maxwell Perkins and Thomas Wolfe, for example); and while editors are often not writers themselves, they can frequently drive a writer to a much higher caliber of work.

Today, writers can bypass the publishing house and self-publish, via Amazon or various other outlets, going direct to print-on-demand and ebook. The writer can work with a typesetting firm, choosing a print style and layout for the book, cover art and blurbs, and everything else that would go into the publication of a book - including marketing it. Smaller bookstores are hungry for anything that will get people into their shops, and will often hold author's book-signing events, which writers are free to set up themselves.

The one step that writers often forgo these days and should not is working with an editor - and it shows in the quality of the writing that is often churned out. And I've noted that more than once in this column. It's often very clear that a good editor would have picked up glaring errors - and this is true even with some of the more famous authors.

In this case, I was approached by an old college friend who had just completed the first draft of a first novel, and wanted to know what he needed to do next. "Get an editor," said I. Did I know any, he wondered, and I, wanting to get this experience under my belt, was more than happy to oblige.

If you want to learn about writing, editing is the high road. As an editor, you're forced to view a book clinically as well as on a more artistic level. And then you have to read just from the heart. And, though you read the book many, many times, you have to try to approach it each time with a fresh eye - reading it as a new reader would, not knowing what's going to happen, how things are going to play out.

The process is a fascinating one. An editor, I think, wants to encourage a writer without pandering. Refine a storyline but not try to take it over. Polish style, but not direct it. And always remember: this is not your book!

Fortunately for me, Paul was a model writer. He dealt with edits exactly as he should, with no defensiveness. Grammar, spelling, typos, and that sort of thing were accepted without a blink. More significant edits, he considered thoughtfully, and either accepted or rejected them on the merits. He listened, and when something needed reworking, he really did go back and rework it - and really put in the effort to think it through and solve problems, add material where it was needed,  or bring something to life that had been "told not shown."

All in all, it was a great experience - and I think the result is a terrific book! Paul plans to create a series featuring his main character, Alex Boudreau, an enigmatic, deep, brilliant baddie-looking-for-redemption. In this introductory novel, we not only meet Alex, but we become enmeshed in a plot to deploy a nano-weapon with the potential to target and kill selected millions. I confess that some of the techno-weapon minutia were sophisticated enough that I had a hard time following how it all worked, but got enough of it to be intrigued - and certainly thriller addicts are going to find lots to love in the details.

I don't want to go into too much detail because there are some plot twists that would be ruined by exposing them here. What I will tell you is that what sets this book apart from the many whodunits out there is that it's more than a "whirlwind chase around the globe to stop the bad guys from doing bad things before the planet blows up." Yes, there's a lot of that; there's intrigue and villains and danger and plots and chase scenes. But there are also moments when the action slows down and we get a glimpse inside the minds and hearts of our lead characters, and learn a little about who they are, why they do what they do, what they want and need - we actually have the time to care about them.

I was pleasantly surprised by the movie, The Avengers, because the director gave the characters the screen time to develop. They were more than cartoons who fought, chased, killed, and threw off funny one-liners. We got to know them a little, and because of that, we were all the more invested in their winning in the end. This is also true of Wings to Redemption. Most of all, Paul allows his characters to grow and change through the course of the book. The events in the book drive them to new places in their minds, hearts and souls. And for readers, whether they are aware of it or not, this is the most satisfying part of reading a book.

Perhaps its the influence of Paul's co-author, but the book is a satisfying blend of action and romance, thriller and literary fiction. And Paul has introduced a range of characters who can plausibly reappear to continue their relationships, and their adventures, for some time to come. Not to mention a cliff-hanger ending that leaves us definitely looking for Book Number Two.


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