Monday, May 19, 2014

Off Kilter TV: Where Horror Rears its Ugly Head 
on Family Television

The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
(Season 3, Episode 13—1965)
Where the Woodbine Twineth by Davis Grubb
Directed by Alf Kjellin

Critiqued by Anthony Servante

Off-Kilter TV deals with traditional TV fare that has that oddball episode that doesn’t fit the premise of the show. For instance, on Gilligan’s Island, season 3, episode 18, “The Hunter”, Gilligan is prey for a predatory big gamesman who wishes to know what it’s like to hunt a human; on the old western show RAWHIDE (1958-65), season 5, episode 5, “INCIDENT OF THE FOUR HORSEMEN”, our cattle-herding heroes face the four biblical figures of the apocalypse: War, Famine, Death, and Plague. These unexpected episodes that find their way into the family hour I like to call Off-Kilter TV.

Rory Calhoun and Harold Sakata
Hunting a human.

Forgot to write SPOILERS! on this article. However, if you scan down to the bottom of this article, you will find the video of the episode I discuss and the short story it is based on, so you might want to skip down and watch and read the story before reading this review. 

We find one such episode on a TV program famous for its suspense rather than the supernatural. Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-62) and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962-65) provide TV viewers with dramatic and crime stories with the O’Henry endings, surprises where the bad guys get away with their crime. For example, in the episode, “REVENGE”, a wife is attacked while her husband is at work; when he returns home to find his wife victimized, he, at first, relies on the police for justice, but their justice proves too slow; so he drives his wife around, assured his wife will recognize her attacker. She does, pointing out the man who assaulted her to her husband, who kills the man. As the husband and wife drive off, the wife points to another man and says he’s the attacker. As sirens close in, the husband realizes his wife is still mad in shock and that he “WHERE THE WOODBINE TWINETH”, from The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, there are no criminal escapades. This is a straight-up off-kilter tale.

The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

The story is directed by Alf Kjellin, well-known actor and part-time director, known for his roles in “MADAME BOVARY” (1949), “SHIP OF FOOLS” (1965), and “ICE STATION ZEBRA” (1968). As a director, he focused on television shows such as "Little House on the Prairie," "Columbo," "The Six Million Dollar Man" and the two Alfred Hitchcock shows. The writer is Davis Glubb, author of “NIGHT OF THE HUNTER” and anthologies on horror and the supernatural.

Alf Kjellin, Director and Actor

The tale itself deals with a young girl named Eva, recently orphaned, who is taken in by her strict great aunt, Nell, sister to Eva's grandfather. It seems that Eva has imaginary friends, and Nell becomes increasingly frustrated as she tries to make the girl admit that she is making up these invisible friends. However, as the episode focuses on the growing influence of these friends on the child and their affect on the impatient aunt, who threatens to make Eva eat soap as punishment for not telling the truth. The child, however, insists that it is the aunt who denies what the girl knows to be real.

Eva comes to live with Grampa

The show indirectly deals with voodoo, although it is never mentioned. The black butler and repairman, and his wife, the cook, are more patient with the child and her “friends”. Even when the grandfather brings home a black doll the same size as young Eva, the help do not wonder at the choice of the doll’s color. But as soon as the doll is handed to the young girl, she insists that her “friends” foretold her of the doll’s arrival and would replace them, since Aunt Nell, according to the child, has chased her friends away from the house.

Nell confronts Eva about her imaginary friends.

Then the strange happenings begin. The piano plays itself. As young Eva plays with her doll under the bed covers, we can discern two figures playing under the blanket. The cook questions her husband’s forgetfulness for having forgotten to bring in the ham she requested, a chore he denies being given since he hadn’t seen his wife all morning. But the wife insists that he sat in the kitchen and ate breakfast. Also, Eva begins to use vocabulary unfitting for a five year old. She calls her aunt an “old maid” and “snippy” and tells her to “shut up”. The child is repeating what her friends had called her aunt.

Eva and the Voodoo doll.

Nell can no longer deal with the child’s insolence and takes the doll from her before going on an errand. Eva, however, steals into the locked room where the doll was placed and leaves the house with her. She carries the doll in the large box in which it arrived. He mentioned to the cook earlier that when she plays with the doll that they sometimes trade places in the box. The black maid finally becomes unsettled at the child’s words about the box. When Nell comes home, Eva is not in her room. The old aunt finds the child outside in the evening darkness by the forest, dancing with a little black girl. Nell pushes through the bushes and confronts the girl, who is dressed in the doll’s clothes, though Nell doesn't seem to notice it. She threatens the girl with a branch stripped of its leaves to make a whip and chases her off, telling her to never return.

Nell chases away "girl".

She then looks for Eva. In the box there is a doll who is the exact double for the young girl, even wearing her same bed-clothes. She realizes the truth too late. She chases after the black girl and begs her to come back. She doesn't. Nell picks up the doll that she now knows is Eva and carries her back to the house.

The Eva Doll

Upon viewing this episode, I googled the story “Where the Woodbine Twineth” and read it. Other than more references to “voodoo”, the story is basically and structurally the same as the Alfred Hitchcock episode. But this is not a crime against man-made laws. This was a supernatural tale of playful spirits and possession of a human body. It was a game of trading bodies with the one spirit in the doll, the spirit her other spirit “friends” told her would be arriving soon to take their place in the house that they found too threatening to play in, what with the strict aunt refusing to allow the girl to play with them. Here there was no revenge on a murderer or a perfect robbery that leads to an unexpected arrest. Here there was what at first was a child’s imagination gone wild, until we, the viewers realize this is reality. When the doll and Eva are playing under the covers, our fears are confirmed. There is a supernatural presence at work here.

This haunting episode worked on two levels. One, it tricked the viewer into believing it was just another Hitchcock episode that would end with a rational explanation for the strange occurrences around the house. It wasn’t. Two, it tricked the viewer by ending with the child being turned into a porcelain doll. Whether or not the spirit of the girl was set free and taken “far, far away”, as the spirits promised her, remains unclear. We can only define the emotions of the ending by its impact on the aunt who realizes too late that she could have avoided the outcome had she only believed the girl.

For those fans of Off-Kilter TV, I recommend you watch the show and read the story, provided for you below, in the order you prefer. Only don’t expect a crime drama with a twist. Expect to enter the realm of supernatural creatures and their voodoo manifestations. You have been warned. Believe right up front. You won’t be any less shocked by the ending. But you’ll reduce the intensity of the nightmares that will definitely follow, especially if you have a child who has imaginary friends.

 Watch Where the Woodbine Twineth here.

Read the story here.

Where the Woodbine Twineth
by Davis Grubb
IT WAS NOT that Nell hadn’t done everything she could. Many’s the windy, winter afternoon she had spent reading to the child from Pilgrim’s Progress and Hadley’s Comportment for Young Ladies and from the gilded, flowery leaves of A Spring Garland of Noble Thoughts. And she had countless times reminded the little girl that we must all strive to make ourselves useful in this life and that five years old wasn’t too young to begin to learn. Though none of it had helped. And there were times when Nell actually regretted ever taking in the curious, gold-haired child that tragic winter when Nell’s brother Amos and his foolish wife had been killed. Eva stubbornly spent her days dreaming under the puzzle-tree or sitting on the stone steps of the ice-house making up tunes or squatting on the little square carpet stool in the dark parlor whispering softly to herself. 
       “Eva!” cried Nell one day, surprising her there. “Who are you talking to?” 
       “To my friends,” said Eva quietly, “Mister Peppercorn and Sam and—” 
       “Eva!” cried Nell. “I will not have this nonsense any longer! You know perfectly well there’s no one in this parlor but you!” 
       “They live under the davenport,” explained Eva patiently. “And behind the Pianola. They’re very small so it’s easy.” 
       “Eva! Hush that talk this instant!” cried Nell. 
       “You never believe me,” sighed the child, “when I tell you things are real.” 
       “They aren’t real!” said Nell. “And I forbid you to make up such tales any longer! When I was a little girl I never had time for such mischievous nonsense. I was far too busy doing the bidding of my fine God-fearing parents and learning to be useful in this world!” 
       Dusk was settling like a golden smoke over the willows down by the river shore when Nell finished pruning her roses that afternoon. And she was stripping off her white linen garden gloves on her way to the kitchen to see if Suse and Jessie had finished their Friday baking. Then she heard Eva speaking again, far off in the dark parlor, the voice quiet at first and then rising curiously, edged with terror. 
       “Eva!” cried Nell, hurrying down the hall, determined to put an end to the foolishness once and for all. “Eva! Come out of that parlor this very instant!” 
       Eva appeared in the doorway, her round face streaming and broken with grief, her fat, dimpled fist pressed to her mouth in grief. 
       “You did it!” the child shrieked. “You did it!” 
       Nell stood frozen, wondering how she could meet this. 
       “They heard you!” Eva cried, stamping her fat shoe on the bare, thin carpet. “They heard you say you didn’t want them to stay here! And now they’ve all gone away! All of them—Mister Peppercorn and Mingo and Sam and Popo!” 
       Nell grabbed the child by the shoulders and began shaking her, not hard but with a mute, hysterical compulsion. 
       “Hush up!” cried Nell, thickly. “Hush, Eva! Stop it this very instant!” 
       “You did it!” wailed the golden child, her head lolling back in a passion of grief and bereavement. “My friends! You made them go away!” 
       All that evening Nell sat alone in her bedroom trembling with curious satisfaction. For punishment Eva had been sent to her room without supper and Nell sat listening now to the even, steady sobs far off down the hall. It was dark and on the river shore a night bird tried its note cautiously against the silence. Down in the pantry, the dishes done, Suse and Jessie, dark as night itself, drank coffee by the great stove and mumbled over stories of the old times before the War. Nell fetched her smelling salts and sniffed the frosted stopper of the flowered bottle till the trembling stopped. 
       Then, before the summer seemed half begun, it was late August. And one fine, sharp morning, blue with the smoke of burning leaves, the steamboat Samantha Collins docked at Cresap’s Landing. Eva sat, as she had been sitting most of that summer, alone on the cool, worn steps of the ice-house, staring moodily at the daisies bobbing gently under the burden of droning, golden bees. 
       “Eva!” Nell called cheerfully from the kitchen window. “Someone’s coming today!” 
       Eva sighed and said nothing, glowering mournfully at the puzzle-tree and remembering the wonderful stories that Mingo used to tell. 
       “Grandfather’s boat landed this morning, Eva!” cried Nell. “He’s been all the way to
New Orleans and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he brought his little girl a present!” 
       Eva smelled suddenly the wave of honeysuckle that wafted sweet and evanescent from the tangled blooms on the stone wall and sighed, recalling the high, gay lilt to the voice of Mister Peppercorn when he used to sing her his enchanting songs. 
       “Eva!” called Nell again. “Did you hear what Aunt Nell said? Your grandpa’s coming home this afternoon!” 
       “Yes’m,” said Eva lightly, hugging her fat knees and tucking her plain little skirt primly under her bottom. 
       And supper that night had been quite pleasant. Jessie made raspberry cobblers for the Captain and fetched in a prize ham from the meat-house, frosted and feathery with mould, and Suse had baked fresh bread that forenoon till the ripe, yeasty smell of hot bread seemed everywhere in the world. Nobody said a word while the Captain told of his trip to
New Orleans and Eva listened to his stern old voice and remembered Nell’s warnings never to interrupt when he was speaking and only to speak herself when spoken to. When supper was over the Captain sat back and sucked the coffee briskly from his white moustache. Then rising without a word he went to the chair by the crystal umbrella stand in the hallway and fetched back a long box wrapped in brown paper. 
       Eva’s eyes rose slowly and shone over the rim of her cup. 
       “I reckon this might be something to please a little girl,” said the old man gruffly, thrusting the box into Eva’s hands. 
       “For me?” whispered Eva. 
       “Well now!” grunted the Captain. “I didn’t fetch this all the way up the river from N’Orleans for any other girl in Cresap’s Landing!” 
       And presently string snapped and paper rustled expectantly and the cardboard box lay open at last and Eva stared at the creature which lay within, her eyes shining and wide with sheerest disbelief. 
       “Numa!” she whispered. 
       “What did you say, Eva?” said Nell. “Don’t mumble your words!” 
       “It’s Numa!” cried the child, searching both their faces for the wonder that was hers. “They told me she’d be coming but I didn’t know Grandpa was going to bring her! Mister Peppercorn said—” 
       “Eva!” whispered Nell. 
       Eva looked gravely at her grandfather, hoping not to seem too much of a tattle-tale, hoping that he would not deal too harshly with Nell for the fearful thing she had done that summer day. 
       “Aunt Nell made them all go away,” she began. 
       Nell leaned across the table clutching her linen napkin tight in her white knuckles. “Father!” she whispered. “Please don’t discuss it with her! She’s made up all this nonsense and I’ve been half out of my mind all this summer! First it was some foolishness about people who live under the davenport in the parlor—” 
       Eva sighed and stared at the gas-light winking brightly on her grandfather’s watch chain and felt somewhere the start of tears. 
       “It’s really true,” she said boldly. “She never believes me when I tell her things are real. She made them all go away. But one day Mister Peppercorn came back. It was just for a minute. And he told me they were sending me Numa instead!” 
       And then she fell silent and simply sat, heedless of Nell’s shrill voice trying to explain. Eva sat staring with love and wonder at the Creole doll with the black, straight tresses and the lovely coffee skin. 
       Whatever the summer had been, the autumn, at least, had seemed the most wonderful season of Eva’s life. In the fading afternoons of that dying Indian summer she would sit by the hour, not brooding now, but holding the dark doll in her arms and weaving a shimmering spell of fancy all their own. And when September winds stirred, sharp and prescient with new seasons, Eva, clutching her dark new friend would tiptoe down the hallway to the warm, dark parlor and sit by the Pianola to talk some more. 
       Nell came down early from her afternoon nap one day and heard Eva’s excited voice far off in the quiet house. She paused with her hand on the newel post, listening, half-wondering what the other sound might be, half-thinking it was the wind nudging itself wearily against the old white house. Then she peered in the parlor door. 
       “Eva!” said Nell. “What are you doing?” 
       It was so dark that Nell could not be certain of what she saw. She went quickly to the window and threw up the shade. 
       Eva sat on the square carpet stool by the Pianola, her blue eyes blinking innocently at Nell and the dark doll staring vacuously up from the cardboard box beside her. 
       “Who was here with you?” said Nell. “I distinctly heard two voices.” 
       Eva sat silent, staring at Nell’s stiff high shoes. Then her great eyes slowly rose. 
       “You never believe me,” the child whispered, “when I tell you things are real.”

OLD SUSE, AT least, understood things perfectly. 
       “How’s the scampy baby doll grandpappy brought you, lamb?” the old Negro woman said that afternoon as she perched on the high stool by the pump, paring apples for a pie. Eva squatted comfortably on the floor with Numa and watched the red and white rind curl neatly from Suse’s quick, dark fingers. 
       “Life is hard!” Eva sighed philosophically. “Yes oh yes! Life is hard! That’s what Numa says!” 
       “Such talk for a youngster!” Suse grunted, plopping another white quarter of fruit into the pan of spring water. “What you studyin’ about life for! And you only five!” 
       “Numa tells me,” sighed Eva, her great blue eyes far away. “Oh yes! She really does! She says if Aunt Nell ever makes her go away she’ll take me with her!” 
       “Take you!” chuckled Suse, brushing a blue-bottle from her arm. “Take you where?” 
       “Where the woodbine twineth,” sighed Eva. 
       “Which place?” said Suse, cocking her head. 
       “Where the woodbine twineth,” Eva repeated patiently. 
       “I declare!” Suse chuckled. “I never done heard tell of that place!” 
       Eva cupped her chin in her hand and sighed reflectively. 
       “Sometimes,” she said presently, “we just talk. And sometimes we play.” 
       “What y’all play?” asked Suse, obligingly. 
       “Doll,” said Eva. “Oh yes, we play doll. Sometimes Numa gets tired of being doll and I’m the doll and she puts me in the box and plays with me!” 
       She waved her hand casually to show Suse how really simple it all was. Suse eyed her sideways with twinkling understanding, the laughter struggling behind her lips. 
       “She puts you in that little bitty box?” said Suse. “And you’s a doll?” 
       “Yes oh yes!” said Eva. “She really does! May I have an apple, Suse?” 
       When she had peeled and rinsed it, Suse handed Eva a whole, firm Northern Spy. “Don’t you go and spoil your supper now, lamb!” she warned. 
       “Oh!” cried Eva. “It’s not for me. It’s for Numa!” 
       And she put the dark doll in the box and stumped off out the back door to the puzzle-tree. Nell came home from choir practice at five that afternoon and found the house so silent that she wondered for a moment if Suse or Jessie had taken Eva down to the landing to watch the evening Packet pass. The kitchen was empty and silent except for the thumping of a pot on the stove and Nell went out into the yard and stood listening by the rose arbor. Then she heard Eva’s voice. And through the failing light she saw them then, beneath the puzzle-tree. 
       “Eva!” cried Nell. “Who is that with you!” 
       Eva was silent as Nell’s eyes strained to piece together the shadow and substance of the dusk. She ran quickly down the lawn to the puzzle-tree. But only Eva was there. Off in the river the evening Packet blew dully for the bend. Nell felt the wind, laced with autumn, stir the silence round her like a web. 
       “Eva!” said Nell. “I distinctly saw another child with you! Who was it?” 
       Eva sighed and sat cross-legged in the grass with the long box and the dark doll beside her. 
       “You never believe me—” she began softly, staring guiltily at the apple core in the grass. 
       “Eva!” cried Nell, brushing a firefly roughly from her arm so that it left a smear of dying gold. “I’m going to have an end to this nonsense right now!” And she picked up the doll in the cardboard box and started towards the house. 
       Eva screamed in terror. “Numa!” she wailed. 
       “You may cry all you please, Eva!” said Nell. “But you may not have your doll until you come to me and admit that you don’t really believe all this nonsense about fairies and imaginary people!” 
       “Numa!” screamed Eva, jumping up and down in the grass and beating her fists against her bare, grass-stained knees, “Numa!” 
       “I’m putting this box on top of the Pianola, Eva,” said Nell. “And I’ll fetch it down again when you confess to me that there was another child playing with you this afternoon. I cannot countenance falsehoods!” 
       “Numa said,” screamed Eva, “that if you made her go away—!” 
       “I don’t care to hear another word!” said Nell, walking ahead of the wailing child up the dark lawn towards the house. 
       But the words sprang forth like Eva’s very tears. “—she’d take me away with her!” she screamed. 
       “Not another word!” said Nell. “Stop your crying and go up to your room and get undressed for bed!” 
       And she went into the parlor and placed the doll box on top of the Pianola next to the music rolls.

A WEEK LATER the thing ended. And years after that autumn night Nell, mad and simpering, would tell the tale again and stare at the pitying, doubting faces in the room around her and she would whimper to them in a parody of the childish voice of Eva herself: “You never believe me when I tell you things are real!” 
       It was a pleasant September evening and Nell had been to a missionary meeting with Nan Snyder that afternoon and she had left
Nan at her steps and was hurrying up the tanbark walk by the ice-house when she heard the prattling laughter of Eva far back in the misty shadows of the lawn. Nell ran swiftly into the house to the parlor—to the Pianola. The doll box was not there. She hurried to the kitchen door and peered out through the netting into the dusky river evening. She did not call to Eva then but went out and stripped a willow switch from the little tree by the stone wall and tip-toed softly down the lawn. A light wind blew from the river meadows, heavy and sweet with wetness, like the breath of cattle. They were laughing and joking together as Nell crept soundlessly upon them, speaking low as children do, with wild, delicious intimacy, and then bubbling high with laughter that cannot be contained. Nell approached silently, feeling the dew soak through to her ankles, clutching the switch tightly in her hand. She stopped and listened for a moment, for suddenly there was but one voice now, a low and wonderfully lyric sound that was not the voice of Eva. Then Nell stared wildly down through the misshapen leaves of the puzzle-tree and saw the dark child sitting with the doll box in its lap. 
       “So!” cried Nell, stepping suddenly through the canopy of leaves. “You’re the darkie child who’s been sneaking up here to play with Eva!” 
       The child put the box down and jumped to its feet with a low cry of fear as Nell sprang forward, the willow switch flailing furiously about the dark ankles. 
       “Now scat!” cried Nell. “Get on home where you belong and don’t ever come back!” 
       For an instant the dark child stared in horror first at Nell and then at the doll box, its sorrowing, somnolent eyes brimming with wild words and a grief for which it had no tongue, its lips trembling as if there were something Nell should know that she might never learn again after that autumn night was gone. 
       “Go on, I say!” Nell shouted, furious. 
       The switch flickered about the dark arms and legs faster than ever. And suddenly with a cry of anguish the dark child turned and fled through the tall grass toward the meadow and the willows on the river shore. Nell stood trembling for a moment, letting the rage ebb slowly from her body. 
       “Eva!” she called out presently. “Eva!” 
       There was no sound but the dry steady racket of the frogs by the landing. 
       “Eva!” screamed Nell. “Come to me this instant!” 
       She picked up the doll box and marched angrily up towards the lights in the kitchen. 
       “Eva!” cried Nell. “You’re going to get a good switching for this!” 
       A night bird in the willow tree by the stone wall cried once and started up into the still, affrighted dark. Nell did not call again for, suddenly, like the mood of the autumn night, the very sound of her voice had begun to frighten her. And when she was in the kitchen Nell screamed so loudly that Suse and Jessie, long asleep in their shack down below the ice-house, woke wide and stared wondering into the dark. Nell stared for a long moment after she had screamed, not believing, really, for it was at once so perfect and yet so unreal. Trembling violently Nell ran back out onto the lawn. 
       “Come back!” screamed Nell hoarsely into the tangled far off shadows by the river. “Come back! Oh please! Please come back!” 
       But the dark child was gone forever. And Nell, creeping back at last to the kitchen, whimpering and slack-mouthed, looked again at the lovely little dreadful creature in the doll box: the gold-haired, plaster Eva with the eyes too blue to be real.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Other Side of the Words II: An Editor's POV
A Few Words with Geoff Brown and Theresa Derwin
Compiled by Anthony Servante

Introduction by Anthony Servante:

The Other Side of the Words is a column about Editors. I invite professionals and freelancers to discuss their craft and to share with new and upcoming authors of self-published works and ebooks the importance of hiring savvy proofreading and editing experts. This is my second outing covering the topic, and today I welcome Geoff Brown and Theresa Derwin to talk about their services. 

We begin with Geoff.

Geoff Brown (on the left).

1. What is editing to you? Break down how you define it in your services. For instance, what is the difference between proofreading and editing?

Geoff: Editing is, before anything, about clarity while preserving the author’s unique voice and narrative structure. Conciseness and clarity is the aim, yet to preserve the unique voice of the piece is the game. Both hold similar importance. Both are essential to the process, for the sake of the manuscript.
Manuscript assessment/appraisal is the first thing I recommend. This offers an overall (personalised) assessment/critique of a manuscript, looking at: strengths, weaknesses, structural issues, and necessary changes for submission to agent or publisher. Includes some line notes and a full written report, and can take out many of the problems encountered and reported in a structural (mechanical) edit.
Structural edits look at similar things to appraisal, but is a more hands-on-manuscript service rather than giving you most of the info in a written report (although you still get a written report). For fiction, plot elements will be checked to make sure everything is consistent – including character behaviour and appearance, tracking for plot holes, story arc, character development, etc. For non-fiction, we look at whether there is a need for additional material such as a glossary, illustrations, map or index. We also assess whether the document is user-friendly and easy to navigate and whether the structure itself is functional or whether the content needs rearranging into more logical order or into another form such as a table or illustration.
Copy-editing is very deep line-by-line work to remove the mistakes, inconsistencies or other infelicities of expression that could irritate or confuse readers—or embarrass the author. At the copy editing stage, the editor therefore concentrates on the details of language, spelling and punctuation, on achieving consistency of style and layout, fact-checking, and checking references, illustrations, tables, headings, sequences, links, and preliminary matter and end matter.
This brings us to the proofing stage. This is always the last part of the process, as it is no use proofing if new content is to be added. Proofing looks at removing the bottom-level errors of spelling, punctuation, missing or incorrect words, and tensing, other grammar, and layout issues. Proofing is not the time to make big changes, as that should have been done in the earlier stages of editing.

2. Tell us your experience in editing. Give some background how you got started, how long you’ve been doing it, etc.

Geoff: I studied full-time for two years at college level, gaining a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing, and upon graduation was awarded two ‘Student of the Year’ awards. I opened my own editing business halfway through the course, and it has built up to the point where I subcontract to a number of highly-skilled professionals. Apart from editing, we offer cover design, as well as typography and layout of all book types, and ongoing advice and guidance. Cohesion Editing and Proofreading began three years ago, and we offer the very best service we can for the best prices.
I am now six subjects into a university level Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing and Publishing. I never want to stop learning. Every day I learn something is a good day.
I also teach editing at college level, at the institution I attended only two years ago as a student. It gives me immense pleasure to pass on the skills I have learnt over the years to new people, to help the industry maintain the high quality I have come to expect from myself and my peers.

3. Give examples, other than your own books, about whose books you have edited, if possible (I know, with me, some authors prefer anonymity).

Geoff: I have edited an issue of Midnight Echo, the magazine of the Australian Horror Writers Association, which featured renowned authors such as Jonathan Maberry, James A Moore and Robin Firth, as well as many other great writers. I have edited NY Times bestselling-author Greig Beck, and Australian legend Martin Livings, as well as Shirley Jackson Award-winning writer Kaaron Warren, to name a few. I opened my own publishing business, Cohesion Press, a year ago, and our next release features stories by Jonathan Maberry, Weston Ochse, Joseph Nasisse, James A Moore, and Greig Beck, as well as a plethora of talented writers.
Other services like layout and typesetting are some of our most-used options. We have done typesetting for many people, including USA Today-bestseller Madison Johns, as well as renowned publishers such as Dark Regions Press.

4. Tell us about the need for your services. For me, about 30% of the books I read should be edited, because there’s a good book hiding in there. But about 30% of the books are first drafts, which require a re-write, not an edit. Or do you see things differently?

Geoff: I think your odds are about right, and that’s not taking into account the many books that should never have been published. Every book needs an editor. Writers, no matter how great, need a new pair of (trained and experienced) eyes to look over their work. Writers see what they believe is there, yet editors provide the fresh eyes that see what really is there. No matter how great the writer, an editor, a good editor, will find the flaws, the problems, and the blind spots that the author can’t due to being too close to the story to provide themselves with honest and direct feedback.

5. How do you determine how much to charge? What factors do you include in your costs and fees?

Geoff: We charge on a sliding scale. We look at the person seeking the work, whether they are a brand new self-publisher or an established multi-list author or publishing house. We work out what they can afford.
We also look at the amount of work required. That’s why we ask to see some examples of the work. The less work needed, the lower the charge. We also offer payment plans and options suited to any budget.

6. Do you offer any guarantees or follow-up services (free or fee-based?)?

Geoff: No reputable editor would offer any guarantees with their services, except for guaranteeing to give you the very best work possible. The world of publishing is chaotic. Readers can move any way in their tastes, and what is popular today may be old news in a week. No-one can guarantee sales, no matter how well the book is written and edited. I would never make any sales guarantee. Publishers are even more chaotic. They try to move in the future, trying to predict what will be popular in the twelve-to-eighteen months it takes for a book to go through the publishing process. They like what they like, and no two publishers or acquisition editors are the same.
Follow-up services are a different thing. Years of networking in the writing and publishing field, as well as two years as president of the Australian Horror Writers Association, allows me to help with suggestion on targeted submissions and knowing who is looking for what, purely through talk with other industry professionals. That said, the first point of this section still stands – I can offer guidance, but certainly no guarantees.

7. How much time do you require for a 10,000 (20,000, 30,000, etc.) word document? Does the time differ on whether or not you are proofreading or editing, or is it a set charge?

Geoff: Each job is different. Each level of editing is different. Each time frame is different. Each fee is different. There are too many variables to give an accurate quote, but know that we speed each and every job through the process as quickly and smoothly as we can without sacrificing quality for time-frame.
Sometimes we are busier than at other times, but we are never sitting here twiddling our thumbs, as we have many return customers, and jobs go on the timetable as they come in and as our quotes are accepted. No-one gets special treatment or kicked to the front of the line. First in, first served.

8. Tell us anything about editing not covered in the questions. Go crazy, if you so wish.

Geoff: One of my pet peeves is the amount of untrained and inexperienced people out there calling themselves editors, merely because they have written one self-published novel and beta-read manuscripts for a few friends.
Professional editors get trained and educated. Professional editors work so hard at improving their skills that they bleed sweat every single day learning the difference between tenses, the minutiae of grammar, the many and varied plot elements, characters, story arcs, and everything else that makes a great book. Editors constantly stay abreast of new skills and styles. Editors have an eye for design, an eye for voice, an eye for a unique narrative style, and they have qualifications to show this. Yes, there are some naturally-good editors, but they are few and far between. For the rest of us, the skills are learnt, every single day of our lives. Most of all, editors read as much as writers should read.
Just because someone can self-publish and open a Facebook page doesn’t make them an editor. Do your research, people. Find out what they’ve done, and ask for references. Ask for a sample of work, to see if you fit with them. It’s no good using a romance editor if you write horror, and it’s no use using a horror editor if you write non-fiction. This is why I have a few different editors working for me, each with their own strengths, and every single one with training and long experience in the craft and art of editing.

Contact Information:

Geoff Brown Dip. PWE
Editor-in-Chief – Cohesion Press
Editor/Columnist/Reviewer – This is Horror (UK)


On to Theresa.

Theresa Derwin 

1: What is editing to you?

Theresa: defining editing is a tricky one; after all, when does the process of proof reading stop and the inner editor take over? It can also vary according to project. For instance I recently edited an anthology of twelve dark stories written by female writers called 'Her Dark Voice'. I'd been planning this book for quote some time and commissioning stories from a variety of female authors, cherry picking if you will. As such, the quality of stories I received was excellent, the authors very professional so the editing required was a basic copy edit and house style edit. Every publisher has its own 'house style' suck as using okay instead of OK in order to ensure consistency through its projects. However, with other books or projects the editing goes past a basic proof reading level into full on editing territory. For instance I am currently mentoring an author with his first novel, an enjoyable and quite dark horror novel that I feel has some potential. I also feel the author himself has great future potential, so I have extended my services. With a basic edit I look at structure, grammar, punctuation - the basics of writing. I will either 'red pen it' on printed manuscript or use the comment function on MS Word. I'm not a fan of track changes but at some point I'll have to get to grips with it. Once Ive done a first read through with error spotting, or proof reading, I'll do my second read through more in depth. I'll look at the overall symmetry of the piece, how it feels. Does it work? Does text need removing completely or switching around? It then goes back to the author to make changes. When it comes back I do another read through and engage in a conversation with the author about any other changes we need to consider. However, with the above mentioned author Ive been assigning homework. Month one; write me a new fairy tale adapted from an original. Month two; research William Shunn (essential to anyone wanting to submit professionally). In summary, the job varies depending on the need.

2: Experience and 3: Work

Theresa: I've been writing since I was nine years old and when I hit twenty-three I went to university to study Literature. It was at that time, nearly twenty years ago that I discovered just how much editing I required myself when assignments would come back tarnished in red pen! I studied up to postgraduate level for around ten years, part of my MA being in creative writing. Through that valuable module I honed my writing skills and learnt from the best. I also worked for the Civil Service so regularly edited work related documents. However, I really got into this gig around three years ago when I started submitting short stories to markets and getting accepted. It was there I really learned how to edit, learning from editors themselves. So in 2012 when I was offered a chance to edit a Christmas Horror anthology for Fringeworks Ltd, I went for it. That involved putting out the submission call and selecting the stories then going through the whole editorial process. That was 'Ain't No Sanity Clause'. I have since edited volume two out Sept 14, Grimm Volume One and Volume Two, Andromeda's Offspring out May 14 and Her Dark Voice released April 14 for Breast Cancer Awareness. Phew, this does depend on what you egg through your inbox or door.

4: Need

Theresa: Now that's an interesting question, but then again, how long is a piece of string? Need depends often on the quality of the writing, the experience of the author and sometimes the experience of the editor. For example, Nov 12 I edited my first anthology, and I guarantee it took a lot longer to edit than it needed because I was continually checking and cross-checking references and dud not have the confidence in my own skills. Now however, a few books in, I tend to trust my own judgement but seek advice when needed so it's down to the writing itself and the experience of the authors. About 40% of stories tend to need a good deal if work, 50% an average amount and 10% requires minimal work in my experience. With Her Dark Voice it was a 10% job! Ain't No Sanity Clause required a lot of work whereas by the time I'd come to Grimm, I'd selected some solid stories to begin with, so the editing job was less time consuming.

5: Charge.

Theresa: Charging for me services is again down to the above factors and the tasks involved. I sometimes charge a royalty (10% is a standard figure I've settled on having discussed this issue with other experienced editors) when royalties are appropriate. That's up for negotiation. I need to take into account the work and time involved. How many subs/words will I be reading? Will I even be reading the subs or just taking over at that point? How much work is involved? To settle on a ballpark figure I charge £10 - £15 per hour and invoice accordingly.

6: Is there any follow up on your part?

Theresa: I will indeed follow up if necessary. And if it's my fault and I missed something I'll fix it for free.

7: How much time do you require for a 10,000 (20,000, 30,000, etc.) word document? Does the time differ on whether or not you are proofreading or editing, or is it a set charge?

Theresa: I can read a short story of around 6,000 words with basic edits in 30 minutes to an hour with a more intensive edit normally taking up to 90 minutes. With the novel I'm currently working on which needs quite a bit of red pen it's took me two hours to edit 32 pages. I charge by time not word count but can normally give a quote once Ive flicked through the project.

8: Final thoughts on editing? 

Theresa: Hmmm. Read the bloody guidelines peeps! If you're submitting to a professional market and the guidelines call for 2,000 to 6,000 words don't send in 1,000 words. It will be rejected and you've wasted everybody's time including your own. Make sure before you send it off to the editor you've also done a basic proof read and edit yourself. An editor's job isn't to fix stupidity.

Contact Information:

Bio can be found on please.
Contact through that site or


Thank you, Geoff and Theresa, for participating in this brief interview--more a survey actually. You can see right off that our two editors have even edited the questions differently (I merely added their names to the responses). This series connects with the Cybernocturnalism interviews regarding the state of self-publishing these days in ebook form, where bad to no editing can be found. The rise of professional editing services has abounded to meet the growing need that Cybernocks, who have little to no experience, require to put out a quality product. I'll try not to wait so long between interviews with editors for our next post on The Other Side of the Words. Thank you, readers, for joining our guests today. This is the Servante of Darkness bidding you an "Hasta luego". 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Directed by Marc Webb
Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Colm Feore, and Dane DeHaan.
Reviewed by Anthony Servante

SPOILERS!! This review is written for comic book fans who know Spider-Man's history well. If you are not aware of Amazing Spider-Man 121-122, best to read this after you see the movie. 

As a pre-teen, I watched Horror and Science Fiction comics such as Tales of Suspense, Journey into Mystery, and Amazing Adult Fantasy, put out by Atlas Comics, turn to Super-Hero stories as accompanying pieces for the monster and crime noir tales with a twist. Soon, the Heroes took over the comics. Iron Man became the star of Tales of Suspense, Thor was the main feature on Journey into Mystery, and Spider-Man overthrew Amazing Adult Fantasy. While DC comics dominated the market with Superman and Batman titles, the new upstart Marvel Comics turned the story of the Super-Hero on its head. Marvel Heroes had problems. The X-Men were rejected teens (and we yearned for Cyclops to tell Marvel Girl that he loved her, yes, we did), Iron Man was a flawed human who relied on his armor suit to keep his heart beating, Thor was exiled on Earth in the form of a handicapped doctor, and Spider-Man was both a curse and a blessing for poor Peter Parker, whose life as a teenager was burdened with hardship when he turned to helping people; after all, who helped Peter? Marvel Comics turned the Super-Hero stories into soap operas. And we loved it.

First Spiderman

The biggest tragedy, however, was the story of Peter Parker. Spider-Man's biggest fan, Flash Thompson, was also Peter's nemesis in high school. His employer at the Daily Bugle, J. J. Jameson was also Spider-Man's biggest foe in the media (accusing our hero of being an outlaw). And Parker's love-life was a sad tale of Shakespearean proportions. The most tragic event in Marvel history was the death of Peter Parker's girlfriend. It shook the comic book industry and set the trend for other major comic book publishers to follow. No character was safe anymore; he or she was subject to being killed off. Sure, the character could always be brought back later (as Kenny on South Park), but the door was opened with Amazing Spider-Man issue #121 and 122 to kill off major characters and not bring them back. 

The Night Gwen Stacey Died

I bought that comic book. I joined the world in the shock of the century. Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker's girlfriend, was killed (long story). I felt the pain. I wanted Spider-Man to get revenge. In issue #122, the story concludes with the death of the Green Goblin, aka, Norman Osborn, father of Harry, Parker's best friend. Harry blamed Spider-Man for the death of his father and friend, Gwen. The Daily Bugle ran stories accusing Spider-Man of murder. The ramifications of this story paved the way for countless more tragedies and plot twists, and there were many as Marvel tried to outdo its own story and DC comics tried to outdo Marvel. Thus it was that this kid, this young punk name Anthony Servante waited since 1973 for the movie of the Death of Gwen Stacy.

The famous panel from Issue #122.

It has arrived. And let me first say that there is no way in Hell that any movie could match the emotional impact of Amazing Spider-Man issues 121-122. No way! I knew that going in. I knew that when I saw the first Spider-Man in 2012, which was basically the set-up for Gwen's death. I knew it because this was not the Marvel universe this story was playing out in. It didn't even follow the comic book storyline. It was merely  a promise for the moon, a desperate attempt to tell the story without the emotion of the comic book. It didn't work.

Death of the Green Goblin

But I speak for myself, of course. I speak for the geeks and fanatics who did grow up purchasing Silver Age Marvel Comics off the drugstore racks and corner market shelves, way before there were even comic book stores, when Archie, Casper, Little Lotta, Richie Rich, and the Justice League of America comics were next to True Detective Magazine, and the TV Guide and the Hollywood Confidential rag. Back then when the National Enquirer was a gore splattered exploitative newspaper that didn't deal in celebrity gossip. How could the movie compete with the memory of that little kid?! No way.

So, how was the movie from the point of view of a critic who left those nostalgic recollections at the door? Well, it was quite good, as in above average. This is a movie for those who don't know who Gwen Stacy is. This is a movie meant to appeal to a new generation of Spider-Man fans. Fans more familiar with Todd Macfarlane than Steve Ditko. This is a good movie about the MOVIE Spider-Man, in the MOVIE universe that Sam Raimi started in the first three Spidey films. And that's okay. After all, I do like movies, and that's what this was: A MOVIE.

 Gwen Stacy

Hero and villain first meet.

Spider-Man cracked twice as many jokes than in two Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. The main villain (Electro, played by the talented Jaime Foxx with his acting handcuffed by CGI) plays his role as if he were a Batman villain from the 60s TV show (goofy and tongue in cheek). But Emma Stone shines as Gwen Stacy, who is torn between her love for Peter and his duty to his Super-Hero responsibilities; she is always one step ahead of the storyline, at once committed to her love while headed out the door for a life in England without Parker in her life. If the movie were made at the same level of the Emma Stone performance, it just might have been able to compete with the comic book mythos of the Gwen Stacy tragedy.

The Green Goblin

Jaime Foxx

But it didn't. There was just too much not to like about this movie. (Really? A real goblin instead of a mask--are you kidding?!). Even Colm Feore's understated performance was lost in the melee of caricatures. Since the movie was meant for movie-goers, the film-makers thought that no one would notice that there was a masterpiece somewhere in those pieces of puzzle that incompletely tells a story not even close to being easy to follow. (Really? That's the reason Parker's parents abandoned him?!). 

Doc Ock

The closest we comic book fans have gotten to the comic book universe of Spider-Man was Raimi's second movie with Dr. Octopus (brilliantly played by Alfred Molina). But then that bloated part three by the Evil Dead director shot down his chances of making part four. Instead Marc Webb was hired to fill in the role of visionary and instructed to reboot the Spider-Man legend. He acquired the right story, that of Gwen Stacy, but he decided to go with bloated instead of solid. This is the reason why Christopher Nolan should be the only one allowed to make Super-Hero movies. He gets it (although Joss Whedon comes a close second with the Avengers movie).

Catwoman, Batman, and Bane.

There has not been a comic book movie that has truly satisfied this nostalgia geek. The best "movie universe" version of a Super-Hero was The Dark Knight Rises (2010) for shear chutzpah. But even that great film was not the comic book universe of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight. At this point, that is all I can ask for: a great comic book hero in a great movie universe, because I've accepted long ago that a comic book universe will never fit in a movie universe. But that little kid inside me keeps hoping and shushing the critic in me. Ultimately, however, the critic always wins the argument. Hey, but there's nothing wrong with hope.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cinema in the Darkness Presents...

The Quiet Ones (2014)
Directed by John Pogue
Starring Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Olivia Cooke, and Erin Richards.
Reviewed by Anthony Servante.


A university professor conducts an experiment on a young woman, uncovering terrifyingly dark, unexpected forces in the process. Tucked away in an estate outside of London, Professor Coupland along with a team of university students conduct an "experiment" on Jane Harper, a young girl who harbors unspeakable secrets. What type of supernatural entity they uncover is more terrifying than any of them expected.


I'm a big Jared Harris fan. Whether he plays a villain (Moriarty to Robert Downey, Jr's Sherlock Holmes), hero or character of undetermined ethics, as he does here, he is entertaining to watch. He plays the professor who wants to prove that his patient, Jane Harper, can manifest her imaginary friend in the form of an evil poltergeist, and that once that evil is completely outside Jane, he can trap it in a doll. What he doesn't believe is that the evil force is anything other than the projection of Jane's thoughts. 

Jared Harris

Two graduate students, Harry and Krissi, serve as the professor's assistants, but Krissi is also sex toy for both Harry and Coupland. Brian is the person hired to film the proceedings but who falls for the delicate goth patient Jane. Who cares that an evil presence is following her every move, Brian is in love. But it's that presence that keeps the movie interesting.

Initially, the movie goer will have to endure several jump-scares. Cover your ears. They are loud and unexpected. About thirty minutes into the movie, however, they dissipate. I think the director wanted to grab our attention and keep it. It works, because into the rest of the movie, I kept expecting another bang and boom appearance of the evil entity messing with our team of psychic investigators. But the story shifted to the team's naughty shenanigans and the professor's obsession with isolating Jane's psychic power and trapping it in the doll that he gives his patient to focus her energies. 

But suddenly a backstory develops. The little boy that the professor shows his class in a film at the beginning of the movie turns out to have some ties to the psychic creature in Jane. Now the story begins to lean toward exorcism, which Krissi jokes about, what with her modern technology and all. Who needs a priest when you've got motion sensors and sound monitors?! Well, maybe someone should have called a priest. It turns out that Jane is not possessed; the monster is her companion. And no, this is not a spoiler. Let's just say that little boy holds the key to the entire story.

As the body count mounts, poor love-struck Brian wants to rescue Jane from this experiment gone mad. But all is not as it appears. Who's been experimenting on whom? 

It's good to see British Horror on the screen again. The Brits have been putting out scary movies since Dead of Night (1945). And they have that dry way of approaching that subject. There's Godzilla for the Japanese, but the Brits have the alien poltergeists from 5 Million Years to Earth with Professor Bernard Quartermass. Same can be said for those Japanese ghosts with the flowing hair from the early Noughts; here the Brits answer with an intelligent demonic creature who toys with its victims. There's nothing wrong with smart horror.

But sometimes smart isn't enough. The love triangle between the students and the professor elicited more giggles than necessary for a movie that wanted to scare us. It was creepy seeing the older man and the young girl, especially since we were made to believe the other grad student was her boyfriend. But this is a a small complaint. The horror was good, and the evil force was wicked fun, much more fun than the rest of the cast. That broody Brian did wear on one's nerves. However, I do recommend this film for students of British Horror who would like to welcome intelligence back into a scary movie.