Rowing the Galley

This last week, I made a first pass reviewing the so-called galley proofs of my novel, The Astronomer’s Crypt. I say “so-called” because it’s kind of an old-fashioned term and they’re not really “proofs” yet, since they’re still in a word processing format. This is my publisher’s term. I would call this more a pre-format review. Still, this has allowed me and my editor to make some of those last-minute tweaks, which I hope will make the book just right.

Crypt Galleys

The term “galley proof” goes back to the days of actually setting metal type in trays, which were called galleys. I’m guessing this was because they’re longer than they are wide and have raised edges, so at a glance they resemble flat-bottomed boats. The “galley proof” was the first print done with the type blocks set into the galley so an editor and writer could check that the type was set correctly. Of course, in those days, correcting type wasn’t trivial, so changes were limited to very small scale changes at the galley stage—correcting spelling or simple punctuation—nothing that would significantly affect the flow of the document because otherwise, you’d have to reset all the type on every page after the correction.

As you can see in the photo above, the digital world allows more significant changes at this stage. Things highlighted blue are some of my editor’s most recent changes, while I’m highlighting my changes in yellow.

To add ambience to this week’s activities, I was at work for a few days. This is monsoon season in Southern Arizona, which means storm clouds hug the mountaintop where the observatory I work at is located, preventing us from getting much science done as shown in the photo below.

Mountain Storm

Because of the weather conditions, I was able to get some work done on the galleys while at the observatory. As it turns out, much of the action of The Astronomer’s Crypt is set during a stormy night at an observatory. To make matters worse, my observer at the 4-meter was remote, meaning she wasn’t in the building. I only communicated with her via a Skype connection. So, I was all alone in a large building on a stormy night.

If that weren’t bad enough, there’s been quite a bit of construction going on in the building, so doors are propped open that aren’t normally and there are stacks of supplies and equipment where you wouldn’t normally find them. Sometimes I’d go down the elevator and I’d swear I’d see feet through the bottom of the elevator door as I passed a level, even though I knew I was alone in the building. I’d step out of the elevator and swear I saw a person standing beside me, only to find it was a stack of insulation. It perhaps kept me just a little too much in the spirit of my horror novel!

This week, I’m giving the book one more pass. I’m actually aiming to read a little more quickly to make sure there aren’t any large-scale continuity problems and to look for a couple of things that are nagging me even after I finished the book. After all, I want to make sure this version is just right when I send it back to my editor. Fortunately, I’m at home this week, so all the scares should come from the page alone, and not from the environment where I’m doing the work!

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2 comments on “Rowing the Galley

  1. Jack Tyler says:

    Choice! Reminds me a night on a tanker (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Tolovana_(AO-64)) in mid-Pacific in 1968. The mid-watch was coming on (midnight to 4 AM), and the guys we were relieving had been spooked by what they described as some mysterious lights following the ship. There were eight stations to be manned, and we rotated every 30 minutes. Seven of those stations were clustered on the bridge, but when it became my turn to aft to the rearmost point of the ship (to be alert to men falling over the side), my imagination, being very active even then, populated the nearby area with all sorts of things that weren’t there… I hope! At least I didn’t have to row it.

    Fun post, my friend. Keep ’em coming!

    • Thanks for sharing that story. As it turns out, I’m watching the Japanese anime version of Blade with the family and they just had an episode fighting vampires on a ship. I could easily imagine the mysterious lights you saw being spooky glowing eyes. Hope you have a great week!

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