Beta Reading & Editing

Late last year I stumbled upon a fantasy romance novel, Taken By the Huntsman, while browsing announcements of new book releases.  The author, Mistral Dawn, was new to publishing, and this was her first book.  At first I hesitated to buy the book, even at the low price of $2.99 on Amazon simply because first books can be an awful experience.  The synopsis really grabbed my attention and piqued my interest though, so I decided to take the chance.  At worst, I would be out $3, and at best I would have a pleasurable reading experience.

I am so glad that I took that chance because Taken By the Huntsman turned out to be one of those rare books that I had to finish in one sitting.  The characters grabbed me, the world building was fascinating, and the story was enchanting.  Mistral Dawn even managed to make me think about social issues without preaching at the reader, not an easy accomplishment.

After I finished Taken By the Huntsman, I decided to write a review to help spread the word for this new indie author.  At the end of the review, on a whim, I added a note to the author stating that I would be willing to beta read her future works if she was interested.  Not in a million years did I expect for her to respond, but she did. So, for the past couple of months, I have had the pleasure and honor of beta reading Mistral Dawn’s second book, Bound By the Summer Prince, and offering editing advice to her.

It has been a wonderful experience for me on a couple of different levels:

  • Reading the book as it was written: I have never had the experience of reading a story in pieces. In fact, in the past I have refused to read an unfinished story (I avoided Stephen King’s The Green Mile until it was completed). At times it was difficult for me to be patient while waiting for the next part to arrive in my email inbox, but in the end, I began to appreciate it more when a new section of the book did arrive. I developed a liking to having breaks in reading that allowed me to process the story more fully before continuing to the next part.
  • Editing experience:  As an aspiring writer myself, being able to offer editing advice to someone who has already published a book was an eye opening and flattering experience. It gave me a new perspective on the writing process (one that I was aware of, but had never been a part of) and what goes into getting a book ready for publication.
  • A new friendship has formed:  I have never met Mistral in person. I have never spoken with her on the phone either. We have exchanged countless emails over the past few months, and I can say without a doubt, she is a kind woman filled with compassion for others, and I am proud to call her a friend. She has offered advice to me, but more importantly, she has offered encouragement to me as a writer.

Bound By the Summer Prince is the story of Roni, who is a human female con artist that literally falls through a portal and ends up in Fairie quite by accident. Shortly after arriving in a beautiful but deadly Fae forest, she meets Uaine who is the Summer Court’s prince and soon to be king. Fae law states that no human with knowledge of Fairie can be allowed to return to the human world, so Uaine must figure out what to do with her now that she has landed in his kingdom. He soon realizes that Roni is his perfect match; that they are bonded to each other by the goddess.

The story that Mistral Dawn weaves from this beginning follows the two as Roni plays the biggest con of her life and Uaine tries to convince her that she is destined to become the Summer Court’s next queen alongside himself as king. Can the two learn to trust in love and embrace their destinies?

The main purpose of this blog post is to say thank you. Thank you, Mistral, for trusting me enough to allow me to be a beta reader for your new book. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this project, and for the chance to practice my editing skills. Thank you for all of the kind words of encouragement you have offered. Thank you for taking the time to proofread some of my work and offer your own editing advice. And last, but certainly not least, thank you for another great story!

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What is Tetralogy of Fallot?

When our daughter was born, I did not know how common congenital heart defects are, but I now know that 1 out of every 110 babies in the United States is born with a heart defect of some kind. The cause of congenital heart defects is unknown, and in most cases, the heart has already formed improperly before pregnancy is discovered. 

Our daughter was diagnosed with of tetralogy of fallot with pulmonary atresia and atrial septal defect.  It took me weeks to be able to remember those terms without looking at the sheet of paper the doctors had given my husband and me that described her condition. Thankfully, the doctors treating her were all excellent at explaining the situation in terms that we could understand and follow.

To better understand tetralogy of fallot, one must first understand some of the basics of how a healthy heart functions:

  • A healthy heart has four chambers:
    • Right atrium which is where oxygen-poor blood is received into the heart from the body
    • Right ventricle which pumps blood from the heart to the lungs
    • Left atrium which receives blood from the lungs
    • Left ventricle which pumps blood from the heart out to the rest of the body

The atriums are the top chambers and the ventricles are the bottom chambers.

  • The pulmonary artery carries blood from the heart to the lungs. It starts at the bottom of the right ventricle and then splits into two branches which go to the left and right lungs. The pulmonary artery sits in the right ventricular outflow tract.

Tetralogy of fallot is actually a combination of four different defects that are found together in the same patient. In most cases, patients will have three of the four defects, and only in rare cases will a patient have all four. Those defects are:

  1. Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) – this is a hole in the wall that separates the right and left ventricles
  2. Pulmonary Infundibular stenosis – An obstruction or narrowing of the right ventricular outflow tract
  3. Overriding aorta – In most cases, this means that the aortic valve develops in a way so that it is connected to both ventricles rather than only to the left ventricle as it should be. In about 25% of patients, there will be a right-sided aortic arch, which means that it formed to the right of the pulmonary artery instead of to the left as in a normal, healthy heart.
  4. Right ventricular hypertrophy – this means that the muscle surrounding the lower right chamber becomes overly thickened because of the added work load from trying to maintain a supply of blood to the body

Normally the left side of the heart only pumps oxygenated blood to the body and the right side only pumps deoxygenated blood to the lungs, but with a VSD, blood passes from the right side of the heart into the left side resulting in oxygen-poor blood being sent out to the body.

Atrial septal defect (ASD) is similar to the ventricular septal defect, only it is a hole in the wall between the left and right atriums.

Quite simply, for us tetralogy of fallot with pulmonary atresia and atrial septal defect meant that our daughter’s heart had two holes (ASD & VSD), was missing part of the main pulmonary artery (thankfully her right ventricular outflow tract was normal), and the right branch of the pulmonary artery was narrow. She also had a slight right aortic arch, but did not have the overriding aorta. This combination meant that the amount of blood leaving her heart and reaching her lungs was reduced, and the blood leaving her lungs (oxygenated) and the blood heading to her lungs (deoxygenated) was mixing inside her heart. Then the poorly oxygenated blood was being sent back out to the rest of her body, resulting in her turning blue from head to toe.

All too often, babies born with this problem do not present any signs during their short stay in the newborn nursery, and therefore they get sent home. This results in weeks or months passing before the problem is diagnosed, and in that time, irreparable damage can occur to the brain and internal organs due to prolonged oxygen deprivation. Thanks to one very observant nurse, the problem with our daughter was detected only an hour after birth, so there was no long term damage done to her body from oxygen deprivation.

When our daughter was 11 days old, she underwent her first open heart surgery. Her surgeon performed a “full repair” to correct the tetralogy of fallot by inserting an artificial conduit to act as her pulmonary artery, patching over the VSD, and partially stitching up the ASD. He also corrected her right-sided aortic arch. The ASD was intentionally left partially open to act as a “pop off valve” until the blood started flowing the proper way through her heart. As time goes on, and back pressures cease to be a concern, the hole should finish closing itself off.

The terminology “full repair” is a bit on the deceptive side. While the problems have be addressed and our daughter’s heart has been “fixed” she is not cured.  There is no cure for any congenital heart defect. She will have to have additional surgeries and procedures on her heart throughout her life, and she will always have to have a cardiologist.

February 7-14, 2015 is National Congenital Heart Defect Awareness week.  The goal of this week is to raise awareness of CHDs, because most people do not know the severity of the problem.  I didn’t know until it became a part of my life.  Here are some important facts that you can pass along to help raise awareness:

  • Congenital Heart Defects are the #1 killer of children.  In fact, more children die from CHD each year than from all forms of cancer combined.  Depending on where you get your numbers from, 1 out of every 100, 110, or 125 babies born will have a CHD, and this year approximately 40,000 babies will die before their first birthday.
  • There are roughly 40 different CHDs, and the cause for the vast majority of them is unknown.  In some cases, the cause is genetic, but in most cases, the cause is unknown. 
  • There are no preventative measures that will keep CHDs from happening.
  • About 50% of children with CHD will require at least one invasive surgery in their life, but there is no cure, no permanent fix.  Once you have a CHD, you will always have it, and will require the care of a cardiologist for your entire life.
  • CHD research is extremely underfunded.  According to The Children’s Heart Foundation, only about 1% of all funds received by the major private funder of cardiovascular research goes to any pediatric research.  Without funding, research is slow going, and without research there is no hope for understanding the causes of CHD or of finding a cure.

I saw a post this morning that compared CHD to snowflakes because each child presents their own unique anatomy.  Every VSD is a different size and shape.  Every defect is just as unique as every snowflake.  I like that, it goes a long way to expressing the enormity of the problem.  Please help spread awareness in any way you can.  As we spread the word, the chances of finding a cure increases!