A large parcel arrived through the door yesterday from Transworld. It's the copy edit manuscript or Hero of Rome, my next novel, and is the first opportunity you get to see the book as it will more or less be in its published form.
This part of the process is always exciting, and a little bit daunting, because it's probably the most important stage after the editor casts his verdict on your first draft and it's the bit where someone clever points out all the embarrassing mistakes that would have made you look like an idiot if they'd made it into print. I've never met my copy editor, but from the moment I saw what she'd spotted in my first book, Caligula, I knew I was lucky to be working with her. She types out her comments on an old fashioned typewriter, acid little asides that make you feel as if you're back in Primary 1, but which hit the mark every time.
With Hero of Rome most of the 23 notes are about my cavalier use of Latin plurals and the difference between a ballista and an onager, two types of Roman catapult artillery the legions use to batter the Brits into submission. I've been very fortunate that none of the three books has needed really major work at this stage, just a few minor tickles and a bit of polishing. What makes it fun is the attention to detail. Last time round with Claudius, I had a passage comparing a Roman legion to the constituent parts of an insect: a big orange centipede. I thought it was quite clever until the copy editor pointed out that a centipede isn't an insect at all, but a member of the genus arth.
A case of me not knowing my arth from my elbow...