Revisiting the scary world of creation

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terror

After having spent so darn long living with my debut novel, revising, re-revising, then working through Tara Shaner‘s edits, I find myself (finally) back in familiar territory – something that all writers may recognise.

I’d almost forgotten the simultaneous fear and thrill of creating new adventures for my characters, of developing their personalities from the ones I’d grown so accustomed to in the first book, whilst remaining faithful to their original outline.

Just to throw a spanner (wrench) in my own works (something I do very often), I’ve switched First Person POVs for the sequel, describing the new adventures through the eyes (and other senses) of a different main character. For me, it provides a fresh perspective on the character’s mileu.

I just hope the reader will agree. By comparrison, Philip Pullman did something similar between ‘The Northern Lights’ and ‘The Subtle Knife’.

Another spanner/wrench is the two-day overlap that occurs between the first and second books… a sort of half-reboot, if you like. Think of how ‘Back to the Future II’ meshed with the first film - except I’ve used days instead of years. No DeLorean, though. Shame.

By introducing this half-rebooted overlapping First Person POV switch (still with me on this?), I may have limited my timeline to some extent as the confluence of events must fit snugly against the original adventure. On the plus side, the alternative POV enables me to expand on the details of the overlapping scenes.

Win-win? We shall see. Ask me in a year’s time. :D

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CoA

Coming soon! Dun, dun-dundun-duuuun.

Write on!

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A Construct of Angels – the 2014 re-launch.

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CoA post its

It has taken many, many months of hard work, but the revised version of CoA (Kindle, ePub and Kobo) is finally ready to be shown to the world. The paperback is due to follow shortly afterward.

My editor, Tara Shaner and I have been bouncing the MS back and forth across the pond since July, and now, finally, we are both happy with the result. It’s fifty or so pages shorter, two characters lighter and a great deal tighter than before.

I’ve learned a great deal during the process of revision (old hands will nod sagely at this point, but bear with me).

An edit is not just about spelling and grammar. It’s as much about the flow as it is about the structure. It’s about plot threads and loose ends; developing characterisations as well as removing characters who either complicate or lend nothing to the plot. Pace, language and humour are also essential elements of an engaging MS.

I began 2013 with the certainty that after scores of read-throughs, my MS would be error-free and ready to roll.

No need for an editor, I thought.

I can do English. I know how to use punctuation.

I was so naive.

I’ve learned, by taking this long way around, that it really does take an outside and professional eye to spot repetitive or erroneous patterns in a Manuscript – and to offer solutions. A writer can become settled and overly accustomed to the flow of the story and (I have caught myself doing this at times) can tend to ‘read’ the story, rather than edit it objectively.

Be in no doubt that you may begin to question your own skill as a writer as overused words, inappropriate dialogue tags and pointless character actions are unearthed before your disbelieving eyes. ‘Did I really write that? What was I thinking?’

But a good editor should also indicate the places where your work shines, where the humour tickles and where the pace grips the reader. And whilst human nature will automatically remember the bad over the good, an indicator of  competent, nay, great work will help to soften the blow – as well as encouraging the writer not to throw in the towel.

I know where my towel is. :D

So the re-launch is imminent. Watch this space and if you can, please join me on my Author page for some fun, frolics and giveaways on Friday, 28th February.

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The editing continues – revisiting CoA (again)

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lucianotb remington

Sometimes, I’ve been extremely fortunate in my writing journey. When I’ve needed them the most, I’ve met people who have shown me that ePublishing is not only possible, but in some ways it is preferable to traditional publishing. 

During my year of querying agencies and receiving a whole basketful of raspberries, around the time I’d started to build my author platform, I quickly began to encounter other writers, some of whom were still querying, others who had decided to go it alone by self-publishing.

And as they proved to me that there is definitely hope after rejection, one author in particular steered me towards the tutorials that explained how I could complete the process myself.  Thanks Ryan!

I’ve also become friends with several other authors who went on to recommended exactly the right cover artist.

Thank you everybody! You are my guardian angels. Or at the very least, he recommended you all. :)

Now I am entering a new phase in my writing. By sheer chance, and some very fortunate timing, I have become friends with Tara, an aspiring editor who began by examining my first chapter, but went on to review the entire MS.  We are now working together on a complete and thorough edit of CoA.

When I wrote the post How to accept editing feedback I thought that accepting a professional critique would be much more daunting, but Tara has been fair as well as thorough with my MS.

She even likes my jokes… :)

As I write this, we have already made some major changes to the story and I now have several words to purge from the MS, on pain of nagging.

It seems that I use the words ‘just’, ‘like’ and ‘sigh’ a great deal (thanks, WordSmith!), to the point where it has begun to leap off the page at Tara. *Sighs* We are also discussing the intricacies of ‘forwards’ versus ‘forward’ and it looks as if I have sinned with ‘towards’ as well. Taking into account that I write in British English (BrE), we both understand that different rules apply on our respective sides of the Big Pond, but she may have me cornered in this instance. :)

However, Tara seems to enjoying the peculiarities of BrE and I’m slowly introducing her to some of our colloqualisms. I’ll soon have her speaking like a native of the UK and then we can be china plates for life!

Once we’ve finished my fish hook, of course. 

Toodle-pip!

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Published for a year…

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CoA post its

On October 17th, 2012, I clicked a button marked ‘Upload’ and sat back, nervously awaiting the delivery of a stream of electronic information to Amazon KDP. Twelve hours later, ‘A Construct of Angels’ was live and I realised that I had finally achieved my dream – to complete a novel and put it up for sale.

Thirty-seven years ago, I could never have dreamed that in this future age of flying cars, silver jumpsuits and daily trips to the Moon, my book would exist only as data and that it would be held in storage in a distant country. Readers would only have to tap it with their finger if they wanted to select, pay for and read it.

Cool.

I am still working to make the paperback version a reality, but with the recent bout of editing that I have subjected the poor thing to, that particular realisation has been delayed yet again. Configuring an electronic (Word-based) template with paragraphs, page breaks, chapters and the odd image isn’t as straightforward as it ought to be. *frowns* It’s now back with my new editor, Tara, after receiving some swathing cuts, including the complete removal of two characters.

In some ways, I hardly seem to have moved on at all. I am still editing and I really need to put A Construct of Angels to bed and pick up the sequel. But it will haunt me if my first book isn’t the best it can possibly be. Only when that’s sorted, can I let it go…

However, as I mentioned in a previous post, One Year On,  a great deal has changed for me in the last twelve months (plus I now have 300 followers - who’d have thought?) and I still can’t quite believe how much has been crammed into such a short space of time. I can only wonder what the next twelve months will bring, although I can’t imagine them being as crazy as the last twelve. The learning curve, I feel, is no longer as steep as it has been and for that, I am grateful. :)

Regular readers will know that my job sends me all around the UK. Well, by sheer chance, this week happens to have landed me back at the exact same desk from where I uploaded my book, one year ago. I am experiencing an eerie sense of deja vu – again.

It’s another reminder of what’s changed. If I could borrow Sandra Bullock’s time-travelling postbox (The Lake House), I would send my past self a message that says ‘hang on to your hat.’

Not that I wear a hat. I’m not Terry Pratchett. :)

Anyway, until Tara has finished looking over my new edits, I’m hoping to press on with the sequel,  ‘A Vengeance of Angels.’ I’d really liked to have completed it, one year on, but life has a peculiar way of rearranging even the best-laid plans of mice and authors.

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Casted – by Sonya Loveday

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Casted Blog Tour banner

Today is my turn to host Sonya’s whirlwind tour of the blogsphere, as organised by Book Crazy.

Sonya Loveday

I thought it would be just a simple interview, just a quick half-hour chat by Skype, but I found that I had to go to unusual lengths to grab a few words from Sonya’s very busy (and fairly cautious) characters. ‘Skype is traceable’ I was told by a young guy who introduced himself only as ‘Jude.’ Before I could say anything else he warned me not to ‘make that crack about the Beatles.’

I’m still not sure what he meant.

No, I was told that I’d have to meet with my interviewees in person. I suggested a public place – somewhere they’d feel safe, but a chorus of ‘No’s in the background led me to compromise. I would have to meet them where THEY felt safe.

What follows is my notes from that meeting;

*   *   *

If you’re reading this then you may already be sympathetic to the plight of the people I’m about to meet. Or you might be a Triad spy. Either way, what you’re about to hear will perhaps explain why these women have been running for most of their lives.

I’ve not been allowed to know the location of the interview. In fact, I’m not even sure which country I’m in. I can’t feel a blindfold. Nevertheless, I’ve been in darkness for the past half hour – ah!

A snap of my escort’s fingers returns my sight. That’s better! I can see.

“Sit yourself down,” the stern-looking guy says to me. “I’ll tell them you’re here.” He throws me a look that makes something very clear – he doesn’t trust me one bit.

“Thanks,” I say. He leaves via a chipped off-white door, giving me the chance to pull the crumpled notes from my inside jacket pocket and try to smooth them out on my knee.  The room is spartan, empty of all but the essentials of a farmhouse kitchen. A well-used cooker tries to hide itself in a corner. I’m on a mass-produced chair, set back from a planked table big enough to seat eight people.  The light, too, is poor. There are no windows in this room, only a couple of strip lights without diffusers that provide harsh illumination.

Not for the first time, I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into. I’m considering moving the hard chair over to the table when a frowning young woman bangs open the door and stares at me.  I swear that I can see sparks rising from her mahogany hair. She’s athletic, but her anger stops me from considering whether she’s attractive.

“We’re here, now what the hell do you want?”

I wonder what I can say to calm her – to assure her that I’m no threat to her and her friends – when a study of calm and beauty wafts past her. Long blonde hair and startling blue eyes consider me for a moment before she turns to her companion and sighs.

“It’s okay Jessa. Mister Toynbee is only here to help tell our side of the story.”

“I don’t trust him. He looks like a Triad spy.”

“He’s not a spy Jessa, he’s from WordPress.”

“Wordpress, spy, Mick, Triad plant…..all the same to me.”

“Jade asked us to do this, now stop trying to scare Mister Toynbee.”

“It’s nice to meet you ladies,” I say. Nervously, I shuffle my notes, hoping to find a starting point.

“Thank you Mister Toynbee, it’s nice to meet you too. Would you be more comfortable at the table?”

I nod my thanks to her and move to a chair half-way down the rough table. Now seated, I could spread out my notes and begin to figure out what I was going to ask them. But I think my first question was a big mistake.

“Will Jade be joining us?”

“I bet you’d like that wouldn’t you.”

“Jessa, we discussed this. Jade will be coming soon, Mister Toynbee.”

“I still don’t trust him, Rainy.”

Jessa spins one of the wooden chairs the wrong way round and drops herself onto it. Her dark eyes watch me carefully.

“I understand that you’re trying to protect her,” I say. “But at the same time, a lot of people are watching this battle between the Triad and the Original Coven and wondering why it’s happening.”

“You’re kidding me right?”

“You shouldn’t be so surprised Jessa.  The Micks don’t understand what is happening because it is not of their concern. The Covens have never included the Micks in our world, only the Triad have. You see Mister Toynbee, it’s a war as old as time, ever since the Original Coven formed there has been a restlessness in the spell caster community.”

“The Triad wanted to continue using the magic that was banned. The Original Coven wouldn’t let them. A small group of men broke away from the Original Coven and plotted ways to rise above the Original Coven, they were ruthless in their plight. They forced powerful people into their ranks by murder and entrapment. It was, and still is, an ongoing fight. No one is willing to let the other side win. The original Coven thought at one point that the Triad had gone off to lick their wounds after they failed to get Elinor and Leif – they were wrong, so very wrong.”

“That’s the reason for all this killing?  All the destruction? Isn’t there any kind of compromise that can be reached?”

“Compromise? Ha! You think this is just something both sides are going to sit down and negotiate? People are dying because of this. Jade is hunted. We’ve lost everything…family, our Coven’s…everything Mister Toynbee, all for the sake of a man on a power trip. He’s a ruthless bastard that would take out his own granddaughter to gain more power.”

“What Jessa is trying to say is that there is no compromising with someone like Lorenzo. The Original Coven members have been picked off slowly; the other Covens are running scared, splitting their Covens up and hiding in fear, when they should be fighting back.”

“But you still outnumber them, don’t you? I thought there were many Covens, even though the Triad has destroyed some and scattered others.”

“Outnumbering them isn’t the problem,” Jessa said

“There aren’t many willing to go up against the Triad – against Lorenzo,” Rainy added.

“And this…” I consult my notes. “…Lorenzo. He’s behind all this? He’s the driving force?”

“He’s the reason everyone is running scared, yes.” Rainy nodded.

I lower my voice. “But you must have some kind of plan. You don’t seem the types to just hide in this…” I indicated the room with a wave of my hand. “…bunker.”

“Hiding? In fact Mister Toynbee we’re doing the exact opposite…….OUCH! Damn it, Rainy, that hurt.”

“What Jessa is trying to say is there’s always a chance for hope.”

“Of course.  I understand. But you must realise that there are a lot of people out there who are ready to take sides. If they see that you’re the good guys, you may gain some useful allies.”

“It’s hard to gain allies when a war is being waged over a book. Would you join a war like that?” Jessa asked.

I decide to go for the human story angle. “Well, why don’t you tell me a little about yourselves. How did you meet, for instance? And how did you meet Jade?”

“Jessa and I have been friends since childhood. We’ve witnessed what the Triad was capable of. We made a pact that if our Covens split, we’d meet in Scotland. Never did we imagine that we’d actually have to do it. When I witnessed the murder of my family……”

“And you’ve been running ever since? You must have felt so lonely – so scared. No wonder you’re suspicious of everybody.”

“We’ve been through a lot Mister Toynbee…things we don’t care to discuss because it’s painful. I’m sure you understand. The fact is, we met up in Scotland after losing EVERYTHING….it was in Fate’s hands that Jade was in the same place at the same time. Rainy took one look at her and insisted we needed to help her. I was just trying to get us to a safe place – There isn’t anything we wouldn’t do to keep Jade safe, she’s our family.”

At that moment, another young woman enters the room. She seems nervous. Jessa  and Rainy rise from their chairs to flank her like bodyguards. Thin and of average height, she watched me with bright green eyes that were a startling counterpoint to her thick red hair.

“It’s okay….Sonya told me we can trust Mister Toynbee. She wouldn’t put us in danger.”

“So, Jade. You seem to be at the centre of all this,” I say as she settles into a chair opposite me. She is careful to remain out of my reach.

“Unfortunately, yes I am.”

I glance at Jessica and Rainy. “But you’re not alone. You have good friends. You seem to be as close as family, would that be a fair assumption?”

“They are my family.”

“And is there anyone special for you right now? A guy, perhaps?”

“You don’t have to answer that Jade.”

“No, it’s okay, I don’t mind. Edge is….”

“Overbearing, demanding, protective….”

“….acts just like Dagger?” Jade quirks her eyebrow at Jessa.

“Shhh…don’t let him hear you say that.”  Jessa laughs quietly.

“Edge is my preordained, Mister Toynbee. We are bonded through a very strong, very old spell – one that doesn’t choose sides, only people. “

“That’s very old magic, Jade. And very rare, I believe.  With that sort of power behind you, you might just have the edge.” Jade smiles at my unintended pun.

“Do you know that there are a lot of people rooting for you out there?”

“Really? I’m not sure how to reply to that Mister Toynbee. For so long I’ve stayed to the shadows…we’ve stayed to the shadows. Involving others only guaranteed someone’s death.”

“Some will remain neutral, but there are many who are waiting to see which way this swings before they decide to join in. What would you say to them?”

“You either let things happen or make things happen. Don’t expect mercy from the Triad, they will give none.”

“Many Covens have suffered so far. Do you really think one Coven of refugees can prevail against the Triad?”

“People are dying because of me….DYING! They don’t understand why….they run in fear from a situation no one understands. I will fight with everything in me to stop him. He’s taken too much from everyone, not just me. I owe it to the Covens, I owe it to my family. This small coven of refugees, as you call us, we’ve all lost so much because of him – because of Lorenzo. Don’t mistake our secrecy for weakness. We may be few in number, but that’s not going to stop us from doing everything in our power to stop the Triad.”

“Well, you certainly have good on your side – and that can count for a lot. One last thing – do you ever think you will find out the truth about your family? About what happened to them?”

“The little I’ve learned about my parents is that they paid the ultimate price for their love. As far as what happened to them, I may never really know the answer to that. I could lie and say it doesn’t bother me, but the truth is that it bothers me too much.”

“Well, I wish you the very best and I’ll be sure to let the world know that you are fighting for all the right reasons.” I begin to rise to my feet, but Jessica stiffens. I’d wanted to shake Jade’s hand, but I’m sure that would have earned me more than a harsh look.

“I’m ready to leave, now. Could someone tell the gentleman who – .”

“Matheson!” Jessica bellows. Rainy sighs as she makes a show of clearing the jangling from her ear with a forefinger. Matheson couldn’t have been far away. He steps into the room and meets my gaze.

“Ready?” he says. I nod. He snaps his fingers and my sight goes dark before he grasps my arm and leads me on a series of stomach-lurching jumps back to my own world. I have time to wonder how far we have travelled before we lurch to a stop. I hear fingers snapping. My sight is restored and I find myself standing alone on a rain-swept street, my notes clutched tightly in my hand.

Andrew Toynbee

Reporting from somewhere in Southern Ireland…

…in need of a good taxi service.

Casted book cover

http://www.facebook.com/sonyalovedayauthor

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/SonyaLoveday/status/371384324764860416

Goodreads:
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17839278-casted

Blog Tour managed by Book Crazy

Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Casted-series-ebook/dp/B00E891C06/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1377378873&sr=1-1&keywords=Casted

B&N:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/casted-sonya-loveday/1116240459?ean=2940148653486

Book Trailer:
http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DzrmmGao_b-k&h=2AQHef6aa

WordPress:
http://sonyaloveday.wordpress.com/

How to accept editing feedback

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Professor at work

Within the last few weeks I have been on both sides of the editing fence, in a non-professional capacity, and it’s been a fascinating and emotional experience.

It’s surprising how much this editing lark tugs at the heartstrings…probably because I was working with friends’ MSs, not an ‘author unknown’ whose work I could have viewed more dispassionately.

At first. there’s the realisation that I am holding someone’s hard work in my hands. I handle it like fine china whilst wearing thin white cotton gloves. Eventually, once I have carefully tip-toed through the copyright page and the dedication page – pages that look uncannily similar to my own – I get down to reading the actual story.

Fairly quickly, I begin to read it as an editor, albeit an amateur one. I discover small errors. There are the obvious typos, misplaced words that the spell checker skimmed past, stray aspostrophe’s :) Those are all straightforward and easy to highlight. At this stage, I feel no guilt for messing with someone’s hard work.

But then there are the ‘clumsy’ sentences; the ones that find you circling the same spot on the page like a buzzard as you consider rephrasing; ‘The stars appeared in a velvet sky along with the shining object that as a child, the cow had jumped over – the Moon – just before the clouds began to roll in.’

I should emphasise that no-one actually committed that sentence to ePaper. It’s just an example…but it’s awkward, right?

But I’ve stared at many similar sentences, wondering if I’m just being mean, picky or plain British-awkward by even considering the idea of changing them. If I correct it, will it then jar with the rest of the MS? Will I have ruined the artistry that the writer sought to inject into the words?

Will it change the mood if I type it up as; ‘Clouds mushroomed along the horizon, building quickly, threatening to swallow the moon - my childhood inspiration – and spoil the cobalt, star-spotted beauty of the late evening sky.’ That’s more my style – but do I have the right to impose it on another writer?

Guilty questions begin to rattle my brain;

‘Do I leave that alone?’

‘Is it actually wrong – or do I just not like it personally?’

It’s the same thing when I read ‘Phil pushed himself off of the table.’  Brits hate this – but it seems to be normal in the US.

With some phrases, I wonder;

‘Is that how an American would phrase it – or is it wrong?’

Take; ‘He dropped the tailgate of the pickup and drug out the fishing nets.’ Brits would throw up their hands in horror – but in the US? I honestly don’t know if drug is an acceptable past tense form of drag.

If it’s speech, then I leave it well alone. Characters can talk exactly as they want to – unless I stumble across someone suddenly saying ‘I did not want to…’ or ‘I shall not do…’ when they would normally contract their speech.

Then we have; ‘The teenagers hung around the park most of the day, but one by one they began to slope off home.’

‘Would American readers understand that term? Is it too British? Should it be international-ised?’

It’s been pointed out to me that I use a lot of British English. Yes, that’s probably true, but short of avoiding all words that end in ‘-ised’ or changing them to ‘-ized’ and cutting out the letter ‘u’ from words ending with ‘-our’, I’m not sure of the best way around that issue. I am (mostly) English, my story is set in York, my main characters are (for the most part) English and at no point do they leave the country. If I was to convert my MS to American English, I would then be turning my back on the very ‘Britishness’ of my story. It’s a no win, no win situation.

I find myself thoroughly quandried, plus I feel a growing respect for editors who must straddle these intenational conundrua.

On the receiving end;

The edited MS arrives as an attachment – I download it and crack it open, wondering how much red I will see.  The first comment pops up, and I instantly feel (in turn and within the space of a few seconds) the following;

Irritation

Annoyance

Anger

Resignation

Acceptance

Determination

Purpose

Is it just me? Am I unique in that I see red because someone has dared to question my writing? I mean – how dare they?

Oh, they’re editing it for me. Fair enough.

The ire quickly fades as my Muse nods sagely and persuades me (diplomatically) that the editor could well be right and that perhaps a small change would benefit the MS.  So I sigh, I change it, I move on to the next comment.

It’s a hard thing, to accept the critique of another. If you’ve a thin skin, it feels as if someone is simply telling you; ‘No, you’re done that wrong.’ If you’re thicker skinned – and writers need to be – then it should be seen as ‘fine tuning’, as necessary as – for example – a haircut. The hairdresser may not actually hate your hair, but they still need to take off a little bit here and tidy it up there. It’s not personal.

But it can sure feel like it. >.<

Just think of it as the next little step towards presenting your best possible work to the world. Grit your teeth, thicken your skin, go get that haircut and let it happen.

So easy to say…so tricky to accept.

:D

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One year on from my first post – and look what’s changed!

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100th post

A few days ago, WordPress sent me a reminder that I’d just published my 100th post – and I was taken aback.

I suddenly realised that it has been almost exactly one year since I first created my first ever post; The best rejection letter ever?

And what a lot has happened in those twelve months – just look at the stats;

Last July                                      This July

1 post                                            100+ posts

2 WP followers                             235+ WP followers (update?)

20 Facebook followers                 900+ Facebook followers

no Twitter account                        475+ Twitter followers

No eBook published                      eBook self-published

No paperback                                 Paperback very close to completion

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This is all part of spreading the word, of building an author platform – and it’s looking quite good, IMHO.

Along the way, I have met some very talented people. Some of them are constantly beating a path for the rest of us to follow, whilst others are still following their aspirations to publish. Many are very, very close to that first eBook or printed book.

Then there are the non-writer bloggers who post recipes, amazing photographs or offer philosophical insights that leave me thinking ‘wow…’

I have learned a great deal since last July. Back then I had just exhausted my 102-strong list of UK-based Literary Agencies and whilst I’d received some encouragement along the way (notably The best rejection letter ever?), I was no closer to being published.

At that time I was on a knife-edge, wondering if I ought to begin querying US-based agencies – but electronically. I could never have afforded the postage costs. I was already several hundreds of pounds down (I still am) and further investment would have crippled me financially.

And then I began hearing, via Facebook and WordPress, about self-publishing. I was (at first) curious – and then intrigued. I wanted to know more.

The seed was sown. As the rejection letters continued to trickle in, I decided to learn all I could about creating and publishing an eBook, just in case none of the agencies picked up my book. They didn’t – so I launched myself into the world of ePublishing. The rest, as they say, is history. Very recent history – and something I could not have done without help from fellow bloggers.

Capture

Sharing – it’s the best part of blogging! It makes the lonely business of writing feel a lot less…well, lonely. We all get to read about other people’s experiences on a daily basis, both the good and the bad. Most notable is Ryan Casey’s runaway success with his short stories and novels and Michelle Proulx’s difficult journey with the publisher iUniverse. Both authors have flourished, but their experiences contrast greatly. But even bad experiences can teach us all something. Thanks for sharing, Michelle!

What’s most encouraging is the great feedback that I’ve received. Every comment makes me want to post again…and again. I love seeing that little orange star at the top of my dashboard. It’s encouraging to know that someone had read and ‘liked’ my words. But even more heart-warming is that little orange speech bubble. Whatever I was about to do, whatever words I had in mind…they get sidelined as I click on the bubble to see the message that has been left.

A blogger once remarked that comments are addictive. They were right. I love them! They have delivered support and encouragement in so many different ways. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to leave me feedback.

I wonder if my second year of blogging will be as fascinating and thrilling a ride as the first?

See you all in July 2014!

Keep blogging (especially Shay Starcaller)!

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Post Script;

What I hadn’t expected – and this came right out of the blue as I was preparing to post, was this;

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I really had NO IDEA that I’d been with WordPress for so long.  It’s true that I’ve chronicled my writing endeavours as far back as 1999 (see The Homeworld Saga), but that was all retro-written just to document where my modern writing began to coalesce properly.

But four years?

Wow…

Time does fly when you’re having fun doing what you love the most!

See…for I have Scrivened!

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Mattox MS

I’ve now successfully used Scrivener to compile, complete and sell a short piece of work (15,000 words) as well as continuing to construct a complex novella about Valkyries and I’m pleased to report that I found it to be a very helpful writing tool.

I have no doubt that the seasoned Scrivern-ers amongst you will be nodding sagely, as I am telling you something they already know – that Scrivener is very, very useful to writers.

But if I tell you why it was so useful, then perhaps the reason for my praise will become clearer. The screen shots below might be the first you’ve seen of Scrivener, but for the old hands they will be all too familiar (in a good way).

Simply put, Scrivener allows the writer to build their manuscript chapter by chapter, or in  the case of the novella, scene by scene so that the story can be built in sections. Ideal for Planners, but also useful for Pantsers like me. :D

If you wanted to be this organised in Word, you’d need either a dozen separate Word docs or you’d have to put up with scrolling / word searching / constructing a table of contents in order to hop back and forth between research and story…and back again.

Scrivener screen shot

As the Scrivener scenes / chapters are filled, they can be linked together (compiled) at any time to form one temporary document which can be read straight through. This will also provide a word count for the whole project (visible at the bottom of the Valkyrie document above). The document can then be dismantled with a single click and you can go right back to working on individual scenes / chapters. Or the whole project can be exported in multiple formats at any time. This has an added bonus – it keeps projects free of all those irritating little formatting errors that Word documents accumulate…errors that make eBook formatting into a nightmare.

Scrivener screen shot2

Additional folders can be created ad infinitum, depending on the extent of your research. Templates of characters and their relationships (not shown here) and settings, geography and history can be placed in named folders, ready for instant access.  Images can also be added into the binder – see the last item in the binder above - plus video and audio files.

This is particularly useful to me; I use an Acer Netbook for my writing. It’s an Intel Atom device that grinds to a halt if more than half-a-dozen documents are opened at one time – something I would need to do if I was to have all my research and reference images to hand. But by using Scrivener, I can now keep all my information in one place – and it’s all accessible from a single folder with a single click. Plus, having everything close at hand keeps my Windows taskbar clear of multiple documents.

Scrivener also allows the writer to create folders relevant to the chapters close at hand, in the preferred order and with multiple sub-folders. I’ve tried this using Microsoft and find myself having to include numbers as part of the folder names to prevent them from being sorted alphabetically.

Although my Scrivener trial period hasn’t ended, I’ve now gone ahead and purchased it. At £34 (about $50), I’m convinced that it will be an invaluable asset to me. All my future projects will now be created in Scrivener, only becoming Word documents at the very end.

asifthebes thumb

If you’re interested, Scrivener is available as a trial download from here;

(Please note that I am in no way affiliated with Literature and Latte. I’m merely pointing the way for you.)

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Becoming a Scrivener-er…a new adventure.

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Mattox MS

On Tuesday 21st May, I finally decided that I’d had ENOUGH of writing in Microsoft Word and took a long, hard look at Scrivener.

But why, you might ask, when more than half of the writers I’d spoken to said it was the best thing ever, had I waited so long???

Well, (long story short) I’d always been happy to use Word in all of its incarnations since before Office 95 was ‘the latest thing’.  But now, as I began to use Office 2010, acquired in March 2013, my heart sank. The darn thing seemed to have a mind of its own.

From paragraph formatting to bullet points it suddenly felt as if Word didn’t want me to be there any more.

I use *   *   * to separate paragraphs – have you tried to type that in Office 2010? It turns into bullets!!

Still, I persisted and wrestled with it for another four weeks, working around the peculiarities as I assembled articles, short stories and…my CreateSpace version of  ‘A Construct of Angels.’ Huge gaps between paragraphs and page breaks that refused to undo became the final straw. For three nights, I was forced to cut and paste sentences in order to get around this idiotic formating problem and when the time came to begin my next project, my brain cried ‘ENOUGH! I can’t go through all that again!’

So, in desperation to soothe my addled mind, I Googled the best price for the latest (or even the previous, for I am not proud) version of Scrivener.

Not so easy, for here in soggy England, we’re unable to take advantage of the NaNoWriMo offer price on Amazon (unless you know of a way around that…) as it’s only on Amazon.com…and we poor Brits aren’t allowed to download from there in case there’s none left for everyone else. We’re quite a ravenous bunch over here – we have been since WW2 rationing ended.

But I managed to uncover a trial download from PC World – priced at $40. Why dollars? Well the download linked to Literature and Latte dot com who seem to have no problems with feeding us hungry Brits.

And so I went for it, desperately hoping that this shining light, this gift from the Gods (they are there…they’ve just retired) was everything that it had been purported.

All right, Toynbee…don’t oversell it!

So far, so good. It downloaded (49MB), installed (even on my stone-age Windows Vista Netbook) opened and allowed me to explore. The tutorial looked daunting, but because it’s interactive (‘try this…see what happens; now try this…isn’t it good?’) it’s more kinesthetic than cramming.

I think that Scrivener and I are going to get along just fine. My ex (Word 2010) will still  be allowed to visit at weekends, but that relationship has definitely cooled.

I will let you know if romance blossoms with the new girl in town.

So, with Scrivener in mind, Write On!

*   *   *

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CreateSpace – Part II of my anticlockwise journey towards a paperback

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books and pages

Following on from my previous post, I have moved a little further along the road towards creating my first-ever paperback *shivers as a life-long dream seems possible*.

Firstly, I set up a CreateSpace account alongside my Amazon author’s account, then proceeded to navigate CS’s user-friendly set-up menu. I was offered a plethora of differing sizes for my physical book, and after having discussed this with other bloggers, I finally settled on the 6×9″ format.

I then downloaded the novel template (6×9″), after which ‘A Construct of Angels’ (already formatted in Word) was pasted into the template so I could make any adjustments to the layout.

Here’s where the gnashing of teeth began…

When I scrolled through the virtual book (complete with flipping pages feature…it’s looking more like a real book already), I found a problem. Not Major by any means, but nether was it minor.

For some reason, my the formatting contained within my original layout caused the whole MS to leave random (it seemed) spaces at the bottom of every page, giving it a chewed-off appearance . I had to spend three nights inside the Word document copying and pasting text from the top of the previous page into the end of the text from the one above. Sometimes there was only one blank line; other times there were five.

Weird. This was the point where I wondered if I should finally make the move to Scrivener…

Patience required, definitely. Still, I wanted it to be right, so I put in the time to set it all up properly.

Save, copy, paste and check the format on CS once again – more flicking through virtual pages with a beady eye on the spacing.

Then the next problem reared its head. I use two images within my text. CreateSpace’s automated formatting checker decided that the resolution of these images was too low to print properly. Now, this is an image of some handwriting - some very poor handwriting, as it happens…if you think ‘spider that scuttled through a puddle of ink’ then you won’t be far off. Yes, it’s ncessary to the plot.

Guys, it doesn’t NEED to be hi-res.

I DID try to change the resolution using Paint and then PhotoImpact, but to no avail. I can live with it. The question is, will CreateSpace let it pass?

The next stage is the cover.

I sent the details of the size, page colour and page count to Ravven who has tweaked the original artwork to match.  Thanks, Ravven!

Now that the final piece is in place, and CreateSpace is happy with the format (low-res image notwithstanding), I have ordered the proof copy from the US printers (the proof has to come from the US, but subsequent purchased copies are created in the UK for UK buyers) and wait for its arrival with teeth gound and breath held.

The tension mounts…

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