Still Formatting and Other Minor Aggravations

I’m not really frustrated with the process of formatting. I thrive on tedious things. I’m frustrated with not having large chunks of time to do it. Formatting is a time consuming process, if you want to do it right. My biggest clock eater with it at the moment is correcting paragraph indents manually.

Why manually? Because when I set the indent to 0.2 inches and applied it to the body of the text, over half the paragraphs remaining at 0.5 inches. So, I have to scroll slowly through the entire manuscript and hit backspace on all the incorrect indents.

Once that’s done, I’ll go through and center and replace all the scene separating asterisk place holders with the icon I’ll use. The first edition used little skull-and-crossbones. I haven’t decided whether to use that or find something else.

Some things I find aggravating are some of the little quirks of the editor function of Word. It keeps telling me I need to change witch to which. Also, even after I’ve indicated to ignore certain deliberate grammar mistakes or misspellings used in conversations, every time I go back through that passage for a different purpose, it marks them up again. Also, it incorrectly tries to get me to capitalize or put in lower case words starting sentences in quotations or immediately following the end quote marks. Plus, it doesn’t seem to like that I capitalize Brethren when referring to pirates or Sisters when referring to the Sisters of Power.

Stupid machine program.

Oh yeah, it also tries to get me to truncate certain phrases I use throughout the book down to one or two words. I use these particular phrases to fit the flavor of the book. I believe some refer to that as “voice.”

End rant.

(I’m actually enjoying the whole process. Actually is another word that Word tries to get me to stop using.)

Formatting Update and Other News

First, I’d like to say thank you to my fellow authors on some of the writing groups we share on Facebook. They’ve been extremely helpful in my navigation of Ingram Spark’s submission guidelines. I highly recommend authors, whether new or veteran, to join such groups. They are especially beneficial to those of us whose schedules don’t mesh with in-person writing groups’ meeting schedules.

Meanwhile, I finally got started on the formatting of Blood Curse 2nd edition this weekend. I’m having to go back through and redo the italics because copying the text to the correct trim size undid all that work. Next up will be changing the font from Word’s default of Calibri. I’ve also installed Treasure Map Dead Hand as my font for titles and headers.

I know all this is tedious, but I’m enjoying the process. This will also help make producing the rest of the books in the series easier.

Meanwhile, I should finish typing up the final episode of The Adventures of Pigg & Woolfe season 3 this week. I will start plotting season 4 once that’s done. I plan to start publishing season 2 early next year. Somewhere in between now and then, I need to do some promoting on that serial.

That’s it for now. Enjoy your short work week, and I hope you had a good Labor Day weekend.

Wisdom from a SF/F Great

Ursula K. Le Guin

First, an admission of my shortcomings: I don’t think I’ve actually read any of Le Guin’s books. I will rectify this sometime in the future.

That being said, I came across this tor.com article about her writings in my Google news feed this morning. I imagine their algorithm placed it there because I’ve been subscribing to a lot of BookTube channels recently.

This is well worth the read and quite inspiring and challenging.

In Memoriam

I learned this morning that we lost a coworker to COVID last night.

William Floyd was also a fan of my Waves of Darkness series. I dedicated Maelstrom of Fate to him and to Michelle Oesterling back in 2017 in its first edition.

His obituary has not been posted yet, or I’d link it here.

He will be missed.

Edit: Will’s obituary finally posted.

So Close…

This was a mind twisting but productive weekend. Watched some movies and a smidgen of the Olympics. Read some on The Gunslinger. Got a decent bit of editing done on Blood Curse.

So, I’ll start with the last first. As of this morning, I am 24 pages away from finishing revisions on Blood Curse. I’d forgotten, even from the recent previous round of revisions, how many mini adventures I’d packed into the last third of the book. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this last read through and revisions round. Formatting and commissioning a new cover are not far away now! Then I can start preliminary revisions on Demon Bayou 2nd edition.

I recently started re-reading Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I read a good chunk of it a couple of decades ago, but never finished. I know I got as far as Wolves of the Calla, but I don’t remember if I read further than that.

Between the book, the editing, and the range of movies I watched, you’ll get a better picture of why I said this weekend was mind twisting. I’ve watched Let Him Go with Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, Disney’s version of The Swiss Family Robinson (which is marginally true to the book,but leaves much out), and Disney’s version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I’d really like to watch Mysterious Island again just to see if they kill Nemo in that one. Why? Because the events take place during the American Civil War Era, therefore before 20,000 Leagues, which takes place in 1868, after the war. I admit I’ve yet to read those two books and would like to see how much liberty the screenwriters took.

Anyway, that was my weekend.

Transitional Turmoil

Absolutely no progress was made this past weekend on Blood Curse. Why? I finally got around to installing my new computer, which has been sitting in its box for a couple of months now.

Although I did move the old computer downstairs to the library and hooked it back together, it is not wifi capable, and I haven’t transferred files from it to the new one yet. I do have the means to do so. I just haven’t had the time.

Also, I have a beef with Microsoft. I understand the need to update and improve OSs. However, STOP MOVING THE FRIGGING FURNITURE! It is extremely irritating to have to keep learning new ways to perform basic functions. They made it hard to delete files in Windows 10. In Windows 7, all you have to do is right click on the file then select “delete” from the drop down menu. In 10, you have to use the file navigator (formerly called “libraries”), click on “home” at the top of the window, click on the file, then click “delete” from the top menu bar. And, whatever you do, don’t click “free up space” in the right click menu unless you want to send it to OneDrive.

I am not a technophobe. I just don’t have time to keep having to relearn things that should be simple every time something gets updated. You can see how easily it can be frustrating.

Hopefully next weekend will be more productive.

Peeking Out from the Writing Cave

Photo cribbed from FB

Time for a progress report and other good news.

I made very good progress on the final revisions/edits on Blood Curse this weekend, which was a pleasant surprise. Last weekend, I made absolutely NO progress, and it was a long weekend. I sometimes think I perform better under pressure (self imposed) and time constraints than I do when there’s plenty of time available.

Anyway, I have less than 100 pages left to edit of the manuscript. In its current format, it is 304 pages. That page count will vary between the draft, the ebook, and the print versions.

I did correct a minor detail this morning. I originally had Viktor saying to head south from Dorada’s island to reach open water. However, I changed the location of her island from the Caymans, which weren’t rocky enough, to Islas de Los Roques, which are just north of the South American coast, back before original publication. Neither I nor my editor caught that I didn’t correct the statement of direction when I made the change. Now he orders the ship northeast instead of south.

I realize this old mistake didn’t really hurt the story, but it bothered me to find it. I truly want to keep any Real World references as accurate as possible. I feel I owe it to my readers, especially the ones who WILL fact check me, and to myself to maintain the best quality I can.

In other news: I have even more incentive to finally carve out some time to do some promo videos. I’ve been interacting in the comments sections of several BookTube videos lately. This has already garnered me some promotion space on one of the channels I follow. The Brothers Gwynn have a unique way of announcing premiering books each month by showing a compilation of authors pitching their books and giving release dates.

I will be participating in this once I’ve nailed down a specific release date for Blood Curse rather than the vague “sometime this Fall.”

I also need to create Instagram and Twitter accounts for the purpose of querying some of the reviewers who run the various BookTube channels. Most of them don’t use FB.

I’ve made significant progress on 1st round edits of The Adventures of Pigg & Woolfe seasons 2 and 3. At this rate, I’ll need to start drafting season 4 before long.

The most enjoyable part of all this editing, both on Blood Curse and The Adventures of Pigg & Woolfe is re-reading and re-familiarizing myself with manuscripts written a few years back. In the case of Blood Curse, the original draft was started in 2006, and the first publication (in ebook) was 2011. I think it’s a good thing for authors of series to go back and read the earlier books again periodically. It helps them see where they’ve been and better visualize where they’re going, both in their writing skills and story continuity. While some may bemoan the skill level of their earlier works, they can also look back and visit with old friends with a fresh perspective and, hopefully, fondness — and then whip up freshly revised 2nd editions to hook new readers. (Insert mercenary grin here.)

Fixing the “Oops!”

Nothing like going through first edits on a rough draft written a few years previously and spotting gargantuan plot holes. In case you haven’t guessed, or are new to this blog, I have returned to working on my steampunk serial, The Adventures of Pigg & Woolfe.

I’m finally getting episodes 13 through 24 (aka Season 2) ready for publication. I’m also seriously entertaining the thought of having a new cover done for the Season 1 omnibus, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, as well as doing new illustrations for it.

“Why?” you ask. Mainly because sales have been all but non-existent, and I never really got marketing off the ground the first time through. This will mean pulling all the current versions down and republishing.

Yes, I am a masochist. I must be to intentionally put that much on my plate.

Meanwhile, back to why I started this post. I’ve found myself trying to keep supposedly intelligent characters from unintentionally looking like bumbling idiots. In other words, I originally wrote some scenes which turned into “wait-a-minute” moments. So, I have to figure out why I had a character do something a certain way, when an obviously better way was available.

Specifically, why did a character LEAVE a communications center to deliver a message rather than send it via a secure means already available to them. It would’ve been quicker to use the system rather than leave the building and head into a subterranean system of tunnels and lifts to reach a place deep underground.

Not to worry. I did find a plausible excuse.

Messages sent through that system, while secure, have to be entered in the log if they originate from the communications center itself. The character didn’t want this message to be discovered by her supervisor, so she feigned illness to be excused from the rest of her shift. She also didn’t encounter any message stations along her route before encountering other major characters.

Plot hole plugged.

An Admission of Grammatical Ignorance

Ellipsis and em dash: there is a difference.

Before this week, I honestly thought they were interchangeable and merely a matter of style preference. I have since been educated about their correct meanings and uses. I have also been advised to use them both sparingly.

I posted the question of which people preferred to use or see in published works to a few of the Facebook writers groups I’m on. (These groups are for writers to help each other improve their craft as opposed to groups for promoting one’s books.) My phone blew up the rest of the day with notifications of responses to my question.

Most of the responses agreed I need to use the em-dash for the purposes I have pauses in my prose (and some of my dialog). The most helpful actually explained the difference. The least helpful merely pointed out they have different uses/meanings without stating what those were.

For comparison of the proper use of the ellipsis and the em-dash,here are some samples of the more helpful responses. (Names are omitted for privacy.)

1. They mean different things, so they’re not really interchangeable. The hesitation mark (identical to an ellipsis, but serves a different purpose) is used when a character hesitates or trails off when speaking. The em dash is used to denote when someone is interrupted when speaking OR to denote an aside/additional information (rather than use parentheses).

2. They both serve the purpose of inserting a pause in your writing, but the flavor of the pause is unique between the two.

An ellipsis kind of makes the reader hang on in suspense momentarily. The last thought is kind of mentally suspended. An em dash is also a break, but it represents a quicker transition of thought from one idea to another. An ellipsis might be used where a speaker trails off mid-sentence, for example, getting distracted by something. And em dash in a similar situation would feel more like the speaker quickly coming to a realization.

“Do you know where… Oh, never mind.”
“Do you know where—Oh, never mind!”

while they both might seem to say the same thing, and effectively they do, it creates differences in interpreting the scene in this case. The ellipsis in the first example implies a longer pause, perhaps even a thoughtful one. The em dash implies that perhaps the speaker’s question was quickly interrupted by someone walking in, or finding what they were searching for, and thus they swiftly cut their question short.

That’s just the differentiation in application where they are used in a similar formula with different results. There are other uses for the em dash—such as in the place of commas to introduce a related thought mid-sentence—where ellipses wouldn’t make sense.

Additionally, my examples were for narrative works. In other types of writing (journals, articles, essays, and so forth) the ellipsis is primarily used to represent omitted portions of text in quotes.

“Style question… an ellipse or an M-dash?”

In that last example, I quoted you and omitted some text while maintaining the integrity of your question. The ellipsis was used to represent there was more text there that the reader isn’t seeing. An em dash wouldn’t be used in such a situation.

3. An em-dash typically indicates a pause longer than a comma would show. An ellipses is used to indicate an incomplete thought or statement.

4. An ellipsis is a trailing-off. It can read dreamy or scatterbrained and it reads like an intimate, personal narrative in real time. You can imagine the narrator losing their train of thought or suddenly changing the pace of their narration.

An em dash precedes an interjection. It’s jerky instead of smooth like the ellipsis. Use it when you want to insert more information or make a sudden change in direction. A character overflowing with information that they have trouble organizing may have dialog with a lot of em dashes. I speak with a lot of em dashes–I assume there’s more context needed than is actually helpful . . . .

Sometimes an em dash and a semicolon do similar work. Sometimes an ellipsis and an em dash do similar work. If you’re unsure, consider whether you should just have two shorter sentences.

“That wasn’t what she said . . . she wanted the blue one.”
“That wasn’t what she said–she wanted the blue one.”
“That wasn’t what she said; she wanted the blue one.”
“That wasn’t what she said. She wanted the blue one.”

None of these is wrong, exactly, but the first two options are a little excessive on the frilly punctuation. I tend to write run-on sentences so I’d go for the semicolon, but the period works just fine, too, and reads clean and straightforward.

5. Depends. I use an M-dash almost as a parenthesis. The ellipses are typically used as a thoughtful pause in fiction. In academic writing, it indicates that a part of the citation has been left out.

6. Copy editor here. They have different purposes. An ellipses is used for dialogue that trails off and for pauses in dialogue. An em dash is used for dialogue that is interrupted. Em dashes are also used for parenthetical phrases (could be replaced with commas or parentheses and have the same effect). Ellipses are never used for parenthetical phrases.

A couple of the responses also warned me of a pitfall my former ignorance posed for submitting to traditional publishers.

1. Just an FYI: if you’re querying a traditional publisher, best be aware that they KNOW the difference in usage between ellipses and em-dashes, and using them interchangeably is likely to get your manuscript rejected.

2. My opinion only. Definitely not ellipses. That’s a red flag for inexperienced writer. Use em dash sparingly. Restructure sentences not to need it. A few but not many.

So, I now know the correct usages of these two forms of punctuation. I hope sharing this information here will help other writers in their journey to publication. (It also provides me a quick reference without having to sift through reams of FB notifications to find them again.)

This proves you’re never too old to learn. I really don’t remember this being covered in any of my English or Composition classes in either high school or college back in the 1980s. (Not saying it wasn’t; I just don’t remember it.)

Now my next step in revising Blood Curse for the 2nd edition is to go through and fix all this. It’s going to take longer than my first few revisions, since I’ll have to use my desktop (which I don’t get much time on during the week). Unfortunately, my phone doesn’t have the em-dash available for use. That’s a lot of improper ellipsis to fix and/or delete and restructure the sentence.