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.

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.)

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.

Book News (and stuff)

I must agree with Viktor on it this time.

The rough draft of Hunting the Dragon (Waves of Darkness book 8) is in the bag. The first 10 chapters are with my alpha reader, and she’s promised feedback notes, hopefully by next week.

The remaining chapters are still in handwritten form and need to be typed up. I will start on that soon. I have to admit that the back half of the rough draft is a hot mess and in need of some scene rearranging and serious polishing.

Meanwhile, I’ve completed inking all the Dragon Poker portraits. I will be doing a color accent version of them for special edition sets of the cards. I’m told those will be offered in a wooden case.

Next on my agenda is the reformatting and revision of Blood Curse (Waves of Darkness book 1). The new edition will be in the 5×8-ish (not sure of the exact measurements right now) size rather than the 6×9 trade paperback version it was previously published in. I plan to snazzy up the interior as well. All this is necessary before I can order a new cover design, since I need a page count to determine the width of the spine. The size change will change the original page count, of course.

Finally, happy news: someone bought one of the 6-episode mini-omnibus ebooks in my The Adventures of Pigg & Woolfe steampunk serial. This is the first sale of the year and the first sale in months!

That is all for now. Thanks for reading!

Sometimes It Pays …

Sometimes it pays to be paranoid, or at least highly skeptical.

Today, I received a call from a “senior acquisitions specialist” for “the only award winning hybrid publisher” about evaluating my book to present to one of their “book investors” and possibly add it to this year’s portfolio. (I was just sitting down to eat before getting ready for work, so I let the machine get it.)

To her credit, the woman, identified only as Sunshine (no last name stated), did pronounce my first name correctly. She failed, however, to actually identify the publisher she represented. I found out from my caller ID it was called Stratton Press. The call back number matched the one she called from, which seemed to add a touch of credibility.

The thing is, I haven’t sent out any queries since early last fall. I keep a board of who I’ve queried and when. This publisher was not on it. I am assuming the fact I’m an author, and my contact info was culled from my FB posts on various author and book promotion groups, then Google-fu for my phone number, which I don’t believe I’ve posted.

So, I did a little Google-fu on my own. Sure enough, there was a post about this publisher on SFWA’s Writer Beware.

Yeah, I’m not calling Sunshine back.

I’ve been a published author for 9 years and a regular attendee of the writing tracks of several conventions, so I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about naive new authors and even veteran authors falling prey to the somewhat dubious business practices of some vanity and/or fly-by-night publishers. (Yep, the terms acquisition specialist rather than editor and hybrid publisher had images flashing in my head of Robbie the Robot flailing its arms and repeating “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!”)

So my advice to my fellow authors out there is do your research when looking for an agent or publisher, be suspicious of unsolicited offers to help you publish, especially if the one’s offering want money from you, and don’t be afraid to ask more established authors for advice or recommendations.

Writer’s Flow

1175091_555038981199686_155128330_n

Lack of the ability to concentrate over the past few weeks had slowed my writing down drastically. I just couldn’t focus past all the distractions. Add to that the need to rewrite/replot in the middle of the manuscript for Hunting the Dragon, the 8th book in the Waves of Darkness series (and the start of a new story arc). Yes, I’d plotted the book out; heck I’d gotten a basic guideline made for the entire 7-book arc. (That’s right kiddies, not only will I get the first 7 books back into publication, I will write 7 NEW books in the series.) However, the plot I had turned out to be easily accomplished with a novella, if not a novelette.

That was/is not acceptable.

Finally, the battling ideas of what event to place where and what plot points to add have sorted themselves out. The writing has begun to flow again. I’ve even found a way to start off one of the secondary plots for the story arc a little earlier than I’d thought.

I love how unplanned characters not only pop up but give new insight and depth into the overall story. I am a “plantser”, a cross between a plotter and a pantser, in how I write my stories. It works for me.

Actually, this is the most similar book writing experience to that of writing Blood Curse (book 1) I’ve had since I started this series of novels. I had an overall idea for the story arc and a jumble of scenes and ideas, and I almost wrapped it up in 17 short chapters. With that book, too, I had to find a way to stretch/fill it out without making the added material read like unnecessary fluff.

Can you tell I’m enjoying my revitalized creative productivity?

Books for Sale!

3slq9qa8marzpmjanv7set-1564921812.png

I will have 9 copies of The Girl Who Fell from the Sky: The Adventures of Pigg & Woolfe Season 1 available for sale at my table in the Chattacon dealer room!

I’d ordered 10 copies, but I already sold a copy to a coworker who is a fan and a speed reader. He wanted a signed copy, and waited until I had them available in person. I guess he worried he might read any copy he ordered before he could get my signature, since we’re on different shifts. (He did over pay, at his insistence, which more than covered my shipping cost.)

I will also have copies of Silent Fathoms, Black Venom, Hell’s Dodo, The Daedalus Enigma, and Maelstrom of Fate, books 3-7 of the Waves of Darkness series available. The first two books in the series, Blood Curse and Demon Bayou, have been sold out since early last year. Rest assured, I do still plan on getting these titles back into publication, one way or another.

Speaking of the WoD series, writing has stalled on book 8 for now. I’m not happy with chapter 12 and plan to rewrite it, moving some of the events about. Otherwise, this book might end up a novella instead of a novel.

The majority of my free time has been taken up with working on a previously mentioned art commission. I’ve really been enjoying the challenge as well as exercising my rusty portraiture skills.

As soon as I’ve figured out my schedule for Chattacon, I will post it to my Appearances page here. I’m not slated as a panelist, so I imagine a large portion of my time will be spent at my table. Hope to see you there!