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Friday, September 27, 2013

Plot Change Already?

All ready for Bookfest tomorrow, apart from getting some small bills for change. This morning, I printed more business cards, a couple more brochures, and some signs. I packed up books and got all my paraphernalia together, ready to go. I will be in the Glen Ellyn Public Library from 11 til 2 to sell and sign books, chat with readers, and hand out advertising. In two weeks, I'll do it all again at the Joliet Public Library Black Road branch.

I did a lot of work on "Mongan Manor" yesterday, and I began more this morning, but then I stopped because I realized the motive behind the plotting was about an inheritance and suddenly seemed too similar to the previous book. I feel I should change it up a little, come up with a different sort of motivation for my antagonists to drive their actions. Maybe I'll go back to the hidden treasure idea. Something hidden in the rebuilt tower of the title place which everyone wants after hints dropped by a senile relative. Treasure means wealth, and each of the other relatives has a reason to want it. But maybe the treasure is not what they think. Gonna have to think this through, especially since I had already gone to all the trouble to work out the family tree and rights of inheritance for the original plot. I'll also have to figure out how to incorporate a critical scene, one I have more or less set in my mind already and which serves as a turning point. Good thing I've been keeping plot notes on the side.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fun Stuff

"Where Power Lies" got its final trim and is now just under 80,000 words. It'll take another proofreading before I consider it done, though. All that cutting could have created more errors. I'll attack that after another rest period.

Making HUGE strides on Windsong Lake Vol.3, which I have started to think should have the title "The Secret of Mongan Manor." I've almost completed the passage where Stefanie is asked to employ her skills at the title estate to find a secret about the right of inheritance. Infighting among branches of the family tree will make for conflict, and there is a strong tendency for psychic ability within the clan which will provide challenges for Stefanie. Since her husband, Paul, is already experiencing his own conflicts and it has caused some uneasiness between them, that's another line of plot.

And just this moment, as I pondered what to say about my remaining plot issue, i.e., should there be a murder involved, I arrived at the answer. Yes, there will be a murder, although I'm not sure yet whodunit.

Now, this is the fun stuff!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Busy, Busy

I spent some time this morning making up brochures for Bookfest this weekend. I made 15 so far and may make some more.

While those were printing up, I got back onto some plotting for the new Windsong Lake book. I knew that Stefanie would be invited to a country manor house to figure out a mystery, but I had no idea what that mystery really was. Yesterday, I sat down and began drawing a family tree for the characters inhabiting the house and figuring out what the "secret" was that Stefanie is supposed to uncover. I bounced back and forth between my diagram and typed notes about who had things to hide and who wanted them revealed, i.e., motives. I think I have most of that ironed out now, as well as a device for getting Stefanie and Paul into Mongan Manor. Some of what I figured out may change down the road, but I think I've got a solid plot now. While my booklets were printing, I made a clean copy of the family tree and am now figuring out the dates of birth of each person. The person who invites Stefanie to Mongan Manor doesn't want anyone to know the real reason, so she says it's because she has commissioned Stefanie to do a painting of the manor as a gift to one of the clan's matriarchs. That fits nicely with why a family gathering is being invaded by a stranger. More details to be worked out before I get into the scene where the invitation is given.

I also was struck by the notion that "Where Power Lies" is too long. There's a nagging memory in my head about the number 80,000, as in word count. At 82,280, that nagging urged me to do some more cutting this morning. Now it's down to 80,648, and I'll be looking to trim just a bit more. None of this means any plot changes--just cutting out some stuff that really isn't necessary. Will another proofreading be necessary in the face of all this chopping? Probably.  (*sigh*)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

On Many Fronts

Worked on brochures to hand out at upcoming library events, but I need more ink for my color printer to continue. Quandary: how many to print? I'd hate to run out, but then if I print too many, they'll be useless when I publish my next book. Saturday is BookFest 2013 in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and I have lots of books ready to sell.

Found a few more tweaks to "Where Power Lies," and while looking for the place to put one of them, I found a big boo-boo from a previous edit. So I bit the bullet this morning and reset the document to let Microsoft Word do its grammar check. I did fix a few things in the process and came up with no other major errors. That doesn't mean there aren't any...

Cover art. Still debating on this. I've found a few resources for real artists who will create a cover for me, and I have an idea or two of what it should look like, something better than what I started to create on my own. If any readers out there do graphic arts (for low budget) or who know of someone, I'd love to hear from you.

Did some more writing on the new Windsong Lake book. A small action became a connection for the story, like seeing a puzzle coming together. I still have to figure out the mystery which needs to be solved. I'm at the point in the manuscript where that mystery will be introduced to Stefanie and set her on a course of action. To do that, I need to know what the mystery is first so the person who tells it to her provides just the right amount of information (or maybe some disinformation).

Monday, September 23, 2013

Another Milestone

This morning, I wrote a first draft of a synopsis for "Where Power Lies." How to tell the same story on two double-spaced pages that I used 82,000 words for to begin with? Surprisingly, the more I do this exercise, the easier it gets. I may continue to tinker with what I wrote, but I believe I've captured the essence of the story well enough for the purpose the synopsis serves. By tinkering, I mean finding ways to pack more information into the space I have! If a paragraph ends with a partial line, it means there's some space there which could be used for words.

The manuscript is ready to go, I think. It seems no matter how many times I proofread, I always find something. Sometimes it's wording or needing to include something, and sometimes it's just typo's and punctuation. The trick is knowing when to quit, to say "It's ready" and send it off.

Because "Where Power Lies" is a new story line, I'll need to query my publisher about it, which means I have to come up with a blurb, or a pitch description for the query letter. These are almost the same thing, I believe. This one's going to be a bit more challenging since I must first set the scene in the future where things are just a little different. But one step at a time.

Friday, September 20, 2013

When Is It Enough

Almost done with a read-through of "Where Power Lies," and based on how much I have changed along the way, I wonder if another will be required. Hurried changes are always culprits for new errors, and I received a lesson in that yesterday. In a few idle moments, I picked up a copy of "Seer, Tyro, Fiend" and found two typos! I believe they can be fixed for future print runs, and I wonder if I should look for more

Another cause for caution is that I'm eager to get into the new Windsong Lake book more and I fear that will make me rush through my proofreading even more. And I still have to do a synopsis for "Power" before I can query my publisher for interest in it, plus cover art, etc. I know there are those who would tout the luxury of having a deal with one of the major publishing houses where they take care of the editing and the cover art and the promotion, but those also take a long time to reach the market and they exercise a lot of control over the finished product. While I have to do more of the work with a small publisher, I have more artistic control and also see results much faster.

All that being said, the real limiting factor here is my own impatience to write new books. Can't just turn off the imagination machine, after all.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Proofing, One More Time (I Think)

Finished the first chapter of the new Windsong Lake book and started on Chapter 2. The issues I had with the status of Stefanie and Paul's relationship resolved it self very neatly, always a gratifying experience. I started thinking more about the actual mystery which will be introduced, and I think maybe the book title should be "The Ghost of Mongan Manor." That part will require more thought before I get into writing it.

I've started another reading of "Where Power Lies," and after not reading much of it for a couple of days, I find I like what I've got. A few more words got added or removed, but the basics work just fine. During this reading, I'm also keeping in mind where chapter breaks occur. I caught myself figuring out how many pages each chapter was, and I had to recall that consistent chapter length is not really an issue. What matters is that each chapter ends at a point where something has happened that changes things in a permanent way. This caused me to move the end of Chapter 1 back a bit, and now it ends with Dee making an important connection rather than with her reflecting on her harrowing experience of finding a friend dead in the office. So damn the page count! The structure matters more than the numbers.

There will be one more pass when I'm fully happy with the manuscript, and that is to check formatting. Using Microsoft Word, funny things can creep into the file that can only be seen when the formatting marks are made visible. In the past, I've gotten galleys to proof where paragraphs did not begin as they appeared to in my file, mainly due to how the one before ended. If the Enter key is pressed at the end of a sentence, Word inserts a paragraph symbol. However, if I'm accidentally holding down the shift key at the same time, a different symbol gets inserted. Those are the instances where the galley winds up not ending the paragraph properly. I also look for extraneous spaces and tabs in this stage.

So back to reading, although I'm not looking forward to the next step to publication: writing The Dreaded Synopsis.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Feeling My Characters

Almost through the first chapter of the new Windsong Lake book, "Mongan Manor." I'm fairly sure the opening scene I was agonizing about yesterday will stay in because it has a purpose. It sets the location, the players, that there is conflict in Stefanie and Paul's relationship, and it provides background which might allow someone to read it before reading the other two. I always have trouble with scenes where my lovebirds are at odds. Go figure. Imaginary people and I still get emotionally involved. But conflict is the name of the game in fiction, because readers would get bored with a tale in which everything in hunky-dory all the time. Something needs to happen, and when some of the things that happen involve emotions everyone can relate to, the characters become someone to care about and root for.

I may go back and take another look at "Where Power Lies" tomorrow. It needs another reading, as I've mentioned, and hopefully I'll be able to do so with "fresh eyes."

My shipment of books arrived yesterday for Bookfest in about a week and a half. I have signs made up, and I've revised my book brochure. I'm holding off printing them up so they'll be as up to date as possible.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Next Book and Other Progress

I spent some time this morning on promotional materials for Bookfest on September 28. I revised a booklet I had made a while back, a brochure of my novels with other information, and ran a couple of tests. Larger type made it easier to read, and I updated some publishing information. Each page features a book, and with some adjustment of the layout, to make sure the cover art appeared in the same spot on each page, I think I've resolved a bleed-through issue I was concerned about. Gotta buy more ink cartridges, and I'll hold off massive printing for a bit in case I get print edition information for "Dabblers," "Game Faces," and "Stranger Faces." I also made up three signs to use, one sign for each book series. I think I'm set for Bookfest.

I made one tweak to "Where Power Lies" this morning, because I realized I had not covered a facet of our current sociopolitical landscape and how it relates to my future world. Still planning on letting it rest before I do another full reading.

So on to the next book, Windsong Lake Vol. 3. The working title is  "The Treasure of Mongan Manor" but I'm not all that pleased with it. Maybe it'll change to "Secret of Mongan Manor." Mongan is a name from Irish mythology, the son of the sea god, a shape shifter known for his generosity.

Eight pages into the manuscript, and I'm already questioning my starting point! The beginning has been in my head for a while, in which Stefanie has a vision about Paul being in danger and using her psychic ability to find him and warn him. While it sets up a layer of conflict important to the story, the event itself is not at all related to the mystery Stefanie will encounter. Is the fact that I set up a different conflict enough to warrant this scene, even though it doesn't really begin the mystery plot? Perhaps I should just "go with it" for now, as many authors do. Just write the story and worry about editing later.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Another Pause

I've got "Where Power Lies" pretty much where I want it now, I think. I'm going to give it a rest for a few days and do another full read through to verify I've made the appropriate points. The length is pretty good, at just over 82,600 words. When I finally apply the "Done" stamp to it, I'll do a synopsis and blurb and consider sending my latest "child" into the world.

I'm very excited get back to the newest Windsong Lake book. It's been started, of course, but I've been trying to lean on "Power" to get it closer to finished before letting my muse take flight with Stefanie.

I also have to get ready for Bookfest 2013 in Glen Ellyn in less than two weeks. Last night, I made up three signs for the table, one for each book series. A price sign is also required, as well as an up-to-date brochure to hand out. As to pricing, I'm considering offering a discount for anyone buy more than one book, maybe buy one book for $9 or any two for $16. I still don't know exactly which books I'll have on hand to sell, so the pricing thing might have to wait till the last minute. I would love to go to Bookfest, or to Joliet Author Fest, with a full complement of my books to offer, but I'm not sure if that's going to work out for timing. Also getting down to the wire is whether or not I'll participate in the pitch session at Bookfest. The one I wrote is for "Dabblers," but if I don't have a paperback on hand to sell, it kind of misses the point. We shall see.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Back On It

Friday found me dealing with personal business and little time for anything else, but it looks like I'm going to be back in the saddle again.

Updates on "Where Power Lies" getting close to completion (I think). The word count has been drastically reduced, from over 84,000 to now 82,600 or so. More might get chopped before I'm done. I also keep thinking of little things to tweak here and there, but they are minor points, finishing touches. Then I need to do a synopsis, blurb, etc. Of course, since this is a new story line, I will have to go through the query and submission process with Write Words, never assuming publication is a done deal.

Also have to start leaning on materials for upcoming book events--signs, brochures, and so on. I have paperbacks on order for "Changeling," "Two Faces," and "Seer" but they have not arrived yet. Trying not to bite my nails. I need stuff to sell!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Editing Is a State of Mind

Yesterday's slashing editing on "Where Power Lies" has reduced the manuscript by more than 1,000 words, and I'm only half way through it. I find it interesting on how my general mood influences my editing. I know that when I'm creating the manuscript, I try to get things down quickly with occasional slow-downs for important passages. On my first pass through, I try hard to make sure I'm conveying things clearly, and this ends up adding words. I also try to supply more imagery at this point, which also adds words. Searches for overused words can add or subtract length. An analogy to sculpting in clay just popped into my head, the notion of molding, modifying, removing clay or putting it back on.

At some point, I'm going to get totally sick of the story and want to move on. Hopefully, that coincides with the other sign of being "done," i.e.,  when I go to change something and realize that what was already there works better. That isn't to say I won't find things I wish I could change when I proof the galley (assuming my current publisher wants to pick up the book!) but that too is a matter of mood. The galley proof is about fixing format errors, spelling and punctuation, and adding the occasional word that mistakenly fell to the slashing edit--usually pronouns and articles I didn't intend to cut.

I feel good about the shortening length here, and I suspect I'll be right around 81,000 words by the time I'm done. For POD books, that's a good length, especially for a first in the series book. Does that mean I'll do a sequel to "Where Power Lies?" Maybe. I might even have a few ideas . . .

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

In A Slashing Mood

Taking another pass at "Where Power Lies" this morning, and I find myself doing a lot of cutting. Extraneous stuff mostly, tags, descriptions of inconsequential things. In the back of my mind, however, is a cautionary voice telling me that slashing stuff often leads to new errors. I might delete one more word than I intend, or take out the verb which makes the sentence a sentence. Maybe after this pass, I'll finally get to the read-through where I don't need to change anything and simply correct obvious errors.

I also made the decision to remove chapter titles. I've heard from readers that they don't really pay attention to them. I've left them in for the Jack Watson books and the Faces books, and having done so in those series, I will have to keep them for any future additions. I left them out of the Windsong Lake books, but I started using them in "Where Power Lies," mainly as a tool to find passages. The titles get marked for as level 1 of an outline and I can quickly navigate within my document to something I need to find. Since I took them out this morning, I guess I'll have to find my place some other way.

As I settled into bed last night, I had an alarming thought regarding the upcoming Glen Ellyn Bookfest. I've been preparing a 60-second pitch to give to attendees for "Dabblers," but what do I do if I don't have any paperbacks of it to sell? It's supposed to have gone to press, but I don't know if there'll be time to order any copies to take with me. I'm giving some thought to prepping a pitch for "Two Faces, Two Faced." Those are already on order, and I hope they're going to be delivered any day now.

Then again, the thought of standing up in front of people to give my pitch, of any book, makes me wonder if I should do it at all. It's not a requirement, and I can think of some practical reasons beyond my own stage fright to skip it. I guess I should be prepared with one or two pitches and make a decision at the last minute.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Joliet Author Fair and Updates

Received confirmation from the Joliet Public Library Black Road Branch for Author Fest in October. Here are some of the details:

Joliet Regional Author Fair
Saturday, October 12, 2013
11:00 AM to 3:00 PM

Joliet Public Library

Black Road Branch

3395 Black Road, Joliet, IL  60431

This was such a great event last year, and I'm really looking forward to meeting people and having the chance to sell books. 

Looks like more of my ebooks are soon to be in print format--Dabblers, Game Faces, and Stranger Faces. That will mean ALL of them are available in both formats! 

Now then, for book #8, "Where Power Lies": still making changes and catching repetitions as I go. I'm starting to feel more of an itch to get onto the next Windsong Lake book, but I'm trying to exercise some discipline here. "Power" still needs editing, and a synopsis, and a blurb, and a cover...

Monday, September 9, 2013

Miscellaneous Updates

My first review for Windy City Reviews was posted today, and I also received some comments from the author about what I had to say. It's very gratifying. The book was excellent, and I simply said so. I hope more writers request me to review their books in the future as I enjoyed doing this.

I believe paperback editions will soon be available for my three remaining books: "Game Faces," "Stranger Faces," and "Dabblers." I've already ordered copies to sell at two upcoming library events and hopefully I'll still have time to order some of the others. I really want to have a copy of "Dabblers" on hand for Bookfest in Glen Ellyn because I've written a 60-second pitch to present to library patrons. Gotta start rehearsing that.

Making more progress on "Where Power Lies." It's so easy to get sidetracked from hunting for repetition when I see other areas for improvement. For example, I figured out a way to subtly set the time of the story very early on, which soothed a touch of anxiety about waiting until Chapter 2 to do so. I also continue to notice tags which aren't really needed. As I keep changing things, I'm beginning to think I may have to rerun the word frequency counter program again at a later time. I haven't done much more on the cover art yet, but I think I've nailed down the concept to something I can execute. I may have to seek out some additional images to use, though, as what I already have isn't quite right yet.

For now, back to work . . .

Friday, September 6, 2013

Still Editing

After a morning of chores, I'll be getting back to work on "Where Power Lies" some this afternoon. I started with looking at instances of the word "that", which the word frequency counter program shows was used 649 times. Lots of instances occur in dialog, and some of those can stay. My main focus is on those in narrative. The test is to read the sentence without the "that" and see if it means the same thing. If it does, the word goes.

Part of this process has the potential to introduce other instances of repetition. If I rewrite a sentence to get rid of "that," I might reuse another word in close proximity. I could probably run the word frequency counter a hundred times over and still wind up with too many uses of one word or another. That's why running programs--word counts, spelling, grammar--is not enough. Only careful proofreading will get even close to a perfect manuscript.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Editing, The Next Phase

Finally made it through the second reading of "Where Power Lies," and this morning, I ran the program to count how frequently each word is used and the closest proximity of uses. I went through the list and removed some things that won't matter, i.e., people's names, punctuation marks, scene break marks, etc. Next comes the tricky part: to analyze the rest of the 84 pages of the list.

I know I tend to overuse the words "that" and "had," among a few others. I do a Find operation in Word to look at each instance and decide if the word is needed or if the sentence can be replaced. Other words used less frequently still present a challenge. An example, the list showed the word "granite" had been used twice in the manuscript, 67 words apart. I checked the document and found I had used it to describe the steps in front of a building and then again when mentioning the wall surrounding the same building. The second appearance can be eliminated because we've already established that the outdoor plaza is made of granite. On the other hand, the word "inventing" appears twice with only seven words in between, yet when checking the text, the repetition makes sense and I'll leave it alone. It's a time consuming task, so much so that in the past, I've gotten bored with it and quit after tackling the obvious. As stated in an earlier post, I've seen evidence in my published books that I really need to stick with it.

I started working on a cover idea, manipulating images for it, but that is also a time-consuming process. This morning, I took a break and did a little writing on the next Windsong Lake book, although the break didn't last long in the face of the guilty feeling I should be finishing "Where Power Lies."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ain't That How It Goes

Almost done with a reading of "Where Power Lies," just a couple more chapters to go on this pass. I think I've got a lot of the kinks worked out, i.e., stating facts and theories in the proper sequence. Next up will be the word-frequency program to see how many times each word is used and how close together. I plan to give this much closer attention this time around, after having read some of "Two Faces, Two Faced" and noticed some repetitions that could have been fixed. (Sigh) Once I get through that round, I want to take another look at chapter breaks.

It's been one of those days where planned appointments and errands took much longer than I thought they would. I would have completed my proofreading before posting this, but decided not to wait.

Ordered print books to sell at Bookfest at the end of the month. Not all my titles are available yet, and I hope the rest will be in time to order up and take them along. I've got my pitch ready although it still needs  A LOT of rehearsal!

I also completed and submitted my first review for Windy City Reviews, and hopefully, it will be posted soon. Then I can add it to Goodreads and Amazon. The program of authors helping authors is a great idea, and I'm trying to do my part by giving a review to another author, who might then be inclined to read and/or recommend something of mine. It's all mutually beneficial.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Time Off and New Perspective

While I did a little bit of work on "Where Power Lies" over the long weekend, adding a few touches here and there, I really got back to work on it this morning. I set out to make sure that important revelations of theories and motives came about in the proper sequence, not saying too much too soon. In the process, I took notice of an important point about tags in dialog.

Here is a brief passage from the start of Chapter 8:

Reese turned onto a sleepy residential street in an older neighborhood. Nothing moved along the shaded walks, and all the businesses were closed and dark.. He pulled into an alley behind a long row of apartment buildings.

"Who's Jeanie?" I asked.

"Nobody," he replied. "It's a code for an emergency."

Nothing all that wrong, really, but the last sentence has the tag "he replied" which caught my eye. It's not necessary. The first paragraph establishes who Dee is with, and the tag on her question sets the order of who is saying what. The "he replied" adds nothing--no emotion, no action, nothing. Leaving it out will not cause any confusion. The last sentence became:

"Nobody. It's a code for an emergency."

A small thing, but unneeded words should always be avoided. Over the course of a conversational passage, the overuse of tags breaks things up and becomes annoying, a sing-song rhythm.

So once again, I set out with one goal in mind and get distracted by small things. Oh, well. It'll all get done eventually.