Thursday, 24 January 2013

Birth of a Blog

I thought I would take a bit of time to rest and relax after completing the long awaited sequel to Knight's Surrender, Noble Pursuit.  I figured that although I don't consider myself to be an old dog, I still enjoy learning new tricks, 'cause let's face it, staying on top of technology is the best way to reach my audience.  (Not to mention the fact that I would like to be able to at least have the same skill set as the brilliant children I teach, when it comes to technology).  Therefore, tonight I bring into the world my first attempt at blogging, which so far seems painless and yes, a little fun.  I just hope that whoever reads this will not bore of my future ramblings.  Endalwynndale calls to me again, and so I will bid you adieu, to start my third novel in the Binding of the Almatraek series, Enchanted Page.

Jan 20, 2014
So almost a year later and my life has been turned upside a good way.  I am halfway through Enchanted Page.  "Why only half?" you ask, and I can tell you about the lengthy editing process for Noble Pursuit, or simply give you the straight up good news.  My family has doubled, as we have been blessed by adopting our daughter and our son.  They were 15 months and 2 1/2 years old respectively, and they are a handful.  We have moved our family to Newfoundland, not wanting them to grow up in a place where it's "normal" for Mommy's car to get broken into.  Alas, it has cut deeply into my writing time, but I'm still getting it done.  I try to release a book each summer, and I am still aiming to try.

March 19, 2014
Enchanted page is further along, and I am happy to announce the release of two children's storybooks I have written and illustrated.  One is a rhyming and counting book about a mouse and a grandfather clock meant for younger readers.  The other is a fairy tale or Aesop's fables type of thing about a boy and girl, and why trees grow towards the sun.  Tock-Tick-Tock, the Mouse and the Clock, and The Tree and the Sun can be purchased on my website:

March 27, 2014
I'm making an effort to really start using my blog.  I find it both difficult and therapeutic to write a blog, simply because I am largely a fiction writer.  I generally have the power to take the story where I want.  I can change it if I'm not happy with it.  Life is a little harder to do that with.  I sit in front of my blog, cursor blinking, thinking what can I possibly write about today? Luckily, I have also discovered the usefulness to share my feelings to no one in particular, or everyone at once.  I am very excited to start really trying to make social networking work for my books, by using linked in, Facebook and Twitter.  I am filled with trepidation that no one will bother looking at my pages, or follow me on the accounts.  Having said this, the initial terror I have felt is beginning to subside as I have made some great connections with people through linked in and people are starting to visit my Facebook.  I am also redesigning my web page.  I love it.  However, I'm beginning to learn more and want to make it more user-friendly, so people can scan the information they need.  It's very hard not to be wordy and grandiose when you're a writer. Well, at least it is for me.

April 3, 2014
I read something that literally changed my perspective on writing and the way I will operate in the future.  It was a little thing, but to me, profound.  It was a post someone put on Linkedin, about writing a journal, how when you start and write a lot, it seems daunting to continue, so lots give up.  This talked about the importance of writing even one line a day.  I thought "I can handle that."  So today starts for me a change, I'll be making at least one line of an entry every day.  In honor of the poetry month that April is, I will be leaving a poem as well.  (Ok, so I never said I would write ONLY one line, but AT LEAST).  This poem I really love, I honed the skill of story telling through poetry while playing a bard in an online RPG game akin to Dungeons and Dragons.  I am a big nerd, and I am PROUD of it.  Here is an excerpt from my second novel, Noble Pursuit.  Our heroes are in a tavern called the Elder Bear, and this poem/song is being recited by one of our band, a bard by the name of Thornton:
“T’was on an evening quite like this,
The darkness rolling in,
That Almad Spurr arrived in town,
Upon his face, a grin,
He made his way into a pub,
This very Elder Bear,
He found a seat beside the bar,
And spotted golden hair.

The lass was small, the barkeep’s aid,
And he, a Dwarven lad,
With reddish hair and full blown beard,
Charisma not too bad,
He sidled up to the barkeep’s side,
An order for to make,
And pinched the rump of the serving girl,
A most grievous mistake.

The Halfling wench threw down her tray,
The crowd made her some room,
“You’ve picked the wrong one to accost,”
She cried, and seized a broom,
The mugs were swept up into hands,
As she leapt upon the bar,
But Almad laughed into her face,
As she prepared to spar.

A crowd drew round to see the row,
Exciting this would be,
And wagers passed from lip to lip,
When broom-tip whacked Spurr’s knee,
He yowled as though he hit the roof,
A goose-bump on his leg,
And used the pause to take a sip
Right from the barkeep’s keg.

He stood up tall, his wobble small,
And still he showed no fear
He went for her, but slipped and fell,
Through puddles made of beer,
Spurr went down hard between two stools,
Reached out with flailing hand,
He caught her foot, she tumbled too,
And upon him she did land.

She tried to roll clear of the fool,
He held her in his grasp,
Saying “Sorry, I’d no right to pinch.”
She yelled “With me, you ask!”
And so he looked deep into eyes
As stormy as the sea,
And said “Then dear I ask for you
To plant a kiss on me!”

She looked at all the men drawn ‘round,
And Almad let her go,
She helped him up and checked his knee,
Of that she made a show,
When all had laughed and then returned
To the solace of his drink,
She laid on Spurr a kiss so deep,
The poor man couldn’t think.

After that it seemed that our old dog
Learned a new trick,
For he asked the blonde again for kisses
In an accent thick,
She eyed the bar and sighed “I can’t,
I’ve work here, I suppose.”
He cried “Don’t leave me hanging here,
I’m ready to propose!”

Thanks for reading, till next time Adventurer, next time.

April 6, 2014
So I'm a huge Whovian.  For those of you slightly less nerdy than I, that means I'm a big fan of Doctor Who. I don't often write limericks, but this one I wrote as a greeting when I bought my friend a sonic screwdriver:
There once was a man called the Doctor,
Whose TARDIS was blue, and he docked her,
He cried out with glee
When he dropped his damned key,
My sonic screwdriver unlocked her!

May 29, 2014
I realize how sporadically I'm writing here, especially after my thoughts on only writing one line a day and sticking to doing at least that.  What you can't see though, is that I have been doing it, on the sidelines.  I've been writing poetry every day, though I haven't been posting it.  I've also been approached about doing the artwork for a song that will be turned into a book.  As a fellow songwriter/performer myself, the idea excites me very much.  What it comes down to, is that I've been sticking to doing one piece of work a day.  I'm currently finishing the colouring for my new Alphabet book coming out, which I've been madly trying to find time to work on when the kids are asleep.  (The pencil crayons come out, and they try to "help" mommy work).  I've also run into some problems with inking. My process is generally to write the words, then pencil art for the illustrations, then ink and erase the hard lines, then colour using various mediums (usually pencil crayon, Photoshop or water-colour paint).  My problem is that my pilot fine-liner, which I use to do all of my inking, runs when it comes into contact with water...found that out the hard way, and much cursing ensued.  Generally when I paint, I skip the inking stage, so running is not an issue.  There are two books that I'm working on now though, that I wasn't sure how I wanted to do the colour.  I need to ink before I scan, it saves hours of photoshop tampering later.  So I found myself on the market for a new time of fine-liner.  I love sharpie for a lot of things, so I thought I'd try that.  I took my new treasures home, inked the first drawing and was horrified when the ink bled and ruined the fine lines of my drawing!  My husband helpfully pointed out that I should have gotten a bleed-free sharpie.  *gritting teeth, deep breath*.  So now, I'm on the prowl again...for a marker that is.  Since I can't scan and print off and paint (the lines will run), I have to paint the original drawings, saving copies for the other types of colouring.  I like the sketch paper texture for my work though for both pencil crayon and paint.  Any suggestions (HELP!) my readers might have would be much appreciated.

May 30, 2014
I've been trying to help some other authors in my writing community with editing, and I thought some of what I had to say might be pretty poignant, so I thought I'd share here too.  Let me start off by saying that I hold an honors degree in English Lit, my College English aptitude scores on our three exams on were 94, 96, and 100%, and I have been a professional editor for a very long time (decades).

The first question was: how to decide if an editor is right for you? Some folks get their work edited, then feel lost when deciding whether or not to use all of the suggestions, especially if the author can't see why they were made, or doesn't agree with the change.

The best advice I can give you is to use more than one editor. When I get my books done, I usually have about 3-5 for each book (editors that is). Not all of them are professional editors, some are friends who have good English skills, and I myself have a degree in English, so I am pretty good at seeing any suggestions that are glaring. By having more than one editor, you can see if there's a change you're not sure you agree with, if they all or both agree. If more than one editor has suggested the same change, there is probably a valid reason why. (Sort of like getting a second opinion from a doctor). 

I write and enjoy reading fantasy for all ages, so I enjoy editing that type of book. In the past I have edited everything from fantasy, mystery, sci-fi, plays, and self help. It does help to choose an editor that at least likes the genre you're writing in.  Going into any situation, everyone has pre-conceived notions and opinions of what to expect.  I would be wary of hiring someone to edit a horror/thriller book that hates horror.  Even when being professional, they will go into it with the idea that it's not going to be something they'd be interested in reading. Will they give it a fair chance?  Depending on how much some people can distance themselves from their work, maybe, but I personally wouldn't chance it.  I'd rather choose an editor that will look forward to reading my work. If they go into it knowing they might enjoy it, they will work for me and with me, not just hard edit it.  They will possibly get into it and be finished in a more timely fashion, as opposed to someone who really doesn't want to read it in the first place because it's not their thing, but only a paycheck.  Most editors should offer a sample too so you can pick one you like (like 5-10 pages they do for you for free as an example of their work). 

The second question was to re-write or stick with the original?

I too went through a similar conundrum with my first novel years ago.  I ended up doing a complete re-write, and that's the one I use now...not because of suggestions to me, but because I felt by that stage in the game, I was making really good changes to help my story flow, cut out the unnecessary stuff, and make the reader to character bond richer.  (Basically, I had become a much better writer by that point and the story really is better for it).  

Which story will you continue with is the question.  The only one who can answer it is you, but try taking a look at it this way: which one do you feel tells the better story?  Go with the one where the writing is better.  I'm not talking grammar and spelling (those are easy to fix later), I mean which one will grab the audience?  If you feel like you did a good enough job in the first version, stick to it.  An editor making a LOT of comments isn't saying your book is horrible, they're saying the story is worth completing properly.  I myself do tend to write a lot of comments, mostly I find myself correcting things like grammar, capitals or punctuation used incorrectly, or word choice for redundancy (using the same word too many times in the same paragraph and such).  None of that reflects on the story itself though, you have to choose the direction the story will take.  If you are digging the newer version more, go with it.  If you are editing along the way though, I would seriously suggest a second complete edit when it's done (or wait till it's done for the editing).  When I write, I edit first what I had written last time, then continue the story. At the end, I edit the whole shabang again.  But that's just my anal-retentiveness to detail.

When making the decision, you should really try this: one of the hardest things I had to do (And it took me about 4 years to be able to do it with a vengeance...and it still makes me cringe), is to take a step back and stop thinking of my story as my baby.  I put so much work, so much time, patience, and love into it, as I'm sure you have too, but parents never see their child as the naughty one that needs to change.  You need to look at it from an objective standpoint, as a reader, not the writer.  Part of my re-writing was taking out or changing around the order of complete chapters...if it doesn't further the plot, take it out, no matter how sweet or charming or perfectly it fits in the story.  I found myself reading and thinking "wow, that was totally awesome...but what did that have to do with the story's end goal?"

The other part of my re-write was adding layers to the experiences the characters had.  For example, we use all five senses to take in information.  But I had written primarily in a narrative that explained mostly what the characters (or reader) saw.  I added tastes, smells, textures they touched, sensations of warmth on the cheeks when they blushed.  It made it much easier for the audience to put themselves in the place of the characters because they were experiencing my story the way they would in real life.  It helps with the suspension of disbelief that is really important for fantasy writers who write about things that happen outside the world's norm.

So it comes down to why and how are you changing your story in the new version/draft?  Is it necessary, and does it make the story better for the reader?

I hope you haven't been bored by my rambling, I hope it helps with perspective a bit and that I haven't just confused you.

The last question was: How much do you charge, and how does your editing work?  (Inserting shameless plug here).

I usually charge $50 for up to 200 pages, then an additional $25 for the next hundred and so on. (So if the book is 200 pages or less, it would be $50), then if it's 200-300 pages it would be $75, from 300-400 pages it would be $100 get the idea).

In terms of how my editing works, I've done it two ways: normally authors give me a printed out double spaced copy, and I edit it with a pencil. This is also the way I prefer.  I like having a hard copy to see what you've written and what I've written.   I'm warning you all now, I'll mark the ever loving [insert naughty word here] out of your work, so don't be alarmed, I promise it should help.  I add suggestions for word choices when needed, I'll pencil in comments and questions in the margins as well.  If there are some large or consistent errors or positive comments, I'll also add a one to two page comment sheet at the end of my own.  One of my authors has also preferred to have the editing done on the computer, as opposed to printed out hard copy.  We can do it that way too if you prefer.  As an editor it makes me feel kind of like I'm changing your story rather than giving you suggestions and letting you do it, but you see all the markups or changes I make, so it's easy to switch back to your original text (that also shows) if you disagree.  Keep in mind that you are the author, an editor gives you suggestions and pointers that will make your story better, but it's up to you to use the ones that work.  When I have a questionable edit, I read my version and the new suggestion out loud (sometimes to another person), you'd be surprised how it makes it easier to "feel" which way sounds right.