Monday, April 4, 2016

The Long March

It is going on seven years since I started writing The Kiss of the White Witch. More than a half of million words in print later, I've come to the end of this long march with the release, this past weekend, of versions no. 3 of A Summer in Amber and The Bright Black Sea, and version no. 2 of Some Day Days, the definitive versions of these books.

The improvements are extensive enough to warrant updating your current copies if you can.

I wrote my books on what is now, an eight year old Mac mini with a now out of day OS and an out of date version of LibreOffice. It's always pilot error – the old version of LibreOffice didn't type the typos – they're all mine. But somehow, I swear, it seemed to find fewer of them than newer versions did. {UPDATE - In going through my current story, I discovered that the program just stopped underlining the typos at some point – perhaps too many were underlined, (all the made up names) or it had been open too long. In any event, it has become clear to me why so many errs slipped by prior to using a second machine to edit on.} Anyway, between pilot err and a less capable program, typos got overlooked. I then made the mistake of making revisions after proofreading. Lessons have been learned the hard way.

Last fall I bought a $150 Windows laptop, loaded the newest version of LibreOffice on it and ran A Summer in Amber and The Bright Black Sea through the spell checker of the newer version which picked up many typos that the previous version seemed to have overlooked. At the same time, I also read through and slightly revised The Bright Black Sea. And yet, some typos evaded capture.

Fast forward to this past weekend. My little laptop came with a free 1 year subscription to Microsoft Office. Being familiar and happy with LibreOffice, I hadn't bothered to activate this feature until last weekend. I then spent the weekend running all three books through Word's spelling and grammar features, correcting things like extra spaces, double words, punctuations, adding hyphens to words, correcting correctly spelled words in the wrong places, and a few misspellings. (Or at least it disagrees with the current spelling. For example, Word doesn't like "strongroom", suggesting it should be "strong room" though both seem to be right.) With this review, I've reached the limits of what I can do to make my books as typo-free as possible. These, then, are their final versions, though, as always, I welcome and will correct any mistakes pointed out to me by my readers.

So we've reached the end of the long march. What's next?

At the moment I'm halfway through the second draft of The Lost Star's Sea. This is the draft where I reconcile what I wrote in the beginning with what I wrote later on. Often I don't know where the story's going until I write it, so this second draft is the first time I know how everything works out, and can make any changes necessary to insure everything hangs together in the complete work. In addition, I enhance the dialogue, characters, and descriptions, since I tend to only sketch some of that in the first draft where I'm more concerned about getting the story down than fine tuning it.

When this second draft is done I'll move it over to my laptop and do all the subsequent drafts on that machine with it enhanced spell checker features. Hopefully these drafts will only involve making sentences clearer and sounding right. There' a hundred ways to say anything, and on any given day, one way may sound better than another, so it's sort of a moving target. Eventually, however, you have to settle on one way. When I've settled, I'll run it through MS Office and make all the suggested corrections. Only then will I print it out for my proofreader. And then, after making all the corrections that comeback from proofreading, and only those corrections, the story should be ready for release. I'm currently planning to release it early in Sept. 2016, a year after the first Captain Wil Litang volume.

Looking ahead to 2017's novel, I'm thinking it'll be a stand alone adventure story set in a world much like our own, but differing in details, sort of an an alternate-world/fantasy story. The main characters look to be arcane-archaeologists – folks who dig up and attempt to decipher the fragments of a series of long dead civilizations lost in myth. It will be set in a time period something like the first half of our 20th century. Right now it's looking like a wartime espionage story – has one side discovered an arcane weapon powerful enough to rule them all? – but heaven knows, that may well change a dozen times between now and whenever the next story is written.


A third volume of Captain Wil Litangs adventures is also planned, but I'm in no hurry to write it. Not only do I not have a clue as to how things turn out, but I'd like to hold off and see how many potential readers it might have. It makes more sense to write books that may attract new readers than to write books that only focus on one sub-set of readers. Indeed, I wrote The Lost Star's Sea only because I had the idea for it halfway through writing The Bright Black Sea and steered that story towards it, so it needed to be written. 

Coming up next, early in May 2016 I will issue my first annual report on self-publishing. All the numbers, for each of my three books to give everyone an insight into the realities of self-publishing, and the potential and limitations of offering works for free.

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