Darkness Concealed is coming!

D. Emery Bunn was one of the first bloggers to follow me, and I have long enjoyed his posts on writing and editing. In just a few days, he is releasing his first book, Darkness Concealed:

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50 years ago, the dawn did not come. Again. Everyone in Telthan knew it would happen. Monsters roamed the land, killing virtually everyone in their path, laying waste to anything in their way. Only a precious few survived to rebuild the wreckage of civilization, just like last time. No one questions the Darkening. Not even the children.

That is, until four strangers set off in search of answers, braving a forbidden city, a forgotten library, and foreboding mountains for the truth that has to exist. But the past does not give up its secrets easily, and the truth is far darker than the blackest night.

It’s already available for preorder on Amazon and Kobo, which makes me very happy; I’ve noticed that some indie authors neglect Kobo, which is a shame.

Congratulations to D. Emery Bunn for getting your work out there! Darkness Concealed is available September 23, and I greatly look forward to reading it!

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Back to Scrivener

I’ve just realized that I should begin preparing for the next step of revision, the actual edits to the draft in Scrivener. As I started copying my highlights and notes from my proof to my computer, I realized that these notes are not nearly enough information for me to properly produce a second draft. To that end, I went into the notecard view of my manuscript and printed it: I got the synopsis of every chapter, three per page, on twelve pages. My entire story on a dozen sheets with plenty of room to write thoughts, justifications and feelings.

cy synopses

These notes will be vital in determining which chapters stay and which go. I want to have a solid reason for keeping every chapter, and I also want to write where new chapters need to be inserted to tie up loose ends or explain things that happen too suddenly toward the end. I’m starting to think that I might need a reread of the draft just for this, ignoring all the notes I’ve made about character inconsistencies, plot details, holes in the world, etc. This chapter justification is probably something I should have done first, so that any cut chapters won’t have already been marked up with notes for edits. I’m still making the rules up as I go, though, and the best lessons will be learned from my own mistakes.

I have reached the end of my book, with two chapters and two interludes left to mark up. I’m mostly tempted to throw them out completely and write a new ending, though. While I deliberate, I will continue transferring my notes to Scrivener at a rate of two chapters at a time (it’s very boring work) in between watching music videos on YouTube and other timesinks. I can also begin rereading the book while making my chapter notes. I can do this on my Kobo so that my more specific notes in my physical copy aren’t too distracting. Also, it’s a new Kobo and any excuse to play with it is a good one.

I got my second proof from Creative Digital Studios today (yesterday, by the time this goes live) and am absolutely thrilled. I asked for a few more changes and should have the final result by Friday, which I will definitely have to post about. This will likely light a fire under my ass in terms of getting Draft #2 ready so that I can get my hands on a physical copy with my brand-new, professionally-designed cover.

Squandered opportunities

“The road to Hell,” right? I have managed to use my pear timer once, getting a good 800 words out before turning it to zero so that it wouldn’t scare the bejeezus out of me. Then yesterday afternoon, I sat and started writing a short story in my journal. It is my humble opinion that I am crap at short stories, though I have been in a couple of creative writing classes where we submitted short stories and did peer reviews of them. This one is about a painter who has a reputation for producing unique portraits that represent the innermost identity of the subject. It begins with her refusing to paint a client, claiming that he will not like what she creates.

I have kind of hit a lull with my reading, which I need to remedy; I have a list of books I’d like to read, I only have to stick them on my Kobo and go. Then again, being at home this week means not going out as much, and I do most of my reading on the commute to and from work. I have this nasty habit lately of going to bed when I am absolutely too tired to do any reading at all, lest I find myself considering the same sentence for minutes at a time.

I feel a little guilty about not using this vacation time to get a leg up on my writing. It has been excellent for disconnecting from work and recharging myself, for relaxing and enjoying my home space. The problem is, that all sounds very lazy. I have things I want to get done, and I have more time this week to do them, and I am squandering that opportunity.

The move to ebooks

Just over two years ago, in the beginning of my last fall semester at university, I made the decision to invest in an ereader. I hadn’t been reading as much as I used to, largely due to the limited selection in the English section of my local library, and thought that by going digital I would gain access to a much greater repertoire of books. I went into Chapters to take a look at their stock and fell in love with a Kobo Touch.

My absolute favorite thing about it was the ability to browse the bookstore from my home, either on the device itself or on the computer. I quickly began to learn the advantages and limitations of the ereader; I had a few unpleasant encounters with lying in bed reading and the screen blanking to a “Please charge ereader” message. Then I learned that I should check regularly to see the battery’s charge level and plug it in before it gets too far below 50%. That usually gives me a good week or two of reading.

I am often in public transit. Back in those days, it was getting to classes and back; now, to my job in an office downtown. I would often end up standing in the bus, making it impossible to read a hardcover book and uncomfortable to do the same with a paperback. My Kobo is light and easy to read one-handed. I also enjoy being able to highlight passages I enjoy, though the precision is not the same as I get on my smartphone. I would never dare highlight anything in any of my books, and libraries generally frown on patrons doing so in books they lend out.

A feature I adored in my early days of the Kobo is a count of total hours read. I would check it from time to time, watching the number mount higher and higher, feeling that my purchase of the device was well justified. The count is no longer accurate as I’ve had to factory reset the device once or twice, and I have already established that I read much more now than ever before. I wore out my first case within a year and went looking to eBay for a cheaper alternative to the $35 ones sold in Chapters.

In the beginning, I was saddened to be leaving physical books behind. While I realize that I do not have to read exclusively on my ereader, I would much prefer to. If I am reading a series, I can ensure to have the next book loaded to the device without making my bag heavier; I can keep old favorites with me at all times, complete with memorable phrases bookmarked; I can get the definition of an unfamiliar or uncomfortable word by tapping on it whether I have cell service or not.

I still receive physical books as gifts from time to time, and they usually end up on my nightstand as before-bed reading. I have no choice but to go physical for graphic novels and the like, the Kobo Touch doesn’t display in color and is too small for comfort for graphic content. Ideally, more books would be packaged like DVDs or Blu-rays and have a code for downloading a digital copy come with them. Of course, given the way books are generally packaged, it would be all-too-easy for dishonest folk to lift the codes out of the pages without ever approaching the till. Perhaps if some kind of code were printed on the receipt, then.

From time to time, I have considered replacing my ereader with a tablet, but that doesn’t work for me for a number of reasons. My ereader’s screen looks good even in full daylight, the battery lasts way longer than that of any tablet I’ve heard of, and I read enough to justify having a separate device for that purpose (generally 1-2 hours a day, often more).

Since I started writing with Scrivener, I can also create an ePub of my work that I can read on my Kobo. It’s really motivating to see my writing on my device like a proper ebook.

Another chapter down!

I finished another chapter last night! Chapter thirty-two, wow. I write using Scrivener, so I don’t generally see the chapter numbers as I write them, and I don’t bother to count the index cards in the corkboard view. However, every time I finish a new chapter, I do a fresh compile of the manuscript into a Word document and an ePub for my Kobo and stick them in my Dropbox. Then I set Word to take care of widows and orphans so that there aren’t any when I print the pages out.

Thirty-two chapters. Apart from what I like to think of as “interludes”, which are short chapters told from the synchronizer’s perspective, each of them is at least 2,000 words long. Not that chapters have to be of a certain length in order to be good; I’ve read many books where a chapter has only been a few words to serve as a dramatic pause in the narrative or switch POV briefly.

I feel a bit like I did when I’d hit 40k during NaNoWriMo; I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and that excited me beyond description. I have only three planned chapters left, 7,500 words or less. Of course, this would be the moment where I veer off course completely and discover that I need to get a lot more done to reach a satisfactory ending. If that’s the case, so be it. There’s only so much planning I can do for a novel before it sweeps me off on its own strange currents.

I really like the gardener and architect images that George R. R. Martin spoke of:

I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows. And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.

To me, I’m charting a course down a river. I know that it leads to the sea, but I don’t know which forks to take, which waters are troubled by rapids and cataracts, which branches end unexpectedly and force me to carry my craft over land for a time. I don’t know when I’ll have to backtrack and take a different path. There is a lot of planning that goes into it, but there is a pretty large element of discovery as well.

The First Law

I’m currently rereading the third book of The First Law trilogy, a series recommended to me by a friend, a series that I quickly fell in love with. The world is realistic and gritty, rife with violence and danger; the characters are interesting, engaging, and defy archetypal expectations; and, most importantly for me, magic makes sense and has dire consequences if misused or used too freely.

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The author, Joe Abercrombie, has decided not to provide us with a map of his world, which suits me fine. Most of what I read these days is on my Kobo, which doesn’t display maps very well; I didn’t know the true shape of George R. R. Martin’s world of Ice and Fire until I bought the poster set of maps last year. Maps are lovely, but they can be distracting while reading. I have a tendency to flip to the front flap to see exactly where people are talking about.

Because of the lack of a map, we are forced to imagine the Circle of the World and its various regions. Luckily, three of these regions can be accurately named the North, the South and the West. The books visit all three of these and presents conflicts between certain regions and the central (I believe) kingdom of the Union, a kingdom filled with self-serving and/or empty-headed gentry struggling to seize power in the midst of the king’s declining health.

I greatly enjoy the writing, there is a lot of humor (especially dark humor) in it. I find myself highlighting certain passages to share them with my husband while we’re in the métro. My favorite characters are the soldier turned torturer after an extended imprisonment in the South rendered him unfit to do much else, and the highly manipulative and secretive Magus, pulling the strings with unknown intentions.

The trilogy contains a few revelations near the end that make the books more interesting to reread, though I would give them another go if only for the world and the characters and the writing. To any fan of fantasy who enjoys stories that do not take themselves too seriously (though the tone is quite serious indeed through a lot of the tale), I highly recommend The First Law trilogy: The Blade ItselfBefore They Are Hanged, and Last Argument of Kings.

Incidentally, I found a new way to read on the train, making excellent use of my winter coat and my Kobo’s protective case:

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