Happy New Decade!

Happy New Year! I am looking forward to embracing this year. The last one challenged me in ways I was not expecting. While I am certain I will find plenty to challenge me this year, I would not want to repeat a year like the previous one.

For more, check out the Blogs on my website: https://www.ramonaridgewell.com/

Copyright ©2014-20 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Tishta the Crystal Orb: I’m Back

It has been over a year since I focused on social media with respect to “Tishta the Crystal Orb,” and I apologize to all of you. Working at a 9 to 5 outside my home made it impossible to spend time on social media—without sacrificing time spent on the books. I recapped the year—and my progress—on my website blog. You can read “I’m Back,” and older blog entries, on my author website.

Thanks for your support as I figure out how to write, while also making enough money to live.

Copyright ©2014-19 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Progress

Progress comes in many flavors. My first reading engagement last week was a big step forward with “Tishta the Crystal Orb.” It came hot on the heels of launching my author website the previous week, followed by procuring a paying gig the very next day. The new job is taking up the majority of my time now, but I stole a few moments to assemble a little sound studio. I plan to record an audiobook of Tishta as my final edit. Check out the page for my newest update (and, heck, join my mailing list to keep up to date). I’ll post links here when the page has updates.

Copyright ©2014-18 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

April 25th Reading

I’m excited to announce I will be a guest reader at this month’s Two Hour Transport! Next Wednesday, April 25. Come on out to Cafe Racerto hear the open mic readers at 7:00, and the invited guest readers (me and G.G. Silverman) at 8:00.



Join us for two hours of science fiction and fantasy reading at Cafe Racer on Wednesday, April 25th.

Signup starts at 6:30
Five minute readings from signup 7:00 – 7:50
Invited readers 8:00 – 9:00


G.G.’s work has appeared in Corvid Queen, Evil Girlfriend Media’s EGM Shorts, Fantasia Divinity’s Goddesses of the Sea anthology, Pop Seagull’s Robotica anthology, Molotov Cocktail, Iconoclast, the Iron Horse Literary Review, and more. Her flash fiction has recently been nominated for the Best Small Fictions anthology, and she’s currently at work on a short story collection as well as her third young adult novel. In her free time, she’s an improv performer, and enjoys making people spit out their drinks.

What happens when you sit down to write? Sometimes, magic. Magic created that first biography, of Harriet Tubman, and transported the six-year-old Ramona Ridgewell into the cotton fields, toiling from dawn to…

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Tishta the Crystal Orb: Penultimate Edit Complete

Grin. I just finished what I hope is the penultimate edit on “Tishta the Crystal Orb” this evening. It was a word edit. Here is my list:
a little
a bit
as soon as —> when
was/were complaining —> complained, (and so much more than that)
there was/there were
even though —> although
for a moment
turned and …
went to… look —> looked
all right
rose and
by the time —> when
could see —> saw
the big man
straight to —> to
without a word, silently, without saying anything
over (as in ‘he looked over at …’, but also others)
have (has, had) to —> need to (not all of them, but a fair number)

I did the edit in this order, although, I would suggest starting with the bear, was/were. It was by far the most intense. It entailed rewriting whole sentences, whereas most of the others were either word removals or replacements. Caveat—long ago, I edited for “suddenly,” which I removed almost entirely, along with all but a select few exclamation marks. There might be other words I already squashed, as well.

Of course, I did not remove/replace every instance, but it was a lot of time and effort to find them all and decide what to do. I made a complete pass through the book for each one of them. Maybe I am insane. I am not certain other authors go through such effort. It entailed a certain amount of tedium, but actually became more like a puzzle, especially the was/were changes.

I ended up making two passes for was/were. In the first one, I replace things like “was fighting” with “fought,” where appropriate. I might have gone a little overboard with these, and have already changed some back. I think I’ll catch most of these on the next edit pass.

The second was/were pass was more complex. Some examples of the changes made in this pass are:
“The bank was filled with Aldashi warriors,” which became “Aldashi warriors filled the bank.”
“There was little vegetation growing…” was changed to “Little vegetation grew…”

Many of the edits were about using the active, rather than passive, verb. The edits took me almost a month to complete. I am really excited to dive into the next edit, which is to record each scene and listen to ensure I like the way the words sound. I used this technique all the way to the end of the second draft, but I have not made updates to my recordings since then—since around November. The current recording is so out of date, it is no longer enjoyable to listen to for me—innumerable edits have been made, and now, I keep thinking, “I should change that,” followed quickly by, “maybe I already changed that.” Fortunately, I have early recordings of the next two books to entertain me until I finish Tishta.

The recording edit will be one of my biggest challenges. I will set up a studio, of sorts, in a padded closet, so the end result will be publishable as an audiobook. Once I have the studio set up, I expect the actual recording and editing to take about sixty hours—the book is around seventeen hours long. I like that I will be able to release the (author-read) audiobook and ebook—and, who knows, perhaps the carbon-based one—at the same time.

While doing all of this, I am also coding my author page. I will keep you posted as to when it comes online. I am writing it myself not only to give me more flexibility on what it offers, but also to create a page using the latest technologies (to satisfy the software developer in me).

I hope you find this list useful in your editing. I know I will be paying a lot closer attention to my writing with respect to this list—especially my propensity for using passive verbs—as I continue on my writing journey. For the next books, hopefully there will not be as much editing to accomplish at the end.

Thanks for your words of encouragement and advice. I appreciate it. I should be editing. More later.

Copyright ©2014-19 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Beta Readers – Round Two

After finishing the last edit of “Tishta the Crystal Orb,” I drew two of the six maps for the book, figured out how to include them in Scrivener, and sent the ARC (Advanced Review Copy) out to a couple of Beta Readers. I am so excited, I can barely contain myself.

For the maps, I scanned my pencil sketches into .jpg files. Using PhotoShop, I added them as the lowest layer, then drew over them—with my finger on my trackpad—and added text labels, etc., then removed the original layer. It was tedious and the maps are fairly crude, but they definitely show the landscape and the routes my travelers take.

Adding the drawings to Scrivener was a learning process. I had to figure out how to scale them up to fit the page, then what to do to exclude the title of the page. I ran into an issue when I started updating the .epub files on iBooks on my iPhone (it worked fine on my Mac). It remembered positions from the previous file, and it really messed with the formatting of the pages. Now I know to always name the file something different, so I append versions, e.g., Tishta the Crystal Orb 2.1.epub. I did not have this issue with Kindle, but I think it is a good practice, regardless.

Next up is to finish the other four maps—a friend lent me a drawing tablet to attach to my laptop, which is making things easier—then create updated book versions to send to my readers. I also need to contact a few of the people who did not respond to my initial email to see if they are not interested or maybe missed the email.

I have been trying—only somewhat successfully—to hold off on doing any more editing until after I take the class on creating an audiobook on the 17th (see previous blog post for details). I am really ready to record the scenes again. It is difficult to listen to the current version since I can hear things that should change, and I am not certain if I have already changed them—I did a major edit since they were last recorded.

The value of recording as an editing tool was reinforced over the weekend when I recorded a scene before reading it at one of my reading groups on Sunday. I do this to ensure I can read the whole scene within the allotted five minutes of open mic. There were several places in the short scene where the words caught my ear as not quite right. I made the changes before I read it to my group.

I found a line editor who I will possibly hire. I need to figure out at what point it will make sense for her to read it. Probably not until after I make edits based on Beta Reader feedback, and perhaps not until after I record the book again. All these things are trial and error. Next time, I will know more. But that is life, in general.

Thanks for your words of encouragement and advice. I appreciate it. I should be editing. More later.

Copyright ©2014-18 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Outline Update and Full Edit Pass

Damn, it’s been a month. I made a second pass through the outline of “Tishta the Crystal Orb” to add the point of view (POV) for each scene. So, I read the whole book again. This time, I carefully edited each scene. On the last pass, I started out thinking I should simply outline, but started editing more and more as I went through the book. That was apparent on the current pass—I made many more changes in the first half than the second.

While my focus was on finding scenes to remove that were not moving the story forward—and I did do that—I also changed a lot of text to make the verbs active. For example, “was sitting” became “sat.” An added bonus was this also reduced the word count, by onesies. Other similar edits included looking critically at prepositional phrases to ensure they were required and not just eye candy.

Adding a focus on POV helped me keep the story more in the narrator’s voice and out of people’s heads. I still go there, but more judiciously. Again, this reduced the word count as “Malcan saw Gillan draw her sword” became “Gillan drew her sword.”

On this pass, the word count dropped from 164K words to 155K. Not too bad, although my goal was, and still is, 150K. When I started editing the second draft of Tishta, the word count was 187K, so about a 20% drop. I am happy about that.

My next step will be to engage with my second set of beta readers to see who will have time over the next month to read the book. Of course, I will ask them to report any plot holes or anything that feels inauthentic, but my primary ask will be to let me know where the story feels slow and what, if anything, they think I could remove without harming the story.

On March 17, I will be taking a Hugo House course presented by Brian Callanan, with help from Wendy Terrien, “Understanding Audiobooks: A New Chapter for Writers.” If you are from the Seattle area, you might recognize Brian’s name—he has worked at Q13Fox. He is a voice over artist and can be found on Facebook at Brian Callanan Voice Over & Audiobook Narration. I am really looking forward to this class since I fully intend to record Tishta myself. If you follow my blog, you know that I record every scene. I find hearing the words is one of my best editing tools, and, I enjoy listening to my story.

When my beta readers have given their feedback, and I have recorded and listened to the story, I will make one last edit pass through the book. Then, I will be ready to share it with everyone.

I am excited to be so close to publishing. I met with an artist this week, Kaitlin Robinson, who has agreed to do the cover for me. She is the sister of a good friend, and I like that—keeping it in the family.

On a recent visit to Third Place Books, I discovered they have a small publishing press. I need to check it out to see if it will be a good option for me to create a physical book. I will have to pick the brains of some of my author friends to figure out the best approach to digital distribution. I still would like to create my own distribution page to go along with my soon-to-be-created author page. That would give me the added benefit of having something new and cool on my CV for my “real” profession, which is software development. I sometimes wish there were about six more hours in a day.

That about sums it up. I will try to post more regularly now. Let me know if you have any comments or advice for someone at this point in their first book. I would hate to miss something that would seem obvious to an author who has already been here.

Copyright ©2014-18 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Flash Fiction: The Last Tokelauan

Tokelau is a very small country, halfway from Hawaii to New Zealand—tiny dots of coral reef in the vast Pacific Ocean. I almost went there once—when I sailed with my husband around the South Pacific—but the anchorage was too iffy. The atolls that make it up are Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo. The total land area is four square miles. About 1,400 people live there.

No significant land is more than six-and-a-half feet above normal high tides. Tokelau is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise. Cyclones are devastating. They wash over entire atolls, killing all the vegetation and eating away at what little soil exists. Survival there is tenuous, at best, but it is where Tokelauans have called home for a thousand years.  They have the distinction of being the first nation in the world to be 100% solar powered.

More Tokelauans live in Wellington, New Zealand, than in the islands. They bring their culture with them, but their government would like to continue to exist. From a conference in Kiribati in 2015: “So the questions related to forced migration because of climate change and rising sea levels are also critical to Tokelau: we need commitment from the international community, .., we need protection for our displaced people, we want to retain sovereignty and our Exclusive Economic Zone.” The question to the world is, where do these people go and how do they continue to be Tokelauan?

I wrote a Flash Fiction story about the not-too-distant future. It is best read while listening to Te Vaka’s ‘Te Namo,’ from their first album ‘Te Vaka.’

The sun rises, at it always does, creeping across the ghost white rim of the atoll. Mele watches its magic turn the lagoon from grey to shades of teal, then returns to kneading her bread. Her gnarled knuckles ache, but the action loosens the joints. She misses the birdsong. She looks longingly at her old clay oven, but there has been no wood to fire it in a long time—and burning is illegal, anyway. When the dough is ready, Mele shapes it into buns—a real loaf would take hours to bake in her little solar oven. Everything has changed.

She remembers running, naked, down to the lagoon—te namo—as the sun rose. She was four or five. She helped her father push the canoe—te vaka—into the water. She was there when he returned, midday, with the fish they would eat for dinner. There are no more fish in the lagoon. When the reef died, the fish disappeared. The sea is too warm, too acidic.

The sea is also too high.

“Mama”—Ione returns from loading the cart—“what are you doing? You should be packing.”

She peers up. How could this middle-aged man be her baby boy? “The bread needs to rise. I’m sorry it won’t be ready before you go.”

Ione squats beside his mother. “We’ve been over this. There is nothing left for us here. We can no longer grow food. The ocean rises higher every year. We have to go. Today. The ship is here. It won’t be coming back.”

Seagulls squawk overhead. They must have followed the ship.

“You pack. You go.”

“Mama, a cyclone is coming. They think it’ll make a direct hit. The island hasn’t recovered from the last one.”

“I remember.”

“Then you know, we have to leave. All of us. That includes you.”

“You pack. Hurry now. You don’t want to miss the ship. I need to put the bread in the oven.”

Ione stands. “I don’t have time to argue.” He goes into the little concrete block house where he was born.

Mele turns back to her bread. The flour will last another ten or twelve days—longer, now that she will no longer need to feed everyone, so maybe a month. She wonders if the supply boat brought more. She places the tiny loaves into the oven and makes sure it is facing the sun.

Copyright ©2014-18 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Outline Finished

I am ecstatic. I finished the outline of “Tishta the Crystal Orb” today. After cruising through “Part 4: Colmaria” in four days, “Part 5: Mondar” was more of a slog—it took twelve. Granted, at 42,402 words it is 65% longer than Part 4.

Even though, as I have said in past posts, this pass through the book was meant to simply provide an outline, I was hard-pressed not to edit along the way. As I noted each beat in each scene—a technique author Anaea Lay suggested—it seemed prudent to trim the ones I felt were extraneous, especially this far into the book, where I feel more confident that whole scenes are unlikely to be cut. I also could not refrain from rewording, or removing words, where appropriate. At the same time, I ended up adding bits and pieces, where I felt the story would be better with the new words—there is more of this to come after I read through my notes. In the end, I trimmed the word count by 9%, down from 46,521.

While the page count dropped a bit, and the scene count stayed the same, I ended up splitting a long chapter into two, making the break at a tense moment in the story, to add to the tension. This was on the advice of author Elizabeth Guizzetti, after she graciously offered to read my second draft, and provide feedback and comments. This was a good call on her part. I like how it broke up the flow.

My next work will be to analyze the outline, looking for beats or whole scenes that do not move the story forward. Because I know this will mostly affect the first half of the book, I held back earlier on making the copious edits I allowed myself in Part 5. After taking a quick glance at the current revision in .epub format, I could not help myself—I immediately made some edits. It is interesting how I notice things in this format that do not pop out when I read the same thing in Scrivener. It is going to take discipline to finish the analysis before diving into edits like these—that is work for the next phase.

I expect that cutting scenes will be the most challenging thing I have experienced, so far. I have heard stories of authors crying over favorite scenes that dropped to the cutting room floor. I am bracing myself for this inevitability, but I owe it to my readers to provide them with a properly paced book. I am beginning to understand how it can take years to publish a book, and how some books never are. I love my stories. I want to share them. I will do this.

Copyright ©2014-18 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Part 4 Is Outlined

Only four days since I finished outlining Part 3 of “Tishta the Crystal Orb,” I have outlined “Part 4: Colmaria.” Jury duty has a nice way of providing distraction-free time.

The word count went from 27,175 to 25,465, and the number of pages dropped from 90 to 74. This edit is not meant to reduce these counts, but to outline the scenes, and their beats, in a spreadsheet. Beats are each action or feeling that happens in a scene. Since I am reading each scene fairly thoroughly to identify the beats, I have edited to remove words, or even beats, as I go. That accounts for the drop in words.

In a previous edit, I broke out actions very discreetly. This was useful in identifying what I later learned are called beats. Although very insightful, it left the manuscript with each paragraph containing the actions of a single character. I went so far as to separate the dialog from any sentences around them. This resulted in a lot of one-sentence paragraphs. The second draft—the one I sent to a group of Beta readers—was structured this way, and much longer than it needed to be, as a result. As I have gone through the book since then, I have created more complex paragraphs that include all thoughts, dialog and actions around a single character-initiated action. The dialog in any given paragraph is all spoken by the same character. The number of pages has shrunk as a result, which is good. I think I am happy with this methodology, but need to wait until I next record the book to see how it sounds.

After I finish outlining, I hope to figure out which scenes can be reduced or eliminated, to pick up the pacing—especially in the first half—as well as to reduce the overall size of the book. At that point, I can realign the moon—I have at least two scenes that depend on it being full—and draw the final version of the maps. I tentatively plan to do one more full edit, looking for extraneous items on my ever-growing list of words and phrases that I “should not use,” or, at most, should use judiciously. I will share that list in another blog.

I am totally stoked about outlining “Part 5: Mondar.” It is where a lot of the action takes place on the way to the grand finale. I made some headway this morning, but then, duty called—I was included in a jury panel, which was my hope during this week of civil servitude. I am excited to see more of the legal process in action and will be more than happy to sit on the jury if I am selected. Tomorrow morning, I will find out. For now, I should get to bed. The six o’clock alarm will sound long before I am ready.

Copyright ©2014-18 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.