Tishta the Crystal Orb: Revised Draft Complete

Words cannot express my excitement. This morning, I finished the final edit of my revised draft (so, the third draft) of “Tishta the Crystal Orb.” I am barely able to contain myself.

As I suspected would happen, I made far fewer changes to the last section, “Part 5: Mondar.” The word count dropped by a mere hundred, to 46,591, while the page count increased by two, to 146. The totals for book now stand at 173,079 words and 539 pages (according to Scrivener).

The increase in pages is consistent with one of the edits I have been doing—ensuring paragraphs handle a single character’s actions whenever possible. While this edit has created a plethora of single sentence paragraphs, it has allowed them to convey a single idea. It also helped, organizationally, to clarify the actions being made by the characters. Now that I have completed this, I will likely try out combining sentences into paragraphs on a future edit pass. It might help me to see where words, sentences and paragraphs can be removed—it has already made some of these more clear and led me to do some pruning.

I love this section of the book. It tests the crucial relationship that has grown between Malcan and Coltan, and shows how far each is willing to go to protect the other. It starts to distance Criften from the group, which will play a pivotal role in following stories. Brant comes into his own as a warrior. Mar’s abilities as a healer, and some other ones, manifest and grow. And, a new member is added to the band.

Now begins the work of sending out the draft to my Beta Readers.

I need to look into ChimpMonkey and other tools for managing email lists. For this round, I might simply manage the emails myself—my list of readers is around two dozen.

Scrivener will produce the manuscript in whatever format my readers require, but I have to figure out how to distribute it—probably a DropBox with all the requested formats in it. But, I have not yet decided. I will blog the steps here, when I get it sorted out.

Once the beta is distributed, I will focus on creating my maps, cover art, spine art and back cover. As I find the tools to do these, I will share here. I also need to figure out how to include them in Scrivener.

I need to polish my “elevator pitch,” “About this Book,” “About the Author”—oooh, “author”—and “Afterwords.” I will review the “Dictionary” to ensure everyone and everything are represented, and that the text does not give away spoilers for the next books. The last of the notes need to be reviewed to ensure I did not miss anything important.

It is not quite time to look into better recording gear. I hate it, that this revision of the book has not been recorded. I usually listen to it whenever I am not doing something else—even as background noise while I am asleep—so having an out-of-date recording is aggravating. I keep hearing things I want to change, and I don’t know if I already updated them. I would also really like to hear the parts that I changed, to ensure they sound correct to my ear. This will have to wait until I get feedback from my readers. Sigh.

There is, undoubtedly, a lot of work left to do before “Tishta” can be published. I am feeling confident that I can meet my scheduled deadline of the end of the year. It will be my birthday present to myself.

Copyright ©2014-17 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

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Joe Follansbee’s The Mother Earth Insurgency is Out

Congrats, Joe! I’m intrigued by the story so far.

I’m happy to announce that The Mother Earth Insurgency, the first story in my series Tales From A Warming Planet, is now on sale exclusively at Amazon for 99¢. After nearly ten years of work on this series, it’s thrilling to see it out in the wild. I hope you enjoy reading the story as […]

via At last! The Mother Earth Insurgency is on sale now at Amazon. — J.G. Follansbee

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Part 4 Revised Draft Complete

This has been a week of distractions.

Smoke and soot filled the air—and our homes—in Seattle and the entire Pacific Northwest. We literally could not see the sun through the haze, or, if we could, it was a red ball, casting an eerie amber glow.

The smoke came from the wildfires blazing throughout the West—1300 of them at a time—predominantly, in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. The soot—that fell like tiny snowflakes throughout the region—came from the Jolly Mountain fire near Mount Rainier, as well as the devastating Eagle Creek fire in Oregon’s Columbia Gorge.

I had trouble breathing, so I cloistered myself inside my house with all the windows closed—this is a big issue in Seattle, where only 15% of homes have central air-conditioning. At the beginning of August, when it was projected that we would have a week of record-breaking temperatures around 100° F, I bought a little room AC. It turned out that, with the pall from the wildfires, the temperatures stayed down around 90°. People were making the choice between unbearable heat and unbreathable air. For me, the AC unit made sleep possible—cooling the air and filtering it a little. It continued to do so through the nearly constant smoke we have endured in the Pacific Northwest in August and September, a result of several very dry years in a row that have led to increasing numbers of fires every summer.

Beyond the local weather, last weekend, Hurricane Harvey blasted through Texas, bringing unheard of amounts of rain. During the week, my attention has been on Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Katia. As a category 5 storm, Irma flattened some of the Leeward Islands, especially Barbuda, where 95% of the buildings lay in ruins. It will make landfall in the Florida Keys as a category 4 storm early tomorrow morning. Amazing. Fortunately, Jose seems to want to go north, after grazing the Leeward Islands as a category 3. At the same time, Katia entered Veracruz, Mexico, as a category 1 hurricane—not so much damage there although two people died—only a few days after an 8.1 earthquake struck southern Mexico off the coast of Chiapas, leaving 66 dead.

From my own experience with the smoke and from viewing video of the destructive forces of wind and water, earth and fire, I have new images to draw upon in future writings. You have to look on the bright side.

A final distraction—one that is more subtle, but much more personal—is that today marks the fifth anniversary of my husband’s death. Because of the quirkiness of Earth’s rotation, and its revolution around Sol, it fell on the same day of the week. He was an emergency relief volunteer—a logistician—with the local, national and international Red Cross/Red Crescent, and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). He was deployed to numerous hurricane disasters. Hurricane season—especially a powerful one like this year’s—always brings back memories of sudden deployments and worry over his safety. It’s strange how the mind pulls up these things—of its own accord—disrupting sleep and causing lack of focus. The month from August 20 (his birthday) to September 22 (our anniversary) has been rough for me over the past four years. I’m doing better this year, but it’s still there.

Through all these distractions, I finished the revised edit of “Part 4: Colmaria” in only three days. Gonna toot my own horn a little on that. There is only one more part to go—albeit, the longest one in “Tishta the Crystal Orb.”

As I suspected would happen, the further I get into Tishta on this edit, the less I am removing—it is converging with my current writing style. In part 4, the word count actually went up by one word, to 27,322. I was a little surprised by this, but then I remembered adding some clarifying bits here and there that would have offset the word trimming I did. The page count went up by one, but that is totally expected as I continue to split up paragraphs by discrete subject/action.

An edit I will need to review one more time is the use of “not,” instead of  negative contractions, in the narrator’s text—I still use contractions in dialog, well, except for Mar. I am not sure how I feel about this yet. It makes the text a bit more formal. I had been making this edit already on most contractions, but now include “don’t,” “can’t” and a few others that did not sound right before. My ear must be changing as my style changes. I won’t know for sure how I feel about these until I record them and listen to them—and I don’t plan to do that until I finish this edit and get a copy into my Beta Reader’s hands.

Something I have recently been pondering is how often to use analogies. There are some in my text, but I have not gone out of my way to add more. I sometimes think authors overuse these, making them seem forced or contrived. The only ones I have included just popped out while I was writing. One of my favorites, in the scene called “Gnarled Limbs,” is:

The gelding nibbled at the feed, its soft muzzle gently picking at the grain, like mittened fingers.

Now that I have looked for examples to include here, I found analogies scattered throughout the book. I will quit worrying about this. I am sure there are plenty, and fairly certain they are not overdone.

Every day, I become more confident that Tishta is nearly ready to publish. Hopefully, I will make it through “Part 5: Mondar” very quickly. Creating the ebooks will be a snap using Scrivener. I think I will have no trouble meeting my goal of having books in the hands of my Beta Readers by the end of September. If you are interested in being part of this, let me know and I will add you to the list. Contact: TheWolfDreamBooks@gmail.com.

Copyright ©2014-17 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Part 3 Revised Draft Complete

Woot! I finished the revised draft of “Part 3: Travels and Battles” in only five days—and it is the second longest part of “Tishta the Crystal Orb.” I guess all I have been doing in my free time is work on the editing. I am getting more excited—only two more parts to go.

I, again, was able to trim words—the edit took part 3 down by 700 words. The pages went up by two. This seems like a fairly consistent pattern. If it continues, the word count will be down by about 3700 by the time I finish editing the entire book.

Although, the intent of the edit is to tighten up the story as much as I can, I have found places where adding a few words—or even a sentence or two—added clarity or filled out the scene. I am trying to be very judicious about my choices to add anything.

One of the most surprising discoveries was finding that the following gerund phrase does not match the subject of the sentence:

The thin bamboo skewers were long enough to hold as they walked, eating the chunks of meat right off the sticks.

Can you see the problem with it? I had read and listened to this sentence so many times, I was blown away when my brain said, “Hey, wait a minute. Did I just hear what I thought I heard?” This was my initial fix:

The thin bamboo skewers were long enough to hold, as they walked, allowing them to eat the chunks of meat right off the sticks.

The final edit yielded this:

The thin bamboo skewers were long enough to hold, allowing them to eat the chunks of meat right off the sticks as they walked.

Recently, my friend and I discussed how certain accomplishments caused an endorphin reward from the brain—very different accomplishments for different people. Only a few days later, when we worked though a mathematical proof together (yes, we are geeks), he turned to me and said, “I just got an endorphin rush.” I did not. But, when I found this grammatical error and fixed it, I found my reward. We decided this was indicative of writing being a good choice for me to pursue.

I am getting an unexpected sense of fulfillment while making my way through this edit of Tishta. I hear people complaining about this phase of publishing, but I don’t understand it. I do miss the mental stimulation of writing new material—that stream of consciousness directly from the brain into the computer. I know I will be doing that again, but right now, editing is a really exciting activity, for me.

While editing this section, I felt confident there was little that needs to be extracted (or exorcised?). I hope the pacing is better—my editor’s comment on the first draft was it was too slow. A lot has changed since she wrote that.

More and more, I am finding that I want my maps to be done, so I can reference them as the group travels. I may need to provide sketches, at least, for my Beta Readers. Drawing the maps is something I have planned for when the Beta is out, along with securing a cover artist, creating other art—such as, for the spine and the back—and recording the whole thing (although, I might wait on that until I get feedback from my Beta Readers). If you are interested in becoming a Beta Reader, let me know at TheWolfDreamBooks@gmail.com.

Onward into “Part 4: Colmaria.” Hopefully, I will be writing another blog within the week about completing that.

Copyright ©2014-17 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Part 2 Revised Draft Complete

I am excited to have finished the revised draft “Part 2: Learning to Trust” of “Tishta the Crystal Orb.” It felt good to finish in only six days.

I trimmed fewer words—only about 800—leaving the word count for this part at 32,106. At the same time, the number of pages went up by one. This was primarily due to my continued focus on my new practice of making sure most paragraphs focus on a single character’s actions. If I had not trimmed  800 words, it would have gone up by closer to three pages.

So far, I have stuck with my decision to wait to record this draft until I finish the edits. It makes me uncomfortable. I may still choose not to release the book to my Beta Readers until after I record it and have a chance to listen to it. I need to hear what I have written before I feel it is correct. Listening really helps me find repeated words, characters who are out of character, and bad cadence. I also find missing or extraneous periods and commas as I read along. If you have not recorded and listened to yourself reading your work, I highly recommend it.

Part 2 still feels a little slow to me. It covers the characters getting to know each other better—and there are a lot of characters, on both sides. There is one major battle that results in a serious injury to one of the warriors, but the real action does not start until part 3. What I mean is, that is when a couple of big battle scenes take place and things get really serious. I like the relationship building—and part 2 contains the start of Gentu and Coltan’s love affair, complete with a couple of sex scenes—but I like battle scenes the best. Go figure. I guess that is why I do not write romance novels.

It has been fun to come upon scenes I do not remember writing—they were added during the second draft—since I have so many of the original ones memorized (or nearly so—a lot has changed since the first draft). With some of them, I will need to hear the story again to determine if they should stay or get deleted. Feedback from Beta Readers and a potential edit by an editor will be more useful—I like all of my words, so find it difficult to delete them. Although I have done a fair amount of shortening scenes, I have not deleted any completely.

As soon as I finish, I plan to release a Beta to my Beta Readers. If you’re interested in helping with this, let me know at TheWolfDreamBooks@gmail.com, and I’ll add you to the list. The work for you would be to read the book in a timely manner and give me feedback. The reward will be eternal gratitude and an autographed copy (if and when a physical book is produced), or maybe a signed special edition of the final ebook.

“Part 3: Travels and Battles” is around 30% longer than part 2. Hopefully, I will get through it in a week. The end of September will be here before we know it, and I hope to be through this revision by then. Back to work.

Copyright ©2014-17 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Part One Revised Draft Complete

I changed tacks. I am not going to record the revised draft until I finish the entire book. This will allow me to get the book into the hands of my Beta Readers faster. When that is done, I am planning to purchase better recording equipment for the audio, and also look into audio book software. My friend, Joe Follansbee, knows all about recording and has written a blog about it. He will be a valuable asset for me. Thanks, Joe!

My major intent for the revised draft edit is to ensure my writing style is not noticeably different from the beginning of the book to the ending. I am fully aware of how rapidly my style has changed over the past two-and-a-half years—even since last September, when I started into the second draft of the novel.

A crucial change I made to this draft was changing the very first paragraph of the book. I was worried that it would not grab the reader’s attention. I have been reading a lot about openings. I gave it a lot of thought. And then, I figured it out. It used to start something like this:

Malcan took the first watch. He carefully circled the camp, getting a feel for the landscape and looking for places a person could hide. He felt a tingle go up his spine, then warily headed down the animal trail on which they had arrived.

I changed it to this:

Malcan felt a tingle go up his spine. The hair raised the back of his neck. He warily headed down the animal trail that led away from the camp.

Feedback on this particular change would be very welcome.

The most obvious difference in the second draft from the beginning to the ending was that my sentences had become much shorter and less complex—predominantly due to breaking them up into multiple smaller segments by removing “and” and “then.” A result of this was the paragraphs began to be shorter as I noticed there were multiple charater/actions going on within paragraphs. I am now attempting to make each paragraph discreet to an individual character—unless there are multiple characters engaged in the action. I have mentioned this in previous postings as I went through the second draft, where I included examples. Surprising to me, I ended up changing a bunch more of these in Part One of this edit pass. I am fairly certain that there will be far fewer of these changes as I progress through the book this time.

Another focus for this edit has been to eliminate overuse of “just” and “sigh.” Once I started looking for these, I found an abundance of both. For “just,” I usually just removed them without changing anything else about the sentence. Several of my characters did a lot of sighing. I changed those occurances to describe their feelings in other ways. I like both of these edits. These are tough ones for me to notice, until someone mentions it—more often than not, in a writing blog—which is why I include these as I discover them. They will help me as I go through the next book, and I hope they might help you, as well.

In this draft of Part One, I trimmed another seven hundred words. It was mostly due to the changes I described above, but I am also becoming more critical of whether a word or phrase or sentence is actually neccesary. I have not gotten to removing scenes yet. Determining what to remove will likely be the part editing that I am the least good at. That is what an editor is for. I will probably hire an editor after I do another edit based on the feedback from my Beta Readers. This is my first time going through this process, so I do a lot of guessing (and a lot of learning).

I would like to make my way through all my notes before I send out the Beta. There are a few things I want to add. I think they will help to flesh out a couple of the characters. I will be careful not to add too much.

There are four more parts to go. I hope to finish the editing and have the ebook ready for my Beta Readers by the end of September. If you are interested in becoming a Beta Reader, contact me at: TheWolfDreamBooks@gmail.com.

Copyright ©2014-17 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Two Hour Transport – August 23, 2017

Last night, at Two Hour Transport, we had the pleasure of hearing Seattle author Nancy Kress read from her newly-released book, “Tomorrow’s Kin,” based on her Nebula-winning novella, “Yesterday’s Kin.” It was an intriguing introduction to a story about an alien invasion—they set up housekeeping right in New York Harbor. It’s always exciting to hear an author give voice to her story.

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The second guest reader was Evan J. Peterson. He read a delightfully weird short story, “Investment Opportunity,”—which will be included in “Unspeakable Horror 2”—about a scientist who gets sucked into an experiment. I have heard Peterson read other stories—they are always full of surprises.

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The open-mic readers included J. G. (Joe) Follansbee, who read from his new novelette, “The Mother Earth Insurgency;” Edith Follansbee, whose spin on the Cinderella fairy tale had everyone chuckling; Tod McCoy; Anaea Lay; and several others, including me. I read the scene, “Eclipse,” from my novel, “Tishta the Crystal Orb.” It seemed appropriate, given the eclipse on Monday.

Two Hour Transport happens each month on the fourth Wednesday at Cafe Racer. Host Theresa J Barker keeps the atmosphere warm and nurturing—a great place to practice reading to an audience, to share your stories, and to get to know other writers in the Seattle SciFi and Fantasy community.

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Copyright ©2014-17 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Tishta the Crystal Orb: Part 5 Edit Complete

I am super excited to say I have finished the first edit of the second draft of “Tishta the Crystal Orb.” Going through “Part 5: Into Mondar” was a lot of fun. I can not wait to release this book.

I continued to trim words even as I filled in incomplete parts of the story. The word count for Part 5 dropped from 48,630 to 46,691, although the page count increased by two to 144. The total for the novel went from 175,847 words to 173,696.

The reason for the increase in pages—even though the word count continues to decrease—is, I have been splitting up paragraphs based on who is doing the action. It started when I began breaking compound sentences into their parts, especially when the first part was the action of one character and the second of another character. It led to inserting line feeds between the actions. I am happy with the result.

Here is an example:

Malcan sat and crossed his legs. Mar turned to look at him. She moved into his lap with her back against his chest and he put his arm around her. They waited.

became:

Malcan sat and crossed his legs.

Mar turned to look at him. She moved into his lap with her back against his chest.

He put his arm around her.

They waited.

I like this much better, especially the final sentence being by itself. Before, it was buried at the end of a fairly long paragraph. It took me a while, but, now that I am used to it, it seems natural when the actions are so discrete to each character. There are cases where it is more about the group—I sometimes leave paragraphs intact, even though there are multiple characters involved—especially when they are all involved in the same task or idea.

I had a similar epiphany when I stopped using gerund phrases so much, especially at the beginnings of sentences.

I hope these are both good changes. I fear they will make the reading of the book too drab or boring. Time will tell.

I learned some of these tricks of the trade from Jack Remick and Bob Ray. The style they teach is aimed at being concise and using only the words that need to be used. I didn’t understand all of it when I regularly attended their twice weekly writing group (it used to be at the now-closed Louisa’s on Eastlake and E Louisa in Seattle, but now meets at Vios Cafe at Third Place at NE 65th and 20th Ave NE in the Roosevelt Neighborhood), but it sunk in. Once I discovered it in my own writing, I learned to embrace it. If you’re interested in learning about what they share, check out their website, bobandjackswritingblog.com.

Because I added so much to the second draft (it more than doubled in length from the first draft), there were characters and scenes I didn’t remember. I made sure they were adequately described, consistent with their place of origin, and unique. While I read, I carefully monitored the passage of time—there were three main story plots going on that had to line up for the finale. I am pretty confident they are all in sync in terms of passage of time. In the final edit, I will ensure these are completely correct.

The final edit—that’s the next thing I have lined up. I am planning to read the book from end-to-end while listening to the audio recordings. This will help me find any remaining plot and character vagaries; missing periods or commas; repeated words; and typos; as well as ensure the uniformity of my writing style. Audio is really helpful to me in this regard. It also helps me find inconsistencies in the voices of the characters—“that’s not something Coltan would say; it’s more like what Malcan might say,” I hear myself thinking.

I do not have a really good feel for how long this will take, but I am guessing something on the order of a month. My plan is to do it—earbuds in place and computer open on my lap—on the bus during my commute to and from work. I will also spend most of my evenings engaged in the same process.

As soon as I finish, I plan to release a Beta to my Beta Readers. If you are interested in helping with this, let me know at TheWolfDreamBooks@gmail.com, and I will add you to the list. The work for you would be to read the book in a timely manner and give me feedback. The reward will be my eternal gratitude and an autographed copy (if, and when, a physical book is produced), or maybe a signed special edition of the final ebook.

While the Beta is out, I will be getting cover art done, and drawing maps and maybe some other inside art. The first edition might be a little rough around the edges, but I think it is important to get it out there. A second edition will likely have professionally drawn maps and scene art. But that’s getting ahead of myself.

For now, I feel a great sense of relief to finish this step in the process. My current goal is still to self-publish before the end of the year. The next book, “Into the Wolf Dream,” has been tugging at me—it is ready to move forward.

Copyright ©2014-17 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.