The Red Pen’s Revenge

The excitement builds. The whisky is poured. Draft two is complete. It is a relief. The first run, you see, doesn’t feel real, it doesn’t feel like the end product. It’s almost as if the first copy is a grainy image of what is to come. It can be lax. It can be unstructured. Things don’t necessarily need to follow or make sense. Great slabs of story are missing. Other flabby bits are hanging off the sides, waiting to be cut out.

What a mess! What a disaster! How can we clean this thing up and get it into something readable? Well that’s where the second draft comes in. Still on the machine, I read through it all, start to finish, and cut out what needs to be cut out and put in what needs to be put in. I correct obvious errors or grammar and spelling and correctness. I think whether the timing makes sense, the locations, the people and the settings.

Is that what this character would do? Is that really the best way to describe that? Bit by bit I massage the story out from its amorphous shape and, with a pinch here and a cut there, it becomes a story with a purpose. Great. That’s the point I’m at now. That’s the moment of ‘woot’ where I can take a breather and fix up the garage or fly a kite with Joey.

That’s not the end of it, though. For now comes the nasty part – the Red Pen.

The Red Pen is ruthless. The Red Pen cares not for fancy constructs, nor for passive tense. The Red Pen spots that naughty comma and herds it into the right spot. It scrawls its thoughts down in haste, it draws arrows and brackets and, when it gets really steamed, it draws thick lines through words, sentences, even whole paragraphs!

That’s what happens when you leave a Red Pen in a cup for half a year. It gives it time to plot and scheme. I only hope there’s something left after it has had its fill.

Number Six

Number six of what? Of the Paranormology series, of course! There are so many avenues I could have taken, and it seems that every time I start one of the books, I set myself up for some to and fro before I can settle on just how it should be. I have learnt my lesson, though, to make sure I know what I’m going to do (at least in rough terms) before I go plodding along, and to keep asking myself, “Does this make sense?” while I’m doing it.

During my lunch breaks earlier on last year I tapped out the skeleton idea. It wasn’t so great. I flopped it about, got rid of some rubbish, added a bit of this and that, and had a look again. Not too bad, this time, not too shabby at all. There were elements that I particularly wanted in there, one of which was a psychic medium, with a play between scientific analysis and psychic phenomena.

The setting has changed from the previous books. The protagonist and the Professor have moved to Exeter, permanently, because there are more opportunities for the Professor’s research, and the narrator has landed a job with Mister Belfiore, the clock maker. This means the setting is within a city, as with Portsmouth Avenue, only the protagonist has become familiar.

The other thing I really wanted was to bring some humanity to the Professor. He can get cranky, and he certainly has his failings (how very human), but humanity is more more than this. We get to see that underneath his cantankerous exterior, he is vulnerable and fragile, and that there’s a good reason he’s as skeptical as his is about everything.

So, how far along am I? Happy to say that I’ve finished the first draft and I’m going to sit on it for a bit. First, I need to make the front cover and get the blurb sorted. Once that’s done, I’ll be finishing off some of the Audiobook work for the other books. After this, it’s back for round two and getting some eyeballs on.

Which reminds me: If you’ve ever wanted to be part of the creative process and give the book a going over in draft two, drop me an email and let me know. I’d be very appreciative.

Eh? What’s that? What’s it going to be called? Well, the working title is Dreyford Alley Ghost, however I’m not one hundred percent sold on that, so we’ll see.

Edit: I wasn’t sold. I’m now running with ‘Cooper Alley Ghost’.

The Quality of the Merchandise

Forgot to mention yesterday about the quality of the print of the books that arrived.

I’ll start with Tedrick. I got Tedrick Gritswell of Borobo Reef and Tedrick Gritswell Makes Waves delivered so I can give a final check to the quality of the print. I have to say, I’m impressed. The stock used was a cream paper, nice and easy on the eyeballs, with a good sized font and proper looking margins.

I’m always concerned with the gutter, to make sure that when the book is opened, the words don’t get lost somewhere down in the spine. The guidelines of the KDP template help out there a lot and they point out, quite clearly, if words are going to be squished in the gutter.

The margins, too, are spacious and roomy, enough for fingers to hold without getting in the way. Where the print falls down, in my opinion, is on the cover. I’ve noticed a distinct difference with the brightness of the colours on the monitor versus those on print. The books seem to have their colours muted somewhat, like the ‘volume got turned down’.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still the same image, it’s not altered at all, but the realisation into the physical world leaves a little something back in the digital world. I’m sure there’s a term for this.

The Adaptation book is a whopper. It’s printed on white paper with 9.5 point font, 0.5 points below the recommended minimum. That was the absolute largest I could use without blowing the pages out past the maximum of 800. I also used a custom font that squished the words up a fraction more. Each chapter title also uses a custom font to match the title cover.

This was a bit annoying because it means embedding the font into the final PDF. If I didn’t do that, the font would default to something else, and I’d gain an extra few pages and push past the limit. Embedded the font ain’t so bad – it makes the PDF larger, of course, but that makes it longer upload.

The cover came out better than I expected. The charcoal of the carbon-fibre comes up good against the cyan and orange. The back holds a likeness of yours truly in a little circle. The print quality is nice and the matt cover has a definite feel to it.

The only thing that annoys me is the slim margins and small font size. I would have preferred to go to, say, a thousand pages with a thicker margin and 11 point font but, unfortunately, the Laws of Physics only extend so far.

You Asked For It

Adaptation began its life on my PDA. That’s right, I didn’t really have a means to write my story in bed like some kind of, oh, I don’t know, computer that could sit comfortably on my lap – maybe a lap-computer of sorts? – and I wasn’t keen on resting a typewriter on the blankets, and writing with a pen was out so I resorted to the only thing I could think of. A Personal Digital Assistant which had, as part of its software, a highly trimmed down version of Microsoft Word.

There was an on-screen keyboard, and a little two by three inch space for the text, which made writing possible, albeit difficult. I’d tap away on there, adding my paragraphs and hitting save, and in the morning I’d download the text onto my computer and repeat the process the next night.

Why am I telling you this? Because it leads into the reason I’m writing this post. You see, after a while, the PDA began to suffer. It couldn’t cope with the demand of me hitting the save button after a couple of paragraphs. The files were just too big for its little processing unit to cope with and, after around a hundred thousand odd words, it just got too damn slow.

So I broke up the manuscript into three pieces, Adaptation Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, three different files, that could be edited separately and hitting the save button wasn’t so bad (still bad, but not to the point of annoying). It also meant I could cut my teeth on the whole publishing process and bumble about without having to wait until the very end.

This is why Adaptation comes in parts. The size of the project was just too big for technical reasons and, as such, it had to be broken into smaller chunks, each of about 100k words. When it came to hard copies, the breaking-up helped a lot, too, because that way I could fit the books into standard title sizes.

Great, great. What’s that got to do with the price of jerky in Iceland? (About 600 isk a bag at the time of writing, which is almost $10, so there you go)

It’s because, as of now, you can get all the Adaptation parts in one compendium. It brings all the bits together into one big book.

Adaptation Front Cover

As you can see, it has the new front cover design, but without the ‘Part X’ bit. On the inside, you’ve got all the parts, together with their own chapters and dedications, comprising nearly 600k words.

Now that’s got to be a lot easier than having to manually grab all of the individual parts, right? As a bonus, the Adaptation compendium is cheaper than the sum of its parts.

This is now live at Smashwords, Kobo, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, iTunes and all the other guys.

Judging a Book by its Cover

When I first started out writing, I was busy with the whole ‘writing’ part of the deal, you know, putting words together to make sentences and all that jazz. Then, when it got time to get real, I slammed into the ‘oh-crap’ wall, filled with blocks of requirements held together with a mortar of doubt.

Books need a description. And they need an ISBN. And they need to be categorised according to their content and type. And, of course, they need a front cover.

Well, as far as I can tell, you can get away with not having an ISBN, and you have categories of ‘General’ under fiction which, I guess, sort of covers just about anything, and technically you don’t need a front cover to have a book published.

But it sure helps.

So there I go, flailing against the wall, doing whatever I could to get through to the other side. A front cover? No problem. How hard can that be? I mean, it’s just words and a picture right? Well, technically yes, that’s correct, there are words and there is usually a picture, but it’s not as simple as… No worries, gimme two minutes.

Cue me running around like a maniac, taking photographs with my old, clunky phone, trying to figure out how to operate GIMP, fending off the calls from work – heck, it’s eleven at night – and a whisky shot or two later, here you go:

Yeah, I didn’t like it either, but you have to admit, there are words and there’s a picture, so it’s a cover, right? Besides, it was bed time and I wanted this thing up and out and off my hands (There’s a lesson right there – if you’re feeling pressured, you’re making mistakes and if you’re making mistakes, back off, go to bed and tackle it tomorrow).

Alright, fine, it was poo, I agree. So after I did the same for part 2 and 3, I sat back and thought that I’d better take it more seriously. After all, by this stage I was looking at hard copies and, yeah, these guys ain’t gonna cut the mustard.

I started with the idea of emphasising the split from title and author as top and bottom and the imagery in the middle. I found a nice carbon fibre background and a chrome bar to add the separators and changed the font to something more appropriate. And for the most part, I was happy with it, until I looked at it with fresh eyes last month and thought that looked unpolished.

The uniformity of the imagery was bothering me. Sure, the method of thresholding the image and using the darkness to create a silhouette over a gradiented background made some amount of sense, it still didn’t convey exactly what I was after. So I’ve gone and made a change, I hope, for the better.

Yes, that’s still the same carbon fibre and chrome curtain rod. Yes, that’s still my eyeball (albeit updated) but now we’ve got a more modern twist on things.

Firstly, you’ll notice the change from a single point of reference, to having the city below, a bustling, light filled city, shining in amber, contrasting the relatively cyan eyeball on top. Amber and teal, apparently, is the combination of the month. The cityscape lends itself nicely, since the perspective of the main roads naturally lead one toward the top, reminiscent of the famous ‘all seeing eye’.

I was going for a pixelated eyeball to emphasise the use of technology, but then I backed off on that since it made it look a little too 8-bit. Instead, I went for a glass-tile filter to add the squareness to it, keeping detail while still breaking the imagery up.

All things considered, I’m chuffed with the result.

Stumpy Gets a Front Cover

Tedrick is on his way! I’ve uploaded the final draft at Smashwords, Kindle and Google Play now, and I’ve set the preorder date as the 13th of August, 2019. So that means that, as of now, Tedrick Gritswell Makes Waves is up Kindle, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Google and iTunes. That gives me a bit of time to iron out all the kinks.

Kinks? What possible kinks? The physical copy, that’s always a drainer. Then there’s the final-final check of the formatting and like. Then there’s the front cover. It’s just a matter of getting an image, slapping a title and author in comic sans and that’s job done, right?

Yeah. Nah. You see, the requirements of each platform is different. There are minimum sizes, recommended sizes, form factors, resolutions, margins and bleed. All of that. Which is why the keener eyed among you (probably of octopus stock) can spot that the digital cover and the hardcopy cover are, in fact, different.

Smashwords requires a minimum width of 1400 pixels, with the height ‘greater’ than the width. A bit loose. Amazon wants an ‘ideal’ 1:1.6 ratio, with a minimum of 1000 pixels, with a preferred width of 2500 odd. Google doesn’t really care, so long as the file is under 20MB. The hard copy depends upon the physical dimensions of the book, plus a margin and bleed. All in all it’s a tricky dance.

As such, the image needs to be painted bigger than normal. I went for a 1600 x 1800 dimension. I kind of missed the memo on Amazon’s ‘ideal’ stuff. Never mind, the process is still the same and I’m happy with how it turned out.

Using Corel Painter and my trusty Wacom tablet, I began with a sketch. In this episode, Tedrick isn’t so sure of himself, and there’s a bit where he’s hiding out from a vicious predator. I toyed with having the darkness of the Abyss stretching out before him, before scrapping that and wedging him in a crevice on the Reef. Above is shining and colourful, with happy fish flitting about and brain coral in pink clumps. Below is dirty and dark, menacing. Stumpy’s clinging on, somewhere in the middle.

One thing I really like about Corel is that you can have a play, see what you like, see what works, then undo it if you’ve muffed it, or slap on another layer to see what happens. I haven’t played with the full range of brushes available. There’s a ‘Real Watercolour’ I’m keen to try out, but I’ll have to wait for the next one, I guess. I’ve got more work ahead of me to get this book in order.

I’m off to get my squids in a row, wish me luck.

The Horizon

After each release, I get deflated. Steam whistles out of my joints, my brain shimmies to a halt, my fingers become indecisive. Floff! That’s me for stint. Don’t worry, I’m not slacking off or anything. There’s always more to do. It becomes a matter of prioritising based on necessity.

Then, after a week or two of recuperation, my eyes lift up from where I am and start looking at where I’m going. I have to make a decision for the future. I have to look to the horizon and plan where I’m going.

I have to answer that burning question, “What’s next, Jez?

Do I continue with the Paranormology series? Do I resurrect some of my older works and bring them up to speed? Well, both of those prospects are tempting, but I’ve decided to give that funky cephalopod a bit of love.

That’s right! Tedrick Gritswell is getting another book. And why not? He’s a hero. He has an assist-kick to help him. He has escaped the clutches of the Abyss. He’s only just getting started!

This time around I won’t be using KDP. I found it too restrictive, too cumbersome. I didn’t really enjoy the advantages touted and, frankly, I prefer Smashwords.

Of course, I’ll want to get a jump on the front cover as early as possible, but I’m not sure how that’s going to look yet. I’ve only got the skeleton of the story sketched out, and I’m still changing that around to suit.

In a nutshell, it’s more octopus fun for me.

Portsmouth Avenue Released

You know, I think I’m going to make a new rule. When it comes to releasing titles, I’m going to deliberately hold off past Christmas. With the development-o-meter hitting a full scale deflection, the obligatory seasonal parties, obligations and preparations, and the viruses that hover about until you’re just on the edge of desperation before striking you down, there’s not a lot of time left for everything else that falls under the category of ‘not immediate’.

So it got to yesterday – at least I think it was yesterday – and I was asked, “Hey Jez, don’t you have a book coming out?”

Oh, crud. Right. That. When was that again? Between all the competing voices nagging and braying and screaming and screeching, there was a meek little squeak calling, “Jez, Jez. Don’t forget about me.”

Well I didn’t really forget as much as neglect. Sorry, little guy. It’s a bit pathetic, but here’s your launch. Ahem:

Hey, y’all. Portsmouth Avenue Ghost, Paranormology Part 5 is out on Kindle, Kobo, Smashwords, iTunes, Barnes and Noble and Google Play. And a bunch of other, independent distributors. I hope you enjoy it.

You can find the book’s links on this page, Portsmouth Avenue Ghost or you can go to the following:

Smashwords

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Google Play

Kobo

iTunes

It’s not on Lulu just yet, that’s taking a bit of time, but all electronic formats are supported.

Cheers!

Portsmouth Avenue up on Pre-release

Head-down-bum-up. That’s the story of the past year, and, for the past month, it has been head-downer-bum-even-more-upper. The pace only gets faster the closer one gets to finishing.

To tell you the truth, I’m knackered.

I’m stoked to see it up. I’m stoked to have hit the target I set for myself. I’m stoked that the hardest part is behind me.

Wait, you mean there’s more?

Well, yeah. There’s always more. Now that it’s Portsmouth Avenue Ghost is up for pre-release, I need to convert it and set it up on Amazon, and then convert it again (and the cover) to post to Lulu. In addition, I need to order a copy and ensure that it’s correct in my Kobo reader, do the ISBN, give it a final check and then repeat that for the Lulu side of things.

And then I need to adjust the Paranormology series page, image and make a post there, too, and update the links as Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes receive the distribution.

It doesn’t end just because I’ve done the upload.

On top of that, I’m not 100% happy with the cover, so I’ll need to get some tweaking done before the release.

Still, it’s up. It’s up, and I’m going to have a break for a day to rezone. In the meantime, enjoy! You can find the book at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/760356

Cheers,

Jez.

Release the Beast!

What day is it? The 23rd of December? Why that must mean…

Adaptation – Part 6 is out!

That’s right! The conclusion to the Adaptation series is finally out and up for your reading pleasure, on Amazon and iTunes and Barnes & Noble and Kobo and Google Play and, of course, direct from Smashwords. All the links, plus some interesting info about the final, can be found here.

Lulu? Yes, it actually is up on Lulu, but the GlobalREACH hasn’t been activated yet. Why not? Because I made the mistake of thinking that shipping (for confirmation) would be fast at Christmas time. No disrespect to the guys at Lulu, that was totally my bad.

Once the copy has been approved by yours truly, it will be distributed and available from Barnes & Noble and Amazon in paperback, but until then you can actually buy it direct from Lulu.adaptation-series-med

Many thanks to everyone who has helped me through this. Now it’s time for a bit of a break. All work and no play makes Jez a dull boy.Mini Jeztyr Logo