Instead of a post about my writing or some other insight, I’m reporting on my attendance at Credfest last Saturday.
As a mamber of the Exeter Authors Association, I had a table, a workshop and readings to do. Here are a few pictures from the event.
I also made some cupcakes for the visitors.
I’m a big fan of Carrot cake, so that was what I produced and they seemed to be popular.
There was a good turnout for the event and as this was the first one that I’ve attended I wasn’t really sure what to expect. But it was great.
I chatted to customers; my workshop went down well, with good feedback. I was actually told that my suggestions for world building made great sense, someone else admitted that hadn’t been sure what to expect but had been fascinated. There were some excellent readings by the other authors, great poetry and a short extract from Witch!
I think I’ve found some new books to add to my virtual pile!
My readings were also well received, I read a short extract from Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café and another from The Rocks of Aserol.
It’s true that I didn’t sell many books, but I did give away lots of short stories and samples, which may well sow seeds for future sales. And as a new(ish) author it’s about getting the brand out and being recognised. Events like this are great for doing just that. And one lucky person won a copy of Andorra Pett, who knows where that will lead?
The audience got the humour in Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café and laughed in most of the right places, which was a relief, after all, it’s my sense of humour and you never really know if others will find it funny.
The extract that I read is at the end of this post; it’s from a little later in the book than the sample chapter that you may have read HERE.
Now, I have to prepare for Tiverton Literary Festival on Friday. I’m one of the authors you can meet in the Library. We start at 10 am so if you’re local to Tiverton, please pop in and say hello.
Writing wise, I have just about finished Andorra Pett on Mars, the follow-up to Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café, and I have an idea for book three in the series, Andorra Pett takes a break.
My Steampunk sequel A new life in Ventis is with beta readers. Dependant on their reaction, I’m working towards publication before Christmas. I also have a couple of other projects in the pipeline. There will be more news on them in the very near future.
Are you interested in how I build words? Would you like a transcript of my workshop with suggestions? Why not let me know, together with your ideas, in the reply box below the post. I’d love to hear from you!
So here’s the extract that I read, Andorra Pett is settling into her new life, running a café. She’s already discovered a secret, and now it seems like someone is after her…….
I’d set my alarm for 4 a.m. again, we had sold nearly all the things I had made yesterday and although Clarissa had provided some pies we still needed fresh bread and more cakes. Cy, for all his enthusiasm, wouldn’t be up till later so it was down to me.
The alarm went off, without bothering with the lights I reached out and turned my hair straighteners on; then I headed for the bathroom. When I came back I watched in horror as the bedroom door started to open, a line of dim light grew slowly as it was pushed from outside. Someone was creeping in. There wasn’t time to put my boiler suit on; at least I was wearing a vest and some shorts to cover my modesty.
I needed a weapon, and quickly. In the dark I climbed across the bed as quietly as I could, aiming for the red light on the bedside table. I pulled the straighteners out of their stand and crept to the wall behind the door. I knew that a burn from them would make you stop what you were doing and think again. A hand appeared and I struck, jabbing the straighteners down on the wrist, catching it between the hot ceramic plates. I squeezed. Hard.
There was a piercing scream and a sizzle as the fibres of the garment covered arm melted and stuck to the skin underneath. There was the smell of bacon frying. The hand disappeared, pulling the straighteners from my grip, they clattered onto the floor. I heard footsteps and someone shouting and sobbing in pain as I pulled the door open and ran into the corridor. It was empty.
I headed into the space behind the counter, the café’s front door was open, the shutters were up; hadn’t we lowered them when we closed up last night? Nothing moved, my maimed burglar can’t have had time to get across the floor and through the door, they must be hiding. How the hell had someone opened the locks? Of course, I hadn’t changed the codes. I must do that.
The room was in part light from Saturn but there were deep shadows. I flipped the light switches and ran to close and lock the door, hopefully whoever was inside would be trapped, surely Cy would have heard the shouting and was even now coming to help me. I had dropped the straighteners and had no weapons, just my anger. How dare someone try and come into MY place?
As I crossed the floor I heard footsteps to one side. I swung my head. I had a brief glimpse of a black-headed figure approaching, the lack of features making it look sinister, and then I was shoulder-charged. The force of the impact shoved me straight into a table. I bounced off and as I flailed around I grabbed at the figure, ripping off whatever was covering its head. They wriggled clear, pushed me into another table and sprinted for the door. I got up and followed them, puffing with the exertion, I needed to get to the gym, if there was one.
As I peered through the door I caught sight of a figure rounding the corner into the main alleyway. I’d never catch them now and my hip was throbbing where I had bounced off the corner of a table.
“What’s going on, Andi?” Cy had appeared, and he hadn’t bothered dressing for the occasion either.
“They got away,” I puffed. “I gave them something to think about.” I showed him the mask I had grabbed, black and woollen; it was like a balaclava helmet without the face-hole. “Look,” he said, there were short blonde hairs stuck in the wool.
“That’s a clue.”
Suddenly, it was all too much for me and I started shaking, Cy held me tight and smoothed my hair. “It’s OK, Andi,” he whispered. “They’ve gone now, that was some scream they gave, what did you do, come out of the bathroom and give them a thrill?”
That wasn’t funny, but it did make me laugh and that helped me calm down a bit.
“I got them with my straighteners.” He winced. “I got their wrist between the plates. Their sleeve melted into the flesh. It smelt like bacon.”
“Well done you, that’ll be sore then! All we need to do is find someone with a crispy fried wrist.”
We suddenly found that funny and just stood there, holding each other, laughing like a couple of crazy fools.
Any excuse for a bit of nostalgia,
You might be surprised to find that I don’t write one book at a time. In fact, I keep several stories on the go. Some of them are very well advanced, others are little more than basic ideas. I also have a list of projects that I think might develop. It helps me to switch around when the thoughts for one are slow in coming, moving away often gives me a fresh burst after I have left a story for a while. And as I said recently, I believe that the story won’t come out until it’s ready to be told, which can be frustrating. As an independently published author, I’m fortunate in some ways. I don’t have an editor breathing down my neck, or a deadline looming. And my method keeps me away from the dreaded writer’s block, at least so far.
I’ve noticed that I always seem to come to a grinding halt at around the 60,000-word mark, in just about every story that I’ve written. I guess that it’s like the ‘wall’ that runners talk about, without the physical discomfort, fortunately! I have to leave it for a few weeks and come back to it, which is where the other projects come in.
I have to leave it for a few weeks and come back to it, which is where the other projects come in, I can keep writing on one of them.
The voices in my head that dictate to me, (other writers will know what I mean here) decide what they want to tell me, in what order, and when one lot gets fed up with telling their tale, then there are others ready to have a go. At least, that’s how I explain it.
Initially, I intended to spend some time focusing on short stories, I have several that need a little work to get them finished, with the imminent publication of my second collection, I wanted to have some spares in case my editor and beta readers thought that any of the ones I had selected were not good enough.
But, as usual, things have not quite worked out quite as I planned. I had a big idea for Survive, and just had to get it down, now I have spent most of the month on that, and written over 30,000 words. Not a single one has been added to any of my short stories.
In consequence, I’m right back where I started from, I still have six, half completed short stories, and now I have another novel that’s 30,000 words further on but I’m still stuck. Although my idea for Survive was a good one, I still haven’t got to the point where the story is finished.
And it’s not just about the word count; I’m not too bothered about that. I would like my stories to come in at around the 75-80,000 word total, but if they don’t, it’s not the end of the world. And that’s purely because a lot of the books that I read while I was at sea or in my formative years were around that size and they seemed a good length to tell a story well.
I don’t think that I’m ever (?) going to write Tolkien or Martin-Esque 200,000 word epics. One of my favourite books, Fahrenheit 451 was only 47,000 words or so, proving that you don’t need quantity to tell a good story. And often, the extra wordage consists of extraneous description or what could be called “padding.”
I guess that what this has all been telling me is that you have to write what’s there in your head. That might not be what you had wanted to write, or even what you thought you needed to do. It turned out to be the novel, so I did that.
As a bonus, the passages I’ve added to Survive have given me a few ideas for another project that I can put on my list.
And from another source entirely, I have a prequel to Ribbonworld, I already thought of a third story in the Balcom series, have written about 3,000 words and have even given it a title, The Lost Princess. In working out what I could do with it, I wondered if I couldn’t also do a ‘zeroth’ story in the series (Fans of Asimov will get the reference), and go back to the events that are referenced in Ribbonworld, the real start of the story if you like.
And that’s all on top of everything else that’s going on, I’ve re-organised this website, there were a lot of things that needed changing and I’d put them off. My first short story collection is now available FREE, just click here to get your copy, and the new collection will be available, also FREE very soon.
I will be at Credfest on June 17th, which I’m looking forward to, reading from both Andorra Pett and The Rocks of Aserol. Not only that, I have agreed to host a workshop on World Building, which should be a lot of fun. Hopefully, the event will be recorded for posterity, I can then put the video/audio up on here for you to see and add it to my YouTube channel, which you can find HERE
As ever, your comments would be appreciated. Let me know what you think below.
Step into the worlds of Richard Dee.
Imagine the magazine of the future, or how to fake your own demise. Maybe it’s time you were tested to prove your adulthood? Or perhaps you’re a sleeping space traveller?
All these ideas and more are explored in this collection of short stories. They’re complemented by excerpts from my first three novels and two teasers of work in progress.
There are those who think that they can edit their own writing. I know of a few self-published authors who don’t bother with professional edits for their work. Personally, I think that the cards are stacked against self-published authors as it is. There are those in the book trade who don’t like us and what we do, why give them another chance to dismiss our work as poorly prepared?
As far as I’m concerned, my physical products must be as good as or better than any mainstream publication. Along with the importance of good cover design that means that the words have been properly edited and formatted, by experts.
I’m lucky to have a wonderful editor. She has just sent me the results of her first look at my latest manuscript, the first time that anyone apart from me has seen it, together with extensive notes and a list of comments.
Now it’s up to me to try and sort it all out and turn it into a document that is ready for beta readers. Hopefully, by the time that I’ve finished, it will resemble more of a completed novel than it does at the moment.
So I thought that you might like to see how I go about that.
The first thing that hits you when you look at your edited manuscript is how little you really knew of it.
It’s easy to say, “I’ve been working on it for months, I know every word and comma,” and naturally you’re in love with what you’ve written. The trouble is, your familiarity has blinded you to its faults, and if it’s anything like one of my first drafts, it has a whole load of faults.
Just as an example, here’re the editor’s comments on the proposed blurb, as you can see it’s only a few lines of text but I thought that my version was pretty good at summing up the stories themes without giving too much away.
And the rest of the 254 pages go in a very similar vein. The remarks are all concise, detailed and pertinent.
When I got the first edit that I ever submitted back and saw all the red and blue and yellow, it looked like some demented spider with inky feet had crawled all over my beautiful prose. I thought that I had failed in some way. I wondered if or even why my superb creation deserved such a savaging.
It took me right back to school and all the feelings of fear, which was often helped by the psychological warfare waged by teachers.
Mine mistakenly thought that by telling me I was lazy, it would make me work harder. In fact, it just made me think, ‘if you can’t be bothered to be constructive and help me, then I can’t be bothered to try.’
But now I embrace the spiders because they mean that I can get closer to perfection, or at least to create a better version of the tale I want to tell. They point out the things that my familiarity didn’t let me see.
Basically, they are a reader’s view.
My editor might not like my genre, in fact in some ways it may be better if they don’t. They also refrain from being anything other than neutral in their comments. That’s great; I don’t want praise, just the errors pointed out and an unbiased view of the document as a whole.
Once it has been honed, that will be the time for the beta readers to have a look. They’re not editors, just people that I trust, the ones who are part of my target audience.
I went off on a bit of a tangent there, to get back to where I was, I’m faced with this document and I have to start correcting it.
I tend to concentrate on the comments, they’re the important bit at this stage, the formatting and such are sort of beyond my level of expertise so I just skim through them. Unless I can see that a comma, for instance, has been put in the wrong place and messes up the sense of what I want to say. But that’s pretty rare; my editor knows what they’re doing with the presentation of my work correctly on the page. I can leave that to them, I want to get into the comments.
The comments are more important because they show me what the editor thinks I’m trying to say. They show me what a reader will think, such as “?” or “but didn’t you say…x…?” And they point out things like repeated words and other bits and pieces that slow the action down.
This is what I couldn’t see because I was too close, they are the first things that my editor saw, so they must be the first things that a reader will notice.
And that’s valuable information. That’s what it’s all about.
So, I will address each comment and see the sense of it. Then I will amend it, or not, all depending on what I think it does to the progression of the narrative. It might be that the comment will stay and it’s the surrounding text that gets altered.
In fact, the act of re-reading the comments often changes my mind; it gives me a starting point for changes or amplification. The whole direction of a scene or of a plot line can hinge on a comment such as “why did they say/do that?” In fact, I have written whole sequels based on the comments of an editor.
So far from being the destroyer of your work, the edit can often bring out the best in your writing.
and here’s the new version of the blurb, after revision.
“What has happened to Horis Strongman since we saw him last? The events in Aserol and beyond have changed him and given him adventures that he could never have imagined. His life is now completely different in every respect. He had travelled far and wide and seen things that he would never have thought were possible.
But those who were against him have recovered and can still do him harm. Before he and those he cares for can be truly safe, he must face his foes again, and this time, the stakes are raised. Before his journey ends, he will find that he has allies in the strangest places for the final confrontation that he hopes will secure his future.
The story takes in foreign lands and new dangers as Horis fights for the freedom to live in peace.
A new Life in Ventis is the sequel to The Rocks of Aserol.”
Is that better? What do you think? Let me know via a comment below.
And if you want my advice, get a good editor; they’re worth their weight in Gold!