Major Edits Are Done!

I can finally, quite happily, say that the major edits for Mercury & Murder are now done! It took a string of late nights this past week and some big chunks of time this weekend. I am feeling a little tired and a lot stoked because I needed to hit this milestone by this weekend to stay on track for a March 21st publication.

The big challenge that I was having is that wanted to work in a plot twist. But, I wanted to do it in a way that wouldn’t require another significant rewrite (the time to publish is nigh). I had been beating my head against it for weeks and after staring at it for two nights this week, I set it aside to work on the minor edits. As I was going through the minor edits, I saw a spot where I could work in a little more background on some of the characters and then inspiration hit. I saw how I could work in a little more background and a small, yet manageable plot twist. I bounced the idea off a trusted reader and got two thumbs up. So in it went and on I went. The nice thing is that it also gave me a little more material to improve the reveal at the end of the novel. I felt pretty good about the changes.

As a minor aside, in the midst of the writer’s high from making some good changes, I also had to fight off the urge to keep looking for additional things I could “improve.” That would have plummeted me into another round of rewrites. Silly writer! Thankfully, I avoided that and moved on.

So now I’ve got the book copied into its final format and I am going to start doing a final read through. I like to read it out loud to see how it sounds. Hearing it helps me to find things that need tweaked. Since I am a slow reader and an even slower tweaker, I imagine this will take me a few weeks (give or take). My goal is three weeks, so that I can (maybe) get the first printed copy before I publish. But if it’s four weeks, I’ll just do it all at once again. Right now, publishing it 3/21 is the most important goal.

My other next big step is to improve my synopsis so that I can send that off to Abel Valdivia to finalize the book jacket. And of course, it is far easier to market a forthcoming book with a finalized synopsis than without one.

Check back for progress on all of this. 26 Days To Go!

4th Check In

This is going to be a quick one, since I didn’t post an update this past weekend, but am trying to maintain my consistency.

I didn’t get as much done over the weekend as I wanted, but when do I ever get as much done as I want? That said, it was a decent effort. I have now completed four of the eight major edits that I have left. I feel good about my progress. My goal at this point is to finish the remaining edits by 2/21. That is one month before my “on-sale” date and I think will just barely, not quite, give me enough time to do the last read through. So by the end of this week, I hope to have completed major edits #5 & #6.

The other piece that I am working on this week is my synopsis. I did a quick draft of it over the weekend, but I am not quite satisfied with it. It is tougher than you think to boil a whole novel down to ~150 attractive words. That said, I am aiming for the same 2/21 goal for the synopsis. If I can get that done a month before Mercury & Murder goes on sale, I can use it to help me market the book more effectively.

3rd Check In

Yeah, a boring title. So sue me! I’ll even add a boring picture!

Boring Picture

Boring Picture

I guess I’m feeling testy. Playful, yet testy. I stayed up too late folding laundry and my son wanted me to get up too early. That’s the #excitingbachelorlifeofawriter

Anyway, I felt sluggish and I heaped a serving of crappy on top of that because I did not make much writing progress this week. Last weekend I was run down (I guess the travel etc. finally caught up with me), so a couple of urgent personal projects got pushed into the week and negated most of my writing time. Upon waking all-too-early this morning, I felt that I needed to have something to report to my readers.

I also must admit that after officially committing to get the novel out, as in ON SALE, March 21st, I had a little bit of a sharp intake of breath when looking at the calendar this morning.

So, I let my son watch some YouTube, while I felt guilty for being a “bad dad” and plugged away on Mercury & Murder. The good news is that I think I can actually cross major edit #3 off the list – making my baddie more bad.

At this point, I feel pretty good about what I accomplished on the novel and I’m about to put up a blog post. I’m going to put away all of the laundry I folded last night, enjoy some of this sunny day with my son, go grocery shopping, then take my boy out for a nice birthday dinner.

2nd Check In

I am on a crawl! <– That seems like a more appropriate representation than I’m on a roll.

So I did manage to get a little work done this week, while attempting to muscle through some extreme jet lag. I began working on trying to make my main baddie look more bad and I feel like I got a solid start. At first I thought I would need to change his characterization, but in rereading some chapters I realized that changing how I emphasized (or in the case of what was there before, didn’t emphasize) the chain of evidence had a significant impact in how bad/guilty the baddie looked. I will enhance the character a little as well, through a couple of specific actions (and that’s next), but I don’t need to do quite as much as I originally thought. My goal is to finish with these changes by the end of the this weekend. If it wasn’t for some neglected household projects, that would probably be super easy. But I have a couple of things that now need urgent attention.

Also, I noticed that even though I previously stated that I have six major changes to make, it’s really eight. I missed one from one of my readers and I forgot that my chapter headings directly relate to my timeline (again) and that the timeline is out of synch. Fixing the timeline is always a doozy of a cerebral exercise.

The other thing that is worth noting, now that I am getting serious about finishing Mercury & Murder, is that I decided to take a little time and update the page for it. It’s not flashy, but it is now accurate — including my new, real, target date for publication, so check it out: Mercury & Murder.

Couldn’t Sleep

That’s unusual for me. Normally, when my head hits the pillow I am out. I sometimes joke that I can sleep on command. But not this week. The past couple of nights I can’t stay awake when watching TV with my son at 7:30-8:00. I go to bed at 10:00 or 11:00 and I’m solidly out for two hours. Then, I have trouble getting back to sleep.The last couple of nights it has taken a couple of hours, but tonight I didn’t get back to sleep at all. I tried everything — reading, warm milk, the other side of the pillow, the other side of the other pillow, watching TV. Nothing. So I’ve finally given up. I was going to get up in half an hour to do some work on Mercury & Murder, so I guess I’ll just get an early start. That feels nice and productive, but man the afternoon today is probably going to be brutal!

1st Check In

Better late than never, right??

As I mentioned in my 2015 Plan, I have a highly, ahem, achievable goal of blogging once a week. For those of you keeping score, I may be revising that to be a goal of “averaging” one per week.  Which, no doubt, will result in a flurry of 20 posts the last week of the year. At any rate, this is my first check in, albeit a tad more than a week late.

One point of clarification, I wrote in that post that I had 5 of 6 editing tasks left on Mercury & Murder, but in actuality #1 was (insert Monty Python voice –>) not quite done yet. I discovered on my trip that I still had a few chapters to reread at the beginning of the novel. In fun fashion, I accomplished that task over a beer in Tokyo’s Narita airport.

Reading a draft of Mercury & Murder in Tokyo's Narita Airport

Reading a draft of Mercury & Murder in Tokyo’s Narita Airport

With an assist from a nice long plane flight, I did make it through the second task. This was basically enhancing the relationship between my main character and his girlfriend by increasing their interactions and the build-up to a crucial scene. When I finished that I actually felt really good about it and wanted to immediately share it with some of my readers. I resisted the urge, being somewhere over the Pacific at the time probably helped. Of course an hour later I was second-guessing myself anyway and wondering if maybe I shouldn’t do more. I do think it’s good enough, but it is always a challenge to figure out when to stop tweaking.

So this week I am on to task #3, which is giving a little more umph to my baddie. I don’t have a clear picture of how I’m going to do that yet, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

One more thing that I want to note — a friend texted me the following this week: “Hey! When’s the next book coming out?? I genuinely loved the first one.” The first thing I want to note is that whenever someone texts, tweets, e-mails, or posts a review about how much they liked my book, well, I am amazed, flattered, grateful, and a little buzzed. It is indescribably cool to get unsolicited positive feedback on my work. Thank you. And I must say that that type of feedback is encouragement that sticks to my ribs like a good meal. That’s the reason that I’m blogging tonight and that I’m going to be getting up early to write this week.

Note number two, is simply the timeframe with which I responded. Optimistically, 4-6 weeks, particularly if I got good work done on the trip back from China (didn’t quite hit that mark). Or 2-3 more months. Yes, I can already hear somebody groaning over the 2-3 months, but to be clear, that’s not to finish content, those dates are to when Mercury & Murder will be on sale. Also, personally I really want to hit the 6 week mark, not the 12 week mark. But either way, I need to get cracking.

2015 Plan

As I sit down to write this, I’m suddenly struck that a 2014 Review and a bit of an Update are probably in order just as much as a plan for this year.  Okay, I’ll do both of those later this week. But, in the interest of staying on task, let me sketch a plan for this year.

  1. Publish Mercury & Murder (BC 2). I’ve got 5 out of 6 edits left on the current draft and a close reading to follow. If I use my time well, the book should be ready to upload by the end of the month. If I’m realistic about the actual constraints of the space-time continuum and my lack of superpowers, mid-February is probably a better bet.
  2. Blog once a week. No real reason I can’t sit down once a week and whip out a few hundred words to keep everyone updated. It’s a good healthy goal to get me back into my groove and keep me there. In fact, this post is really the start of it.
  3. Publish BC3 (tentatively, playfully titled Chocolate & Wet Suits)Okay, that really is a stretch goal since I managed not to get BC2 out last year. But, I’m 25,000 words in, the major part of my house project is behind me, and I think it’s just (barely) do-able once I get my groove back.

So, with a little bit of luck, and a lot of discipline, what you can expect from me this year is two books and 52 blog posts. There will probably be more along the way, but I think that’s a good set of goals for the year – I’ll be quite happy if I can hit that.

So Why All of the Silence?

As some of you have noticed (and even asked), what’s up with the writing and why has the blog gone silent? It’s simple-ish. Really. I bought a house. Technically a fixer-upper. Now to be clear, not a fixer-upper in the rat infestation in the basement, crumbling foundation, WFT-OMG, vane of things. It’s more in the yard is a jungle, and the color selections were Pepto Bismal pink, salmon, purple, and what-were-they-thinking green, vein of things. Maybe you already see where this is going.

So, I took some time off work to work on it and the first day of the project I’m having lunch with two of my best buds and I ask them how I get rid of the odor in the house. “Gotta tear out the carpets.” I hadn’t planned on that, but it was easy and fun – out they went. While staring at the subfloor for hours doing the interminable job of removing the leftover staples, I found myself staring at what I now determined to be the crappiest bathroom floor I had ever seen. Its only redeeming value was that it covered the 1974 turquoise barf-pattern, original flooring. I took the bathroom apart and all of that came out as well. Then, although I had only planned to take the popcorn ceilings down in the two rooms I had planned to paint, once I got started I discovered it was easy. So, naturally, I did all five rooms upstairs and the hallway. Turns out the post-removal sanding is the hard part. My shoulders still ache.

Somewhere in the midst of trying to sand, fix, caulk, and tile, I moved my son and I in. Into temporary quarters in the den and bonus room, while I attempted to put the upstairs back together. Technically, the upstairs is mostly back together at this point – we’re sleeping upstairs and both bathrooms are half working. But I still need to move some furniture up, do lots of unpacking, and some finishing work. By the way, that’s the short version of the story.

So from the end of June until now, weekends and evenings and some very late nights, have been consumed with the project and the only work I’ve done on Mercury and Murder is to reread it.

At first I was okay with taking a break from the writing. It was supposed to be a short break and I did need to fix up my house and get my son and I settled into it, after all. But the scope expanded, then expanded again. The weeks moved into months and here I am three months and two weeks later and I’m feeling actual angst at not having worked on the book in three+ months. It could have been out by now!!

Now that the angst of needing to write has finally overtaken the angst of needing to finish the house and starting today I’m going to be nibbling on both. I don’t have a firm re-revised date for getting the book out, but December 1st feels semi-realistic, so I’ll aim for that and see how the next ten weeks go.

Back in the USA

Not to be outdone by a picture of Mercury & Murder near some five-hundred year-old French ruins, one of my Beta Readers took the book to an exotic spot in Durham, NC.

Mercury & Murder at the James Joyce Pub

Mercury & Murder at the James Joyce Pub

The James Joyce Pub!

Well, it is Durham. And you read Finnegans Wake, right? :-)

Cheers to my Beta Readers. Thanks for reading Mercury & Murder, thank you for your feedback, and thank you for continuing to answer my ceaseless questions. I truly appreciate your help. I am plugging away on the book and looking forward to releasing it (fingers crossed) July 1st.


Beta Goes to France

So what do you do if you volunteer to be a beta reader for a novelist? Why you take the book on holiday to France, of course!

Mercury & Murder Beta in France

Mercury & Murder Beta in France

Now I’m not saying that if you get a chance to read one of my betas that you’ll get a trip to France, your results may vary. But, if you happen to have a vacation coming up, it does seem like an ideal time to read (Shameless Plug Warning –> particularly one of my books!).

So my good friend Beth, from Jersey (England), read Murder & Mochas and volunteered to be a Beta Reader for Mercury & Murder (Book 2 of the Beowulf Chronicles). As luck would have it, I finished just in time for her holiday in France and she took the book along with her.

Mercury & Murder Beta in France

Mercury & Murder Beta in France

The ruins in the background are of Les Tours de Merle, a castle in the commune of Saint-Geniez-ô-Merle, in the Corrèze département of France. It was a feudal fortress from the twelfth to fifteenth centuries, and a historic monument since July 30, 1927. At one time it included seven castles, two chapels, and village. Probably some people as well. And it exchanged hands, at least once, during the Hundred Years War.

I must say that it feels pretty cool to see my, not-yet-published, book globetrotting already! To top that off, not only did Beth take the time to read it and provide me feedback, but she also took it on her vacation. I feel honored!

The good news is that she liked it. She liked it more than Murder & Mochas and she liked it so much that she read it in one evening! In general, the feedback has been that this one is better — better plot, better pacing, more polished, etc. Good to know that I’m getting better (I think that’s how it’s supposed to work). That said, I’ve still got a lot of work to do before I finish up Mercury & Murder, but more on that in my next post.