Book Launch : The Masked Queen’s Lament

FB Event Banner stating the time and place of the next book launch

The launch will occur in Room 1086 of the Sheraton Parkway North Hotel on July 14, 2018, from 12pm-2pm.

The overarching event is called Ad Astra.

Follow this link for more information about Ad Astra.

New Auxiliary Magazine Issue Out Now

Visor cover model graphic for the new Auxiliary Magazine issue.

Auxiliary Magazine has a new issue out now.

Have a look at the latest issue of Auxiliary Magazine.

The Winter 2017 Issue is the fiftieth issue of Auxiliary, a magazine dedicated to alternative fashion, music, and lifestyle. This issue features Vapor on our cover and as our PinUp. It features our Ask Arden column and many beauty and fashion editorials. It also features fashions and products by Anastasia Beverly Hills, BOY London, Cover FX, Iron Fist X Villains by Nina Kate, Jagoda Bartczak, Jeffrey Campbell, Kicka Custom Design, Mother of London, NARS, NYX, Pleaser, RFD by Rachel Frank, Smashbox, Spoiled Cherry, Urban Decay, and more. Plus photography by James Hayden, Saryn Christina, Brett Stoddart, YellowBubbles, and more!

A revision process

Pen and paper notes

This is a glimpse of what my revision process has become by the third go-around. I still work using word processor documents and pen-and-paper, not yet anything special like Scrivener or manuscript-specific software.

Aged as if in oak barrels

The present series of works is hastily dubbed the Gift-Knight Trilogy. On average, the first draft of each work has sat between 6 to 8 years before any substantial tinkering occurred. This even holds true for the first book of the series, where I did not yet have any formal process for writing the book beyond “Write many words and hope it works”, nor any formal revision process beyond “Make the words better”.

In all cases, because self-editing was going to happen, I required time to put emotional distance between myself and the words. Sometimes, it’s not as if I didn’t try sooner than that, but I was honest with myself about how inadequate the process felt at the time, as if I wasn’t ready. Changes might have involved naming conventions and cosmetic tweaks, when I knew there might be more substantial “big picture” revisions required that I didn’t yet know how to address.

What fills the time? I steadily wrote a different manuscript every year, a different project. I also, you know, lived 6 to 8 years of my life and experienced everything that happened to me during that time interval. One way to create emotional distance is having everything else in life to think about instead.

Taking stock (direction: digital to paper)

If you’re wondering how, after all that time, I would remember the entirety of what’s in a manuscript, you’re on truth’s trail. I will not remember most of it, and that’s the point. My next step is to record notes on a media separate from the computer (I like not having to flip between tabs or windows or having to remember which document is which if I space out; if notes are pen-and-paper while the manuscript is on the screen, I will easily get the difference) while reading the text.

Few, if any, changes will be made to the manuscript at this point. These notes are where I take stock of what happens in every chapter of the present draft. I also record any thoughts off the top of my head of what scenes I would like to move to a different place, what names need changing to fit continuity in this case (when you write a complete rough draft trilogy before making final changes to the first one, then propagate those changes to the second one as you make final changes to that and more changes on top of the propagated ones… you can end up with fairly huge differences in names and continuity by the third book. Surprisingly, the general idea of the third book and most of its scenes remain intact even after all that), and regarding all that stuff in brackets that I just mentioned, anything that requires a complete rewrite because it no longer makes sense. When I believe I can write something better from scratch with less trouble than infinite tinkering to a problematic section, I will rewrite it, harvesting the original section for ideas and any small good ideas that wouldn’t be out of place in the new version.

I find that this is a great way to catch double-counted chapter numbers, or their close cousins, skipped chapter numbers. Just having the manual count on paper is somehow easier for me to parse than skipping around in a digital document. However, it’s important for me to be able to read the paper notes and the digital document and know where it lines up, so once the numbering goes out of perfect alignment, I will mark them down as “Chapter Eleven (Twelve)” for example, where the bracketed one is what it would be if I simply changed numbers, but the official one aligns with the unchanged manuscript that I’m reading.

But I don’t just change the numbers, not yet. There may be entire chapters created out of this restructuring process that render both of these counts inaccurate. I will only know how much of that is necessary after I do this.

Non-spoiler examples of notes from the current process

“So we need to fix every name here before we get much farther. No one’s name seems correct.”

“This is a Lucen chapter.”

“Good, we’ll have Jan’s flashback here, but take italics away and just set it up narratively.”

“We flip back to Alathea, but not for long.”

“GJ, double counted Chapter Seven.”

“Well here’s a part we can prolong and make wholly its own chapter or two.”

“Delete the word ‘hedgehog’.”

“Revisit Chapter Five?”

“So there is a main gate and an auxiliary gate after that? Why?”

“Frankly rewrite this entire part then.”

“So throw all this out unless it becomes useful […]”

(You see more of the “throw out” and “rewrite” as you get further along, because the continuity changes propagated from previous finished books in the series create more noticeable changes in the story as you get deeper into it. All those time travel fics where a seemingly small change in one person’s life leave the world altered beyond recognition over the course of years; well, that’s not a perfect analogy. Our timeline is more tightly controlled, but we aren’t just making one seemingly small change. There may be an effect where some sections become vastly altered, but because others don’t have to be, because we like those sections and we see that they still fit, we only tweak them to make sure that they fit seamlessly if possible. The other side of it specific to this book is that I’ve had better ideas about how it should end during these 6 to 8 years of avoiding this manuscript. One climactic scene was a direct rehashing of another one in the book immediately prior, and that couldn’t stay the same.)

“Throw out this scene. Keep any dialogue that worked.”

(By the lattermost chapters of the book, the notes are more about what to write when rewriting entire scenes, less about little tweaks and continuity; details I don’t want to forget by the time I actually go to write it. Don’t believe that “If it’s important you wouldn’t forget”; you can remember all sorts of things, useful and not, and you can have difficulty remembering all sorts of things, useful and not. Memory is funny. Often we write things down to augment our recall using external media, using pen and paper as a memory writing process and reading our notes as a process of remembering. Wow, that sounded way fancier than it had to.)

Outline of proposed chapters (direction: paper to digital)

I find it quaint using pen and paper in a process where hypothetically I might not have to. I have collected a few notebooks for their aesthetic, but taken years to find any reason to use them at all. One became a diet and gym log for several weeks. One became a dream journal. Frankly, for reasons I won’t go into here, I write slowly compared to many other people and I’m not nearly as comfortable holding and using a pen as I am typing with a reasonably ergonomic keyboard (or any keyboard, compared to writing with a pen, and this applies even more to a standard pencil). I never want to have conscious thought about the mechanics of a manual physical process stealing focus away when I might need every ounce of focus to compose fiction. I want to feel like my hands have the muscle memory to know what they’re doing, to know the home row of the qwerty keyboard and hit the right letters so my eyes can remain on the screen as much as possible, and focus on the story.

So I have found use for notebooks in being a “second screen” while taking stock of what’s already in a manuscript. However, the bulk of my process lives on digital, and I will need a new document in a new tab or file (oddly, the sort of thing I was previously avoiding) that tells me what I planned to do next so that I don’t have to remember everything off the top of my head. This next process sees me taking the pen-and-paper notes and typing in a crisp new document a chapter-by-chapter outline.

The outline for the book, in the present case, is about 10 pages and 5500 words long in a Word document. There rather quickly came a point where the chapter count in this outline lost alignment with the notes, so I’m glad I wasted no time “fixing” chapter numbers at a prior point in the process when I was only going to alter them further. The original manuscript ends at Chapter Twenty-three or an Epilogue. The notes list up to Chapter Twenty-six followed by an Epilogue. The outline of proposed chapters counts up to Thirty, followed by the Epilogue.

This has little to do with adding new material, because most of the new material to be added is replacing old material to be thrown out; true, the word count will come out longer. My first draft thoughts are rarely expanded enough, and beta readers want me to dig deeper. As a result, my revision process can actually increase the word count instead of tightening it up. The day I have a professional editor, I’m sure that will change. I’m not sure there will ever be that day, but we can imagine.

The shape of things to come

The paper notes will increasingly become less useful, and reduced to being mementos just like the ones for The Crown Princess’ Voyage. Ideally I would have put every useful suggestion in the outline, instantly rendering the notes obsolete. It’s still good to keep the notes in an easy-to-find place for the remainder of the process just in case. If you’re not so easily distracted or confused, you could probably accomplish this process entirely on digital, or entirely on paper as people used to do it before computers. Your process is up to you, I’m just showing you some of mine.

There will be three digital documents open on my screen.

One of them will be the outline. Every chapter numbered in this is marked as proposed: “Chapter One (PROPOSED)” for example. It’s all a proposal until something is actually done and committed to writing. I then have the option of removing the all-caps word in brackets to signify that I have finished that part in the revision process. I may do something else like render that section of the outline in italics, something that works as an easy visual placeholder; I have done this, I should scroll until I find the first item that’s still proposed and in plain script.

One of them will be a new document. This is going to be the new version of the manuscript, starting from blankness. Anything I need to copy over from the original manuscript, I’ll carry over at its exact time. I like this better than making mass edits to the original manuscript, losing my place at times, getting confused about what I have done or not done; no, if I have worked on Chapter One, the new document will contain just Chapter One, and I will know right away from scrolling where I’ve left off. Anything more complicated than that, like having to duck out for dinner or something else mid-process and I suppose I could leave a comment for myself just as I would during the first draft writing process. Getting stuck due to not remembering where I left off is an easy block to avoid, and we don’t need to struggle with things on this level; let’s just keep with the more challenging and abstract forms of writer’s block that require a nuanced understanding and approach, those are quite enough.

One of them will be the original manuscript. This is, generally, not to be edited. At the most, I would make find-and-replace name changes, because I would rather do that all in one go before proceeding than have to keep changing names every time I copy a passage out of this and into the new file. If you thought back to the notes, and how I needed to find ways to keep the alignment between differently numbered chapters, then you might get one reason why I should keep the paper notes handy. The new document will have the widest discrepancy in chapter numbers compared to the original manuscript. The notes will at least act as a bridge. If I like, I can keep a pen handy and put a check mark next to my current spot in the notes.

The expected result

The next step after this one would be simple and pedestrian in comparison. I can put the outline away. I can put the notes in a safe place. I can put the original manuscript away. Now, everything else having gone reasonably well, I have a new draft of the manuscript. Provided I only let this draft be the best thing I could make it at the time, provided it fits the continuity and naming conventions of the previous books, and provided I never left the previous process with some glaring structural change that should have been made in a prior step, I can re-read this new manuscript a few times for slight cosmetic shifts as I prepare it for release. At least now I have one document in one tab, one window, to work with.

Fascinated or at least amused? My revision process is itself subject to revision. The Masked Queen’s Lament is the first book where I will have gone through this exact process described, one I arrived at through the growing pains of revising two previous novels and not being coached through anything in any way whatsoever. It may look dirty and asymmetrical because it came about in an “organic”, vaguely systematic manner from a place of isolation. If something feels like it doesn’t work, I can always change it up next time.

On Writing and Deleting One Hundred Thousand Words

Preamble Ramble

In past years, my once-a-year first-draft efforts were all about addenda to the world containing Kensrik (the entire world in question is not called Kensrik, not any more than our entire world has ever been called Spain, Portugal, France, or Austria); or they were about trying to come up with something that was officially distant from the series, just to prove I could do something else (I feel like I have yet to convince myself, however). Including the act of blowing up one prior manuscript to grow three others from the parts, I have churned out one rough draft each November from 2008 to 2016 that was meant to have prospects.

2017 has been a year where we learn that nothing is unspeakable or unthinkable if you know whose speech or thinking to look for; otherwise, so many of us would label 2017 as unspeakable and unthinkable and be satisfied to lock it away in a vault, where it can gather the dust of time (I wonder what music a certain blogger is listening to right now, to inspire such an out-of-place reference). 2017 has been a trend- and rule-breaker in the most painful ways, so in this one regard my efforts have been congruous with the times.

The Purgation Novel

In November 2017, I churned out 100,215 words. The following graphic is a crop of a screen grab, and this visual was generated by stuff from the Office of Letters and Light and their web interface.

2017 NaNoWriMo Stats

Stats for my efforts in November 2017

Not 48 hours after November was finished, that manuscript and every backup of it that I can think of was willfully destroyed. I did it, as I had planned to do from the start. There might be some relatively cute and innocuous snippet of it floating around somewhere that’s hardly worthy of mention (and yet, boom, mention it I just did), but this was a manuscript that one hundred per cent needed to be written by me and one hundred per cent did not need to be read by anybody.

I described this to a certain dabbler friend who dubbed it “The Great Catharsis Novel”. This can’t be far off the mark, but from my few university years, I remembered catharsis to be “the proper purgation of pity and fear” in a dead specific way (granted, an English translation of the source material, not the source material that I can’t read). I can’t be sure that this is dead-on for what I was purging, but I was purging, so I believe it’s safer to call this The Purgation Novel. I can think of a couple other things to call it, each of which are equally unflattering comparisons to bodily functions. Moving right along.

What, on the top level, was purged?

Complete silliness. A bogus narrator with an absurd name who mocks the reader and the writer like the beginnings of his sections are diss tracks, then gets put in his place by the writer. A helpful and delightful giant shaggy muppet-like creature vaguely resembling a caterpillar. Stories that were started once, shared too early, utterly put down by an audience, and got lodged somewhere in my brain because I felt barred from writing them, so that I would end up repeatedly thinking of snippets of them at night yet shied away from expressing them because of what other people had done to me at some prior time. Stories where the internet is as magically absurd as was presented to me in 1990s cinema and television, by people with a poor grasp of what the internet was at that specific time (because who wants movies about dialup modem sounds and graphics loading line by line?), and inspiration from at least one X-Files episode. Personal fantasies of being able to confront the worst people in life via extended choreographed fight sequences, inspired by over ten years of martial arts career, with on-the-nose Batman dialogue references. Purging of frustrations with the most hurtful moments in childhood that helped set me on a crooked course of mental health issues; purging of guilt for things done under compulsion of poor mental health, or nonexistent understanding of consequences; naming and deconstruction of the most frustrating non-arguments ever repeatedly encountered from people who can’t possibly be serious; confessions of dire thoughts in the past and for the future. The mundane frustrations of awkward social encounters during a workday contemporaneous with the creation of the text.

By about ninety thousand words, I was running on fumes and just looking to hit a word count number. Like the last lurches of any purging process, I used the extra time to make sure every drop or chunk of that which was to be purged was gone.

In telling you this, I risk having already told you too much.

Deletion as banishment

Deleting a work of that size, that magnitude, is emotionally difficult even when it is the safest thing to do. For nearly half the month, I was working at a five thousand word per day pace. Then I got sick, and was trying to pop medications and work through it for exactly that dire need of money, and output necessarily fell from that point before it would later rise again (though not to the same level, because the need was not felt so strongly once the “winning streak” was snapped beyond my personal point of return). If you feel the magnitude of an effort, though, letting go of that work could feel harsh.

But the thing about hidden diaries is that someone who cares to read them will eventually find them. Whether it’s during my lifetime or after that, they will be found. They will be read. There is an imagined penalty for what would be revealed, because the key point of having The Purgation Novel is to express what should be publicly unspeakable, what should be kept quiet for the comfort of people we love, because expressing it somewhere in text can help me but having them discover it would be thoroughly unhelpful to everyone including me; yet refusing to express these things anywhere would hurt me inside every time I deny the urge.

Never be convinced that the point of writing something is always to have others read it. You’re the one who sets the intentions for your work; you say whether a given text is there to be distributed, or to be a Purgation. You’re the one who could reveal personal truths for yourself through this method, and have the process change something in you for the better even if no one else will understand or see this text not meant for their eyes. The product most visible to others is text, sure, but as a writer the first product is you, and what’s being nurtured inside you. You are the first reader, you are somebody, you count too. You do what you need to do, and that means if you don’t need The Purgation Novel, then you know best that you don’t need it, and all I’m really doing is describing something I did for me in case the act might serve as positive inspiration for anybody else.

(This is why I’m never calling this blog an advice column. I’m painfully aware that some people demand advice be a finger pointing at them and a voice of authority making demands of the one apparently correct way they should do things. You’ve gone pretty far astray from something if you’re looking here for ironclad authority about anything.)

But it does become a ritual of sorts. The text codifies what was purged from the self. The voluntary act of deletion serves as banishment.

Sunrise, wrong side of another day

There is a sense of time for me. In the context of my personal life, and knowing directly the compromises of compulsive behaviour, “never again” is rendered farcical too many times to be written or spoken unironically. “Never again provided I feel powerful enough to choose otherwise”, slightly truer in some way, though longer and clumsier. But this means something else for banishment. Banishment means “I am pushing this away now as best I can”. Now is the operative term. I can do my best to speak to today.

I’m glad my powers of speaking to the future are limited and non-determining. If you knew how negative I can be compelled to think about the future or what’s possible, you would know it’s for the best that the future remains uncertain in the most positive way. Sitting in my hemp-cotton undershirt and stretchy cotton shorts, taste of Sunday morning pancakes and maple syrup still in my mouth, I am satisfied to feel like many things are as left behind as they can possibly be. I look forward to the next year’s work.

NaNoWriMo 2017

After a couple of outings (Word on the Street Toronto, Bazaar of the Bizarre Halloween Edition), things are going to be quiet until they ramp up for the release of the next book.

But if you want to know what I’m up to for all my free time of November, it’s the same thing I do every year, Pinky.

Quick Reminder: Word on the Street 2017, This Sunday

Don’t mind me, nothing to see here… except for a quick reminder that I’ll be at Word on the Street Toronto this Sunday, September 24. If you have a quick look at the festival visitor map, you will find Zone 1 right next to Queen’s Quay West, most of it right past the parking lot. Keep going south, and if you can persevere through that Writer’s Block, you’ll find my table in the Fringe Beat just before Zone 2.

I hope to see you there!

Important Ebook Link Changes

My first book was launched, using Kickstarter funding, via Matador Books. That was a neat experiment, but for my needs, I may as well do things very close to on-my-own; paperbacks on CreateSpace and ebooks manually put in Kindle and Kobo stores.

I chose to discontinue ebook support via Matador Books early last week, and that means The Gift-Knight’s Quest needed to be added once again to Amazon and Kobo. I have updated the links on that book’s page to reflect the new ebook availability.

This doesn’t mean anything to The Crown Princess’ Voyage which had been my “trial run” for this kind of release.

Another thing I did recently was offer these titles to Bakka Phoenix Books in Toronto. I think they’re still putting them into the system; if not, they’re already there.

Status Report 7/18/2017

First Draft on Wattpad

If you want to know how rough a first draft is for me, you can examine Apotheosis (working title) on Wattpad.

That project began November 2016 and was resumed June 2017, in the gap time between work stints.

Info: contains violence, stands alone as a read but can supplement Gift-Knight continuity

Overhaul Paused

The next project was supposed to be working through the next draft of what could be The Masked Queen’s Journey, The Mad Queen’s Mask, The Masked Queen’s Revenge… there’s a branch point in time and space, different universes changed solely by the title of this book, and in all other respects resembling our own.

But it’s time to get my work clothes, my bag, and most likely prepare to go craft things in return for funding, so the overhaul is paused. I can’t remember the last time I felt like I had limitless energy, but it was probably an age where there was nothing serious to do with it. Except spinning around in circles very fast and being a tornado; there’s nothing more serious than that! But now I know I end up budgeting my energy when there’s full time work, and at best, I’ll only add notes to the appropriate file instead of actually changing the manuscript.

The work tends to be seasonal, so I may find myself living in a shotgun shack behind the wheel of a large automobile coming down from the physical labor at the end of 2017, but staring down the practical deadlines of March/April to finish final draft of the book, and to decide which title-universe we’re in.

Reading and Giveaways

Information for The Bookshelf 2017 event.

Reading Things Aloud

It turns out I will be reading at The Bookshelf in Newmarket. My time slot on the list is from 12:45-12:55PM. Now I’ll have to see how much material I think is ten minutes’ worth, cut it in half, and then I’ll be prepared.

Giveaways: Amazon and Goodreads

On Amazon, for US participants, we have The Crown Princess’ Debut Giveaway. Three copies with a deadline of May 15. Hope they go to good homes!

On Goodreads, for Canadian participants, we have Book Giveaway For The Crown Princess’ Voyage. That giveaway runs a bit longer and ends on the 30th.