2020: Reflecting and Looking Ahead

2020 saw the first National Novel Writing Month since 2008 where I did nothing at all, a final word count of zero for any intended novels. That came and went without regret because I knew the time wasn’t right and November is often the busiest month of production at work, as if I found myself in a career completely antithetical to what I had been doing for fun.

Frankly, the only novel I had written during this 2016-2020 span was “Alathea: Goddess and Empress”. I managed that because this was a familiar character in a setting already created (see “Crown Princess’ Voyage”, where I’ve already established her, the most important people in her life by that point, her history, her home port city, motivations, personality etc.) and I had notes prepared. Also, I had not worked in manufacturing for most of that year; my season started somewhere between late August and early September (right after Labour Day? I forget these minor details quite often, please don’t ask me to remember most birthdays without Facebook telling me when they are), so I had the reserves of strength to write part of a novel (the ending wasn’t written back then, 3/4 of the book hit the word count goal and I finished the rest years later) while still editing and transcribing, handling copy editing and writing duties for Auxiliary Magazine, and plunging myself into a new career that was really challenging and made me emotional quite often.

Every other year from 2017 to 2019, I hit that word count by writing a diary, which doubled as a “dumping ground manuscript”, a place for every wayward thought, confession and silly story that I wanted to write into the void, then delete after validating word count. I didn’t see the point nor feel the need for that this year.

It’s 2020 and so many of us are in a place we didn’t foresee, extra challenges piled on to whatever we were already facing. Times that have really laid me bare and forced me to proper introspection; not necessarily revelations, but in most cases, memories, things known in a prior time but not accepted. If you are where I have been, my only advice is that you might not be protecting yourself by forgetting. Whatever it is, it will return to the surface until you face it properly. That’s some of the work I’ve been doing, and along the lines of lessons I must never forget. I will leave it at that for now.

From out of this, I have somehow felt ready to revamp the next manuscript. I first wanted to say I’m writing a new book, then a “new old book”, because the first draft predates my Lush career. I feel like there should be some record of it preceding 2015, but 2015 mostly doesn’t exist in my memory for reasons I don’t want to get into right now. 2015 involves marching around, poking holes in riverbanks with the screw end of a wooden broom handle, and planting milkweed and other seed bombs. If 2015 is when I wrote this “new old book” draft that’s been in front of me for a few days as I take chapter-by-chapter content notes and write suggestions for how to proceed, then it wasn’t such a write-off year after all. I certainly was planting things in a most hopeful way.

I’m going to write the next draft of this “new old book”. I may pursue editors this go-around. From there, it makes the most sense to publish it the way the others have been published, unless some opportunity arises to revamp them all under an imprint; one can dream. This book fits with the others and even refers to a couple that aren’t written yet. A tiny number of people have read the draft that I wrote at the time, and I don’t believe any of them have truly left me, though we aren’t all in close contact anymore. Hey, it’s a time of social distancing anyway. We can keep close from a distance thanks to the internet. That’s been true for a while, actually.

Today, I’m doing what you would expect the indie writer stereotype to do. I drank coffee, I await breakfast, and I’ve been building a writer playlist, even writing this post, anything but actually doing the work. That’s typical for me, but the four books on the market show that eventually I do what I’m supposed to be doing. Even if I don’t start that today, I know what time I’m setting aside every workday to do this, and what necessary sacrifice needs to happen so I can make time.

Thanks for following this quiet Facebook Page, and anywhere else, my personal feed, Twitter timeline, quiet website blog. Everyone who has crossed paths with me on this journey has had something to add, some lesson to teach me, along my journey. I want to end this post with gratitude for your role, taking time out of your eventful life to do something for mine.

Thank you for everything, and stay safe.

Do you own a first edition? Here’s how to tell

I streamed a YouTube video today to talk about the easiest ways you can tell whether any of your paperback copies of my Gift-Knight trilogy are first editions.

Transcript:

Hello. I’m Dylan Madeley, author of The Gift-Knight’s Quest, The Crown Princess’ Voyage, and The Masked Queen’s Lament.

And I’m here to talk about the unofficial “first editions” of my work compared to books that will be available on Amazon and other platforms going forward.

Now, let’s start chronologically. The [Gift-Knight’s Quest], the first editions were done in a print run via Matador which is an imprint of Troubador Books over in the UK.

So first off you’ll know if you have a first edition of my book because it will have the Matador imprint on the back and it will have the price of the book listed in Pounds Sterling, not US dollars or Canadian dollars or anything like that.
And it will be about what, 10.99p?

And I no longer really have a working business relationship with Matador or Troubador, whatever you’d like to call them, we amicably parted ways as my contract ran out, so therefore they no longer handle ebook versions of this either.

I don’t know how well you’ll be able to tell first edition ebooks or whatnot, let’s keep it to paperbacks.

So, Gift Knight’s Quest is, not only does it have the Matador imprint and the Brit pounds price, it has a full bleed artwork cover. You know what I mean if you’ve compared The Gift-Knight’s Quest to The Crown Princess’ Voyage, where the artwork looks like a box on the cover with a black border around it. That’s a CreateSpace/Amazon/KDP, you know, they didn’t, I didn’t have the same luck doing a full bleed cover on either of my sequels. So the formatting’s entirely different.

So then when The Gift-Knight’s Quest becomes, joins the others as books I have entire control over even the paperback version, there will not be full bleed covers anymore.

Let’s move on to The Crown Princess’ Voyage, because this one has always been done on my own with CreateSpace/KDP, so the differences are rather minimal. The first big difference you will see is actually the finish of the cover.

What I mean by that is, most of these books have a gloss coating, gloss is traditional, for the first edition Crown Princess’ Voyage I went with matte. That probably means that if you have a first edition Crown Princess’ Voyage, there is a scuff mark somewhere on it because, as I realized, the matte was trash. It was just very easily damaged, merely upon transportation. Before I even had all the copies they already had little shiny marks where the matte had been worn off by being in the box with other books, jarred.

So, differences in the text, as well, I mean I skipped that for Gift-Knight’s Quest so I don’t even know if I want to go into that, very miniscule. They’re important, but, the changes are important and they matter but I won’t get into that today.

Now, Masked Queen’s Lament. Because it’s so recently released, it has that gloss cover, it’s on CreateSpace/KDP so it’s not a Matador book at all. But, without even knowing the different things I did with words, you will be able to see on the back of the book whether you have a first edition or not. Okay.

The difference is, if it’s a first edition, the opening quote will be something about how, “Alathea was enjoying the feeling of all her weaponeers watching her and hanging on her every word, and it felt a lot like control.”

And I chose that initially because yes, it encapsulates the character’s big issue: want for control. Control of life, control of absolutely everything, because she didn’t have control as a child.

But, over time, I looked at it and I thought it was a bit hammy, I was already doing edits on the interior having found a bunch of typos upon a casual reread, and some of which were just brutal, so I thought okay, I need to fix these.
So, second edition, if we can even call it that, of The Masked Queen’s Lament, will not have the same rogue’s gallery of typos and errors, but also the back of the cover will instead quote her saying, “Has this been one bitter lifelong lesson of what little love can accomplish?”

And I chose that because it’s a Lament being made by the Masked Queen. So then, it’s the masked queen’s lament. It’s the title of the book, it goes back to that. So it’s very on the nose in making sense.

And so that’s how you will be able to tell if you have one of the rare first edition copies of any of these books, because all of them will be different. I mean, if you ask me, the interior copy’s only gonna be better over time. The ebook edition of Gift-Knight already makes certain better adjective choices when describing characters because I was really really irreverent back then in all that I did, and I kind of cringe at it now like, you know, you don’t need to be like that all the time.

Crown Princess interior words, I mean, I edited the original when I was heavily medicated, and I occasionally encounter a passage where I go, yeah, was I even reading it? So the ebook editions now and the available KDP version now, with its gloss cover, will have better words.

And The Masked Queen’s Lament, it was really important to me that I nail it, I did my best with the second editing run, and the back cover is how you will be able to tell, whether it’s one of the upwards of 40 copies that I printed before realizing I needed to fix the whole thing, which if you bought you likely bought at Ad Astra in 2018 or at Toronto Pagan Pride Day 2018 [Harvest Festival] where I made most of my sales.

So that’s that. I thought it’d be neat to get into the different editions that have sprung up this early on in the game, although in terms of my first book it’s been almost five years now.

See ya next time.

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.

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.

Cover Reveal and Ebook Release

The Mad Queen Alathea holds her mask aloft on this trilogy-completing cover by Rona Dijkhuis.

I’ve decided to address a couple different things in one post.

Yes, that’s the third book’s cover

Since “Featured Image” is a thing on this WordPress blog, let’s go with that first. Some of you noticed, and one spoke up (hello, Maria!), about the third cover shown on my Teaser Banner Image. Yes, that’s an actual third book cover. Yes, there is an actual third book in the works.

To be quite honest, the first book had been in the works since 2008; the second, since 2010; this one, 2011. I mean something more substantial by “in the works”, such as “this project is definitely going ahead in some form”. And I can now say that instead of only having a first draft, some meaningful thought is being put into the revision process. Once this second book is good and launched, I will have nothing else to do but finish the writing I started in November 2016, and then finish the third book, in whichever order happens to work.

Alathea is depicted here as the titular Mad Queen, wearing some of her symbolic talismans of power and holding aloft her mask. A bit of the fortress details are visible, where we see some stone work but some suggestion of utilizing natural rock formations. People who read the sequel may have some idea what goes on the other end of that rope. If you’ve looked at each cover, you’ve noticed that Derek got bright colours and a clear sky, a little too fantastic perhaps to reflect what’s real but a better reflection of his mindset at some point; Chandra got cooler colours and a slightly cloudier sky; Alathea gets rough seas in the distance and signs of an impending storm. All by design.

The ebook is out

Yes, the ebook is out. Not just “pre-orders” out, but out-out.

Follow this link to the ebook’s page, for the time being an Amazon exclusive.

Early Paperback Availability

Three-cover banner by Rona Dijkhuis

Hey, seems like it’s been a while. It has! Just one quick announcement today.

If you can’t make any of the conventions this month but you want a physical copy of The Crown Princess’ Voyage (Book 2, The Gift-Knight Trilogy), then I’m here to tell you the book has already been quietly available via CreateSpace as I prepare to order copies for those aforementioned conventions.

Follow this link to the CreateSpace listing.

If you’re waiting for the ebook, you have four more days. At least you won’t have to deal with shipping!

Next Appearance At Ad Astra 2017

Hello, folks!

I waited a while to confirm, but I am indeed debuting The Crown Princess’ Voyage at a vendor table at Ad Astra 2017.  You can find my table in the hall outside the main room from May 5-7.

I am far from the main event, with the guests of honour being Brandon Sanderson, Kristen Britain, S. M. Stirling and Eric Choi; there’s a good lineup of past guests of honour as well. Panels abound. Lots to see.

Ad Astra happens at Sheraton Parkway North Toronto Hotel, 600 HWY-7 E, Richmond Hill, Ontario.

In the meantime, I have one of those eight-hour-a-day jobs to keep me occupied. When I’m back to live streaming and working on manuscripts, I’ll be sure to let you know.

The Quiet Before The Loudness

Recent portrait of the author after a haircut.

Things have been so quiet on this blog, haven’t they? I was hoping they would be, to give followers a break after that Fresh Fiction Daily thing.

I may have full time work for the season, but there are things happening soon that you should know. If you’ve been waiting for the sequel to The Gift-Knight’s Quest, I’ve set the date as May 1, 2017.

60 days prior to release/March 2017: The Crown Princess’ Voyage pre-orders become available via Kindle Select.

May 1, 2017: The Crown Princess’ Voyage officially released as a print-on-demand paperback via CreateSpace and its channels. Available as an ebook via Kindle Select for 90 days.

May 7-9, 2017: Paperback copies of both books available for sale at Ad Astra 2o17 convention (scheduled/unconfirmed)

May 13th, 2017: Paperback copies of both books available for sale at The Bookshelf event in Newmarket, including public reading by the author (scheduled/unconfirmed)

90 days later: Kobo edition prepared and released via Kobo Writing Life

And in the meantime most of the action is being set up for other blogs. I have been approaching review bloggers about The Crown Princess’ Voyage, and for most of them this means bundling The Gift-Knight’s Quest with it as well. Some of them have offered to review both as a result of my focus on the one, which is fine. When you are trying to promote the second in a series, and you know the first wasn’t the most well known even in the indie world, it’s common practice to offer a free digital copy of the previous book in the series. Some blogs want the entire series if they haven’t read it yet, in order to understand a fourth or fifth book for example, so I have it easy; The Gift-Knight Trilogy is, well, planned to be a trilogy. Any further works in the universe won’t require anyone to have read The Gift-Knight Trilogy.

The next book is in progress, but slowly at that. I was never quite sure how I would manage NaNoWriMo with all the work I have on the go, but a bit more plotting beforehand would have been nice. Thanks a lot, Past Dylan!

VIDEO: Unboxing my proof copies

These days I make the effort to personally caption every new video, because the auto-caption does its best but is way off the mark at times.

I may one day reach back to older videos and caption them, but they don’t necessarily get watched much, and that’s probably a good thing.

ARCs of The Crown Princess’ Voyage will become available

The first two books of the Gift-Knight trilogy, side by side.

What have I been doing all this time since Fresh Fiction Daily ended?

Well, I’ve been setting up the second book of the Gift-Knight trilogy, The Crown Princess’ Voyage, in CreateSpace. I am over 50% of the way through the final (intended) edit of this first edition. I am setting up the cover, ISBN, etc.

But I’m going to withhold approval, and incidentally release, until very early May of 2017. Why? Because I want to be able to offer 6-month Advance Reader Copies to bloggers and reviewers who require that amount of time in advance.

I will privately contact many bloggers/reviewers who already accepted The Gift-Knight’s Quest for review, because they will at least have the first book in the series ahead of this one in their queue. They may have already read TGKQ and this new book picks up pretty much where the first left off.

This also means that the Wattpad early edition of TCPV has gone hidden, along with the preview edition of TGKQ, and the Tumblr edition and its table of contents are completely wiped. It was up there for early readers to enjoy, for nearly a month. If you didn’t have time, it probably wasn’t an urgent read for you, and you’re going to get a necessarily improved version by May 2017.