The hard part of NETHERWORLD is finished

NETHERWORLD NOW EXISTS

It’s a funny thing about books.

They start out not existing – an idea, notes, thoughts, bits of characterization are not a book (ask anyone who writes).

And then, for me, such a long time goes by before all the organization and notes start to take on form, even though I tell people that Pride’s Children was vouchsafed to me as a unit, with basically all of the major plot points, and the three main characters, and some of the setting coming as a finished story, one I would have read if it had been available.

But that day in 2000 is over twenty years in the past, and, though I’ve worked on the tangible form continuously, it’s been slow going.

PURGATORY was proof

of principle, of the ability to create something that wasn’t there, of the ability to learn how to write, somehow, to the standards of the vast reading background of writers good and bad and in between.

I did that – in late 2015.

I learned every single step in the process between idea and having an ebook and print book available for sale on Amazon. Every speck of that is me.

I had support. And mentoring when I asked for it. The internet is wonderfully supportive for writers who ask questions nicely and have done the work.

I found my cover mentor – J.M. Ney-Grimm – and my beta reader – Rachel Roy Gavris – online, on writer’s sites. I am eternally grateful for their advice and help.

The second book is another kind of proof

The world is full of people who had a very hard time creating the second book. It’s a cliche in traditional publishing: writer debuts to acclaim (the book was written over many years, or in school) – and cannot seem to write another (time pressures, deadlines, expectations). It even has a name: ‘the sophomore slump.’

And now NETHERWORLD exists

The complete story, from a continuation of the faux New Yorker article that begins it, through epigraphs and chapter titles, to ‘TO BE CONCLUDED’ at the very end of Chapter 40, promising the end of the story, the third book of the trilogy, as soon as I can write it (you don’t want to see the very rough draft).

Its cover is in my head. I have a title and cover for the third book, but am not sure I’m ready to commit, so I’ll call ‘LIMBO (& PARADISE?)’ or just ‘LIMBO’ a working title, and see how it goes.

I have a very long list of steps to take for NETHERWORLD, and it’s a little daunting how little I remember from last time, and how the publishing parts may have changed in the interim so I will have to start from scratch on some things.

The good part? Since I work only in finished scenes, and my beta reader processes each chapter as I finish it, the text is final. The editing and proofing is done as I go, and is not a long task ahead of me fraught with potential pitfalls, but a finished chore.

The years of writing, moving cross-country and fitting into a new community, getting back to writing – are finished, too. This is it – our forever home. I may even eventually get plants on the balcony (the writing has been more important up until now).

There is a lot of work to do

This post is part of girding my writing loins to do all those missing steps, from registering a final copy with the Library of Congress, through learning the new Pixelmator version to turn the cover in my head into one on the page, to figuring out again how to run the text from Scrivener through Word to Amazon, this time adding a hard cover version for both books because it is available, and exploring Large Print.

I did the obvious: I’ve contacted various companies for help with formatting and covers – which I would rather pay for than do – but I haven’t found one yet that will do it my way. After several months of looking, I give up. I’m too persnickety, too opinionated, and not the least interested in them putting my second book through one of their templates. And have been told that the covers proposed wouldn’t be similar and they can’t use my fonts.

I should have expected that – but I did have hopes I might be able to get someone else to do the hard work part, and now I don’t. It will, again, take me less time, and cause me less stress, not to try to get other people to do what I want.

It’s entirely MY fault.

So be it.

At least I can say that, when you get one of my books, it’s all me. For whatever it’s worth.

ARCs out into the world

I don’t know when I will have NETHERWORLD available as an ARC for those who are willing to CONSIDER writing reviews, but it’s high on the list.

I have signed up for BookSprout to manage the review copies and reviews – if interested, check it out; it’s set up for a campaign for PURGATORY right now, and I hope some people will read and review it in preparation for reading and reviewing NETHERWORLD. Accounts are free, of course, for readers.

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I just thought you’d like to know.

Should mention here that the time between final text and publication is typically 18-24 MONTHS for traditionally-published novels; I doubt it will take me more than 3.

Updates will be here.

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Can historical fiction be about 2005?

WHO DECIDES?

‘HISTORICAL NOVEL’ IS A DEFINITION WHICH NEEDS EXAMINING

Just for the fun of it, I’m going to argue that fiction from the early part of the 21st Century can, in some important ways, be considered historical – and I’m only partly tongue-in-cheek.

You decide for yourself.

I have ulterior motives which will be revealed at the end.

The usual, most conservative definition is: fiction from before you reached consciousness, or 60 years ago, whichever is further back in time (Historia Magazine), which quotes

The Historical Writers Association as choosing 50 years in the past, and

The Historical Novel Society as having selected 30 years ago, and

The Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction at an even more conservative 60 years ago.

Readers of ‘historical fiction’ have their own favorite definitions – which I won’t list, as they’re almost as varied as the readers themselves, and include everything from Neanderthals to Diana Gabaldon to, well, however recently your own definition sets the limit.

The 21st Century has been extraordinarily, uh, busy

A short (edited) list of events in a century of unceasing and exponential change, leaving a big bunch out, includes:

  • 2000- USS Cole Attacked
  • 2000-Hilary Clinton Elected to Senate
  • 2000-George W Bush Elected President
  • 2001-9/11Attack on New York and Washington
  • 2001-U.S. and Great Britain Attack Afghanistan
  • 2001- Anthrax Attacks U.S.
  • 2001-Enron Bankruptcy
  • 2002-Congress Authorizes Force Against Iraq
  • 2002- United Airlines Files For Bankruptcy
  • 2003- Shuttle Explodes on Reentry
  • 2003- U.S. Invades Iraq
  • 2003- Blackout in Northeast
  • 2004-Abu Gharib Prison Abuse
  • 2004- 9/11 Commission
  • 2004- President Bush Reelected
  • 2005 Hispanic Mayor of Los Angeles2005
  • 2005- Hurricane Katrina Devastates Gulf Coast
  • 2006- Tesla Roadstar Introduced
  • 2007- iPhone Introduced
  • 2007- Virginia Tech Shooting
  • 2008 Barak Obama to be Democratic Candidate
  • 2008 Lehman Brothers Declares Bankruptcy
  • 2009- Barak Obama Inaugurated President
  • 2009- General Motors Declares Bankruptcy
  • 2010 Affordable Care Act Passed
  • 2010 Elena Kagan Fourth Female Justice
  • 2010 US Combat Mission Ends in Iraq
  • 2011 Osama Bin Laden Killed by US Forces
  • 2012 Hurricane Sandy
  • 2012 Obama Reelected
  • 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing
  • 2014 Janet Yellen to Head Federal Reserve
  • 2015 Supreme Court – Same Sex Marriage
  • 2016-Donald Trump Elected
  • 2017- FBI Director Fired
  • 2017- Equifax Data Breach
  • 2018- Trump Leaves Iran Nuclear Accord
  • 2018-Contentious G7 Meeting
  • 2018-US North Korean Summit
  • 2018-12 Russian GRU Officers Indicted
  • 2018-Trump Putin Meet in Helesinki
  • 2018-Trump Addresses UN
  • 2018-Brett Kavanaugh Confirmed to the Supreme Court
  • 2018-Massacre at Synagogue in Pittsburgh
  • 2018-Mattis Resigns After Trump Announcement on Syria
  • 2019-Nancy Pelosi Speaker
  • 2019-Government Shut Down Ends after 35 Days
  • 2019-Mueller Report Released on Trump and Russia
  • 2019-House Votes to Impeach President Trump
  • 2020-COVID-19 Spreads Around the World
  • 2020-Vice President Biden Becomes Presumptive Democratic Nominee
  • 2020-Space-X Launches Astronauts to Space Station
  • 2020-Former Vice President Biden Elected President
  • 2021-Insurrection in Washington- The Capitol is Attacked
  • 2021-Second Impeachment Trial of Donald Trump
  • 2021- Taliban Victorious in Afghanistan US Evacuates 122,000
  • 2022- Supreme Court Rules on Vaccine Mandates

So, if you want to be picky, there has been an awful lot of ‘history’ happening since the turn of this century, compared to many previous centuries, and the pace of innovation and change has been accelerated enormously.

Has it really only been FIFTEEN YEARS since the introduction of the iPhone?

Yup.

And the events I’m writing about in Pride’s Children (the original planned date for the whole story was 2001/2002, but was moved to 2005/2006 when it became obvious I wasn’t going to write it very quickly, and those years worked better for many reasons) are from BEFORE 9/11.

Think about it: there were mobile phones and flip phones, but no iPhones.

For the younger readers (only some of the more widely-read of whom are in my ‘target demographic’) our there, Pride’s Children is ‘before consciousness.’

But I’d like to argue that so much has happened – AND everyone knows about instantly if they so choose – that the actual events of 2005/2006, background to the story – are almost quaint and old-fashioned BY COMPARISON.

Why am I poking at this?

Mostly because ‘historical fiction’ almost means ‘before it affected me’, even for many well-read adults.

It is almost safe to read about events as long ago as 2005 – interesting, a setting for a good story, but not likely oscillate wildly in meaning itself. As, say, WWII events and novels.

And it’s a nice category to list a book in on Amazon – because it’s a huge category with a lot of readers. And, of course, my main bugaboo: mainstream has disappeared as a category.

Read that again: what used to be the LARGEST category of ‘good fiction,’ mainstream fiction or simply ‘novels,’ is not a searchable category on the largest online bookstore in, well, history.

The categories have been sliced and diced and chopped very fine – you can pick a psychological Amish thriller with a strong female lead set in Western Montana. But you can’t browse through mainstream fiction as you used to be able to walk through the fiction section in bookstores, and browse by author.

If you don’t already know what you want, you’re not going to find it on Amazon.

But, if I can recategorize Pride’s Children as 21st Century Historical Fiction – a whole bunch of potential readers might be able to find it – and be intrigued into trying PURGATORY. And then NETHERWORLD, which is about to come out – and stay in a nice safe category of novels set in a reasonable past.

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What do you think?

Do I have the ghost of an argument here? Feel free to make your own definition of ‘historical.’

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What can I do for you?

A STORY WHICH WILL MAKE YOU THINK AND FEEL.

Entertainment which will fill a large number of hours.

My best writing.

Not to stop until the story is exactly what I want it to be.

Because there won’t be that many from me – I am too slow.

What do other authors promise you?

Aside from their books, other authors seem to be promising more and more these days:

Their presence in person at a conference on a panel.

Their Instagrams.

Their Tik Tok or Book Tok videos.

Their FaceBook pages.

Their bookmarks and book plates and tote bags and the ability to purchase artwork of your favorite characters and cosplay costumes and…

Even their voice on your answering machine (go to Cameo and search).

I would if I could but I can’t so I won’t.

Self-published AND traditionally published authors are having to do more marketing and merchandising and promotion – to stand out in a world where everything flashes and glitters and moves.

Each new thing I can’t do bemuses me more.

I see the rationale – and I’m now farther behind in ‘doing what I should’ than I was when I started writing.

But what do you really need from your books?

To be dragged away to a same/different universe where you can live another life/lives and come back having been someone else for a long while.

You need something that will stick with you long after you close the book.

You need a story.

You need characters you care about living something that makes you want to go with them.

You want surprises, and implausibles turned into possibles, and to know that sometimes the good guys win.

You want something that will drag you back down into its depths if you are foolish enough to open it and start reading (I’ve tried to ‘study’ GWTW a number of times, to see how Margaret Mitchell does it, only to find myself immersed in the story and reading for hours again).

You want something that is uniquely your experience crafted out of the author’s half on the page, because care was given to making sure you are a participant and not an observer.

You want to find YOUR authors, the ones who do this to you.

If you’re my kind of reader – and I hope you are.

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Five scenes to finish NETHERWORLD.

But they have to be perfect.

Hang in there – I’m working on it.

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Chapter 38 – Be careful what you ask for

The more common quote is ‘Be careful what you wish for – you might get it.’

I have used ‘ask’ for a very specific reason, and this is one of those quotations that are attributed to many in its different varieties, but are not attributable in a particular form to a written source.

A bit of meaningless numerology that amused me: Chapter 38 came in at 8,819 words, but when I went to add that to my running total, I got 177,777 words, and it made me think of a car’s odometer rolling over.

As I said, easily amused.

Each of the novels is twenty chapters, and, as I have numbered them consecutively from Book 1, Pride’s Children: PURGATORY, you can see I’m two chapters – six scenes – short of the end of NETHERWORLD, and even I’m getting excited to write the final form of these scenes.

The end is both a satisfying conclusion to this part of the story, and the beginning of the final part, and has its own theme.

PURGATORY’s theme was friendship, especially the rarer kind of friendship between a man and a woman.

Booksprout.co will be managing my Advanced Reader Copies

I’m trying something new for this year: letting Booksprout get involved in the process of obtaining more reviews for the novels, and, I hope, providing me access to some reviewers I wouldn’t otherwise have any way of contacting.

It’s a trial basis, and may not be the best way to get new reviewers, since that depends on their database including readers for mainstream fiction, but it also will make it a bit more convenient for me in getting the ARCs to reviewers and in listing the results. I’ve been doing that all by hand, one lovely reviewer at a time, and it takes time, time I don’t mind, but time I could use doing the only job no one can take on for me – writing.

Up until now my approach has been to find readers whose reviews indicate they like similar books, and to craft individual letters. I love the results, and have met many people I now consider friends online (not the wrong kind of friends, Amazon!).

But word of mouth is slow because I’m slow, and only adds reviews when I have a bit of extra time that I can’t use for the writing directly.

We’ll see how it goes, and I’m still here and will handle any requests or problems personally, so that won’t change.

The reason I have non-writing time

these last two days is that, as one of the throng of the immunocompromised, I got my 4th shot, and second booster, of the Moderna vaccine – and yesterday was flu-like, but today I have a sore upper arm (not bad) and a general feeling of not being at the top of my usual game, so I’ve been doing a few other tasks.

Can’t wait to get back to 39.1.

All I’ve been contending with is reviewers who don’t accept self-published work but phrase it differently. I told one such – who may or may not change their mind – that self-published books hold up half the sky (probably a bigger proportion of TOTAL books).

I will update NETHERWORLD’s Table of Contents.

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Flying too close to the sun

Chapter 37 is finished, at 9,274 words for the chapter, 168,958 words total.

NETHERWORLD covers Chapters 21 through 40 in this story.

Since I work only in finished scenes, this means there are only ten scenes left in Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD, and I’m getting excited – the last nine are scenes I’ve been looking forward to writing since 2000.

The title of this post is the title of the chapter.

Remember what happened when Icarus did it? Thought so.

I’ve updated the Table of Contents.

I have the cover worked out in my head after some serious thinking about how the three volumes will work together, and, as a bonus, have the idea of the third volume’s cover also percolating but basically decided. The covers will be posted as I get them close to finished.

And the minute all this is published, I will go to the following morning in the story and plunge right into Book #3 of the trilogy – the one that will end the whole story. I hope it will go faster than the 15 and 7 years of the first two.

Advance Reader Copies for reviewers

If you reviewed PURGATORY, I will write to you to see if you would like an electronic ARC of NETHERWORLD to read and review.

If you would like to review NETHERWORLD, but haven’t reviewed PURGATORY, feel free to contact me. I think it’s best to read PURGATORY before reading NETHERWORLD, as the latter starts just a few days after the first one, but they do stand alone even though they share the same main characters, and many secondary ones.

ARCs are extremely close to the finished product; I prefer not to send out unfinished work!

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Prayers and good wishes gratefully accepted.

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An amuse bouche from the Netherworld

I fought with WordPress’ formatting in the current theme (Twenty Eleven), so that I could post the Table of Contents and the beginning of Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD.

It is possible to read this scene (though it might make a bit more sense otherwise) without having read PURGATORY; there are no major spoilers.

I would still recommend reading the first book first, especially since it’s 0.99* (and worldwide equivalents) in ebook until January 20, 2022, but I’m not the reading police, and each book stands alone reasonably well.

Plus you can see my writing style.

And have a bit more of Andrew’s snark.

And I don’t have Book #2 finished yet, and y’all know I’m slow if well-intentioned.

It will remind previous readers of the beginning of Book #1 – as we’re back on Night Talk with Dana the shark.

Watch the NETHERWORLD tab – under construction.

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*An easy way to keep a writer motivated, and now an inexpensive stocking stuffer.

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Progress report on Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD

With a long novel, and me not being one of the people who count their drafts in words written (so I can’t put up a progress bar), it is easy to wonder if the writer is on permanent vacation (certain fans of GRRM – to whom I’m certainly not comparing myself – will know what I mean).

Complexity takes more time to set up, and more time to write.

NETHERWORLD has turned out to be significantly harder to get started than I expected, and I’m barely nearing the end of Chapter 1, but a lot of the time since I started writing it in early 2016 has been spent on setting up timelines and plotlines in great detail so that I hope not to have to find out about plot holes the hard way (when Rachel, my lovely beta reader, asks one of her incisive questions).

I’m pretty sure it’s going to go a lot faster from here on (though I may have to slow down a bit at the end to make sure the ending is just right: finishing off a part of the story and setting up the remaining book of the trilogy).

Now that the election is over, writing (which I’m doing instead of following it) has become a refuge, and an easy place to spend my time.

You may be interested in a post on my writing blog about the process, There is always a new writing fear.

And, be assured, I am hard at work. I know where it goes and how it ends, but not the words. And the words, built on a solid structure, are the best part for the writer.

So much to do, so little time, so little brain!

Please talk back.

You like a writer’s style and voice – or you don’t

let fiction bloomEDITING? REALLY?

Way back in the dark ages, I submitted the manuscript (digiscript?) of Pride’s Children to an organization dedicated to vetting indie novelists, and giving them a ‘Seal of Approval’ which could be used on the cover of their novel to indicate ‘quality’ or ‘goodness’ or ‘lack of indie crap content.’ I will call them XXX.

And then I forgot all about it.

I just received their reply, a reply to which I take a great deal of umbrage.

Here is their email:

Dear Alicia,

I regret to inform you that your book Pride’s Children did not gain XXX approval. Our assessor said that though the book had an interesting premise, it would need a thorough line edit before it could be considered for approval.

In particular, she found the following issues:

Extreme overuse of incomplete sentences to the point where it becomes a repetitive sentence structure.

Too many short choppy sentences and heavily divided sentences make the reading scattered.

Subjects of focus erratic and hard to follow both in paragraph and some sentences:
“True, Thomas Pentell had insisted on an early dinner at Les Cles, almost too early for this Dior- she lengthened her neck, lifted her chin- cleavage only worked if you showed it.”

Breaking the fourth wall (see above sentence – not the only one)

Switching of perspective between first and third person

Too much description – telling not showing

Should you wish to re-submit after having the book line edited, you will need to use the form on the Submission page and pay a fee of $50.

If you are unsure of the difference between a line and a copy edit, please read this article [link removed] on the four kinds of editing

We also recommend you read The Elements of Active Prose: Writing Tips to Make Your Prose Shine

Regards from,

C.J
XXX Submissions

Please note: we do not enter into any discussion on the results of submissions.
Do not reply to this email. No one checks the account, so no one will see it.

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There are many things wrong with this ‘assessment,’ but I summed them up in a short email:

Dear CJ:

I regret to inform you that it is doing fine as it is; any ‘line edit’ would absolutely destroy the style and voice.

The ‘flaws’ you point out are deliberate choices.

Those who like it, love it. It is gathering a nice bunch of reviews on Amazon.

Thanks for your consideration.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt, PhD

I sent the email – and then realized there was a donotreply on the email address, so I decided to put it up here instead (though I doubt anyone from XXX will see it).

I have detailed some of those deliberate choices in my post Rules for punctuating consistently: a writer’s unique style.

For example, and to confirm I know the difference between first and third person pov, I use First person and italics to indicate direct internal monologue (ie, an actual thought the character has in exactly those words); there are one or two of those in places where we have access to the character’s thoughts. For indirect internal monologue (general musing), I use Third person and no italics, and that is how we see the story, from the three characters’ points of view. Orson Scott Card taught me how to vary the Third person distance; once you get the hang of it, you can do everything from describing the landscape to being in the character’s head at his/her most intense moments.

I NEVER break the fourth wall.

ALL description is done from the point of view of the characters, a SINGLE character per scene.

And if XXX had bothered to look carefully, the dialogue in that little exchange where Bianca is reviewing in her mind the meeting she just had with Pentell, as she is being driven home, is very carefully marked with single quotes – memories – to distinguish it from the conversation she is simultaneously having with Michael in the car.

It takes a long time for a writer to develop a voice.

You either like what I’m doing – or you don’t get it, and don’t like it, because it isn’t the way you’re used to getting stories fed to you. There isn’t much I can do about that.

But the thought of what a ‘line edit’ from someone like their ‘assessor’ – who has no idea what I’m doing consistently and on purpose – would do to Pride’s Children made my stomach hurt.

Thanks for letting me rant – if you got this far.

Have you had a similar experience with an ‘editor’ – either as a writer or in school? Business English and fiction have no commonalities!

Complete sentences? Really?

Please share your pain.

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*Thanks to Stencil for the ability to make 10 free image/quotes per month, more with a paid account.