Forbidden Road

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000032_00050]On friday, February 1, 2013 the kindle version of Forbidden Road, Book II in the Tower of Bones series will launch, followed closely by the print version.  The print version may be delayed if there are any formatting issues, but it should be through the process by February 15th at the latest.

In print form these books are the size of good doorstops, but not quite as big as most of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.

Someone asked me how I could write a book a year, and that made me laugh.  I suppose it LOOKS like that’s what I have done, but in actuality I began writing Tower of Bones in March of 2009. I have two manuscripts going at all times so they do seem to roll out at the rate of one per year, but I was actually two or more years in the writing process for each book before they went to publication.

Tower of Bones began its life as the walk-through for an old-school style RPG along the lines of Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. My nephew Ryan and I thought would be fun to build something we could play and perhaps market as there is a large community of player who enjoy the old games. The game fell through but I liked the storyline and made it into a novel. But, by 2010 I realized it was never going to fly in the form I had originally created it.

In its first incarnation, Tower of Bones read in the “He is; he does; he goes” style of a Brady walk-through.  Not real 51S0EMXZRAL__SL500_AA300_easy to get into as a reader! Present tense: The events of the plot are depicted as occurring now—at the current moment—in real-time. (e.g. “They drive happily. They have found their way and are now preparing to celebrate.”) In English this tense, known as the “historical present”, is more common in spontaneous conversational narratives than in written literature. A recent example of this is the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

You don’t even want to know the agony that I went through in changing the viewpoint of the entire 150,000 word ms from that awkward present tense point of view to the standard  third person point of view.  Not only that, I had begun Forbidden Road in the same style!  Oh, my goodness–2010 was the year in which Grandma could frequently be heard exclaiming things like, “Sassafras!  And Dirty Words!”

Alison DeLuca and my sister Sherrie DeGraw pored over that ms trying to help me clean it up, and finally by the end of 2011 it was done.

Now, three years after I began Forbidden Road it is in the grinder at Amazon, and the launch day approaches. It just looks like I am chugging them out  one a year.  I have already been working on Huw the Bard for 15 months, and Mountains of the Moon has been in the works for 18 months (and is still not finished.)  Valley of Sorrows (book 3 in Tower of Bones series) has been in the works since November and NaNoWriMo

2010 was also the year I began The Last Good Knight as a NaNoWriMo project. I allowed myself to rush into publishing it when it was not ready.  It is now readable, largely to the assistance of both Rachel Tsoumbakos and Carlie Cullen.  I admit that my view of my own work is skewed by my growing as an author and gaining experience as an editor.  It may be that I see my work in a worse light than the casual reader would, but in my opinion there were enough speed bumps in Billy’s Revenge 1 – TLGK to gag the dog.

One thing I have been working on is dealing with (if I may descend into technical terms) is Hinky Formatting Issues and VooDoo Readability.  Anyone who has ever read an e-book knows what I am talking about, although they may not realize what has caused the strange  appearance of  random question marks where apostrophes should be.  Strange formatting issues are also responsible for the way paragraphs will randomly lose their indentations, making a page look like a wall of words.

Unfortunately several wordprocessing programs are rife with hidden formatting, so if your ms began life in Open Office, you will need to strip all the formatting out of your work and reformat it, saving it as a .RTF.  It gets even more complicated if you switched to using Word halfway through.  As a rule, I strip all the formatting and completely reformat all my manuscripts before I upload them now, it saves time and curse words later.  Rich Text Format files (signified by the extension .rtf) can also be argued to be safer than Word documents, (or .doc and .docx.) This is also, again, because .rtf uses text-based encoding. In simple terms, it’s pretty much impossible for Word to mess up .rtf files, because they are text-based: if there is a mistake while opening the file, the worst that will happen is that Word will open it as a text file, which will look like this:

 \par A question that may often come to the mind of people who watch Mexican soap
operas is, \ldblquote Who the heck invented this ridiculous plot that consists
of the love af
fair between a rich guy and a poor girl who end up getting
married in the end despite all the adversity??\rdblquote This idea,
overexploited and completely clich\’e9

If there is a failure in .rtf you can at least read it.  BUT the optimal goal is to have NO Formatting Failures so never rush to publish.  If you are an indie you can simply move your launch date back until you have straightened out your issues.  Use the option to review it in the handy reader KDP provides when you publish with them.  B&N for Nook also has this option.  Order proofs from your print-publisher and make sure your book looks the way you want it by going over every page of the proof copies line by line before you hear back from your friends that your book is a mess.

In the end I am responsible for what my work looks like so I have to do the footwork and make sure my formatting issues are all solved before the launch date.  This requires both a calendar and the will to use it. Plan for a week of playing with your uploads to Kindle and CreateSpace before your projected launch date, and hopefully your work will go smoothly enough that you won’t need the extra time. Authors are notorious for leaving everything to the last-minute but I do suggest you don’t procrastinate in this endeavor.  Random things go sideways and need to be redone. You’ll be much happier if you do the responsible thing and leave yourself plenty of wiggle-room during the crazy week leading up to your launch.

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