nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Archive for the ‘writing a novel’ Category

Book Cover – Land Between the Furrows

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I have been working on the cover painting for the new book in the Kaye Eliot Mysteries: Land Between the Furrows.

First, I do a pencil drawing of the idea I have for the cover. In this book, grind stones from a local grist mill figure in the mystery.

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Then I do a painting, based on the pencil drawing. This painting is in acrylics, 16″ by 20″.

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Finally, I create the cover. This is, for me, the hardest step. I take the photo of the painting into GIMP, crop to get the correct dimensions (6″ by 9″) and scale the image to 360 dpi (pixels per inch). Then I bring the image into the KDP Cover Creater and add the text and so on.

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The book will be ready to go live on March 15, 2021.

All my best,

Jane

Coming Soon: New Title in the Kaye Eliot Mystery Series

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Every afternoon, I spend some time working on reviewing/revising the proof of my new mystery in the Kaye Eliot Series. I have a cozy spot to work, in my big reading chair in front of the fireplace. Not hard to take a fanciful flight to Nova Scotia where the mystery unfolds.

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The new book focuses on stones of various types and the part they play in our history: gemstones, millstones, standing stones, building stones. It may take a while for readers to understand the title of the book: Land Between the Furrows.

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In each book, I include three illustrations. Here is one of the three: an old grist mill and its grind stones figure in the mystery. This drawing will be the basis for the painting featured on the book’s cover.

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In this book, Kaye finds a stack of very old postcards that tell the story of a missing stone. Kaye welcomes the chance to solve a puzzle with her kids but some of the visitors to the community make their sleuthing a little dangerous. Then the family discovers the ruin of an old stone house on an unexplored part of their property and finding the missing stone may be only part of their venture into history.

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Land Between the Furrows is planned for release on March 15, 2021. A perfect cozy mystery to enjoy during these long winter afternoons.

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All my best!

Jane

2021 writing plans

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I am a planner by nature and so I have plans for my writing life in 2021. My main writing work will be to publish the third in my Kaye Eliot Mysteries: Land Between the Furrows and the ninth and tenth books in my science fiction series: Meniscus: Meeting of Minds and Meniscus: Rosetta Stone. These books are all in final draft, so my work will be to revise and format for publication. For creative work, I will begin drafting the fourth Kaye Eliot Mystery: Stained Glass.

I also want to continue with publication of my older poems. In 2020, I completed three books of these: ghosts are lonely here; niche; and blueberries and mink – summers on my grandfather’s farm.

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I have plans to repeat this in 2021. I have three poetry books in mind.

  • waterfall : this manuscript won Honorable Mention in the Writers’ Federation Competition for the Alfred Bailey Poetry Prize in 2012; it includes poems about waterfalls in New Brunswick, about waterfalls inspired by Dante’s Inferno and about waterfalls as metaphors for struggles with relationship.
  • mystery: poems about the mystery in my life. These would include whimsical interpretations of space and time, ghost stories, my approach to urban legend and nature myth, and perhaps my observations of the night sky.
  • a glimpse of sickle moon: this manuscript won Third Place in the Writers’ Federation Competition for the Alfred Bailey Poetry Prize in 2020. These are poems about the natural world as it moves from season to season; deciding how to group the poems will be the biggest challenge.

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To complete these books, I will have to review/revise some of the poems, draw any associated illustrations and do the formatting.

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The agenda I set for myself may sound daunting, but I am driven by goals and I am retired, meaning I have lots of time to spend on this part of my life.

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All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

January 6, 2021 at 7:00 am

Starting a new book 3

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So the first draft of my new Meniscus book is written. I have completed a Table to help me through revisions. Now I will do a series of scans to make certain the book is the best it can be.

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Revision 1: Refinements. I read through the draft, making edits and adjustments. This includes alterations to punctuation, alternative word selections, re-phrasing to refine the cadence, spelling, suiting of dialogue to character and so on. Of all the revision stages, this step takes the most time and effort.

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Revision 2. Continuity. Because my book is part of a series, I have to consider the action that occurs in previous books and in books-yet-to-come. I have thought through and written drafts for each future story in the series, so I can ‘see into the future’ and include small set-ups for future actions. I also have to make certain settings, characters and actions are consistent with respect to previous books. For example, today I found a place where a character with three brothers has only two in a past story. I also like repetition in series I read, so I have certain things I mention in every book: the scar on Odymn’s forehead, the moons, the tattoos on the Dock-winder’s necks, and so on. I keep a checklist of these in a writing compendium for the series.

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Revision 3. Conflict. Using my Table, I make sure each chapter includes a conflict. This could be an internal conflict, played out in the thoughts and actions of a single character, a conflict between two or more characters, or a conflict between character and setting (for example, a character wakes in a dangerous setting where breathing is difficult). I summarize each conflict in my Table.

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Revision 4. Change. I want each of my characters, major and minor, to have a want and a need, and show change during the book. For example, Odymn wants to return to her home on Earth, but to be happy, she needs to make a home for herself, even on an alien planet. By the end of the book, she will realize she will never return to Earth, but that home is where you find those you love.

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Revisions take time. The re-reading can make a writer bored with his/her own ideas. But every revision pays its own way in terms of improving the story for both the writer and reader.

After revisions, editing remains to be done. This includes conceptual, structural, substantive and line edits.

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Hoping you are making progress with your own writing,

and staying safe,

Jane (a.k.a. Alexandra)

Written by jane tims

December 10, 2020 at 7:00 am

Starting a new book 2

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Today, I finished the rough draft of my new book in the Meniscus Series. This book will deal with discovery of a secret that will bring down the nasty Dock-winders.

The working title of the book is Meniscus: Resistance.

Before you become amazed at my productivity, remember that my Meniscus stories are in narrative poetry and are a quick read. At this early stage, this book has 11,600 words.

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The next step in my process is tedious, but very helpful.

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I create a Table of Chapters. Each ‘Chapter’ in the table is described by ‘What happens,’ ‘Setting.’ ‘Point of view,’ ‘Characters,’ and ‘Theme Progress.’ I can work through my entire document:

  • change all the place holders to actual Chapter numbers;
  • make certain the setting is described in detail;
  • ensure point of view in each chapter is clear and does not waver;
  • list the characters in the chapter and ensure everyone has a role to play; and,
  • check on progress made towards resolution of the story.

Table of Chapters for Meniscus: of Resistance

ChapterWhat happensSettingPoint of ViewCharactersTheme Progress
PrologueJames escapesSpace dockJamesJames, D, DW, GH, Drag’onIntroduce  antagonists
1.Trath crawls from minebase of Flame MtnTrathTrathTrath escapes
2.Abra finds six glyphsobelisk at The TipAbraAbraAbra finds glyphs
3.Evening meal at Hath’menVillage of Hath’menOmniscientJames, Drag’on villagersDrag-on set apart
etc.     

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If the story is missing an ending, or has continuity issues, this building of the table helps me to focus on the story progress and, by the time the table is completed, the story is more complete.

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Once these tasks have been done, the Table of Chapters can be set aside and used later for any stage of the revision process. For example, I can check each chapter for phases of the moon, so the full moon doesn’t occur two days before the crescent moon! I also use the table to make certain the illustrations are evenly distributed throughout the text.

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Off I go, to fill out the Table of Chapters and to find an ending for my book.

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All my best!

Stay safe.

Jane

Written by jane tims

November 18, 2020 at 12:00 pm

starting a new book

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I love working on multiple writing projects at once. So it is no surprise to me that I have books and projects at all stages in development:

  • The next book in my Kaye Eliot Mysteries is in final draft (‘Land Between the Furrows,’ release date March 2021)
  • The next of my poetry books (‘niche‘) is in proof stage (release December 2020)
  • I have just released the next book in the Meniscus Science Fiction Series (Meniscus: The Knife) and the next is in final Draft (‘Meniscus: Meeting of Minds,’ release date May 2021).

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So, this week, in the narrow crack between revisions, I have started to draft another in the Meniscus Series. Tentatively entitled ‘Meniscus: Resistance,‘ this will be the last in the Meniscus Series (she says).

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It has been so long since I started a new book, I have forgotten how the process unfolds.

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1. A long time thinking, while doing other things, about the theme … how this book will connect with the last, who the characters will be, where the action will occur and so on.

2. A few sleepless nights, staring at the ceiling, thinking about opening scenes, how my characters are feeling and precipitating events.

3. Eventually I am ready to start the first drafting. For this, I need a relaxing, familiar space. I like to sit on the sofa in my living room, so most of the drafting will be on my iPad in the Word app. At some points, I may shift my focus and do some writing in longhand.

4. Even during drafting, I start revising. I go back and forth, moving details around, gleaning from earlier books to avoid inconsistencies, refining ideas. Some days I turn to the main computer to do a read-through and correct spelling and syntax, and to start to refine the poetry of the story-telling.

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Of all the parts of the writing process, the early drafting is my favourite. It is also (for me) the quickest. By starting a new project, I have resolved to follow through with later revision work, illustration (including the cover art), formatting and marketing.

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So, here I am in happy land, pushing my characters around, and sometimes trying to catch up to them …

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All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

November 12, 2020 at 7:00 am

a book launch with a twist

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Anyone in the Fredericton, New Brunswick area, mark your calendars! On next Sunday, August 23, from 1:00 to 4:00, Chuck Bowie and I will launch two new mystery books at Westminster Books.

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This will be a launch with a few differences. No cake, no refreshments. No readings. No hugs. Just Chuck and Jane, probably at different ends of the bookstore. With masks. Only a few fans at a time.  But we will talk to you and answer all questions you have about writing mysteries (no spoilers, sorry). I will bring the two cover paintings for ‘How Her Garden Grew‘ and ‘Something the Sundial Said‘ and I will bring a sundial and a Grinning Tun seashell, key symbols from my mysteries. Be sure to ask Chuck how the hops vine figures into his mystery ‘Death Between the Walls.’ And ask me what creepy Marion (in ‘Something the Sundial Said‘) keeps on her coffee table as a paper-weight!

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Wish you were all close enough to come to the launch!

All my best!

Jane

clues in a mystery

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I am still revising my novel, the third in my Kate Eliot Mystery series: Land Between the Furrows.

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A mystery places additional demands on both writer and reader. It is the writer’s job to present the mystery, include clues to solve the mystery and then, work with the reader — ta da! — to solve the mystery. It is the reader’s job to accept the challenge of solving the mystery, look for clues, put them together and work with the writer to solve the mystery. The result is a story and plot where the writer and reader collaborate.

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Mine is a cozy mystery. In this book, there is something to find. At first it is not clear what the something is, but gradually its characteristics are revealed and the location (where the object is hidden) is revealed. The mystery uses a device, a stack of post cards and the messages on them, to present the clues.

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Most of the information is sorted through the gradual telling of the story and by the end of the first draft, I have a rough idea of the way clues will be distributed through the book. But, as for all writing, adjustment and revision is usually needed.

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To do this, I use two tools. One is my Table of Chapters and Scenes. The other is my List of Clues.

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So take a simple mystery. I have hidden an object in this room. There are really two sets of clues 1. What is the object? and 2. Where is it hidden? In a simple, straightforward mystery, the clues should be presented in a logical way and information should be progressive.

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Library

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So, here is the room.

List of Clues

What is the item? the clues are:

  • it’s cold
  • it tastes delicious
  • it’s purple
  • it’s on a stick

Where in the room is the item hidden? the clues are:

  • in the library
  • on a library shelf
  • in a hollow book
  • name of the book: “Warm Day”

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I use the Table of Chapters to make sure the clues are distributed completely and in order. These Table is not complete (there are probably ten chapters in this simple book), but this will give you the idea.

chart

Of course there can be complexities: clues within clues; red herrings; dead ends; twists and turns.

By the time the book is near the end, I want to make sure all the clues have been given.

And Kaye and her kids get the Popsicle.

popsicle

All my best,

staying safe,

Jane

 

 

Written by jane tims

June 22, 2020 at 7:01 am

dates, days and seasons

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After the first draft is complete, after I’ve done a little work on continuity, I take another step in ordering the manuscript. I assign dates to each chapter and scene of the book. In the kind of mystery story I write, it is useful to the reader to know the date as the story progresses.

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This is important for several reasons:

  1. I have children in my Kaye Eliot mysteries and I want to be certain that student Katie is actually home (and not in school) for her scenes
  1. my characters often interact with government professionals. They don’t usually work on weekends.
  1. my book is set in Nova Scotia where the seasons change; knowing the date gives me information on the likely weather
  2. my protagonist, Kaye Eliot, is a botanist, so from her point of view, the vegetation is an important part of her descriptions of setting. To help with this, I keep a setting journal, so I know that apple blossoms are out around May 30, lilacs are in bloom in mid-June and lupins line the roads from mid-June to early July.
  3. I often put the phases of the moon in night scenes. Knowing the date lets me assign the correct phase of the moon to my settings. Have you ever read a book where the full moon shines all month long?
  4. Knowing the date lets me weave long weekends and holidays into my story.

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My book is set in 1996. A quick Google search will find me a calendar for that year. Believe it or not, most phone books once included a calendar for every possible year. No longer necessary.

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As I said before, my Table of Chapters is a useful tool for keeping track of dates, days and seasons. I can refer to it to get an instant idea of how much time has passed and where I have “time” to insert a new scene or chapter.

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All my best.

Staying home.

Working hard.

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Jane

Written by jane tims

June 17, 2020 at 7:00 am

continuity errors

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As I do revisions of my new manuscript, I find continuity errors in the First Draft. A perfect example cropped up today.

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The story revolves around the clues contained in a shoe box of post cards. About a quarter of the way through the book, someone steals the post cards. In the next chapter, Kaye and her friend Clara make a list of the post cards and a summary of the clues. Hard to do if they don’t have the cards with them! This kind of continuity error is easy to find and correct. Switching the chapters and correcting any new continuity errors is relatively easy.

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post cards

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Fixing continuity errors begins with identification.

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My main tools in this process are the “find” feature of my word processing software and a “table of chapters” that tracks the characteristics of each chapter. The table includes chapter-specific information on scenes, days/dates, setting, characters, Point of View, symbols and so on. This table is a lot of work, but it helps me over and over again during the review process.

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Sample Table

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In my search for continuity errors, I consider:

1. days and dates: I begin every chapter and scene with a day and date. This helps the reader to understand passage of time and helps me with time-related continuity errors. For example, Katie is in Grade 10 at school. On Tuesdays, she can’t be driving around with her mom looking for clues. The table lets me check on these various characteristics of the story and the time/order when events occur.

2. symbols used in the story: mentioned once in a story, a firepit is just a firepit. Mentioned twice, it begins to resonate; it refers to earlier mentions and takes on metaphorical meaning. Mentioned three times, it is all metaphor, a reminder of family, warm memories of a cold night and gathering. When these symbols are identified in the table of chapters, I can forward search on each symbol and read the context. The progression of meaning should be steady and discernible. Ideas out of order can be identified and their order fixed.

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3. character development: sometimes continuity errors are about an out-of-order character arc. When Clara’s home suffers a break-in, she is fearful and unwilling to trust strangers. When she meets Daniel, she learns to trust again, but the progression of this change must be logical and gradual.

4. gradual changes to setting: sometimes significant changes to setting create continuity errors. For example, in my book, an old road is bulldozed. The first time it is used it is muddy, almost impassible. When cars use the road later in the story, I have to explain the change with a spell of dry weather.

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Continuity errors can creep into a story in so many small ways. Character names, hair colour, vehicle make and model, even community names … everything needs to be checked. In the revision stage, it is important to review the story with intent and focus: continuity errors are most easily identified when the writer’s brain is attentive, alert. Drowsy-minded reviews are for finding and removing adverbs!

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All this effort is needed. Readers can be ripped from the world created by a book if the heroine with curly red hair suddenly has hair that is wispy and blond. Readers can be unforgiving.

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'Odymn and Vicki talk' (2016_12_30 00_28_35 UTC) (2)

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Have you ever found an unforgettable continuity error in a book?

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All my best.

Stay home, stay safe.

Jane

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