nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘writing a novel

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

first draft

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This past weekend, I finished the first draft of the third novel in the Kaye Eliot Mystery Series. This is my favorite part of the long process of working on a book.

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I plan my novel to an extent. From the beginning, I knew the basic story: Kaye Eliot finds a packet of old postcards and is set on a search for a valuable stone. The idea for the story was sparked way back in 1989 when I first saw an abandoned stone house during field work in Nova Scotia. I also had most of my characters to work with: Kaye and her husband and two kids. And Daniel Cutter, a stonemason, a character introduced in Book Two of the series. To read Book Two (Something the Sundial Said), click here.

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As I write, I let the characters and story take me where they want to go. Sometimes this takes me in unusual directions. Unless an idea is ridiculous, I usually run with it.

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The props I encounter in the story have their own push and pull. The stone house, the postcards, a stone chimney, a set of architectural plans. When these objects are repeated in the story, they become symbols of ideas in the book.

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stone house Upper Canada Village

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The next stage in writing is the revision. This means reading the book, cover to cover, over and over. I will fix the misspellings and grammar, I add some description. I polish the dialogue. I adjust the story points. I fix the names of villages and bridges and social groups in the story. I do some research. Revision takes the bulk of the time devoted to writing the book, probably 80%. I do at least ten revision sweeps.

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I love the first revision. Although I wrote the first draft, reading it for the first time, cover to cover, is like discovering a new book.

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stone wall

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Next post, I will talk about choosing a title for the book, not as easy as it may seem.

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All my best.

Please stay safe.

Jane

Written by jane tims

June 8, 2020 at 7:00 am

Pareidolia

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pareidolia: the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern

(Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

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When you look at marble, or at clouds in the sky, or bubbles in a glass of milk, do you see faces? Can you see The Man in the Moon? Pareidolia refers to the seeing of human faces or other images where they don’t exist. Pareidolia is a normal human tendency.

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I often see images in the marble patterns of our flooring. It can be quite entertaining. Mostly, I see animals. I think it is the biologist in me!

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Perhaps aliens also have pareidolia. In my upcoming book Meniscus: The Knife, I devote a chapter to this phenomenon. On planet Meniscus, there is a dirth of paper. One of my early characters, Ning, made paper from plant fibres for her girlfriend Kathryn, an artist. By Meniscus: The Knife, Book 8 in the series, (spoiler alert) only three sheets of Ning’s paper remain. Don-est, the alien child, wants to draw, so Kathryn shows her how to draw on the marble walls of the dwellings in the Village.

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Vicki sets her laundry

on the marble floor.

Tries to see

what Don’est is doing.

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As her eyes adjust

to smoky light,

she sees markings on the walls.

Drawings of bug-eyed evernells

and fuzzy elginards.

A slear-snake

with myriad eyes.

A cardoth moon,

slim sickle

of glowing white

in marble green.

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Don’est feels eyes on her.

Swivels her neck.

“What do you think

of my drawings?”

she says.

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“What are you doing?”

says Vicki.

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“I asked Kathryn for paper

but she has only a sheet or two

of the paper Ning made.

“So she showed me

an idea she had.

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“The marble walls,

you see,

have hidden secrets.

Lines and shadows

look like evernells

and Humans and slear-snakes

and grammid trees.”

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Vicki looks

at faint green lines on the walls.

Sees an old man in the pattern.

A thready waterfall.

A leaf-bare tree,

branches reaching for sky.

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“But what are you using to draw?”

she says.

Eyebrow pencil.

Kathryn and Ning

found it on a transport

long ago.”

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All my best,

staying at home,

drawing on the floors and walls,

Jane

Written by jane tims

June 5, 2020 at 7:00 am

next book in the Meniscus Series: the Cast of Characters

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Other writers often ask me about the use of a beta reader. Of course, I value their input and listen carefully to any suggestions about the book they have just read for me. In a series like Meniscus, the suggestions of the beta reader often help me more with the next book. Sometimes the suggestion has to do with the storyline or a particular character. Sometimes it is a suggestion that becomes integral to the whole series.

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When she read Book Two of the Series, Meniscus: South from Sintha, my beta reader Carol suggested adding a short description of each character in a compendium at the end of each book. I began to do this for the next book and now every book has a Cast of Characters.

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Since some of my characters are aliens, I group the characters as Humans, Argenops (benevolent furry creatures), Dock-winders (self-serving overlords), Gel-heads (unlikeable minions), and Others (animal companions and other sentient aliens).

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In the Cast of Characters I include information on the character’s role in the story, the character’s age, where the character lived on Earth, what they were doing when the Dock-winders harvested them, what Earth year they were taken, their occupation on Earth, their occupation on Meniscus and sometimes their motivation, faults or wants.

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Here is an example, a character description of Zachary, a carpenter and an important citizen of Themble Hill:

Zachary – survivor of the transport crash; 46 one-suns old; harvested by the Dock-winders in 2008 when he worked as a carpenter with his father’s company in Fargo, North Dakota; educated as an engineer; harvested as he made repairs to a roof during a wind storm; used by the Dock-winders as the laser-sawyer in a grammid mill; spent most of grad school playing Sonic the Hedgehog ™ and eating pickled eggs in the campus grad house.

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Sometimes I wish I could change the character description a bit to suit the story, but I try not to do that. I also include all of the characters mentioned in all of the books to date although they may not appear in the current book. So far, I have 41 characters, major and minor, who have appeared in the various books.

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All my best,

staying home and keeping in my two-family bubble,

Jane

Written by jane tims

May 8, 2020 at 7:00 am

segue

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segue

(verb) move without interruption from one song, melody or scene to another.

(noun) an uninterrupted transition from one piece of music or film scene to another.

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I am so happy today to be doing some creative work. For months I have been focused on edits and other work associated with my book releases. But today, I clicked on the draft of the fifth book in my Meniscus Series. And there are blanks in the writing! Places to add new ideas. A chance to create!
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Immediately, on a re-read, I identified a problem. Meniscus: Karst Topography follows two diverging (and then converging) story lines. From chapter to chapter, I switch from story line to story line, back and forth as many books do. However, in the draft, the transitions are sometimes quite abrupt. Instead, I want to help my reader by creating smooth changes from one story line to the next. I want to segue from one set of actions to another.
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Ways of creating smooth transitions, from chapter to chapter, action to action, or scene to scene:

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  • make sure the tone and rhythm of the writing are similar or appropriate in the transition. This may be particularly important since I am writing poetry. Sometimes, a smooth transition will occur because lines are of a similar length or number of beats, or because the tonal qualities of the poetry are similar. On the other hand, there may be places where an abrupt change is necessary to introduce an element of anxiety or surprize. I compare this to the background music in a movie, carrying the watcher from scene to scene, or changing abruptly to signal a crisis. In the following passage, the terse, rather short lines of Chapter 13 are focused on action verbs and are picked up by terse statements in Chapter 14:

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Madoline locks the door as she leaves.

Ignores the way to her cell

in the honeycomb.

Turns

towards the centre

of the city.

 

14.

Belnar throws down his pack.

“Not there,” he says.

“Big scandal afoot.

The cook gone.

Eighteen

unconscious

Gel-heads.

Nine dead

Dock-winders.”

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  • use a repeated idea or word to help transition the reader. An example might be the use of colour. Sometimes in movies characters are shown walking down a hallway, for example, and characters in the next scene are also walking down a hallway. In the following passage, the idea of swirling at the end of Chapter 1 is picked up by the word ‘confusion’ at the beginning of Chapter 2:

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Chill wind kisses cold rock.

Sweeps out, across the Darn’el.

Stirs desert and dust.

 

2.

Confusion in the village.

The women gone.

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  • have a character in the first scene think about a character in the second. In Chapter 9, the Dock-winder child Don’est remembers Kathryn and Chapter 10 takes us immediately to Kathryn in the Gel-head’s clutches:

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“And Kathryn

was a bedwarmer,”

says the Dock-winder child,

nodding, the wisp of a smile

on her thin lips.

Her knowledge

not appropriate

for her years.

 

12.

Kathryn waits in the cell

of the honeycomb.

Fiddles with a ring above her eye.

Tries to ignore confining walls,

paltry inflow of air.

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  • signal to the reader that something new is coming. If the location changes, name the new location to make sure the reader knows where the action is situated. In Chapter 7, Don’est, the Dock-winder child, reminds the others that she and the wolf-like Kotildi are also part of the community of Themble Hill. In Chapter 8, the action is taken far from the Themble Wood, in the city of Prell:

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Len, len.

And me,”

says Don’est.

“And tame Kotildi.

 

“Elan’drath

in the Themble Wood.

 

8.

Tal and Daniel in a room

as unlike the Themble Wood

as it is possible to be.

Del-sang ma’hath,

Acquisitions Tracking,

Prell.

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  • report on an event happening in the previous chapter. In the following passage, Odymn rocks the new baby in Chapter 22 and Vicki refers to the birth of the baby in Chapter 23:

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Odymn weeps when she sits with Malele

and rocks the tiny baby.

 

23.

“Fourteen days,”

says Vicki.

“Fourteen days

and we’ve made

no progress at all.

 

“Back in the Themble

Malele’s baby will have been born.

They will be wondering

if we will ever return.”

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So my first task in creativity is to look at each shift from one chapter to another and write in some segues. Sounds a little like editing to me!

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What do you think of the transitions I have written above? What devices do you use to make certain there is a smooth transition from one chapter to the next?

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Copyright 2018 Jane Tims 

Written by jane tims

February 7, 2018 at 10:26 am

Out Soon – the next book in the Meniscus Series!

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Within the next couple of days, my new book in the sci-fi series Meniscus will be out on Amazon, in paperback and Kindle versions.

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This book, Meniscus: Winter by the Water-climb, continues the love story of Odymn and the silent Slain, and follows a ragtag group of humans as they try to survive winter on the planet of Meniscus. New characters are introduced to the story and Odymn discovers a secret way to the Themble Wood.

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The book includes 21 of my drawings, an updated Map, a Glossary, a Gel-speak Dictionary and (New!) a guide to the Characters (as suggested by one of my beta-readers)!

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To buy the first two books in the Series, click here for Meniscus: Crossing The Churn and here for Meniscus: South from Sintha.  They are also available from Westminster Books, Fredericton.

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Copyright Jane Tims 2017

Meniscus: Crossing The Churn … on Kindle soon!

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I have had a frustrating week. However, I have accomplished what I set out to do. I have pressed the publish button on the Kindle edition of my book. It should be available in a couple of days.

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Say hello to Odymn and the Slain. My big problem was to get them from postage-stamp size to fill-the-page size.

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What an effort! My main challenge was putting my 25 drawings into the various types of e-book at a proper size.

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I googled for help for almost two weeks and tried every suggestion without luck. And at last I found the answer. I purchased a book by Aaron Shepard ( Pictures on Kindle – Self-Publishing Your Kindle Book with Photos, Art, or Graphics, or Tips on Formatting Your Ebook’s Images to Make Them Look Great (Shepard Publications, Friday Harbor, Washington, 2013-2016) available as an e-book from Amazon for $4.03 … the key was to switch on and off all the right boxes in Word ! You have no idea how deep the Word rabbit-hole goes!

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Copyright Jane Tims 2017

Meniscus: Crossing The Churn …. published!

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I am so proud to announce that my new science-fiction book Meniscus: Crossing The Churn is now available in paperback through Amazon.  The book is written in the form of a long poem and includes my pencil drawings.

 

 

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To quote the book cover:

On the alien planet Meniscus, Humans are slaves. Every twilight, Odymn runs through the forests of Meniscus, practicing the art of parkour. Her runs give her strength, flexibility and endurance, and a way to survive a life of servitude under the oppressive Dock-winders. When the silent Slain rescues her from a brutal encounter with a gang of Gel-heads, Odymn believes she has reached the end of her search for freedom. In their travels through the Prell’nan District of Meniscus, she and the Slain encounter dangerous woodlands, dramatic water-climbs and an impassable water churn. Odymn and the Slain work together to evade the Gel-heads and overcome the dangers of the landscape. But is Odymn really free or is she caught in a cycle of trying to escape the inevitable?

In the first of the Meniscus series, Crossing the Churn tells the story of the meeting of a young woman and a genetically-engineered Slain whose kindness may not be consistent with his purpose.

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This is the first book in a series of five, all in various stages of completion. I aim to publish a new book in the series every couple of months during 2017.

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I have published this book under my first name Alexandra so be sure to look for it under Alexandra Tims. Hope you will come with me for a run through the landscapes of the planet Meniscus.

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https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=meniscus%3A+Crossing+the+Churn

or for Canadian customers:

https://www.amazon.ca/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Meniscus%3A+Crossing+The+Churn

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If you buy my book, please leave a short review on Amazon!!!

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True to my botany training, part of the story reveals how to stay fed on an alien planet with no grocery store nearby! If you want to stay fed on this planet, have a look at the poems in my other book within easy reach (Chapel Street Editions, 2016), also available on Amazon.

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odymn-and-the-slain-together-nings-drawing-2017_01_01-20_03_57-utc

Odymn and the Slain

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Copyright Jane Tims 2017

 

The “proof” arrives!

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A knock on the door yesterday afternoon brought the “proof” of my new book Meniscus: Crossing The Churn”. So exciting!

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carton
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The proofing with CreateSpace takes a while if you follow their process. At the suggestion of one of my blog readers, I sent for the hard copy “proof” and I am so glad I did! I am also reviewing a virtual book and a PDF version, both provided by CreateSpace.

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I know from my read of the virtual book, there are several things I want to fix. But having the proof makes publication of the book more “real”.  Also, a read of the real pages will probably point out other edits … there always seems to be a difference between my perception of paper and screen versions!

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It will take a few hours to read the “proof”, make any changes and go through the process of downloading the new version to CreateSpace. Then, a repeat of the proofing process. Nevertheless, I am that much closer to the publication of my book on Amazon!

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Copyright Jane Tims 2017

Written by jane tims

March 1, 2017 at 1:20 pm

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