Not quite as terminal as it sounds. It simply means that I am now on the cusp of writing the climax to the story. 'The Secret Angels' currently stands within 150 words of 130,000 and 8 pages short of 500 (double-spaced - the published book will be single-spaced and, therefore, shorter). Both of those landmarks may well be passed today.
Why is it double-spaced? It is normal practice in the writing world, actually. By putting gaps between the lines, you get about 25 to a page instead of 40. The published book will use Times New Roman as its typeface. Times New Roman (or TNR as it is commonly called) is an attractive serif font, which is commonly used in books and newspapers. I don't use it to create the book, though, because it is proportionally-spaced and packs the letters together tightly. I used to write in the plug-ugly Courier (the traditional typewriter font), but I switched to Arial for 'The Secret Angels'. Arial is an excellent sans-serif font, and it looks nicer than Courier. To be honest, almost anything looks nicer than Courier. Sans-serif means 'without serifs'. Those are the squiggly little flourishes on fancy letters. Sans-serif doesn't have any flourishes. It is the plain letter, just like this blog.
So, why use double-spacing and Arial? Because it makes it much easier to read. Once the first draft is finished, which should be before Easter, I have to edit it. That means going through the text repeatedly in both directions, weeding out errors, improving passages that could have been written better and getting rid of any waffle. It also involves printing it out on paper and going over it with coloured highlighters as I polish the text until it is as good as I can make it. It is much easier to do that if the work has gaps between the lines (where I can add annotations) and the actual letters are large and clear. Far less likely to miss something that should be sorted out that way.
Once all that is done (and Cuzzie has had her say), then it will be converted to single-spacing and Times New Roman.
On the subject of editing, publishers will often hire a professional editor to do the job instead of the author (in practice, they work together). As I am my own publisher, I have little choice but to be my own editor. 'Angels' will probably tip the scales at over 140,000 words by the time it is finished. With editors charging a penny per word, do the arithmetic yourself. It took me a long time to develop an effective system for editing, but that is a subject for another post.
As anyone who has their own website or blog will know already, the letters, S.E.O. stand for Search Engine Optimisation. Search engines are the likes of Google, Bing and Yahoo. They find the websites that you are looking for. They are distinct from browsers, such as Chrome, Firefox, Edge and Internet Explorer, which control your internet activity.
As anyone who has ever tried to find a website on the Internet will know, a search engine is pretty well mandatory. Unless you happen to know the exact web address of the site you are looking for, finding it among the zillions of other sites out there makes looking for a needle in a haystack seem like a simple alternative. What search engines do is narrow the choices down to the sorts of thing that the user is looking for. For example, if you want to research music in medieval Europe, there isn't much point in looking at websites about space travel.
But it works both ways. I have my own website. You knew that already because you are looking at it. So how did you find it? There are several possible answers. (i) You have already read one of my books (this website is advertised in all of them) and are simply curious about what I am up to now. (ii) You were browsing for people called David and came across it (less likely, I know, but it does happen). (iii) You were looking for information on writers of specific genres of books. It is this last group of surfers for whom this website is provided, in particular - not that the others are unwelcome, because that is not the case at all. Everybody is most welcome. The more the better.
Personal websites are produced for all sorts of reasons. My own concentrates on my work as an author, although it does mention other things that I do from time to time. People who visit this site, therefore, are usually interested in books. This is not an eCommerce site. If it was, I could have sold my books directly from it (and paid heavily for the privilege). Instead, it tells you about my books and provides links to where you can buy them online. Click on the link beneath each book, and you will be taken straight to the appropriate Amazon page, where you can buy a copy if you wish.
This site is targeted. As I mentioned before, I do this with Search Engine Optimisation. This provides the search engines with clues about my websites, so that people who are looking for the sorts of book that I write will be directed towards this site. I am not going to give away any secrets, but there are ways to maximise the effectiveness of the S.E.O. and I have been trying a new one. I am delighted to report that traffic through my website has doubled in recent weeks, and is continuing to grow. That, in itself, increases my ranking on the major search engines and makes it more likely that my site will come up on the first couple of pages of their search results.
Many independently-published authors do little in the way of promoting their work, with the result that they sell hardly any books. I am bucking that trend. The Internet is our prime sales channel. If we ever want to see our books for sale in bookshop windows, we have to establish ourselves on the Net first. That process is not yet complete, but it is growing.
Bit of an unexpected one, this. I recently heard a rumour that my printed book outlet, CreateSpace, may not be much longer for this world. Don't get me wrong. It's just a rumour and may have no foundation in fact whatsoever, but I took some experimental action nonetheless.
I publish my Kindle ebooks through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), a subsidiary of Amazon. The printed editions, however, are published through KDP's sister company, CreateSpace.
Now, however, the waters are a little muddied. KDP has opened its own printed book division, called KDP Print. This has developed considerably since its introduction about a year ago, and rumour has it that it may replace CreateSpace as a book publishing operation in time. CreateSpace also publishes music, videos etc. so it may not disappear altogether.
As things stand at present, KDP Print is still limited in that books published through it can only be sold on Amazon. There is no extended distribution facility that enables them to go into bookshops and libraries. That would have to be added to persuade me to move my existing paperback works over. If I do republish any of my CreateSpace books on KDP Print, the CreateSpace edition is retired and the decision cannot be reversed. Therefore, I am leaving them where they are for the present.
For all that, I have dipped my toe in the KDP Print waters by publishing 'The Author's Manual' (which was previously only available in Kindle form) as a paperback. I can report that the process was painless. It is very similar to publishing on Kindle and has an advantage over CreateSpace, in that we are allowed seven keywords instead of five.
Presumably, extended distribution will become available on KDP Print some time. When it does, I will probably move my other books over to it. Not until then, though.
This is the basic image that will form the cover of 'The Secret Angels' when it is published. It won't look exactly like this, of course, because it will have to be edited and manipulated, not to mention the cover text and information being applied. Nevertheless, it does form the basis of it. I will publish the actual cover image when it is finalised.
The picture actually shows the Schloss Itter, which is to be found in Austria's Tyrol. For the purposes of the book, it is to masquerade as the entirely fictitious Schloss Blitzenfels, which is in another Austrian province, Carinthia - or Karnten as the locals call it. Call up Google Maps and you will find the Malta Valley (Maltatal), southeast of the Grossglockner, Austria's highest mountain. The village of Koschach will be there, as will its splendid waterfall, the Fallbachfalle. What you won't find is a castle atop the crag from which the falls issue. The Schloss Blitzenfels is merely a figment of my imagination. The road by which Rutter and co. approach the castle, however, is real.
This morning, I passed a major landmark in the development of the book. I passed the 120,000 word mark, which makes it, officially, an epic rather than a novel. According to WPS Writer's word count facility, it now consists of 120,203 words. Bear in mind that the total includes things like chapter headings, title and copyright notice.
How much more remains to be written remains to be seen, but I would not be surprised if it was at least 10,000 words, so don't hold your breath. After that, of course, it must be edited, so the final figure will be lower.
Has it really been that long?. New Year's Resolution: make a point of updating my Blog much more regularly.
The good news is that 'The Secret Angels' is displaying a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. And what a long tunnel it has been! Previously, it took me between six and nine months to create a novel. If you check back through this Blog, you will discover that I began writing 'The Secret Angels' just before Christmas of 2015. That is more than two years ago, and it still isn't finished! I can only apologise profoundly for that. As you know the extended gestation period coincided with my beloved Mac giving up the ghost and being replaced by an old Linux machine, which also turned turtle on me. The whole lot wasn't replaced properly until last summer. Since then, I have been working on 'The Secret Angels', but it hasn't been easy. The fact that writers' block decided to pay me a visit did not exactly help.
Nevertheless, we persevere. I have struggled through the writers' block and conquered it. 'The Secret Angels' is back on track at last. I reckon it is about 90% done now, just the climax remaining to be written. Already we are homing in on the 120,000 word mark, which would qualify it as an epic, rather than a novel, and it could end up rivalling 'Rutter's Revolt' as my biggest ever book.
I have more time to devote to it now because I have finally retired as a supply teacher, a part time job that I did for five years. Now, at least, I can devote myself fully to what I truly love doping: telling stories.
Proof that the writers' block is over. My head is beginning to buzz with ideas for more books - always a healthy position to be in because you know what will come next. Anyway, I am hoping to finish the first draft of 'Angels' within the next month. After that, it goes to editing and proofreading, of course, but the wait shouldn't be too much longer.
I hope you find this hard to believe, but that really is me on the left, made up as I was originally supposed to appear in the feature film I took part in (see previous post). As it turned out, most of the prosthetic horns proved impractical and kept falling off, so they were abandoned. I ended up shooting the film with just the forehead horns and the prosthetic brow - not to mention the blue face. My hair was also dyed blue each day as well.
All is done now and the film is in post-production. Look for it in your local supermarket from roughly Christmas 2018. It will be worth it, even if just to laugh at my face. The working title is 'Star Warrior - Legend of Aciris.
More importantly, I have just revamped my website. It isn't completely new - the URL is the same - it just has a new look. I was never very happy with the previous version because I felt that the navigation facilities were not obvious enough. The new one should correct that with the various sections all across the top of the screen. Together with the simpler layout, it should prove easier to navigate, particularly on phones and tablets. Hope you like it.
My Mac is finally replaced properly. When it initially died last year, I transferred all my work to my old back-up PC, which had been running Linux for years, only for it to expire at Christmas. That brought into play another PC, that I had bought a couple of years beforehand to mark exams. It was a cheap, refurbished office job with next to nothing in the way of graphics capability. I bought it to do exam marking, which is Windows only. When I started to use it as my only machine, its limitations became very obvious. Although it ran Windows 7, it was really designed in the days of XP and out of its depth running anything other than the exam marker software. I managed to breathe a bit of life into it by installing Linux Mint in a dual boot system, but it was only a temporary solution.
Anyway, a new PC has now arrived, and it is super fast, courtesy of its quad-core processor and built-in solid state drive. It also has a good graphics card, so it can do whatever I want. It is running Windows 10, which is a real departure for me. Previously, I had hated Windows with a vengeance, mainly because of its historical vulnerability to malware (something to which Macs and Linux are largely immune). To my surprise, I found myself rather liking 10, so I am sticking with it. I haven't encountered any malware problems (touch wood), so it may be more secure than previous incarnations - or I may be more savvy about what I click on these days. To cut a long story short, this year's exam marking is now out of the way, so I have used some of my earnings to treat it to a new external back-up drive and an an absolutely gorgeous curved monitor from Samsung. I also stumped up for the paid-for edition of WPS Writer. The Linux version that I had been using is free, but there are a few compromises. The Windows version comes in free and paid-for varieties. The difference is that the free version carriers advertising, but the paid-for version doesn't, and is without compromise.
That leaves me free to complete 'The Secret Angels', except that I am, currently, appearing in a feature film, believe it or not. It is to be called 'Star Warriors' and I play General Ragtooth. Expect it to be released sometime next year. I only have three days of shooting left, so I should be able, finally, to get back to writing seriously after that.
Just as I thought I had overcome the issues imposed by the untimely demise of my Mac, another one presents itself. To be precise, Libre Office Writer, my replacement word processor. This is not a condemnation of said program. It is free, after all, and more or less as powerful as the anything but free Microsoft Word. It is just that it and I do not get along particularly well. In its favour, it makes a squeaky clean Html file for turning into an eBook (which is something Word never did), but it doesn't scroll smoothly and I find the interface rather clunky, which removes a lot of the pleasure from writing.
Imagine my relief at finding a replacement that is every inch the successor to my much loved Nisus Writer Pro (which I can no longer use because it is Mac-only). The new word processor is called WPS Writer, and it is terrific. It suits me down to the ground. The Linux version that I use is even free. Its default format for saving files is .docx (same as Microsoft Word) which avoids a lot of hassle. It also means that I can still use Libre Office to open the completed document and turn it into a clean Html file when making the Kindle version.
Accordingly, I have now migrated all my books over to the new program and republished them (with a few minor tweaks on the way - couldn't resist). Sadly, this means that the printed editions have lost their dropped capitals at the beginning of each chapter. I have, however, replaced them with raised capitals, so they look just about as good.
Finally, I can get back on with 'The Secret Angels'. Still targeting a publication date before Christmas.
'A Sovereign's Honour' wasn't the only one of my books to get a new look last week. The third 'Queen's Heart' book, 'The Power of Four Queens' was also refreshed. The original cover, with which I was never very happy (although it was the best I could manage at the time) featured multiple crowns. This one, which shows the Dark Lord, Darank, in profile, is altogether more in keeping with the subject matter and ethos of the book. It is the only one of the 'Avalind' books to have a monochrome cover, and that is entirely intentional, underlining the grimness of life under his thumb - yet a tiny glimmer of light lingers, symbolising hope.
The switch to Linux continues. 'The Author's Manual', all of the 'Rutter' books and 'Usurper' have now been converted and fully reformatted. While doing 'A Sovereign's Honour', I also decided on an new cover. The original cover, designed by my son, Paul, showed the hilt of a sword with entwined snakes. Unfortunately, that image was lost when the Mac expired and the Kindle and paperback versions had to make do with different covers for a while. That has now been put right with this new cover for both. This one should give you an idea of what Avalind looks like. It was a work of real trial and error because this is my first cover created entirely in GIMP (a Photoshop-like program that was originally written for Linux, but is now available for all operating systems). GIMP has a reputation for being difficult to learn, and it certainly took a bit of trial and error. I hope you like it.
Writer of Fantasy, thrillers, comedy - and anything else that takes my fancy.