manuscript and notebook She Who Comes Forth work in progress

The Tail of the Tale

 

Back in January, I typed “finis” at the end of my work in progress. Since then, I’ve gone through it twice, once to find gross errors and inconsistencies, and a second time to streamline the prose and reduce the word count.

Everything went swimmingly (a word to be used sparingly or not at all) until I came to what’s still called #15, which is the final section of the novel. (I haven’t decided where to put chapter breaks yet). The crisis and climax happen in #14. Why, some may ask, is another whole chapter needed?

In music, there’s something called a coda. Here are some definitions, snipped from Wikipedia:

In music, a coda (Italian for ‘tail’) is a passage that brings a piece (or a movement) to an end. Technically, it is an expanded cadence. It may be as simple as a few measures, or as complex as an entire section.

Coda (It.) (1) The tail of a note. (2) The bars occasionally added to a contrapuntal movement after the close or finish of the canto fermo. (3) The few chords or bars attached to an infinite canon in order to render it finite; or a few chords not in a canon, added to a finite canon for the sake of obtaining a more harmonious conclusion. (4) That closing adjunct of any movement, or piece, specially intended to enforce a feeling of completeness and finality.

Notice the bits about creating “a feeling of completeness and finality,” and “obtaining a more harmonious conclusion.” Also that it may be “as complex as an entire section.”

Prologues are a contentious subject among writers, but I haven’t seen as much discussion about devices to end a novel. I’m not talking about epilogues, which are disconnected from the story, both chronologically and otherwise. Some novels need what might be called a “literary coda.”

Such a device directly follows on from the events of the preceding chapter. It’s a kind of runway to land the reader gently rather than leaving them gasping in midair after the crisis (even if there is a sequel, but especially if there isn’t). Or maybe it’s like the gang getting together at the pub after the big game instead of going straight home. It’s a chance for the reader to linger a while longer with the characters and setting, savouring the reading experience. (Assuming it was positive, of course).

Loose ends (some of them, anyway) are tied up and a few final revelations presented. Going back to music again, the final chapter is like an encore, a way of prolonging the story for the reader who just doesn’t want it to end.

Back to the WIP. The first half of my final section was fine, but the closer I got to that “finis,” the more obvious it became that my main character (who is also the narrator) had been taken over by someone else — me. She was no longer talking about what was important to her, but rejoicing that she had arrived at The End. She was voicing my emotions, not hers.

The last paragraphs had an overly reflective tone, dwelling on earlier events already known by the reader. They didn’t sound like a 21-year-old with choices to make and apprehensions to deal with. The voice was that of the middle-aged writer who was almost finished. “Whew, we’re all done, and isn’t that great!”

A rewrite was in order.

A couple of things I had to keep in mind:

  • Until a book is published (and really, not even then, if it’s an ebook) nothing is unchangeable. I’ve had to persuade myself of this repeatedly while writing this novel. Just because my characters do or say certain things doesn’t mean I can’t change them or even (gasp!) delete them if they aren’t working. I am, after all, The Author.
  • Unless a scene or chapter is 100% horrible, wrong, and bad, I prefer to work with the existing text than to go back to a blank page. Some may consider the blank page a fresh start, but I don’t need blank page anxiety at this stage. I do, however, recommend making a fresh copy of the section to be edited before slashing and burning. The original, with all its faults, is safe until the rewrite is done.

This rewrite turned into the usual dog’s breakfast, with different colours and highlights marking problematic text, new text, and text moved from elsewhere. Then there were my exhortations and critical comments to myself, in ALL CAPS, so I didn’t overlook them.

SWCF screenshot pic

This is actually a selection of random paragraphs from the “Deleted Stuff” file, but looks just like sections of the actual manuscript, post-rewrite.

The rewrite is done and I’m happy with it. We’ll see if that satisfaction persists. I need to go through the whole manuscript again (at least once), this time zeroing in on words I may have used too often or inconsistently. Then there’s the matter of chapters. I’m excited about that, since I’m planning to give them titles instead of numbers.

About which I’ll post later.

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FREE ON KINDLE: HUNTING THE PHOENIX (BOOK 4 OF THE HERBERT WEST SERIES)

Hunting the Phoenix is available for free via a special promotion until end of day Sunday,  June 17th.

This is the final book of the Herbert West Series.

AMAZON:   USA   UK   CA   AU

Journalist Alma Halsey chases the story of a lifetime to Providence, Rhode Island and finds more than she expected – an old lover, Charles Milburn, and an old adversary, renegade physician Herbert West, living under the name Francis Dexter. Fire throws her into proximity with them both, rekindling romance and completing a great transformation.

Middle-aged and cynical, journalist Alma Halsey looks back on the missed chances in her life with bitterness and regret. Revisiting her home town of Arkham, she comes into possession of a letter that changes everything. So what if it’s not addressed to her, but to her old flame, librarian Charles Milburn? Suddenly she’s chasing down a big story, and maybe she’ll reconnect with Charles as well.

Giving up her New York City life, Alma moves to Providence to track down another man from her past – one she’s assumed to be dead for more than 15 years – renegade physician Herbert West. It seems he’s living in Providence under the name Francis Dexter, and is once more engaged in nefarious doings. Once she’s gathered enough information, Alma plans to write an expose.

Things get complicated when Alma discovers that Charles Milburn is also in Providence, working for “Dr. Dexter,” and English neurosurgeon Edward Clapham-Lee is also looking for Herbert West. Everything goes wrong when the house she is living in catches fire. Seriously injured and far from home, Alma is forced to accept the hospitality of the man she has made her quarry. In Dexter’s house she finds healing, strangeness and unexpected friendships, and realizes her real quarry is herself.

The three celebrate their renewed friendship with a summer vacation on Cape Cod, until the appearance of Edward Clapham-Lee – a man as amoral and dangerous as Dexter’s former self – demands a return to Arkham for a final reckoning.

The Missing Rung

Here is a humorous story from fellow writer John Paterson. It was recently published in Island Writer Magazine.

John R. Paterson's Blog

I was honoured to have on of my short stories published in the summer, 2018 edition of the Island Writer Magazine, The Literary Journal of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. I was further honoured to be asked to and read the story at the June 6 meeting of the Victoria Writer’s Society.

The Missing Rung is a work of reflective creative non-fiction that captures the lighter side of an early childhood predicament. It’s humorous, and a quick read. Enjoy!

The Missing Rung

John R. Paterson

After breakfast Dad and I stood back while Mom cleared the kitchen table for the last time. Dishes removed, she dampened a cloth and wiped it down. The varnished surface glistened, except for a dull patch in the centre where countless serving dishes had worn through.

“Hurry up Chrissie! Eaton’s’ will be here soon with the new table and chairs,” Dad said. She ignored…

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pink watering can

Managing

Compost in progress, last fall's leaves

Nearing the bottom of Bin #2

One of the big garden jobs that actually got done in May was Compost Management. This means: 1) Shovelling out the remaining bit of finished compost from Bin #1 (the smaller one). 2) Building a new heap from all the accumulated stuff in Bin #2 — cut down perennial stalks from last summer, last fall’s leaves, old stalks cut down in fall and spring cleanup, and fresh material from recent tidying jobs. All this is layered and arranged in Bin #1, new material on the bottom, old on top, dampened down, and allowed to mellow until next spring. 3) Meanwhile, new stuff will be deposited into Bin #2, where it will pile up through the rest of the summer, the coming fall, until next spring. Whereupon the job will be repeated.

Compost heap flipped and moved

Bin #1 full, #2 splendidly empty

What happened to the former contents of Bin #1, i.e., last year’s compost? Most of it was distributed around the garden this spring with supplements mixed in to make a “feeding mulch.” Some was used to make soil for potting up tomato plants in May. The last wheelbarrow full is sitting in a neat pile near the shed, until needed for mulching or mixing.

Lost tool found in compost heapAt the weary end of forking and shovelling the half-baked brown stuff (mostly leaves and fern fronds), I discovered a tool I’d been missing — a three-pronged cultivator with a wooden handle. I must have inadvertently dumped it into the heap along with a bucketful of garden debris. It doesn’t show much damage from its year in the heap, only a bit of rust. Painting the handle red might be a good idea to avoid reburial.

Watering anxiety and rain envy begin now. Our very dry May hasn’t had visible effects on plants here, but it has affected the gardener. I’m apprehensive about the next two or three (maybe four) months. If the trends of the past few years continue, we may see almost no rain until late September. Water from the end of a hose is a poor substitute for rain, which has the great advantages of even distribution and no cost.

Ceanothus, California lilac in bloomFor the past month, whenever I exit the front door of my house I’ve been getting a visual treat from the ceanothus or California lilac, its branches almost solid with puffs of tiny flowers of a magical blue. They’re really popular with all kinds of bees.

California poppy rosy pink colourYears ago, I bought a packet of California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) seeds. They were called “Thai Silks” and featured colours  other than the standard bright orange. I recall one plant, long gone now (they’re annuals or short-lived perennials) with double lemon yellow flowers. Even now, some of the unusual colours persist — cream, cream with pink or red flushes, different shades of pink, and extra-dark orange. It’s a surprise every year to see what colours show up.

California poppy red and yellowI don’t know about other gardens, but here plants fall into three categories — those that struggle and eventually die, those that grow ferociously and try to take over, and some that prosper in a quiet, reliable way. Guess which one is predominant. Well, to be fair, the pushy plants attract more attention so it seems there are more of them. But they do need to be managed, i.e., pruned, restrained, or dug up.

The next Big Garden Jobs on the agenda involve pruning. That lovely ceanothus has a habit of growing sideways, which means it ends up overhanging walkways and getting too friendly with people who use them. And the Oregon grape you can see behind the ceanothus is frighteningly vigorous. I wrestle with it every year, trying to keep it shorter than 12 feet and digging up suckers. It’s almost too late, though; I should have tackled it right after it finished blooming in April. Well, there’s always next year…

Allium christophii blooms and Phlomis foliage

Allium christophii and Phlomis fruticosa foliage

When I’m not deadheading, edge-clipping, checking on recently-planted things that might be getting overwhelmed by the incumbents, or lugging cans of water around, I do stop to admire plants that are performing as expected.

Ornamental grass Stipa tenuissima, Penstemon blooms and Lambs' ear stalk

Ornamental grass Stipa tenuissima, Penstemon glaber flowers, a lambs’ ear bloom stalk, and a few remaining forget-me-nots.

 

Clematis "Pink Fantasy" in bloom

Clematis “Pink Fantasy”

 

 

open books, grass

Get Ready for Summer Reading

 

Anyone who doesn’t already have a tottering pile (actual or virtual) of books to be read may be looking for summertime reading recommendations. Here are some of my recent reads. Three of them are parts of series, any of which would provide worthwhile diversion for an entire summer (or winter, come to that). Genres represented are cozy mystery, science fiction, fantasy adventure, medical thriller, historical, and literary.

Two Needed KillingTwo Needed Killing is the sixth and latest book in the Needed Killing series by Bill Fitts.

Asked to help an old lady get her family home back from greedy developers, Crawford reluctantly agrees. Mrs. McGillicuddy is thrilled. “I can’t tell you how excited I was when Frank told me I’d get to meet a real detective. I just love murder mysteries.” When Ms. Mac convinces Crawford to pretend to solve a mystery, he finds himself caught up in the most perplexing case of his career.

I can heartily recommend the entire series. Set in a southern US college town and featuring a retired tech guy turned private eye, the books are leisurely and civilized excursions through murders that just had to be done, and just have to be solved. The stories are leavened with humour and flavoured with scenes of cooking and dining.

 

Man Who 4 thumbThe Man Who Found Birds Among the Stars, Part Four: Survivor by Lorinda J. Taylor

Capt. Nikalishin continues to struggle with loneliness, misunderstandings, and dissatisfaction in spite of his friends’ efforts to help him. He takes increasing refuge in alcohol. Meanwhile, the officials of the new interstellar program wait for him to prove himself still capable of commanding a starship. Will Robbin Nikalishin’s “core of character” save him. or is his life really at an end?

This book continues the fictional biography of 28th century spacefarer Capt. Robbin Nikalishin, focussing on a particularly dark period of his life. I have enjoyed the entire series immensely. It combines elements of science and human interest in a post-post-apocalyptic setting. After nearly destroying life on Earth, humans have learned some hard lessons and rebuilt civilization on principles intended to maintain world peace. This background provides opportunities for the reader to think about present day issues from a refreshingly different perspective.

 

Cliffington Book 1Cliffington. Book One, A Turn of the Tide by Stephen Wragge-Morley

Cliffington, on the remote north-eastern coast, looks like a rural idyll but is not immune to the events of the world. Distant wars bring distress and destruction. A story of trial and obsession, of love and hope, Cliffington reveals the strength and frailties of the people, and tests their community to the edge of failure. While always, close at hand, the sea rolls on relentless.

A deeply-felt, eloquently written novel featuring the interplay of several characters against a vividly depicted landscape. I was fascinated by the clever way the author fictionalizes historical events without naming them, so as to free himself from slavish adherence to facts. I do have some reservations about aspects of this book, which I’ve specified in my Goodreads review, but I recommend it to readers who appreciate literary fiction.

 

Marc Edwards MysteriesThe Marc Edwards Mystery Series Box Set by Don Gutteridge

In the 1830’s, British North America throbbed with rebellion. Factions in the Canadas wanted democratic reforms from British overlords. Bands of American gun runners south of the border wanted to annex the territory. In Upper and Lower Canada, English and French settlers were at odds. Enter dashing Marc Edwards, soldier, detective, and lawyer working to restore justice in the wild zone.

This set of six novels combines fictitious murder mysteries with real historical events in a way that informs and entertains. An interest in the pre-Confederation history of Canada isn’t absolutely necessary to enjoy these books, but would add to the reading experience.

 

The Bone CurseThe Bone Curse by Carrie Rubin

Ben Oris, a pragmatic med student from Philadelphia, gets cut by an old bone while touring the Paris catacombs. His companion Laurette, a public health student from Haiti, senses danger and worries an evil curse now runs through him.

Ben scoffs at the idea—he simply has a wound that won’t heal—and back home he returns to his stressful clerkship at the hospital. But when people close to him succumb to a grisly illness and a dark priest pursues him, his skepticism wavers. Could a bone from an 18th-century skeleton with a frightening history really cause modern-day disease?

This medical thriller starts out fast and accelerates to breakneck. It’s definitely a page-turner, with twists and turns on every page. Set in hot and humid Philadelphia in July, it will have readers turning up the AC while following Benjamin Oris as he deals with an astonishing variety of threats that test his physical and mental stamina to the utmost.

 

PatchworkOf Patchwork Warriors (Volume One of The Precipice Dominions) by R. J. Llewellyn

I wrote a review of this book some time ago. The author has issued a corrected second edition since then. I recommend this fantasy to readers who relish action and adventure backed up with thoughtful world-building. The characters are distinct and memorable, some with colourful turns of phrase that may creep into the reader’s vocabulary.

 

 

My reviews and ratings of these books may be found on Goodreads.

If you run out of summer reading, don’t forget the Smashwords Summer/Winter sale. It lasts for the entire month of July and is a great opportunity to really swell that TBR pile at low or no cost!

 

 

 

Free on Kindle: The Treasure (Book 3 of the Herbert West Series)

Islands of the Gulf Volume 2, THE TREASURE is available for free via a special promotion until end of day Sunday, May 27th.

This is the only book of the series narrated by Herbert West himself.

AMAZON:   USA   UK   CA   AU

under

To survive his mother’s disappearance, the capricious attentions of his father and the brutalities of his brothers, young Herbert makes himself into a juvenile strategist and warrior of vengeance.

Turning to science as a solace for emotional turmoil, Herbert studies medicine at Miskatonic University in Arkham. As both student and physician, he pursues forbidden experiments with single-minded determination, seeking to discover the secrets of life and death. The Great War presents West with a great opportunity, but in that maelstrom of violence he crosses the frontier of rationalism into the territory of the bizarre.

Fleeing the consequences of his misdeeds, West changes his name to Francis Dexter and becomes a country doctor on Bellefleur Island. His tumultuous relationship with the artist Julian Vernon brings both joy and despair. For the first time since his troubled childhood, he allows himself to become emotionally attached to another human being, but the idyll is eroded by depression, drugs and jealousy, and Dexter’s choices result in tragedy.

Saved and supported by Margaret Bellgarde, Dexter allows himself to be drawn into her family to recover from illness and sorrow. Until a day in July when his past confronts him and forces him to face the truth about his role as physician and healer.

 

crow in bare tree

Crow DIY?

Something is going on in the big Norway maple that shades my back garden. There has always been a family of crows living around here, but lately I’ve noticed a lot of flapping in that tree and heard a variety of crow vocalizations.

The other day was quite windy, and when I started my usual tour of the garden to see what was new, I found lots of foot-long twigs on the small round (well, roundish) lawn occupied by the table, chairs, and bird bath. Had the crows disassembled an old nest, or did a new one under construction fall apart?

twigs from crows' nest

If you were a crow, you could make this stuff into a nest.

 

I gathered up the twigs and put them on the table, adding freshly fallen ones to the pile through the day. I know nothing about nest-building, but wondered if the birds might decide to re-use the materials. So far they haven’t, although I’ve seen crows bringing new twigs to the site. That, and occasional wing-flapping sounds and crow calls, indicates that work is still under way. The previous collapse, if that’s what it was, hasn’t discouraged them. I’ve been thinking this may not be the best tree for their purposes, but the crows haven’t asked for my opinion.

Shoe Bird 1Somehow one feels privileged when birds decide to nest in one’s garden. I’ve found the sock-like nests of bushtits in different shrubs over the years, and in 2015, there were the Bewick’s wrens, a.k.a. the Shoe Birds, nesting in our back porch.

So I hope things work out for the crow family, although I’m a bit nervous about the defensive dive-bombing they engage in near active nests. And there might be deposits other than twigs falling on the table, chairs, and gardener. Maybe I’d better start wearing a hat.

Crow photo by Pixabay

The Herbert West Series Complete ebook cover image

On Sale This Week: The Herbert West Series Complete

The complete Herbert West Series is available at reduced prices from Wednesday, May 16th through Tuesday, May 22nd.

At Amazon.com only.

Includes all four novels of the Herbert West Series: The Friendship of Mortals, Islands of the Gulf Volumes 1 and 2, and Hunting the Phoenix.

Herbert West, a scientist obsessed with reversing death, is transformed into a physician of last resort.

From ancient Arkham to the agony of the Great War, from Acadie to the islands of the West Coast, a brilliant but amoral physician is subjected to travails and entanglements, to become a source of healing — and of peril.

Bonus: Chapter 1 of She Who Comes Forth, the sequel to the series.

A $7.99 value for as little as $1.99. Act sooner rather than later. Click here to purchase.

Back garden spring 2018 birthday birdbath

New Stuff in the Garden

Being of an age when dejunking and downsizing makes more sense than acquiring, I don’t often buy new things for the garden. My tools will likely outlast me. Plants come and go, but somehow the place is always full of them. Fashion isn’t an issue. Unless something wears out or breaks, there’s no incentive to buy non-consumables.

But this spring a few new items have turned up here.

concrete birthday bird bathThis birdbath was a birthday present in March. It’s a classic concrete model and looks right at home. The island in the middle is a rock. My garden is full of rocks picked up from various beaches. Birds have visited the bird bath. A few have actually taken baths.

 

Heuchera coral bells "Timeless Orange" and pot "Toga Bell Yama, olive black"I bought this plant of Heuchera (coral bells) “Timeless Orange” to replace a specimen called “Peach Melba” that unfortunately died over the winter. Then I thought it needed a suitable pot. Terra cotta wouldn’t work — too similar in colour to the plant and not frost-resistant. I thought this one, whose label said “Toga Bell Yama – Olive Black” looked pretty good. It was made in Malaysia. The one on its left was made in Vietnam. I didn’t realize garden pots are shipped across the Pacific from Asia.

pink watering canI needed a small watering can for use at the far end of the garden, all of 50 feet distant from where the two regular cans hang out. It had to be fillable by dipping in a rain barrel. This pink one is perfect, not to mention cute.

Hori-hori weeding knife

I added a new tool a couple of years ago — the fearsome Hori-Hori Knife. Death to weeds and handy for fast planting jobs. I’m not sure what people passing by my place think when they see a shabbily-clad middle aged woman armed with this item — “Uh-oh, one of those crazy gardeners. Let’s get out of here.”

Announcing the Winners of the ASF Short Story Contest!

Winners of Rachael Ritchey’s Adventure, SciFi and Fantasy short story contest announced today!

Rachael Ritchey

contest header win pic.jpg

*Before you do anything else, push play on this video. You will want Victory music playing while you enjoy the inaugural ASF Short Story Contest results!*

Back in November, I got this hairbrained idea to put together a short story contest based off a book cover I’d randomly been designing just for kicks. I put some feelers out, and BAM! some people were like, “Heck yeah! I wanna do that.” SO here we are!

It was an absolute blast reading all the entries…well, all except the judging part. I would rather not do that part, but the stories are inspiring. It’s thrilling to see all the passion and talent.

Thank you to every person who submitted to the contest! The coolest part is that we’re going to put together an anthology of Adventurous Scifi & Fantasy stories. Once we’ve polished these babies up and made them shine, we’ll slap ’em into…

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