My Books

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Book Bloopers

I've been saving up the mistakes that I've found when editing some of my books; at least the ones that made me smile. After all, if we can't laugh at our mistakes, how boring would we be? I sometimes think the twinkle behind the eyes of those wonderful, cheerful people that make you smile just to see them (you've met one or two, I'm sure) comes from always being amused at their own mistakes. Anyway, here are some bloopers gathered from editing. Enjoy.

"The nose of the immense doors crashing into the wall reverberated around..." (Either that's missing an 'i' or those doors have a pretty awesome doorknocker.)

"…covering the shot cropped grass in front of them…" (Better watch out running over that grass barefoot!)

"Nehemiah idly wondered what he was excited about as he offed a hand to assist Anna’s alight from the wagon." (...So now he's one handed for the rest of the book?)

"The old woman dropped another curtsy and moved back threw a swinging door..." (That's some old lady, throwing doors around.)

"The noice began to fade into a different song." (Noice? I thinke I wast reading too muche Spencer.)

"The ballad reached its pinochle when…" (I always play pinochle when approaching a ballad's pinnacle, obviously.)

"Charlie’s hand ran over it and walked to a box of the same badly hewn wooden planks." (Hm, I wonder how a hand walks to a box?)

"I do hope you enjoy pursuing this work." (Puff puff, catch the book!)

"Several heads working in the fields rose and watched us coming." (Wow, that's a gruesome field, filled with severed heads.)

"I hardly realized when I said yes to thine father that I would be at the mercy of every whim of the Dreaded Ding!" (...yeah...I don't think this one needs a comment.)

"…wondering what I mind find in this new secret passageway." (I mind wondering what I might find too, Corinth Meagan.)

"…where that symbol shone in plain side through the uplifted flap." (So is it a sight of his side, or a side of his sight...)

"They settled comfortably in the cushions and looked at each other." (Anyone else ever want to dig a hole in a pillow and slip in?)

"'The same day as the hair die.' Vincent mumbled through cake." (Die hair, die!)

"'Happy bilrthday,'" he said. (…the day bilr did something great?...)

"…a contended hum sliding from him as he moved." (Hm, a fighting song perhaps?)

“…giving his companion a plausible excuse to use as a salve to his conscious.” (Because no ones sub-conscious needs a salve.)

"‘For I have come not to serve but to be served,’ the scriptures recorded our Lord as saying. And this from the King who creates and rules all kings!" (Yeah...I really did say the exact opposite of what I meant...and didn't notice for months.)

“I forgot what an idiotic think I was doing…” (I think it's an idiotic thing to think of things too.)

“Simeon tossed him a machine gun, and Peter noticed it was loaded with amour piercing rounds as he dropped the RPG to catch the new weapon.” (I just loooove those bullets!)

And then there are some things that seem fine when you write them, and even when you read them over again a time or two, and then someone else kindly reads it for you and points out the all-too-obvious mistake:
"…why should we go back with only a location and a handful of spotted terrorists?" (LEOPARD TERRORISTS! HAHAHA!)

"Peter lifted his glass of milk in a solute…" (Dissolving milk glass?!)

"Breezes stirred a branch till it began to creek." (those are some impressive breezes, to turn a solid branch into a watery creek…)

"'Do you know, she might be right?' said one in a voice, quivering with age. (You know, when people talk, it's usually in a voice...comma placement can be important, folks.)

"The night sun was peeking through the windows again as they began to break up." (CRASH! Whoops, so much for those windows: note to self, specify which “they” you mean.)

"He slid his feet out of his seeping bag and into his shoes." (Some questions should not be asked; like what was his sleeping bag seeping with?)

"Now a pal of black smoke lay about the place." (Oh boy, what a great pal that pall of smoke is to me!)

"A small game foul, served stuffed with joart and potatoes…" (Foul! Foul! That fowl is foul!)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Anatomy of an Edit

In editing, like writing, everyone has a different method. This is an explanation of the way I do a thorough overhaul of my books before putting them out for you to read.

Stage 1.
Rip it apart, and put it back together again. No seriously, this is the stage where I ruthlessly rip out scenes and whole characters that aren’t actually needed. A term used by many authors for this stage is “killing your darlings.” Those lovely little conversations, or scenes, or that sweet little character (who just happened to appear on page 20 and you liked enough to keep till page 300) that you just loved when you wrote it; but that really have no bearing on the plot, or even character development. In the first Parabaloni I ripped out a whole character, that had been there from chapter 2, and had a whole story running underneath the other stories. He just wasn’t needed. So Matt died. Well, he lives on in my earlier versions. For me, that’s what makes this stage endurable. I can go back and find him again when I want. I create an “Outakes” file for every book I edit, and everything I rip out goes there. So if, after further thought, I decide that delightful little scene really did add something of value to the story, I can copy it back in again. It’s a mental balm to my troubled soul. Though I know the instances where a ripped scene gets put back in are almost non-existent. Exceptions do happen, of course; in The Way of the Ravens (which hopefully will be ready to be read and enjoyed by you this coming spring) I wrote three chapters, decided they were unneeded, ripped them out, put them back in a few months later, ripped them out, and now they are back in again at the moment. It will be interesting for me to see if they’re still there when I release that book.

Also in this stage comes the task of smoothing the book out. Tweaking those awkward sentences into something that flows, realizing when you typed up “hungry” you actually meant “voracious” and various little interesting chores like that. In this stage of the Dreaded King books, I get to tweak each character’s voice to sound like them when they tell their portion of the account. For instance, Charlie uses “upon” but Corinth never does, and Corinth uses “rather” while Charlie and Meagan can’t ever utter the word. Meagan’s sentences can only be a line, sometimes a line and a half if he has something very important to say. But Charlie, well, his descriptions are flowery, and wordy, and he notices everything. And Simpson, the translator? He’s a bit of an absentminded nut, honestly, as I expect you’ve noticed from the footnotes he’s scattered around the books.

Stage 1 ends when I’m finally satisfied the book is as smooth, direct, and streamlined as I can get it. This is the moment when I find a wonderful beta reader to ship it off to. (At this point, thanks and heaps of cudus go out to Joy and Aaron Gruben, Linda Hoover, Rebekah Cook, Krystal Webb, and Rael and John Dyal, some of my amazing beta readers. THAAAANK YOU!!!!!!) These are the splendiferous, superlative people who take the time read over my book before I send it out to all you other wonderful people, and tell me the obvious plot holes I completely missed, the absolutely ridiculous way this phrase sounds when read aloud, and various other little housekeeping matters that my brain glossed over. Because there’s always something. You become familiar with the phrases, the characters, and the plot, and there’s always something obvious you miss that a beta reader will catch for you. I’m learning this step in the process is really indispensable.

Stage 2.
Proofreading. The most boring part of the process to me. It wouldn’t be, except that stage 1 preceded it. Remember I’ve already gone over this book at least three times (sometimes twice that much), and that’s after I wrote it and ran the first initial couple of edits. The words are already very familiar. And now I have to read it again, and again, and again, trying to catch every little misplaced word and typo.

I usually let Christopher, my kindle fire, help me with this process. I read it over at least once on Allen (my laptop) to try and catch the punctuation mistakes and other little things that you really have to see to catch. And then I send the word document to Christopher, hit the “text-to-speech” button and let him read it to me. The automated voice droning out the words is a perfect way to get a different feel for the book, and catch things that I gloss over while reading it. Though he makes some strange mistakes. “Apt,” according to Christopher, is really only ever short for “apartment” and never a word by itself. And “no” often ought to be read as “number” because obviously it’s an abbreviation and not a negative ejaculation.

My family loves it when I’m at this stage. I have to do something while I’m listening to the same book over, and over, and over, or I’d go crazy. So this is the time when the little delicacies start flowing from the kitchen as I bake cookies and muffins and breads with Chris droning on in my ear, and me constantly pausing my cooking to highlight a mistake I just noticed. The laundry also gets folded at this point, as I’ve been letting it pile up while spending hours on Allen. And the floors vacuumed, and hey, I might even go so far as to clean the windows while Christopher reads to me!

After I get Christopher and Allen together and implement all the changes I highlighted on the kindle into my word document, stage 2 is FINALLY finished! And it’s always about now when the happy dance slides naturally from me.

Stage 3.
“Have you seen any new movies you liked?” This is the point where I’m always asking my friends this question. Because it’s formatting time. It’s a pretty brainless stage that takes a lot of hours, just shifting words to a bigger or smaller font, creating chapter headings, inputting page numbers; a thousand and one little things that takes a word document and makes it a book. And since most of it requires no thought, I usually work at it while something else gives me mild entertainment; like a brainless movie of some sort. I’ve watched a lot of Hogan’s Heroes during this stage. A whole lot.

It’s both a boring stage and an exciting one. A lot of time goes into mindless inputting on the computer, but minute by minute you get to see your hard work turning into something real and beautiful.

The End
And then I hit that “publish” button, and tell the world there’s a new book by Catherine Gruben up and ready to be read! But it isn’t really new. It started as a random thought that festered and bugged until I sat down in front of Allen and pounded out a plot. Then it became a rough draft of a book. And then it became a work in progress as the editing took over. That first little idea probably came at least a year before the book hit your Amazon account. Sometimes it’s more like 4 years from start to finish before I finally get around to declaring it fit to reach your hands.

At this point in my Four Books in Four Months (see my last blog post if you're curious), I'm almost through with stage 2 for Dreaded King: Reign Falls. Yay! Thanks for all the cheering you've all been doing, it's helping me stay on track. Whoo hoo, first of four books, here we come!

Getting a book from your mind onto real life paper is a long and tiring process. But it’s a wonderful process; I’m never going to stop until God snatches me up to His side.  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Four Books: Four Months

Okay people, I am about to declare something crazy. Something completely crazy that I'm going to do.

I was glancing over my books this week and suddenly went, "I really wish I could share my fifth Parabaloni book with my fabulous readers this Christmas, since it’s a Christmas book, and I think they would really like it. But,” I thought, “I have Dreaded King: Reign Falls coming out in October, and a fourth Parabaloni book before Adelie Angst, and November when I’m supposed to write the third Dreaded King book for National Novel Writer’s Month…But then again, that’s just a book a month…”

So, here’s the deal. The crazy, stupid, ridiculous challenge that I’m setting myself. In between all the other wonderful random things I have going in my busy life, I am going to edit and release three books, and write one, in four months. Yep, that’s right. Four books, in four months. And yep, I’m crazy to be considering it. But it’s going to be awesome. Here’s my plan:

September – October 1st: Reign Falls is going to finish up its overhaul and reach your hands, so you can finally find out what happened to Meagan and Corinth and Charlie as they race away from Yaspur the Hard and his gray-clad assassins. (They do succeed in getting away from him…for a little while, anyway…but not for too long. Though I suppose that’s a bit of a SPOILER so you can ignore it.)
October 2nd – October 31st: Solitaire, Parabaloni Novel 4, is getting its overhaul and major editing done. Ever wondered what really happened with Gigan the French sharpshooter’s family? It had to be something major (and therefore interesting) to have completely alienated him from their boisterous presence. And what’s the deal with the neon green hair, anyway?
November 1st – November 31st: NaNoWriMo! Another full month given over to the ridiculously crazy task of starting with a blank word document and ending up with a full book. At least in rough draft form. Dreaded King 3 is going to be finally written. I’m so excited to start hammering out all the ideas that have been floating around in my head for the past year! Obviously this one isn’t going to get to your hands for a while yet. But it will begin the process, this November! (Oh, by the way, in case you were wondering, there are going to be 4 Dreaded King books in total; it’s not a series that drags on forever.)
December 1st – 20th: Adelie Angst, Parabaloni 5, is going to be edited and out in time for you to shove it in a stocking or under a tree. Filled with penguins and paintings, space ships and snow, tension and teases, this is probably the most streamlined of my Parabaloni novels, as far as getting the plot down on the page with the least amount of distractions. And it is quite a different sort of a plot, let me tell you. I hope you enjoy watching the way your favorite quirky band of spies spends their holiday season.

Therefore, when Christmas day rolls round and you see me with reddened eyes and a slightly fattened stomach, you will know it’s because I have spent the last four months, every second I can snatch from real life, staring at Allen’s screen. (That’s my laptop. In case you had forgotten.)  

This is not going to be an easy task. As my dad just commented, glancing over my shoulder, “This is like NaNoWriMo squared.” So any encouragement you happen to want to send my way would be ecstatically welcomed; and quite possibly snatched up with a stressed-out, maniacal cackle, as I grasp at it like a drowning man grasps a life raft. I am going to be drowning in words. But it’s going to be such an amazing ride. I’m going to learn so much about me. And I hope about you. If I can (yeah, one more thing to write) I’ll be keeping you updated here on my blog. So stay tuned, everybody, and share this around! The more people who know that I’m doing it, the more incentive I’ll have to get it done. And to get it done well, for the glory of God. So comment on my blog posts, hit the share button on this, like my Facebook page to keep up with the process…

And let’s do this thing. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Lily's Lesson

This is Lily, my geranium.

See the new buds sticking up out of the plant? Aren’t they beautiful? So hopeful; a kind of quiet beckoning, whispering for me to expect happy beauty in the next few days. Those buds weren’t there yesterday. At least I hadn’t noticed them. But they must have been there…I think the reason I didn’t notice them was because, as a geranium, Lily still had all the old brown ugliness of past blooms clinging to her. This morning I pulled off the old dead stuff.

Suddenly she looks fresh, and clean, and green, and filled with a hope of beauty again. Lily has been sitting on my windowsill for two years now. Sometimes she looks brown and dusty, and (to be quite honest) simply ugly, without a hint of ever blooming again, and I wonder why I let her stay. But I can tell she’s still alive, so I leave her on the window, occasionally dumping water from the dregs of my bottles or the dogs’ dish onto her soil. And then I wake up one morning to red buds. And I realize I haven’t cleared her of the old dead leaves in months. When I pull them off, there she is, all fresh and green, and budding again and offering a hope of happy beauty in coming days. I tend to forget about her, she’s so steadily there. I snap shots of my teapots or books, and forget she’s even in the picture.

For two years it’s gone on. I don’t know how Lily has survived my haphazard care that long, except by the grace of God. But then that’s how we all survive, isn’t it? Only by the grace of God, getting up every morning, looking in the mirror and seeing ourselves…again…still alive, still breathing. Some morning’s that’s kind of what I think: “Well, here I am again.” But then there are other mornings when I get up excited, ready to serve the good God and spill His love onto those that come in contact with me. “Oh boy, I get to live again today!”

I can’t help thinking I’m a little like Lily. She just keeps blooming. Keeps living, keeps putting out beautiful red flowers, stops blooming until she gathers her strength for it again, and then come the buds one unexpected morning!

If we are always at the brimming tip of our energy and delight, we burn out. And then comes the inevitable question, “what did I do wrong?” The answer might be nothing; it’s only that you are at a strength gathering season, and just give it a week or two, and the brown dead stuff will pull away and the happy blooms will be back. I’m not talking about seasons of depression. I’m not even talking about wearing thin and feeling like every day is a grind (like I spoke of in my last post). I just mean that in the Christian life, some days you wake up ecstatically excited to serve our good God and to do the little chores He’s given you, and some days you wake up just content and mildly happy with it.

Endurance is the thing. You just keep going. And as you just keep living and doing what you’re supposed to, the buds just keep showing up. They come, they bloom, then they leave, allowing a little brownness into your life. And then a passage of Scripture, a silly game with family, Spirit breathed enthusiasm pouring into your heart, a phone call from a friend, something comes along and the brownness falls away and there you are; fresh and green, joyful and expectant…promising a hope of happy beauty.

Keep living, Lily. I can’t wait to see your buds turn into flowers.