Publication delayed due to rare bunting in Wales

I lost two days out of my schedule last week as I travelled across to the north-west tip of Wales, to the Lleyn peninsula, and on to Bardsey Island the following day, to see the 5th ever (yes, EVER) Cretzschmar’s Bunting for the UK; an absolutely super little bird. I won’t ‘borrow’ anyone’s photos as people can be funny about copyright, but Bardsey observatory’s Twitter account has stacks of photos, including a nice frame-filler from Steve Williams of the Wirral, and a smashing colour field sketch from Richard Thewlis of East Anglia. I only had 3 hours on the island before my scheduled boat back so it was a real relief to see the bird at all, which appeared briefly about once an hour within the lighthouse compound, in an area of pink and yellow flowers which I believe were sea-pinks and bird’s foot trefoil; as pretty a scene as you could imagine. The previous night I’d slept on the grass in a sleeping bag at the start of the track that leads down to the cove at Porth Meudwy. A cold night, particularly getting up and dressed at 03:50 to get the first boat, but very life-affirming lying there staring up at the stars. Well, one satellite anyway (still couldn’t get a Vodafone signal). Oh and lastly, hats off to the Castle pub in Criccieth for their pies; not only are they tasty, you actually get a proper portion, a rarity in this day and age.

https://twitter.com/bardseyobs

Book-wise I had a mammoth day yesterday, spending about 12 hours doing the second half of the final (how many times have I said that?) read through in terms of content, making 2 or 3 tiny adjustments per chapter on average. Today I’m going through it all again, checking correct treatment of hyphens, again making a few alterations per chapter which surprises me, as I’d done this once already, and yet doesn’t, as it’s easy to look up something on the internet that is erroneous or opinion differs. For example, in the UK we have ultra-modern, while in the US it is ultramodern, and obviously I want to go for the (superior!) UK version.

All this editing is time-consuming, even if the changes are minor, because I’m having to change 4 different files: my chapter file; my novel-length ‘working’ file; my KDP draft file, and my CreateSpace draft file. Version control is hugely important at this stage. It would be so easy to change something in only 3 of the 4, or whatever, due to lapses in concentration; in fact I’m sure I must have done, but I don’t have the heart or time to have another read through. I need to try to finish my CreateSpace file in the next 2 weeks, so I can accurately calculate the number of pages, thus the size of the book’s spine, which will enable me to finish the cover file in InDesign, otherwise I’ll be hit with paying an Adobe sub for 6 months. Regardless, I need to hit ‘publish’ well before I start teacher training in September.

The really nasty job this week will be finishing my CreateSpace file, as I will have to do the done thing and align the text both left and right, so the right-hand side of the text looks nice and straight on the page and hasn’t got big indents of white space. Personally I cannot fathom why this is seen to be necessary; I have never suffered from reading unaligned text, in fact I had to go to my bookshelf to confirm that it was the done thing as I’d never consciously noted it before while reading. It seems like a huge waste of time, but if it makes the product look more ‘professional’ then reluctantly I’ll give it a whirl. If it sounds like you just click a button in Word that does the job, well apparently it isn’t as simple as that; widows and orphans can appear (and disappear) due to the change in alignment. Various sources on the net advise correcting these manually, as Word’s widow and orphan function may well not work. I can’t understand why not though, if I’m sending CreateSpace a pdf. I thought pdf files were set in stone. I’m going to check this (thinking out loud here) if I can find those same sources again; probably not!

Last but certainly not least, happy birthday to my dear old Nan, who would have been 94 (I think) today. There’s a lovely family story of her which sums up what a kind-hearted generous lady she was, no matter her financial circumstances. One night during the Second World War she had gone ballroom dancing (presumably in Birkenhead) and was making her way home when she came across someone who had no shoes (possibly due to her house being bombed). My Nan treasured her dancing shoes, but she took pity on this other woman/girl and gave them to her. I could say something trite here, like ‘they don’t make them like her any more’, but that would be to write off our younger generations and to me that wasn’t what my Nan was about. She was always enthusiastic and positive, and content aside – parts of which she’d have hated – she would be proud of her grandson writing a book.

Free short story added to FreeStuff page; + a copy-editing question: ‘Mrs’, ‘Mrs.’ or ‘Missus’?

Just uploaded a slightly revamped ‘Leave it to Bertie’ to the FreeStuff page. I hope people enjoy the read.

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While having a necessary last mess-around with it, to avoid the possibility of being sued by Bertelsmann Music Group for reproduction of song lyrics, I noticed something that highlights why an author should pay, or perhaps not pay, a copy editor. I had been writing ‘Mister’ in dialogue, but then when it came to the female version I was stumped as to how to write it. I don’t mind Mrs (or Mrs.) in the body of the narrative but I don’t like it in dialogue. I like ‘Missus’, which feels very British to me – I can’t imagine an American using this spelling – but it does look slightly incongruous in dialogue. When used as a noun, a husband referring to his wife as ‘the missus’, it conveys to me a picture of a man socialising with his fellow men, painting himself as hen-pecked, yet silently treasuring her. Handled well I think the irony can be quite touching.

Consulting the internet though, I noted a wave of anti-Missus feeling. One thing I did decide to pay heed to was the advice to be consistent: don’t use ‘Mister’ and ‘Mrs’. In the end I checked in a novel written by an author who has probably sold millions of copies of books, and found ‘Mister’, ‘Mrs’ and ‘Dr’ within the dialogue, so no consistency, either because the editor hadn’t thought about it, or hadn’t spotted it, or didn’t think there was any value in aligning them all.

I then had to decide between ‘Mr’ and ‘Mr.’ (and equivalents). At school we were taught these abbreviations carried full stops. The American English has retained these, I believe, while the ‘.’ of British saints, doctors and misters have all been surgically removed, like daemons from the shoulders of their humans (sorry, been reading ‘Northern Lights’). Not particularly comfortable with operating on my punctuation without anaesthetic, I decided to chop them nevertheless, to make it look as though I am keeping up with the times.

With the decision still to be made over whether I get someone else to copy-edit my novel manuscript before publication, it was both a timely reminder that I can miss errors or inconsistencies in my own writing, yet also that experienced paid professionals working for reputable traditional publishing houses can too. With a tight budget to say the least, I feel very reluctant to hand money over for this particular task, even though general advice seems to be that this is one of the very few things that a self-publisher absolutely should pay for. The problem with general advice, though, is that it has to cover the worst case scenario, lowest common denominator, frame it how you will. I am feeling, if not sounding, quite resolute on this at the moment. I have to consider that there is a not insubstantial risk that someone will end up making more money than myself from my novel, simply for spotting (or even not spotting) a few comma splices that let’s face it, unless you’re a copy-editor yourself reading my book, you’re probably going to breeze right past without even noticing.

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Bon weekend (Or is bonne? Oh God give me strength…

[Edit – ggrr, keep forgetting to add tags, sorry if you get this twice]