Revise your revisions, please…. Your edits need editing!

For the last several weeks I’ve been engaged in that tedious chore every author despises: Revising and editing.

I don’t know how many times my works have been read, revised, edited, re-read, re-written, re-hashed and re-edited and still, there are errors to be found, if one is looking for them and sometimes when one is not looking for them. I am always slightly embarrassed and abashed when I run across some really doofus lines or punctuation errors in my stuff. But they are always there.

I actually believe there are little evil gremlins embedded in the works that undo what authors and editors do while they sleep. I know that brownies and imps and other mischievous entities wreak havoc on other parts of our environment. Why would they not have infested our technical devices as soon as we invented them. (Invented what? Entities? Technical Devices? Exactly my point!) That last sentence was vague and ambiguous, which means the same thing… screwed up enough to make you wonder what the hell I was talking about.

But interesting writing doesn’t always involve proper grammar and punctuation. Sometimes the lack of punctuation or an improperly used word can make a boring read something special. If only the editors for Hugo, Hemingway and Melville (I probably misspelled all their names) had left in a few errors just for laughs, my English Lit courses would have been a bit more tolerable. I’ve often wondered how in the world all the “old” or “classic” works seem to have absolutely NO errors in them. Is it because they are old and reworked many times? Or did editors simple do a better job back in the day?

At any rate, I wrote all that just to say this:

I’ve reworked my novels at Amazon and Createspace once again and corrected a number errors. Better yet, I’ve lowered most of the prices on the paperbacks and put the Kindle and Smashwords versions at $.99 each.  So if you’ve not started the series or if you’ve not ordered the paperbacks, they are now up and running.  Of course, I have aged a great deal, but don’t worry about me, just read and enjoy.

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Character Profile: Bart, the Knocker

Bart, the Knocker, appears in the Assassin Chronicles books along about book 5 or 6. He’s a faery creature who lives in a cave on the face of a cliff overlooking the sea in the underworld. He loves beer, ale, wine and smoking his pipe. To say he is very laid back doesn’t quite cover him. He likes to take it easy, but he does love to play checkers and collect shiny things. Unfortunately, for him, he is a bit slooooooooooow. His general appearance might remind you of a dwarf, short and stocky, indeterminate age, long beard, pointed cap, suspenders and hob-nail boots. Not much on fashion. Normally, he doesn’t care to get involved in things, but as keeper of the Four Horses of the Apocalypse, his life is entwined with the Order of the Red Cross of Gold whether he likes it or no. He’s none too friendly as faeries go, but he can become a trusted companion if you gain his trust or call his bluff.

I found an interesting article about these so-called “Earth Spirits” which gives a good job description for Knockers. He gets the name ‘Knocker’ from his normal occupation as a miner. Of course, Bart doesn’t have to mine for his living, though his ‘brothers’ may have to work for a living. Knockers are thought to make the odd knocking noises heard in mines just before cave-ins. However, it seems to be a matter of debate whether the knocks are meant to warn the miners to get out or perhaps the knocks might actually cause the cave-in. Either way, suspicious miners generally do not ignore these noises since their lives may depend on it.

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This little fellow adorning a garden gate reminds me of what Bart, the Knocker, might look like. Here is a short excerpt from Book VI:. The Dragonslayer where we first meet Bart:

Bart was deep in the cave, lying on a rock with his feet propped against the wall, his hands clasped over his heart and his pipe clenched between his teeth firmly. He was practicing winking. One had to keep in practice. He scowled deeply and then winked his left eye for several seconds. When he was pleased with his success, he opened both eyes and then concentrated on winking his right eye. Just as his right eyelid began to droop, the sounds of approaching footsteps echoed down the passage and he sat up quickly. A cloud of dust drifted lazily in front of him. Visitors? So soon? He’d just had visitors not more than twenty years ago. Why would someone be bothering him again so soon? And just when he was beginning to get good with his left eye! They probably wanted to eat his bread and butter and drink the last of his beer.

He shook his head and ran his gnarled fingers through his long black beard, scaring away three black and orange spiders and one field mouse. Picking up his hood from beside him, he shook off the layers of dust on it and pulled it over his head. His black eyes glowing with anticipation, he slid from the rock and brushed off the spiderwebs that had accumulated on his black tunic. He tugged on his vest, hitched up his pants and stomped his boots to wake up his toes. He waved his hand over a small pile of dried driftwood and seaweed and a greenish, blue fire sprang to life, illuminating the interior of the cavern. The light reflected from a thousand crystal stalactites in the ceiling, casting dancing shadows on the walls and in the depths. The stalagmites on the floor were draped with all sorts of accouterments. Most of them were useless, but interesting pieces of flotsam and jetsam that he had collected from the beach. They gave the cave a cozy feel. The dwarf brushed at his knobby knees again and then sat down on an upended wooden churn to wait for his unexpected guests to arrive. He crossed his arms over his chest, then crossed his legs. He sat very still.

Sam and Lucio eventually found their way to the chamber where Bart was waiting for them.

“Ho, there!” Bart stood up when they entered. “How goes it?”

“Oh, it goes well as well it might, Bart,” Sam answered the greeting, smiled at the dwarf and set the baskets on the floor in front of him.

“And who’s thot ye have withee?” Bart narrowed his dark eyes at the Italian. “’e looks loike a mon.”

“Aye, that he is,” Sam told him as Lucio dumped the heavy cask of beer on the floor. The resounding boom echoed down through the passages. “Lucius of Venetia, Knight of the Golden Eagle, venerable son of the Doge of Venice, Chevalier d’ l’Aigle d’Or, Poor Knight of Soloman’s Temple, Keeper of the Secrets of Isis and Osiris, Diviner of Souls, may I present Bart….” The elf called the dwarf’s full name and Lucio bowed his head to the dwarf.

The dwarf was dressed entirely in black and wore a gold dagger in his wide belt. The black hood on his head ended in a long red tassel at the point and sported a long, black feather on one side. The dwarf’s craggy face was accented by heavy shadows and only his long nose was clearly visible in the eerie blue light provided by the fire. His eyes seemed to glow literally like red coals in the deeper shadow under his hood. His voice was amazingly deep for one so small.

The dwarf bowed his head minutely and then stepped forward to knock on the keg with his gnarled fist. He produced a shiny silver hammer from one of his pockets and tapped the keg in several more places, listening intently to the sounds.

“And beer, ist?” he asked when he looked up.

“And milk and eggs,” Sam added. “Lucius di Venetia has traveled long times and hard paths to honor you with these gifts. And to honor himself with your presence.”

“And well he moight do,” Bart muttered and plucked one of the eggs from the basket. He eyed it closely. It was speckled and about half the size of a chicken’s egg. “Wot’s th’ occasion? Did I miss me birthday again?”

“No, not your birthday this time, Bart,” Sam told him and sat down cross-legged on the floor. 

A Day in the Life of Tim Ellis, Crime Writer

So, here’s the thing! I was reading an article in Writer’s Magazine about Bernard Cornwell’s day, one of my favourite authors. So, I thought if Bernard can do it, so can I. My day usually begins about 5am, but I don’t beat myself up if I have a lie in now and again. The dogs (four of them) look at me as if I’m a sandwich short of a picnic. Three of them get up, go out and then go back to bed. They’re more normal than me – ain’t that the truth?

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I make my coffee – always been a coffee drinker, but I don’t mind the odd cup of tea if the whim takes me – and switch my laptop on (a Dell Ultrabook XPS13). I work off a miniature 8GB Verbatim memory stick. All of my writing is on there, but I do back-ups onto another memory stick, which I keep separately. And, of course, most of my writing is in numerous places online anyway! Then I get stuck in by checking my emails, my sales, my rankings, my facebook page and I’m off. Whatever the project is I get stuck in. The whole purpose of getting up at this ridiculous hour of the day is to work in peace and quiet with an uncluttered mind. If you’re going to procrastinate (or feed the monkeys) then you may as well go back to bed.

So, how did I get into writing? Well, I look back over my life and see the milestones that lead me here. As a teenager I wrote poetry, and that has continued. I was editor of a magazine called “The Gopher” in my early Army days. I used to play in the regional Scrabble championships, construct crosswords for fun, and read everything that I could lay my hands on. And then, one day about six years ago, after I’d read a book on Caesar by Conn Iggulden, I decided I could do that, so I wrote Warrior: Path of Desitiny. Since then, I’ve written twenty novels – mostly crime.

I sit in the living room in my leather recliner chair. I have got a shed, but I’m not keen on spiders, and there’s no electricity in there. Now that I’m 60 years old, my wife says I can write where I want to – so I do. There’s only the two of us now – the son having finally got a life of his own – about bloody time I often say! So, life doesn’t get in the way of what I want to do much anymore. I started writing a while back when I was still teaching. The more I wrote, the less I wanted to teach. Then, four yeas ago I had a heart attack and survived. It was a good excuse to retire – so I did. I suppose I’m a writer now, and I don’t think there’s a retirement age for writers – they just get recycled through charity shops (Ha, ha! There wasn’t a joke for ‘old writers never die . . .’, so I just made that up). Maybe I should start writing humour! Hecklers can kiss my ballpoint pen!

It’s just 7am, and I’ve been doing a lot of administrative tasks since 5am relating to my latest police procedural bestsellerThe Terror at Grisly Park (Quigg 5), which I published on Monday. Yeah, being a writer means doing loads of rubbish that isn’t actually writing, which is probably a good job because otherwise my brain would turn to mush if I tried to write all day. So, I like to intersperse my writing with frequent trips to the kitchen to make drinks/snacks/chocolate, the odd tweet/retweet, reading the news/sports on Yahoo, and so on.

My days are mostly the same because I don’t want to do anything much except write. At about 8:45am I go for my shower, and then take the dogs for their first walk. Gives me a chance to think through what I’m writing and what I’m going to write next. I have a target word-count of 1,000-words a day, but again I don’t subject myself to self-flagellation if I don’t make it. Most days I achieve a lot more, but I work on a larger target of 10,000-words a week, 40,000-words a month, and a finished 80,000-word book in two months, which is what I’ve been achieving for a while now. Being old, wrinkly, crotchety and forgetful has its advantages.
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After I’ve walked the dog I generally get back to writing for a couple of hours. At midday I have my lunch and watch something I’ve recorded on Sky+ for an hour, and then I have a siesta for an hour or two. I get up again and start writing. At around 3pm I take the dogs for their second walk, and then write some more. At 5.15pm I put my laptop down and watch Pointless (big fan Alexander and Richard), watch the news and then do a bit more work until about 8pm and then I call it a day and watch some TV. Most of my writing gets done between 5 – 8am when there are no distractions.


 

v  There’s lots of talk about planning, chapter outlines and a dozen other ways to write. Each to his own. When I’m writing police procedurals I like to have a title, the names of my lead character(s) and a location before I start – this means I own it. It’s mine. That’s it really. I then begin writing and go where the characters take me. I have a notebook by my chair, and I keep notes of what I’ve got to include in the future. I write in scenes, and I try to make each scene as interesting as I can. I suppose you can relate it to: Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves. If you’ve got your scenes right the book should be good – build it a brick at a time . . . Well, as long as you’ve got a plot, a story, interesting characters, conflict, and all the other things you’re meant to have in a book.

The wife got up. I grunted at her a few times – she’s happy. Had a shower, walked and fed the dogs – they’re happy. Made a coffee and had a couple of pieces of toast – I’m happy. Back to writing. You know, I had a quick look at rules for writers – there’s a whole bunch of them that people have come up with from Diane Athill (who?), through George Orwell to Jeanette Winterson (who?). Anyway, I thought I’d let you know some of the ones I abide by:
1. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue (Elmore Leonard). Although sometimes I break this rule, but not much. I try to use actions, body language, or speech indiosyncracies to indicate who’s speaking,

2. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” (Elmore Leonard). I very rarely use adverbs (or “ly” words). Adverbs are telling – I prefer to show through actions and body language.

3. I don’t use “suddenly”.

4. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters (Elmore Leonard). I’m a bit in the middle with this one. I do give some description, but not too much.

5. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip (Elmore Leonard). Yes, I’m one of the readers that skip, and I keep this in mind while I’m writing.

6. Finish the day’s writing when you still want to continue (Helen Dunmore). Yes, I tend to do this. I go to bed, and between the light and the dark, my characters show me where they’re going and what they’re going to be doing next.

7. A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk Helen Dunmore). While I’m walking the dogs, problems often get solved. If your instinct is saying it doesn’t work, your instinct is probably right – change it. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you it doesn’t work.

8. Don’t wait for inspiration. Discipline is the key. I agree. Get up, get writing. Do it every day – rain or shine. No excuses – just do it.

9. Use layering. When I re-read that one time I think about: The five senses, the descriptions, the dialogue, the emotions and feelings, body language, conflict, actions, the pace, active/passive, and long/short sentences.

10. Also, I keep it simple, I make sure there’s lots of “white space” i.e. I use a lot of dialogue. I like reading dialogue. I tend to skip over chunks of description when I’m reading.

Some of the rules I break with wild abandon:

1. Keep your exclamation marks under control (Elmore Leonard). No, I tend to use a few more than 3 per 100,000-words!

2. Read it out loud. I can already hear it in my head, so I tend not to read my work out loud. Although the wife has caught me muttering to myself on occasion.

3. Cut. What I write is usually the finished product. There’s nothing to cut generally because my writing is minimilastic anyway. I re-read what I’ve written, make some minor changes, etc., send it off to the proofreader. Make some more minor changes.

4. Avoid using a thesaurus. I use the online version whenever I lose a word, or I need a definition. My memory isn’t what it was, and Statins make it worse, so I break this rule when I need to.

5. Cut out the metaphors and similes (Esther Freud). No, I break this rule regularly. Metaphors and similies are like old friends.

Well, I think that’s about it. A life in the day of Tim Ellis.
Read more from Tim Ellis at his Blog.

New Look

I’m trying a new look for my blog since I have a little time to work on other things between publishing my latest novel and starting on the next. I’m having some trouble getting the share buttons and follow options set up due to my life-time membership in the not-so-secret group: Technoilliterati.

I’ve just published my latest work Quadrille ~ A Dance for Four People on Amazon and I’m doing a promotion right now through coupons at Smashwords for the omnibus Red Cross of Gold Series:. Books I & II. I’ve posted the links on Facebook and a few other places. The coupon code is: FK64V and expires February 20. A good Valentine’s gift for anyone who hasn’t started the Red Cross of Gold:. Assassin Chronicles series.

So have a great Valentine’s Day and don’t forget your mums and grandmums and aunts if you know what is good for you. LOL!

Sample Sunday ~ June 3, 2012

$3.99 The Red Cross of Gold I & II Both books, one price or buy just Book II if you already have book I.

Here is a short excerpt from the Book II:. The King of Terrors

“Brother Lucio?”  The face of the Mystic Healer appeared to float above his face, disembodied somehow and he wondered how Simon had managed to leave his physical body and become a ghost.  “Can you hear me?”

“I am innocent,” Dambretti whispered in answer, expecting to receive more blows in return for the three simple words.

“It is over, my Brother,” Simon’s soft voice was full of pain.  He placed his hand on Lucio’s forehead.  “I have given something to Volpi which will let you rest easier.  He will take you home now.  I am sorry, Brother.  They have forbidden the use of the mystery.”

“It is the Will of God, Simon.  Do not weep for the dead, for they suffer less than the living,” Lucio whispered and blinked in confusion at the dreamy sound of his own voice and then tried to sit up, but this was not possible.  He could not move.  It seemed he was wrapped in layers of wool batting.  Strangely enough, he felt no pain. In fact, he felt nothing at all. “Giovanni is here?”

“Yes, Sir.  I’m here.” The graying man stepped into view and looked down at him, causing him to wonder where he was.  “We can go home now, Sir.”

“Home,” Lucio repeated the word.  “I didn’t recant, did I?”

“No, Sir.”

“How many?”  He asked.

“One hundred and two.”

 Giovanni Volpi reached down, picked up his Master like a sack of potatoes and threw him over his shoulder.  Strangely enough, this did not hurt either and he could see grass and then the tiles near the pool area passed below him.  It should have hurt like hell even at the best of times.  He could see down the back of the tall apprentice and watched in fascination as trails of blood ran down his arms and dripped onto a marble floor at the man’s heels.  He turned his head and saw Simon walking beside him, up-side-down, as they made their way out of the administration building to the waiting car.  Simon opened the back door and slid into the seat to wait while Giovanni lowered his Master into the blanket on the seat beside him.

“You would do well to sleep now, Brother,” Simon told him as he leaned against his shoulder.  “I gave you something which will help.”

“Sleep?”  Dambretti looked up at him dreamily.  “That sounds good, Brother Simon.  Do you have your telephone with you?  I need to make a call.”

“Shhhh, now,” Simon told him and turned his attention to the driver.

He awoke from a terrible dream some hours later as a great crash of thunder rumbled through his apartment.  He had been falling into a pit.  A great yawning pit full of screaming, severed heads.  They were calling to him.  Welcoming him to hell.  When he tried to move, the pain he had missed earlier in the evening did finally come and it was incredible.  He could do nothing but scream for Giovanni who appeared magically above his bed to give him the medicine the Healer had left for him.  The medicine was strong and quick.  Soon he was dreaming of hell again and this time, he could not wake up.

 http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004O0U1II

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001J6ORUS

 

The Red Cross of Gold:. Books I & II

The Red Cross of Gold:. Books I & II

$3.99 The Red Cross of Gold I & II Both books, one price

E is for Extra Duty

My apologies! This blog was written and supposed to be published yesterday while I was out, but I see that it was not.  So here it is, out of order and a bit late.  Please forgive! Do not disassemble Johnny Five!

This topic, “Extra Duty”, is supposed to be a minor sentence for breaking minor rules or multiple minor rule infractions Behind Bars.  I say ‘supposed to be’ because, in order for “Extra Duty” to exist, there must first be “Duty”.  I was particularly amused by what passed as “Extra Duty” in the prison system where I worked for over 23 years.

Since most prisoners/inmates soon learn how to live Behind Bars or perish, one of the things they learn, is how to ‘work the system’, in other words, they look for all the cracks and crevices in the rules and regulations and like so many bugs looking for hiding places in your kitchen cabinet, they have a way of disappearing when it comes to work or duty.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  They even have a term for this disappearing act: Ghosting.

Now, you might wonder how in the world a prisoner can disappear while he is locked up in prison and I understand why you might wonder.  Let me tell you, it is easier than you think.  There are multiple methods of doing so.  Some are more effective than others and some can get you deeper in trouble, but whatever the case, the pay-off is generally outweighs the risks.

If an inmate plans ahead, he might avoid “Extra Duty” by scheduling a visit to the prison infirmary immediately before his disciplinary hearing and get what is called a “lay-in” for as many days as he can get, by faking injuries or illnesses long enough to get past the “Extra Duty”.  They might figure out how to get into full-time classes because ‘schooling = rehabilitation’ and class hours outweigh everything except the most severe disciplinary action.  If you have class, you can’t show up for “Extra Duty” and classes take precedence.  However, if you do incur severe disciplinary action, such as confinement in Solitary Status or Administrative Segregation for say…. Protective Custody purposes, you not only get out of “Extra Duty”, you get out of everything and you get a whole cell to yourself.  This can be a perk since you don’t have to share you cell space with a loud, stinky, obnoxious stranger, who might have you for breakfast instead of pancakes, syrup and biscuits.

Summing up, I must tell you that “Extra Duty” causes more problems for the Officers and Staff than it does for the offenders.  Sadly enough, this situation is often encountered Behind Bars.