Fun with formatting

One of my favorite parts of the writing process may very well be the formatting aspect, both in setting up documents and at the end, while preparing documents for publication. I love how it lets me use the left (non-creative) side of my brain for a change.

I assumed I had to go back onto my 11-year-old computer to format my alternative history and hyperlink the table of contents, like I’ve done with every other manuscript, but Word just wasn’t cooperating when I C&Ped it into a pre-formatted 6×9 template. It kept going into spinning pinwheel of Death mode when I tried to change certain pieces of formatting, and inexplicably changed certain sections into Helvetica.

The newest version of Pages can hyperlink to bookmarks within a document just like Word, though it’s a more time-consuming, less straightforward process. I also discovered how to custom-set the size of the pages within a document, set mirror margins (facing pages) and the various margins on every page (inside, outside, etc.), make the right and left pages different (to allow for headers with page numbers on alternating sides), and so many things I thought only Word could do.

When I justified the entire document in Pages, my 0.3″ indents were retained, unlike in Word. I only had to re-center my headings, a few of the front matter pages (with quotes, the dedication, and publication information), the numbers and three-asterisk markers denoting sections within chapters, and the headlines and bylines of newspaper stories.

I then changed my chapter, part, and back matter headings to Wellingborough Text, the typeface the title page, cover, and “The End” are in. I want everything to match.

I’ve set the release of my print copies for 12 August, what would’ve been Aleksey’s 114th birthday. I don’t want to rush through the rest of my formatting just so both formats come out on the same day. I still have to set it so no page numbers or other headers appear on the first page of each part, and to set page numbers as footers on the first page of each chapter.

I changed my leading from the normal 2 to 1, which shrank my page count by almost half. I’d planned to leave it in my belovèd Palatino, but came to realize my typographical soulmate doesn’t convey the type of mood I want. Not only does Baskerville shrink page count even further, but it also is very elegant, timeless, literary, and evocative of a bygone era.

Palatino:

Baskerville:

I’ll continue writing just about everything in Palatino, but for actual typesetting, I really like Baskerville. I’m also fond of Cochin and Janson. XenonMedium helps with shrinking page count too, but might not be so readable for long stretches.

Cochin:

Janson:

XenonMedium:

Do you enjoy the formatting part of the writing process? Do you save the less immediate aspects for last, or do you set everything up when you create a document or chapter file? Do you have a favorite typeface for writing, and does it differ from what you like to see in printed books?

What’s Up Wednesday

WUW Winter

What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly hop/meme with four simple headings. Anyone can write a post and add the link to Jaime’s blog.

What I’m Reading

The beautiful coffeetable book Living in the Material World, full of pictures and quotes. As if I needed any more reasons why George is my favourite solo Beatle, or to be in awe of what an amazing soul he had.

What I’m Writing

Up to 593,300 words on my WIP, and not spending as much time on it lately to focus on the first two books I’m publishing this year. I’ve done a lot of reading and quick learning about formatting for e-books, which basically means unlearning a lot of what I’ve been taught about how to create documents. I’m going to remove autohyphenation last, since it just looks weird to have no hyphenation. When I put out the print versions, the headers, hyphens, and page numbers will go back in.

This added time away from Little Ragdoll has helped me to see where I need to get rid of excess verbiage, unnecessary lines, clunky phrasing, and other things I didn’t catch while going through it before. Shaving even 30,000 words off will just be a drop in the bucket when it’s about 387,000 words, but there’s only so much one can excise in such a deliberately long book and have it remain the same story.

What Inspires Me

As I’ve mentioned before, I mostly listened to The Hollies and The Four Seasons while writing Little Ragdoll from November 2010-February 2011. (Yes, I wrote a 397,000-word first draft in only three months.) Since it worked so well the first time, I’m spending quality time with The Hollies again for editing. My Hollies’ playlist on YouTube is now in tatters, with a lot of videos/songs deleted or made private, but Spotify doesn’t have that problem.

Finally, I get to listen to the albums from their classic years, after never being able to find anything pre-1969 in record stores in all the years I’ve been into vinyl. I consider myself fortunate for how I first got into Sixties and Seventies music in 1993, when there were two local oldies stations, and they played a fair bit more variety than they do today. They played so many songs I only hear these days on Dick Bartley’s Saturday night show. So when I became a Hollies’ fan in 1993, it was based off a lot more than just the 4-5 songs the one remaining oldies station plays into the ground now. (Seriously, I could go the rest of my life without hearing “Long Cool Woman” or “Bus Stop” ever again, though Allen and Lenore do meet at a bus stop on a rainy night in homage.)

If you’re interested, their best albums are For Certain Because…, Evolution, and Butterfly. They’ll introduce you to a whole new side of the band, which you’d probably never guess from the handful of songs in endless radio rotation. Songs like “Leave Me,” “Have You Ever Loved Somebody,” “Tell Me to My Face,” “Heading for a Fall,” “Would You Believe.” As I’ve said, thanks to the soundtrack for this book, I picture Ricky as a very young Graham Nash.

What Else I’m Up To

Waiting 4-6 weeks to hear back about whether I can quote from lyrics from the George Harrison songs “Crackerbox Palace” and “Be Here Now.” If I get permission, hopefully it won’t be too expensive. I found out that seeking permission for “Blessed” involves calling Paul Simon’s small office in NYC, not contacting a large publishing company. Apparently he’s very careful/choosy about whom he grants permission to. So either way, a famous person will know I exist after I make that call. I’d like to think that it might help my case that I’m just asking for some lines from a lesser-known song and not a huge blockbuster like “BOTW.”

Purim Katan (Mini-Purim) was Saturday night. Since it’s a leap year, there are two Purims this year, and the big one will be during spring break. Spring break at SUNY Albany has been made earlier since the Kegs and Eggs incident of 2011. On St. Patrick’s Day, students in Pine Hills smashed car windows, broke TVs and other appliances, and fought drunk in the street. The yearly Fountain Day was also cancelled indefinitely because of this.

I reused my nun costume from Halloween, and a few people didn’t even recognise me at first. I suppose that says something about how easily I could pass for a real nun!

2012 in Review

2012 made it 28 years since I’ve been writing, 29 years since I’ve been reading. I also finally belatedly went back to school for a master’s degree and got all my files off of my old eMac, and continued converting and reformatting my books that had been held hostage on obsolete file formats on disks for years.

When I started looking through my AppleWorks files, I got the brilliant idea to make the stories of my Shoah characters (both during and after the war) into a spin-off from my Atlantic City books. Prior, I’d written those stories to periodically insert into my Max’s House books taking place at the same time, as a sort of counterpoint and sobering alternate trajectory to the stories of the American teens, whose troubles pale in comparison to those of their European peers. I realized most of those stories were becoming far too long and involved, and deserved their own books.

The first one I tackled was the only completed story, a long short story/piece of backstory about my secondary character Major Jakob DeJonghe and his wife Rachel Roggenfelder. I saw so many places where the narrative could easily be expanded and fleshed out significantly, since there were a lot of wraparound narrative summaries to cover large portions of the timeline. It got so long that I decided to end it on a natural breaking point, and use the rest of the material for a second volume, about Jakob’s first year in America.

I really enjoyed writing both of those books, and Jaap quickly became one of my favorite male protagonists. The second volume also gave me a chance to write about the culture shocks experienced by Jakob and Rachel as new immigrants, and how so many people around them genuinely couldn’t understand how it’s normal in Holland for a woman to keep her surname and to give birth at home with a midwife. One of the book’s prominent storylines is Rachel’s search for a midwife in the era of twilight sleep.

I got a few requests from contests I entered the first volume in, but didn’t query it. I’m hoping to query it around in the new year, since I always had a very special feeling about it, and it’s really short by my standards. I also won a short story contest at the YA Stands blog for “Kálmán Runs Away,” a 7200-word story set in France in April 1946 and centered on a 16-year-old Hungarian couple.

I did a lot more editing, revising, polishing, and rewriting of my first Russian novel, and some little edits here and there on Little Ragdoll. I’d already done the majority of my editing and revising of the latter in 2011. I got some work done on Justine Grown Up, but had to put it on hiatus again because the spark just wasn’t burning brightly enough. I’m still going to eventually get back to work on it, but I’m not sure when. I’m also still hoping to find a few people to interview for the dramatic penultimate chapter, “Sing Blue Silver Snowstorm.”

I began my third Russian novel on 5 November and did a lot of work very quickly. I’m already up to a bit over 123,000 words, with my guesstimate for the completed book at 450,000. It could easily go up to 500,000, since it does cover 15 years and has so many characters and locations (Minnesota, Manhattan, Moskvá, Minsk, Kyiv, Siberia, Shanghai, Toronto, San Francisco, France, Germany, Poland, Sweden, a few more).

********************************************

Some of the books I read in 2012 that I loved:

The Watch That Ends the Night, by Allan Wolf, a novel in verse about the Titanic. If I hadn’t been told that this was YA, I would’ve assumed it was a regular adult historical. (Seriously, only a handful of the characters are young people.) It gave me hope for the future of serious historical in modern YA.

The Ausländer, by Paul Dowswell. It was published in England, and also gave me hope for the future of serious historical YA. It’s a unique take on life in Nazi Germany, full of meticulous historical research and character development. Though it’s under 300 pages, it didn’t feel short or insubstantial at all.

My Family for the War, by Anne C. Voorhoeve. It was originally published in Germany as Liverpool Street, and follows a Kindertransport child from 1938-45, as she ages from 10 to 17. It was so refreshing to read a real Bildungsroman that follows a character during her entire coming of age period, a book that’s more about the journey of growing up in a tumultuous time period than fast-paced and plot-centric.

A Promise at Sobibór, by Philip Bialowitz. I met Mr. Bialowitz when he spoke at Saratoga a few years ago, and was just as impressed by his memoir as I was by his talk. He and his much-older brother Symcha are among the 53 known Sobibór survivors, and took part in the brave uprising and escape of 14 October 1943. This book was under 200 pages, but it didn’t feel short or rushed at all. It’s not about word or page count, but what you do with it that makes or breaks a story.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. This was one of those books I’d always known about, but for whatever reason, I never got around to reading it. It was well worth the wait. This is one of those books that’s going to stay with me for the rest of my life, with such memorable characters and scenes, so many emotional moments.

Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. This was one of the non-fiction books I picked for my YA Lit class, and it really helped me to understand how so many otherwise normal, nice young people could’ve gotten so sucked into a culture of hatred and violence. In their minds, they were doing the right thing. It also told the stories of some young people who were brave enough to resist.

Annie on My Mind, by Nancy Garden. This was another book I’d known about for a long time, but just never got around to reading. It too was well worth the wait. It felt so refreshing to read a character-driven, slower-paced YA book with more literary language. I agree that it doesn’t read like a book set in the early Eighties or late Seventies, but that helps to give it a more timeless feel. A lot of YA books from bygone years now seem rather dated, products of a particular decade instead of a story for all time.

The Well of Loneliness, by Radclyffe Hall. While this is one of those books that I knew going in wasn’t going to have a happy ending (Annie was the first book with a gay couple to have a happy ending), I loved the prose and the story. It’s full of the old-fashioned, telling prose that would get ridiculed nowadays, but that was the style at the time (1928). I grew up reading books that told more than showed, so I’m used to that.

*******************************************

My beautiful vinyl collection only grew by two this year, Arena (1984) and Notorious (1986). It sucks no longer living within walking distance of a record store and being able to go there once a week (or more) to just browse for hours, breathing in the beautiful smell of vinyl. And you know you’re hopelessly timewarped when you finally fall for a band who got famous in your lifetime, and their first record is still over 30 years old by now. I just can’t win!

One Lovely Blog Award

Back in May, I was nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award by Jim Wright, whose blog I found during the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Unfortunately, I had so many posts scheduled in my queue that I wasn’t able to post about it right away. I also decided to stop posting so frequently (though that still hasn’t exactly done wonders for increasing my traffic and percentage of comments per hits). Now I’m going to accept it, and give it to some fellow GUTGAA participants. The rules are to share seven things about oneself and to bestow the award on fifteen other people.

Seven things about myself:

1. I didn’t have chickenpox till I was 14 (February ’94), just one year before the vaccine became available in the States. I’d trade my natural immunity in in a heartbeat if it would mean being spared those two weeks of agony. Anyone who tries to claim that chickenpox is just some minor, fluffy disease has never met someone like me. Last summer, one of my four-year-old campers actually noticed the little white scars on my left forearm and asked what they were.

2. I learnt how to type when I was eight years old, with Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, on my family’s dear ’84 Mac. Before long I was a pro and typing up to 90 wpm. I was typing expertly when just about all of my classmates were still doing the search and peck method.

3. I pretty much graduated to adult novels at 14, when I discovered Hermann Hesse, and didn’t really read much of my generation’s teen lit from that point on. I was one of those super-advanced readers who always read several grade levels up, who genuinely enjoyed 99% of the required reading in English and who finished way ahead of the rest of the class, who always preferred thick, juicy novels even in elementary school.

4. I’ve always dreamt about someday having my own little farm, with some crops, bees, chickens, ducks, and goats (not for meat). I’d feel so at home on a kibbutz or moshav if I ever make aliyah.

5. This month makes it 19 years since I began typing in Palatino, the font I’ve religiously used ever since. I will use the similar-looking Bookman as a backup if Palatino isn’t available, and I use Edwardian Script for fancy stuff like title pages and something like a wedding invitation in a book. I’m so used to Palatino that I cringe when I convert a document out of MacWriteII or ClarisWorks and it’s set in that butt-ugly, tiny, generic Times New Roman. I can’t put it back into Palatino soon enough!

6. I didn’t feel a thing when I had my left nostril pierced in June 2003, not even a prick when the needle went in. And I was able to have it left in during all of my surgeries.

7. I’ve had countless dreams over the years about being pregnant and having a boy first, and the boy is always named Samuel, the name I’ve had my heart set on for my future firstborn son since I was at least 12 years old. I no longer want 8 kids, but if I have at least one child, my Samuel, I’ll feel satisfied. Those dreams always feel like such a good omen, that even though I’ve been childfree way longer than I ever thought I’d be, even though I’m now past my fertility peak, there’s a little boy named Samuel William waiting to be my child.

I’m going to give the award to fellow GUTGAA participants:

1. Jessica Becker books

2. Rebecca Enzor

3. Briana Woods-Conklin

4. Alexia Chamberlynn

5. Stephanie Scott

6. Kimberly Gabriel

7. J.A. Bennett

8. Lauren M. Barrett

9. Tara Tyler

10. Suzi @ Literary Engineer

11. Heather Harris-Brady

12. Clare Dugmore

And I’ll also give the award to some people I’ve discovered during other blogfests:

13. Katy Upperman

14. Elodie

15. Rachel McClellan

Buccaneer Blogfest—Blogging Origins

If you’re here for Horny Hump Day, please scroll down!

Happy birthday to my character Adicia Éloïse Carson, née Troy! The (beyond-words awful) discontinued original first draft has her birthday as 5 April, but when I was going back from scratch and memory 16.5 years after last doing any work on the book, I decided to make her a Cancer, my favoritest Astrological sign. And 11 is my lucky number, my master Life Number in Western Numerology. So 11 July it was. If Adicia were real, she’d be 58 today, but I see her as perpetually young in my mind, never aging much beyond her twenties.

Today’s theme of the Buccaneer Blogfest is centered on participants’ blogging origins. I began this particular blog last March (2011), but I had a comparatively popular site on Angelfire from January 2002 to September 2010. I also had a short-lived, never-deleted blog in between, which I’d hoped to use to document a possible journey into Orthodoxy. That blog was abandoned in frustration when the only comment I ever got was a spammy one from some zealot who was well-known at that time for trying to force people to read his extremist right-wing diatribe against non-Orthodox Judaism and Arabs in Israel.

My Angelfire site was shut down without any warning, but Baruch Hashem I did manage to recover over a thousand files while they were still cached. Some of the other pieces on that site were transcribed from journal entries and my freeverse past life poems, so I still had the originals of those no matter what. Let’s just say some mentally unbalanced pre-Vatican II wingnut wasn’t happy at something I wrote which criticized her creepy blog (still the creepiest site I’ve ever seen), and she got her sycophantic friends all worked up about it.

Some of these people were so pissed off at me that they had my site reported, and the entire thing was deleted instead of just the “offending” posting. If only these people had seen some of the even more critical comments about her blog when it’s been linked to and ridiculed on other sites and message boards! I had to laugh when the wingnut wrote a second posting about it, and said she’d read some of my other posts and “found out” I was celibate and wanted 8 kids. Clearly this woman was NOT reading posts that were anywhere near current, since I stopped wanting 8 kids quite a few years ago, and finally made my belated sexual debut at the relatively high age of 28. I’m not an antique virgin or celibate anymore, and I’d probably be happiest with an only child!

My goals for this blog have been to make it a primarily writing-based blog, instead of having such a panoply of topics as my Angelfire site had. I had well over a thousand postings on it by the end, on topics as diverse as album reviews, music, books, book reviews, poems, politics, religion, social issues, personal viewpoints, silent film, animal rights, Jerry Springer, Maury, you name it. And as my fellow pointed out around the time of this fiasco with the wingnut and her friends, I’d really been neglecting my fiction writing during all these years of writing for that website.

Of course I’d kept writing Cinnimin, my handwritten magnum opus, begun the 12th Max’s House book, and written/started a number of my collections of stories about my Shoah characters (which I’m slowly transforming into full-length books instead of periodic interludes for my Atlantic City books), but I hadn’t really written any full-length books in some time. They were all held hostage on obsolete file formats on discs, and I hadn’t started or gotten back to anything else either, only Cinnimin.

So the loss of my belovèd website inspired me to go back to Adicia’s story so many years later, and finally take my long-deferred dream of publication off the back burner. And in the months after finishing Adicia’s story, I began the painstaking process of converting and reformatting all those old files, among them my Russian novel. And while I was querying Adicia’s story last spring, I began this website, partly to document my search for an agent. I’ve since begun using it to discuss my writing, writing in general, and from time to time other topics dear to my heart, like silent film, classic rock, and world literature.

Ultimately, I’d like to acquire a relatively respectable regular following, and see at least one comment on every post. I’ve worked hard to make my average post under a thousand words, and I’m trying not to post every single day so I can attract more comments and followers. I’ve always been who I am, a serious intellectual who was born in the wrong generation on several fronts, and I don’t think I’ll ever regularly have short and snappy posts in lieu of longer ones that go into topics in a fair amount of depth. But I would like to at least attract more followers and build more regular comments, not just when I participate in blogfests and bloghops.