What Am I Up To These Days?

With the launch of my latest novel, Ten Years Gone, already three weeks in the past, I figured this would be a good time for an update.

I’ve been working hard on a number of writing-related matters over the past few weeks. Let me share some of them with you.

My main project at the moment is the fourth novel in the Adam Lapid series. I’m nearing 60,000 words in this one, and it’s shaping up to be a hell of a story. I like the characters, I like the drama, and the action is great too. I think this will be my most tense and exciting novel so far.

When will I be done with it?

That’s a hard question to answer. My two boys are about to begin their summer holiday so I expect my production speed to take a nosedive. We’re also moving to a new apartment, which means a lot of hassle and time that could have been used for writing being channeled toward other things.

If these were ordinary days,  I would likely have finished the first draft in a month. Then a few weeks of editing, cover design, and formatting — say another month — and the book would have been done. But as these are not ordinary days, I cannot make a prediction. But I am working on the story as fast as I can.

I’ve also started a second project, this one a standalone crime novel, not featuring Adam Lapid. I can’t say too much about it yet save that the main character is a young woman who finds herself in deep trouble and has to dig deep within herself to reach a solution. I’ve practically finished chapter one, and so far I’m loving it.

Besides writing, I’m also exploring various marketing methods to try to reach new readers and to boost sales. These are early days in that respect, and at the moment I don’t have much to report. It’s the beginning of a long education process. It’s tiring, and I’d rather be writing, but it does have its moments.

That’s it for me. Now back to writing that Adam Lapid novel.

Last thing, if you’re on Goodreads, check out my page. You can check out ratings and reviews for my books there and send me a message with any question or feedback that you might have. See you there.

My Editing Process

First, some news: I just finished editing the third novel in the Adam Lapid Mystery series. I’ll hold off on revealing the title just yet, as I am not 100% sure about it. I also don’t know when it will be made available, as there are still some things that need to be done first, like a cover.

That being said, I thought this would be a good time to share my editing process. Some writers have a different system, and you might find that another process works best for you, so if you try mine out and it doesn’t feel right, just try something else. There is no right and wrong here, as long as the end product is good.

I have a four step editing system, which I found works really well.

1. Continual Edits While Writing

 

The first step occurs while I am writing the novel. Each day, as I sit before my computer, I’ll read the previous day’s work before forging ahead in the story. This helps me to reorient myself in the plot and also to bring to my attention any glaring errors that I committed the day before, in the heat of the creative process.

I call this continual editing. I sort of loop back in the story each day, find and correct any typos, grammar errors, and continuity problems that I find,  and then plow on ahead. This way, my manuscript arrives at the end of the first draft having already been edited once, at least.

2. The Read Aloud

What are fiction writers, really? At their core they are storytellers. They are not storywriters, but storytellers.

My role is just the same as that of the man who would sit in a cave by the communal fire and tell stories to our ancestors 20,000 years ago. A story is told, as if spoken aloud.

Of course, hardly no one who reads your books will do so aloud. But, reading your own novel aloud to yourself will expose many mistakes and stylistic imperfections that would have otherwise escaped your notice.

The ear hears things that the eye doesn’t see. So a clunky sentence or a snatch of dialog may look fine on paper, but it may sound wobbly. And readers will sense the wrongness of such a sentence or passage. They may not know exactly why they’re getting a weird feeling, but they will nonetheless, and it will affect their enjoyment of your work.

In addition, in today’s market, with audiobooks making up a growing segment of fiction sales, it would be very wise to make sure your book reads well aloud, as this is the way more and more consumers are likely to experience it.

This is why the second step in my editing process is to read aloud the entire first draft.

3. The Print Reading

After the read-aloud, I print out the entire work and read it on paper.

I don’t know why, but the eye catches a lot of things on paper that it misses on the screen. That’s been my experience, at least.

This can be tedious, as you’ve already written the novel and read it aloud to yourself. The story is not as fresh or exciting as it may be to a reader who comes to it with no prior knowledge of the characters or plot. Still, dig deep and get it done. It will make your work better.

4. Copy Editing

At this point, it is time to let a professional go over your novel. My editor uses a two step system. She goes over the novel, marking mistakes of all sorts, and sends the marked text to me to either incorporate her suggestions or reject them.

Once I do that, I email her the corrected text and she goes over it again, to catch anything she might have missed the first time. This time there are usually very few mistakes, and I either correct them or keep them, if I feel they are stylistically important.

Then the novel is done. It may not be perfect, but no novel is. It is as good as my writing and my story allows it to be. Anyone who reads will be able to judge it primarily on plot and style, and not get distracted by typos or grammatical errors, because there won’t be any (or maybe just a few).

So this is my editing process. I hope you found it useful.

One of the Greatest Stories Ever Told

Today, I and family, and millions of other Jews, will celebrate Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew. This holiday celebrates, or commemorates if you will, the emancipation of the Jewish people from slavery and their exodus from Egypt.

Whether you believe the Exodus really happened, or you’re of the opinion that the whole thing was made up by a crafty writer (or a number of them), there is no doubt that the story behind Passover (which can be found in the Torah) is one of the greatest stories ever told. Thus, it holds some valuable lessons for fiction writers.

Consider some of the elements that make this story great.

High Stakes

The background to the story of the Exodus is that the people of Israel (the Jewish people) find themselves enslaved in Egypt. This is racially based slavery, one from which there is no reprieve.

These are high enough stakes, but the Torah piles on another: The Pharaoh, fearing the rising number of Jews, decrees that all newborn Jewish males be killed. Now we’re not dealing with slavery alone, but with something approaching genocide.

Rags to Riches and Rags Again

The Pharaoh’s decree leads baby Moses’s mother to place him in a basket and send him adrift on the river Nile. He is found by one of the Pharaoh’s daughters, who takes him and raises him in the palace as an Egyptian prince.

So Moses, born to the lowest social caste, is whisked upward by providence to the highest.

But Moses cannot escape who he is. He is not an Egyptian. He is a Jew. This leads Moses, now a young man, to kill a slave master whom he sees whipping a slave. Fearing punishment for this killing, Moses flees Egypt, and thus loses his high status once more.

A Flawed Hero

God then comes to Moses, orders him back to Egypt and tells him he must liberate his fellow Jews. But Moses claims to be not up to the task, for he is not a good talker. He has a speech impediment. Still, God is adamant. Moses is to be his messenger of liberation.

Magic

When Moses returns to Egypt he comes as an emissary from the Hebrew God. He demands the Jews be liberated, and he must prove that his God is more powerful than those of the Egyptians.

Thus begin the Ten Plagues which fall upon Egypt. Most fantasy writers would be hard-put to come up with better and deadlier calamities, or any that evoke more visceral imagery than the Ten Plagues do. Consider the Nile growing thick with blood, or darkness befalling upon the land, or frogs becoming ubiquitous, or, the final plague, that of the death of each Egyptian first born (which sorts of parallels the Pharaoh’s decree which started Moses on his journey).

The Exodus

Finally convinced that the Jews must be allowed to leave, the Pharaoh grants them permission to depart his land. Thus begins the Exodus, in which thousands of Jewish men, women, and children begin marching toward the Holy Land, the land from which their ancestors had come to Egypt.

This is a hard and arduous journey, but one which has not truly begun until they had crossed the Red Sea. For the Pharaoh, having had a change of heart, has sent his army after them.

Caught between the approaching Egyptian army and the Red Sea, the Jews are in a hopeless position. Then God comes to their rescue. He opens a path between the waves and the Jews march through it to the other bank. The Egyptian army pursues them, but the sea closes on them and swallows them whole.

This is a highly suspenseful scene. You don’t know until the last minute whether the Egyptians would catch up to the Jews and slaughter them.

The Story Continues

This is not the end of the story. This is where, in modern fiction, Book 1 would end. The rest of the tale — the forty-year-long journey of the Jews through the Sinai, the delivery of the Ten Commandments, the Golden Calf episode, and later the conquest of the Holy Land by Joshua — would be told in later books.

My own novels are nowhere near as wide in scope as the epic of the Exodus. And there is no magic in my realistic books. Yet, in every good novel, there is a hero, often flawed, who is striving against odds, to find a solution to a high-stake problem.

Whether you’re writing a mystery novel, a romance, or an epic fantasy tale, the Exodus can teach you a lot about the crafting a plot and story. After all, stories don’t survive and continue to be told for millennia for no reason.

Happy Pesach, everyone.

3 Audio Recommendations

I’m a big fan of audiobooks, and recently I had the pleasure of listening to some very good ones.  I thought I’d share some of them with you guys, but instead of limiting myself to recommending single books, I thought I’d share some good multi-books collaborations between authors and narrators that I particularly enjoyed.

Sean Barrett reads Jo Nesbo

The collaboration between narrator Sean Barrett and Norwegian author Jo Nesbo is an auspicious one. Barrett narrates Nesbo’s Harry Hole mystery/thriller series, as well as a number of standalone novels, such as The Son and Headhunters. He does a stellar job with all of them. Scandinavian crime writing doesn’t come much better than Nesbo, so these audiobooks are a treat for all crime fiction lovers.

Scott Thomas reads Jeff Strand

Jeff Strand is an underrated writer of horror novels with a comedic element. But a Strand novel is a much deeper work of art than what comes to most minds when the horror genre is discussed. Strand knows how to write about relationships, friendships, and love. He writes with enormous heart and his books are an emotional ride, not just a bloodfest (which he also does very well).

I’ve listened to three Jeff Strand audiobooks read by Scott Thomas, who seems to have the perfect voice for these novels. Mainly, he knows how to do children and teenagers very well, age groups that feature prominently in Strand novels. The three books — Pressure, Wolf Hunt, and Dweller — are excellent, and Thomas’s reading raises them from their high level in text to even more soaring heights in audio.

Grover Gardner reads Lois McMaster Bujold

Grover Gardner is one of the most beloved audiobook narrators in the world. Lois McMaster Bujold is a masterful science fiction/fantasy writer. It’s no wonder that the joining of their talents has produced such fantastic audiobooks.

Gardner narrates Bujold’s successful Vorkosigan Saga, which includes more than fifteen novels and novellas, so far. He brings to life each of Bujold’s full characters and does justice by Bujold’s riveting plots and luminous prose. Science fictions fans have made Bujold one of the most bestselling authors in the genre, which is entirely deserved. The Vorkosigan Saga audiobooks are a big hit in and of themselves, and Gardner’s spotless narration is one of the reasons.

So, if you’re looking for audiobooks to listen to, check out my recommendations. I’m sure you’ll love them.

What I’m Working On Now

I have a number of projects lined up at the moment. Two small ones, one medium, and one large.

The two small ones are two short fantasy stories that have already been written and edited. What remains is writing the blurbs and doing the covers. I plan on using the same cover artist who did the covers for the four short stories I’ve published so far. I just need to find a quiet hour to do the blurbs.

The medium project is a horror western story (awesome combination, in my humble opinion), that’s about 10,000 words long. I am still in the process of editing it myself — before having it professionally edited, of course.

The big project is the third Adam Lapid novel, though one which takes place before The Dead Sister and The Auschwitz Violinist chronologically. This novel is turning out to be longer than I had anticipated, though the end is fast approaching. I hope to be finished with the writing in three-four weeks. Then I will go over it, remove embarrassing parts, clunky sentences, and obvious typos, and make sure that all the parts and pieces of the story work as I envision them.

Then, a few rounds of professional editing, a cover, and it will go live in both ebook and paperback form. I am excited about this novel. I hope it turns out as well as I think it will.

And, on the back burner of my mind, I have a few ideas percolating for more Adam Lapid novels, and novels which do not feature him. These include an assassin novel, a spy/political thriller, and a light-hearted comic crime novel, which should serve as a series opener.

So a lot of things cooking. I hope you’ll like the dishes when they’re done.