Progress on The Reefs of Time, and More Thoughts on the Pain and Joy of Rewriting

With my completion of a challenging rewrite of Chapter 65, “To the Death,” I have updated my progress bar on the rewrite of The Reefs of Time. I am now 91% of the way to completion. Let’s hear it! Thank you; you’re a wonderful audience! I’m a little startled, though, to see that the total length of the book, in double-spaced manuscript pages, has grown to 1299! Yow. That’s one big stack of paper!

This is what happens, sometimes, when I am rewriting, and cutting and trimming, and trying to make it all tighter, leaner, and clearer. Because sometimes rewriting for clarity means you need to add detail and texture, or even new scenes—not because you want to compete with Stephen King or George Martin for length, but because sometimes that’s what the story needs to make the action clearer, the motivations more palpable, the inner logic sounder, or the emotions more powerful.

It’s unnerving, because all this time I’ve been rewriting (years!) I’ve been aiming to make the book leaner and tighter (tight buns and abs!) and thus—I was hoping—shorter. And in fact, I’ve cut a lot from these pages. Lots and lots–zzzzzt, gone! Despite those cuts, the book has grown from 968 manuscript pages in the first draft, to 1299 pages in the second, or from roughly 223,000 words to 262,000 words.

By comparison, Sunborn is 144,000 words. The Infinity Link is 180,000 words. Eternity’s End is 224,000 words. Those were all pretty big books. So I guess this one is honking big.

So, what, am I failing at my job? No, I hope not. Because you know what, I’m starting to think this might be a really good book. Perhaps you’re not supposed to say that about your own book. But if at some point, you don’t start to feel that kind of burn, you may be in the wrong profession—or at the very least, you’re not having enough fun. I wasn’t so sure what I had when I finished the first draft, because I was aware of many, many thorny issues marked “Fix this in rewrite.” Usually when I add that notation, it means I have no friggin’ idea how to fix it, whatever “it” is. It just means I know there’s a problem.

And the solutions come slowly, and sometimes involve days of circling the delinquent chapter, trying to find the pivot point that will make the plot work, or the character spring to life. Often it involves asking What is this chapter here for? What happens that makes it important? This can be a troubling time in the life of any chapter’s rewrite. Because sometimes it seems to call into question the entire book. If this chapter doesn’t make sense, none of it makes sense, and I’ve just wasted ten years of work.

But slowly or not, the solutions do come if you just keep at it. And as I’ve ironed out one problem after another, after another, and another, I’ve found myself developing an attitude about this book. A remarkably positive attitude!

I’m feeling it particularly after finishing this chapter, currently numbered 65—in which, by the way, someone we care about dies. My problems in rewriting it weren’t about the death itself, but about the events leading up to the death. They just didn’t make sense, even to me. I’ll reveal here that parts of this book get pretty cosmic and space-time reality-stretchy—a favorite theme of mine—and this chapter is one of the most like that. It’s a kind of narrative I really enjoy when it’s well done, and groan miserably over when it’s not. A couple of weeks ago, I was doing a lot of groaning. But then, bit by bit (or Bird by Bird, for you Anne Lamott readers), I found my way through it. I think I sorted out why it wasn’t working and reshaped it so that now it does. And I think it carries a pretty good punch, or at least it does for me. I guess I’ll know more when my writing group has looked at it.

It occurs to me as I write this that NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) has just kicked into gear. Go, all you writing-heads, write those stories! And if it doesn’t feel like it’s coming out right the first time, just remember, rewriting is most of the fun! That’s where the gold starts shining through.



America Too?

posted in: BookBub, specials | 0

I’ve got a Bookbub special running today on Panglorfor a few days, one buck only!—but for this reason and that and another, the ad is only running in the international market. If you’re a U.S. subscriber to Bookbub, you won’t see it. But that doesn’t mean you don’t get the deal, too! Why should I leave out my biggest audience? So for my fellow Americans, it’s an unadvertised special! Yee-haw!

Get it now. One buck minus one penny! That’s just $.99 to get a headlong running start into the Star Rigger Universe! Come visit a world that’s even crazier than ours.

And prove to the world you don’t need a Bookbub ad to know a deal when you see one.

Driveway Chronicles, Pt. 3 (Finale)

Previously on Driveway Chronicles:

When last we saw our intrepid heroes, the paving crew had departed and our heroes were left to reinstall the fence that just one year ago, they had fashioned from raw lumber with their skinned knuckles and calloused hands. Groundhog Day all over again. This might have been a job for a short afternoon break, if everything still fit as it had originally. Of course, nothing did, and so putting it all back took a little longer. But now it is done!

Those are permeable pavers, by the way, in “Beacon Hill Blend.” It’ll be interesting to see how they work out for draining water when Ma Nature hits us with the snows and whatnot.

Here’s the Before and After:



Driveway Chronicles, Pt. 2

Day two of the driveway rebuild. A tale to be told mainly in pictures.

Here they work on the permeable concrete pavers near the garage:

The first of two layers of asphalt gets its start:

Loading up the paving machine for the straight run down the drive:


Starting the top layer:

Here’s the final result!

Tomorrow, I hope to put the fence and gate back up. They need to come back and tweak one thing. And then it will be done.

I learned from this project: a) that there are still people out there who do really good work; and b) that no matter how good they are, you still have to be there, checking every detail. Details have a way of getting lost in the dust cloud of construction. If I hadn’t been there looking in every couple of hours and asking for corrections, we would not have been nearly as happy. But we’re delighted with the final product!



Driveway Chronicles, Pt. 1

While Mother Nature is tearing things down left and right, we’re doing our little bit to build things up. When we bought our fixer-upper, one of the items on our major house-projects list was to replace the cracked and shifting concrete driveway. Now, a mere 26 years later, we are having it done. The proximate cause was a desire to have Allysen’s mom be able to walk on it without risking her neck. But the guy who shovels the snow every year (me) was not above putting in that he wouldn’t mind having a smooth surface to scrape away at.

Many daunting tasks needed doing to prepare for this undertaking, but the hardest for me psychologically was taking down (even if temporarily) a big section of fence I just built and installed a year ago. Here’s how it looked before today.

The paving crew arrived at 7:30 this morning, which anyone who knows me knows is only a theoretical time of the day, as far as I’m concerned. We had to be not just awake enough to move the cars out of the driveway, but awake enough to discuss design details and make decisions. I wonder if they started this early when they built Rome in a day.

Here’s how things looked, soon after, as they tore up the old concrete:

And cut away the most cracked and crumbling part of the garage floor:

And installed the line of granite cobblestone that will edge the driveway:

And smoothed out the newly patched floor:

And laid out concrete pavers on the new patio-in-progress:


All that has happened today. And they’re still out there working.

(To be continued…)


Puerto Rico: Worse Than We Thought

The situation on the ground in “our” part of Puerto Rico (Ponce) is apparently a lot tougher than we had come to believe. Allysen finally got through to the next-door neighbor for a talk via cellphone. She says conditions are terrible. Still no water, and this in the second largest city on the island. Still no power. They fire up the generator for about an hour a day to charge things up, and they’re being very miserly with the water that’s left in their cistern (which, fortunately, is larger than average for a home). They have enough food still, but many, many people are hungry. The land feels devastated, and for the first two weeks, they felt utterly abandoned. The National Guard was down there somewhere, they supposed, but nobody came up to their side of the city until just recently.

Her description of our property was pretty discouraging, too. We still haven’t seen any pictures, but apparently trees are down everywhere, making things look like a bomb went off. We’re hoping that the original report that the house itself is okay was accurate, but we just won’t know until somebody can send us some pictures.

Frances said in her whole life on the island, she’s never seen anything even remotely this bad. The kicker is that, prior to the hurricane, tourism had been on the rise. Cruise ships had been coming in—not just to San Juan, but to ports like Ponce. Even our house was getting rented. All that’s over. I hate to think how long it will take to rebuild a viable economy.

These folks still need our help in a big way—and will, for a long time to come.

Welcome News from Puerto Rico

We finally heard from our friend and property caretaker in Ponce, and the word is that he and his family and their house are okay! (Concrete house; concrete structures fared far better in the storm than wooden structures.) We had gone so long without word that we were worried, to say the least. But, he said, the cell companies were working together to get communications back up, and he was at last able to call out. He’s been working extremely long hours as a policeman, and he reports that people have really been pulling together to put things back together. The U.S. military is there, and has been providing much-needed assistance. A little bit of power has come back in the city. I don’t know about water.

Our own house (when I say “our,” I mean my mother-in-law’s) escaped major damage, though a much-loved mahogany tree went down, and also a large Northern pine. There was some damage from the trees falling, but amazingly, all but one of the windows survived, and that one was on the side of an open-air dining area that was exposed to the elements anyway. The road up the hill to the house was cleared by the residents.

We count ourselves and the people we care about extremely fortunate, to say the least. I wish the same were true of everyone. These pictures from the New York Times can serve as a reminder that the people of Puerto Rico still very much need our help.

And let’s hear it for Tesla, for sending Powerwall batteries to help with critical power needs!


Website Is Secured, Cap’n!

One of the pesky things about having an author website is that you have to maintain the thing and keep it current. A couple of years ago, I wrenched mine out of the 1990s and into the ever-shifting “present” by abandoning the simple html pages that I mostly understood, and adopting a WordPress platform that I only kinda sorta understood. The thing is that the old version was not mobile friendly, which meant it was hard to read on a smartphone. The WordPress version is uber-friendly, and let’s face it, looks a lot better and is easier to read on anything except maybe an Atari or Apple II.

What I didn’t do, though, was make it a “secure” site, meaning among other things, having an “https” URL instead of “http” and having that “[padlock] Secure” thingy at the beginning of the address bar. I don’t do any commerce from my site, so I didn’t think it was necessary. But in this, as in so many other things, I was mistaken. Google really wants you to have a secure site, and you can take a hit in the search results by not having one. So… all right, all right, all right, I’ll do it already.

The process seemed pretty daunting at first, but it turned out I only had to make a couple of small changes in my WordPress dashboard, and another on my hosting server control panel, to make my pages appear as “https.” Getting the padlock, though—that was another matter. A tech support call to InMotion, my hosting company, netted the information that every image that appears on my website has to have an address that begins with src=”https instead of src=”http. That’s a lot of images! (A website called was very helpful in diagnosing the issue, by the way.)

At first, I thought this meant I would have to upload all the images again and place each one back onto each page. Aaahh!!! But that turned out to be unnecessary. What I did have to do was edit each website page in code view and type in the “s” everywhere I found src=”http. That was it! Didn’t take more than five or six hours, tops. For some reason, it wasn’t needed on the blog posts.

In the course of doing this, I discovered that I had some pages way down on my menus that I’d never actually put the content into! Oops. (Workshops and TV Show, I’m lookin’ at you.) So I corrected that, too.

Bottom line: We’re done, we’re secure, we’re good to go! Condition Green throughout the ship!

Irma Wasn’t Enough? Here Comes Maria.

As I write this, Hurricane Maria is riding across Dominica and other Caribbean islands, trying to destroy whatever Irma left standing. I cannot imagine what it must be like for the residents of those small islands. Maria has been gaining and losing intensity, in the sense that it’s going back and forth between Category 4 and Category 5. Neither of those is something you want to see coming at you.

Sometime Wednesday, Maria will hit Puerto Rico (the red blob in the center of the storm track). We are of course worried about our friends and the family property in Ponce. The current predicted storm track looks as though it will hit San Juan hardest, but will likely also hit the southern coast of Puerto Rico harder than Irma did. All we can do is wait and pray.

Here’s a stunning and sobering video composition of Irma, Katia, and Jose as seen from a new NOAA weather satellite, GOES-16.

Click to view the video on the NY Times website. Do it. It’s worth it. Be sure to scroll down the page, as there are several video perspectives. These amazing images are from a satellite that’s not yet even fully operational.

Do we really want to cut funding for this kind of science? (The current administration does.) Or are we ready to take seriously the problem of global climate change?

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