by jphilo | Apr 6, 2023 | See Jane Dance!
My character information spreadsheet saved my writing life today. Some of you may think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. The innocuous character information spreadsheet pictured above truly saved my life this week.
The events that necessitated this dramatic action began yesterday when my Midwestern Books editor sent the continuity and proofreading edits for See Jane Dance!. (It’s Book 3 in the West River Mystery Series in case you’re counting.) Soon I was reading through and approving the changes suggested by the proofreader. Who is amazing. Seriously amazing. All was going swimmingly until the proofreader’s note about second grader Cora Barkley. In a nutshell, the editor cited passages in See Jane Run! and See Jane Sing! that said Cora was a first grader.
Gasp! This is bad news for a fiction writer. (Yes, that would be me.)
I consider creating a consistent story world to be essential. How in the world was I going to reconcile this discrepancy and put Cora in the grade where she belongs? And how was I going to explain the shift to her teacher Jane who won’t have enough copies of first grade worksheets if that’s where Cora lands.
Oh wait. Jane is a fictional character. But still.
So what I did instead of freaking out, which I was my first reaction? First I opened my character information spreadsheet. I started this document before beginning See Jane Run! and have been updating and expanding it as new characters are added. The sheet includes basic information that helps me keep each character’s story consistent.* Not everything on the sheet ends up in the books, and that’s okay. It’s there just in case. Also, the picture above is of the beginning of the spreadsheet. It goes on for pages and pages.
A quick glance at Cora’s entry confirmed that she is supposed to be in second grade.
I also checked my composition notebook where I brainstormed character names and student grade levels long ago. Those notes also listed Cora as a second grader. Finally, I read the chapters in Run! and Sing! that were concerning to the proofreader. I used printed rather than electronic copies and discovered that those consistency errors had been caught and corrected before the books went to the printer and upheld Cora’s status as a second grader.*
Thus, thanks in part to my character information spreadsheet, I am breathing once again. My writing life has been saved, and Jane does not need to make a flying trip to Tipperary to copy more first grade worksheets for Cora. Whew!
*My character information sheet is only the tip of the character development iceberg. For each character, I have created a much longer document about their parents, immediate and extended families (very important in Little Missouri as everyone is related to everyone else), their education and employment, quirky habits and mannerisms, their homes and ranches, vehicles, motivations, faults, strengths, and more. Perhaps one day I’ll write a post about that.
**My guess is the proofreader had referred a document that hadn’t been updated to show those changes.
by jphilo | Feb 15, 2023 | See Jane Dance!, See Jane Dig!
See Jane Dance! and See Jane Dig! are trucking along, and it’s time for an update on both. Let’s start with See Jane Dance! The last post about that book was clear back in December when I was still revising the first draft. So much has happened since then, and it’s all good.
The completed manuscript of Dance! is being scrutinized by the Midwestern Books concept editor. Her preliminary feedback assured me that the manuscript is not a worthless heap of trash. (BTW, this is every author’s worst fear regardless of the success of previously published books.) She’ll probably send her suggestions for improvement in the next month or so. When she does, it will be drop-everything-and-work-on-revisions time. The faster those are completed and returned to the publisher, the sooner the manuscript gets into the publication pipeline and the sooner it will be scheduled for release. Those details may be available this spring, so stay tuned.
Now on to the fourth book in the series, See Jane Dig! In previous posts, I described my dinosaur dig research and an interview with a real life paleontologist who lives in the area where the series is set. In the first of those posts, I mentioned that the plot for See Jane Dig! was a tad thin. As in almost non-existent. Today I am happy to report that is no longer the case. Can you hear me shouting “Yahoo!”?
This development began with a few sessions of me brainstorming plot points for See Jane Dig! I also printed a calendar of the months when the story will take place––it begins the last week of April 1978 and concludes near the end of May. I jotted down a few of the brainstormed plot points, the ones that had to occur on certain dates, on the calendar. Last Friday afternoon, I got together with the concept editor to add meat to the bones of what I’d come up with.
I spread out the calendar. She wrote down the results of my brainstorming session on notecards as I read them out loud. Next, we divided the table into 5 columns, corresponding to the book’s five acts, and laid out the notecards where I thought they belonged. For the next few hours we filled in the blank spots (and there were many) with more events, and moved cards from here to there until we were satisfied. Finally we assigned dates to the events and grouped notecards into chapters, with some cards being single chapters. That’s when you heard me shout “Yahoo!”
Now for a peek into See Jane Dig!:
- The action begins during a field trip.
- Jane’s rattlesnake shovel, first seen in See Jane Run!, reappears and is put to good use.
- Another of Jane’s primary grade students, whose age has not reached double digits, drives a vehicle.
- Velma discovers a substance worthy of greater hatred than glitter.
- The action ends on the last day of school.
I hope that whets your West River Mystery appetite for the time being. Between now and the next update rest assured that See Jane Dance! and See Jane Dig! are trucking along.
by jphilo | Dec 31, 2022 | Mystery Update, See Jane Dance!, See Jane Dig!, See Jane Run!, See Jane Sing!
Introducing the See Jane Run Advisory Board gives me great pleasure. The board’s formation came about when the 7 and 4-year-old grandchildren were back seat passengers in our car a few days after Christmas, 2022. Hiram was driving so I directed all my attention to the following conversation. It began when the 7-year-old became curious about the box on the seat between him and his sister. It contained copies of See Jane Run! and See Jane Sing!. The 7-year-old opened the box and used his burgeoning reading skills to read the titles, emphasis on burgeoning as you’ll see below.
“Is Seejane the girl on the front of these books?” he asked.
“Yes, but since there’s a space between ‘See’ and ‘Jane’ it’s pronounced ‘See Jane.'” I explained.
“Oh, I see. Jane is the girl. Why are there different covers?”
“Because they’re two different stories. The first is See Jane Run! and the second is See Jane Sing!”
“What kind of books are they?”
“They’re mysteries. Jane catches bad guys.” I added a bunch more, but all of you have heard the spiel, so there’s no need to subject you to it again.
The 4-year-old piped up. “Are you going to write more of these books?”
I told them about the upcoming titles, See Jane Dance! and See Jane Dig! With that the floodgates of their imaginations burst wide open.
“Grammy, you should write See Jane Christmas!” said the 7-year-old.
“That’s a great idea, and there’s actually a Christmas program in See Jane Sing!”
Back to the 4-year-old. “How about See Jane Halloween! instead?”
“I have a better idea,” said the 7-year-old. “See Jane Underground! where they go to London and catch bad guys in the underground subway.”
“Or See Jane Invisible Hole! where they dig a hole and it’s invisible and Jane jumps in and the bad guys don’t see it and they fall in…”
The 4-year-old went on and on, but I missed the gist of her plot line because my mind was on how anyone would see Jane do anything in an invisible hole.
“Grammy,” interrupted the 7-year-old. “You could make Jane statues to sell. And tee-shirts.”
“And earrings,” added the 4-year-old. “And you could give Jane a sword and a shield and a gun to shoot bad guys,”
“Jane doesn’t like guns. She doesn’t own one.”
The 4-year-old gasped and after a dramatic pause proclaimed. “You could write See Jane Freeze! and Elsa from Frozen could freeze the bad guys.”
“How would you two like to be members of the See Jane Advisory Board? I’ll serve treats at meetings.”
“Yes,” they shouted as my husband pulled into the garage.
That, dear reader, is the humble beginning of the See Jane Advisory Board. Leave a comment if you’d like to join the team. I’m not sure how much we’ll get done at our meetings. However, I can assure you that our gatherings will be entertaining and there will be treats!
by jphilo | Dec 8, 2022 | See Jane Dance!
What’s happening with See Jane Dance?
Many of you began asking about Book 3 in the West River Mystery Series the minute you finished See Jane Sing!, which is the best news an author can hear. With the hubbub of that release date and month behind me, there’s finally time to shed some light on what’s happening at See Jane HQ.
First off, revisions to the first draft of Book See Jane Dance! are underway. To begin I printed out the first draft, and with my favorite mechanical pencil in hand, read through the entire manuscript. Not in one sitting, but over the course of a week. The read through resulted in many margin notes about:
- Plot and time discrepancies and inconsistencies
- Lack of clarity in the writing
- Where to add red herrings and more interactions with children
- A big oops about where road graders/snow plows should be parked
While the read through resulted in many ways to improve the first draft, I was pleased with the story. For the most part it hangs together. It made me laugh and eager to fix what needs fixing.
Fixing what needs fixing in See Jane Dance! is what I’m doing now.
It’s what I’ve been doing for about two weeks now, and it’s what I’ll be doing as soon as I publish this blog post. My daily goal is to revise one or two chapters a day. Today I’ll finish revising chapter 15 and hopefully finish chapter 16, too. The book has 50 chapters, and the editor’s deadline for turning in the revised manuscript is the end of December. Obviously, the pace of revisions needs to pick up.
Which means I’ll be dancing with Jane more than blogging about what’s happening with See Jane Dance! for awhile.
Which means Jane and I are wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year before the holidays dance right past us!
by jphilo | Sep 29, 2022 | See Jane Dance!, See Jane Sing!
This fall’s West River Mystery news is here. Depending on where you live take a minute to buckle up, settle into the saddle, or fill your travel mug with coffee because we’ve got a lot of ground to cover. Here goes:
- See Jane Sing’s release date of November 1, 2022 is one short month away. The Kindle version is available for pre-order on Amazon right now. Every pre-order improves a book’s Amazon visibility on the release date for logarithm reasons to boring to go into here. (Plus I can barely spell the word logarithm much less understand how they work.) To sweeten the pot, customers who pre-orders will receive an electronic scrapbook with pictures of and stories about the real life experiences that inspired the West River Mystery series. Also, the names of the customers will be entered into a drawing. The winner will receive a batch of the goodies featured in the recipe at the end of See Jane Sing! The goodies will be baked and mailed by me to wherever the winner lives.
- I completed the first draft of See Jane Dance! (That’s Book 3 in the series, which will be released in the fall of 2023.) If you heard a cataclysmic shout the afternoon of September 20, that was me shouting for joy.
- With the rough draft finished, I’m madly working on marketing stuff. Book launch team members have received their advance reader copies of See Jane Sing! as they prepare to write and post honest reviews on Amazon on or soon after the book’s release date. If you’d like to join the team, leave a comment below. I’ll respond with more information.
- Last but not least, I’m compiling a list of media outlets (newspapers, radio stations, television stations) to send a West River Mystery Series press release. I’m also gathering names of libraries and book stores open to author programs. If you know of reporters, radio talk show hosts, librarians or book store owners in your area who fit that bill, would you leave a comment below?
Well, that wraps up this fall’s West River Mystery news. Thanks for entering into the fun. It means so much!
by jphilo | Aug 11, 2022 | See Jane Dance!
See Jane Dance! is coming along. As in, I hope to finish the first draft in the next month to six weeks. So while you’re engrossed in See Jane Run! or eagerly waiting for See Jane Sing!’s release this fall, my head is all See Jane Dance! all the time. Since first drafts are hell, this is not my head’s favorite place to be. I’m escaping confinement briefly to let you in on a few details.
- See Jane Dance! is the third book in the West River Mystery Series.
- The publisher, Midwestern Books, originally hoped to release it in January of 2023. Because we now realize that was a bite too big for the writer and the publisher to chew, the release date has been pushed back to late fall of 2023 or early winter of 2024.
- The cover is amazing and will be disclosed sometime in 2023. There is a fiddle on the book’s cover, hence the picture of the fiddler for now.
- The reason for the fiddler is that square dance lessons are a main driver of the plot in Book #3.
- Part of the research for See Jane Dance! involved a long weekend at a square dance center and campground near Lolo Springs, Montana.* I interviewed the owner and the square dance caller about the progression of steps taught during beginner lessons. The interview was necessary because we remember very little about the 8 weeks of square dance lessons Hiram and I took 40 years ago when we lived in South Dakota.
- The one thing Hiram and I do remember is the song the teacher used each time we practiced a new step––There’s Something About You Baby I Like.** The song does appear in See Jane Dance!
- Readers will find nods to the old Vander Meer Bakery in Le Mars, Iowa, South Dakota’s frigid winters, and school Valentine’s Day parties.***
- Squeamish readers should be aware that this book includes more blood than previous books, including one human death, several dead cattle, and a taxidermy shop.
- As of this posting 36 of 50 chapters in the first draft are written.****
Enough avoiding returning to the rough draft. It’s back to See Jane Dance! for me.
*The campground is closed this summer due to a death in the family, and their website is no longer there.
**Those who click on the You Tube video can thank me later for the ear worm.
***For which elementary school teachers deserve sainthood.
****Not that I’m counting or anything, but this means that 14 chapters of hell remain.