Autumn Jade -- a Nancy Drew for the new millenium

Sisters of Shanghai
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The self-publishing journal for my fourth children's mystery novel

Mon, 16 Oct 2006

Wrap Up

This will be the closing entry for the Sisters of Shanghai journal. The books arrived at our home September 21st, 2006. A few items to fill in the past few weeks...

We received the digital proof on August 16th. I dropped it off at Tracey's and picked it up again on the 18th. She identified around 20 candidates for correction. All minor, but probably necessary to make. We left for two weeks in the lake country of Ontario on the 20th, taking the proof with us.

I read through the proof and then Danielle read through the proof. We found a few more minor errors (29 in total). I documented all of the changes and express mailed the proof back to Hignell on the 28th.

In the meantime, Trevor handled the cover proof and at least one minor change was requested.

I had told Hignell to print the book without having me review it again, but the number of corrections required another proof be sent out. I sent it back the day after we received it, no further changes needed.

The books were bound and cut on September 18th and shipped on the 19th.

It was a long haul, but worth it in the end! I hope you find this record of my struggle to create my fourth book useful...

Thanks, Steve

posted by Steve at: 20:55

Wed, 16 Aug 2006

Text Proof Back & Cover Done

We received the text proof of the manuscript yesterday. It looks great! Tracey has kindly offered to read it over and get it back to me by Friday. I will take it with me on vacation to Ontario. Danielle and I need to also go through it and look for any mistakes that were missed (it's always easier to spot things once the back is actually looking like a book).

And the best news, Trevor delivered the final cover last night:
cover version 4 Version 4 - Final

I'm going to open up the site later today to take advanced orders and hopefully do a mass mailout tonight with the good news. What a relief!

posted by Steve at: 07:55

Wed, 02 Aug 2006

Manuscript on its way!!!

The manuscript (printed copy and CD with files) was sent to Hignell yesterday. The cover is close, but not ready yet and I wanted to at least get the text underway.

Speaking of the cover, here's the design progression so far:

cover version 3 Version 3
cover version 2 Version 2
cover version 1 Version 1

posted by Steve at: 13:35

Wed, 05 Jul 2006

Home Stretch Update

Tracey completed her edits last week. I've gone through and added diagrams, cleaned up quote marks and dashes. Danielle is doing a pass through the manuscript this week. I will then combine all of the corrections and suggested changes for hopefully one last pass by everyone. My target is to have the manuscript ready for Hignell by July 27th.

Trevor sent me the first draft of the cover -- it's going to be the best one yet. Very exciting! The next draft should be ready on Sunday. The cover has the same end of July deadline so keep your fingers crossed.

I received my quote for printing 1000 copies of the book from Hignell this morning. I was worried before about the cost, but now I'm not -- I will be able to print the book in August.

posted by Steve at: 08:20

Thu, 08 Jun 2006

Draft #4 finished

Tracey received her copy of draft #4 on Tuesday. I've already loaded the text into QuarkxPress -- the Quark version will now be the working version until the manuscript is ready for the printers.

I've set a rough schedule to get the book published by September. The third week of July is now the target for having manuscript and cover both ready for Hignell.

While Tracey is working away, I will clean up the Quark version, add in some diagrams and work on the text for the cover.

Thanks to all my loyal readers for being so patient! We're in the home stretch now...

posted by Steve at: 11:09

Thu, 25 May 2006

Draft #3 finished

Last night I finished making Danielle's edits to draft #3. She wants one more pass before Tracey gets the manuscript again. Once I get Tracey's edits back, the next version will go into QuarkXpress for setting the layout, adding images, etc.

Trevor should be back from Europe soon and then we can talk over cover artwork -- the colour scheme will be blue hues this time (Samantha's suggestion, she's amazing with colour choices).

posted by Steve at: 08:42

Thu, 18 May 2006

ISBN Number - part 2

Wow, they are fast!!! ISBN 0-9688198-3-4 was assigned to Sisters of Shanghai this morning.

posted by Steve at: 12:21

Wed, 17 May 2006

ISBN Number

Just remembered to request an ISBN number for Sisters of Shanghai. It's still the same web page url... http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/6/11/s11-202-e.html

posted by Steve at: 14:03

Sat, 06 May 2006

The 2nd draft is finished

Danielle, Tracey and I all did our marking up of the first draft. I've just completed making all of the corrections, changes and enhancements. At this stage a book is really a living thing.

I'm meeting with my cover illustrator Trevor Lai (http://www.ralphy.ca) today to give him a copy of the 2nd draft. He'll read the story and then we can start talking over cover ideas.

Oh, and my main computer did die. I lost everything on it, including all of my email since July of 2004. I obviously need to be as rigourous with my email backups as I am with the book manuscripts.

Next week I'll read through this latest draft before passing it to Danielle and Tracey for another round of ego bruising. Actually it's been fairly painless this time, I think I might actually be getting the hang of this writing stuff :)

posted by Steve at: 11:26

Sat, 01 Apr 2006

April Fool's Day

My computer caught on fire and I lost the fourth book... Happy April Fool's Day....

Actually I always have at least three backup copies in various secure places. I'm not taking any chances. 21,321 words/17 chapters later and I've finally completed the first full draft of Sisters of Shanghai -- you have no idea what a relief it is to finally have reached this milestone. Neither kids nor major renovations have prevented me from getting to this point. Crack open the spring water!

Next week the editing will hopefully kick into gear. Tracey Martinsen (http://www.tmartinsen.ca/) and my wife Danielle will sharpen their red pencils and knock my ego back several notches. Editing is a brutal process from the writer's perspective. It does make the books better though.

Time to get an ISBN number for the book and set a publishing schedule...

posted by Steve at: 14:47

Mon, 27 Mar 2006


One chapter left to write, one that needs to be finished and the first draft of the book is done! My goal is to have it ready for my two editors by the end of the upcoming weekend. What a relief that will be.

posted by Steve at: 21:13

Sun, 12 Mar 2006

Okay, I'll repeat myself. Yes, I am still here...

After tiling three bathroom floors, the kitchen backsplashes, the girl's shower stall, and finishing a whole bunch of other little projects, I've put all major house projects on hold while I complete the first full draft of book #4.

During the past month I've reorganized the material into a better order, done a bunch of research and now I'm blasting my way through to completion, chapter by chapter. I'll have over 17,000 words written by the end of today. The first 10 chapters have moved on to the editing stage. I'm pretty pumped about the story now!

Regular updates will now follow. Honest. I promise.

posted by Steve at: 12:09

Tue, 20 Sep 2005

Not to repeat myself, but yes, I am still here...

...and the writing of Sisters of Shanghai has resumed (again). You may be skeptical. There is a light at the end of the tunnel:

  • Last week we passed the final inspection of our house reno. You have no idea how many hours of work we've had to put in ourselves to get to this point. The house is still not finished, but we can now proceed on our own schedule.
  • Because we passed the final inspection the bank is now happy and is consolidating all of our loans into our mortgage. We'll be saving a bundle every month and paying more than just interest payments. That means we will be able to pay to have the fourth book printed once its ready. Self-publishing = you take on all of the costs associated with publishing a book.
  • The computer I had been using to type in the book totally packed it in and took all of my recent work with it. I bought a laptop on the weekend and now have a reliable system for book #4.

I get people asking me all the time about the newest book. That's the kind of pressure I love to have!

posted by Steve at: 08:34

Wed, 22 Jun 2005

Yes, I'm still here...

...and the writing of Sisters of Shanghai has resumed. My current plan is to get up every morning at 5:30 and write for 45 minutes (before getting ready for work). At least once a week we receive another wonderful email asking about the progress of book #4. Somewhere out there is a blossoming fan base that I don't want to let down.

Other exciting news, I discovered two weeks ago that we were down to our last handful of book #2 The Emperor's Pendant -- a reprint is currently under way at our printer. It's hard to believe that I've now reprinted the first two books and total sales for the series is close to 2900 books. It doesn't seem too long ago that I was thrilled with reaching the 100 book milestone with Bullets on the Bund. Quite an amazing hobby!

Now that I'm moving forward again, I'll try to keep this journal a little more current :)

posted by Steve at: 08:07

Mon, 07 Mar 2005

Life 3, Writing 0

  1. My mother-in-law broke her hip and Danielle traveled to Winnipeg to look after things. I got to be Mom and Dad to two kids, two students, a dog and two cats. Life 1, Writing 0
  2. Then Virginie broke her collar bone. Life 2, Writing 0
  3. And we've almost finished painting our main floor (only one room left). Life 3, Writing 0

On the other hand, I am fulfilling a dream I've had for years... I'm taking Bagua classes with one of the most respected instructors in North America (see http://www.shouyuliang.com/classes/bagua.shtml to learn more about this amazing Chinese martial art). I think I've come up with a way to even work this into the fourth book. so... Life 4, Writing 1?

posted by Steve at: 12:42

Mon, 14 Feb 2005

Happy Valentines Day!

Over 6500 words now (that's about 20%). I've probably should concentrate more though instead of taking little side detours:

  • I've invented a card game called "The Emperor's Pendant". My five year old Virginie loves to play it with me. More details once I've mocked up the playing cards :)
  • I've started an Audio Book podcast (i.e. an audio .mp3 that can be automatically downloaded to an iPod) of Bullets on the Bund. The page is at https://autumnjade.com/podcasts/ if you want to download the file(s) yourself.

posted by Steve at: 12:56

Wed, 12 Jan 2005

The Writing Process

Almost 4000 words on the fourth book and counting (a typical young adult book has approximately 30,000 words). I'm hoping you'll find the process I use for writing the books of interest....

I use an artist's 100 sheet sketch pad. I write an outline and any ideas I have at the beginning of the book and then the rest is for the writing the first draft by hand:

sketch book
(click photo to enlarge)

Next I type this first draft into a computer. The girls did a Lego case mod for the Toshiba Libretto I'm using for this book. Once that is done I'll will start the editing and polishing of the text. The last step is to bring the whole thing into Quark Xpress to do the final layout for the printers (Hignell). Voila, one book.

(click photo to enlarge)

Here's the view I have sitting at our new kitchen island looking out into the back yard:

back window view
(click photo to enlarge)

Crack the whip, back to work...

posted by Steve at: 17:54

Wed, 05 Jan 2005

I keep misplacing my yearly sales summary. I figure this is a pretty good place to add the table so I can find the numbers again.

Yearly Book Sales

Year/Currency #1-BOTB #2-TEP #3-SSG
2001 CDN 297 0 0
2001 US 45 0 0
2002 CDN 254 190 0
2002 US 125 123 0
2003 CDN 151 155 53
2003 US 182 183 103
2004 CDN 87 80 150
2004 US 140 142 162
2005 CDN 0 0 0
2005 US 2 2 2

Book Totals:

Bullets on the Bund: 1283
The Emperor's Pendant: 875
Sing Song Girls: 470

Total Sales to Date: 2628

I print 1000 copies per run. Keeping track of the sales per book allows me time to plan for a re-print. I suspect I'll have to re-print "The Emperor's Pendant" sometime before the end of 2005, re-print "Sing Song Girls" in 2006 and unbelievably, do a third printing of "Bullets on the Bund" by 2007. Not too shabby for a part-time hobby!

posted by Steve at: 10:12

Sat, 01 Jan 2005

Happy 2005!!!

Two weeks have gone by and guess what... no time for writing :(

We worked on the house to get rooms ready for two students coming next week:
refinished bathroom
(click photo to enlarge)

I did modelling clay with my girls:
Sculpey Dog
(click photo to enlarge)

I even made a Christmas tree ornament out of Lego:
Lego Christmas Ornament
(click photo to enlarge)

Oh well, it's a new year and a fresh start...

posted by Steve at: 10:56

Mon, 20 Dec 2004

Sisters of Shanghai ...and they're off

Monday morning. I'm now on vacation for two weeks. Let the writing begin...

posted by Steve at: 07:45

Mon, 15 Nov 2004

Sisters of Shanghai -- Teaser #1

Chapter 1

I glanced at my watch for the hundredth time. Eight hours down, five to go. I was beginning to question my decision to go on this trip. After all, I could have been relaxing at home instead of being so stinky and cramped in this airplane seat.

Dad noticed me squirming and put his arm around my shoulders. "It's hard for us, too, Autumn. Two movies so far and neither of them worth watching. Why don't you try taking a little nap? China is still a long way off."

I propped my pillow up against Dad's shoulder and wrapped the blanket around my body. My head was buzzing with too many thoughts: returning to Shanghai, visiting the orphanage, meeting my new sister for the first time, looking for the Emperor's treasure chest in the Shanghai museum. Any one of those could keep a sane person from sleeping. All of them swirling around in my brain was just plain annoying.

I yawned and tried to calm my mind. I went over once again the last minute advice from Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Chandler.

* * *

posted by Steve at: 20:23

Here's a little sample of what I've been up to -- instead of writing like I should be doing :)

We started a massive renovation to double the size of our house in December, 2003. Eleven months later, we're getting there...

House before the reno:
original house original house
(click photos to enlarge)

Almost done:
renovated house renovated house
(click photos to enlarge)

During the summer I took a stab at creating a doll's head for Autumn Jade. Here is my first attempt (this really is the first time, ever, that I've done any sculpting). The idea came from the Door of Hope Chinese Mission dolls of the 1920s (see http://www.lotzdollpages.com/ldoorh.html for some beautiful examples).

doll's head doll's head doll's head
(click photos to enlarge)

Halloween 2004

The real Autumn Jade dressed as a giraffe (right) and her sister (butterfly):


posted by Steve at: 19:33

Thu, 04 Nov 2004

Coming very soon... pictures of our reno and some teasers from Sisters of Shanghai

posted by Steve at: 20:49

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