Monday, May 4, 2015

The Final Stages Of Writing A Book

By Kristy McCaffrey

Last week, I was in the home stretch of editing my manuscript The Blackbird. I’d spent months writing, researching, and rewriting the story, then I sent it off to the editor. As is usual when a manuscript is returned, there were many comments and suggestions, with the bulk being fairly minor concerns. (Along with those pesky grammar issues—it seems I still don’t know how to punctuate a compound verb. Yes, we authors are always learning something new when it comes to writing skills.)

There was a bigger issue, however, in the work. The heroine and her father had a rather volatile, and, the editor felt, unforgivable, aspect to their relationship. And while she loved the hero and his role in the tale, the heroine’s actions gave her pause. I appreciated the input because sometimes the writer is simply too immersed in the work to really see the bigger picture. But I had to consider carefully how I wanted to handle any modifications since anything I changed would ripple throughout the story.

It’s always good to sleep on it before making any knee-jerk decisions. And as I’ve done many times in the past when faced with a crossroads in my work, I hoped for a bit of inspiration. I can say with confidence that 95% of the time, no magical guidance ever arrives. As an author, I’m always forced to simply make a choice about which way to go in the story. But, this time, I did receive guidance.

I’d been reading a book called Eyes of the Wild: Journeys of Transformation with the Animal Powers by Eleanor O’Hanlon. Ms. O’Hanlon is a field researcher for international conservation groups and shares her travels and experiences with animals, beginning with whales, but also including wolves, bears, and horses. That night, I read a section where she recounted the tale of Sedna, a creative power to the people of the Arctic basin.

Sedna lived with her father in a tent made of reindeer skin. Together, they followed the herds across the great tundra plain. Before her mother died, she taught Sedna many things, such how to make clothing using finely carved needles from the bones of birds and how our own bodies are only clothes that we wear for a short time, when we journey from other worlds.

Sedna grew to be a beautiful young woman. One day, a handsome stranger appeared, and he was so vivid and compelling that she decided to marry him. Her father tried to advise against it, but Sedna wouldn’t listen. She left with the man, his hair the color of a raven. Once they were alone, she came to know that he truly was a raven. In fear, she fled and called out to her father, who came to her in his boat.

As Sedna and her father attempted to leave, a great storm came upon them, and the boat began to sink. Frantic with fear, the father threw Sedna overboard in an effort to save himself. As she clung to the side, he cut her fingers one by one until she sank to the bottom. In death, she met her mother and entered a light filled with all the love she thought she’d lost.
Photo courtesy of
Back on the surface, her father was lost in grief over what he’d done. As Sedna tried to reach him, her fingers grew back, creating the beluga whales, and the orcas, and the narwhals. All the whales sprung forth from Sedna—the grays, the humpbacks, the blues, the fins, and the bowheads. As the whale song reached Sedna’s father, he at last found peace in the grace of the giant beasts.

I had the answer for my story. I needed to redeem my heroine’s father, and once I did this, then her forgiveness would ring with far more truth. I was glad to dig a little deeper into the narrative, to find something more authentic than was previously present.

As an aside, I also decided to change a character’s name during my final proof of the story. I had an Apache woman named Bly and an old teamster called Vern Blight. Bly and Blight were so similar that I was getting confused in my last read-through. So, I did a search, and replaced ‘Bly’ with ‘Smita’. This proved to be a huge nuisance because Microsoft Word replaced other words that contained ‘bly’. ‘Possibly’ became ‘possiSmita’. ‘Understandably’ became ‘understandaSmita’. I simply couldn’t search for all the permutations, so I had to proof the entire manuscript one more time. Ack! I found many—presumaSmita, incrediSmita, and, my favorite, scramSmita.

But, I did it. The Blackbird is finished and available in digital formats. I hope you’ll check it out.

(It will be available at Nook, iTunes and Kobo within a few days.)

For two years, Tess Carlisle has tried to heal the mental and physical wounds of a deadly assault by one of her papá’s men, but with no contact from Hank Carlisle since the attack, she’s determined to track him down. Her only hope is bounty hunter Cale Walker, a protégé of Hank’s and a man unlike any she has ever known. As he teaches her strength not just in body but spirit, he also makes her yearn for something she vowed she never would—love. (Rating: Steamy)

Excerpt from The Blackbird

A bit of inquiry led him (Cale) to a hovel with a dirt floor and an underlying stench of sweaty bodies. It was late afternoon, but there were already many customers, mostly Mexicanos, and they eyed him warily. He ordered a bourbon and downed whatever rotgut had been substituted in one swallow, not of a mind to argue with the man serving as a barkeep behind the wooden plank.

Cale took in the lay of the room, welcoming the distraction after spending so much time with Tess. Her emotional distance, while he understood it, irritated him.

And the fact that it bothered him only annoyed him more.

He didn't need to befriend her to find Hank. He knew that. And damn it, he could be unfeeling and detached, too.

Cale set down his glass and the barkeep refilled it. Emptying it, Cale continued this routine as Tess plagued his thoughts. The twinge of attraction that gnawed at him like a coyote chewing off his foot to escape a snare made him want to save her and run from her at the same time.

After playing cards and downing more liquor than he should've, he learned of a fella who might have a lead to Worthington. In complete darkness, he managed to find the man's adobe home near the edge of town. Just as he approached, the distinctive sound of a cane hitting the dirt echoed behind him. He spun around.

“What are doing here?” he asked Tess.

She stopped before him, out-of-breath. “Trying to find you.” Her exasperated tone and narrowed eyes clearly showed her condemnation, and he felt like a school boy caught by his teacher. He stepped back before she smelled the liquor on his breath, but it was too late.

“Are you drunk?”

She moved toward him and he could smell rose oil. Damn, she smells nice. Even in the inky night, he could see the flash of anger in her eyes. He liked it. And he found it difficult to ignore the appeal of her scent, the lush curve of her mouth, the smoothness of her skin, leading from her face to her neck to...

“Just a little,” he conceded.

“Whatever on earth for?”

“It's tough for a man traveling with a woman.”

That caused her to freeze.

Damn again. He shouldn't have said that.

“Look Tess, I didn't mean it that way. It's just been a long few days.”

She stepped back and he tried not to notice how enticing her hair looked, unbound and flowing over her shoulders.

“What are you doing here?” she asked, nodding toward the dwelling.

“Following a lead on Hank.”

“Then, I'll help you.”

Cale didn't know what else to say, so he nodded. He walked to the door and knocked.

An elderly Mexican answered.

Are you Juan?”


“My name is Cale Walker, and this is Tess Carlisle.”

At that, the man peered more closely at Tess. “You Hank's girl?”

The man and Tess began conversing in Spanish. Short and wiry, gray hair sprinkled Juan’s dark hair, and deep wrinkles fanned the sides of his eyes.

“Translate please,” Cale said under his breath to Tess.

“He can show us where Henry Worthington was several months ago, in the hills to the east. Maybe Hank is with him. Juan isn’t certain.”

After more discussion, she said, “He doesn’t want money. He said Hank did a favor for him once, so he will repay his daughter. We’re to meet at the livery tomorrow morning at seven o’clock sharp.”

Juan interjected something in his native tongue.

“He says we’d better make it eight thirty,” Tess added. “You’re going to need to sleep that off.”

“I'm not drunk.”

Tess gave Cale a look that said she didn’t believe him. She shook Juan’s hand. “Gracias.”

She turned and began walking away, the cane at her side and her checkered skirt undulating around her.

Cale nodded to Juan and ran a bit to catch up to her, swaying from a bout of dizziness. “Wait for me, Tess.”

“No, I'll be fine. I just don't want you walking alone.”

“I came here alone.”

He fell into step beside her, focusing diligently on walking straight. “You really don't make friends easily, do you?”

“I didn't know it was important to you that we be friends.”

“Well, I don't like it when we're not getting along.”

“We've only known each other a few days, Señor Walker.”

“Because you call me Tess?”

“I'm supposed to call you Miss Carlisle?”

“That would be proper, wouldn't it?”

Cale laughed. “But you and I are practically related because of Hank.”

Tess stopped. “So, you see yourself as my brother?”

Hell no.

At least he had enough sense not to blurt that out.

He'd definitely had too much to drink. This rarely happened to him. He imbibed at times, but always within his boundaries.

In a flash, a hunger for this woman coursed through him. Unable to tear his gaze from hers, he wanted to set this boundary clearly. “I'm not your brother, Tess.”

Her eyes widened and her lips parted slightly, as if she were about to speak. Her momentary hesitation was all it took for Cale to know that she wasn’t immune to what was happening between them.

She knew he wanted her.

Copyright © 2015 K. McCaffrey LLC


Caroline Clemmons said...

Lovely post, Kristy. I hadn't heard the legend if Sedna.

Shanna Hatfield said...

Congrats on your new release, Kristy! And thank you for sharing about your process in handling those changes. Great story! :)

Ginger Jones Simpson said...

Great post. Don't feel alone. I did a global search and replace and came up with a very similiar problem. It was a pain, but always a great feeling to finish a book. Congratulations on yours. It sounds awesome and I wish you mega sales.

Kristy McCaffrey said...

I hadn't heard of the mythology of the Sedna legend either. There's a much longer version and it's really lyrical. Thanks for stopping by!

Kristy McCaffrey said...

Thank you, Shanna! So nice to see your happy face this morning. :-)

Kristy McCaffrey said...

It IS a great feeling to finally finish. It's crazy how you don't see some problems/mistakes until the very last read-through. I also found a glaring logic error, but it was a pretty easy fix luckily. Take care!

Cindy Jones said...

I'm so happy to have a new Kristy book! Congratulations and thank you!

Jacqui Nelson said...

Great blog post, Kristy! Loved learning about your novel BLACKBIRD, Sedna and your writing process.

Kristy McCaffrey said...

Thanks so much for all your support Cindy. You're such a doll!

Kristy McCaffrey said...

Thanks so much for stopping by. :-)

Susabelle Kelmer said...

Wow...LOVELY story and really gives me thought. What a great editor you must have to be so direct with you. All writers struggle with edits. Our stories a perfect, aren't they? Well, not so much.

And redemption is a powerful thing. I'm glad you were able to use it in your book.