Thursday, December 2, 2021

Eric’s Writing Updat…No, Editing Upda…No…• By Eric Dontigney

So, for those of you who got accustomed to my mostly-weekly writing updates, you probably wondered what happened.

“Didn’t that Eric joker say something about an urban fantasy? Where are the updates?!”

It turns out that I’m not the only writer in my family tree. I mean, yeah, every family tree has amateur authors and the like, but it’s a bit more serious in my family. I’ve got two aunts who have written books that, in my humble opinion, were publishable at the last drafts I read. One is a Civil War-era novel, and the other is a non-fiction memoir about a real-life boat trip down the Amazon River. Yet, even before all of that, there was my great grandmother, who published two memoirs about her life in the same rural neck of the woods where I grew up. If memory serves, I even read a much-battered copy of one of her books I found hiding on a bookshelf as a teenager. Yes, the writerly instincts run deep in my bloodline.

This is where things get interesting. Earlier this year, my great aunt was going through some things of my great grandmother's and ran across a typed manuscript. Not shocking for someone who wrote two books, except this manuscript wasn’t a leftover copy of either of those published tomes. It was a completely new book that exactly nobody in the entire family knew existed. Given that my great-grandmother died in 1996, this was a shock to everyone. The manuscript made the rounds and the decision was made to publish it. This is where I come into the story.

My mother used some piece of technology to convert those typewritten pages into digital files. The book was written in 1977, so there were no native digital files. Then, she passed the files along to me. The idea was that I would format them for print and digital publication via the almighty ‘Zon or Amazon for those who don’t appreciate my shorthand for our digital overlords. It sounded simple enough on the surface, or so I thought. When the files came to me, they were in RTF format. RTF is a perfectly serviceable file format, but it’s not Amazon’s favorite thing. So, I made the decision that I would convert them over to Word files and work from there.

Little did I realize what an undertaking that would become.

For one, whatever process converted those original typewritten pages into RTF files didn’t generate them with consistent formatting. Some of the files were single space. Some were double space. Some used single and double spacing. Some of the files had hard returns at the end of paragraphs, some of them didn’t. Some of them used widow and orphan control and some of them didn’t. Even the font and font size varied from chapter to chapter. Thus began an extended process of manually formatting those chapters, sometimes by page, sometimes by paragraph, and sometimes by individual line. It took a goodly while just to get the files to a point where each chapter had extremely basic, but consistent formatting across the entire book.

Then, I got to take those files and begin the process of formatting them all over again. One version for print publication and one for Kindle. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you can use one version for both. You can’t. Even with the consistent basic formatting I had in place, there were still hours and hours of manual formatting to get the print version ready to go. Why the print version first? I come from a family of people who like dead tree editions. Hell, I’m a person who likes dead tree editions. I use a Kindle because it’s convenient and usually less expensive, not because I find it preferable. Plus, my great aunt is 90+ years old. If she was going to see a copy of this, it was going to be a print copy. So, print is where I started. Once I got that version finalized, included a few cool vintage images right in the middle of the book like they used to do for all the non-fiction books that included pictures, I got it uploaded. Then, because I’m the publisher of record, I had to take on the role of fulfillment agent for author copies to be delivered to family and an interested historical society.

I finally got those details squared away and so began the work on the Kindle edition. Kindle Create helps a lot with converting text-based files into Kindle-ready eBooks. It’s monumentally less helpful if you want to include images in your eBook. To be fair, Kindle eBooks are not a natural medium for images, which is likely why the image tools in the Kindle Create software are virtually non-existent. For the record, I’m still not happy with how those images look in the Kindle edition. But…but, you have to declare the book done at some point, so I eventually did that.

So, all of that was a very, very long-winded explanation of why there haven’t been any Eric’s Writing Update posts. The time I would have devoted to writing got siphoned away for this project. I’m not sad about that either. The book is a memoir about my great grandmother’s time as a teacher in one-room schoolhouses in rural New York in the early 20th century. It picks up in the mid-teens and covers the time of the First World War and the 1918 Influenza among other things. I found it a fascinating look at the time period through the lens of rural farming communities. It was like a snapshot of a culture that’s almost alien to contemporary sensibilities in terms of social expectations and the norms of education. It was also a little piece of family history I didn’t know that much about. Time well spent, I think, even if all that formatting did suck so very mightily.


Eric Dontigney is the author of the highly regarded novel, THE MIDNIGHT GROUND, as well as the Samuel Branch urban fantasy series and the short story collection, Contingency Jones: The Complete Season One. Raised in Western New York, he currently resides near Dayton, OH. You can find him haunting obscure sections of libraries, in Chinese restaurants or occasionally online at

SHAMELESS ADVERT: If you like Harry Dresden or John Constantine, you’ll love THE MIDNIGHT GROUND. READ IT NOW!