New Editions of Wistful Ascending: Why and What

Wistful Ascending

By JCM Berne

November 28, 2022

I have (as of November 23, 2022) released a third edition of Wistful Ascending (and a second edition of Return of The Griffin).

As a comic book guy I recognize that this might look like a cash grab – the novel equivalent of alternate covers or special editions – but that wasn’t really my intention. In fact, if you have an older version, I’d rather you NOT purchase a new copy.

Really, the problem here is twofold. First, I released Wistful Ascending when I didn’t know what I was doing as a writer. I’d written before but I’d never worked with an editor, taken classes or read books about HOW to write, or studied writing formally (in a college level class, for example). It was only after Wistful Ascending was well received that I decided to take writing more seriously and began to really invest in the craft.

The conventional wisdom for an author is that once you release a book, it doesn’t make sense to re-edit it over and over. A writer’s time is better spent working on the next project, the newer book, and making that as polished as possible. Yes, you will grow as a writer, but it is NOT typical to go back and re-write old books (you definitely see that in traditional publishing – you almost never see a published author re-write and re-release an old book, but we KNOW that authors grow and they’d be capable of doing so).

My ‘problems’ – by which I mean the reasons I’m ignoring this piece of conventional wisdom – are twofold. First, I intend to write a series. I’m really committed to telling the story of Rohan and crew, for many, many more books. As such, I hope to get many new readers next year, the year after, and so on. BUT they won’t be buying my latest book -most likely, they’ll be buying Wistful Ascending. In other words, I can’t count on any improvements in my writing ability to help me with new readers, because they’ll be buying my oldest books. If I were smarter, and a better businessperson, I’d end the Hybrid Helix at 3 books and start a new thing (which would, in theory, have better writing, because I’ve improved). But I can’t let go, and I can’t afford a therapist, so…

My second ‘problem’ is that my ego is larger than my business sense. I REALLY can’t handle the idea of a subpar (before you argue, remember that par is relative, and I’m only talking about below MY par) piece of writing existing out in the wild with my name on it.

There were two specific things that led me to rewriting Wistful Ascending.

First, I had a sensitivity reader point out a problematic phrase in my work (much more on that later).

Second, I had the audiobook made.

If you’ve never done an audiobook, one part of the process involved listening to the audio and reading along to ‘proofread’ the reading. I was forced to reread the entire book. And I found more than a few errors – typos, awkward sentences and so on.

I couldn’t let it go. I had to fix things. So I did.

I won’t pretend the new edition is perfect, but it’s BETTER. And I’m proud of it. And, to be honest, that’s what I’m here for. I’d LIKE to sell a lot of books, but satisfying myself creatively is my primary goal, not making money (I have a day job – I’m NOT casting any shade on people who are selling books to make money they need, there’s absolutely no shame in that, it’s just not me at this point).

What’s The Rudra Thing?

If these snippets from Wistful Ascending or Return of The Griffin offended you, I apologize.

Rohan is not a religious person, but his mother comes from a Hindu background, so he was raised culturally Hindu and not, for example, Christian. This caused a problem for me.

I needed something for Rohan to say as an interjection; an expression of shock or concern. I needed something to replace the way Americans (and probably many others, but I’m not sure) say “Jesus Christ!” when we’re injured. Imagine someone on the beach looking up and seeing a 50 foot tsunami heading their way. What do they say?

In my mind, Rohan wouldn’t say “Jesus Christ!” in that situation. He’s the sort of person who would have heard his peers saying that but as a non-Christian would have looked for something different to say.

I somehow came on the idea of saying something about Rudra instead of Jesus, so Rohan could honor his Hindu roots (even though he, himself, is not religious, because of the way his family dynamics play out).

How I got to “Rudra’s braids!” even I don’t fully remember. I think I thought it was from a song lyric – in something from Baahubali – but I strongly suspect that I remember the lyric incorrectly. In other words, I came up with a silly, inauthentic interjection.

Also, to be honest, I used that as a placeholder, and I remember deciding to replace it after finding something more suitable. Then I forgot to do that.

I have no real excuse. If you were offended by that language, I apologize. That was absolutely not my intent, and I absolutely screwed up letting that phrase go to print, then screwed up more by not fixing it for two years.

I did, much too late, find a sensitivity reader of South Indian origin to look over the books (thank you Sridhar!), and he pointed out that no Telugu person would ever say, “Rudra’s braids!” in those situations. I don’t think he found the expression offensive exactly (I don’t really want to speak for other people) but it was at LEAST jarring and inconsistent with how a person would authentically talk.

An actual Telugu person would probably say something like, “Ayyo” or ““Rudra, kapaadappa.” The problem I had with those is that most of my readers wouldn’t understand either of those phrases. Telugu words just haven’t penetrated the English speaking audience in America very much, if at all. I thought those phrases would be distracting.

I might have been wrong!

I thought it would be more authentic to replace “Rudra’s braids!” with “Rudra save me!” and the occasional “Lord Rudra save me!” Real people don’t say that, but I imagine it’s something Rohan would say, in an almost spiteful attempt to distinguish himself from his white, Christian peers (remember, he grew up in Canada, in a predominantly white, Christian environment).

Again, if this offends you, please feel free to let me know, and I’m sorry. Please also understand that I didn’t do this casually or without thought (I mean, it might be wrong! But if it is, it is wrong after much deliberation).

In the new editions of Wistful Ascending and Return of The Griffin I have replaced the occurrences of “Rudra’s braids!” with other interjections. I hope they read more smoothly!

What else changed?

If you have the 2nd edition (if your cover matches the current cover) of Wistful Ascending, there are only MINOR changes. Typos were fixed, commas put in place or removed, stuff like that.

No scenes were added or removed. I don’t think I even added or removed any full paragraphs.

In a few places my software had me replace ‘waiter’ with ‘server.’ I rearranged sentences to take out passive voice.

In other words, if you were really annoyed by the typos and echoes in Wistful Ascending, it’s possible that the new version will be better for you. But if you enjoyed the copy you read, there is ABSOLUTELY NO reason to reread the new edition.

What if I have the first edition, Joe?

If you have an old edition of Wistful Ascending (one with the original cover art – the art that does NOT match the graphic for this blog post), then you have a version which is substantially different from the current edition.

Between editions 1 and 2, I cut about 10,000 words of text and re-wrote many scenes and paragraphs.

The new books is MUCH better, BUT is almost exactly the SAME story. In other words, if you bought and read the first edition, you might enjoy the new edition, but you absolutely do NOT have to read it to follow what happens in later books.

Here are the two changes of substance (these are spoilers if you haven’t read Wistful Ascending):

In the first edition there was a sequence where the Ursans decide that one of their women are going to marry Rohan. He protests, and Ang and Ursula think it’s just nerves, and they’re about to have a wrestling tournament where eligible females fight over who will marry him. This is what holds him up in the seconds leading up to Marion Stone’s shuttle leaving to open the wormhole (the first time). In the second edition, that is replaced. Instead, Rohan is sent into space because Wistful ‘thinks’ there is an Imperial dreadnought invading her system. He flies out, can’t find it, and they eventually realize that Marion had hacked Wistful’s sensor away to put in a fake signal. The entire “marry Rohan” sequence, and all reference to it, are cut.

The second change is in how Rohan chases off the Shayjh cruiser. In the second edition, there are no Wedge on board the ship (in fact, I’m making changes to the Wedge in general, for reasons, which you’ll see in a future book). In the second edition Rohan boards the cruiser, fights some corpse soldiers (it’s not anything fantastic as an action scene, very quick and brutal), and threatens to release documents to the Empire detailing illegal experiments being done in Zahad. If he were to do that, the Empire would wipe out ALL the Shayjh.

There are a LOT of other changes – sentences adjusted, word choice fixed, things like that. But other than those two things, the story is the same between first and second editions.

What happened to the price, Joe?

I have lowered the price for the ebook of Wistful Ascending to $.99.

If you bought the ebook at a higher price, first of all, thank you! And second, I’m sorry!

I did not set the price I’ve had with the intention of lowering it after book 3 came out. I did it on the advice of some other authors who suggested that it would be the best way to draw in more readers.

This was a business decision. I think having an inexpensive book 1 is a better way to draw in readers who will hopefully be willing to pay higher prices for the other books. I’d like to charge 0.99 for all of them, or give them away for free, but I simply can’t afford to keep paying for editing, cover art and design, website upkeep, and audio if I don’t actually see significant revenue from these books.

I’m not asking for ANY sympathy, just trying to explain what goes into these decisions.

If you’re thinking of buying Wistful Ascending and are worried about the 0.99 price going back up, you shouldn’t. I plan to keep it at that price for the indefinite future.

What changed in Return of The Griffin?

Almost nothing! Just the “Rudra’s braids” thing.

What’s next, Joe?

I’ve spoken in a few places about the business of writing and about where I am in this arena.

I will absolutely write and release more books in the Hybrid Helix. Many more! Writing and releasing books is basically free.

I cannot promise at this moment to maintain the same quality of cover or audio that I’ve had. I would very much like to, and I might manage it, but I also can only spend so much money on these before it becomes irresponsible to my family.

I hope you come along on this journey with me!

Sign up for my newsletter to make sure to stay updated on what’s going on with Rohan and friends! I promise not to send very many of them (more out of laziness than anything)


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