Monday, July 30, 2012

Smashwords Came Through This Time!

       "The War of the Stolen Mother" is now available on Smashwords for all EPUB readers (Nook, Kobo, etc.), as well as, PDF, and all their other formats.  This time it was a piece of cake!  The meat grinder didn't even quibble about my embedded footnotes with the smaller fonts and the asterisk dividers. 
       And the NCX wasn't a problem this time -- the external ToC showed perfectly.  I think I know why it was an insoluble problem with "The Termite Queen."  Each of those volumes is divided into two sections, and each section has a Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc.  I think the meat grinder's feeble little brain was confused by seeing the same chapter designation more than once.  It simply means that those books will never make the Premium Catalog, but so what?  You can go to the Smashwords website if you want the book for those readers.  And I think my "Labors" titles will make the Premium Catalog without any trouble.  Stay tuned ...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Calling All Anthropologists, Entomologists, Mythologists, Folklorists, and Linguists!

       This post is a piece of shameless self-promotion!  It's about the type of reader whom I would like to attract -- who I believe would appreciate my writing and enjoy it most.  This reader could be any of the above, as well as non-experts who nevertheless have a curiosity or a passion about those subjects.  Or, in fact, it could be anybody whose interest is piqued by the unusual or the thought-provoking.
       My books vary in their emphasis. The anthropology angle is obvious in the two volumes of "The Termite Queen"; my heroine is an anthropologist, and first-contact situations require an anthropologist's touch.  Anthropology is the central focus in "Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder."  The plot deals with what can happens when an anthropological investigation goes seriously awry.  The books in the series "The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head" are less directly anthropological because they are laid among the extraterrestrial termite race itself and include only peripheral interraction with those meddlesome Star-Beings.  They are more a venture into constructed culture.
       Entomology plays no role in "Monster," but obviously none of the other books could have been written without a study of insects.  The lead male character in "Termite Queen" is an entomologist and the extraterrestrials are giant termites, who have evolved intelligence but still retain many of the imperatives of social insect behavior.  I do have the attention of one leading termite expert, Dr. Timothy G. Myles, who wrote that great University of Toronto website about termites, which is now only available in the Internet Archive.  Dr. Myles really likes my books!  He wrote a 5-star review of "Termite Queen," v.1, at Amazon under the appellation of "Termite Tim."
       When I first started to use Twitter, I tried to attract the attention of anthropologists and entomologists, and I have periodically attempted the same since then, especially with the entomology.  I have never gotten one follow from an anthropologist, and almost nothing from entomology tweeps, except for @BeesinArt, which is very nice about retweeting.  I've also had slight interaction with @AboutInsects, and a few others that I can't recall right now.  But I can't say that any of this has ever gotten me a sale.
       Can it be that anthropologists and entomologists don't read SF or fantasy?  I can't believe that's true of all of them!  Well, all I can say is, they don't know what they're missing! 
       Then there are the mythology people, folklorists, etc.  I can't imagine that people interested in Greek myth or any myth, for that matter, or in epic tales (because later volumes retell certain medieval stories -- it's not all Greek) -- that these people wouldn't be intrigued by retellings of their favorite subjects in such an original  milieu.  Hercules as a giant termite!  The Trojan War fought between termite fortresses!  Achilles a mighty Warrior who is immature, bellicose, and unpredictable, with a secret flaw (doesn't sound so far from the original, does it?)  Hecuba a termite Queen!  Priam an unnaturally warlike King!  Cassandra a mad Alate Seer!  The role of Odysseus played by an audacious trickster Worker!  Aeneas carrying on his back, not his father, but a young King destined to be the founder of a new fortress, just as Aeneas is purported in some myths to be the founder of Rome!  How could anybody interested in myth resist that?  It's so much fun -- it was fun to write, and it will be fun to read!
       Furthermore, while "Termite Queen" doesn't retell a myth directly, one of the great myths of our culture is touched on obliquely in the conclusion of the tale.
       Last but certainly not least, there are the linguists, particularly those who are concerned with conlangs and concultures.  "The Termite Queen" is predicated on a conlang -- Kaitrin Oliva has to write one in order to conceptualize the non-vocal language of the termites.  And that language plays a continuing role in the "Labors" series, with Shshi words often utilized in the text (frequently with explanatory notes).  I have quite a few contacts already in this linguistic area and I hope to build more.
       So maybe this post will attract some attention -- maybe somebody will search the terms in its title and find it and think, Huh, that sounds interesting -- I think I'll have a go at one of her books.  If so, you can read sample chapters of "Stolen Mother" on this blog, or go to Ruminations of a Remembrancer to read chapters of "Termite Queen."  The Amazon link is another place to go - the "Look Inside" function has now been activated on all the books.  And Smashwords has sample downloads on "Monster" and on both volumes of "Termite Queen." 

       Happy reading!  I hope you will enjoy my books as much as I enjoyed writing them!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Stolen Mother" Now Published on Kindle!

       I published Volume I of "The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head" on Kindle just this morning.  It should appear on Amazon by tomorrow morning at the latest.  The price is $3.99, the same as all my full length novels.   It's a great read for that money, and I hope you'll check it out!  In the meantime, read the sample chapters included on this blog.  I didn't include the map in the Kindle version.  Not only could I not make the upload work -- I decided it would be illegible at that size, anyway.  I suggest that you download or print yourself a copy of the map from this website and keep it handy.  I really don't mind!

       Next up ... Smashwords!  The format will need some minimal tweaking, but without the map or much in the way of odd characters, I think it should work all right.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

An Addendum on Formatting Kindle Books

That dang map!
       I received instructions from Kindle on how to format images for uploading.  It's quite thorough and I do not fault Kindle Help for anything, because I'm the ignoramus when it comes to computer knowledge.  I did manage to understand quite a bit of it.  It seems that when you convert a .doc to HTML, the images are saved in a separate file.  I actually found the file with the image at the beginning of my documents menu.  Then they said to zip the files and I did that.  But it still won't load.  Apparently, you're supposed to insert a bit of HTML -- here's what they gave: IMG SRC="imagename.jpg"  The image name in the folder that I found is Image001.  So I stuck that in:  IMG SRC="Image001.jpg"  But I have no idea where to insert this bit of HTML, so I put it at the top of the image, and went through the whole process, converting to HTML, zipping, etc.  I must have tried about 6 different versions and nothing would load the image. 
       So I wrote them again.  If I still can't to it after hearing from them again, I'm going to drop the map and put a note in the book telling people to print or download the map from this website.  Or else buy the print book!  No problems there!

       I discovered something called cross-references in Word, so I made a sample and converted all the footnotes (it turns out there are 72 of them) to endnotes, then experimented with linking them up.  I had no luck with the cross-reference menu, so I tried the bookmark/hyperlink method that is used for ToCs.  It wouldn't work.  I even checked out the Smashwords Style Guide, because they are really very complete (read verbose) in their explanations.  They let me down.  I think they just expect you to use the same bookmark/hyperlink system, but it doesn't work the way it does with the table of contents.  The links don't work when you click on them.  Maybe you have to type in the endnotes rather than using the converted footnotes. Hmm.  I could try that before I give up.  If I typed them in, I could put the notes at the ends of the chapters.  But no matter what I do, it's going to be extremely time-consuming.  

I'm getting no feedback as to what people would prefer.  I still would like to know:  Would you rather read a book with notes inserted in the text or placed at the end?  I will not place them at the end if I can't figure out how to link them both ways. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Problems Formatting Books for Kindle Using Word


       This post is not meant to be a comprehensive lesson on Kindle formatting.  I'm going to hit on two points that are driving me bonkers as I try to prepare "The War of the Stolen Mother" for Kindle.  One is the map and the other is the footnotes.  What I do is make up a sample post with all the points in it that I think could cause problems and then upload it.  I've already tried three versions.

The Map
       Kindle's instructions are quite clear.  An image file must be a JPEG and be under 127 KB.  My original map was 75.2 KB and I made it into a JPEG.  Fine, I thought.  Then it said something about compressing the file and gave instructions.  Frankly I don't see why you have to do that if your file is small enough already, but I tried the upload without the compression and no luck.  Then I tried compressing it.  Still no luck.  Then I thought, well, my map is a lot bigger dimensionally than a Kindle screen, which is a dinky 4.75 inches x 3.5.  So I reduced the size of the map to about 4.5 x 2.8 (I doubt anybody will be able to read it when it comes right down to it).  That made the KB count  only about 22.  Nope, still doesn't work.  All I get on both the MobiReader and on the Kindle is a picture of a camera with a triangle containing a ! superimposed on it.  So I give up.  I wrote to Kindle Help and we'll see what they say.  If it comes right down to it, I'll publish the book without the map.  Maybe I can put a note telling the reader to come to this website to see the map.  As I say, I doubt anybody be able to read that dinky little thing anyway.  (Or maybe I should tell them  to buy the paperback!)

The Footnotes
       In Word, footnotes are so easy! It's one thing that works with near perfection, unlike their section breaks/header/footer stuff, which is impossible.  You can number the footnotes by page, by section, or continuously through the whole document, or you can convert the footnotes into endnotes.  So I thought maybe I could put the footnotes at the ends of chapters, but that's impossible (probably by applying some HTML coding you could do it, but again I know nothing about that), because Kindle makes you delete all the section breaks and substitute page breaks, and the choices in Word for placement of endnotes is End of Section or End of Document (ironically, that might work in Smashwords, which makes you use section breaks).
       Then there is the problem of linking the footnotes to the text reference.  I tried to do something with the in-document bookmark/hyperlink setup that I use for the ToC, but it didn't seem to work, and without a double linking back and forth, notes at the end of the book are next to useless.  Kindle is just too hard to navigate.  You can't stick your thumb or a slip of paper into the area you want to return to.
       So I reject endnotes, and I can't put the footnotes at the bottom of the page or the ends of chapters, so I'm resorting to inserting them into the text.  Now, I want to say that the book has a lot of notes in the early chapters, but this slacks off later as the reader becomes more familiar with the nature and language of the Shshi.  This will mean that the notes may make for bumpy reading, but the only other alternative I can think of (short of omitting them altogether, something I refuse to do) is to make a Glossary and Notes section at the end of the book, and that's useless, too; nobody will ever bother to read it and you really need the information as you go along).
       So I tried inserting each note in the text, using several dashes ------- before and after.  This caused a different problem; that row of dashes automatically produced a line drawn all the way across the page, and I thought, well, that's OK.  But in the Kindle upload, those lines disappeared.  I think they were considered a drawing object.  Then I couldn't get the damn things deleted out of my text!  As I tried to delete them, it kept duplicating them and moving them up and down the page!  Grrr!  Finally I deleted the whole chapter, copied a new one in, and started over. 
       This time I used a group of three asterisks *** .  And it turned that into a whole row of bullets (little squares, maybe called slugs)!  Fortunately, those were erasable.  So I used the *** both before and after the note to separate it from the text, and I used a slightly smaller type.  And it worked fine in the upload.  So I'm all set to begin formatting the whole text if I do use that method.

       I'm presenting here the first page from Chapter 1 of Stolen Mother
showing you how it will look.  It's a spoiler for "The Termite Queen," but I've given up trying to avoid that.  The type size in the notes won't be a small as it shows here.  Please do give me your opinion on whether you find this system offputting (if you don't like it, you really can buy the paperback, where everything looks the way it's supposed to look.)

Chapter 1
Di'fa'kro'mi Reminisces

Twenty-eight years … I was hatched twenty-eight years ago, this very season.  Do both of you know that?  Now I lie here in a dark chamber and rarely move – I who was accustomed to wandering long distances under the sky and gazing at the stars during every darktime …  I have felt rain on my wings and sand crunching under my claws … the heat-blast of volcanoes’ firestreams and the sting of the ice-field’s frozen pellets …  I have seen the waves of the Great Water and I have immersed myself in them …
It is a strange end I have come to, the strange end of a very strange life …
What is it, Chi’mo’a’tu?  Yes, yes, put all that down … Ru’a’ma’na’ta wanted everything I have to say – if she ever comes again …
I do not think I will ever see her again – she comes less and less often …  Did you know, Chi’mo’a’tu, that the Star-Beings die even as the Shshi do?  You did?  Well, some refuse to believe that, but it is certainly true, because we know that Ru’a’ma’na’ta’s King died.  You met Ru’a’ma’na’ta when she was last here, did you not?  You are so young …  Oh, an imago for nearly two whole years!  So much experience!  I am overwhelmed!
Well, anyway, what I started to say was – you may have noticed that the mat of hairs on Ru’a’ma’na’ta’s head was white, or mingled white and gray.  It used to be a sort of even brownish-tan.  She told me that that color-change is a sign of age among her kind of Star-Beings.  They live long – much longer than the Shshi do.  When I last saw Ru’a’ma’na’ta, she told me she was an astonishing ten years past the two-antennae count.‡  So one day she will no longer come at all …  Perhaps no Star-Being will come …  That makes me feel a little sad.
‡[The Shshi count by threes and sixes; each of their moniliform antennae has 18 knobs, so they name no number above 36.  Any larger amount becomes simply “many.”]
I also feel sad because her King died here in Lo’ro’ra.  She told me once that she had never produced offspring – that she had cared so much for her King that she refused to take another.  That seems unnatural to us, but then the fortresses of the Star-Beings each contain many shma’na’ta|,‡ so it is not essential that every one of them lay eggs.  But there is something very touching in this single-minded devotion of hers.  And of course her King died because of Lo’ro’ra’s aberration – because he was caught in that long-ago rebellion led by the Unnatural Alate whose name I refuse to speak.  And so the memories of that will always sadden me.
‡[Plural of ma’na’ta|, mother, the Queen, the only fertile female denizen of a Shshi fortress]
Something of her King was left behind with his destroyers.  When Ru’a’ma’na’ta first returned and saw what we had done, she made the sorrow-display where the water drips from the Star-Beings’ eyes.  Perhaps you should write down what we did and why we did it, so it will not be forgotten.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The First Volume of "Labors" Has Been Published!

"The War of the Stolen Mother" is now available in paperback at Amazon.  I'll begin working on the Kindle version after I take a brief break from formatting.
Here follows the book description from Amazon:
In the 30th century, Earthers make first contact with an intelligent lifeform called the Shshi, which evolved from termites. Following that contact, the Champion of the Shshi, the Warrior Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head, and the bard of the fortress of Lo'ro'ra, Di'fa'kro'mi the Remembrancer, are moved to set off on a quest to reach the sea, the existence of which was unknown to them until the humans came. Joined by two Worker helpers, they head first for Ki'shto'ba's home fortress of To'wak, where they find that the local Tyrant, who has long feared Ki'shto'ba's power, is holding citizens of Lo'ro'ra prisoner. We learn of our Champion's hatching (it has a twin) and of a Seer's revelations that Ki'shto'ba was sired by the Sky-King and that it can be killed only under unusual circumstances. Ki'shto'ba undertakes to ransom the prisoners by agreeing to leave To'wak and perform twelve wonders before returning, thus freeing the Tyrant from the fate of being killed by its more powerful sibling. The Companions then set off again, joined by the twin A'zhu'lo and by a fifth Companion, an outcast Worker named Za'dut, who is an outrageous trickster and thief. Their journey takes them to the fortress of Thel'or'ei, which has been at war with its neighbors for nine years over possession of a river ford. Ki'shto'ba is duped into supporting Thel'or'ei, which in fact has committed an unspeakable crime against the Shshi Way of Life. When Ki'shto'ba learns of this crime, it renounces its oath and goes over to the other side. There, with the help of Za'dut the trickster, plots are devised to steal Thel'or'ei's protective talisman and to breach its impregnable walls. But with a crime so heinous and with flawed local Champions who are either craven, cunning, or willful and unpredictable, it is unlikely the outcome can be favorable ...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Important Publishing News, a Word on the Myths, and Another Map Is Added

       On the page marked "Maps" I added the finished black-and-white map that will form the frontispiece for the print edition of "War of the Stolen Mother."  I found some errors in the text of the proof, so I uploaded another PDF.  Publication will be delayed a couple of days. 


        This morning I approved the publication of "The War of the Stolen Mother," Volume I of "The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head." It should show up on Amazon within a day or two.  After I take a short break from the tedious business of formatting, I'll begin working on the Kindle version.  I still don't know what to do about the footnotes; I don't see any instructions in the Publishing Guidelines, but I think I can figure something out.

       Also, I just posted Chapter 6 of "Stolen Mother" here on this blog.  It's the climactic chapter for this preliminary section of the book.
       In relation to this chapter, I want to comment on the old Seer Thru'tei'ga'ma.  Of course, he stands in the role of Teiresias, the very famous Seer of ancient Greece.  Some of you may remember that Teiresias was blinded because he saw Athena as she was bathing.  In Thru'tei'ga'ma's case, he saw the Highest-Mother-Who-Has-No-Name as she was grooming her great belly.  Pay attention to his ramblings; they are some of the most important and comprehensive prophecies that will be spoken in the stories.  At any given point, if you return to those paragraphs and compare events  to what Thru'tei'ga'ma said, you'll say, "Oh, now I see what he was talking about!"
       A'zhu'lo fills the role of Iphicles, the twin of Hercules, although A'zhu'lo's story is almost entirely imaginary on my part.  A'zhu'lo is basically the lesser sibling who worships his big brother but can never compete with him, although he would very much like to.  Wei'tu has no equivalent in the myths, but Twa'sei, whose name means "Wood-Cutter," is clearly Hylas, which Rrobert Graves says means "Of the Woods."  And if you don't know who Hylas was in relation to Hercules, you'll just have to look it up!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

You Missed Out on the Special!

The 99-cent special on all my e-books has now ended, but the prices are still great!  On both Amazon and Smashwords the prices are just $1.99 for my novella "Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder" and $3.99 for each volume of "The Termite Queen."  Monster is short and intense and deserves a lot more attention than it's been getting.  "The Termite Queen" is a long-haul book with a rich plot and an enigmatic conclusion.  To everybody who has indicated an interest but not bought yet -- now is the time!

By the way, watch for more installments of "The War of the Stolen Mother" over the next few days.  I'm still working on one final edit before print publication.