Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Storm-Wing Is Published!

You can now buy The Storm-Wing in paperback, Kindle (not quite ready for a link -- they got my name wrong), and Smashwords.  Kindle and Smashwords are $2.99 because the book is about 100 pages shorter than v.1: The War of the Stolen Mother.  The paperback is $14.49.  Don't hesitate to buy the book, even if you haven't read v.1!  Most of the characters and background are reprised, and the book includes a Glossary of Shshi Words, as well as the usual footnotes.
Here is the description of the book:
 If you enjoy tales of high adventure and battles with strange monsters (with a theme of sibling rivalry running through the mix), you will love The Storm-Wing! At the end of v. 1 (The War of the Stolen Mother), the Champion of the Shshi (termite people) Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head and its Companions set out to cross the dangerous Nu'wiv'mi Marsh on their way to visit a friend in the mountains.  They soon encounter and do battle with the Marsh Guardians – huge sauro-avians that attack from the air with beak, claw, showers of poisonous dung, and barbed feathers.  Ki'shto'ba lops off the leg of the King-Bird but fails to kill him, with consequences that will prove ominous. 
       The Quest is then diverted in a southerly direction, where a fortress being terrorized by a water monster requests Ki'shto'ba's aid.  As a reward for slaying this creature, Ki'shto'ba is granted the surname of Monster Slayer.
       Finally the Quest heads west, where the Companions find themselves in the domain of the Marchers, a Shshi people ruled by another great Champion.  After an eventful sojourn among the Marchers, whose Seer pronounces some disturbing prophecies regarding the Quest, the Companions at last turn northward into Northern Nasute country.  There they find that the fortress of their friend Sa'ti'a'i'a is being invaded nightly by a monster that resembles a primitive Shi.  Ki'shto'ba kills this formidable enemy, only to find it must also eliminate the monster's mother, who lives in caves under a lake and is even more fearsome ...
And here is the tease from the back cover of the paperback, excerpted from Chapter 5:
       About halfway along, I happened to glance up at the sky and I saw something circling there.  It caught me in the gut.  “Ra’fa’kat’wei,” I said in a sending too small for anyone else to receive, “look up.”
       She did so.  The thing had dipped lower.
       It was definitely a yak’nu’wiv’mi| – I recognized the tufted tail, the long neck, the sharp-edged wings.  tha’sask|>||” said Ra’fa’kat’wei.
       Ki’shto’ba received this and said, “What is the matter?”
       We told everybody, and then it was A’zhu’lo that swore.  There was no cover in that area, so we quickened our pace.  Ra’fa’kat’wei and I continued to watch the sky.
       The creature – there was only one – dropped lower.  And then we both saw something.
       “Ki’shto’ba,” I said, “he has only one rear leg.”
       “For sure, he is Hak’tuk!” exclaimed Ra’fa’kat’wei.
       “How can that be?” said A’zhu’lo.  “The ei’tot’zei| said the others would kill him.”
       Ki’shto’ba’s legs had not missed a step.  “Or drive him away, they said.  It seems he survived my slashes but has lost his Mothers.”
       “He is alone,” said Twa’sei, crowding up against Ki’shto’ba.
       “He cannot be happy,” said Wei’tu.
       “Perhaps he is thinking of revenge,” said A’zhu’lo broodingly.
       “I do not know about you,” said Za’dut, “but we just got over one attack by that sask’zei|.  I would prefer a challenge I have not experienced before.”
       We continued to scuttle along as fast as we were able.  The Storm-Wing circled in the sky over our heads for some little while.  His position never changed in relation to ours, so I was sure he was watching us.
       Then suddenly he wheeled and veered away toward the southwest.  I do not know where he went.  At the time I had no desire to know.  Just then we saw the shapes of fortress buildings ahead of us and soon we were safely inside the walls of Gut’akh’zi, huffing with relief.


Monday, March 25, 2013

I've Been Interviewed!

I've been interviewed by Vanessa Chapman at the Limebirds website.
My very first interview!
As a bonus you get to see a different picture of me! Aren't you thrilled?

If you comment on the interview,
you might win a FREE copy of Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder.
Vanessa is not only a Limebird --
she writes a highly entertaining blog of her own
that I strongly recommend (

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A New Smashwords Rant

      I always think I have everything down pat whenever I upload a new book to Smashwords, but every time a new problem arises! 
       First-off, I want to complain about their uploading process.  You have to do it all at one time.  If you log out in the middle and then log back in, everything has disappeared (CreateSpace retains whatever you put in if you've hit Save).  So you have to be sure you have plenty of time and hope IE doesn't crash!  So you start by putting in the short description, which has to be 400 characters or less.  I never know how many characters I have and they don't tell you as you type (or sometimes they tell you and sometimes they don't -- I haven't quite figured that out).  So you get to the end and it tells you the short description is too long.  You go back and fix it -- and your text and cover upload disappear and you have to re-enter them!  That's just stupid!
       So you get past that point and you're absolutely sure that the text is perfect this time.  The meatgrinder starts up.  You're #32 in the queue (everybody seems to be uploading on a Saturday morning -- I recommend some other time).  It reaches #30 and sticks there for an interminable (or it seems interminable) amount of time.  Somebody must be uploading a satirical version of the entire Encyclopedia Britannica.  Then it speeds up a little.  Each item -- epub, Kindle, etc. -- proceeds apace.  You're thrilled.  You get to the end, assign the ISBN -- and get that dreaded Autovetter error.  This time it's this:
"Space Bar Error - You are attempting to use space bar spaces (created by the tapping the long space bar at the bottom of your keyboard) to orient text on the page. This is a common error for writers, often mistakenly used either to create indents for the first sentence of a paragraph, or to center text on the page. In most ebook formats, these space bar spaces disappear, rendering your book difficult to read. If you're trying to center something, use Word's "center" button, or better yet see the Style Guide for tips on how to create a custom paragraph style that defines centering. If you're trying to create first line paragraph indents, follow the instructions in the Smashwords Style Guide. To locate the offending spaces, activate Word's "show/hide" feature then do a Search (press the "CTRL" key and the "F" key at the same time) and then search for three spaces (press the space bar on your keyboard three times). Delete all strings of three or more spaces. Also delete any space bar spaces preceding the start of any paragraph. "
       You know what I hate about their messages?  Not only are they verbose -- they're patronizing!  Has anybody out there gotten this far with self-publishing and yet has no idea what a space bar is or what it's used for?  They make you feel like an eight-year-old piano student whose teacher stands over you and raps you on knuckles whenever you hit a wrong note, all the while saying, "Now, now, dear, remember it's wrong to make a mistake!"
       And certainly I am quite aware that using the space bar to paragraph (like I'm doing in this blog post) or for most other purposes is a big, fat no-no in Smashwords.  Smashwords will allow nothing but Paragraph Indent and Centering.  You can't even use No Paragraph (block paragraphs).  So I was swearing and yelling, "I did not use the space bar except where I'm supposed to!"
       Well, of course I did.  I didn't use it for paragraphing, but I did find several places where I had made three spaces when I meant only two.  (Just touched a wrong key there, ma'am -- please don't hit me again!) And then I went through the whole doc. looking for extra spaces at the beginning of paragraphs.  By golly, I found quite a few.  Several double spaces and a whole lot of single spaces.  Some of those are certainly present in the printed book as well, but most of those are so miniscule that unless you took a ruler and laid it on the page against the beginnings of the paragraphs, you would never notice them.  However, in the future I will check that before I even start formatting the CreateSpace template. 
       Now, I was also using *     *     * between chapter sections  (employing the space bar -- what's a space bar, Mommy?) so I redid those as simply *****.  I don't know what editors prefer for section breaks, but I've always used a series of stars.
       But here is what is peculiar.  I rechecked the document I uploaded for The War of the Stolen Mother, and it's got the *     *     * and plenty of extra spaces, including some three-space chunks and extras at the beginning of paragraphs.  And Smashwords never quibbled in the least about that one!  So go figure!  Is it something new they've added?  Is it a matter of a different individual doing the vetting?  I thought Autovetting didn't involve living people. 
       Oh, and one other thing: When I looked at the epub version, I found an NCX error, where I had missed a link to the Facsimile page.  Smashwords didn't catch that one!  Evil laugh -- heh-heh-heh! So I fixed that as a bonus.
       It's all a big mystery!  But my final upload worked and I'm now waiting to be included in the Premium Catalog.  I've had two sample downloads so far.  Hope you enjoy! 
       Rant over!  I feel better for sharing!  And maybe it will help somebody else avoid the same errors.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Bird Myths, Pt.3: The Jewish Ziz (continued)

The Ziz
Illustration from "The Princess of the Tower,"
Jewish Fairy Tales and Legends, by Aunt Naomi (Gertrude Landa) (Public domain )
        When I was writing The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars, (see the Prologue and first six chapters here), I made Capt. Robbin Nikalishin a birder. What better qualification for the man who will head up the mission that encountered the first intelligent lifeform known to humanity -- and who happened to be big birds? During the mission out, there was a lot of boring downtime and one way the crew entertained itself was by telling bird myths, each crewmember telling tales from his or her own culture. Now, this section will be cut or drastically emended if I ever get that monster ready for publication, but I did too much research and had too much fun writing it to let it all disappear, so what better place to display it than on a blog devoted partially to myth in literature?
       This passage is a continuance of the previous post in this series, so to get an explanation of the characters and circumstances, go to that post.  The following is adapted from Jewish Fairy Tales and Legends, by Aunt Naomi (pseud. of Gertrude Landa), New York, Bloch Pub. Co., 1919.  The footnote to this effect is meant to have been supplied in the 28th century by the person who is writing Capt. Nikalishin's fictionalized biography.


Avi continued, "But that’s not the whole story of the Ziz.  He appears in several later tales meant especially for children.  I’ll tell just one of them.  And I’ll abbreviate it, because when Uncle Ely would tell tales to Ziv and Daniel and me after school, he would stretch them out so they usually went two or three sessions.  He’d turn them into cliffhangers and use the installments as a reward for buckling down to our lessons.”[1]
 “Once there was a princess who was very beautiful and accomplished and smart and well-educated, but suddenly she got very depressed.  Her father the King sent for all kinds of experts to try to figure out what was wrong with her, and finally one who was a bit more savvy than the others decided that the only thing wrong with her was that she was pining for someone to fall in love with.
“So the King brought all the princes and nobles of his realm to court her, but she rejected every one of them, saying they were all self-centered botbrains … well, I doubt she used that word, but you know what I mean … and she would never marry any prince who thought himself to be the only person in the world who mattered, or who loved himself more than the people that he ruled.  The King could grasp the wisdom of that, but when the wise men told him that it was obvious the princess would never fall in love with anybody but a commoner, he lost patience and imprisoned his daughter in a fortress tower by the sea. 
“The people missed their kind princess, although the King took a funny turn.  It seems that, annoyed as he was with his obstinate daughter, he took what she had said to heart and began to take more of an interest in the welfare of his people.  So it happened that they began to hope for better things and that included a certain young cowherd. 
“One day he was out in the field watching his cattle.  As he was pondering the state of the world, he fell asleep and was awakened by the piteous bellowing of an ox in pain.  He jumped up to see that an enormous bird had seized the ox in its talons and was trying to lift it from the ground!  He realized that it could only be the Ziz, and yet, with no thought for his own safety, the cowherd rushed to seize the ox by the forelegs at it was rising into the air.  He wound his own legs around a tree to try to hold the bird back, but to no avail.  The Ziz, its huge eyes glowing with rage, struck at the cowherd, but fortunately its wicked beak sliced the tree in two instead.  Then, freed from any restraint, it rose up from with ground with the ox dangling beneath him and the young man dangling from the ox!
“He clung on for dear life as the bird rose higher and higher above the trees and then soared away over the ocean.  It soon became night, with a great moon glimmering on the water below, and the cowherd was about to give up in despair and let go and accept his death, when the bird reached a tower on the seacoast and swooped down to drop both the dead ox and the cowherd in a nest at the top.  Above them towered the Ziz, glaring ferociously as it prepared to strike the young man with a death blow.”  Again Avi grinned broadly, surely remembering the antics with which his beloved mentor must have illustrated this tale.
“But the resourceful cowherd pulled out his field knife and struck at the tongue in the gaping beak just as it was darting down.  A pierced tongue can’t feel so good even if you are as big as an elephant, and the Ziz gave a shriek, leaped out of the nest, and flew off.  The exhausted young man soon fell asleep, and when he awakened it was morning and a beautiful young woman was standing before him.  Naturally, she asked him how he had gotten there and he related his astonishing tale.  So the princess – for that was who it was, of course – took him down into her tower and gave him food and clothing and a place to rest and bathe, all the while not telling him her identity.  She found him very attractive and he was likewise smitten, but he felt that only members of royalty could be so beautiful, and here he was nothing but a common peasant.
“The princess told him that every morning she went to the top of the tower and looked forth to see if her future husband might to coming to rescue her, and the cowherd in his naïveté asked her who that might be.  And she said that she didn’t know – in fact, she had often felt moved to make a vow to marry the first man who came to her.
“Emboldened, the cowherd said, ‘I believe I am that man, then, and certainly in my heart I knew it was love at first sight.  I would be honored if you would allow me to marry you.'  And she agreed without the slightest hesitation.
“But she said, ‘I will happily marry you, but first you must think of a way for us to escape from this place.’  And so he devised an ingenious plan.
“In the evening the Ziz returned to feast on the remains of the ox, and while it was thus occupied, the cowherd and his princess attached to its legs ropes and a large basket.  They provisioned the basket with a supply of food and water and then climbed in.  They had no idea where the bird would carry them, but their hope was that it would come to ground in occupied lands and they would be able to escape.
“But what happened was better than that – it flew across the sea to the capital city of the realm!  Then, seeming to notice for the first time the extra weight on its legs, it dashed the basket against a tower of the King’s very palace, and the princess and her lover tumbled out.  Only when guards appeared and recognized the princess did the cowherd discover the true identity of his intended bride.  The King was overjoyed – it was surely fate that this handsome prince among commoners had found his daughter.  He gave his consent to their marriage, and … Captain, you knew how this kind of old tale is supposed to end!  So I’ll say, they all lived happily ever after – even the Ziz, I presume!”  And Avi bobbed a comically childish bow and sat down, suddenly going red in the face.  Vigorous clapping and a spurt of animated conversation followed.
 Robbie stood up, still applauding.  “That was a highly entertaining tale, Lieutenant!  And I would love to hear Rabbi Kohn tell it!  Now, who wants to go next?”

[1] Rabbi Kohn appears to have drawn this tale from a 20th-century children’s narrative (Jewish Fairy Tales and Legends, by Aunt Naomi [pseud. of one Gertrude Landa]) that is known to exist in only two copies, one in the Bodley Library in the Historical Preserve of Oxferd and one in the Ostrailien Archives.  One suspects that a third copy might be held somewhere in the IJE.
Coming Next ...
Mythical Birds from Greece and the Middle East

Monday, March 11, 2013

Publishing Update on The Storm-Wing!

Finished cover for The Storm-Wing
       This post is partially brought over from Ruminations of a Remembrancer.  I thought that since the current blog was originally meant as a vehicle for publicizing The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head series, and since it probably has a different readership from the termitewriter blog, I ought to post it here, too.
       I've been completing the formatting of The Storm-Wing (v.2 of The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head) and I've uploaded it on CreateSpace. I had a couple of dinky but pesky problems that took a good bit of the weekend to solve. One involved pagination (sigh -- the eternal flaw in Word). There are quite a few preliminary pages and I wanted them paged a certain way, with small Roman numerals. And I couldn't get "ii" off a blank page without causing the numbers to disappear from some of the subsequent pages. Blank pages are not supposed to have numbers on them. I finally solved the problem -- don't ask me how.
       Then CreateSpace told me my little title page drawing (shown below) didn't have enough DPI. I was puzzled, because I thought that the t.p. drawings on The Termite Queen were simply copied over from Word and not even put in .jpg format. It turned out that the problem was the eyes. I have used a fill containing little dots for the eyes in my cover drawings, but the strange thing with the fill is that it doesn't change size if you change the size of the drawing. After a couple of unsuccessful adjustments I just deleted the fill with the dots and made the eyes solid gray. Then it took the plain drawing without a quibble.
       I got the approval to publish this morning, but I've decided to order a printed proof copy this time.  It was hard to tell in the online mock-up whether the t.p. drawing is going to look right. I'm not in any hurry to publish, anyway, so I don't mind waiting the 10 days or so that CS requires to get the proof shipped. In the meantime I can work on the Kindle and Smashwords editions -- I haven't even begun that formatting. However, it's pretty easy once you've done it a few times. The only time-consuming aspects are embedding the footnotes in the text and linking up the ToC. Then, once all three are available, I'll put up some kind of celebratory special offer! So stay tuned!