Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Discussion on Someone Else's Blog Spurs Me to Post My Future History

     I've added a new page containing an excerpt from "The Termite Queen" where I expound on my version of the future.  I hadn't really intended to do that at this point, but ... why not?  I assure you that the novel is not a boring extended essay - this is the only piece of exposition on the subject that it contains. Certain characters do discuss philosophical points at times, but that's a very small part of the book.
     I hope you find something in this piece to interest you. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Call me Permission-Seeker Agonistes!

     I have spent the last two days struggling with this permissions thing and I thought I would share some of my struggles with everybody, since I might not be the only person who doesn't know what he or she is doing when it comes to getting permission to publish quotations from somebody else's work.
     First-off, a couple of things that I've learned and a couple of the sources I've learned them from:  Any work published prior to January 1, 1923, is in the public domain.  I learned this from Wikisource.  If you look an author up in Wikipedia, often they will refer you to Wikisource in a small link near the bottom of the page.  Another method is to look him or her up in Google Books.  If the book is a free eBook and you can search the entire text, it's in the public domain.  That's a good place to start. 
     "The Termite Queen" has 86 chapters with epigraphs (many authors are duplicated, thank goodness), and 16 of the authors are in the public domain (next time I use epigraphs, I think I'll take 'em all from Shakespeare!)  Another source where everything is in the public domain is Bartleby.com.  However, they make a big to-do about citations and permissions and what not, so I simply sent them an email and easily got their permission to use some of their material as long as I cite Bartleby.com, so that took care of another 3 authors and 5 chapters.
      Then come the authors who are older but who published both before and after 1923.  Tagore's "Crescent Moon" and Conrad Aiken's "Senlin" are pre-1923, so they are public domain; that took care of four more chapters. 
      Then there are authors like Homer and Virgil and works like "Beowulf" and "The Seafarer" where obviously the original work is public domain, but the version or translation is under copyright by the editor or translator.  I suggest in those cases to find a translation that dates before 1923.  My problem is, I can't do that with the Beowulf.  I just love Seamus Heaney's translation!  I was having problems finding who administers the copyright, so I checked out a couple of early translations, and god, are they awful!  If I were to substitute those versions on the two chapters where I use Beowulf, it wouldn't even reflect what was in the chapter!  So I will persist with Heaney!  My book (and Ki'shto'ba) deserve his wonderful poetry!
      Then come the authors who are entirely under copyright.  Groan!  First you have to figure out who owns the copyright.  I find that can usually be done by simply Googling "Who owns the copyright on [such-and-such an author]?"  Then you have to fill out forms or write emails, and then you wait maybe up to 8 or 10 weeks for a response (that's why I wanted to get started on this).
     And then there is the matter of fair use.  Some sources say epigraphs are included in fair use, and yet some publishers don't allow epigraphs to be fair use.  Personally, I can't see why any author would mind being quoted, with proper attribution, as an epigraph - it's free advertising!  Somebody might read that poem or selection and think, wow, I like that poet - I'm going to buy his works!
     Now, the latest problem I've discovered is where the author is copyrighted.  For example, I wrote to Dylan Thomas's copyright holder in the UK, David Higham, and I must say, I got  the nicest answer in about one day - concerned, helpful, polite ... if I was in Britain, I'd want to publish with them!  From her I learned that if I'm publishing in the United States, I have to go to New Directions, Thomas' American publisher.  I also have to know if CreateSpace is considered just a USA publisher or an international publisher (they do distribute globally), so I have a question in to CS to try to find out.  The person at Higham said they hold the Thomas copyright for the rest of the world.  (And Higham doesn't consider epigraphs to be fair use.)
     Anyway, I think I'll stop there.  I have reduced the process to a hard core of authors, and I do mean hard.  But I will persist and prevail.  Dylan Thomas is important, but Robert Graves is the most significant author I quote from, and I haven't even started on him yet!
     I may have to post another picture of myself - after I've  pulled out all my hair!


Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Use of Epigraphs in Literature

For those of you who find this post interesting, check out the subsequent posts: Of Poetry and Epigraphs, Part 1 and Of Poetry and Epigraphs, Part 2.    

Any of you who read "Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder" will notice that I included an epigraph at the beginning of the book -- a portion of Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Lines: When the Lamp is Shattered."
     First I should say that I'm a lover of poetry; in my younger days I found good poetry too difficult to be enjoyable as everyday reading, but in later years, I've taken to reading and studying it more deeply and now I'm really appreciative of poetic expression.  When I wrote "Monster," I considered what poem might enhance the meaning of the book and this particular poem of Shelley's came to mind.  I don't think it's one of his best; its imagery is too chaotic and full of mixed metaphors.  However, that very chaos and confused rhetoric fits what happens in my novella, where everything is falling apart like a bird's nest in a windstorm.  The meaning of the word "love" is discussed in the book and at the end Kaitrin Oliva is certainly left "naked to laughter" -- exposed and vulnerable.  So I thought that this poem would serve to reinforce the meaning of the book, if you'll take the trouble to go back and think about it.
     In fact, that's the problem I always have with chapter epigraphs.  It's been awhile since I read Frank Herbert's "Dune," but I remember he uses epigraphs.  After every chapter I would go back and study the epigraph in relation to the chapter and I could never see any connection between the two! 
     I've said earlier that I use epigraphs in "The Termite Queen" and I sincerely hope that readers will be able to discern their relationship with the text!  I could publish the story without the epigraphs -- it would certainly be simpler for me because of the permissions thing -- but I think the quotations endow the book with a significantly deeper layer of meaning.   
     Here's an example:  The first very brief chapter is told in the thoughts of the Shi Ti'shra, the Worker who has been abducted by aliens and turned into a lab specimen.  Of course it has no eyes, but it has plenty of other senses, and it's lying there in a glass cubicle, in a state of total sensory deprivation, with nobody to talk to or touch, dying of xenotoxic infection syndrome and starvation -- completely harmless and at the mercy of its captors.  And what epigraph do I use?  "... eyeless in Gaza ... among inhuman foes ... " (Milton's "Samson Agonistes").  This adds an ironic touch of the mock heroic and alters the perspective; to Ti'shra, it's the humans who are inhuman and its fellow Shshi who are "human."  I also use a quotation from "Samson" on the chapter where Ti'shra dies (" … Death who sets all free / Hath paid his ransom now and full discharge.")  And later when the team finds that the Shshi have built a cairn of stones in memory of their lost fellow, I use "There will I build him a monument," etc., preserving that gentle mock heroic tone right to end of Ti'Shra's role.
     The early portion of the love affair between Kaitrin and Griffen reminded me of a comedy of manners as I was writing it, so I use quotations from Congreve's "Way of the World," which is the only 18th century play I like (not my favorite literary period).  Mirabell and Mrs. Millamont seemed to perfectly reflect my hero and heroine. The use of that comparison also suggests a timelessness -- the same sort of male-female relationship that could happen in 1700 could also happen in the 30th century.
     In the second section of the book, which is laid on the spaceship taking the team from Earth to the exoplanet, I introduce sea imagery, maybe a not-so-original metaphor for space and its dangers but effective just the same.  They "set sail" with the 10th-century poem "The Seafarer" and end with Rabindranath Tagore's "On the seashore" -- "The sea plays with children / and pale gleams the smile of the sea beach" --  slightly sinister imagery that conveys a hint of foreboding, especially since the sea beach they are approaching is the planet 2 Giotta 17A where the giant termites live.  What indeed will that place bring to them in the end?  
     So my hope is that whenever I do get this published, the reader will pay attention to the epigraphs and recognize the depth they impart to the story.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Some Curmudgeonly Quibbles about eReaders

     "Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder" just appeared on Kindle this morning (see http://amzn.to/u9bYWa).  You can see there that I was able to use my own cover drawing.  Naturally, I purchased a copy of the piece for my own Kindle and I can't resist comparing the process of reading it in that format with the experience of doing the same with a "real" book.  And that's the difference; the first is a process while the second is an experience.  
     There is nothing aesthetic about words scrolling down a screen; the simplest and most humble physical book is a work of art compared to the formless blob of words you get with an eReader.  Now, some of that may be my own fault (I consider all this to be a learning experience).  For example, next time I would begin the words on the title page right at the top because most of the time centering them makes them run off the bottom and onto the next page.  I say, "most of the time" because you never seem to get the same display twice.  If I start with the cover and page forward once, I get a display with the author's name on the second page.  But if I use the Go To  feature to go to the Beginning, it displays the title right at the top of the page with the word "Monster" shifted over against the left margin.  Why?
     There was the problem that certain parts of the t.p. and headings emerged underlined, even though I didn't underline them in the uploaded text.  I fixed the title by taking it out and retyping it, but one other place remained underlined and I just left it.  I think it's something I did, but I have no idea what and it really doesn't detract from the reading of the text.  There are also a couple of gratuitous little centered dashes that just appeared out of nowhere.  One of them is at the very beginning of the text and I now cannot find the other one; maybe it disappeared.  Somewhere I read that people sometimes leave stray bits of HTML stuck in the text.  Could that be what that is? 
     Somewhere I think I mentioned the fact that Kindle wouldn't accept hanging indention so I had to reformat the last section with normal paragraph indention.  I can accept that, but on the reader, if you go to the end and page backwards, it refuses to indent paragraphs that begin the tops of pages.  When you page forward as you normally would, it seems to do OK.  And of course with the small size of the page and the variability of the type size, there is no way to prevent the rather long section headings from splitting between pages. 
     It's aesthetically formless, that's all you can say.  But the text is all there and you can read it just fine if you choose to buy the Kindle version, and what I want to do is get people to read my books.  Personally, I will always prefer the physical artifact of a real book -- something where you can feel the texture of the paper, smell the ink and the paper (and maybe the leather if you're lucky enough to read a really old book), stick your finger or a slip of paper in a later spot if you want to compare two places in the text -- well, you know.  As an old librarian who worked mostly in the pre-computer days, that will always be my preference!  By the way, just now I tried smelling the CreateSpace copy of "Monster" and it smells a little lemony!  Maybe they should add an ink, paper, and leather smell to the Kindle!

Monday, November 14, 2011

"Monster" is now on Amazon!

     Not all the information is in there yet, but it is on Prime, so Prime members can get the book with no postage.  Link is http://amzn.to/u9bYWa
     I am compelled to say ... boy, am I glad I use my middle initial!  I am not the other Lorinda Taylor, who seems to be a writer of Christian proselytizing literature.  Who would have thought a contemporary would have that same name?  "Lorinda" is a pretty old-fashioned moniker.  I should have used the pseudo-nym "TermiteWriter."  I personally follow no religious persuasion; I call myself a spiritual humanist and I plan to write more on that subject later.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I have been informed that people won't buy a book without reading a text sample

STARTING 11/11/12
Note: Nov. 11, 2012, is the first anniversary of my first publication, which happened to be "Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder," so I thought I would resurrect this text sample.  I'm having a 99-cent special on the novella right now (Kindle and Smashwords), and you can get a free Smashwords copy on Sunday and Monday (Nov. 11 and 12).  Go here for information on how to do that!

       So here it is -- a short piece of "Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder" that may function slightly as a spoiler, but not too much:

Continued (late evening, LPT): [i.e. Local Planetary Time]
     It was already dark when we landed at a small spaceport of Chu-sneian construction and so we went straight to a guesthouse for the night.  We are near a diminutive city called Hala-ana (we could see a small cluster of lights twinkling as we came in), but there was not a Kal in sight, much to our disappointment.  Tor says their leader, called the Chief Communicator, prefers to meet with us in the morning. 
Continued, 1st full day on Kal-fa (late evening):
     If I were religious, I might throw a few prayers at a couple of alien deities!  I thought I was beyond astonishment – after all, what can top the Shshi Queen or the inner sanctum of the Etúmanoi? – but even those didn’t prepare me for this!  That woman Tor was playing with us – oh, yes!  The joke was definitely on us! 
     But I must start at the beginning so that I can make sense of this afterwards.  Hala-ana consists of a grouping of some twenty sprawling, one-story stone buildings covered with intricate abstract carvings.  We approached the central edifice, which (Tor informed us) houses both living quarters and the government offices, through an extensive and delightful semi-tropical garden – a xenobotanist’s dream!  It seemed deserted, although we heard some rustling and thumps in the bushes and caught some glimpses of movement or form through the foliage.  Tor remarked that the Kal were shy around strangers.  We entered through a wooden door and found ourselves in a corridor about four or five meters wide, with a floor of polished stone tiles, blue painted walls, and gilded carved floral cornices.  Narrow tables lined the right side.
     Then simultaneously we all jumped.  On one of the tables something was moving.  It was an arm – an arm, shoulder to hand, resting on its upper portion, with a pad of silken cloth covering the elbow, four bracelets enclosing the forearm above a pleated cuff, rings on three fingers below oval nails manicured and tinted gold.  The hand bobbed on the end of the arm, beckoning, waving, appearing to engage in sign language.  I think we all gasped and possibly even swore.  Then the arm bounced, hopped off the table, landed on its padded elbow, and – capered is the only word for it – capered off down the hall and disappeared through a door.
     There was a moment of stunned silence.  I turned to Tor and she was grinning impishly.
      Pross said, “What was that?”  Then he said as if relieved, “A robotic toy!  Very interesting!  So realistic!  Is it a plaything for the Kal’s children?
     Tor said, “That’s not a robotic toy.  You have just met Veski-mah, one of the Greeters.  I think she’ll be in trouble – I’m quite sure Lord Hetsip-dohná didn’t want her out here.”
     Again, silence.  Then a kind of choked snort issued from Hart Pross.  “What are you … ?  Are you implying … ?”
     Fortunately, Ghito interrupted him.  Big-eyed with wonder, she said, “It’s alive?  Why, how beautiful!  Let’s go on!  I have a feeling there are some real marvels ahead!”
     “God, what kind of trickery … ?” Pross began.
     I silenced him by jabbing my fist into the small of his back and said, “Yes, Minister Tor, what other surprises are you hiding from us?”
     Tor laughed.  “I knew your curiosity would be piqued.  Come with me." 

[If you want to know what is inside the door, buy the book!]

Friday, November 11, 2011

"Monster " has been published! - plus a few words about "Termite Queen."

    You can buy it now!  It's already available at https://www.createspace.com/3714538.  CreateSpace did a very nice job with the book.  I learned a lot in the process.  I hope many of you will buy the book, read it, and find it fascinating.  It's a pretty bizarre story and not much like my other writing. 
     I may be able to use a version of my own cover on the Kindle edition, which I'm still working on.  And someone I met on a different blog gave me a suggestion on how to up the DPI on a Word drawing, so I may be able to use my own covers in the future without obtaining a new graphics program and spending a lot of time learning it.  Strangely, I've had very good luck with those little drawing tools in Word.
     "The Termite Queen" will not be published very soon for the following reasons.  First, I have a  confession to make.  I've said it was a long book -- now I'll tell you how long:  325,000 words.  To me, when I read through it, it doesn't seem long at all, but then I'm the author and authors ought to love their own books and their own characters.  Otherwise, why write?  The length is one reason I decided to self-publish -- I won't have to fight with editors at publishing houses about shortening it, or about changing the title to something chatchier (actually, "Termite Queen" fits the book perfectly -- you'll see why when you read it).
     Anyway, formatting it for publication will be a time-consuming process, and I'm thinking seriously of dividing it into two volumes.  I just think a single volume would be way too bulky and heavy and would fall apart in no time.  I'll have to talk to CreateSpace about how that's done -- if the volumes would be published separately or as one rather expensive set, or what.   They would really be one work, not a work and a sequel, but if I published them separately, everybody who bought the first one would be champing for the second one to come out and they wouldn't have to shell out as much all at once.  Hmm.
     Next, each chapter has an epigraph, mostly poetry with some prose, so I have a problem with permissions to quote.  I had always thought that a professional publisher would do all that work for me.  The obvious public domain authors (Shakespeare, Milton, Congreve, etc.) are no problem, but there are a lot of later authors that are obviously still under copyright.  Getting these permissions will take awhile and I'll probably have to go see a copyright lawyer.  I need to do more research on this, but I haven't had time yet.
     And thirdly, there is the cover problem.  Even if I use what I have, it will have to be reworked into the right size.  And if I go with two volumes, I'll have to do a cover for the second volume.
     So I'll just keep plugging and you can follow my efforts here.  Lucky you!  (I promise to also post other things that are more interesting, like why I used the epigraphs, and what my 30th century is like, and what English is like in the 30th century, and also something on that period's humanist philosophy.  And more on the termites, too!

Monday, November 7, 2011

"Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder" has been approved for publication!

I just ordered a proof copy from CreateSpace for my first-ever publication.  It should be available by the end of the month.  I've been writing forever, but I never felt justified in putting down "Writer" as my occupation because I was never published.  "Unpublished Writer" felt the same as saying "Loser."  Now, even though it's self-published, maybe I can hold up my head!  It's more respectable to do it yourself than it used to be.  However, I was looking at the Science Fiction Writers of America website and it says you must have "sold" a certain amount of writings to join.  That's pretty snobbish of 'em!  Ha, ha!

I'm also planning to publish "Monster" as an ebook, but I haven't started on that yet.

I could not use my own artwork on the cover of  "Monster."  We figured out a way I could upload my Word drawing by turning it into a JPEG and it uploaded all right, but then it informed me that the DPI was too low - only 96 and it has to be 300.  At that point, I threw in the towel.  Word just won't work as a publishable drawing program.  "Monster" is an intense and  compelling story, well worth buying and reading, but it's only a 73-page novella, not  a major novel like "The Termite Queen."  So I found a ready-made cover in Cover Creator and adapted that.  It has no relation to the story, but it has a fairly dramatic look to it.

As soon as the book is officially available, I'm going to publish my own cover drawing here on the blog.  I think anyone who is reading the book might like to see it.  And I'm searching for the right vector graphics software that will give me a PDF drawing with the right amount of DPI so I can make my own cover for "TQ."  I really doubt that I need something as expensive as Adobe Illustrator or Corel -- after all, I've done good, fun stuff with the simple system that Word provides.  So I'm thinking of getting a trial version of Mayura when I have time to spend working with it.  Any advice?

I had wondered why I had never gotten any comments on this blog, and then I discovered that Comments weren't enabled.  Now they are, so feel free to share anything you like!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Drawings of Four Shshi

Clockwise from upper left:

Holy Kwi'ga'ga'tei Priest and Seer
Mo'gri'ga'tu Keeper of the Holy Chamber
A Worker
Hi'ta'fu the Unconquered, Commander of Lo'ro'ra