Wednesday, July 25, 2012

CreateSpace Mixup Resolved!

       CreateSpace got back to me promptly and told me they would send me a postage-paid label for UPS so I could send back the 28 books.  That works!  Now all I have to do is engineer getting the 50-lb. box over to the UPS store.
       Then they said they would rush me a delivery of my four copies of  "Stolen Mother."  They said I should get it Thursday.  So imagine my surprise when yesterday evening I received a UPS package with the four copies that I had originally ordered!  Oh, great!  Now I have a second order coming that I haven't paid for!  More hassle!  I wrote 'em again.  They said they couldn't cancel an order once it had been printed, but I could call a certain number to see if the second order had been shipped yet.        
       So I did that.  And they told me that I could just keep the second order free since I had been subjected to so much inconvenience!  Problem solved!
       Now I'll have eight copies of the book, plus the one I ordered from Amazon that I didn't need!  Oh, my!  I should have some kind of free give-away for the extra four copies!  But I do hate wrapping and mailing stuff, so I probably won't do that, at least not right away!

       All in all, I can truthfully say, CreateSpace handled all this quite satisfactorily.  I give them 5 stars for that, although only 4 stars overall, since they set the problem in motion in the beginning!  And by the way, the book looks great!  The map is exactly the way I drew it.  The front cover is a little dark -- it's a night scene after all -- but basically I'm happy with the book as an artifact. I hope some of you will want to see it, too.  But just in case you don't, the Kindle version should be appearing within two days.  It will lack the map, and the footnotes will be interspersed within the text.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

CreateSpace Screws Up Big Time!

       Would you believe I haven't seen a copy of "The War of the Stolen Mother" yet?  It was published on 7/16/12 and I ordered 4 copies from CreateSpace on 7/17.  They are always as slow as molasses shipping the order.  Why this is, I do not know.  Amazon can print and ship books in two days.
       Anyway, yesterday evening I got my order.  I was busy at the time and couldn't rush to answer the door so the UPS man left the box.  And it was a humongous box -- must have weighed 60 lbs!  I thought, Good grief, I only ordered four copies -- they must have sent extra books. I could barely wrestle the box into the house.
       Well, it was worse than I thought.  They sent extra copies all right -- 28 copies of somebody else's novel and none of my books!  Twenty-eight copies!  It had my packing slip, so they just mixed up the orders.  The other person probably has my books.  Imagine her surprise when she got this little light box and opened it to find these big termites staring at her!  I found the author's blog and left a message.  Poor thing -- I'll bet she was planning a book signing!  I hope it's more than a week away or she'll have no books to sign!
       In the meantime, I have to figure out how to return this overweight box to CreateSpace.  I left them a message this morning explaining the situation and I told them I will not pay the postage and how would they propose to reimburse me.? In the meantime, I'm going to find out if UPS will send stuff COD.  Probably not.  Maybe I'll go right now and look in the web and see if I can find out.  Back in a minute ...

       OK, UPS does have a COD system! (See )  So maybe I can use that.  I'll have to have CreateSpace's permission first, of course. 
       Then there's  the problem of -- how do I get that awful heavy box to the UPS office?  I just checked on that, too, and UPS will pick up packages.  That would be infinitely preferable.  Otherwise, I'll have to empty the box, put the box in my car, then take the books out a few at a time and pack the box in the car, then hope somebody in the UPS office will carry it in for me, because there is no way I can carry that box!
       This is NOT what I want to be doing with my time!  Growl!
       Not only that -- in order to have a copy of my own book, I just ordered one from Amazon.  They cost only $6.08 from CS, but I'm tired of waiting.  So I paid $15.46 and I'll get $3.36 royalty back, so my own book cost me about $12.00.  But at least I'll be able to see the book by Thursday!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Nostalgia Post No. 3: My Grandmother's Indian Head

[The idea for this post came from one of Sandra Tyler's blog hops in which the prompt was to write about some nostalgic possession.  The hop was closed before I got around to it, but I thought the idea I came up with would make a good post, anyway.  I even managed to get some photos (I am not much of a photographer.)]

       It sits on the floor and the cat is scared to death.  She's never seen at eye-level a nearly lifesize plaster bust of a Native American Chief in full-feathered headdress.  She skirts the edge of the living room, never taking her saucer-sized eyes off this menacing object.  We all laugh hilariously.  LOL, for sure, if that abbreviation had even been known back in the mid-1960s.
       I've been hauling that thing around ever since then, through many moves.  Right now it's sitting on the sideboard in my dining room, surrounded by antique photos, as you can see above.  That's my grandmother at the left of the lefthand picture, with two of her friends, taken in the 1890's when she was a "teenager" (another term never used in those early days) and the belle of the small town.  And that's my grandmother in the middle picture, taken about 1913, with my mother on the right and her brother on the left.  I called my grandmother "Mimi."  And we always called the bust "Mimi's Indian head."
       In the early years of the 20th century there was a craze for all things having to do with the Wild West, and that included everything to do with Indians (I can't be politically correct in this article, because it would simply be risible to say "my grandmother's Native American head.")  This bust was one of a pair that sat on the mantle back in my mother's childhood home in Missouri.  You can see our Chief has a name: Skin Cote.  The other was of a common Indian, with braids, a headband, and a single feather, and he was named "Lone Wolf."  I never saw Lone Wolf.  When my grandparents moved to Colorado in 1922, they stored a lot of things in Missouri, and somebody broke into the warehouse and stole many of their possessions, including Lone Wolf.  My grandmother never got over that violation; she mourned her losses till the end of her life.
       In the picture above, the photograph at the right shows my great-great grandparents -- the parents of Mimi's mother.  Their name was Killey and he was from the Isle of Man, which in itself has always fascinated me.  That's one of her sugar shells and his Bible (printed in about 1-point type) sitting in front of the picture.  They say he made his own shoes and she scrubbed her wooden floors on her hands and knees with sand.  They homesteaded in Iowa and the family story says that parties of Plains Indians (probably a lot like Skin Cote and Lone Wolf) used to come and steal all the food in the house, while the family stood by meekly, not daring to protest.  That is, the raiders took everything except the butter -- that, they would place up on the top shelf of the cupboard and let it be!  But the scariest thing was that they would take little Sarah (my grandmother's mother) on their horses and ride off with her.  Her mother never knew whether she would ever see her child again.  But they called her their little Princess and they always brought her back safe.
       One other humorous anecdote regarding the bust comes to mind.  In the mid-60s (in fact, after that very move I spoke of at the outset), my mother and I lived in Austin, Texas, where I was doing graduate work and working in the UT rare book library.  We had dragged all our possessions with us, including my grandmother's Indian head.  Our landlord -- a rather pixillated man, I must say -- saw it and scratched his head.  "What's that?  Some kind of hand lotion?" he said.  My mother had no idea what he was talking about.  Afterward, I said to her he must have thought it was an advertising piece, promoting some kind of skin care product called "Skin Cote"!
       Skin Cote sat on the floor in Mimi's house when I was a little girl and I used to squat down and examine him in fascination.  I was told by a dealer to whom I sold a good bit of stuff after my mother died that he was worth about $100.00.  Imagine how much more he would be worth if I had the pair!  But I don't think I'll sell him -- he can sit there in my dining room until I die, and then somebody else can give him a new home -- because he always makes me think of my childhood, of my heritage, and of my much loved grandmother "Mimi."

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The War of the Stolen Mother Has Been Published!

       The first volume in the "Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head" series is now available at Amazon.  I'm taking a brief break from formatting, but I plan to begin working on the Kindle version promptly.

Here is the book description that appears on 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

Formatting Illustrations for CreateSpace, and Other Miscellany

       No publication yet!  This morning the virtual proof was ready and so I started glancing through it, and darned if I didn't see a place where I left a word divided at the end of a page.  Oh, well, I thought, one instance of that won't hurt.  But then I started to spot more! -- plus a place where there was a gap of two spaces at the end of a page, and another place where the final page of a chapter started one line down from the top ...  I thought I had caught everything like that!  But obviously I hadn't, so I decided I would have to make corrections and upload another PDF.  That means going through the whole review process again, so we'll see what the new proof looks like tomorrow. 
         Sigh.  Back to what I'd intended to write today!  Within two hours of posting yesterday's piece on CreateSpace formatting, I had nine page views of it!  Weird!  I think I should specialize in formatting text!  (By today, I have 13 views.)


       Here's the final map for "The War of the Stolen Mother."  In the book it will be displayed lengthwise, facing the title page.  As you can see, it's black and white, which I figured would print without any hassle.  My little line drawings on the title pages haven't caused the slightest stir, and the line border I put around the facsimile 30th-century title page went through without a bit of a quibble. But apparently the fills that I used for mountains, marsh, and hills (taken from the Patterns in the Fill Effects menu of the drawing tools) required an upgrade to 300 dpi.  Phoo! 
       So I tried grouping everything together and running it through GIMP the same way I do with the cover art.  I flattened it and upgraded the dpi to (I think) 350 (I usually do 325 for the covers).  Then I wasn't sure how to insert it into the CreateSpace template because there is no "Upload" feature (at least, nothing I know about).  Turned out to be easy.  On the Pictures folder, you can just right-click on the picture you want to use and click Copy.  Then you can paste it directly into your template.  Apparently it retains the dpi count.  I also learned how to turn the picture (as I did for the version above).  Just right-click the image shown in the Pictures folder and click on  Rotate Clockwise or Counterclockwise.  (I'll have to remember that feature, because it means I could have drawn this map in a normal position instead of sideways (getting a crick in my neck!)
       Then when I uploaded the text again, I get the message that the illustration is 299 dpi!  ???  Who knows why?  It takes 325 on the covers just fine.  So I went through the whole process again using 400 dpi.  Then it took it.  So my advice is, any illustration you want to use in the text should be made into a .jpg and upgraded to 400 dpi using GIMP or some other image manipulation program.
       The proof came through OK, but it did say there was a problem with a "transparency" and they had flattened it and it might come out looking slightly different.  That's a puzzlement!  I know I flattened the map in GIMP because the text and the lines on the map didn't show up until it was flattened.  Maybe they were referring to the t.p. drawing, which I didn't run through GIMP (I didn't do that on my earlier books, either.)  Anyway, I'm just ignoring that. I don't think there will be a problem.  The virtual proof looks fine.  I still think I'm going to publish without getting a printed proof.  Hope I won't be sorry.

       Here is one other problem I'll just mention today.  I found the following search phrase on my Stats:  "createspace justified text leaves big spaces."  I did address that problem in my first post on formatting.  See the section "Justification and Automatic Hyphenation." I had to do a lot of that with "War of the Stolen Mother" because it's impossible to divide a name like Di'fa'kro'mi.  It's not that there aren't syllables -- it's that dividing a word like this looks stupid:  Di'fa'-
       Furthermore, sometimes a word isn't included in Word's automatic division dictionary.  One of these words is "Remembrancer."  I must have manually divided "Remem-brancer" dozens of times.  If a word really is indivisible, all you can do is adjust the line lengths by moving down little words (like "in" or "to") at the ends of lines, or by just plain rewriting the paragraph.  It's amazing what you can achieve by changing "said Di'fa'kro'mi" to "Di'fa'kro'mi said"!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

More on Formatting Books with CreateSpace

       I just finished formatting for print publication "The War of the Stolen Mother," which is the first volume of my series "The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head."  I'm waiting for it to be approved.  As with all things, it continues to be a learning experience.  I thought sure that nothing would be wrong with the upload this time!  But no, there were still problems!  So I thought I would discuss the situation a little bit, since my other post, Formatting Print Books with CreateSpace, is my most popular post of all time!  It's had 83 page views, and the one on Preparing a Cover for Your CreateSpace Book has had 43.  I hope my discussions have proved useful!  I know that I myself consult them when I can't remember what I did!
Embedded fonts
       I still got that same message -- "some fonts are not embedded" -- and the display refused to show me where the problem was (I know it's supposed to).   I thought I had everything reduced to Times New Roman, Lucida Bright (which I used on the t.p. and other peripheral material), and Arial (which I used on the map).  So I checked the embedded fonts in the PDF document that I had uploaded, and it did list Garamond (can't seem to get rid of that) and Book Antigua (which I used on "Termite Queen" but didn't use here).  I had had some trouble getting the page numbers changed from TQ's Book Antigua into TNR, and now I've found a new way to check what fonts are in the document.  This is Word 2007 (I think) that I'm talking about.  Open the template document, go to the Find menu, expand to More, then click Format, and Font.  Scroll the list of fonts and find the one you're looking for, e.g. Book Antigua.  Back on the basic Find box, below the Find What bar, it will say: Format: Font: Book Antigua.  Then bring up the drop-down menu Find In, and click in turn on Main Document, Headers & Footers, and Footnotes (as appropriate).  A line will come up telling you how many times that font occurs.  They even include areas that are formatted for that font but have no text (such as a footer but no page number, or a blank header.)
       This process did show me 18 places where Book Antigua still remained.  I think they were page numbers (with numbers, the font very much resembles TNR, so it's really hard to tell the difference by just looking).  And I was able to fix everything at one swoop by using Find and Replace.  I just had it find all instances of Book Antigua and replace it with TNR.  In the same way, I simply replaced any residual Garamond with TNR (even though I'm sure they were all blank lines).
       So that fixed it, right?  No!  On the next upload it points to one place where the font is not embedded!  It was the very first line of the very first page!  That had to be a blank header!  But in the original document, that header was formatted for TNR!  The same thing happened with TQ, v.2 - it told me that half a line of text used a font that was not embedded, but there it was, big as life -- TNR!  I think their system gets a little goofy at times.
       CreateSpace will let you go ahead and approve the upload with some fonts not embedded -- they always say they will embed them for you but it could change the look of the text.  Well, it can't change the look of the text of a line with no text on it!  So I just ignored the problem. 
       But there was another problem, and it involved the map that forms the frontispiece of the book.  I'll talk about that in my next post. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Some Words on Evangeline Walton and Narrative Style

       I've never intended to use this blog as a vehicle to review oither people's books, but today I'm making an exception because it introduces a topic I've been intending to cover in a blog post, anyway.  If you've been reading this blog right along, you know what a proponent I am of Evangeline Walton's writings.  Yesterday I posted a review of her recently published posthumous collection of short stories, "Above Ker-Is" and I'm reprinting it here:    

       According to Douglas A. Anderson, the editor of this posthumous collection, the first seven of these stories were written between the late 1920s and the early 1930s, when the author was between the approximate ages of 20 and 25 years, predating the 1936 publication of The Virgin and the Swine (later known as The Island of the Mighty, the first novel of the Tetralogy to be published).  The final three stories were written from the late l940s to the early l950s.  This collection is a good vehicle in which to observe the development of Walton’s style.  
    The first three stories, which are retellings of a Breton folktale about a city sunk beneath the waves through the actions of a princess who may or may not be viewed as an evil force, employ an old-fashioned, circuitous, first-person style in which a narrator hears a story from another person and then retells it.  It can be a priest hearing a confession or a folklorist recording the tale of an aged informant.  This, combined with a conventional depiction of some characters, makes the early stories not particularly memorable, in spite of some fine descriptive writing and mood creation.
       The central four stories can be considered a transitional phase.  In “The Tree of Perkunas” we start with a narrator who has reconstructed the tale from a friend’s letters, but then this narrator disappears and a straightforward third-person tale develops. In “Werwolf” the fictional framework disappears altogether, although the opening paragraph gives an omniscient narrator’s introduction.  In “The Ship from Away” the author reverts to the fiction of a third party (“Young Devlin told me this story”) who functions to reveal the fate of Devlin at the end.  “Lus-Mor” also utilizes the format of a person telling the tale to another; in this case the tale is first person and the recipient also has a small role to play at the end.
      The last three stories are quite different.  The narrative is direct, with less time spent setting up the premise and creating layers between the reader and the story.  There is a sense that the author has matured and is in command all the way through, knowing exactly how to move the story along and create a sense of horror.  Here are the opening lines of “The Judgment of St. Yves” (“I had this story from old Yanouank Ar Guenn, that aged fisherman whose years must number nearly a hundred now”) or of “The Tree of Perkunas” (“It was from the last letter of my friend, Serghei Zudin, that I pieced together this story … ”) Compare the opening lines of “At the End of the Corridor” (“Whenever Philip Martin felt like being funny he would say that he was a professional grave-robber”) or of “The Other One” (“I should have locked the door.  You can’t drag a solid body through a locked door.”)  The endings of these last three tales are equally strong.  They are the sort of story that grabs the reader and then remains in the mind.
       It’s too bad Evangeline Walton didn’t return to the Ker-Is folktales after she had developed the approach presented in The Island of the Mighty (what a difference a few short years can make!)  In that novel, the peculiarly bizarre magic and the powerful characters of the Mabinogion myths are reworked with such realism that the reader is held spellbound.  That in this reviewer’s opinion is the way myth should be retold!  This being said, however, there is a lot of power in the collection Above Ker-Is and the book is recommended to anyone interested in myth and folktale, in the paranormal, and in horror fiction.

[End of review]

       My topic today takes off from the discussion of the presentation Walton used in her early stories.  I want to compare it to my own methodology.  I've always thought I'm pretty good at stories told by somebody else or through the utilization of a fictional scholarly framework.  Let's discuss the former method first.
       The device can be used to distance the reader from the subject.  In the Walton stories, however, distancing is not really needed; the characters are generic and non-essential and so it becomes something of a distraction or a complication.  In the case of my books, the latter half of "The Termite Queen" is the object in question.  I can't say too much about this because I don't want to play the spoiler, but I can say that I utilize the device of two people who are essential to the plot sitting around talking about something that has happened.  It's the only way to bring about a final understanding of the characters.  Somebody told me that it was too static -- that I was telling and not showing.  That's probably true, but it's impossible to do the job through any other means.  And it seems to me that, since in this case the action is psychological and not physical, the showing takes place within the context of the telling.  All stories are told by somebody, after all -- it's just that in some cases, the teller is more obvious than others.  So I make no apologies for my method.  I do confess that the story is overly repetitive, and for that I do apologize.  It's a case of the writer loving her material too much!
       Now to the second method: the utilization of a fictional scholarly framework.  From my background of studying and working on college campuses most of my life, I'm attracted to academic things and I was first intrigued by the form when I read Ursula K. LeGuin's "The Left Hand of Darkness" close to forty years ago.  The first chapter opens: "From the Archives of Hain.  Transcript of Ansible Document 01-01101-934-2-Gethen:  To the Stabile of Ollul:  Report from Genly Ai, First Mobile on Gethen/Winter, Hainish Circle 93, Ekumenical Year 1490-97."  Chapter 2 begins: "From a sound-tape collection of North Karhidish 'hearth-tales' in the archives of the College of Historians in Ehrenrang, narrator unknown, recorded during the reign of Argaven VIII." Not all chapters begin this way, but many do, and when I read all that, I was absolutely fascinated.  To me that framework gave the narrative a huge sense of reality.
      Now take a look at my novella "Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder."  I do exactly the same thing -- I draw on government documents to piece together what happened on the planet Kal-fa.  I acknowledge a direct influence there!  Ursula LeGuin has long been a favorite author.
       That brings me to the series "The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head."  Here the whole concept is one of an academic undertaking.  I didn't write the books, after all, even though I'm putting my name on the title page and the cover for the sake of convenience.  Di'fa'kro'mi wrote the books,  Prf. Kaitrin Oliva translated them, and they were first published in the 30th century.  That's why I'm including a facsimile title page, and that's why Kaitrin wrote a Translator's Foreword, explaining the origin of the tales.  How they came to be published ahead of their time, in our present day, remains a bit of a mystery.  Maybe Thru'tei'ga'ma the Seer could explain it, but I cannot!  I like to say, I'm channeling them from the future! (LOL, wink, wink, ;-) -- I'd better put in all that so you don't think I'm too crazy!)
       And the format is again that of somebody sitting around telling the story to somebody else.  The aging Di'fa'kro'mi is dictating his memoirs to his young scribe Chi'mo'a'tu, who occasionally interrupts with clueless remarks and questions that inject considerable humor.  I do hope nobody will criticize this format as showing and not telling.  Personally, I think it works great!  I think you'll find plenty of action in these stories, along with that humor that I mentioned, a good bit of serious philosophizing, and some opinionated rants!


You Missed Out on My Special Prices

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 my termitespeaker blog for more installments of "The War of the Stolen Mother" over the next few days.   To date I've posted the Translator's Foreword (written by Prf. Kaitrin Oliva) and Chapters 2 and 3 (see parts of Chapter 1 on this blog's page, Shshi Language).  I'm still working on one final edit of "Stolen Mother" before print publication.