Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Kind of Science Fiction I Don't Write

       I decided while I'm sitting here feeling blah and not up to doing anything long-term and major (like finishing the formatting of The Storm-Wing), I would check out a couple of different types of SF that frankly I had never even heard of before I started self-publishing.  I got to thinking about this as I was glancing at one of my reviews of The Termite Queen on Goodreads, where the author, "Marcus," says: "As a lifelong fan of Asimov, I appreciate Lorinda Taylor's focus on one aspect [of] her future rather [than] the sensory overwhelm that is cyberpunk."
       So I thought, what is cyberpunk, anyway?  I looked it up on Wikipedia:
       "Cyberpunk is a postmodern science fiction genre noted for its focus on high tech and low life.  It features advanced science, such as information technology and cybernetics, coupled with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order.
       "Cyberpunk plots often center on a conflict among hackers, artificial intelligences, and megacorporations, and tend to be set in a near-future Earth, rather than the far-future settings or galactic vistas found in novels such as Isaac Asimov's Foundation or Frank Herbert's Dune. The settings are usually post-industrial dystopias but tend to be marked by extraordinary cultural ferment and the use of technology in ways never anticipated by its creators. ...  Much of the genre's atmosphere echoes film noir, and written works in the genre often use techniques from detective fiction.
         " 'Classic cyberpunk characters were marginalized, alienated loners who lived on the edge of society in generally dystopic futures where daily life was impacted by rapid technological change, an ubiquitous datasphere of computerized information, and invasive modification of the human body.' – Lawrence Person."
       WARNING!  My books are the absolute opposite of the above, so if you're into cyberpunk to the exclusion of more literary materials, don't buy them!  My novels exist in highly civilized milieus, with a love story that shares more with comedy of manners than with film noir or bad-ass street smarts.  Technology is secondary to human relationships and human psychology.  (Mythmaker Precept No. 8 states: "Science has a soul; technology is soulless.") 
       Even my termite stories qualify in that regard.  The Shshi may be primitive technologically, lacking even the use of fire and having no mathematics to speak of (although they have engineering skills that are bred in the genes), but they have an excellent moral compass, behave according to the rules of their kind, and care for one another.  They are courteous little beasties, putting a high value on good communication and the power of words.  Therefore, I consider them to be highly civilized!
       So then I thought, what is steampunk?  I can see some appeal there, because it would be possible to write or read something in that subgenre just for the sheer fun of it.  Here is Wikipedia's take:
       "Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century. Therefore, steampunk works are often set in an alternate history of the 19th century's British Victorian era or American 'Wild West,' in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has regained mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. Steampunk perhaps most recognizably features anachronistic technologies or retro-futuristic inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them, and is likewise rooted in the era's perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art."
       I can see enjoying that kind of fanciful and light-hearted turn on science fiction.  The article also mentioned "Warehouse 13," which I had already decided must fall into the steampunk category, and I enjoy that series very much.  I also like the "Back to the Future" movies. 
       But this is not what I write, either.  I'm just not interested enough in either high or low technology to explore the possibilities.  I'm much more interested in how people (and peoples) interact.  But I would guess that there is more stylistic interconnection between steampunk and my type of literary science fiction, so if you read a lot of steampunk, go ahead and give mine a try!  You might find something to like about it!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Saga of the Icy Porch Continues

       All is not so well.  Sunday night I went to bed and sneezed -- and was attacked by this horrible pain in my ribs.  I won't go into all the details -- I'll just say I went to the doctor Monday morning, had my ribs x-rayed, came home, had lunch, took some of the midlevel pain medication the doctor had prescribed -- and it only felt worse.  So I ended up spending 5 hours in the emergency room.  Had cat scan, blood work, and all the usual things they do in the ER.  The doctor was one my mother had had in the same ER way back in the 90s -- really nice doc.  He even remembered me from my frequent nagging presence in the ER at that time.  I thought it might not be ribs at all but maybe a kidney stone because of the location of the pain (Fel, if you're reading this -- I can see you shuddering) . 
       But it's not.  I do have a fractured rib -- 11th rib -- plus some cartilage damage.    The doc (or maybe it was the nurse) said that wasn't one of the floating ribs, but it really is. according to the following Wikipedia excerpt.  Count downward on the image. They sent me home with stronger pain medication.  The problem is turning over in bed and getting in and out of bed.  I holler whenever I have to twist.  Plus coughing and even just clearing your throat and blowing your nose is almost impossible.  (Remember the old line "Does it hurt?"  "Only when I laugh"?  Actually. laughing does hurt, but that's not the only thing!)  And I have no idea why it didn't hurt more the first day and a half.  I suppose sneezing pulled the rib apart.
       The upshot is, I will be very unproductive for awhile because it's an understatement to say thatI don't feel at my best.  No intellectual posts that require a lot of focused thought, and I'll have to delay the publication of The Storm-Wing.  I'll probably barely feel like keeping up with my email.  Income tax has to take precedence, too.  I'm really disgusted.
From Gray's Anatomy (NOT the TV series)

From Wikipedia (article Human Rib Cage):
The upper seven true ribs(costae verae, vertebrosternal ribs, I-VII). are attached in the head to the sternum by means of costal cartilage. Due to their elasticity they allow movement when inhaling and exhaling.
The 8th, 9th, and 10th ribs are called false ribs (costae spuriae, vertebrochondral ribs, VIII-X), and join with the costal cartilages of the ribs above.[3]The 11th and 12th are also sometimes referred to as false ribs.
The 11th and 12th ribs are known as floating ribs (costae fluitantes, vertebral ribs, XI-XII), as they do not have any anterior connection to the sternum.
The spaces between the ribs are known as intercostal spaces; they contain the intercostal muscles, nerves, and arteries.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Why You Should Never Forget That Life Can Change in an Instant

       We had a significant snowfall a couple of days ago.  The man who shovels my snow came and cleaned off the walks and driveway and the steps, and all was well.  Yesterday it warmed up a bit and we had some melting.  After lunch, I went to get the mail.  My mailbox is to the immediate left of my front door, so I don't even have to step out to reach in the box and pull out the mail.  However, somebody had stuck a flyer in the stormdoor, between the little bars and the screen.  The flyer was way over to the right, so I couldn't reach it without stepping out on the concrete slab of the stoop.  I looked down at it and it looked perfectly normal, so I shoved open the stormdoor, which is very heavy, and stepped down the rather high step.
       WHAMMO!  It was black ice!  Meltwater off the bushes and roof had dripped there and frozen!  My right foot slipped out from under me and down I went!  Boy, did I holler!  But of course nobody heard me, because there are no neighbors within shouting distance of my house, and nobody was outside across the street or walking by.  I landed on my duff, which was lucky because it's padded pretty well (LOL), but I whacked my back on the door stoop.  Also, the heavy door, which I was now stuck under, banged my right shin, although it didn't hurt for some reason.  I only discovered it later. 
       My first thought was, oh my god, what if I've broken my backbone? -- because it whacked me right across the middle of my back.  But I took a moment to check out all my limbs and nothing felt numb or tingly -- everything moved normally -- so I decided I was just very well bruised.  Of course, maybe a broken rib ...
       So now what?  It was impossible to get to my feet because there was no traction on that ice.  So I managed to turn over, get on my knees (all the while shoving the door open with my foot), and crawl over the doorstep, back into house, and up to my recliner, where I could pull myself to my feet.  I considered whether I ought to call 911 and get checked out, but I walked around and nothing seemed really impaired -- just painful.  So I thought, the hell with emergency rooms -- I don't think I've got any life-threatening injuries.  When I sprained my ankle rather badly a few years back, I never went to the doctor with that , either.  Frankly, I hate doctors and medical procedures.
       Of course, I had no ice.  I never use ice for drinks or anything -- never make iced tea or coffee or lemonade, so I don't keep ice cubes.  The trays just take up room in the freezer and the cubes evaporate over time.  I did have one of those gel packs, but it wasn't in the freezer.  I put it in the freezer, but I only left in about 20 minutes, so it wasn't very effective.  I figured the longer I waited, the less effective ice would be anyway.  (Hey, I just had a thought -- I could have gone out my other door, which is not icy, and scooped up some of the big hump of snow next to my driveway.)
       I should say that I have quite a lot of arthritis in my shoulders and hands, and I'm getting it in the right knee -- the same leg that got whacked by the door.  (I have a 2-inch diameter bruise on my shin, btw.  Fortunately, the door didn't impact the actual shin bone but struck on the right, on the soft tissue.  Might have broken my shinbone if it had hit right on it.)  So today my leg is sore and I'm hobbling, and my back is very sore and it hurts to sit and lean back in certain ways.  I can't get a good look at it -- the mirrors are all wrong and the lighting isn't good enough.  I can see some bruising, mostly again on the right side.  I really need to call my friend who is a CNA and get her to come look at it.  Maybe I'll call her tomorrow, after the bruise has some time to develop.  I should be all colors of the rainbow before this heals up!
       I was surprised that I slept pretty well last night.  Turning over was the only problem.  Once I got settled on one side or the other, the only thing that hurt was my shoulders, which always hurt at night anyway (although the concussive effect on the whole body didn't make the shoulders feel better).  Things could have been way worse -- I could have broken a bone or hit my head (always a worst-case scenario, but my head was perfectly safe in this particular fall.)  I could have bruised my lung or my kidneys, but I don't think I did.  Lungs feel fine, and I don't think the blow was low enough for the kidneys.  Kinda hurts when I hiccup!
       Oh, and I never did get the danged flyer off my door until this morning, when I opened the inner window in the door and used a pin through the screen to shove the rolled-up paper out of the slat, and then picked it up with my pick-up-stick!  I did throw some salt  out on the step and I put up a sign saying "Careful!  Icy Step!" on the mailbox.  I'm surprised the mailman delivered the mail.  I wonder how he stepped up there without falling down.  Hey, can I claim on my own house insurance?  Nah, it doesn't cover the homeowner!  They just have to take their lumps!
       So there you are. One moment everything was hunky-dory, and the next moment, WHAM! I'm on my backside on a black-ice-covered porch! One moment you're driving down the street minding your own business and the next moment somebody runs a red light and creams you! Or a meteoroid crashes on top of your house! Better enjoy things while you can! Make hay, etc.! Life is too short!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Why Do I Have a Conniption Fit Every Morning?

Informal. A fit of hysterical excitement or anger []
Derivation: Americanism, origin uncertain
       Because I'm having a terrible time getting any serious work done, that's why!  I work best first thing in the morning.  Every morning my plan is to get right on the final proofread/revision of The Storm-Wing with a view to publishing the paperback very soon.  But that email is irresistibly enticing. 
      Will somebody have reviewed one of my books?  Will I have a communication from one of my online friends with whom I really enjoy contact?  Maybe I'll have new Twitter and Goodreads followers! Will there be a new blog post that I just have to read, or a message on Facebook, or a comment on Google+ or on one of my blogs?  Maybe I will have sold a book on Smashwords, which notifies you of sales by email!  So I can't resist looking before I start working. 
       And of course I find about 50 emails, and become engaged in deleting about 40 of them.  Then there are the spam notifications.  That gets me into my own blogs, which leads to checking stats, and then certainly I have to check the sales stats on Kindle and Createspace, and check whether anybody has downloaded any samples on Smashwords ...  And what about Goodreads and some of the other groups I belong to?   There might be something interesting there ...  (And oh, look, that little red 1 just popped up in the Google+ box!  I have to check that out!)
       By that time the morning is at least half gone and the conniption fit is in full bloom!  "I'm never going to get this book ready to publish!  Grrr!  It's hopeless!"  It's promotion that's keeping me from publishing my next book!
       It's been especially bad these last four days, because I have been having this Smashwords Giveaway of "Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder" -- promotion ends tomorrow morning as soon as I log in, which will be about 7:00 AM Mountain Standard (US) time, so hustle on over to Smashwords  and download a copy.  The Giveaway has required me to do more tweeting and posting on social media than usual.  However, it's been worth it.  I've gotten one review out of it, thanks to Chris Graham, whom I met on Goodreads (check me out there), and Kat Anthony recently put up a review of "Monster," although in her case she bought the book, I believe, some time ago.  And as of a few moments ago, I had given away twelve copies in a little less than three days.  Some people may not think that's many, but look at it this way -- if all twelve of those people read the book and decide to review it, I'll be making a pretty good showing!
       I've also given away 34 copies of the novelette "The Blessing of Krozem."  It will remain free on Smashwords, so you can get it any time you like.  It's not a piece of major literature and it isn't as meaty and strenuous as "Monster," but it makes for a pleasant hour's reading and I'm not at all sorry I resurrected it and published it in this manner.

       Now why am I writing this post, in the midst of a conniption fit?  I'm supposed to be working on The Storm-Wing, for goodness' sakes!  But not only did I need to vent -- I figured I needed a new post on this blog to stimulate people's interest.  And I needed a publishing update.
       I do plan to finish that proofing this afternoon!  I swear!  Will I be foresworn?  Stay tuned!  But that won't mean I'll be ready to publish, because I've decided to compile a glossary of Shshi words that are used in the book.  My conlanging friends prefer that a piece of fiction containing constructed languages have a glossary, so I've decided to oblige them.  It means searching the book for italicized words (thank god for the Word Search feature) and then copying the words into a table or list, alphabetizing them, writing definitions and other possible explanations ...  Well, you can see it could be time-consuming.
       But that will give me time for some heavier promotion of both The Termite Queen and the first volume of The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head, which as you all know is entitled The War of the Stolen Mother.  I also need to do some work on the termitespeaker blog, where my posts on Evangeline Walton's Prince of Annwn are attracting page views but only one comment so far.  I'm going to let those cook awhile longer, and then I'm going to put up another bird-myth post.  This one will be on the Jewish bird, the Ziz.
       So expect some things to come.   But definitely it will all go smoother if I can just discipline myself to get to work before I check my email.  After all, I don't need to be first-thing-in-the-morning sharp to delete emails and respond to them!

       More notes on origin of "conniption":
       Wiktionary ( says: "American origin, perhaps related to corruption or captious." says: "The origins of the word conniption, which appeared in usage in the 1830s, are cloudy and several theories have taken root into possible origins of the word:
1) Conniption is a literal corruption of the word 'corruption' which at one time meant feelings of anger or sadness.
2) Conniption is a nonsense word hinting at a mock latin origin.
3) Conniption is of Yiddish origins, such as the word Knish, due to the use of hard Ks and Ns." compares a conniption fit to a hissy fit or tantrum.  I don't think mine is quite on the level of a tantrum, but hissy fit works pretty well!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Termites Have Literary Theory, Too, by Golly!

If you enjoy this post, read the page listed above entitled "Shshi Writing"
and check out The War of the Stolen Mother on Amazon or Smashwords
       Di'fa'kro'mi the Remembrancer (Bard) of the fortress of Lo'ro'ra is the author and narrator of the Ki'shto'ba tales. Di'fa'kro'mi invented writing and would have liked to write down his tales himself. However, he is quite elderly and his claws don't work as well as they used to (apparently arthritis strikes everywhere in the universe, even among intelligent insects). So he dictates to an amanuensis, an Alate named Chi'mo'a'tu. Chi'mo'a'tu is quite young and callow, but he was very quick at learning how to make these mysterious word-images on scrolls and so Di'fa'kro'mi takes him for his chief scribe.
        However, Chi'mo'a'tu's inexperience makes him skeptical about some of his mentor's narrative techniques. For example, "The War of the Stolen Mother" contains an account of how the Companions steal the talisman whose presence keeps the fortress of Thel'or'ei safe (you can about read that on my Ruminations blog -- it's Chapter 22 in the book). At the beginning of the following chapter, Chi'mo'a'tu accuses Di'fa'kro'mi of being a liar. Here's the exchange (remember, until now the Shshi operated only in an oral literary tradition):
        Now, I do not know what to think about this comment of yours, Chi’mo’a’tu! First you say – the most amusing narrative you have ever received, and touching as well – and then you proceed to remark that it is too bad the whole thing was a lie!
This tale was absolutely truthful! I know I was not present to take the exact words of the conversations, but – tha’sask| – Za’dut, and A’zhu’lo as well, recounted their adventures often enough! Their versions did not always agree, but I have reconciled them here. I thought it was highly effective! Would you have preferred a tedious accounting of the number of missing stones in the flank of Thel’or’ei, or a complete list of the number and location of each biter sting on the bodies of our Thieves?
I do not see why this manner of narration bothers you so much. We Remembrancers use it all the time – speaking not in our own person. When I tell the Tale of the Battle of Mor’kwai’cha, I do not tell it as if I were engaged in it, do I? I agree – it is an ancient tale and I certainly could not have been present to view it! What is the difference? I could not be present to view A’zhu’lo’s head getting stuck in the eye-hole, either!
Of course Mor’kwai’cha is traditional! This will be traditional, too, one day! Besides, no two Remembrancers tell their traditional tales exactly the same – it cannot be expected. Such tales are not meant to be dry historical recitations, like those the Teachers recount to the nymphs in the nursery. The thing we call a galt’zi| is meant to entertain! As long as one remains true to the spirit of the story – that is what matters.
Well, perhaps we can discuss these theories of tale-telling another time. I need to rest now and then eat, and your claw must be tired. Come back in three turnings of the water vessel, will you? We will continue the dictation then.
In the next volume ("The Storm-Wing") Di'fa'kro'mi enlightens Chi'mo'a'tu's understanding with an even more entertaining bit of theory. Ki'shto'ba has just fought a monster and the Companions are lingering at a fortress called Ei'tot, resting up before continuing their journey.
I had never told so many tales in so short a time as I did in Ei’tot. It was the first time I ever narrated the War of the Stolen Mother in a formal setting (not that anything the ei’tot’zei| did was very formal). I had been thinking the tale through even while we were tramping across Nu’wiv’mi. That early version was not very like what you have been writing down, Chi’mo’a’tu …
What? Oh, bother! Both versions are true! Of course, a tale can be told in different ways and still be true! I am getting a bit annoyed at being called a liar! Now, now, do not get upset! It is only that for someone who started life training to be a Remembrancer, you know very little about tale-telling! Perhaps it is a good thing you turned to this novel occupation of writing down the words of others!
Let me give you a metaphor for the structure of a tale. It is like the body of a Shi. It has a chitin framework to hold it together – the basic facts of the plot, articulated in a certain cunning pattern. Then it has the muscle – the details that move the action of the plot along. It has the gut – the spirit, the passions of the characters. And finally it has the fat – the descriptions, the asides, the little bits of humor and philosophy that pad the story. Now there can be too much of that – if I have any failings, it is in incorporating too much fat! Like this digression here, if you are writing it down! No, do not smudge it out. Ru’a’ma’na’ta may find it amusing, if no one else does.
Oh, one more thing. Sometimes one must adapt one’s tale to the situation. If one is in a hurry or merely giving information, one can reduce it to the bare chitinous structure. Of course, it is not very entertaining that way, but occasionally such a thing is necessary. Sometimes one omits certain parts if one thinks the audience might find them offensive and be moved to murder the teller! If one is speaking to a group of little nymphs in the nursery, one omits the scary parts and keeps it simple and short. If the audience is exclusively Warriors, one emphasizes the action – the battles and the violence – for Warriors get restless if the tale is too subtle or mentally complex. Of course, the opposite is true of Alates. Workers like almost anything as long as it relieves the tedium of their duties – in fact they make the most enthusiastic audience. And a mixed group – well, one tells the prime version of one’s tale and feels satisfied if no more than a third of the audience falls asleep!
That broadens your understanding, my friend? Well, good! Can we get back to work? Whatever was I saying? … An anus? Oh, that is amusing! That dormant twig of humor in your mind is developing a few leaf buds! Yes, perhaps every tale ought to have an exit hole for the indigestible parts!
Pretty good advice for any writer!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

I've received the Very Inspiring Blogger Award!

Thanks to the enterprising and industrious Fel Wetzig for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award!  Here are the rules:
1. Display the award logo on your blog.
2. Link back to the person who nominated you.
3. State seven things about yourself.
4. Nominate 15 bloggers for this award and link to them.
5.Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award's requirements.
I know there are hundreds of blogs out there that are worthy of this award, but at the moment I can come up with only seven, so that will have to do.  Here's the list:

Kat Anthony, author of topnotch fiction and an elegant blog called Kat's Blog, Musings on Authorship & Inspiration.
Antony Waller, a Yorkshireman who writes a most entertaining regional blog called A Shimmering of Northern Light
Tara Adams, whose blog is entitled Faith in Ambiguity and who has a real talent for both insightful and quirkily humorous writing
Vanessa Chapman, ever funny and entertaining; a Limebird. 
4amwriter, also known as LimebirdKate, lively and informative 
Sandra Tyler, topnotch writer of a personal blog entitled A Writer Weaves a Tale, a former writing instructor and a published novelist, a sponsor of the Old-Post Resurrection Hop. 
E.C. Ambrose, author of a blog with a scholarly bent, including articles related to the research the author engaged in while preparing a historical novel soon to be released by DAW. 
Now for the seven things about myself!  I think I exhausted all the interesting stuff when I did the Versatile Blogger award, so I'll stick to trivia.
1.  I'm a big fan of NCIS, although I don't watch the current year but instead wait for it to be rerun on USA.  After watching a few episodes (The Meat Puzzle was the first one I ever watched), I became inured to gore and violence (is that good or bad?)  But the characterizations are so good, it makes up for the graphic autopsies and corpses. 
2.  Between 1995 and 2012, flower gardening was one of my main hobbies (lilies a specialty), but I've given it up as of last summer (too much arthritis).
3.  I'm not a big exerciser, but I do walk when the weather cooperates.  The last thing I plan to do in my old age is slip on an icy sidewalk and break my hip.
4.  "Early to bed, early to rise" is my mantra.  I'm a morning person.
5.  I hate to travel.  Too many road trips as a child.
6.  Did you notice how everybody in the audience at the inauguration was wearing a sock cap?  I just bought myself one!  Easy to put on!
7.  I no longer cook anything more complicated than scrambled eggs.  Today's lunch was a Lean Cuisine entree (tortilla-crusted fish, a favorite), cole slaw from the Safeway deli, and a whole lot of red table grapes.
And if you're not bored to tears yet, there's something wrong with you! :-)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Blogging and Self-Publishing: My First Year in Review

       Actually, it's been more than a year.  I put up my first blog post on October 11, 2011, about a year and four months ago.  That post was entitled "An Introduction to My Worlds" and featured a picture of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head.  Here's the picture:
        At that time I didn't know how to turn an image into a JPEG, so I printed out my drawing and took a picture of the print with my new digital camera.  That's why it has that funny shadowing around the edge.  I'm surprised it came out as good as it did!
       Boy, have I learned a lot since then!  Not that I've become an expert on anything, but I do know how to use Paint or GIMP to make a JPEG! 
       I published my first book ("Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder") on November 11, 2011.  Easy to remember -- 11/11/11.  I thought this novella would make a good trial run, to learn the self-publishing ropes with CreateSpace and Kindle, and later (not until February 2012) on Smashwords.  At that time, since I still didn't know how to make a JPEG, I elected to go with a generic cover for the print edition.  Not long ago, I republished it with my own cover, but because of the subtitle that appears on the paperback entry and not on the Kindle entry, Amazon has never put the two together.  But they definitely are the same book, and the cover turned out great in the print version!  If you plan to read the novella sometime, you really should shell out the $5.49 for the paperback.  The cover makes it worth it.
       I went on to publish The Termite Queen, v.1: The Speaking of the Dead on March 12, 2012; The Termite Queen, v.2: The Wound That Has No Healing on May 12, 2012; and The War of the Stolen Mother (v.1 of the series The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head) on July 16, 2012.  Now if you're thinking, boy, is she prolific!  She wrote all those books (which are not short, except for "Monster") in less than a year?  'Course I didn't!  I wrote them between the years 2000 and 2003.  Then I began The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars, and got bogged down for several years (enough on that for now!)  But during the three and a half years when I was writing about my termites, I wrote the entire Ki'shto'ba series, which consisted originally of three volumes, now split into six.   Therefore, I have another five volumes ready (or close to being ready) to publish.  I haven't written anything this past year except blog posts (although the splitting of the series necessitated a lot of revising).  That doesn't mean I don't have more new things in mind to write, but first things first.  I always have liked to finish what I start.
       So why did I start a blog?   I never intended to write a social blog or a humor blog, and I never intended to try to teach people how to write (there are scores of blogs out there aiming to do just that).  Also, I was not looking to learn how to write, because I don't consider myself to be a beginning writer.  I wrote too many words back in the first part of my life, even though I never published anything at that time.  I write best when I don't think too much about theory and just let it flow.  I think the best way to prepare to be a writer is to obtain a good liberal education (writing is always a part of that), study literature, and read, read, read, especially in the genre you intend to write.
       My main purpose in starting a blog was to promote my books and give myself an outlet for some of my ideas (as in the Mythmaker posts; a new one of those is long overdue).   However, I've ended up with three blogs to maintain and I've done some things with them I never intended.  The blog you're reading now, Ruminations of a Remembrancer, is my primary blog and it's become more diversified, with nostalgia posts about myself and my family, essays on poetry and grammar, a few book reviews, extracts from some of my unpublished writings, and some quite popular posts on how to format books for self-publishing.  I even put up a recipe at Christmas, which attracted a lot more attention than I expected! 
       The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head started out as my conlanging blog, with a different title.  Later, when I published the first volume of the series, I decided that a six-volume series needed a blog of its own, so I moved my specialized conlang materials to a website sponsored by the Language Creation Society (Conlangs of a Remembrancer).  Then I found I didn't have enough material for the "Labors" blog so I expanded it to include semi-scholarly discussions of myth as it's utilized in literature (after all, that's what I'm doing in the Ki'shto'ba series).  Besides discussing the background of the Labors series and the myths on which it is based, I've used some of the bird myth research that I conducted for Man Who Found Birds.  I've also had a nice guest post by Fel Wetzig on insects in folklore, analyzed one of Kat Anthony's stories that's based on Sumerian myth, and am now running a series on Welsh myth as retold by Evangeline Walton.  All that is a lot of fun, but pretty time-consuming.  Why don't you stop over there and take a look at some of the material?
       (And by the way, if anyone would like to write a guest post similar to the one Fel Wetzig did on insects, or if you would like to dissect a novel that is based on any variety of myth or folklore, or if you've published a piece of fiction that utilizes myth and want to do a little self-promotion, feel free to contact me.) 
       So what's next?  First off, I need to maintain my level of promotion.  Not nearly as many people have read my books as I would like, and that's too bad, because for the right person, they're terrific!  (Sorry -- I can't help blowing my own horn, because I love my books.  I know they aren't perfect, but they have a lot of meat in them, they have powerful characters and unexpected plot twists, and they move fast in spite of being long.)
       I'm especially disgruntled because almost nobody has read The War of the Stolen Mother.  Now, it does take off from the end of The Termite Queen, and it's probably better if you read TQ first, because a lot of plot points refer to what happened in that book.  But it's entirely possible to read The War of the Stolen Mother without reading TQ first, and so I'm going to be doing more promotion for my series on this blog.  I believe more people read this blog than read the other one. 
       And I'm working right now on preparing v.2: The Storm-Wing for publication.  I published v.1 way back in July and I intended to publish v.2 in about three months, but I waited, hoping people would start reading the first volume.  Now I'm not waiting any longer.  I'm doing a final proofread on the CreateSpace template right now (and I'm glad I am, because I'm catching a number of little mistakes, like "in" for "it," and a period following an exclamation mark, and missing quotation marks.  As everyone knows, it's really tough to proofread your own work, but since I have nobody to do it for me, I just plow ahead.
       I'll be doing another post soon on The Storm-Wing.  The other blog already has a lot of material about it -- go there and click on the Label "Storm-Wing" if you're interested.  And here is my cover art for the book (not too shabby):
   Click for larger image   
        So, what have I learned from this year's worth of blogging and self-publishing other than technical information about how to handle images and how to format for CreateSpace and Kindle and Smashwords?  I would say -- patience!  If you believe in what you write (and I do), you have to stay the course!  Every time I check my publishing stats, I think, well, one of these days there will be a dozen sales, and some of those people will read the books, and some of those people will review them, and then somebody else will read the reviews and decide to buy the books, etc.  (by the way, I've never had an adverse review on any of my books, and the rankings average out to 4 stars, although "Monster" has achieved 5 stars.)
       And I keep making interesting internet contacts with all kinds of fascinating people whose acquaintance I really enjoy.  That can't hurt, either.  I resurrected a fantasy novelette that I wrote back in the '70s called "The Blessing of Krozem" and have made it free on Smashwords.  Go over there and pick up a copy!  I've had 26 takers, gotten one little review and attracted some attention for my other books on Goodreads and through sample downloads on Smashwords.  I haven't become a best-seller -- probably never will.  But if I can reach enough people who like my type of literature (yes, I call it literature -- it's certainly not pulp) and keep growing a following, then I'll be willing to call myself a successful author.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars, Ch. 6


Here is the newest installment of my unfinished novel,
 The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars,
 a fictionalized biography of Capt. Robbin Nikalishin,
 the starship Captain who made the first contact
with extraterrestrials in the 28th century
 (some 2.5 centuries before the time of The Termite Queen).
A list of the previous posts, with links:
Chapter 1 The Captain Eats Crow
Chapter 2 How Robbin Nikalishin Got His Name
Chapter 3 The Captain Receives an Unexpected Assignment
Chapter 4 School Days at Epping Academy
Chapter 5 The Captain Takes Command of the Red Planet

 In keeping with my method of alternate flash-backs and flash-forwards, Chapter 6 chronologically follows Chapter 4 and continues the saga of Robbin Nikalishin's youth and adolescence.


(October 2741, Epping Science Academy)
The first real crisis in the life of Robbie and Sterling Nikalishin came not long before the boy’s twelfth birthday.  All the students at Epping Academy were required to engage in a physical training program and were encouraged to take part in team sports if they were so inclined.  Robbie was of average height for his age, but he had a stocky build, and the coach immediately began to recruit him for the intensely competitive football program.  The school league of which Epping was a member played the rough-and-tumble version of the game that goes by the name of ruggabee.
Robbie decided to give it a try after watching a match or two.  This required Sterling to scrape up the money for gear, uniforms, and fees.  But she was willing to do anything that would make her son happy, and so she made some sacrifices, went a little deeper in debt, and in the summer of 2741, Robbie played in his first game.
He became competent at the sport and emerged appropriately bruised and battered from each match.  Before long he was the leading scorer for the Junior Team, which was a bit weak that year; if it had not been for his play, they would have achieved an abysmal record.  As it was, they ranked fourth in a league of eight at midseason and were on the brink of garnering a tournament berth for the first time in three years.
Then something happened that was to have a profound influence on Robbie’s life.  The boy was among the spectators for one of the Senior Team’s matches, during which a player on the opposing team came down sideways on his head and had to be carried off the field.  Word soon spread that his neck was broken and he had been admitted to the Neural Regeneration Facility at Oxkam Medical School.  There was no guarantee that the treatment would be successful; the chances were 50-50 that the sixteen-year-old would spend the rest of his life as a quadriplegic.
Two days later Robbie’s team was scheduled to play a major match at 1600h.  When Sterling got home from work at 1800h, she found a message asking her to call the Athletic Office.  Her heart in her throat, she complied, only to learn that her son had not shown up for the game and his whereabouts were unknown.  “He isn’t here,” she responded in both consternation and relief.  “Goodness me, what’s happened to him?”
“Well, we lost the match and dropped into fifth place,” the outraged coach shouted at her, “and now we’re not likely to make the tournament, all because of your son’s irresponsibility.  When he turns up, I’m going to have his hide!”
Frantically, Sterling tried to get hold of Kolm MaGilligoody and managed to catch her son’s friend just as he returned to the dormitory.  He had been in a meeting with his advisor and hadn’t attended the game, so he knew nothing of Robbie’s activities and was dumbfounded that his friend could have let his team down in that fashion.
Sterling had just cut the com link when the door of the flat opened and in stalked her son.
She pouncing up to him.  “What are you doing here, Robbie?  And where have you been? – everybody’s looking for you!  Surely you didn’t forget you had a game this afternoon!  Your team lost because you weren’t there to play!”
“It’s not my team,” he said, standing there staring up at her.  “I saw there was a special program at the Planetarium in Grenich.  I’d never been there, so I went.”
“You went – to Grenich?  Robbie!  By yourself?  That’s a long way, and by rail!”
“I didn’t have any trouble,” he said.  “I’m not a little puppy dog, Mum, that needs to be led around on a leash.”
She was spluttering, the questions coming to her mind too fast to put into words.  “Why did you do this?  Tell me you really did forget the game!  Surely you didn’t sabotage your team – your school – deliberately!”
“I didn’t forget,” he said.  “I’m not going to play anymore.  I tried to tell Coach Barnwell I didn’t want to play, but he wouldn’t take me seriously.  So I figured the only way to show him I meant what I said was not to show up.  Besides, I wanted to go to Grenich and I doubt if anyone would have given me permission.”
“You don’t want to play football?  Just like that – you’re dropping it?”
“Why is that so important, Mum?”
“I put a lot of money into it, for one thing – money we could have used for something else!”
“Oh, well … I’m sorry about that.  But I’ve got more important things to do with my life than wallowing about in the mud with half a dozen bruisers falling on top of me.”
“You didn’t feel that way in the beginning!  What changed your mind?  It’s a very masculine thing to be an athlete, Robbie.  When you’re a few years older and you start thinking about girls, you’ll find they’re attracted to athletic boys.”
“Girls like sweaty, mud-covered men who stink?” he said, with a barking laugh.  “Do you like that kind?  But I guess you do – you married one of those.”
He most likely did not intend the retort to be as cruel as it came off, but it was surely the first time in his life that he wounded his mother with a deliberately rude remark.
Her pale cheeks flushed.  “Robbin, don’t take that tone with me – I’ll not stand for it!”
He knew immediately that he had overstepped the bounds, but he was in a disordered state of mind.  “I should think you’d be happy that I don’t want to break my neck and have to spend the rest of my life in an electric cart.”
Then she remembered the boy from the opposing team.  “Oh.  Oh, Robbie, that’s what you were thinking … ”
“I’ve got more important things to do with my life,” he repeated.
She had turned away, still trying to recover from his verbal slap.  “Well, but … it’s the way you did it, son.  The school’s honor was at stake.  You were the team’s leading scorer and without you they lost, and so they’re probably out of the tournament.”
“What’s so honorable about knocking people you don’t know silly just so you can run around the field holding a steel plaque over your head?”
  “It’s a stain on your personal honor, then!  You weren’t fair to your teammates, who do think it’s important to win.  You’ve got to learn to be team player.  You’ll never make it in the Flight Academy if you don’t know how to be a team player.”
“I can be a team player when it matters,” he said, with that obnoxious air of resignation that youngsters can display when they despair of ever teaching their parents the right way to think, “but this – doesn’t – matter!”  He emphasized each word with a thump on the table.  “I’m not playing any more team sports – at least, not the kind where you get knocked down and trampled.  Maybe I’ll run track with Kolm, or join the squash club.”
“Maybe you just won’t do any of that.  We can’t afford more expenses of that sort.”
“Oh, that reminds me,” he said.  “It’s why I stopped by here on my way back to school.  Here’s your credit key.”
Sterling’s jaw dropped.  “My credit …  Robbie!  Did you come in here and steal my key?”
“I didn’t steal it – I’m bringing it back, aren’t I?  But I didn’t have enough money to pay for the train fare or the ticket to the Planetarium show, and I needed a quick bite to eat, too.  I didn’t think it would matter if I borrowed it.”
“Not matter?  Robbin, what’s got into you?  You could at least have asked me!  But then you couldn’t have carried out this little scheme, could you?  And you’ve gone and spent the credits I had set aside to buy food for next week – on this whim about going to Grenich!  Robbie, what do you think is going to become of us, anyway?”
Suddenly, Sterling began to cry, and that scared him.  This woman who had endured her consort’s beatings and who had drugged him and spirited herself and her son away from Barsilia in the middle of the night … he couldn’t remember ever seeing her cry.
“Don’t do that, Mum,” he said.  “What do you mean, what’s going to become of us?”
“My work just doesn’t pay enough, Robbie.  I don’t think we can make it.  I don’t know if you’re going to be able to stay here at Epping.”
He turned pale.  “Not stay …  But I have to!”
“Even if they don’t expel you for this escapade, there just isn’t any money!”
“Granddad – what about Granddad?  Can’t he help?”
“You know his health isn’t very good.  Your grandparents are getting old, Robbie – I can’t keep hitting them up for funds.  I haven’t even been able to pay back what I’ve already borrowed from them.  I simply won’t ask them for any more!”
“But, Mum … ”  He approached, reaching out imploring hands, but she was snuffling into a handkerchief and didn’t see the gesture.  “Mum, I can’t go back to a Gov school.  They don’t teach advanced calculus – I’m not sure Brickston even taught pre-calculus.  I have to have calculus before I can get into second-tier physics.  I’ll never get anywhere if I don’t stay here.  There aren’t any birds in Brickston, Mum, and I can’t see the stars from there.  Bloody hell … ”  He was sounding far more distraught than one would have expected a twelve-year-old to be over such matters.
Sterling looked at him, her lips quivering.  “Robbie, I know you deserve better than I can give you.  I know you’re destined for a great life – I can just feel it.  But sometimes you have to face facts.  Sometimes there’s nothing anyone can do.”
“Yes, there is!  There’s got to be!  God almighty, Mum, don’t make me leave here!  I’ll apologize to the coach – I’ll go back to the team … I’ll – I’ll get some kind of job myself – yeah, that’s what I’ll do!  I’ll do anything you say!  Just fix it so I can stay here and learn what I need so I can go to the stars!”
Sterling was his mother and she couldn’t bear to think that her own inadequacy might cause her son to lose his chance for greatness.  And so she straightened her shoulders and said, “Don’t talk so distracted, Robbie.  And don’t worry about having to leave – I’ll figure out something.  You know I can be pretty resourceful.  Just worry about the disciplinary action you’re going to face when you go back to the campus.  And that can start right now with you sitting down and ringing up the Athletic Office and trying to explain yourself.”
And Robbie believed her because never in his whole life had she let him down, and he did what she told him to do, submitted to his punishment, and managed to salvage his future at Epping Science Academy.  But that evening Sterling sat looking out of the window for a long time, watching men and women with more resources than she had walking back arm in arm from the direction of the rail terminal, laughing together as they entered the chic little cafes along the Village street.  From that sight, a secret plan began to take shape in Sterling’s mind.  It was a plan that made her tremble, but she loved her son more than her life and she was willing to sacrifice anything to ensure his future.
Coming Next!
Chapter 7: An Old Love and Another Assignment