Saturday, March 31, 2012

Who are the Mythmakers and Why Do They Matter?

       It's been a while since I wrote something substantive about my future world, so I think it's time I started a discourse on the philosophy that underlies the culture of the 26th through 30th centuries -- something I've been threatening to do since I started this publication gambit.  Anyone who has read "The Termite Queen" or who has looked at this blog's page called "My Future History" may remember references to the Mythmakers.  Here's a quote from the "Future History":

       "In the 25th century a mysterious group of humanist philosophers rose from among the ranks of those Underground Archivists. They came to be known by the collective name “Mythmakers” and even in the 30th century they remained anonymous. They composed mainly works of fantasy – drama, fiction, and poetry as well as music and graphic art: works of rare beauty and symbolic power from which emerged a new behavioral code, a new system of morality based not on arbitrary prescriptions of religious dogma but on the humanist tenets of respect for life, the unity of humankind, and personal responsibility.
        "In the 26th century a movement to codify their philosophy began, inaugurating an era known as the Neo-Religious Period. It was a time when society and technology were reconstituting themselves – a time of few wars but of much social and intellectual ferment, including vehement debate concerning the implications of the Mythmakers’ works, the nature and necessity of religion, and the relationship between religion and science. By the middle of the 27th century, humanism had prevailed and the concept of the scientific had been changed forever. Technology, which the Mythmakers had called “soulless,” had become subordinated to a science with a truer meaning: the hunger for knowledge. It could have hardly been otherwise, given the tenor of the Mythmakers’ thinking, which became crystallized in the Twenty Precepts that formed the foundation of 30th century societal philosophy."

       The key word here is "humanism"; the foundation of morality and ethics has shifted from reliance on divergent, competing, and mutually belligerent dogmatic religious systems to a belief in the power of humanity to access the part of its nature that makes it human -- respect and compassion for one's fellow humans and for life in general, the recognition that all varieties of human beings are the same species, and a sense of personal responsibility.
       The Mythmakers took their name from the fact that they composed mostly what we would call fantasy  art.  The Mythmaker Canon consists of
197 long pieces of literature (dramas, novels, narrative poems) (This includes probably the most important one of the lot -- a drama entitled "The Valley of the White Bear," which is discussed in "The Termite Queen.)
681 lyric poems, 97 with musical settings
213 pieces of graphic art
89 major musical compositions
8 operas
       Myth has always been the means to convey truths, and what is myth but fantasy?  What is God but a fantasy of the human spirit?  What are any creation stories but the most wonderful fantasy?  But does that make God or the gods less meaningful?  Myth and gods are not science; they are faith-based.  But by that very nature, they can't be proved to exist; they can be neither denied or proved true or real.  They can only symbolize a truth, which the individual recognizes by some instinct built into the genes.  That means there is no one truth and to set out to assert that there is and to coerce others to subscribe to that view of the truth is a crime against all that makes us human.
       I'm going to devote the remainder of this post to a list of the Twenty Precepts mentioned in the above quotation and referred to at intervals throughout my novel "The Termite Queen," and then later I'll comment on them.  Or maybe some of you would like to comment on them and question them and start a discussion.
   1.  No one can know deity; neither can it be proven that it does not exist.
  2.  Humans have within themselves the ability to see beyond themselves and hence to act rightly without supernatural stimulus.
  3.  Since the purpose of deity for humans, or even whether it had a purpose for humans, is unknowable, it is incumbent upon humans to look within themselves and find the way to right action.
   4.  Humans must take responsibility for their own behavior, not seeking to put blame on imposed rules (of deity or human) or on fate, chance, or the intervention or willfulness of deity.
   5.  Humans will never succeed absolutely in achieving these goals; nevertheless striving for right action is its own purpose.
   6.   The closest humans can attain to deity is the symbolism of myth and art.
   7.   If a human have nothing else, it has its own soul, which must remain inviolate.
   8.   Science has a soul; technology is soulless.
   9.   Conduct your wars with words, not weapons.
 10.   The Right Way is universal; the Truth is parochial and divisive.
 11.  Institutions that grip souls merely for the purpose of gripping souls will always become destructive.
 12.   To achieve understanding of the unlike is a divine goal.
 13.  Love is as unknowable as deity, but every soul attests that it exists.
 14.  Let men and women make the vows of love in the music of the bedchamber, not with empty words.
 15.  Evolution has failed to structure the human organism for moderation; nevertheless the ability to recognize and strive for this virtue distinguishes human beings from other animals.  [Corollary:  The human organism is not innately a peaceful animal, but its ability to recognize and strive for peace sets it apart from other animals.] [Corollary:  Moderation promotes peace.]
 16.  Animals neither punish, seek revenge, forgive, nor blaspheme, nor recognize a need for any of these things.
 17.  There are creatures on this planet [amended later to in the universe] who speak, form symbols, and share emotions; these may be called human.
 18.  Study history and learn from it, but look to the future and do not let yourself be trapped by nostalgia or revenge.
 19.  Take joy in sharing your genetic heritage with all the bio-organisms of this planet [and of the universe – amendment added later].
 20.  Everything in the universe shares in the principle of life, hence we have a moral obligation not to destroy life in our infinitesimal portion of the universe.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Use of Unicode in Kindle Formatting Is Incomplete!

       Writing this post has certainly clarified my own thinking.  I hope it’s helpful for other people.
       By now most of the people reading this post probably know about my problems with using Wingdings symbols from the Symbols drop-down menu of Word Documents.  I used them as link signs in my Shshi conlang and also used a couple of them in !Ka<tá, my Bird language.  I picked them out in blissful ignorance solely because I liked the way they looked.  They work fine in a Word document and they copy fine to PDF, so they will show perfectly in a printed book.  Any of you who wants to see my languages the way I intended them to look will have to get a copy of the paperback.
       Putting the book in Kindle is another matter, however.  An expert in Unicode gave me a lot of much appreciated advice, helping me discover the Character Map in Word.  This can be found at Start/Programs/Accessories/SystemsTools/Character Map.  All the characters listed there in the font Arial Unicode MS should show both in internet postings (as on this blog) and (I hoped) in Kindle.  However, Wingdings aren’t Unicode at all, so I decided to substitute similar characters that are Unicode, as follows:
↳  U+21B3
↻ U+21BB
⇄ U+21C4
⇅ U+21C5
⇞  U+21DE
       It seemed to work with blog postings (see my sample Chapter 12 on the present blog, where the symbols should show correctly on all operating systems).  So I prepared a sample post for uploading to Kindle.
       Previously I had done a sample upload using the Wingdings.  When you do an upload, you can preview it on a mobi. format (in my case it goes to the MobiPocket Reader), and then you can move it into your Kindle.  In my original upload, the Wingdings showed only as the corresponding alphanumeric characters.  In the sample using the Unicode substitutions, the only character that showed was ↳(U+21B3).  The others all showed as little squares with question marks in them, or in one single case, just a really tiny empty square.
       Awhile back I asked Kindle about the Wingdings problem and they replied by sending me a PDF copy of the “Kindle Publishing Guidelines.”  At the end is a list of the Unicode symbols that they accept.  So this morning I did some comparison.  Kindle lists the symbols sorted by the Unicode number, just as the Character Map does.  And of the ones I wanted to use, only ↳ (U+21B3) is present. 
       Just for curiosity’s sake, I also tested out the Symbols drop-down menu (using Arial Unicode MS [Unicode (hex)]), as well as the Font drop-down menu (Arial Unicode MS).  Both of these got exactly the same result – nothing showed in Kindle except ↳.  But it’s interesting to learn that these two methods seemed to produce Unicode characters.  I haven’t tested yet whether they would work with web postings on all operating systems.
       !Ka<tá also uses two arrow symbols (↗↘2197 & 2198) that don’t appear in the “Kindle Publishing Guide,” but since these don’t happen to be used in “The Termite Queen,” I’m ignoring them for the moment.
       I have not tested any of this on Smashwords, but they told me they can’t take “symbols”; they will show as question marks.  I don’t know if that includes Unicode.  I’ll probably test it out someday when I have time.
       So I would suggest that when anybody is constructing a language, if you want to publish it on Kindle, get a copy of the “Kindle Publishing Guidelines,” be sure you’re familiar with Unicode, and pick only symbols that are in the guidelines.
       The best alternative would be if Kindle decided to include all Unicode characters in its font.  And I would really like to see the various Wingdings character sets given Unicode designations.
       So whenever I’m able to publish “The Termite Queen” on Kindle, I’m going to use the method outlined on the 2/18/12 post on the termitespeaker blog
entitled “I Think I’ve Solved the Wingdings Problem.”  I’ll substitute superscript syllables for the link symbols and explain what I’m doing in a prefatory Author’s Note.  (As for what’s holding up the Kindle publication, the permission to publish Robert Graves quotations in e-book format is still up in the air, but that’s off the point of this post.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Help me get Chapter 12 to print correctly!

       I've had a big learning curve the last few days.  In trying to set up my new conlang blog from the Language Creation Society, I found it wouldn't take the link symbols for the Shshi language.  Then after some consultation with others, I was horrified to learn that, while I could see the symbols on my computer, to everybody else on other computers, they came out as upper case alphabetic characters.  This must have really confused people trying to read sample Chapter 12, where Kaitrin talks to the Committee and we first see Ti'shra's death speech in the Shshi language.
       I think between my conlanger connections and some experimentation I have a way to fix this.  I have now fixed Chapter 12 -- I hope.  You should be able to see the following symbols scattered through Ti'shra's speech:  ↳↺⇄⇅  If you still see letters, please leave a note in a Comment or tweet me at @TermiteWriter.

P.S.  I now have been told that I have corrected Chapter 12 so that it looks the way it's supposed to.  I'm wondering if Mac users saw the alphabetic substitutions and the Windows users saw it correctly in its original form.  Seems it might be so.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Preparing a Cover for Your CreateSpace Book

        Now that the first volume of "The Termite Queen" has finally been published, I mean to get back to a series of more normal blog entries. First, let me say that I added a paragraph to the post on formatting the text for CreateSpace -- just a little hint on how to get page numbers to hold their formatting.
        I'm currently working on the cover art for Volume Two. I had already made a drawing for v. 1 and all I had to do was adjust it to fit the 8.5 x 5.5 book size. Since originally I had not intended to publish in two volumes, I had to start from scratch for v. 2. My best friend, who is an artist, made very sure that I knew I had no talent for figure drawing, but she likes my termites. So I've settled on a view of the Shshi army with the fortress in the background and the Champion Ki'shto'ba and Kwi'ga'ga'tei the Holy Seer in the foreground, shown at the moment they are receiving the Speaking of the Dead. I have to draw the fortress very carefully, one stone at a time. Tedious. Furthermore, I've had a problem about where to put the title. I tried extending it across the panoply of the pair of fortress towers, but that meant lightening the background colors so the text would stand out. Didn't work well. Now I've decided to make one tower complete and show the text against the other, which I am going to leave plain, without stones. I think this will work. After I get to a certain point, I'll post a preliminary draft and ask for opinions.
       The rest of this post will deal with how to prepare your own cover for CreateSpace. (Everything I say here pertains to Word because it's the only program that I know. I realize many people work in other programs, but there must similarities that would make what I have to say useful.)
       It would work the same whether you draw your own illustration or make something out of photos or out of other people's illustrations. The best way is to use CreateSpace's CoverCreator feature. When you pick a size for your book, that will be the size for your cover. You can also use one of their ready-made, generic covers. That's what I did for the print version of "Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder" because the cover has to be at least 300 dots-per-inch and a normal computer drawing will have only some 90. At that time I had no way of converting my drawing to 300. Now I have GIMP and it works great to scale a drawing to a denser dpi. I won't go into how to use it. If anybody needs help doing that, I could tell them what I do, but that's the only thing I understand about GIMP. It's too complicated to learn when I'm so familiar with the Word drawing tools. I scale the drawing to 325 dpi because when I did it to exactly 300, CoverCreator rejected it, saying it was only 299.
       If you're not using a generic cover, page through the sample covers until you come to -- and I think this is right -- the one called "Palm." This one allows you to upload a front cover and a back cover of your own, after which it provides a spine in the appropiate thickness for your book. Obviously, you must have uploaded your text before you can do the spine, but you can enter the front and back cover before you upload the text. You pick a color for the spine that works with your covers You also pick the color for the text on the spine, and there is some choice of font.
       A different form will allow you to upload the back cover, spine, and front cover in one piece. I didn't use this because I really don't know how to draw it to a proper scale so that it would work. This would be good to use if you wanted your drawing to wrap around the spine, but I can't tell you how to do it.
       The "Palm" template tells you the exact dimensions for your cover drawing, allowing for what is called "bleed." The color must extend past the exact size of the cover, because the book will be trimmed and you don't want to risk getting a white stripe along the edge. You also don't want anything important too close to the edge, because it might get trimmed off. For a book that is 8.5" by 5.5", "Palm" will tell you to make the cover 9" x 5.75". Now obviously, that means you will be leaving a quarter inch at the top and bottom (9 minus 8.5 leaves half an inch to be divided between the top and the bottom). Anything in that area is likely to be trimmed off.
       But I was puzzled -- should I place the edge of the cover against the spine and leave the full quarter-inch of extra width on the outer edge, or should I divide the quarter-inch into 1/8" on each side? I sent CreateSpace a question and they had no idea what I was talking about and they got off on a totally different subject, and I never learned a thing about it!
       But I did learn from trial and error. I fixed the cover with the entire quarter inch at the outer edge and uploaded and that worked well. Even so, you shouldn't put anything important too close to the spine edge, because there will be a crease that forms there as the cover is opened. The template prints a line where the three outer edges will be trimmed. The best thing is to leave a slight (at least 1/4") margin inside this and also along the spine.
       I learned the most by uploading the cover and looking to see how things fit. You can always go back and make some improving adjustments and try it again. For example, I decided my title was too close to the top to look right, so I moved it down a little. I also moved some of the stars and the antennae of the Highest Mother slightly inward.
       The cover has to be a JPEG. You can use Word's built-in Paint program to turn a computer drawing into a JPEG, but the dpi won't be 300+. So copy your drawing into GIMP (or whatever program you use that lets you scale the dpi). Scale the drawing to the appropriate size and dpi and save it as a JPEG. Then you're ready to upload the image in the Cover Creator and see it it looks the way you want.
       Once I got all the tools in place, making a workable cover was actually the simplest part of the preparation process in publishing a POD on CreateSpace.

So now ... back to drawing those cotton-pickin' stones!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

THE TERMITE QUEEN Has Already Appeared on Amazon!

Sometimes Amazon can be speedier than is predicted!  To see the entry and buy the book, go to  I'm really pleased by how compelling the cover looks!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Big News! TQ Has Been Published!

I got the proof copy and approved it within half an hour!  It's be-yoo-tiful!  Everything is exactly the way I entered it!  My little drawing of Ki'shto'ba on the t.p. is perfect!  Add just the right fillup!  It will be my logo from now on!

The book is available now at CreateSpace e-Store, but I suggest waiting till it appears on Amazon (in 3-5 days, but keep checking - I seem to recall "Monster" appeared sooner than that).  The price is $14.49.  I wish it could be less, but $14.23 is the minimum price that they would let me charge.  But that's not too bad for this size of book - and you get my striking cover, not a dim replica like on an ebook. 

Hope you buy, and enjoy!  It won't be too long before v. 2 comes out.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Formatting Print Books with CreateSpace

       Having formatted two books on CreateSpace hardly makes me an expert, but I thought other beginners in the POD game might benefit from a  review of what I've learned and of the problems I've encountered.
       I had almost no problems with "Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder."  There are a few minor flaws in the book, but they were my fault.  But "TQ" is much longer and more complex and it's got those danged Wingdings.  Strangely enough, however, they didn't prove to be a problem at all.

       Formatted template:  CS will give you a formatted template in the size you select ("Termite Queen" is 5.5 by 8.5), and that helps a whole lot because it defines the areas of the page where you can put text.  You have to stay within certain margins or your text will get trimmed off in the binding process.

       Fonts: The template gives you pages marked "Your title here" and Copyright, Acknowlegements, Dedication, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc., but you can change, eliminate, and add pages however you want.  The template also uses certain fonts -- strangely, it used Garamond and Myriad Pro.  Does anybody use those fonts?  You will avoid problems later if you simply "Select All" and reformat the entire template in Times New Roman or whatever font you want for your base text.  Don't forget to do the same with the headers and footers -- even on blank pages!  Then as you feed the text in, you can make font changes as desired.  I did my base text in TNR and all my peripheral matter -- preliminaries, end matter, headers, footers, chapter headings, and epigraphs -- in Book Antigua.
       Book design:  You want to make your book look as much like a professionally designed book as possible.  The best way to ensure that is to study the professionally designed books that you own.  For example, a book should not open directly on the title page and CS doesn't provide fly leaves, so I added a half-title -- a page before the title page that has nothing on it but an abbreviated form of the title.  Also, unless you own your own imprint (I wish I did, but I really don't know how to get one), the t.p. is going to look very bald.  So I made a little black-and-white line drawing of Ki'shto'ba and put it at the bottom of the t.p. (kind of like a logo) and lo and behold!  CS didn't object.
       Leaves vs. pages, and margins:  Then you have the problem of remembering that you're working with leaves, not the one-sided pages of manuscripts.  In a book a leaf has two pages -- two sides -- what book-people call "recto" and "verso."  CS doesn't even seem to know these terms -- they call them odd and even pages, which works fine, actually.  "Recto," meaning "right," is the right-hand page when you open a book, and "verso" (think "reverse") is the back of the recto.  Books always start on a recto, hence it becomes p.1 (an odd-numbered page).  The verso will always be even-numbered.  The verso will be on the left and the recto on the right as you open a book.
       This makes a difference because in order to bind a book correctly, the "gutter" (the inner margins where the leaves come together) has to be wider than the outer margins.  This is all set up for you in the template -- odd-numbered pages, such as the t.p., must always have a wider left margin and a narrow right margin, while the even-numbered pages will be the reverse.  Examine any book and this will become clear.
       But it's easy to lose track until you get comfortable with the system.  I must have gone through my books a couple of dozen times  in order to be sure everything was positioned the way I wanted it.  You have to think, OK, do I want this recto to have a blank verso?  The t.p. will have the copyright information on the verso.  In "TQ", I put all those permissions acknowledgments on the facing (recto) page, with a blank verso.  Then came the Dedication, recto with a blank verso.  Then the Contents, recto again with blank verso.  Finally the epigraph for the entire book, followed by the half-title for the first section.  Each of those is a recto with a blank verso.  That brings you to the first chapter, which must begin on a recto (odd numbered page). 

       Chapters:  What about chapters -- should they always begin on a recto?  I checked some books and some did that, but most just began the chapter on the next page, be it verso or recto.  So that's what I did, because "TQ" is long enough as it is.
       Managing headers and footers: You achieve all that by tinkering with the section and page breaks.  Sigh.  One of my least favorite things to do in Word.  It will help to clarify things if you activate the formatting symbols (the Paragraph sign on the toolbar).  The template gives you small Roman numeral page numbers for the preliminary matter, but I decided on no page numbering until I started the text.  Please don't ask me for advice on how to do page numbers and headers.  It has to do with the linking of sections, and while I always manage to get it done, I can never remember afterward how I worked it out.  Stuff always keeps popping back into existence or disappearing when you don't want it to!  It is just the most complicated and inexplicable thing I ever tried to do.  And I've been using Word since 2000!
       One useful thing about the template is the fact that it's set up with different odd and even pages.  That means that adding Headers becomes easier.  Most books have a different header on the verso and the recto.  In my case, I use "The Termite Queen" on the verso (left-hand page) and the Part designation on the recto.  I have two parts in the book, so midway through I had to change the Header on the right-hand page.  This also is accomplished by breaking the links on the sections.  I have a separate section for each chapter.
       I put the page numbers at the bottom of the pages.  That's the way the template is set up, and while I didn't have much of a problem changing them to the upper left and right corners of the pages on "Monster," I couldn't get rid of them in "TQ"!  They kept resurrecting themselves!  So infuriating!  So I decided it didn't look so bad to have them at the bottom and I left them there.
       [Addendum (3/12/12):  Here's another hint on getting your page numbers to toe the line.  (I'm speaking of Word here.) I would format my page numbers in the font and type size I wanted and then the next page would revert to the default for the template.  Then I discovered that if you highlight the number that is correct and right-click it, you get a menu that has the term "Update Field." If you click on that, then your page numbers won't revert to the default.  This doesn't seem to work for headers.  Apparently page numbers are a field, but headers are not.]

       Spacing and Indentation: A chapter should start a third or close to a half down the page.  I used 11-point type on both books, but on "Monster" (a short novella) I used that "Multiple" line spacing designation on the Paragraph formatting box.  That spaces the lines at 1.15 and makes it easier to read.  "TQ" is very long, so I used single spacing. 
       Be careful about paragraph indentation!  When I got the first proof, I kept thinking, the title and the table of contents, etc., don't look centered -- what's the problem?  And then it occurred to me to check the paragraph indention and darned if it wasn't on!  That threw off the centering by 5 spaces.  So that's something to watch for.

       Widow-and-orphan control:  I always use that on my manuscripts so that I won't have pages ending with single lines, or even single words hanging over on the next page.  I did that on "Monster" and didn't notice anything weird because, while the book has no chapters, it does have a number of odd breaks (it's written in the form of the report of a government committee).  The problem with w&o control is that it leaves blank gaps at the ends of some pages.  So I examined a bunch of my own professionally produced books, and not a single one of them used w&o!  Every book I looked at had single lines ending and beginning pages, and every page ended at exactly the same spot! 
       So I removed w&o control for the entire text.  I would recommend doing that
       Justification and automatic hyphenation:  The text must be justified.  That means that some lines will have big spaces in them --  distracting and unprofessional-looking.  So I activated automatic hyphenating at the ends of lines.  Works great -- except that the computer's feeble little brain often misdivides the syllables!  Therefore, I ended up examining every division to be sure it was correct.  Some are obviously right, but I made a lot of use of!  If you don't have the patience to do this, you can get by, but you have to reconcile yourself to the division of "piqued" as "pi-qued" at the end of a line!  Personally, I can't stand that kind of ignorant sloppiness!
       Automatic hyphenation also produces the problem of dividing words at the ends of pages, which I was always taught is a no-no.  I checked every page for this problem and then either did some manual word division, manual line breaks, or a minor rewrite to get rid of the problem. 
       I won't discuss any problems with formatting the epigraphs, since their use is rare.  I also have some poetry in the text, which created some problems, but that's so specialized I won't discuss it here either.
       The final upload:  Now the problems with the upload.  CS recommends turning the doc into a PDF, but it will also take doc., docx. and something else that I don't remember.  For "Monster" I used a PDF -- no problem.  It printed it exactly as it appeared in Adobe Reader.  But I had a complication with the paging in "TQ."  I wanted to start the first chapter as p.3 because I wanted the half-title for the first part to be p.1.  This necessitated 2 pages without page numbers, and I did that with section breaks, but the PDF kept putting in two extra blank pages.  I could not get those to go away!  So I elected to upload my docx. version directly.
       And that's when CS wiped out my hard-won, carefully edited hyphenation!  That caused big holes in the text in places.  I couldn't have that.  So I created my own PDF and uploaded that.  Then the hyphenation came out fine -- but they bellowed at me that there were three blank pages in a row in the text and that was a no-no!  So then I gave up and changed my paging so the first chapter begins at p.1.  That got rid of the two extra pages. 
       I would recommend never uploading anything but a PDF, and don't tinker any more than you have to with the pagination.

       Embedded Fonts: That wasn't the only problem, though.  It kept telling me that the PDF had fonts that weren't embedded.  I didn't even know what that meant.  I've learned a little more now.  After you put a doc in Adobe Reader, open the tab File at the top of the page, then Properties, then Fonts.  That will tell you what is embedded.  I was sure the problem was my Wingdings, but darned if it didn't say Wingdings 3 was embedded!  Then I thought, it says Garamond is embedded -- I didn't use any Garamond (remember when I said the template was originally in Garamond?)  So that's when I discovered that a lot of the blank lines were still in Garamond! 
       Then I uploaded again -- and the same thing:  a font not embedded!  What the heck?!!  This time I was able to identify the location of the problem.  It was on a blank page -- one little blank footer that remained in Myriad Pro, which was not embedded in my PDF document!  CreateSpace said they would embed the font and in that case I couldn't see doing it over just for that, so I approved it!  And it went through! 
       And that's why I said that the first thing you should do is change the entire template to your base font before you start -- including every header and every footer!  You may save yourself some problems in the end!

       Cover:  I haven't addressed the cover problem.  Maybe I'll do a different post on that topic. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Yet Another Publishing Update!

Someday I'll be finished with this aspect of it!  The proof copy of the first volume of "The Termite Queen" wasn't really correct -- it deleted all my carefully orchestrated hyphenations at the ends of lines.  Then I also found some errors that I had let slip through, so (to shorten the story) this morning I uploaded another revision that I think this time really will be satisfactory.  It takes CreateSpace a day or so to review the upload and then I will have to order yet another proof copy, which is where the real delay occurs.  They must use pony express to deliver the book!  So count on about ten days before I can actually, finally, punch the publishing button!  Then, of course, it takes three or four days to appear on Amazon.  So say two weeks before the volume can be purchased.  I hope some of you are eagerly anticipating that day!

The cover turned out fine!  It's really eye-catching!

In the meantime, I'm going to continue to post chapters, at least through Chapter 13 and maybe a couple more. And I will be working of the preparation of Volume Two: The Wound That Has No Healing.  I've completed all the epigraph work and added the permissions statements.  The formatting will take some time -- and then there is the cover.  I'm probably not even halfway through with that, so I'd better get to work on it right now!


Friday, March 2, 2012

Something Different: Another Nostalgia Post Like the One at Christmas


       Lately I've been so tied up in permissions and publishing updates and the posting of sample chapters that I haven't added anything very entertaining to this blog.  So, I decided to talk about what is an archaic time for many of you denizens of cyberspace who are in your 20s or 30s or even 40s.  And the time is the 1930s.
       And no, I don't go back quite that far, but my mother did.  She was born in 1909 and graduated from high school in 1927, right before the Great Depression.  Her father (my grandfather) was in some ways enlightened for his time.  He vigorously condemned smoking, saying that putting all that tar and nicotine into your lungs would kill you, and he counseled my mother  that she shouldn't count on having a man to support her and and should develop some way to make a living on her own.
       When she first graduated from high school, she worked in a shop as a salesperson (a totally different story that I may elaborate on someday), but after three years of this she decided she didn't want to do that all her life, so she went to college -- the same college that I attended many years later.  It was here in Colorado Springs where I live now -- the Colorado College, a small, private, liberal arts institution that is well respected throughout the United States.  She started in 1930 and graduated in 1934 -- right in the depths of the Depression.  My grandfather, who was a real estate broker, gave the College a house that he owned to help pay her tuition.
       My mother majored in Romance languages, taking four years of Spanish, three years of French, and two years of Italian, and became a secondary school teacher.  But when she graduated, she couldn't find a job and even resorted to taking a cosmetology course and working in a beauty shop for a while.  Finally, however, she got a job -- I think it was 1936 -- in a tiny town in southeast Colorado called Hartman.  I believe it still exists today.  Anybody out there in Hartman reading this?
       Remember, this was not only the Depression, it was the Dust Bowl, and southeast Colorado was right in the heart of the Dust Bowl.  The town was losing people, but it did have a consolidated school -- grade school and high school all in one building, I believe (I couldn't swear to some of this).  The superintendent was a woman and she proceeded to tell my mother that she would not only be teaching Spanish and English (obviously in a school of that size one had to teach more than first and second year Spanish) -- she would also have to direct all the school plays, teach algebra, coach girls' PE, and (because my mother could play the piano) direct the glee club ("choir" to you)!  My mother always said that she needed the job so badly that she would have swept the floors if her superiors had asked her!
       She was always good in math, fortunately, and could manage the algebra, but the text book that they were using had no answer book!  So the first year she had to work out every problem herself before she could correct the students' exercises!  It wasn't exactly easy!
        The school was so small that everybody could know everybody else.  If there was a play practice, students had to have a note from their parents saying they could  stay late at night.  After the practice, they would make hot cocoa and stand around and "chew the fat" ("talk," to you).  The glee club consisted of a lot of singing around the piano.  There was radio, of course, but no other electronic gizmos.  The girls played softball or exercised indoors for PE.  The boys all thought my mother was beautiful, and I'm sure she was -- people told her she looked like Greta Garbo. 
       Another thing a teacher had to do in those days (at least if they were the sponsor of the junior class) was manage the Junior-Senior Prom, which required picking a theme (I think my mother used a Dutch theme once, and once a Hawaiian theme, or maybe it was pirates).  Plans could be bought from companies that specialized in that sort of thing, but you still had to make lots of crepe-paper decorations.  There was also a competition at Christmas for the best home-room decorations and I believe my mother won it consistently.  You could even have a nativity scene in those days and nobody objected.  Of course, I doubt if there were very many people in that area at that time that didn't have a Christian background.
       One thing you didn't want to do was get caught in a dust storm.  My mother said you could see them rolling in across the prairie.  Things would get as black as night  and the dust would sift in under the doors and on the windowsills.  My mother bought her first car in 1937 -- a little Ford that cost $600.00 (quite a sum when you're making $100.00/month on a 9-month contract) -- because without transportation she was really stuck in Hartman.  One time she said she went to a nearby town and a dust storm rolled in and she didn't think she would ever get home.  But obviously she made it.
      My mother stayed in that school for four years and went back later during World War II and taught there another two years.  She always said it was one of the happiest times of her life.  It was a different time, for sure.   But it only goes to show that happiness does not depend on high technology or instant communication; it depends on human relationships and the sense of fulfillment one gains from a rewarding job.  I wouldn't want to go back to that time (because of medical advances, for one thing; even penicillin hadn't been discovered yet), but there are positive aspects to that kind of lifestyle that perhaps we have lost today.