Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What Has TermiteWriter Been Up To Lately?

       Neglecting her termites, that's what!
Neglecting her blogs, too, but that's less important
 than neglecting her termites!
       So why have I been so shiftless lately?  It's not the holidays, because I don't do much for Christmas.  It's my WIP, The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars.  I may have mentioned before that I have a beta reader for this humongous piece, and he is totally involved -- he loves the opus and keeps wanting more of it!  This has impelled me to work diligently to get parts of it ready to send to him. 
I may not draw very well,
but this really does capture
what the Captain looks like.
       I'm supposed to be shortening it (Hah! Famous last words!)  Actually, mostly I'm just reading it.  It's been a long time since I went through it and I've become completely absorbed, and the farther I get into it, the more intense and compelling it becomes.   On the bright side, I've not added anything to it and I actually have shortened it a little, but only by way of cutting words like unnecessary "that," and "just" and "now" (which I overuse).  I do occasionally condense a paragraph or cut a sentence, but those emendations are like grains of sand plucked away from a beach. 
       I honestly think I could shorten it more drastically, but I get caught up in the story and the flow of the dialogue (the piece is heavy on dialogue, like all my writings), and I never can achieve any distance.  Maybe after I  finish this pass-through, I can manage a more objective look.
       Another thing that the story requires is new chapterization and that I'm managing to do.  Since the book is cast as a biography, I began by heading the chapters with nothing but dates and places.   This makes it impossible to know what's going on by looking through the ToC, so I've never been able to find anything in the story.  The chapters were also too long, so I'm chopping them into shorter chunks and adding chapter titles.  I like books with chapter titles.  I think they can draw a reader in.  For example, here are the titles of the first ten chapters of The Valley of Thorns (v.3 of The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head):
The Marchers Muster before the Hot Gate. 11
The Hosts March South. 22
The Battle of Wei’loi’bao’cha. 32
The Aftermath of the Battle. 4
Peace Negotiations. 5
The Return of the Envoy. 5
The Evacuation of Wei’loi’bao’cha. 7
The Bite of the Tooth77
The Horn Is Broken
       Now doesn't that list make you interested in reading the book so you can learn what all those intriguing titles imply?
       As I add chapter titles to MWFB, I'm also retaining the dates covered in the chapters, since it is a biography.  All this is taking some time, but it will make further revision easier.  I'm still not saying I'll ever be able to publish it because it is in fact the quintessential million-word novel -- all one humongous story.  The Termite Queen was too long for one volume, but it fit nicely into two.  MWFB will need maybe five and that's just for the part I've completed -- it isn't finished, you know.  It can't be a series in the traditional sense, which implies that each volume stands alone.  This is all one long story, just like people's lives are one long story.  You need the contents of v.1 to prepare you for v.2 and v.3, just as you need to know what happens in a man's childhood to help you understand his actions at the ages of 30 and 50.
       Just the same, I'm sorely tempted to publish the first volume, which I call Eagle Ascendant.  I takes Capt. Robbin Nikalishin to age 31 and drops him at a huge cliffhanger.  It would be a long book in itself -- at the moment it's 171,000 words.  But my beta reader was crazy about it and said he didn't think I should lose a word.  So what's to do?  Will anybody else be similarly impressed?  Only the space gods know!  If readers did take to it, it would be worthwhile plowing ahead with the project.
       So that's why I've been neglecting my poor little termites!  But they are still there, demanding attention!  Why don't you all go out and help keep them content while I cook this big pudding that is The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars?  You can find Ki'shto'ba and its cohorts at Amazon or at Smashwords.
       A footnote on the genre of Man Who Found Birds:  I almost have to call it a piece of literary fiction.  It just happens to be laid in 28th century and to involve space travel and future history, but what it really deals with is the human spirit, with all its triumphs and all its failings.  Really, all my books, including the ones inhabited by extraterrestrial termites, deal with that subject.  Mythmaker Precept No.  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.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas in Ireland, 28th-century style

Farmland and View of Wicklow Town
From Wikipedia Creative Commons, copyright David Quinn 
       My WIP, The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars, is a fictionalized biography of Robbin Haysus Nikalishin, the starship Captain who made the first contact with extraterrestrial intelligent life in the 28th century  As a child attending the Epping Science Academy in the Islands of Britan, he became close friends with a fellow student, Kolm Magilligoody, who hailed from Eira, as Ireland is called in that period.  Kolm's home is an agricultural co-op not far from Wicklo, and when Robbie was 17 years old, he went home with his friend to spend the Midwinter Holiday.
       Many of you will remember that in my future history, Earth has banned the open practice of religion because of the evils that dogmatic religious institutions have perpetrated over the millennia.  However, remnant groups of several different ancient religions have persisted and are tolerated as long as they keep a low profile, do not proselytize, and do not form organized entities dedicated to the promotion of their beliefs.  The Remnant Romishers in Eira are one such group and Kolm came out of this culture.  Parenthetically, Robbie's middle name, Haysus, is an anglification of the Spainish Jesus, so he is always curious about the linking of the name to a god.
       Here is an excerpt from Chapter 9: Robbie's First Visit to Eira.
       Robbie had never heard of anything like the Eirish Midwinter festivity; his knowledge of the Romish religion came solely from a brief exposition in one of Prf. Doone’s classes.  Kolm’s father explained that the celebration took place on the solstice and incorporated elements from what ancient Romish worshipers had called “Krismess.”  The MaGilligoodys set up an array of little figurines in a cave-like setting; they called it a “kraytch.”  There was a woman in a blue gown with sparkly trim on it, a baby lying in a cradle, and a man standing beside them.  From the top of the cave projected a wire with a star on it, something like the star on Robbie’s space plane.  Sheep and donkeys and (mystifyingly) a camel were arrayed around, and winged fairies were stuck up on the wall behind.  Facing this tableau were two men dressed in bright robes, holding out a box and a vial. 
       Kolm said, “There are supposed to be three of those, but last year one of ’em disappeared.  I think maybe one of the cats got holt of it and carried it off.”
       “What’s it represent?” asked Robbie, watching Kolm’s Grammy lighting fat beeswax candles at each end of the scene.
       “It’s the birth of that god-man Jaysus that’s on me medal,” said Kolm.  “That’s his mother Mairin watchin’ over him.  He was supposed to have been born this time of the year – that’s what we’re celebratin’.”
       “Who’s the man?  I thought you said he didn’t have a father.”
       “It’s his foster father, name of Josef.  Mairin was married to him, ’cause that was back in the days when women had to have men to look after them.”
       “What’s the star for?”
       “They say it burst out bright in the sky at Jaysus’s birth.  Probably a supernova, you know, if it ever really happened a-tall.  And the family was so poor that the babby was birthed in a barn, and yet this star set up right atop it.  Those chaps in the robes – they call ’em Wise Men – Professors, most likely … they got its coordinates and brought fancy gifts to Jaysus to show they recognized he was a god.  It’s supposed to have happened somewhere at the east end of the Mediterrian, where it’s all a Devastation Zone now.  A pretty tale, it is.”
       “And you Eirish really worship this god?” asked Robbie, looking at Kolm’s father.
       “Oh, I don’t know that I’d call it worship, lad,” Mat MaGilligoody said.  “But we Eirish tend to be a superstitious lot.  If it’s not gods, it’s fairies, ye know.  Two of those even got hooked up in this tale, ye can see there.  It’s just part of our tradition to do these here things at Midwinter – a nice, peaceful way of celebratin’.”
       Robbie found it totally bizarre, but nevertheless he stood looking at the baby and at the mother and at the star, unable to interpret the emotions stirring within him.
       On the solstice they had a big feast (the main course was goose, which made Robbie a little uncomfortable, afraid he was eating the one whose acquaintance he had made) and then they sang traditional songs.  Some were in an ancient tongue whose meaning was unknown even to the MaGilligoodys, but one was in an archaic dialect of Inge. 
Silent night, holy night ...
All is calm, and all is bright
Around the virgin mother and child –
oly infant, all tender, all mild …
May they sleep in a haven of peace …
Sleep in a haven of peace …
 Robbie thought he had never heard a song so tranquil and so moving.  “That mother and child – that’s your Mairin and Jaysus?” he asked.
       “Right.  The same as is in the kraytch,” said Mat.
       “I can’t help being a little surprised.  I thought the ancient religions were supposed to be violent and evil.  This doesn’t seem that way.”
       And Kolm’s mother said, “I’ve an idea, friend of me son, that none of them was violent in its heart.  I think it’s the hearts of humans that misunderstood the Right Way and made ’em so.”
       Later in the evening, Kolm played a tin whistle, a talent Robbie hadn’t known he possessed, and Kolm’s father played a grotesque musical instrument where the air was forced through a bag.  They told ancient Eirish stories about vanishing cities and wandering lights and they drank mulled ale; it was not Robbie’s first taste of alcohol, but it was his first time to drink a little more than was wise.  The next morning he was privileged to experience his first hangover.
       When the time came to return to school, the boys treated themselves to a sea journey – taking an excursion boat across Sainjorge’s Channel instead of catching a wing hopper.  The craft was operated by Gwidian Tours, the enterprise of an old family of seafarers from Kardif.  It was yet another first for Robbie – his first time to bob on the waters of the sea.  He got a bit queasy, but it excited him tremendously, and he hated to see the trip end.
       “Ye’re kinda quiet, lad,” said Kolm, as they neared the harbor.  “What are ye thinking about?”
       “I’m thinking that I envy you, Goody,” Robbie replied.  “I didn’t know – I couldn’t have realized – how happy people could be … with a family like yours … ”
       Kolm clapped him on the shoulder.  “Well, ye do seem to have had a bit of a rough time in yer life, friend of mine.  But ye’re welcome in my family.  Ye’re welcome to come back and soil yer boots in the goose shit as often as ye like!”

Sunday, November 24, 2013

To Rewrite or Not to Rewrite: Go with Your Gut

       I'm in the process of revising The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars (yes, I'm actually thinking about publishing it, long as it is).  There was one scene I wanted to change.  It's an important and dramatic scene where we learn why a particular character acted as he did, producing disastrous consequences.  I have a friend who read all my books as I was writing them and she presented the opinion that the motivation in this scene was too old-fashioned -- that is, too old-fashioned for 21st- century sensibilities, to say nothing of the 28th century.  I do want this scene to seem urgent and believable, so I decided to adjust some of the elements to make what had happened more seriously horrendous.
       Does that make sense?  I can't tell you the details -- they shouldn't be revealed until you read the book.
       I ought to say parenthetically that when I decide to start preparing a story for publication, especially when I plan to divide it into volumes, I never work with my original construction.  I make a copy and divide into what I call Master Copies of the final forms, and then revise those.  Therefore, I still have the original piece for reference, with all the annotations, dates inserted, etc. 
       So yesterday I rewrote the scene in question, changing certain aspects.  And it came out all disorganized -- the plot points are more terrible and destructive, but the focus was diverted from the person who has to be seen as the guilty party.  It becomes more complicated -- the blame is not clear-cut.  Frankly, it just didn't work in my opinion.  Didn't feel right.
       This morning I took out the rewritten part, placed it in a document where I keep deleted segments (just in case), then copied the original from the basic manuscript and stuck it back in.  Then I started over.  I kept the same storyline but I beefed up some of the motivations and character aspects.  What happened may seem old-fashioned, but still, given the characters as they are presented, it makes a stronger and more striking case than my revision did.
       Just call me Jethro Gibbs.  My gut told me the old way was right in spite of my friend's opinion.  Sometimes you have to go with your gut and stick with what you wrote in the beginning.
       What problems do the rest of you have with rewriting?  Do you listen to what your gut tells you is right, or is it all intellectual analysis? 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Publishing Update: The Valley of Thorns

       Volume Three (The Valley of Thorns) of The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head has been successfully published on Amazon, both paperback and Kindle, and on Smashwords!  The Smashwords went easier than it ever has (unless they find something to quibble about in considering it for the Premium Catalog).  You can download a 25% sample on Smashwords, which will include the preliminary material and approximately four chapters.  Amazon hasn't linked up the paperback and the Kindle yet, but ultimately you will be able to get a Kindle version FREE if you buy a paperback.

       I'm having an Anniversary Party as a Facebook event on November 15.  Two years ago I published my first book, Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder, on that date.  Now I have six books published, plus the little free novelette on Smashwords, "The Blessing of Krozem." All my Facebook Friends are invited.  If you're not my friend yet but are on Facebook, go in and friend me, and I'll invite you.
Why would you want to come to my party?
Witty conversation, free virtual food,
information about my books,
maybe a surprise reveal of the unfinished
cover for v.4: Beneath the Mountain of Heavy Fear
Plus, I'm going to have special prices on all my books,
as well as a drawing for a couple of paperbacks
from the names of the people who attend.
and check it out!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Reminiscences about Old Libraries by an Old Librarian, Part 2

       After three years at Colorado College, I decided I wanted to continue working on my PhD after all.  I was very interested in the literature of the Romantic period at that time and I read something about the Miriam Lutcher Stark Library at the University of Texas, a rare book library that specialized in the Romantics.  I got all fired up about going there and I applied for a half-time position in that library with the idea of  taking graduate classes the other half time. 
       This worked out well.  I was hired as a cataloger of rare books and although I ended up dropping out of the PhD program after one year, I continued to work at UT through the sixties and into the seventies, both in rare books and in the regular catalog department. 
       My first experience of a really big academic library was Cornell, where I got my MA in English literature.  My second experience was at UCLA (Master's in library science).  UCLA's library was a formidable, older set-up with closed stacks, that is, if you wanted a book, you got the call number from the catalog and then somebody paged it for you from the stacks.  However, as a library school student, I had stack privileges and I spent lots of time roaming those dark, gloomy, and somewhat intimidating environs.
This picture is from 2005, but it looked exactly
the same in 1966.  Whitman fired from the
observation deck at the top.  The Stark
Library was in the red-roofed level on
the fourth floor.
       Still, the UCLA library didn't hold a candle for weirdness to the University of Texas.  Here is a picture of the Tower.  It's a famous symbol of UT and at the time I was there, it housed the main library -- yes, most of those floors you see in the tower itself were occupied by stacks.  Most of the books are now housed in other, more up-to-date venues, but my memories are of the Tower. 
       I've written before of how my mother and I arrived in Austin one day after the Charles Whitman Massacre, where a young man went up to top of the tower and opened fire with a rifle on the courtyard below.  These days we've gotten kind of hardened to that sort of atrocity, but it wasn't so common in 1966.  Only two days after the massacre I was walking across that same area.  If we had arrived two days sooner, I might have been one of the people who was shot!
       My official employer was the Humanities Research Center, which not only administered the Stark Library but was building its own collection of rare materials, many of which were contemporary first editions, manuscripts by well-known authors, etc.  The HRC had its offices in the tower, so I immediately had to go up in the very same elevator that Whitman had taken two days before.  The Administrative Assistant in the HRC told me she had actually held the elevator door for Whitman so he could bring in a footlocker.  It contained his rifles, but she just thought it was a load of books destined for the collection.  You can imagine that security got a bit tighter after that!
       The collections in the Stark Library were a donation by the eponymous donor.  I won't go into the history; if you're interested, go here http://www.utexas.edu/tours/mainbuilding/interior/main400/
and here http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/collections/books/holdings/stark/  You can see on those sites how grandiose was the venue where I worked!  I later worked in new HRC library.  By that time the Stark Library had been dismantled and turned into an office for the President of the University of Texas.  The pictures on the two websites are from that period (I couldn't find anything from the sixties), but I'm confidant that the view on the right below is of the room where I usually ate my lunch.  The furniture was all shabby Victorian, taken from Mrs. Stark's home.  The books were housed in locked cases around the periphery and on the balcony.  There were long windows with heavy Victorian drapes and there was a tall painting of Mrs. Stark which we staff members faced as we ate seated on a worn velvet settee and clustered around a coffee table.
       There was a funny story about the painting.  It showed Mrs. Stark standing by a table in 1890s dress and the Head Librarian, whom I will call Mrs. M. (things were very formal -- not even the student workers were called by their first names), pointed out a strange horizontal line across the center of the portrait.  She said Mrs. Stark thought she looked too short in the picture, so the painter cut it in two and lengthened her from the waist down.  If you thought about, it really was out of proportion.  Where her waist was and where her floor-length skirt ended would have made her legs impossibly long!
       The Stark hired its own cleaning staff, usually a student, so Mrs. M. could keep tabs on who came and went in this place that housed such a valuable collection. When I was there, the janitor was a young man who wasn't quite with it (this was the sixties, you know). He was not what you would call energetic. Mrs. M. talked about how he sat down to run the vacuum cleaner, and I saw him do it with my own eyes. Frankly, I do that sometimes myself these days, but this kid wasn't 73 years old!

       The Stark Library also had a rooftop terrace.  In the picture of the Tower, it's the area in front of the red-roofed structure.  The grassy part had a resident tortoise named Epicurus.  My cataloging friend used to feed it lettuce, but one time she fed it a butterfinger, which it ate with relish.  Then it disappeared for a long period of time and she was afraid she had killed it, but it finally turned up no worse for wear.
       The library had its own cataloger and catalog department, which actually was the kitchen.  The whole place was very cramped for space.  It was a tiny room with a sink and cooktop, perhaps oven, too (I've forgotten), and refrigerator, and that's where the food for breaks or events was kept.  It also had two desks.  The long-time catalog librarian resented my intrusion on her space in the beginning -- she liked things done certain ways, and here comes this young whippersnapper with three years' experience being thrust into her world.  However, I'm very good at following instructions and I soon learned her ways.  In the end we became the best of friends and remained so even after I went on to other things, until she died in the 1990s. 
       The cataloging was not like anything done in an ordinary library.  The books were all 18th and 19th century imprints, and we collated every last one of them.  That means you page through and record the signatures from the bottom of the page, checking for errors in paging or missing pages.  You also looked for stubs where pages have been cut out and for tip-ins where new pages might have been inserted.  Handwritten marginalia and autographs were noted, and inclusions in the books, like notes or drawings, were extracted and sent to the manuscript collection.  Once, in a book from around 1815, I found a beautiful paper cut-out of a lion with a putto on its back playing a harp and my boss said I could keep it.  I still have it.  I framed it in a gold frame against a red background and I just love it.  Who has the patience to do anything like that these days?
       After I quit my PhD work, I went to the regular UT catalog department, but later when the Stark Library was dismantled, I rejoined my rare-book cataloger friend in the HRC Library.  I was just in time to help them move.  What a job!  I'll say only that she and I worked as a team unloading book trucks in the new library and shelving the books.  I ran into a first edition of E.R. Eddison's The Worm Ourobouros.  It was the first time I'd ever heard of it.  I had already read Tolkien and begun writing fantasy, and that helped me take off into other books of that genre.
       I have one more story to tell about my regular cataloging days at UT, but I'll put that in a third part to this post.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Reminiscences about Old Libraries from an Old Librarian, Part 1

       I have worked in really old libraries and in brand new libraries and in some of a middle age, and while the new ones were more roomy and convenient, it's the old ones that I have the fondest memories of, and also some of the weirdest.  All libraries have their eccentricities, but the old ones are like pixillated little old ladies and gentlemen.  You never know what they will do next.
       The first library I ever worked in (and the one where I studied as an undergraduate) was the one below.  I attended Colorado College from 1957 through 1961 and during that time I worked as a student assistant for the summer after my sophomore year (the summer after my junior year I took beginning German and I never tried to work and go to school at the same time -- I've never been a multitasker).  Then I worked again as a circulation assistant the summer after I graduated, before I went to Cornell to study for my MA.  In 1962 CC's brand spanking new Charles Leaming Tutt Library opened and I worked there  that same summer (starting only a few weeks after the building opened -- they were still laying carpet) before I headed to UCLA for my library science degree.  I was to return ito the new library in 1963 as Catalog Librarian, but that's a whole different story.
Coburn Library, Colorado College, 1894-1962
A Postcard View
From http://www.cardcow.com/103698/coburn-library-colorado-college-springs/
       Here is some information on Coburn Library from
The building was constructed of "peachblow sandstone quarried near Aspen."  It's a beautiful red stone and several of the early buildings on the campus were constructed of that material.  "Coburn cost about $45,000 to build. The major donor was the Hon. N. P. Coburn of Newton Massachusetts, a childhood friend of CC President Slocum. In 1940, to make room for the growing collection, a four-story addition with room for 60,000 volumes was built for $20,000."

Interior View of Coburn Library, ca. 1895
Thanks to
       "The building, judged inadequate even after the addition, was razed in 1963. The statue of Winged Victory of Samothrace, seen here in an interior view ca. 1895, disappeared around that time. We hold out hope that it will come back home to roost one day."
       This interior view may be from 1895, but when I was in college, it looked exactly like this, except the addition at the back had done away with that half-moon window.  Everything was decked out in beautiful warm-hued, polished woodwork. The rare book collection was housed in a locked closet in the upper left hand of the picture, reached by a metal circular staircase.  Nike was still there in my time -- when I was pondering my reading at a table, I used to look up at that statue in some fascination.  The circulation desk was always over there at the left, and I presume the small card catalog seen at the left in the picture included all the books the library contained in 1895.  By my time the library had maybe 100,000 books (I honestly have forgotten, so I don't swear by this figure) crammed into that small space.
       You see those balconies at the upper right?  By my time bound periodicals were shelved there, and sometimes a little old lady would ask you so sweetly to get a volume down for her. What can a student assistant do but comply?  You had to climb up a really tall ladder while dangling halfway out over the edge of the balcony.  Honestly, it was scary! 
       Not seen in this picture (which looks north) is the balcony at the southern end of the main room.  It housed the materials in the historical ranges of the Dewey Decimal system and it seems like I was always stuck with shelving books there.  Of course there were no elevators.  You had to load up a tray of books (you know how heavy books are) and carry them up a steep, cut-back staircase, and then keep going up and down a ladder with a few books each time.  Maybe that's why I have so much arthritis in my shoulders now!  I've hauled books around all my life!
       The 1940 addition was bare-bones -- just metal stacks in about four levels -- but at least the ceilings were low and it was supplied with carrels with slit windows, so you could look out over the quadrangle when you were studying.
       Do any of you remember the smell of old libraries?  New libraries smell like fresh paint and plaster and carpet chemicals, but old libraries smell like musty, unsunned storage caves -- paper dust and old crumbling leather bindings and book glue and a touch of printing ink and furniture polish and maybe some disintegrated bookworms thrown in for good measure.   A wonderful, nostalgic smell that I can still conjure up for myself!
       Now, the spookiest and most aromatic part of Coburn Library was the basement.  It contained storage for government documents.  I presume you all know that many libraries are repositories for government documents; they automatically receive at least a selection of everything printed by the GPO.  You know how much paper the government produces.  Any academic library worth its salt has a librarian solely in charge of government documents, and those materials take up a heck of a lot of space.  In Coburn it was the basement.  It was lit only by drop lights and they didn't stay on all the time.  There were no centralized switches for the lighting, so in the evening when the library closed up, somebody had to sweep the building, turning off the lights.  If somebody requested a document in the daytime, you would have to go down there and find it for them, turning the lights on as you went.  Some of the aisles were piled with overflow from those sections of shelving. 
       There is a cartoon that I think came from the New Yorker, but I'm not sure.  I've been trying to find it online but without any luck, alas, so I'll describe it.  It shows a female librarian between two stacks with a bunch of books piled on the floor just like I used to see in the Coburn basement.  Sitting on top of the books (with a drop light overhead) is a skull draped with cobwebs and the woman is regarding it with the most horrified expression.  I used to feel just like that when I had to go down there.  It wouldn't have surprised me at all to find a mummified body!  Murder in the Library!  I think that's been done in more than one mystery novel! 
       It pained me that they demolished this quirky old building.  I would have liked to see it preserved and put it on the Register of Historic Buildings.  But the college needed the land for a new administration building and auditorium, so ... Coburn is gone never to return.
       And by the way, if anybody out there knows the location of that Winged Victory, please get in touch with me!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

New Goodreads Review of The Termite Queen!

       Adam Walker is one of my conlanging and conworlding associates (he's writing a book of his own that I really looking forward to because it's going to be full of fascinating aliens), and he's written a review of the two volumes of The Termite Queen.  He didn't like everything about it, but here is some of the good stuff he mentioned:
       "The Termite Queen (vol. 1) and The Wound That Has No Healing (vol. 2) really are one long novel in two volumes. Volume one has a logical conclusion, but the story is far from over till the end of volume two. Each of the two volumes contains two parts.
       "Personally I found volume 2 more satisfying, because I found the aliens, the "termites", more interesting than the humans. The Shshi are strange, as aliens should be, but relatable -- they plot against each other and have their customs and rituals and ways of doing things. Several of the Shshi are really fun characters, the scheming chamberlain, the child-like queen, the clever seer. Several of the warriors are especially complex as they are caught between duty and conscience trying to decide where their loyalties lie as the leadership of the termite city fractures."
       [I like that because nobody before has noted the complexity of the psychology of Commander Hi'ta'fu, Chief Lo'lo'pai, and Lieutenant Ni'shto'pri.]
       Adam goes on mention how he didn't like the romance part of the plot and then continues saying that nevertheless he really likes the book:
       "Languages. I love languages. I invent languages as a hobby. And the Shshi language in this book is incredible. Not only is it alien, using a non-verbal modality (radio waves!), but the version we see in the text is actually an invented language that Our Heroine invents during the course of the book as in interface between the humans, who can't detect radio waves, and the Shshi who can't detect our languages."
       [I like that because Adam is the first person to mention the language element that plays such a large part in the book -- the process of understanding how we really might communicate during humans' first contact with intelligent extraterrestrials.]

       Adam gave it 4 stars and recommended it.  Most of the reviews of TQ have been 4 star (I've had one 5-star on each of the two volumes, and a couple of 3-star on v.1 -- nothing lower).  I'm satisfied with 4 stars because this book does have so many elements to it (romance, a journey into human psychology, emphasis on future history, space travel, several types of extraterrestrials, conlangs, a low-tech alien culture with a tradition of heroic single combat, etc.),  With a book so heterogeneous, I'm sure everybody will find something that annoys them, but (I trust) also something to like!
       Give it a try here: Amazon
       Or here: Smashwords 

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Tangled Web?

Young Lochinvar Carrying Away His Love
From Misrepresentative Women by Harry Graham  (c1906)
       Remember the old quote "Oh, what a tangled web we weave / When first we practise to deceive"? Bet you don't know what it's from. Shakespeare? (Isn't everything from Shakespeare?) The Bible (less likely!) Well, I didn't know either, so I looked it up. It's from an epic poem that's pretty obscure these days -- Marmion, a Tale of Flodden Field, by Walter Scott, first published in 1808.  It's a tale of romantic intrigues involving nuns who break their vows, wronged heroes, duels, revenge, deaths at the battle of Flodden Field in 1513, etc., etc.  Modernized a bit, it might actually have something going for it! It was immensely popular in its day, although it was not a critical success; according to Wikipedia, it was castigated for the "unwarranted intrusions" of the letters to Scott's friends that head up each canto and its poetic style was called "flat and tedious." There was also a complaint that it was written solely to show off Scott's erudition.  However, the poem also contained the "Lochinvar" section that people used to read in school.  I remember that galloping anapestic rhythm very well -- and with some nostalgia ...

O young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;
And save his good broadsword he weapons had none,
He rode all unarm'd, and he rode all alone.
So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,
There never was knight like the young Lochinvar ...

       Does anybody read that poem these days?
       So where was I?  What was my point?  Oh, I remember -- the tangled web.  First, however, let me say that some might criticize my writing for some of the same reason they criticized Scott's (although I don't write poetry):  That my stories have "unwarranted intrusions," that my style isn't spectacularly original (although I really wouldn't call it "flat and tedious"), and that I like to show off my erudition (which isn't as mighty as I wish it were).  That's still not my point, however. 
       My point is, everything I write is interconnected -- a bit of a tangled web.  I really hadn't thought about that until lately.  All of my books share characters and allude to events or people which exist in my other books.  The Termite Queen is the seminal tale.  It introduces Prf. Kaitrin Oliva, who is also the main character in "Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder," which is laid thirty years later.  Kaitrin is also the editor of The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head series, which begins hard on the end of The Termite Queen.  The series contains many references to events in The Termite Queen, because after all it was the coming of the Star-Beings to the termite planet that precipitated the New Time (doesn't the arrival of aliens always change things?)  Kaitrin mounts several expeditions to the termite planet after that fateful first one, and these are mentioned in footnotes throughout the series.  And Kaitrin actually does make a physical appearance as a character in the series but only near its end.
       Then of course two of the major characters in the series -- Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head and Di'fa'kro'mi the Remembrancer -- were introduced in The Termite Queen, so that's an essential interconnection.
       See how tangled it's getting?
       I also have a number of unwritten books that increase the tangles.  Something I plan to call The Dark Leopards of the Moon (title from a poem by Yeats) will be the story of the remainder of Kaitrin Oliva's life, and then there is an episode of her life alluded to in "Monster" as "my experiences with the Etúmanoi on the fourth planet of Foraka 3."  That one I mean to write as a separate novel (entitled The Hard, Bright Crystal of Being, from a poem by Conrad Aiken), and it also includes a couple of other characters from Termite Queen whose names I won't mention for fear of spoilers.
       The only story I've written that isn't tangled up with the others is The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars.  It's laid in the 28th century while TQ is laid in the 30th, and its only association with The Termite Queen lies in the fact that first contact with the bird aliens (Prf. A'a'ma's people) occurs in MWFB.  That's important, of course, but it does allow the plot of MWFB to pretty much stand on its own.
       I say all this only because the tangling of my characters and plots may make them a little problematical to read.  You may have read TQ and found some things not to like about it.  It has a double plot line, so you may like one plot and not the other.  Besides, it contains all that conlanging gobbledegook, which is a little bit of a specialized interest.  (However, I can't imagine anybody who wouldn't be curious about how we're going to communicate with aliens when we finally meet them.)  So I would say this: if you enjoyed the termite people in The Termite Queen, please do go on and give the Ki'shto'ba series a try.  And even if you haven't read TQ, it's summarized sufficiently at the beginning of The War of the Stolen Mother, so don't be deterred from jumping right into the series. 
       I hope to meet you there!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Some Random Thoughts, and a Cover Reveal

     I've been posting more regularly on my other blog lately, because most of what I've had to say involves either the Ki'shto'ba series or material about myth.  I have a special ongoing at the moment:

 (v.1 of The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head)
will be priced at only 99 cents through Sunday, Sept. 8,
for the Kindle version at Amazon or for the Smashwords edition.
       I just participated in Tidbit Tuesday, a monthly event run by Patrick O'Scheen on Facebook, and I ended up increasing my likes on my FB page from 45 to 98 (at this moment of writing). A really nice reward!
       That brings up a question.  People always seem interested in my work and my ideas, and they say nice things about my drawings.  But none of this produces any sales, particularly of my Ki'shto'ba series, which I still say is superior to anything else I've written, especially for its originality. 
       Why is this?  I think I might have some idea.  My termites naturally talk is a high style -- they simply don't speak colloquial English.  That is, to preserve the fiction, Kaitrin Oliva envisions them as talking is an elevated, literary style (I had nothing to do with it -- ha, ha!) and she translates them that way.  And probably the scholarly apparatus, which I so love, puts people off (the footnotes, in particular, and possibly the asides between Di'fa'kro'mi and his scribe, something I find really entertaining, and also maybe the "difficult" names).  One person told me he didn't like the narrative form -- the fact that somebody was telling the story.  My opinion of that is that it's a personal quirk.  Lots of books are written in the first person, including The Great Gatsby.  And Di'fa'kro'mi is a Bard, after all -- it's his job to tell tales.  He participated in Ki'shto'ba's quest and it makes sense to have him tell the story as a reminiscence, as his own memoirs.  We may know he survived, but that doesn't mean that anybody else in the quest made it back home (after all in the present moment in which Di'fa'kro'mi is speaking, we never see a single other person who went on the quest), so it doesn't damage the suspense.
       Now a random and disconnected remark ...  I've noticed lately that a lot of book covers show closeups of one or two heads with serious, strained, or possibly lustful expressions on their faces.  Hmm.  That would work only for books in The Man Who Found Birds series (yes, it will be a series).  I may have to find somebody to do the covers for those, if I can find somebody who won't charge me thousands of dollars.  I'll repeat, I can do termites and I can make my own maps, but real people?  Forget it!  The faces I've attempted improved with practice, but they are still basically cartoons.  I don't think anything I could do would work.  So stay tuned.
       And now I present the back cover for The Valley of Thorns.  It was Marva Dasef who suggested I incorporate the map so I could employ a colorized version.  I did a detail showing the region around the battle area.  For the full black and white map, go here
Click for larger view

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

BONUS excerpt from The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars!

       I announced that I wasn't going to post any more chapters from MWFB (I remind you I'm revising it for publication), but I decided to extract this piece from Chapter 38 because it would be possible to reduce what is said here to one or two paragraphs of summation.  But I just can't do it because the scene is lively and revelatory not only in advancing the plot but in displaying character, and moreover it has a lot of humor.  At the end I'll put a summation.  Tell me which one you enjoy reading more.  (And if you say, the summation, I probably still won't change it!)  Don't worry -- this doesn't spoil any of the essential story.  To set the scene, Capt. Robbin Nikalishin (now 30 years old and a genuine hero of Earth) has just taken a jaunt to view the Great Koloredo Canyon in Aridzone.  His life-long friend Kolm MaGilligoody (now Robbie's Engineer on the interstellar ship the Darter) has been visiting his home in Eira.  The spacefarers meet in the lunch bar at the Herinen Space Port where they are stationed.

Chapter 38 ...
June-August 2760

       Two days later Robbie was emerging from the lunch bar at the Research Facility when he bumped into Kolm.
       “Oh, there ye be!” exclaimed the Eirishman.  “Greetin’s, lad!”
       “Well, when did you get back?  I wasn’t expecting you till at least the end of June!”
       “I finished me essential business, and I figured ye must be dyin’ without me company, so I returned.  No, actually, I got off the flyer 30 minutes ago.  I was famished, so I just dropped off me gear, banged on the door of yer empty room, and then hot-footed it over here to get lunch.”
       “I just ate, but I’ll have some coffee and sit with you, if you’ll have me."
       Kolm picked up some crusty fried farm catfish, a big bowl of potato and chive soup, a couple of rolls with soy spread, and a slice of blueberry tart, and headed for a table with Robbie trailing after him.
       “Holy grief, Kolm, how can you eat all that heavy stuff and stay so fit?”
       “Well, I had me breakfast in Lunden and no lunch, so seein’ as how the flight left at 1100h and lasted some eight hours, me stomach says it’s near 2100 and past the hour of dinner.  Blame it on the spinnin’ of the planet.”
       Amused, Robbie watched his friend wolfing down his meal.  “So, how were the Islands and the girls that live in ’em?”
       “Green.  The Islands, not the girls, although one special lass does have the greenest eyes.  But I got somethin’ else to tell ye first.  When I first landed at Old Heathero, I went up to Oxkam before I headed to Eira.  Actually, I stopped off to see Wilda, too.  She sends ye her love.  She was a bit miffed, though.  ‘Ye mean,’ she said, ‘Capt. Robbie prefers to look at big rocks and holes in the ground over me?’”
       “So – how did you excuse me?”
       “I told her I was sure yer conscience was bothering ye every minute ye spent in that infernal land, and that ye’d call her up and make yer apologies the very minute ye got back.”
       “Well, if you wanted to make me feel guilty, you’re doing it.”  In fact Robbie had thought about Wilda early in his trek, but since he had met Fedaylia High Feather, his first love had departed from his mind.  And while it had been a relief to escape visiting his mother this go ’round, that shirking of duty had bothered him enough that he hadn’t even called to tell her he would be away from Herinen.
       Kolm was observing him reflectively.  Then he said, “Wilda’s gone back to work.”
       “Really?  May is only a year old.  She waited until the boys were three.”
       “She said with another mouth to feed, money’s tight.  Besides, she said, how could she become a legend at Sloe if she isn’t workin’?  They had agreed to use temps and hold the job for her and she felt she couldn’t ask ’em to hold it much longer.”
       “So what does she do with May?” said Robbie.
       “Her Mum and Da have moved to Watferd.  Mr. Mull’s retired from the concrete crew now and they thought they’d like to live nearer to their daughter.  So Ms. Mull comes over and watches the little ’un home or takes her home with her.  Works real well, Wilda says.”
       Robbie pondered this glimpse of how families cope; it seemed alien to him.
       “So what was I talkin’ about afore I got onto Wilda?” said Kolm, with his mouth full.  ”Oh, yeh – I went to see Prf. Flournoi.  I don’t think we’ll ever get him back this time, Robbie.  He thinks we have enough trained people in the program now and he can make a more valuable contribution teachin’ at Oxkam.”
       “He’s probably right.”
       “I told him about this creeping-jump fixation of the Board and I showed him Prf. Eiginsh’s new mathematical models and some of the virtual engine designs based on ’em.  He seemed a bit bemused by it all.  He thinks some of those anomalies in Eiginsh’s formulas are more significant than any of us thought.  He even pointed out some flaws that none of us noticed.  I don’t think even Lara noticed ’em.”
       “Really?  I’d like to review that.  Lara will want to, too.”
       “Yeh, but I don’t want to get Eiginsh in trouble.”
       “How can it get him in trouble?  If there are problems with his models that would translate into fatal errors in the designs, it would benefit everybody to expose them.  This is difficult stuff.  Even the best of us can make mistakes.”
       “Well, ’course.  It’s just that I never knew Karl Eiginsh to make serious mistakes.”
       The two spacefarers sat in silent thought for a moment, and then Kolm said, “What’s been goin’ on here, regardin’ the Board and all?”
       “Actually, nothing.  I could have stayed away longer.  Adm. Hurtline’s gone home to the Chemical Capital of the Plains, and Prf. Lara’s in Moska and Yang is in Edmunten and Glencrosse is up in Mitchican and so on and so on.  Only Eiginsh is here.  I was sort of surprised when he told me he wasn’t going home this year.”
       “Huh.  Maybe he knows somethin’ is wrong with his formulas and he wants some time to work on ’em without bein’ hassled.”
       “So how was the western world?”
       “Wonderful.  You’ve never seen anything like those mountains, Kolm.  And the Big Canyon – goddam, it’s humbling!  I finally saw a condor on my last afternoon.  And I saw hummingbirds!  I even shot some vids of them, although the images aren’t very good.  I never can hold the damn cam steady, and I get blurry pictures even with autofocus.”
       Kolm was chuckling.  “It’s yer mother’s plumbin’ all over again, Robbie.”
       “Yeah, I deserve to be laughed at, brother!  But, Kolm, I have to tell you this!  Right at the end there, I met this girl.”
       “Uh, oh.  Why am I not surprised?  So what’s her name?”
       Robbie told Kolm all about Fedaylia.  “Honest to god, Goody, she’s the most unusual girl I’ve ever met.  She’s tall – maybe a couple of centimeters taller than I am … ”
       “I thought ye didn’t care for tall girls.”
       “What gave you that idea?”
       “Well, I was just jumpin’ to a conclusion …  Wilda and Sushmita were both short and I can’t recall ye ever involvin’ yeself with a tall girl.”
       “You’ll just have to unjump your conclusion, then, because I felt very involved with this one.  She’s amazingly beautiful, in this unusual sort of way.  It’s just – the way she moves … the timber of her voice … her hair … Kolm, her perfume … well, I just can’t describe it!  And her eyes – she’s got eyes like amber … no, like smoky quartz … no, that just doesn’t do them justice … ”
       “Jaysus, it sounds like her arrow hit ye square on.”
       “Oh, it did.  But I’ll never see her again, probably.  We didn’t arrange to stay in touch.”
       “Where’s she from?”
       “She was born up north of New Washinten, in a precinct called Daymoin.  Her parents split when she was about six, she said, and she grew up with her father.  But he was a rail inspector and was gone a lot, so she kept getting shuffled around among relatives, on both sides of her family.  Must have been hard for her.  But she seems to have turned out perfect.  Kolm, she’s a Prov-En at Castle Bluff Flight Academy.  She’s going to be a Com Officer.  Isn’t that strange?  I seem to have this thing for Com Officers.”
       “Huh.  Yeh, a bit.”
       “You know what I’m thinking?  I’m thinking, maybe I can pull some strings – get her assigned to Herinen after she gets her commission.  Maybe I can even get her on the Darter …”
       “Now, Robbie, don’t mess up yer professional standards.  Pilar is a fine Com Officer – what excuse would ye use to transfer her?  And ye don’t really even know this girl.  Ye spent, ye say, one day together?  Did the two of ye go to bed?”
       “No, she refused.  Said she didn’t know me well enough yet.  That didn’t make me very happy at the time, but I kind of admire her for it – women are always itching to jump in bed with me just because of who I am.  But she seemed really pleased to have met me, and she laid a very heavy kiss on me as we were saying good night.”
       “Really?  Ye say she kissed you?”
       “Yes,she initiated it.  And … well, it was different from any kiss I’ve ever experienced.”  He touched his finger to his lip, which still had a welt on the inside three days later.
       “So you think she’s sweet, do ye?”
       Robbie laughed.  “Sweet?  Well, I don’t think I would describe her quite that way.  Sushmita was sweet.  Fedaylia is more – volcanic … ”
       “Volcanic!  Holy cry, Robbie, the last thing ye need in yer life right now is a volcano in yer bed!  Maybe it’s a good thing she’s not to hand!  Give ye a chance to cool down a bit!”
       Robbie was laughing more heartily, his eyes crinkling.  “Goody, you may be right!  I think it’s too late, though.  I think Fedaylia High Feather may just be the woman I’ve looked for all my life.”
       “Aliluya … I guess.”  Kolm was scratching his nose, in a gesture that meant he was concerned.  Then he said, “Do ye think ye can simmer down for a minute and listen whilst I say somethin’ about me and Dana?”
       “We set the date, Robbie me boy.  I convinced Dana we ought to get married and we’re gonna do it.  Holy cry, man, don’t drop yer jaw like that – a bug’ll fly in yer mouth.  Why should that be so unexpected?”
       “Well … well … it isn’t really …   So … when … ?”
       Now Kolm was laughing.  “Ye really should see yeself.  But the date is the 20th of August.  I knew it had to be during this unexpected extra-long break we’re gettin’, because who knows when they’ll let us go again?  But me Mum nearly had a coronary – ‘Mairin, Mairin save us!  Only two months to get ready!’ she’s a-wailin’.  ‘And meself it is that has to do the work alone, for the bride as well as the groom, seein’s how Dana has no family alive … !’  And me Da’s goin’ on as to how, what did she mean, alone – wasn’t he still part of the family?  Did she think he was just gonna sit on his duff the whole time and do nothin’?  And me sisters shriekin’ and going berserk …  That’s why I said me essential business was finished – I thought I’d best go away and leave the women to work.  Honestly, Robbie, be glad ye don’t come from an Eirish family!”
       Robbie was laughing again, but he felt a little shaky inside.  “So … so … where will you live after … after … ?”
       “She’s gonna stay on her farm and I’m gonna stay in SkyPiercer, like I told ye, until we’ve gone to a star and come back.  It’s not right for me to jeopardize the program by droppin’ out sudden-like.  So don’t be feelin’ bad, Robbie.  It’ll all work out fine.”
       “I hope so.  So – what happens in an Eirish wedding?”
       “Well, there’s this kind of old Romish ceremony, see?  We have somethin’ called Praysts, ye know.  There’s a family of ’em lives over in Wicklo – claim to be descendants of Praysts that were still practicin’ in Eira when the Romishers fell apart in the 24th century and the last Headman over in Roma was assassinated.  It’s one of them as must urge along the words of joinin’ … ”  Kolm broke off.  “Don’t look so mazed, lad.  It’s quite a bash, really, and not all pious mouthin’s – you’ll enjoy it!  There’ll be a monster feast afterward – apple-raisin cake with sour cream frostin’ and plenty of lamb stew, and the good Eirish stout flowin’.”
       “So … so … you want me to be there?”
       “Be there!  Robbie, ye’re gonna be me Best Man.”
       “Your what?”
       “Best Man!  Every groom has a friend who stands up with him at his weddin’ – kind of holds the groom up and keeps him from collapsin’, and makes sure he gets there on time with his shirt buttoned up proper and all – but in this case it may be the groom who’s havin’ to hold his Best Man up!”  Kolm was laughing so hard at Robbie’s reactions that he nearly choked on his tart. 
“Kolm, I’m not – remnant Romish.  I don’t know anything about it.”
       “Doesn’t matter.  It’s the feelin’s that count, man.  And what man in the world could I have nearer feelin’s for, Robbie, than you?  And it’s flatterin’ meself I am that you would say the same about me.”


       Kolm returned from his vacation only two days after Robbie got back.  The Engineer was full of news.  He had seen Wilda, who had returned to work even though May was only a year old (the extra mouth to feed made money tight).  Kolm had also visited Prf. Flournoi and discussed the problems with Eiginsh's new models.  Flournoi pointed out flaws that even Lara had missed and he agreed that the situation regarding the creeping jumps was concerning.  After some additional debate, Robbie couldn't resist telling Kolm all about his meeting with Fedaylia High Feather, but then Kolm responded with personal news of his own.  He and Dana had set a wedding date and he wanted Robbie to be his Best Man.  Robbie was overwhelmed -- he knew nothing about Romisher weddings. But it seemed he was going to get a crash course -- the pair arrived at the MaGilligoody farm on 15 August.

       IF YOU THINK THAT'S MORE FUN TO READ THAN THE LONGER PASSAGE, THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU!  LOL  However, I'm not ruling out some additional surgery -- just not a complete excision.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Two Years in Social Media: So How Do I Feel about It?

Copied from http://orangutanmarketing.com/social-media/what-is-social-media-exactly/
       I'm not very social by nature, so about two years ago when I decided to self-publish, I had never done anything with social media.  It was about this time of year in 2011 when I first joined Twitter.  At first I was vague as to what Twitter all about, so I largely ignored it.  A few months later, I started looking for followers and posting promos about my books and occasional personal remarks.  Then I joined Facebook, started following other peoples' blogs, set up my own blog, and then set up a second one for my conlangs.  The latter morphed later into a promo for my series, The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head, and ultimately broadened into a vehicle to discuss myth in literature.   I discovered the Language Creation Society through Twitter and after joining that organization, I took a third blog through them and devoted it to my conlangs.  (Bet you didn't even know that one existed -- I haven't done anything with it for maybe a year, although it has some interesting material.  Here's the link: http://remembrancer.conlang.org )
       My goal was to make contacts and try to get myself recognized.  I've accomplished that to a certain extent.  Along the way, I sort of learned to understand the difference between selling and marketing.  With selling, it's one-on-one -- make a contact and pitch your book to that person.  With marketing, you have nobody specific in mind -- you simply aim to get the attention of  as wide a range of people as possible.  A billboard or a mail flyer or a TV ad is marketing; soliciting by phone would be selling.  Pitching your book directly to somebody on FB would be selling, as would sending a promo to a new Twitter follower.  Getting mentioned on somebody else's blog or through a Twitter retweet would be marketing.
       I have met some wonderful people over this past two years.  I can still remember my three initial Twitter encounters.  One of them has become a quite good friend and I'm still in touch with the other two through FB.  I've gotten quite well acquainted with several other people through my conlanging contacts and through Google+.  All of that has been quite rewarding; it makes all that effort worthwhile even without the potential of selling books.
       So which of those social media entities listed in the logo above have I joined?  A few of them I never heard of, like Digg and MeetUp and Delicious.  But I joined Reddit when somebody listed one of my posts on that site and I garnered a huge number of page views.  I don't think I use Reddit as much as I should.  I can't use YouTube, which I think is terrific, because I don't make videos (I'm technologically stone-age).  (YouTube is also a wonderful research tool -- whether you want to know what an alpenhorn sounds like or view the chair dance at a Jewish wedding, you can find it on YouTube!)
       I went with Blogger instead of WordPress (although my conlang blog is powered by WordPress) and I'm glad I did, because it's so much simpler.  (My only complaint is I don't have drop-down menus.)  I joined Pinterest and put up some of my drawings, but I really see no use for it except as a passtime, and I don't have that much time to pass.  And I only recently joined LinkedIn.  I'm still learning what that's all about.  It's really geared to people looking for work or to hire others.  I'm not looking for work -- mine's already cut out for me!  It does, however, open an avenue to a wider range of people.  One of my problems is that  my contacts are mostly other self-published authors, who (for the most part) would rather sell their own books than read other peoples'.
       One that's not listed on the logo is Goodreads.  It's rather difficult to use, so in the beginning I floundered.  I've gotten a little better with it lately.  It's good for record-keeping and for reviews.  It has a lot of avenues for giveaways and special promos, but I've never seen any results from using these.  I've also joined several specialty sites, like Mythic Scribes (I heartily recommend this one to fantasy writers), WANAtribe, and the Indie Writers' Network.  Some of these have forums.  I'm not crazy about forums.  They're difficult to use.  I always get my posts in the wrong categories.  I also follow a few FB groups, mostly for blog promotion.
       Which of these do I enjoy the most?  Lately it's been Google+.  I honestly like it better than FB, which still gets me confused at times.  I never get any traffic on my FB page; my own posts get lost there, so I pretty much ignore it.  Google+ has a lot of communities slanted toward your personal interests, and these can be quite valuable.  And I've set up a community of my own  called Books by TermiteWriter (see top of sidebar for link).  It's only been up about two weeks and I've already got 51 members.  It took about a year to reach 30 on my FB page.  I treat Books by TermiteWriter like a kind of mini-blog.  I can put up brief posts most days that don't require a lot of time or thought, as a kind of diary of my writing and publishing efforts.
       Has all this paid off in sales of my books?  I laugh out loud as I say, not really!  But if I hadn't done anything, I wouldn't have any sales at all!  I just keep nibbling away, expecting a big breakthrough!  So help me out by giving one of my books a try!  You can find them at Amazon and at Smashwords