Thursday, December 29, 2011

Novel Manuscript Preparation.

c2011 (S)


I've been working over 'Horse-Catcher' before submitting it again.

Here are some perspectives on 'standard manuscript format,' including SFWA members Vonda M. McIntyre and William Shunn.

For one thing, it reminded me to have a cover page.

In the past, I was using three asterisks for scene breaks, and that differs from the norm, which is to use a number sign '#' indented to match paragraph indentation.

One of the things I noticed about Mr. Shunn's format is that he seems to be using the 'define paragraph' function where I normally just use five space-bar hits for indentation. I would never use a half-inch indent as he does, bearing in mind it is a manuscript and not an actual book. His way may be correct.

Going through the book it looked like I would end up with about seventy-five chapters. This is far too many chapters for a book of this length. Tedious as it is, far better to reorganize the material before submission. Twenty-five or thirty chapters is plenty.

There is also one short chapter that is nothing but exposition. Luckily, it's the only one. This chapter might get deleted, or more likely redistributed throughout the story. Even then, much of it is expendable if the same material is covered elsewhere or brought to light by events rather than some invisiable narrator.

Other than that, I've spent four or five days rewriting and editing, and I stand as much chance as the next unknown author of landing the big publishing contract.

With a crowded marketplace and plenty of wannabe authors attending convention after convention, building personal relationships, or attending panels and asking questions, this writer needs whatever edge he can get.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kobo not recognized by PC.

My twelve year-old nephew got a Kobo for Christmas and his uncle Louis was all excited. The device comes with access to a free library numbering in the millions.

It's a nice-looking device and I had no trouble setting the date and time.

How to set up a Kobo e-reader is here.

The boy's father lost patience even with this, but he is avowedly computer-illiterate and not interested in getting involved with them. Even he was happy to buy the device for the nephster.

The Kobo was not recognized by my brother's laptop, which is connected by wireless to the internet.

I took the thing home to my place, and hooked it up to my desktop Windows PC, which is connected to the internet via cable. The machine was not recognized by the PC, and I got appropriate warning boxes popping up on my desktop.

It's too bad, really, as I would have liked to see my nephew reading Alexandre Dumas, Robert Louis Stephenson, and Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and a host of other classic authors.

As it is, I think they're going to take it back and try out a cheap touch-screen pad-type device.

During the course of my own amateur attempts at trouble-shooting, I downlaoded Kobo's free application, 'Kobo for Desktop.' What I was planning to do was to click and drag free e-books and load them onto an SD card, which the Kobo is equipped for.

That might have worked, but does not solve the real problem of going online and downloading books, free or otherwise, to the Kobo.

The free Gutenberg Adobe Digital Editions read fine on my desktop. My own product, also free, 'The Stud Farm,' doesn't seem to have any page-turning carets or buttons or any other form of icon. I can look at the cover, the middle of the book, and that's about it. The exact same Kobo file download reads beautifully in Mobipocket Reader, which I also have on my desktop. This is the way I normally test read Epub versions of the books I upload to Smashwords. It's all part of quality control.

I can't say for sure if the problem lies with my own eight year-old PC, or the Kobo app. I have sent an e-mail inquiry. If the problem persists, or if I can't fix the problem, then I will shut off the distribution channel for Diesel and Kobo until it is fixed. Because the Kobo has a button to turn pages, I am sort of assuming the product works in the actual reader.

Without a working Kobo to test with, that is an assumption, and I hate assumptions.

First you might try this: How to synchronize Kobo with Kobo Desktop.

Or download this free Pdf;

http://download.kobobooks.com/learnmore/kobo2_pdf/Kobo_ereader2_QSGuide-EN.pdf


Here is an e-mail response from Kobo regarding my desktop app
:

Hi Louis,


Thank you for contacting Kobo Customer Care with your concern.

We are sorry to hear that you are experiencing technical difficulties with your eBook.

Please delete the book from your library and reinstall it back to your device.

Then go to your list of purchased books and BOOKMARK the eBook it will then appear in your I'M READING PAGE you can then sync it to your desktop library and then to eReader.

We do apologize for any inconvenience.

Sincerely,

The Kobo Team

As a service to others in a similar boat, here is where you can ask a Kobo technician.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

'Wendigo,' by Louis Shalako.



White Fox trotted confidently along the shoreline, feeling a gravelly patch on the sandy beach crunch and shift beneath his moccasins. He had just killed a plump doe, and his wife and sisters must come and help him with it immediately. The small weight of the bow was as nothing in his hand, the bothersome rattling of arrows in the quiver a small price to pay for a supply of meat that would last several days. His heart was strong, and the wind came easy in his chest. A light sweat was enough to cool him in his jacket, tightly closed at wrists and neck. The sound of its long fringe of buckskin thongs, rattling in the dawn stillness, made the most melancholy sound. It was like the background noise of a man’s heart.

There was a warmth, a stillness in the air, and the promise of a storm later in the day.

It was early yet.

Over the lake to his right, mist hung down in smoky tendrils, yet the ever-present rain held off. He could see the beach curving around to the right in front of him, then it switched back the other way and disappeared. Beyond that bend lay the village of Tianon-hennratott. It was where he lived. He reached up to brush the stinging sweat off of his brow before it could run into his eyes. The night-frogs were chirping, it was still that early.

That’s when he heard the voice, or perhaps voices. The talk came from off to his left, and he wondered who it was; at this early hour of the day. He paused, halting there by the shoreline, savoring the first rays of the sun as they hit the land on the far shore of the lake. All was quiet now. Perhaps some early riser had merely gone to the latrine, and he remembered that many older people seemed to talk to themselves from time to time.

He was about to begin his running stride again when he heard a moaning, and a kind of whimpering, one quick snarl of pain and anguish. It came from not far away, a few paces into the bush off to his left. He felt the prickling of hairs on the back of his neck, and he clutched the bow more tightly. On an instinctive impulse, he reached over his shoulder and pulled out an arrow, and notched it to the string in cautious silence.

There was no more noise, but he knew better than to just go blundering in there.

He had a fresh-killed deer just a short distance away, but if he hesitated; a pack of wolves or a black bear might carry it off. At the thought of a bear, and the possibility that a roaming carnivore might have a human being in its clutches, he bent slightly at the waist and cautiously entered the thicket. Perhaps a child had risen before its mother, or some half-senile old crone had lost her way upon coming back from the spring, perhaps out for an early-morning pot of fresh water.

With a hunter’s finely-honed instincts, he noted that he was going up into the gentle southwest wind…he would be able to hear another’s coming first…hopefully.

Familiar enough with bear smell, there was nothing on the breeze to alarm him as he stole forwards. Wolves or coyotes would yip and yap, and communicate between themselves. Even their panting would carry a long way to a quiet listener. Bears were more solitary, although they did grunt and gasp from time to time. Just over the rise to his right, less than a hundred paces away, was the village. A shout would bring help within a few moments. He stalked upwind, listening carefully, even looking behind him from time to time. He would pause in total silence, and listen for the sound of unusual things, wait for a while, then move on.

Again, just the suggestion of a voice, a voice whispering now, a suppliant voice, begging for mercy. But what was this? Murder? Or the victim of some slashing bear, whimpering for the release of death, tormented beyond endurance by the abundance of pain? The voice was so low that he could not locate it. Yet it was also so quiet and sibilant that it had to be very close by.

White Fox quickly quartered the scrubby thicket, and soon enough the forest grew taller and opened up considerably. There was no one about. He returned to a sandy, open patch in the centre of the brush, and more closely examined a few foot-prints he had found.

Judging by the width across the ball of the foot, these could only have been made by his brother-in-marriage Howling Cat. If they weren’t made by him, then they were made by a stranger to this village. In any case they led deeper into the forest and whoever had made them had walked away all on their own. It was none of his concern, and he had business of his own to attend to. The young father turned and strode off down the beach towards the village. White Fox’s home was at the near end of the village, and Howling Cat’s at the far end, in fact far out the other end. He would have to talk to him later.

* * *

The first thing he saw when he entered the village was the old woman Spotted Fawn, stirring up the ashes of the fire in front of her place; and voices from a couple of nearby tents informed him that the world was indeed waking up to a new dawn.

“N’dabgosendam,” she called. “I hope you have a good morning.”

“Gli – ate! It has been a long winter,” he agreed. “Have you seen anyone about? Has Howling Cat gone by recently?”

She just shook her head, morose with her aches and pains, but she gave him a casual wave as he stalked past. She took in his bow and arrow, still half-ready although not drawn, wordlessly. The ways of men were madness, and only women truly understood the ancient mysteries, her silence seemed to imply. He had to grin in spite of himself; as he had often wondered if people really could see another person’s thoughts sometimes, at the exact moment they thought them. Surely she was trying to read his.

White Fox didn’t suffer from a lot of little insecurities. He simply didn’t have time for them. Entering his own house, he was pleased to see that everyone was up out of bed, and they were pretty much all dressed.

His mother and his wife looked up expectantly, knowing he wouldn’t come home so early without news; or some kind of good reason. Mother had Little Owl in her arms, feeding him pre-chewed chunks of a wildcat he had killed ten days ago. She always claimed the sweet red meat would give him the stealth and courage of that animal.

“I’ve killed a big fat doe!” White Fox announced their good fortune in calm and business-like tones.

"Really!” exclaimed Shadows-in-the-Grass, his wife of two years now.

Her sister, Lone Dove, also lived with them, and his own sisters, although his father had passed on to the next world. Shadows’ and Lone Dove’s mother and father had passed on two full winters ago, so he had adopted Lone Dove as a sister. At least for the time being. She had to live somewhere after all, and only time would tell what decision she might make, or who might take her fancy, or who might take an interest in her.

So far, two or three young bucks had come a-calling, but so far Lone Dove hadn’t shown any great or overwhelming interest in any particular one of them. Presumably, she might have a few prospects of her own, he thought inconsequentially.

“We will need to get back there as quickly as possible,” noted his mother, Maker-of-Magic-Bird.

“You’d better sit with the baby!” suggested Shadows-in-the-Grass firmly. “Lone Dove and the girls and I can carry the thing just fine.”

White Fox nodded at his mother, who took it with her usual grace, although she always offered. Still, with her aching joints, discolored, rheumy eyes and slow pace she really would hold them up seriously. These days, his mother was simply too fragile to do her accustomed daily chores, although she grumbled endlessly when someone offered to do anything for her.

His sisters were pulling on their long-laced moccasins wordlessly. At their age, a certain early-morning surliness was to be expected, perhaps even tolerated more than he would have liked.

"Come along, come along,” he chided them gently, and was rewarded unexpectedly with a small smile from Sparrow.

Blue Bird just scowled and ground her teeth and yanked at her recalcitrant footwear.

“You’re supposed to unlace them,” her younger sister pointed out; with a hint of mischievous humor evident in her tone.

“Well, I’m all set to go,” he offered with a smile of his own.

Shadows and Lone Dove were wrapping themselves in their finely-embroidered deerskin shawls, and he suddenly understood that one or the other of them…in fact all of the women folk, would be looking at the skin for some new item of clothing or other.

And the fact is, sooner or later, we all just plain wear something out; no matter how carefully we look after it. His father, Chief Bow-maker, had told him that when he was a very small boy, which recollection brought a small, faint tug at his heart.


* * *

The small group half-walked and half-trotted along the beach, all traces of reluctance gone from the two girls. They were laughing and giggling and not paying much attention, their empty baskets no real burden.

White Fox allowed them to make the pace, as his recent tracks, deep and even along the beach were easy enough for them to see. Lone Dove followed the girls at a more sedate walk, and White Fox and Shadows-in-the-Grass brought up the rear. Some of White Fox’s concerns about losing the kill had begun to fade. There simply hadn’t been that many signs about; of the big meat-eaters, bears and wolves and coyotes, adgers and such lately.

They were making good enough time, all things considered.

“The deer is up in the hills,” he told his wife. “You may remember, the place where took the big red elk, the place by the short rapids on the steeper creek?”

“Where the creeper-berries grow? Where the woman’s-root grows?” she asked him mischievously. “You remember, where I told you I gathered the head-ache remedy, by stripping bark from the old weeping trees? Do you mean up there?”

“Huh!” he gulped. “Well, I don’t know about that. But its up where…you and I…”

The young hunter’s voice trailed off. While his people were not unsophisticated, and sex was a pure and natural thing; he was suddenly shy within earshot of the younger women.

“Gishkiinzhig om atawan,” he told her quietly so the others wouldn’t hear. “Your eyes are so beautiful.”

She stuck her tongue out at him, which Lone Dove caught sight of when she glanced back for a moment. With a small smirk, she turned back to the path without comment.

“Between the second and third hill on the left,” he reminded her. “After we follow the little river for some time. You’ll see; and then my tracks will leave the trail.”

“Yes, my dear,” she said prudently, but then just as suddenly turning impish again.
“As long as you haven’t forgotten where it is, dear, that’s the important thing.”

White Fox couldn’t help but to laugh out loud at that remark. Her humor and spirit had been the deciding factor when he had applied to her father for her hand; and she had a way of reminding him every day what a good choice it had been. Even at the time, he had been pretty much willing to pay any price for her. He had to admit that.

“Here?” motioned Blue Bird, pointing at the ground where it was scuffed and pitted by recent foot marks.

Lone Dove just kept plodding on a little further, following White Fox’s recent running foot-marks. Then she stopped and turned and waited for them.

“No, farther up the shore,” White Fox said as he and his wife caught up with the girls. “What’s this?”

Someone had apparently been standing or loitering here, perhaps waiting for someone who did not come. Perhaps, but they had come out of the woods, and then gone back into the woods. These tracks had clearly been made in the time it had taken for White Fox to go the village and to return here. Again the footprints, indistinct in the gravel as they were, did not immediately bring any particular or familiar individual to mind. The only real possibility was Howling Cat, but…for some reason this was less convincing now.

Whoever this was seemed to have very long legs, yet they trod lightly and rather tentatively, irregularly on the ground. This was odd in itself, and he considered the other implications.

This implied that they were tall and thin. The likelihood was that it was an adult male, as he recalled the tracks he had seen earlier. But those earlier tracks, and the noises he heard, might have been unrelated. These tracks might be unrelated to the other tracks, yet both sets were fresh. Howling Cat was tall, relatively speaking, but not particularly light, in White Fox’s estimation. Yet neither was he fat…perhaps he could best be described as tall, thin, with a bit of a belly.

He had no positive proof that the sounds had been connected to those earlier tracks, but his instincts and intuition were somewhat aroused by all the strange goings-on so far this morning.

“Hurry on, then,” he told the girls. “It’s not much farther, just around the far end of the next cove.”

“Stay close, girls, don’t be running off on your own like that,” added Shadows-in-the Grass.

Lone Dove turned without further ado and led off down the shoreline in search of the place where White Fox had come out of the woods and onto the beach.


* * *

With Lone Dove and the girls ahead on the trail, White Fox was somewhat reassured by the peaceful tranquility of the woods. With the sun well up, slanting shadows lanced through the boughs overhead, heavily laden with red buds, eager to crack loose and burst forth with florets and leaflets for another vibrant springtime. Some of the hardwoods were already a verdant springtime green, covered in small bustling flowers.

“We’re close now,” White Fox called out. “It’s just over the next rise.”

Soon they all halted while White Fox cast around for his trail.

“Here we are,” he noted, pointing down to a small plant; where the bruising on the leaves indicated something with a soft heavy foot had passed this way.

Odd; he found he had to cast around for some time, then he found his trail again, then the blood, then the animal itself.

“It’s just over here,” he told them and quickly led them into the taller brush on the far side of a small hummock; to where the dead deer lay on its side, with his signatory red and white-fletched arrow sticking out on an oblique angle from its left forequarters.

“Straight through the heart,” he said a little wistfully. “She just dropped in her tracks.”

“Oh, my,” said Shadows. “That’s the fattest one we’ve seen in a long time.”

She made the sacred sign over the animal, murmuring a prayer of gratitude.

It was true. The animal probably weighed as much as he did. There would be plenty of meat to go around for almost a week, he thought, working out the quick calculation in his head. With everyone in the village accounted for, there might even be something of a special feast tonight, he thought happily. After a long winter and an even longer season of mud, rain and wind, things were looking up. And it would be a relief for all concerned.

It wasn’t just the meat; it was fat for cooking and making pemmican, it was bones and marrow for soup, the heart, kidneys. It was the liver, his personal favorite when grilled properly, no one made grilled liver-strips like his wife…this was plenty.

White Dove and Shadows-in-the-Grass dropped down on their knees and began to examine the animal as he and his little sisters went looking for long poles and cedar bark or willow twigs to use to carry the meat home.

Shadows would want to hang the thing up for a while, and then she and Dove would skin it carefully, so as not to spoil a single finger’s breadth of the hide.

* * *

“Scree! Scree! Scree!” the shrieks of the animated blue and white birds shattered the quiet gloom of the forest.

Blue Bird smiled. Their cheerful calls always made her look up. When they leaned over and tipped their heads, and then cocked them back and forth each way, it was like they were greeting you; and waiting to be greeted. They were her namesakes and she felt a kind of magic, an affinity with the curious and friendly creatures.

“Aanin – wenji – baapi’iyan, ” she called out delightedly. “Why do you laugh at me? Ganawaabamishin – look at me in the rain.”

“Scree! Scree! Scree!” called the birds, as if in sheer delight at her misfortune.

Her morning trudge into the hills had turned out to be rather more pleasure than work so far. It was the thought or anticipation that was daunting. Once she got out of the house and into the fresh air, her youthful play instinct took over and it was fun to see something new and different for a change. It had been a long winter. lately the weather had been rainy, cold and windy most of the time.

“What about these ones?” she said to her brother, striding tall and yet cautiously through the thick underbrush, with long, prickly, arching creepers tugging at her leggings.

They were looking for just exactly the right one, when simply any one would have done just fine.

“Yes, I suppose that will do,” he admitted. “I had hoped for two slightly thicker
ones…”

“What about these?” she asked, almost knowing and dreading the answer before he gave it.

“A little too thick and heavy,” he pointed out in a reasonable tone, and she tried not to show any impatience.

“So we might as well take these, then?” she asked.

“Yes, yes, don’t take all day, Blue Bird,” he said, attention elsewhere for the moment.

“Where is your sister?”

“She was right here,” muttered Blue Bird as she began whacking at the base of the sapling with her hand-axe, bending it over, and holding it down, and striking at hopefully just the right angle.

Sparrow must have gone into the bushes for a call of nature, she concluded, it was just like her little sister to disappear at the first sign of real work. Still, her only option was sheer boredom, standing around, waiting for things to happen.

Her pulse picked up, and she felt heat rising in her face as she hacked away at it, grunting with the exertion from time to time.

* * *

Weather played a role in people’s moods, or so everyone said, so when the low-hanging clouds opened up and began to drop their load of life-giving water onto the earth, Blue Bird’s outlook sank correspondingly.

What had for a moment been an outing, an adventure, had gone back to being an ordeal. Like most young women, she was strong, lithe, supple and physically fit, as were most of her people, but traipsing up and down the hills, and over slick, wet and muddy trails while balancing a hefty load was hard and frustrating work.

“Argh!” she griped as she slipped yet again, almost going right over into the bushes.

“Careful,” admonished a sodden Lone Dove, whose determined cheerfulness only made Blue Bird’s mood even grimmer.

She stopped for a moment to heft the loaded bag higher and more comfortably on its strap. One moment it was raining; the next it abated, then the next moment it opened up again.

Behind them they could hear the rest of the group, a few dozen paces behind them.

Blue Bird almost leapt out of her moccasins as Lone Dove suddenly let out a funny little shriek. Flinching in shock upon sighting the weird apparition which had appeared right in front of her, she slipped again. Beyond any hope of recovery, wildly flailing her arms as she went, Blue Bird fell hard, right onto her seat, the audible thud and with a small ‘splat’ sound emphasizing her misery.

“Ayaa…! He is a member of the undead!” she gasped, as her feet flew up higher than her head, and her body writhed desperately and reflexively, trying to break her fall and recover and at the same time trying to prevent the meat from falling in the dirt.

Lone Dove stood there flat-footed with her jaw hanging half open in breathless awe.

Her womanly bosom heaved and sank, drawing in great gobs of fresh, cool air. She blinked, staring, wondering who or what this was. Her knees knocked uncontrollably, as she shuddered in stark terror.

Flinging aside the load of fresh venison balanced on her head, Lone Dove’s hands flew up beside her face, waving around in pure physical hysteria, as she screamed and screamed and screamed.

* * *

“Wendigo! Wendigo!”

White Fox heard the shouts and incoherent high-pitched screaming from up ahead.

While he wouldn’t have hesitated for a moment; if confronted by a charging bull moose, or attacked by a mother bear defending her cubs; both situations which he had indeed contended with in the past, for a moment he was transfixed by the sudden jolt of pure naked fear shooting through his guts.

A Wendigo! Horror of horrors!

A ‘Wendigo’ was a person possessed by demons. The demon often possessed them in a dream. Once taken over, they become obsessed with eating human flesh. The best-known way to get rid of the demon was to perform the wiindogookaanzhimowin, a highly-satirical dance, wearing a hideous-hilarious mask and dancing about the drum backwards.

All these thoughts raced through his head as his guts quivered in revulsion and sheer, stark, terror.

People who understood that they were possessed, would often request that they be put to death before they could do harm to others, their own children or families.

Still, the blood-curdling screams rent the forest, as he felt momentarily powerless to act. Wendigoes were gaunt, emaciated creatures, with their pallid skin tightly-stretched over their bones, sunken eyes and an ashen complexion. Those who had consumed human flesh became Wendigoes themselves. How could one kill the undead? He stood there, absolutely quaking.

Suddenly all was silence, and that was enough to spark him into action, all fear lost in crystal clarity of mind and courage. He had no choice but to confront the thing!

With his heart shooting up around his ears, he instinctively shrugged off the pack, shifting the bow and then, re-slung his black-stained, heavily-beaded quiver.

He could hear Shadows-in-the-Grass frozen there behind him, her hoarse breathing showing stress, but like a good, well-trained hunter’s wife she remained silent.

Without looking back he made a small, low downward-pointed movement with his left hand. It was the ‘hold-here,’ signal.

“I have Sparrow close beside me,” she hissed to his relief.

His heart shot up again, and he pelted down the trail with an arrow notched to the string and all his senses straining. Bow at the ready, he knew it couldn’t be far, he’d just seen Lone Dove and Blue Bird through a gap in the trees and they were only a little ways ahead. They couldn’t have gotten much farther, he realized, as he slowed down, cautiously rounding a blind turn. He took stock of his breathing, and especially his sense of smell—they said a Wendigo would smell like death itself, a horrid, nauseating miasma, like the putrefaction of a three-days dead skunk…on a hot day in the wet season.

He heard sobbing; and two voices just up ahead of him, and his feet spurted up in a renewed trot. Whatever was happening, it was just around the corner. With his lower intestines feeling loose and suddenly hollow, he crept closer to the hubbub of voices, now aware that one was too deep and indistinct to be one of the women.

The apparition that greeted his eyes when he finally came upon them was enough to cause White Fox to draw the bow almost fully. He paused, staring, but Lone Dove and Blue Bird appeared unharmed. It was the third figure, standing a little off to one side, pale, dirty and emaciated, with grey, ashen features, haggard. As sunken, burning eyes turned to regard White Fox, he felt yet another burst of dread, deep in the pit of his stomach. He had never seen a person so…appalling in his entire life.

“White Fox!” the voice was eerily familiar; as the tall, attenuated figure of the mud-splattered, clothes-tattered form of someone who looked ravaged, as if they had returned from the dead…the voice spoke to him, wispy, thin, and as if from far, far away, yet as if they were speaking from deep in some hollow underground place.

“Howling Cat? Gigii – gigii aakoz ina? Have you been ill lately? ” he gasped in wonder and dismay. “What…what has happened…to you?”

White Fox’s voice trailed off in confusion, unable to comprehend the sight before his eyes, or what had just happened here. Slowly the hunter relaxed his bow-string and let the weapon, arrow still upon it, hang at his side.

“What’s going on? What happened to you?” demanded White Fox in confusion, and with an angry heat evident in voice and posture.

Truthfully, he’d been close to shooting first and asking questions later; and both Lone Dove and Blue Bird still seemed to be hysterical as they clung together on the ground in tears. It seemed Lone Dove was comforting Blue Bird, but was crying in reaction to something herself.

“I swear I didn’t do anything!” protested Howling Cat. “They’re just being women.”

“What happened here?” demanded White Fox of Lone Dove. “Get a grip on yourself, woman.”

“No, he didn’t do anything. He just came lurching and stumbling out of the bushes, clutching at us; and look—just look at him,” she sniffled. “Poor Blue Bird tried to run in sheer fright, and she went right down.”

"I was looking for you, White Fox! I’ve been trying to catch up to you all day,” protested Howling Cat. “Forgive me—but I fell in a mud puddle, some dratted vines grabbed my legs and I fell—well, you see what it’s like, everyone’s falling and slipping today!”

Howling Cat’s voice had a whining tone in it, one of several reasons why White Fox hadn’t been getting around to visiting his brother-in-marriage lately; nor taking him hunting either. The very words used to express it conveyed deep meaning; in that Howling Cat was rarely an equal partner when they hunted together. But lately, he had become more than an annoyance or an inconvenience, he had become surly, morose, argumentative, and extremely hard to talk to; and even worse to listen to.

White Fox had felt some guilt about not seeing his old friend and his own sister in quite some time, but this…but this. What was happening to Howling Cat?

“Gigii – aakoz ina? Have you been sick lately?” he asked in some concern, the man looked positively deathly ill.

“I feel fine, White Fox,” uttered Howling Cat, unconvincingly to White Fox’s ears.

The other fellow’s voice faded away, like the very spark of life had somehow left him.

He seemed to be a positive shambles of a man. His attention was clearly elsewhere, and he appeared to be thinking furiously.

“You have some brandy left,” stated Howling Cat.

“I gave that to you a long time ago!” protested White Fox, but Howling Cat didn’t seem to comprehend.

“Where are you going, Howling Cat?” asked White Fox, totally mystified as to his brother-in-marriage’s strange, vacant look.

He suddenly became aware that Howling Cat did indeed stink. Although it was not the smell of death, far from it. It was the smell of life, sure enough, a pungent mix of unwashed body, unsanitary habits, dried vomit, bad breath and bad teeth, rotten moccasins, rank, dirty, greasy hair; hair so stringy that it couldn’t properly be considered hair at all anymore.

His friend had crust around the corners of his lips, and in the inner corners of his eyes.

Howling Cat’s hands shook, and he couldn’t even seem to get the words out properly.

“Nim; nim; nimboochmanaag,” muttered Howling Cat, his shifty, watery-eyed, wavering glance going every which way but straight ahead. “I must take them some meat. You owe me.”

“Who? Little River and Snows-of-the-Spring?” questioned Lone Dove, eyebrows raised. “We haven’t even cut it up yet, not properly. You’ll get your share. We’re having a big feast,” she added with an odd note White Fox didn’t quite get.

Howling Cat suddenly turned and looked for a moment as if he were dry-retching, bending over and body wracked with heaving muscle spasms.

After a time he turned, his voice sounding suddenly stronger.

“No, I must take some meat to the traders,” he advised the astonished group. “We must have more brandy!”

“Omanidoo man aakozwan! His spirit is sick,” said Lone Dove with scorn.

She added with less vehemence; “Boochizhaa! – he must go his own way!”

She seemed awfully angry to White Fox, who was still seeking to comprehend his friend’s disturbing behavior, and his abhorrent appearance—and that smell.

“Gaawiin – no!” insisted Shadows-in-the-Grass. “Gaawin wii – te – atesinoon; it will
not be enough!”

Suddenly Howling Cat turned, and stumbled off into the barren brush of the black hillside, still muttering vague threats and imprecations at those who would have helped him if they could. He never even looked back; although they could hear his voice as he stomped off through the wilderness.

“Giboochgagwe – bimaaji’aanaan. We must try to save him,” gasped Blue Bird, who was barely old enough to understand that something terribly profound and also tragic was happening.

Howling Cat was a favorite uncle to Blue Bird; and Sparrow as well.

“Giboochmamaanaan. We will take him far away,” suggested Lone Dove, but her voice lacked conviction in that plan.

“Gaawin wii – pimaaji’aasii, he does not want to be saved,” said White Fox with a deep and abiding sense of dread.

He became aware that he was still holding the arrow on the bow-string. He might have killed Howling Cat, he’d been so frightened.

His friend might not be a ‘Wendigo,’ but White Fox was suddenly afraid for Howling Cat. And for whatever reason, he was also just a little bit afraid of him.

As they gathered their things and got going again, White Fox was wondering what magic or medicine would cure his friend. Or was it already too late?


Author's Note: This story appears in 'The Paranoid Cat and other tales,' available on Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and other fine electronic bookstores.

Looking at this story, warts and all, it's clear that there are some minor problems.

For one thing, semi-colons have no real place in fiction, also dialogue tags which include adverbs are verboten by modern convention. There are a couple of hundred extra words in there. It's safe to say that if I wrote this story today, it would be different in style rather than substance. As far as the content, I remain fairly pleased with the Ojibwe translations and the general feel of the story. Please support independent authors and publishers.

Here is a link to 'Paranoid Cat' on iTunes:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-paranoid-cat-other-tales/id412092084?mt=11


(Photo credit: Wiki Commons. George Carlin original artwork. "This image is in the public domain because under United States copyright law, originality of expression is necessary for copyright protection, and a mere photograph of an out-of-copyright two-dimensional work may not be protected under American copyright law. The official position of the Wikimedia Foundation is that all reproductions of public domain works should be considered to be in the public domain regardless of their country of origin (even in countries where mere labor is enough to make a reproduction eligible for protection.")

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Short story submissions.

c2011 (S)


After completing my seventh novel, now I have time to go back to making short story submissions. I haven't written a new one since about March of 2011. What I have is a folder with fifty to sixty stories of varying length and quality.

Some of the first ones I wrote were actually pretty badly written. At the time, it was the best I could do. But every thing we write gives us more experience. When we listen to other authors, or visit sites and read about the craft of writing, we learn something new.

What this does is allow us to improve upon the old dogs in the folder. It's often a little bit daunting. I crack open a file and start reading...and next thing you know I'm cutting out a few words, removing a half a paragraph, and taking out those damned semi-colons. I'm re-phrasing things for greater clarity. I'm finding the odd little problem of logical sequencing. And I subbed a few of these stories all over the place.

It's part of the learning curve, and not just about learning how to work or deal with rejection. It's learning the greatest lesson a writer will ever learn. It is to learn the art of persistence.

Lately I have been submitting exclusively to professional and semi-professional magazines. We're in a recession that just goes on and on. The market is very tight.

I'm up against the best writers in the world, maybe even the galaxy. I'm up to 633 submissions since February 2009, and right now I seem to be failing miserably.

I just e-mailed a story to a magazine in a pro market and the e-mail bounced. The thing to do is to try again. Most likely their inbox is stuffed to the rafters. Over the last couple of years, the semi-pro market especially seems to have shrunk quite a bit, although there are quite a few pro listings. For the time being, I'm not assuming that they have folded or gone on hiatus.

Other than that, I will endure.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Excerpt: 'On the Move,' from 'Core Values.'



With the coming of the cold weather, small game, birds and other creatures became harder to find. As the leaves fell off the trees, they collected underfoot, making it hard to obtain food by stealth. It was harder to hide, and the warmth of the midday sun did not last very long.

Bellies were going hungry, and it had been a long time since any of the larger prey had put in an appearance. As if in some collective decision, the giant mutant salamanders were on the move. While the nights were bitter and frosty, the daylight beckoned, and they followed the warmth of the sun as it traveled across the sky. Taking refuge in pools, and ponds, and deepnesses in the creek, they huddled together, seeking warmth in the soft oozing muck of the stream bed. They burrowed down head-first, and used torn-up water lilies and other weeds as a blanket. Rising only for air, they rode out the frigid, bitter nights.

On a moonless night, they stayed until dawn; but sometimes when the moon was full, they could not resist its lure. Confused by its brilliance, bathed in its glare, yet the land remained dark, and eyes grown used to dimness relied on smell, and sound, and the very taste of the air around them to find a warm, living, breathing body to consume.

They could not have told an impartial, objective observer why they were on the move, or how many of them there were, or if there were other groups just like this one.

All they knew, if they knew anything at all, is that they were hungry. They had to fill their bellies and get fat before the winter’s frozen hell descended upon them and turned their world into a stillness that they feared without understanding, for it was magic. They knew no other life, no other objects, but themselves. They knew of no other places, but this one.

They did not know about time, and space, and dimension, and if they had they could have cared less about such false and artificial constructs of theory: they were hungry and they were going to fill their bellies and that was the only thing that had any importance at all to them.

They did not know about the creation. They did not know about good, and evil, they did not know right from wrong. They knew pain, they knew pleasure, they knew fear, they knew safety and threat. They knew the muck, the mud and the river bottom. They knew the trees, the bushes and the plants. They knew the animals, the larger, bigger animals that they could eat now that The Change had come, and they could eat them, and the whole world was open to them, if they had courage to seize it.

Long ago, The Change had been foretold in prophecy, and it had come to pass. It only remained to be seen what the giant mutant salamanders would do with it. And they were strong. They had learned that you cannot reach the sun, no matter how warm and inviting, they knew you could not touch the moon. But there were other lights, and they seemed much closer. They were moving towards the lights. Like the sun in the sky, like the cold dead eye of the moon, the pretty-coloured lights beckoned from the far horizon, making the sky red with a ruddy glow. The surface of the water efracted and reflected this, both on top and under the surface, the dimmest orange flickering glow on the bottom of the river told them their destination was nigh…the warm illumination on the tree trunks invited their curiousity and promised good things to eat.

What more could they ask? Red eyes glowed in the middle of the meandering creek, then they submerged, to rest, to wait, to sleep.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My debut mystery novel.





c2011 (S)


I am just putting the finishing touches on what is actually my seventh novel, although I have only published five so far. It will be published December 1.

This one, 'Redemption: an Inspector Gilles Maintenon mystery,' is my first full-length novel in the detective/mystery genre. It's based on a character created in the short story, 'The Handbag's Tale.'

That's available in multiple formats from Smashwords, and it's also available in a Kindle book. Over on Amazon you can read some mixed reviews. One of the reasons for writing a longer piece with the Maintenon character was to try and address some of the critic's concerns. While a short story is always going to have its limitations, the expectations of paying readers are definitely a matter of concern.

The basic plot is simple: an aircraft crashes, only the pilot has been dead a little too long. As noted in a previous post, I struggled from about the 20,000 to the 40,000-word mark. If nothing else, I'm happy to have completed the thing.

Themes sensitively explored in the book include loss, grief, remorse, self-recrimination, as well as religious prejudice, unpredictable consequences of the simplest actions, and covering up a lie with another, bigger lie.

This is probably the densest prose I have attempted to write, and everything from 'Glenfiddich' to 'n'est pas' have been checked for validity and accuracy of spelling if nothing else.

At 65,000 words, it's very tight, yet I've managed to weave all the narrative threads together in a compelling and satisfying read.

Okay, I admit it. I'm actually kind of pleased with myself.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bigotry.

c2011 (S)


When I was growing up, it seemed Northern Ireland and the Middle East were never out of the headlines. Northern Ireland is a different place today. The Middle East still festers.

Once a week it seemed, another airliner was hijacked by terrorists, there was another bloody attack by the Red Brigade or the Baader-Meinhoff Gang, or Carlos 'The Jackal' had carried out another atrocity somewhere in the world.

In Canada, here in Southern Ontario, we probably felt pretty much immune to such dangers, although the thoughts of air travel for business or pleasure might have brought a few sweaty palms. Yet we reassured ourselves that everything would be fine and it usually was.

Going to school, we knew what prejudice was. It's in all the dictionaries.

I went to a Roman Catholic school, and right across the street was a 'public' school.

When the province extended full funding to Catholic high schools, there was a debate about whether it was appropriate for taxpayers to fund religious education. I won't go into the whole siege, capture and surrender of French Canada by the British.

There were and still are other sides to the story, some of them quite vehement, and some of them even relevant.

However, at that time, by treaty, full religious rights were extended to the 'habitants,' and French Roman Catholic schools were already in existence. Not fully funding those schools could have been construed as withholding something very valuable from a minority, that is to say if a high school education has value. Most people think it does. It is a requirement for university, where tomorrow's political and social leaders are often trained. There are economic considerations as well. It really doesn't pay to enforce a kind of low productivity among a major segment of the population. Governments are not so much about dogma today, as they are about the economy, which is another kind of religion and dogma. (More on that some other time.)

When I was a kid, students heard the national anthem played over the PA system and, once a day we had to say our prayers. It was from the Protestant rite. They had a picture of Queen Elizabeth II on the wall, the titular head of the Church of England. They probably still do, and for pretty much the same reasons. I know that because I also went to a public school for several years, where I was perfectly welcome to attend. They didn't try to keep me out--they wanted me in there.

You can take bigotry out of a system of government, but it takes some very sensible and hard-working people to make it all work. This is not to say that there was never any bigotry in this country, because there was. On the plus side, we have dealt with it fairly well, and continue to do so.

Thank you for your efforts. And, keep up the good work.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I like my coffee unambiguous.

Am I real? Are you real? Is any of this real?

Are we making progress?

(Are we having fun yet? –ed.)

I will cut the silver cord,

And go see.

***

“Every cultural phenomenon can be studied as communication,” this according to Umberto Eco.

A medievalist, philosopher, critic and novelist, Eco wrote ‘The Name of the Rose.’

On the Food Channel, I saw another one of those ‘bison burgers.’ This is a cheeseburger made from 16 oz. of ground sirloin, about eight slices of American process cheese, three sliced onions fried in butter, and a quarter pound of bacon, topped with generous scoops of mustard, relish, ketchup, mayonnaise, handfuls of lettuce, and thick slabs of tomato.

Why would anyone want to watch such a thing on TV? I see it as a kind of food porn.

It is a kind of ‘hyper-reality.’ It is a kind of behaviour, one closely tied in to our biological evolution and the modern social environment. It is ‘the search for stimulus,’ exactly as outlined by Desmond Morris, author of ‘The Human Zoo.’

No one needs to eat a hamburger that big. So why do it? It is a statement, and it has symbolic meaning. It’s a form of communication, which helps to lubricate group dynamics.

We no longer have to go thirteen days without food, while our little band of hunters tracks a wounded mastodon across the frozen tundra. We no longer get to hack into the hot and still quivering flesh with a stone knife, ramming a chunk of dripping red meat into our jaws, and slaking our thirst with its blood. We no longer saw out a hunk and give it to a friend.

That bison burger is highly symbolic.

The bison burger represents many things. It represents the kill of the successful hunter. It represents excess, (or plenty, if you will,) and reward. It represents comradeship. It represents survival, and so it is a kind of comfort food. It represents socialization, for if consumed alone at home it is merely gluttony. These burgers are often consumed in social settings. It represents status, in that the biggest burger represents the biggest kill. The biggest hunk of meat is taken ahead of other members of the group. If you were a part of this group, sitting at the table in the bison burger restaurant, and if you ordered scrambled eggs and toast, much commentary would arise, wouldn’t it? The bison burger represents dominance. The fact that no one would seriously cook such a thing at home reinforces this. The bison burger comes with a submissive form of service, as a socially lower-status being carries it to your table. Someone else cooked it.

It's best to go with friends, and it is helpful if they can’t finish theirs. That makes you the winner. It is a contest, a game, where points are scored.

If you can actually eat the thing, then your social status is reinforced. The guy with the smallest meal gets picked on or commiserated with.

“Dentures acting up again, Stan?”

It is the avian ‘pecking order,’ where socially dominant members of the group administer more pecks to others than they receive. This is one reason why, when we feel threatened, we are biologically inclined to lash out.

We are administering ‘pecks,’ in hopes of increasing our status and therefore our feelings of security within the group. Or maybe a kind of threat display. Or maybe in my own case, a cultural rant of the op/ed nature. But then, in my own little world, I am the greatest living artist of his age…you have to like that, ladies and gentlemen.

***

I live in a world where nothing is ever wrong,

For nothing can go wrong

In Hyper-world, we can have our cake and eat it too

We can all have our own opinions

And we are always right, all of the time.

So is everyone else.

It’s like ‘Westworld,’ starring Yul Brynner.

In ‘Westworld,’ nothing can go wrong…go wrong…go wrong…

***

Wikipedia lists a few examples of hyperrealism. These include sports figures, digitally enhanced or computer generated effects in films, exaggerated sex toys, or gold pens encrusted with diamonds. Other examples of the hyper-real include impossibly white teeth, impossibly talented fourteen year-old singers, and other cultural artifacts.

It’s like those TV commercials where a pickup truck splashes through a river. It’s something a tiny minority of drivers will ever do. Therefore, it is a kind of ‘hyper-reality.’ In the mind of the viewer, the premise seems perfectly reasonable as criteria for judging the value of a purchase! But the vehicle itself is also a kind of hyper-reality, where a mid-size pickup truck is exactly the same size and weight as a full-size truck used to be, and in fact at nine feet tall is considerably higher.

What a sense of pride and accomplishment ensues, when we realize that it won’t actually fit through the seven-foot tall garage door opening. A phallic symbol. I wonder how many men have driven through the garage door ‘because it was asking for it.’

There are no four-cylinder pickup trucks anymore—they were a phenomenon of the 1970s and 1980s. The new trucks have leather seats, club cabs with seating for six, and 21-speaker surround sound. Such features are hardly work-related. They are stimulus related and status related. You could make a case for them being comfort related, although leather seats are often slippery and cold, and loud music can be uncomfortable to most passengers. But it’s our truck isn’t it? Few of the options are particularly work-related or have anything to do with carrying a heavy load, which is what the vehicle was ostensibly built for.

The truth about those vehicles is that they were meant to evade passenger vehicle regulations back in the 1980’s when market share really began to climb. If they made the tailgate much higher, they would essentially be useless as a truck.

In terms of simplicity, cost, functionality and durability, the vehicle is inferior in every way to a 1960 Ford pickup truck, (a red one with ‘three on the tree,’ and a six-banger under the hood.) It is inferior in almost every way except hyper-reality in terms of luxury and status.

The vehicle is a symbol, and completely illusory in terms of its usefulness and cost. These are the fastest selling vehicles on the market today.

***

Have I gone somewhere?

Hyper-reality extends most obviously to the internet.

Am I really ‘on facebook,’ talking to my ‘friends?’

Or am I ‘actually’ staring at a computer screen at pixels arranged into patterns in
some artificial collective blog, with no verification process? We are who we say we are…right? What you say happened must have happened because you say it did and I did not dispute it…and so it becomes ‘fact?’ It’s on the legal record for about nine months, and then reality is deleted, and then it may be archived by the Library of Congress?

You say your face is chosen from a copyright-free stock photo website somewhere?

That’s cool. It’s all the same to me.

Is my ‘behaviour’ to write things, and to publish books, or am I merely trying to project my persona and impose my superior intellect and will, my ‘indomitable human spirit,’ through an electronic distribution channel to those who have elected to receive, view and interpret it? Is it a book, or is it a string of code imprinted on a small electric current?

Do our minds really touch and understand each other? When we get an emotional response from facebook, is that a real person doing that? What about me, the one who feels it?

The emotional response has physical characteristics. These can be measured. It is ‘real.’ It is the stimulus that is ‘unreal,’ a virtual reality. If someone speaks to me when I am ‘working,’ I am upset or impatient with them. I prefer my new hyper-reality, and want to get back to it as quickly as possible. My new work place involves sitting in a chair pursuing mythical mastodons through a virtual landscape, for reasons which are implausible at best. It is a game, one played by many people.

Literally forgetting to feed our real bodies in the real world at times, we have become Verner Vinge’s ‘zip-heads.’

Objectively speaking, why should I care if a bunch of pixels are rearranged unfavourably, in my subjective and very personal interpretation?

We live within a context of hyper-reality. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

“The myth of progress states that civilization has moved, is moving, and will move in a desirable direction. Progress is inevitable...philosophers, men of science and politicians have accepted the idea of the inevitability of progress," according to David Montague Eder, an English physician.

Writing in 1932, he argued that the advancement of civilization is leading to ‘greater unhappiness and loss of control in the environment.’

(Buddy, I have total control of my environment. I blog on an iPad while seated on the toilet eating an apple a day. So go away. Physician, heal thyself!)

Others have written about progress as a myth. His pessimistic view of the future saw progress for the few and pending environmental doomsday for everyone.

Logically speaking, many people would tend to agree with this, and even ‘know’ it to be true.

How many of us actually act as if it were true? Our behaviour has become slave to the hyper-real, as opposed to the actual situation as it exists on the ground.
Wiki lists a few examples of hyper-reality in our modern world. The research goes back many decades, and I’ve thrown in a few more. (If you don’t agree, sign up and edit the file!)

A well manicured garden, nature as hyper-real.

Any massively promoted versions of historical or present ‘facts.’ The recent events in Egypt spring to mind here.

Certain places did not evolve as functional places with some basis in reality.

They were created out of nothing. These include Disneyland and Dubai, Las Vegas, and resource towns in the arctic. (When the oil is gone the town is gone, there being no other reason for its existence.)

TV and film in general, because our creation of a world of fantasy depends upon the viewer engaging with these fantasy worlds.

A life which cannot be, i.e., the well publicized and well-managed, perfect life of a celebrity.

A high-end sex doll, used as a substitute for an unattainable partner. Paraphiliac behaviours in all forms.

A newly made building or item designed to look old, or to recreate or reproduce an older artifact, by simulating the feel of age or aging. ‘Mock Tudor,’ and ‘Cape Cod’ homes.

The Playboy Mansion.

Constructed languages such as E-Prime or ‘reconstructed’ extinct dialects.

A weak virtual reality, one which is greater than any possible simulation of physical reality. This would obviously include things very much like facebook.

Normally this writer is not much of a gamer, either role-playing or otherwise. I refer to the sort of games where people immerse themselves in a world where the rules are all different.

(Not like facebook and Twitter, you mean. –ed.)

The goggles which allow radio control aircraft to be guided as if the pilot were seated in the model are common, everyday examples of ‘hyper-reality.’ They meet all the criteria.

When I was wearing ‘Fat Shark’ virtual reality goggles and a friend was flying a model airplane with the camera mounted upon it, when he rolled the aircraft, I reached wildly for something to grab onto—anything would have done. When he landed the plane, I braced my feet and leaned back in anticipation. A reality that is artificial and purely visual can give a person vertigo and affect their sense of balance.

When ‘Jaws’ came out, the scene when the head is thrust out of the sunken boat—everybody who ever saw that movie in a theatre probably screamed when that happened.

At some higher level of logic, of course I ‘knew’ it wasn’t real, but the brain and the biology of evolution can be fooled with appropriate stimuli.

***

I like the hyper-real world we live in. Now I can sit in the discomfort of my own little bungalow and exploit the wilderness of a virtual cosmos and the innermost recesses of a simulacrum of the human spirit.

If I don’t like what I’m seeing, it’s time to change the templates, tighten up the filters, or plug into a new hyper-reality.

Our awareness is expanded into the realm which we have always sought, the world where rules do not apply anymore, a world of the supernatural in everything but truth.

Truth, the most uncomfortable manifestation or aspect of all ‘reality,’ has been expunged. It is the perfection of that most unattainable goal, ‘good censorship.’ I am what I want to be, for the first time in history.

I am both real and unreal, the first-known or best-documented adventurer of the electronic age.

It’s almost if I was Christopher Columbus, sailing across an unknown sea, or perhaps some ethereal spirit, flying alone and disembodied through the galaxy.

***

What amazing powers we now have.

What an amazing discovery for one such as I to make.

You can fool most of the people most of the time.

If I could fool all of the people, however briefly…

What a marvelous window of opportunity would arise.

***

Every up side has its down side. If you have ever wondered why politicians have such a disconnect between fantasy and reality, or how they are so divorced from our everyday concerns, which include super-mortgages on our monster homes, ‘killer’ insurance on our mega-automobiles, and our ‘neo-plastic’ value systems in general, it is because they are perfectly rational human beings trying to govern hyper-reality.

Human society has evolved into a pseudo-society. It is a virtual community. It has its good days and its bad days. It will have its winter of discontent and its summer of love. It will have its baroque and romantic elements, for surely this is the highest expression of human achievement, at least insofar as I know.

And even more so in this cowardly new world of the future, will the unwritten rules of society be enforced by group pressure. For without some kind of pressure, there is no real community at all.

We can all hunker down in our snug little concrete cocoons, deep underground, spreading peace and love electronically about the globe, lighting up the screens of other readers, and every once in a while, we can click on an icon and lob a very realistic and noisy but ultimately futile kid’s game-type simulated missile at the noisy little girl next door.

Because in a world without any truth at all, nothing really matters very much, does it?

We all get what we want and nobody gets hurt.

***

Hyper-realism as a lifestyle.

Mind-stuff floating in the aether.

A connection is made and broken again.

...the place is just crawling with bots and avatars and entities. It is another realm.


How do I like my coffee?

'Unambiguous.'

Thanks for listening. You’re beautiful people.

***

(End)

{Thank God. -ed.}

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Tough Decision.



Take notes, they help you to remember.


c2011 (S)


I am presently in the process of editing my seventh novel, entitled, 'Redemption: An Inspector Maintenon Mystery.'

For whatever reason, I still can't bring myself to submit the thing anywhere or look for an agent. In fact, I've got the thing formatted as an e-book, although I still don't have an ISBN, end matter or a marketing image. And yet the decision would appear to be made!

That's not too serious as I still have novel #4 and novel #6 on hold, in the can and in reserve. They're both science fiction. What relevance that has, I don't know. I'm just saying.

This may seem completely mad, but I haven't even read through the book. It has been divided up into twenty-six chapters, which is better than eighty-seven. While I struggled with the middle of the book, the end seems so glib that I want to take some time in the editing and make sure it is exactly right.

That being said, this one will most likely be out by Christmas. If I have to photograph a basket of eggs, a pair of gloves, a dagger and a single long-stem red rose and call it a marketing image, that's fine with me as it kind of hearkens back to an earlier day of paperbacks and bookstores and imprints long since vanished.

In the absence of any strong leadership or even the faintest clue of what to do next, we'll just have to live with it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

To Submit or Not To Submit? That is But the Question.

I'm in the process up winding up the plot on my seventh novel, which is in the detective/mystery genre.

It's not surprising that we are running up against the old quandary, the question of whether or not to submit it to a publisher.

Major publishers often require an agent, and I don't have an agent. One publisher in particular, specifically mentions in their submision guidelines, 'no self-published authors need apply,' and that seems pretty clear to me. I'm not going to adopt a pen-name and submit anyway, because that would be dishonest.

If I did submit the book to a major publisher, bear in mind this is a first draft at this point, and of course they are looking for 'completed projects.' The trouble here is that I might not hear back from them for eight months to a year, and of course I would be fiddling with my book during that time. How could I possibly claim that it is 'complete?' I can't, can I? It's a first draft, and subbing now just to save time could so easily backfire.

Also, while many authors make simultaneous submissions all over the place in hopes of getting at least one hit fairly quickly, I tend to figure out who I would like to publish my book and then submit it to them. Then I just sit and wait. (Or fiddle with the book.)

Let's assume that in six months I get a response, and then they want to see the whole manuscript. That's fine, but it will be at least a year before my new book hits the bookstore shelves, and another six months before I see any revenue from the sales of my book.

I would hate like hell to have to wait anything up to two and a half years for a rejection slip, although others have waited longer. Assuming the first six publishers reject you, you could go three to five years without any joy, and that's clearly a waste of time. Also, after fifteen years on disability here in Ontario, I live one step from homelessness at all times. Where in the heck would you sent a rejection slip, or more optimistically, how would you contact me if you were interested?

The problem is we aren't getting any younger. While I have 'the rest of my life ahead of me,' there is no way to tell just exactly how long that is going to be, which is always an important consideration.

As yet, there is no decision, but if anyone wants me to submit my book, you had better be talking a hefty advance, or I just don't want to mess with you. Life is too short for that sort of nonsense.

It's too much aggravation, and to go and get ripped off or lose my rights in some bankruptcy kerfuffle just isn't going to happen.

Note: 'Redemption: an Inspector Gilles Maintenon mystery' is now available from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Diesel Books, Sony, Baker-Taylor, Createspace, Indigo/Chapters, and other fine online bookstores.

Here it is on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006G583XE

Here it is at Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/redemption-louis-bertrand-shalako/1108022269

The book has been getting some good reviews, and some other, reasonably good reviews.

A brief note: I have been offered four contracts by vanity publishers. Once I realized who they were, I jsut walked away.

I have no regrets about that. It was the right thing to do, and a sound business decision. I can't advise other writers what to do. Everyone has different goals and expectations for their work.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Winding In The Strings.



Photo by Louis.

c2011 (S)


Finally, my new mystery novel is in the home stretch. At 58,000 words with a chapter or two to go, that is a bit of a relief after struggling in the 20,000 to 40,000-word range.

Now all I have to do is wind up the remaining strings, get Inspector Maintenon home to Paris again, and that will be about it. As I go through the novel a few times, I'll flesh out characters and fill in descriptions. In a first draft, I am notorious for not describing the rooms people are in, or the clothes they are wearing. This book will probably go closer to 70,000 words.

Hopefully, there aren't too many characters running around naked as a jaybird in this book, but there may be one or two.

Poor old Inspector Gilles Maintenon! He lost his wife a year and a half ago, and it's like he just can't get a break.

With the plot now complete, I have little choice but to start at the beginning and read this manuscript.

The weather has been nice lately, and with winter coming, I am reluctant to spend fourteen hours a day at the computer, but that will change by the end of the month, when it's going to be really cold, wet, windy, and bleak. In the meantime, this book is an excuse to get out on 'the moors,' or as close a substitute as can be found in southern Ontario.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Writing: 'Had Been' versus 'Was.'

c2011 (S)


Susan awoke to the call of the birds outside her window. Swinging her feet to the floor, she went to the window. Throwing the curtains aside, she drew in a big breath of fresh morning air.

The day before, she had been at the Farmer's Market, where she had been looking for tomatoes. She had been squeezing the tomatoes. She had been idly looking around, for the concourse of people had been fascinating. She had been struck by John, by how tall and handsome he had been, and she had been thinking about him ever since...

***

Okay, the above is what we might call 'standard operating procedure' for a book published by a major company, in English, in the western marketplace.

In that sense, many would say that's how it should be done. (Or how it should have been done.)

Yet it irks me in some ways. In a modern motorcar, there are no nuts, bolts and fasteners visible on the exterior of a car. The only exceptions are on the bottom of the car, and maybe some wheel nuts, or on the wiper blade attachments.

So let's look at an 'experimental' way of writing the same thing.

***

Susan awoke to the call of the birds outside her window. Swinging her legs to the side, she went to the window. Throwing the curtains aside, she drew in a big breath of fresh morning air.

The day before, she had been at the Farmer's Market, looking for tomatoes. She was squeezing the tomatoes and idly looking around, for the concourse of people was always fascinating. She was struck by John, by how tall and handsome he was, and she had thought about him ever since...

Clearly, 'had been' is a useful tool, it sets the action on a previous day. Yet the repetitive use of it is kind of like letting nuts and bolts stick out of the side of a modern car. It is simply unnecessary, and represents a kind of 'author intrusion.' It borders on carelessness. I say that because it bugs me when I see it.

As an award-winning author said recently, 'the story has to shine through the writing.' And if the writing gets in the way, for whatever reason, then clearly the author has failed.

In my opinion, the average reader, (although maybe not a professional editor with a big publisher and thirty years of experience, and habit-forming experience at that,) will be able to follow the story and follow the meanings and nuances, assuming the writer has any craft at all.

To write for editors is to write for a very small audience, and they don't have to pay for books anyway. They see more than enough of them as it is.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Experimental Writing Technique.

c2011 (S)


What's unique about the book I am working on is that it has gotten up to 46,000 words and I have no chapters or chapter titles.

There are scene breaks. My preference is for three asterisks, where many use three number signs. But this is a new thing for me. I'm sure someone has tried it before and I don't claim to have invented it. Normally I would jot down a quick title, and then write on that subject or scene until I ran out of steam, then jot another chapter title, and write on that until I ran out...and so on and so forth.

It gives me a start, if nothing else. Another thing missing from the book is the 'gag,' which I have mentioned before. That would be some twist, some different way of looking at things. For example, a publisher had in their guidelines, 'no talking animals, please,' and so of course I had to go and do it--and shape-shifters are a nice allegorical tool. You can use them ever so many ways.

Another thing that is different about this project is that I haven't actually read it.

That sounds very odd, I'm sure. But when starting out a story, it's pretty easy to get up in the morning the next day and read the first five, ten, or twenty pages. For me, when the thing gets up to about forty pages, (double spaced, even,) I tend not to read the whole thing before starting afresh. It's just too much to read, and I don't want to forget or lose any of the ideas I had in mind. So generally, I would read the last five pages, or maybe the chapter, or the last two scenes I wrote the day before.

Now that 'Maintenon Gets a Vacation' is up to 46,000 words, I can crack it open at any point and recognize what's there, and remember why I put it there. But the whole thing is not a sort of coherent, linear whole that usually happens when we begin to visualize a tale from beginning to end in all of its complexity. While I hate like hell to print anything out these days, I really should bite the bullet and read the thing from beginning to end. The other day I sat at a park for two hours, just looking at a pond. It wouldn't be too hard to bring a file-folder with ten or twenty pages along.

With other projects, some of which took years to bring to fruition, I did read them. I read them fifty, a hundred times, maybe more by the time they were edited and published.

The other thing is to try and visualize the plot better, especially insofar as the ending is concerned. There is no deadline here. But, if I'm going to publish it myself, then I'd like to have it out in time for Christmas. If I'm going to submit to a major publisher, then the sooner it's done the better, because those guys have a long turnaround time on submissions and rejection slips.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Progress Report: Seventh Novel.

c2011 (S)


My current project is a detective fiction novel set in 1927, where Inspector Gilles Maintenon is on a walking tour of Dartmoor and stumbles on a mystery.

So far I am up to 41,000 words. At about 32,000 words, I kind of stalled out; but the thing is going better now and I have stuff written today, and ideas for tomorrow's writing, which is important and reassuring.

Detective fiction follows a certain formula, because the readers have certain expectations. In a suspense novel, you often know who the bad guys are--the attraction of the tale is the challenges set to the protagonist, and how it is laid out. But in a mystery, the resolution has to be believable, and the readers of the mystery genre expect that if they look back on the book, they will see that all the clues were in fact provided to them. It's a question of seeing the significance. Sometimes you read something, and a little light goes off in your head, and you know a character or fact will be significant later in the story--you just don't know how or why yet.

When I wrote my first novel, a WW I parody, it was in reaction to the way history, especially WW I history, is presented to Canadian audiences or readers by Canadian writers, producers and networks.

In some ways, almost every book or story I have ever written was written to present a thesis, or a premise, or as a reaction, often a gut-level reaction, to something that I either didn't like, or thought was overdone, or too often presented over-simplistically, or in the case of Canadian WW I history, just plain mealy-mouthed Imperialistic bullshit.

My third book was a parody of a space opera, and the basic premise was to put some believable science into the book, although most academics will dispute the possibility of faster-than-light space travel.

The work I am doing now sets out with no thesis, no great social theories, no premise, other than the fact that I think I can actually write a good detective story with a certain tone, a certain feel and some really professional writing.

The thing has to hang together, and it has to make sense, and the characters have to act, sound and feel like people would in a certain situaiton, in southwestern England, in 1927.

So far I have been working on it for about four months, yet my first novel took two and half years to complete a first draft. The next three books took maybe three months to smash out a manuscript, rough as they were at first glance.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Excerpt. 'Redemption: an Inspector Gilles Maintenon mystery.'



SF-67 pic by Louis.

c2011 (S)


This is an excerpt from my WIP, provisionally entitled, 'Maintenon Gets a Vacation.' Anything in it is subject to change, review and revision.


There was a constant stream of crickets, the chittering of what might have been other crickets, another species perhaps; or maybe some kind of miniature frogs or toads. On the breeze was the occasional cry of a bird, a thin, high piping sound. Yet he could not put a name to the most familiar bird-sounds. Avery marveled at the soft brush of the wind about his upper face. In the city, it was always an annoyance, the ill winds of the City bringing nothing good with it.

But out here it was different. It cleansed a man’s soul, a soul grown sadder if not any the wiser with all the years of police work. Dawson hadn’t been out of the City in years, and yet once he accepted the fact of living rough for a few days, he was quite enjoying the novelty of the experience.

He was more aware of himself, as an animal, an organism, and that somehow his body fit in here better than his mind did. The wind again drummed at his temples. The sound fit perfectly in with this time and place, irrational, random and in harmony with his empty thoughts.

The low, wet, grey cumulus cast a pall of gloomy indifference upon the land as he sat on a public bench, incongruous on some level of human logic, as this was literally the middle of nowhere…there were signs of use, though. A cigar butt, a wrapper from a packet of crisps, if he looked around some he might find a used condom. At the exact psychological and physical distance, he might find where a pint bottle had been tossed by those less open to their inner selves. He sat high on a hill, alone with his thoughts and loving it in some way. Dawson had found peace, and felt no guilt at not sharing it with another.

The vast open vista could be deceiving. Civilization, and with it barbarity, lay
just over the nearest hilltop, most likely. He didn’t have to strain his ears as the reality of lorries, a distant train...very distant. Thare was he sound of men working cheerfully somewhere nearby but out of sight. And the crickets. The crickets had been going strong since spring, and they wouldn’t let up for a moment except for the frozen hell of a long winter on the high moors. After the chill of the evening before, it felt quite warm to Dawson. He had no real sense of hurry. He wasn’t suffering, not in the way that Maintenon had let on about. Admittedly, he was a little younger than Gilles, and wasn’t injured or anything like that. He considered that thought. The isolation was a bit sobering in the sense of objective thinking—what if there was an emergency? He would be very much on his own, just as anyone would be out here.

People had fallen, the occasional person drowned, and someone went missing around here a few years back. It really was a kind of wilderness, compared to ahome, and the fact that you could see nothing for long distances meant nothing in terms of safety. Dawson had never been with the Boy Scouts or anything, but had sufficient confidence in his abilities not to be too worried. In truth, simply being alone for the first time in years, even decades, was hard enough on the psyche. It freed up an awful lot of time for introspection.

It wasn’t always comfortable, he reckoned, but his own self-discovery hadn’t been too bad. Others might have a different experience. There was some personal revelation here, which he really hadn’t expected.

He was a mile, maybe, or it could be five miles from anyone, anyone at all. No one cared, least of all him. The hills didn’t give the impression of much height. That was only until you tried to walk up one and discovered it was real work, and then sat upon one, and discovered that it gave quite a long view around the countryside.

Upon the crags, trudging along the paths of the moorlands, that curious combination of barren prairies and lush glens, each with a seeming life, a logic all its own, had done Avery Dawson a world of good so far. It was a powerful place, a peaceful place, a place with no purpose and perfect enough for all of that. The encroaching noisiness, and busy-ness was all too clear and all too imminent. The air at least was wet, and warm, and clean. The smell of cedars would remain with him a long time. He felt that instinctively. To stand among a small copse of trees, with the sighing of the wind overhead, was to experience the most profound solitude. The smell of cedar would provoke and prolong the memory of these few days and nights of perfect freedom. The notion that there was work to be done, and a killer afoot, was a kind of icing on the cake. He was getting paid to do this.

Dawson finished his pipe and rose with a sense of anticipation. Dark was coming, and he hoped to get to the Manor either tonight or tomorrow at dawn. He didn’t have much to put on his resume, he thought with a grim smile, setting off into the valley once more. Giving his whiskers a rub, he understood that he smelled perfectly in character, and didn't give a damn who knew it.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Pros and Cons. Submitting Short Stories

c2011 (S)


Back in November 2010, a gentleman sent me an e-mail in which he accepted one of my stories, and told me, 'You will be warned when it is published.' This is a foriegn market, and it is not unheard of for language-based misunderstandings to arise. English is not his first language. Did he mean to reject the story?

That story has never appeared. I queried him about a year ago, and there was no response. I have no idea if that story will ever appear, and at some point I guess I might be justified in submitting it off somewhere else.

I have two or three stories like that, where I have an e-mail on file saying the thing is accepted, and it has never appeared. The trouble with my absolutely killer story, 'The Game,' is that I have an e-mail saying the story is accepted. It will appear on a website that publishes it in Spanish and English. If I try to sell that story in English, and all of a sudden it comes out on the other guy's website, any editor that buys it is going to have a problem with that, unless all rights revert immediately upon publication.

When you get to a certain length of story, a lot of magazines won't publish it. It's too long, and sort of inevitably, the thing gets submitted where it fits, and not necessarily where it would get the biggest payment per word.

This year I have made about fifty-four short story submissions so far, and I might have stuck five or six stories, only one of which actually paid anything. Even so, each publication brings new readers, and I do sell a few e-books along the way.

The key thing is to keep the new and old material flowing, although lately the enthusiam seems to have dried up a bit. The fact that I am again in transition between addresses might have something to do with it.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Economics 101: Inflation

c2011 (S)


Inflation is a simple economic tool which will be used to wipe out corporate and public debt, destroy the wages and savings of the middle class, and make life intolerable for the poor.

Presently there is an 'official' inflation rate here in Canada, last quoted at about 3.7 % in news media. This rate leaves out 'volatile' items such as food and fuel. The actual rate is much higher. After the rent is paid, what do poor people buy, other than food and fuel?

Since 2006, I have repeatedly asked the Ontario provincial government to raise disability rates by five ercent per annum for five years. According to the government, I do not exist, therefore there is no problem. I say that because they have never responded to any of my questions, concerns, or letters and communications.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has promised to double electricity rates in ten years, and effectively to double police wages in fifteen. Mr. McGuinty has come close, very close, to doubling spending over the course of his mandates, from about 60 billion to over 110 billion dollars per year. He wishes to campaign 'on his record,' but his record on issues related to poverty, disability, and other social issues is dismal.

Recently in Sarnia there was a forum on the government's review of social assistance in the province. This effectively takes it out of the election, as all a candidate has to say is, 'That's under review, and we're going to take positive steps to alleviate the situation.' End of story, right? Presumably, this means after you win the election, right?

As for forums, it is a case of 'divide and conquer.' I say that because all the little patronage appointees, all the little highly-ineffective social service agencies, go out to such forums and their view is quite a narrow one. For them, it is just another opportunity to push their own agendas, and quite frankly to solicit more funding for their pet projects, which is after all their full-time white-collar, bourgeois employment.

We end up with a lot of promises from Mr. McGuinty and his kind, giggling all the way to the bank. We end up with more 'community outreach mental health programs,' and more 'drop in centres,' and more 're-entry into the workplace' programs, and 'supports for assisted living nursing home visitation programs,' and the list is fucking endless.

For that reason, I must respectufully resubmit my demand for a five percent increase per annum for five years for the disabled, the mentally ill, the permanently unemployable, and working poor families in this community and communities all across the formerly great province of Ontario.

There is really only one way to deal with a bully, and this kind of economic fascism is a kind of bullying: you beat the living crap out of them and make them respect you. I of course mean that figuratively and symbolically as opposed to any real physical violence. For that reason, I will be conducting a highly-effective shadow campaign during the course of this election, on behalf of the disabled and other under-represented groups in the province. When you consider the numbers, the disabled should be electing ten members to the provincial legislature, and yet we do not have one fucking half-decent rep in Queen's Park, with perhaps the exception of my good friend and colleage of some years. I refer to Mr. Michael Prue, of the New Democratic Party. Michael has worked long and hard for his constituents, as well as the less fortunate across the province, and I thank him for that.

With a tame media, which in Great Britain sees no connection between the Brixton riots and the trillion-pound austerity program, a government can essentially do anything that it wants.

The fuck stops here, Dalton.

I say that because this and preceding governments have ripped off and defrauded the disabled alone, by an estimated $42.5 billion dollars over the course of the last fifteen years.

You reap what you sow, Mr. McGuinty--and you, 'Mr. Promise-Maker,' have been sowing nothing but a mighty big case of the vapours. That's the word from Ontario's half a million disabled people.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Good for What Ails You.



Howard Watson Trail, Sarnia.

c2011 (S)


After decades of research, only one substance has been proven to improve brain function. The substance is oxygen. The best way to suck up some extra oxygen is to get outside and ride a bike, or whatever. I never run, so that rules that out. You could walk or something.

That was not my highest priority when I set out cycling today. Summer is winding down. I want to strengthen up my lower back and knees, which will help me cope with the middle-age aches and pains that winter brings on. A few years ago, my knees were giving out on stairs and things like that. Cycling has helped, although it really isn't a cure. I always laugh when I see guys ride with their knees sticking way out to the sides. (Raise the seat.)

After biking about five kilometres, I was ready to go home. This leaves some energy to go cycling tomorrow. I was sitting in my reclining-rocker armchair, trying to figure out what to make for dinner, and all of a sudden a bunch of ideas floated to the surface of my mind. Some might say that's the only mind I've got, but to heck with them anyway. They can write their own blog posts about my brain.

It was surprising how effective my subconscious mind was at finding dumb little things that I had filed away years ago. Stupid little things, like a book I read on Morgan sportscars, which some readers may know had an ash frame and hand-built bodies. There's a motor-cycle with a sidecar in the story--and Morgan started off with three-wheelers based on motorcycle components.

My novel, provisionally titled, 'Maintenon Takes a Vacation,' is set in England in 1927. I came up with a few other things as well, and while I jotted down some minimal notes, I'm still not sure how it all relates. If I had reams of material, some of this would be almost unwelcome. But with only 31,000 words down, the project was stalled to some degree.

What I have is enough to go on. A friend was saying that he had 'visualized' his book over many years, and somewhere along the line, I might have mentioned 'game theory' in terms of writing a story. Simply put, one choice, whether it's a character, a situation, or a plot point, eliminates some other possibilities further down the road.

Now at least I have something that fits in with what I already have down, and I'm going to take some imaginary paper cutouts and 'game' this thing out in my head. It gives me more options. Also, I had kind of forgotten my technique of 'character rotation,' and there is food for thought there too. I've got a few pages of notes from the last three months, and I'll mine through that. Some of those squiggles must mean something.

Once I have a basic sequence of events, (and figure out who is the killer,) then I will be on the way to finishing the book. Incidentally, I already have the last line written...it's a good line, but also a bit of a groaner.

To make a long story short, oxygen is good for what ails you.



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New Release: 'The Shape-Shifters'

c2011 (S)


We are pleased to announce the release of our new paranormal comedy romance, 'The Shape-Shifters.'

In this book I deliberately downplayed the supernatural elements to the extent that talking animals and changing from one form of being to another is as natural as breathing to some of the characters.

As usual, there is a very real and very human story at the heart of this 76,000-word full length novel.

I wrote this in the winter of 2008, and have since worked it over numerous times to bring it up to professional standards. The only variation would be the Canadian or international spelling of words like 'metre,' and of course 'labour, neighbour, rigour,' etc.

Those of you who have your own works will appreciate the feeling of achievement that comes from a successful launch, and we know you will be supportive and wish us all the best from this new book.

Review copies are of course available upon request, in all formats. Drop us a line on Facebook or Twitter and let us know your name, e-mail, and preferred format.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Formatting My Novel.

c2011 (S)


After editing my fifth novel, 'Shape-Shifters,' the next step is to prepare the thing for formatting. (Because this file has been around since 2008, and it has been through a few crashes and software upgrades, this involves the 'nuclear option' for cleaning the source file of all glitches and bugs.)

This entails grabbing my bio from the short story folder, and copying and pasting in the front matter from another book. Then I simply change the title and ISBN number. I went to Collections Canada's website, where I have a publisher's account. I get my ISBN's for free. That being said, Smashwords and other publishing platforms also provide ISBN's, often at no charge. Smashwords just bought another 50,000 ISBN's according to a recent blog post by founder Mark Coker.

What I do then is to save the document as a .txt file. Then I hit the ctrl and A keys, and save the whole thing again with my mouse...paste that into a new document, (a .doc file.) Since the default on my program is a .docx, and Smashwords requires a .doc, I don't really need the .docx. 'Save as' a .doc file. Paste the .txt novel into it. Take the .docx and stick it into the recycle bin. It's there in an emergency, otherwise it's a hazard on the desktop. Right now, I have a .doc file with the file name, 'Master ShapeshiftersAug1111.doc.' I don't want to put time and labour into the wrong file, and in the past I've had problems with version control--you want to upload the most recent, updated version of a file, each and every time.

Use 'find and replace' to remove all space-bar indents. Click find, hit the space bar five times, click replace, and enter nothing. Click 'replace all,' and this should remove all of them. Turn on pilcrows to look for little dots made by the spacebar.

Otherwise it just makes you look dumb.

The title of the book is right at the top, and it is 14-pt. All chapter titles are 12-pt. The subheadings are 12-pt. There are three spaces between chapters, and no more, 12-pt Times New Roman, and 12-pt lines. Paragraphs are defined with a .25 indent, first line only, and spacing is single, at 1.0. There are links fore and aft. My bio is very short.

I use three asterisks as scene breaks. There is one 12-pt line before and after, and the break is centred, as is the front matter, with no indents. Chapter headings, the bio, have no indents. On my last upload, the only problem was that my marketing image was too small. This time I made sure the image is 600 x 900 and I have full confidence of nailing the Premium Catalogue with the simple click of a mouse.

As soon as it's published, download Kindle and Epub versions, and check them out using Kindle for PC and Mobipocket reader for the Epub. Check every bleeping page. Trust me on that one. It's worth doing.

Once you are sure the file is clean, simply save it as a .html and upload it to Amazon. By clicking on all distribution channels, (Smashwords,) and with your ISBN number, you're good to go. The global e-book market awaits you.

Notes: I'm holding back on my fourth novel, and probably my sixth novel, both science fiction, until a later date. I have over 30,000 words on my seventh novel, detective fiction, and I need to get back to writing and submitting short stories, which is obviously part of a credible overall marketing strategy.

My Amazon account is separate from Smashwords. Goodreads, Lulu, Google Books all have their own source file requirements, so read and check all that stuff carefully. When uploading to Google Books, the file name is your ISBN number with no spaces and no hyphens. It's not as complicated as it sounds. One thing at a time and a little focus is all it takes.

Anyway, the last thing I do is turn off spell check and grammar check, and turn off the pilcrows. All I would add is, 'and proof-read the book as many times as you can stand!'