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;

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.


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

“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:

(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.