Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Snippet from Saronna's Gift

From Chapter One: Duncan Trushenko and his father own and operate a large intergalactic grading company, headquartered on a tax-free but very backward planet called Kruegger's World.


Duncan smiled to himself but was careful not to let his amusement show. His father had been curious about his breakup with Emily Pulaski since it happened, but Duncan had no intention of satisfying that curiosity, especially as his father had been right in his assessment of Emily’s intentions. “If you disliked her so much,” he said instead, “why did you hire her?”

“I didn’t dislike her,” Vladimir said. “When it came to navigating the seas of interstellar trade regulations, she had excellent skills. I’m happy you seem to have learned a lot of them from her. I just didn’t want you to marry her.”

“You can’t have it both ways, Dad. Either you want me to get married or you don’t.”

“Don’t be silly,” Vladimir said irritably. “Marrying the wrong person is worse than not getting married at all.”

Duncan didn’t know what to say. His parents had lived apart ever since he was a baby; the few occasions they had been together for any length of time had resulted in epic quarrels. Another awkward silence ensued.

“I’m sorry, Duncan,” his father said. “I wasn’t trying to cast any aspersions on your mother.”

Duncan put his glass down. “I know, Dad. Why all this eagerness to fix me up with someone? I thought that was Mom’s job.”

“Well,” Vladimir said, sounding oddly hesitant, “Your mother and I both want you to find someone—get married, have a family of your own. If nothing else, I’d like to think that someday there’ll be someone for you to pass Cameron Trushenko on to. It’ll all be yours someday. I won’t live forever, you know.”

Duncan grinned openly. “You’re not giving me the ‘I’m getting old’ speech, are you? You look pretty hale for that. Naomi must be taking good care of you.”

“She is, she is.” Vladimir’s face lit with affection. “I can’t tell you what a change it makes in your outlook to have someone who cares about you in that way. It’s meant a world of difference to me to have her with me.”

Almost the only good thing about his parents’ intense dislike for each other was it took away any guilt he might have felt for being pleased when one of them found consolation elsewhere. “Good. I’m glad you’re happy.”

“The thing is,” Vladimir went on, “poor Naomi had no one to keep her company. I mean, she looks after the house for me, but really, she had no close friends, nothing to occupy her leisure time. And sometimes I get tied up for days on end.”

Duncan frowned. What was the old man leading up to? “I know you’re busy. Cameron Trushenko is a major concern. Why don’t you just hire more help?”

“Well,” Vladimir said, a nervous edge creeping into his voice, “the thing is, Naomi wanted more than just to have me free up some time. She needed a friend—a woman friend.”

Duncan sat up straighter. “What’s going on, Dad? Are you trying to tell me something?”

Vladimir glanced at the window to the courtyard. He seemed almost reluctant to meet Duncan’s eyes. “Well, yes, I am, son.”

“Son?” Duncan moved to the edge of his chair in alarm. “Son? You never call me ‘son’ unless something’s wrong. The last time you called me ‘son,’ we had just lost three million credits.”

Vladimir looked almost relieved at the accusation. “Oh, it’s nothing like that. It’s just that, as I said, Naomi needed someone, and the people on this world are so stuffy. There are off-worlders, and there are natives and the two just don’t mix. There was no one Naomi was comfortable making friends with, no one who didn’t look down her nose at her. And native women almost never leave their homes. They don’t need friends, because they all have hordes of relations. And then I found out you were coming home, and I knew you’d broken up with Emily a while ago. It seemed like a perfect solution to both problems.”

“What did?” Duncan said, more mystified than ever.

“Well,” Vladimir said, still apparently finding it difficult to come to the point, “the thing is, son—Duncan, I sort of—well, I bought a woman for you.”

Duncan’s mouth dropped open. He must have heard his father wrong. “You did what?”

“I bought a woman for you.”

No, he had heard right. But the idea was incredible. “You bought a woman for me? You bought a sentient being?”

“Now, Duncan—”

The more he thought about it, the angrier it made him. “You thought I’d want some down-trodden, complacent, hapless little female to make use of in my free time? You thought I’d take advantage of a woman like that?”

“Well,” Vladimir said, “no, not really. Actually, I just needed someone to keep Naomi company, but there’s no way I could get someone on those terms. And besides,” he added as an afterthought, “she’s not little.”

“What?” Duncan jumped to his feet. The old man had gone crazy. There was no other explanation. “I don’t give a damn how tall she is! You just send her back where she came from, Dad. I won’t have any part of this.”

“But, Duncan,” Vladimir said, his voice filled with righteous indignation, “when I brought Naomi home, you didn’t act like this. You were proud of me for stepping in.”

Duncan brushed aside this argument with a wave of his hand. “That was different. Her husband had put her up as his stake in a poker game. You kept her from ending up with some gun-running scum.”

“Saronna’s father was desperate to sell her.” The indignation in his father’s voice gave way to a virtuous note. “She’s twenty-two in Standard years, and she’s never been married. A year ago her mother died, and her father stopped looking for a husband for her and tried to sell her. None of the hill men were interested, so he came into the city. You know very well where she could have ended up if I hadn’t made him an offer.”

Duncan cringed. Just when he thought Krueger’s World couldn’t get any worse, he found out he was wrong. “Her own father?”

Vladimir nodded.

“All right,” Duncan said, “if he needed the money so badly, let him keep it. Just send her home with no strings attached.”

His father shook his head. “I can’t do that. If I did, they’d assume she’d been unsatisfactory in some way. If they let her live, it would be as a nameless drudge without any rights.”

“God!” Duncan clutched his hair. “Why the hell did you have to move to this miserable, primitive hunk of rock? What kind of place is this, where men sell their daughters to strangers?”

“It’s Krueger’s World.” Vladimir almost snapped the words out, as if he were losing patience. “And you know as well as I do why I moved Cameron Trushenko here. Krueger’s World is an ideal location for interstellar trading, and when you add in the tax break from operating outside of ThreeCon, we’re in much better shape than we were five years ago. Even your mother approved the move. The combination of New Hong Kong’s taxes and ThreeCon taxes was crippling us.”

Duncan turned away, unwilling to concede the argument. “We’re doing really well now. My two percent of the corporate profits certainly reflects that. Can’t we move back into the civilized universe?”

“Not yet,” Vladimir said firmly. “I don’t know how long it’ll be, either.”

Duncan shot him a skeptical look. “Are you sure taxes and location are the only reason, Dad? It wouldn’t have anything to do with Naomi, would it?”

Again Vladimir wouldn’t meet his gaze. “I won’t deny that the thought that Naomi might not want to leave this planet worries me. However, it’s a moot point for now. We can’t afford to move, and that’s the truth.”

Duncan sighed. “All right, so Cameron Trushenko stays here for a while longer. Is that any reason to go around buying people?”

“Maybe it is,” Vladimir said. “So long as we’re here, we might as well try to make things better for at least one person when we get the chance. If I hadn’t bought Saronna, her father might be walking the streets right now, looking for someone to buy her. As it is, she’s safe and comfortable. I presume you don’t plan to rape her?”

Repulsed, Duncan put a good deal of heat in his voice. “If that’s supposed to be a joke, it’s not very funny.”

“I wasn’t joking at all. I brought her here, and I feel responsible for her.”

“Then why didn’t you just buy her for yourself?” Duncan demanded. “Why did you have to bring me into it at all?”

For the first time, guilt suffused Vladimir’s expression. “Well, I thought about that, but Naomi got very jealous when I mentioned it. She was much happier when I agreed we could find someone for you.”

Duncan snorted with disgust, but Vladimir continued.

“Anyway, fortunately, I could tell Naomi that this woman stirred no twinges of passion in me. She’s not homely or anything, but she’s not in Naomi’s league.”

Somehow his father’s reasoning made Duncan even angrier. “And what the hell am I supposed to do with her?”

“You don’t have to do anything,” Vladimir said, his voice as soothing as it had been sixteen years before, when Duncan had broken his arm and cried all the way to the doctor’s. “But it would be nice if you made friends with her. I’m sure she’s a little scared. She may have been brought up to think this was all perfectly natural, but still it can’t be easy to leave your home so suddenly and move somewhere where you don’t know anyone.”

Duncan groaned and resumed his chair. “Good god, Dad. When did you buy her?”

“This afternoon.”

Less than a day. Just his luck to arrive right as the old man suddenly went crazy. “Damn! Do you mean if I’d gotten here last week, I could have talked you out of this nonsense?”

“No, no. I waited until you were coming home, that’s all. Like I said, Naomi was jealous until I told her Saronna was for you.”

Duncan groaned again and covered his eyes. It just got worse and worse. “Will you listen to yourself, Dad? You sound as if you were talking about a house pet. You’ve been here too long, and that’s all there is to it.”

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Self-Publishing 101: W is for Workflow

The thing about self-publishing is, it's up to the author to establish a viable workflow, either by paying competent people, doing the work himself, or some combination of the two. To be clear, by workflow, I don't mean writing the book, I mean turning a manuscript into a printed book and/or or an ebook. I won't talk about audiobooks because I haven't created any.

I worked in publishing for almost 30 years, and those years saw a lot of change. As I was working for a publisher of legal and regulatory information rather than fiction, it was a very different workflow from producing novels. Over that span of time, my company's focus changed from print to digital because our customers were better served by information that could be delivered faster, updated more easily. and accessed from multiple places, as opposed to having to open a book or a binder on a shelf. 

Espresso Book Machine

In fiction publishing, that transition hasn't happened as thoroughly. Print is still very viable, but there is also a digital market—both ebook and audio. But the biggest change in fiction publishing has been the advent of self-publishing. Print-on-demand technology allows booksellers to print a book only when it has been ordered. The availability of ereaders (such as the Kindle), tablets, and even cell phones have created a market for ebooks, which are delivered via the web. Because of these two developments, self publishing has taken off. And now, individual authors are learning things abut producing books that traditional publishers have known for a long time . 

Workflow is a huge part of publishing. If your book is published by a major publisher, your part of its workflow will consist mostly of  turning in your manuscript, and reviewing and approving edits and the cover.  There may be a lot of back and forth between you and the editor and publisher but that won't involve you creating the print or digital pages. With self-publishing, unless you hire someone to do workflow for you, you are on your own. The one part of workflow I always hire out is doing the cover, because in additon to artistic talent, it takes a lot of specialized skills I don't have. Page layout and ebook production are, for me, much easier tasks than creating a good-looking, marketable cover. 

The thing to remember about publishing a book is, it's never going to be perfect the first time! You need to be able to make edits, right up to and even  after publication. And since you are publishing in multiple formats, you need to consider how those edits will be made. If you format the print edition yourself, you need to be able to create headers and possibly footers and paginate the main part of the book separately from the front and back matter. After some frustrating efforts to do page layout for my books with MS Word, I have been switched to Adobe InDesign for formatting my paperbacks (and two hardbacks!) partly because it can also output an epub file as well as PDF.  InDesign is not easy to learn and you can no longer buy a copy outright, but it is available on a subscription basis per month.  I find it useful because in addition to formatting books, it can create web page banners and similar files. It cannot edit individual images in the way that Adobe Photoshop does, but it lets you place one or more images on a page (print or digital) and add text and color. Also, once you know how, formatting a book in InDesign is very fast.

Again, I cannot emphasize enough that whatever workflow you use must allow for making edits. If you hand off your m.s. to someone who will do the page layout and/or convert your m.s. to ebook format, then you need to be sure either you can edit the files they send to you, or that they have a way to do it for you (either may well be an extra expense, so get that straight up front!). 

The publisher I worked for created an in-house system that had the authors and editors working in files that were stored in SGML (standard generalized markup language), which uses tags to identify what something is, not what you want it to look like. The tag names were things like "story", "headline""annotated,case" and "subhead. SGML also imposes rules to be sure the document you are creating has a specified structure. Then, when the document was printed or sent to the web or put onto a CD it could be reliably transformed into whatever format was required. This was called single-source publishing, and it it is very efficient, but it is harder to do on your own. The problem is that the epub file that you output from the print files might not come out exactly as you want it; you might in fact, need to edit the epub version. 

A good discussion and outline of how to create ebooks, including software recommendations,  is included in this post from Jane Friednman's blog

Good luck!

Addendum:  this post on using Kindle Create, a free app from Amazon, has a lot of good information.  Amazon says Kindle Create can also format a paperback version, but I can't speak to how good a job it does at that, as I have never used it for a print book.

Friday, July 2, 2021

The North Edge of Nowhere is free for a few days!

 The North Edge of Nowhere, the first half of the Nameless World duology, is free in the Kindle store until July 6.  Here's what an Amazon reviewer had to say about the story:

"The world building is great, the non-Terran animals are wonderful, and the nameless world is fascinating. Buxton's sleeper worlds aren't all grim places; the Northern Domain seems the best of all. Although Darius is young and angry, Nowhere isn't just a book for young adults. I highly recommend it as another excellent ThreeCon book."

The reviewer points out that although these book are not marked as part of the ThreeCon series, the story is set in the ThreeCon universe. 

Get Book 1 while it's free!