Friday, October 30, 2015

Oncewhere Walked the Whale: Published!

Yay! This afternoon I hit the “publish” button on my book on Amazon Kindle.

It takes twelve hours to get approved by the good folks over there. Then it will be available for perusal and purchase.

I will post a link to it tomorrow.

Personally, I’m feeling a bit weird. Normally, based on the past experience of finishing a novel, short stories, or exceptionally pleasing blog post, I would feel a potent combination of pride, satisfaction, and relief. Basking in the glow of a job well done. I’m not feeling that right now.

Could be nerves from the Bigger Picture: Will the book sell? Will it bomb? Did I do something wrong? Embarrassingly, humiliatingly wrong? Yeah, it’s all part of a big learning experience. As far as my main overriding goal, to create an entertaining work of art I’d love for you to check out, that I’m confident I’ve accomplished.

The ideas for the novel came to me in the early 2000s. I used characters left over from notes from my first novel, written in 1999. I began Oncewhere Walked the Whale the first New Years Day after my first daughter was born, January of 2005. Took me seven months to complete the first draft. Copied it to a CD-ROM, and it sat in my desk drawer in the basement for five years.

During my first major bout with health issues and unemployment, I spent a couple of weeks editing it for the first time. Let my step-father and my mother-in-law read it, and both came back with the observation that the ending meandered and kind of lost its way. Too rambling at 15,000 words, I pared it down to a third of that, tightening it up and wrapping up all the loose ends in a satisfying way that still gives me goose bumps.

My other father-in-law knew a lady who knew a literary agent and she looked the novel over. Said it was good, but said I needed a track record to get it published. Needed to get some short stories published. I had written something like fifteen short stories, and sent out what I thought the better ones were to various magazines. All came back rejected, so dejected, I stopped that plan.

Fast forward another five years, to May of 2015. Had an encounter that inspired me to self-publish my works. I have three finished novels, and figured I could combine my four best longest short stories into one package. That’s what I’m working on now.

So to get Oncewhere self-published I spent something like 230 hours over the past five months reading, researching, editing, re-writing, formatting, buying this and that, signing up for this and that, uploading, editing and formatting yet again.

I’m pleased with the final product.

Next up – have to get the Author Website online and running, and get Oncewhere available in Nook and iBook form. Then figure out how to get a soft-cover version working, and how to promote the darn thing.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Oncewhere Walked the Whale: Synopsis

In the Description section on Amazon, regarding my first self-published science fiction novel, Oncewhere Walked the Whale (and presumably on the back cover once I get it published in paperback form):

Thousands of years in the future, a far-away branch of the galaxy toils under the iron-fist rule of a cabal of beings known as the Fivelike. The Telekthiesis consists of ninety billion inhabitants scattered over a dozen planets. A woman named JiSard, part of an outlaw band of revolutionaries, is on the run after successfully crippling Fivelike’s computerized nerve system fortified upon an artificial asteroid.

Will, a mechanically enhanced enforcer for the Fivelike, is tasked with bringing JiSard and her group to justice. Exercising his trademark single-mindedness, he tracks down fugitive after fugitive. Only one target, a “sorcerer,” has ever eluded Will, opening up a hole in spacetime and simply vanishing. 

On Cortary, the grain world that feeds the Telekthiesis, a malformed creature spoken in whispers as the “Whale” is born to human parents. Cortary groans beneath the unyielding yoke of the Fivelike to maintain harvest quotas, and as Whale grows, hunted because his apparent deformities are of no utilitarian use, he discovers healing powers and a new teaching to free the Cortarians from their unending burden.

As these threads unfold, a mysterious alien force possessing the ability to materialize anywhere at any time and the power to cause entire planets and armadas to disappear threatens the Telekthiesis. Are these beings the “Iath,” legendary fables of omnipotent evil creatures from long ago, now come to existence?

JiSard, relentlessly pursued by Will, encounters an inexplicable force that leaves her the overwhelming desire to amend her life. Will and his team soon captures her, though not before she causes Will to doubt his very purpose. And before Will can fulfill the termination orders, a desperate new command is given by the Fivelike: stop the advancing Iath at any cost. 

To do so, Will and JiSard, in uneasy alliance, race to track down a mad monk named Pfenner who may have the key to overcoming this invincible threat. However, while confronting this insane man, their world collapses into nothingness as the Iath make their move. Will, JiSard, and a new companion, the Whale, find themselves face-to-face with these beings, helpless and powerless before them, struggling to save themselves and the galaxy.

Oncewhere Walked the Whale: Title

Oncewhere Walked the Whale is the title of my first self-published book.

This has caused some controversy round here.

I wrote the first draft of the novel in 2005, when Little One was just a baby. Took me seven months. The working title, which eventually became the unofficial official title in my mind’s eye, was The Whale of Cortary.

Now, the Whale in this story is not the massive ocean-dwelling mammals that the word “whale” conjures up in your mind. It’s the English translation or transliteration of the name Whale’s mother gives him from the original Cortarian. Oh, Cortary is another planet.

Whale is a malformed semi-human being who develops mystical powers as the novel progresses.

The whole point in this is that the title Whale of Cortary is somewhat misleading. If you saw it in a list of twenty book titles, you’d think it was about a boy and his pet whale living somewhere down in the South Pacific.

I decided a few months ago that this would not do.

But I could not think of a unique title.

One day down in Hilton Head during the annual vacation to the in-laws, I sequestered myself in their town library with laptop and brainstormed almost thirty titles. Some stupid, some bland, some neat but not quite descriptive of the novel. Then, scanning the manuscript for weird words, I came upon


It’s a word a peripheral character thinks about two-thirds through the book. The character is one of my stranger ones and thus one of my favorites: prissy, poetic, and very, very powerful. I like the word “oncewhere,” a word linking time and place, kind of an abbreviated mishmash of “once upon a time in a land far, far away.”

Plus it has an alliteration I dig. I like alliteration and consonance, and it sort of naturally occurs when I write. I take a lot of it out during re-writes, but, for better or worse, I leave a lot of it in.

And this character, sipping fine spirits on a balcony overlooking a maroon desert, muses the phrase: Oncewhere walked the whale …

An odd feeling came over me. It felt good, natural, different in a right way. But it also felt very risky to settle on it as the title. It took a couple of weeks for me to convince myself to use it.

So that’s the origin of my book’s title.

People seem to either love it or hate it. I’ve received feedback from both ends of the spectrum.

I’ve also been convinced over the past few months that there is no such thing as bad publicity. A title that’s hated can be just as valuable as one that’s loved. All that really is important is that it is remembered. Going back to that list of twenty book titles, what would stick more in your mind: The Whale of Cortary or Oncewhere Walked the Whale? If you skimmed that list, would your finger not linger a little more on the latter choice, intrigued, perhaps, by that “oncewhere” and that alliteration?

That ultimately decided it for me.

But I am not married to it. Should the book not sell at all, or should I get overwhelming negative feedback about it, or should I get respected professional advice, I’ll change it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Cut Loose

I’m not suggesting you begin doing handstands on clifftops or risking life and limb. But I am suggesting that you must cut loose, in your mind, from your previous life. Getting rich comes from an attitude of mind. It isn’t going to happen if things drift on pretty much the way there are right now.”

   - Felix Dennis, How to Get Rich, page 257.

Something I just recently read that perfectly encapsulates the word of advice given to me nearly six months ago when I began this crazy self-publishing quest. For May, June, and July I steadfastly maintained this new mindset, and made tremendous progress. August and September entailed a little more backsliding to the Old Hopper that I felt comfortable with. But now I’m back on track, and New Hopper is in the final stages of uploading his completed novel onto Amazon.

Details to follow in the next few days.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Creepy Bat

A poem for Halloween from my youngest ...

Creepy Bat

Creepy Bat

You watch me

You stalk me at night

Creepy Bat

Creepy Bat

At night …

– Patch, age 7

Thursday, October 15, 2015


Well, yesterday I crossed the Rubicon, so to speak. I bought ISBNs.

What’s an ISBN?

If you want to publish a book, you need an ISBN for it.

It stands for International Standard Book Number. It’s like a book’s social security number – a standardized number that identifies a work on any database anywhere in the world. For thirty or forty years, it was a ten-digit number, but with the proliferation of works and formats, it has been expanded to thirteen digits. Every different format – paperback, hardcover, audio book, every eBook format – requires a unique ISBN. You can see them usually on the back cover above the bar code, or on the first left page near the copyright information.

Unfortunately, ISBNs are not got for free.

As of yesterday, the going rate for one ISBN was $125. Ouch!

Fortunately, the company that issues them, Bowker, let’s you purchase blocks of ISBNs at a discounted rate. Ten ISBNs will cost you $295, or $29.50 a number. That’s a sharp discount! And a block of a hundred goes for $575, or $5.75 a number! So, they obviously want you to buy in bulk.

That can be a problem for the self-publisher.

So I bought a block of ten. At this stage I’m looking to publish my book in Kindle, Nook, iBook, and paperback formats. That’ll require four ISBNs. I have two other books in the wings awaiting final editing. When I get to the last one, I’ll have to buy another block of ten.

But, man, I get real uneasy upfronting money. Probably one of the major reasons I’ve put off researching paperback publishing, as I don’t want to spend a couple grand to have a couple hundred physical books sitting in my garage.

Thus the whole “rubicon” thing. Like Caesar crossing the Italian border river, marching on the Senate with his army, there is a feeling of no turning back. Gotta push forward, and make that $295 count. Not to mention the couple-hundred bucks I’ve invested in this thing.

It’s scary, but it’s also exhilarating.

Next up: Kindle and the Author Website ... 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Apple Pickin'

Ah, that time of year when the Recovering Hoppers go a pickin’.

An hour’s drive north brings us across the border to flowing fields packed and stacked with apple orchards. Every fall now for the past five or six years we’ve gone up for a couple of hours visiting a farm at random for outdoor fun and relaxation.

This year we brought my father-in-law with us. Spent about ninety minutes strolling up and down the groves, picking the best of what appeared to be a bountiful harvest due to the heavy recent rains. Wound up with 54 apples (I, the bag-keeper, kept track) of several varieties: Mutsu, Fuji, Jana Golden, Red Delicious, and Empire, of all shapes (billiard-ball size up to softball size).

Afterwards, my father-in-law and I parked ourselves down in the beer garden for a couple of dark ales while the wife took the little ones into the main barn to get apple donuts. A live band was jamming, and the farm was bustling with hundreds of people. There was a bungee-trampoline jumping thingie for the youngsters, so we laid in the shade on the sloping hill while the girls waited their turns. And boy did they impress: Little One, age 11, did a couple of backflips twenty or twenty-five feet in the air. Patch, age 7, did a backflip every other bounce, even doing three in a row!

We’ve all been eating one or two apples a day, and will continue to do so most likely until Halloween. The wife promised to make an apple cobbler this weekend. And let me tell you, nothing tastes as good as when you bite into an apple that you yourself picked off the tree.

Always a fun time …

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Book Cover

This will be the cover for my first self-published book:

Hopefully I can get everything done and get the entire book out to you by the end of October.

Details to follow in the days upcoming …

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Chesterton’s ode to the last Christian crusade, the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, which kept Europe Christian. 

Slightly long, but worth a close reading …

White founts falling in the courts of the sun,
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard,
It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips,
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross,
The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,
Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall,
The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
That once went singing southward when all the world was young,
In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.
Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far,
Don John of Austria is going to the war,
Stiff flags straining in the night-blasts cold
In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold,
Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums,
Then the tuckets, then the trumpets, then the cannon, and he comes.
Don John laughing in the brave beard curled,
Spurning of his stirrups like the thrones of all the world,
Holding his head up for a flag of all the free.
Love-light of Spain—hurrah!
Death-light of Africa!
Don John of Austria
Is riding to the sea.

Mahound is in his paradise above the evening star,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
He moves a mighty turban on the timeless houri’s knees,
His turban that is woven of the sunset and the seas.
He shakes the peacock gardens as he rises from his ease,
And he strides among the tree-tops and is taller than the trees,
And his voice through all the garden is a thunder sent to bring
Black Azrael and Ariel and Ammon on the wing.
Giants and the Genii,
Multiplex of wing and eye,
Whose strong obedience broke the sky
When Solomon was king.

They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn,
From temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn;
They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea
Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be;
On them the sea-valves cluster and the grey sea-forests curl,
Splashed with a splendid sickness, the sickness of the pearl;
They swell in sapphire smoke out of the blue cracks of the ground,—
They gather and they wonder and give worship to Mahound.
And he saith, “Break up the mountains where the hermit-folk can hide,
And sift the red and silver sands lest bone of saint abide,
And chase the Giaours flying night and day, not giving rest,
For that which was our trouble comes again out of the west.
We have set the seal of Solomon on all things under sun,
Of knowledge and of sorrow and endurance of things done,
But a noise is in the mountains, in the mountains, and I know
The voice that shook our palaces—four hundred years ago:
It is he that saith not ‘Kismet’; it is he that knows not Fate ;
It is Richard, it is Raymond, it is Godfrey in the gate!
It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth,
Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth.”
For he heard drums groaning and he heard guns jar,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
Sudden and still—hurrah!
Bolt from Iberia!
Don John of Austria
Is gone by Alcalar.

St. Michael’s on his mountain in the sea-roads of the north
(Don John of Austria is girt and going forth.)
Where the grey seas glitter and the sharp tides shift
And the sea folk labour and the red sails lift.
He shakes his lance of iron and he claps his wings of stone;
The noise is gone through Normandy; the noise is gone alone;
The North is full of tangled things and texts and aching eyes
And dead is all the innocence of anger and surprise,
And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room,
And Christian dreadeth Christ that hath a newer face of doom,
And Christian hateth Mary that God kissed in Galilee,
But Don John of Austria is riding to the sea.
Don John calling through the blast and the eclipse
Crying with the trumpet, with the trumpet of his lips,
Trumpet that sayeth ha!
      Domino gloria!
Don John of Austria
Is shouting to the ships.

King Philip’s in his closet with the Fleece about his neck
(Don John of Austria is armed upon the deck.)
The walls are hung with velvet that, is black and soft as sin,
And little dwarfs creep out of it and little dwarfs creep in.
He holds a crystal phial that has colours like the moon,
He touches, and it tingles, and he trembles very soon,
And his face is as a fungus of a leprous white and grey
Like plants in the high houses that are shuttered from the day,
And death is in the phial, and the end of noble work,
But Don John of Austria has fired upon the Turk.
Don John’s hunting, and his hounds have bayed—
Booms away past Italy the rumour of his raid
Gun upon gun, ha! ha!
Gun upon gun, hurrah!
Don John of Austria
Has loosed the cannonade.

The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
(Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
The hidden room in man’s house where God sits all the year,
The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.
He sees as in a mirror on the monstrous twilight sea
The crescent of his cruel ships whose name is mystery;
They fling great shadows foe-wards, making Cross and Castle dark,
They veil the plumèd lions on the galleys of St. Mark;
And above the ships are palaces of brown, black-bearded chiefs,
And below the ships are prisons, where with multitudinous griefs,
Christian captives sick and sunless, all a labouring race repines
Like a race in sunken cities, like a nation in the mines.
They are lost like slaves that sweat, and in the skies of morning hung
The stair-ways of the tallest gods when tyranny was young.
They are countless, voiceless, hopeless as those fallen or fleeing on
Before the high Kings’ horses in the granite of Babylon.
And many a one grows witless in his quiet room in hell
Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell,
And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign—
(But Don John of Austria has burst the battle-line!)
Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop,
Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate’s sloop,
Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea
White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.
Vivat Hispania!
Domino Gloria!
Don John of Austria
Has set his people free!

Cervantes on his galley sets the sword back in the sheath
(Don John of Austria rides homeward with a wreath.)
And he sees across a weary land a straggling road in Spain,
Up which a lean and foolish knight forever rides in vain,
And he smiles, but not as Sultans smile, and settles back the blade....
(But Don John of Austria rides home from the Crusade.)