Books By C. LItka

Books By C. LItka

Monday, October 26, 2020

The Secret of the Tzaritsa Moon

 

His quick thinking saved the spaceship Tzaritsa Moon from a catastrophic explosion, making some very unpleasant people very unhappy.

The Secret of the Tzaritsa Moon marks the long awaited return to the Nine Star Nebula of the Bright Black Sea. This story takes place in the Alantzia star system, the most remote of the eight star systems. The Alantzia system is rather infamous for its many little worlds, moons, and rocks that are reputed to be more like the “lawless” drift worlds than the staid worlds of the Unity.

To fully appreciate the exotic romance of the Alantzian experience, old spaceers convinced Rafe d’Mere that he needed to ship out on one of the small planet traders that called on the eccentric little worlds of the system. So he did, signing aboard the Tzaritsa Moon, under the name Rye Rylr, as her second engineer.

Fortunately for Rafe, his swift response on discovering a dangerous hot spot on the no. 7 plasma injector tube saved the ship. And his life. Unfortunately for Rafe, one of the pirate princes of the Alantzia had made arrangements for the Tzaritsa Moon not to reach Fairwaine orbit. And when she did, thanks to Rafe, the pirate prince was far from happy. The best Rye could hope for was to have his memory of the voyage erased. Erasing Rafe would, however, work just as well.

So Rafe needed to get clear of the Tzaritsa Moon and get very lost on Fairwaine until things cooled down. Fortunately, and again, unfortunately, while doing so, he crossed orbits with a thief; a girl with a pretty face. She may, or may not, have been a covert agent of the Patrol. She was rather evasive about that. But she was very clear about her desire to discover why the pirate prince wanted the Tzaritsa Moon destroyed. And Rafe found that he couldn’t resist helping her to do so. She had a pretty face.

The Secret of the Tzaritsa Moon is a cozy SF mystery adventure. It features the new characters of Rafe d’Mere, ex-Patrol contraband suppression and repair tech, now a spaceer engineer. And Vaun Di Ai, who probably is a Patrol Lieutenant JG, Intelligence Analyst 2, who had, somehow, escaped her desk job to be an acting covert agent. The story is set mostly on the moon of Fairwaine, in an old fashioned, nonconforming society, that uses toasters to make toast.

Coming Soon!

The Secret of the Tzaritsa Moon is 64,000 word novel that will be available as a free ebook in the Smashwords, Apple, Google, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo ebook stores. And for $.99 on Amazon. It will also be available as a trade paperback for $9.00 on Amazon and wherever fine books are sold.




Tuesday, October 20, 2020

My Library -- Joseph Lincoln

 

Joseph C Lincoln


Joseph Lincoln (1870 -1944) was an American novelist, short story writer, and poet. Much of his work is set in a fictionalized version of Cape Cod, north of Boston Massachusetts, USA from the 1870’s to the 1920’s or so. He was a popular writer in his time, with his work appearing magazines like the Saturday Evening Post and The Delineator.




I own 21 of his books, and I believe I’ve read a few more as ebooks. Wikipedia lists 45 books. However, my collection does not include many of this books from the 1930’s and 40’s. The Wikipedia article, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_C._Lincoln suggests that his stories can be seen as “a pre-modern haven occupied by individuals of old Yankee stock which was offered to readers as an antidote to an America that was undergoing rapid modernization, urbanization, immigration, and industrialization.” I can say that there is certainly an air of nostalgia for a simple life in these stories of “old Cape Cod,”  a hundred years later. And I can attest to the fact that his stories were filled with “characters.




My first Joe Lincoln book was Partners in the Tide, written in 1905. I picked it up in the book building of the giant rummage sale that a local charity, Bethesda Lutheran Home, ran every year, that filled up the local county fair grounds with junk and treasures. I picked up many a'treasure at the Bethesda Fair. Sadly it has now gone the way of “old Cape Cod.”  But in the day, I'd get up early and be waiting for its opening, along with hundreds of other treasure hunters among the fairground buildings full of rummage. Anyway, back to the subject at hand, which I believe was my first Joe Lincoln book. I picked it up solely on its title, since I was collecting nautical books. It was something of a nautical book, in that it told the story of an orphan growing up on Cape Cod, his adventures at sea, and then returning to Cape Cod to become a member of the “Wrecking Syndicate” which is to say, a partner in a company that salvaged ships that ran aground or sunk off the shoals of Cape Cod for insurance companies and such. While not quite what I was expecting, I found it to be a very interesting story, nevertheless. I'm someone who reads speculative fiction as adventure stories set in exotic places. However, the truth is that you don’t have to go very far away or into the past, to find settings just as exotic, if not more so, than a SF one. And I found “old Cape Cod” of fiction, from the 1870’s to the 1920 to satisfy my taste in the strange and exotic.



Most Joe Lincoln books feature orphans, retired ship captains, hardworking widows, shiftless never-do-wells, your odd con man, rich folk down from Boston, and all sorts of other, interesting “individuals” many with strange biblical names. I often say that I like “small stories,” stories about people and everyday life in some other place. I’m not into stories that plumb the depths of human nature. Rather I enjoy light, pleasant stories, and Joe Lincoln delivers; “spinning yarns that made readers feel good about themselves and their neighbors.”


I was fortunate to find a second-hand bookstore that had a good collection of them, and collected any others I found at the Bethesda Fair. So I have a fair collection of his best work -- his early work, in my opinion.


While I’m sure that most of his books are now out of print, save in Gutenberg Project (free) ebook editions and sellers who use those texts, it is surprising to see that two relatively recent little movies were made from his books, the 2009 The Golden Boys from Cap’n Eri: A Story of the Coast and 2010 The Lightkeepers form The Woman-Haters: A Yarn of Eastboro Twin Lights. Danial Adams must be a Joe Lincoln fan.


It is no secret that the stories I write pay homage to the stories I’ve read and have enjoyed in my life. I’ve long wanted to write a story that pays homage to the stories of Joe Lincoln, and his “old Cape Cod.” I had started one, several years ago, but it never quite went anywhere. However, I’ve resurrected it, in a way, in my forthcoming The Secret of the Tzaritsa Moon, and hopefully its sequel that I’m trying to pin down now. While they are not clones of those books, the setting of the stories will reflect those stories, and my family vacations on Wisconsin’s version of Cape Cod, Door County. One of the locales of the story will be a seashore city that caters to seasonal visitors, the summer people. But more on that story soon. For now, it’s hat’s off to Joseph Crosby Lincoln for creating a place far away and long ago that will always be remembered fondly. A place that I can always return to by simply picking a book off my shelves.










Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Cover Art Saga

 

With a new book coming out, hopefully, by early December 2020, I needed to create a cover for it. Now, I’ve whined in past posts about what a challenge covers are for me, so I'll just say that sometimes they’re fun, but these days they’re just work. However, I’m cheap, and not all that fussy, so I’m my own cover artist. And I just have to lump it. The upside is that I own everything about my creation, from soup to nuts.

For this new story I faced a real problem. All the characteristic scenes that I could draw upon for inspiration take place at "night", and mostly in an old forest, giving this old landscape painter very few options. Plus, given the story’s narrow focus, I’d probably need to include people in the painting as well. Which I’m terrible at.

The lead photo, above, includes my first effort on the 8” of white space leftover on the left of the sheet of paper I used to paint my new cover for Beneath the Lanterns. Which shows you just how enthusiastic I felt about the project. I could imagine a lot of scenes to paint, but I haven't the talent to paint them, so I had to go with something I could do.

The scene I chose takes place in a cliff lined hollow, in darkness. However, at some point there is light flooding from a large cave, that I could use to banish the blackness. As you can see, it pretty much sucked. For my second attempt of the same scene, I tried a different painting technique, a watercolor approach. Below is this second effort. It sucked as well.


I took quick photo of this version in the bad lighting on my drawing table just to see if it was fixable in Gimp using my usual cheats. It wasn’t. So it was back to the drawing table again. On the off chance I could do something with the first version, I took a picture of it as well, and opened it up in Gimp. Serendipity struck.


As you can see, the uneven lighting worked in my favor. The lamp was just above the bright part of the painting, so that area came out lighter than the rest of the painting, giving the painting a glow just where it needed it. And it shifted the color towards the yellow, resulting in something that I found promising. Using my usual cheats I made the art look like it was out of some old school adventure magazine look to it. Great. But.

But, I need some people in it. They could be small, but I needed some sort of action. So I got out my “How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way” book and sketched out a couple of figures. Even with the book, they were bad. Note the theme running through this post. I tried them out -- the ones on the left-- and then decided just to find some clip art runners and trace over them for my figures. Those are the figures on the right.


I photographed them, sized them, and then added them to the background art, along with another figure crouching in the foreground, using a "mask" to make the white spaces around the figures disappear. Voila! I considered adding a few explosions of plasma darts using tools in Gimp, but decided that they’d look out of place, so no one is firing their darter at this moment.

But I still wasn't done. There was the title and author to add. I’ve pretty much settled on The Secret of the Tzaritsa Moon as the final title, rather than The Tzaritsa Moon Mystery, or The Mystery of the Tzaritsa Moon, my other candidates. It’s rather wordy, but old fashioned sounding, which is what I like about it, since it suits the story. It does take up a lot of space on the cover, if I want the title large enough to be readable on the little thumbnail. I could make the first “the” and “of the” smaller, but at best I’d still have at least four lines, one of which would be only marginally smaller. With nothing much to gain by mixing sizes, I think I’ll keep all the words the same size. It’s not like they cover anything essential. So, behold, the likely final cover for the paperback version of The Secret of the Tzaritsa Moon. The ebook version has the title in a larger font to make it easier to read in thumbnails.


I'm finishing up my second draft of the story, and hopefully my third read through will produce only minor changes and so be ready for proofreading and my beta readers in November. If it all works out, The Secret of the Tzaritsa Moon will be released at the end of November 2020 or early December 2020. I'll be talking more about the story shortly. I will say this, I plant to write a second mystery with these characters and setting as soon as my work is done with this story. 

I may not be having fun painting, but I am having fun writing!



Saturday, October 10, 2020

New Cover Art For Beneath The Lanterns

 

Blogs are strange things. Basically they’re soap boxes for people who would never think of getting on a soapbox to tell the world all about themselves, what they think, or what they have to sell. I started this blog when I started publishing my stories. It was, and may still be, for all I know, considered an essential element of promoting one’s books. I've my doubts as to it effectiveness in promoting one’s work, since, if you’re preaching to anyone, it's likely the choir --  people who are already interested in your work. But you must have one.

I use mine to publish maps for the ebooks.  I think they’re useless in ebooks, since I find them too awkward to use in that format.. And I write about my books, mainly so that when I become famous, after I die, future biographers will have some original material to work with. This is also why I post my paintings – giving some future grad student working on a thesis about my impressionist art, material to fill out their thesis.

Still, nothing I post in this blog is much of any consequence. Alas, I don't have anything important to say. But what I do have to say, I strive to make it somewhat amusing.

Speaking of the inconsequential, I have painted a new cover for Beneath The Lanterns, as seen above. That last cover really started to bug me. This must be the sixth or seventh potential cover I’ve produced for that book. And, by my count, the fourth since I released it, some two years ago. This time around it is, once again, an actual scene, well, sort of, from the book. It is the street known as the Reed Bank.

Below is the original artwork that I used for the cover.


For almost all of my covers, I enhance my artwork on the computer using Gimp, a free Photoshop alternative, adjusting the colors, and adding the black outlines that sharpen up my rather sketch paintings. For many years before I started publishing my stories painting was the focus of my creative drive – mostly impressionist landscape paintings in the last 17 years, and before that watercolors in a rather folksy style. I have, however, run out of steam when it comes to painting, so that painting covers for my books is work – work I’d like done as fast as possible. Plus, I’m not an illustrator, nor someone who cares, or has the talent for, paying attention to details. Which is to say, I'm not a good cover artist. But I'm cheap. So I settle for impressionistic covers that I hope imparts a sense of mood of the story it is illustrating.

And speaking of covers, I have another one to do for my next book, coming soon. I probably should get it done before my next post on that book. Yuk. By the way, I'm thinking of changing the final title to The Secret of the Tzaritsa Moon. We'll see. 


Monday, October 5, 2020

A Return to the Nine Star Nebula

I’m delighted to announce that my next novel will mark a return to the setting of The Bright Black Sea -- the Nine Star Nebla. And it's coming soon!

The working title of the story is The Tzaritsa Moon Mystery. Or  maybe The Mystery of the Tzaritsa Moon. 

It is a speculative fiction/cozy mystery set mostly on a terraformed moon in the “wild” Alantzia Solar System, a system that has the reputation of being more of a drift system than a Unity one.

With the first draft now completed, I’m thinking that a release in late November or early December 2020 is very possible.

Getting a complete first draft is, for me, the hardest part of writing. I’ve started and not finished enough stories to know that I dare not say anything about a story until I’ve written it from beginning to end. Once I have a story that works from beginning to end, I can relax and go back over it several times to find the best words and ways to tell the story I’ve written.

This story is a good example of the both abandoning a story, and completing one, since the story uses the opening chapter and setting from an abandoned story. That story idea was rather unfocused – it was to be my tribute to all the Joseph Lincoln stories I’ve enjoyed. In fact I think this may be the third attempt at that story. But this time around, by focusing on a much smaller story, one that spans less than two weeks at it heart, I was able to write the first draft in less than six weeks. And I think much of that success can be attributed to the fact that I no longer care about hitting a certain word count. The story will be as long or as short as it takes for me to tell it in the way I want. And that, I find, is very liberating.

Stay tuned for more about The Tzaritsa Moon Mystery in the coming weeks.




Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Life w/Bots

 

Robotic experts are unable to explain the popularity of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital amongst the robots population. Even the relatively “dumb,” or “proletarian robots” as they would preferred to be called, such as refrigerators, coffee makers, and toasters appeared to be fond of scrolling long quotes from Das Kaptial on their status display screens.

Some experts point to this phenomena as evidence of robotic humor. Others scoff at the very idea of robotic humor. Professor Albert Hummerdine has said that “If robotic humor exists, and I find no compelling evidence that it does, I would think that Karl Marx would the height of it.”


I was reminded of this episode of Life w/Bots by this article:

https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2020/09/how-a-hacker-turned-a-250-coffee-maker-into-ransom-machine/


We're not quite at the point of having to live with robots just yet, but it's coming.





Thursday, September 24, 2020

I Used To Read Books

 



Has your taste in books changed over the years? While I’m sure that your range has expanded over the years, or decades, has it changed so much that it has closed doors to books you’ve read in your past?

I seemed to have closed a lot of reading doors behind me. Most of them, it would seem.

I still have the books I read in my teens and early 20’s on my book shelf. Several hundred of them. Most of them I have absolutely no recollection of ever reading. Every so often, I come across a review of one of those old books, and after reading the review, I wonder how I ever enjoyed the story in the first place. Assuming I did, of course.

I pretty much stopped buying books 20 years ago, when I had two walls of them. I figured that someday I’d have to move them, and that reading library books was good enough. Well, I did move them last year, and consolidated them into one floor to ceiling packed wall. I moved all those books I’ll never reread, simply because they’re my life-long companions. Plus, a room with books makes for a cozy room.

Still, every once and in while I pick out one of my favorite old books and give it a try.


Last week, I picked out my copy of Roger Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber. This was a favorite book and series. I have four or five other Zelazny books beyond the Amber series, but I have no recollection of them. Well, I started reading it, only to put it back on the shelf after reaching page 93. (About half way through.) The book should have still been a winner, since it has many of the elements I still like in a story – it has a first person narrator, an adventure involving a quest, plus good, witty writing, and lots of imagination. (Heck, it even has a very nice cover. My edition has a black knight on a skirted black horse.) But I found myself skim reading through it. All those descriptions of traveling through the shadow worlds no longer engaged me. The same for recounting his past while he was walking the pattern. It just didn’t interest me. Maybe I didn’t know enough about the character of Corwin to care about him. Or maybe I lack the patience I once had. And even though I don’t remember what happened next, I found that I didn’t care enough about either Corwin or Amber to finish the book.

Perhaps part of the issue is that for the last decade I’ve ween writing my own stories. I’ve grown used to stories where I know a whole lot about the characters and settings. Much more than ever finds its way into the story. And so, in my spare time, instead of reading, I’m imagining scenes and playing them over and over in my mind before ever setting them into words on the screen. The stories I’m creating leave little room in my head for stories from the outside.



And maybe another part of this phenomena is that at the age of 70, I’ve fallen behind the times. I don’t like many of the popular storytelling techniques contemporary authors are using. For example, I hate jumping between multiple points of view even more than jumping back and forth in time. Plus it seems that many speculative fiction stories today need to embrace unbelievable (for this old man) premises in order to write something original. I’ve tried reading sample chapters, but for one reason or another, none have clicked with me enough to order it up from the library. Of course there a lot of familiar SF tropes in the indie speculative fiction space. I’ve sampled a few, only to find that their understanding of SF seem to have been derived from the SF that they watched on TV or in the movies --  they read like fan fiction. All in all, I guess that's why I have to write my own stories.

Still, it seems that for whatever reason, as thing stand today, I used to be a reader.