Books By C. LItka

Books By C. LItka

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The Aerie of a Pirate Prince Release Date: Sept. 29th 2022


The fourth installment of the Nine Star Nebula Mystery/Adventure series featuring the adventures of Rafe d'Mere is set to be released on 29 September 2022. It will be a free ebook on Apple, Smashwords, B & N, Kobo, and Google, and cost $1.99 on Amazon. The paperback book will we available on Amazon for $7.99 and the free audio version will be available on the Google Play Store.

It is always the captain’s fault. So when a shipping container is offloaded to the wrong lighter – hijacked by the local crime syndicate – Captain Sing of the Rendezvous Moon knew she’s be blamed, even though they had followed all the proper procedures. She had no intention of being blamed. She intended to track the hijacked container down. Red Tew, her chief engineer, volunteered to accompany her as “muscle” and invited Rafe d’Mere to tag along as well, since he was an old hand at dealing with the pirate princes of the Alatzian System. Because he was an old hand in dealing with the pirate princes of the Alantzia, Rafe had no desire to have anything to do with pirate princes. But what could he say, but “I suppose so,” when invited along?

Captain Sing, Tew, d’Mere and his companion the crow Kee head down to Teire to locate the cargo container before its contents can be broken up and sent on the lawless drifts. There they are joined by an equally determined Lasha Nin, the office manager of the actual owner of the cargo. Together they trace the cargo through the busy space port of Teire, to the annoyance of the pirate prince behind the theft. Before he knows it, d’Mere is once again looking down the barrel of a pirate prince’s darter. Pirate princes play for keeps.

The Aerie of a Pirate Prince is a 40,600 word long story – either a long novella or a short novel.

C. Litka writes old fashioned stories with modern sensibilities, humor, and romance. He spins tales of adventure, mystery, and travel set in richly imagined worlds, with casts of colorful, fully realized characters. If you seek to escape your everyday life, you will not find better company, nor more wonderful worlds to travel and explore, than in the stories of C. Litka.





Friday, September 23, 2022

Ship of Magic Review

 


Ship of Magic (The Liveship Traders Trilogy Book 1) by Robin Hobb DNF (44%)

I must confess that I am no great fan of fantasy, despite the fact that I seem to have been reviewing a lot of fantasy recently. Blame that on the fact that TOR keeps offering me free ebooks, many of which are fantasy. In the case of this book, however, I picked it up from the library because Robin Hobbs is a very highly regarded writer, and this book in particular, because I like books about the sea.

Please note that in general my favorite books are written in first person, character focused, and are straight ahead narrative adventures. I enjoy clever, witty, writing that is in itself enjoyable. What I don’t like… well, I’ll go into that with the Ship of Magic.

Be careful what you wish for, since wishes sometimes come true. As I said above, I like character focused stories. Ship of Magic is a very, very character focused story. So much so that it seemed more like a character study, a tableau rather than a story. I am certain that there’s a story somewhere in the deep weeds of the world building much of which is accomplished by the international dialog of her cast of characters. However, I lost patience trying to find anything more than a slight, slow wisp of it as it crept along. The fact that I stuck with this story for 44% of it – and it’s a big book – is a testament to my hope of eventually finding the story. However, when I realized how much I was skim-reading this book, I gave up. If I ever find that I care enough, I’ll look it up on its Wikipedia entry. I haven’t so far.

Remember what I said about liking first person narratives – well this an omnipresent third person narrative. I generally don’t mind close third person narratives, but most omnipresent ones turn me off. In this story we weren’t god-like beings following the movement of characters like chess pieces from a remote height, instead we are treated to the internal thoughts of at least six characters. There are the sea serpents – for some reason. And then there’s Captain Hook ,and his pirate in the story. Well, his name isn’t Hook and he’s sans-hook, but having said that, he’s Captain Hook in every other respect, and the best character of the lot, despite being despicable. We are also treated to the  internal soliloquies, endless family worries, and arguments of the shipowner/trader family who are the central characters of the story. As well those of some magical ships. Perhaps, if you have read other books in Hobb’s fantasy world, all the world-building going on in the minds and memories might mean a trip down memory lane for you, but for me, this being the first Hobb book, I found it tedious. In short, if you find family arguments fascinating, then this book is for you. If you like mean people, you’ll like this book as well.

My other great complaint is that I hate when authors slice and dice their stories, and /or jump from one story to another within the book. Here we have a sea-serpent story – I paid no attention to it. We have Captain Hook’s’ story. We have the shipowner family's various stories, with at least five members having their own story arcs as well, all of which are sliced, diced, and intertwined, sometimes within chapters. And more story threads seemed in the offing when I called it a day. Too many "main" characters to follow made it impossible for me to latch on to anyone of them, or to care about any of them. I realize that I’m in the minority here, for this is the current fashion of storytelling, so you, dear reader, might find this a plus.

As for the writing itself, well, she is rightly considered a master. She is a very easy and colorful read. However, early on I found that her use of similes and/or metaphor had me rolling my eyes and knocking me out of the story. For example; “Her breasts surged against her dress like seas threatening to swamp the gunwales of a boat.” Or take; “...the Divvytown lagoon harbor had all the beckoning charm of an unemptied chamber pot.” Or try this one on for size: “Coming to Divvytown was, he reflected, rather like being towed to dock in the musk and stench of a slave’s armpit.” They struck me as straight out of a creative writing 101 course assignment. I noticed fewer of them as I went along – but then I was skim-reading more and more as I went along so I may have missed them. Another reviewer said of another of her books that he while enjoyed reading the first half of the book, he realized that nothing much had happened. I think that sums it up. If you like her writing – and except for those similes or metaphors noted above, I have no complaints what so ever, and if you like being someone’s mind as they turn problems and worries over and over in their thoughts – which I don’t – you’ll probably love this book. I wish I could. But no. And if I didn’t know it before, fantasy isn’t for me.


Friday, September 16, 2022

September Update

 

I have nothing exciting to write about this week, but that’s never stopped me before. So here we go. I think I will use this installment to update you on how things stand with The Girl on the Kerb. It was submitted it to the British SF publisher Gollancz in June. I don’t expect to hear back from them until sometime in the first half of 2023. In the meanwhile, I am sending letters to agents to see if they would like to represent this book to publishers.

I sent out 4 email queries on the first of July. To date I have received a rejection email on 27 July and another on 7 Sept. I have not heard from two others, but I think I can write those off as well.

On the 1st of August I sent out four more queries. I have received one form letter email rejection on 13 Sept. with three outstanding.

On the 1st of September I sent out four more. I received one form letter email rejection on 6 Sept, with the other 3 still outstanding.

That’s 4 confirmed rejections, 2 likely, and six still outstanding. I have enough names on my list of agents to keep at this for another 3 months, which will take me to December, after which I will likely call it a day.

However, while I am waiting, I’ve been tinkering with, and hopefully improving the story. Several reviews have mentioned that my ending was too abrupt. This maybe, in part, because I like to keep my endings open for sequels. Life goes on, but now off stage. I, don’t do happily ever after endings.  However, in the case of The Girl on the Kerb, I wanted to keep the story going long enough after the story's McGuffin  – the thing that drives the plot – is resolved in order to make it clear that it is the characters that I care about, not the McGuffin that I use to structure their story. This is true for all my stories. So in tinkering, I added 6,500 words to the last quarter of the book to show that life goes on after the McGuffin that brought the characters together. Though the ending, as always, is still open ended.

Now I’m reading through it yet again on my ebook reader to catch typos and to straighten up all the awkward sentences as I come across them. Hopefully by next week I will be completely comfortable with the story.

In other news: I hope to release The Aerie of a Pirate Prince either next week or the week after. And I have started a new story, Zar Lada, Taef Lang, and the Island of the Slumbering God. That’s my tongue in cheek working title of it. It takes up the story of Taef Lang, Lessie and Sella Rah, and Carz Fel where we left them at the end of The Prisoner of Cimlye. I’ll be happy with a novella. But to be honest, the story is still very vague in my mind, so I can’t guarantee that it will actually see the light of day.

Coming soon!





Friday, September 9, 2022

Shadows of Self Review

 


Shadows of Self A Mistborn Novel by Brandon Sanderson   D

A “D” is not an official grade, since I usually don’t actually finish bad books. As I said in my review of The Alloy of Law, I wasn’t planning on reading this installment, but TOR gave this one away for free as well (promoting the 4th and final book of this series coming out in November) and somewhere I heard that Steris, Wax’s fiancee, and potentially the series' most interesting character, had a larger role to play in this book, so I kept reading on and on, long after I would have DNF’ed the book, only to discover that she didn’t anything more than a bit part again. I expect to get the third book in the series for free as well, but fool me twice... In any event, the review…

Waxillium Ladrain, “Wax” is superhero, with (magic) super powers. He's Batman with six-shooters, a shotgun, and a mistcoat instead of a cape, which is to say a semi-official vigilante, who goes around shooting bad guys bringing law and order to the city. This time the big bad gal is a shape-shifting demi-god gone “insane” who wants to free the citizens of the city from the manipulations of the local god, by stirring them into a frenzy of rioting by killing certain important people. Wax runs around trying to stop her, with the help of Miss-Goody-two-shoes, that is to say Marasi, his adoring fan, now a police officer, and his comic sidekick Wayne.

As I said in my review of The Alloy of Law, this is a superhero comic book without pictures. Sanderson tries to give Wax some depths as a character, having him reflect on what is is, and fails. Wax yam what he yam, and that’s an outback gunslinger lawman in a big city who is really good at shooting bad guys. I ended up skimming long stretches of this book as it drags on, and on. And on, setting up a killings or a superpower brawl every now and again.

Not having read the first three book series in the Mistborn books, I can’t say if the gods and demi-gods in this story appear in those books. If so, perhaps that is the appeal of this book to Sanderson’s fans. But they meant nothing and added nothing, beyond their roles in the story for me. There is a silly twist at the end that doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, but I won’t spoil for you, dear reader, if after reading this review, you are eager to read it.

Long story short, Glen Cook’s “Garrett PI” featuring a private eye for hire, explores a variety of mysteries that sometimes touch on a similar theme as this story. And like in this story, he, with his various friends, must solve, and defeat the villains and without shooting dozens of people. (There are no guns in the story, despite the cover illustration.) Cook’s stories, however, featuring far more entertaining characters, are mostly set in TunFaire, a far more colorful city, and are written in a far more colorful and entertaining style. My advice; give this series a miss, and read Glen Cook’s Garrett PI stories. (In order, if you can.)




Friday, September 2, 2022

The New Paperback Versions

 

The new collection

Nothing too pressing to report this week. The big news was that copies of my new paperback editions arrived. This redo of my paper books involved giving them all new covers with a standard design across the range, though not necessarily new artwork and a new, smaller size. I've posted about the inspirations and design process here: New Book Covers Again and show the full cover results here:  https: New Book Covers. To quickly recap, I am thinking about ways to get my paper books into stores, and I wanted them to be what I think is a more typical size for trade paperbacks, 5.25 x 8" rather than my old size of 6 x 9" and I wanted matte covers like all the cool kids rather than the glossy ones I had previously used. Amazon will not let you change size or cover texture on published books -- it may be part of the bar code describing the product. In order to offer a new size I had to re-do all the books from scratch and unpublished the old versions.


New cover art for the Bright Black Sea, though in fact I used the art from the first version of this book for the new cover. Because of the size of this book, and that of The Lost Star's Sea, with the significant downsizing of the page area, the font size had to be reduced to what you usually find on a mass market paperback. The alternative would have been to break each of the books down into three volumes. For The Bright Black Sea this would be no problem, since it was written as three books. It would be more problematical for The Lost Star's Sea as that was written as a series of novella length episodes. I decided against it for now, as it would most likely just create confusion.



Above are two samples that kept the same artwork, but I found it interesting how I framed the artwork differently between the two editions. I guess there is no right way. 

I am quite happy with these new editions. I like the matte cover, it has a velvety feel to it while still offering vibrant colors, which was my main concern. I like the new size, and I like the uniformity of design. I had abandoned that uniformity over the last couple of years, but I'm happy to go back to it. My old argument was that is was for "branding" purposes i.e. you knew a C. Litka book when you saw it. And I'm now back to that argument. The refrain one hears is that covers sell the book. That may be the case, but I've changed covers often enough over the last seven years, including new artwork, and have never seen any difference in sales. Your cover has to be seen for it to make a difference, and in publishing these days, being seen is the big challenge. Covers don't make a difference if they are not seen. My next challenge is to get my books seen. I'm working on that.




Friday, August 26, 2022

A Tale of Two Covers

I do my own covers. Not being an illustrator, I simply settle mostly for mood. For the last few years I’ve put painting off to one side, as I found that I had run out of new ideas on what and how to paint. However, I want to get back into painting, so I decided to paint the cover for The Girl on the Kerb on the off chance that it won’t be picked up by a major publisher. Below is my pencil sketch for the paperback cover. I should note that this cover scene was decided on while the book title was still The Road to Eura. It is a scene from early in the story. I will probably have to rethink my cover with the new title.


Sorry about the quality of these photos, but it is hard to capture a faint pencil line. Also note that this is for the paper version, so I’ve done a quick mock up of how it would work out.



After sketching it, it took me several weeks to get around to actually painting. And then, I just did the sky with the three remaining towers of London’s Solar Age in the distance. A week or so later I worked in some details in the middle ground to arrive at the painting below.


At this point I realized that I was in trouble. This piece was falling into the uncanny valley of where it looked like I was trying to paint realistically, and failing badly. This is always the great danger of impressionism. You have to make certain that your viewers realize that you’re trying to paint without regard for realism. It’s loose and sloppy on purpose. The problem for me is always the middle distance. I try to paint scenes that include only the foreground and a background, That middle distance, where things get gradually smaller and less detailed is something I am terrible at. And here we had that middle distance in the receding buildings and tram. To eliminate as much of that as possible, I planned to bring the tram into the foreground. You can see the pencil sketch over the smaller version. And I hoped that the bare trees would cover up most the middle buildings.



A week or two later, I had a rainy Saturday on my hands, so I decided to tackle the painting for real. Now, I should say that a lot of what your are seeing is just roughed in, nothing was be final. Even so, I saw that I was in way over my head. And moreover, whatever I could salvage from this, would be so far from my original vision – as vague as it was -- that it wasn't what I wanted.. It just wasn't going to work. I tossed in my brushes and called it day on that painting.  

However, since I had a much more immediate cover to paint, one for The Aerie of a Pirate Prince, I decided to tackle that cover by painting over this one. The scene I had in mind for that cover was much more in my wheelhouse. Below is the painting I came up with. This is the work of a couple of hours.


The scene is set on the rim of a large crater. The sun is setting behind us, illuminating the opposite crater rim. Mostly out of sight beyond the curve of the hill is a space port that is surrounded by warehouses. We have a rocket taking off on the right from the nearest section of the spaceport. The building in the foreground are small shops that repair containers, small ships boats, and such. Our two heroes are following a suspect who knows where the stolen goods have been taken.

Below is the final version for the paper back book after I worked on it in the photoshop style app, Gimp. I adjusted the color and contrast. added slight black outlines around brush strokes and made the rocket taking off brighter.



I will make the final version a little lighter than this one looks to be. I have to add the blurb in the box on the back cover as well. Long story short, I did end up with a useable cover, just not for the book I started to paint for. With the current title of The Girl on the Kerb, I almost have to paint the girl on the kerb for the cover... But I have time to work on that. In any event, look for the release of The Aerie of a Pirate Prince in the last half of September or early October.






Friday, August 19, 2022

The Girl on the Kerb

 

I thought I’d do a quick update on the novel I have out for submission and am looking for an agent to represent it. I emailed out query letters, as they’re called, on the first of July to four agents, and four more on the first of August. To date, I’ve received one rejection email from the July batch. I’ve not heard from the other three, however, not hearing from agents is a common way of signaling rejection. It is a little bit early to expect anything from the four August agents. In short, no surprises here.

What is new, is that I’ve decided to change the title of the novel, from The Road to Eura to The Girl on the Kerb. This may strike you as a big change, and in a way it is. Not that the book changes any, but the way I’m going to market it going forward changes. And perhaps in the way I’m looking at.

Right off the bat, I have to say that I know that “The Girl….” has been a big thing in publishing for years, and adopting the formula, this late it that game, can be seen as either naive, desperate, or cynical. However, I’m doing it because, a) it actually is as descriptive of a story as the old title was, and b) I am poking a little fun at the publishing business, with this copy-cat title. Not that they’ll get it, of course, but I’m telling you that I’m well aware of how unoriginal it is, so it’s our inside joke.

However, we have to keep in mind that I’m trying to sell this story. To sell a book, you have to write a story that agents and editors believe will sell. For many writers this means looking at the books that are being published now, but which were actually purchased a year or two before. Editors may be still buying those types of stories, or they may have moved on. If you have an agent, you can probably get a good idea where the market is going, but if you don’t, it a crap shot. A crap shot I didn’t bother to roll when I wrote this story. As always, I wrote the story I felt like writing, the way I felt like writing it. Which makes it an almost impossible story to sell, because I know that I don’t write stories the way they write, and sell them, today. Heck, that's why I started writing my own stories. My only hope of selling The Girl on the Kerb is to present it as one of those outliers, a unique book that could strike it big. Or not. That, anyway is my approach going forward. And the title, The Girl on the Kerb, represents this new approach to marketing the story.

While the story is set on Earth in the distant future, that is about the extent of its science fiction-ness. I often use science fiction settings merely as an excuse to write an old-time adventure story that allows me to have a free hand to create the world and the way it works, without having to fit it into our known history. Or do the necessary research to fit it into our known world. This novel is no different. The technology in use is little more than what we are using today, and society is very much pre-1950. I have described it as speculative fiction, but I might even drop that classification in the future, and consider it just a lighthearted novel.