3 Days To Release…Promotion: 1/2 Off Kindle Pre-Orders!

So close! This Thursday, Cetus Finalis: A Gray Whale Odyssey, will go on sale for all to see. Ecstasy, I say! Ecstasy, the feeling of really, actually, officially finishing this beloved project. On to the next one!

I smell a pre-order promotion, folks! Hark!
A tip for my insiders.  The Kindle edition of Cetus Finalis: A Gray Whale Odyssey, is NOW LIVE for 50% Off PRE-ORDER! This offer is only good for Kindle until the release date (Sept. 1st), when it returns to full price. True, buying Cetus Finalis early doesn’t mean reading it early, because pre-orders won’t download until the release date, but you can get the Kindle edition of Cetus Finalis for half off, and brag about it.

"Cetus Finalis 1/2 off ebook. Limited time!"

“Cetus Finalis 1/2 off ebook. Limited time!”

YES! 1/2 off for the rest of August only!
Tell your friends! Save everyone a few bucks! Why not buy it early at half price? (Unless of course you’re waiting for the sexy paperback, then I can’t blame you…)

The Kindle edition of Cetus Finalis: A Gray Whale Odyssey, is available NOW for half price pre-order ($2.99) until the end of August! (Note: Though there is a paperback listing, orders will not process until the release date, September 1st!)

Image by Lucie Hall (Linolieum block print)

Show your friends!

Thank you for reading! Reading rules!

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Cetus Finalis Author Interview Revisited (On Whalesong)

Say What?

Hello, readers, and welcome back!
Reminder- Cetus Finalis: A Gray Whale Odyssey, goes on sale NEXT WEEK, September 1st! Book launch party is Sunday, October 2nd, 3-6 PM, at Finnegan’s Wake (937 Cole Street, San Francisco, CA 94117)

Today we will continue with responses to inquiries from readers regarding my latest release, Cetus Finalis: A Gray Whale Odyssey. All of these questions about Cetus Finalis were asked, sometimes in writing and sometimes in person, by interested readers, here compiled into interview format.

By some standards, Cetus Finalis: A Gray Whale Odyssey, is short for a novel, barely 200 pages. Why is that?
fanned out novel pagesCetus Finalis is as long as the story called for. To serve the tale, much was discarded. The conventions for novel length fluctuate with the times. Books of all lengths will always be of value. The Internet attention span, and the versatility of ebooks has made Narnia-length books more popular than they have been in a long time. The Odyssey is a valuable novel, as is The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe; two novels of very different lengths. Cetus Finalis: A Gray Whale Odyssey, is closer to the length of a Narnia novel than a Homeric epic. Though it does include poetry.

Why Poetry?
Inspiration struck. You see, all of the main characters are whales, and Cetus Finalis takes place underwater. I needed a convincing manner to convey the unique and alien medium by which whales communicate. They couldn’t just talk to each other, as we do. But at the same time, it had to be comprehensible to us as readers. By that token, all of the whale dialogue in Cetus Finalis is rendered in verse because, well…we’re all familiar with whale song. In Cetus Finalis, everything the whales “say” to each other is actually sung, and written as poetry. This also affected the length of the book. As a significant portion of Cetus Finalis is poetry, it needed to run shorter, because it reads denser.

That’s never been done before…
I know. I can’t wait to see what people think.

How did inspiration strike?
whalesongI was considering how whales exist in what we would consider an alien, otherworldly place; a weightless environment completely mediated by sound with equal ease of motion through all three spatial dimensions. They communicate sonically through a liquid medium. Sound travels through water about 4 times faster than through air, and thousands of times farther, especially through water at low temperature and high pressure – like the water in the ocean depths.

When you put it that way, it sounds sort of like science fiction…
In some ways, it does resemble science fiction. Cetus Finalis introduces you to an alien intelligence, but it is an intelligence that comes from beneath the sea rather than outer space. And by most counts, the knowledge communicated by whales may be just as strange and wondrous to us as the knowledge possessed by interstellar aliens. For example, Whales possess a tremendous amount of ambient sonic knowledge that is transmitted easily and globally. They possess a system on par with our modern global telecommunications. Furthermore, they’ve been doing it for millions of years – that’s thousands of millennia. Their aquatic bodies may not have developed manipulative organs to enable technical engineering feats like humans. Instead of opposable thumbs, whales have evolved (over tens of millions of years, of course) into brains with a greatly advanced sound processing apparatus and a more sophisticated emotional lobe than beach-loving, landlubbing humans. Compared to humans, the emotional intelligence of whales is off the charts. This is scientifically verified in orcas, in particular, who have much larger and more highly developed emotional centers in their brains than any human being. Whatever we call “intuition” likely plays a much greater role in the lives of whales.

Do you think whales live in mental worlds that complex? Many argue that whales are only about as smart as cows.
I think that is very unlikely that whales are like cows. (Also, cows were a lot smarter before we feed lot bred them into stupidity.) With the size of whales’ brains, the complexity of their songs, the range of their travels, the length of their childhood, and many other factors, I am convinced that whales possess what we would call society and culture, consisting of generationally transmitted knowledge.

Detail of "The Whale Shark Song," by Sadie James

Detail of “The Whale Shark Song,” by Sadie James

Imagine if you could hear everything that everyone was saying within 5 or 10,000 miles of you.  What if every love note was a broadcast? How do you tease out the meant recipient? Humans don’t typically do it. Humans are too individual, too emotionally underdeveloped, to stay sane under those conditions. And whales relate to each other through this group-oriented, aural environment with every utterance.

Imagine how much aural history can accumulate in that many millions of years. Human civilization has only existed for a tiny fraction of that amount of time. So when it came to writing whale dialogue, all of that was a lot to think about. I couldn’t write their utterances in quotations and sentences; there was more behind them.

Well, you’ve certainly given me a lot to think about…
Wait until you read it.

Image by Lucie Hall (Linoleuim block print)Cetus Finalis: A Gray Whale Odyssey, goes on sale NEXT WEEK, September 1st! Paperback and ebook, from Amazon, this website, shelldive.com, and select local retailers. Mark your calendars and come to the book signing, Sunday, October 2nd, 3-6 PM, at Finnegan’s Wake (937 Cole Street, San Francisco, CA 94117)

Stay tuned for the third installment of our Cetus Finalis Author Interview, where we’ll cover where the story came from, recount some discussions of whale anatomy, and address why Cetus Finalis took 5 years (though by some accounts, 3 years) to create.
Thank you for reading. Reading rules!

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A Gray Whale Glossary (For Cetus Finalis & Other Reference)

Image by Lucie Hall (Linoleuim block print)Reminder:
Cetus Finalis goes on sale September 1st!

Book signing is on October 2nd (Sunday, 3-6PM), at Finnegan’s Wake (937 Cole St, 94117)

Hello, and welcome back!
In my new book, Cetus Finalis: A Gray Whale Odyssey, the reader joins a journey with a pod of gray whales in the Atlantic ocean during the early stirrings of the American Revolution. There are many terms used to describe gray whales which may not be common knowledge to all readers. For that reason, I’ve drawn up a glossary of terms, some words unique to whale nomenclature, which will be useful to know when reading Cetus Finalis, or any other information on whales.


A baby gray sports its baleen. Photo by Eric Cheng.

A baby gray sports its baleen. Photo by Eric Cheng.

Baleen is the bristly material inside a gray whale’s mouth that acts as its filtration system when eating. Baleen whales do not chew, they swallow their food, and their food is usually small, so they scoop up large quatities of mud, sand, or water, then close their mouths, and push it all out through the baleen filters. 130 to 180 long stips or plates of baleen grow down from the gums of the gray whale’s upper jaw, like fringed, overlapping curtains. The main organic ingredient of baleen is keratin, which also makes up most of human fingernails. Whales replace their baleen about every 5 years. Not all whales possess baleen. Taxonomically speaking, there are two infraorders of whales: baleen whales (Mysticeti) and toothed whales (Odontoceti). Curiously enough, of the baleen whales, the gray whale is unique in that it is the sole member of its genus and family.


Photo by Ashala Tylor

Photo by Ashala Tylor

Blowholes are the gray whale’s nasal openings, situated on top of its head. All whales have blowholes. Baleen whales have dual blowholes, like the dual nostrils of many other mammal noses. Toothed whales have a single blowhole. The other “nostril” of the toothed whale blowhole still exists, but has evolved closed and works as a part of toothed whales’ sonar, helping produce the distinctive imaging clicks associated with dolphins, orcas, and sperm whales.

Blubber is a fibrous, thick layer of fat under the gray whale’s skin. Blubber is essential for maintaining the gray whale’s mammalian body heat in the cold ocean. Blubber was one source of whale oil.

Dorsal Hump
dorsalknucklesMost whales have a dorsal fin, but gray whales are characterized by a dorsal hump, followed by 6 to 12 dorsal knuckles along its tail stock leading to the flukes.

Flukes are whales’ twin tail flippers, the flat fans forming what we think of as the gray whale’s broad tail.

Pectoral Flippers

Courting gray whales, Laguna San Ignacio. Image by Phillip Colla.

Courting gray whales, Laguna San Ignacio. Image by Phillip Colla.

Whales have evolved pectoral flippers in the way that 4-limbed mammals have arms or forelegs. Pectoral flippers resemble fish fins, but they contain a skeletal structure very similar to terrestrial mammals. Interestingly enough, a whale’s pectoral flippers contain a number of bones corresponding to the bones in the human hand, though the whales’ are much larger.

Peduncle is a term for a whale’s tail stock to which the flukes are attached. The peduncle of a whale is the bit between the sex organs and the flukes.

A rostrum is the upper jaw of a whale, giving large whale faces their tapered, beak-like shape.

A curious California Gray Whale calf (Eschrichtius robustus) approaches the boat in San Ignacio Lagoon on the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Note the individual sensory hairs in each pit on the rostrum. Each winter thousands of California gray whales migrate from the Bering and Chuckchi seas to breed and calf in the warm water lagoons of Baja California. San Ignacio lagoon is the smallest of the three major such lagoons. 2008 population estimates put the California Gray Whale at between 20,000 and 24,000 animals.

Gray Calf Rostrum, San Ignacio Lagoon. (Small pits on the rostrum house sensory hairs.)

Cetus Finalis goes on sale September 1st!
Book signing is on October 2nd (Sunday, 3-6PM), at Finnegan’s Wake (937 Cole St, 94117)

Thank you for reading! Reading rules!

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