Sunday, April 17, 2016

Heroes, Fathers, and Mothers

Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head
The greatest epic hero in the galaxy!
     In a recent blog post by E. C. Ambrose, Kylo Ren and the Question of Parental Succession, she discusses how fictional children cannot become heroes in their own right until their parents are gone and they have nobody to rely on but themselves.  I found this to be an interesting premise and it got me to thinking about the heroes in my own books.  It also made me wonder if the same thing applies to female heroes -- are their heroic capabilities suppressed by their dependence on their fathers, or their mothers, perhaps?  And what about male heroes and their mothers?  
     I'm a big fan of Xena: Warrior Princess, so that character immediately came to my mind.  She never knew her father, as I recall, but her mother certainly played a big part in her development.  Xena engaged in much evil activity before she became a hero, and that might have had something to do with her father, whom her mother killed in order to protect her daughter. Furthermore, her father might have been Ares -- a problematic possibility, since Ares is Xena's love interest.  But aren't most Greek-style heroes fathered by a god?  So the situation can get quite complicated.

      Now to my own books.
     In my signature novel, the 2-part Termite Queen, I have a heroine and a hero.  Kaitrin Oliva has a close relationship with her mother and doesn't know who her father is because she is the product of artificial insemination from a sperm bank.  I don't think her relationship with her parents has anything to do with the strength of her character -- she was born to do great things, and her mother nurtured her in that direction.  She had a step-father, but he is dead by the time our story starts.
     Griffen Gwidian, our "hero" (or anti-hero, a term I'm sure would suit some of my critics better) is another kettle of fish altogether.  The loss of his parents did nothing to make him a hero -- in fact, it prevented him from reaching his heroic potential.  It took a lot of experience to drive him in the direction of heroism.  And that's all I can say without spoiling the plot.
     However, I don't feel The Termite Queen is a good example, because it isn't fantasy; it's realistic science fiction with a literary feel.  So what about my termite series, The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head?  We definitely have Greek-style heroes here!  Ki'shto'ba and a few other heroes are said to be offspring of the King (read Zeus) of the Shshi's Mother Goddess.
     Termites don't have parents in the traditional sense.  They all have Mothers, of course, whom they revere their whole lives, and they have male progenitors, but they are expected to live lives apart from their "parents."  In some cultures the Mother has more than one King, so the offspring may not even know who their father is.  Is'a'pai'a (the Jason character) lives the early part of its life not even knowing which home fortress engendered it, so in a sense Is'a'pai'a is an orphan.  But once Is'a'pai'a discovers the story of its past and its destiny, it is catapulted into full-fledged hero status (a Champion, as the Shshi call it).

     Now to two of my other books (actually WIPs, since neither has been published yet).  Robbin Nikalishin in The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars is a hero for the modern world -- eager to perform heroic deeds and capable of great things but often totally inadequate in dealing with his problems and tormented by events in his life that he can't wrap his mind around.   His father, whom his mother divorced when he was eight, was a poor example of a man.  Robbie never saw him again and he always rejects his father as a role model.  It is Robbie's mother who has the greatest influence over him, and even after she is gone, he is tormented by things he can't understand.  Perhaps the concept does apply that a hero never reaches his potential until he is orphaned, because ultimately Robbie gets his act together, overcomes his inadequacies, and achieves one of the greatest heroic acts in modern life -- making first contact with extraterrestrial intelligent life.

       And finally the WIP I'm working on right now:  Children of the Music.  This piece is much more in the traditional fantasy mold, laid in a constructed world where two branches of humanity come together in a disastrous confrontation.  One of the peoples could be considered traditionally heroic -- a barbaric horse-people composed of clans of male warriors and their retainers and women, some of whom are Priestesses and Seeresses of their sacred tree.  The other people are meek, peaceable shepherds and farmers who don't even have a word for "murder" and for whom Music represents all that is Sacred.
     I made Nebet an orphan.  He is the seven-year-old boy who plays such an important role in the first section of the book,   He isn't a hero except as a symbol, but still I find it interesting that I used the orphan aspect.  (Actually, I had a prosaic ulterior motive, which was to keep Nebet a little separate from the rest of his family so he could get left behind at the end.)  Daborno, Chieftain of the invading Clan of horse-people, is also an orphan, but his father remains Daborno's own hero, someone to be emulated.  Unfortunately, Daborno never completely rises to the challenge of becoming a hero in his own right.
       Interestingly enough, the second part of Children of the Music (laid 285 years later) opens with the death of the father of Horbet and Ondrach.  It is the orphaned younger brother Ondrach who must rise to a semi-heroic status, making decisions and confronting dilemmas that are not natural for his pacific people.  He would have never done what he did -- rebel against his people's way of life -- if he hadn't lost his father.  And in an interesting parallel the Chieftain Cumiso and his own younger brother Sembal have also just lost their father when the section opens.  Cumiso is not much of a hero in anybody's book, I fear, but again it's his younger, scholarly-minded brother who achieves a status much closer to heroism.
The Madness of Ki'shto'ba
(alternate cover for v.3)
     After considering all these points, I think I have to conclude that I never write about heroes  in the traditional sense of somebody like Superman, who goes about the world doing good, fighting on the side of the right, performing superhuman feats, and gaining glory.  I suppose that's why Xena appeals to me -- all heroes should have their dark side.  I'm more interested in those dark twistings and turnings that go on in the human mind.  Ki'shto'ba is the closest to a traditional hero that I've ever written and even the Huge-Head has feet (or claws) of clay, sinking into madness at one point and committing murder just like its counterpart in my Greek sources, namely, Hercules.
       I'm going to conclude with a quotation  from a later part of The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars, where Capt. Robbin Nikalishin, who is suffering from PTSD after a space disaster where he lost a third of his crew, is giving a speech on the occasion of being awarded Earth's highest honor, the Crimson Ivy medal.

     “Now, I’m no philosopher, gentlemen and ladies, and I’m no expert at formulating philosophical definitions.  But it seems to me we ought to take a few minutes to contemplate what makes a human being a hero.  And it seems to me that a hero is somebody who reacts with courage in an impossible situation so that a positive outcome is produced. ...
      “But there’s a downside to any definition of a hero – it has a corollary, so to speak.  It’s not enough that a hero win – a hero inevitably has to lose something.  He has to lose something and react nobly in the face of that loss." ... 

     Robbie elaborates at length as to why he himself isn't a true hero, but I think I've said enough for my purposes.  By Robbie's definition Griffen Gwidian is a hero, and so is Kaitrin Oliva.  My Champions in the Ki'shto'ba series are heroes, and so is the small boy Nebet and his grandfather Leys, and so is Ondrach the Siritoch shepherd.  And certainly Robbin Nikalishin and certain other characters in MWFB fit that definition. as well.
      So it seems I do write about heroes after all.                                                                                                                                 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Political Correctness: How Do You Handle It in Your Writing?

     “Bend to the reed’s tune – sing a new song.”

The Siritoch were made to endure and the Epanishai to strive. 
When two such peoples are driven together, 
which one has the most to lose? 

     I've now been through Children of the Music twice, correcting the scanning errors and making a list of all the names so I can consider whether I should change any of them.  For those of you who might have forgotten, Children of the Music is the 30-year-old story that I'm working over for publication. I'm considering putting the passages quoted above on the back cover.  The first line will be the epigraph of the book.   

     I'm liking this book better and better, but I need an opinion on one aspect of it (well, really on two aspects).  The gentle, pastoral Siritoch, who have no word in their tongue for murder, have dwelled alone in the Land between the Mountains and the Sea for longer than memory, and now they are being invaded by a different people -- a fierce tribe of horsemen and cattle-drovers who are themselves fleeing an even more barbaric foe and who don't take kindly to finding that the land they have been seeking is occupied by sheepherders.  And they have no aversion to murder and pillaging.

     Both sides see their adversary as demonic beings.  And so I have a chapter in which the wise women of each tribe reject this, saying, "For they are men."  Now, when I was growing up, way back in the dark ages of the 1940s and 1950s, before gender equality became such a big deal, I was taught that terms like "men" or "mankind" or "he" could legitimately be used as collective nouns or pronouns subsuming both sexes.  That made perfectly good sense to me.  It's just a convention, after all -- one I still had no trouble with when I wrote this story in the late 1970s.

      Let me give you some examples in the story -- first the Epanishai:
“Rashemia, I didn’t intend for this morning to go as it did.”
“Nor I.”
“Even you – even you failed.”
“Do you think I am not human? After all these years you could think that?”
Her bitter candor vaguely surprised him.  “Did you really believe the holy wood would mean something to them?”
“I hoped.  They are men, Daborno.”
“But they frightened you.  Dare I say that? You were human enough to be frightened – even you.  Perhaps they are not men.”
“They are men!”  Rashemia struck her fist into her palm, hunching her shoulders.  “And, yes – 1 was afraid! Their music is inexplicable! It comes up as if – from deep water – or out of the wind.  It says things in some language older – older than the trees.  By Aftran, I yearn – I yearn to understand it!”

And now from the Siritoch's perspective:
“There is no being prepared – can’t you see that?”  Himrith had gathered herself up, clenching her hands in the wool.  “Oh, Narlach ... Parnom ... fleeing can’t save Thran! The only course is to wait and hold to the things we know – and – and – perhaps when they come back, we – and they – will understand!  For they are men, my son – I could see human trouble in their eyes.  If they are men, they are not evil!  No more evil than those winds and clouds and the grass that flourishes and fades.  For there is a third choice – I have only just seen it!  We have a third choice: to stay and not to die! And if we put enough faith in the Music, we need not fear these men, for all their giant horses and their knives and their loud voices.” 

Now I could substitute "humans" or "people" for "men."  Try reading it with those substitutes.  I just think the impact is lost.  "Humans" and "people" are both weak words with a feminine rhythm. (Are we going to have to get rid of the terms "feminine and masculine rhymes"?  Just wondering.)  "For they are humans."  "For they are people."  Just lacks the punch of "For they are men!"

So what's your opinion?
Are you so offended by this use of the word "men" 
that the story will be ruined for you is I leave it as is?
Would you enjoy it more if I used "people" or "humans"?
Tell me!

 And one other thing along the same line.  The Siritoch refer to the Epanishai as "aliens."  I don't know why I used that term instead of "strangers" or "outlanders" or some such.  I wasn't into science fiction in those days, so I wasn't thinking of the connotation of somebody from another planet.  This one I really may change because I've come not to like the term "aliens" -- it's come to connote humans ("men") from a country not your own, and I prefer to reserve it for extraterrestrials or else to eliminate it entirely.  I wrote about that once before here: You Say Alien and I Say Extraterrestrial.

     (Sorry -- still no artwork for this story!  I'm working on the cover, but it's a long way from being finished.)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Next on my Writing Agenda: "Children of the Music"

Known as a serpent, this antique musical instrument
looks like the trumpet that plays such a significant role
 in Children of the Music
By Sguastevi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons

    First off, let me say that from now on most of my posting will be on this blog.   My Termitespeaker blog (entitled "The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head") has lost relevance because I have now completed the series.  I had also used that blog as a vehicle to discuss myth, especially myth in literature, but I've kind of moved away from that, so I'll reserve Termitespeaker mostly for book reviews of the series.

    Today I'm going to talk about Children of the Music.  It's one of those manuscripts that has been stored in a drawer for 30 years and has now been taken out and dusted off.  That's supposed to be a no-no, but I see no point in trashing something that I believe has merit.  Here's how it came to be written.

    I started writing in 1969 and I churned out an unending manuscript over a period of years.  It got way out of control for length, because of my propensity for improvisation in the middle of books.  I always have a beginning and an end, but how in the world do you get from here to there?  And since this was the first thing I'd ever written, I kept going back and rewriting the beginning, which never made it shorter.  Finally I threw in the towel.  The book could never be finished.  I have shelves of manuscript for this book, which bore the title To Sing with the Wind (somebody once said to me, "You should just call it 'Sing with the Wind,'" but you see, that's the wrong connotation.  I'm not ordering somebody to sing (imperative) -- I'm emphasizing the process of learning how "to sing with the wind."  And yet to use the infinitive really does weaken the impact).  

    But that's beside the point.  When I gave up on my Tolkienesque first novel, with its evil sorceress, white-bearded wizard, young female heroine, and tragic young hero, I decided I needed to write a prequel.

    That prequel is Children of the Music.

   It features the past history of the two peoples who exist at the beginning of the humongous piece and depicts the families of the parents of To Sing with the Wind's hero and heroine.  And it benefited from my "million words" -- the amount you're supposed to have written before you can call yourself an author.  It turned out really well -- it had an appropriate beginning, middle, and end, and some really intense storytelling and compelling characters.  And it's a reasonable length of 118,000 words.

   Now I'm planning to publish it after some revision.  My problem is, I don't anticipate ever completing the book that was supposed to follow it.  Children is complete in itself, but it does contain some prophecies that foreshadow the main book, and it kind of leaves things hanging at the end.  Am I capable of writing a totally different book to follow it?  I somehow doubt it.  I simply don't like the book I originally wrote.  My original idea in To Sing with the Wind was to investigate a race of beings who were immortal, and somehow I don't want to do that anymore. These days, I'm not much into magic -- seers and prophecies are fine, and hints of the interference of gods, but my worlds are always real worlds, not governed by magical principles that have nothing to do with scientific reality. And my characters are always human.  (And if you say, well, giant termites aren't human ... just ask the people who weep over their story whether or not they have human appeal.)  

    But Children of the Music really does have sufficient merit to stand on its own.  Until I complete its revision, I'm going to blog about the book from time to time, and probably post excerpts.  I also have some questions I want to throw out to anyone who is interested.  But that will have to wait for another day.

    (Sorry I have no drawings yet for Children of the Music.  I do have some planned, however.  And take a gander at the great serpentine trumpet at the top of this post.)

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Read an E-Book Week (March 6-12) - Special Prices on Smashwords

I've made all my books 50% off on Smashwords
for the period of March 6-12.

The purchase page will give you a discount coupon to use when paying. 
Imagine getting both volumes of The Termite Queen for only $3.00! 
-- or all seven volumes of The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head for only $7.00!
Or if you're not ready to commit to the series, 
get started with v.1 The War of the Stolen Mother for only $1.50.  

See all my books at 

Friday, March 4, 2016

New Review of The Termite Queen, Volume One

Since the front cover is splashed
all over the place,
I'm showing you the back cover.
(Click for larger view)

See this 4-star review 
(and read more reviews)

I enjoyed this rather quirky book that deals with first contact between humans and insects. Very intelligent insects mind you, and goes on to show the complex relationship that develops between the insects and the humans they encounter.

It was a well-thought out future-world story full of intriguing characters, mostly termite, I wasn’t too keen on the human characters, they didn’t seem as well defined as the insect ones. That aside, this is an unusual and overall satisfying book that deals philosophically with power struggles, romance, coming to terms with death and so much more.

The most satisfying parts of the book for me are when we are in the termite mound Lo'ro'ra, and witnessing the inner turmoil and complex power play between the high ranking termites. There are also moments of tenderness too when a dying termite finds solace in the comforting arms of a linguistics expert and main protagonist, Kaitrin Oliva. I also loved the moment when Kaitrin finally manages to understand their language. A real fun Eureka moment in what is sometimes a little dry, narrative wise.

There was plenty of real science too, which gave a sense of authenticity to what could have been just another Sci-fi alien contact story. The first books ends with the humans landing on the termite planet so, lots to discover and explore in the next book.

Although the cover, which I really like, made me think this book was for children, it most definitely is not. Well, not younger children, as the phonetic language and wonderfully quirky names would not be suitable for the younger reader. Neither would the length. It is quite wordy. I however, thoroughly enjoyed this story and would highly recommend it to anyone who loves to read quality science fiction with a quirky edge.

[This review was written by Nicola McDonagh.  You can find all her books here on Amazon, also.]

Friday, February 19, 2016

Journey of a Writer

     I have been observing writers lately at all stages of development, mostly through the Facebook posts of my fellow indies, and I've been relating some of their comments to where I was back in 1969 (wow -- 47 years ago!)  Shortly after I began to publish in 2011, somebody made a comment that I seemed so confident.  I guess that's because I already had over 40 years' experience thinking of myself as a writer and I really didn't feel insecure about the craft.

     I did go through some of the same stages, however, that neophytes experience.  I'll present them here, along with some advice for beginners.

1. Hey, I just discovered that I really can write a story!
      It's such a thrilling novelty to discover that you CAN construct a story and write it down. This happened to me in 1969, after I first read Tolkien. The idea that his elves were immortal struck a chord and I began to wonder what an immortal race would really be like -- how would it affect their view of life (you can see that the psychology of the human, or elvish, condition was already something I was interested in).  I became fixated on the idea of immortality and it dominated my writing all the way through two constructed worlds (see The Blessing of Krozem -- FREE on Smashwords).

2. Becoming obsessed with writing
     It's all you want to do, 24 hours a day if you could, and you resent anything that gets in the way, which can make life stressful for the people you live around.  Believe me, I've been there.

2. Dissatisfaction with the results
     My first efforts resulted in an endless and out-of-control plot.  I discovered that it's not enough to have a beginning and an end -- you've also got to have something decent to put in the middle.  I discovered what is my bane (maybe not other people's) -- the curse of improvisation:  too many subplots, too many fascinating new characters who just beg to be developed.  This leads to endless editing, frustration, and a final recognition that that first story can never reduced to anything publishable.  Unfortunately, that problem still persists for me, although not as uncontrollably.

3.  I see a lot of people who don't realize that this first effort isn't good enough to publish.
      There is no shame in abandoning your first piece.  A major piece of advice I would give the beginner is ... don't be in a rush to publish!  When I began, there wasn't any self-publishing except vanity presses and no real way to promote those boxes full of printed books.  Fortunately, I didn't make the expensive mistake of employing a vanity press -- I just kept sending out to regular publishers and collecting rejection slips.
    Anyway, my advice to the beginning writer (especially ones young enough to be able and willing to wait a few years) would be to let your book cook!  Don't just assume that this story you love so much is the great American novel or even a respectable piece of writing that will be enjoyed by a decent number of people.  It's fine to employ beta readers as long as you can keep the relationship friendly!  Or set the book aside -- write something else. Then go back to the first one.  Try editing it, changing some things (I rewrote the beginning of my first piece so many times that I now can't remember which version was supposed to be the finished one).  Try to look at it critically.  If it never really grabs you or moves you after a period away from it, it probably isn't as good as you thought it was.  Avoid those nasty one- and two-star reviews by being absolutely sure that what you've produced is worthy of critical analysis.

4.  Practice, practice, and then practice some more!
     It's not only musicians who need to pay attention to this advice.  It doesn't matter if you accumulate a drawer full of manuscripts, or I should say a computer full these days.  You might be able to go back and resurrect some of the earlier material after you've developed better technique or better insight.  In fact, I'm in the process of doing that right now.

5. So what kind of books should I write?
     This depends on what you want to achieve.  If you're looking to be wildly popular and make a decent amount of money, then write whatever is trending at the moment.  Vampires -- zombies -- dystopias -- space opera -- whatever.  Just be sure you have some kind of twist that sets your book apart, and don't forget the importance of characters who aren't cliched, because if a reader can't muster up some affection for that handsome space captain or that sexy blonde vampire, you'll get indifference or some of those one- and two-star reviews that stress writers out.
     But if you want to be different, then go for it.  You may never become widely popular, because you have to find other people who think like you do, and frankly that's not always easy.  But you will feel more satisfied with what you've achieved.

6.  Develop a routine and a methodology that works for you.  
     Find a routine that suits your lifestyle and leaves you time for the other people in your life.  Right now, I have nobody in my life and haven't had any since 1997, and frankly I don't think I could have written what I have (mainly the termite stories) if I had still had family responsibilities.  But if you do, just make sure you keep your priorities straight.  I think the hiatus I took from writing from 1983 to 1997 probably benefited my later efforts.  I certainly ended up with a more complex outlook.  I gave up on the immortality theme, for one thing (I discovered that Highlander: The Series had just about covered all bases on that subject).  And my termite series turned out to be a real joy to write, and (according to some reviewers) to read.

7. Finally, don't be a slave to the rules of writing.
     I was an English major, with considerable graduate work in the subject, but I never took a course in creative writing.  I never had any intention of becoming a writer until I was 29 years old.  I think the best background for a writer is familiarity with well-regarded books down through the ages, from Homer to the present day.  Also, knowledge of the English language (usage, grammar, punctuation, spelling -- the whole nine yards) is so important. Make the dictionary your best friend!  And utilize the internet!  A Google search of a grammar question usually will yield an answer.  Just yesterday I checked out the rules for how to form a possessive with proper names ending in "s" and I found that the jury was still out.  I decided in my case that "s's" was the way to go.
       As for the rules of style, I break a lot of them.  Frankly, I had never heard of the "show, don't tell" thing that everyone is so hung up on these days.  I write in a manner that seems proper and necessary to the context and to what I'm trying to achieve.  If you become too self-conscious about what you're doing, it will probably make your work stiff, boring, and artificial, although you should be sensitive to anything that feels awkward.  I'm not going to apologize for including pieces of historical explanation when it's the only logical way to bring the reader up to speed about the past.  I also don't apologize for using lots of dialogue.  People communicate through dialogue and one thing I'm always interested in is communication.  As for POV, I agree that one should try to be consistent, but sometimes a shift is the most effective way to move the story along and reveal character.

       So those are some of my thoughts on the subject of becoming a writer.  Pontification over!

Monday, February 8, 2016

What a Difference Thirty Years Makes!

Tentative cover for Part I of MWFB
I have no artwork for Children
of the Music yet.
I'm in the process of formatting The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars for publication, and at the same time I'm scanning into the computer my early piece called Children of the Music. Yesterday I worked on MWFB in the morning and then scanned and edited another chapter of Children in the afternoon.

Viewing both books in such close succession caused me to be impressed by how my style has changed. Children was written in the late 1970s and MWFB was written somewhere between 2006 and 2010, after I had written the termite books. In the late '70s I was still under the influence of Tolkien -- heroic fantasy was the order of the day. Children is laid in an imaginary world with two races of humans who exist at a level of technology that is fairly primitive, agricultural or pastoral in nature. My style at times verges on the grandiose, and I use a lot of description of setting (I was impressed by how successful these descriptions turned out to be). By 2006 I was definitely a realist, writing about the future of Earth. This started in The Termite Queen and persists into MWFB.
And yet I feel both styles are equally effective for the purpose intended. In fact, I was impressed by the chapter of Children that I worked on yesterday. It depicts the invasion of a pastoral people by a horde of "barbarians" and it stirred me emotionally, which is a good sign. (It's been more than thirty years since I read the manuscript.) It has a feel of both high fantasy and realism.  And I consider the straightforward narrative technique of MWFB to be equally compelling. I'm going to give you an example from each book so you can compare them.

From Children of the Music:

The good weather held, with a flawless blue sky above their heads and a dry northwest wind from the mountains that blew briskly down the neck and whipped the long manes across the horses’ eyes.  At night the cold sharpened, but the days warmed enough to have made life pleasant if only the wind could have dropped.  In the early morning the east was hazed with river mist, but elsewhere and at other times the air was like crystal.  Always the white bluffs barred the west, drawing closer as the caravan progressed southward, and in their breaks the Epanishai could see the ruffled horizon of dark silver mountains. 
In his impatience Daborno pushed the caravan faster than usual, only to suffer on the morning of the fourth day a broken axle on one of the oldest wagons.  After heated contention with the wagon’s family, he ordered it to be abandoned.  “We haven’t time to repair it, by the god of this world!  Where do we get seasoned ash for an axle, tell me that?  What do I care if this wain was made in the south?  Load your goods on the oxen, curse it!  Disperse them among the other vans!  Sirrah, I don’t suggest – I command!  Get this line moving, you snails’ spawn!  “
“What’s the rush, Daborno?” asked Leftis irritably, when they were underway again. 
The Chieftain glanced darkly at Rashemia and made no reply.  Leftis followed his eyes and did not repeat the question.  The High Codian had uncharacteristically taken no part in the altercation and now she rode three or four paces ahead of them, head held high, face pale and eyes farseeing – hoodless, with the wind tearing at loose strands of her hair.  The sight of her imperious otherness made Daborno quake with apprehension.  So they rode, past midday, into the afternoon. 
Suddenly, in a silence of weariness, a low cry came from Rashemia’s throat.  She drove her heels into the brown gelding’s flanks and dashed toward a long, sere brake of alder and birch that seemed to mark the line of a dry watercourse.  After a moment’s hesitation Daborno spurred after her, with Leftis and his wife not far behind. 
The Chieftain crashed through the brush and reined up beside Rashemia, rising in the stirrups to look where her hand pointed.  Before them lay hay fields, with neat, round ricks ready for winter.  Some eight furlongs beyond, in the valley of a lucent silver stream, was a shepherd village surrounded by its frail palisade, its flocks scattered over the slightly rising ground to east and west. 
Along the bluffs not half a league from the village, the woodland of bare birches and hazel thickened, punctuated by the brilliant darkness of cedars.  Amidst the white and gray hatching of the trees, against the chalk brightness of the bluffs, an indistinct lattice of heavy, black shapes teased the eye. 
It was into that distance that Rashemia’s sight strained, but Daborno’s was nailed southward, on the broad, bare knob of land that rose beyond the stream. 
“Aftran.  Aftran!  Rashemia!  Is this it?” He clawed at her arm, her horse’s mane, its reins, half beside himself. 
“Yes.”  The confirmation came, blunt, toneless, crushing down the emotion. 
“Aftran!  Aftran!  We are here!” The words roared from Dabornos throat as he pivoted his astonished stallion.  Then the rowels were buried in the beast’s side and it leaped forward, streaking across the fields, with the other three behind. 
On the north side of the brake, the caravan heard and there were whoops and war cries of disbelief, of elation, of ecstasy.  Everyone who was mounted coursed through the trees and followed the Chieftain.  The drovers screamed at their cattle, stampeding them into the brush; the wagoners beat the oxen with their goads, heaved the wains with shoulder and hip and hand, slashed at the trees with axes to clear a path – shrieking, weeping with frustration at being left behind – abandoning the more hopelessly wedged vehicles to pound on foot after their lord. 
Through the fields east of the village the ragged line of riders and wagons hurtled, hoofs shaking the earth, cloaks flying in the wind, the bound hair of women loosening and streaming behind like black banners.  The wild yelling scraped across the ancient, sunlit air, raw and terrifying as the music of an untuned viol.  The foremost horsemen dashed helter-skelter through the stream; the drovers and the wagoners gave up their charges on the north side and forded on foot; every human creature of the Axe and Owl beat their way up the slopes of the round, bald hill. 
The cavalcade had passed not two furlongs from the easternmost flocks, paying no attention to the two shepherds who rose up with fright on their faces, stared momentarily upon the careering wildmen, then turned and sprinted toward the village to the west.  

Now here is a scene from The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars (a little background   will help: The SkyPiercer Project, flying a starship beyond the solar system for first time, has just been made public.  Robbin Nikalishin, who is to pilot that mission, feels compelled to call his mother after this revelation.  His relationship with her is strained and difficult, owing to a dire misunderstanding that took place during his adolescence):

Robbie called his mother when Kolm wasn’t there, because he knew his public charm would vanish the minute he had her on the link.  When she came on, she said immediately, “Congratulations, son.  I know this is what you always wanted.  You made it happen.  Like you said in the news conference, you saw the stars and you never let anything stand in your way.”
“That’s – not exactly what I said, Mother.”
“Well, it’s the truth, isn’t it?”
There was a silence.  Then Sterling said, “Are they going to give you any leave before you fly in August?”
“I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think so.  I don’t think they want us having open contact with the public.”
“So … you won’t be able to come home then … ”
“Probably not.  I’m – sorry … ”
He heard a sound at the other end that he couldn’t identify.  “Mother?”
“What if you get killed?” she said harshly.  “You could, I’m quite sure.”
“Mother, a person can walk out the door and fall down stairs and get killed.”
“Don’t give me that trite old probability crap!” she retorted sharply.  “The chances are much greater of dying in what you’re doing and you know it!”
He made no answer, clutching the side of his head, feeling paralyzed of will.  Then he said, “Mother … how can you … really want to … keep seeing me … after all that has … ”  His voice petered out.
It was her turn to be silent.  Finally she snapped out, “I want to wish you a lot of luck, son.  I’m gratified that you’re accomplishing your dreams.  It makes all my hard work and sacrifice worthwhile.  I only hope the rewards you reap will be as great as you think they will.  And just in case something does happen to you out there, I’m going to say ‘Goodbye’ and I suggest you do the same.  You may never find the time to ring me up again before you go and it would be a shame for a son to die without having said goodbye to his mother.”
“God almighty … ” said Robbie in utter misery. 
“Goodbye, son,” said Sterling.  “Say it!  Say ‘Goodbye’ to me.”
“No, I won’t!  I won’t say goodbye …  Dammit, I’m not going to die, Mother!”
But she had cut the connection.  Robbie stood for a moment clutching the com piece, and then he turned and threw it as hard as he could across the room.
When Kolm tapped on his door later that afternoon, Robbie didn’t answer.  Alarmed, Kolm banged harder.  “Robbie, are ye in there?”
“ … ’s not locked … ”
Kolm opened the door and came to a dismayed stop.  “Holy cry, man, what are ye doing?’
“Working really hard … at getting rotten drunk … ”
“Damnation.”  Kolm hastily closed the door.  “Where’d ye get that bottle?”
“Over at … Base Exchange.  … sell the stuff, you know … ”
“Ye walked right in and bought it, afore god and everybody?  What if somebody reports you to Lara or to Teeter?”
“Yeah, I walked right in … could do it then.  Don’t much know if I could do that at the moment … ”
Kolm went to where Robbie was sprawled on the couch and jerked the whisky bottle out of his hands.  “Whatever in Mairin’s name provoked ye to break training like this?”
“They have no right … tell us we can’t drink.  Sometimes a man has to do something … sometimes there are things … a man can’t stand … ”  Robbie squeezed his eyes shut, his face contorting.
Kolm knelt beside his friend.  “Robbie, did ye ring up yer mother?”
Robbie twitched his head.
“Man, this is the worst.”
“That’s right.  The worst.  Goody, I’m never calling her again … don’t care what you say to me.  I can’t stand it.  I hope I never talk to her again … never see her the rest of my life.”
Kolm took Robbie’s head hard between his hands.  “Robbie, I don’t understand, but I feel terrible bad for ye.  If it takes such a radical thing to keep ye from goin’ to pieces like this, I guess I’d have to say I’m for it.  But it’s a terrible sad thing and I wish I understood about it, but I know I never can and that’s all right.  Now, are ye just gonna lie there, or are ye going to get up and let me pour some coffee down ye?  It’s for sure that ye’ve got to be over this by tomorrow mornin’, or the jig’s up.”
And so Kolm was able to pull Robbie together and no one was ever the wiser about his lapse.  But Kolm remained on guard, and if Robbie got particularly moody or seemed to be withdrawing into himself, Kolm made a special effort to stay close at hand.  Robbie knew this and was deeply grateful.  He understood all too well that the masonry on which his character was founded was not the most stable and he relied heavily on his friend to be his keystone.

So do you like one better than the other?
Or do you like them both?