In the 25th century a mysterious group of humanist philosophers rose from among the ranks of those Underground Archivists. They came to be known by the collective name “Mythmakers.” They composed works of rare beauty and symbolic power from which emerged a new behavioral code, a new system of morality based not on arbitrary prescriptions of religious dogma but on the humanist tenets of respect for life, the unity of humankind, and personal responsibility. [from The Termite Queen]
Advice to Neophyte Writers: Don't Try This at Home!
Cover of Part One
I'm getting good results after publishing The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars, Part One: Eagle Ascendant. I've already had six reviews, all of them 5 star. It seems my friend Neil Aplin was right in maintaining it would be a success. I had my doubts about publishing any of the book, because the entire piece is way longer than any book should ever be. Neil didn't think so -- he read it in manuscript and he wanted it to be even longer, and it was his enthusiastic support that convinced me to publish the beginning of it.
Part Two: Wounded Eagle is in the works; I'm revising like mad, trying to shorten it. Part One is a long book, but at least it covers the first 31.5 years of Capt. Nikalishin's life. Part Two only covers 2.5 years and it's even longer than Part One. There will be at least six more parts after that so you see my problem. The ultimate conclusion isn't even written yet.
You might be saying, how in the world could you let this happen? I've written a bit about my writing history before, but now I have new readers and Facebook friends who may not know how my writing came about, so I need to construct an apology, in the sense of a justification.
Sneak peak: cover for
Part Two (tentative)
I've always been inclined to write long. In college when the professor would assign a 20-page paper, the other students would be groaning -- how would they ever be able to make it that long? And I would be wondering how I could keep the paper under 40 pages.
I started to write fiction after I read Tolkien in 1969, and I had no real thought of publishing at that time. I simply found the act of writing to be tremendous fun. So I wrote my first endless story. It was somewhat Tolkienesque imaginary-world fantasy and it was my million-word learning process. It will never be finished and I will never publish it, but in case anyone is interested, my novel Children of the Music was written as a prequel to that long piece.
From 1983 through 1999 I took a hiatus from writing because of family responsibilities. Then in January of 2000 I bought my first computer, which made the act of writing infinitely easier. And I had a sudden surge of literary inspiration, beginning with "Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder" (a novella! Amazing!) and then The Termite Queen and the rest of the termite stories (I've discussed them plenty elsewhere, mostly on my other blog The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head). I completed the sixth volume of Labors in July of 2003, so you can see that I wrote furiously for those 3.5 years. By that time I was a little tired of termites and even though I needed one more tale to complete the Quest, I wanted to do something else for a while. (I did manage to compose the sequel volume for the Ki'shto'ba tales in 2015 while I was on chemo.)
I should say that during this time I also never contemplated publishing -- I was simply enjoying myself too much.
And then I got the idea for The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars. I had invented the Bird People of the planet Krisí’i’aid, along with their language, for The Termite Queen, and I decided it would be interesting to write about the first contact with the Krisí’i’aida, which had occurred a couple of centuries earlier. How about writing a biography of the spaceship Captain who made the first contact? This would also give me a chance to develop my future history to an extent greater than I had been able to do in TQ. I never intended for the piece to be so long or so detailed, but it was one of those stories that just grew like a clump of mushrooms. And again, with no intent to publish, I paidabsolutely no attention to the length. (A really serious mistake -- again I say to beginning writers: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!) I started writing in November of 2003 and worked on that thing until January of 2011, when it suddenly hit me that I was 70 years old. If I ever wanted anyone else to read my books, I'd better suspend writing and focus on publishing. So I began to work up "Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder," self-publishing it in November of 2011, and that was followed by The Termite Queen and the Ki'shto'ba series -- and the rest is history, as they say.
So what was I going to do with all that manuscript for The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars? (By the way, that was not the original title, but I don't seem to have recorded the original title anywhere and unfortunately I can't remember what it was. Once I thought of MWFB, it seemed perfect and I never looked back.) I decided to publish excerpts from the book on my blog -- those excerpts are still here, on this very blog, but they've been radically altered in the final form of the book. My friend Neil Aplin was mesmerized by those excerpts and so I agreed to email him longer pieces of the book. He continued to be crazy about it and finally he convinced me to begin to working over the piece for publication.
At one point I considered getting a professional editor to shorten it. I'm sure a professional could do that -- just take shears and whack away. But then it wouldn't be my book and I think I would have an apoplexy trying to deal with that person no matter how tactful and truly interested they were. Nope, that doesn't work for me. I'm not concerned with becoming a bestseller, and it costs me nothing but time to self-publish, especially since I do my own covers. However, I do like for people to read what I write and enjoy and comment on it. I'll take my chances that the lengthiness may exhaust my readers' patience.
So I think the world is stuck with something no writer is supposed to do -- an interminable novel cut into many segments, each one too long in itself. That's why I call them Part One, Part Two, etc. It suggests a single story rather than a series. I made that mistake with The Termite Queen. It was too long for one volume, but it is really all one story, and by designating the halves v.1 and v.2 rather that Pt.1 and Pt.2, I made people think it was a series and too many people have stopped reading after v.1 and so don't get the full effect. The Ki'shto'ba books really constitute a serial rather than a series, but the volume designations seem to fit OK in their case.
So here are the upcoming volumes in the endless progression of MWFB:
Part Five: Phenix (this is the one that requires drastic cutting -- Fathers and Demons was extracted [and will be cut] from that section)
Part Six: Rare Birds (still experimental)
Part Seven + : ??? not written yet!
Do you think any reader can survive all that? Do you think I can live long enough to actually accomplish the required editing? I had some other books I wanted to write, too. Sounds hopeless! Anyway, I just wanted everyone to know how this all came about and warn them about what might be coming. I beg your indulgence! At least you've seemed to enjoy Part One. Who knows? Maybe you'll enjoy the other parts just as much!