Sunday, September 29, 2013

New Goodreads Review of The Termite Queen!

       Adam Walker is one of my conlanging and conworlding associates (he's writing a book of his own that I really looking forward to because it's going to be full of fascinating aliens), and he's written a review of the two volumes of The Termite Queen.  He didn't like everything about it, but here is some of the good stuff he mentioned:
       "The Termite Queen (vol. 1) and The Wound That Has No Healing (vol. 2) really are one long novel in two volumes. Volume one has a logical conclusion, but the story is far from over till the end of volume two. Each of the two volumes contains two parts.
       "Personally I found volume 2 more satisfying, because I found the aliens, the "termites", more interesting than the humans. The Shshi are strange, as aliens should be, but relatable -- they plot against each other and have their customs and rituals and ways of doing things. Several of the Shshi are really fun characters, the scheming chamberlain, the child-like queen, the clever seer. Several of the warriors are especially complex as they are caught between duty and conscience trying to decide where their loyalties lie as the leadership of the termite city fractures."
       [I like that because nobody before has noted the complexity of the psychology of Commander Hi'ta'fu, Chief Lo'lo'pai, and Lieutenant Ni'shto'pri.]
       Adam goes on mention how he didn't like the romance part of the plot and then continues saying that nevertheless he really likes the book:
       "Languages. I love languages. I invent languages as a hobby. And the Shshi language in this book is incredible. Not only is it alien, using a non-verbal modality (radio waves!), but the version we see in the text is actually an invented language that Our Heroine invents during the course of the book as in interface between the humans, who can't detect radio waves, and the Shshi who can't detect our languages."
       [I like that because Adam is the first person to mention the language element that plays such a large part in the book -- the process of understanding how we really might communicate during humans' first contact with intelligent extraterrestrials.]

       Adam gave it 4 stars and recommended it.  Most of the reviews of TQ have been 4 star (I've had one 5-star on each of the two volumes, and a couple of 3-star on v.1 -- nothing lower).  I'm satisfied with 4 stars because this book does have so many elements to it (romance, a journey into human psychology, emphasis on future history, space travel, several types of extraterrestrials, conlangs, a low-tech alien culture with a tradition of heroic single combat, etc.),  With a book so heterogeneous, I'm sure everybody will find something that annoys them, but (I trust) also something to like!
       Give it a try here: Amazon
       Or here: Smashwords 

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Tangled Web?

Young Lochinvar Carrying Away His Love
From Misrepresentative Women by Harry Graham  (c1906)
       Remember the old quote "Oh, what a tangled web we weave / When first we practise to deceive"? Bet you don't know what it's from. Shakespeare? (Isn't everything from Shakespeare?) The Bible (less likely!) Well, I didn't know either, so I looked it up. It's from an epic poem that's pretty obscure these days -- Marmion, a Tale of Flodden Field, by Walter Scott, first published in 1808.  It's a tale of romantic intrigues involving nuns who break their vows, wronged heroes, duels, revenge, deaths at the battle of Flodden Field in 1513, etc., etc.  Modernized a bit, it might actually have something going for it! It was immensely popular in its day, although it was not a critical success; according to Wikipedia, it was castigated for the "unwarranted intrusions" of the letters to Scott's friends that head up each canto and its poetic style was called "flat and tedious." There was also a complaint that it was written solely to show off Scott's erudition.  However, the poem also contained the "Lochinvar" section that people used to read in school.  I remember that galloping anapestic rhythm very well -- and with some nostalgia ...

O young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;
And save his good broadsword he weapons had none,
He rode all unarm'd, and he rode all alone.
So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,
There never was knight like the young Lochinvar ...

       Does anybody read that poem these days?
       So where was I?  What was my point?  Oh, I remember -- the tangled web.  First, however, let me say that some might criticize my writing for some of the same reason they criticized Scott's (although I don't write poetry):  That my stories have "unwarranted intrusions," that my style isn't spectacularly original (although I really wouldn't call it "flat and tedious"), and that I like to show off my erudition (which isn't as mighty as I wish it were).  That's still not my point, however. 
       My point is, everything I write is interconnected -- a bit of a tangled web.  I really hadn't thought about that until lately.  All of my books share characters and allude to events or people which exist in my other books.  The Termite Queen is the seminal tale.  It introduces Prf. Kaitrin Oliva, who is also the main character in "Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder," which is laid thirty years later.  Kaitrin is also the editor of The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head series, which begins hard on the end of The Termite Queen.  The series contains many references to events in The Termite Queen, because after all it was the coming of the Star-Beings to the termite planet that precipitated the New Time (doesn't the arrival of aliens always change things?)  Kaitrin mounts several expeditions to the termite planet after that fateful first one, and these are mentioned in footnotes throughout the series.  And Kaitrin actually does make a physical appearance as a character in the series but only near its end.
       Then of course two of the major characters in the series -- Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head and Di'fa'kro'mi the Remembrancer -- were introduced in The Termite Queen, so that's an essential interconnection.
       See how tangled it's getting?
       I also have a number of unwritten books that increase the tangles.  Something I plan to call The Dark Leopards of the Moon (title from a poem by Yeats) will be the story of the remainder of Kaitrin Oliva's life, and then there is an episode of her life alluded to in "Monster" as "my experiences with the Etúmanoi on the fourth planet of Foraka 3."  That one I mean to write as a separate novel (entitled The Hard, Bright Crystal of Being, from a poem by Conrad Aiken), and it also includes a couple of other characters from Termite Queen whose names I won't mention for fear of spoilers.
       The only story I've written that isn't tangled up with the others is The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars.  It's laid in the 28th century while TQ is laid in the 30th, and its only association with The Termite Queen lies in the fact that first contact with the bird aliens (Prf. A'a'ma's people) occurs in MWFB.  That's important, of course, but it does allow the plot of MWFB to pretty much stand on its own.
       I say all this only because the tangling of my characters and plots may make them a little problematical to read.  You may have read TQ and found some things not to like about it.  It has a double plot line, so you may like one plot and not the other.  Besides, it contains all that conlanging gobbledegook, which is a little bit of a specialized interest.  (However, I can't imagine anybody who wouldn't be curious about how we're going to communicate with aliens when we finally meet them.)  So I would say this: if you enjoyed the termite people in The Termite Queen, please do go on and give the Ki'shto'ba series a try.  And even if you haven't read TQ, it's summarized sufficiently at the beginning of The War of the Stolen Mother, so don't be deterred from jumping right into the series. 
       I hope to meet you there!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Some Random Thoughts, and a Cover Reveal

     I've been posting more regularly on my other blog lately, because most of what I've had to say involves either the Ki'shto'ba series or material about myth.  I have a special ongoing at the moment:

 (v.1 of The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head)
will be priced at only 99 cents through Sunday, Sept. 8,
for the Kindle version at Amazon or for the Smashwords edition.
       I just participated in Tidbit Tuesday, a monthly event run by Patrick O'Scheen on Facebook, and I ended up increasing my likes on my FB page from 45 to 98 (at this moment of writing). A really nice reward!
       That brings up a question.  People always seem interested in my work and my ideas, and they say nice things about my drawings.  But none of this produces any sales, particularly of my Ki'shto'ba series, which I still say is superior to anything else I've written, especially for its originality. 
       Why is this?  I think I might have some idea.  My termites naturally talk is a high style -- they simply don't speak colloquial English.  That is, to preserve the fiction, Kaitrin Oliva envisions them as talking is an elevated, literary style (I had nothing to do with it -- ha, ha!) and she translates them that way.  And probably the scholarly apparatus, which I so love, puts people off (the footnotes, in particular, and possibly the asides between Di'fa'kro'mi and his scribe, something I find really entertaining, and also maybe the "difficult" names).  One person told me he didn't like the narrative form -- the fact that somebody was telling the story.  My opinion of that is that it's a personal quirk.  Lots of books are written in the first person, including The Great Gatsby.  And Di'fa'kro'mi is a Bard, after all -- it's his job to tell tales.  He participated in Ki'shto'ba's quest and it makes sense to have him tell the story as a reminiscence, as his own memoirs.  We may know he survived, but that doesn't mean that anybody else in the quest made it back home (after all in the present moment in which Di'fa'kro'mi is speaking, we never see a single other person who went on the quest), so it doesn't damage the suspense.
       Now a random and disconnected remark ...  I've noticed lately that a lot of book covers show closeups of one or two heads with serious, strained, or possibly lustful expressions on their faces.  Hmm.  That would work only for books in The Man Who Found Birds series (yes, it will be a series).  I may have to find somebody to do the covers for those, if I can find somebody who won't charge me thousands of dollars.  I'll repeat, I can do termites and I can make my own maps, but real people?  Forget it!  The faces I've attempted improved with practice, but they are still basically cartoons.  I don't think anything I could do would work.  So stay tuned.
       And now I present the back cover for The Valley of Thorns.  It was Marva Dasef who suggested I incorporate the map so I could employ a colorized version.  I did a detail showing the region around the battle area.  For the full black and white map, go here
Click for larger view