Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What Has TermiteWriter Been Up To Lately?

       Neglecting her termites, that's what!
Neglecting her blogs, too, but that's less important
 than neglecting her termites!
       So why have I been so shiftless lately?  It's not the holidays, because I don't do much for Christmas.  It's my WIP, The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars.  I may have mentioned before that I have a beta reader for this humongous piece, and he is totally involved -- he loves the opus and keeps wanting more of it!  This has impelled me to work diligently to get parts of it ready to send to him. 
I may not draw very well,
but this really does capture
what the Captain looks like.
       I'm supposed to be shortening it (Hah! Famous last words!)  Actually, mostly I'm just reading it.  It's been a long time since I went through it and I've become completely absorbed, and the farther I get into it, the more intense and compelling it becomes.   On the bright side, I've not added anything to it and I actually have shortened it a little, but only by way of cutting words like unnecessary "that," and "just" and "now" (which I overuse).  I do occasionally condense a paragraph or cut a sentence, but those emendations are like grains of sand plucked away from a beach. 
       I honestly think I could shorten it more drastically, but I get caught up in the story and the flow of the dialogue (the piece is heavy on dialogue, like all my writings), and I never can achieve any distance.  Maybe after I  finish this pass-through, I can manage a more objective look.
       Another thing that the story requires is new chapterization and that I'm managing to do.  Since the book is cast as a biography, I began by heading the chapters with nothing but dates and places.   This makes it impossible to know what's going on by looking through the ToC, so I've never been able to find anything in the story.  The chapters were also too long, so I'm chopping them into shorter chunks and adding chapter titles.  I like books with chapter titles.  I think they can draw a reader in.  For example, here are the titles of the first ten chapters of The Valley of Thorns (v.3 of The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head):
The Marchers Muster before the Hot Gate. 11
The Hosts March South. 22
The Battle of Wei’loi’bao’cha. 32
The Aftermath of the Battle. 4
Peace Negotiations. 5
The Return of the Envoy. 5
The Evacuation of Wei’loi’bao’cha. 7
The Bite of the Tooth77
The Horn Is Broken
       Now doesn't that list make you interested in reading the book so you can learn what all those intriguing titles imply?
       As I add chapter titles to MWFB, I'm also retaining the dates covered in the chapters, since it is a biography.  All this is taking some time, but it will make further revision easier.  I'm still not saying I'll ever be able to publish it because it is in fact the quintessential million-word novel -- all one humongous story.  The Termite Queen was too long for one volume, but it fit nicely into two.  MWFB will need maybe five and that's just for the part I've completed -- it isn't finished, you know.  It can't be a series in the traditional sense, which implies that each volume stands alone.  This is all one long story, just like people's lives are one long story.  You need the contents of v.1 to prepare you for v.2 and v.3, just as you need to know what happens in a man's childhood to help you understand his actions at the ages of 30 and 50.
       Just the same, I'm sorely tempted to publish the first volume, which I call Eagle Ascendant.  I takes Capt. Robbin Nikalishin to age 31 and drops him at a huge cliffhanger.  It would be a long book in itself -- at the moment it's 171,000 words.  But my beta reader was crazy about it and said he didn't think I should lose a word.  So what's to do?  Will anybody else be similarly impressed?  Only the space gods know!  If readers did take to it, it would be worthwhile plowing ahead with the project.
       So that's why I've been neglecting my poor little termites!  But they are still there, demanding attention!  Why don't you all go out and help keep them content while I cook this big pudding that is The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars?  You can find Ki'shto'ba and its cohorts at Amazon or at Smashwords.
       A footnote on the genre of Man Who Found Birds:  I almost have to call it a piece of literary fiction.  It just happens to be laid in 28th century and to involve space travel and future history, but what it really deals with is the human spirit, with all its triumphs and all its failings.  Really, all my books, including the ones inhabited by extraterrestrial termites, deal with that subject.  Mythmaker Precept No.  17: 
There are creatures on this planet [amended later to in the universe]
 who speak, form symbols, and share emotions;
these may be called human.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas in Ireland, 28th-century style

Farmland and View of Wicklow Town
From Wikipedia Creative Commons, copyright David Quinn 
       My WIP, The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars, is a fictionalized biography of Robbin Haysus Nikalishin, the starship Captain who made the first contact with extraterrestrial intelligent life in the 28th century  As a child attending the Epping Science Academy in the Islands of Britan, he became close friends with a fellow student, Kolm Magilligoody, who hailed from Eira, as Ireland is called in that period.  Kolm's home is an agricultural co-op not far from Wicklo, and when Robbie was 17 years old, he went home with his friend to spend the Midwinter Holiday.
       Many of you will remember that in my future history, Earth has banned the open practice of religion because of the evils that dogmatic religious institutions have perpetrated over the millennia.  However, remnant groups of several different ancient religions have persisted and are tolerated as long as they keep a low profile, do not proselytize, and do not form organized entities dedicated to the promotion of their beliefs.  The Remnant Romishers in Eira are one such group and Kolm came out of this culture.  Parenthetically, Robbie's middle name, Haysus, is an anglification of the Spainish Jesus, so he is always curious about the linking of the name to a god.
       Here is an excerpt from Chapter 9: Robbie's First Visit to Eira.
       Robbie had never heard of anything like the Eirish Midwinter festivity; his knowledge of the Romish religion came solely from a brief exposition in one of Prf. Doone’s classes.  Kolm’s father explained that the celebration took place on the solstice and incorporated elements from what ancient Romish worshipers had called “Krismess.”  The MaGilligoodys set up an array of little figurines in a cave-like setting; they called it a “kraytch.”  There was a woman in a blue gown with sparkly trim on it, a baby lying in a cradle, and a man standing beside them.  From the top of the cave projected a wire with a star on it, something like the star on Robbie’s space plane.  Sheep and donkeys and (mystifyingly) a camel were arrayed around, and winged fairies were stuck up on the wall behind.  Facing this tableau were two men dressed in bright robes, holding out a box and a vial. 
       Kolm said, “There are supposed to be three of those, but last year one of ’em disappeared.  I think maybe one of the cats got holt of it and carried it off.”
       “What’s it represent?” asked Robbie, watching Kolm’s Grammy lighting fat beeswax candles at each end of the scene.
       “It’s the birth of that god-man Jaysus that’s on me medal,” said Kolm.  “That’s his mother Mairin watchin’ over him.  He was supposed to have been born this time of the year – that’s what we’re celebratin’.”
       “Who’s the man?  I thought you said he didn’t have a father.”
       “It’s his foster father, name of Josef.  Mairin was married to him, ’cause that was back in the days when women had to have men to look after them.”
       “What’s the star for?”
       “They say it burst out bright in the sky at Jaysus’s birth.  Probably a supernova, you know, if it ever really happened a-tall.  And the family was so poor that the babby was birthed in a barn, and yet this star set up right atop it.  Those chaps in the robes – they call ’em Wise Men – Professors, most likely … they got its coordinates and brought fancy gifts to Jaysus to show they recognized he was a god.  It’s supposed to have happened somewhere at the east end of the Mediterrian, where it’s all a Devastation Zone now.  A pretty tale, it is.”
       “And you Eirish really worship this god?” asked Robbie, looking at Kolm’s father.
       “Oh, I don’t know that I’d call it worship, lad,” Mat MaGilligoody said.  “But we Eirish tend to be a superstitious lot.  If it’s not gods, it’s fairies, ye know.  Two of those even got hooked up in this tale, ye can see there.  It’s just part of our tradition to do these here things at Midwinter – a nice, peaceful way of celebratin’.”
       Robbie found it totally bizarre, but nevertheless he stood looking at the baby and at the mother and at the star, unable to interpret the emotions stirring within him.
       On the solstice they had a big feast (the main course was goose, which made Robbie a little uncomfortable, afraid he was eating the one whose acquaintance he had made) and then they sang traditional songs.  Some were in an ancient tongue whose meaning was unknown even to the MaGilligoodys, but one was in an archaic dialect of Inge. 
Silent night, holy night ...
All is calm, and all is bright
Around the virgin mother and child –
oly infant, all tender, all mild …
May they sleep in a haven of peace …
Sleep in a haven of peace …
 Robbie thought he had never heard a song so tranquil and so moving.  “That mother and child – that’s your Mairin and Jaysus?” he asked.
       “Right.  The same as is in the kraytch,” said Mat.
       “I can’t help being a little surprised.  I thought the ancient religions were supposed to be violent and evil.  This doesn’t seem that way.”
       And Kolm’s mother said, “I’ve an idea, friend of me son, that none of them was violent in its heart.  I think it’s the hearts of humans that misunderstood the Right Way and made ’em so.”
       Later in the evening, Kolm played a tin whistle, a talent Robbie hadn’t known he possessed, and Kolm’s father played a grotesque musical instrument where the air was forced through a bag.  They told ancient Eirish stories about vanishing cities and wandering lights and they drank mulled ale; it was not Robbie’s first taste of alcohol, but it was his first time to drink a little more than was wise.  The next morning he was privileged to experience his first hangover.
       When the time came to return to school, the boys treated themselves to a sea journey – taking an excursion boat across Sainjorge’s Channel instead of catching a wing hopper.  The craft was operated by Gwidian Tours, the enterprise of an old family of seafarers from Kardif.  It was yet another first for Robbie – his first time to bob on the waters of the sea.  He got a bit queasy, but it excited him tremendously, and he hated to see the trip end.
       “Ye’re kinda quiet, lad,” said Kolm, as they neared the harbor.  “What are ye thinking about?”
       “I’m thinking that I envy you, Goody,” Robbie replied.  “I didn’t know – I couldn’t have realized – how happy people could be … with a family like yours … ”
       Kolm clapped him on the shoulder.  “Well, ye do seem to have had a bit of a rough time in yer life, friend of mine.  But ye’re welcome in my family.  Ye’re welcome to come back and soil yer boots in the goose shit as often as ye like!”