Saturday, December 26, 2015

Can You Make Your Readers Cry?

Sentimental -- what does the word mean?
I found this picture at  North American Victorian Studies Assoc.
No artist was given or further credit,
but it certainly sums up Victorian sentimentality
       According to, sentimental means "expressive of or appealing to sentiment, especially the tender emotions and feelings, as love, pity, or nostalgia [as] a sentimental song."  But the entry goes on to give another meaning: "weakly emotional; mawkishly susceptible or tender [as] the sentimental Victorians." It's that latter meaning that critics commonly employ when they condemn a book as sentimental.  I was always taught as an English major to avoid sentimentality at all costs.
       Yet as a writer I agree with that only up to a point.  I certainly believe that excessive, unjustified emotion should be avoided.  The story that dwells on the "tragedy" of a dead kitten or emotes for pages about how much a mother loves her dying child is not my cup of tea.  And of course I think many stories don't require any sentiment -- for example, murder mysteries or crime stories, especially the kind where the fun part is solving the mystery; or straightforward adventure tales, like the Indiana Jones movies; or a lot of science fiction, particularly the space opera variety.
       But any story that focuses on character needs to bring the reader to tears at some point, because that demonstrates that the author succeeded in making the reader care about the character.  If you read straight through and close the book and say, "That's an OK story, but now I'm done at last and I can forget about it" -- or worse, if the reader abandons reading halfway through, saying, "Ho hum, I just can't get involved emotionally with these characters," then I fear the writer has failed.
       Can you believe that a number of people who have read my series The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head, and also its precursor, my novel The Termite Queen, have told me they have teared up or even wept at certain points of the stories?  I take that as a great compliment.  My characters are mostly giant extraterrestrial termites (called the Shshi) -- bristly, rather stinky bugs with no facial expressions beyond what their antennae can convey and strange habits like eating their primary dung in order to extract all the nutrients and also recycling their dead by eating them and thus conserving the protein.  How can you cry over such repulsive creatures?
       The fact that you can proves that I made them "human" -- I made them relatable to the human  psyche.  I read a SF book once (and frankly I can't remember the name of the book or its author now) that had an extraterrestrial race that was amphibious -- big frog-like creatures that spawned in water.  It was narrated from the point of view of the humans who had made first contact with that race, and I never could feel any relationship to them -- they remained remote and just too "alien."
       I think mine is successful partly because I tell the story from the point of view of the Shshi.  In The Termite Queen the point of view switches between the human anthropological team and the Shshi with whom first contact is being made, but the Ki'shto'ba series is narrated entirely from the Shshi perspective, allowing the reader to delve into their essence.  The reader can identify with creatures who have moral principles (or lack them, or are misguided), who care deeply about each other and the foundations of their way of life, who work together, rejoice when something good happens and grieve over loss.  They live full, realistic lives, which means not everything can always work out the way the reader might like.  That can make the reader say, "Not this character!  How could the author do that to this innocent character?" and that can bring on tears.
       I consider tears of that sort to be genuine emotion, and genuine emotion cannot be characterized as sentimentality.  Just killing off a character does not make me weep -- you've got to care about the character that was killed.  That's why we have "red shirts" -- because we need a surrogate for the main characters in whom we have a lot invested.  I can't give anybody instructions on how to make the reader care -- I'm not much of a teacher of writing skills -- but I seem to have succeeded with everybody who has read the entire Ki'shto'ba series.  Heck, I even succeeded with myself -- if I read some of the painful parts after being away from them for a while, I end up weeping over them every time!

       Why don't you give my books a try and see for yourselves if I succeeded?

Buy my books at

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A 28th-Century Christmas in Ireland

Wearing his "Mairin and Jaysus"
medal.  The drawing could use a
little retouching, I think.
I'm preparing my WIP, The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars, Part 1, for publication. Some of you may remember that it's 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,  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 Eirish friend Kolm MaGilligoody, to spend the Midwinter Holiday on his family's farm near Wicklo.  I published this excerpt once before, but I thought it would be appropriate to republish the post.  (I've added a drawing of Kolm MaGilligoody that I made a long time ago.  I don't think I've published it before.)
       Some of you may also 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.  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 the 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 that included tragic romances between humans and fairy folk, 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!”

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Fathers and Demons: Another New Review

At this point in time, Neil Aplin's new 5-star review of Fathers and Demons has appeared only on Smashwords.  I'm hoping he puts it up on Amazon soon.  Here is the review:

       In Fathers and Demons; Glimpses of the Future, Lorinda J. Taylor develops the character of one of her most fascinating protagonists, the Captain Robbie Nikalishin, who despite constant mispronouncements of his surname conquers this as well as the traumatic initial journey into the depths of the galaxy from a previous novel to find himself strong enough to accept the offer of a second mission, whilst at the same time learning more of the nature of the remnants of religiosity in the 28th century, particularly the Jewish culture and faith, interlaced with a generous helping of ruminations on the father-son/mother-son relationships.
       Perhaps an unusual juxtaposition for a story to start from, but Lorinda J. Taylor's imagination never strays too far from the unusual, and never fails to extract empathy and interest in equal measure from the reader. It is a concoction worth the sampling. Looking at the world through Robbie's eyes can be frustrating and indeed sometimes challenging, but never dull!
       We await the next episode of the Nikalishin saga with anticipation, not a little dread but the hope of some success.

The "previous novel" that Neil Aplin mentions is my WIP The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars.  I'm definitely planning to publish the opening segment of that marathon opus as soon as I can fit it into my schedule.  At the moment I'm still working on the sequel to the series The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head.  More information will be forthcoming.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

TermiteWriter Is Being Interviewed on Internet Radio!

Annette Rochelle Aben kindly invited me to be interviewed on her program "Tell Me a Story" on the internet radio channel "The Magic Happens."  The interview will be live at 1:30 pm EDT, or you can access the Archive after the program airs.  Here's the URL for both the live broadcast and the Archive:

There is also a Facebook event running simultaneously.  The URL for this is 

I've made the ebooks of both volumes of The Termite Queen and 
v.1 of The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head (The War of the Stolen Mother)
only 99 cents
at both Amazon and Smashwords from today through Oct. 25!
So you have no excuse not to get acquainted with my writings!

Here are links for all Amazon outlets for the three books:
The Termite Queen, v.1:
The Termite Queen, v.2:
The War of the Stolen Mother:

I hope you'll join Annette and me!  I'll try hard not to bore you!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

New 5-Star Review of Fathers and Demons

Here is a new review by Christopher Graham (aka The Story Reading Ape).  Amazon seems to be playing around with reviews again, because if you want to see this review there, you'll have to click on the 5-star bar.  It won't come up if you click on "See all reviews." 

       As with her series about Intelligent Termites, the author has researched deeply and given great consideration regards how to best use the knowledge she has gained.
       In this book (a precursor to her next story in this new series), the author has surmised how religions may have evolved by the 28th Century, particularly Catholicism and Judaism.
       Two characters, the Captain and the Chief Engineer, are survivors from a previous (failed) attempt to achieve deep space / intergalactic travel and the experience left them profoundly scarred mentally.
       However, with time and treatment, they have both been finally deemed fit to lead another attempt to conquer space.
       This book chronicles their individual journeys to understand and overcome their lingering fears regarding a malevolent 'something' they feel exists in deep space and is waiting for them.
The Captain, who has no religious beliefs of his own, has already learned some things from Catholicism that have offered him limited comfort and he now attempts to learn from Judaism.  I learned much from the wedding scenario being performed according to 'Judish' customs and beliefs, even more during the reception.
       The Chief Engineer, however, feels a strong need to meet and reconcile with his strong willed, opinionated Father and the Mother who ran away when he was in his early teens.
       It is true that there are no 'action packed moments' in the story, but that does not detract from the skill involved in building up the background of these two characters and help us understand their decisions and actions in the next book.

Thanks you, Chris, for great review!
Buy this book at the following sites:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Blessing of Krozem: Great New Review of a Free Novelette


       I'll bet a lot of you have forgotten I have a perpetually FREE novelette over on Smashwords   Its title is "The Blessing of Krozem" and while it's been downloaded almost 600 times, I have only four reviews.  Give it a try -- according to the latest review, it's worth reading!  And another review is always appreciated!
       Here is the new 5-star review:

       A wonderfully fantastical world is brought to life by the author Lorinda J. Taylor. A rich descriptive narrative evokes a strange world inhabited by mortal humans, and immortal Troils. The reason why the Zem’l made the Troil live forever and not the humans, is steeped in mythology and the dreaming of Zem’l. 
       This is a very intriguing story about the need to live longer than you should, that kept me reading on. It is quite a philosophical story at the core, as well as being an entertaining fantasy read. Great use of language and interesting names help to place this story in a fantasy world. 
       A very well-written short read with a deeper, more involved theme to it than most fantasy works I have read. Internal struggle, greed and pathos are all present here. Such universal themes only add to the pleasure of reading this novella. The author has a gift for prose and I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good story beautifully written. Lovely cover illustration by the author too. I would have loved to have seen more of her drawings in the book.

       The review is by Nikki McDonagh.  You can find her books at this Amazon link.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

New Review of The Termite Queen, v.1

The latest review of my book The Termite Queen is by Jeremy Graves, a member of the linguistics and conlanging community.  A fair, balanced, and favorable review, although I could quibble over a couple of points -- but I'll let him finish v.2 first!  The only point I feel compelled to make is to suggest that anyone who finds my view of future history to be shallow and not carefully thought out should focus more closely on the nine-page exposition that appears in Chapter 14 and also on this blog on the page called "My Future History."  A brief summation of these several centuries was all I could manage without writing a 30-volume scholarly history of the future, which is obviously pretty impossible to do and would be nothing more than a meaningless consumption of time.
       Here is Jeremy Graves' review as published on Goodreads:
       A fascinating and rather unique concept, dealing with first contact between humans (and a few other alien races that have been known for some time by the period of this story) and a race of giant, intelligent termites. Personally, I found the non-termite characters (human and otherwise) to be a little shallow and superficial. Perhaps it's due to the somewhat utopian future Miss Taylor depicts, the background of which she briefly gives in the course of the story. It just seems that the human race has an overly optimistic outlook on life, and as such rarely digs deeper into their own spirits. This is unfortunate, as Miss Taylor obviously loves the human spirit and makes heavy reference to the classic literature which represents it best throughout the work. Even so, there is ambition in the person of Kaitrin Oliva, the linguist protagonist, personality conflicts between Kaitrin and the xenobiologist who supervised the first mission in which the termites were encountered, and a love story. In fact, volume I deals far too much with the love story, and far too little with the termites. In fact, the majority of the story is spent on earth, dealing with preparations to the expedition to the termite planet, and in space en route, with the developing love story. It is only at the very end of the book that the protagonist party arrives at the planet.
        There are some moments of depth, however. Early in the story, Kaitrin comforts a dying termite who was brought back from his planet. The scene manages to be quite powerful, in spite of what might seem rather absurd circumstances otherwise. There are moments of humor, as when Kaitrin angrily leaves from a date with the love interest, finds herself in an undesirable neighborhood, and attempts to defend herself against a perceived attacker, who turns out to be her date, come looking for her out of concern for her safety. But all of these pale in comparison to the strongest point of the book.
        That is the termites themselves. With the ambition, lust for power, and intrigue taking place within the mound Lo'ro'ra, the termites come across as more human than the earthlings. It is unfortunate that so little of this first volume is given to them, since they are by far the most interesting characters and carry the most interesting plot.
        However, volume I is incomplete without volume 2, and so far as I've read the second book, I've found it much more satisfactory. There are hints, too, that the love story which took so much to develop here in volume I, has its purpose, to be revealed later in volume 2.
        I recommend this as a unique piece of science fiction, with fascinating characters, at least in the termites. It might take a little effort, but I believe it will be worth it, especially if you read both volumes. I'll report back when I finish reading the second book, as well.
       Thanks, Jeremy Graves, for a fine review!
Purchase The Termite Queen and all my books here:
All other Amazon venues

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sneak Preview of Father and Demons


SET FOR APRIL 9, 2015!

My next publication (due to be released sometime in the next six weeks) is entitled Fathers and Demons; Glimpses of the Future, and it doesn't have any giant termites!  In fact, it’s a serious work of speculative fiction about future human beings.  For the first time the general reading public will get to meet Capt. Robbin Nikalishin, the protagonist of my still unfinished opus, The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars.  The best way to introduce my new book to you is to present excerpts from the book’s introductory matter.

A Note from the Author

When I set out to write the life story of Capt. Robbin Nikalishin (the first starship commander to make contact with extraterrestrials), I intended it to be one longish novel entitled The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars.  Among other goals, I wanted to depict the history and state of Earth’s future civilization in greater depth than I had been able to do in my novel The Termite Queen.  This included recounting what had become of certain remnant elements of society – specifically, defined religious populations.  The Jews constituted one of these populations.
So I introduced a Jewish character who was about to get married.  I began to research Jewish weddings and ended spending a good three months immersed in all aspects of Jewish religion and culture.  I even studied a bit of Hebrew.  This new fascination caused the Jewish wedding section to expand into a lengthy tome that encompassed not only an exposition of Judaism but also a probe into the nature of gods and their relationship with human beings. 
Obviously, a chunk this weighty could not remain part of the basic novel.  However, the piece contains many striking and provocative elements, so I have extracted it, shortened it by some 10,000 words, and turned it into a separate “novel.”  In fact, it is not exactly a novel, since it starts and stops in medias res, with only enough explanation of what has gone before to make it comprehensible.  It consists of several sections, some that elaborate on the future history of Earth; some that illuminate Jewish faith, philosophy, and culture and the future history of religion in general; and some that detail the stories of certain individuals, both Jewish and secular.  The theme of fatherhood and the connections between fathers and gods form the mesh that binds the book together. 
The most appropriate designation to accord this piece is speculative literary fiction; it is science fiction in that it takes place in a future time, at the very inception of interstellar travel, but it also deals with demons and gods that may or may not be real, introducing an element of the supernatural.  The style varies; within a framework of omnipotent narration, certain history and tales are told through conversation or related by one of the characters, and there is even a venture into epistolary form.  It is a bit like a musical work, with each segment having its own tempo, theme, and mood.  …

Lorinda J. Taylor
Colorado Springs
April, 2015

By Way of Introduction: Earth and Space, 28th Century

       All human beings must live with demons, but those demons are unusually powerful when they are summoned by the sort of catastrophe that happened aboard the Darter in 2761.  Robbin Nikalishin, the Captain of that interstellar ship, had succeeded, by dint of much help and a determined will, in subduing his own demons, but no member of his crew had completely escaped being affected.  That was especially true of Cmdr. Ian Glencrosse, the Darter’s 2nd Assistant Engineer.  Nevertheless, when the rehabilitated Captain received command of the first real interstellar mission under the new Phenix Project, he selected Ian Glencrosse to serve as his Chief Engineer.  The choice was limited, because few officers expert in temporal quantum drive were still alive; furthermore Nikalishin and Glencrosse had become close friends.  And in spite of (or perhaps because of) his own demons, Glencrosse had accepted the appointment.  After all, he had saved his Captain’s life during the catastrophe.  A proverb says, when you save someone’s life, you become responsible for that person forever. 
       As the launch date for the “Big Mission” approached – the day when the IS Ariana would depart for Epsilon Eridani – the crew took leave time.  The excuse was the wedding of the Communications Officer, Lt. Avi Oman, and Capt. Mercedes Tulu, Administrative Aide to Adm. Sergey Malakoff, the Phenix Project’s Mission Director.  Lt. Oman hailed from the Istrian Judish Enclave, a place of origin mysterious to most 28th-century Earthers.  Mercedes was Midammeriken, born in the citrus-growing regions of Teyhas, but her father had immigrated from Ethopa in East Afrik.  Since she had Flasha ancestors, Avi’s family had blessed the marriage.
       Cmdr. Glencrosse did not accompany his fellow crewmembers on this happy excursion to the Adriantic Sea’s northern coast.  He had something other than recreation on his mind.  He had long been haunted by visions of a malevolent entity that inhabited the depths of space – the very entity that was responsible for destroying the Darter as the ship emerged from a temporal quantum pod.  Both his Captain and the team psychologist, Dr. Gill Winehandle, knew about this aberration; in fact, the doctor had at one time improvised an unfortunate nickname for the entity – “the god in the pod.”  While the Engineer’s peers thought his delusions were under control, Ian still secretly believed in the reality of this demon space-god – that it disapproved of humans’ invasion of its territory and therefore had doomed the upcoming mission to destruction.  Ian was convinced he would not survive the voyage and so he was heading home to Mitchican Prefecture, where after a long separation he would confront his parents and make his peace.

I will post updates on the release date on
like me while you’re there!)
 Twitter (@TermiteWriter)
Google+ (my community: Books by TermiteWriter).

And visit my Amazon and Smashwords pages
to check out my published books.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Metamorphs and Indiana Jones: My Two Main Characters in The Termite Queen

I've never published this before.
Strangely, I never did a picture
of Kaitrin Oliva.
Lots of times a textured
background doesn't come out right.
       While I was taking my afternoon nap (or rest) just now, I began to think about my protagonist Griffen Gwidian in The Termite Queen.  When I was writing this character, I absolutely fell in love with him.  Perhaps that isn't so surprising since I structured him to be fascinating to all women.  Unfortunately, the women who have read my novel haven't seemed to feel that way about him.  I made him enigmatic, mysterious, founded in a dark, twisted psychology -- everything women ought to find fascinating in a romantic hero.  So I began to think -- why haven't women been attracted to him? (Men haven't been attracted to him either, but that I expected.)
       In the story, Griffen has become skilled in altering himself to appeal to any woman he meets, and he is compelled (for reasons we learn late in the book) to do so.  So where did I get this character?  And I thought, Griffen is an empathic metamorph.  Do you remember the episode in StarTrek: The Next Generation called "The Perfect Mate"?  It's one of my favorite episodes.  A woman is being transported in stasis to be a gift to the ruler of a neighboring planet.  Kamala, wonderfully portrayed by the beautiful Famke Janssen, is an empathic metamorph -- she has the gift of making herself into whatever the man whom she is with at the moment wants her to be.  She is awakened too soon and ends up bonding with Picard, but duty forces her to give herself to this unpleasant Prince from the other planet.  (Poor Picard, he never gets the girl -- I always felt bad about that!)
       I think subconsciously I got the idea for Griffen's character from this metamorph concept.
      The love story between Griffen and Kaitrin Oliva takes up a large quantity of the book -- if you don't like the characters or the love story and all you want is termite adventures, I could see how you might find the book tedious.  One woman who read the book sort of pooh-poohed Griffen as not worth bothering with as a hero.  She said something like this (and she'll know who she is because we discussed it), "I like my adventure heroes to be like Indiana Jones -- he has his shortcomings and his fears, notably snakes, but they don't keep him from being heroic."
       Well, I never intended Griffen to be a stereotypical macho hero.  Certainly, he is not that!  I think if you go into the book expecting some cliched rendition of an adventure hero (or an adventure heroine for that matter), I can see why you might be disappointed.  In fact, the roles are reversed -- Griffen is a psychologically anguished man searching for a way to give meaning to his life and he becomes a metamorph in his quest.  It's Kaitrin Oliva who is Indiana Jones -- a strong-willed, adventurous heroine who may not particularly like going down the rabbit hole (i.e. into the termite mound), but who wouldn't consider not doing it. However, the roles become reversed again in Parts 3 and 4; Griffen does end by becoming the hero he always wanted to be, and Kaitrin becomes the anguished seeker, who has to find a new, more meaningful structure for her life.

Now I hope this elaboration on the characters will make
some of you want to go out and buy The Termite Queen
and get started on your quest to learn everything
you can about my termite people and my future world!

Remember it's a two-volume novel,
and you haven't finished it
and won't have the full impact unless you read v.2!
Find the book on
Amazon (paperback and Kindle)
and all the other Amazon nations.
Also at Smashwords (all varieties of ebooks)
Barnes & Noble

Monday, March 2, 2015

Genres Revisited: What Genre Do I Write?

So what genre would you assign
to this book?  Oh, I know!
It has to be about an
exterminator named
Ki'shto'ba who labors at
destroying termite colonies
 by abducting their Queens! 
What genre is this?
Hmm ... hard to tell from the cover.
In fact, I call it speculative
literary science fiction, future 
history, psychological fiction, plus a 
rumination on future religions.
With a provocative theme and
 great characters-- 
don't forget that!
March 2-7, 2015
All My Books
are 50% off,
so none is over

Jane Dougherty recently wrote a blog post entitled Does Literary Have to Mean Dull and Boring?  She defines literary fiction as "something that could never be accused of being genre fiction."  She goes on to say, "since authors are obliged to fit their work into a genre when pitching it to publishers and agents, or just to sell it on Amazon," anything that didn't fit in a genre was disqualified as poor literary production, in effect. "In the label 'genre' writing there is an implicit sneer," she says.  She mentions "magical realism," saying, "our magical realism is just plain fantasy (I wrote that with a sneer)."
       In her final paragraph she says, "Why can't we go back to the good old days when there were just books and children's books?  I like to think I write books.  I don't like to think that they are so similar to other people's books that there is a handy tag for them."
       I couldn't agree more, Jane!  And I want to elaborate on this idea a bit.  I originally planned to become a college professor of English literature, so I spent the early part of my career reading "literary" fiction.  Frankly, I didn't even know that was what I was reading -- books by Jane Austen, William Makepeace Thackeray, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, James Joyce, William Faulkner -- they were all "just books."  I daresay those authors are all considered writers of literary fiction.  But they are definitely not boring, for starters!  Lately, I've read several books that are "literary" -- The Great Gatsby, for one, and a recent book by Simon Gough (a grandnephew of Robert Graves) entitled The White Goddess, in which Graves is a main character. (The links take you to my reviews of these books.) Boring? Not on your life!  (Parenthetically, I should point out again that I consider all significant books to contain elements of fantasy -- see my post Defining Fantasy According to TermiteWriter.  To impart a shiver of wonder can only enrich any "genre.")
       In midlife I discovered Tolkien (is he literary enough for you?) and I started to write somewhat similar fantasy.  I also started to read a lot of fantasy and finally got into science fiction.  It never occurred to me that I was somehow betraying my educational background -- that I had sunk low in matters of taste.  I was just looking for good books and I kept the same standards.  Thus, although I read a good deal of Marion Zimmer Bradley, I considered her a pretty pedestrian writer.  But then there is Ursula K. LeGuin, who is one of the most skillful writers around.  And there  was C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams (one of the Inklings)  and other older writers like E.R. Eddison (The Worm Ourobouros et al.) and William Morris (The Well at the World's End) and ... well, I could go on and on.  They definitely cross genre lines and nobody seems to condemn them for it.
       As for "magical realism," I've only read one example -- Isabel Allende's House of the Spirits.  It's full of fantastical elements, of course, but it's also very dark and not particularly comfortable to read.  It's never boring, though.  I would say, if having seriousness of purpose makes a book boring for you, well, then most literary fiction would fall in that category.  And most of my books have a serious purpose, even the termite epic, so I guess I have the only literary termite people in existence!
       When I started to write again in 2000, it never occurred to me to worry about the genre I was writing.  I didn't realize at that time that I was supposed to fit my fiction into a category.  I was just trying to write exciting and fascinating books. I happened to enjoy both science fiction and fantasy, and obviously a tale laid in the 30th century with extraterrestrials who are giant intelligent termites cast The Termite Queen in the SF mold.  But it also includes the tale of Kaitrin Oliva and her enigmatic lover.  One early reviewer called my works literary science fiction and stated that they reminded him of Mary Doria Russell (I see Wikipedia calls her a writer of "speculative fiction" novels -- I presume that designation elicits more respect.)
       I was always taught not to write in cliches, so why in the world would I want to pump out books that were carbon copies of other people's books?  My aim was never to get rich selling millions of books to thoughtless readers looking only for sensation or escape -- I wanted to attract some attention for my ideas and gain some respect and a following.  Those are still my goals.  I wouldn't even know how to write a stereotypical vampire romance or a nasty zombie tale or a cliched space opera or one of these sword-and-sorcery Tolkien rip-offs.  If I tried, the characters would soon develop all kinds of psychological complexities and gain a back story to explain it, and probably the outcome of the whole thing would be tragic.  Even my termite characters fit that picture.  It's just the way I write, and I have no intention of changing.

If you're interested, I addressed this genre question before, way back in 2012, from a slightly different perspective in a blog piece called What Genre Do I Write and Whom Do I Write For?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Chemotherapy 4: A Step Forward and a Step Back

       On Thursday Feb. 19 I had my second chemo treatment.  Sort of like going to your home-away-from-home.  I sat in the waiting room trying to decide which patients were wearing wigs.  Only one person had on a bandana.  Then a woman sat down opposite me and was coughing.  She covered her mouth, but still I cringed.  Here are all these people with suppressed immune systems and this is the perfect venue to catch some infection.
       Anyway, I get called in and I get a different nurse this time.  I really liked the first one, but this one gave me the impression that she would rather be anywhere doing anything than helping us poor chemo patients.  When you're on chemo, they give you continuous saline along with the drugs, so you have to go to the bathroom about every 45 minutes.  The first time the nurse was very solicitous about helping me get there because with my arthritis I'm not too agile, but this time I'm on my own.  So there I am, unplugging myself, climbing out of the recliner, staggering along as I roll the IV stand, trying to get the heavy bathroom door open ...  Oh, well, guess it's good for me to be self-sufficient.
       This lasted from 9:00 AM until 2:00.  By afternoon the whole thing had gotten pretty old. I was actually terminally bored.  Then I had just about received all the fluids when THE FIRE ALARM WENT OFF!  Yow!  A bunch of little lights started flashing on the ceiling and this klaxon-like siren started screaming!  I knew it was a fire alarm because the other day when I went for an appointment, the lights were flashing in the hall and there was a fire truck at the main hospital entrance.  Then the lights went off and a voice came on: "Code Red all clear -- Code Red all clear."
       In the chemo room everybody burst into frenetic activity.  Somebody said it was a drill, but of course nobody knows for sure.  My original nurse took charge of me, unhooking me from the port, and grabbing my arm, saying, "Can you walk down the stairs?"  I said, "I can if I have to!  Glad it's not upstairs!"  So we headed for the door and about that time the alarms quit  and everybody relaxed.  Somebody said to me, "I guess that woke you up." 
       I felt fine on Friday, but now I have to take Neulasta shots, so I went on Friday afternoon and got one.  This is supposed to stimulate the growth of white blood cells, which are low in my case.  The problem is, it causes bone pain because it affects the bone marrow.
       And boy, on Saturday I felt horrible.  First, they had insisted on giving me intravenous Zofran, which I am sure constipated me before.  And lo and behold!  I was constipated immediately after the chemo treatment.  I'm going to insist they leave it out next time.  So I'm back on the Miralax regimen -- this time I'm not waiting because I definitely do not want to have to take magnesium sulfate again.
       Second, the Neulasta does make you ache.  Yesterday it was awful -- mostly in my arthritic joints, like the knee, and also in my hands.  Also, yesterday I was so fatigued I could hardly move.  Kinda makes me mad because I had been feeling really good.  Now my appetite has disappeared again, although I still don't have nausea.  But food feels funny in your mouth.  I noticed that after the first chemo treatment, too.
       It's now Sunday, and I do feel better this morning.  I'm not aching as much and I'm not so horribly fatigued.  Also, the Miralax seems to be kicking in.  The evidence that I do feel better is that I felt like writing this blog post.
       I had wanted to have scrambled eggs for lunch, and I may still try for that, although it's a lot of work.  I'll see how enthusiastic I am for that when the time rolls around.
Hair Update
       Very thin now, but still I have some all over my head.  I washed it this morning (Sunday) and it came out in clumps, which got tangled up with the hair that was still attached and I looked like I'd stuck my finger in a light socket.  I had to untangle it manually and a lot came out.  I'll be just as glad when it's all out.   I think I might actually be a little better looking than this turkey vulture!  My beak isn't as sharp!

Turkey Vulture
Who says bald isn't beautiful?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Chemotherapy 3: Better News

       Following up on the last post -- I didn't get results and last Saturday I did go to the ER, which was a complete bust.  I do not advise going to the ER for constipation.  They gave me a bottle of Magnesium Citrate and then an enemy (Freudian slip -- I meant to type "enema"), which did not work at all.  Then they wanted to give me the stuff they give for colonoscopies, but I refused in horror and told them I just wanted to go home.  Actually, they seemed to expect the Mag. Cit. to work instantaneously, but it doesn't do that with me.  After I got home, it started up and worked for 24 hours.  I'm not exaggerating.  I was absolutely miserable and had my first nausea in the middle of the night.  I did take a Zofran and it fixed the nausea, and I'm happy to say I've been fine since in that regard.
       I could have bought the Mag. Cit. and taken it myself at home -- it's over the counter.  That's what I'm going to do the next time.  However, I did get some good advice from the doctor in the ER.  Miralax twice a day for a while.  I'm happy to report that seems to have worked.  Now if I can just get everything regularized permanently ...
But now for the good news!

       I had blood drawn on Tuesday and they ran the CA125 test.  That's the test for the cancer antigen.  It's not always reliable for diagnosing cancer, but they use it to measure whether the chemo is working.  And apparently it is, because

my level was originally 107 and now it's down to 11!

And a little Googling revealed that normal levels are below 35, so it looks like things are on track!  I take my next treatment next Thursday.  I hope it doesn't get worse as it goes along.

Hair Report

       I had been told that hair doesn't begin to come out for a couple of weeks, and lo and behold, they were right!  Last Thursday marked two weeks since the first chemo treatment, and on Friday (yesterday) I started to shed like a long-haired cat.  It's not coming out in clumps, just five or six hairs at a time.  I get a few if I tug on it, and it's always hanging down over my glasses or tickling my nose.  When I look in the mirror with the sun shining on me, I can see a bunch of hair on my shoulders.  Wonder what my bald head will look like.  Will I have weird knobs or protuberances?  Maybe I'll discover I'm growing antennae!  LOL

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Body Language in TermiteWriter's Books

       I'm still having the same reaction to the chemo (see my last two blog posts), but I decided to forget about it for now and write on a more entertaining topic.
       I just read this article about the use of body language in fiction. and it has prompted me to write a post about how I use body language in my writing.  I'll give examples.

From v.1: The Speaking of the Dead
Chapter 8 (using body language to change another's opinion of a character):
       “You impressed Prf. Jerardo at the Yakuta symposium.  He says you debate with a real instinct for the kill.”
       Kaitrin looked at Jerardo in surprise; he was grinning and rocking on his heels.  So he really had noticed that she had trounced him!  Maybe she had been selling him short.

Chapter 7 (Kaitrin observes the enigmatic but disturbingly attractive Griffen Gwidian in a social setting for the first time.  We learn a lot about Griffen's reputation for womanizing from how he and the other woman interact, and we learn something about Kaitrin from how she reacts.)
       Kaitrin stared at the distant table.  Gwidian was not alone; his companion was someone Kaitrin had seen in the XA Database Lab – an exotic-looking, dusky-skinned woman with hair dressed in the currently trendy lion’s-mane style, frizzed out in points tipped with colors, in this case a mix of silver and blue.
       “What is the matter?  Your mouth is open.”
       Kaitrin closed it.  “He’s with somebody.  How did he get to know that person so quickly?  He’s been over here to anthro only a couple of times.”
       “I have to look – just a peek …  Oh, I know that woman!  Her name is Meka – do not know the second name.  And they think I am strange-looking.  But she, too, has a reputation.”
       Kaitrin was having trouble taking her eyes off the pair.  Gwidian was laughing, leaning intimately toward his companion, who bent closer in response.  She knuckled him playfully on the forearm, inclining her head sideways.  He raised his right hand, slipped it around the back of the woman’s neck in a seemingly practiced gesture and ran his fingers up into her hair.  Her head bent a little farther forward with the pressure.
       Then Gwidian’s glance shifted and he saw Kaitrin looking at him.  For a moment their gazes cleaved together as if no one else were present in the crowded dining room.  Then his hand dropped back to rest on the table, his glance slid away, and Kaitrin lowered her own eyes in confusion.
       “What now?” asked Luku.  “You have that where the blood goes to the face.”
       “He saw me looking.  He has the most intense eyes.  Damn.  Let’s finish up here and get back to the lab.”

Chapter 11 (The first spontaneous "date" between Kaitrin and Griffen is going swimmingly, until one of his old flames shows up.  Another example of how to suggest character through body language and how to merge into suggestive or sarcastic dialogue.  This and the previous example also show how you can use clothing to delineate character.) 
       “Griff!  Imagine running into you over here!”
       Gwidian’s face gathered into a frown.  Kaitrin looked up to see a dark-haired woman standing at his elbow, glancing between them.  She was clad in a low-cut yellow leotard and black mesh tights.
       “Margit,” said Gwidian, looking sideways at her.  “It’s been a while.”
       “It certainly has.  Have you lost my relay code, Griff?”
       Kaitrin sat frozen, staring at this interloper with the amused black eyes and suggestive smile. 
       “I’ve been off-world,” Gwidian said.  His voice was tight.  “Asc. Oliva, this is Margit Terrie.  Margit, Asc. Kaitrin Oliva, a colleague in my latest project.”
       Margit cocked her head at Kaitrin, swaying her hips slightly.  “A colleague!  How special!  Too bad you can’t use a dance instructor in your projects, Griff!  Your latest one requires a visit to the Arts campus, does it?”
       “Asc. Oliva and I were about to view the faculty art show.”
       “I didn’t know you were so interested in art,” said Margit.  “You never told me that, Griff.”  She gave him no time to answer.  “Message me some time.  I never went away.”
       “If I can,” replied Gwidian coldly.  “I’m going off-world again.”
       “Again?  Too bad!  And, Asc. Oliva, you’ll be going off-world with him?”
       Kaitrin was never sure afterward how she had replied.
       “Well, I’m so happy I ran into you, Griff.  Asc. Oliva, nice to meet you.  Good luck on your expedition!  See you later?”  With a little flurry of hip and shoulder, she was gone.
       There was a glacial silence.  All the rapport, all the warmth, had departed with Margit Terrie.
     Then Gwidian muttered something unintelligible and pushed back his plate.  “Perhaps I should be returning to my office.  I seem to recall a matter that requires attention.”
       “What?  And miss out on nurturing this unprecedented interest in art?” said Kaitrin acidly. 
       He puffed his cheeks, gestured impatiently, and stood up.  “You’ll enjoy the exhibit a good deal more without me, I’m sure.  I’ll possibly see you before the committee meeting."
       Not if I can help it, went through Kaitrin’s mind.  How could I possibly have let down my guard this way with this – this promiscuous stud?
       Gwidian had turned back.  His expression of distress appeared genuine.  “Kaitrin, I feel I owe you an explanation … ”
       Kaitrin was not buying it.  “What for?  Your recreational activities are of no concern to me.  And my name is Asc. Oliva.”
       Gwidian hesitated, then threw up his hands and walked away swiftly toward the door.

       I'm discovering that hardly a chapter goes by without using body language in my writing, and so I think I'll just stop there.  Doesn't every writer use body language?  Anybody who doesn't had better figure it out.

A good example of
body language at the
moment Ki'shto'ba and
Kwi'ga'ga'tei receive
the Speaking of the Dead.
       But do my termites use body language?  For sure!  The eyed Alates use visual cues to emphasize what they are saying and even the blind Warriors and Workers use postures (for example, threat postures) because rearing up causes pheromones to come from a different location.  Here are some more examples of termite body language.

From The Termite Queen, v.2: The Wound That Has No Healing
 Chapter 21 (Kaitrin is engaged in telling the Queen A'kha'ma'na'ta and her "court" the tale of Ulysses and the Cyclops)
       “The Zin’tei woke up and commenced making such a commotion that it could be sensed all the way through the stone over the door.  Friends who lived in other caves nearby came running to see what was happening.  They asked him, ‘What is the matter in there?  Is somebody harming you?  Who is it?’
       “But, of course, here is what the Zin’tei answered:  ‘It is Nobody’s work that is doing this to me!  Nobody is doing me harm!’”
       As this sank in, Kaitrin experienced a very strange phenomenon.  The Shshi commenced to bounce themselves up and down with little springs of their forelegs, spinning their antennae in wild circles so that any words they were transmitting were broadcast unintelligibly in all directions.  They swung their heads in U-shaped motions.  Even Kwi’ga’ga’tei participated in this exercise, and the Commander Hi’ta’fu was somewhat ponderously caught up.  Mo’gri’ta’tu, however, only gave a couple of tiny hops and held his antennae motionless.
       Clever! said Di’fa’kro’mi.  Most entertaining!
       ‘Nobody’ did it to me – That is quite humorous! said Ki’shto’ba, using a word Kaitrin had never encountered before, but whose meaning seemed clear from the context.
       It was a revelation.  This must be how they laugh!  The Shshi have a sense of humor!  I never would have thought it!  What a gift to discover this!

From The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head. 
Vol. 1: The War of the Stolen Mother, Chapter 1 (Di'fa'kro'mi is droning on about how he invented writing in an image language and his scribe Chi'mo'a'tu gets bored.  Handling body language in a first-person narrative is a little different, because it has to be completely relevant to what the narrator is thinking and feeling.)
       What?  Why are you stamping about and flaring your wings?  I am well aware that you know all this already!  I suppose I am boring you!  But I am not finished analyzing my thought processes.  A Remembrancer should always finish what he has begun to tell – that is a cardinal rule!  That is the trouble these days – you young ones are in too much of a hurry, impatient to be finished.  You have never learned how to pay attention, and words do not have the fascination for you that they should.
Please do not display such indignation, Chi’mo’a’tu – I am well aware that you know how to pay attention.  Would I have chosen you as my principal scribe for this undertaking if I had thought you could not pay attention?

Vol. 4: Beneath the Mountain of Heavy Fear, Chapter 18 (The Companions are visiting the southern fortress of Ra'ki'wiv'u and the fortress's Remembrancer is telling the tale of the Great Bird Hunt [think of The Hunt for the Calydonian Boar]):
Huffing, we all relaxed back into our seating places.  It was a rousing tale and Fi’frum’zei’s animated delivery had enhanced the excitement.  She had hopped around the room, flapping her antennae so wildly that at times her words became unintelligible.  When someone in the tale hurled a spear, she hurled a mock one, and when Thel’tav’a shot her dart, she mimicked that motion.  When Ist’u’mim’zei fell into the hole, she pretended to trip over her own feet and thrashed around on the floor.  A mandible-slash demanded a vigorous shaking of the head.  I had never seen a tale told in quite that fashion – physically imitating the action.  It was quite effective but not very dignified!  I wondered if all the Remembrancers in these parts told tales that way, or if it was an effect of the trol’zhuf’zi| [a fermented leaf]!  If the former were true, I doubted my static delivery style would provide any chance of winning a prize at the upcoming competition.

       I hope some of you will have found these examples enjoyable.  If you want to read more, check out the covers in the sidebar or  go to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords.  I'm still trying to get somebody to buy a book at Smashwords.  I only need 10 cents to qualify for a royalty payment.