Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Latest Thoughts on the "Labors" series

       I've inserted the back cover in the sidebar.  I decided, instead of doing a description or a blurb, to use an adaptation of another of my illustrations for "The War of the Stolen Mother."  It shows the first meeting between the Companions of Ki'shto'ba and the trickster Za'dut.  I hope you enjoy it!
       Once again, the white lines in the covers mark the bleed space.  I'll remove those lines before I actually upload them. 
       The original art for the back cover shows the scene set among dark rocks, but I thought I would make the back mirror the front, so I framed it with the tree instead. The original also includes A'zhu'lo, but the twin would have made it a little crowded.  The little critter that Wei'tu is hanging onto is one of the Little Ones -- the domesticated "dairy ants."
       Probably the only thing I might change about these covers is the type font.  I'm using Lucida Bright -- I abandoned Book Antigua in this series because the apostrophe, which gets used a lot, is kind of strange in that font.  But I'm not real happy with Lucida Bright either, so I may tinker some more.  I have a weakness for Harrington, but it's probably fancier than would be wise to commit to.  I want to settle on a font I can use for the entire series.

       The formatting for the printed book is coming along.  The whole thing has 36 chapters and yesterday I completed Ch. 26.  That is to say, I've got that much inserted into the template.  I've been making quite a few alterations as I go.  Some of them are stylistic and some are substantive, but a lot of them are required to make the text fit.  Remember those long, made-up names, with the syllables separated by apostrophes?  You can't divide those syllables at the ends of lines - it would look goofy!  Therefore, since the text has to be justified, some lines end up with big gaps between the words.  That will never do!  So I have to rewrite so that the long names come at the beginnings or in the centers of lines.  I never make things easy on myself!
       The footnotes have turned out to be less of a problem than I expected.  I haven't had any instances where the text split itself between pages, and only one instance that I can remember where I had to adjust for a big space at the end of the page
       So all this fiddling means typos may creep in and that's why I'll probably want to peruse the thing one last time.

       I may change my mind and make an attempt to put "Stolen Mother" on Smashwords.  I sell something every now and then to people who don't have Kindles, and I do get quite a few sample downloads, which can't hurt.  It's all going to depend on whether they can cope with footnotes.

       I have a confession to make.  "Stolen Mother" is a terrible spoiler for "The Termite Queen"!  Since it takes off right at the end of TQ, there's a lot of talk about what happened in that story.  (More reason for you to buy and read "Termite Queen" right away!)  When I did that, I never thought of it as a spoiler; I thought of it as filling in the backstory, since lots of people may read these books who haven't read TQ.  There is nothing I can do about it since references to the plot of TQ are embedded in the fiber of the "Stolen Mother" and subsequent tales.  Oh, well ... 

       I have only one other remark:  Back in the post about the titles of the six volumes, I stated that the tentative title for Volume V would be "The Quest for the Golden Fungus: The Companions Reach the Sea."  I've decided to make it "The Quest for the Golden Fungus: The Path of Gold" (or "The Golden Path" -- I still have to ponder that some more).  Otherwise, the titles are pretty much set. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

More Notes on "Labors" - Hercules' Life; and the Use of Footnotes

       I've intended to write a post on the life of Hercules so that people will have some insight into  the basis of the plot in "Labors."  Many people will have heard of the Twelve Labors of Hercules.  I made use some of those in these tales, although certain ones seem off the point (like cleaning the Stables of Augeias, which Hercules accomplished by diverting two rivers through the cattle yard; I could have Ki'shto'ba clean a dung pit in that way, but why?)  What I'm actually doing is using the Twelve Labors as a frame for building the plots.  Ki'shto'ba will have to perform Twelve Wonders; some of them will be adapted versions of the classical Labors and some will be Ki'shto'ba's own. 
       The reason Ki'shto'ba sets out to perform these Wonders is also a little different.  In the classical version, Hercules has been driven mad by Hera and has slain his own children, and so he must perform the Twelve Labors as a penance.  In my version the rationale is quite different.  However, Bai'go'tha the tyrant of To'wak, who sends Ki'shto'ba out on its Labors, is a similar character to Eurystheus (the names both mean "Forces Far Back").  Through the manipulations of the gods, Eurystheus was born before Hercules and thus become the High King of the House of Perseus.  In my version it's the manipulations of a jealous King that causes Bai'go'tha's egg to hatch before Ki'shto'ba's, and it's Bai'go'tha's fear of being supplanted by Ki'shto'ba that causes the Tyrant to send its rival forth.  (But you will find out much later in the series that Ki'shto'ba doesn't escape its own version of the Madness of Hercules.)
       And that's as much as I'm going to tell you.  I've decided that the reader doesn't need to know the myths to appreciate my retellings.  If you are familiar with them, it won't hinder the enjoyment of my version, but if you aren't, you might enjoy it even more, because you won't have a clue as to what's coming next!
       Now a couple of points about my methodology.  I've put these tales into a scholarly framework.  Prf. Kaitrin Oliva from "The Termite Queen" is translating them from Shshi into Inj (English to the 21st-century Earther) and she has supplied with footnotes explaining knotty Shshi usages, cultural points, etc.  A lot of this has already been explained in "The Termite Queen," but undoubtedly many people who haven't read "TQ" will read "Labors" (the author remarks with staunch optimism!)  Therefore, many concepts need re-explaining and facts need restating, like the terms for the seasons, the way Shshi names are formed, the Shshi numbering system, the planet's day-length, etc.  This is accomplished in the footnotes and that means that the early chapters are particularly heavy on footnotes (the load lightens considerably as the work progresses).  Footnotes are not a problem in a printed book, although they do require some careful formatting.  Readers can easily utilize the notes, which will be at the bottom of the page, or ignore them if they choose. 
       It's going to be a real problem in Kindle, since e-text is amorphous and has no paging.  I haven't even looked yet at the options for handling footnotes in Kindle.  I only know that grouping them together at the end of the book would be their death knell, and putting them at the ends of the chapters would be almost as bad.  I don't know if it's possible to insert the notes into the text, but I don't really like that option in any case.  It interrupts the flow of the reading.  So probably I'll put them at the ends of chapters and do some kind of internal link arrangement.  If the reader wants to see the note, he can click on the superscript number, and then reverse the process to come back. 
       That's really going to be time-consuming to format.  Consequently, I've about decided to stop publishing on Smashwords.  It's just going to take too long to format all this twice.  If I don't publish on Smashwords, I may (at least, I'm going to think about it) try putting "War of the Stolen Mother" on the KDP Select program, at least for awhile.  I just checked and you're allowed to publish in print form at the same time.  Of course, that's my preferred option, anyway.

I'm also thinking about what sample chapters ought to be posted on this blog.  Stay tuned about that!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Of Title Pages and Maps: Author Proposes, CreateSpace (and Word) Disposes

       I've always had in mind a fictional gimmick that I thought would be quite effective.  My intent was to have my name as author appear only as minimally as possible in all the volumes of "The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head."  It would appear in the copyright and maybe on the credits for illustrations and maps and (probably only as initials) on a brief acknowledgment of my debt to Robert Graves' Greek Myths.  I wanted the title page and cover to read like this:

The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head
A Series
Volume I
The War of the Stolen Mother
Di'fa'kro'mi the Remembrancer
Translated by
Prf. Kaitrin Oliva
       And that was it.  I wanted to maintain the fiction that this was really a work written in the 30th century by an alien intelligent termite and translated by a Professor of Linguistics and Anthropology of that time.  But I'm pretty sure there is no way to accomplish this without a lengthy discussion with CreateSpace's Member Support people, some of whom are rather dim bulbs in the imagination department, if I dare to say such a thing.  And I really doubt they could accommodate me in any case -- the rules are too cut-and-dried.  I'm sure they would say, you can publish under a pseudonym, but that's silly -- I'm neither Di'fa' kro'mi the Remembrancer or Kaitrin Oliva; they haven't lived yet!  And I want the books to be listed on publishing sources under my name.
       So I decided to compromise and put on the t.p. and cover just the series title, volume number, title of the individual volume, and my name as author -- just the normal stuff that will certainly satisfy CS requirements.  However, this morning I went into CS to set up the title information -- and I can't find a field to insert a series title!  I'd have sworn they had one, but I guess not.  They have a place for a volume number, but I can't call this a multivolume novel. 
       So now I've compromised again.  I set the whole thing up under the title "The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head" to which I will append the volume number, the way I did with "Termite Queen."  Then I'm going to use the individual volume titles as subtitles.  It will appear on the Amazon listing and allow for an Amazon search under the subtitle; I just checked it out using the subtitle of "Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder."  So my cover and t.p. will read as follows:
The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head
Volume One
The War of the Stolen Mother
Lorinda J. Taylor
       Then inside the book, right after the dedication, I'm going to have a fictional facsimile t.p. with all the information about Di'fa'kro'mi and Kaitrin and an imprint with a 30th century date.  The book itself will follow -- Table of Contents, List of Characters, Translator's Foreword, etc.
       Then I thought, where should I put the map?  I was going to put it at the beginning of the 30th century material, but I think it will get lost there.  So I've decided to use it as frontispiece, before the 21st-century title page.  I think that will add a lot to book's appeal.
       I worked on the map this morning and adapting what I'd already drawn didn't turn out to be as easy as I had expected.  (What else is new?)  This map has a horizontal orientation, since Ki'shto'ba and its Companions are traveling from east to west at this point.  So I'm having to turn it and print it sideways, on the left-hand page before the t.p., facing the t.p.  But the darned Word drawing program wouldn't let me rotate it!  I realized it was because you can't rotate a text box, and my maps are loaded with text boxes!  I don't know any other way to put on the captions, pointing out the names of the fortresses, rivers, etc.  The Word Art part of the program just doesn't work well on my current version of Word; the older version that I used to have was much better in that regard.
       So I had to delete all the text boxes and then rotate the page.  Now I'll have to put the boxes back in with the text flipped to run sideways.  Furthermore, I have to change the colored map to black-and-white, because I think it will raise the price of the book too much to ask for a colored illustration.  So I can't color code anything -- for example, in order to differentiate the fortresses of the Shum'za from those of the Da'no'no Shshi.  I may have to vary the symbols.  So you can see I still have a lot of work.

       Now a surprise:  I've decided to print the original colored map here on this blog, on a separate page.  You can go right now to that page and view it!  When I get the b & w one done, I'll add it so you can compare them.  [I had a devil of a time getting the thing to hold its formatting while I turned it into a JPEG!  And would you believe it?  I typed every letter on that map in Times New Roman and it converted part of them into Arial or something similar!  No way to fix it!  Not that it matters particularly -- I kind of like the Arial.  Anyway, on the actual book, I'll just be using copy & paste to put in the drawing.  What this means for Kindle I shudder to think!]

       Addendum to the above, added 6/12/12:  I finished the black-and-white map, but when I inserted it into the template, it completely rearranged the text in the text boxes!  But now I've figured out why it does that.  If there is a default paragraph form in the document into which the material is being inserted, it reverts to that.  Therefore, all the text came out with indention and spacing after paragraphs.  So what I'll always have to do is wait to format the text boxes until the piece is actually in the document.  But it's taken me nearly all day to do this!
       Consequently, I'm not going to try to insert a copy of the map in this blog.  I know it will alter it again and it's not worth taking the time to fix it.  You can look at the colored map and wait for the print book to see the black and white one.

Friday, June 8, 2012

How to Convert Greek Names into the Shshi Language

       First a word on my progress toward publishing The War of the Stolen Mother. Yesterday I finished the final pass-through of the text and now it's ready to insert into the CreateSpace template.  I've also been working on the cover art.  I think I have the front cover completed, although I'm vacillating between two different pictures, so I'll have to ponder some more.  I'm also considering several options for the back cover, and I'm doing a new line drawing to put on the title page.  And then I have to do the map!  So publishing is still a little way off.

       Today I want to talk about all those complex names that you're going to encounter in the book.  The original Greek names in the Iliad are every bit as complicated as those in my tale, but they are familiar in our culture -- Agamemnon, Menelaus, Achilles, Hector, Priam, Deiphobus, Laocoon, Cassandra, Odysseus  ... the list goes on and on.  It happens that in the index to Robert Graves' Greek Myths, a translation into English is given for all the names mentioned in the text.  I used that as a springboard for working out equivalent names for my characters.
       I'll remind everybody that Workers' names always have two syllables; Warriors, three; Alates, Four, and progenitors, five.  At least, that is true among the Shshi, whether Shum'za (Little Heads) or Da'no'no (Very Big).  It's not true among the Nasutes.
        Thus Menelaus, which is translated by Graves as "might of the people," becomes Shi'lo'na'sha'ma, Strength of the People, plus the designation for King (na'sha'ma|).  Agamemnon (called in the Iliad King of Men), translated as "very resolute" by Graves, becomes Pai’zeg’weil surnamed Tas Ut’zei (Warrior Who Never Loses, surnamed Rules All). 
       The name Achilles turned out to be hopeless.  Graves says it means "lipless" and was a common designation for "oracular heroes," but since termites have no lips, it would be difficult to make that work!  I suppose I could have used A'zid'wei or Zid'wei'a, which would have meant Palpless, or even A'wei'to or To'wei'a (Lacking a Mandible), but what kind of names are those for a heroic Warrior?  Therefore, I had to make up a name of my own for Achilles and he ended up being Nei'ga'bao (Fated to Conquer).  But I was able to do the surname; in the Iliad Achilles is continually referred to "swift-footed," hence Nei'ga'bao was given the surname Gli Mu'zi (Swift-Foot).
       Graves translates Hector as "prop, or stay."  Therefore we have Viz'ka'cha, which means Mainstay of the Fortress.  In the Iliad, Hector is continually described with the epithet "of the bright helmet," so Viz'ka'cha gets the surname Gri Um'zi (Bright Head).
       And then there is Paris, which means "wallet" in Greek.  Paris was one of those frequent cases in Greek tales where an infant is exposed in the wilderness to die because of some portent of evil connected to his birth.  They are subsequently nurtured by an animal and then discovered and rescued by some commoner.  When Paris was exposed in that way, he was suckled by a she-bear, then adopted by a herdsman, who brought him home in a wallet, from which he was named.  In my version, the egg which held "Paris" was doomed to be destroyed and was sent to the Charnel Hall, but when the Worker inserted the knife, it discovered a live nymph inside.  Panicking, he hid the egg in a dung bucket.  An Alate who happened to look in the bucket was astonished to see this little face waggling its antennae at him; hence the Namers called the nymph Roi'za'chu (Bucket Face).  Also not the most dignified name for a great Warrior, but suitable for the character who becomes the major villain of my version!
       In order to make the plot work, I take a lot of license with one particular character.  Deiphobus in the Greek version was one of the many siblings of Hector and Paris and plays only a small role in the tale.  But he does happen to be the one who helps betray Achilles to Paris on the battlefield and I built off that to create a significant and essential character.  Deiphobus means "scaring the spoiler," and the name of my character, Dai'wak'zei, means exactly the same thing -- One Who Scares the Despoiler.
       Graves gives the translation of Cassandra as "she who entangles men," so we have Ta'hat'a'pai (She Confuses a Warrior).
       The name of the Healer Ra'fa'kat'wei worked out beautifully; in the Greek camp was a physician named Podaleirius, which means according to Graves "without lilies where he treads, i.e., discouraging death."  Ra'fa'kat'wei means She Treads Not on a Flower, which quite captures the spirit of this expert and compassionate healer.
       Calchas was the name of the Trojan Seer who defected to the Greeks.  The name means "brazen."  In my rendition he becomes Ma'tei'ban'shli, meaning He Sees Bold Ends.
       And finally we have one "centaur."  Actually, Cheiron was such a ubiquitous figure in Greek myth that I was forced to divide it into two people.  In the Troy portion we see Cheiron as the one who trained all the famous Greek heroes.  Ju'mu is an old Warrior from a southern people called the Yo'sho'zei (Ancient Ones) who blends the characteristics of the Shi and the Nasute in quite a horrific way, having great downward-hooking mandibles and a cone-shaped gland on its head that sprays sticky, frothy acid.  There actually are termite species who possess those characteristics; I must draw a picture of Ju'mu sometime.  This Cheiron figure's name means Hard Claw.  In Greek Cheiron means simply "hand."  In fact, however, "Ju'mu" is not the character's "real" name (note that it lacks the requisite three syllables).  In the language of the Shshi a more accurate translation would be Ju'a'a'mu'a, which is as close as the Shshi can come to uttering Chu’te’e’nu’a, as it would be known among the Northern Nasutes.  However, in the language native to the Yo'sho'zei, Ju'mu carries the brain-twisting epithet of Chuh’de’myukh’ze’uh’tzi.  The names consistently mean Hard Claw.
       And for the first time you've become aware that the Termite Peoples have more than one language!
       One last thing:  Some of you may be aware that Achilles was the leader of a people called the Myrmidons.  That word means simply "ant" in Greek and here is what Graves has to say about the origins of that strange name: "Some say that Achilles's allies, the Myrmidons, were so named in honour of King Myrmidon, whose daughter Eurymedusa was seduced by Zeus in the form of an ant -- which is why ants are sacred in Thessaly." [Graves, Greek Myths (Penguin Books, c1955) v.1, p. 213]  I couldn't believe how well that fit in with Shshi culture, which cultivates formicidiforms (called shza'zei|, or Little Ones) for the honeydew they produce!  It played perfectly into the little myth that Za'dut tells to explain why Nei'ga'bao's people call themselves shein’zei| ki| shlo’lo’za’zei|, or Offspring of Little Ones.
       And in case your head is spinning, I'm making a list of characters to place at the beginning of the book.  They won't have translations, but they will have identifications!

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Legends of Troy

       First, I want to make an addendum to the previous post ("Characters and Elements Found in Myth and Folklore").  I thought of four more elements of epics that I've worked into "The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head" series. 
       No. 1: funeral games.  That custon isn't practiced in Lo'ro'ra among the Little-Head Shshi, but there are certain other fortresses that have invented it.  In the Iliad a whole section is devoted to the funeral games for Hector.
       No. 2:  battle frenzy and, as an adjunct, the battle taunt, where two Warriors trash each other verbally before a combat. 
       No. 3:  the significance of returning the bodies of dead warriors to the enemy for proper disposition.  I've already made the point in "Termite Queen" that the Shshi practice necrophagia and therefore it is traditional and even obligatory that one side in a battle to return the opponent's dead bodies.  This fits right in with the Greek emphasis on retrieving their dead. 
       No. 4 (and not least):  the powerful, storied, perhaps enchanted weapon, like Excalibur.  You can't have a heroic tale without such a weapon of lore!  You'll find out how I managed that, since Shshi Warriors grow their own weapons upon their bodies.
       Now to the Troy legends.  Everybody (at least in the Western world) knows the story; it's engrained in our culture.  Even if you've never read the Iliad or the Odyssey, you know the tales from children's books or from movies like the latest one "Troy," or from reading other retellings or studying myths in school.  Everybody knows that Paris the Prince of Troy fell in love with Helen the wife of King Menelaus of Sparta  and carried her off during a visit to that place, upon which the Greeks set out with a huge fleet of ships to attack Troy and bring her back.  Everybody knows about Achilles and his one weak spot (which gave its name to the Achilles tendon), and about the nobility of Hector the Prince of Troy, and about the Trojan horse.  However, the fact is that Homer's Iliad ends with the death of Hector.  It contains nothing about the death of Achilles at Paris' hand, or the death of Paris, or the stealing of the Palladium (the statue of Pallas Athene that would keep Troy safe as long as it remained within the walls), or even the episode of the Trojan horse.  The valuable thing about Robert Graves' Greek Myths is that he gives the whole story in segments that draw on all kinds of original sources, not just the Iliad.  And he gives all the alternative versions.  This made it really valuable in helping me pick and choose which incidents or versions would be most adaptable to termite culture.   And you might be surprised how adaptable the story is. 
       Of course, it was impossible to include every one of the myriad characters or all the tortuous complexities of the plot twists, and there were times when I had to make serious adjustments to meet termite requirements.  An example is the episode of Briseis, the Trojan female who is abducted by the Greeks and over whom Achilles and Agamemnon are quarreling at the commencement of the Iliad.  Termite Warriors do not abduct female Alates for sexual purposes -- they have no sex drive or functioning organs.  So I had to find a different reason for a high-ranking Alate to be abducted and I think I did that successfully.  The important thing was to provoke the Achilles character so that it would be sulking in its "tent" at a crucial moment, causing the Patroclus character to respond to "Hector's" challenge in its place. 
       In Graves' interpretation of history, the Trojan War wasn't about the abduction of Helen at all but was really a trade war (see p. 302 or Graves' The Greek Myths, v.2 [Penguin Books, c1955])  Troy happened to be in a good location to control the entry to the Black Sea.   Obviously, in the landlocked home of the Northern Shshi, I couldn't create a contest for naval supremacy, so I made the conflict begin as a quarrel over a river ford.  Hence, my Troy gets the name "Thel'or'ei," meaning "Good Broad Ford."
       The mythical Hercules didn't take part in the Trojan War, but somewhere in his Greek Myths (and for the life of me I can't find the reference again, but I remember it), Graves mentions that Hercules is associated with fighting at Troy, probably in earlier conflicts over the city, so I felt justified in allowing my Hercules stand-in Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head to play a part in the War of the Stolen Mother.  Ki'shto'ba is not equivalent to any particular character in the Troy stories but is a kind of catalyst, voice of reason, and savior.  Di'fa'kro'mi obviously fills the role of Homer (albeit our Remembrancer is not blind).  And our little Worker/trickster is in this book -- who else? -- Odysseus, a trickster character in his own right -- responsible for both the stealing of the "Palladium" and for the building of the "Trojan Horse."
       And one word about Cassandra:  I was annoyed to say the least that she was omitted completely from the movie "Troy."  In that movie there was no Seer whom nobody would believe, and nobody ever said anything like "Beware Greeks bearing gifts" (unless I fell asleep at the wrong time -- it wasn't the greatest movie in the world).  "Cassandra" plays a big part in my interpretation.  And let's not forget Aeneas, who fled the burning city of Troy carrying his father on his back.  How does that work?  At some time in the near future, you'll be able to read "War of the Stolen Mother" and find out!