Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Literary Theory of a Remembrancer

Termites Have Literary Theory, Too, By Golly!
       Di'fa'kro'mi the Remembrancer (Bard) of the fortress of Lo'ro'ra is the author and narrator of the Ki'shto'ba tales.  Di'fa'kro'mi invented writing and would have liked to write down his tales himself.  However, he is quite elderly and his claws don't work as well as they used to (apparently arthritis strikes everywhere in the universe, even among intelligent insects).  So he dictates to an amanuensis, an Alate named Chi'mo'a'tu.  Chi'mo'a'tu is quite young and callow, but he was very quick at learning how to make these mysterious word-images on scrolls and so Di'fa'kro'mi takes him for his chief scribe. 
       However, Chi'mo'a'tu's inexperience makes him skeptical about some of his mentor's narrative techniques.  For example, "The War of the Stolen Mother" contains an account of how the Companions steal the talisman whose presence keeps the fortress of Thel'or'ei safe (you can about read that on my Ruminations blog -- it's Chapter 22 in the book).  At the beginning of the following chapter, Chi'mo'a'tu accuses Di'fa'kro'mi of being a liar.  Here's the exchange (remember, until now the Shshi operated only in an oral literary tradition):
Now, I do not know what to think about this comment of yours, Chi’mo’a’tu!  First you say – the most amusing narrative you have ever received, and touching as well – and then you proceed to remark that it is too bad the whole thing was a lie!
This tale was absolutely truthful!  I know I was not present to take the exact words of the conversations, but – tha’sask| – Za’dut, and A’zhu’lo as well, recounted their adventures often enough!  Their versions did not always agree, but I have reconciled them here.  I thought it was highly effective!  Would you have preferred a tedious accounting of the number of missing stones in the flank of Thel’or’ei, or a complete list of the number and location of each biter sting on the bodies of our Thieves?
I do not see why this manner of narration bothers you so much.  We Remembrancers use it all the time – speaking not in our own person.  When I tell the Tale of the Battle of Mor’kwai’cha, I do not tell it as if I were engaged in it, do I?  I agree – it is an ancient tale and I certainly could not have been present to view it!  What is the difference?  I could not be present to view A’zhu’lo’s head getting stuck in the eye-hole, either! 
Of course Mor’kwai’cha is traditional!  This will be traditional, too, one day!  Besides, no two Remembrancers tell their traditional tales exactly the same – it cannot be expected.  Such tales are not meant to be dry historical recitations, like those the Teachers recount to the nymphs in the nursery.  The thing we call a galt’zi| is meant to entertain!  As long as one remains true to the spirit of the story – that is what matters.
Well, perhaps we can discuss these theories of tale-telling another time.  I need to rest now and then eat, and your claw must be tired.  Come back in three turnings of the water vessel, will you?  We will continue the dictation then.
In the next volume ("The Storm-Wing") Di'fa'kro'mi enlightens Chi'mo'a'tu's understanding with an even more entertaining bit of theory.  Ki'shto'ba has just fought a monster and the Companions are lingering at a fortress called Ei'tot, resting up before continuing their journey.
I had never told so many tales in so short a time as I did in Ei’tot.  It was the first time I ever narrated the War of the Stolen Mother in a formal setting (not that anything the ei’tot’zei| did was very formal).  I had been thinking the tale through even while we were tramping across Nu’wiv’mi.  That early version was not very like what you have been writing down, Chi’mo’a’tu …
What?  Oh, bother!  Both versions are true!    Of course, a tale can be told in different ways and still be true!  I am getting a bit annoyed at being called a liar!  Now, now, do not get upset!  It is only that for someone who started life training to be a Remembrancer, you know very little about tale-telling!  Perhaps it is a good thing you turned to this novel occupation of writing down the words of others!
       Let me give you a metaphor for the structure of a tale.  It is like the body of a Shi.  It has a chitin framework to hold it together – the basic facts of the plot, articulated in a certain cunning pattern.  Then it has the muscle – the details that move the action of the plot along.  It has the gut – the spirit, the passions of the characters.  And finally it has the fat – the descriptions, the asides, the little bits of humor and philosophy that pad the story.  Now there can be too much of that – if I have any failings, it is in incorporating too much fat!  Like this digression here, if you are writing it down!  No, do not smudge it out.  Ru’a’ma’na’ta may find it amusing, if no one else does.
       Oh, one more thing.  Sometimes one must adapt one’s tale to the situation.  If one is in a hurry or merely giving information, one can reduce it to the bare chitinous structure.  Of course, it is not very entertaining that way, but occasionally such a thing is necessary.  Sometimes one omits certain parts if one thinks the audience might find them offensive and be moved to murder the teller!  If one is speaking to a group of little nymphs in the nursery, one omits the scary parts and keeps it simple and short.  If the audience is exclusively Warriors, one emphasizes the action – the battles and the violence – for Warriors get restless if the tale is too subtle or mentally complex.  Of course, the opposite is true of Alates.  Workers like almost anything as long as it relieves the tedium of their duties – in fact they make the most enthusiastic audience.  And a mixed group – well, one tells the prime version of one’s tale and feels satisfied if no more than a third of the audience falls asleep!
That broadens your understanding, my friend?  Well, good!  Can we get back to work?  Whatever was I saying? …  An anus?  Oh, that is amusing!  That dormant twig of humor in your mind is developing a few leaf buds!  Yes, perhaps every tale ought to have an exit hole for the indigestible parts!
Pretty good advice for any writer!


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Illustration No.6 (Sixth of a Series)

This illustrations belongs with Chapter 19 ("Mourning")  of "The War of the Stolen Mother."  All epic cultures indulge in complex mourning rituals for their dead heroes.  However, here we see a different kind of mourning rite.  Who and why is Za'dut, our trickster character, mourning?  You'll have to read the book to find out.

Di'fa'kro'mi Joins Za'dut in a Mourning Dance
Click for larger image

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Illustration No.5 (5th of a Series)

This illustration belongs with Chapter 17 of "Stolen Mother" ("Ki'shto'ba Breaks Its Oath").  Why did our Champion break its oath?  What can Di'fa'kro'mi and the Helpers be thinking, daring to jump from the wall?  Why would A'zhu'lo be fighting off attackers on the parapet before it jumps itself?  What is Ki'shto'ba doing while all this is going on? 

Don't you wish you knew?

This picture illustrates my cop-out method of drawing stone walls -- make a monotone background and draw some intersecting lines to represent the stones. If I had been actually publishing this in a book, I would have probably felt impelled to go back and draw each stone individually as I did with the cover for v.2 of "The Termite Queen."

Saturday, August 18, 2012

So What's New with v.2 of "Labors"?

       Two things are new: 1) It's going to take me awhile to get it ready for publication; and 2) I'm changing the title again!

       First, the title:  As you may recall, I took my original v.2, which was entitled "The Tale of the Valley of Thorns," and divided it into two volumes because it was really too long for one, and since it's episodic, it could be divided easily.  Volume 3 was intended to keep the original title, and that's still true.  But v.2 was going to be "The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head: Volume Two: The Adventures of Ki'shto'ba Monster Slayer."  That fits well because in the story, Ki'shto'ba slays four monsters and wounds a fifth, and for its heroics, it is endowed with a new surname, No'dai Oin'zei, or Monster Slayer.
       However, the "Adventures" title had two things against it: It was awfully long, especially since I'm using the volume titles as subtitles; and it repeats the word "Ki'shto'ba," which gives it a redundant feeling.
       So I've decided to call it "The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head: Volume Two: The Storm-Wing."  Ah, a little  intriguing mystery!  What is a "Storm-Wing"?  It happens to be the monster that Ki'shto'ba wounds but doesn't kill.  It becomes an ominous force throughout the volume, and indeed throughout the entire remainder of the series, so I think the title is quite appropriate and catchy!

       Now, what do I have to do to get the book ready for publication?  I think the most important thing is to allow time for v.1 to be read a little more widely, so I don't mind delaying.  Then, because of splitting the second volume into two parts, I have to rewrite the Translator's Preface (some of which pertains only to material in v.3).  I have to construct a List of Characters.  Then I have to be sure the end works and probably go into v.3 and make sure its beginning works.  I'm in the process of doing some rough formatting on the text and reading through and revising it a bit.  That part is fun.
       Then I have to make a front cover drawing.  I have a drawing, showing that same Storm-Wing (that's appropriate) that I can adapt, but it will take some work.  I have not drawn as many pictures for v.2 as for v.l, so I'll have to  work up an entirely new back cover, probably using a blurb this time.     
       Finally, I have to adapt the map.  I have a map that covers the entire Quest, so I have to chop off the upper part of that and work it up in black and white and make it the right size.  That will take some work, too.

       In the meantime, I encourage everybody to obtain a copy of "The War of the Stolen Mother" and introduce yourself to the termite world.  Believe me, you'll be very glad you did!

       For Kindle and paperback, all my books are at Amazon.
       For all other e-readers and for sample downloads, all my books are at Smashwords.
       For Nook and paperback, my books are also at Barnes & Noble.  "The Termite Queen" doesn't appear there for Nook, because of the insoluble NCX problem.  If you want TQ for Nook, go directly to Smashwords.

       And watch for Illustration No.5, appearing soon on this blog!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Illustration No.4 (4th of a Series)

       Here we get our first glimpse of a Holy Chamber and of a Shshi Mother!  This picture belongs with Chapter 14 ("The Companions Visit the Holy Chamber") of "The War of the Stolen Mother."  The Companions are at the bottom of the picture.  The Mother of Thel'or'ei is named Ei'tha'ma'na'ta and that's her King, Zha'fei'na'sha'ma, who is clinging to her thorax.  Those two, of course, represent Hecuba and Priam.  Note the little Tenders climbing on the Mother's back.  I couldn't resist showing  them scrubbing her with a rag and a bucket!  Thel'or'ei's Remembrancer is the Alate at the left and the one in the middle who seems to be spinning around is the Keeper of the Holy Chamber, obviously distraught.  The Alate in the upper left corner is merely a Light Maker for the Mother.  The pale Alate at the back is Ta'hat'a'pai (Cassandra, no less) and she is pulling back a curtain to show something  she shouldn't -- a stone blocking an exit.  A'bir'zha'tai the Holy Seer is admonishing her.  A'bir'zha'tai fills the role of Laocoön.
       If you want to know what is behind the stone, read the book!
       Again, be sure to click on the image to see it full size.

Monday, August 13, 2012

How Do the Posts on This Blog Rank?


On my other blog, Ruminations of a Remembrancer, I've been assessing which posts have been the most viewed and which are deserving of more attention.  This current blog, devoted to the Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head, has been in existence only since March, when I converted my Conlang blog for that purpose, moving the conlang material to an LCS sponsored website.  Therefore, the present blog has only 23 posts.  Here are the three tops in popularity are (in reverse order):

No. 3: An Addendum on Formatting Kindle Books, which deals with my map and footnote problems, has had 24 views.  No big surprise there -- people seem to be really attracted to "how-to" posts about self-publishing.  What is a surprise, however, is that the preceding post, Problems Formatting Books for Kindle Using Word, to which the Addendum is a follow-up, had had only 9 views!

No. 2: The Legends of Troy, with 31 page views.  That interest pleases me!

No. 3: How to Convert Greek Names into the Shshi Language, with 35 page views.  I'm intrigued that so many people found this topic interesting, especially given the fact that some have complained about my "difficult" or "unpronounceable" names.  I'm wondering if it's mostly my conlanging friends who have viewed it, since this blog is still carried on the Conlang Aggregator.  Anyone who has a quibble about the complexity of my names would do well to read this post. 
       And I just had a revelation!  In that post I discuss the name "Achilles," which means "lipless."  Since termites have no lips, I mentioned that I could have used the name A'zid'wei, which would mean "having no palps" (the appendages around the mouth of an insect), but that just didn't seem very appropriate for a heroic Champion.  Then lately I found the following used as a search term that led somebody to the blog:  have used a zid wei.  I had completely forgetten what I wrote in that post, so I thought, what in the world does that mean?  What is a "zid wei"?  I was trying to make something Chinese out of it, or perhaps some other Asian language!  So now writing this post has enabled me to figure it out!

A couple of other ranking posts are Important Publishing News, a Word on the Myths, and Another Map Is Added, where I announce the publication of Stolen Mother.  It has garnered 18 views.  The post where I try to attract people from various scholarly walks of life has 17 views (Calling All Anthropologists, Entomologists, Mythologists, Folklorists, and Linguists) -- maybe that's hopeful!
Otherwise, nothing has more than 11, but I'm basically satisfied.  The only posts I would like to see attract more interest are the two that discuss the series' nature: The Trilogy Has Evolved into a Series and The Ki'shto'ba Series Has Now Evolved into Six Volumes.  Those are both worth taking another look.

One final word on the pictures that I've been posting.  They haven't attracted scores of views, but the last one grabbed 10 views within a couple of hours of my announcing its post on Twitter, so it seems somebody is interested!


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Illustrations, no. 3 (3rd of a Series)

This illustrations belongs with Chapter 10 of "The Labors of Ki'shto'bA Huge-Head: Volume One: The War of the Stolen Mother." The title of the chapter is "In the Marches of Thel'orei" where the Companions first encounter the Warriors of "Troy."  The Companions are grouped at the left; Di'fa'kro'mi and the two Helpers are standing on Za'dut to keep it quiet.  (Clearly delineating all those legs is tough!)  That's Cohort Chief Dai'wak'zei at the top, regurgitating the contents of its crop in order to signify its contempt for the Tailless Ones with whom Thel'or'ei is at war.  The sun is setting and the volcano named Yo'oin'zei (Ancient Killer) is smoking sullenly in the distance. (Be sure to click on the image to see a larger size.)

Now, doesn't that make you want to find out what happens next?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Illustrations, no. 2 (2nd of a Series)

Here is the original drawing from which I adapted the back cover art for "Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head: Volume One: The War of the Stolen Mother."  The title is "The Companions Meet the Tricky Lizard."  If I had published it in the book, it would have been part of Chapter 8, which you can read here on this blog.  I've also posted the back cover version below so you can compare them (this version displays the bleed line but otherwise it's accurate).  Obviously, the orginal was Landscape layout rather than Portrait, and the dimensions of a 8.5 x 5.5 book cover are quite different, so a lot of adjustment was necessary.  I removed the rocks (the actual scene takes place among a group of lava outcroppings) and added the tree so the picture would mirror the front cover.  Unfortunately, I also had to leave A'zhu'lo out; there just wasn't room for another big head!  I also omitted the second "Little One" (domesticated giant ant) and flipped the orientation of Wei'tu and the ant he's clutching.  One nice thing about this Word method of drawing is that you  can group items, figures, etc., and then manipulate their positioning, size, and such.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Illustrations, no. 1 (First of a Series)

I have drawn a number of illustrations for the Ki'shto'ba series, and the latest and best (in my opinion) are the ones for "The War of the Stolen Mother."  I originally intended to use them as illustrations in the books (this was in my days of thinking I would publish professionally), but I think it would make the CreateSpace books more expensive to include colored images.  So I'm going to begin running them as a series here, about two a week.  Today, I'm beginning with the original version of the cover, as it was before I adapted it.  My original intention was to use this as a frontispiece.