Friday, November 28, 2014

New Review of The Wood Where the Two Moons Shine!

Here is Marva Dasef's review of v.5 of the series
The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head
See Marva's publications (YA and MG books,
 as well as adult, and a lot of audio books)
at Amazon
       In addition to looking up the myths yourself, you can read the posts in this blog in the series "The Life of Hercules," where I talk a good deal about how I adapted the stories.  I'd also welcome comments on how you feel about the conlangs.  Of course, you'd have to read some of my books first! 
An Epic Worthy of the Mythology

 Okay, if you haven't started with Volume 1 and worked your way through to this 5th volume, you'll have no idea what it's all about. Stop reading the review right now. Go to Amazon or Smashwords and start at the previous two-volume book, "The Termite Queen, Vol. 1" or at least at "The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head, Vol. 1" which picks up events after the first book.
       While an excellent addition to the epic tale of heroic alien termites, I wanted a little more to highlight Ki'shto'ba's quest's end. As the first volume of the story of Is’a’pai’a's search for the golden (fleece) fungus, it's a smooth transition into the young warrior's quest.
       Yes, this is an imagining of Jason and the Argonauts. Most of the characters in the Greek myth are present and accounted for. But this doesn't need to be a deed for deed, character for character retelling. Some aspects of the Jason myth are impossible. For example, Medea as Jason's wife just won't fit into the story of neuter termite warriors. I suspect a Mother (queen) termite will stand in for Medea at some point.
       Am I complaining that the epic adventures of Hercules (Ki'shto'ba) and Jason (Is'a'pai'a) are utilized as the basis for the termites' tellings? Not at all. I went to my Dictionary of Mythology to remind myself of the human equivalents to the termite heroes and deeds.
       My only problem throughout the series is the con-lang (constructed language) Ms. Taylor has created. It's an impressive feat. On the other hand, it's reading a story with all the names and lots of other words are written in Urdu or Finnish. Hard to remember who is who and what is what. I got used to the main characters' names, but new characters and words introduced along the way didn't stick quite as well. This makes the book difficult to read without breaking immersion. The imaginary "translator" of the termite language text, could easily have said "Since the names are difficult, I will substitute more familiar (or shorter) terms to stand in. Please see the Appendix (yes, there is one) as needed." Thus, Ki'shto'ba would be called Kip or Kish, Is'a'pai'a could be Ike or Isa. I would definitely be easier to read.
       The difficulty of maintaining immersion because of the con-lang dropped a star off the rating [to 4 star]. In all other ways, I highly recommend both series. I look forward to reading Isa's continued quest for the golden fungus in volume 6.
(Don't forget to check out my new book trailer at YouTube)

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Life of Hercules: The Argonauts

Eighth of a series. Here are the earlier posts:
This is an illustration I made showing
Mor'gwai (the Argo) sailing away from
the fortress of Vok'seit'chet.  I considered
adapting this for the cover of v.6, but I settled
on the Point of the Monster instead.
(Click for larger view)
       After Jason agreed to sail away from Iolcus on a quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece, he needed a ship and a crew.  The ship came to be called the Argo after the shipwright who built it, and the crew of heroes who sailed in it were called the Argonauts.
       Sources usually agree that there were about 50 Argonauts.  Obviously, I couldn't utilize all of these characters, so I picked out several that I felt were essential to my version of the story.  Of course Heracles had to be included, since Ki'shto'ba is a stand-in for Heracles.  However, Heracles really played a rather small role in the Quest for the Golden Fleece, leaving the Quest early for reasons I won't go into here.  This aspect plays a significant role in my interpretation, but it would be a spoiler to elaborate too much on it.
       So I went through Robert Graves' list of Argonauts and picked out some that would serve a function in my plotline.
       Atalanta:  I've dealt with her before (in the post about the Calydonian boar).  Thel'tav'a, the female At'ein'zei Intercaste Warrior, fills this role.  Meleager was also supposed to be an Argonaut, but in my tale my termite version of the character is already dead.
       Amphiaraus, the Argive Seer:  I had always intended the 11th Companion to be a Seer, so I sifted through the list of Argonauts to find one, and Amphiaraus stuck out immediately.  If you look him up in Wikipedia, he has a considerable side story of his own but isn't prominent in the Golden Fleece quest.  However, I settled on him for one special reason: his name means "Twice Cursed."  (It might mean, according to Wikipedia, "Twice Ares-like," but I employed the twice-cursed connotation.)  I came up with the idea of a Seer who has seen everything that is to come but can't recall what he has seen until it has happened.  He is cursed to know all and to know nothing, and to be unable to change the future.  How could a person be more doubly cursed that that?  I think that was a brilliant idea, but for the life of me I can't recall how I came up with it.  I named him Da'sask'ni'a, which also means "Twice Cursed."
       Argus the Thespian, builder of the Argo:  Is'a'pai'a needed a ship just as Jason did, and so I made the 12th Companion to be the Bright-and-Dark Boatbuilder, Mo'wiv.  The name Argus means "bright," so this was close enough.  Mo'wiv is a Builder-Worker, a famous shipwright in the lands of the Water People.  I also made him a skilled ship's Captain, because obviously none of the Companions of Ki'shto'ba and Is'a'pai'a knows anything about sailing.  "According to other legends [the Argo] contained in her prow a magical piece of timber from the sacred forest of Dodona, which could speak and render prophecies." (Wikipedia)  From this, and from the knowledge that the early Greeks often painted eyes on their prow, I got the idea for the Moon-Eyes of the Mother.  And all ships need a figurehead, so the running reptile Rin'dog'zei fit perfectly.
       Castor, the Spartan wrestler, and his twin, Polydeuces, the Spartan boxer, known as the Dioscuri, or Sons of Zeus.  In case nobody has guessed it to this point, the twins known as the Shin'ki'no'hna, or Offspring of the King, reflect this pair.  Castor means "beaver," which is impossible to translate into Shshi, so I called that one Ti'a'gwol'a, which means "sweet chewer."  Polydeuces means "much sweeter wine," so I made him Ti'a'toig'a, which means "sweet swallower."  Termites don't box, so I substituted the skill of jaw-fencing (the Water People have those long, narrow pointed jaws, as you've seen in the pictures of Is'a'pai'a). 
       And -- oh, dear! -- I just discovered an error   In the book people are always mixing up the twins because they really are identical. Now it appears even I mixed them up.  I made Ti'a'toig'a (Polydeuces) the wrestler, when it should have been Ti'a'gwol'a (Castor).  Oh, well, if I'm that confused, the readers aren't going to know the difference.  I don't believe I ever wrote about the meaning of the names.
        Sigh.  Moving on ...
       Hylas, squire to Heracles:  This character is, of course, Twa'sei.  Enough said on that.
       Orpheus: Bu'gan'zei the 9th Companion is Orpheus, but you all knew that.
      Tiphys, the Helmsman:  The name means "from the pool" and the minor character Ao'gwai, helmsman for the Quest ship, reflects that; its name means "pool."
        And there you have the Argonauts -- the mor'gwai'zei| -- denizens of the ship Mor'gwai, which means "Bright Water."  This reflects the name of its shipwright, Mo'wiv, even as the Argo reflects the name Argus.

       One other note: a second pair of twins sailed on the Argo -- Idas and Lynceus.  Expect to see this pair turn up in the sequel, assuming I ever get it written!

       And a further afternote:
       Chris Graham (aka The Story Reading Ape) has reviewed v.6 The Revenge of the Dead Enemy as follows (thanks, Chris!  You're my true-blue fan!)
       Of all the books in this series, this is the one I dreaded reading.
       There are a lot of prophecies fulfilled, resulting in the loss of great companions and it is the last book of the series.
       The final few chapters not only gripped me with sadness, they helped me reconcile with the losses (Ki'shto'ba's final moments were an astounding fulfilment of a prophecy AND achieved the 12th and final Wonder in a way that is unparalleled by any Shi'Shi) AND gave me hope that another remarkable series may be penned by the author....
       I certainly hope so...

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Milestone Is Reached! The Final Volume of the Ki'shto'ba Series Has Been Published!

Back cover of The Revenge of the Dead Enemy
Amazon, Amazon UK, and all other countries
        I began to write the series The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head at the beginning of 2001 (in fact I labeled it as starting on Christmas Day, 2000) and I completed the revision of the first draft of the final volume on 7/29/03.
       Now on 10/27/14, the entire series has finally been published!

       I've taken Ki'shto'ba and its Twelve Companions on the promised Quest to reach the sea, moving from the original Three Companions (Di'fa'kro'mi, Wei'tu, and Twa'sei) to the last Two, Mo'wiv the Shipwright and Da'sask'ni'a the Doubly Cursed Seer (both introduced in v.5).  Along the way we met the 4th Companion, Ki'shto'ba's Twin, A'zhu'lo (later surnamed Beloved of Champions under tragic circumstances).  We acquired the 5th Companion, Za'dut the Tricky Lizard (also more nobly surnamed Fortress Breaker), who provided an endless stream of audacious, useful, and entertaining pranks and inventions.  We added a Healer, Ra'fa'kat'wei, who had a quest of her own -- to find an antidote to the snail-poison that killed a great Champion of her people.  We discovered a young Warrior of the Water People, Is'a'pai'a, an exile who knew nothing of its heritage, and that Warrior's helper Krai'zei, one of the Yo'sho'zei, a people with the reputation for mysterious powers.  Finally, we met the 9th Companion, Bu'gan'zei, a word-crafter who has invented a new way of speaking that can charm the very leaves and stones -- who is destined to guide Ki'shto'ba into the World Below.  And then there is the 10th, Thel'tav'a  the Intercaste, a female winged and eyed Warrior whose name means Loyal to the Good and who will give her fidelity only to one who can best her in battle. 
       When the Quest finally reaches the sea, the emphasis shifts to Is'a'pai'a's own quest -- the Quest for the Golden Fungus.  Ki'shto'ba begins to play a support role until events unfold that fulfill the final prophecies that have hedged the Quest about from the very beginning. 
       And this means that the final volume leaves much unresolved.  It means that I need to write a seventh volume.  In 2003, after working intensively on this series for two and a half years, I was a little burned out on it and I decided to write something else for a while.  I started The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars, and that was a disaster -- not that the book was without value but it swallowed me up and became endless.  I never got back to that seventh volume.
       Now I've got to write it.  It won't be called Volume Seven -- it will be called
 The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head: The Sequel
The Buried Ship at the End of the World
(unless I change my mind on the volume title) 
       I have a lot of notes, but I have to do some more research on the mythology that I'll be interpreting and I have to carefully work out the timeline.  I also need to make a chapter outline, because I want to cover certain events in a structured way that will keep the book from growing to an unmanageable length (my worst failing).  I guess I really am a planner and not a pantser, because improvisation is deadly for me.  That is, I can improvise in the actual writing process, but not in figuring out what I want to put in the plot.   
       This won't be a quick undertaking, because when I get inspired, I can write fast, but then I like to take a lot of time to "cook" the book -- let it simmer, rest, and then be stirred and seasoned over and over.  And I'll also have to do a cover drawing from scratch -- no older drawings here that I can pull out of my hat.  And I'll have to make the maps, also.
       I may work on some other material as well, like trying to decide what to do with The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars, and also that extract called Father and Demons that I had planned to publish earlier only to change my mind.  So I think I have more than enough creative projects to move to the front burner.
       In the meantime, I'd love to have more readers for what I've already published.  I'm going to try to do more promotion.  I think there are a lot of people out there who would be surprised at what a great read my books are, particularly the Ki'shto'ba series, which only gets more intense and more moving as it goes along (be sure you have some hankies handy when you read The Revenge of the Dead Enemy). 
       So stay tuned for further developments, and let me hear from you as you enjoy my creations!  You can find me on Facebook, on Twitter @TermiteWriter, and also on my Google+ community, Books by TermiteWriter.  Or leave your comments on this blog or on my other blog Ruminations of a Remembrancer. 
       P.S.  Watch for a Facebook event soon!