Guest Post/Virtual Tour ~ Unawqi, Hunter of the Sun by Kali Kucera

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I live in a place where there are no bookstores. The nearest one is about two hours away through canyons and forests.  Amazon cannot fly its drones here to my doorstep either. I’m way out of range.  But I do live in a highly literate culture where for thousands of years people have been telling stories around the base of their beloved mountain, Kayambi.

Here in the Andes of Ecuador, learning and crafting of lore is alive and well. It just doesn’t come in the form of printed material. Industrialization and the obsession with facts and forensics, thank G-d, has not penetrated all parts of society, including most importantly, transmitting to each other on a higher plane why the world works the way it does.

Take this for example: I was heading to the next town on a bus, sharing the ride with an indigenous woman dressed in her traditional fedora hat and elaborately hand-embroidered blouse and skirt, and I asked her why the bus was taking such a twisted route through little towns instead of just staying on the highway.  It was more direct and faster if we just picked up people on the highway, after all.  She said (translated from Spanish), “Oh, because this is the way the vicuñas (alpacas) went, even before there was a bus. They never want to miss finding something hidden along the way.”

As I’ve come to learn over the years of being a storyteller from all traditions of oral culture, her anecdote is just one strand of an intricate spider web, and the more you ask questions, the more strands of the story get woken up.  Then, when that story is done, you become aware it was just a chapter in a larger body of stories that may involve the same theme, the same character, the same dimension of nature, and those stories also need to be told.  The stories are there, but to “read” them, you have to be in connection with a human teller, a much more animated experience than a paper pages in a book.

I changed my life and way of doing art because I so passionately want to keep this ancient and creative practice alive. The telling and re-telling of lore is one thing, but what is disappearing is the active creation of lore, and that to me is worth reviving by encouraging a whole “new” crop of writers to be engaged with it.

The principal challenge of writing lore is poking a hole in our post-Enlightenment perception of myth.  For hundreds of years now, our brains have been conditioned to believe that “myth” and “falsehood” are synonymns.  This creates immediate feelings of negation, which may even be subliminal, when we expose ourselves to mythology and lore. We feel compelled to guard ourselves against them by minimizing them as “not true”. 

But in fact, the ancient writers of lore were not fabricators or dealers in falsehood.  This insults their dignity and the challenge of their art.  How do we feel when we listen to Aesop’s The Tortoise and the Hare or Carlo Collodi’s Pinnochio? We feel delight, hope, wonder, warmth, amazement.  Lore is not escape. It is that which helps us think out of the box.  It has always been created to help us not take the characters for granted as something we may physically encounter, but to encounter their reality on a higher plane within ourselves. When we hold Cinderella or Paul Bunyan dear, for example, the lorist has achieved his or her mission knowing that by championing the character within us, we will see and interact with our own world that raises our own humanity higher.

I invite you to find a new appreciation for lore, whether you hear it in a children’s story, around a campfire, or a more sophisticated rendering of mythical realism like Gabriel García Márquez’ One-hundred Years of Solitude. Don’t discount it off hand as myth, and instead think of it as a journey into seeing a different side of yourself, at the end of which you will find more well-being.

post-divider righthunterPublisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 18, 2016)
Genre: Mythical Realism
ISBN-10: 153534427X
ISBN-13: 978-1535344272
ASIN: B01INE64M2
Buy: Amazon, Kindle, IndieBound, The Book Depository

unawqi-hunter-of-the-sun

In a time when supernatural and industrial worlds are staged to collide, an Andean boy finds himself in the center of an epic struggle between the cosmos and the earth. Unawqi is born with both insurmountable power and a fate of certain death, both of which are challenged by his hunt of the emperor, Aakti, the Sun: the very force that desires to abandon the earth unless Unawqi can overcome him.

Premise: How easily we take the Sun for granted. We are conditioned to its rising and setting on time, and assume it enjoys doing so, or more likely is indifferent. Unawqi, Hunter of the Sun reveals a more perilous tale: the Sun, Aakti, is a being who is a reluctant player in providing light and warmth to our world, and even more has always desired to leave us to die if he didn’t have certain personal complications standing in his way. Aakti will stop at nothing to get what he wants, even if that involves murder of his own kin or annihilation of an entire living planet. Ironically, what holds him back is the very life he is creating; the family from which he tries to but cannot wrest control, and among them a young intrepid boy emerges, a hunter who sets out on a journey, not to stop the Sun, but to overcome him with a force we also take for granted: our humanity.

post-divider rightkaliKali Kucera is an American lorist and short story writer living in Quito, Ecuador, where he also rides and writes about bus and train travel. Since he was 9 years old he has been composing plays, operas, short stories, and multi-disciplinary experiences. He has been both a teacher and performer as well as an arts mobilizer, and founded the Tacoma Poet Laureate competition in 2008.

 

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post-divider leftExcerpt ~

THANKSGIVIng

Beware the empty chair. 

It was the only one unclaimed in the room of hungry diners in the basement of St. Rita’s church in Tacoma.  The legs were slightly turned out, as if an invisible waiter had pulled it back to let me slide in. 

Guilt had gotten the best of me to be there in the first place.  It was Thanksgiving morning, and a day earlier, my neighbors, who were never ones to shirk a promise, came to me with panic on their faces.  Their son’s house had burned down, they said, and they needed to leave immediately. 

I gave them my sympathies, but something else was bothering them still.  They had obligated themselves to help prepare free breakfast at St. Rita’s in the morning, an annual tradition for the city’s homeless.  I tried not to wince at the pious sound of it all, but I could sense what they were leading up to and I remembered the many times they'd watered my garden when I was out of town.  I knew my morning would be free before needing to drive to my aunt’s house for our family dinner, so, of course, I told my neighbors I would be glad to fill in for them and they should think no more of it.

Never having even been to St. Rita’s, I was loathe to socialize and threw myself into the work, but after a couple hours of scrambling eggs, I was impressed by my neighbor’s commitment to do this year after year.  My feet felt like two ends of a barbell, and I was just about ready to grab a plate myself and take a break.

If I had not been so tired, my finicky nature would have guided me to pass up the solitary chair and look for a less conspicuous corner of the room where perhaps there were fewer people.  The less forgiving angel on my shoulder bit me with the words: “You hypocritical, insincere, lazy ass.” It was right.  The people were streaming in through the door. Most had no home, no job, and no money.  Their bodies told their stories of broken dreams, crippling work, and damaged minds.  And here I was, fancying an emperor’s throne somewhere, so I could separate myself off to swallow my grits and baked apples?   

The lonely chair in front of me could have been reserved for someone else, so I asked the person sitting on the opposite side of the table if it was taken.  He said no, gestured for me to claim it, and I sat down with my plate and coffee without giving it another thought. 

It wasn’t until I looked back up that I noticed something about him seemed out of place.  I glanced at him across the table as he salted his eggs, observing how his right hand moved gracefully to the shaker.  He had none of the typical displays of mental edginess.  He was not disheveled, or weary on the brow.  His hair was combed, and he wore a leather jacket that didn’t bear a single tear.  His eyes were calm, like having emerged from a prayer, and he was happily occupied with his own thoughts. 

But his left hand remained fixed in place on the table, appearing to be hiding something underneath his palm. 

I must admit, it was also plain to me how strikingly handsome he was.  His jet black hair, and his face with the sheen of a brown eggshell suggested he was Latino, and I wondered what had brought him here, far from where he might have been born.

Normally, it’s prudent in these settings not to ask.  People are scarred enough by their circumstances and they don’t want to be interviewed as the price for their meal.  I wanted to protect his privacy and let him eat in peace, and in my own defense, didn’t want to unleash an emotional outbreak.  But still, his appearance challenged me, and his seeming self-confidence broke through my etiquette, and I asked him that inadvisable question anyway:  “So, what’s your story?”

His face sprung up like a soldier’s salute and he gave me a smile, wide with contentment.

“I am Unawqi.  I am hunting the Sun.”

It was such a terse thing to say, and he was so oddly composed in saying it, that I could only smile and nod back, disguising my disappointment, sure he was just as crazy as the rest, albeit happily crazy. 

I thought some more about the strangeness of his name, sounding out the phonemes in my mind.  Was it Finnish or Japanese?  Apache, perhaps?  A second later I thought again that maybe he was making a clever joke in order to break the ice.  After all, Tacoma has plenty of days of being overcast with gloomy clouds refusing to budge, and talking about the weather is indeed how we all usually start a conversation.  So I returned to him again and said, “Yes, the Sun has a lot of good hiding places in November.”

Unawqi dropped his fork on his plate and his eyes bore into me as if I had just given him the key to paradise.

“So you have seen him?” Unawqi beamed.

Regretting, now, that I had not taken the warning sign of the empty chair, I searched my mind for an excuse to get up and return to the kitchen.  But before I could finish my breakfast, Unawqi had lined out enough of his story that I found myself not only glued to my seat, but devoid of any fatigue or hunger but for the feast of his very next word.

I fell in love with Unawqi instantly, as I imagined everyone did.  In the first thirty minutes he made me laugh more than I had over the course of a year.  It puzzled me how such an energetically positive young man could end up in a basement of broken heartedness, but this only compelled me to listen all the more.

I wouldn’t be telling you this story if Unawqi was, in fact, merely making a joke about the weather.  His opening line was literally and plainly what he'd meant: he was a hunter, the Sun was his prey, and his extraordinary pursuit, which had begun ages ago, had finally brought him here, to Tacoma, of all places.  And it was here, in Tacoma, that he was just as zealous as he had always been to see his hunt come to an end.

Naturally, I had to ask why would one hunt the Sun, and this was when his story grew more complicated, his face showing pain, at many points, as he struggled to justify the emotional struggle of his journey. 

He set his plate aside, for the heaviness in his heart overtook any appetite he had left, and he reached out and took my hand, asking me to listen.

“Think back, if you will, to the first time your father took you for a walk in the night.  The darkness, how it horrified you.  It swallowed you whole, and the only link you had to the light was the touch of your father’s fingers in your palm.  So small and tenuous a wall, you remembered, separating your life from your death. 

"For a brief second he let go of your hand, to, instead, put it on your shoulder, and in that moment you felt what it was like to be forsaken.  You cried out in terror, and even when his hand returned, you realized it could leave again, throwing you into the vastness of space to be on your own.

"Still, he urged you to continue, to go further, deeper into space, farther away from home.  So you trusted him again, and you walked together until you shivered from the cold. 

"But for some reason still a mystery, imagine that he truly chose to let his hand go, and his voice to go silent.  You would pray it wasn't true, that he must soon return, and yet he would not.  No matter how many times you called, he would not answer.  He just left.

"This time you would be all alone, a boy, abandoned to face the boundless night, led to the loveless abyss, rejected by your own genesis, without a compass or line to find your way  back.

"No greater a cruelty can be imagined than this.  But this is just between one father and his son.  How much greater is the cruelty when the father casts a million sons, indeed, the whole world, to the abyss?

"That is the crime.  That is why I'm here. 

"But there is more, for now the father is no less the boy, and the boy no less his father.

"We are all in danger of casting each other out.”

Unawqi told me he was not hunting for sport or pleasure.  He was a bounty hunter of sorts, and the Sun had committed a crime against humanity, a preconceived crime that had not yet come to pass, but still could, if the right conditions were met.  It was a crime that Unawqi said he himself needed to overcome. Indeed, that we all must do the same, at some point or another.

My mind came around again to his left hand, which still had not moved. 

“And what is this you’re keeping?” I asked.

“Oh, this,’’ he answered with a little chagrin and lifting his palm.  “This is a gift.  A little silk worm I hope will bring me good fortune and make things right.”

The tiny insect was crawling around in a nest of straw, making spindles of silk that played with the overhead light.  This smallest of living things, manufacturing the miraculous in the middle of such a somber place, enchanted me to no end. 

Unawqi, of course, wanted to protect it, which is why he kept it covered so securely.  His hand was its shelter, its mighty fortress, and he would be certain to never abandon this creation for as long as he lived.

His story would not have come from Finland or Japan or the mesas of Arizona.  His beginning belonged to a patch of green, high in the Andes, where farmers herded goats, and unearthed potatoes, when they were not dancing to the sounds of their magical flutes.  It was a peaceful place, and he longed to return home, as soon as he was able, but only if he could bring the whole world home with him.

post-divider rightTour Schedule

Monday, December 5 – Interview at The Writer’s Life

Tuesday, December 6 – Book Featured at Books Dreams Life

Wednesday, December 7 – Book Feature at Write and Take Flight

Thursday, December 8 – Book Featured at The Bookworm Lodge 

Thursday, December 8 – Book Featured at Bound 2 Escape

Friday, December 9 – Book Featured at Mello & June, It’s a Book Thang!

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Monday, December 12 – Interview at My Bookish Pleasures

Tuesday, December 13 – Character Interview at Pimp That Character!

Wednesday, December 14 – Interview at From the TBR Pile

Thursday, December 15 – Book Featured at fuonlyknew

Friday, December 16 – Book Featured at CBY Book Club

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Tuesday, January 3 – Guest Blogging at Lori’s Reading Corner

Wednesday, January 4 – Interview at PUYB Virtual Book Club

Thursday, January 5 – Guest Blogging at The Story Behind the Book

Friday, January 6 – Interview at The Dark Phantom

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Monday, January 9 – Book Featured at The Literary Nook

Tuesday, January 10 – Guest Blogging at Literal Exposure

Wednesday, January 11 – Book Featured at Booklover Sue

Thursday, January 12 – Book Featured at A Title Wave

Friday, January 13 – Interview at Literarily Speaking

 

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