In Honor of Michael

Michael and Ella

Michael with his granddaughter Eliane.

I’ve been absent the last few months dealing with family illness.

My brother got sick and went through four months of multiple hospitalizations and declining health. When the doctors could do no more, we took him home and he passed away the day before Thanksgiving.

My brother was five years older than I, so I didn’t have a lot of interaction with him when I was growing up. A little sister isn’t much fun when it comes to playing games. When I started junior high, he was leaving for college.

He shared the same interest in science fiction and fantasy that I had. Being older, he had jobs and spending money and he bought books. He left those books at home when he went to college. And I “borrowed” them from his bookshelf and devoured them.

He’s the reason I read Dune and other books that may have been considered too adult for me at the time. But I appreciated them for the new worlds and ideas they exposed me to.

As adults we discovered a shared interest in writing, too. He was working on a few stories before he died and we talked about plots and characters. I regret that he wasn’t able to finish them, but I have his ideas and maybe I will be able to write something in his honor from them.

He was a gentle man with a sharp wit and a love for children. I will miss him greatly.

 

You Should Read: LINNET AND THE PRINCE

This is a series of posts highlighting books that I’ve read and loved. If you enjoy my books, you’ll like these too.

Linnet and the PrinceLinnet and the Prince by Alydia Rackham

I found another terrific read. I stayed up WAY too late one night to finish it. Yes, it’s one of those. Just couldn’t put it down.

Linnet and the Prince is a fabulous love story between two people that should be bitter enemies. Prince Rajak kills King Peliar and then demands the hand of the king’s daughter in marriage. Princess Linnet volunteers to marry him to save her older sister from the horrible fate.

Taken to Rajak’s homeland, Linnet is miserable among the hated strangers. She struggles to fit in where she doesn’t want to belong and to understand her new husband.

One aspect about Linnet that I loved–she’s was raised to be a fighter, to protect her older sister from men who might take advantage of her. BUT… the author doesn’t beat you over the head with that. She doesn’t make Linnet out to be the best warrior ever and have her fighting every time you turn the page. It’s just a set of skills that she has and that she uses when the time is right. Instead, Linnet succeeds more with her feminine skills, even though she has to develop them first. I really appreciate that delicate touch.

It’s a wonderful love story set in a far-off land with a touch of magic. It shows how Rajak and Linnet find their way past the bitter hatred between their people to build their own strong relationship.

LINNET AND THE PRINCE

Sixteen-year-old Linnet has been given a grave task. If she succeeds, it could end her life. If she fails, it could destroy her people.

She must kill a prince.

But first, she must marry him.

Prince Rajak of the Badi, son of the tyrannical desert king, has given Linnet’s Highland kingdom of Hilrigard an ultimatum: give him a princess for his bride, or be slaughtered. Linnet’s older sister is his first choice, but when she begs not to be sent, Linnet volunteers, to save her people.

Her mother, however, sees an opportunity. She secretly instructs Linnet to gain Rajak’s trust and then assassinate him, before he discovers the legendary chamber that will resurrect the Badi’s greatest king.

Linnet is united with Rajak and goes to his court determined to obey her mother’s command, though repulsed by the strange customs and bizarre foods. But the more she learns of the prince, the more she realizes that his brooding exterior conceals a good heart. And the more she learns of the chamber, the more she suspects that the legend is not what it seems.

But time runs short when Linnet’s mother sets the coup in motion, and Linnet is faced with a heart-rending choice—for the one sent to kill the prince is now the only one who can save him.

Feng Shui’ing My Office

I’m one of those people that rearrange my furniture every few months. Usually there’s nothing wrong with the original placement. It’s just not right. When it feels “not right”, it’s time to move things around until they feel “right”.

Following that reasoning, I’ve rearranged my office again.

I haven’t been as creative or productive as I had hoped once I got the painting done and the new writing chair in place.

I took a look at how the principles of feng shui dictated my office should be laid out.

Turns out my writing chair was on the wrong wall. I moved it to the opposite wall so I could see the door, as recommended. Technically, this isn’t the best position for me to be creative. My writing chair is in the Family-Community sector. BUT it is in the “power position” of facing the door and that trumps the sector. Apparently.

My Writing Chair

Yuki has claimed the Power chair.

 

My bookshelf moved to the Knowledge-Education sector.

My Bookshelf

Where I keep my knowledge until I need it.

 

My printer moved to the Creativity/Productivity sector, which I think is appropriate for a writer. And it is sitting on a metal wire-frame shelf which is good in that sector. The bulletin board on top is now hanging on the wall above it.

Printing Area

The printer is guaranteed to produce productivity. The manual said so.

 

I added a small table in my Wealth sector and put a peace lily on it to stimulate growth.

The Peaceful Lily

The peaceful lily is growing my wealth.

 

It’s recommended that you place items that represent money or wealth in this sector. I added a pair of silver salt and pepper shakers from my mother, beautifully tarnished. (Not sure if the tarnish is a bad thing in the principles of feng shui, but I love the look of the metal.)

Tarnish is beautiful.

Tarnish is beautiful.

 

My dragon cup and saucer also sit on the table. Dragons are a powerful symbol in feng shui. Couldn’t hurt to have more power in my Wealth sector. And it makes me happy to look at them. So gorgeous.

Dragon Cup and Saucer

Blurry dragons are still good luck, right?

Does Feng Shui really work? I don’t know, but I’m more productive in my office now. Maybe there is something to energy flow. Or maybe the office just “feels” right now.

You Should Read: THE COLD KING

This is a series of posts highlighting books that I’ve read and loved. If you enjoy my books, you’ll like these too.

The Cold KingThe Cold King by Amber Jaeger

This is a dark retelling of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast and it is well done. Beauty isn’t a beauty at the beginning. She’s an abused, unwanted girl struggling to be loved. The Beast isn’t beastly in form, but in manner – he’s cold and ruthless, to hide his own pain.

I’m a sucker for underdog stories and this one is wonderfully told. It’s described as dark, but I didn’t find it dark so much as realistic. There is no gratuitous violence or sex. Merely people acting selfishly and hurting others, intentionally and not.

It’s a story of two people struggling to overcome their own scars and find love. Give it a try. I think you’ll love it.

THE COLD KING

Calia Thorn has lived her entire life in a small town sheltered by the Cold King’s mountain. Working day and night to care for her younger siblings, complete her unending chores and please her selfish, lazy mother has left her with few dreams for her own future.

But then even those meager hopes are taken from her when the Cold King comes down from his mountain to demand a new servant. Ungraceful, unladylike, undesired and unwanted by even her own family, Calia is chosen to be sent to the palace.

The Cold King has lived for three hundred years under a curse imposed by his own father. With no hope of ever breaking it, he settles for keeping his heart frozen against any pain— or hope.

When his new servant arrives, she challenges him in ways no one ever has and sparks fly. But not every Beast is a prince charming at heart and not every beauty is a maiden just waiting for love.

Sometimes happily ever after isn’t so easy…

Z is for Zombies

The Letter ZI couldn’t end the A to Z Challenge without including zombies. (I’ve been on an apocalyptic reading binge lately and zombies are a big part of that genre.)

Technically, a zombie is an animated corpse resurrected by mystical means. In modern times, we’ve expanded the term to mean any undead being (though not vampires) regardless of the means of reanimation.

In traditional Vodou (or voodoo), a dead person can be revived by a sorcerer. The sorcerer retains control of the zombie, since it has no will of its own.

Outside of mystical means, there are other possible causes of the zombie myth.

There are two powders, that when introduced into the blood stream (usually via a wound), can produce zombie-like behavior in a living person.

The first, coup de poudre, includes tetrodotoxin, a frequently fatal neurotoin found in the flesh of the pufferfish. The second powder consists of dissociative drugs that would produce a psychotic state.

Taken together, the first drug would produce an initial state of deathlike suspended animation. The second would then lead to psychotic behavior after “re-awakening”.

Free Goth Baby Belladonna Creative Commons

Modern fiction and movies often portray zombies as rising from a virus or contagion that reanimates them. Hunger for flesh is usually the driving force for the modern zombie, though they also have no will of their own beyond that.

Regardless of how they are reanimated, zombies are a frightening myth of an unstoppable creature that can’t be reasoned with. Mindless and dead, they exist only to destroy.

My Idea:

For my story, humans in space would encounter an alien culture made of “zombies”. The aliens live their “first life” alive as we understand life, and after they die, they are reanimated and begin their “second life”. With humans considering the dead to be evil, the human explorers have much adjusting to do to understand this new culture.

Would you ever write a story about zombies?

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Y is for Yugoslavian Monuments

The Letter YIn the 1960s and 70s, former Yugoslavian president Josip Broz Tito commissioned a number of large sculptures to commemorate sites where WWII battles took place or where concentration camps stood.

The sculptures are very large and made of concrete. They were designed by different sculptors and architects and are a unique blend of art and architecture.

I’m intrigued by the “differentness” of these monuments. They seem to be of alien origin or straight out of a futuristic novel. They would work well as settings for a scifi novel.

You can see the sculptures here as photographed by Jan Kempenaers.

Monument to Kosmaj partisan division from WWII

Monument to Kosmaj partisan division from WWII on top of Kosmaj mountain, near Belgrade, Serbia

My Idea:

While I’m intrigued by the idea of using them as settings for a scifi novel on another world, I think I would write a story about them here on Earth. Perhaps, the sculptors and architects who designed them were influenced by a stranded alien, stuck here on Earth.

Needing a way to signal his people, he “influences” the designers to build each monument in a specific way. Once completed, he is able to activate an energy source that signals his people using the monuments as part of his “machinery”. They rescue him and leave the planet.

But his “machinery” is still running and other aliens pick up the signal. They come to Earth in our present-day and humanity must figure out how to deal with them. There are two factions involved – those that want to shut off the signal before more aliens arrive and those that want to keep it running. The question is who will win?

What do you think of the Yugoslavian Monuments?

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X is for Xenization

The Letter XThis is another intriguing word. Xenization is the fact of traveling as a stranger. Just that definition alone was enough to spark a story idea.

My Idea:

Gullion is a world of a thousand cultures. It is a rich world of diversity, and each city-state values the differences between them.

As children come of age on Gullion, they are sent on a journey to explore the many city-states. They wear generic clothing, off-white tunics and pants, and remove all identifiers from their person that would indicate their birth-state. Each is named Xeni for the duration of their travels.

As individual strangers travelling the world, they have no past, no future, no connections. They are cared for by the people in the city-states, given food, shelter, taught the ways of the culture.

Their purpose is to learn as much as possible and upon returning home after one year, they take up their name again. In their Culture Ceremony, each young person selects the city-state in which they will live for the rest of their life, abandoning their family and friends, to start life anew as a stranger.

For the people of Gullion, this way of life keeps their bloodlines diverse and the cultures fresh. Family ties, past histories – none of that is important. Only the individual, knowledge, and the growth of the culture matters.

We will stay foreverBut Pelligren does not want to give up his family and certainly not his love, Lylea. He returned from his Xeni year determined to remain in his birth-state with Lylea. His family is horrified that he would profane their traditions and refuse his Culture Ceremony. Even Lylea is opposed to his plans, having already chosen her new home in her Culture Ceremony.

Can Pelligren withstand the weight of tradition and win over Lylea or will she convince him that leaving behind the past is the best way for both of them?

What do you think about the concept of xenization?

Check out other blogs in the challenge!

photo by: Kamal Zharif

W is for Words

The Letter WWriters are often lovers of words. They are the tools of our trade. I love poring over lists of obscure or forgotten words to see if one will spark a story idea.

For example:

anuptaphobia: Fear of staying single

What if an individual was born into a world that was populated only by multiple-birth offspring – twins, triplets, etc?

growlery: A retreat for times of ill humour.

What if there was a society of people that were exceedingly polite and each person had their own specific place to go to when they were having a bad day – a place to be alone and think?

haecceity: The aspect of existence on which individuality depends; the hereness and nowness of reality.

What if there was a society of people that only lived in the “now”? If they had no concept or words for the past or future, they only dwelled in the present moment?

nepenthe: Something, such as a drink or a drug, capable of making one forget suffering.

What if a man invented a drug that could make you forget suffering and bad memories? (Besides alcohol, that is.) What if the effects were temporary? What if they were permanent?

zetetic: Proceeding by inquiry; a search or investigation; a skeptical seeker of knowledge.

What if this was a job title? What if the province’s zetetic was called in whenever there was a crime or mystery to be solved?

My Idea:

William Fox School, twins and gradsI’ve already listed several ideas above, but my mind keeps churning on these. It would be interesting to combine several of these concepts into one story.

Imagine a society where multiple-children births is the norm. Whenever single children are born, they are pre-destined to be zetetics – impartial, skeptical investigators. One particular zetetic, who struggles with his singular existence, is called to investigate a murder in which all of the witnesses have taken (by choice or by trickery) nepenthe, causing them to forget the crime.

Do you find that rare or unusual words spark story ideas for you?

For a wonderful collection of words, check out phrontistery.com.

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V is for Voynich Manuscript

The Letter VThe Voynich Manuscript is considered “the world’s most mysterious manuscript”. It is written in an unknown script and contains many pictures and diagrams that are unidentifiable.

Based on the subject matter of the drawings, the contents of the manuscript falls into six sections:

  1. botanicals containing drawings of 113 unidentified plant species;
  2. astronomical and astrological drawings including astral charts with radiating circles, suns and moons, Zodiac symbols such as fish (Pisces), a bull (Taurus), and an archer (Sagittarius), nude females emerging from pipes or chimneys, and courtly figures;
  3. a biological section containing a myriad of drawings of miniature female nudes, most with swelled abdomens, immersed or wading in fluids and oddly interacting with interconnecting tubes and capsules;
  4. an elaborate array of nine cosmological medallions, many drawn across several folded folios and depicting possible geographical forms;
  5. pharmaceutical drawings of over 100 different species of medicinal herbs and roots portrayed with jars or vessels in red, blue, or green, and
  6. continuous pages of text, possibly recipes, with star-like flowers marking each entry in the margins.

From Yale University Library

Investigators believe the manuscript was created at the end of the 15th century or during the 16th century. It is named after the bookseller that acquired it in 1912, Wilfrid Voynich.

The mystery of the manuscript lies in deciphering it as the text bears no relation to any known language. Some say it is a constructed language, an exotic natural language, a cipher, or a code.

Voynich Manuscript

One of the foldout pages in the Voynich manuscript.

The illustrations don’t offer any illumination on the text. Most of the plant drawings bear no resemblance to known plants, many being portrayed as having the roots of one plant, leaves of another and flowers of a third, creating a chimeric plant. Some circular diagrams appear to resemble constellation charts, but to no known constellations.

The general accepted theory is that the manuscript is probably a medical reference compiled by an herbalist in his own secret script in the 1500s. It was common practice of alchemists and herbalists of the time to write their notes in code to keep their knowledge out of the hands of the unlearned and unworthy.

But after one hundred years of study, we are no closer to understanding the manuscript despite the best efforts of mathematicians, linguists, physicists, cryptologists, art historians, programmers, and amateur enthusiasts.

Critics claim that the manuscript is an elaborate hoax

If you’d like to view the Voynich Manuscript for yourself, you can download a copy for free as it is in the public domain.

My Idea:

I would write a story about rival alchemists, each competing for fame and the favor of the king. One documents his knowledge meticulously in his own secret code. When the book disappears, the alchemist must get it back before his rival, a former apprentice, can decipher it.

What do you think of the Voynich Manuscript – authentic or hoax?

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U is for Unknown Space Object

The Letter UIn 1991 a near-earth object was discovered and named 1991 VG. It was originally thought to be a fast moving asteroid-type object. But as the object approached Earth, it exhibited strong and rapid brightness changes similar to reflections from a rotating spacecraft.

In addition, the object had an orbit very similar to Earth’s, which is unusual for objects in our solar system These facts suggested it was a spacecraft making a controlled pass by Earth.

Earth Rocket Returning Home?
Initial speculation was that it could be a rocket body from a satellite launched in the early 1970′s. Further study indicated that the orbit of 1991 VG did not match any known man-made spacecraft or rocket bodies.

Alien Spacecraft
Other theories postulated that it might be a manned alien spacecraft or even a Bracewell probe. A Bracewell probe is a robotic interstellar space probe with a high level of artificial intelligence programmed to seek out techological civilizations and make contact.

Bracewell probes have been featured in our fiction though we’ve not discovered one in reality.

  • Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Inner Light”
  • Babylon 5 episode “A Day in the Strife”
  • Arthur C. Clarke’s novel The Fountains of Paradise and also the story The Sentinel, later adapted into the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey (The Monolith was a Bracewell probe.)
1991 VG Orbit

Current position of 1991 VG and it’s orbit

In the end, we don’t know exactly what 1991 VG really is. But it makes it’s next pass close to Earth in 2017. Perhaps we’ll find out then.

My Idea:

In my story, 1991 VG would be a disabled alien spacecraft. It has achieved a stable orbit in our solar system, but it is unable to change the orbit or return home due to ship problems. As it neared Earth in 1991, the aliens on board attempted to make contact with Earth for help, but were unsuccessful. In 2017, they try again and the reaction from Earth is not what they expected.

Check out other blogs in the challenge!

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer