Belated Reflections on A to Z challenge 2015

Well, the instructions for the Reflections List said to post by Friday the 8th, but the list is still open so I’m sneaking in. 😉

This is my fifth time in the A to Z challenge, but I do feel like it was something of a new beginning because I was launching the new author blog. It was definitely a great impetus to post nearly every day, and to go visit lots of other writing bloggers. I’m pleased with the 26 things I shared in April.

I’m still not quite sure what I’m going to do with my author blog in the months to come, but I hope you’ll drop by and take a look for yourself.

Z is for Zoomorph

Well, this is the last one! Thanks to everybody who set up the A to Z challenge this year, and all the other bloggers who joined in the adventure with me.

Like yesterday, I picked a fairly silly brainstorming item for Z. This was a word I actually found in a list of words starting with Z. Zoomorph is somebody who can change into different animal shapes, like Prince Dolph from the Xanth fantasy series.

Of course, Dolph had nearly perfect control over his magical talent by the time he was nine, probably because of his bright big sister Ivy training him. But I’m wondering what it might be like for a wild zoomorph, who couldn’t tell what animal he was going to become or when.

What kind of zoomorph stories would you like to read? Hope to see you soon!

Y is for Yeomancer

Hey, everybody! Well, the A to Z challenge is almost over, (as is this session of Camp Nanowrimo!) and I think for the last two letters, I’m going to go a little informal, and instead of blurbing some of the stories I’ve written or musing on the themes and motifs in them, I’m just brainstorming stuff that I could write about.

Yeomancer is actually something that I coined while looking at a list of Y words for inspiration. Building it up from its parts, the “-mancer” suffix generally indicates a type of wizard or spellcaster, and the “Yeo-” prefix–well, it’s not entirely clear, but in “yeoman” it’s thought that the “yeo-” part originally derived from “young”, as in a young man.

So, a Yeomancer would be a youth mage, somebody who could make the old young or otherwise manipulate youth. Possibly he could transfer youth and age from person to person, making the young old and the old young, thus allowing some to be virtually immortal at the expense of the lifespans of others.

This isn’t a new idea, of course. TV tropes, unsurprisingly, has an entry for Life Drinker which seems somewhat relevant. That page lists some Twilight Zone episodes but not one episode I remember from the 2002 revival, in which the gimmick was actually a body-switching device, but the magician and his consort were using the body-switch to become immortal by always jumping to younger, healthier, and more beautiful victims.

What kind of story would you like to see about a Yeomancer?

X is for Xenophile

Xenophile would be a lover, admirer, or friend of aliens, the opposite of xenophobe. I think I tend to have quite a few xenophiles in my science fiction, any that actually involve aliens, such as Star Patrol or the Aurigae universe stories. I’m drawn to those people who want to learn about alien civilizations, to teach them more about humanity, and who think that the mutual learning will make both species richer. Vanessa from Kitchen Scale takes the xenophilia a bit further than most of my other characters, planning to declare a life partnership with her Libran sweetie, Doomah.

And in many of these stories, my xenophiles are set against xenophobe antagonists or foils, who distrust aliens, (which, if they’re not humans, might be the Earthlings,) and have goals which would involve creating a gulf between the two peoples.

I’m drawn to xenophile characters in my favorite stories from other people, too, like Louis Wu in the Larry Niven Ringworld stories. (And his stepdad Beowulf Shaeffer, come to think of it.) The young wizards from Diane Duane’s books generally love getting to know aliens, especially if they’re wizards too. And then there’s Liz Parker and her friends from Roswell…

…Which makes me think of xenophilia in an urban fantasy or paranormal context. Werewolves, vampires, and fae might not be aliens in the extraterrestrial planet sense, but they’re definitely outsiders from ordinary humanity and represent “the other” in these stories. So that would make characters like Sookie Stackhouse, Elena Gilbert, and even Bella Swan xenophiles, right? 😉

So, which side do you come down on; xenophile or xenophobe?

V is for Very nice to meet you!

Okay, yeah, so, I couldn’t come up with anything more interesting for V. (Thought about referencing my wizard’s school murder mystery story, “The Case of the Wizard’s Vice”, but that’s too thoroughly trunked to mention on a proper author blog…) 😉

But I did want to say thank you to everybody who’s commented, who’s subscribed to this new blog, even just anybody who’s read any of my ramblings so far this April. I haven’t had a chance to go and visit all of your own blogs and pages, but I’m definitely going to.

And I hope that some of you will stick with me as I try to figure out what I’m blogging about after April 30th.

Q is for Questions!

One of the great things about writing science fiction and fantasy is all of the questions you can try to answer. Some of the best type of questions:

  • “What if?” is the question that famously sparks a lot of science fiction or fantasy premises. What if you could use electricity to bring a dead thing to life? What if there were wizards hidden in modern London? What if technology became so advanced that there was no more scarcity?
  • “How would?” is a good follow-up to what if that can help you develop your premise further and figure out what the conflict in the story is about. How would the scientist stop his creation after it escapes? How would a wizard kid escape his un-wizardly aunt and uncle and go to wizard school?
  • “Who has the most at stake?” is a very important question to ask about a story, of course, and a good way to find your protagonist and antagonist.
  • “Where” and “When” are great questions for world-building, of course, especially in picking the place and time that has the most to offer a story.
  • “Why” is the biggest and most open-ended question of all, of course. We’re always looking for meaning, but sometimes the answers to why only tell us about ourselves, not the world we’re looking out at.

What’s your favorite question for a story?

J is for Jewelry

Sorry, but ‘Jewelry’ is going to be one of those rambly idea topics where I’m not quite sure why I picked this. The clearest connection I can think of to a book I’ve written is in “Gotta Have That Look”, where the ubiquitous piece of electronic tech that everybody uses is a Smartlet, a piece of wearable tech that goes around your wrist like a bracelet, or maybe more like an armband.

But it’s definitely one of those notions that’s going to pop up again, maybe in “Never Found” (stay tuned for that under N,) or the Witch of Arion/Storm Mirror universe. Part of the fascination dates back to the first D&D books I ever read, where jewelry was one of the major treasure categories, along with coins, gems, and magical items, (which could also be jewelry, such as magic rings!) And jewelry is more interesting, to me, than coins or gems, because they’re items that are made for esthetics and a kind of a function, (admittedly an esthetic function,) as opposed to coins, which are made simply to be a medium of exchange, and gems, which are found and then possibly cut down for esthetics.

Another thing that jewelry associates with me is that quite often, wearing it is something that’s powerfully feminine. (Yes, I know, ornamentation is fundamentally passive, but you can have an active, dynamic female character who still likes to dress up and wear jewelry. 😉 )

I guess that’s it for now. What are your favorite examples of jewelry in fiction? Magic rings like the ones in Lord of the Rings of The Vampire Diaries?

E is for Escaping the bad guys

The first original novel that I finished, “The Way Back Home”, was essentially a tale of escape. The main character, Princess Naveli, had been kidnapped by bad guys who meant to hold her hostage against her family, and she had to use her wits, her skill with magic, and bring together a few unexpected friends to escape from the bad guys’ fortress. Then, she and her friends had to travel cross-country incognito, searching for somebody they could trust, escaping the search parties trying to recapture them.

I’m not sure if I’ve written another story since that’s so strongly based on confinement and escape, but I pull it in here and there as a plot device and I’m sure I’ll use it again. The crazy bomber ties our heroes up in the storage room next to the bomb, and they need to free themselves with time running out! The ambitious guy using experimental treatments finds that his own body has become the prison that he needs to escape from. A musician who auditions for a prestigious understudy position just wants to get back to his Academy once he meets the maestro!

What are your favorite stories of escape?

UPDATE: Continue reading E is for Escaping the bad guys

B is for… birds

There bird-robin-erithacus-rubeculaare a couple of birds in “The Storm Mirror.”
In that story, the witches of Arion use them to carry messages, and part of Sorina’s training as a witch is learning how to mentally and emotionally connect to birds, especially her Grandmother’s favorite, the blue bird Radamon. Radamon plays a number of roles in the story, not just a messenger but Sorina’s protector and a novelty that she shows off to Melvin.

I’d like to write a fantasy story where the main character is a shapeshifter and can transform into a bird and back. Not sure about science fiction stories involving birds. Maybe a gritty climate change saga where the main character is an ornithologist trying to save a critical bird species from extinction.

Oh, and speaking of ornithologists, I have to do a random math geek shout-out for Raymond Smullyan’s ornithological allegory of combinatorial logic: To Mock a Mockingbird.