Saturday, April 19, 2014

Happy Spring.

Just let me know which is your favorite combination? 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

tlhIngan Hol Dajatlh'a'?*

Do you speak Dothraki? Or Na'vi?

Last time I talked about me and languages.  Evidently, I am not alone with the language thing. Not that I ever thought I was.  However, there is a huge difference between wanting to learn a language and wanting to just make one up. We are, in part, back to Tolkien again. But, we are also far in to the future and creating jobs for linguists. Who knew that when they were taking this relatively obscure field of study that they might be able to make a living creating languages?

There used to be IS a great site called "Conlang" where you could STILL CAN learn all about constructed languages. Probably a whoooooole lot about constructed languages you don't want to know, but, if you need a reason to stay in school, linguistics with an alien touch might just be what you are looking for.  Analyze Dragon-speak, anyone?

There is also Omniglot. It's a collection of language tools and resources.  Lots of cool languages here, still.  Besides Elvish and Klingon, there is the constructed language--Laadan--of Suzette Haden Elgin's Native Tongue.  (You can listen to a podcast about it here). 
It’s 2205 and lots and lots of aliens have been contacted, and a genetically related dynasty of Linguists exists to talk to the aliens, which they do by exposing small children to them so that they can learn the alien languages as native tongues.

We kinda expect there to be some language reference when we pick up a book about an alien culture, or when there is some high fantasy involved.  Most often it is in naming. The first thing I check when the cover calls to me, is the middle of the book. If I can't pronounce anything written with capital letters, I put it back on the shelf.  Not to say that constructed names must sound like English, or that they have to be reasonably familiar looking. Not at all. It's just that the name should have some sonic logic to it.  F'narr and F'larr (or however you spell their names without looking them up) are pronouncable.  I can hear them in my head and so, tell the characters apart.  Csikszentmihalyi.  Seeing that?  I'd not skip the whole book but if there were more than three instances of that on a page?  Back on the shelf.  OK. Here's my other real world favorite.  Remember when we heard about Eyjafjallajokull? I'll help: Eh-yaf-hetla-yok'tl. Got it?   Dw i ddim yn deall!

One of my favorite language-based stories is Samuel L. Delany's Babel 17.  It is the main character's knowledge of an obscure Earth language (Basque) that allows her to solve the alien language problem. Still, I am happy that writers don't usually use words that already exist in other languages.  At least not without a glossary. 

Language creates depth of culture in fantasy and science fiction.  Different words are used from one generation to another.  When was the last time you actually used a dial to dial a phone number?  Or why is it called a "ring tone"?  Many cultural conflicts are based in language and when the cultures are more alien to each other, greater opportunities exist for breaches and resolutions.  Language has other elements, like metaphor and idiom, that writers can use to build their worlds while keeping our inner reading voice happy.

Here's another World in Words podcast from the archives.

You never know when that odd turn of phrase will be the solution to a grave problem.
Do you have a favorite alien language?  Which one would you wish you could teach your friends?  How about a secret language?

*Translation: Do you speak Klingon?

Thursday, March 6, 2014


I read the Hobbit when it first came out.  Yeah, I'm that old.  One of the things that happened was a longing to have someone to speak Elvish with.  My best friend at the time, Franny Cohen, did do the work to learn how to write the runes.  I never did.

I don't know why.  I grew up in a household of languages.  My dad, born of American missionaries in Angola, grew up speaking Ovimbundu, Portuguese and English.  My mother, a graduate of Girl's High School in Philadelphia, spoke French and had some smattering of Russian.  So, to recap, five languages before I was 8.  What did I get out of that? 

I speak decent English. 

I also have a fascination with languages in general.  I've attempted--Spanish, French, German, Russian, Japanese and Welsh.  What do I get out of this?  I'm not sure.  I got to use my antique and very rusty Spanish when I traveled to Mexico that one time.  Surprised even me!  I felt like Brendan Fraser in Bedazzled  "O s((t. I speak Spanish!" 

German was a resolution to learn the grammar needed for declined? Is that the word for making declensions?  Anyway, languages that use word endings where English uses prepositions to give a shortish answer.  Russian uses more than German does.

So, does Latin.  And now that I really do want to settle down and learn another language, I'm settling on Latin.  Hence the titular greeting.  As it turns out learning Latin is not such a dead thing as one might suppose.  Homeschoolers are including it in their curricula.  Curriculae? Curriculum?  Sheesh.  I already know too much to feel confident writing even in English.

Anyway.. not a dead language.  Winnie Ille Pu.  Harrius Potter et Philosofi Lapis.  There are several online resources for listening to Latin being read.  I'm going to leave that till next time. All of this is leading to something and I need a while to figure out where, exactly. 

Give me some help?  Do you have a favorite language? One that you love to hear? Wish you could understand?  what other one do you speak other than your native language?  Do you read spec fic in other language?  An inquiring mind wants to know.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review of Writing Active Setting by Mary Buckham

Writing the right amount of description to evoke a world  where characters live and breathe can be a bugaboo for writers.  Either we put too much setting in that has nothing to do with anything and the reader dozes off, puts the book down (heaven forbid), or skips to where the story is unfolding. There’s also the flip side of too much and that’s too little. This dilemma could lead the reader to develop the Goldilocks’s syndrome, only reading books that are just right. Heh. I wouldn’t blame them. Would you?

As a writer, I wanted to know how to write settings that would drop my readers smack in the middle of a world they’ve never been to and never want to leave. I was lucky to participate in a workshop taught by Mary Buckham about writing active settings.  She has a busy schedule now and doesn’t teach as often. By busy, I mean, she’s writing her own stories and being a USA bestselling and People’s Choice author.  Yay! She’s walking the walk.

Anyway, she has a new print and ebook of “Writing Active Setting – The Complete How-To Guide.”  It’s a lifesaver for beginning, as well as advanced writers.  This has all three of the Writing Active Setting books: Book 1 -  Characterization and Sensory Detail, Book 2 -  Emotion, Conflict and Back Story, Book 3 - Anchoring, Action, as a Character and More.  Plus Mary has added bonus material all on hooks.  What I personally love about this complete guide is everything is in one place.  The real winner of the books are the examples from a slew of well-known authors which Mary has deconstructed.  Each line is analyzed, so you understand what the author was going for.  But she doesn’t stop there, Mary writes a hypothetical first draft and a second draft that the author might have started with, so you can see the progression.  It makes it easy to grab hold of the concept and learn how these great authors write active settings. 

The following is from the book description of what you will learn:

* Discover the difference between Ordinary Setting that bogs down your story, and Active Setting that empowers your story.

* See how to spin boring descriptions into engaging prose.

* Learn to deepen the reader's experience of your story world through sensory details.

* Notice how changing characters' POV can change your setting.

* Explore ways to maximize the setting possibilities in your story.

* Learn to use Setting to quickly anchor the reader into the world of your story.

* Use Setting as movement through space effectively.

* Explore Setting in a series.

* Find Out the most common Setting pitfalls.

These books go straight to the point, putting theory in plain language, adding examples from authors in a variety of genres, and finishes each section with exercises designed to help you work with your Setting in a way that will excite you. . .and your readers!”                                                                   

USA Today Bestselling author Mary Buckham credits her years of international travel and curiosity about different cultures that resulted in creating high-concept urban fantasy and romantic suspense stories. Her newest Invisible Recruit series has been touted for the unique voice, high action and rich emotion. A prolific writer, Mary also co-authors the young adult sci-fi/fantasy Red Moon series with NYT bestseller Dianna Love.

Mary lives in Washington State with her husband and, when not crafting a new adventure, she travels the country researching settings and teaching other writers.   Please visit Mary's website for more information.


If you want to soar, I highly recommend “Writing Active Settings – The Complete How-To Guide.”   Do you have a way of writing settings that you can share?

Till next time,

E. W.



Friday, February 21, 2014

There is Always Time to Read

I started to believe I would never have time to read books again. There never seems to be enough time to sit down and read a book with everything going on. Yet, I manage to read the newspaper during my meals and I read FB posts on my phone before bedtime. I decided to use those times to read books again. And with that thought, I'm reading Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson currently. Even if it is just half an hour, I'm reading pages during that time. And because I love goodreads' widgets so much, here is my current reading list and to-read list.

Marilyn's bookshelf: currently-reading

0 of 5 stars
tagged: currently-reading

Marilyn's bookshelf: to-read

The Griffin Mage
0 of 5 stars
tagged: to-read
Dragon Keeper
0 of 5 stars
tagged: to-read
0 of 5 stars
tagged: to-read

If I enjoy the first book in each series, then I will continue to read all books in the series. Then I will continue on to the next book in my list. It's all planned for me. No thinking is needed. But what about you? Do you have a list, or do you decide on which book to read next when you are done reading a book? If you have any tips on fantasy books, please pass it along.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Where the light comes in....

Met a woman, a few weeks ago, who is revising her photography career.  In our chat, I happened on the concept of how photography happens.  How it is a matter of light. She is looking at photography as a healing practice, moving away from the emphasis on technology and on inner movement. 

She got me thinking of the nature of light and sight. And wondering what other perceptions might happen when you don't have sight, when you are surrounded by light but don't have the means to perceive it. The normal way.  I am still thinking about that.

Part of the conversation included someone asking if her photography was spiritual, used just the mind and body.  That got me thinking....

Then I remembered. I remembered reading a cool story that I did not understand most of. It's called "The Blind Geometer" by Kim Stanley Robinson.

I work with kids with special needs of all kinds.  Reading this story, when I did, helped expand my recognition of what is possible. Ask the parents of my kiddos and you might hear that echoed in how I treat their kids.  I expect them to be more than their disabilities. Not just to look past them, but to look through them to see what else might be possible.

For one, it was seeing through to the possibility of life in space. Confined to a wheel chair and held captive by gravity, how might he be perfect in the realm of no gravity.  He did inspire a flash fiction piece. I inspired him to read more, to engage math and science through reading: Rowling of course, then Crichton. He was heading to U.C.Davis when I saw him last. 

This is where and how the light comes in, by seeing with more than our eyes, and looking at more than what the light reveals.  Who have you seen inspired by what they have learned to see differently?  What writers have you seen influencing friends and family? Any recommendations?

Monday, February 17, 2014

An Urban Fantasy TV Poll

Spent most of last week stuck indoors due to what Hubs likes to call 'snowmageddon', the winter storm that dropped a heap of snow and ice here in the Carolinas. We love snow, so we were pretty happy about it, but severe weather is kind of rare here and driving becomes impossible. So it was the perfect time to curl up next to the fire and get caught up on some reading and TV.

One show I was excited to pick back up was Lost Girl since the third season was recently added to Netflix's streaming videos. I'm usually behind on most shows because we rely on just Hulu and Netflix (no cable for us), and we have to wait for certain programs to become available for viewing on either of those or the network website. I was so psyched about the new SyFy show, Bitten (based on one of my favorite urban fantasy series, Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Underworld) but that's another one like Lost Girl that I won't have the pleasure of seeing until a later release date. Note: the episodes are on the SyFy site, but you still need a cable subscriber code to watch - lame.

Anyway, I'm loving Lost Girl, and coincidentally I came across this poll of (current) urban fantasy shows on the Spoiler TV site which naturally included several that I watch. The results of that poll so far are a little surprising to me, especially that Lost Girl ranks number four (awesome!) as I didn't realize it was that well known or popular. It was great to see Sleepy Hollow near the top of the list as that's another one we both like, and it films in our neck of the woods too. I haven't seen Haven, but I'm somewhat shocked it made it in the poll over Warehouse 13 or Arrow, so maybe I need to check it out.

My top five would look like this:
1. Lost Girl
2. Sleepy Hollow
3. Walking Dead (I'm counting this one, deal with it)
4. Warehouse 13
5. Being Human

Of course, I'm hoping Bitten will make the cut, and that this version of Elena will be as fun and captivating as Lost Girl's Bo, but we'll have to see. Looking at the current line up also reminds me just how much I miss certain shows that have ended already - Buffy, Fringe and Dead Like Me come to mind.

So, do you agree with the Spoiler TV poll, or do you have your own order of UF TV greatness? (feel free to tell me how wrong I am, LOL) Let me know which show is your fave or if there are any new series in the works you're looking forward to - maybe something based on Neil Gaiman's American Gods for instance (total swoon).

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