Saturday, September 22, 2018

Children & Reading

If we want a society where people continue to read and then learn to write, it is important to start children on the road to reading as soon as possible.

Did you know the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended in 2014 that parents read to children from birth? From the New York Times article on this, Dr. Pamela High, who wrote the recommendations, thinks parents doctors should tell parents to read to their children every time they bring their children to the doctor's office.

Reading aloud does more than entertain. Even in adults, reading fires the brain's chemistry more than most activities, and research "showed heightened connectivity in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with receptivity for language." 

Children who are read to learn letters, numbers, shapes and colors early which gives them a head start when they start school. Evidence shows reading aloud helps children start talking sooner, creates smarter children, and helps children develop empathy (just as it does for adults). A parent or caretaker reading to a child also offers that child the comfort of sharing time, touch, and engagement. Hearing stories helps children to enjoy learning, leading them to completing high school, and often urges them into college. Most often this custom of early childhood reading creates life-long readers. The world needs this, because right now one in four children grows up illiterate. 
My son's favorite story. I must have
read it to him 50 times.

I believe hearing stories while seeing the words and images should start very early, and I certainly tried to encourage my children in that way. Before my children started sitting up by themselves, both my husband and I began reading to them every night until it was a ritual: dinner, a short playtime, a bath, a story or two while sitting together, and then bed. (It also made bedtime easier to accomplish.) As they became toddlers and preschoolers, the day always ended with parent and child in bed reading a story together. It didn't even affect them that they heard the same story, for they chose the story to be read, and they had certain stories they loved hearing over and over. Surprisingly, I think it helped me to. Reading aloud and changing voices for different characters while reading is a talent to develop.

I do not remember my parents reading to me regularly, but do remember four of us crowding around Mom while she read, or we listened to Dad's tall tales at dinner; but once I learned at school, I was enchanted. I always had a book needing to be read, and frequently walked the two miles to the local library to get a different book, which provided exercise, too! It also allowed me to follow my passion at the time—horses. I couldn't own one but reading Smoky, the Cowhorse, and Black Beauty, My Friend Flicka, Thunderhead, and other horse stories gave me the sense of knowing a horse.

I know preschool and elementary schools are working very hard to teach children to read, and I love hearing and seeing news clips of children learning to read by reading to dogs or cats. What a good idea! Who ever thought of that? Many kudos to them!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

A Third Excerpt from Home World Reax

Just news of Maera's escape from Genome House dictates begins change. Shortly after Jencet left Falcon House Leader Duvan, he begins to worry about what has happen in the policing and security house of Reax, and he knows one person to investigate.
(First Excerpt)
(Second Excerpt) 

He gave more orders, saying at their completion, “I am going to visit Uslina.” He would no longer call her his aunt. Uslina lived in one of the best apartments in Falcon House. Tyb had died during the war, also, but while on duty. He doubted Tyb’s death planned, but his own ascendancy had displaced Uslina, who he knew as many Falcons disliked as liked. He fell in the former group. When his wife Feather had died during duty, Uslina had once again regained her position as Falcon Matron. No one investigated Feather’s death at the time, but now his new knowledge only ignited Duvan’s suspicion.

He stopped mid-stride. While on duty outside the house, he had left Rea and Quill with her, his own children, who died in an accident outside the house when an exterior walkway had collapsed. The inside of his chest felt like it had twisted into a knot. Had she…? What had he allowed to happen? Would any proof remain?

“Leader Duvan?” Shannon, a passing Falcon asked, concern lining her voice.

He gave a brief smile and waved a dismissive hand at her. “A stray thought halted me, Shannon.” He began to walk again, his thoughts running rampant. How had the law enforcement branch of the Dominion Conclave become so… treacherous? Has my own family member become a traitor to their house’s mission? His gut churned in reaction.

House Matron Uslina, since Feather’s death, held prominent posts on several important house committees, including placement and promotion. What he suspected, and now acknowledged to himself at least, he had suspected for a long time. Uslina embraced power over mission, over integrity, even over ethics. Would she cross unfathomable barriers to reach her goal? Why had
she treated Maera so hideously? Did she arrange my children’s deaths? Why kill my Rea and Quill? I have no proof, only her treatment of Maera, nothing about my children. He felt his eyes brim with tears but held them back. What about my uncle, Uslina’s husband and house leader before my father? What about all those deaths?

“I will investigate. I will find the truth. This I can do,” he promised himself. Once again, he thanked circumstances that he held no direct blood link to Uslina.

The door tender showed Uslina remained at home. Using his power, he laughed  considering his recent contemplations, and entered the premises unannounced. Uslina used her connex and seeing him, ended her conversation, and disengaged her device. She smiled at him, and said, “To what do I owe the honor of your visit, dear Duvan? Has this something to do with the Eagle now Raven who just visited?” She spoke as if she exposed her investigative skills.

Never considered beautiful by most Falcon males, he knew Uslina plain but not ugly. She held typical Falcon traits of medium brown hair, dark brown eyes with hints of gold, but her nose hooked more than curved. Her expression he considered calculating. He knew since her husband’s death, she preferred women mates. He had no problem with her sexual choices, only that she had betrayed her vows to his uncle.

He grasped his hands behind him in a tight clasp. “I am moving some assignments around to give more opportunities to Falcons who have received exemplary duty reports, so I must realign the committees and those in charge of them. To accomplish this I have removed you from the Novice Training and Placement Committee, and the House Security Committee.”

“You cannot do that; I chair those committees,” Uslina responded. “I am House Matron and my position gives me authority over them.”

“My father appointed you to those duties after his wife’s death, but now I make these decisions. I need someone in those positions who has experienced the rigors of the jobs.”

Her body stiffened and her chin rose while she glared at him in outrage. “Do not make such a bad blunder. I will not stand beside you to share the house shame when you need moral support.”

“Since you have seldom stood beside me for any reason, even when I mourned my wife and children, I can easily accept that.”

“You were lucky. Your unworthy wife lacked skills in jobs the upper echelons of Falcon House face anyway. Her death frees you to take a Falcon woman worthy of being the leader’s wife.”

“I will leave you as a member of the two committees you remain on, for now.”
“Oh, thank you, you underling and unworthy leader. I could have made a better Falcon Leader. Too bad I didn’t. This house would have much better control.”

“Too bad the Falcons themselves decided otherwise.” He turned and left. Her connex smashed against the door as he reached it. He looked over his shoulder at the angry hatred staring at him. “Falcon House will not provide a new one,” he said as he left. He would need to protect his back.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Are Digital Books Changing Reading?

I grew up on hard-covered books of printed paper and have a library of probably close to a thousand books today, but I'm also in the process of sorting them out and getting rid of some. Most of those are non-fiction books, although I do have some classic fiction books too. Most of my reading today is done on my Kindle. I'm on my second one.

I like Kindle. They came on the market in 2007 and I bought my first one in 2012. Since then, the majority of my fiction reading has been on that device. I had been reading e-books on my computer almost since they first became available. I love my Kindle for reading fiction because it is less bulky than a paper book. I read in bed at night, and it is lighter than most books and the pages are easier to turn with the touch of my thumb. I can stick my Kindle in my purse and take it with me, and it has thirty books on it right now. I can add more or remove them from the device. I also like that I can search a book to find a certain passage, and can hit the back arrow to get back to where I started. E-books also open to the last page read, another feature I enjoy.
How reading has changed! Yet I still like certain books in paper form, especially those with images.

It is a well-document fact that reading fiction changes readers, opens their minds to new ideas, helps them develop empathy, new knowledge, increases vocabulary, and in general accomplishes many mental feats. All good things; but has device reading degraded this?

Today anyone can read novels on computers, reading devices, or almost any mobile device. Some are wondering if these devices are changing how people read and what they read, and how this has affected writing fiction. During an Nation Public Radio Morning Edition interview with author Lev Grossman, back in 2009 shortly after many reading devices became available, he wondered about readers not having to handle the pages of a book, turning and savoring them. He said digital reading was “Very forward moving, very fast narrative ... and likewise you don't tend to linger on the language. When you are seeing a word or a sentence on the screen, you tend to go through it, you extract the data, and you move on."  That was nine years ago. Now an awareness is emerging of the short attention span those who constantly use digital devices have.

Since the invasion of mobile devices, others worry about user distraction, and the devices being more important than talking with the person they are with. I think the dangers of device addiction are known and people are beginning to at least wean their children off their devices, but maybe not themselves.

Does faster reading mean less comprehension or appreciation for what is written? Does it mean readers are not receiving the benefits of reading given from print copies? How must authors change their writing to adapt to this development?

I think it probably depends on the genre of fiction I am reading. When reading literary fiction, admittedly not one of my favorite genres, where what is stated and what is implied is so very important, I might like print form better. However, I have discovered digital hasn’t changed my enjoyment or anything else in reading and allows me to become deeper involved in the story even if I have to leave it frequently and pick up where I left off later.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

When I Began Writing

I've always been a voracious reader since age seven, but I never thought about writing until thirty years later. 

An employer asked my husband to move to Colorado Springs, but within a six months my husband had changed to a job in St. Louis. Our children were in the middle of a school year, and we had a rental agreement in place, so the kids and I stayed in Colorado for six months.

I spent many days alone while the children were at school and evenings while they were doing homework, or watching TV, or getting ready for bed, and I found the millionaires (now billionaires) falling in love stories I bought bored me. They all seemed to have the same plot and characters with different names. 

So I began thinking about what could be different and what might interest me, and since we had one of the early Trash 80 computers, I began writing to entertain myself. It was about two teenagers, Gina and Wade, who for some reason I can't remember drove to Las Vegas after their prom, which wasn't too far away. They woke up hungover and returned home and split up only to meet again several years later to discover they were married. I know: another father didn't know about his child story. They were not so common then. Whatever I wrote was lost with time, but with a new and better computer, I started writing again when we moved to Missouri. It was then I discovered I wasn't interested in contemporary romance but in fantasy. Before that story was finished, I started a science fiction novel. 

These remained only on my computer. I did send one out but got a rejection. After gong back and reading what I sent in, I found that was only a just judgment as the manuscript was full of mechanical mistakes and plot errors. I rewrote it several more times before sending it out again. Wings e-Press accepted it.

I have discovered I write for the pleasure of writing, of creating an alternate world, and I'm not concerned about mega-sales, just ones that please those who read them.

Please visit the following authors for their comments on how they began writing:

Connie Vines
Victoria Chatham 
Skye Taylor
Judith Copek
Dr. Bob Rich
Beverley Bateman
A.J. Maguire 
Fiona McGier

Margaret Fieland 

Saturday, August 11, 2018

A Second Excerpt from Home World Reax

Jencet, the assistant and body guard to the Primus of Reax's government, has been assigned the duty to track down the escapee-traitor of the genetically defined genomes of Reax's Houses. It is not a duty he relishes but he is determined to find the renegade Maera and bring her back to Reax where she owes obligated duty.
(First Excerpt)

“Eagle now Raven Jencet, it is a pleasure to have you visit our domicile.”

“Likewise, it is my privilege, Falcon Leader Duvan.”

“As I believe private government business brought you here, I will take you to my office.” Duvan did not lead him down the staircase, but along a front corridor to its very end where an elegant embossed copper door faced them. A sentry at a desk looked at Jencet with suspicion. Duvan ordered his officer to bring beverages and food to his office.

The spacious office contained a beautiful circular view that drew Jencet to the window. Downward and to the right, a river curled between two cliffs far below the office. Even from this height Jencet saw the white ripples of fast moving water and the native vegetation lining the cliff face. The first settlers labeled the native plants ferns. He knew these ferns something far different, poisonous, and dangerous, but Reax valued them for the products they made. Earth native species had escaped cultivation and now grew in Reax’s wilds.

He contemplated the fact that not only had humans changed Reax, but also other life forms. In turn, Reax changed them. A view of the Essence City stretched across the land further to the left. The Luminary Edifice towered at its center. Jencet enjoyed the rare combination of wild Reax and disciplined genome structure provided in the view.

He stood in front of the window several minutes with Duvan next to him. Finally, he said, “Magnificent.”

“Yes, it is, thank you. Take a seat and tell me your business.”

Once seated, Jencet began. “You had a tyro name Maera nine years ago.”

Duvan kept any surprise or affront from his expression, but Jencet noticed the leader’s brief hesitation.

“Yes. She failed her Engagement.”

“Can you tell me about her?”

“First, why?” Duvan asked.

“With your permission?” Jencet indicated the wall screen. Duvan nodded and pressed a
connection. From his connex, Jencet pulled up the image on the wall screen showing the United Planets envoy’s visit in the Genome Chamber from several years ago. “Do you recognize the woman behind the envoy?”

At first Duvan had no reaction, and then he could not disguise his shock. His eyes widened in an intense stare of utter astonishment at the image. He blinked several times before he resumed his calm Falcon bearing. “It is her. How is that possible?”

“For security reasons, you must not reveal the information I am giving you.”

Duvan gave the Air Realm’s sign of promise and trust. “Of course.”

“Information brought to Dominion Primus Dakeene predicted not all tyros gone missing from Engagement died.”

“They either died or the Incarnates stole and subverted them,” Duvan said in a very implacable constabulary tone.

Jencet, against Raven teaching, felt his lips twitch. “In most instances, usually the first, and in the more recent past, the second, yes, but in certain instances some thought a few tyros left before initial Engagement, choosing not to come back. Maera proved their theory.”

Duvan shook his head still staring at the screen. “I attended that day in the Genome Chamber. I remember seeing the envoy and her entourage. I ignored the officer as just another Alliance assistant to the envoy. Believing Maera dead, I never looked for her among the staff. I swear I did not know. How…?”

“From United Planets records, I have received this information. She changed her name to Maera Lacklan, supposedly one of their war displaced, and became an Alliance citizen.”

“I will find and kill her,” Duvan said, unexpected anger filling his face.

“No, you will not. I will find her and bring her back to Dakeene’s justice.”

The Falcon Leader head shook in disbelief, and then looked at Jencet in near apology. “She has brought embarrassment to her House. Again.” He studied the screen. “Is she wearing a  uniform? Something else I did not notice at the time.” His admission seemed to mortify the Falcon Leader. He gave Jencet a swift glance. “At that time, Tyb remained Falcon Leader, and I seldom approached her. I only saw her from my seat in the chamber, but hindsight shows I might need to hone my Falcon training.”

“She was an officer in the Alliance Rangers, but does not wear a dress uniform, probably a deliberate dress-down, perhaps at the envoy’s request. I’m sure they didn’t want to present a militaristic presence. Nor does she wear all her badges and honors. However, I also know she earned some of those later. According to the records I discovered, she became a highly decorated officer of numerous engagements in the recently ended Khajari War. She also received degrees from two prestigious universities on Earth with very high scores.” He brought up copies of the degrees to the screen.

Duvan leaned back into his seat, his visage never leaving the screen’s view. “One degree in military science and another in mathematics? Who would have thought…?” The anger left his frame, and Jencet recognized the man’s new introspective, almost cunning, resolve. With another fast glance his way, Jencet saw Duvan considered the situation’s possibilities. “She became very successful.” Settling comfortably back in his chair, he gave Jencet a cool look. “What do you need to know?”

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Danger and Somtimes Violence in Writing

I want to begin with definitions of danger and violence because I've noticed people often understand a word from different perspectives.

My definition of danger, based on Merriam Webster’s Online, is being within the jurisdiction, reach, or range of someone powerful, or deranged, or holding evil intent, and/or someone holding the control, desire, influence, and intent to harm someone else. Another aspect of the definition is being near or immersed in something liable to cause injury, pain, harm or loss. Danger implies fear, worry, and sudden change.

Danger can lead to violence, which is the use of physical force to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy someone or something, or to cause injury by verbal actions using distortion, interference, or opposition. It can also be the intense, turbulent, furious or destructive actions or forces such as accidents or storms. Intense feelings expressed in vicious display of physical or verbal behaviors can qualify as violent even if no one is physically injured. Violence implies a cost, perhaps in esteem, physical loss, or trauma.

In my writing these definitions show a wide range of situations able to become dangerous or violent, which sometimes comes from or leads to depravity on a character's part and often trauma for another character.

All stories need drama, and emotion and physical tension creates this between characters or the situations they will endure. These are often both psychological and physiological. Emotional reactions to any number of situations can add drama to a story. Tension also develops when the read knows a character's actions will lead to danger. The character attempting to avoid violence can also lead to intense suspense. 

Have I used danger and violence within my stories? Yes, and the scenarios are often based on the types of violence done by humans in different eras of history. Most of our most esteemed eras of history have had very gruesome practices in war and in punishment of criminals, opponents, and slaves. I’ve used these in some stories; some graphically described and some only implied. It all depends on the character, the situation, its time and the location.

The reader's reaction, often based on their personal emotions, morals and experiences, determines if the type of violence in the story hooks them into reading more or stops them reading all together.

Please check these author's view on this topic:

Dr. Bob Rich
Victoria Chatham
Connie Vines
Anne Stenhouse  
A.J. Maguire 
Marci Baun 
Skye Taylor
Fiona McGier
Anne de Gruchy
Judith Copek

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Over Population & Global Warming

Whether global warming is the fault of humans or just a natural cycle as many seem convinced, the results will still have catastrophic effects on our human population, and with the rate of growth in population, we have severely limited our sustainability options.

After thousands of years of habitation on Earth, the human population reached one billion in the first decade of the 19th century. In the past 200 years the population has grown to seven billion and increases by a billion every twelve to fourteen years. Much of this, of course, is due to better nutrition, disease prevention, and safer environments, yet not all of Earth's citizenry have shared in this advantage. World-wide poverty and hunger remains a huge problem. A Scientific American article in October of 2011 titled “Human Population Reaches 7 Billion--How Did This Happen and Can It Go On?” talks about this issue and how long the Earth can sustain such growth.

Some countries have seen birth rates lowering, including the United States, but it probably is not enough on an Earth where we are consuming 150% or more of the Earth’s resources each year. It isn’t only land mass that we are taking over for raising food and for habitation, but we are also using more fresh water and more oxygen while having the highest extinction rate for other plants and animals on the planet since the end of the dinosaurs. We need all of those plants and animals. Our survival and their survival are tied together in many ways. We cannot live as the only species on Earth with the ‘selected’ species we chose to save. Every living thing has a purpose. Humans might not like the purpose, but we don't always understand the overall mission. 

If you have children or grandchildren, you need to be concerned. What type of world are we leaving behind us when we pass? What type of life are we leaving our progeny? Yes, we are an inventive species and may develop some creative means to counter some of the effects of too many people on a planet limited by size and resources, but at what cost? 

Once started on a path, the Earth follows its own dictates, and might not respond to human cajoling. It's more likely to slap us. And no, it's not my fallacy or other global warming believers' deceit or miscalculation, but a fact borne out by research which we have ignored for thirty years or more. We are now seeing those predictions come true in both the Arctic and the Antarctic. As the Earth continues to warm up, change will affect more environments and the people living not only in those sites but also everyone worldwide. Along with the possibility of warming waters changing ocean currents, we must also contend with the change in water chemistry of the oceans. Yet another problem with which to contend.
We have had many warnings, and I don’t understand those who ignore the news or who think the information unbelievable ‘fake’ facts. Some, I know, believe God will save us, but the deity only gave us dominion over the Earth and never promised a second chance if we destroyed the first one. So please wake up and start taking this news as important before it becomes an even greater crisis (maybe already too late). Start thinking about how you can live and what you can do to begin encouraging change for a sustainable population and resource allotment. Many internet and books tell steps to take. This article by Renee Jacques in 2017 explains how to start.

At the same time you might start asking yourself why so many of our national and world leaders in general don't speak on this issue. Why? What is their purpose?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Writing's Difficulties

Writing is seldom easy, and the difficult parts can span a wide range of issues. My most frequent issues deal with things like a temporary shortage of ideas, displeasure with the story's current trajectory, and deciding how far a character will go to get what he or she wants. While some scenes seem to write themselves, others are problematic, displaying empty white space on the screen staring back at me while I think of how to handle a particular situation.

While I start out with a plot line, my last round-robin blog post showed me once I start writing, anything goes, which is where I often run into trouble. I change scenarios, new characters pop in, and my main characters change their minds or make dumb choices.

Questions always abound. What is the next step to take? Should it be a logical expectation or something unexpected? What else might happen? How can bizarre events be linked logically together into the story line? Will such a change paint the story into a dead-end corner? Is the dialogue meaningful to the story, show something about the character speaking, or just babble? How do I transition from this scene to the next scene? For that matter, when should a scene end? What happens next? Answering these types of questions is the only way to that allows me to move the story forward.

One reason I have trouble with contemporary themes is that technology is changing so fast and not mentioning something correctly, not only in social context, but also as used, can affect a reader's belief in the story.

I have left some stories without an ending, whether from lack of incentive or something else that has called me away--usually another story. Often I return later, sometimes a long time later, because I never like the idea of giving up on a story. Writing takes a lot of time and work but if something can be saved and continued, I'll keep trying.

Visit the following author's posts to read their thoughts on this topic.

Dr. Bob Rich
Marie Laval
Connie Vines 
Beverley Bateman
Marci Baun
A.J. Maguire 
Helena Fairfax
Anne Stenhouse 
Diane Bator
Fiona McGier
Skye Taylor
Margaret Fieland

Victoria Chatham

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Ensuring a Story's Logic & Interest

Every good story begins with some type of hook in the first chapter, where an unhappy situation of the main character's life is revealed. The following chapters depict the ups and downs of the character's journey to either success or failure, often depending on the type of person the character displays.

The first step is the main character makes a decision to change their life, or someone else, or circumstance might make it for them. From there the character either accepts this challenge or not, but makes a decision and takes actions to change their some aspect of their life. This leads to a challenging journey of discovery. With each new decision, action, and outcome, the character will meet with more challenges where, again, they will either succeed (temporarily) of face defeat, regroup, and take another attempt or another direction. The more emotional turmoil the character displays over these challenges, the more the reader identifies with the character, and becomes more involved in the story.

The ending usually reflects on the beginning in some manner, and whatever changes are manifested in the story, the character either accepts how they have changed as a person or accepts the changes in their life.

Along the way, other characters will also affect the main character's emotions, drive, and the results of their efforts.

This all seems very simplistic, but while the story pattern remains similar, the story arc can change in infinite ways, which is what makes the writing original and makes the reading a pleasure. Further, all of this depends on the author's purpose and planning while writing the story which translates a simple plan into a difficult, time and thought consuming experience.

Please visit the following author's websites to learn their opinion on this topic:

Skye Taylor
Marci Baun
Judith Copek
Margaret Fieland
A.J. Maguire
Beverley Bateman
Anne de Gruchy
Dr. Bob Rich

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Summer Vacation but I still have work to do

Here it is May after a very hard north-central Michigan April. It was a hard, dark spring, but the last few days have been pleasant and sunny although rain is on its way. All of the daffodils exploded into bloom in one week. That sort of describes my attitude, too. My winter goal is complete: Monday the 5th I loaded my final grades onto the college's site. For the summer, I've made a list of things I want to accomplish. I have so many unfinished lists, so I've limited this one. As far as traveling, it will be happening only in my mind.

I have much to accomplish this summer including writing more in three different works-in-progress with the question of where to go having stalled all threes' progress. Home World Reax comes out in June, and ideas for another story or two to make this another series have been plaguing my mind. Every time I start writing I have to re-read what I've already written.

Along with the fiction writing, I'd like to write one or two short personal essays. I'll be working on my garden, too, which is in horrid condition right now, beds need cleaning, seeds planting. Hopefully I can keep the deer from demolishing it this summer. I also have work to do on the house, I want to do some painting and perhaps some doodle art, and I have a lot of seasonal cleaning to accomplish. Plus, along with my rowing I need to get back on a walking schedule.

Does anyone actually get to do exactly what they want to do when they want to do it? It seems I have major unplanned interruptions with everything I want to accomplish.

A long time ago I took a quilting class in St. Charles, Missouri. The instructor said she used the Swiss cheese method of completing a project. She made a small hole of accomplishment here, another hole at another time, and on and on, until her quilt was finished. I've found that advice works well on many different projects: a little bit here, a little bit there.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Home World Reax coming in June

Wings is publishing my book Home World Reax this June.

I enjoy placing characters in new worlds of the future. In this story, Reax is a world whose initial colonist wanted to improve the human genome through selective breeding alone. Soon specific genomes chose names based on their lore from their initial home, Earth. These 'houses' chose the names of animals based on their history of Earth and what characteristics those animals showed. Maera is from Falcon House, the home of keen investigators and peace constables. The very fact Reax has a house specializing in police work tells you much about Reax's success in breeding better people, but in any world times and goals always change

Maera is a young woman abused by her caretaker throughout her childhood. She is smart enough to plan her escape.

Here is an excerpt from Maera's escape on the way home from "Engagement," an initiation Reaxan elites use, sending 'tyros' to foreign places for a year to earn their place in their house. Maera is making sure her best and only friend makes it home from Engagement, too.
Nothing seemed worse to Maera, as a halfbreed, than returning to Reax, not when freedom came within her grasp. No one from the Falcon or Swan Houses expected either of them to return, nor did the Genome Council’s Engagement Committee. They had purposely sent Sareen to this location, anticipating her failure. Well, not exactly this location, but one more hostile than this place, and me to one far more dangerous.Sareen would return, and they would accept her back, look closer at her genome, and perhaps scratch their collective heads. Luckily, she would not return. Her cavalier rearrangement of assignments would never come to the council’s knowledge. Her situation of being ‘unseen’ and marginalized ended. Now she began a life dedicated to achieving her own goals.

Sareen’s Engagement dislocation they would attribute to a mix-up in assignments, and who but the swaggering Wolf House’s Vulk, one of the councilor’s sons originally assigned an easy location on Ubret, should serve Sareen’s much harsher assignment? The young man most likely had survived his Engagement, so his merit would certainly increase. Maera grinned at the thought. That young man had bragged about his easy placement location. It made a lie of the committee’s claims of fair assignments based on assessments.

Which made her own return too dangerous an act of defiance. She wondered if her house had specifically asked for a terminating assignment. Did hateful Uslina have influence there? Had the Genome Council cleansed the houses of unwanted genomes throughout the ages through this ploy? She believed it. House tyros who refused placement went to the gen’rals, condemning their children to life outside any house.

It no longer mattered. She could not afford to go back, not after all her illegal snooping and modification in protected databanks, nor did she want to return. She wanted escape. Freedom. Her homecoming would have sparked an investigation, and even one tiny thread unraveling could entangle her in a mass of trouble. Her failure to return would please many. They would call it proof she did not deserve house recognition.

If Falcon House had unintentionally taught her anything, it taught her survival. And self-reliance, she amended. Truth to tell, her house accepted neither her genome half nor her wild, unknown half. From her aunt’s harshness, she had learned how to avoid and escape bad situations, how to help herself, how to prevent others from discovering she helped herself, and most important, how to keep secrets… and how to discern them.

Learning the Genome Council orchestrated who passed Engagement only confirmed her suspicions. It did not matter anyway. She did not care about the members’ secrets, except how they might have affected her and Sareen. That she achieved—safe return for her friend, self-determination for herself.

She heard Sareen approach and stop next to her. Maera turned her face toward the far off horizon, giving Sareen time to recover from the last segment of their walk. Finally, she lowered her gaze to Sareen. Her friend’s gaze looked downward, encompassing the port, her tired satisfaction in her
achievement apparent. Maera could not hide the self-satisfied smile she felt cover her face.

“I’m not joking, Sare. I’m not going back. That life is for you and the other genome pures.”

“You should not use that gen’rals slur, especially as we go home,” Sareen said in a very soft, non-confrontational voice of warning. “You don’t know who you could offend.”

Maera shrugged. A few unmentionable gen’rals had helped her survive. She started brushing the dust off her pant legs. Thoughts of past hurts and future dreams wrapped in a tumbling jumble of anticipation she could taste. “Anyhow, even if I did return, they’d probably only find cause to send me to the gen’rals. You know they would. I wouldn’t even mind that, not the supposed shame, or nothing else.” She looked at Sareen, “Except I have other plans.” Her voice throbbed with an excitement hard to hide.

Sareen’s distressed gaze made contact everywhere except Maera’s eyes, showing her evasive agreement with the prognosis. Maera raised a hand over her eyes to look at the view below them. The port spread in a vast meadow of architecture, machinery, and paved confusion, the only place on Ubret where technology reigned. People going places and doing things filled the area.

Maera wanted to run, jump, and leap her way there. She side-glanced at Sareen, read the stubborn look, and then looked at the spaceport again. “It’s just, Sare. Really it is. I want this. You want to go
back. That’s just, too.”

“I’ll go with you. We can’t waste a miracle.”

Sareen’s words, barely above a whisper, interrupted Maera’s speeding anticipation. She spoke without thought. “No miracle, Sare.” Then she realized her admission. Sareen still believed their meeting a sheer accident.

Nine years after Maera's escape, Reax has suffered a civil war and a devastating plague that has decimated the population. The colony is in a dire situation, and Raven Jencet, formerly of Eagle house and now of Raven House, is sent out to bring this successful soldier and financier home, but he considers her a renegade traitor.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Establishing a Story

At first when I thought about this topic, I thought I didn't have any established method for organizing a story. Thinking about it I discovered maybe I do, I just approach it from a different angle each time. It's like a macramé where an assortment of threads are wrapped, knotted, or twisted together and in different directions to create a finished design.

For me, usually a vague, downtrodden female character arrives first. That sounds very gender divisive, but in defense of my genderism, I do tend to write for female readers, and also want to relay that I have recently had a male character emerge along with a story idea and a crew of associates. Since I've been writing, I've also had secondary characters from one story attract my attention, which has led to their own story and the creation of a series of related stories. I think good stories are made to promote growth of thought and ideas for both reader and author, so maybe this is normal.

After characters comes determining a rough story idea and where the story will take place. I do tend to follow the advice in Propp's Morphology of the Folk Tale, Chistopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey, and Joseph Campell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces, so one of the next steps is to find characters who will become allies, antagonists, mentors, gatekeepers, or other archetypes. I often worry about my characters being too much alike since they are coming from the same brain, so I have used John M. Oldham, M.D. and Lois B. Morris' Personality Self-Portrait, Why You Think, Work, Love and Act the Way You Do, to help structure some of my characters.

Then I think about a world where these characters and their story takes place. From my previous stories, I have already created my writing worlds based on different readings, too. One is a galactic world and another a fantasy Renaissance type world for stories. I continue to use these worlds, but new locations pop up in these two very different types of worlds. World creation takes place in any Earth-bound story, too, because all locations and local cultures differ. If these do not have a ring of truth for the reader, they will be disenchanted with the world.

I've read about authors being either pantsers or plotters, but think I am a blend of the two, leaning toward being a plotter. I do map out a general outline from start to finish including all my ideas about the story and where it might go, including points of tension, the trials and triumphs, but once I start writing things always go in very different directions during the process. Sometimes I need to take a break from a story and think about what has happened and where those events might lead. It can be a slow process.

Please visit these other participants and read their views on this topic:
Skye Taylor
Dr. Bob
A.J. Maguire
Marci Baun
Beverley Bateman
Margaret Fieland
Connie Vines
Judith Copek