Writing Reflection: Generous


Last year, I had a lot of time off around my birthday, and so served a very nice tea to a group of ladies from church who have been an important part of my life. While I was happy to do this form them, I was also able to take time to experiment and try certain dishes, and pray for the ladies who would be eating it. As many of us know, there are many reasons to be happy being generous to others.

Often times, some people have much more difficulty receiving generosity from others. When I was much younger, I often didn’t want to need the help my parents offered us in various manners. Offers to clean or bring over food, paying for this or that when we’re out together. It was difficult. Feelings of guilt and inadequacy would sometimes flood me. At times, I have told them that I simply want to pay for something myself, from my own money, for that gratification.

But we didn’t have a lot of money the first few years of our marriage. We will likely never make what my parents did. And so we learned how to receive generosity–from parents, friends, and people at church. I am happy to say that we are both give blessings to others, and also still receive them from time to time. Rather than worrying about being beholden to someone for a gift or paying for a meal while out, I enjoy knowing that someone has cared and thought about us. And that we can show the same for someone who needs it.

How we engage on both sides is part of what determines who we are, and if we can achieve mature attitudes to generosity–linked to the spiritual fruit of kindness–we can do so much for others while also seeing to our own spiritual health.

Writing Exercise: Stylish

Aura turned this way and that in the mirror, looking at herself shrewdly. A few fashion magazines lay on her bunk, opened to pages any adult would consider to mature to her. Not that she cared what they thought. Her faded lettings and the tiger shirt she was wearing were what she’d been given–she’d hardly ever been able to pick her own clothes. And now something needed to be done about it. She was seven, not three!

The last lady she had seen donating clothes had literally said to the social worker, “I know they’re not great clothes, my kids won’t wear them, but I know the kids here are just grateful to have something new. Besides, those without don’t have much of a choice.” She may as well have said “beggars can’t be choosers.”

But there were other problems now. She didn’t want another day when the older bullies picked on her, or the old man at the park leered at her, or made comments about the young kids when the adults couldn’t hear. Well, she’d show them a thing or two. But she needed to look older first.

The woman in the magazine was White, and thin, and blonde. She couldn’t be those things, but she could get makeup, and a miniskirt, and whatever kind of top that was, with all the straps. She just had to figure out where, somewhere no one would miss them.

How to Take Tea




I especially enjoy both preparing and having tea, especially the little sandwiches. The quest to make ever more perfect little food is a stimulating challenge. But throughout history, the etiquette for taking tea has become blurred, and even those of us who have an interest in such things don’t always know whether something was proper in Victorian teas, or now, or when. But it’s always nice to know how something was done, even if we do it differently now.

Thankfully, Sherra Hamer over at Tea and Scandal has done some of this research for us, and has put up a great post on it here. She has a knack for giving information in a delightful way, and I enjoyed seeing the different aspects addressed here. Definitely go check it out, if this kind of thing interests you. Even if it doesn’t, you don’t always know when you’re going to be writing a Victorian story, or when you might be invited to tea!

Writing Exercise: Silence

Les wondered if they were even able to talk about what was going on. They barely knew each other. She’d never asked about his problems, despite how obvious they’d been. It was his house, and he could have demanded she tell him everything or be kicked out, but the thought of doing so was so fleeting it barely registered. He glanced at the strange truck across the street with the two men in it, and decided to ignore it, burying is head back in his book.

Later in the afternoon, there was still no sign of her. He went down the hallway to her door, but had no idea how long she’d been in there. It could be she was just quiet, or had been out while he was busy. What if she was hiding? Or dead?–don’t be ridiculous, he told himself. He raised his hand, but couldn’t bring himself to knock.



Note: A little piece reflecting part of Mally’s story.



Who are we writing about?

There has been so much in the news about race lately. It’s been on a lot of people’s minds. Yesterday, I listened to some podcast content about the percentage of non-White authors here in the US. One book reviewer said a company she contacted told her they had NO books they could send her written by certain ethnicities (it may have been Latino?). The numbers and percentages she talked about were shocking. We know, but do we KNOW? The current state of which makes me alternately so sad, and incensed.

I have, however, been thinking about where and how non-White characters and cultures appear in my stories. Art is one place where you might expect to see more branching out, and yet, it’s still so White. I’ve never had a problem finding role models that look like me. I’m White. I understand that I have privilege. But what about others?

I have to admit that most of my main characters are White. They’re a different species, but they appear, for the most part, Caucasian. There are stories I haven’t written yet about other colors and cultures, but for the most part, these appear as minor characters. Japanese and Asians appear second, and there are a few Black characters. There is one Native American tie-in, whose story is still mostly unwritten.

Some of my most diverse characters, even some original characters, will never be able to leave the world of fan fiction–they were created via means only available in those environments. Even my new Fae story, in which many colors are represented in a different species format, the main character is quite pale. She is the Winter Queen, so it’s expected, but still. She’s joined a group of mostly other pale, Western-like main characters.

Anyone looking at my set of stories will note the lack of color. I’m clearly into Asian stuff, but other than that, diversity in this area is lacking. We may show a diverse group of background characters, but sometimes I feel some of mine are token characters. Characters who could be nearly any color, so I made them non-White. This isn’t the same as really writing characters of diverse color or culture. As writing without stereotype.

If we want children and young people of color to feel they have a decent chance in life, and that they can accomplish their goals, then they should see media–both real and in fiction–populated with people of color. There was a time when Nichelle Nichols changed what young Black girls thought they could do when they grew up. Many Asians were impacted by Margaret Cho’s TV show, the first to feature an Asian family. Latinos are still highly misrepresented in this country. How many people know what’s happening at Standing Rock?

As writers, we have to challenge ourselves to do better.

It is part of our job to not be afraid of tackling tough and controversial things, or topics that we personally find scary. Even when we can’t directly impact events, our characters and stories can do what we can’t.

NaNoWriMo is coming up–less than two months to go. Perhaps I will take this time to plan a story about someone who isn’t White, and isn’t living in another world.

Writing exercise: Feast

Spending hours in the kitchen isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. That’s also true for those of us who may choose it. Any decent meal, afternoon tea, or a meal by a celebrity chef: it’s all sweaty, hard work. Why do we enjoy it? What makes it more than just having to eat? Because clearly, for some of us, we are cooks, hosts, foodies. We enjoy the success of good chemistry when we bake, or if we’ve finally achieved that elusive flavor combination. Most people agree that food is both physical and spiritual, but not all are interested in the processes of its’ making or feel the warmth of seeing a laden table one has labored to prepare.

For some of us, preparing food, although at times tiring, difficult, or frustrating, is as spiritual as the time we spend in fellowship with others consuming it. Helen Prejean has said that “writing is like praying,” and one can argue that any art is a way for the artist to connect to God in the aspect of creativity, listening, and inspiration. Who can argue with the art of preparing that special meal? The one that was labored over, where food was put through different processes to become something special for someone special? But preparing food for one’s family can be the same. We know that our hopes and prayers and well wishes are in mind when we prepare food for friends and family. That people will be nourished. It is a feast for those who eat, but can also be a feast to the soul for those who prepare it.


Tater Tot Casserole

This has long been a favorite dish of many people, including both my husband and me, and I make it a few times a year as a treat. Some ingredients are staple, and some change, such as vegetables. One thing that almost never goes in ours is meat–it’s usually hefty enough without it. I, particularly, like it very creamy.

However, last night we had some ham steak, so I added it, probably the only meat I’d be happy with in this dish. And yuuumm, was it good. The lunch portion leftovers disappeared in about 5 minutes, as well. Sorry, no picture (we were too busy devouring). Recipe, however, is below.

Leave notes in the comments as to how you like yours🙂.


Tater Tot Casserole with Ham

  • 1 bag frozen tater tots
  • 1/2 bag frozen peas
  • 1 large can cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1 ham steak, 1/4 inch thick, diced
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, with 1/3 of it reserved
  • pepper to taste


Assemble ingredients except reserved cheese in a large bowl and mix. Half everything and do it twice if you don’t have  large enough bowl for easy mixing. Pour into 9 x 13 pan and bake in oven for 30 minutes at about 400F. Sprinkle reserved cheese on top and bake 15 more minutes. Let sit until cool enough to eat.

World Building, Part 5: Shelter

This is the final world building section on necessities: Shelter. Where your characters live and the upkeep they expect are important and tone-setting background information for readers.



While many things about a society’s homes and buildings have to do with protection, materials, and environment, this is also a category where you’ll find yourself making arbitrary decisions about things like building shapes and sometimes materials. However, here I’ll be giving some guideline for thought and issues involved with buildings. There are many Lupa examples, as I can explain why they do particular things.


What kind of structures do they use for shelter?

home -outside-2

If you have already done your seasons, weather, and environment, getting started with shelter should not be difficult–they will inform your basics. Choose appropriate shelter for deserts, high mountains, or lush valleys. If caves are readily available, perhaps they live there. Do not choose types of structures that do not make sense for the world or environment.

A modern Western style house will not work on an electricity-free planet unless you come up with substitutes for modern plumbing, lighting, and appliances. Lupa, for instance, can build Western style, houses, but pair it with wooden piping, candles, and an open fire cooking area. Cabins are more common in wooded areas; desert people may live in tents or caves. Some live in the ground like Hobbits.

Do some people in your world live in castles? Space stations or ships? Do they prefer certain types of land? If you’re dealing with different worlds or planets, where and how people live is a good way to make differences. Make sure to do some research, especially if you’re getting into castle or enclosed space vessels of any sort: these are very large and complicated communities and may not function the way you think.


How do they build, and who does it?


Some cultures live entirely in tents or outside in rougher huts or lean-tos. Other have a guild of stone masons or wood workers. Do communities come together to help as the Amish do? What are their methods for building?

Lupa, for instance, have building teams that travel in their sector once or twice a year to make major repairs, additions, and new buildings. Most teams specialize in the types of shelters used in their area, such as wood in the woodlands or stone in cave settings. They rely more on people, strength, and ingenuity to fell trees and transport materials when needed rather than machines, and aren’t afraid to ask residents to help.

When building a residence, they will plan out the plumbing so that the least amount of piping is necessary; the same sets of pipes will deliver water to both the bathroom and kitchen. The same set of pipes will take all waste out to compost. The fire pit will be carefully situated in the kitchen end of the store room to keep air from affecting the fire. The other significant feature in Lupa residences is that any structure higher than one level will have a half-way roof, allowing residents to exit and enter their private rooms directly.

With anything very important to your people, consider how it will be incorporated into their homes. Household gods need somewhere to be honored; people who work in the land need somewhere to clean off so as not to track dirt and grime into the home.


How much shelter do they need? Does it vary throughout the year?


Some elements of residential structures will be determined by the types of shelter needed. People who don’t necessarily use much shelter may only build extremely strong emergency structures. In the Dragonriders of Pern books, the Pernese build primarily out of stone to prevent a substance which can get through other materials from reaching them. While metal also stops it, their low technology level doesn’t lend itself to using metal in that fashion, thus the reliance on stone. The dragons and their riders live in extinct volcanoes in caverns hollowed out of rock, quite a unique setting

Most of the Xcheamo year it temperate, so Lupa spend a great deal of time outside and don’t need much protection from the elements. Winter and summer, however, require a great deal of protection. Windows and doorways generally don’t have any pane at all, just an open space. They use these to get in and out easily, and for the most part use cloth hangings over doorways.

However, they make use of heavy-duty wood “fillers,” significantly secured, during both of the extreme seasons, as well as extreme bad weather. They are designed to be jammed in place when needed. Different hangings are also used in winter and summer, to let in less heat or cold. Wood panels may also be used to stop incursions of insects or animals into the home.


How do they decorate? How much customization is there?


The final element in homes is, of course, decoration. If you’re working with a people group, determine how people with their inclinations may decorate. If it’s particular characters, take clues from all that you know about them. If they love a particular color, it will be reflected in their home. If your native tribe finds great expression in intricate geometrical patterns, it may show up in rugs or pottery. When creating a species, you’ll get into some territory of really trying to “listen” to what they like to surround themselves with in some cases, such as any favored patterns or ideas repeated in their architecture or decor. You may go back and change things as you get deeper into it. This is okay.

Remember that some decor requires meticulous work if there isn’t electricity or a machine to make it. Also remember that there is great difference even among the same people. Melinda may love anything with flowers on it, while Vera will only decorate in solid colors. Practical people will have more simple homes and furnishings than those who have a great love of aesthetics, art, or fashion.

The common threads in determining decoration come from environment and general attitudes. Lupa are nature people, and while they may decorate in all kinds of colors or patterns, they love nature and being surrounded by it. Their products will be made from natural sources. Metal is not so common in their culture, and so you won’t find much metal in their decor or furniture. They feel very at home around nature paintings, wood pieces, real fur blankets, and wide open windows. You’ll never find a lumpy pillow, mattress, or couch in a Lupa home, as they highly value comfort.

Customization may depend very much on the availability of homes, and how many residences are built to order. Historical structures may not be allowed to be changed, as in Philadelphia. Societies with free or easily attainable builders may often make additions or modifications. Many societies will have much more customization in their furniture and decor than their structures.


World Building, Part 4: Clothing

This post will deal with the second necessity, clothing. Both cultural and character clothing are addressed here, and hopefully will be a good guide for anyone trying to build both.





Every culture has some kind of common cloth used in their clothing, such as cotton, linen, or perhaps microfiber. Choose the base material use for most things, and then extrapolate the most common grades of cloth, from high to low. Cotton can be used in very course or fine fabrics. Do higher classes of society wear different kinds of material, such as silk? What about velvet? If you’re in sci-fi territory, you can use all kinds of constructed or synthetic fabrics. Invent a plant if you have to, but make sure you’re able to talk about clothing, including fabrics.

The Lupa make all of their cloth from the same plant, wissa, which can made into very course fabric for bags or tarps, thick sheets for towels or curtains, and two or three fine versions for clothing. The finest clothes will also have other plant-based substances which help make the threads very fine. They don’t use any other main source material for fabric, but have learned to manipulate wissa to make many types of cloth from it.




Construction is probably one of the most important elements of clothing for your world–yes, even more than fashion. How we construct our clothes determines fashion and the look of a culture. Japanese clothing is distinctive in the use of robes and tie-and-belt closures rather than buttons or snaps. Elizabethan silhouettes are known for the doublet, panniers, and wigs, while many Native Americans preferred simpler attire adorned with bone, beads, or feathers.

Again, do some research if you have to, and get a sense of your culture’s clothing basics. Lupa often shift between forms, so one of their primary clothing choices is a shift-like garment, with two wide shoulder straps and a long body and can be seen here. They also have basic pants, which are a bit more like capris with a draw string waist, and both t-shirts and tank tops. Most clothing is designed for comfort and ease of movement, and usually anything fitted comes in a wrap style to accommodate body types and sizes. They like practical and multi-functional clothing, as well. Formal dresses are always wrap style. Lupa are people whose clothing is almost always in line with their attitudes.



Fashion is where class distinctions can be made and where characters make their mark with clothing. You can determine who people are, where they come from, how they like their clothes to function, and what’s important to them.

While Lupa don’t have classes, the immortals tend to receive gifts, which sometimes include beautiful fabrics or clothing. Babies are usually kept naked or in shifts due to their extremely active lives. Someone who likes clothing will have many more tailored pieces compared to general use pieces.

Lord of the Rings is a prime example of how clothing can set characters: the difference between Elves, Men, Dwarves, and Hobbits can be easily seen in their attire. Star Trek also uses various costuming to show different cultures and species. Klingons wear a lot of armor on a daily basis, while natives of Risa, a temperate pleasure planet, are usually found in summery, beach-like clothing.

If your setting does has very established classes, you’ll want to look at how fashion becomes more refined as you go up the social ladder. You don’t need to literally have sackcloth or cloth of gold, but whatever your people have should reflect those class statuses. Generally, simple course clothing goes to the bottom, while fine fabrics with impractical styles are at the top. If you’re writing historical fiction, research what was worn at the time carefully, as well.

As for individual characters, yes there are something that are required–archers must have bows and arrows, but also arm guards. A knight will never wears his sword on the right (one mounts a horse from the left), but his sword may show their flair or simple elegance. But try not to stray over into cliche too much unless your character is that emo kid wearing all black and skulls–these kinds of characters specifically want to project certain images. I always recommend building wardrobes (the internet is great for catalogues and dress-up dolls).

Character Examples:3 very different women, and 1 man


Zaira almost never wears skirts, but grew up traveling on Earth, so there is a lot more Western culture Earth clothing in her wardrobe than most Lupa. She tends toward very simple clothing, solid colors, and dark green. Hoodies help her hide, and she also likes a warm wrap sweater, especially later in life. She prefers silver jewelry, specially if there are stars or moons on it, but usually doesn’t wear such decorations. Part of her becoming a different, happier person included a wardrobe expansion in to clothing that is part of a more settled, open life, such as some skirts or patterns, lighter colors, and less hoodies. She learned to use clothes to hide or blend in.

Eiry is a high-end florist with many business contacts and much of her out-of-the-house wardrobe is suitable for business–casual for working in the flowershop, or an elegant skirt suit in cream with matching heels for business functions. She also has some upscale, pretty dresses to wear to events where the florist is needed on site. Almost all of this clothing is in very light colors or patterns with flowers. At home, however, she tends to wear extremely casual clothes, many of which are shapeless: oversize T-shirts, baggy maxi-dresses, and yoga or lounge pants. Some of these are leftover clothing from a dead friend. She uses clothes to appear appropriately in various settings when out, and at home really doesn’t care.

Miara, on the other hand, loves clothes and having a million things to wear. She has both Lupa and Terran clothes from her many travels, and has many Lupa tailored pieces. Her color choices include everything except solid black or white; it sometimes looks like a rainbow exploded in her room. Some of her favorite Terran styles include off-shoulder tops layered with tank tops, corsets, and fun skirts, while she feels quite elegant in a Lupa-style wrap dress. She also wears a lot of shifts for working out. Whatever she wears, she does with confidence and commitment. She treats clothing as an extension of personality and dresses according to how she feels.

Jax has never lived on Earth, and he has a very xcheamo mode of dress, which is mostly just pants in various colors, with very few patterns, if any. If necessary he’ll also put on a very basic shirt. If he has to wear shoes he’ll go with a boot. He’s rather a minimalist, most of the time.

What do you discern from these characters based on their wardrobes? Hopefully some of their personality and character. Do let me know in the comments🙂.