Writing exercise: Sing

Eiry was busy washing dishes on a bright Saturday morning, humming a tune as spring sunlight streamed promisingly through the windows into the kitchen. Alta’s little bowl still had drippings yolk in it from their poached eggs, though all the bacon and rice was gone.

“What are we doing today, ana?” the child asked from the doorway. She’d changed her clothes again into a shift-like dress with a watercolor flower pattern on it.

“Well, once we’re finished packing, we’re going to go to the Inn.”

“To play?”

“Yes, and we’re going to help in the gardens a bit.”

“Are they pretty now?”

“Yes, they are. Do you know where your bag is?”

“On the chair.”

“Why don’t you go pack it, sweetie.”

“Ok!”

Eiry finished up the last of the dishes, leaving them in the rack to dry and cleaning up the counter. Then she went to pack up some of Alta’s toys, books, and diaper bag before checking on her. She could hear her, though, singing the song she’d been humming earlier. She hadn’t realized she knew the words.

“Do I think the words when I hum, apa?”

“Mhm! Every time,” she said with  a smile. “It’s pretty. Is this okay?” She held open the bag, in which she’d put her favorite best dress and about five shifts.

“Yes, but if you wear the dress you can’t play rough.”

“Ok. Do we need to pack for daddy?”

“No, he has his things.”

“Okay…so we can go?”

“I think so.”

Once they had everything and Eiry had locked the door. Alta reached for her hand as they headed toward the elevator. “Can we sing it together?”

“Sure.”

Alta launched right into it, her voice soft and light. Eiry’d stopped wondering by now where that voice had come from, and sang so as not to overpower it. Guyver’d always said they sounded very pretty together, and that mattered far more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Quick Week Day Recipe

I’m always looking for something to make for dinner during the week. Something quick easy, and yes, most likely modified from a box. Shmancy, from scratch cooking is for weekends only when you get home from work after 6:30 most days. So last night (yes, a Sunday, I know), DH wanted to have the hotdogs he’d gotten on sale, and I was looking at pasta. So he says “What about mac and cheese with the hotdogs in it?” And that sounded good.

Now, DH will eat a hotdog cooked in various fashion, and particularly likes to boil them. I, on the other hand, am much more picky. I like them cooked in a pan with butter. Sometimes water, but always butter. And it turned out so delicious, because I used the real butter. Yum.

I’m having the last of it for lunch right now, and it’s already gone. Definitely want to make this again. Can you tell I’m the type of likes to eat something good until it’s gone? All in a day or two, that’s me. Then I find something else to fixate on. But that’s beside the point. Recipe below.

 

Ingredients

  • 6–8 hot dogs
  • 2 regular boxes of macaroni and cheese, preferably a cheap kind
  • 1/3 cup diced onion
  • 2–3 Tbsp butter
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1–2 handfuls shredded pizza cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • milk and butter as called for on mac n cheese box

Method

Cook pasta from mac n cheese boxes in water. Meanwhile, sweat onions in some butter in a large pan. Slice hot dogs and add to onions, along with a little more butter. Saute until cooked to desired doneness. When pasta is cooked and drained, add to onions and hotdogs. Add butter, milk, and cheese packets from boxes. Stir to combine. Add sour cream and pizza cheese, and blend in. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

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Writing exercise: Misplaced

“Do you think she could have been misplaced?” Yumiko asked, peering down at the small sleeping form in the box. They’d gathered in the work room in consternation, wondering.

“Not from the message that came with her, it was astral,” Eiry said.

“Oh! Well, who could have done it?”

“No one that we’re aware,” Edar said from the nearby stool. “You were here, Richard, did it feel hostile?”

“I..well-” he broke off a minute. “I don’t really know, I didn’t know anything was going on until Eiry said something. What I felt was probably just me, or what I felt from her.”

“Well, it was really scary.”

There didn’t seem to be much to say after that, and they all just stared at the baby for a while, wondering what would happen. Would someone come looking for her? Should they take her down to the police station? Surely she’d change…a pack, maybe, so the speaker network could ask?

And yet, Eiry was fairly certain that there wouldn’t be anyone looking. And that voice in her head surely didn’t think the baby was simply “misplaced.”

 

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Writing exercise: Stairway

There’s a stairway at the back of the house that no one uses. I don’t know why. The others either don’t know or won’t tell me, I’m not sure which. Everyone walks by it as if it’s not there. The lights work just like anywhere else, and I’ve never heard any noise or felt anything strange there.

It’s white, with a banister of light-colored wood. There is a window a third of the way  up. The light streams through the window, no matter where the sun is in the sky. It never seems dirty or dusty, even I’ve never seen anyone clean it. It’s always full of light, and on very sunny days, almost dazzling to look at.

That’s how it was the first day I came here, and something about it made me stop and just look at it. I’m not sure how long it was when Miss Matthews asked me if I was lost. Perhaps maybe I was, because I can’t get that staircase out of my mind.

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Writing exercise: Beach

It wasn’t a particularly sunny day, and the wind had kicked up a bit since running around in the surf that afternoon. They’d wondered away from Nate’s family in a bit of fun, chasing each other down the beach in an ice cream fueled game of tag. Close to the old pier, it stretched out into the bay, and he reached for her hand with an inviting smile. A glance back showed her they were mostly unobserved, and she darted after him under the wooden structure.

It was a bit cooler there, and without the wind he took the liberty of letting her hair loose from the low ponytail at the nape of her neck. His hand was still in her hair as he leaned forward to kiss her, much more aggressively than in front of the others. The cool taste of mint on his tongue made her shiver in his arms, and he opened an eye to make sure she was okay. He needn’t have worried; she was as into him as he was her, he thought with a chuckle.

“What?” she asked, between kisses.

“Nothing,” he murmured, pulling her closer. They couldn’t expect to get much time to themselves, after all.

 

 

 

Note: This is a part of Eiry’s stories, which has been in my head for a while, but not written. The beach prompt brought it to mind.

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Writing exercise: Faraway

The forest of Faraway lies along the borders of several kingdoms, although none more important than the lands of Ambergelder and Phantasmorania. While the story of Princess Amy is the  most well-known of the tales from this region, the forest holds many others, yet untold in most kingdoms. The chiefest of these, of course, is the tale of the two travelers. Like Amy, they sought refuge in Faraway. But what they found there turned out to be quite different.

Forests like Faraway are much more alive than smaller, newer ones. It allows far fewer people within, keeping it’s inhabitants to animals and members of the fair folk and other such magical beings. Such magic rubs off, and far before Princess Amy first ran into its borders as a child, the vast network of trees was aware.  In most people, the aware-ness provokes feelings of warning, uncertainty, and danger. But there are those who don’t heed it, and such people always return with stories to tell.

 

 

Note: This exercise is based on The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kay. “Faraway” immediately brought to mind the forest of Faraway in this story, which I have loved and read for many years. It wasn’t until today that I thought of all the other stories that may have taken place there.

 

 

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Worldbuiling, Part 2: Ecosystems

In this worldbuilding post, we’ll be talking about ecosystems and ecology–what the surface of a world looks like regarding the natural environment. We’ll be discussing plants, trees, animals, bodies of water, forests, etc.

Ecosystems are of prime importance when landscaping your story and in working with animals and plants. Even more so if you have characters which are gardeners, farmers hunters, gamekeepers, or others who work with land.

 

Types of Land

Your basic starting place with an ecosystem is what types of land are included in  your community, continent, and then world–whatever is shown in the story. Earth, for instance, is currently being build up in many countries so that there is less and less farm land. Alaska’s forest is being stripped in gold mining, while the jungle is also being stripped. Black Beauty mostly takes place in the English countryside and in the middle of London, two very different environments.

First, describe the immediate surroundings of any main communities. What kind of forest does your Elf live in. What kind of grass do does your great plains tribe see the most? How hard is it to till land for farming compared to having a simple kitchen garden?

Who or what lives in each type of land? Tolkien, for instance, had clearly defined that Elves live in forests, the Hobbits in the hilly green country of the Shire, Men in cities of many kinds, and Dwarves underground. If you have more than one species, do they share land?

While Xcheamo has many types of land, it is mostly made up of wild forest (old growth forest), dense jungle, and thick grass land areas (both plains and rolling hills). Normal field grass is at least 4 ft high, if not more. There are many types of animals and other creatures that live in all these areas. Most Lupa live in clearer areas, but also frequently roam and travel in nearly all their land, save the dessert–1 pack lives there and keeps the ways of living there. They don’t farm the land, but nearly everyone has a garden.

Make sure that the land your characters live in or on is conducive to their occupation and way of living.

 

Vegetation and Creatures

There you should decide how closely your landscape resembles Earth. Will you use Terran plants and animals, something very similar, or start from scratch? Also take into account what type of setting you’re working in. Desert planets will not have much vegetation; worlds that are entirely water will have very different vegetation than planets with land. Here, one must consider exactly what the world is like–if you say the planet has extremely harsh conditions, your plants and animals must reflect that. Spend time developing fierce creatures that can easily dismember people or aquatic plants that don’t need soil. What is the base color for vegetation?–green, bluegreen, red, brown, other?

Because the Lupa are fierce and live on a harsh planet, I created many creatures with like fierceness, and even small birds that are able to kill people. It is a world rife with poisons, and many plants and animals are poisonous. If something is poisonous, describe how–is it carried in the pollen? Must one eat it? Some plants are okay on a wound but not to ingest. How quickly does it kill, and how?

Also give any plants or animals you create names. This will go a long way toward being believable.

Tip

If you are creating most of the plants and animals for your world, it’s greatly helpful to make lists of plants, bushes, insets, mammals, etc., with details about each cultivar or species. I personally have one master document for creatures, and one for plants. These are further broken down into sections like “trees”, “insects”, “reptiles”, “bushes”, etc. Make some arbitrary decisions along with what you know.

Examples

Mu: a type of large beetle, with an elongated oval shape. Silvery gray with red underwings and belly. Lives deep in forest, and eats off the forest floor. Their backs are well armored, and they usually go about their business peacefully and don’t seem to mind being a part of children’s games.

āankai: a flowering plant that grows both wild and cultivated. It is easy to use in herbal products, but has a scent that does not mix well with most others. The plant is a light blue-green with long leaves that close over the flower entirely when closed. The flowers can be silvery white through light hues of other colors, and consist of 3-6 long petals. However, the most common variety is a silvery white color with four petals.

 

Water

Water is an important part of any ecological systems, and honestly one of the last things I addressed ecologically on Xcheamo. While there are no large great lakes due to the supercontinent structure, there are rivers, plenty of streams, ponds, and other smaller bodies of water. Most continents have at least one major river, such as the Amazon, Nile, or the Yangtze. My best advice here is to place water where it’s needed, and where it logically makes sense. Every town or village needs a source of water, and if your characters are traveling they will need water or places to refill their canteens.

Tip

If you have people who live along the coast which are featured in the story, you’ll also want to decide if they venture out onto water–whether seas or large lakes. The Lupa, for instance, will sail on large ponds or lakes, or closely along the shoreline for a short distance, but are the sort of people who are uncomfortable regarding sailing and sea voyages. They prefer to keep their feet on the ground and stick to landed life.

 

Ecosystem

In your first attempt at building land and environmental landscape for your world, put together a basic interaction system between types of land and levels of the food chain. While you may wait to expound on it until a later date, having something in place will help you begin building the story and especially any traveling, hunting, or harvesting done within the story. If you’re creating creatures and plants, do some initial ranking as to what creatures prey which other creatures and which basic vegetation is fed on by other levels of the food chain.

Locations for nesting, herds, and other such groups is also important in how certain creatures will interact with each other. The chaos or harmony of many of these elements can be used to set tones and give your world character and depth. Xcheamo generally has a wild feeling, so animals which are very fierce looking and extremely aggressive, massive and twisted old growth forests with places where the sun never reaches, and poisons which always have the inhabitants on guard go a long way to creating this feeling.

How your people live will also have an impact on the world’s ecosystem. How much do they interfere? Do they embrace or reject nature, and to what degree? What’s the average person’s footprint like? Are there different groups who thing different things about the environment? If the people have caused problems or pollution, to what extent? How much tech do they use? All things to consider.

Also factor in the seasons and weather, as we discussed in the Environment section last time.

Tip

While this is one area that should be started on very early on in the process, it’s also one that may take some of the most time to build and expand as the various other elements of your story come together, so don’t worry about building a complete working ecosystem overnight. Especially if you’re building from scratch, it may take some time until you have a complete picture of the ecosystem as you draft and rewrite, and discover new things.

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