A few thoughts

While waiting for the canner to boil for bandied fruit, I stepped out to the balcony to plant the parsley from last week’s plant sale–a bit late, I know. It’s been sitting out here since Sunday. But what a pleasant surprise, coming out. It’s quite cool and rainy, and it’s just lovely sitting out here now. It’s so easy to breathe. Sometimes you don’t realize how it feels when the stove or oven’s been on, and the apartment’s full of warm, dry air.

The tree and plants on the open air are such a welcome change. I don’t mind the occasional drop or splat of rain water. It saturates all the colors into a vibrant hue, the sounds of water natural and soothing. One of the planters is growing moss, but every time I think, “but,  moss.”

 

Note: I wrote this sometime last year but never posted it. I don’t remember why now, but I like it.

Advertisements

Weekend Warriors, Kitchen Edition

After the past weekend, I feel very productive. Although most Saturdays involve both cleaning and cooking, we were also home more than usual on Sunday and cleaned out the fridge. This followed the freezer cleanout on Saturday. Both, naturally, led to other projects. Suffice it to say, I did a lot of cooking and consolidation–not all of it planned. I also made myself a nice breakfast Saturday. I could spend days doing this stuff and hardly leave the house, so I feel rather accomplished, though we’ll see how long that lasts.

Further, I’ve been on a quest to use up the entire bag of limes I bought last week. Not my usual citrus purchase, so I figured why not change it up a bit?

Saturday morning starts out with a round of dishes. Pretty normal so far. Next, a large pork roast with a marinade of soy, honey, garlic and lime juice from here. It was an 8 lbs. roast at a ridiculously low price, and has been taking up way too much room in the freezer ever since. It just fit in the crock pot. Doubled the marinade recipe. But, most of freezer problem solved. Pork is delicious.

There were two peaches left from the week, which isn’t enough to make fruit butter. However, there was a pint of blueberries in the freezer. More space in the freezer, and no wasted fruit. It made exactly 1 jar and 3 spoonfuls (guess where they went?).

wp-image-398976184

Blueberry Peach Butter

  • 2 peaches, cut into large chunks, skin on
  • 2 pint blueberries
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup honey

 

Meanwhile, I’ve done a second load of dishes, started the big pot for iced tea, and seriously debate whether to make breakfast. Seduced by runny eggs and cheese, and the oil-herb cubes in the freezer, I do.

 

20170828_133714

Fake Eggs Benedict

  • 2 slices of toast
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 oil-herb cube
  • 2 slices lunch meat
  • 3 slices cheese

 

At this point, I stop to eat and work on a writing project I owe someone. Some parts still need typed, but most of it’s ready. Still working on some unfinished parts as we speak. Then shopping (this week’s haul: mushrooms, greens, parsley, onions, nectarines, strawberries, pears, lemons, cherries, eggplant). Back at home, I’m crazy enough to do more.

I decided, during the freezer cleanout in the morning, to make stock from the chicken bones and veg refuse that were in the freezer. End of freezer space issues, and that goes on the stove, as well. Pork is looking nice with basting every few hours, butter is simmering–did I mention the immersion blender is a great tool? I don’t like breaking out the food processor for small batches.

Since I can’t take a nap at this point, so veg on the movie and work on the typing project. This is what happens when you do most of your draft material by hand. Eventually the stock is done, and I can turn things off and go take a nap. Saturday napping is a must, especially when you need to get stuff done.

Ingredients for fish tacos–the first idea to get through the limes–have been building all week. So I made those for dinner. Cue more cooking, though this time it’s mostly knife work and mixing. Made two new things for them, lime crema which I took from here and an Asian slaw. By that time, we were so tired and hungry they were inhaled before any pictures could be taken.

Quick Asian Slaw

  • 3 cups cole slaw mix
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 2 Tbps red wine vinegar
  • garlic
  • ginger

 

Sunday I have a major headache, and by the time I’m able to get up, church is out of the question. However, I have to put the pork in the fridge at this point, so cue fridge cleanout. There are 5 jars of pickles in there. 5. Homemade. We aren’t buying any more until  those are gone. Then, there are over 2 quarts of fruit butter, never canned. Really, no idea. Just that nebulous “stuff” was down there. And that really won’t do. Out comes the canner.

If you don’t know much about canning, it’s easy, but a timesuck. It takes forever to boil that much water. So I do the rest of the prep, wash up most of the dishes from tacofest (only then can I put the crock pot in the sink and soak it; as far as I know it’s still there), work on the typing project. At least I’m stocking stuff for Christmas.

The rest of the day was taken up with family and birthday celebrations (not mine).

 

Still have 2 lbs. of cherries to pit.

Worldbuilding, Part 7: People

In this worldbuiling installment (finally!), we’ll be talking about people, including communities and ruling bodies. If you are writing high fantasy or space-faring science fiction, you’re much more likely to be using various species in your work than those in other genres, but hopefully this can also apply to regular fiction.

 

People

People are naturally the prime recourse for characterization and insight in a story, and you’ll want to spend a fair amount of time making sure you have a solid basis to go on once you’re in the thick of writing. Nothing can set a tone so well as knowing the general attitudes and views of the people or species you’re working with, and the various modes of thought represented. As Lord of the Rings and Star Trek are prime examples of writers using multiple species in their well known works, we’ll be using them throughout this section.

 

Types of people

4424_5

Make sure that you spend some time thinking about the various groups of people that would naturally inhabit your environments. Magical lands are very likely to have magical peoples and creatures, while space will likely have aliens. It seems basic, but they can also overlap, and you may want to carefully avoid having a type of species just to have them–they should feel organic and appear in the story where they should appear.

Gathering places like markets, inns, and the space federation’s academy are likely to have many different types of species, craftsmen, or entertainers than someone’s home or the local small town general store. A courtier would be as out of place in a general store as a dirty mine worker in the court. If they show up there, it should be for a purpose. Don’t throw in something interesting that isn’t followed up on.

Also consider what types of people would become helpful that you wouldn’t ordinarily think of. Every city has sanitation workers. Nearly all wealthy or important people have some kind of assistant, secretary, or steward–and they often know more about how things work. Someone monitors the power relay in the maintenance tube running through Deck 5, and the Captain should at least recognize their name. All of these people also know something, may be able to get places the other characters can’t, or be in a position to oversee a certain change.

 

Species personalities

No matter what type of species you’re building, take into consideration two prime factors: why the story needs them, and where they come from. These will do the most to determine how they developed and who they are. Try to find some duality–some of the same characteristics can be used as to why they’re needed for the story, and for something unique about their species. Below, we’ll look at some species by personality, as well as ties between their personality and other aspects of their species.

In Lord of the Rings, the Hobbits fill some very specific needs in the story of the War of the Ring–they are small, resilient, creative, and have impressive aim when throwing stones at enemies.

In Star Trek, there was a need for both a species of wise sages, and a warrior race. These were filled by the Vulcans and Klingons, respectively, and they remain two of most popular non-Earth species to appear on the show.

The Vulcan species personality is one of logic, calmness, and emotional detachment. They strive only for the best in whatever they do. This serves the purpose of making them wise scholars and good guides for Humans as they ventured out into space, and then in the creation of the United Federation of Planets. However, it’s also closely tied to their inability as a species to control their emotions. The meditation and logic which makes them very wise also suppresses strong emotions which would otherwise  take them over and leave them without control over their own actions. Many of their rites and rituals resolve around this idea of control verses  chaos–pon farr and kolinahr, for example. The point at which suppressing ones emotions was possible was also a huge turning point in their history as a species, enabling them to avoid self-extinction and causing one another great pain and suffering.

The Klingon species personality, on the other hand, is one of fierce warriors whose greatest glory is to die in battle. There’s a lot of inter-house fighting, and codes of honor, while strict, aren’t always apparent to other species. They are rough, direct rather than mannerly, and find many things acceptable that we don’t.

Some of this personality shows in their physical appearance, but the need for this type of species on Star Trek also informed much of their history. For example, their homeworld is poor in resources, so aggressively fighting for resources, and then building their empire was seen as a necessity in order to bring in resources. Their greatest hero, Kahless, was a great warrior who unified the species and created the Klingon empire, has been revered into a god-like status.

Klingons are so aggressive that it is hard for them to get along with other species, and invades almost every aspect of their culture. Courtship and sexual interest is oven conveyed with violence. Battle is the highlight of ones’ day, and they teach their children to fight and protect their interests from an early age. Aggressiveness is also applied to family, and one’s House, and Klingons will fiercely defend their house to the last, even if we would consider them in the wrong. This is where  aggression ties in with their codes of honor.

 

Communities

Beauty-and-the-Beast-Concept-Art-Town

Demography

Remember that most residential town, cities, and neighborhoods encompass all age groups. Exceptions will be places like schools or academies which are primarily younger people. However, even within most communities, there may be reason for an imbalance. A town which had the plague recently will have a very small population, and the old and young are particularly susceptible to disease. Mining towns may loose a lot of men to the unsanitary conditions and therefore have a lack of old men.

Sometimes environmental conditions may also play a role. Many older people like warmer climes, or such places may also have a high tourist rate. Even small towns may have a lot of tourists if they are in the right setting, or are able to offer things tourists like. Another aspect is trade. A lake or river town will have a high percentage of fishermen, while one near a mine will have a lot of jewelers. A capitol city is likely to have major dignitary councils and heads of trade or other groups, as well as a high percentage of servants.

Think carefully before assigning life goals or dreams to major characters, and consider where they come from. Yes, many people have far-flung hopes at times, but an over-surplus of these does not lend itself to believeability.

Functions

Think about what type of people the community will need. What functions need to be included? Do you need farmers, miners, maybe your Court will need entertainers. Everyone has a place, and in some cases those without a specific role will be cast out. If your character’s home town is a pleasure center or tourist city, you’ll need tour guides, trash collectors, and ticket takers much more than in a farming village.

The roles needed in the community may also have a hand in determining any class distinctions or sizes. A port town may have many merchants but much fewer blue-blooded nobles. The King’s castle, however, will be primarily nobles and an army of servants, with a clearly defined pecking order. This can allow you to play around with roles and whether your character(s) fit into them. Most often, characters have stories because there is a miss-fitting.

In most cases, people have outlooks based on their functions, and the crowd can sway votes, actions, and negate what even a very powerful character is trying to do if they disagree. Their moral focus can drive them, whatever that moral is, and whether it is thought right or wrong by others. A great example of this is that servant classes, while often very low in rank, often have higher moral standards than their masters. It can less acceptable to break code and rank downstairs than upstairs.

Ruling Bodies

trial_7978

Ruling bodies can be used to effect how people live through the laws the make. They can plunge the world into chaos or lift up a shining light of hope. These things can go incredibly far in how people feel about their world and where they live. And because we’re writing stories, it’s often very helpful to understand especially how bad governments effect people. Your characters may want to move elsewhere, or depose the ruler. They may want to bring peace, or keep an evil man from destroying it. Ruling bodies can also effect what people want and desire, by helping to determine what is acceptable in society.

 

Who are they?

Ruling bodies consist of the people in charge. Most of us know what kind of people are in charge in our stories–it may be dictated by the setting (fantasy kingdom or space federation), or who the bad guy is (an evil tyrant who should be removed). Later on we’ll talk about different government functions, but overall, they will set the tone of the world.

People living in a dictatorship or under tyranny are often afraid to speak and act in certain ways, and often live in various states of fear. While a brave few will challenge the way things are, they are usually made examples of and die painfully. People living under many of the Tudor monarchs, for example, were afraid to say the wrong thing, in case something innocent was construed as treason or heresy.

Henry VIII is known to not only have had a temper, and a serious head wound made him even more unstable for the rest of his life–many noted this change of character in the King for the worse, which often resulted in chaos as if he didn’t like you for a few days, you could end up dead. He plunged England into sudden non-Catholicism, and almost overnight, being a Catholic could also get you killed. When his daughter Mary became queen, suddenly the opposite was true.

Environments such as this can do a lot to the people under such governmental control, and you may be able to use this to your advantage in a story.

Where are they located?

This answer to this question may depend on what form of rule is needed. Some societies have parliaments, and others councils. One of the species I work with has a ruling council made up of the head of each community organization–Water, Schools, Industry, Waste Management, to name a few. Here, it became much more important as to where the council meets and is located–they want to avoid favoritism. While a King can choose to build  his castle where be pleases, even sometimes without sense, some governments must put more thought into it.

A space federation or alliance, likewise, may choose a central location, a planet or space station near the center of the alliance, or a democratic city may put their council building at the city center.

Some questions as to how this relates specifically to people include: who lives around the seat of power? Is it easy to get to–is cooperation needed? Does anyone live there, or is it a place of work only? What kind of facilities does it have–a single large council room? Several smaller courts? Other amenities?

 

Who do they serve?

What is the most important population to the ruling body? This, taking into account species focuses, how they govern. If the king’s most important mission is to have a male heir, you might end up with Henry VIII. If the council rules a city made up of 3 different species, they may try to maximize priorities of harmony and acceptance within their laws and public holidays.

Are there different ruling bodies for different classes or ranks of society? If so, how are they tailored for the people they have authority over?

Another important aspect here is how those in authority view themselves. Are they there to maintain order? To serve others? To keep the rulers in charge? You will want to think about whether and how far they are corrupted, if they are deluded into thinking they can control everything, or perhaps whether they have a biased world view based on the power they have.

 

What do they do?

In Star Trek: Into Darkness, there is a subplot point that the United Federation of Planets is not a military organization. An admiral gives orders that the Enterprise fly into neutral territory and fire on another planet to kill one person in hiding there, and later reveals that he as built a massive battleship. There are several scenes in which other characters register surprise and question some of the orders they’re given–Scotty comments that this clearly seems like a military operation, which Starfleet is not. Because government and military and/or law enforcement often go hand in hand, be very clear in your planning on this aspect of who is in charge.

How do the people in charge go about being in charge? Do they make laws enforced by police state? Do citizens report transgressions? Does the King’s Guard or an army patrol the streets? You’ll want to consider how these things are done.

Your other big thing here is to determine how laws are made. Are petitions brought to a council? Perhaps the Queen declares that only White horses are allowed on Tuesdays, and her council rushes to draw it up. Research suggests that Hitler, for instance, never specifically told his officials to make death furnaces, but made it clear that this was expected. Whatever it is, come up with a system that makes sense for who’s in charge. This may involve in people being afraid of a dictator or royal.

 

Summary

People are one of your greatest resources for shedding light on characters, events, or themes. Their world and how they live will help or hinder your protagonist, and how the world is ruled is often used to create overarching plot. Pay attention to these things, and do use them to show attitudes and opinions surrounding things such as: outcast status; new laws or proclamations; holidays; when a terrible crime has been committed. Remember that such opinions hold more weight when they come from believable sources–people who appear to fit into their world and act in accordance.

The Culture of Delivery

via Daily Prompt: Delivery

The last day or two of writing has been focused on the delivery of a baby. Naturally, not just any baby, but the first baby after almost the entire species has been wiped out by a super-plague. However, that’s not the most unusual thing about it. Of all the Lupa stories and plans I’ve written, and all the children people have had, only 2 birth scenes have been written, one of them just yesterday.

While writing it, it occurred to me that I’d never actually revisited how Lupa do delivery. I had done a few things in the first one that stick and were a basic model. And I knew who delivers babies, and what happens with bonds. But not the mechanics of it. Now, it’s more important than ever that they know and keep their culture, and must show their new doctors how they do things. And I’m sitting there contemplating: What are the actions? What specific action do Lupa take? What certain herbs do they use?

Of course they use herbs, I think. Why wouldn’t they?

I’ve known, since Miara’s birth, that they prefer to give birth outside where possible. Now, I need to figure out how that works. They’ll need a water source, blankets, and possibly herbs to keep bugs away. What medical equipment might they take out with them? They’ll certainly need to stay close to the house, won’t they? How do they approach the afterbirth, and what do they do with the placenta?

While I’d been aware of the birthing park they have in this situation, it now has a location (next to the medical units), and was built with underground piping for fresh water at regular intervals. Directly outside the door, against the building, is a storage unit stocked with blankets, towels, and the sterilized medical accoutrements one needs. Much of it is packed into kits in large basins, later used for water, medical washes, etc. Along with these are pack of herbs, some of which are used medically if needed, and another set for washwater.

So, the mechanics are done, and I can move on…once I get the info recorded.

Writing Exercise: Toothbrush

via Daily Prompt: Toothbrush

Kore entered the suite not long after her interview with Renee, who had answered her advertisement for a seamstress and housekeeper. It had gone well enough, and things were moving forward more quickly than she had anticipated.

“Miss Galene, Miss Eirene, please attend here a moment,” she called gently into the back rooms, where they were surely resting at this time of day. It was not long, however, until they appears, Eirene especially looking sleepy as she slumped on the couch.

“This had better be important,” she muttered under her breath.

“I assure you I would not have called you if it was not,” Kora said. “Someone has applied for the position we offered, and I have interviewed her. She will be coming shortly for a trial of a week or two. If we all get along well, then she will have the position.”

“What if I don’t like her?” Eirene asked.

“We will just have to see how it goes,” Galene said. “I am interested to meet this person.”

“Her name is Renee, and she seems a bit older than we are. She has worked as a servant before, and says she is a capable seamstress.”

“I do hope so,” Galene said. “I do not wish to go out every time I need a new gown or shift.”

“Yes, it is inconvenient. Now, let us make the smaller bedroom ready for her, as she should not sleep with us in the large room.”

“You mean I get to sleep with you rich girls?”

“If you would prefer to look at it that way,” Kore said, before rising to go do so.

 

Renee, her long blonde curls tied up and ready go get to work, should it be needed, knocked on the door of suite 1102. Based on what she’d gathered from Kore, these girls were quite well off, and perhaps had never bothered with their own cleaning–the place might need a thorough cleaning as soon as possible. The girl who opened the door and looked her over, however, didn’t seem upper class at all.

“Um, hallo. I’m Renee, I believe I am expected?”

“The servant, yeah.”

“Eirene, please be kind, and let her in.” This was a young woman with long hair and shy demeanor, and would be the other Lady whom Kore had mentioned. She pulled Eirene back from the door so that Renee could enter. “I am Galene, Miss Renee. How do you do?”

“Well, thank you. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Galene dropped a very proper curtsy, and turned to lead through the entryway–was that a shrine?–into the main room of the suite, where Kore was waiting to welcome her. However, the place looked quite clean and tidy, and she saw maybe that boded well.

“Welcome to our household,” Kore said. “Please come this way, and I will show you your room, and where you can put your things.”

“Thank you. Please do.”

After all the books in the main room, and lining the hallway, Renee wasn’t entirely surprised to see the small bedroom she was shown was also entirely lined with books. An open rack and a press for clothes stood in on corner, and a clothes basket in another. She was left to unpack, and her few things for the trial period didn’t take long to unpack. Finally, she had only her toiletry kit left.

“Miss Kore, where is the bathroom which I should use?” she asked, having found Kore taking a book of a shelf in the hallway. “You all certainly do have a lot of books.”

“Yes, we do. Both Miss Galene and I love books and stories. Having access to such printed material is a delight to both of us.”

“Oh, I see. Did you not have access to such materials growing up?”

“No. You see, we come from much further back, before the invention of the printing press.”

“What?”

“We can tell you about it over the next few days, if you decide to stay. The bathing area is here, on the left,” Kore continued, opening the door to a large and luxurious bathroom.

“Your home is certainly lovely,” Renee commented. “Is this area here mine?” she asked, going to part of a sink vanity which had been cleared off.

“Yes. What is this handled device you have?” She asked now, gesturing to the toothbrush Renee had just set out.

“This? You haven’t seen a toothbrush before? It’s an electric one, but similar to a manual.”

“There are different kinds?”

“Well, yes. What do you girls use to clean your teeth?” Renee wondered. Maybe the part about their age was true? But then, wouldn’t they have seen the invention of the toothbrush?

“We use laurel twigs for daily cleaning, and mastic gum once or twice a week. I did not realize modern people used anything else,” Kore said, seemingly quite as surprised as Renee. She crossed to open a glass jar of what looked like a crystallized substance. “It also has several other health benefits.”

“How interesting. I will have to read up on it,” Renee said.

“And I on toothbrushes!” She seemed in a good mood  having something to research, and Renee couldn’t help but smile a bit as she left her to set out the remainder of her things.

 

 

 

This turned out way longer than anticipated due to setup needs, but hopefully it’s a fun read.