September 27, 2017

September #InkRipples: World Building

This has been a busy month. My daughter got married, school started, and it took me forever to find my motivation to compose this post. Does that happen to you sometimes? You just simply don’t feel like it? It isn’t the topic. I love building worlds. It is among my top favorite things about writing!

To me, world building is in the details. The small things that are mentioned casually. For example; if my main character is a slob and he’s lost his keys, I would show him flinging empty take-out containers and candy wrappers aside looking for them in order to give the reader the visual of his messy setting—his world. If he was a slob in the future, I might have him bark a command to his smart room asking where he last tossed his keys. Small details sprinkled throughout the text creates the world stealthily so the reader doesn’t even see the image form in their head.

Fantasy and Science Fiction often require a bit more of an in-your-face presentation, especially in the beginning, in order to set the reader solidly inside the strange new world from the get-go. In my [currently unavailable] middle grade novel, Beware of the White, I built a whole underground world. It was so much fun to imagine what types of species might live underground and how they would adapt to their circumstances. There are neon beings—like the fish that live way, way deep down in the ocean—who light up. There are water beings that thrive on the pollutions and toxins in water, who have naturally become part of the filtration system. But a huge amount of the world building had to be edited out of the final version of the book. Though it was important for me, the author, to have a thorough understanding of Concord, it was yawn inducing for the reader. I introduced Concord’s otherworldliness as Terra entered the city, but then, after that, I sprinkled the details throughout.

Other worlds are more like ours, so the differences can be unfurled slowly. In my speculative fiction series, Super Villain Academy, we have people living in a contemporary setting. Everything seems normal until they start wielding super powers. Same with my middle grade fantasy series, The Weaver Tales. That is set in a quaint mountain village – where everybody speaks in story. It’s very light on fantasy, so the world didn’t have to be built, so much as the setting had to be defined. But since a gnome-elf shows up to grant a wish, there is some world building that had to be done. For a reader to accept the unusual in stride – for a blue skinned gnome-elf to suddenly appear at a wishing well, or for a teenaged boy to leap over a six foot fence and shoot fire from his palm - the world has to be built around it or your reader will just stop reading.

Other than Hogwarts – what are some of your favorite literary worlds?

#Inkripples is a themed meme hosted by Mary Waibel, Katie L. Carroll, and Kai Strand posting on the first Monday of every month. To participate compose your own post regarding the theme of the month, and link back to the three host blogs. Feel free to post whenever you want during the month, but be sure to include #inkripples when you promote so readers can find you. The idea is that we toss a word or idea into the inkwell and each post is a new ripple. There is no wrong interpretation. Themes and images and more information can be found here.

September 15, 2017

Don't Be Closed Minded. Read a Banned Book. #Giveaway

On this list, compiled by the ALA, of the top 100 challenged books of the decades 1990-1999 and 2000-2009, I've read:
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Adventure of Huckleberry Finn
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Dead Zone
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things
Fat Kid Rules the World
The Giver
Harry Potter (series)
The Hunger Games (series)
The Kite Runner
The Lovely Bones
Olive's Ocean
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes
That Was Then, This Is Now
Thirteen Reasons Why
Twilight (series)
A Wrinkle In Time

I would recommend any of them, but especially the titles I've linked. The thing with me and banned books is that I don't get it. The banning thing. Why would you ever feel the right to keep a book out of the hands of other readers? Why would you feel you have the authority to say what some can and cannot read? Do you have the right to voice your opinion? Absolutely! If you think the book is inappropriate somehow, tell people why. But to pull it from shelves or distribution? Absolutely not. Are there books I've read that I don't recommend? Yes. Am I feeding the banned book bandwagon by not linking all the above titles? No. I simply didn't enjoy the books enough to recommend them. You might like them, so if their blurb sparks your interest - go for it.

The only readers I ever felt I had authority over were my underaged children. I tried to steer them into reading books I thought they were emotionally mature enough for - and that decision was different with each child. However, once they got past about 16 or 17, all bets were off and they could read whatever they wanted with or without my consent. Hopefully, knowing that I was ALWAYS available to talk to if a subject rocked their world in some good or bad way. Books are the SAFEST place for people to be exposed to controversial subjects. I would much rather learn about subjects such as; prejudice, incest, and brainwashing by reading about them. Reading helps you avoid repeating ugly behavior or falling victim to it. It also opens your mind to how to be a more compassionate, giving human being.

Harry Potter did not teach me how to practice witchcraft, but it did demonstrate how to overcome insurmountable odds. I didn't start killing contemporaries after reading The Hunger Games, but I did see how to hold onto my compassion in harrowing circumstances.

Don't be closed minded. Read.

To celebrate banned book week, I'm giving away an electronic copy of Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - one of 2016's top 10 most challenged titles and a book I absolutely LOVED! To enter simply leave a title of a banned book you've read & would recommend in the comments. I'll choose one random winner on October 1st. Open Internationally. Must have an email address so I can contact you and award your prize.

Visit Bookhounds for more banned book week fun.

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September 6, 2017

Inspiration Behind The Alien Mind by V.L. Jennings

I'd like to welcome V.L. Jennings to Strands of Thought. She's here to share an excerpt and an interesting behind the story, story from her young adult sci-fi, The Alien Mind. Take it away, Virginia.

Rivi's eyes swept the launch crater to watch the hundreds of Aunantet and human children bustling around the ships.
“We're not all going, are we?” Rivi asked, her voice catching in her throat.
“No, dear,” Ankh answered. “Just you children and about fifty pre-selected Aunantet. The rest of us will stay. This is our home planet. We'll be fine.”
“Is something wrong?” a senior administrator asked, making his way over to Ankh.
“Not really,” Ankh answered, turning back to Rivi. “Rivi, you need to get in your ship now, with the others. The sooner we get you away from here, the safer you will be.”
Rivi nodded and then frowned, putting her hand to the side of her head as if she had a headache.
“Wait, Administrator!” Rivi exclaimed, worry etched across her face. “Does the main computer have the ability to shut down launches?”
“I think so, but—”
Rivi paled.
“What is wrong, Rivi?” Ankh asked.
“Call as many comp amalgamators as you can gather and meet me in the central computer room,” Rivi said, then ran off toward the double doors in the side of the crater that led back into the complex.
Ignoring the shouts calling her back to the launch arena, Rivi ran down corridor after corridor and through a few door-walls until she reached the complex's main computer. Not far behind, Ankh and Enuet entered, followed by the administrator and another Aunantet.
“Rivinaig, I could only find Enast,” the administrator replied as he came through the wall.
“What's going on?” Enast asked.
“We've got to work fast to keep the Aruk out of this system as long as possible so the ships can leave,” Rivi said.
“Rivi, you've got to go get on your ship with the other children,” Ankh exclaimed. “We'll take care of this.”
“I can't leave, Ankh. If I go, the ships will not be able to leave. Enast may be a full-grown Aunantet, but she cannot keep the Aruk out on her own. If you try to do it manually, it will be too slow. I can already feel the Aruk hacking into the system.”
Enast nodded in agreement, as she, too, began to feel the problem.
“All right. Go ahead,” Ankh responded.
Rivi closed her eyes and allowed her mind to amalgamate with the computer, her thoughts merging into the flow of data and calculations. As soon as she sensed Enast's presence, Rivi began to coordinate her defensive attack with the adult Aunantet's. Together, they closed down and repaired every attempt the Aruk comp amalgamators made at shutting down the launches. Rivi could tell that she and Enast were outnumbered when it came to defending the complex's computer systems. There were quite a few comp amalgamators on the Aruk's side trying to break into the computer. Rivi strained her mind to keep ahead of each attempt to sabotage the launch.
The complex began to shake and rattle as the Aruk began their attack, making it even harder for Rivi to concentrate. She struggled mentally to maintain her concentration and stay united with the computer's systems. Without warning, Rivi felt Enast reluctantly break away from the computer system and retreat into the safety of her own mind in exhaustion. Rivi, even more determined not to give up, sat down slowly on the cool floor, careful not to break her connection.
Rivi tapped into the computer's launch system to see how much longer it would be until all of the children's ships were launched. The slow speed of the launch worried Rivi. She didn't want to let anyone down. The Aruk comp amalgamators were increasing their fight to hack into the system. Rivi shuddered as the amalgamators resorted to trying to attack her mind with computer viruses as well while she fought to protect the computer system.
Finally, a particularly large blast shook the complex, forcing Rivi to break her concentration and pull out of the computer. As she retreated to her own mind, Ankh put a steadying hand on her shoulder and pointed to the statistic screen hanging on the wall above her head.
“You did it! All of the ships have left. They are safe now,” Ankh said, and Rivi smiled.
Rivi stood and rolled a cramp out of her neck. She shook hands with Enast, who still looked a bit exhausted.
“I'm sorry I couldn't stay in longer to help. Sudden noises have always created problems with my concentration,” Enast apologized.
“That's all right. Without your help, I wouldn't have had enough strength to hold out in the end,” Rivi replied with a gratified smile.


I was 17 when I started writing The Alien Mind. Visionary From The Stars was finished first but wouldn’t be published till later. I loved shows like Star Trek Enterprise (the one with Captain Archer). I would watch that show almost religiously. My father and I shared a love of sci-fi and space travel. Movies like Deep Impact and Armageddon were on the top of our ‘watch together’ list. Occasionaly I had conversations with him pertaining to hypothetical space travel and I was inspired to check out some quantum theory books from the local library. The ideas sort of just randomly came to me in pieces and I wove them together.
The interesting thing to me though, is that my characters took on a life of their own. I mean, that’s to be expected right? Except here we are 11 years later and they STILL inspire me to do bigger and better things with my life. They still surprise me with new stories too. It is through their story that I am learning more about myself in the process.
You see, growing up I had no thoughts of working with electricity, though I did like computers. I find it increasingly odd that it turned out to be Rivi (from The Alien Mind) and Laurie (Visionary From The Stars) that would inspire me to go into electrical engineering. Rivi has the ability to 'talk' with computers as well as manipulate electricity. Laurie is the ship’s engineer. (My career choice should have been blatantly obvious but it wasn’t, at least to me).
About three years ago, when I was trying to figure out what degree program I really wanted to get into I began to realize that the main characters from both of my books were both electrically inclined. I had toyed with building circuits when I was a teenager, and I had no problem rewiring things around the house but it wasn’t until I began the republishing process with PDMI Publishing (now closed) that I began realizing that maybe Rivi was, in a sense, trying to tell me something. So the fall of that year, when I was busy launching The Alien Mind through PDMI Publishing I also began my degree program in Electrical Engineering.
In my Digital Circuits class we are learning more about how computers communicate with binary. Hexadecimal and AskII are also some of the code languages we are learning. I am coming to the realization that computers must do a whole lot at once just to accomplish a single task, they ‘think’ a lot faster than we can. I can't help but wonder what it must be like to be Rivi, to think like she does, to be able to communicate in 1’s and 0’s and understand it.
I am continuously finding out more about her and in turn she is revealing to me more of myself. I don’t always understand her… and I WROTE her! That is a really weird feeling, and not one I ever expected to happen as a writer. She and I are working on a sequel to The Alien Mind and I can’t wait to see where she will take me!
In the meantime, remember I mentioned that PDMI is now closed? Well, I’m happy to announce that I’ve re-released The Alien Mind with new covers, formatting, a deleted scene, and a forward written by Author Karina Fabian.
You can find them here:
Will be priced at .99 on Amazon till January 1! Normal retail price is 2.99