Five Questions About Writing

Fellow author/blogger T.S. Bazelli recently answers some interesting questions on her blog, at the prompting of author/blogger John Wiswell, who was asked the questions by a reader of his blog and aspiring writer.

I am still an aspiring author myself, so my answers to these questions aren’t likely to be of any further use or insight to the original inquisitor of these questions.  But they were thought provoking enough that I thought I might learn something more about myself by addressing and answering them.  So, here goes…

1. What inspired you to be a writer? Continue reading

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Cult of Eschatology

On Sunday I made light of the World That Didn’t End, and the people whom the non-event flummoxed.  But, truth be told, I’ve been thinking a lot more about those folks than my short, flippant blog-post my suggest.  On one hand, I feel very sorry for these folks.  These people really believed that they were going to be taken up into heaven on Saturday, and that the the earth would suffer the ravages of earthquakes and various other disasters, killing most of the rest of us left behind.  I mean, they really believed.  Like, spent-their-life-savings-to-buy-billboards-warning-non-believers believed.  These people had no “Plan B“.

I feel for them.  I really do.  It must be difficult to devote yourself so fully to a belief, to an idea, only to have the rug pulled out from under you.  I understand, in some way, the pain they must be going through.  I’ve had my crises of faith, those moments when I questioned what I believed in.  But this is more than just an emotional let-down for them.  They have no pieces to pick up, no life to go back to, because many of them sold everything, gave up everything, cut bonds, quit jobs to pursue this eschatological fantasy.  They are victims. Continue reading

Tidbits of Inspiration: Home Sweet Clan Home

I’d never heard of the Tulou of China before, but now that I have, I can’t help but find them fascinating.

If you are like me, and had never heard of them before, allow me to summarize.  A tulou is a type of communal housing: a large structure housing an entire clan of people.  It’s built around a central courtyard, facing inward, with earthen walls facing outward to defend against raiders and enemies. They are designed as concentric rings (circular or square) and rise up to four stories on the outside. But the description doesn’t do it justice. You need to see it to understand why reading about them inspired me:

A Tulou in Fujian

A Tulou in Fujian, by Fon Zhou (CC-BY-NC)

Another Tulou

A Tulou in Fujian, by ryanocerosk (CC-BY-NC-SA)

 

One more picture of a tulou

A Tulou in Fujian, by ksquare77 (CC-BY-NC-ND)

You begin to see why I found the idea of the tulou inspiring?  Click on the photos to go to a  “Fotopedia” page with a slideshow of more images of tulous.  There’s something oddly romantic about these archaic dwellings that housed entire clans, centered as they often were around altars to the ancestors.  There’s definitely something inspiring if you enjoy fantasy or historical fiction and period romance.  The place just screams with story.

Being Prepared for When Lightning Strikes: The Notebook and the Writer’s Journal

Continuing on the theme of being a busy writer with little or no time to write, I wanted to take a moment to talk about my notebook, again.

I first made mention of my notebook back when I first started blogging, over a year ago, and followed that little introduction up with a simple how-to guide on using the tool.

The gist of the idea is this: a simple, easy-to-obtain paper notebook is a great and portable way to keep writing in your busy life even when you’re too busy to actually write.  A notebook is small and easy-to-carry, so you can have it with you no matter where you go.  That means its with you when you catch a break in your day.  It’s with you when you have five minutes or ten minutes or more here or there.  It’s with you when inspiration strikes like a bolt of lightning from the clear blue heavens.

As I commented in my year-old posts, lots of people with more money than I might find a smartphone or other ultra-portable computing device fits this bill better for them.  But hey, we’re struggling writers!  We don’t have money for fancy tech (if drool were money, we’d be all up in that technology, but drool sadly lacks monetary value).  For us, a spiral-bound notebook, Moleskine, or a basic composition book will do the trick. 

That trick being, of course, to take advantage of the rare opportunities to jot down a few notes and tidbits of inspiration when they arise.  But I have a confession to make, in that regard. Continue reading

Tidbits of Inspiration: The Language of the Prairie Dogs

I heard this delightfully entertaining story on NPR this morning about the discovery of a “language” spoken by Prairie Dogs.  It was a funny but also a thought-provoking story.  Effectively, the researchers discovered that the prairie dogs have different warning calls for different predators entering into their prairie dog towns.  But then it went a step further.  They found that the prairie dogs changed their calls for different humans – and in fact there was a layer of their call that meant “human” and a bunch of other layers that were describing the human as short or tall, and what color shirt he was wearing. 

What I also found interesting was that the changes in the call were in the layers of tones in the call.  While I could tell the difference between the high, the medium, and the low pitch of the calls heard during the story, the Prairie Dogs hear more than that – they hear the collection of tones that make up the sound.  And different undertones could mean, for the prairie dogs, different colors and shapes and different animals. 

Which, to me, means this story has very interesting implications for artificial language development.  If you’re writing a sci-fi story with unusual aliens – maybe those aliens have a language like that of the Prairie dogs – one that’s tonal.

Now, tonal languages exist in the greater family of human languages.  But this is something different.  Human tonal language can differentiate meaning between words that are high-pitched or low-pitched, where the pitch is rising or falling, and so on.  But the prairie dog variant hears more than this top-level tone.  It hears the layers of sound that make it up, and can differentiate between an extremely high variety of tones. 

Listening to such a language might be like listening to music, from human ears.  And that’s something to be inspired by.

Tidbits of Inspiration: Journey to the Center of the Earth

Some time ago, I posted a link to a tale of a cave expedition (which was, as it turns out, at least partly true).  But today’s “Tidbits of Inspiration” one-ups that interesting tale with something that will inspire both awe and excitement.

I happened across this link that promised news of the discovery of a massive cave complex in Vietnam.  Let’s just say that Vietnam has just risen sharply on my list of must-see places (not that I’ll get to see every place on that list in my lifetime… but this would be an epic trip).

At first I was a little disappointed because the link lead to small pictures and I couldn’t get the full scope of what was being described, but imbedded in the article was a link to National Geographic with larger pictures, and much more awe.

What, pray tell, do those links lead to?  Why, those links will take you on an adventure.  Recall, if you will, the year 1864 – the year in which Jules Verne‘s book, A Journey to the Center of the Earth was released.  You may recall that that book was filled with tales of wonderous things in the interior of the earth’s crust: underground oceans, forests, prehistoric creatures, and all manner of imaginative phenomena.  Now, imagine if you will, that there was some truth to Verne’s claim.

If you allow yourself to imagine that, then you may discover it in Vietnam’s mammoth Hang Son Doong cave complex: the world’s largest cave, with a cavernous passage large enough to fill a city block of skyscrapers, and replete with a populated underground jungle, a massive underground river (making the cave untraversable in the wet season but a glorious site to behold in the dry), and enough sheer WOW factor to inspire a brand new generation of writers, if these pictures are any indication. 

So head on over to National Geographic for your daily dose of “WOW” and today’s “Tidbits of Inspiration”.  And be sure to check out the Interactive “Path of a River Cave” that maps out the expedition.  I promise you this: you won’t be sorry you did…

Tidbits of Inspiration: Ghost Cities

Today, another edition of “Tidbits of Inspiration”… this one is something eerie and a little frightening, in a way.

I invite you to visit… the Ghost Cities of China.

China’s an odd place, by all news accounts (full disclosure: I have never been to China).  But this is an oddity to top them all.  For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, they keep building these cities.  And despite being a country of 1 Billion+ people, yet nobody lives in these undoubtedly creepy, spooky abandoned cities deep in the heart of the country.

What strange, speculative tales could such an unusual fact inspire?  What haunting tales could these images spawn?