Holiday Shopping Guide for Your Writer

If you’re shopping in Tulsa, check out Decopolis in downtown. They have writer themed candles; little plush dolls of Poe, Shakespeare, and more; journals; feather quill sets…. you can make all your writer friends happy by stopping by there!

(NOT A COMPENSATED COMMENT – I JUST LOVE THEM THAT MUCH)

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The A-Zs of World-Building with Rebekah Loper

One of the keys to writing a story that draws in readers is building a world that is believable, intriguing, compelling…a world that drives plot forward when the character finds herself in opposition to the way things normally go. And a pal of the Purple Inkers, Rebekah Loper, is pretty much an expert in world-building. We talked to her about why she loves inventing worlds in her head and then putting them down on paper for readers, her background in fantasy and sci-fi, and her new book, The A-Zs of Worldbuilding.

1. Tell us a little about your background. How did you become interested in fantasy stories? What books and movies have influenced your storytelling? 
Some of my earliest memories are my mom reading to me and my siblings, and one of the first fantasy stories I remember being impacted by was The Chronicles of Narnia. I remember being enthralled by the whole mythos and world C.S. Lewis created as a canvas.

Rebekah Loper author of The A-Zs of Worldbuilding on Purple Ink Writers

Author Rebekah Loper

The next set of stories that I remember impacting my sense of storytelling is a little-known series called The Bracken Trilogy by Jeri Massi. In many ways, it dealt with more mature themes than Narnia did. I remember reaching the end of the trilogy, and something about how one of the main characters simply died of old age really resonated with me. Seeing that heroic characters don’t always have what we perceive to be heroic endings made fantasy very attainable to me. It made heroes suddenly human. The protagonists were all mostly female — young girls, teenage girls, and mothers, and mature women. This series may have also sparked my interest in herbalism.

The stories that most impacted by writing, though, were The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. The sheer scope and scale of Middle-Earth and the stories it contained captivated me completely — to the point that I joined a fandom roleplay site, and that is really where I got my start with writing.

Lord of the Rings literally changed my life. I found National Novel Writing Month through that fan site (and NaNoWriMo is how I ended up building my local writing community). I wrote my first 50,000 word story on that site (a fanfic that is buried in the depths of their archives, thank God!). I received (and gave) my first story critiques on that site. I am still in contact with several people from that site.

When I learned that J.R.R. Tolkien had created many of the languages in his stories, that really sparked my interest in creating worlds. For a while, I got caught in the ‘oh, I have to create languages!’ phase that many fantasy writers seem to stumble into when Tolkien is their introduction to world-building, but fortunately I had the sense to realize my time was better spent elsewhere. Tolkien created languages because he was a linguist. I am not!

2. What are a few of your favorite fantasy stories?
Other than the ones I mentioned above, some more of my favorites are the His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers (I reviewed it for Fantasy-Faction if you’re interested), Arena by Karen Hancock (a Pilgrim’s Progress retelling as a portal science-fantasy, and it’s awesome), The Song of Albion series by Stephen Lawhead (steeped in Celtic mythos, which always fascinates me because of my heritage), The Dragon Jousters series by Mercedes Lackey, The Staff & The Sword series by Patrick W. Carr. I could go on and on.

3. When you think of a story that has fantastic world building elements, which story do you think of, and why?
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is, hands down, my favorite book when it comes to fantastic world-building. I definitely have a thing for dragon stories. Hartman created an incredibly rich, complex world with the intersection of the history, culture, and religions, and she hit the jackpot on how it intertwined and caused conflict. My main issues with the stories were the expectations she set up for the readers on relationships between characters and then didn’t follow through with. The ending in that regard was too ambiguous.
4. What is it about world building that you love the most?
I’ve always been fascinated by ‘what if’ both on the intimate, close-up level of storytelling, and on the global scale of world-building. Sometimes I start to world-build with a goal in mind — I want to know what type of society or culture would bring about XYZ. Sometimes I need to know because I’m unsure of a character’s motivation. And sometimes I just want to get lost in a different world for a while, and I don’t have a particular story in mind. Mostly, I just love exploring ‘what if’. What if… my chickens could talk? What if my mirror led to alternate dimensions? What if a world had two suns? Anything that catches your imagination can be a point to start world-building from.
5. What made you decide to write a book about the process of world-building?
The A-Zs of Worldbuilding by Rebekah Loper on Purple Ink WritersWell, I first did the A-Zs of World-building for the A-Z Blogging Challenge a few years ago. It had a much higher response than I expected, and so many writers told me it was fascinating to see how I could just jump from one thing to another and connect dots the way I did. For me, it’s a very intuitive process, but many people don’t know how to think like that.

There are many good resources out there. What I would often find, though, is that they were either too brief, too technical, or too focused on world-building for gaming. One of the very first years that I participated in NaNoWriMo, someone created a ‘30 Days of World-building’ exercise set in the NaNo forums. It was immensely helpful to me, but the creator never expanded it further than that. I looked for years for something similar to that, and never quite found it.
So, you know they say ‘write the book you want to read’? That’s basically what I did.
6. How did you come up with the exercises in your book?
The exercises in the book are basically my thought process when I sit down to develop an aspect of world-building. All of my world-building is taking a concept and asking “What if?” and then just building on it from there. I haven’t necessarily used every exercise in the book, nor have I used it in the workbook format like this, but the process is what I use. But I am going to go through the exercises for my NaNo planning this year, because I am woefully behind!

7. How does working on world building add to a novel’s effectiveness? How does it help a writer to make their work better?
A story is only as effective as its setting, and when you’re writing a story that doesn’t take place in our world, the setting can’t be taken for granted. There can be things that translate well (especially when the setting is earth-like, in the case of historical fantasy and portal fantasy). But usually a fantasy story is fantasy because it’s a story that can’t be told well in our world due to the setting or the characters and sometimes simply because it might be too inflammatory. Getting the setting to mesh with the story and be accessible to the reader is what makes world-building vital.
8. Is there anything in your book that writers won’t find elsewhere?
I’ve not come across another world-building book with this broad scope of topics all in one place, especially one that focuses less on the technical or scientific aspects and more on finding what makes sense for your story and world. Most resources that I’ve seen focus only on a few core topics, and often only from one aspect. I deliberately tried to be as broad with each topic as I could, while still being concise so that the focus is more on the creation of each aspect of world-building than ‘you should or shouldn’t do XYZ’ without examples or inspiration.

And really, even covering 26 different topics (and how they intersect with each other), there is still so much more to consider! I’ve got two more books in mind for an A-Zs of World-building series even now.
9. How can writers get a copy of your book?
The ebook is available now, and will be 99 cents from September 23–30! The fastest way to find it from your preferred retailer is to visit https://books.pronoun.com/the-a-zs-of-worldbuilding/

The print book will be out on September 30! It will be available on my own site, Amazon.com, and the CreateSpace store at first. I’ll be working on adding it to other retailers as I can!

About the Book:

Worldbuilding is the ultimate act of creation for speculative fiction writers, but how exactly do you worldbuild? You ask ‘what if’ and use each answer as a springboard to more questions and answers about your fictional world. 

In The A-Zs of Worldbuilding, that ‘what if’ process is broken down into 26 themed chapters, covering topics ranging from architecture to zoology. Each chapter includes a corresponding set of guided exercises to help you find the ‘what if’ questions relevant to your story’s world. 

Fair warning, though: worldbuilding is addictive. Once you get started, you might never put your pen down again.

About the Author:

Rebekah Loper loves to create worlds — whether they are magical and fictional, or a productive farm in her suburban backyard where she makes futile attempts to curse Bermuda grass from all existence.

Rebekah lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her husband, dog, formerly feral cat, a flock of chickens, and an extensive tea collection. She blogs at rebekahloper.com, and is also a contributing blogger at Fantasy-Faction.com and The Rabid Rainbow Ferret Society (fictionalferrets.wordpress.com).

This is not a feminist rant… but please don’t ask me to smile.

I am not about to talk about how it is not in fact a woman’s job to look pretty for you, she doesn’t owe you a smile, and how she doesn’t care how much prettier she’d look if she were smiling (though I adamantly agree with and support those statements).

No, I’m just going to talk about the last time it happened to me.

Here’s the thing. I went to a Starbucks. I used the mobile ap to order a drink and a ‘snack box.’ When I got there, the barista said, “I’ve got bad news – we’re out of the snack box you wanted. The good news is you can have anything else you want.” Important note – I wasn’t upset by this. I didn’t have my heart set on the specific snack box I’d wanted (boiled eggs, some fruit, some peanut butter), I just wanted a snack. So I grabbed a cheese and fruit snack box instead and was perfectly happy with that.

We went over to the register so he could make the exchange and then he offered me a $4 ‘recovery card’ off my next visit. Cool! Now I’m actually pretty happy about the whole situation.

I noticed a tray of bite sized portions of some chocolate baked good and asked about it. He told me (double chocolate pound cake) and said they were offering samples and I could have one. Super cool!

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God, no, I’m NOT mad. I’m fine. Everything’s FINE.

At this exact moment, if you had asked me, I would have said I was smiling. At any rate, I felt confident I had perfectly pleasant expression on my face. I wasn’t sad or mad. Nothing I had said or done would have indicated I was unhappy in any way.

Important note – I could have been this kid’s mom. Important follow up note – I am not what most people would call conventionally attractive. I mention this because I’m pretty confident he was not flirting with me. I mean, anything’s possible, but… probably not.

And then he said, “The only price is a smile.” And I reflexively smiled (dammit).

Then I went to my table, watched some Netflix, ate my snackbox (cheese and fruit and crackers. Yum), drank my tea, and nibbled on the sample of cake (super tasty!).

And instead of enjoying my Netflix, all I could think about was why he asked me to smile.

When I got to my friend’s, I asked them “Do I look like I’m pissed off all the time?” I mean, I know I have resting bitch face. It’s a chronic, long term condition for me, but still. (the answers were “no, yes, and ‘only when you look at me,’).

Two days later, I’m still bothered by it. I mean… seriously… resting bitch face. I have it. But he asked me to smile at a moment that I thought I was smiling. Dammit.

So just don’t do that. Don’t do it for all the feminist reasons you’ve ever heard, but also don’t do it because it made me feel bad for at least two days because I wish I had a happy smiley face and I don’t and thanks for reminding me that I look mad all the time and that probably drives people away.

… shit, I wonder if that’s part of why do many people say I’m intimidating.

Anyway, please don’t ask a woman a smile, ok?

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Is this better?

 

The Do-Over

I believe there are an infinite number of times you can start over and I also believe we aren’t told that enough. 

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When we were kids we were all well acquainted with the “do-over.”  We used the words as a noun and all of us knew exactly what it meant.  Simply put, it meant the event was an outlier and there would be no consequences for failure. 

If the kick ball got stuck in the tree branches, we all just yelled out, “do-over,” and the ball was retrieved and the kicker got another chance.  We didn’t take the ball getting stuck in the tree as any real reflection of the players ability nor did we think the game needed to be disrupted because of this one moment.

We all had such wisdom back then. 

But then someone always came along who wanted to discredit the “do-over.” 

This test is not a do-over!

You can’t just have a do-over whenever something doesn’t work out!

You have damaged our relationship and I won’t let you have a do-over!

This is real life!  There are no do-over’s!

Bullshit.

I argue that in every situation there is an opportunity for a do-over.  Remember, a do-over was an outlier, something that was not deliberate and hey, a lot of stuff just happens.

I’m not talking about the kid who tries to throw the ball when its kick ball or picks it up and runs with it to keep it away from others.  A do-over has nothing to do with  the person who runs and gets the adult when they feel they are being slighted by the rules or the neighbor who gleefully takes the ball when it lands in their yard and won’t give it back.

A do-over is just one of those things that happens now and again.

Here are a few examples from my own life when I should have acknowledged the “do-over” potential,….

My husband who is wonderful and loves me dearly, has a busy month and forgets my birthday. 

My son, who works and goes to school, knocks over an open bottle of laundry soap as he rushes to get to class. 

My mother, who promised me we would do lunch, makes plans with others instead. 

My good friend borrows my platter and breaks it. 

To my utter dismay I admit after I got over the initial anger, I held grudges and often brought up the issue to the other person involved.  I did not acknowledge the “do-over” potential. 

Jobs can be “do-overs,” and I have had some of those also.  Granted those are tougher not only to recognize, but to get over because it’s all tied up with money or status or identity or pride.

I had a job once that I really didn’t like, but I was fortunate to have a boss who believed in the power of the “do-over.”  She asked me if I even liked the job as she was going over how badly I was doing the job.  I showed some uncommon good sense and told her point blank I hated it and then we both agreed it was best to part ways.  But she recognized the skills I had were simply not meshing with the job and she ended up giving me a great recommendation which helped me move onto a new job that I love.

That is still one of my most beloved “do-over” moments. 

There should be more relationship “do-overs.”  Every had the lover that you just all the sudden didn’t love anymore.Don’t you wish you could just yell, “Do-over!”  and then you could both agree to never see each other again with no hard feelings.  Or the friendship when both of you realize you really only share one interest together and now that the Chopped – Barbecue-Cheese-Kids- Championship Marathon is over, you could apply the “do-over” principle, no harm done.

There are some who say the whole experience of life can also be a “do-over.”

If you don’t get it right this time around, don’t worry you will get another chance to try again. reincarnation10

My plea to you, dear friend, is to look out on your life today and everyday and recognize your “do-over” moments.

 Laugh while you run to get that ball down from the tree and feel the joy of the moment when you kick it back into play. 

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Taylor Swift’s Brilliant Take on Double Knavery

Good morning, all!

I’ve been binge watching Taylor Swift’s new video, Look What You Made Me Do, and  sure I’m not alone in drawing some Shakespearian parallels.

Like many of you, after seeing the video, I immediately exclaimed, “Iago!  There you are, you little mischief maker, you!”

For those of you poor unfortunate souls who have not had time yet to read all of Will’s work- a brief note on who Iago is….Iago puppetmaster

Iago is the villain in the play Othello and he’s a great villain.  He’s creepy and smart and vicious and he’s always speaking to the audience as if we are his squad.  And he owns his own evil which makes him one of the best villains of all time.

Very early on he says flat out, “I hate the Moor.”  He doesn’t say, “I’m upset by the Moor or  I strongly dislike the Moor or I’m feeling some negativity related to the Moor.”

No, no! Not our man, Iago.

I hate the moor

 

So he decides to destroy his enemy and several others along the way.

(The rest of the play is wonderful, but you can find that out on your own, so I won’t tarry around in the explanations of sub plots and motivations.  Yes, I used the word, tarry- get over it.)

Very early on in the video, Ms. Swift, sings, “And I don’t like you.”  The words may not be as tough as Iago’s, but the graveyard imagery speaks more of hate than dislike. 

And then when she’s sitting on that throne of snakes! Wow!15-taylor-swift-look-what-you-made-me-do-screenshot-2017-billboard-1548

Doesn’t that just scream, “How am I a villain?”

That scene in the video is Taylor-made(get it 🙂 ) for Iago’s wonderful soliquiqy where he mockingly asks his Elizbethan Squad how he can possibly be a bad guy for trying to give some honest advice to a friend. Well, maybe because sometimes something really bad happens as the result of good intentions.

The Divinity of Hell.  

I love it!

Another one of my favorite lines in the song is, “one thing’s for sure, maybe I got mine, but you’ll all get yours.”  Again, just like Iago’s sentiments when he gets passed over for promotion by Othello.  Sure he’s angry and jealous and embarrassed, but he is damn sure not going to be the only one who suffers, not while he’s still around.branagh-iago-BIG

 

And finally, my absolutely favorite part of the video…..the tower of Taylor Swift images being flattened by Taylor Swift herself as she lyrically declares that she trusts no one as they feel the sameTaylor-Swift-Look-What-You-Made-Me-Do-Video-Meaning about her AND she is going to be the nightmare to her enemies.

 

 

 

Or as Iago would put it,

“I will wear my heart upon my sleeve for daws to peck at; I am not what I am.” (Act I, Scene I, lines 64-65)

 

Well done, Ms. Swift, very, very, well done!

Taylor Swift -Rep

 

 

My St. Helena

GettyImages-146793866_super_csNapoleon Bonapart was exiled twice in his lifetime.

The first time to Elba, an island in the Mediterranean, where he seemed to have a pretty nice time.  He was still afforded the prestige he was used to, his home was maybe not a palace, but still some very nice digs and he made time lying around eating fresh cherries with one of the local girls in addition to spending time with his mistress.  Napolean stayed on Elba less than a year before he went back to France and messed up even more.

It was called Waterloo and it prompted the British to exile him to the remote island of St. Helena, an island in the South Atlantic, which is still one of the most remote, hard to get to places in the world.  And in our age of globalization, that’s no small feat.

So there he was on this tiny rock of an island in the middle of vast ocean.  I imagine him walking around on the cliffs, looking out at the expanse of water surrounding him and knowing he would die there.

But maybe he felt like he was already dead.

From the pictures I have seen St. Helena seems very like a purgatory type of place.  Craggy, windy, moldy, steep, quiet, lonely, isolated, hard to reach…are just some of the words used to describe it.

For a man so used to intrigue and power, how devastating.

We don’t have to wonder or speculate on his state of mind, as so much has been written about the feisty French emperor.  He detested St. Helena Island.

Exilethe state or period of forced or voluntary absence from one’s home or country. 

My Facebook account has not been active for several months now.  I have left all of my volunteer commitments.  My phone now only serves to keep the time or occasionally check the weather forecast.  My contact list has been pared down to emergency only numbers.

I still go to work every day.  I shop and cook and clean my house. I read copiously and write on the computer or with soft pencils.   I watch and wave from the dock as my family and friends venture out, each to their own battles and adventures.  And then when they return I greet them with either trumpets or gauze.

At first it was hard, this self imposed exile, but it was needed.  Exhausted after too many Waterloo’s where I had not been Wellington I felt a bittersweet relief as I stood on the sandy beach.

I do not detest my  island.

I embrace my silence and my exile.

I walk my craggy cliffs and look out at the vast ocean around me and I am thankful for my St. Helena.

Can You Give a Compliment?

 

Have you ever made a man angry by accepting a compliment with confidence instead of demure, shy embarrassment or shock?

Yeah, this really is a thing. You can read about it in this fascinating BuzzFeed article, which goes into plenty of examples of various men getting pissed off when a woman says “thanks” or “I agree” instead of “oh my god, you’ve changed my life” after a simple compliment. You can probably come up with examples of your own.

For me personally, when people say I’m really smart, I say, “Yes I am,” because I’ve known that since I was 5. It’s not the most interesting thing about me, and it’s certainly not the number one thing I care about. People’s reactions when I say “Yes I am” tend to fall in one of two camps:

(1) They’re cool with it because they don’t take it personally that I’m smart, perhaps smarter than them. They see the real me and like me.

(2) They get hostile or have a need to prove their own intelligence, which means they both resent my intelligence and don’t actually know me, because I’m not a person who holds my IQ over anyone’s head. No one has to prove they can match wits with me. I wouldn’t even mention intelligence except that it fits this blog post.

But the real point is… you can learn a whole lot about how other people see themselves and the world by how they react when you respond to something they say.

It’s All About Power

downloadWe live in a culture where so much is about power, in so many ways. It’s an insidious problem not just because it’s so entrenched in everything we do, but because it can’t be eradicated until we learn to see power differently than the entrenched cultural norms teach us to do.

You see, there are essentially two ways to seek out power for yourself:

  1. You can seek it outside of yourself.
  2. You can find it within yourself.

Let me tell you from experience as a person who used to care a lot about what other people thought about me, and had to learn to let go of defining my self-worth in terms of what others think: It is an exhausting and futile way to be in this world if all you do is let other people determine how much agency and self-respect you have.

Your sense of being grounded and unmovable by the fickleness of day-to-day living has to come from a sense of having your own roots growing into the ground. Just like a tree, seriously. The tree’s roots come from itself so it can ground itself and create stability for itself. It doesn’t get roots from other trees, though some trees can gather together and strengthen each other, like palms do. Their roots grow together and create new trees. But the fact remains, each palm tree has its own roots too. You’ve got to build your own roots. Otherwise, you’ll be pushed around by every wind that blows up around you, and you’ll constantly feel unsettled and miserable.

How Power Struggles Screw Up Our Interactions

power 2Where you seek power (from outside or from within) is a key issue in so many power abuses and wrong-headed social interactions that plague our society. Imagine this:

You don’t feel powerful. You believe — because it’s how you have been taught, it’s what you learned on the playground — that your power, prestige, self-respect, confidence all depend on whether others approve of you and interact with you in ways that confirm your power. In this scenario, literally everyone else has some say in how much power you have. People more powerful than you can make or break you by accepting you or rejecting you. People less powerful can bow to your power, confirming your power. Or they can resist, shaming you and forcing you to shame them worse to restore your power.

This explains bullying, mean girls, narcissistic personality disorder, abusive behavior, road rage and so much more, doesn’t it? Even at a young age, kids are doing this to each other on the playground. The boy who is considered the leader can bring another boy into the crowd, giving him social acceptance, or he can declare the other boy the subject of ridicule, and suddenly the other boy is a reject. Other kids follow suit because they don’t want to be outcast too. Girls do this too. Boys do it to boys, and they do it to girls. Girls do it to girls, and they do it to boys. It infuses everything we do as we grow up unless we break the cycle.

What an exhausting way to live. But so many people live that way, because they haven’t learned another way.

So Break the Cycle, for Crying Out Loud

The other option for finding your sense of power is to realize that you exist in this world with a degree of self-agency or strength that comes from within, regardless of what happens outside you. At the least, you get to choose how you will react to what happens. And that means a lot, much more than many people realize.

Consider the a**hole who flips you off as he drives past you, shouting at you even though you haven’t done anything except to not meet his expectations, whatever they are. That guy can ruin your day if you choose to let it. Or you can choose to recognize that his problem is his problem…that he was angry long before he passed you on the road and he’ll be angry long afterwards, and you were simply a convenient target for him to justify continuing to be angry instead of dealing with his anger like a grownup.

In fact, this is essentially what is happening when a women gets a compliment, says thank you (which is polite, yes?), and is then judged or attacked for saying thank you. It’s like a drive-by road rage incident, and had nothing to do with her. Some women understand this, and they just keep trucking along happily, which is the right response. (Though it is definitely tiring to have it happen to you day in and day out.)

When a Compliment Is Not Actually a Compliment

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Great article from a woman’s perspective about learning to say thank you

When you see a man giving a woman a compliment and then taking it back because she agrees with what is being said, it was never actually a compliment to begin with, was it? It was never meant as a genuine expression of admiration and appreciation and respect. Instead, the comment was born out of anger, resentment, jealousy… It was born out of a feeling of powerlessness that the guy is trying to resolve by asking someone to feel more powerless in his presence and to acknowledge that he has more power, even if only a little bit. When that script doesn’t get followed, the rage comes to the surface instead of bubbling below it, because he feels it is being confirmed that he doesn’t have power.

And because the rage comes to the surface and gets expressed, it feels like what it is — a form of abusiveness. Because when you give a compliment to someone only to get a specific reaction from them that meets your needs, not theirs, you’re acting in a way that is clouded by your own distortions of life. You’re thinking about you, not the other person. You want to receive something, and you feel like you have to manipulate someone else to get it. That’s abusive. It’s passive aggressive. People don’t like this, for obvious reasons.

The solution is pretty simple, really. And it applies to both men and women, and to more scenarios than just this issue of accepting and giving compliments:

Learn how to find your sense of power, confidence, strength and respect from within yourself, and how you see yourself, not in how other people see you, speak to you or react to you. You don’t have to wait on anyone else to confirm or deny you are worth something. You you don’t have to agree with them when they tell you that you aren’t worth anything. And you can learn to deal with frustrations without hurting other people.

Oh, I know, I know… I could go on about toxic masculinity, or the patriarchy. I could explain that it’s #notallmen, though it’s certainly a #lotofmen, more than it should be. I could talk about how this problem hurts men as well as women. I could talk about all kinds of things. But ultimately, changes like this have to happen inside each person as they make the decision to stop giving their power over to the reactions and responses of others.

Now imagine this: You say to someone, “Hey I like this thing about you.” And they say, “Yeah, so do I.” And so you say, “Awesome! We have something in common. Let’s keep talking.”

Not a bad alternative, to say the least.

PS. If you like talking or thinking about stuff like this, go listen to Collective Snark’s podcast episode on How to Talk to Girls, and Guys, and Anyone in Between. It’s good stuff.