So I’ve Been Meaning To Ask…

pile of assorted books o

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Do you read? You do? Excellent! I like hanging out with other readers.

I enjoy reading a few different things, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, some steampunk. I wish I could find more solarpunk and climate fiction. There have been characters I remembered long after the book was closed. Over on Twitter today I asked, “What was the first book that made you cry?”

Of course, that got me thinking about the two books that I remember best for making me cry when I was younger. “Old Yeller” and “The Incredible Journey”. I cared about those animals, man, really cared. I can’t stand hearing or reading about an animal suffering, being neglected or abandoned. (Might be why I have a hard time reading Jack London)

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to ask you, which character stands out as most memorable for you, in all that you’ve read? Let me know in the comments below!

Riddle Me This~The Answer

Remember the riddle I posed the other day?

Every day, a man crosses the border on a bicycle with two bags of sand. The border officers get a tip that he is a smuggler. So the customs officers checked his bags carefully, sifting the sand with a fine sieve and found he had only sand. Since they couldn’t find any evidence, they allowed him to cross the border. So, what was the man smuggling?

Did you guess what he was smuggling? Here’s the answer…

forest bike bulls

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Riddle Me This…

man riding bicycle on city street

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Every day, a man crosses the border on a bicycle with two bags of sand. The border officers get a tip that he is a smuggler. So the customs officers checked his bags carefully, sifting the sand with a fine sieve and found he had only sand. Since they couldn’t find any evidence, they allowed him to cross the border. So, what was the man smuggling?

Drop your guesses in the comments below and I’ll pop back tomorrow with the answer. Good luck!

The Ambassador

(This is an excerpt from a larger work in progress.)

When I went downstairs with a load of laundry, the last thing I expected to find was a dragon with a book between it’s front feet. It was startling to say the least.

“Listen, do you think you could fix that door so it doesn’t squeal so much?” The dragon asked in a rumbling voice.

“Um, sure.” I replied eloquently as I stood and gawked.

“What are you staring for?” It asked me before gesturing to the piles of boxes marked ‘books’. “You have all this knowledge on my kind, I would think you’d be thrilled to see me.”

“I never expected to actually meet one of you, let alone have a conversation with you.” I stammered. “I’m…”

“I know who you are,” he interrupted me in a deep voice. “I’ve been down here long enough that I know all about you.”

“Why have I never seen you before today?” I asked.

“I didn’t want you to.” He replied. “Your clothes won’t get clean if you stand there holding them. But leave the door open, will you? It hurts my ears every time you open and close it. My name is Barroth.” He said as I stood there a moment longer. He was a classic example of a western dragon. He was the size of a large SUV, with back ridges, large head, dark red scales and a long tail. He was laying on the floor with a book clasped in the claws of his front feet.

I finally remembered my manners. “I’m honored to meet you, Barroth.” I gestured toward the washing machine. “Will that bother you?”

“No, it’s just the door, really.”

With some difficulty, I turned away from him and loaded the machine, added detergent and gently closed the lid.

“You must have questions.” He said from the other side of the room.

“Quite a few in fact, but I didn’t want to be rude.” I turned toward him and leaned on the washing machine.

“I suppose I can answer a few.”

“Obviously this is a bit of a shock to me, but I’m thrilled to find you. I thought the only living things down here were rodents.” A shudder raced through me.

“You don’t like them?”

“They terrify me.” I admitted.

“But you’re fine with talking to a large fire-breathing creature.” There was an undercurrent of humor in his statement.

“Yeah, ironic, I know. Can I ask, why my basement?”

“At first, when I was smaller, I needed shelter and the door had been left open. I got bored waiting for the storm to pass and started reading. Long after the storm moved on, I stayed. I read, ate the occasional rodent and got to know you. You intrigued me. I’ve decided you’ll do.”

“For?”

“An ambassador, of course.”

To Be Continued!

(As I said, this is but an excerpt. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it! You can either leave a comment here or email me at dragonquillca@gmail.com)

On Being A God

Building a world is a lot like being a God, or Goddess. You create a world, albeit in your mind or perhaps on paper, assign it laws and rules, populate it and then in true God-like fashion, create havoc and mayhem for the inhabitants.

Now, you might think world building is only for authors of science-fiction or fantasy realms, but as Aretha Franklin sang, that ain’t necessarily so.

Mystery, thriller and romance authors all have to create their own specific worlds too. I suppose all authors do. But for our discussion today, I’m focusing mainly on mystery authors.

Consider the novel, “In The Dark” by Loreth Ann White. The remote setting where most of the novel takes place not only adds atmosphere but becomes almost a character itself. The reader, pulled along by deft pacing, almost doesn’t notice this at all. The author has built a place, a mini-world, really, where the crimes take place and are more horrifying because the characters involved are cut off from the rest of the world. Who is killing them? Another character? The weather? The land? If this mystery were set anywhere else, the story would be lessened, as would the impact on the reader. So setting was key for this novel.

Murder, art theft, extortion – these crimes can happen anywhere. But often, place does dictate the type of crime that can occur. As an example, an author, no matter how skilled they are, would be hard pressed to write about a car theft ring if the setting of choice is a cruise ship. But if we take my mystery, “Body In The Bush”, set in Sitka Cove, it is the perfect setting for a mystery steeped in code, resentment and secrets. In this case, place does influence crime, the people who live in Sitka Cove and how they interact with each other.

Once an author has built their world, they have to populate it. People, even ones that live only in a writer’s mind, are not perfect and happy all the time. They resent their sister for being taller or better looking and getting all the attention when they were growing up. They’re jealous that their cousin won the lottery, they want the diamond that their drinking buddy found in the river, and when they find out their spouse has been keeping secrets…Hell hath no fury like theirs. Murders have been committed for far less than diamonds. Remember why Smeagol killed his cousin? He wanted the Ring of Power, although he had no idea at the time exactly what it was. He just knew it was shiny and precious, and he wanted it. His cousin didn’t want to give it up, so Smeagol killed him for it, took it and started down the long road to become Gollum. Greed and jealousy, plain and simple. But I’ll talk about motive another day. Suffice it to say that perfect people don’t, and should not, exist in fiction. No matter where the author-God chooses to let them live.

So now that an author has a place of their creation, their world if you like, and they have people populating their world, they can take their story in any direction they choose, dictated only by their genre and their imagination. One of the many reasons fan-fiction is popular among budding authors because their fandoms already have a world defined for them, all they have to do is re-write the circumstances they want their favourite characters to experience. Less God-like powers required, more time for the fun stuff. 

Where is your favourite book set? Is it a fictional place or a real one, modified and populated by characters of the author’s design?

Female Husbands

I’ve been intrigued lately by the story of Anne Lister, aka Gentleman Jack, an English landowner and diarist from West Yorkshire that lived from 1791-1870. She had a fascinating life. So when I came across a review of a book called “Female Husbands: A Trans History“, I was captivated and curious. It’s an intriguing review, given more bones by an interview with its author, Jen Manion.

In the interview, Manion talks about the research they did for the book, and how female husbands seemed to historically be common labourers, but bound by “whiteness”. Not at all what I expected! The author also describes how the fight for women’s equality was interlinked with the rise of female husbands, and how they were seen socially. It is a fascinating, but brief, interview, and I highly and enthusiastically recommend that you read it. Even if only to expand your horizons and understanding of your fellow “Man”. After all, we all need to understand one another better.

If you’ve already read the book, please chime in and let me know what you thought of it. Was it as interesting the review and interview make it seem?