Weekly Roundup: Gladstone Shifters Part 1 – Creating Their World

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

My children were strongly encouraged to read when they were young and used to make frequent visits to the library to load up on books. Somewhere in the ‘90’s they started bringing home the Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate, and since the idea intrigued me, I began reading them too. An Animorph is a person who can absorb the DNA of any animal by touch, and thereby be able to morph into that animal. The early books were very imaginative and fun, and my boys and I had a great time talking about the stories.

That long-ago introduction to what is now generally called “shifters” was reawakened when I received a Kindle Fire tablet as a gift and started to search for something to read. Some of those shifter books were wonderful, while others were just plain silly or of poor quality. After I began writing, it was a foregone conclusion I would create a shifter story of my own. The first decision was what type of shifter, as there were many to choose from including wolves, bears, dragons, birds, cats, foxes, etc.

As I recall, most of the books I read were about wolves and I was annoyed by some of the ridiculous plots and nonsensical abilities given to the characters. By this time I knew I wanted to write about wolf shifters, and that it would be a gay romance, but I also wanted to correct some of the deficiencies I’d seen in so many other books. To do that, I had to establish the ground rules of what wolf shifters were, how they lived, and what unique abilities they possessed. Re-inventing the wheel wasn’t necessary, but the tires definitely needed some new tread!

As a first step, I created a list entitled “Common Traits for Wolf Shifters in Current Literature” and then noted after each one whether I wanted to keep it or change it.

Here are some examples of traits I kept:

  • Enhanced senses (hearing, smell).
  • Hidden from the human population.
  • Physically superior (stronger, faster, healthier).
  • Can control when they shift.
  • Live in packs.
  • Well-endowed, usually horny, love sex.

Here are some traits I decided to change:

  • Born in human form/shift at puberty – can be born in either form and start shifting after being weaned.
  • Fast healing – unnecessary, as a shift re-sets the original DNA, thus repairing any injury.
  • Super long life span – all live about one hundred years, with one exception (see below).
  • Some males can bear children – no, with one exception.
  • One true fated mate – no, but Luna (the moon) matches up mates.
  • “Werewolf” and silver – werewolves are Hollywood nonsense and silver has no effect.

I found most of these traits to be quite fluid, varying from author to author, so I kept the ones I liked and changed the others to form a more consistent and logical set of rules. Naturally, I added a number of new things to my shifter world, not found anywhere else.

  • In addition to Alpha, Beta, and Omega, I added a new class of shifters called Delta’s. They exist to serve or guide the packs, filling roles such as doctors, historians, ambassadors, counselors, lawyers, politicians, and judges.
  • One very special type of Delta is a True Elder. True Elders are longer-lived (about two hundred years) and gifted with tremendous memory and recall. These specialized historians are charged with collecting and teaching shifter history, customs, and wisdom. Only a few are born each generation.
  • Luna – the mysterious moon force which guides all shifters. The moon is prominently featured in most shifter stories but other than being howled at, doesn’t seem to do much of anything. In my world, Luna has more direct influence on shifter life via True Elders, the use of dreams/visions, and the selection of mates. It is not a deity per se, but all shifters acknowledge its power and can physically feel it (especially during full moons).
  • Because I wanted same sex couples to have families, I created ways for it to happen. Luna is directly involved in the conception/mating/bonding process for Change Mates, Honor Mates, and Triad Mates. (If you want to know more, you’ll have to read the books!)

A very basic premise which influenced some of the changes I made had to do with keeping shifters hidden from the human world around them. Their history, customs, and way of life, (explained in Expectant Moon), needed to fit the whole idea of a secret existence under the noses of an unsuspecting human population. You still need to stretch your imagination to make it all work, but I like to think I’ve made it much more logical and almost possible. This delicate dance is seen throughout the story line in both books, and maintains a mysterious tension, adding spice to the “what if it were real?” vibe.

Next week, I want to dive into the writing of Expectant Moon, the first book in the Gladstone Shifters series!

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Current manuscript – I am agonizingly close to finishing Traitor’s Moon! I ran into another issue which needed to be fixed, hence the delay. IF, and I say again, IF life doesn’t get in the way, the book should be complete and in the hands of my initial beta readers by this weekend. Cross your fingers, toes, arms, legs, and eyes (and hold your breath too). I want to get this thing done!

WEEKLY ROUNDUP 10-17-18 May I quote you?

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

This week I want to share a mix of wonderful book quotes:

  • “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx
  • “The library is inhabited by spirits that come out of the pages at night.” Isabel Allende
  • “You cannot open a book without learning something.” Confucius
  • “The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones.” Joseph Joubert
  • “Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.” G.K. Chesterton
  • “Why can’t people just sit and read books and be nice to each other?” David Baldacci
  • “A book is a dream that you hold in your hands.” Neil Gaiman
  • “In books I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own.” Anna Quindlen
  • “Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.” Christopher Hitchens
  • “A book is a gift you can open again and again.” Garrison Keillor

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Traitor’s Moon – I’m deep into chapter 10! Two of the minor characters have been brought together as mates and were named after my parents. If they were still alive they would not be amused! I didn’t do it on purpose…it just happened that way – really! Anyway, I’m unpacking the story box at a faster pace, revealing jewels which had to wait their turn. I’m not sure if I get more pleasure from revealing it to myself or to my readers. Word count stands at 80,000+.

My graphic artist is busy working on the cover for Traitor’s Moon! I love seeing the book come to life visually this way. In fact, she is creating covers for the series, which means Expectant Moon will get a new one too. I may give you a preview but will definitely reveal it when Traitor’s Moon is released. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Weekly Roundup 9-5-18 Name That Character!

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Don’t be fooled – naming characters is more difficult than it would seem. Well, I think it should be if you’re doing it right.

Some authors insist on choosing unfortunate, distracting, or uncomplimentary names for their characters, making the story difficult to read or enjoy. You know the ones I mean:

  • a modern-day protagonist with a nineteenth century moniker such as Gladys or Herbert.
  • a sci-fi hero in the far future with a three-part name only a linguist can figure out.
  • a fantasy epic requiring a pronunciation guide for the MC’s (which, I am sorry to say, seldom helps).

I have my own set of “rules” for creating character names which takes additional time, but I believe it’s worth it. The main idea is to make them easy to pronounce, fit the time and place of the story, and match the character’s personality. The last thing I want to do is cause a reader to take a pass on the book because they can’t get past my attempt to be “creative”, cute, or mysterious.

If you think I’m simply being lazy, you may be right! For me, reading serves as entertainment, so I tend to reject books which force me to work hard to understand them – and that includes character names. I suppose I’m missing out on some great literature by being so picky, but life is short and my brain cells deserve a rest when I’m reading.

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This week has been strange as I began saying goodbye to co-workers and cut ties in preparation for my move. I will miss some people of course, but not the job, company, state, or city! I’ve been here almost four years but knew all along it would be temporary. I’m more than ready to get out of Dodge and start fresh in a new place. Moving is a pain, but being closer to my kids makes it worth the trouble.

I finished a crucial chapter of Traitor’s Moon and will spend today editing. It turned out differently than I planned, but I’m very pleased with it. The next chapter features a shifter memorial service, requiring a careful blend of human and paranormal elements to make it convincing. I look forward to the challenge! Word count is now 64,000.

My third grandchild was due on September first, and we are still waiting. The Doctor says everything is fine and my daughter-in-law is feeling good, but tired. Sadly for me, they live 1300 miles away (though the move will bring me 800 miles closer), so I have no idea when I will see the little one. Perhaps next week I’ll have good news to share!

 

Weekly Roundup 8-8-18 Defining Science Fiction – Does it really matter?

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Apparently I missed the memo. There is a long-standing argument going on regarding the true meaning of the term Science Fiction. Really? Is there any good reason to be concerned?

A read an article this week which seeks to parse out the true definition of the term and its competitors. Science Fiction vs. Hard Science Fiction vs. SciFi vs. SF vs. Speculative Fiction vs. Fantasy. Whew! I had no idea the concept was so complicated, but only because we’ve made it so ourselves.

I have some sympathy for the Hard Science Fiction argument, which is defined as stories based on actual science and theory. OK, but that certainly narrows the pool of qualified authors for novels of this genre, unless you happen to be a physicist or expert in quantum mechanics. In addition, it severely limits the type and content of stories, leaving us with limited (and rather boring) possibilities.

Let’s face it – our current scientific understanding does not allow for cool elements such as interstellar travel, shields, fancy weapons, teleportation, terraforming, visits to alien worlds, and all those other fun things Science Fiction is known for. If readers turn up their noses because a book isn’t labeled “correctly”, they cheat themselves out of a lot of wonderful imaginative fiction. Life is too short to be worrying about stuff like this.

I have no problem designating my books as Science Fiction, but if you want to call them SciFi, SF, speculative fiction or fantasy, feel free. I say forget the labels, hop on board, and boldly go where no one has gone before!

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  • Current manuscript – Traitor’s Moon is now in chapter six and I’m on the threshold of some really great action and drama! I can’t wait to see how it all turns out and then share it with my readers. Word count is 42,400+.
  • I heard about some family upset this week involving an unfortunate Facebook post by someone who should have known better. If you insist on sharing your views, make sure you aren’t offending the people closest to you. The whole world doesn’t need to know your opinion on every subject.
  • The move is getting closer each day and I will have to start using my writing time to pack and plan. Bummer! Originally, I was to move at the end of this month, but the Labor Day holiday got in the way and now it won’t happen until the end of September. If I could quit my job now and write all day, the book would be finished by then. (Hmmm…clearly an example of speculative fiction…)
  • August 14 marks my one-year anniversary as a published author! More on that next week.