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Fantasy and world building, the balance of imagination

Shot of a futuristic young woman.
Fantasy can stretch your mind and enhance your future.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” 

                                                                                 —Albert Einstein

When is the last time someone accused you of having your head in the clouds? Did you thank them? Chances are they weren’t meaning to  be complimentary and that is unfortunate. It says more about them than you. Chances are they weren’t big fans of the imagination, daydreams, fantasy or invisible friends. Go figure.

Albert Einstein was also a daydreamer and he did all right by us. Other great imaginers include: Carl Sagan, Dr. Seuss, Julius Ceasar, Frank Lloyd Wright, Marc Chagall, Immanuel Kant, Michelangelo, Muhammad Ali. No surprise that you find artists and writers valuing imagination but military leaders, philosophers and athletes? Not at first blush.

Imagination is the mother of fantasy as necessity is the mother of invention. Fantasy is how we escape when reality is too tedious, demanding or overwhelming.  Perhaps escape is too final a solution, say we hold reality at bay with judicious infusions of fantasy. When we step into a fantasy, the stranger the better, we observe situations that are outside the realm of our possibilities (for the moment) and are able to try on how we would behave in new situations. We can visualize and plan, we can step outside ourselves and act through the behavior of heroes and heroines because who knows when we will be asked to step up and assume a heroic undertaking. And if we never are, how else will we know how it feels?

Aladdin magic lamp east design for wish fulfillment
Aladdin’s magic lamp imagining the path to  wish fulfillment

“Everything you can imagine is real.”

—Pablo Picasso

When you escape into fantasy you allow your mind to take a break and regroup, imagine an alternative or grow in understanding. I know when I’m not feeding my imagination. My energy is just one casualty, but the first thing to go is my empathy. When I am stressed, with too much to do I become a shriveled version of myself.

There is a difference between stressing out by stretching yourself too thin and engaging in too many creative projects. Yes, even a good thing can be overwhelming. But I notice that the stress creeps in when I quit trying to discover or play with my project and get caught up in the end result. If someone likes it before it is done it is the kiss of death. I become paralyzed with trying to figure out how to keep their admiration instead of going where the project leads. I need to create alone or at least I need to create without input. Until I reach a final stage. That comes when I’ve pushed as far as I can and am ready to see it from a new perspective. I guess it is all a matter of timing.

“People who lean on logic and philosophy and rational exposition end by starving the best part of the mind.”

—William Butler Yeats

I don’t know of anyone who can pull from an unending pool of creativity without feeding that space with day dreams and “useless” speculation. Inspiration is the reward of feeding your creative place. It is the spontaneous vista at the peak of the endless and rocky mountain path. It shines, it glows, it lets you see things that are hidden by your daily routine. One of the most enjoyable ways of investing in my creative capital is by reading a good fantasy. And it is exactly when I don’t have  time that I need fantasy the most. Because fantasy is really about perspective. It is a balance to the way we see the world  breaking our preconceived ideas and offering a new way to perceive.

“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”

—Antoine de Saint-Exupery




Fantasy is the root system that feeds the tree of  knowledge.


Read more great quotations about imagination at: brainy quotes

Sounds like…

Pulse Wave Background Original Vector Illustration
Pulse Wave Background
Original Vector Illustration

What do you hear?

Sonar (stands for SOund Navigation And Ranging) is a technique that uses sound propagation usually underwater. Submarines for navigation, to communicate with, or to locate other vessels. The force of some sonar systems, depending on the decibels produced, and the distance they  travel, can impact marine life. Low frequency sonar can travel hundreds of miles through water, at significant intensities.

Consider other effects of sound:

  • Sound causes damage to rocket engines; the reason for the flood of water under the space shuttle is to absorb the sound vibration from liftoff.
  • Sound has been considered as a source of cold fusion in heavy water.
  • Sound is used to atomize fuel in burners.
  • Sound is used to break up gallstones.
  • Sound is used for geological surveys and sonar.
  • Sound recordings have been used as a weapon to confuse the enemy soldiers in battle,  and as a means of torture.

There are Sonic and ultrasonic weapons. The acronym for these weapons is USW. These devices use sound to injure, paralyze, or kill an enemy.

Electromagnetic waves, like those used in radio waves, microwaves, infra-red light, and all  visible light, and including invisible ultra-violet light, as well as x-rays, and gamma rays, appear to be very different. In fact, they’re all made of vibrations, but move at different frequencies.

Researchers have found that low frequency sonar exposure could result in hypothermia, and tissue shearing. Damage increases rapidly as intensity is increased.

Noise can be used to cause neurologic breakdown in humans when they are exposed to continuous low frequency tones for periods longer than fifteen minutes. They have resulted in immediate and long-term problems. The symptoms resemble those of individuals who have suffered minor head injuries. One theory is that the prolonged sound exposure results in enough strain to brain tissue to induce an swelling of the brain tissue.

Some sonic weapons are currently in limited use by the military and selected police forces.

Weapons such as sonic bullets, sonic grenades, sonic mines, or sonic cannons have been tested as focused beams of sound or ultrasound; some create a field of sound. Many real sonic and ultrasonic weapons are described as non-fatal,though they can still kill under certain conditions.

Some researchers have observed Dolphins emitting boom and clicks that stun or kill their prey.

Two types of technology are referred to as “sonar”: passive sonar listens for the sounds made by ships; active sonar is used for signals of  pulses of sounds and listens for echoes.

The use of sound to echo locate underwater is the same system that bats use for aerial navigation.

An English meteorologist named Lewis Richardson filed the world’s first patent for an underwater echo ranging device. The mechanism was filed at the British Patent Office  a month after the sinking of the Titanic.


Strombolian eruption at volcano Stromboli in Italy
Strombolian eruption at volcano Stromboli in Italy. A small eruption compared to the sonic destruction released by Krakatoa.

When the volcanic island of Krakatoa near Indonesia erupted in 1883, it was one of the worst geologic disasters of modern times.

It was the loudest sound ever made since mankind started noting such things.

It is reported that the police chief on Rodriguez Island heard it clearly, ‘like a cannonade of naval gunfire’. At the time he was 4,776 km away.

It was like people in London hearing, with perfect clarity, an explosion in Baltimore, or Khartoum.

Bell used during buddhist prayers
Bell used during buddhist prayers. Certain sounds, even at low decibels are able to influence our well being.

I make extensive use of the powers of sound in The Fae Wars – Grace Notes.

When Lunabel is entangled with Pirouette and ‘gifted’ with absolute pitch and perfect echoic recall she was also given a form of protection from the effects of sonic impact to her physiology.

You say soul, I say F’ma…

A beautiful old traditional wooden printing press used to mass produce books in ancient times
A beautiful old traditional wooden printing press used to mass produce books in ancient times

Writing about concepts in a fictional way can be tough. You are  trying to fit abstract themes into a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. And that story needs to be interesting. And you can’t talk too much about the idea. You can’t hold forth about death or courage or striving to do the right thing directly. Your concept must be in the context of characters being themselves.

When you are dealing with humanoid species who are rather obscure (ahem) you have the secondary problem of making them real, different from human, but real so that any humans reading the book can identify with the characters. Sometimes you have to resort to making up words to refer to the culture. Not that there isn’t a precedent for that. Chortling and galumphing, two favorite words, are from the “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll.

So, in that fine tradition of making up words that represent something unique to my vision, I wanted to express the idea of the wholeness of a cognoscente, conscious being: body, mind, soul and the capacity to love, all in one word. But there was no word that came to mind. So I made one up.

The word came to me and afterwards I realized I had based it on a real word that didn’t quite cover my concept but instead described my striving to find that word. The word I came up with was F’ma and the word that suggested it was Ephemeral. Yeah, that’s what you get when you have a twisted mind.

So then I started collecting words that we substitute for ideas that don’t have an apt descriptor. Slang comes to mind. Defined as an informal word or phrase and synonymous to patois, argot, cant or jargon. I appreciate slang. One century’s slang is will often become the next century’s King’s English.

I found some sweet sites that cover quite a range of slang. If you are a writer you may be looking for one of these, if you aren’t you might be using some of these words, cause everyone’s a creative soul at heart (at heart meaning that F’meral place inside all of us).

grunge mist pirate ship in ocean

The Online Slang Dictionary is up to date and easy to navigate with over 17,000 slang words defined in 24,000 definitions. Even slang can have more than one meaning. Like bye, Felicia…Who knew?

And if you speak the King’s English or should that be the Queen’s English you might want to check out The Dictionary of Slang from the UK, I know there are many words I had no connection with before finding this site. Very cool, mahusive.

Going back a bit, here is a site for Elizabethan slang, Bene.

How about pirate phrases? Or cowboy talk?

And if you are interest in words that are made up that have become mainstream try this.

One of the criteria used as a standard for separating animals from mankind is the ability to make and use tools. Words are tools after all, we create them as we need them. By the way there are quite a few animals who create and use tools too. We’d be able to understand them  if we could just remember how to speak Commonsong…

Common song: the first language understood by all creatures. 

Javelin: a sharp, lethal weapon


Javelin, Jelly’s story.

Javelin, book three in the Sanctuary series, is like all of the series, pure fantasy. The best part of writing fantasy is that you get to make things up. You get to play god in creating situations that could be, better yet, the way they should be and then you get to put characters you care about into those worlds and see what they do.

A writer’s attachment to their work should come from the investment they have in the ideas that work represents and from the affection/disgust they feel towards the characters living in that work.

The characters  live. If they don’t why read the book? There should be a point in a good book where the reader steps into the world and lives inside the head of at least one character. I know there are  books written without a single sympathetic entity included. I won’t invest  more than reading 25% of a book if I can’t find someone to” love”. The character may be flawed (all the better) beaten up like an old stuffed frog, but if there is a shred of something I can identify with, I’ll keep reading.

Writing a book is a series of choices. Every word is a choice, set in place like stones in the walls of places like Machu Pichu. No cement, no masonry, just precision and tension. Sound like a good book? It does to me. The plot should undulate like the earthquakes that shake and wiggle the high places and the words should be able to withstand the pressure. Ok, enough metaphor.

Machu picchu temple of the sun inside

Machu Picchu is over 560 years old. The walls were built without mortar, like a good book, built to stand the changes of time.

Words often get in the way. For me, there are times when I want to shape the story with my hands not my words. I want to paint the faces, show a movie of the actions and create a scent that would expose the motivations of the characters. I want to make it real.

I’m blessed and cursed. I can draw and paint but not with the skill I need communicate at the level I desire. I can write but I struggle with the same limitations. When one reader tells me that they get the character or the story, it means that the magic moment of connection has been achieved. Writing, like most things creative, is lonely, often a singular journey. The difference is the reader.

In Javelin the third book in the Sanctuary series the main characters are surrounded by walls of their own making. In self defense they keep others at a distance. The theme is that love conquers all, even broken hearts. Sound a little different from what you expect from high fantasy, well all fiction is fantasy. This series tells the old stories through the minds and actions of species nonhuman and human, characters ultimately not afraid to open their minds or hearts.

If you like to wonder what if, wander in Sanctuary for a while.

Overview: Javelin—Jelly Jones’ story. Follow the coming of age of Lunabel’s best friend. Jelly has the warrior spirit of of an Amazon princess and a heart that knows no gear for retreat.


I’m Having Fun, Yet…

Fantasy, folklore, magic, FAE, epic battle, sweet romance
New title ready for first readers

I have been having fun. I’m in an especially productive place in the past month. Perhaps it is more accurate to say I’ve been very, very busy, you might even compare me to an insomniac on speed. Except I’m not on speed. I have an official diagnosis about the sleep issues, though it’s taken forty years for the official word to come down, but then apnea is much more au courant, so maybe insomnia is out of style.

But the side effect of missing hours of sleep is a bounding energy to create, to make, to play and to find sanctuary. There are times of mind numbing fatigue and as soon as I can’t keep my eyes open I stagger to whatever horizontal surface I can find, if I can, in the meantime I make stuff. Creating distracts me from the dizzying bounce of ideas.

So, at least I’ve fed my inner child if I haven’t racked up any z-time. I’m slogging away on the last first draft in the first four titles in the Sanctuary series. Sadly, I haven’t spent all of that extra time slogging at the keyboard but one of the reasons it takes me so long to finish a novel is that, like my brain, the books tend to spread across many platforms, interests and genres—takes a lot of cat herding to get the ideas to line up. Herding cats or holding a goat rodeo, it’s all the same when I try to tell the story. In the end the long way seems to work. I hope. And yes, I do work with an outline, character bibles, series bible, and then lots and lots of spontaneous serendipity.

So, I’ve got four paintings that I’m working on and several more ready to go; I’m finishing the insulated shades for Jessi’s work station so she can keep writing in the afternoon when the sun cracks off the bay tending to blind one and heating the room to the roasting point. We do most of our work together at that time, as I work otherwhere in the mornings, and she tends to try and sleep at night. Sometimes I meet her haunting the house at the wee hours and we sit and have a little tea and coffee, off duty but usually discussing books, what we’re reading or what we’re writing.

Hannah’s Garden the project I started last year, the one that rapidly pulled in the rest of the family (some more enthusiastically than others) is coming along, though I need to work my pick ax a bit more. I’m installing a DIY watering system using plastic liter bottles rather than sprinklers. I found it on Pinterest and before you laugh I can tell you that it is recommended by the Iowa University Department of Agriculture.  I finished the first course in my Professional Editing Sequence and I’m eagerly (kind of) waiting to see my final grade. I’ve agreed to manage a book project from beginning to end for an outside writer (outside Mess Of Geckos) and I’m pushing my Pinterest followers toward the 1000 mark, for purposes of promotions only. Ah-hem.

I’ll take pictures of the painting, they’ll be done in the next few nights, unless morpheus decides to drop by. Until tomorrow, I’m Sleepless in San Francisco… If you’re sleepless let me know I have a few manuscripts that need a first read. I shouldn’t be the only  one having fun.


The secret interview

This blog will be an imaginary conversation with the main character in my Sanctuary series. It is a way for me to learn about these characters and hopefully for you too.

LUnabel for pub

I’m here with Lunabel O’Hara, who has agreed to give us a short interview. Lunabel, you are a girl with a secret and a mission. Can be say your mission is secret too, Lunabel?

“What makes you think that? What you see is what you get. I’m an open book.”

I happen to know that you excel in keeping one secret. Tell us what event first took you in that direction. What made you decide to go undercover. (She is looking at me, deciding whether to respond or not).

“Your not real, right? So anything I tell you will be just between us? Am I crazy talking to a figment of my imagination?”

Well, I can’t promise that. But I can guarantee that your secret is safe with me and if someone reveals it in your world it won’t be me.

“I’m going to trust you, I have to trust someone. And since you don’t really exist I can talk to you. The first time I decided it wasn’t safe to be myself was at a very early age. I was three, as a matter of fact. I was in the living room of my parents house with my older sister Myra.”

Myra, your mother’s ‘little me’? She grins and a wicked twinkle in her eye changes her whole demeanor. She chuckles. It is a tripping sound like  a fox hopping  over snow, or petals falling in the breeze of autumn.

“Yeah, Myra used to be a pain. Well what happened is … I was humming and the floor started buzzing. My grandma’s brass plates started to rattle a bit. Myra freaked. She yelled for Mom. Mom ran into the room. I was transfixed by the motes in the air and how I could make them dance when I sang. So I hummed, laughed and hummed some more. Then I must have been particularly impressed by a shaft of light and all the motes to make merry with because I shrieked and blew out every window in the living room.

Long story short, Mom called me freak, Dad rescued me again and I learned that if I were going to make more love me, or at least be in the same room with me I better practice sound on my own time.

I have echoic hearing, which means I remember everything I hear forever and my voice has a range that goes higher and lower than the record holder in the Guinness book of records.

So, yeah, I have a secret. Secret is the only way I can get by and I don’t intend to give it up unless I have no choice. Mom is happier not knowing that I never outgrew my little peculiarity, and I’m in no hurry to relay the information to her.

Things would have gone along as usual if it hadn’t been for the storm and the disappearance of the faery . . .

Well we’ve run out of time, Lunabel thank you for stopping by. I promise I won’t share a word with your mother or anyone in your hometown. Thornhill is almost impossible to find and I know that makes the other secrets your keeping even more secure.

I don’t know what you’re talking about. Even the people in my head won’t leave me alone . . .