Oct 18, 2011

Writing Topic: Inventing Words

Every week, one of the writing mailing lists I belong to has a discussion topic. I often respond to the list, so I figured, why not post about it to my blog?  Today's topic is about inventing words.   Most fiction writers invent names for people or places, and most SF/F (science fiction/fantasy) writers also invent jargon or slang for their world.  Famous examples include Quidditch, Jedi knights, Unobtainium, grok, Cthulhu, and elves.

It seems to me that a lot of contemporary writers, particularly in SF, overdo the futuristic jargon and slang, which makes it hard for a new reader to get through.  The universe in which my novels take place is ruled by mind readers, who have no use for slang.  Their jargon is utilitarian rather than slang-like.
  • Hoverchair = a floating chair. 
  • Transport = a flying car. 
  • Adaptive skin = photo-sensor cells that can be programmed to imitate a realistic view, or approximate invisibility. 
  • Plasmic polymer = a super strong and flexible building material. 
They use holograms, antimatter, nuclear weapons, FTL engines, and so forth, but I saw no need to invent new words for things we already have words for.  Other than the aforementioned tech gadgets, and aside from names for people or places (Torth are mind readers), I've only invented two words for use in my Torth series.  A Yeresunsa is someone with powers that go beyond mind reading. I didn't want to use Jedi, wizard, warlock, sorcerer, etc, which come with preconceived notions. The etymology of this word has a history in my series.  And Guaht is someone who only judges him/herself and never judges anyone else. In my Torth series, this can be the equivalent of being a saint, although only some people follow the Code of Guaht (which is akin to a philosophic religion, a la Buddhism).

Oct 10, 2011

Query Letter take 2

Dear [insert ideal literary agent],

Thomas has always felt like an alien, too brilliant for his youthful age. When alien mind readers snatch Thomas and four of his acquaintances from their mundane lives on Earth, he learns of his otherworldly heritage, and seizes a chance to join the mighty Torth Empire. The only catch is that Thomas must abandon his human friends to brutal slavery.

While Thomas navigates a world full of technological marvels, the four humans survive in an alien slave ghetto. They can't escape from a city thick with mind readers. When one of the humans is marked for execution, they realize that time is short. Unless Thomas can remember his human loyalties, they must escape on their own . . . which means they must rescue Thomas from the monster he is becoming.

CITY OF SLAVES is complete at 105,000 words ... blah, blah, blah. How does it sound?

Oct 9, 2011

Query Letter for "City of Slaves"

Dear [insert an ideal LITERARY AGENT],

Thomas has always felt like an outsider, too brilliant for his youthful age, victimized by adults and unable to relate to other kids.  His handful of friends are all older than himself, teenagers and adults who also suffer as social outcasts.  But Thomas has a brighter future.  If he agrees to join the Torth Empire, he will win acceptance among the powerful mind readers who rule the known universe.  The only catch is that Thomas must abandon his human friends to slavery and death.

While Thomas navigates a world full of technological marvels, his friends survive in a brutal alien slave ghetto.  Their only hope for long-term survival is escape . . . but in city full of emotionless mind readers, secret plans are impossible.  Their slim hope hinges on Thomas.  If Thomas can't remember his human ethics in time, then his friends must rescue him from the monster he is becoming.

CITY OF SLAVES is complete at 105,000 words, the first in a dark science fiction novel series that explores what it means to be human.  I've completed three sequels, following Thomas and his friends as they lead a slave rebellion against the Torth Empire.  My writing credentials include stories and articles in Fantasy Magazine, Escape Pod, The Internet Review of Science Fiction, and other publications.  I'm a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop and a member of Codex.

So that's my latest query letter.  I know I can tear it apart endlessly and always find flaws, but do you see anything that really turns you off?

I'll start contacting literary agents and editors this coming week. Possibly as soon as Tuesday.  Yikes!  This is a special kind of scary.

Oct 2, 2011

Deer in the neighborhood

Packs of deer rove around my new neighborhood, and they have no fear of people or dogs.  Unfortunately, my dog wants to chase them, and she doesn't seem aware that they're bigger than her.
A few times, I've encountered does and fawns.  The does get protective and act as if they're going to charge at my dog, pawing the ground and grunting.  The fawns frolick and try to get my dog to chase them.  I have to drag her away.  I've also seen stags with antlers, but they tend to be solitary and not as confrontational.

Here's Saphira relaxing in her guard dog pose.  She likes to hang out on the patio or near doorways, facing outward to ward off the forces of evil.