Archive | November, 2013

NaNoWriMo, Interrupted

24 Nov

Life is what happens when one is making other plans, or so the saying goes.

Due to unforeseen circumstances (proving yet again I am not psychic), I had to quickly find a job. Fortunately, has a fulfillment center nearby which needs bodies for seasonal positions. Win-win.

Anyway, I am now working overnights. Between the physical demands of a warehouse job and normal family stuff, I have no energy left for writing. I refuse to feel guilty for this. Life happens.

I’ve written 32,000 words of the Baroness’ life, and I will come back to her. She has taken on a life and nobility that compels me. Once I have more than three free brain cells at a time.



To be continued….after Christmas….



The Imperials, a species overview

20 Nov


The Imperial’s home planet, First Egg, is the second planet in the system from the sun, 125 million km out. It has a 23-hour day and a 278-day year. It is moonless.

The dominant life form is insect-like in organization: matriarchal like ants or bees. Their lower six legs are hinged like crickets, or grasshoppers. They lay eggs. Their biology is more similar to that of lizards than to that of insects. [Note: Imperials are aliens, so any Earth analogy will be at best approximate.]     The empire/feudal state that they stagnated in for thousands of years was a natural result of their biology.

Their civilization is called the Imperium, so its citizens are called Imperials in translation. They believe deeply in honor — honor through battle and through pushing back frontiers (physical, science, knowledge, art). Imperials are given a one syllable name at hatching. A second syllable is granted when they morph from nymph to plebe. At sexual maturity, adults begin producing pheromones. Each individual’s pheromone has a distinctive overlay, like a fingerprint. Adults are given new names based on the images suggested by their pheromone overlay.

They can regulate body temperature to a certain degree because they possess three sets of lungs and three hearts. Thus, they can hold and warm air. Warmth helps digestion, so they often wear warming vests to help with digestion when working, fighting, or traveling. They are predators, but also omnivores (like humans and ants). They have no nudity taboos.

Imperials have electrical sense receptors in their triple-hinged mouths. In water or on land, an Imperial will stretch his/her/zher mouth wide and “sample” the water/air for electrical impulses. The pheromone receptors are mixed in with the electro-receptors (in an arrangement similar to the rods and cones in human eyes).

Imperials pass through three life stages: nymph, plebe, and adult. They have three genders: male, female, and neuter.

Males are hampered somewhat by their genetics. They are often overcome by a killing rage when queen, eggs, or nymphs are threatened. Traditionally they were foot soldiers, bodyguards, and caregivers for the young, hurt, sick, and aged. As a part of caring for the young, they held most of the teaching positions. Historically, males were not believed to be as intelligent as females and so were not given positions of higher responsibility.

Females require interruptible careers for egg laying. They aren’t particularly nurturing, leaving the caring of the young to the males. They manage the males, the neuters, the young, and lesser females through strength of pheromone (which grows stronger with age and rise in status). They manage aggressive study in spurts. Immersion education is best for adult females. Lesser status females are soldiers (especially ranking soldiers), ranchers, miners, hunters and gatherers, and small group or crew leaders. Females do not do well on female-only teams because competition for status becomes a problem. In feudal times, the alpha females spent all their time and resources fighting with each other and acquiring territory [much as did the leaders of feudal China on Earth].

About 15% of eggs lack a certain hormone-induced protein. These hatch into neuters. Neuters tend to become lawyers, doctors, priests, and other professionals that require clear logic and years of study.

Modern Imperials are no longer limited by the hormonal surges of their genders, and the old stereotypes were set aside during the war against the Pack.

Imperials worship the Winged One, also known as the First One. They know they used to have functional wings (now vestigial and often docked) but believe they lost them in the Fall (similar to Adam/Eve/Garden of Eden). They worship by drumming and dance. They pour out water offerings and burn incense.

Imperials who experiment with Earth cuisine prefer foods like gefilte fish, 100-year-old tofu, kimchi: foods that are sweet and sour, pickled, and/or highly spiced. Imperials enjoy the titillation of pop-rocks or Mentos with Pepsi on their oral electro-receptors (an Imperial’s description of the sensation is similar to that of people who describe champagne bubbles as tickling their noses).

One of the watershed events in their racial history is when the Pack, the dominant species on Winter, the third planet from the sun, invaded First Egg and began to wipe out the Imperials. The Imperials had to set aside their feudal competitions and cooperate. The war for survival lasted five or six generations, giving the habit of planet-wide cooperation time to take root.

In modern galactic society, Imperials serve many roles. They are known for honesty and integrity and meticulous contracts. The best legal experts are Imperials, and often the best judges. Most sentient beings would rather purchase expensive goods such as spaceships and specialty electronics from Imperial sellers, knowing their reputation for integrity, than from any other race. Imperials are one of twelve races with Elder status and a top-level membership in the Galactic Federation.


~This article is a summation of a much longer article in the Galactic Library.

NaNo Update the Third

17 Nov

Here we are, halfway through the month, and I am not behind!

My rather formal alien heroine has delivered at least one quality insult and witnessed a shocking public execution. From her starting point of fearful self-control, she has matured, gaining a measure of wisdom and self-confidence.

I like her; she is both strange and familiar, and I enjoy finding out what she will do next.

One of characters I thought was a main villain may turn into a reluctant ally. The main villain came out of nowhere several chapters ago. He is wickedly arrogant, extremely irritating, and perhaps psychotic. His worst trait, at least to my heroine, is that he has no honor.

27,558 words down; 22,442 to go.

Onward! Up the word count!


Ahbee’s Notebook, excerpt

13 Nov

Language notes [Imperials]:

The language has clicks, trills, and harmony. Speakers speak/whistle in different keys for different types of situations (different key for battle than for home use than for study than for royal court).

The language is tonal with rising & falling inflections.

Due to the species’ mouth parts (no mobile lips), the language has no labials or nasals.

It has high, mid, and low whistles. It has the sounds /s/, /t/, /k/, /q/, /?/; plus alveolar clicks /x/, a dental click /tch/, a lateral click /tk/, a palatal click /tq/.

For electro-sensing-related words, speakers use a sound between /l-r/ in which the tongue is rolled back to expose the electro-receptor glands.

The command form of verbs also incorporates a uvular trill /R/ made with the throat walls. Humans describe it as a “command purr”.

Emphasis and emotion are also conveyed by clashing wing casings and snapping body parts in various ways.

Language is sort of “sung” in keys that indicate formality and emotion.

This language can be complicated for humans to learn because hearing takes up a bigger percentage of these aliens’ brains than hearing does in humans.

Their written language is more simplified than ours, though. It’s sort of written like a music score. The “key” it’s in is denoted by a geometric shape at the beginning of passages.

In transliteration to the English alphabet, three vowels in a row (iii) indicate a rising tone, two vowels in a row (ii) a steady tone, and one vowel (i) a falling tone.

NaNoWriMo Update #2

10 Nov

Sunday has rolled around again, so it’s time for another update from the Ft. O Panera write-in.

I’ve written just over 18,000 words of my alien memoire so far this month. Yay!  Caffeine is a lovely thing.

Today, I’ve lost two word wars, and we’re about to start a third. They helped, though, carrying me through an action scene where I knew the heroine had to save the life of the villainess. I didn’t know how, though, and was totally shocked to discover it happened by my heroine killing someone else.

New conflict! Excellent!

Good luck, fellow NaNos!

Up the word count!


Factual Basis for Ahbee’s Universe

6 Nov

As a reader of science fiction, I enjoy authors whose stories are set in a believable universe. I don’t blame them, of course, if they get certain things about the future wrong, as long as their predictions are realistic or based on known science at the time. For example, Larry Niven’s Neutron Star or Ringworld are not less engaging because he writes of characters using outdated technology (data tapes). It’s actually somewhat comforting to a newbie writer; if one of the greats can get a detail wrong and still write some of the best science fiction of the century, I should quit OCDing about all the details in my stories.

Still, that doesn’t excuse me from doing my research. Here are some of the events that have happened in space exploration in the past three years that I am using to guess how we colonize our solar system in the next hundred years.

  1. In an article on July 31, 2010, Elon Musk said, “I’m planning to retire to Mars.” He founded SpaceX to do just that. You can read the full article at
  2. In 2010, SpaceX, though the best funded and furthest along, was not alone. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, had founded Blue Origin in 2000. John Carmack (the man behind Doom and Quake) founded Armadillo Aerospace. Richard Branson was starting Virgin Galactic. Jeff Greason had started XCOR Aerospace. Steve Bennett owned  Starchaser. Private industry was beginning to sail in waters previously controlled mainly by governments.
  3. Also in 2010, NASA made Commercial Crew Development awards to stimulate the private sector, encouraging them to develop and demonstrate human spaceflight capabilities.
  4. In 2011, a number of companies began making noises about space missions and mining asteroids. The United States retired its space shuttles and contracted out its astronaut and supply runs to the International Space Station (ISS) to private contractors.
  5. On May 31, 2012, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule returned to Earth successfully after its first commercial flight to the ISS.
  6. On July 16, 2012, SpaceX received its first science mission from NASA, launching a NOAA spacecraft.
  7. On August 1, 2012, Eric Anderson announced the formation of Planetary Resources, Inc., to mine asteroids. He laid out his business plan and named some (but not all) of his co-investors: Google bosses Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, Titanic director James Cameron, and Ross Perot, Jr., (son of the former presidential candidate).  [In Captain Tsuvecki’s backstory, she gets her start on Planetary Resources’ refueling stations.]
  8. In 2013, all of SpaceX’s missions can be considered a success. In fact, they have six Dragon rockets in various stages of construction.  Check out their Facebook page for more information:
  9. The icing on the cake, as far as my story line goes, is the 2013 Congress’s current refusal to give NASA any 2014 funding for asteroid retrieval science. Since Congress has not actually passed a budget, that decision isn’t final, but I think some sly person linked climate warming science with asteroid retrieval science in the minds of the US Representatives. That’s what the articles I’ve read suggest, anyway.

So, I predict that Earth governments will not be the ones to colonize our solar system; private industry will do it.

That may be a good thing. Mining asteroids in space or on the moon will hopefully mean we can stop hazardous, environmentally damaging mining operations on Earth.

While asteroid mining and space exploration can be mostly automated, and while automation may be cheaper than human-staffed missions, I think some people underestimate the human psyche’s need to explore: ” to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

Those words have resonated with audiences for three generations now, and I find it inconceivable that human beings will settle for exploring our solar system by remote control. Some of us will actually go there.

NaNoWriMo Update

3 Nov

Today is Sunday, November 3.

Here I sit at my local Panera  for the first Write-In of the month. One of the other Nano writers from Chattanooga actually beat me here: London Boyd. We’ve both exceeded our word goals so far; she’s about double, and I’m only ahead by a few hundred. Still.

I’m excited about where my story is going and about how the world and characters are unfolding. Some of the details (such as how my heroine prefers fresh, raw lizards to spicy dried ones) have surprised me.

One obvious lack in my planning is my failure to map my world. As a result, I end up guessing about where things are and having to name locations on the fly. Next time, I’ll know better.

Onward! Up the word count!

Galactic Politeness Policy

1 Nov

Excerpted from a more extensive article in the Galactic Library, First Level:


Galactic Policy Regarding Alien Racial Referencing

Galactic politeness standards dictate that references to alien cultures proceed as follows:

(1)         Race A refers to Race B by the name Race B refers to itself, if Race A is physically able to do so;

(2)        Race A refers to Race B by the translation into Race A’s language of the name Race B uses to refer to itself;

(3)        If, as is common, Race B uses a variant of the words “people,” “tribe,” or “clan,” then Race A may come up with a non-derogatory, descriptive name for Race B, which Race B has the right to veto if they find it insulting.

  1. Once Race B has approved a name suggested by Race A, Race A will use that name and only that name to refer to Race B in all governmental, educational, scientific, and commercial communications.

(4)        Use of non-approved names by Race A governments, educational institutions, research centers, and businesses is sufficient grounds for Race B to bring suit for offense in a district Galactic Propriety Court.