Fifth-Grade Zodiac

Being born in the shadow of the Baby Boomers, the interests of my older siblings and cousins were a big influence on my life, particularly those most popular of the Hippy arts: psychedelia and astrology.

I read every astrology book I could get my little hands on, but decided the signs could do with some improvement. So I created my own Zodiac, of fourteen months not twelve, and my own set of signs, of which five were animal, four celestial phenomena, and the rest sinister objects. I even drew a set of cards with the signs depicted in gur-roovy acid trip rainbow colors, as was still common in the mid-1970s, but my gur-roovy style of lettering left much to be desired in the way of legibility, so I’m recreating them here, childish errors intact. (I created my own planets to go along with the signs because the nine in our solar system had already been claimed.)



Month: January
Flower: Lily
Stone: Emerald
Animal: Whale
Bird: Loon
Fish: Angel fish
Color: Green
Ruling Planet: Cameiila

You are highly lithe and athletic. Your Personallity [sic] will conflict between friends.

No comment.



Month: February
Flower: Dogwood
Stone: Topaz
Animal: Bison
Bird: Robin
Fish: Manta
Color: Red-brown
Ruling Planet: Lianna

Born a Cadis you are truthful and fun-loving. You are very good at sports. Unfortunately you display your affection for people through violence.

Again, no comment.


Month: March
Flower: Honeysuckle
Stone: Spinel
Animal: Dolphin
Bird: Magpie
Fish: Siamese fighting fish
Color: Lilac
Ruling Planet: Simoon

Born a Uni you are a strong expressor [sic] of your rights. You are persistent. Unfortunately you are likely to be in bad health.

What a blow for people born in March.

(In an earlier version of this zodiac, the unicorn was an awkward fantasy creature I made up called a Clixnalon — a two-legged, bipedal antelope with feathered wings and a bird-of-paradise tail )

Month: April
Flower: Rose
Stone: Ruby
Animal: Lion
Bird: Chicken
Fish: Tuna
Color: Red
Ruling Planet: Coppercailie

Born a Vishini you are tolerant and patient. You are friendly. You are a gossip.

Why are the animal and bird of this sign both creatures commonly cooked for dinner?




Month: May
Flower: Bluebell
Stone: Diamond
Animal: Gnu
Bird: Crane
Fish: Flying Fish
Color: Blue
Ruling Planet: Sarina

Born a Grus you are friendly and active. You become bored easily and are often quite pickly,

Grus is an actual constellation. But it doesn’t lie on the ecliptic.

Month: June
Flower: Dogtooth
Stone: Opal
Animal: Bear
Bird: Eagle
Fish: Shark
Color: Violet
Ruling Planet: Belotsi

Born a Ki’ang you are agressive and a leader. You cannot tolerate stupidity. You are wise and loyal, but often hostile.

I created this sign after a prolonged period of fascination with the Aztecs. Later in life, I married one. But it didn’t last.

Month: July
Flower: Venus fly trap
Stone: Peridot
Animal: Coyote
Bird: None
Fish: Pilot fish
Color: Lt. Green
Ruling Planet: Senecca

Chingians are tricky people who can easily double-talk you. They make good thieves and are usually warm and loving.

I wonder what a carnivorous plant has to do with being a deceitful, warm, and loving thief.

Month: August
Flower: Anemone
Stone: Onyx
Animal: Snake
Bird: Osprey
Fish: Eel
Color: Yellow
Ruling Planet: Dole

Snake Children are very cunning and deceitful. They are usually graceful and lithe. They are thrifty and loving & caring.

I see that my fifth-grade analysis of those with a snake sign matches that of J. K. Rowling’s (Slytherin). But it’s harder to see how that co-exists with being thrifty and loving.

Month: September
Flower: Iris
Stone: Sapphire
Animal: Dragon
Bird: Vulture
Fish: Barracuda
Color: Deep Purple
Ruling Planet: Chicagonite

Dragon People are the king of the other sighns. [sic] They are loving, caring. 

I was born in September, so of course that month has the best write-up.

** Shows my Hawaiian influence, obviously.

Month: October
Flower: Pansy
Stone: Chrysoberl
Animal: Dog
Bird: Emu
Fish: Trout
Color: Gold
Ruling Planet: Alpha Centauri

Born a Quaser you are critical and a stay-at-home. You are very active and light-headed.

At my age then I didn’t quite understand what a quasar was. Only that the name sounded cool and had something to do with ultra-powered stars. The ruling planet is also the only space object that really exists (but it is a star and not a planet.) I’m not even gonna go into the four very disparate personality traits.



Month: November
Flower: Sunflower
Stone: Cat’s Eye Opal
Animal: Leopard
Bird: Owl
Fish: Shark
Color: Olive-brown
Ruling Planet: DEATH

Born a Scoptos you are solemn and quiet. You are a leader in many things. You are most likely fair and tall.

I cannot get over the fact the ruling planet of this sign is DEATH!!

Month: December
Flower: Sunflower
Stone: Ruby
Animal: Gazelle
Bird: Hummingbird
Fish: Ray
Color: Rose
Ruling Planet: Marina

You are highly dominating and attractive. Unfortunately your rude ways turn you off to many people.

This is the only personality description of all the signs that makes any sense.

Month: The thirteenth month
Flower: Concubine (I think I meant columbine)
Stone: Jade
Animal: Lygon (I think I meant liger)
Bird: Quetzalcoatl
Fish: Minnow
Color: Lt. Yellow
Ruling Planet: The sun rules you

As a Solal you are friendly and independent. You are never cold. You have a tendency to be stingy and greedy, and sensitive.

We are running into uncharted territory here with the addition of a thirteenth month. What season that month was in, I wasn’t sure. It was too heady a concept for me. So I simply let it lie with “the thirteenth month.”

Month: The fourteenth month
Flower: Crocus
Stone: Platinum
Animal: Giraffe
Bird: Hummingbird
Fish: Pukapuka (I meant the humuhumunukunukuāpua‘a, or reef triggerfish)
Color: All colors
Ruling Planet: Joma

Born a Rashi you are shy, sensitive and meat. You are a comfort and care.

My brain has been turned to mush by all this. How about yours?

But I adapted most of it as the zodiac system for the Escharne novels and stories.

Worldbuilding Wednesday 10/13/21: The Best of
xxxxTwittersnips (Local Color I)

Kintsukoroi, by Alsares Lynx

One of the things I’ve noticed about illustrations of dragons (and many imaginary creatures in general) is how closely they resemble dogs. The charming beast above is a sleepy German Shepard through and through, in spite of the wings, long tail, and feathered goat-featured face. This is not a criticism of the artist, mind you. It’s how mythic animals are made appealing and familiar through the the use of real-life analogs, making them seem more real.

Another way to bring the unfamiliar to life is by using off-hand mentions of familiar-sounding but nonexistent people, places, and things, what I call Local Color. Below is a list of many examples taken from my Twitter feed, 2017 – 2020.


Local Color I (Fantasy)

Gems and Minerals
Pixie Glass
Firefly Malachite
Tuberculosis of the Cheeks due to drinking alcohol
Screaming Argathera
Speckled Bubscratch
Torture Devices
The Coquette-mincer
Scarlet Trimmer
Concrete Buskins
The Wheel of Impressment
The Royal Masticator
Stars and Constellations
Weszar and Jorab, the Twin Archers
Anulior, the Falling Thief
Eubregeuse, the Healer’s Braid
Irulces, The Studious Beekeeper
Geltut, the Human-Headed Crow
Mirakneba The Gryphon
Villsturus and Valdkaa, The Twin Stars
Faunabi, a dim red star in the constellation of the Lioness
Vatrima, a white star also known as the Salamander’s Tongue
Secret Societies
Archers of the Ebon Hawk
Sons of the Midnight Eagle
The League of Celestial Illusionists
Elders of the Silver Maggot
Inns and
Pleasure Houses
The Bitter Stag
The Frolicsome Dragon
The Minstrel’s Manor
Twenty Ponies and a Sip
Elanara’s Saucy Dungeon
Noble Crests
Hippocampus holding an anchor on a field of yellow and white stripes
Scarlet serpent entwined around a yellow fish
Two crossed axes inside a hexagon
Mermaid riding a sea-lion
Wyvern’s head impaled on a pike
Mythical Realms
City of the Jade Dingo
The Lost City of Umbergay
The Medieval city of Fairmarvel
The City of Gnarlwood, ruled by Lady Ivorolor
Tarot Cards
The Gryphon: The creature holds a bouquet of flowers in its beak and its head is crowned with stars. In the background is a plowed field. The card implies good health, but when reversed, a broken bone.

The Steward: He wears a fur doublet and fights a cockatrice with an axe. Behind him, several people have already been turned to stone. It means a close associate will betray the subject.

Adaptation: Depicts an anthropomorphized rooster riding an ox. Its meaning changes with whatever card is placed at its right.

The Widowed Lady: A weeping woman dressed in black swings a censor trailing smoke. Behind her is peaceful farmland. Means ill fortune for the near future.

The Hawk: A brown and white hawk hovers above a burning furnace about which men work. Can mean either industry or the need to remain watchful.



It’s getting close to Halloween and things are about to get pretty horrible! No more horrible than this Japanese lady who seems to have been transformed into a sink, an open drain for her mouth.

Worldbuilding Wednesday 10/6/21: Insects

In fantasy worldbuilding, insects get the short end of the (walking) stick. What’s the last imaginary one you can remember? For me, it’s the odd bread-and-butterfly of Alice in Wonderland.

The intelligent insect races of science fiction are more memorable. The Bugs of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, and the Buggers (Formics) of Orson Scott Card’s Ender series are two of the more memorable. Spindly, black, hairy, and multilegged, they are depicted as ruthless, avaricious adversaries without emotion and individuality. The same is true of the Tandu, a race from David Brin’s Uplift series who oppose the hubris of humankind for creating their own client races in intelligent dolphins and chimpanzees. (There is, incidentally, a whole encyclopedia of Uplift races and their relationships here, and it’s complicated.)

Alan Dean Foster is the only writer I know who bucked the tide and created an insect race friendly towards humanity. Known as the Thranx, his charming creatures are mantis-like and have an attractive odor. The same concept of mantid- or grasshopper-like insect men was adopted by TSR (now Wizards of the Coast) for their race of insect men known as the Thri-Keen which players may choose as a character.

Want to stick in some insects of your own to round out a world or two?

(NOTE: I’m including spiders and scorpions in the list even though, technically, they do not belong to the insect family.)



Chicken Cabbage Spider

Coffer Fly

Blue Oil Wasp

Monk Spider

Gilded Tigerfly

Heath Darter



Ox Tick

Sultan Kisser

Copper-Backed Millipede

Dune Mite

Goblin Bug

Harewhip Spider

Goodwife Flea

Zebra Beetle

Cattle Crawler

Jupiter Beetle

Spinster Fly

Patron Hornet

Empress Barrel Cricket

Valparaiso Barrel Cricket

Amber-eyed Mantis

Pudding Mite

White Slipper Butterfly

Choose Your Weapon

You’re stranded in Medieval Russia and can only pick one. Which is it?

Worldbuilding Wednesday 9/29/21: Bodacious Bs

Hans Holbein the Younger, Letter B, woodcut, Rosenwald Collection

I am not as fond of the letter B as I am of the letter A for fictional characters. Oh, sure, it has its uses for manly types, like Byron and Bradford — think the alliterative brawny, brash, beefy. But for female characters, it implies big bosoms, bellies, and behinds in matronly names like Bessie, Bertha, and Brunhilda. The shape of the letter itself contributes, looking like a female chest turned on its side.

But if you like B better than I do, here’s some names for fantasy works.


Character names beginning with B


































Existential Spock

Mr. Spock deals with his fear in a unique way in this old comic book panel.

Worldbuilding Wednesday 9/22/21: The Best of Twittersnips
xxxx(Narnian Creatures)

It’s not too often that you see an illustration of Narnia where the viewpoint is looking into our world through the wardrobe, not the other way around. It also illustrates how odd this is, in a snowy forest filled with pine trees.

Naming Narnian beings is fun for me, so here’s a list of all who appeared in my Twitter feed 2017 – 2020.


Narnia Creatures

Skyscurf the Black Dwarf
Truebuttons the Red Dwarf
Moonpad the Leopard
Cleardip the Otter
Ryehorn the Rhinoceros
Tippineep the Mouse
Moonglimmer the Stag
Gracewing the Swan
Nimplepaw the Fox
Twitchnose the Hare

I Come from the Land of Esa

How do I unpack this Tibetan / Polynesian / Mexican lovely’s costume? Hydrangea flower earrings, yellow rubber gloves, solid gold flower-shaped pasties (with exaggerated nipples/stamens), a handkerchief for a top, and a towel for a bottom. Plus, a cow head on her forehead. Her companion with his white miniskirt gets off easy… but is that a swarm of bees crawling up his chest?

(Oh… and Norman soldiers in the background.)

Worldbuilding Wednesday 9/15/21: National Parks

On first glance, it’s pretty hard to tell which poster is of a real place, and which poster is fictional, yes?

Brightly colored travel posters that look like silkscreens began in the 1930s, as part of a Works Administration Project (WPA) funded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, designed to give employment to otherwise unemployed artists. The Great Depression was still going strong, but many of these artworks created a post-Art Deco, pre-Populux aesthetic,a simple yet noble monumental grandeur. Today these posters of the National Parks are recognized for their artistic value and exist in many reproductions.

What’s the difference between a National Park and a National Monument? Parks are natural areas and encompass biospheres; monuments most often (but not always) preserve social or archaeological sites. In 2021 there were 63 National Parks and 129 National Monuments.

New parks are being added all the time. The latest is New River Gorge National Park, in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia, which was declared in 2020. Parks can also be downgraded, redesignated, or divided. Ever hear of Sullys Hill National Park? I haven’t either; in the 1930s it changed agencies and now operates as a federal game preserve.

Here’s a list of National Parks and Monuments that may be coming in the future.


National Parks yet to be declared

Dinosaur Mounds National Monument

Buzzard Back

Wolverine Spoon

Soda Shores

Little Porcupine Wilderness

Pronghorn Prairie

Lizard Throat Wilderness

Plume Island

Big Hoof Island

Mourning Woman Wilderness

Bearded River

Grand Oxbow

Agate Peak

Short Cap Fossil Beds


White Tail Slough