Worldbuilding Wednesday 9/4/19: Features of New Jersey

passaic river falls

The beautiful Passaic River falls.

As far as strange names goes, the state of New Jersey takes the cake. There are towns named Loveladies and Nutley and features like the Jenny Jump Mountains and Double Trouble State Park. In fact, drive a mile in any direction and you’ll be sure to find one or more oddly named creeks, reservoirs, hills, or cities.

Many of these names came from the Unami and Munsee languages of the region’s original inhabitants, the Lenape. Though the names are cherished to those born and raised in the state they can be giggle-producing to outsiders. Consider Assunpink and Piscataway. Some have a grimdark  grandeur, like Manahawken, while others, such as Ho-Ho-Kus, sound silly. But all are different, alien, and have their own unique sound and connotations. They mix, but never blend, with New Jersey’s more staid British names: Hamilton, Manchester, Monmouth. As one of the thirteen original colonies, New Jersey has plenty of both.

If you’re writing about a town, forest, river, or lake in New Jersey, here’s a list of possibilities, all randomly generated.


Features of New Jersey
























Parakeet Horror

I had a parakeet growing up, and I loved the little thing. But as pets, budgerigars have their horrible side.

When they die, for example. Often suddenly and without warning. Nothing can freak out a small child like seeing a bird that had been happily chirping an hour before lying motionless on the bottom of its cage.

budgie funeral

A budgie paper towel funeral, complete with a mourner.  Very sad.

two headed budgerigar

No idea if this pic is a fake. I think it is. But just imagine those two heads with their overgrown beaks having a chattering conversation with each other. Creepsville!

vampire parakeet

Then, there’s the vampire budgie. Too horrible to contemplate.

parakeet salad

Betty Davis in What’s Happened to Baby Jane serves up a budgie salad to her disabled sibling.

budgerigar cookies lined up in japan

And, actually, budgies as food items is very nauseating to think about, even though some native peoples of Australia relied on them for food. Here’s a row of Japanese budgie cookies complete with budgie bungholes.

Budgie sushi, even in cartoon form, is also disturbing. Eat one of those sweet little creatures? I say not!

wakako kawakami

Giant budgies swarm a room in this installation piece by artist Wakako Kawakami. What is it with budgies and Japan?

feather duster budgerigar with mutation

This poor budgie has a feather mutation that makes it look like a feather duster. It can’t see or fly and can barely walk. Bred for exhibitions, its life is short.

Mutant killer budgie

A mutant budgie that has developed into a monster in some far future when mankind is gone.


Hey, you.

Victorian-era skeletons in a medical engraving

Worldbuilding Wednesday
States of Confusion 8/28/19:
xxxx (West Coast)

I’ve looked at alternate U.S. states before on this site here and here, but frankly, where things really start to get whacky is on the West Coast. But you knew that, didn’t you?

Being the most populous state in the union California tends to get divided up a lot. It seems fresh proposals come down the line every few years. Here Old California births six new baby states, rather uncreatively named. Jefferson is the oldest of these, having its origins in 1941 when some counties in southwestern Oregon joined counties of Northern California to secede from the U.S. altogether as the nation-state of   Jefferson, the movement a reaction from rural communities who felt ignored by political leaders in the more urban areas.


Another way of dividing up California. Jefferson makes another appearance, and the megalopolises of San Francisco and Los Angeles each become the capitols of the new states of Reyes and San Gabriel, respectively. San Diego becomes the capitol of Cabrillo while San Joaquin retains Sacramento and the wine country of Napa Valley.

Washington state has also been proposed for a split, the land west of the Cascades retaining the name while the east becomes the new state of Columbia. In recent years Washington has been the center of a proposed ecotopia called Cascadia, which would also include Oregon, Northern California, and parts of Idaho,  Montana and British Columbia. Here’s an imagining of it, flanked by the new state flags of its components.

This is actually an alternate state flag for Washington, but it would make a fine one for Cascadia as well.

Alaska, meanwhile, is too sparsely populated to be divided, as yet, but some have proposed splitting it anyway.

Oregon has been quiet regarding splitting and seceding, apart from the Jefferson business in 1941, but if the Oregon Territory had been organized differently, we might be looking at several states where present-day Oregon is. Like Washington, the most likely divide would be east-west, with the Cascade Mountains as the boundary.

If you’re looking to name an imaginary state in some imaginary U.S., and want to give it a name that evokes Washington or Alaska without it being quite like those real-world states, look no further.


Imaginary U.S. States, West Coast






























The Lost City of Uranus

Surely its name was S’phink-Ter?


Worldbuilding Wednesday 8/21/19: Let’s Talk About Elric

Elric of Melniboné, that is.

elric of melnibone

The many moods (and artistic depictions)of Elric. Clockwise, from top left: demented; wistful; murderous; lovely (not Elric, but would make a very good one); kingly and world-weary; and, finally, whimsical, as he plays a game of peekaboo with Stormbringer.

Elric was a creation of SFF writer Michael Moorcock and made his first appearance in 1961, in a novella titled “The Dreaming City” in the pages of Science Fantasy magazine. More stories followed later in the 1960s and eventually they were compiled, with added material and edits, into a a series of paperback books, a lengthy saga that intertwined with Moorcock’s other worlds and heroes, all serving as reincarnations of a Jungian “Eternal Champion” through time and space.

But Elric always proved the most popular, for his intriguing mix of vulnerability and superpowers, questioning of morality, and all-too-human weaknesses. Born a sickly albino, he must take drugs to live a normal life and takes up the practice of sorcery to make up for his physical defects. Heir to a dying, decadent kingdom, he nonetheless swears to defend it.  When he acquires a magic sword, Stormbringer, he gains great strength and power (as Shazam the superhero does when he speaks his own name) yet winds up in deadly thrall to it, as the sword needs freshly killed souls as fuel. This sets up a series of adventures as Elric calls on evil gods and demons, travels the world, ousts usurpers from his kingdom, and deals with the deaths of those close to him caused by Stormbringer’s deadly thirst. He’s perhaps the most widely recognized fantasy hero out there outside of Tolkien’s Frodo and Gandalf and Robert E. Howard’s Conan. He’s served as inspiration for heavy metal lyrics as well as role-playing games and characters beyond count, among them Drizzt Do’Urden and Raistlin Majere of AD&D fame.

Need a name for a character like Elric, without it being Elric? Here’s a list.


Variations on Elric

Othret of Malebora

Udrith of Medbindiné

Ismec of Meljubon

Olrac of Marltukmore

Alluv of Murivain

Arctus of Melithone

Ochad of Melnupon

Abmuc of Melpomëne

Achmid of Marnimoine

Umley of Molóbite

Irthsic of Mrelprivone

Elrum of Mylskonië

Ashrit of Melsabro

Ilrac of Metalbrouse

Erkish of Marmoian

Elridh of Memnobonnu

Olras of Melsgaté

Emrit of Mynnydhone

Ushbar of Minnishori

Alshec of Mustheria

Alvir of Murnalbino

Elrits of Mingaloré


Time Capsule

Isn’t this the prototypical damsel-in-distress image?

Seriously, it strokes my sweet spot: the leering, Lon Chaney Jr.-as-Phantom of the Opera-like face of the villain and his floridly brandished pocket watch, and the wide-eyed look of the blonde, which is not so much terror as a mesmerized disgust.  (The man tied up behind her seems to show more fear. ) And oh, what a terrible fate, sealed up naked together in a time capsule destined to be opened 2,000 centuries hence!

And yet, it makes no sense. They are going to be dropped, but there’s no indication of where, and wouldn’t such a drop break the glass of the tube? Why does the mad scientist wear a red slicker? And what is he doing with that trowel? They are in a tube, not a mausoleum.

Questions, questions.


Worldbuilding Wednesday 8/14/19: Trendy Scented Candles

Yankee Candles, the granddaddy of all candle companies, was founded in 1969 by New Englander Michael Kittredge, who melted Crayola crayons together to make a candle for his mom. His company grew throughout the 1970s, given a strong push in the U.S. by hippie aesthetics and the back-to-earth-movement, to become the flagship giant it is today, and the company currently offers  hundreds of different scents on its website. But few people realize candle scents are like fashion; they change with the season. Fifteen years ago food smells were the rage, like Angel Food Cake and Pina Colada. Now their place is taken by nature odors like Vetiver Cardamom and ones that invoke a time and place, such as Caribbean Marker. Other scents, like Lavender and Sandalwood, remain perennially popular, the little black dresses and navy blue blazers of the candle world.

Who knows what the next decade will bring? Here’s some randomly generated scents that may prove to be the next big thing. Comforting Birth, anyone? Summer Asphalt?


Novel Candle Scents

Nordic Starlight

Vintage Driftwood

Tropical Leaves

Caribbean Toasted Corn

Gingersnap Kahlua

Jamaican Carnival

Arabian Villa

Ocean Festival

Sunlit Ginkgo

Comforting Birth

English Leather Evening

Polished New Car

Desert Copper

Shimmering Agave

Salted Cherry Blossom

Venetian Bay

Summer Asphalt

Afternoon Silk

Vintage Taffeta

Spring Sweater

Movie Popcorn

Slate and Hot metal

Verbena Snowball

Green Bayou

Evening Shipyard

Wet Suede

Cherry Pipe Smoke

Powdered Lemon

Refreshing Oxygen

Antigua Currents

Dark Waters

Green Tea and Incense

Blackberry Eggnog

Rich Loam and Dark Chocolate

Warm Kiln and Redwood

Modern Proposal

Lava Field

Pensive Cigar

Christmas Waffles

Fresh Washed Blue Jeans

Rainy Ozone

Sweet Mustard

Asparagus and Mango

Violet Thunder

Mongolian Melon

Coconut Barley Sugar


She was just another typical English bird in a cage.
Trapped, though she could not see it.

Worldbuilding Wednesday 8/7/19: Let’s Talk About

The name Cleopatra conjures up images of an exotic Egyptian beauty, an ancient dynasty, a scheming queen, a seductress. In movies she’s been played by Elizabeth Taylor, Claudette Colbert, Vivien Leigh, Joan Collins,  and Theda Bara; and to this day she remains a popular Halloween and performing persona for celebrities like Katy Perry, Heidi Klum, Cher, and Janet Jackson. Sometimes she is lily-white, at other times, black or brown. Yet history tells us she was Greek, the descendant of the Ptolemy dynasty of Egypt, who were founded by Alexander the Great’s general pal.

Being a snobbishly Greek family, the Ptolemies did not mix with the native Egyptians during their reign, and the name Cleopatra is not Egyptian either. It’s Greek, meaning “The Glory of the Father,” a combination of kleos (glory) and pater (father.) The Cleopatra we idolize wasn’t the only one either; she was actually number 4 of her lineage, and it’s easy to see why the name was popular. It’s a marvelous mix of syllables both hard and soft, and to English speakers, sounds catlike to the ear, with sharp claws and soft paws. No wonder it’s a popular name for household pets.

If you’re looking for a name like Cleopatra but without the associations, here’s a list.


Variations on Cleopatra