Tea Party

horror tea set by Ronit Baranga

Crumpets and finger sandwiches, anyone?


(Ceramic art by Ronit Baranga)

Worldbuilding Wednesday, 7/5/17: More Magic

black magic masked sorceress

I was going to list some ideas for evil societies for this week, but the randomization software needs more tweaking. So here are some more random magic spells and items.

Lamp of Grim Digging:  Enables the owner to find and dig up buried bodies quickly and easily.

Yungamel’s Levitating Unicorn:  Causes a unicorn to rise into the air for maximum of 50 feet. The unicorn can be willing or unwilling.

Pipe of Lengthy Wonderment:  A lightweight metal pipe of 1” diameter that can expand up to 20 feet and contract back again. May also be cast on the owner’s genitals to impress the ladies.

Saddle of Kicking Turmoil:  When placed on any equine, it causes the animal to go into a frenzy of kicking so nothing can sit on its back.

Incense of Sorrow:  When burned, it causes all smellers to lament loudly.

Dice of the Shape-Changer:  A very rare magic item that can range from five to twenty sides. Each side is inscribed with symbols, glyphs, numbers, or icons. When rolled, it enables the user to turn into the creature or thing depicted on that side.

Sandals of Persistence: Enables the wearer to walk all day and all night as long as they have a clear goal.

Whistle of Unseen Grease: This item is covered with an invisible greasy coating that makes it impossible to hold or blow.

The Automaton of Singing Torture:  This magical item sings so badly anyone in its presence will immediately capitulate to the owner’s demands.

Olnimea’s Squamous Bracelet:  A bracelet in the shape of a coiled snake that becomes a real snake on the owner’s command.

Scissors of Hideous Brass: Doesn’t do anything but look ugly.

The Sarcophagus of Meddlesome Bones:  When a body is buried in this, in time it becomes a skeleton that doesn’t know it is dead and keeps trying to return to the land of the living.

Rhianista’s Alluring Comb:  Makes the wearer attract flirtatious attention.

Jandchel’s Napping Quest:  A minor spell that points the caster to the perfect location for the ideal nap.

Vuatëha’s Amazing Charcoal:  A stick of dark pigment that can sketch a scene, portrait, or map on command.

Arrow of Fetid Fog:  When it hits the target, it releases a large cloud of stinky mist.

Missile of Vermin:  Creates dozens of rats, flies, termites, and fleas around any target it hits.

Bell of the Celestial Vacuum:  When rung, it creates a pocket of deep-space vacuum around the ringer. Probably hazardous to one’s health.

Snuffbox of Angry Thorns:  When any of the snuff is inhaled, it turns into hundreds of small, painful thorns that clog the victim’s nose and throat.

Beniam’s Glass Improvement:  Strengthens glass so it doesn’t shatter.

Book of the Blue Chameleon:  A magic book long thought to be lost.

Yunöbalin’s Accursed Tentacles:  Causes strong green tentacles to appear out of nowhere and grab the target.

Oiramusa’s Opal Lightning:  Looks like a regular lightning bolt, but is attractively colored in glimmering pastel hues.

Ledger of the Unwashed Glove:  No one knows what this book, purportedly owned by Sir Churnus Of Chivekettle, contains.

Skeleton Key of Gibbering:  When put in a lock, this key gibbers uncontrollably, attracting unwanted attention.

Book Bingo at the Seattle Public Library

Do you like read a lot in the summer, and live in Seattle?

The Seattle Public Library is hosting a book bingo, where you read some books in the categories printed on the card, and then turn it in in September with your comments. The contest runs between May 17 and September 5. Drop off the finished card at an SPL branch and you will be entered to win a gift card to an independent bookstore.


Trapped by

The viscous cream with the nutrients came once a day through the tube. But  the limited air she had was running out. Encased in metal bondage, she looked around desperately for a rescuer, knowing full well none would find her in this underground space.


(trapped02, image from LXXT on DeviantArt)

Cinder [Reading Challenge 2017]

cinder by marisa meyer

by Marisa Meyer
Macmillan, 2012

[Challenge # 4:A book you started last year and
haven’t yet finished.]

I started Cinder last year. It was one of the first ebooks I ever bought because I could not seem to finish the hardback I had borrowed from the library. Then, after working on it intermittently, I could not finished the ebook. Finally I slotted it into the Authors’ Water Cooler challenge, and after some starts and stops, I did finish it. Now know why I had such a problem finishing it. It was that dull.

Now, I know this book has its defenders, and many of them have valid points; I’ve also got three decades on the intended audience, which was 12 to 17. But even considering that, I still don’t get the love. The whole plot was obvious, for one thing. It’s a science fiction take on Cinderella, with a female cyborg as the title character, and that should tell you how it’s going to go. Fairytale/SF mashups have been done before, and well; I was a big fan Joan D. Vinge’s Snow Queen series, for example. But Vinge did what Meyer did not, create a solid SF underpinning for her world. Cinder was more like an old-fashioned Sword and Planet action story from the glory days of the pulps. The SF elements were given only the most cursory of explanations, if at all.

On to the story. Cinder is a put-upon cyborg stepdaughter in a future Asian nation that has somehow gone backward and reinstated its emperor. Cyborgs are considered inhuman, and shunned by everyone. Fine, but the book also depicts being a cyborg as pretty cool and transhuman: the heroine has internal interfaces that let her call up information at will, like a mental internet, and she can adjust her own senses and regulate her emotions. She CAN ALSO TELL WHEN PEOPLE ARE LYING. That’s a pretty useful skill! She’s got a metal hand and leg! So why doesn’t wicked stepmother send her out to play poker, or shake people down for cash? Plus, all those useful implants must be pretty expensive. Why are cyborgs considered worthless slaves? Why doesn’t everyone want to be one? Faulty plot logic there.

The setting also made no sense. It wasn’t until the last third of book that I found out this is the time after the “Fourth World War” and nations and cultures have gotten mashed up and amalgamated, with some, for no reason, reverting to monarchies. I couldn’t figure out why a Singapore-like city was being called an Empire and the son of the emperor was just casually walking around, or why the heroine has a Vietnamese surname, but her family no Vietnamese culture. Actually, the whole setting just served as pretty window-dressing like dangling red lanterns in a noodle shop.

And then there’s those royal families and their damn gowns and balls. Why does every other YA book aimed at girls have some variation of this, even the unpublished ones on Wattpad written by actual teens? Was it from the writers growing up on the Disney princess movies and toy lines that have been shoved down young female throats for the past two decades? Granted, the author subverts it by having Cinder show up at that ball in a dirty borrowed gown and not looking her best, but it’s still there serving its purpose for intrigue and romance.

The other major pulpy element was the mysterious Lunar race. These humans have mind-control powers which are given a lame explanation as being based in bioelectricity. Nice try, but brainwaves just don’t work that way, and if they did, that society would be extremely egalitarian, or extremely chaotic, not ruled by a Royal house with queens and princesses and royal dressmakers. There’s no explanation anywhere for why the “Lunarians” developed these powers, or how they can live on an airless, sterile world with no resources and yet be able to raise an army there large enough to threaten the “Earthens.” (I hate this author’s terminology. What’s wrong with the time-worn but worthy Terran?)

Unlike Red Queen, which was infuriating in the same way with its faulty science, but entertaining and readable in a potboiler way, Cinder depicts its elements too carefully and seriously. It lacked the trashy exuberance it could have had.

My Kindle addition also had some glaring errors — a “coy pond” instead of a koi pond, “under-arms” not underarms, and “preoccupied fingers” instead of occupied fingers. At one point Earth is referred to as part of a greater galaxy of human planets, but it’s never mentioned again. As far as I know, in this series the only inhabited planets are Earth and the Moon.

And no, that sexy red high-heeled shoe does not make an appearance in the book.

Worldbuilding Wednesday, 6/28/17: Pirates!

“Yes, I do heartily repent. I repent I had not done more mischief; and that we did not cut the throats of them that took us, and I am extremely sorry that you aren’t hanged as well as we.”

 —  Anonymous Pirate, asked on the gallows if he repented


“I am sorry to see you here, but if you had fought like a man, you needn’t be hanged like a dog.”

— Anne Bonny to “Calico Jack” Rackham in prison after he had decided
to surrender to pirate hunters instead of fight


 “There is none of you but will hang me, I know, whenever you can clinch me within your power.”

— Bartholomew Roberts, explaining to his victims that he was under no obligation to treat them kindly or fairly

Pirates are like onions in cooking, and monsters in AD&D campaigns. There is never such a thing as too many. Here’s a list of generated pirate-type names if you need to add a quick pirate or two to your writing.

Male Pirates

Captain Claw, Bladeslinger of the Thousand Reefs
Greenbeard the Plunderer
Captain Bran Riley
Captain Matt Kettle
Neal the Red
Shoeless Xavier
Dan the Knife, Rotter of the Maelstrom
Rummy Ivan
Edmund the Ruby Bastard
Jean the Lazy
Widowmaker Matt
The Whistling Buccaneer
First Mate Tuck, the Starboard Smuggler
The Proud Plunderer

Female Pirates

Alma Ann Dagger
Ann Peck
Fanny Pug
Captain Sheila Skull
Helen, the Black Brigand of Battlesea
Nellie Nora Kidder
Frances Bess Tanglemore
Juanita the Red
Jenny Beard, Bounty Hunter of the Briny Depths
Mary the Russian
Jorimae the Blind Buccaneer
Captain Jenny Whistle, Avenger of the Seven Seas
Cannonmistress Wilma Rump
Pearl the Prowler

Pirate Ships

Brave Avenger
Dancing Devil
Devil’s Harrier
Flying Slaver
Inglorious Sinner
Iron Brigand
Northern Terror
Brave Bastard
Copper Phoenix
Gambler’s Venture
Gilded Fist
Leakin’ Fortune
Foolish Bastard
Merry Loser
Silver Lady
Sleeping Gorgon

Pirate Inns and Other Hangouts

The Admiral’s Atoll
The Captain’s Hammock
The Bastard’s Shipwreck
The Painted Crab Inn
The Sinner’s Dock
Redraven Island
Pennywinter Isle
Atoll of the Shrouded Lamprey
Sea of Agenakhell
Silvertongue Sea
Rubyshark Rock
Isle of The Winter Summoner
Crimson Sands
Empatreena The Sea-Witch
Three Isles of Ysaithis
The Lone Isle of Perrufrell

The Little Merfish

The Little Mermaid received quite a surprise when she tried to return to the sea.
(Strange how horrific a mythological creature becomes when its parts are reversed.)

Worldbuilding Wednesday, 6/21/17: Magic Users

Worldbuilding fantasy world

Continuing on my theme of randomly-generated magic spells items, let’s look at wizards and magic users in fantasy fiction. There are many memorable characters that come to mind, and if there’s one thing they have in common, it’s an unforgettable name. For example, Gandalf the Gray. Short and to the point; and more importantly, much easier to say and remember than Saruman and White of Radagast the Brown. (When he became Gandalf the White later on, I confess I didn’t like his as much.) Then there’s Jack Vance’s wierdly alliterative Iucounu the Laughing Magician, who was not so mirthful as petty and vengeful. On the other hand J.K. Rowling’s creations Snape and Dumbledore had names suggestive of their personalities, the latter friendly and playful, the former  sinister and bitter.

Here’s some magic-user names, reandomly generated, that have a certain ring to them. Need one? Take it!

Magic Users

Honneil Snowhollow, the Vampire Enchanter

Viszplen of the Black Finger

Kyranje the Summoner

Pajrab the Shape-Changer

Wizard of the Wyvern

Falgya the Witch

Mage-Queen Eriantha Nightbird

Sylleura of the Desert Dawn

Cyrilina the Winter Sorceress

Alvandurine, the Witch Of Cloudcall

Mirlaine, the Illusionist Of Dustyhawk

Vistiax the Blue

Mornaith of the Crimson Thumb

Vyrrhea, the Elementalist of the Silver Flame

Marsbet, Magus of the Laughing Raven

The Sapphire Spellmistress

The Magus of Mornaur

Lady Mirandothy the Theurgist

The Thaumaturge of Tisviper Lake

Vanuista the Shadowless

The Wizard Glub

Heart Anatomy

The human heart contains surprising intricacies, and they are not just those of muscle tissue.

Worldbuilding Wednesday, 6/14/17… wait, there’s more! (Spells, that is.)

Because it was just too much damn fun to come up with these. Another selection of free spells to add to your campaign, story, novel, game, comic, whatever.

Chantsuma’s Wondrous Cacophony:  Creates a mosaic of noise around the target, a mix of music, voices, animal cries, thunder, chants, roaring waves, bird calls, crashing objects, etc. so the target cannot speak, cast spells, or think clearly.

Staff of Parsimonious Speaking:  Lets the owner use just enough, and no more, words to get his or her point across.

Ledger of the Silver Tongue:  Enables the reader to gain proficiency in persuasion and debate.

Tome of the Crimson Raven:  A notorious book of dark magic.

Libram of Merry Carnality:   A much sought-after  book of sexual positions.

Marwen’s Visual Lassitude:  Makes the target’s eyes get tired and miss seeing important things.

Candjerine’s Singing Golem:  Adjunct spell that enables ordinary golems to sing.

Wig of Endless Flying:  A wig that is able to rise off the wearer’s head and fly around, distracting opponents, or providing something to laugh at during parties.

Yavlbest’s Odious Accretion:  Makes the target of the spell accumulate body odor no matter how much they bathe.

The Organ Of False Fingers:  A magical organ that makes even the most skilled musician sound bad.

The Astrolabe Of Cervine Rage:  Makes local deer, elk, and moose grow enraged and attack anything they see.

Urzrolan’s Thieving Weasel:  Enchants an ordinary weasel into fetching some small item.

Trousers Of Marvelous Collecting:  Magical pants with pockets that can hold up to one cubic yard of material per pocket, as long as it’s the same kind of material (marbles, seashells, etc.)

Falaz’s Fighting Thumb:  Useful for thumb wrestling contests.

Shoes Of The Droning Dragon:  A very rare and unique item made from dragon hide. They emit a continuous drone that numbs the senses of everyone who hears it (the wearer is immune.)