When Readers are Illiterate

Random Kitten

With the Kindle I used to have, if you put it on a certain setting the Kindle would read the book to you in a computer voice. It was kind of annoying so I didn’t use it much. But it gave me the idea: illiterate readers are our future.

With Kindles, illiterate kids can ‘read’ books. Schools, who all too often produce illiterate kids by demanding that any method other than intensive phonics be used to teach reading, love electronic devices. I remember one school district that was going to provide all kids with either a laptop or a smartphone to use at school. Whether the parents liked it or not.

Educational systems will almost certainly go for giving reading disabled kids Kindles that read to them. And then— why should those kids learn to read? It’s like teaching handwriting so kids can write by hand instead of using the devices that the financially better off always have available. (Poor people don’t need to write, evidently.)

And so, the number of illiterate readers will go up. I wonder how long it will be before they do surveys on what kind of books the illiterate reader prefers. And writers will study articles on how to appeal to the illiterate reader. Some writers will make a specialty in writing books that appeal to the illiterates. Why not? Writers already write books that appeal to the uneducated that don’t mention, for example, obscure historical figures like Julius Caesar or Martin Luther.  That’s probably what the YA category is for.

And the day will come in some future era where the skill of actual reading is a rare skill like fixing the plumbing. And no one can take walks through cemeteries to read the headstones.

Worldbuilding Wednesdays: Geography of a space station

So, does a space station actually have a geography? Well, Tiberius Base is pretty big, so, yes, it does. It’s a space city, really.

This is a post in the Worldbuilding Wednesdays blog hop. Join us!

The Core

The core of the Base is a hollow-out asteroid donated by The Diggers. The Diggers are a True Alien race— not humanoid— and they are classified as Fernal Aliens. In other words, they can’t or don’t communicate with humanoids normally. But in this case there is another alien race, the Tsanan, who are Bynal Aliens— they do interact with humans— and they are able to communicate with the Diggers.

The Core is the center of the Base but it is covered in artificial constructions. The Base is in levels and has artificial gravity emanating from the bottom of the sphere. I might mention that in my current WIP Tiberius Base is in the late stages of construction and a lot of the interior is still being build or adapted for its intended used. Tiberius Base is built and owned by the corporation Fortunate Dragon, which is based in the Terran Empire, in a subdivision ruled by Chinese people.

The Docks

There is a double-ring of docks around the ‘equator’ of the station, where ships can refuel, undergo repairs, or trade cargo. At the Docks level, most of the facilities are related to trade or repair, as well as lodgings for those who are visiting the station. There are also security officers aplenty, because there are also some spacemen’s bars being set up and trouble is anticipated.


This is the ‘top’ of the station although designations like ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ are arbitrary. Topside is where the well-to-do will live and work when the Base is fully operational. A home in Topside is considered very exclusive. The rooms don’t just have many rooms. Most have their own gardens build in— and they are not practical gardens, but are filled with difficult-to-grow exotic flowers, usually. Though one eccentric grows nothing but varieties of day-lilies in his. A few of the more posh spots also have a second garden for the practical purpose of growing herbs and vegetables for the kitchen. The Topside shops and restaurants are the most desired locations and people of all levels of the station use them.


The levels just above and just below the Docks level are devoted to the homes and workplaces of the middle class. The homes are not luxurious but are nicer than those in most space cities. The ‘downtown’ shopping district is also located in upper Midside. The great ‘street’ which makes up the shopping area has streetcars. It is also where the Base’s forest is located. All Bases and starships have a forest, but the one on Tiberius Base is larger than any forest previously set up by Terrans. During mushroom season, mushrooming in the forest is a popular activity, but one heavily controlled by the authorities. On other stations there have been murders over poaching mushrooms (they were morel mushrooms so it was justifiable homicide.)

The Dome

It is a tourist attraction really. There are a lot of transparencies (like glass but tougher) so you can see out into space. There is also a grand colored transparency like an abstract stained glass window. My main character Ping was in charge of the project of installing the transparency. The Dome area leads into Midside’s ‘downtown’ area. It is also the entrance to the ship’s forest.


Bottomside is dedicated to the most practical operations of the base, like the sewage system. There are also the homes of the menial workers. These homes are NOT posh and there are actually barracks for the unmarried workers. The only shops and restaurants at the Bottomside level are a few cheap places that cater to the poorest. Most Bottomside residents shop and eat at Midside. The station management makes shop spaces available there at low-enough prices that most folks locate businesses there.


How story ideas happen and what to do about it

Today I want to talk about story ideas—- my ideas, your ideas, anyone’s ideas. To do this I will talk about my most recent story idea as an example.

The idea happened like this: I thought about how a space station would get started. A really big space station that will one day have thousands of people living on it. Maybe even a million.

I expanded: some people would want to live on the space station to operate a business of some kind. But what about lower level laborers? Someone needs to sweep the floors, or move boxes of cargo from docked ships to the station  and such.

I thought about the station administrators who were responsible for finding such people. And how they would have to mold such workers, along with other station inhabitants, into a community.

I decided the administrators would be Chinese, and atheists. Scientific atheists. And their worker pool would be speakers of the German language, and Catholics. Why Catholics? I decided my atheist administrators would want to use Christianity as an instrument of social control. They wanted workers who could be pressured into obeying the more socially useful of the Ten Commandments, like Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal.

But Christianity isn’t about being good, it’s about having a relationship with God. And the priest brought in to control the faith of the new workers is more interested in winning souls than in aiding administrators.

OK. Now, the first step in turning these random ideas into a functional story is to write things down. So I picked out a nice new composition book for the project.

I already had notes for what I call the Destine universe and so I set my story there. That’s how I came up with the name of the space station. Or space city. Tiberius Base. And, yes, it is named after James T. Kirk’s middle name.

I had been reading K. M. Weiland’s books Outlining your Novel and the Outlining your Novel Workbook, so I started answering questions from the workbook into the composition book.

I found that the basic story when written into a short description sounded dull, so I added a love subplot and a troublesome-aliens subplot that raised the stakes on the main plot— if my main character failed to build a viable community on Tiberius Base, the base might have to be handed over to some aliens who were claiming it.

So, that’s how I got one idea and how I’ve been developing it. Have you had any good writing ideas lately? Tell us in a comment, if you like.

Some coming attractions:

Wednesday: Worldbuilding Wednesday blog hop is on.

Saturday: I will be sharing a recipe for low-carb/ketogenic Dutch Baby Rolls that I have been working on.

Creating alien languages in #Worldbuilding

Recently I found again some notes I thought were lost on some alien languages I was creating for one of my WIPs. I thought I’d write a little about how I create alien languages.

Why even create alien languages? Well, your alien characters need names. As do places on your alien worlds, and alien concepts. Creating alien-sounding words is better than naming your aliens Tom and Bill.

How I do it is I pick out 2  real languages, such as Indonesian and Dutch for my language for the alien Lizard race, and mingle them.

For example, I pick a word from Dutch, slang, and a word from Indonesian, ular. I take the front half of a word from the one language and combine with the back half from the other. I come up with ‘slar.’ Reversing the process, I come up with ‘ulang’.

I like ‘ulang’ better than ‘slar’, so ‘ulang’ becomes the native Lizard name for the Lizard race. I randomly add ‘-in’ to it to form the plural, so ‘Lizards’ is translated ‘ulangin’. So— the ulang language has a plural.

I make a list of something like 15 Dutch words and 15 Indonesian words and create a list of some 30 words in Ulang-pa, the Lizard language.  They include some of the following: Alliri, sendeen, beggup, sangwaam, gunerg, hoopala, kefd, sednig, baper, and hoepi.

Any time I need name an Ulang character, I pick a word from the list to be his name. If I need a word for a concept, I pick one from the list— such as ‘sendeen’, which means an Ulang tribe or sept.

If I wanted to create words and phrases in the language, I have to make some decisions about the words of Ulang-pa— the nouns, verbs, adverbs and pronouns. And if there are any useful affixes that Ulang-pa uses. We already seem to have -pa for ‘language of’ and ‘-in’ to mark the plural. I then pick out words from the list and assign those words meaning, and can use the words to form phrases and sentences in Ulang-pa.

The multilingual dictionary pictured above, ‘The Concise Dictionary of 26 Languages,’ is the book I used to create the Ulang-pa  language. But it’s not the only source book I have used. When I created a language for the alien Menders, I used ancient Greek and ancient Egyptian as my 2 languages.

I use for my reference book for Greek the book ‘Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible’, which contains a dictionary of all the Greek words used in the Protestant Bible.  For ancient Egyptian, I have a book on the ancient Egyptian language I bought at the Egypt museum in San Jose, California, when I was a teenager.

The Mender language is somewhat more developed. I have a list of male and female given names, and a list of 24 names of noble Mender houses. I also have a few Mender words, some of which are derived purely from the ancient Egyptian language. There is ‘saret’ meaning ‘philosophy, theology, wisdom, science’ — a key concept of Mender culture. I have ‘ireepat’ for ‘prince’.

Some of the constructed Mender names I currently have are Epes, Oktsep, Mavret, and Hapas, all male names. And Reri, Meketi, Netari and Yatros, all female names.

The idea of using two different real languages and combining them the way I do is to try to be able to create a set of unrecognizable alien words that have a similar ‘flavor’. Since each alien language has a different set of two languages at the source, each alien language will have its own set of characteristic spellings borrowed from the original languages.

Creating languages, not necessarily for fictional worldbuilding purposes, is a hobby of its own. Invented languages are usually called constructed languages or planned languages. Some famous constructed languages are Volapuk, Esperanto and Ido, along with lots of others, created for international communication. Other invented languages, such as Tolkien’s Elvish and Star Trek’s Klingon, are the intellectual property of their creators and cannot be used without permission.

Why Christian/Catholic Authors shouldn’t write smutty books


Everybody does it, these days. Sex scenes in fiction are oddly considered ‘realistic’ and some unfortunate readers refuse to read books without them. But a Christian (includes Catholic) author must not do it.

Note: the book cover above was chosen at random. I don’t know the author or if the book is as ‘sexy’ as the cover indicates.

Why not? Plotting a sex scene involves cultivating a sexual thought, on purpose. In Christianity that is called ‘entertaining impure thoughts.’  HAVING impure thoughts is not the sin– we have no control when we wake up from a sex dream and continue having sexual thoughts before our self-control can assert itself.

There is an old Catholic story about a teen boy who goes to confession and can’t think of what to confess. The helpful priest asks if the boy has been entertaining impure thoughts.  The boy, wanting to be truthful, says ‘No, Father, they entertain ME.’

Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and many other fine authors that we all should read managed to write novels without having their characters go at it sexually all over the landscape. Dickens even wrote prostitute characters without resorting to sex scenes. Why today’s authors think they are better and more realistic than Dickens because they write their sex fantasies into their fiction I do not know.

A Christian is called to be pure. Why? Because sex is too holy to be taken casually. God instituted marriage so that believers could live out their sex lives in a pure and holy way. Marriage— and the sexuality that comes with the marriage— is symbolic of the relationship of Christ and the Church. What part of that makes you believe that writing out sex fantasies in our fiction is OK?

Some people think that you need explicit sex scenes to be ‘realistic’.  It would also be ‘realistic’ to have an explicit scene of your character’s next bathroom visit. But it would also be crude and disgusting to many readers. Do we really need to know if Harry Potter did a number 1 or a number 2?

Another reason against sex scenes is the unintended effect we may have. We write a gritty, realistic rape scene that is as unsexy as we can make it— and some teen uses it for whacking-off material. Won’t that warp the young person’s sexuality? And what about the recovering sex addict? A sex scene, unexpected in a Christian author’s novel, may cause a relapse.

A very pragmatic reason against sex scenes for the Christian/Catholic author is that the reader base for Christian fiction overwhelmingly prefers traditional fiction without sex scenes. What do you do when the Christian readers reject you? Secularist readers won’t like you unless you reject all your Christian values in a way you probably don’t want to do.

Finally, writing a sex scene can be overly revealing about you-the-writer. It’s hard to write a sex scene without drawing on your own personal sex experiences, if any. And even if you are innocent of experience, folks will figure that you are doing that kinky sex thing you wrote about.

I should at this point admit that when I first started out writing I tried to write a porno. I had to buy some porno books to get the sex scenes right. I wrote one chapter with a lesbian scene and then lost interest in the project. I realize now what a mistake it would have been to have continued with that project.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8 KJV







A time for feasting, a time for fasting


In ‘The Complete Guide to Fasting’, the authors talk about the importance of feasting and fasting. In most traditional cultures there are both feasts and fasts. They balance each other out. But in our culture the fasting side is ignored and we feast, feast, feast. And then we get Type 2 diabetes and die. Or, if we are lucky, we learn about ketogenic diets and Intermittent Fasting and live.

The authors of ‘The  Complete Guide to Fasting’ recommend a ketogenic diet for your eating periods. A ketogenic diet has been scientifically proven to have a number of health benefits— unlike the low-calorie/low-fat fad diet which has been shown in scientific studies to slow your metabolism and raise your blood sugar.

One thing you need for your ketogenic diet is some good recipes so you can make some food that is permitted on your diet and tasty. The hardest part of ketogenic is that most of us have to start cooking our own meals. Dr. Atkins in his diet books claimed that you could order what you want at restaurants. We don’t have that kind of restaurant where I live. The restaurants I used to go to had amazing levels of trouble just remembering not to bring me toast or muffins when I asked them not to.

What I most need is recipes I can make again and again. I used to always make up a batch of devilled eggs for ketogenic meals. I made some with cheese and bacon bits added to the yolk mixture.

Then I used to make a recipe with tuna adapted from a recipe in one of Dr. Atkins’ recipe books, for ‘fish loaf’. I’ve adapted a lot over the years and now add in a bit of mushrooms and a small amount of peas. That makes the ‘tuna loaf’ taste a bit like my mom’s tuna casserole.

I have a few other recipes that are my staples. But it is hard to make my own keto meals nearly every day when I’m not fasting. I’ve always been planning to try freezing portions of some recipes to reheat on days when I can’t stand cooking but I haven’t gotten to doing that yet. I’m not one of those super-organized kitchen women.

Lately what I have been making often is crustless quiche. I’ve made several variations— one with bacon bits, one with mushrooms, and one with some shredded Gouda cheese for the cheese portion and some tuna.

Intermittent Fasting really helps because it cuts down on the number of meals I have to cook. Frankly, I’d rather make some hot tea in the morning than cook something and have to clean up after myself.

Time to shop for composition books

Like other writers I tend to use composition books for outlining and planning my fiction. It just feels different to sit down with pen and paper to write.

The problem with composition books is that during most of the year it is hard to get the kind you like. I prefer colorful books so I can easily tell one from another. And if I can get it, I prefer college ruled over wide ruled.

During the back to school shopping season, there are a lot of composition books available at good prices. I got some at Walmart for 50 cents each. I got some prettier ones for $1 each.

I stock up on composition books during back-to-school shopping season. When the season is over the prices are higher and the selection is down, down, down.

I also like to use gel pens when I write by hand. I prefer different colors of pens, particularly purple. These are a little harder to get at a good price. Most colorful gel pens are sold in an assortment that includes useless colors like pale yellows and pinks— too hard to use for anything I want to be able to read later.

Each writer has certain writing supplies that mean far more to him that makes good sense. Do you have any special writing items you use to keep the writing going smoothly?