Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Quick Reading Challenge Update

I'm on vacation with my family this week, so this post will be short. We're almost halfway through 2023, which means it's time for a reading update. I've read 103 books so far this year. My original goal was 170 books, but I just increased it to 200. It's been some time since I read that much, so let's see if I make it. 

Here's the breakdown by genre:

Fantasy: 22
Science Fiction: 8
Cozy Mystery: 49
Other Fiction: 2
Non-fiction: 21

I'm one book short, but I'll have more time to track my books in December. I'll post about my trip sometime next month. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

LGBTQIA in the Season Avatars Universe

In honor of Pride Month, I thought I'd discuss how my understanding of sexuality and gender has evolved since I first came up with the Season Avatars and the country of Challen. This in turn has affected Challen's culture and the characters I portray in that setting.

When I was inspired to create the Season Avatars back in the mid-nineties, I thought it was diverse enough to give each of the Avatars a different personality and different class background. (Ysabel is also part of an ethnic minority group.) However, as I became more aware of LGBTQIA issues, my characters started to develop more diversity. Although I originally envisioned my Season Avatars quartet as all straight, two of them (Gwen and Jenna) developed a history of being married to each other in their previous lives--and they still retained that attraction. I consider both of them bisexual, though they have some issues they need to work through (including their marriages to other people) before they reunite.

By the time I was ready to indie-publish this series, I decided the culture needed roles for people who choose not to get married and have families. I came up with the roles of Summersmen and Fallswomen, lay people who dedicate themselves to serving the God of Summer and Goddess of Fall. (It just occurred to me that it may seem unbalanced not to have lay people serving the Goddess of Spring and the God of Winter. However, They are considered to be linked to married people (especially mothers) and older people, while Summer and Fall are considered more interested in single people.) Summersmen and Fallswomen might look after local temples, protect nature preserves dedicated to the Four Gods and Goddesses, and act as healers and teachers for their communities. They may also hold jobs not typically linked to their gender. For example, in the upcoming  short story collection The Season Between, we'll meet William, Gwen's secretary. William chose to become a Summersman because he's aro ace. He boards with his sister in Midpoint (close enough to ride to the One Oak every day to meet with Gwen), and excels at taking notes in shorthand and helping Gwen sort through all the demands on her healing magic.

Challens believe in reincarnation, often saying that they visit the God of Winter between lives. They believe they switch roles from life to life, changing gender, social class, and other traits. Originally, I thought only the Season Avatars would remember their past lives in any detail. However, other Challens might subconsciously remember details such as if they were male or female before and who they had relationships with. It's occurred to me recently that reincarnation may affect the non-binary and transgender people of Challen. Transgender people might remember being a different gender in their past lives and feel more comfortable in their original bodies than their current ones. I'm still trying to figure out the best way to handle this in my world. Gwen's healing magic would allow her to give people hormone therapy if necessary, but it's not strong enough to completely change their bodies from one gender to another. I can see at least one of the Avatars believing people should accept their current bodies while other Avatars wanting to make transgender and non-binary people as comfortable in their own skins as possible. Once a soul develops a preference for a particular gender, should the Four honor that preference? The Goddess of Fall doesn't like men and doesn't let Her Avatars reincarnate as men; is She doing them a disservice? These are questions I'm still trying to answer.

Do you consider diversity in your worldbuilding? If you write science fiction or fantasy, do you handle sexuality or gender differently in your world than we do? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Finding Themes While Reading

One of the books I'm currently reading is called The House Witch by Delemhach (though I may be done with it by the time this post goes live). As the title suggests, it's about a male witch (the term applies to all genders) named Fin whose skill with domestic magic enables him to become a royal cook. 

As I've been reading this book, I've noticed that several sets of father-son relationships are mentioned. There's Fin and his abusive father, the king and prince Fin serves, a family that burdens their male children with embarrassing names to toughen them, and probably more. There's also an important brother-sister relationship. All of these relationships deal with the power imbalance between the people involved. 

Echoing this theme is the difference in culture between the main country, Daxaria, and Troivack, a neighboring country that is planning to start a war with Daxaria. There is little to no love between family members in Troivack; in fact, the sister I mentioned earlier is originally from Troivack and only learned to love when she came to Daxaria. The book is part of a three-part series, and fortunately my local library has all the books. It's just a matter of getting to them, along with all the other books I want to read.

At this point in the series, it's too early to tell if the family theme will be the most important theme throughout the entire story. But it'll give me something to watch for. 

Have there been any themes that jumped out at you in the books you've read recently? If so, feel free to share them in the comments.

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

June IWSG: Alternatives to Writing

Welcome back to the Insecure Writers' Support Group! If you're not familiar with them, you can learn more about them on their website or Facebook page.

Our hosts this month are Patricia Josephine, Diedre Knight, Olga Godim, J. Lenni Dorner, and Cathrina Constantine.

Here's our question for June: If you ever did stop writing, what would you replace it with?

As a working parent, I already have plenty of tasks to fill my time; it's more like trying to carve out half an hour or an hour at the end of the day for writing. There's also plenty of other entertainment options (reading, electronic and board games, and videos) to do if I'm bored. But would they satisfy my creative urges? Perhaps the best alternative to writing would be something like crochet (which I've been sadly lacking the time for lately). Crochet gives me plenty of opportunities to make things, though it's mostly following other people's patterns instead of designing something from scratch. Perhaps the only substitute for one creative endeavor is another. However, as long as I can still nurture my creative spark, the only reason I would permanently stop writing is if I'm physically or mentally unable to continue. In that case, the only replacement for writing is eternal silence.

 What would make you stop writing, and what would you replace it with? Feel free to share your thoughts or blog links in the comments.

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