Sunday, January 2, 2011

Call for Worldbuilding/ Language Workshop Submissions

As I begin a new year at TalkToYoUniverse, I'm thinking about what might make this blog better. I know that you guys like writing-related posts; I also know that you like worldbuilding posts, and culture-related posts. So to start with, I'm going to invite you to ask anything you might be curious about and/or think I could help you with by writing about it here.

Secondly, I've been considering the problem of workshops. I've done three workshops here, and really enjoyed all three, but they were a serious time commitment! So given that I'm going to be trying to hit writing goals this year (a novel and a short story, which is quite a lot for me), I've decided I need to try a new approach for the workshop.

Instead of taking submissions and picking five people for a month-long workshop, I'm going to put out an open call for submissions and run an ongoing micro-workshop for worldbuilders and language/culture designers, selecting a maximum of one entry per week. These I will spend a bit of time engaging with and discussing on the blog.

So, if you're interested in workshopping with me and having your work looked at by my readers...

Please submit an excerpt of no more than five hundred words from your work in progress (novel length or shorter story length), with a sentence or two telling me what kind of feedback you're looking for. If the excerpt is the opening of your work, and you want feedback on your world-entry, don't tell me anything else. If the excerpt is from the middle of your work, you may add an additional sentence or two to give me some basic previous context. Entries totaling over 1000 words of text and explanation cannot be considered, so please be concise.

You may use the comments space below this post for general blog suggestions and for submissions. Please include an email address if you want me to inform you that you have been selected.

This should be fun, and I look forward to seeing what you're working on! Please tell your friends.


  1. e-mail:


    Rhiannon AnnaMaria Reyes, (10 Strength, 14 Dexterity, 12 Stamina, 17 Will, 16 IQ and 15 Charisma -- Geek 7/Barista 3/Unobtainable Hot Geek Girl 2) is what is known in geek circles as an Unobtainable Hot Geek Girl. She’s a valuable asset to any right-thinking geek outlet, since UHGGs (unfortunate acronym, yes, but so is the one for those boots and yet they sell like hotcakes) are great for business — drawing in single and lonely geek boys to moon over the girl, hoping that if they just quote the right movie, drop the right reference, they might break through her armor of nonchalance and win her heart, then to ride off into the sunset. At comic and game conventions they appear as Booth Babes--a Booth Babe who knows a lens from a lightsaber is a more powerful agent of advertising than a million banners. They can be found in comic shops idly paging though back issues of Sandman, poking at hard drives while wearing button-up shirts and thick plastic glasses at Best Buy, and many other locales. They draw attention from the stereotypical center of various geek demographics, largely male, straight, and skittish around women, especially attractive geeky women.

    Sadly for Ree, there are not quite so many women in this role to change the term from Unobtainable Hot Geek Girl to Obtainable Hot Geek Girl (OHGG, natch), though a number of such women are, in fact, single. By virtue of being heavily outnumbered, Geek Girls have for many an allure more powerful than the prospect of invites to closed betas or underpriced mint condition back issues discovered at garage sales. Rhiannon “Ree” Reyes has had all of these jobs, and now served as the UHGG for Café Xombi, which payed just enough to live the broke-ass bohemian lifestyle and have enough time to work on her screenplays.

    Café Xombi is “nestled gently” (read as “squashed improbably”) between a high-art gallery which seems to never have anyone in it but somehow stays open and the around-the-corner side of a bank. Bryan Blin, the owner-manager, pays a premium for every bit of real estate, located a half-block down a side street from one of the main drags in the university district of the fine city of Urbanopolis.

    It was a grey and dreary day, #17 of an unknowably long stretch of grey and dreary days endemic to the Pacific Northwest. Grey and dreary days aren’t quite as famously portentous as dark and stormy nights, but this particular grey and dreary day would prove to be a turning point in the life of one Rhiannon Reyes.

  2. This sounds like a neat idea. I'll have to see what I'd be willing to have other people poke at, only because I know my writing hasn't been polished much. Your blog and Janice's are my two favorites for writing advice in both content and tone.

  3. I will definitely need to see one in action to get the concept and then submit, right now I'm in the middle of edits and rough drafts, so nothing very suitable here.

  4. Jaleh, I'd love to see something from you. I'm not necessarily looking for polish (per se), but for something that sets up the world you're working on.

    Harry, I'll try to get a first entry up in the next week. Once I've gotten started it will be easier for you to see what I'm up to. As I said to Jaleh, though, it doesn't have to be a final draft. I appreciate the comment.

  5. I love this idea. I've worked hard on my world building, languages, and kinship and naming conventions (part of world building, I guess), but then I worked just as hard to make them disappear in the novel.

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  7. Suzi, I'd love to see something from you if you're interested - something completed or something new you're working on. Making the worldbuilding disappear is indeed important, and one of the things I love to work on.

  8. First 500 words. World entry feedback. This one's a doozy to walk into and several entry points have already been discarded.

    :) You are awesome for doing this.


    Surfacing was hard. Her mind spiraled slowly upward through the dim fog of unconsciousness. Her eyelids cracked open and a wave of nausea crawled over her. Her stomach heaved, but she held it in and sat up, battling her own weak limbs and empty body.

    She waited for her vision to clear.

    Pale rose chiffon curtains hung down around her on a wide, soft bed. The coverlet was silken smooth with fire red and gold threads weaving circles of light and dark—joy and pain, her mind whispered—beneath her hands. Light streamed faintly in through the layers of sheer fabric all around her. No way out. She caught a shaky breath and lifted her hand to the chiffon, letting her fingertips touch it, see where she could barely see from the heaviness weighing down her eyes and hurting like a spreading ache throughout her entire body.

    Her stomach rebelled again and she leaned over the side of the bed and emptied the emptiness in her stomach onto the stone slabs of the floor, etched with their ruby and flashing gold.

    "You're awake."

    She did not look up.

    "I had hoped you would wake soon." A man's smooth, rich voice rolled over her, dark and deep, a low murmur beneath it drawing her out.

    A flash of fire in her gut, her mind recoiling, sharp resentment spiking. She did not know why. She did not answer.

    The man chuckled low, rumbling in his throat. "I have been waiting for you," he said.

    Her hand clutched the chiffon curtain, grinding fingers into sweaty palms, marking the spread, scoring the curtain. She heaved again, then shook with the effort of staying alive.

    Emptiness threatened to swallow her up.

    Nothing. Nameless. Cryless. She swallowed at the emptiness inside her, heaving from the emptiness, losing what was not there to lose.

    The man did not speak.

    She answered, "You are?" The word was soft, lilted out in a heavy voice, strange to her empty ears. The language... It was nothing like the language of this man with his low, rumbling, smooth, drawing—manipulative, her mind whispered—voice.

    "Ah." The man drew forward.

    She felt him nearing her, drew her body up with effort and pulled away, but he was there, so close, his eyes and hair dark, skin fair, smile curving the lips pleasantly, dark clothes, hand rising and cupping her chin to make her look at him finally.

    "You have come out of a place of darkness, my child," he said soothingly. "You are home now."

    She stared at him wide-eyed, breath rasping between them, staring into the dark and knowing eyes.

    A place of darkness...

    It is something else, her mind whispered. A place—

    But there it stopped. Words stilted. Memory bent.

    His hand was warm against her skin and she leaned back her head just slightly, eyelids shuttering. She yanked her chin away and looked up at him with eyes of resentment, an unnamed fury boiling beneath her skin.

  9. I like to be thorough, you know. If I am to have my work placed online, then I most certainly want it to be as good as it comes.

    Will be waiting by my feed.

  10. ((world entry first 461 words))

    The night that Al'sea was found, the journey Priestess Cen'sea had already traveled more than two days in the blistering cold to reach her destination. The fact that she saw Al'sea at all was something of a miracle; the child's pure white skin, bone white hair and white shift blended perfectly with the mounds of snow pushed aside along the path. If a stray beam of moonlight had not glinted off of the strange silver dots above Al'sea's left eyebrow, Cen'sea was sure the child would have stayed in the drift until the spring.

    Luck was Al'sea's pup that night however and what Cen'sea thought to be some trader's lost wares turned out to be a lost waif, barely breathing and cold as ice. Praising Cina for her mercy, Cen'sea grabbed her blanket from her traveling pack and hurriedly wrapped the child in it.

    "Call me Moon-crossed but you weigh little more than a chick child," Cen'sea murmured, rubbing her back as she hefted her upwards. “Kalyea will see to it that you are put to rights, you shall see,” she continued, naming the Healer conjured images of a warm room and company. “If I do not get us lost that is,” she added wryly.

    The wind picked up in ferocity as Cen’sea struggled through the deepening snow and deeper shadows. Where the Northern Citadel lay, dense forest grew all around, eclipsing the moon everywhere but at the Citadel itself. Perfect for protection, less perfect for winter season traveling. Later, when relating the story to the High Priestess Cen’sea would thoughtfully linger on the fact that moonlight had been what guided her to the child in the first place.

    As she made her way, certain the Citadel was little more than a few more steps in the right direction, Cen’sea whispered to the child. Lullabies from where she grew up, farther west where the Great Northern River lay. When those ran out, she recited winter season devotionals from her novice years at the Citadel. “Though I find these as boring now as I did then little one,” she said with a sharp bark of laughter.

    Occasionally the child stirred, murmuring incomprehensively before burrowing further into the blanket and Cen’sea’s shoulder. Cen’sea would adjust her weight then, and scan the horizon for signs of the Citadel’s gates.

    Thus far she had managed to follow the path mostly by feel and by locating each glowing orb that marked the path to the Citadel. The orbs never went out, never faltered or flickered, but burned a dull blueish light all around the clock to guide travelers to their destination no matter the time or season. They were known as the Orbs of Cina and only the High Priestess knew how to make them work.

    Thank you so much for this, I admit that Worldbuilding is great to read about, but lord have mercy is it hard to actually DO.

    Lexie C.

  11. I found an excerpt to use, but I'm trying to figure out how to shave off some words without making it confusing. (588 words) Maybe a better excerpt to share will come to me after I see more examples go through their paces (and I do more writing).

  12. I think this is great. This is the first scene. The format shifted when I cut and paste. Sorry. email:

    King Aidan looked towards the town of Sabin and further towards the sea. Coldness filled him. Black lines weaved in the sky, edging their way into the heavens. The coastal town was burning.

    "My Lord."

    Aidan forced himself to turn to Martin, his man at arms and a solid presence in the face of chaos. His expression stoic.

    "They are upon us with no warning. What evil gives them breath?" the King said.

    "My Lord, fire precedes them. Our men cannot see this foe from the sky."

    "And so it begins." King Aidan turned back to the sky. "All things return to a place of beginnings," he murmured. And so it did. The once peaceful lands of Vengarion would be no more. The evil came through the night giving rise to the destruction at hand. Aidan knew this day would come. Foreseen before his birth, he prayed it would not come to pass during his lifetime. But men held no power over such things...until now.

    "My Lord," Martin broke his reverie, "'tis Airellen. She has begun to birth."

    "Fetch the midwife. There is nothing we can do but fortify our defenses here. Theonor will see to the soldiers."

    Martin bowed and walked off.

    King Aidan gave one more glance towards the sea before retreating back into the castle, his heart a wedge of stone, heavy in his chest.

    The beautiful Airellen, pale as ivory bone, lay on blood stained sheets, propped up against a pillow. Her fine brown hair stuck to her face in wet strands. Aidan knew at that instant she would die. His beloved wife, Catherine, had met such a fate bearing his son, Wilhelm.

    “My dear,” he said his voice optimistic. “You have chosen such an unfortunate hour to birth.”

    Airellen smiled. “You know me. Full of surprises, my lord.”

    Aidan remembered why he grew to love the once vibrant, Airellen. He had refused to accept Wilhelm’s decision in his choice to marry her, but she surprised him. He learned to see what Wilhelm saw in her, and learned why he loved her.

    “Wilhelm?” she asked.

    Aidan forced a smile. “They have not yet returned.” He looked from Airellen to Edalene, wife to his eldest son. “We are at war milady,” he went on. “I sent word to the provinces and Edmund’s forces but fear it may be too late. The enemy has been given speed and will be upon us soon.”

    “You must take Edalene,” Airellen said. “Caelen is Phillip’s daughter and your heir. She must live.”
    Should both his sons fall into darkness, Caelen would be the true heir, his only heir. Edalene let out a loud sob.

    Airellen’s voice fell to a whisper, “Tell Wilhelm I love him. Tell him never to lose hope.”

    The room fell silent. Edalene wept.

  13. Okay, I'm in.

    The black marble slabs that paved the entrance hall cracked under my feet. This required a great deal of effort on my part, for my cloven hooves were sharp-edged and petite, and not really made for stomping on stone. And even though my batlike wings were still immature, more delicate fairy-gauze than leathery flight membrane, I was so angry that they kept slashing the air and lifting me off the ground.
    Not very far off the ground, but far enough to spoil any chance of a good, hard, satisfying stomp.
    I forced my wings to fold, and the sacred things promptly sprang open again! I lashed my barbed tail, snarled, and tried to keep my feet firmly on the ground. With limited success.
    I tried stalking down the hall, but what I achieved could more accurately be described as bouncing. Wherever I grounded, I left cloven hoofprints with a halo of radiating cracks like stylised lightning bolts.
    I had undergone the tortures of Inhuman Health & Hygiene classes, so I understood what the metabolic sparks shaking my body were supposed to do. Some day soon, those irritating sparks that bubbled through the ichor in my veins would become a raging inferno of potent alchemical reactions, ensuring my reaction to any given situation would be either Fight, Flight or Fornicate.
    But how the heaven would an alchemical know which F-word was most appropriate in any given situation?
    I had grown long-limbed and lean over the past year, but I hadn't filled out into anything like my mother's dangerous curves. And I still wasn't used to the way my body had changed. The way my body was still changing. I was always tripping over, or bumping into things.
    Sometimes I felt like my body was a fallen empire that had fractured into a bunch of warring city-states. If this was puberty, you could keep it.
    Mother said I would fill out soon enough. She said I would develop finer control over my muscles and limbs. You're too eager, too impatient, she said. Give it time, she said. You're just a late burner, she said.
    She said other things, when she thought that I couldn't hear her. She said that I remind her of a stiletto, slender yet dangerous, but wielded by an untrained, clumsy hand.
    Well, this stiletto had just been sheathed, after being ichor-stained once too often.
    At least my mother was working late. Again. I had at least four hours to kill before I had to explain myself. Again.
    Time enough to think of some excuse. Surely.
    My wings collapsed, slamming so hard against my back that I feared that they were going to break my ribs, wrap themselves around my spine, and come to rest in my lungs. My tail whipped up under my skirt, in an attempt to find an even less dignified hiding place. Electric sparks crackled across my skin, raw magic earthing itself in my squirming embarrassment.

  14. Ben stepped onto the dark, gritty sand taking in a breath of the cool sea air. His next stop had to be the Casino; not that type of casino, more the main social venue in town, although some card playing was going on. An awful lot of noisy domino playing could be heard coming from the rear of the bar, where the few remaining fishermen and assorted locals gather for a mid-morning chinwag. It felt as though there was an uneasy peace between those on a short stay, those on a long-term sojourn and the more established residents. No doubt there was a pecking order, but Ben had neither the curiosity nor the patience to investigate such matters at the moment. He sat with the other tourists and day-trippers next to the window which looked out onto the esplanade. His coffee arrived quickly; but did nothing to calm his nerves. Eating was out of the question; luckily he’d managed to force down breakfast on the plane, more out of boredom than hunger.
    The walk along the seafront was refreshingly pleasant,

    Ben felt as though he were on holiday. If only this stroll along the prom could be part of a relaxing break, rather than part of an elaborate plan, a web that dragged him in and dragged him down to depths he had never cared to inhabit. All through his grubby career he had
    E-mail - oops sorry about formating