Sunday, January 25, 2015

Book Two Update and Playlist Feature

Many people have been asking me about the progress on Book Two.  It's definitely moving forward at a comfortable pace.  Below is a photo of my elaborate outlining system, each column represents a chapter (or in some lengthy cases, half a chapter).  Each pink mark denotes that the chapter has been written, so definitely more pink than white at this point.  :-)

As the story grows, my Centernia playlist grows, topping 271 tracks.  Here's another piece from my my music collection. I hear Nico's perspective in the lyrics, especially at the end of Return to the Castle. When I first heard this song, the phrase on the the shattered ones really resonated  as the castlefolk.  Even the phrase 'his love will conquer' (obviously a religious ref), could refer Teren's influence on the castlefolk.

Trading Yesterday: Shattered
Album: More than this

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Top Ten Influential Authors

I was the type of kid who would go to the school library every day, pick out a book, read it in a night, and be back the next day for a new book.  Throughout my formative years, I devoured a healthy diet of sci-fi and fantasy. There are certain authors I go back to, time and time again, these are top ten authors from my youth who influenced my writing.

10. Anne McCaffrey

Long before How to Train your Dragon, the Dragonriders of Pern definitely dominated as the quintessential work on riding dragons.  It's no surprise McCaffrey is regarded as a grand master of science fiction.  The world is certainly at a loss from her passing.

9.  Tamora Pierce

Circle of Magic Trilogy, is a series of young magic users learning to control their powers.  This series was published before Harry Potter was released in the US.  The mages in this book series have a certain elemental focus to their magic manifestations, which was definitely in the back of my mind as I developed the mechanics of magic in Centernia.

8. Stephen King

I remembered standing by the pool in my backyard when my friend Stephanie brought a copy of Carrie to my house.  My mom told her that it was inappropriate for en eleven-year-old and I was absolutely not permitted to borrow the book. Of course, that made me want to read the book even more.  It took several months of pestering before I was allowed to read Carrie, which though an awesome read, I hardly thought was worth the ban. Subsequently, I read through all the dark, gritty Stephen King classics.

7. Tanith Lee

I'll admit, there's only one book of Tanith Lee's that really stands out in my memory, The Silver Metal Lover.  It's a tale of ill-fated romance in a slightly dystopian society and features attractive musicians...and robots.

6. Anne Rice

Vampires, before they sparkled.

5. Bruce Coville

Hailing from my hometown of Syracuse, Bruce Coville is an amazing story teller.  His books range from sci-fi to fantasy.  Though the target audience is children and YA, I can still re-read his books and get pulled into the rich worlds.

4. Marguerite Henry

In third grade I hit the horse-crazy age, even though I had never ridden and had no hope of ever going riding ('too expensive!'  'too dangerous!'), I convinced my parents to order the Misty of Chincoteague series from Scholastic book order.  The story centers around a wholesome family as they raise Misty, a wild pony from Assateague Island, Virginia.  This book series has a similar feel to classics such as Black Beauty and Where the Red Fern Grows.  

3. Kevin J. Anderson, Timothy Zahn, Roger MacBride Allen, Barbara Hambly, Kathy Tyers...and just about every other author who penned a book in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

Star Wars was the series that taught me that you can have a ridiculously rich and detailed universe that never stops growing.

2.  Wendy and Richard Pini

When I was about nine years old, I remember standing in my neighbor's driveway on a summer afternoon.  My friend Paul had an older brother who was a teenager and owned a car. On this particular sunny day, his brother opened the trunk of his beat-up sedan, revealing a mountain of comics. He let each of the neighborhood kids pick a comic, for free.  I took two titles, Thundercats, and this interesting looking comic called Elfquest.  Though I thought the Thundercats was really cool, I had no idea how amazing Elquest would be.

Wendy and Richard Pini are the force behind Elfquest. These two self-published comic creators made a series regarded as unmarketable in the mid-70s.  Rejected by the publishing giants, the Pinis founded WaRP graphics and brought their elaborate world of the wolfriders to life.  In the decades later, DC, Marvel and Darkhorse would all come courting at the Pinis' door.  I admire the Pinis as artists, worldbuilders, and self-starters who didn't seem to worry too much about established norms. They had a rich story to tell, and they told it no matter who listened.

1. Mercedes Lackey

My friend Maria handed me The Last Herald Mage in high school and pretty much ordered me to read it.  She said Centernia was really similar to the style of world and I would like it.  Since that time, Mercedes Lackey has been my go-to author whenever I need a book guaranteed to be a good read.  I think I learned a great deal of character depth from Lackey.  She excels at portraying a beautiful realism to her magic users, locking them into a constant struggle. Also, her Valdemar series features magical telepathic white horses, so it's really a double-win.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Centernia Fashion: Part 2, Jewelry & Footwear


Inhabitants of Centernia love to wear jewelry. For some, it is a talisman of good luck. For others, it is an ostentatious bit of show. For those in mourning, a simple choker may be a means to feel connected with the dead.

In the land of Centernia, almost all types of jewelry are worn by both genders. Earrings are very popular, as are ear cuffs, ring bracelets and simple pendants. It is not unusual to see someone with as many as ten piercings along their earlobe. Tongue and nose piercings are not as common in Centernia, but you will see them among members of the Holy Circus and people of the northern regions.


Much of the jewelry common in the area of Trabalis is made from a gold variant, mined in the mountains. It is plentiful and cheap metal with relatively low toxicity. Silver jewelry is also popular.

Gemstones are more rare than gold. Most jewelry worn by common folk feature polished stones, glass, painted wood, and innovative combinations of natural materials.

Misa and Savina would both be drawn to a necklace such as this one for its intricate patterns and bright red glass stones:

Metal Red Crystal Collar Necklace

Jessica may enjoy wearing an ornately patterned bracelet such as this one, as it's small and does not have dangling parts to get caught in her work:

Hollowed Bracelet Bangle

Lily was fond of Centernian arm-chains. Though she does not wear them much anymore, she often wore them in her youth.

Arm Chain Bracelet in Silver Tone JB1027RDCLR

Kaity Cosette would have liked an asymmetrical belt such as this one:

Draped Multi Strand Chain

As previously mentioned, men wear earrings in Centernia. Nico wears long simple strand earrings in addition to small studs.   

If Teren wears earrings, they are more often small studs. for formal occasions, he may wear something of this design.

Double Strand Earrings

Head chains and other crown-like jewelry are not common in everyday affairs, but popular at formal occasions, especially among women.

Goldtone Metal Head Chain with Dangling Stones

Common Symbolism

As with Centernian clothing, flowing lines and organic shapes are very popular. The dawn drop is very common shape form used in jewelry pieces. The dawndrop, or Tears of the Godddess, is an unusual plant form tied to Auroriate religion, and thus pervasive on the continent of Madierna.

Faded Blue Tear Drop

Mourning Braid or "Death Choker"
Perhaps one of the most unique pieces of jewelry worn in Centernia is the mourning braid.  The necklace is made from fibers are from the amorte plant, and are known for being strong and also soft and comfortable. Tradition specifies that an item belonging to the dead is woven into the special braided choker.  Previously, this may have actually been a small bone from the deceased, but that practice has fallen out of vogue.

One wears the choker for a period of mourning. When the strands break of their own accord, the dead have released them and they are free to live without grief and guilt. The mourning braid is an old tradition, but not always practiced.

The Moons

Centernia is a planet orbited by two moons, Kiuskia and Kilati. Often referred to as the big and little sister, the moons have significance in the culture of many Centernian people. The religion of Kiuskia and Kilati predates even that of the Goddess Aurora.  Some followers of the Goddess Aurora may scoff at the moon symbolism as it threatens the strength of their religion.  Others see Kiuskia and Kilati as part of the Auroriate religion.

Galactic Universe Cabochon Pendant

Triple Moon Phases Necklace

Creatures Depicted in Jewelry

Tiger Bracelet

Animals that are known for their strength are used as symbols of strength and power, these include:

  • Bicorns 
  • Tigers 
  • Gryphons 
  • Nightflights 
  • Featherwings, (dragons with feathery wings and small tufts of fur) 
  • Wolves 
  • Snakes 
  • Quelyn, (a very small neon green critters, resilient aquatic bird able to breath underwater) 

Goldtone Snake Adjustable Finger Ring

Other common animal symbols

Jamule Toads: Jessica sees toads with feathery heads on the ride to the fair. These little critters are known as Jamule toads.  They begin their life cycle as fish, spend most of their life as toads, then grow wings in order to travel to mate. A Jamule toad is a symbol of good luck and transformative growth.

Boulderbeast: Teren tells the children the legend of the boulderbeast who lives in the sky. The creature is a lumpy, grumpy, hog-like winged monster with round eyes and a foul personality. The creature is often cruel to adults and kind to children who see through his rough exterior. Jewelry made for children may depict the boulderbeast as a good-luck charm and a ward against fear of the natural elements.

Night flights (bat-winged dragons) are very popular symbols surrounded in controversy. Over a hundred years ago, the mages of Castle Nova appropriated the dragon symbol from the Auroriates. The Auroriate religion, colloquially referred to as the Holy Circus, was not pleased. The relationship between the Holy Circus and the Mages has always been very tenuous, and the followers of the goddess found this act disrespectful.

The mages are powerful wielders of magic, but are generally a secular group.  The Holy Circus have a lesser magic magic, but bring the people faith.  Both groups preside over civic matters with the blessing of the local governments.

As it is tied to religion, the Circus will often illicit strong emotional responses from the common people. As a result, people are in general more trusting of Auroriates than mages. When the mages took the nightflight as a symbol, many people were outraged, seeing it as a bastardization of something sacred.

Leather Bracelet

The Holy Circus

When talking about jewelry, one cannot overlook the beautiful performers of the Goddess Aurora. These missionary entertainers will often wear masks in order to 'equalize' them in the eyes of the goddess. The circusfolk wear different types of masks for different events (these masks are similiar to what may be seen on Earth at the Carnival of Venice). Despite the fact the masks are meant to equalize the circusfolk, the masks are quite gorgeous and elaborate, holding meaning to each person.

Morning prayers may be attended with simple black and white masks with little pattern. When the three circus youths harassed Penrik, they were wearing basic masks. Kestrel wore a mask patterned with roses.

In public spaces, members of the Holy Circus wear half and full face masks. Higher members of the circus may wear very light transparent masks, especially when interacting with dignitaries and officials. As a sign of respect, Aunt Amberynn may have worn something like this in her daily interaction with the castlefolk.


Most footwear is made from various leathers and fabrics. Plastic is not a material readily available on the continent of Madierna. There are a few exceptions to this, as the mages have been known to bring interesting items through the gates. Though shoes may have low heels, it is unlikely you will ever see a female character in stiletto heels.

Functionality is important as transportation is limited to walking. Characters who ride a lot may have boots with low heels, as the heel prevents the foot from slipping into the striruip.

Savina and Nico would both prefer boots of this style, as they are often out riding:

Patterning and fine craftsmanship are appreciated among the people of Trabalis, as footwear was often custom made. People still have a variety of tastes. For example, Jared may enjoy wearing something ostentatious as with this design:

Engineer Boot, Black Distressed/10-11 M US

Teren may prefer something more refined, such as this style (with a delicate buckle instead of a zipper):
Black Leather Boot

A person's racial background might influence the type of clothing they prefer. People such as Wadjette, Jiberty, Savina and Alba are more cat-like. Their toes may be a little bit bigger and their feet more paw-like. As a result, they may favor more open designs. However, functionality is important. Jiberty working in the glass shop would wear heaving protective leather boots. 

Dress Sandal,Saddle Leather

Jessica appreciates the soft footwear of Centernia, and will wear boots and sandals to school on earth. She becomes particularly fond of fur-lined boots, such as these:

Denali Boot

Read Part 3: Armor

Upcoming Articles: 
Part 4 The Holy Circus
Part 5 High Formal Attire
Part 6 Symbols and Signets

Previous Articles:
Part 1: Basic Fashion