Naked shapeshifters? A writing problem.

pixabay image compilation

I’m about 21,000 words into my latest WIP after a week of NaNo. Can I keep up the pace? Not a chance! But it feels good that the words are spewing – yeah… spewing. 🙂

But I have a problem… naked shapeshifters. They’re distracting, and I refuse to bog down the story to deal with all the nudity or the logistics of finding clothing. I’m curious as to how you might handle it.

The challenges of keeping your clothes on while shapeshifting

My human characters are shapeshifters. The story is an adventure that takes place over four large territories. Shapeshifting is a convenient way of traveling, spying, stealing, protecting oneself, and escaping some sticky situations. There are extreme drawbacks to shifting, so it’s a choice that has to be carefully weighed.

Anyway, when a human shifts into a bird or leopard or beetle, for example, their clothes don’t fit anymore and, logically, are left behind. (Yes, exceptions abound, but I’m not going there .)

So the animal travels or escapes, and then shifts back into human form somewhere in the mountains or jungle. It would follow that their tidbits are fully exposed to the elements, to the terrain, and to each other. Naked shapeshifters dangling and bouncing, wrapping themselves in handy fern fronds, or keeping a thousand stashes of plastic-wrapped outfits all over the vast territories doesn’t work for me. What to do?

Of course, I googled this problem, and I’m not the only one to face it.

Here are some ideas based on my research:

1. Clothing is a part of the shifter’s physical organism and when he changes, his clothing goes along for the ride. It’s part of his being. Damaged clothing could regenerate just like physical injuries.

2. Shapeshifters transform by rearranging the space that their physical organism and clothing occupy. The matter that makes up clothing transforms with them.

3. Similar to fey glamor, a shifter doesn’t physically reconfigure matter or change form, only appears to. Thus clothing is optional, and only the shifter knows the truth.

4. A shifter’s pattern, or archetype, is not limited to the physical body and appearance, but includes, personality traits, quirks, instincts, and training, as well as a distinctive choice of clothing. Just as the pattern of a wolf or bear includes a specific coloring of skin and fur. When a shifter changes into another archetype, the clothing disappears with his humanness. When he retakes his human form, the human imprint reappears. The shapeshifter simply transforms from one archetype to another, and back.

5. Another take on patterning – Magic is a form of energy. It interacts strongly with matter and can be controlled consciously. A shifter transforms by mentally reforming his self-image into an animal. The mental image provides a pattern for the magic, and they shift to match. Same thing in reverse, with clothing.

6. Shifters perform a ritual using the carcass of the animal they wish to turn into. They wear the skin or furs of that animal, and when they shift, the ritual pulls through the “bonded” matter around the shifting body. When transforming back, the spell returns the shifter’s body and other matter to its former arrangement.

7. Shifter clothing is crafted from animal skins and furs so it can morph with the shapeshifter. Inorganic items cannot shift and are left behind.

8. Clothing is made for a child-shifter using hides, hair, feathers, and other animal materials. During a ritual, the clothing is patterned to the child, who eventually learns to shift with them. Until they learn this skill, they are shifting in the naked human form.

9. A shifter imbibes a substance that permeates the body and gives the shifter control over his physical organism, integrating consciousness with anatomy. The substance reacts based on the conscious commands of the shifter.

10. The clothing is made of psychoactive fibers that meld into a shifter’s body when he transforms, completely hidden from view.

11. Shifters wear some kind of charm that allows them to change or create appropriate clothing.

12. Magic requires no explanation – it just works.

13. Clothing doesn’t exist in this world.

14. Deal with the nakedness.

15. Have everyone wear ponchos.

Is there one or two of the above that appeal to you? Any other ideas?

Happy Writing!

My bossy muse returns

The muse’s latest look (all images from pixabay)

My muse and I have a love/hate relationship. She’s a shapeshifter, and she isn’t known for her sweetness or patience, so I’m not sure what to expect when I open my writing room door.

I know she’s there because of the howler monkey roaring at me from the banister of the outside staircase (and I don’t live near a jungle). “Shoo, shoo,” I order, flapping a hand. I slip past and shut the door before the beast tries to bite or groom me.

A glaive

The muse is sitting on my futon, flipping a knife, a pistol-thing in a holster at her hip. Against the wall rests a double-bladed glaive that looks like it could take my head off, maybe twice. My instincts tell me to take my chances with the monkey.

“How’s the book coming?” She arches an eyebrow. Sarcasm leaches from her pores.

I lean on the door, arms crossed. “I had a hectic summer.”

She puts her boots up on my coffee table. The knife spins above her head, and she grabs it out of the air before it stabs her. “I’ll give you a pass… this time. But I want some progress. You’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo this year – 50,000 words by the end of November.”

I wrinkle my nose into my “stinky-smell” face while panic flutters in my chest like a caged sparrow. “You realize that November is tomorrow. I haven’t prepped. I haven’t even signed up. I barely have an outline. And need I remind you, NaNo is a ton of work!”

“So, get over it.” She practically rolls her eyes. “You’re a writer. Writing is a ton of work.”

“I know, but I’m having trouble even envisioning this story. Your suggestion of goblins and shapeshifters isn’t clicking. It’s not my thing.”

“Trust me.” She gives me a sly grin full of evil, musey intent.

“Can I fire you?” I ask, only half-joking.

She ignores me and sheaths her knife. “I want you to add elves to the mix.”

“Elves?” Now she’s struck a nerve. I pretend to gag. “That’s your solution? Ugh. I don’t even like elves. Their too Tolkien, too… elfish. I love Tolkien, but… ugh. I’d feel like I’m writing a spin-off. Ugh, yuck.”

My muse sighs at my immaturity. “You don’t write spin-offs.”

I still can’t get the elf-taste off my tongue, but since that sounded like a compliment of sorts, I cease gagging and plop down beside her. “Thank you, but elves?”

“What do you have against elves?” She tucks a lock of hair behind her pointed ear, and I groan. “It’s not like I’m insisting on dwarves.”

“Dwarves? As in Thorin and Balin, or gnomes with red hats? Even worse! Thank you for not ruining my life. Elves are bad enough. Yeesh.” I’m starting to feel incredibly cranky under all this pressure. “And what’s with the gun thing? I don’t write guns either.”

“It’s a pulser.” She pulls it from her holster and rests it on the table. “I’ll leave it to you to figure out how it works as well as its limitations. I want you to stretch, Peach. Write something different, something challenging.”

I slouch and put on my grumpy face. “Shapeshifters, goblins, and elves, oh my.”

She smirks and gives my shoulder a hearty shake before rising to her feet and grabbing her glaive. “Once you get started, I’ll help. It’s my job.” She opens the door, and the howler jumps into her arms.

While she clomps down the stairs, I stand at the banister outside my door. Through the dense trees, dawn’s thin light is green and liquid. The monkey barks at me from my muse’s arms, and another annoying thought pops into my head. I have to ask. “And I suppose one of the settings is a jungle? You know I’ve never lived in a jungle.”

“That’s called research,” she yells and glances at me over her shoulder, wicked half-smile curling her lips. “Have fun.”

She fades into the forest. I shut the door, open my laptop, and google NaNoWriMo. Ready or not, time to sign up.

***

My blogging time will be a bit sparse this month. But I’ve got some ideas up my sleeve too. Elves? Really? Happy Writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Way way back in early August, Sally Cronin of Smorgasbord Blog Magazine tagged me for a “little fun and distraction.” Before I could respond, I got distracted! Finally, I’m taking the opportunity to play.

As usual, there are a few rules:

Use the Blue Sky banner  (that Rachael Ritchey designed).

It is sort of polite to mention the person who tagged you.

You need to answer the 11 questions set by your tagger.

You will need to make up 11 original and interesting or funny questions for those you tag.

You need to tag 11 people.

Here are Sally’s 11 questions:

1. What was the name of your first pet and what did you love most about them?
My first pet (that I remember) was a beagle named Gypsy. She was lovable and lived with me during my entire childhood. It wasn’t until I went off to college that she passed away. I have a special place in my heart for dogs that can’t resist porcupines and roll in anything that stinks.

2. If you could meet anyone from history, who would you meet and why?
Hmm. Probably Jesus. I’d like him to clear up all the misinterpretations that are tearing people apart. I’d videotape and share on TV.

3. What is the most common misconception people have about you?
Maybe that I’m outgoing… I’m an extreme introvert.

4. If you could buy any car in the world what would it be and why?
A 1950’s era Chevy Univeral pickup truck. It’s what I rode around in during high school and brings back fun memories.

e-zchassisswaps.com

5. Do you have a hobby your friends don’t know about?
Some friends may not know that I enjoy painting to relax. Here are a few pictures:

6. What was the last movie you saw at the cinema?
Avatar. 2009! There just aren’t any theaters near me.

7. Describe your perfect day?
Totally alone, lying on a hammock, reading.

 

8. Summer or winter?
I like spring and autumn. Darn, not the options! Summers are over-the-top hectic around here (not good for introverts), and I’m usually desperate to hibernate by the onset of autumn. Winters in the rainforest are long and dreary, rainy and vitamin-D starved. The only good thing about them is I’m stuck inside WRITING!

9. Looks or Personality?
Personality, definitely! I couldn’t care less about looks.

10. City or countryside?
I’m a country girl at heart and live out in the woods without neighbors. Cities have great restaurants and I love good food, so I’m not completely writing them off.

11. Action or comedy?
When it comes to life, I’ll go with comedy. When it comes to writing, I’ll choose action. Though my preference for movies can go either way, my husband and I watch lots of action movies because he’s ten.

Now for my 11 questions:

  1. What country have you never visited but would love to, and why?
  2. What person in your life (not including family members) has most shaped who you are today?
  3. List three things that make you happy?
  4. What’s your favorite genre to read?
  5. What time period in history most intrigues you, and why?
  6. If you could add a new talent to your repertoire, what would it be, and why?
  7. Where is your favorite place in the world, and why?
  8. What animal best describes your personality, and why?
  9. What’s your favorite recipe (and please share it)?
  10. Hiking boots, sneakers, heels, or flip-flops?
  11. Would you rather have tons of love and little wealth, or tons of wealth and little love?

And I tag… everyone who wants to play. Enjoy!

And be sure to stop by Sally’s and check out her amazing blog. If you write, read, travel, eat, or enjoy learning something new, her blog is a great place to visit. 🙂

#Blue Sky Tag – Time for a little fun and distraction…#TGIF

Are You Ready to Rodeo?

I played in last year’s Carrot Ranch flash fiction rodeo and found it immensely fun. And challenging! Charli Mills, the Carrot Ranch chief buckaroo, has announced this year’s rodeo, and I encourage anyone who’s up for a wild ride to give it a go!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

To a buckaroo community, the annual rodeo was a chance to show off skills of the trade: reining a cow-horse, throwing a loop and dallying a rope, wrestling a steer to the ground, and tying a goat. Yours truly was the Goat Tying Champion of a long-forgotten rodeo.

I still remember the smell of horse apples condensed in the stalls where all the ranchers and buckaroos boarded their horses during the three-day event. My red hair sported gold yarn bows at the end of each braid, and I had a brand-new felt hat the color of a chocolate lab.

I’d been practicing with the migrant children down at the barn. We could all toss a goat with the same ease our fathers and uncles could take a steer to the ground — it was all about mastering leverage. After practice, we’d eat pinto beans and tortillas. Someone would pass around…

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49 Days In 1988: Week 32 – Rumours!

I’m over at Hugh’s today sharing a song from the 80’s and pitching a book, of course. If you get a chance, stop by to say hello, and read his 3-decades-past diary entry – the kick-off to the post. While you’re there, check out Hugh’s site – amazing blogging tips, wonderful stories, and a kind person on top of that. ❤

Hugh's Views & News

Click here to read the first week of this feature, and follow the links at the end of each post.

***

London – August 25th, 1988

A week ago, I wrote that Simon and Rod were facing a problem I came across the week before. Today, that problem came hurtling into my life again when Marcus told me that on November 1st we will all be given one months notice here at Grassmere Road. 

Apparently, he heard the rumour from Anthony,  who had got it from Mr & Mrs Summer. Although it hasn’t been confirmed yet, something tells me that this bad news is real. The end is in sight for us that remain here at Grassmere Road.

This put me in such a down mood for most of the day. However, thinking about it on the way home from work this evening, it’s still too early to start arranging…

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Hunting Waterfalls and a photo challenge

Toketee Falls

I’m back from my technology-free vacation. I didn’t take my computer with me, didn’t watch a minute of television, and I read a real honest-to-goodness paper book. It was heaven.

Sarah, over at Art Expedition, offered up a 7-day B&W street photo challenge of people. Well… erm… here are my 7 color, non-people, no streets, nature photos of my trip. Sorry, Sarah, for not following the rules very well at all. I encourage everyone to browse her lovely artful blog and give her challenge a hearty try.

I’ve lived in Oregon for 7 years and haven’t explored this big state. It was about time. Randy and I traveled downstate into the dense smoke of forest fires, detoured to the Pacific coast and headed north in the fog. So much for “seeing” the state. But I gathered a few photo-memories nevertheless.

We hiked along silver rivers…

…found waterfalls…

We traveled on to Crater Lake. Looking down from the crater’s rim, you can see the thick blanket of smoke. Yes, that dark layer in the background isn’t land – it’s solid smoke.

The view of the lake was hazy with light smoke.

With scratchy throats and eyes, we headed for the coast. The Oregon shore is cold, windy and foggy.

 

And a B&W picture of a person… still no street.
I’m doing the princess wave by the waves.

I have a ton of catching up to do, but I shall visit you all shortly. ❤

My Bossy Muse

My muse. Image purchased from shutterstock

I’m polishing up the last bits of Soul Swallower and Legacy of Souls when I hear the clomp of my muse’s heavy boots on my writing-room stairs. I haven’t seen her since September 2016 when she gave me an ultimatum about finishing up The Rose Shield series. It was that or she was going to quit.

Well, I finished it in the spring of 2017 and took the summer off to rest. Instead of popping the cork on a bottle of champagne, she hired a mercenary muse, and abruptly my break was over. The guy was a hulking brute with a bad attitude and worse breath. And not only did he expect me to get writing, but he forced me to exercise.

Amazing artwork by Peter Pham

I can’t imagine what this visit is going to bring, and I brace myself. The door opens and the muse walks in as if she owns the place. She’s decked out in her clunky boots, and she’s carrying that magical staff that I still don’t know how to use since she never shares.

“You haven’t written sci-fi in years,” she remarks, having read my mind. I hate it when muses do that.

“I’ll bet you stopped by to congratulate me on the new books,” I say with a smug smile and flash the yummy covers. “They’re just about ready to go.”

“I’m not here to pamper you, Peach. That’s your husband’s job.” She settles onto a metal quasi-throne with rusted pipes that suddenly materializes against the wall.

I grimace at the contraption. “You know, I hope that’s not permanent. I just cleaned the place up after the bats!”

She ignores me and leans forward, elbows on her knees. “I’m here to talk about the next books.”

“What next books?” Oh, oops. Yeeesh. I wince. “Oh, yeah. Um…”

“Exactly.” Her eyes are blue today and they shoot icicles into my skin. “You’re a few weeks away from finishing the latest series, and you haven’t even thought about the next one.”

“I’ve been really busy!” I cross my arms and huff. “And it’s not like there are any real deadlines.”

“Except mine.” She raises an eyebrow. “You know I have other authors to manage. And there are plenty more in line looking for some guidance.”

“Looking for a taskmaster more like it,” I mutter under my breath and give her a fake smile. I know she heard it or heard me think it. “I can’t believe you have other authors. I thought you were all mine.”

She rolls her eyes. I scratch my head and blow out a breath. “Sorry. You’re right. I haven’t even thought about the next one, and I’ve got nothin’, zippo, squat. I don’t even have a starting place. I need your help.”

“That’s more like it.” Her shoulders relax now that I’ve been thoroughly cowed. “I want you to start thinking about shapeshifters. They’ve been on your mind.”

It’s true. “I can think about them.”

She narrows her eyes at me, but gives the wise-guy comment a pass. “And goblins.”

“Shapeshifters and goblins?” I twist my face. “That’s ridiculous. They don’t go together. I need a new muse.” I laugh but she doesn’t. “You can’t be serious. Are you serious?”

“You can make it work. I want betrayals, lies, manipulation. I want you to make things miserable for your characters and then make them worse. I want twists, flaws, nobility, and redemption.”

I don’t know what to say. My muse has totally lost it. What comes out of my mouth is, “Okay.”

“Good. Three books, two years. It’s a gift.”

I calculate the time frame in my head. It’s not bad. But shapeshifters and goblins?

She gets to her feet, tall and powerful. “Congrats on the latest books, by the way.” The metal throne thing disappears, and suddenly she’s changing, her form taking a new shape. A shapeshifter? She winks a feline eye and pads out the door.

The wheels in my head start turning…

pixabay image compilation