My Guest Post: Grammar in Your Alien Language

For November, I got the chance to dig into my How to Create an Alien Language series again over at the Apex Book Company blog. This month, I talked about developing the grammar for your alien language and offered a suggestion for a simple exercise.

Take a look:

To streamline the rules for your alien language’s grammar, I recommend using your names as an anchor. From there, figure out what you don’t want to use. For example, does your alien language have prepositions? Articles like “a,” “an,” or “the?” What about adverbs? Without any modifiers, your grammatical structure can be easier to write because you’re taking out some of the elements that can make grammar pretty complicated. By doing so, you’ll also minimize the need for punctuation or contractions. The minute you throw a comma into the mix, for example, you’ll probably wonder what the rules for comma usage are. Again, here the trick is to limit yourself to what you will and won’t do rather than what you could do. For right now, you’ll be better off focusing on the fundamentals of your grammar rules rather than getting distracted by dangling participles or prepositional phrases. — SOURCE: How to Create an Alien Language: Grammar Fundamentals

Based on the success of this series, I’ll probably write a few more articles about grammar before I wind things down. There are so many different directions to go in that I know I’m not quite done yet. To read the rest of the article, be sure to hop on over to Apex Book Company and check out ,em>How to Create an Alien Language: Grammar Fundamentals.

I’d also like to take a moment to mention that Jason Sizemore, Apex Book Company’s editor-in-chief, is looking for a blog editor and a slush wrangler. Both are volunteer positions at the present moment, but Jason is a savvy guy who knows exactly what he needs. If you’re looking to get your foot-in-the-door with a growing small press publisher, this is the way to do it.


Social Media, Online Personas and Criss Angel’s BeLIEve

Last night, a friend and I went to see Criss Angel‘s BeLIEve, which was under the umbrella of Cirque du Soleil. (Side note: his site opens with pop-ups and auto-play. Erg. You’ve been warned.) Since I had received a press release through horror webzine, I thought I could review it for the site, but I can’t.

Until the show started, everything related to Criss Angel’s BeLIEve came across as dark, moody and Victorian. Steampunk rabbits adorned the stage. Strange smoke filled the air. The program book has costumes of crows, dolls and odd bunny rabbits. Criss, who normally has more of a casual persona, is dressed up more as a goth than a Californian in the press kits and on the website. So, I was expecting to attend a surreal performance that took my breath away. Instead, we were regaled with slapstick comedy and an extension of Criss’s online and television presence through video clips, audience interaction, personal stories and memorabilia. There was no mystery, other than the illusions, which forced me to focus on the beats of the show. I could “see” how the show was constructed and I felt as if I was staring backstage. Something that–as many of my fellow authors, musicians, artists and actors know–can be a death knell for any stage performance if not handled carefully.

Reviews online reflected the audience’s disappointment as well. (Note to self: always read reviews.) Words like “self-indulgent” were used and other various unpleasantries. I walked out of the theatre feeling bad for Criss, because on the surface it seemed as if his original show was too dark and too edgy. “Quite possibly,” I thought, “the stage audience might not understand something that unusual. With the economy being the way it is, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the show had to be “dumbed down” for public consumption.”

Afterward, I found myself thinking about how this show is an excellent example of what happens when an artist is constrained by his persona. Criss is very active with all the right tools; YouTube!, Facebook, etc. He’s has MINDFREAK, which is his own (for lack of a better description) syndicated magic reality TV show. All of these things add up to create a contemporary (magic) success story–especially online where it’s easy to “ooo” and “aaah” at someone walking on water or transferring scorpions into someone else’s mouth.

Take those same elements and allow people to seem them offline, and they don’t translate the same way. Those same anecdotes and videos come across as arrogant or selfish, regardless of how many platitudes we’re given. Why? Because the dynamic is different. The television and the internet are such unique, individual experiences that it’s difficult to recreate that extremely personalized touch in a room filled with hundreds of people.

Anyone who has performed on stage for an audience, speaking/singing/playing or otherwise, understands that the dynamic in a theater is no longer about the “I.” It’s about the “we.” The crowd mentality. It’s about fostering the crowd’s emotions in a natural way than holding back performances unless we cheer. It’s about drawing the audience into an experience rather than sharing the experiences of the performer.

What I just said is counter-intuitive to what many of us are taught about our online personas and writing platforms. We share online to get viewers and readers. We get personal by offering anecdotes to be able to relate to people. This doesn’t always work offline, which is why I wanted to talk about this particular show. Criss is obviously very talented and popular online, but right now I’m not sure he’ll be around for the long haul. I felt that BeLIEve was a chance for Criss to prove his versatility and recreate that Victorian-era feel with the help of Cirque du Soleil. The online thing Criss couldn’t escape, was his online persona.

The next time you’re thinking about your online persona or your writer’s platform, I hope that you consider how your online presence translates to your offline (analog) persona as well. At the end of the day, it’s a lot like dating. Give everything away, and you’ll have nothing left to give.

Faith, Writing and a Horror Author’s Intent Part III

Last week, I talked about how Maurice Broaddus and I were discussing faith in writing. Maurice picked up the thread in the second part of our series. You can read Faith, Writing and a Horror Author’s Intent Part II on his website.

In part three, I started off by asking Maurice about his writing platform.

While spirituality/religion isn’t part of my platform, it’s a part of yours. Why did you decide to go that route?

MAURICE: Because that’s a fundamental part of whom I am. I could no more shy away from faith than I could shy away from being black. So for me, it wasn’t so much a market decision as much as an artistic voice one. There are some projects where faith is explicitly explored (like Orgy of Souls co-written with Wrath James White) and some where faith plays a minimum role (like King Maker). But both works feature a nearly all black cast, which few even notice or make a point of, I’m glad to say.

Sometimes though, faith is just a part of a character. In my story Pimp My Airship, a steampunk story, I have a character who is a part of that world’s version of the nation of Islam. It was just part of who that character was (and, frt., one of my favorite characters I’ve ever written: (120 Degrees of) Knowledge Allah). So sometimes it’s a matter of which I am and other times it’s a matter of who the characters are.

Are there particular areas or religion/spirituality that you would feel uncomfortable writing?

MLV: I don’t know if its comfort level for me so much as it is interest. I have no interest in sharing my views on religion or spirituality. Not my goal as a storyteller. If I did write about religion as part of the plot, I’d still keep it in the background or make it part of the interpersonal character conflict. It would have to be customized to the setting or the characters. I guess that’s where my real comfort level lies. Typically, when I do write about religion or spirituality, it’s on an individual character level than a global part of the plot, even with the presence of religious-inspired monsters like demons. In that way, that is part of my personality, since I believe that a person’s spirituality is unique.

Also, in order for me to write about a religion I’m not familiar with, I’d treat it like any other topic and research it before I’d jump in.

Maurice, how integral to a plot is your views on faith?

If you’re interested in reading more about what Maurice and I have to say, watch for the last post in this series at

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