I love doing research. In the Terror Birds I have a sniveling, grotesquely ugly bad guy who has a variety of "people" on his team, including two women who are empathic sisters. Their brains can only work in unison with the other's. I wanted them to be exotically beautiful, unusual, and mysterious. I began my search looking for women in headdresses. And this is what I found. I call them Veenoks, if you read below you will see why. (It was interesting to me how much these resemble patterns from Native American headdresses.)
In Ukraine, the vinok isn’t merely a pretty accessory: The meaning of the wreaths traces back to Ukraine’s early history, when they were associated with virginity, marriage, and womanhood, and have continued to be, up until the early 20th century. These days, vinoks are sold almost everywhere in Kiev, even the gray, dilapidated Soviet spaceship-type bazaars on the outskirts of the city’s main center, where they sit alongside pale pigs heads, mounds of beef, fresh fish, fake Adidas tracksuits, neon puffer coats, and rows of pantyhose. Even at the metro stations, kiosks sell vinoks made with fake daffodils, roses, and yellow and red ribbons
More examples of vinoks
Interviewer: "Sir William, we understand that the Assembly chose you, above all other agents, to defeat that enormous space monster, Chi' Pequel. You were a trash barge pilot before this time, why would they choose you? And how does it fit with your new assignment?"
William: "Why they chose me? That was exactly my question to them, but, what they wanted was really someone to annoy Maurice, that's what I called the monster, enough to make him just move along and quit eating the planet. Annoying happens to be one of my greatest talents. The eighty-nine agents before me, who became eighty-nine dead agents, had tried to just defeat it. But I am known for my annoying abilities. That's the only answer I can come up with."
Interviewer: "And now you have been assigned to watch over this Earthling boy named Mac. Any idea why?"
William: "Not a clue. I have only been told that he is important. And, listen, when the Assembly can put you in a lovely cabin, surrounded by fields of flowers, and maybe give you a pet, and-and this is the kicker-you will never leave that place, never see another soul, you are quickly convinced to do whatever they want. In this case it seems that I am supposed to hangout on Earth and watch over this kid named Mac. His father, as I understand it, is kind of out there, wacko, so, you know, probably a good match for me, but, he seems to be convinced some bird is still in existence that they thought was extinct and wants to take a picture of it. You can't question too much because, after all, they are from the Earth colony. We love them but they are not the shiniest pennies in the fountain."
Interviewer: "Yes, we do love Earth. Why is this man chasing a bird?"
William: "Yeah, a big-ass bird, big, terror bird, great name, right, that can do some damage. They thought he was extinct but Mac's dad is convinced it's still around. Big beak thing, hunts, attacks, eats. Messy business. Mac's concerned for his dad, so, I'm going to go check it out. Should be a blast. And, I'm taking my slippers, and the goggles! Couldn't be all bad, right?"
In the first of the Sir William & Mac Life Without Slippers Series, Terror Birds, the evil ice queen, Bax, is trying out her new ship's capabilities to freeze, and her favorite part, explode.
This is a quote from Sir William as he talks to the Assembly of Fidea about Bax:
"We all know she’s back. We don’t just have islands freeze and explode for no apparent reason, do we? Can we in any way call it normal? It’s Bax.
“Now, Kenny boy, you sniveling trail of snail snot, here’s a thought, why don’t you get out your brand new, expensive space buggy and go after her yourself?”
Kenny squirmed. “I think the most prudent thing to do, at this time, is to appoint a special investigator, no, wait, a committee, to asses her activities and degree of potential damage
“Investigate possible threat? What a novel, brilliant thought. Let’s back up and go over what we know so far. She can ice an entire planet! Hmmm. That might be a threat. Ya’ think? She can kill all living creatures on it, and will not even break a sweat!"
In researching what an exploding, ice island would look like in the sky I found this great article from Wired: Weird Rare Clouds.
This spectacular photo of the eruption of Sarychev Volcano in the Kuril Islands, northeast of Japan on June 12 shows an interesting example of a pileus cloud. The ash plume appears to have a smooth white cap on it as it breaks through the cloud cover above.
This type of cloud is caused by strong, relatively fast upward motion. Situations where this occurs include quickly growing thunderheads, volcanic eruptions and even nuclear explosions. In each case, something pushes warm, moist air upward quickly.
“You can see them very commonly above thunderstorms storms, and that’s because the air is moving so rapidly up there that the air flow gets perturbed above it,” Breed said. “And as soon as it cools enough for a cloud to form, you get these cloud caps.”
The next book in my Sir William & Mac Life Without Slippers is called The Space Snake & the Meteor Named Bob (www.pjgilbers.com). I was researching mythology around snakes and stumbled on this NASA report of a "space snake." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rq4MEfqGjb4It shows up around 3.5. Interesting that they cut it off after a couple of minutes!
If you listen to the astronaut talking it poses the question... what is it, what could it be? Why did NASA cut the feed? Hmmmm.
You may not like them. Lots of people do.
But, the most important philosophy, live with your slippers on!
1. Ready Player One: A Novel – June 5, 2012 (with a bajillion reviews on Amazon.)
by#Ernest Cline Soon to be major motion picture directed by Steven Speilberg.
"It is a world where the Mafia controls pizza delivery,"
2. The Color of Magic #(Discworld) Jan 29, 2013
by #Terry Pratchett
3. What the Hell Did I Just Read: A Novel of Cosmic Horror
by #David Wong
4. It Devours!: A Welcome to Night Vale Novel – October 17, 2017
by #Joseph Fink and, Jeffrey Cranor
5. Apathy and Other Small Victories: A Novel – June 26, 2007
by #Paul Neilan
6. The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures – October 10, 2017
by #Aaron Mahnke
7. Turtles All the Way Down – October 10, 2017 (#1 Bestseller in Teen & Young Adult coming of Age Fiction )
by #John Green
8. Skullcrack City – February 1, 2015
by #Jeremy Robert Johnson
9. There Goes the Galaxy Dec 30, 2013
by #Jenn Thorson
10. The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (Dirk Gently)
by #Douglas Adams (Have you seen the series?)
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When I began the Sir William series he was a goat and the series was for younger kids. Sir William was the same sort of alien, weird, scruffy character who dropped in and helped people in need. But he was a goat, invisible to some and appearing as a person to others.
Now he is a human person from the planet Fidea. His favorite shoes are slippers and he likes his job as a waste space barge pilot where he gets to play his music, loud, and blow up things floating around the atmosphere just for fun. The Terror Birds, 1st of the series, is now available on Amazon and Audible is coming soon.
Here is one of the original illustrations showing Sir William and Mac meeting the Northwood Under Shrew army. Created by Nicolas Lonprez.
In my prequel to the series #Sir William & Mac Maurice the Monster I needed to find out more about future careers. Here are a few that I thought were interesting:
Cheng Shih was a pirate mogul in the 1800's. She amassed 2,000 ships and 50,000 crew members. I love doing research for my books. In #Komodo Dragon I knew that I wanted a #pirate so I searched for the most famous pirates. In 1801 this former prostitute with a reputation for being a shrewd business woman, married a man who was building a pirate fleet known as the #Red Flag Fleet. In 1806 her husband died and she took over.
Her fleet was so large and powerful that she remained undefeated by the Chinese, Portuguese and East India Company fleets.
She developed a code of ethics to manage her large group of roughians.
At the end of her life, dying at age 69, she controlled the seas from Hong Kong to Vietnam.
In addition to my character Zeng from the 2nd book in my #Sir William & Mac series she also inspired a character from #The Pirates of the Caribbean, Mistress Ching.
Another interesting fact-- she always ate testicles for breakfast. I think that sent a very strong message.
#While I was writing the book #Komodo Dragon, a story about a little girl stranded on an island with a dragon hunting her, I learned some scary facts.
The worst to me is how the dragons take down large prey such as wildebeests. Because their saliva has more than 50 strains of bacteria it nips or bites a large animal on the leg. The bite is infected, the animal slowly dies from the infection and the dragon follows it until it is down. They are so toxic that they don't decompose in a normal way and can die and simply appear to be asleep.
They can also balance on their hind legs and reach up into the trees. This is how some humans have been killed. At their mature state they are about 10 feet long (if standing in most rooms this would be almost to the ceiling) and weigh 300 pounds.
They are creatures that exist in reality and nightmares.
The #Sequoia National Park
If you've never been there you cannot imagine their hugenessosity. To see the tops you must lie on your back. The branches are often large enough to drive a car through, and are about the size of our biggest trees in St. Louis.
I hugged them. I am a tree hugger.