Friday, February 16, 2007

Here it is, the student-friendly, up-close-and-personal version of the study guide.

Discussion Starters

Okay, pretend you are sitting looking at the author--me. I'm was a teacher and I loved it (I even married a teacher). We have lived all over the world, and for ten years, we even on a sailboat on a tropical island with our two cats, Zeke and Ms. Puss. I like reading, writing, SCUBA diving, skiing, running, eating strange food, watching funny movies, and telling stupid jokes. Pretty much, best of all, I like adventuring. Sometimes I go adventuring on my sailboat by sailing to uninhabited islands in the Pacific Ocean, or sometimes by planes, trains, and automobiles anywhere in the world. To see some pictures, visit my website at or my blog for student writers at

So, you're sitting there looking at me, maybe with your classmates and friends. You are young, but not too young, and you like to do lots of fun things, especially hang out with your friends. And you've been asked to read this book I wrote--a novel--a pretty long one, and then you're going to be asked questions about it and whatever happened to reading just for fun? Anyway, we have to do this, me because I'm a writer and that is what writers do, and you because you need to get ready to go out into the world to make a living and that means getting an education. So here we go--and remember, you don't have to talk about all these items. Just pick out a few of those that interest you.

So, here we go, into a fantasy world where there strange talking birds, wizards, ugly smelly monster-type guys, cruel masters, beautiful, wild young barbarians and not just a little bit of magical stuff, too:

1. In Chapter 1, we meet Sonoria. She is the major protagonist in the novel. What is your opinion of her after you first meet her? She is something, isn't she? Could you be friends with someone like Sonoria? What are her strengths and weaknesses? Maybe you already have a friend like her. By the way, what's a protagonist?

6. Poor Mandel. This is the guy Sonoria hangs out with and he is crazy about her. He wants her to be his partner--the Stratus answer to getting married. But, Sonoria, being Sonoria, is being difficult. What do you think about getting married the Stratus Valley way? One kiss and that's that, you're hitched forever. Yikes. And speaking of poor Mandel, he has a fatal weakness. What was it?

7. I love horses. I grew up with them, rode them in horseback riding competitions, and I still think the way they smell and look is wonderful. Sonoria does, too. Why do you think Sonoria loves Spiritus above all the other horses? He is a wild and dangerous animal that only Sonoria can ride. How do the character of this horse and Sonoria's character compare?

8. The Poong! What a guy. He's ugly, diseased, nasty, dirty, mean, cold, and I would think, very lonely. I put him in here to represent something. What do you think that was?

9. I hate lies, yet lies are a big part of life. We all tell them. We tell them to our friends, our parents, our bosses, our teachers, and we even tell them to ourselves. What is "The Great Lie" that is perpetrated on the people of the Stratus Valley? Can you compare this with anyhing in your experience? How do you think Sonoria felt when she discovered the "truth."

10. The Thrangs are a band of wandering youths, male and female, who are searching for the answer to the Great Mystery. What do you think the Great Mystery is? Would you like to be a Thrang? What do you think it is like to be one? I mean, come on, they're free to go wherever they want, but they wear animal skins, eat dried meat, and sleep in crude shelters.

11. In order to be admitted into the Stratus Valley and later into the City Maximus, Sonoria and the female Thrangs disguise their gender by pasting on false beards. How do you think I feel about sexism; that is, discrimination based on gender?

12. We sometimes fall in love with people who are not good for us. Ouch. It soon becomes clear that Dag-gar and Sonoria are attracted to each other. How does their relationship develop? Why is their relationship a difficult one? Should Sonoria have fallen in love with him? Do you think Dag-gar really loves her or does he just want to control her?

13. The Maximus live in a brutal, tightly controlled society. Would you rather be a Thrang or a Maximus? How do you feel about your life today? Are you a Thrang or a Maximus--or a combination of both?

14. I like strong, cranky, old people especially if they are powerful, mysterious witches/sorceresses/wizards. Mar is another major character introduced in the first half of the novel and that's the way I see her--a wonderful, wise, and very ancient sorceress who pretends to be cranky. What is unique about her? How does the way I develop her personality make you feel toward her? Do you think she and Sonoria like each other?

15. Eye 'O the Sea--ah! A lovely town! A crazy town! What is special about this place? How did I try to make the reader see how special it was? How does it compare to the City Maximus? Where would you rather live?

16. So, Mar, the magical, mysterious old crone, teaches Sonoria many things and then sends her on her way on a great ship. Sonoria is on a quest, though she does not know what the quest is. On the ship, she meets Captain Jarl who shows her something magical: a piece of teardrop-shaped amber that, when spun in a strange machine, has the power to transport you into the Universe and through Time. Like I said, writing can be fun and especially writing fantasy-adventure books because you can let your imagination run wild. But, there is also some science in here. I read a couple of books about quantum physics. Believe me when I tell you that the theories developed by quantum physicists will blow your mind. More wild, unbelievable, and wonderful things are found in quantum physics than you could possibly think up no matter how crazy your imagination is. So, when you write Fantasy, it is okay to think up any weird thing you want to and it is probably true. For example, according to quantum physics, something can be in two places at the same time. Go figure.

17. On the Isle of Nune, Sonoria must prove that she is a good leader. How does she do this? What characteristics does a good leader have? Do you know anybody who you think is a good leader?

18. The Governor-General of the Isle of Nune leads Sonoria to a cave where she makes a strange discovery. How does my description of this ship hidden in the cave make you feel? Who is in the ship? How would you feel if you saw what Sonoria saw?

19. With Sonoria and Astral, the Ancient Boy leading the way, the people of the Isle of Nune sail the mysterious ship back to Eye 'O the Sea. What is their goal? It's a goal that real people throughout history have had.

20. When she is leading her army back toward the Stratus Valley, Sonoria has some self-doubts and wishes she could be far away from all her responsibilities. Do you think great leaders sometimes have these feelings of self-doubt? Do you ever have these feelings? How does she overcome them?

21. In her final encounter with Dag-gar, Sonoria refuses his offer of ruling the Stratus Valley together. Why do you think she refuses? What would you have done?Writer's Secret: In my quantum physics-addled brain, her refusal to accept Dag-gar's love, upsets the applecart of Time with consequences for the Earth that are not very nice. But, that's foreshadowing the next book in the trilogy. Im calling it The Mirrors of Castaway Time.

So, that's it. I hope you enjoyed Sonoria, Scraps, the Seabird, Mar, Astral, the Ancient Boy, Admiral Penance, the sad, misunderstood donkey, and maybe Dag-gar, too. As I mentioned, I planned this whole thing as a series and all three books are finished. You'll meet them all again if you read Book II, The Mirrors of Castaway Time and Book III, A Drop of Wizard's Blood.