Conlang Book List

A handful of you asked after my books on constructing artificial languages, little realizing what monster you would release by asking! This is my excited face. 😬I used to get all these books as paper references; recently I’ve moved to e-book, which makes photographing the full stack hard. Here’s a list, then!
Language Overviews
These have been useful because they give you a sense of how other languages do things, and they teach you useful things about what languages need to work. Also note: I find it useful to have access to a basic textbook on linguistics. Mine is a relic from my college days, which isn’t sold anymore. There are probably better ones out there; pick one up!
  • The Atlas of Languages. A great overview that highlights interesting features of various languages while discussing basic linguistic concepts.
  • The Languages of the World. A page by page, language by language, catalog, with a sample bit of text translated. Great way to look at lots and lots of different orthographies (alphabet systems).
  • The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language. Mind-blowing theory book about how language features develop and how cultures define them. *hugs this book a lot*
  • How We Talk: The Inner Workings of Conversation, by N. J. Enfield. Also mind-blowing book about how language handles conversation. Especially important because a lot of people create languages… on paper, by writing them down. Spoken language comes first, and has a lot of different priorities. *also hugs this book a lot*
  • The Language Instinct, by Steven Pinker. It’s hard not to read some of the big name theorists in the field. The Language Instinct was an important book, and while it’s not a proven theory it’s still a great look at the link between neurology and language.
  • The Oxford Handbook of Names and Naming. This is a textbook, and so far the only extensive resource I’ve found about names. I tend to take it a chapter at a time… it’s dense.
Useful Books About Real Languages
Any book that makes you think about how languages develop is helpful. In addition to meta-analysis of languages, like the ones I’ve mentioned here, I also collect “Learn to Speak X” books whenever I can…. I have eleven or twelve of those? Cherokee, Hebrew, Thai, Irish, a book on Inuit naming customs, my Latin and Spanish textbooks from school, Mandarin, several on Japanese (one specifically on writing systems), one on Egyptian hieroglyphics, etc. And I want more. >.> Here are some more overview-like texts:
Conlang Books
These are either specifically about how to make languages, or about other invented languages.
  • The Art of Language Invention: From Horse-Lords to Dark Elves, the Words Behind World-Building, by David J. Peterson. This is the guy who did the conlang for the Game of Thrones TV show.  Of the books about constructed languages, this is the one I’d hand to someone who knew nothing about making them and wanted to: it’s a charming overview, very readable.
  • The Language Construction Kit, by Mark Rosenfelder.  This one, though, is far crunchier, by one of the internet godfathers of conlanging…
  • Advanced Language Construction, by Mark Rosenfelder. …and this is the crunchiest of them all, because he goes into topics in this one he didn’t bother to in the first. You’ll be completely lost if you don’t have a good grounding in linguistics. But if you do, it’s great!
  • The Conlanger’s Lexipedia, by Mark Rosenfelder. A handy introduction to semantic categorization. If you want to make up words, this book will give you a sense for how people group them.
  • In the Land of Invented Languages, by Arika Okrent. This is less about how to make languages and more about the history of people making languages for various purposes. (Apparently we’ve been doing it for a long time.) 
  • Create a Language Clinic, by Holly Lisle. For people who want to make languages specifically to use them for worldbuilding as part of a story, this is the book you want: the priorities of someone making a language to speak it with friends (or in movies) are not the priorities of someone writing a novel with it.
  • The Languages of Tolkien’s Middle Earth.  There’s no getting away from studying Tolkien’s languages if you’re a worldbuilding fantasy writer who wants to include a constructed language in your work. Or well, I guess you could get away from it, but you shouldn’t, because he did the most amazing job with it and if you follow his footsteps you’ll avoid the ‘that author just threw some words that sound sort of alike together and none of it makes sense’ phenomenon.
Misc Resources
  • Vulgarlang: This website will try to generate a conlang for you! I haven’t played much with it, but you might lose some productive hours doing so. *grin*
  • Lexique Pro: At some point, you will have enough vocabulary that tracking it will be an issue. Lexique Pro is a lexicon-organizing language intended for natural languages so native speakers of more obscure languages can share their vocabulary with other people. It works for conlangs too, thus.
  • Polyglot Language Construction Kit.  However, if you want an “intended for conlangs specifically” lexicon program, this one is it. It’ll even generate new vocabulary for you based on morphological rules. Which you have to define. So you can see the level of understanding you should have before you dive into it. >.>  Also allows you to put in your conlang’s orthography, though, which is keen. I got both these links from R. Coots–thank you, R!
Note that I use neither of those programs for my lexicon. I’m using a spreadsheet.
That’s all I can think of for now! If I remember anything I’ve forgotten, I’ll add it. Feel free to make suggestions, too! I’m always hunting for new resources!💖

The Jaguar on “How to Review Stuff”

I often hear people say they feel weird about reviewing things they like because they don’t know what to say. This came up in the Discord chat the other day, and after our discussion someone said, “Hey, you should write this up because it is helpful!” So here’s a brief run-down on how I review things (with examples!). You might choose to review differently…! This is just my methodology

Decide Why You’re Reviewing

This is the number one thing you have to figure out before reviewing anything: why are you doing this? Some folks review in order to put things in a cultural or historical context (think of Roger Ebert’s movie reviews, and how he used them to educate people on the lineage of film tropes and narrative/directorial techniques). Some folks review to warn people off of things.

My time is limited, so I choose to review only to tell people about awesome stuff I want to share. I’d rather not waste my time thinking about things that didn’t work for me or that I don’t want to have more publicity. So my goal, when I review, is matching a particular thing up with the people who will enjoy it most.

How do I do this? I imagine myself responding to friends who’ve said things like, “I wish more stories had good sibling relationships in them, as well as romantic ones.” Or “I’m so tired of billionaire romances that ignore class issues.” Or “I love “found family” stories!” That leads me to step 2:

Figure Out What’s Cool or Unusual About What You’re Reviewing

I tend to make a list of all the things about what I’m reviewing that strike me as really neat or worth commentary.

  • “This story’s theme was ‘kindness is rewarded.’ You don’t see that much anymore.”
  • “This story has giant cats in it. Win.”
  • “This story has interesting portrayals of particular subcultures in it.”
  • “Hey, they go into detail on how to sail ships of the line! That’s neat!”
  • “I feel like they really did their research on this one. It feels authentic.”
  • “I liked the tone of this story. It was upbeat without feeling naive.”
  • “The writing on this one was really tight. I never felt like the author wandered into corners and got lost.”
  • “So many descriptions of delicious food in this story. NOM.”

So, for instance, if I was recommending the original Star Trek to someone, I’d go with: ‘it’s multicultural (and multi-species! It’s got aliens!); it’s optimistic, and assumes that humanity is going to survive to spread out into space and make friends everywhere; and the Kirk/Spock/McCoy bromance triad is really neat… it’s nice to see that dynamic.’

Add Warnings, if Applicable

As with my own fiction, I don’t want to attract people to something I think is cool who will have trouble with it. So if a story is difficult, I always warn people. “This TV series is brutal because…” “This movie has these triggers, but I think it’s worth watching anyway because it’s not gratuitous/deals with the issues well…” “This author likes to kill characters you like, so be prepared…”

You want to make sure people know what they’re getting into, because few people like unpleasant surprises and (as I said for myself), my goal is to connect cool stuff with people who’ll like it. Not to rec stuff to people who will get angry at it/feel betrayed/be traumatized by it!

Finally, Give a Sense of What Kind of Experience It Is

Is it a Saturday afternoon popcorn read? Something relaxing and fun and fluffy? Is it epic, intense, and liable to keep you up until 3 AM biting your nails? Is it deep and thoughtful and poignant, inspiring important questions? Is it gentle and affirming? The goal of this part of the review is to give people the chance to decide where they’ll fit it into their schedules. If someone isn’t really big into nailbiting epics, or if they don’t have time for them, they should know that first. But if someone’s looking for that, well… then they’ll know this is it!

This is also a good time to mention how long the thing is, how much time/brainpower it uses up to experience it, and whether you’re going to need time to get over a story hangover afterwards.

Reviews Don’t Have to Be Long to Be Useful

If you follow the steps above, you might end up with a review of several paragraphs (like the one I did for Rowyn’s A Rational Arrangement: Or it might be really short, like the one I did for Blair McGregor’s Sand of Bone:

Length is not the best metric for measuring the usefulness of a review, so don’t feel like you need to pad a review to make it count. Consider my “review” of the original Star Trek. Here’s how it would play if I finished it up: “I love this TV series because it is fun, and portrays an optimistic future for humanity, one that’s multicultural both in its human characters and aliens. The three central characters have an awesome bromance thing going on. The series sometimes tackles difficult topics, but always with an inspiring message that humanity can overcome its obstacles…. Nevertheless, it never takes itself too seriously. The episodes don’t have to be watched in any particular order, because they each stand alone. You will feel excited about the future after watching these shows. Also, you will end up on Team Kirk, Spock, or McCoy, and that will give you something to debate with your friends.”

One paragraph. You could probably fit a review into a sentence or two if you wanted: “I like Star Trek because it’s optimistic science fiction that’s also multicultural, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Plus, Vulcans.”

But Does This Work For Things Besides Stories??

“I love maple water because it’s got the mouthfeel of water but with a hint of complex sweetness, like a memory of maple syrup. It’s got a ton of manganese in it, though, so you don’t want to OD on it because you’ll hit your RDA really, really fast. But it’s great if you want a drink with just a touch of flavor, but not too many calories: think ‘light and refreshing and good for cooling off in the sun’ (like coconut water) and not ‘warm and heavy and comforting’ (like hot chocolate).

Also, it’s literally tree sap. How cool is that??”


Anyway. That’s how the jaguar reviews things. Maybe it’ll help you figure out how you want to review things, so you can connect the stuff you really like with other people who might want to discuss it with you endlessly and happily because they thought it was awesome too. <3

2018 Plan!

So this is my tentative plan for the beginning/middle of 2018… and I say tentative because we know what happens with plans and surviving contact with things. But hey, it’s still worth it to start with a plan!

Three Kings Day Sale 2017

Many years ago, when I used to do all my own prints, I used to run a sale to celebrate the procession of the three wisemen to Bethlehem. Three Kings Day is my parents’ culture’s gifting holiday, and falls on January 6th… so every year my post-Christmas sale lasted from December 26th until January 6th, representing their journey.

I also used to draw a graphic: me reprising that journey, with whatever characters were with me most of the year.

It occurred to me that I now have an Etsy store I can run sales on! So once again, it’s time to make the gift-bringing trip! From now until January 6th, you can get 15% off pendants and 10% off charms and coloring sheets on my Etsy store. You don’t need a coupon code… it’s already applied!

Zazzle’s also running a site-wide holiday, 60% off cards, 50% off calenders and mugs, and 15% off stuff like magnets and tote bags. Here’s my Zazzle store, and the code for that is ZENDOFYEAR60.

Finally, for your amusement, I rustled up all the old Three Kings graphics I could find. While there’s only four of them, I’m delighted that Daughter appears in two of them, and growing. Enjoy!

(P.S. Do you know the characters in silhouette? Have fun guessing. *grin*)

Book Launch: From Ruins (Princes’ Game 6 and Final)

A spy dying on the wall of a palace.

An Emperor turned rebel through the power of a psalm.

A shapechanger on the cusp of an enormous discovery.

A woman riding to battle in the vanguard of her enemies.

The known worlds are about to convulse in a cataclysmic war; time is running out. Can the Eldritch, the Chatcaava, and their Pelted allies turn the tide? Or will it all go up in fire?

And is there hope in ashes?

The sixth and final installment of the Princes’ Game series brings the threads from five epic novels to a stunning conclusion that will change the shape of the Peltedverse forever. Come and get it, at your favorite retailer:

Please note: if you bought a copy before the announcement at any retailer other than Amazon and your copy is corrupted, try re-downloading now, or contact the vendor to push you the new copy! I have fixed it.

If you didn’t hop on board because you don’t read series until they’re done, you’re good to go! Book 1 is even on sale for 99 cents. If you haven’t read it because you need preparation before reading intense or triggery fiction, I’ve got you covered with these blow-by-blow summaries. If you’re waiting for something different, you’ve got good news: I can move on! And let me tell you, it feels really strange to be done with this series. At about 750,000 words, it’s the longest single story I’ve ever told, and I feel… very strange… having completed it. Like a great wind has scoured out the inside of my head. Phew.

Next year, I turn my attention to finishing up the Dreamhealers saga with Book 4, Dreamstorm. Then…? A MYSTERY. *grin* You might even have a chance to influence my next project, if you’re on my mailing list or Discord chat when I start discussing it! We shall see…

Ai-Naidar Meta-Conversations: To Live (with Nuance)

“Your language has too much nuance.”

This complaint wins me a sardonic look from Haraa, who is sitting on the windowseat with her books spread over her lap. But that’s fine. I can handle sardonic looks… it’s why I came out with this comment in front of her instead of the Calligrapher, or Shame, whose responses would have been far harder to handle.

“So what,” she drawls, “has you so confused this time, aunerai?”

“’Life,’” I say. “Is as. Why can’t I just conjugate that to get the verb?”

“Because it would be ugly,” she says dismissively.

“But you can conjugate other nouns to get the verb form!”

“But living is a lot more complicated.” She puts a bookmark in her journal—a kadkabini, because naturally I have the word for something esoteric, like “bookmark”, but not something as basic as “to live”—and leans over the closed book, brows lifted. “So go ahead. Ask.”

“How do you say it?” I ask.

“It depends.”

I try not to put my head in my hands. She grins.

“The words for having,” she says. “We combine those with the word for life to derive ‘to live’. And we use them accordingly.”

“You have five words for ‘to have’,” I mutter.

“Yep,” she says, leaning back, amused.

“So? Explain?”

Astemin,” she says. “That’s living like you’re creating your life, with intent.”

“Naturally,” I say. “You would have a word for that.”

“The astonishing thing is that you don’t,” she says. “Astemir, though, that’s to live like you’ve earned it. Something you say of people you admire, who’ve done good things.”

“But not made them,” I said. “I would have thought you would value making-as-value.”

“We do,” she says, cheerful. “Farren both lives-through-making, and has reached the point of living-through-earning.”

I really do put my head in my hands. “Don’t tell me there are another three words for living.”

“You’re in luck, there’s only one more. Asim, to live by being given your life as Divine duty and gift. That’s where most of us are.”

I look up, squinting. “But there’s no asimai…?”

“No one lives just because they exist,” she says. “Living’s not like being pretty or smart, something you’re born with. If you’re born at all, you’re already living because you’ve received a gift, from your parents who made you. There’s no…” She waves a hand. “No living in a convenient vacuum, where you get to deny that your existence doesn’t rely on other people.”

“Of course,” I mutter. “So… asim, astemin, and astemir.” I cock my head. “Astemshe?”

“Only,” she says, “if someone who is about to kill you stays his hand.” She grinned. “Kind of an ancient and bizarre construct, but I won’t say it hasn’t been used.”

“How do people even speak your language,” I say, resigned.

“If they’re you, badly.”

Book Launch: Dreamhearth (Dreamhealers 3)

Yes, finally I got everything straightened out and a good, clean copy of the book is available at all retailers! Buy at your favorite retailer with this link:

This is Book 3 of Jahir and Vasiht’h’s first series, which introduces them and tells the story of how they met and started a xenotherapy practice together. These are gentle stories, slice of life, friendship forever, quiet sorts of books, and Dreamhearth is definitely in that mold. Don’t expect lots of conflict or adventure… this novel is very much “how do you get along with other people and figure out how to adult.” If that’s what you need right now… well, this is your book!

If you haven’t read this series and think ‘hey, that sounds like my speed’, Book 1 is on sale for 99 cents at all vendors, so go grab that now:

I should also note that the backmatter of Dreamhearth contains some extra material: the case study vignettes and a Jahir & Vasiht’h short story. And of course, thank you to all of you who reviewed. You made the book look loved. 🙂

This is the third book I’ve released this year (and all three have been Pelted books). After my break I will probably resume work on Princes’ Game, but we shall see!