Monthly Archives: February 2016

Totems and Ice Breakers

Image: Sarah Wagner

Image: Sarah Wagner

Last year, around my birthday, the family and I went to the Steel City Comic Convention and, among other things, I came home with a TARDIS. I love my TARDIS. I’ve worn it very nearly every time I’ve gone out since that day. Some people think it’s silly but those tend to be the people who think I ought to grow up and do something with myself (because writing books doesn’t count) and I discount their opinion pretty easily.

The TARDIS is many things to me. It’s sentimental for all the hours spent watching with my mom and all the hours spent watching with my kids. It is a symbol of hope – all things are possible if you are clever enough. It is something of a calming fidget when I get anxious or nervous – something solid I can hold on to and play with, there is comfort in its weight and very presence for me. The interesting thing is that I haven’t had a big panic attack since I started wearing it. I’m not saying that has anything to do with the TARDIS but, at this point, I don’t want to jinx myself by not wearing it.

What I was not expecting was that my totem would also be an ice breaker. More often then not, someone comments on it when I’m out. I love Doctor Who as much for it’s broad audience as anything – people of every age, race, gender, and socioeconomic status know what my pretty blue box really is. Today it was the woman behind the counter at the grocery store who informed me she’s been watching since before I was born. She watched with her mom the same way I watched with mine. I don’t really people well – I struggle with social interactions and find them to be rather clumsy most of the time – but not when it’s about something like the Doctor – then it’s very easy to say hello and find a snippet of meaningful conversation to boot.

For some, it’s just a weird thing, a childish thing even, but for some of us, it is so much more. It’s almost a secret handshake in a symbol, and I’ve yet to meet a Whovian who didn’t greet it with kindness.

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Dino Day #9

image: Royal Ontario Museum

image: Royal Ontario Museum

I was going to change from dinosaurs to interesting science things – and I probably will next week. Mondays will still be something science related but not necessarily only dinosaurs. Saturday the family and I watched Jurassic Park and I remembered how much I love dinosaurs and I decided that this week I’d write about the little spitter who took out Nedry, which might be the only deserved death in the whole movie. That particular dino was supposed to be a Dilophosaurus. The dinosaur that appeared on the screen was more an idea of the Dilophosaurus as there is no evidence of a frill or venom in the fossil record. It made for great on screen impact and for Jurassic Park, that was enough.

The Dilophosaurus did have crests on its head but either the one appearing in the movie was a juvenile or the wrong size, more or less. They averaged about 20 feet long and likely weighed in at about 1000 pounds. There is some disagreement over whether these particular animals were carrion eaters or fish eaters and, unless we go the Hammond route, we’ll likely never actually know for certain. They were, however, from the Jurassic era. Though they have found fossils of them in North America, their footprints have been found in Sweden too. It may have been a herd animal or pack animal  given the proximity of the specimens found in Arizona.

There is a very interesting narration on the Dilophosaurus by Sam Welles HERE.

Next week I’m probably going to be moving away from dinosaurs for a bit. There are a million interesting things to learn about!

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Always Be Creating

Lately, words have been hard. Harder than usual and it’s effecting my current WIPs and this blog too. But, I am still making stuff. Sometimes, when words just aren’t working for me, making something a different way does the trick. Besides, I did say I was planning to get that Etsy shop open this year sometime. I don’t have much skill with drawing or sculpting but I am quite crafty. If I could draw, I’d probably be doing graphic novels. I’m pretty handy with a glue gun and decoupage is fun but messy.

I’m not a happy person if I go too long without making something – with words or not. There is something very calming about making something. More often than not, the things I make are more decorative than useful: decoupaged boxes, fabric sculpted reapers and sorting hats, and things of that nature. I may someday veer into useful things but I think I have to be done with all things Wonderland first (I do NOT know why I’m on an Alice kick right now). At some point, I’m going to try my hand at a Jabberwocky but I’m waiting for the inspiration on that one a little bit.

There are some interesting things coming up – a facebook book party on March 9th and a release date for Eldercynne Rising! When I know, you’ll know. I’m really excited about this book if for no other reason than Tenorack (maybe my favorite character in any project of mine, ever).

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Dino Day # 8

image: Gabriel Lio

image: Gabriel Lio

I’ve chosen another relatively new dinosaur this week, the Chilesaurus. It’s been called a ‘platypus’ dinosaur because of the combination of characteristics that comprise it. It is the T-Rex’s smaller, vegetarian cousin. Discovered in Chile in 2004, the Chilesaurus is a therapod like the T-Rex and Raptors. It had the characteristic short arms but it lacked the wicked claws, instead bearing two stumpy fingers on each hand.

The Chilesaurus lived in the late Jurassic period about 145 million years ago in South America. It likely measured around 10 1/2 feet from nose to the tip of the tail which is smaller than you would think as that tail likely took up a great deal of that length. To me, I think that would basically be like a bipedal Komodo Dragon who happened to go vegetarian. In dinosaur terms, it was pretty small but in modern terms, that small is still pretty large.

The Chilesaurus is considered an excellent example of convergent evolution which is an incredibly interesting topic all on it’s own.

Convergent Evolution: when particular traits evolve in more than one species or in more than one place in response to external conditions. For example, the three species of freshwater dolphin in India, China, and the Amazon, who are not related by DNA. They all evolved into freshwater dolphins independently of one another. In the reptile world, we have Tegus and Monitor lizards who are not related but resemble each other in a multitude of ways, diet, habitat, overall structure.

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Transitions

I’m finding it a little more difficult than I expected to stop being invisible. Almost my entire life I’ve been striving for functional invisibility. It’s very hard to give that up and try and get people’s attention now but, for my stories, I do try. Marketing is not my strong suit – I find the whole thing overwhelming and scary to be honest. It is really hard to suddenly have to wave around saying look at me when all I want to do is hide away.

I wasn’t always comfortable talking about my anxiety and not just because of said anxiety but because most people treat anxiety like it’s something akin to stubbing my toe. In some ways, I’m glad they do think that as it means they’ve never ever had an actual panic attack. You don’t just get up and walk it off. I talk about it more now not to garner any sympathy – I don’t want that – but because I spent so many years thinking I had these attacks because I was broken and maybe, some other girl will see this and know that she isn’t broken or any of those other negative things she thinks of herself because I wish there’d been that when I was younger and this first really came to a head. Which is a really icky idiom by the way – pretty sure I sat here for five minutes while I’m making a hat ornament thinking about it while I was going over the words I should type. And now that image is going to be in your head too. You’re welcome! 

Panic and depression have been arguing over who gets to control me for a whole lot longer than I like to admit. Mostly I win but sometimes it takes me a while. The internet has helped. I’m fairly certain that, with the exception of my monthly support group for families dealing with autism, 99% of my non-family human interaction is online. I do go to the grocery and pet store so that’s the other 1%. Most of my close friends, I have never met offline. I don’t want to think what I would do without the internet!

I’m trying to do better. I’ve even signed on for a slot during one of my publisher’s marketing parties (March 9 at 4:30 please come!). Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I’m doing enough but other times, it feels like much too much.

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Dino Day #7

This week’s dinosaur is the Compsognathus which is ridiculously hard to spell. Because this week is my husband’s birthday (Happy birthday, Rob!), he got to pick the dinosaur. Why he picked this one, I’m not exactly sure but it sure is fun to say. Most dinosaurs names are though. In any case, the Compsognathus was named in 1859 by Johann Wagner. The Compsognathus was a small dinosaur from the late Jurassic period weighing in at a measly 6.5 pounds but it is not the smallest dinosaur on record. There’s no fossil evidence for feathers for this animal so it could well have looked a bit more like a bipedal monitor lizard.

There isn’t actually much in the way of fossil record for the Compsognathus but there’s enough to figure out that these dinosaurs ate lizards, lived in what was, at the time, a tropical paradise but is now Europe. The first discovered Compsognathus fossil was a very interesting and rare example of predation as it had a lizard in its belly in the fossil.

As far as famous Compsognathus, there aren’t many. The Jurassic Park movies had them, Dino Dan had them, the Minecraft archeology mod has them but I can’t think of a compy character and Google didn’t help me there.

 

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Anticipation

As long as the weather, my oncoming sinus issue (I can feel it settling in), and the kids cooperate, I’ll be getting to see Deadpool this weekend. I can’t tell you how excited I am. I’ve been waiting on this one since they screwed him up so so very badly in the X-Men. I’ve been excited since the “leaked” test footage I shared a few years ago (as did everyone else). I would say it’s been years since I’ve been this excited for a movie but that’s not true. I love movies and get pretty excited for them, especially if there are spectacularly choreographed fight scenes and beautiful explosions and big surly antiheroes. I’m not a big fan of the movies I’m supposed to like, being a female in her mid-30’s with children, go figure.

My oldest child is very mad at me because I won’t take him with me. If, after we see it, we decide that Mr. Teenager is ready for the movie, then that’s one thing but he’s 15 and I need to see these things first for myself. I know he’s mature enough for most things. He’s taking a film studies class right now and they’ve watched a bevy of movies that probably push him maturity limits but that’s a whole different blog post I may get to at some point soon. In part, I want to see it for myself to make sure and give the proper approval. But if I’m honest, I really just don’t want to take my teenager on my husband’s and my Valentine date even if it probably will be a matinee.

I know there are parents planning to take their kids (so far 12 is the lowest age I’ve heard first hand) and I truly hope if ANY of them complain, the studio, the theaters, and everyone involved do nothing but laugh at them. They were warned. This is not the Avengers. Deadpool is not a character for children. They should be made to sign a paper prior to buying tickets for these kids that they wave the right to complain about inappropriate content. People planning to take their kids haven’t read much of the comics. My oldest has read some of them but the series we are reading through at the moment is a bit less dark and super funny and I think that’s what he’s expecting. Yes, there will be the kind of humor the boy and I get a kick out of but I have a feeling from the story line that it’s going to be a bit darker than the Dead Presidents line was.

Things I am expecting: Some mention of keeping his mouth shut or a visual reference to the mistreatment of Deadpool. Superb breakage of the 4th wall. Stunning visual feast of a fight scene. The best Stan Lee cameo to date.

If you’ve seen it, I don’t want to hear about it until Sunday. I want to find out for myself.

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Filed under Comics, Geek, Movies

Smart doesn’t always equal awkward

Yes, often times people who are crazy smart do happen to be somewhat awkward but it’s not always the case and sometimes, if a writer isn’t careful, it begins to feel like the awkward is forced and on purpose.

I am a huge fan of JD Robb’s (Nora Roberts’) In Death series. I have read them all, some of them multiple times. Some of them have been less than stellar but, in the grand scheme of things, 2 or 3 clunkers out of 30 some books is pretty damn good. But. You knew there was going to be a but. One particular choice irks me. Irks me so bad.

Eve Dallas is a bright, competent woman who happens to be a study in PTSD. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m drawn to her so much. Eve Dallas is also incredibly socially inept and awkward – explained some by her earliest formative years but not so much now after 30 odd books. At this point in the story, having her misquote or misunderstand or question every single idiom used by anyone around her is old, irksome, and just plain insulting to the character. It’s one thing to give a character a quirk but when it begins to push the boundaries of believable, a writer should take a giant step back lest you discover your awesome character has evolved into a less than stellar caricature (looking at you BBT).

Robb has done a wonderful job with the character’s growth – except in this one area and it’s to the point where I don’t buy it anymore and it just puts me off or makes me groan actually out loud. By the time you’re 30, you’ve heard the phrase “devil’s advocate” a million times – the phrase has been around for hundreds of years, I don’t think another 60 or 70 is going to suddenly erase it from use. At this point, it feels like the writer’s making a point at how silly language can be at the cost of her best character.

Quirks and flaws can make characters feel real. They are excellent tools that should be utilized but as our characters grow, we have to be aware how those quirks and flaws might change. Initially, this particular quirk showed the reader that Eve was outside the social norm with a bit of an overactive logic circuit. Now, it feels forced because she’s run out of weird or actually odd or confusing idioms and is plucking at the ones that make sense.

I get people being too logical for idioms – I’m raising one who asks me all the time why things are said they way they are and he’s fascinated by the concept of the idiom BECAUSE it doesn’t make logical sense to him but he’s 9 and once they’ve been explained, the idioms get tucked into his lexicon and used properly.

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All the Acronyms

My life is full of acronyms: ASD, IEP, IDEA, SPD, and they’re all quite useful, if you know how to work within the system. Unfortunately not everyone does and the system makes it as difficult as possible to get anything done. I am constantly surprised by how easy I’ve had it. I’ve never had a contentious IEP meeting. We’ve had some teachers who weren’t suited to dealing with my kids but honestly, super easy go of things and I am so very grateful for that.

But apparently my situation is more unusual than it should be. I’ve heard horror stories at my support groups (online and real life) about schools that refuse to do what they’re supposed to do. My kids have it easy because I know the vernacular, the law, and how to talk to people and because I don’t work a standard job, I have the availability to be at meetings, to pester with phone calls, and touch base with email. It makes me wonder how many kids slip through the cracks because their parents do have jobs and can’t be on top of the school all the time or fight tooth and nail to get the evaluations and services their kids need.

The system should not be so difficult to navigate and the plan should not be so difficult to enforce as it can be. Yes, budgets must be taken into account and parents need to be reasonable too but not at the cost of the child’s education. We are losing some bright minds along the way by treating them like problem children or behavior issues rather than people and that’s got to stop. I don’t have any answers or solutions but it all makes me so sad to see.

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Filed under Autism, kids, Life, Parenting

Dino Day #6

suzhousaurusThis week’s dinosaur is a relatively recent addition to the rank and file. The Suzhousaurus was discovered in 2007 and looks a bit like a vulture, a rat, and a raptor had a baby. Active during the early Cretaceous period, it’s a member of the therizinosaurs family. It is an herbivore with small rounded teeth and was likely a feathered animal. It roamed Gansu, China.

From head to tail it’s been measured at about 7 yards and estimated to weigh just over a ton. It’s a big, cumbersome beast that hasn’t been in the public eye enough to have any famous characters or the like but it’s only a matter of time, especially given some of the other concept art for this particular specimen – see HERE.  Those massive claws they have were apparently not for attacking but for grabbing tree limbs and defending themselves.

One of the things I love about science, especially paleontology is that the people who work in the field and the field itself changes every time new information comes to light. Therizinosaurs were once thought to be related to ancient turtles and then the sauropods, none of which was the case, so far as we know. When it comes to light that the assumptions that were made using the evidence at hand were wrong, paleontology is pretty quick to adjust to the new information without a lot of bellyaching. That’s not to say there are no emotions in science, there are and some of the personal relationships can be fraught with scandal and rivalries but science has always owed a great deal to rivalries. Competition makes for some great innovations.

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