Thursday, December 23, 2010

Very Merry

This has been quite the week! I've been confined to the couch for most of it for various reasons-- the cold WH brought home from work, the repercussions of a small accident in the garage, and the torrential rains being the primary ones-- and therefore have been a pretty productive writer.

Tomorrow my mom is coming over and we're going to spend the day making Christmas cookies. You know you're a writer when something as awesome as making Christmas cookies bums you out because you know it would be rude to be tapping away on your laptop while your mother is rolling out dough and shaking out sprinkles in YOUR kitchen.

So since I am deep in plotting land, and now the Christmas frenzy begins, I don't have much to say. But I wanted to wish each and every one of you a very merry holiday, and remind you all to stay safe and warm and have plenty of hot chocolate (with Kahlua) or egg nog (with brandy). Ahem.

I'm excited for the new year! Looking forward to launching some great ideas here at the Q:P and the Archives, and maybe even announcing the return of . . . FEATURES. *Gasp!*

Stay safe, my lovelies. Write on.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Writer's Beginning Guide to Horses: Gaits

So, a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I said I was going to start a feature here at the Q:P about horses, called the Writer's Beginning Guide to Horses. The goal of this feature can be found in detail with the first entry here, along with my background, but in a nutshell, I wanted to compile a resource for writers who want to put horses into their novels. A simple, easily-categorized resource to answer common misconceptions and questions.

So finally, eight months later, I am writing the second installment. Today's installment is about the gaits of horses, or, the different "gears" they have, if you will.

The most common breeds of horses have
four major gaits. There are horses that have more than four gaits, but they are admittedly one place where my knowledge is lacking. You can read more about these horses, called gaited horses, here.

The first gait is the
walk. This is the standard gait, and is the easiest to understand-- it's a walk. It's quite obviously the slowest of the gaits, and is what's called a four-beat gait, meaning that each of the hooves hit the ground independently of each other. The horse has three feet on the ground at a time during the walk. As far as a rider is concerned, the walk is the easiest gait to ride.

The next gait up is the
trot. The trot is a two-beat gait, meaning that the feet move in pairs, with two feet on the ground and two feet in the air at the same time. The pairs of feet are on diagonals, meaning that the front right and rear left will be off the ground at the same time, and so forth.

For the beginning rider,
the trot is usually the hardest to ride physically. An experienced rider can sit the trot, meaning they match the motion of their hips to the motion of the horse and do not bounce up and down in the saddle. Alternatively, in English disciplines (and more and more common everywhere regardless of discipline), the rider can post, which means to rise up and down in the saddle with the rhythm of the horse, taking most of the jarring out of the trot.

The next gaits are technically the same gait, only at increased speed and with a difference in beat count. The first stage over the trot is called the
canter (in English disciplines) or the lope (in Western). The canter or lope is a three-beat gait, which is rather much harder to explain in this brief overview, and therefore I will re-direct you to this resource which explains it in detail if you care to research further. If your characters are just on a romp through the countryside, chances are they are moving at a walk, trot, or canter/ lope.

The faster version of the canter/ lope, and fourth gait, is the
gallop. The gallop is the fastest gait, and you've seen it before if you've ever seen a horse race. It is a four-beat gait, like the trot, but the pattern of footfall is different and there is a moment of suspension where all four feet are off the ground at the same time. If your characters are running away from someone on horseback, chances are they are galloping.

Some special concerns with the gallop though: most horses can't keep this gait up for more than a few miles. For novels set in periods where horses were working animals, this might be increased slightly because they would naturally be in better shape. For a horse living a cushy modern life, however, it's probably only a mile or two.

For the rider: the canter is probably, aside from the walk, the easiest gait to ride. The horse's back takes on a swaying, rocking-horse motion that is spaced out much more than the trot and allows the rider to sit it much more easily. The gallop is similarly easy for an experienced rider, however, for a beginner it's probably the most difficult psychologically due to the speed-- up to 35/40 mph depending on the breed and physical condition of the horse. A rider may also have to hollow their back, or lean forward and sit up out of the saddle to ride the gallop rather than being seated normally.

There you have it! Any questions?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

This is what happens when I have this much free time on my hands... and really, really want to win a contest.

If you haven't already heard, Cindy Pon is having a contest for an ARC of FURY OF THE PHOENIX, the sequel to SILVER PHOENIX. I had the pleasure of meeting Cindy at one of Kiersten White's signings, and also managed to finally track down (and buy) a copy of SILVER PHOENIX for my very own that night, which Cindy was awesome enough to sign for me as well.

Cindy asked her followers to enter the contest by telling her what they loved about SILVER PHOENIX in a creative way. I've been thinking about the contest and how I could be creative about this pretty much since she announced it on her blog, and only came up empty. I knew what I loved about SILVER PHOENIX, but I'm not an artistic person, so drawing, etc., was out. But just writing about it didn't seem like enough.

And then I got my brilliant (read: crazy) idea. I just spent the last nine months handcrafting everything imaginable for our wedding-- why not show Cindy what I loved about her book the same way?

Yeah, I made something to show what I loved about SILVER PHOENIX. But it's probably not what you'd expect.

What I loved about SILVER PHOENIX was, at the most basic level, the introduction (for me) to Asian mythology. This is an area that I feel is under-explored in Western culture. Sure, most of us are familiar with-- and fond of-- the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, but I will be the first to admit that there is a gaping hole in my knowledge of the East-- one that I would love to fill. Cindy does a marvelous job not only bringing this mythology to a place where it's accessible, but making it come to life with vivid imagery and a beautiful story.

When I was thinking of what to make, I tried to think of the place in the book that most summed this up for me My immediate answer also happened to be one of my favorite parts. Ai Ling (the main character), Chen Yong (her romantic foil), and Li Rong (Chen Yong's brother) climb on the back of a dragon and fly up to a mysterious mountain top where the gods await them. This was what I decided to portray.

Ladies and gentlemen, and Cindy! I give you--

The Gardens of the Golden Palace


I decided to represent the early part of the garden, including the five trees mentioned, because I loved them, and the detail that went into describing them. Here are my versions.

The Love Lost Tree (those red things are supposed to be human hearts):



The Eternal Berry Tree:



The Tree of Immortality:



A (horrible) close up of the panther. I unfortunately do not have the sculpting skills to have included all nine heads.



The Observant Tree:



And last but not least, the Tree of Life:



And here's some more views of the garden as a whole:











Outtakes:

The murky mess in the back of the pagoda is supposed to be the scarlet river but it came out decidedly less scarlet than I'd hoped. I also didn't have time to build the rosewood table that's supposed to go inside. And I've just realized after a fiftieth re-read that the gates are supposed to be cinnabar, not gold. Ah well.

You can read about the gardens of the Golden Palace and the context behind my little diorama starting on page 155 of SILVER PHOENIX!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

O Christmas Tree 2010

I love this time of year. It doesn't matter which holiday you celebrate, or even none at all, there's something about November and December that just permeates through you. Unless you're feeling miserly, in which case, bah humbug to you as well.

WH and I got our Christmas tree today. Last year, the tiny hellcats decided it was AWESOME of us to provide them such a complicated toy and proceeded to destroy our faithful fake tree between its raising shortly after Thanksgiving, and actual Christmas day. And by destroy, I mean that they bent ALL the branches, so the tree looked like a giant version of Charlie Brown's Christmas tree, pulled all of the ornaments off, and stripped the fake plastic needles from the branches with an efficiency I'm sure would make us millions if we could refine and find an application for it.

This made me sad. In fact, a couple days before last Christmas I tried to convince WH to replace the fake tree with a real one. "They can't bend those branches," I argued. I even went to a lot and looked around, deciding on a Douglas Fir because they have really dense, thin branches that I was convinced our cats couldn't climb up into because their weight wouldn't be supported. But WH firmly brought me back to earth, saying that with such a short time to go until Christmas, we'd be better off just waiting until next (this) year.

So I waited. And waited. I may or may not have forgotten about the tree with the whole engagement-wedding thing that happened this year, but you KNOW I remembered as soon as I started seeing Christmas decorations out in the stores.

I started pestering WH to get this year's tree a few weeks ago, still convinced we could handle getting it earlier this year because the cats wouldn't be able to achieve the level of destruction they did last year. He staunchly believes that Christmas anything before Thanksgiving is wrong, so I tried to be patient. My patience failed on Thanksgiving morning. I decided we would go get the tree on Sunday, but that was as long as I was going to wait.

This morning arrived, and we picked out our tree at the local Home Depot. We got it home, and set it up, and poured water in the stand. I went and got the tree skirt I'd been saving for a few weeks and after we swept up needles four or five times, laid it out around the base of the tree.

The cats so far seemed respectful, but that was a lie. As soon as we stopped immediately touching the tree, they moved in. Sniffing, at first, then batting at the branches and watching the resulting swaying, then chewing on the needles, then chasing each other around the base and dislodging the tree skirt, and then-- oh, then-- the dreaded jumping.

I was in the kitchen, making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, when I saw the tree shaking in a velociraptor-enclosure-in-Jurassic-Park kind of way. A quick search through the branches doing the most shaking revealed a familiar gray, stripey face peering out at me from about my waist level. I wish I'd gotten a picture of this, but I know I'm not the first person ever to have a cat crawl in a Christmas tree, so please use your imaginations.

It's only been a few hours, but the tree is still standing tall, if leaning ever-so-slightly. We are holding off on the decorations, though, until the novelty wears off, which it hopefully will. Soon. I've also given up on the tree skirt as it's a pain to put on and they just keep ripping it off every five minutes.

At least they've tired themselves out somewhat. Maybe we won't wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of the tree crashing to the floor? Maybe? Ah well. I can hope, right?

Here's a picture of the tree climber, taking his much-earned rest after a hard day's destruction. Don't let the soft innocence and adorable stripes fool you.




Merry happy holiday season everyone. It has officially begun!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

An interesting breakfast and a review: Gary Corby's THE PERICLES COMMISSION is on sale at major booksellers today!

Gary Corby's debut novel, THE PERICLES COMMISSION, comes out at the major booksellers today (heretofore only available at a few indie bookstores).

In honor of Gary's book, I have braved the depths of the gift that Gary brought me from his homeland down under, which you may remember from this post: Vegemite. What is Vegemite, you may ask? Well, on the tube I have, it says "Concentrated Barley Extract." Sounds delicious, no?

Supposedly, there is a whole continent of people who actually like this stuff. I'm not entirely convinced that it's not just a prank they play on foreigners. I've had it once before, a long, long time ago, and that was enough to scar me for life. But for Gary, an all-around awesome guy, I chanced it again.

First though, I had to make sure that the tube was free of demons. I did this by letting the cats smell it.



This may not have been the best test, because they'll smell anything.

But they seemed to like it. Nyxie even licked it and didn't immediately keel over, so I decided it was safe for me to try.

So, I got out the necessary ingredients, according to my Australian author-friend Gary: toast, butter, and of course, the Vegemite.


He advised a very thin layer. It came out kind of watery at first and then like toothpaste the color of the pits of hell. I did my best, but... stupid bagels and their stupid nooks and crannies. There were little Vegemite mines all over it.


It took me a full five minutes to work up the courage to actually put that in my mouth. I of course filled this time by cleaning up, repeatedly.

Note the look of fear already on my face (and sorry these next couple pics are so dark):


And the reaction shot:



Time for a cure! I grabbed a glass of water but even that could not tame the saltiness.



So I reached for one of these, and whaddya know-- it worked!


Mmmm, cookies!

So that, my friends, is Vegemite. I've survived (long enough) to write this blog post, and I have to admit that it wasn't AWFUL. Just, you know, horrible. Kidding! Okay, it was... interesting. Let's put it that way. If you like salt, you'll love Vegemite. (And Gary, I am grateful for the gift, as you should know. There are ALL sorts of things I can do with the rest! Mostly pranks involving my husband and the sort of close friends who won't never speak to me again, but it will get used, don't worry!)

And now, on to something we can all love: Gary's book.

I'll keep this review short and sweet because a.) I think book reviews can be terribly dull and b.) you really should just go buy it and read it for yourself. But here goes, my (un)professional opinion.

In brief, a summary:

Nicolaos, the son of a sculptor in Athens at the very roots of democracy, must investigate the murder of Ephialtes, an important politician, and protect his new-found love interest, Diotima, from a fate worse than death: marriage to a jerk. Yeah, I said jerk. I know, I know, but it's not like I'm Booklist or Publisher's Weekly. Anyway, back to the story. Nicolaos (Nico) is commissioned to investigate the murder by Pericles, another up-and-coming politician, who promises to tutor the young man out of his sculptor roots and into politics if he catches the killer.

What I loved about it:

For a history buff like me, this is the easiest part: the history. Gary does a fantastic job of putting you smack dab in Athens in the fifth century B.C.E. I loved this book because it is like no other out there right now. There are other historical mysteries, but none quite like this. Not only do you feel and experience the world of Classical Athens (and despite being a city, Athens really was a whole world back then), but you are there right at the birth of democracy. It feels like a history-buff's dream-- going back in time to watch as something important unfolds. Gary makes a promise to his readers that he will treat the story and the history diligently, and he doesn't disappoint.

I also loved how the story kept me guessing about the killer even after I was assured by the narrator that I knew the answer. This is a masterful tactic and one that I've rarely seen employed in modern mysteries; it recalls to me the likes of Agatha Christie novels, which are the mysteries I was teethed on.

What I didn't like about it:

Not much of anything. In fact, the only thing I can really think of is that there were so many story lines coming together at the end that it did get a little confusing, especially because there were two pivotal characters with the same name, which often made it difficult to tell which was which. This, however, did not ruin the book for me or take me out of the story, but rather just made me have to read an eensy bit more carefully, which in a book full of intellectualism, isn't exactly a bad thing.

Overall, I wholeheartedly recommend THE PERICLES COMMISSION to everyone who loves history and a good who-dun-it. I can't wait for books two and three (and beyond)! And I must mean it since I'm still saying it after the man tried to kill me with Vegemite.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I'm cheating and cross-posting this at the Archives, but that's because it's November 1st and I am BACK

So, while I was gone, several things occurred. One of them was rather large and amazing, one of them was rather large and sucky, the rest ranged from spectacular to average, but all in all, I'd have to say that it was a pretty good 2-3 months. Rather than trying to remember all these events, I've decided instead to answer some lingering questions you're all sure to have:

Q: Did you get married?

A: Why, yes I did! Here we are, looking hot and loving and adorable and all that:


(Photo by the amazing Kate Williams of Chasing Daylight Photography)

My wedding was a dream come true. I couldn't be happier with my new husband, and boy is it nice to have time for other things! (Like blogging, and writing, and breathing. Always nice, that). Whether you care or not, I will probably be posting some pictures and a mini-recap in the near future-- unless that ever-loving mistress of the procrastinators, laziness, prevents me from doing so-- when I get more pictures, and get them organized, and all that.

Speaking of having more free time:

Q: Are you still working?

A: Um . . . no, actually. Yeah. That's the pretty major thing that's happened that sucks. It's fairly recent, and through no fault of my own, and hopefully we'll be okay. But still. Suckage.

Still, I am optimistic. And trying not to view this "Oh hey! I'll finally have real writing time!" Because making money so we can eat, and our furry babies can eat, is more important than all-the-time-I-could-ever-want-to-write. Right?

Moving on.

Q: Did you find an agent?

A: No, no I did not. For a very simple reason: you have to query agents in order to risk that they might sign you, and I haven't been querying. Rest assured, despite my assertions above, SOME of my new-found free time will be spent querying. Just not, you know, most of it.

Q: Did you get to meet any fabulous authors?

A: I did! While I didn't get any pictures, I did meet Kiersten White and Cindy Pon (both at Kiersten's signing, interestingly enough). Then, last week, I got to play native guide to Gary Corby, who is just as cool and full of fascinating historical info in person as he is online. WH and I had a fabulous time at his signing, where we also met P.L. Gaus, who writes Amish murder mysteries. We then spent Saturday showing Gary around our famous San Diego zoo (during which Gary, Scott and I had a long discussion about the possibility of owning a wallaby, and the ways someone could die by various animals) and topped off the evening by getting the only food I can think of that screams "San Diego"-- fish tacos, from a bar on the beach, by the pier. I hope Gary had as much fun with us as we did with him. Here we are at his signing:



We all look much happier in the picture on his blog. We were having a good time, I swear.

And while I neglected to take any pictures of Gary at the zoo (especially near the World's Largest Rodent [a capybara]), I did take a picture of the souvenir Gary brought me from Australia:



Thanks, Gary. I'm still working up the nerve to try it.

Aaaaaand I got to buy and then therefore read his book! Here I am, reading it:


There will be a review up here soon!

Q: Did you get any writing done?

A: Well, yes, actually. Not nearly as much as I'd have liked, but I did. I have a 43K "first draft" of my mystery done and, thanks to Gary, am moving ahead full force to start really querying my second novel, V. And this time I mean it. Sorry, where did that come from?

Q: So, uh, did anything else happen while you were gone?

A: Aside from all that I mentioned above, not really. All in all, I'm glad I decided to take the break because I honestly would have been too busy and too stressed out to be a good blogger. But on the same hand, I am SO glad to be back amongst my writer friends and catch up on everyone's lives. And while I can't guarantee that I'm back with gusto, I'm going to try to post at least twice a week, and you'll see me commenting again.

So now here's a question for you:

How have you been?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Gone but not forever

Well hey there. I remember you. You may or may not remember me.

Just popping in to say that I am now officially unofficially on hiatus. Wedding planning + school +volunteering has sucked me dry! I'll be back November 1st. Til then, mon amis!

Thanks for sticking around!

-L.T.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

THE BEES

Yesterday was an interesting ride. I was late to work in the morning because I went outside and noticed that my pumpkins, which had been flowering, had been flowering. . . more. Like, a lot more. I've been worried that they would flower and then not pollinate ( which means no pumpkins) because I haven't seen very many bees around our yard lately, and I made an idle hope-- against the rest of myself, speaking as one who has been getting progressively worse and worse reactions to bee stings over the last few years-- that more bees would come visit our yard and pollinate my vines. Then I got a stick and scraped pollen off the male flowers and rubbed it around inside the female flowers, hoping that some bees would visit and do the job properly during the day. This is probably the silliest reason I've ever been late to work but these pumpkins have consumed me. I am determined to have beautiful, plump, orange and white pumpkins (that I grew myself) at our wedding.

The rest of the day didn't get much better after I was late. I had family stress (resolved), wedding stress (also eventually resolved), work stress (who doesn't?), and road-rage stress. Some guy nearly rear-ended me on the way home during a sudden stop in traffic, and then proceeded to tail-gate me while I was slamming on my brakes AND trying to give him more room to stop and avoid an accident. Once the tangle cleared up he then came around and cut me off-- on purpose. Luckily, I think I made him more mad than he made me, and I managed to avoid an accident, but, seriously, dude?

And then I got home, which is usually my sanctuary.

I did my usual I'm-home routine, which involves parking the car in the garage, going inside, greeting the cats, checking for things they've destroyed, cleaning up said destruction, putting the mess on the back porch, and then going to check on my bunny and water my plants. I've been letting the bunny run around in the backyard while I water lately, so I got her out and went to go put on her harness and leash (bright pink, so I can find her, and long, so I can catch her when she doesn't want to be caught). I was snuggling and baby-talking her just by her cage and idly looking out the back window when I noticed something rather terrifying just outside.

Does anyone else remember those made-for-TV movies from the late 90's or so about killer bees?

Yeah. I was in my early teens at the time, and my mom has this weird fascination with bees, so we watched all of them. There was more than one, or maybe the same one several times, I don't remember. All I know is that I've been unreasonably terrified of any situation involving bees + houses since then. And it looked like our back porch was filled with them.

They can't have been there long. Either that or I am really that oblivious, as only a few minutes before I had put a towel out on the back porch and had not been stung, swarmed, or killed. But now it seemed like there were hundreds, swarming around the gutter just a few feet from the back door.

Once I got WF safely inside on his arrival home, we assessed the situation. It appeared we were in some trouble: they were not just passing through. I've been through swarms before, and these bees weren't acting like they were just hanging out. They were acting like they were moving in.

I sat by the back window and watched them for a good while. They kept coming and hitting the glass, trying to get to me and the cats, which led me to believe that they may be of the more aggressive variety, and cemented my resolve to not go anywhere near them. I fretted a little about not being able to water my beautiful pumpkin vines and check on the few strawberries I have growing. But I fretted more about the bees, and therefore stayed indoors.

I put tape over the tiny pressure-flap we have in our back window and checked the cracks around our doors out of sheer paranoia-- and thanked my stars we don't have an attic. Those movies have made me less than rational when it comes to bees. Turbo, of course (gray cat), immediately un-taped the window in his attempts at catching one of the Fun Bugs that kept hitting the glass. Now I know who not to trust in the event of a zombie apocalypse. (Though to be fair, Turbo was already my first choice. He just totally seems like the one that would let them in the house, you know?)

This morning WF managed to sneak outside and water for me while the hive/ swarm was still asleep. He said it was eerie because he only noticed when he was coming back INTO the house that the back walls had sleeping bees all over them, too.

We called a bee service, and they are coming out in an hour or so to give us an estimate, and I'm hoping it will be rather painless.

Part of me wants to be able to water my plants and exercise my bunny, and part of me is just sad that the bees came when I asked them to, just. . . not in the right place. Sorry, bees. And Universe, please don't take me so literally next time.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Community Service, or, why I hate myself

To be fair, the title's misleading. I don't *really* hate myself. I just enjoy making it look like I do. And I'm not doing court-ordered community service, either. Just the usual hey, look, I'm not busy enough already planning my less-than-four-month away wedding so hows about I go and volunteer at not one, not two, but THREE new places?

Yeah, I'm insane.

Plus a friend of mine is looking to buy her first house, so I've been busy with that. (I am one of those slimy real estate agents, in case you didn't know-- but I just carry the card, I don't work at it for a living).

Then of course there's all the stuff that five months ago sounded like great ideas to make myself for the wedding that now seem like ideas from Hades itself to actually do.

And last of all is the writing. And last last of all is the blogging.

I'm so close to knocking out a first draft of the mystery I'm working on that it's insane, and yet, I'm spinning my wheels. Mostly because I dread the ginormous amount of work I'll have to do after the first draft is done-- adding subplots and expanding sections-- but I'm looking forward to it, too. I just know how much work it's going to be, and I'm thinking, do I really want to start THAT right now?

So what does this mean? It means I am going to be a whiny, sporadic blogger (here, at least) at best-- until after the wedding. I love you guys (*sniff), and I wouldn't be here, doing this, if it weren't for you. Don't think I don't care-- I Just. Don't. Have. The. Time. And since I don't have any exciting news to share, I don't have much to
say either. However, buck up, chums-- you can still find me at the Archives every Monday, and maybe I'll share some of my other, un-writerly-related adventures here in the meantime.

Also also: to everyone-- I am READING all of your posts, my apologies if I am not commenting on all of them.

Bear with me. You know I'll be back, with a vengeance! :)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Compelled

I've officially reached an internal milestone, and I'm proud to share it. No, I didn't get an agent. Still workin' on that. Hence the "internal," but I wanted to clear that up up front.

This isn't one of those milestones that you can point to and say, then--right then-- is when it happened. It's more a cumulative one that I've just realized was there.

I figured out why I want to write.

See, before, I just felt this drive--this urge-- this need to write. It made no sense and gave me no reasons. I just had stories in my head and I wanted them on paper.

Or did I?

Once my first novel was done, I was excited to start querying. I, like so many others before and after me, was self-assured that *I* was different. That my first query might land me an agent because isn't that the way it's supposed to happen?

But even when the rejections started pouring in, and then as I realized that that story probably wasn't going anywhere, and then got the idea for and started writing my second novel, I didn't really get why I was doing any of this. What was I expecting to get from this, anyway?

And you know, I didn't figure it out until very recently. I was thinking about, you know, everything and started to ask myself those questions. Why? Was it money? No. My immediate and firm reaction was that I didn't care about the money. Was it fame? No. Not likely to happen anyway, and it's not what's driving me-- at least not the paparazzi kind of fame.

I realized, what it is, is that I want to walk into a bookstore and see my book on the shelf. I want to hear people talk about my book and how it's touched them and how they've grown or learned from it. I want my stories to be out there, for people to share with their friends and family. MY words, preserved in time, touching people. I want my books to last.

So yes, I DO want to be published. But it's not for money or fame. Personally, I don't care if people remember my name, so long as they remember my stories.

Have you figured out why you write?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Short Stories

(How has it been over a week since I blogged last? WHOA. Sorry about that, folks).

So I guess you could say that I've ventured into new territory as a writer.

Not that this is unusual, you understand. Since I really started trying to write a little over a year-and-a-half ago, I have written (or am still working on) projects in:

Fantasy
Commercial Fiction
Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
Cozy Mystery

And now I am adding "horror" to that list. I just finished a short horror story, and while it originally came to me as the impetus for a novel, I immediately stopped that firmly in its tracks, and for good reason-- I'm currently still writing two other novels. No need to add a third. And this one was PUSHY. Kept writing itself in my head while I was trying to go to sleep. So I decided to turn it into a short story-- something I could finish quickly and get the story out of my head so it wasn't running circles around my other projects.

And so my evil child short story was born, drafted, and done at about 4,700 words. A little long for a short story, but the anthology press I have my eye on takes up to 7,500.

Anyway, moving on-- my point for today (and possibly this whole week, as you scan your eyes over the barren desert of my blog) is that I don't think in terms of limits for myself as a writer. If I get an idea, I write it. And you know what? It's been incredibly liberating to do so. If you'd asked me a year ago if I could write a story about a black guy that turns white, the answer was no. In June or July when I got the idea, the answer was still no. But when it pestered me until I wrote it out, it was easier than I thought. And it helped me grow so much as a writer. Now, I wouldn't give that story back for anything, even though I originally thought "wouldn't that be great for someone else to write one day."

What writing V taught me though, is that I CAN write things that I think I can't. And the same thing goes for horror. I never would have thought to touch a story like this last year. Now, it's done-- and it creeped me out to write it, but I kinda like it.

In some ways, being an un-agented, un-published author is an advantage. I don't have a name built up as a YA writer, or a high fantasy writer, and therefore an agent, editor, and rabid fans awaiting my next release in that category, and only that category. I'm still just a writer, and I can write whatever I want, whenever I want.

I'm going to embrace my freedom for now and write what takes my fancy.

Have you ever written something that you thought you weren't capable of, or outside your comfort range? Do you stick to one genre?


Monday, May 24, 2010

Fire, Fire


We bought a grill yesterday. My sister and her husband were coming over for dinner, and so my fiance got it set up while I was out at my writer's critique group.

He was so eager to show it to me as soon as I got out of the car. He asked me to come over and help him move it, then turned one of the knobs and showed me how it lit up, exclaiming "FIRE" in that deep man-voice guys always do.

A half-hour later, we were desperately cleaning the house, and I asked him for the shed key so I could put something away out there. He walked me out and we stood in the backyard for a second talking about something insignificant. Our back fence is just a few trees and some dry brush away from a freeway on/ off ramp, so the sirens we heard pull up and stop behind our house were not unusual or even really noticeable.

What stopped our conversation was the crackling sound I heard from beyond our fence. My fiance saw the smoke, and we both came to the same conclusion at the same time.

Fire.

When you live in SoCal, you don't mess around with fire.

He ran for the hose and I ran for the pets; it only took me ten minutes to coax one cat out from under the bed. By that time, the alarm had settled from oh-no-not-this-again to oh-hey-those-nice-firefighters-have-almost-put-it-out.

Time flashes in those moments. What do you grab? Can you even find the most important things to take? Life first. Always life first. But beyond life, what?

Suffice to say, this isn't the first time fire has chased me into action, but it is the first time that I didn't have any warning whatsoever. The fiance and I spent a good half-hour after our hearts stopped racing talking over a plan for when--not if, but when-- it happens again; something we hadn't done yet. But the truth is that there is never any guarantee that there will be time to make those choices. There's a different set of priorities if you have three days or three minutes to prepare, and you can never know which it will be.

A couple hours later, we struck up our domesticated fires again and bent them toward cooking dinner, and all was right in the world. It's amazing the difference between control and chaos. One can be a tool, the other adrenaline and change.

This won't be the last brush we have with fire living here, but it is the first time it's so literally struck close to home. And a little PSA: don't be a jerk and throw cigarette butts out of your car window, ESPECIALLY into dry brush. I mean come on. That's just ridiculous.

You never know whose life you might irrevocably change by something so small and thoughtless. If it weren't for the amazing fire department in our city responding before we even knew there was a problem, I don't like to think about how the day would have ended.

What would you take with you if you had three days or three minutes?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Cat Burfler

*This post is about cat vomit. If you are offended by cat vomit, do not read on.*

She comes in the night, or during the day while we're at work.

She knows us-- too well, it would seem, because she knows when we're most likely to not be home, or not paying attention.

She bides her time, waiting until the perfect moment, and then burfles on our bed.

It was imperceptible at first; just a tiny puddle on the comforter. But as she learned our limits, she began to push them. Soon, it was several times a night. From the comforter to the under blanket, to one day-- when she was bravest of all-- our sheets.

Her stealth is unparalleled; she is the whisper of a ghost. One moment there, the next gone, leaving only her calling card and a load of laundry for the next day.

I wash our sheets daily with bitter tears.

I can feel her greediness increasing with each incident. Like a grasping demon she claws for the next big score, and I know what the ultimate prize is-- our pillows. I dread the day I come home--or wake up-- to find my worst fears are true. There are some things that cannot be taken back, no matter how good the return policy.

So I write this post out of respect for our cat burfler, that she may be appeased and leave us to a restful night's sleep without the unpleasant discovery of the shattering of our dreams.

Oh-- we believe we may have pictorial evidence of the culprit. If you squint really hard in this picture, we feel she may be the dark, soul-sucking shadow over our other cat. If anyone sees this cat burfler, do not approach. Please just leave a comment here letting me know and we will contact the appropriate authorities.



Edit: Picture was broken, should be fixed (if a little smaller) now.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

WHOOPSIE

A belated (whoopsie) thank you to Amalia Td for gifting all of us at the Archives with an award. This is my public self-flagellation for somehow not knowing that I didn't follow your blog, Amalia. My very serious bad.

To anyone else who has given me an award, if I miss saying thank you for it... well... please always feel free to smack me. It's not like I don't care, I am just gifted with the memory of a flatworm*.

*No offense to any flatworms. I mean, everyone knows flatworms are smarter than nightcrawlers**, right?

**No offense to nightcrawlers. You guys totally have it over the woolly caterpillars***.

***No offense to woolly caterpillars. But seriously, you guys are just dumb. Come on... crossing the road by the hundreds at feet per hour? Not a very good way to keep the species goin'. I'm just sayin'.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Etymology day-- Daisy

I've got wedding flowers on the brain, hurray for you! Today's word is daisy, etymology again from here.

"O.E.
dægesege, from dæges eage "day's eye," because the petals open at dawn and close at dusk. In M.L. it was solis oculus "sun's eye." Daisy-cutter first attested 1791, originally of horses that trotted with low steps; later of cricket (1889) and baseball hits that skim along the ground. Daisy-chain in the "group sex" sense is attested from 1941. Pushing up daisies "dead" is attested from 1918, but variant with the same meaning go back to 1842."

One of the things that fascinates me the most about Old English, Latin, and the Romantic/ Latin-derived languages is how we can still see their influence/ roots in today's spoken word. It's easy to see how "day's eye" became daisy.

Since I have the maturity level of a seventh grader, I find it interesting that "daisy-chain" as a sexual, er, thing, goes as far back as 1941. Shocking!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

In which I have something similar to what might be called an angsty rant. But not really.

Criticism is an unavoidable part of life as a writer. Even if nearly everyone likes your work, there will still be someone who doesn't.

There is a difference between critique and criticism, but it's narrow. I see a critique as something you offer yourself up for; criticism is unsolicited. Also, critiques tend to be nicer and more constructive.

For the purposes of this post, I'll lump them both under "crit."

Right now, I have a piece in a contest, and all the writers who have also entered the contest have to critique other entries.

The comments on my piece have been mostly positive, but there is one commenter that I feel just doesn't get it. And this, right here, is the most frustrating part of being a writer-- no matter how careful or explicit you are, you can't control "it." IT is intangible, and impossible to grasp. You either get IT, or, you don't.

Likewise, I can't control the other writers and whether they get my writing or not based on the sample offered. And it's hard to not be able to argue back. Even when we have IRL (in real life) critique groups, it's hard for me not to defend myself, because I do put incessant amounts of thought into every word that goes on my pages, and wrestle with every decision to do something out of the ordinary, or in style.

Now, I probably sound like a spoiled brat, so I'll back up and say that I don't usually have this reaction to every crit I receive. Even if something is hard to swallow, I'm pretty good about taking the crits that resonate with me. If it really will make my writing better, why would I want to ignore that?

What I have a hard time with is people who "don't get it." And I don't fault them for not getting my work, because not everyone will. It's so hard to not respond, though, and correct misconceptions. Yes, I intentionally capitalized that letter. No, "fiction novel" is okay if it's part of the genre (at least last I heard).

But I won't respond, at least not there, because a.) as per my post at the Archives on Monday, I will remain professional online, and b.) it's not a habit I want to get into. If I'm serious about being published, I have to understand that there is going to be criticism of my work. And I can't track down every person who doesn't get it and correct them, can I? Likewise, I don't want to be *that* person. *That* author who has a public meltdown over a bad review and ruins their rep forever. If I'm going to have to take it from a lot more people someday, I may as well learn in the small scale now.

What's hard about criticism for you?

Monday, May 3, 2010

In which I say nothing of consequence but point you to other people who do and a place where I did

Confused yet?

Good. That's how we like things here at Confuse-An-Author, Ltd.

(Bonus points if you catch the reference).

Anyway, I'm over at the Archives today, and Taryn Tyler has an idea of sheer brilliance-- seriously, go check it out.


Friday, April 30, 2010

Epiphany

I've had an amorphous blob.

I mean, an epiphany.

I don't know how to write.

Hold on! Come back, there's more.

See, it all started with the author blog chain going on today. I'll link to Tawna Fenske because she started it, and has links to the other five participating authors in there.

The point of these posts was for these six authors to explain their writing processes. Which is, I'll admit, like crack to me. I love following/stalking/ admiring authors from a distance. Not only is it really wonderful to get to know them, I love seeing the process through their eyes, and I love being happy for them as things happen. I'll also admit to loving letting my imagination go wild with the someday-when-that-happens-to-mes.

But today, reading each and every one of their blogs, and seeing how all of their writing processes were so alike and yet so different from mine got me thinking that I don't know how to write. If I were to write a post detailing my writing process, well, frankly, it would resemble each of theirs in turn to some degree. But there's no one way I can pin down and say, hey, this is how I write.

Sometimes, I become full-bore obsessed with a project and churn it out like a stomach flu I can't seem to shake. (Lovely image, I know. Sorry).

Other times, I let the idea simmer as the plot and characters run around in my head and get to know each other.

Yet other times I plan everything out (albeit in my head) and write from an outline I carry with me everywhere I go.

And sometimes I do all of the above in alternating phases.

What's the point? I think my point isn't new, but it certainly struck me upside the head today: there is no one "real" way to go about writing. No one place to turn to and have the same results as, say, The King (by which I mean Stephen). If that were the case; if it were really that easy, we'd all be writing the same story.

And maybe we are all writing the same story, on some lower level. But we are each doing it in our own ways and with our own approaches to life, and therefore, even if you did write like Stephen King, you would probably never write what Stephen King has written. (Assuming a vacuum/ bubble and laboratory control, for all you science-y types).

So I guess my point is that while I still fully intend to stalk/follow/admire writers, and I still intend to love doing so, I'm going to stop seeking out my method of writing as a reason why I haven't been agented/published yet. Just because I don't outline, or do, or get it out all in a month, or take a year to write something, doesn't mean it's not worth the effort. I'll continue to take what I can from author posts and work hard to improve my own writing in the ways that matter. Someday maybe I'll have a set method (for example: when I'm under deadline), but for right now I'm fine writing my way. I'll re-evaluate when it's time-- whether I need a more disciplined method due to a deadline, or just a different method because nothing's happening for me.

Do you have a set method, or does your writing morph as you need it to?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Sarcasm Font, or, my attempt at feeling better about the world at large

I'm hoping to shear two sheep with one hand here. (Yes, I'm aware that's not really the metaphor typically used. I'm also aware it doesn't make sense. But I don't advocate killing animals when I can help it, so go with the mad hatter version, kay?)

U kNo ThE pEePuL oN TeH iNtErNeT wHo WrAiTe LeIk ThIs?

Well, that's one problem.

And then there's the problem of sarcasm on the internet. See, sarcasm is a silent social killer-- undetectable to the naked stranger's eye (whoa naked stranger!), it can kill a conversation faster than bringing up Charles Manson. Unless you're already talking about Charles Manson.

See, the thing about people is that a lot of us (especially 'round these parts) connect to people that we don't already know by using humor. And sarcasm, though some call it the lowest form of humor. . . chumps. . . is one of the ways that people escape the social awkwardness of a new meeting and connect with the person they're talking to. But it's a risk, especially in type, because it can look totally serious when you tell them that Charles Manson is your hero. For reals. If the person doesn't understand or know that you tend to be a sarcastic person, they may turn and run. Screaming.

What's an internet-savvy person to do? Well, I suppose the easiest way is just to not use sarcasm with someone you just met. But who wants to do that?

Therefore, and heretowith, I propose a sarcasm font. I propose that when writing in sarcastics, one should aLtErNaTeLy CaPiTaLiZe every other letter of each word. Ideally, this will catch on and HTML text editors and word processing programs will have an sS next to the i, b, and u they already have for the other font effects, so you don't have to actually type like that. Hopefully within six months to a year, depending on the power of the movement.

The other benefit, which is also an assessed risk, is that everyone else who already types on the internet like this will eventually be automatically assumed to be sarcastic. Thus rescuing my faith in humanity because SERIOUSLY WHO DOES THAT ALL THE TIME AND WHY WOULD YOU IT TOOK ME LIKE TEN TIMES LONGER THAN NORMAL TO TYPE THE PARTS WHERE I DID THAT IN THIS POST NO WONDER YOUR SPELLING AND GRAMMAR ARE SO ATROCIOUS.

Okay. I feel better now.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Animals as MCs

Come check me out today at the Archives, too.

Shannon O'Donnell asked in the comments of my post about my specialty
for ideas for a picture book animal MC that hasn't been overdone.

This is a great question. To be fair, I'm not 100% up-to-date on picture books, but I can throw out some unusual ones, and hopefully they haven't been done yet. Story is, of course, up to you! (Note: I tend to lean towards predators, only because I think they're AWESOME, but I'm not sure how this would go over for kid's books. Wouldn't want Jr. to walk up to a bear and go, "Oh! It's Bubba the Bear!" and get eaten. That would be bad. However, I'm assuming you know all about it, and I'll try to include some animals that wouldn't, you know, eat your readers if they met in an empty field).

-Shark
-Jellyfish
-Snake
-Gazelle
-Giraffe
-Puffin
-Manticore (kidding! Just seeing if you're paying attention)
-Zebra
-Tapir
-Snow Leopard
-Rhinoceros
-Wallaby
-Gorilla or other monkey/ primate
-Tyrannosaurus Rex (no Velociraptors, though)

Any good ideas in there? I hope so. Let me know if not
, I can rattle off a few more.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Interstitial Horses

Thank you to everyone for your kind words on my post on Tuesday.

I know I said I'd go in order of the comments/ questions for my animal posts, but I thought I'd take a break every now and then and post about horses, because I have SO MUCH information on them.

Horses are kind of my bread and butter. I love them; have ever since my dad promised my sister and me that we would get one when I was eight. We even met the horse and named him (Zeus), but alas, we moved into the city shortly thereafter, and Zeus found another home.

I therefore begged my parents at every opportunity (birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Arbor Day, Columbus Day, and occasional fourth of Julys) to get me a horse. Finally, in the seventh grade, my mom caved and got me riding lessons. I suppose she was hoping I would figure out I didn't really like them, or get it out of my system and leave them alone.

Nope. Also, no ponies under the Christmas tree. Finally, after several summers of working my way into riding lessons at various ranches around the county, I found a place to stay the summer after my senior year, and that's where I met my first (and eventual second) horse. I bought both of them with my own money, albeit five years apart, and continued to pay for them on my own.

Having my own horse(s) has taught me more about horses than anything else I've done. And I now fact-check horses EVERYWHERE. In movies, and in books, and anywhere else they might show up. It's a habit. And when I find mistakes, I tend to correct them, as any of my crit partners can tell you. So I thought I'd start with a Writer's Beginning Guide to Horses today, and get some basic terms and concepts out of the way.

(All of the following pictures come from statelinetack.com).

We'll start with accoutrements, commonly called
tack. This includes just about anything a horse would wear for riding/ being ridden. I'll start with this because I find that tack is the thing most often messed up in fiction related to horses. That and gaits, but we'll get to those another time.

Halter: A halter is usually leather, rope, or nylon webbing with metal rings. It fits around the horse's face and throat, applying pressure on the nose and behind the ears (the poll). A halter is used to lead a horse.


I apologize this picture is so absolutely tiny. You get the gist, though, right?

Anyway, halters are most often confused with the
bridle. The bridle is what's typically used for riding a horse, is made of leather, and has a bit, which is a metal piece that goes into the horse's mouth. The bit is used to control the direction and speed of the horse, though not exclusively. (As with anything about animals, there's a lot else I could go into here. We'll assume any riders in your books are going to be doing things the traditional way, and if you ever have any questions about advanced techniques or the what-ifs, feel free to email me). The bit is attached to reins, usually also leather, but can be nylon or rope, which the rider holds in their hands and pulls on in one direction or another to get the horse to turn, or both together to get the horse to slow down or stop.

This is a western bridle:


Source

Make sure your tack matches. If you're writing a cowboy or wild west novel set in the States, or a ranch novel, well, you probably know enough about horses that you don't need to read this. But, those novels would likely use Western tack. If you're setting it in England or Europe, or the East coast of the States, you'll likely need English tack.

Western and English bridles are very similar, they mostly make different uses of pressure (an English bridle often has a band that wraps around the nose, like a halter, whereas a Western bridle can have a curb strap that passes under the chin) and different bits. I won't go into bits today. Again, if you really need to know, email me.

Saddles: There are three primary types of saddles in use today. There's the Western, which is commonly used for long trail rides and working cattle. It's more of a "comfort" saddle, and has built-in features to help keep the rider on the horse:


Source

English saddles are used for English riding, which most famously includes the "high disciplines" like dressage (horse dancing, if you will-- means training in French), and jumping. They put you closer to the horse and allow them to feel your movements more effectively, but it can require more balance on the part of the rider, at least on a beginning level:


Source

And the Australian stock saddle, which is sort of a combination of the two. It allows for the same close contact with the horse as the English saddle while giving the comfort and stability of the Western saddle:


Source

Australian stock saddles have only become popular in the United States in the last 10-15 years or so, at least to my knowledge. But it's a design that's likely very similar to some historical saddles, which are a whole other ballgame.

So that's pretty much it for my most basic of basics beginning guide to tack. Any questions?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Remembering something I'd long ago forgotten

Janet Reid's blog today reminded me of something that I've forgotten about myself.

Well, forgotten isn't a fair word. I guess I should say that I've moved on. It's no longer something that I think about often, if at all. Every now and then a loud, sudden noise will startle me, and I'll think back to it. But I'm still here, which is a lot more than some kids got.

Today is the eleventh anniversary of the Columbine shooting. On March 22, 2001, there was also a shooting at my high school, Granite Hills.

Luckily, no one died. There had been a shooting at another school (Santana High) in our same district only two weeks prior, and as a result, we had an on-campus officer (hero) named Rich Agundez. He stopped our shooter before anyone was seriously hurt.

But the fear-- the fear of dying, the fear of not knowing what was happening, the fear of wondering if anyone you knew was dead while huddled in a small chem supply room with 100 other students-- the fear stays, and takes time to fade.

The what-ifs can consume you, too, if you let them. What if the shooter had gotten there ten or fifteen minutes earlier, like he intended, when the whole school was still at lunch? What if the shooting at Santana hadn't just happened, and there was no on-campus officer?

Obviously these are questions I can't answer, and I won't try. For something so horribly wrong, things just went right that day. Right on the path of living, right on the path of luck.

At first, there was doubt. It sounded like someone dropping one of the many voluminous metal trash cans lining the concrete hallway outside. But there was a quality to the sound that made everyone in my chemistry class freeze. We'd all just sat down and written our names on a test, and I was deep in thought about question number two when I heard the first bang. I felt my heart slide down my spine, but I was a panicky kid, and didn't think much of it. Then it happened again, and someone asked if it was a gun shot.

By this time we were all watching our teacher, except the kids in the back row, who were watching out the windows. Someone said they saw people running.

Our teacher sprang up and ordered us to move into the supply room that annexed four classrooms in the building. The other classes came pouring in, and finally the teachers closed and locked the doors and turned off the lights. We sat in the dark, and waited.

I had no idea what was going on. No one did. Some kids were talking about opening the doors to the hallway outside and seeing if they could see anything. The rest of us quickly vetoed them.

It felt like years passed in that tiny, cramped room. Some kids were crying, including me.

At long last, something happened. I can't remember if someone went out and checked, or if they came in and got us, but the SWAT team was there. We all filed out of the room one by one, hands in the air. Uniformed masks with high-powered rifles aimed at us lined the halls as we walked out and across the street to a neighboring park, to wait for our parents to come get us. No one knew what happened.

A lot of kids whipped out their cell phones and called their parents. My mom was already on her way. The rest of the afternoon passed in a flash, and all I remember after is my mom running across the street to wrap me in her arms when she finally found me.

So, my experience with a school shooting ended better than most. There were some rather minor injuries (not mine) and a lot of trauma, but no lost friends. No place I couldn't come back from.

I know it's not March 22nd. It is, in fact, Columbine's day of remembrance. But on this day, I remembered something I'd forgotten-- what it was like. And remembering what it was like made me want to tell everyone who was at Columbine, and any other schools where terrible things have happened like this, that I understand. I understand, but I can never know. I can only imagine what it would have been like if things hadn't gone right that day.

And to Rich Agundez, wherever you are, thank you, again. Thank you a thousand times.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I've taken the fall...

And joined Twitter. *Sigh*. Come find me here, if you're also on Twitter. Otherwise, come check out WHY I would DO such a thing at the Archives-- it's my day today!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Thanks, guys. Today's topic: the WOLF IN YOUR HOUSE RIGHT NOW OMG LOOK BEHIND YOU!!! Just kidding.

No, really, thanks-- for all the great suggestions! Now I don't know where to begin. Thanks for that, too.

With that in mind, I think I'll just start in the order I received them-- which means, Susan, you're up. Excuse me while I channel The Dog Whisperer here, and bear with me!

This is a hard question to answer over the internet, without meeting or seeing your dog engage in this behavior, but I'll do my best. And I do mean my best-- I'm not a pro dog trainer, not by a long shot. But I do have a really good understanding of dogs, and where their behavior stems from.

I'll start with wolves.

Wait! Come back! It makes sense, I swear!

See, wolves are the best and purest example of the domestic dogs we know and love-- and share our homes with. Wolves are distilled dogs, and once you understand them, you can understand yours.

Wolves have EXTREME pack hierarchy. Not "EXTREME!!!!!" as in, you know, 720's on a snowboard (though how awesome would that be!), but extreme as in dramatic. Wolf pack hierarchy is structured like this: there is a male and female alpha, each in charge of their respective genders and the pack as a whole, and more dominant than the rest. The other wolves show their respect for the alpha by allowing them to feed first, rolling on the ground and showing them their belly, or licking their chin. The alpha will bring uppity members into check by biting their snout. If an alpha falls ill, gets injured, or starts to show weakness or age, the rest of the pack will test their dominance.

There is a beta, gamma, etc., for purposes of human thought. Most of the time, once a wolf has established its place in the pack, the pack remains quiet and in order. There are occasional spars and testing between lower-level members, but the order remains. However, if an alpha is lost, or a new loner alpha attempts to join the pack, it can throw their social order into chaos.

Wolves, like people, are always looking for opportunities to improve their status in life. And this is where wolf interaction with humans comes in, and where I start to get back to your dog, Susan. I once got to observe wolves interacting with humans as a volunteer at a local organization for wolf conservation and breeding.

Wolves (like most animals) don't really know what to make of humans. We aren't like them, but we are dominant. But because it is in a wolf's nature to test the dominance of another creature, particularly a creature it doesn't understand, a wolf will test your dominance every time it greets you. So, when one of the wolf keepers would go into the enclosure of the "habituated" (read: safe to interact with, sort of wolf ambassadors) wolves, the wolves would react with tests of dominance each and every time; generally by jumping on the person. It didn't matter that this was the same person each day. To a wolf, hierarchy is all there is, socially.

So, how does this help your problem, Susan? Well, it doesn't, specifically, but what it does demonstrate is the basic cause of all domestic canine misbehavior-- dominance. Your dog, when it barks for people food, is saying, "Hey! You're supposed to give me food when I do this, because I'm in charge around here! Why are you eating without me? I'm the alpha!"

So, what can you do about this? Well, again, it's hard to say without knowing your dog specifically, or the other kinds of behaviors they exhibit-- do you have trouble with them in any other areas? Do they pull on the leash, or jump on you when you get home, or bark for attention at other times? All I can really suggest is to watch for other situations where your dog may be getting validation that they are, in fact, in charge (not even intentionally)-- do you pick them up or scratch them or even yell at them when they jump on you? Any attention is good attention, with most animals. If you can find other places where they may be getting attention for bad behavior and eliminate those, you may find your dog will respect YOUR dominance and stop barking for food, too.

This was long, if you made it this far you deserve an e-cookie. I hope it helps at all!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Specialty

Some of my favorite blogs to read around the . . . blogosphere are those that have a specialty. Of course, most (if not all) of the blogs that I read are about writing to some degree, but there are a few that do more. Some of my favorites, off the top of my head, are my fellow Alliterati Bane of Anubis, with his acerbic wit, Matt Delman, who talks about Victorian-era technology and steampunk, and Stephanie Thornton, who is not only our Supreme Dictator, but also a veritable font of information about the Ancient Egyptians (and a history teacher to boot!). There's Gary Corby, with all things Classical/ Hellenistic Greece (and Gary, correct me if you're not really Classical so much as Hellenistic or vice versa), and Kiersten White, with her modern-day, good-old-fashioned mom and household humor. There's K. Marie Criddle with her drawgs, Shannon O'Donnell and her quotes, Elana Johnson and her awesome query and blog advice, and my friend Taryn Tyler with her unique voice and insightful views on everything.

(Please note that if I didn't mention you here it doesn't mean I don't read or love your blog. If anyone really wants to see a complete list of my favorites, just check out who I follow-- each and every single one of you are a joy to read).

I've been noticing this lately, that is, that my favorite blogs to read have something else to them. I've also been thinking about what MY specialty could possibly be. History? Well, Stephanie and Gary and Matt pretty much have the three eras I know anything about covered. Music? Hm, my knowledge isn't deep enough there to write about it reliably. My wedding? Sure, if I want to bore all of you to absolute tears. Mad Libs? I really *really* don't want that to be my specialty, much though I enjoy them.

The easy answer is something I've been doing all my life, something I've done professionally and personally, and have a deep love for in all forms: animals. Specifically marine animals, horses, dogs, cats, and some domestic and wild birds. Most animals in general. My qualifications? I was an educator at a local, large marine animal park for a year and a half, after which I was a penguin and alcid (bird) keeper for a year. I've been working with horses since I was twelve (regularly) and have owned and trained my own for almost eight years now. I know bunnies are cute (and also a lot about them otherwise). Also, I am well-versed in wild cat behavior because I have two VERY wild cats at home. Ahem. My focuses are on animal physiology and behavior with an emphasis on pack/herd/flock hierarchy and interactions with humans.

So, now that I've figured out what my specialty is, this is the part where you come in-- what kinds of animals, or what about animals would you be interested in learning more about? Feel free to also ask any specific questions. I'd be more than happy to share, because this is what I know. And darnit, it's about time I embrace and share it.