Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sharks are CRAZY MoFos

Sharks are basically my favorite animal, excluding mythological ones. And assuming I can PICK a favorite, since I pretty much love them all.

Here's the craziest thing I know about sharks. Baby sharks come out of mom three different ways: live birth (long science word: viviparous), laying eggs which then hatch (long science word: oviparous), and ovoviviparous, which is as cool as it sounds. The young form in eggs which stay inside the mother until they are developed enough. They then hatch-- still inside mom-- and she gives birth to the live young.

THIS IS NOT THE CRAZY PART. That's still frickin' cool, right? But it gets better. SO MUCH BETTER. Er. Well, it gets SO MUCH CRAZIER.

So there's a shark called the sand tiger. Not to be confused with the plain ol' tiger shark. The sand tiger is more of a shallower-water species. But that doesn't stop it from having the CRAZIEST FETUSES IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.

See, sand tiger sharks are ovoviviparous (the eggs-hatch-inside-mom-and-live-young-swim-out thing). Like all female sharks, they have TWO uteri. The two uteri have independent openings but share the birth canal. And mom will develop eggs in both uteri at the same time.

That's still not the crazy part. The crazy part is that those eggs are literally in a race for survival. Whichever egg hatches first will EAT the rest of the young in its uterus before being born live. Typically only one pup from each uterus survives.

So every sand tiger shark born is already a winner.

Isn't nature amazing???

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pitch Wars Lead-Up Week: Life Imitates Art, etc.

Yesterday I posted the photo that inspired ETERNAL EMBRACE. But if I'm honest, it wasn't just the photo. It was the story behind it.

I mentioned that this grave had been found in Italy. But not just anywhere in Italy. It was found in Mantua, Italy.

If you know your Shakespeare, you might be freaking out a little bit right now. I did.

In high school, I had the fortune of playing a small part in a community theatre production of Romeo and Juliet at the exact same time we studied the play in our English class. (Somewhat funny story: the movie SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE also came out then. It was a Very Romeo And Juliet Year for me). I had the whole thing practically memorized by the end of the unit, between the theatre production and the skits and live readings we did as a class and the interpretations we did for my speech team and the seventeen times I went to see SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. Romeo and Juliet holds a very special place in my heart.

So when I read about this couple, found locked together forever in the SAME ITALIAN CITY where Romeo is exiled in the play, it just felt right that I should . . . write about them. They were buried, miles from Verona (where the play takes place), together. They had to have died at or near the same time, like the lovers in Shakespeare's play. They were young. They were so inseparable that no one would divide them even in death.

That-- that is the kind of love that makes my heart skip a beat.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Pitch Wars Lead-Up Week: A Real-Life Love

So I was lurking around the internet one day a couple years ago and saw this picture that made me cry.

From here
Granted, I had just recently gotten married so I was kind of a romantic emotional wreck anyway BUT it still really, really connected with me. The short version is that archaeologists found this grave in Italy. They estimate it to be about six thousand years old, and the couple are young (under twenty), one male and one female.

You guys. I don't know how much you know about the Neolithic. But they just didn't bury people together. Unless something special or extra tragic happened. A double burial like this? Never been seen before.

With a writer's efficiency, my mind asked how they wound up in that grave together, and then immediately started answering the question. And ETERNAL EMBRACE was born, from the dust and eroded bone of their tragedy.

But it gets even awesomer. And tomorrow, I'll tell you why.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Pitch Wars Lead-Up Week: The Playlist of Their Lives

I don't normally get into listening to other people's playlists for books (unless I really really love them), so I won't be offended if you skip riiiiight over this one. But I thought I'd at least throw it out there because music influenced SO MUCH of this book. Heartaching, heartbreaking music. Music that makes me FEEL things. You know. So I know I'm not a robot.

I will do you a favor and not tell you every song I've listened to. Just the ones that are particularly close to my heart, and the heart of the story.

Wow. I feel like I'm in a beauty pageant. Here's hoping I don't fail the interview portion of the competition.

If I had to pick a theme song for ETERNAL EMBRACE, it would be Rabbit Heart [Raise It Up] by Florence + the Machine. Not only did FloMac's music influence a large part of this novel, this song in particular is very, very relevant.

There are also a couple FloMac songs that influenced or just plain fit for specific chapters of EE. These include Heavy In Your Arms and Dog Days Are Over.

Adele and Sara Bareilles also make appearances, with Set Fire to the Rain and Let the Rain, respectively. Funnily enough, both of these songs have over-arching relevance as well as specific influence on a very short scene where it's... raining.

If you have a Spotify account and want to listen to the entire ETERNAL EMBRACE playlist, you can find me there as wickedmoon921.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pitch Wars Lead-Up Week: Naming Neolithic Characters

When I decided to write a book set in the Neolithic period, I didn't realize that naming my characters would be so difficult. I mean, you can go the route that I've seen in other books and do names like He-Who-Walks-In-The-Garden, but I a.) wanted something a bit shorter and b.) wanted something a bit sneakier. You know, names I could fit hints and clues about the plot into. *cue evil writer laugh*

ETERNAL EMBRACE is set about 6,000 years ago in Europe. At that time there was a lot of symbolism in Neolithic settlements but not much in the way of writing. Stone carvings were fairly common, especially in religious contexts, but not of words. In fact, there doesn't seem to be much agreement on any particular Neolithic language. So, realistically, finding accurate character names would be close to impossible without a time machine.

I decided to settle for something that just sounded like it came from ancient times, but I didn't want to steal another language and have someone be upset that my characters lived in Europe but spoke Ancient Egyptian or similar. I also frankly had no idea where to begin making up my own, aside from the technique I mentioned in the first paragraph. However, there's the Basque language, only now spoken in parts of modern-day Spain and France. The tiny, meandering roots of Basque go way back to the Mesolithic.

I got really excited when I found this dictionary of a theoretical language called VCV (standing for Vowel-Consonant-Vowel), derived from the Basque language. Then I was really disappointed when further research proved this theory to be... unreliable. Whether it's accurate or not, using this dictionary did give me some pretty period-sounding character names, and I did get to hide some plot clues in them. Even if I'm the only person who knows what they are.

For example, the father of my main male character is named Esoha. The interpretation I chose for his name is "wise counselor," which is exactly what I wanted him to be.

Made-up names? Yes. Awesome names? Still also yes.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pitch Wars Lead-Up Week: A Little Bit About A Little Book

The easiest place to start sharing little bits about ETERNAL EMBRACE is the setting. 

It's a YA historical romance, set in the Neolithic period. Boy, was this a challenge for me. I'm a major history nerd but the Neolithic was a bit ... new... to me. (Ha. That was a joke. Neo-- new-- I'll show myself out). After months of research, luckily aided by my college's ample library, I wrote a book. 

In the time period ETERNAL EMBRACE takes place in, life hadn't changed much for thousands of years, but it was slowly starting to morph from the hunter-gatherer society we've all read about into the agrarian lifestyle that we all KNOW. This time in history is so fascinating because it's so reachable. These people lived in a place we all carry deep in our hearts and memories. A simple village, sturdily built, populated by farmers and herders. Some nomadic societies lingered, but as humankind figured out that raising crops and herds meant they didn't have to follow the food, they planted roots, literally and figuratively. 

Survival for most people doesn't change much more until the Industrial Revolution. Sure, politics and nations and peoples and cultures came and went, but the structure of humanity stayed with raising crops and livestock to survive. We still do it today. This time period was a cusp between the world we know and a world we can only imagine. 

Of course, with the new drive to raise livestock and crops, both those things become very important to the people of this time. Not only survival, but currency comes in the form of said livestock and crops, and a family without them will fare poorly indeed.  
Which is important for my main character, as it turns out. 

More tomorrow :)

One Week til PITCH WARS!!!

... and I am going to freak out.

*breathes into paper bag*

*puts head between knees*

*breathes into paper bag some more*

When this unexpected, incredible journey began over a month ago, I never thought the end would come up so... quickly. I sent my entry in to Cupid last night and then promptly felt a bit sad. How could this awesome, amazing thing be almost over?

Well, I won't grab for the tissues just yet. There's still the agent round, starting January 23rd. And regardless of how that goes, this has been an experience to remember. I've met so many awesome people because of Pitch Wars. And of course, I got to work with Cupid, who helped  me make my beloved book into something even stronger and better! *squee*

For the next few days I'll be posting little bits here and there about my Pitch Wars book, ETERNAL EMBRACE. So stay tuned, and don't forget to check back starting on the 23rd for more on the agent round.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Possums Vs. Opossums

Earlier today I mentioned on Twitter that I had been trying to explain the difference between a possum and an opossum to my husband. A handful of replies I got made me realize that this would be an excellent Random Animal Fact for today, but it's a tad too long to fit into a tweet. Despite that, the easiest way to explain this is still on a very simplistic level:

This is a type of opossum, familiar to just about anyone who lives in North America:

From Wikipedia

This is a type of possum, familiar to those who live in Australia/ New Zealand:

From The Internet

Now, to be fair, you can consider both "possum" and "opossum" to be family terms, meaning there are many species of each. I suppose the easiest way to divide them is into Eastern and Western hemisphere varieties, the possum being found in the Eastern hemisphere and the opossum being found in the Western.

Both are marsupials, meaning they give live birth to premature young who crawl into Mom's pouch and finish their development there. One just happens to be a lot... scarier looking than the other.

I've worked with both. Opossums hiss, which can be off-putting, and they have teeth like some vicious predator, which can be off-putting. They have naked tails and black eyes and one of the ones I worked with had a skin condition that meant it was balding which was VERY off-putting. But they were still cool little creatures. (The one with the possum-pattern-baldness had been hit by a car and was un-releasable. She walked mostly in circles, but was very affectionate).

Possums are some of the cutest creatures on this entire planet. My beloved sugar gliders are a variety of possum and there's also a creature called a pygmy possum that I INSTANTLY knew I would love as soon as I heard the name. I mean LOOK! Just-- LOOK!!!


But to be fair, possums also have teeth like some kind of vicious predator (some people affectionately refer to sugar gliders as "flying staple guns"), they have the same black eyes, and sugar gliders make this noise called crabbing which basically sounds like someone murdering a duck. Loudly. So it's not all fun and games, even if their little faces do melt my heart.

There you have it. Now go forth and share.

Friday, January 4, 2013

2012: A Year in Summary

So I was going to write this big long post about all the various reasons why 2012 was so NOT my favorite year evah, but then I remembered my all-time favorite gif (of all time). In order to not bore you AND not seem ridiculously whiny, I think I will let the gif explain 2012 for me (I'm the dog in this scenario):

2013, be a bro, k?