Creatures of Fear: Spiders . . . I’ll Really Have to Muscle Through This One

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I had to make it a funny meme because this is something that will lock me up, make me cry, and pray for unconsciousness.  Even that picture is a tough one since spiders freak me out.  I’ve gotten better with being able to see them at a distance, but one move in my direction sets off my fight or flight instinct.  Worst is when you run into a spider in the shower and you don’t have your glasses on.  So, all you see is a creeping blur and you aren’t sure what it is.  At first, you think it’s your imagination, but then it sticks around.  Ignoring past experiences, you lean in close enough to get a look and that’s when it strikes you that your naked, drenched, and the door is closed.

Sticking with my own personal experiences, I think part of it stems from an incident when I was younger.  There was a large web at camp and we were flicking tiny rocks at it.  I kept doing it after the other kids left and ended up getting closer.  Next thing I know, something landed on my face and crawled along my skin.  There was a brief, frozen moment of wonder until things clicked.  I flailed and screamed while the spider got up my nose for a bit, but I swear was an hour.  Sneezed it out and watched it run away with nobody really noticing because it probably happened faster than it felt.  Ever since then, I could only deal with spiders when they were really humans wearing spandex and fighting crime.

Now, I’d love to sit here and go over why one could fear spiders like I did with snakes, but I know this isn’t a rational one.  Is it the venomous angle again?  Yes even though I know that the spiders around here typically aren’t venomous.  There are occasional incidents with brown recluses that have stowed away on somebody’s luggage, but that’s really it.  It could be another ancient instinct created as humans learned that this tiny creatures could kill them.  Is it also the hairy bodies and soulless eyes?  Yes and I stand by those statements.  What about how they seem to just turn up in a corner or come dropping from the ceiling to terrify you during your favorite TV show?  I really need to keep a flyswatter near my bed.

The knowledge that they eat bad insects and are helpful doesn’t really break through because we are talking about an irrational fear.  There’s just something about spiders that drives me away.  Yet, we need to have a reason for this in fiction.  People have trouble accepting that a character is scared of spiders just because they are.  Even a minor incident can result in complaints as if phobias only stem from major traumas.  This is probably because people expect it to be a hurdle that is defeated through realizing the initial event was in the past or not what it seemed.  Maybe that spider was really eating a malaria-carrying mosquito and didn’t mean to land in your eye.

For example, Luke Callindor starts with arachnophobia and gradually gets a slight handle on it.  This was revealed in Beginning of a Hero when he froze at the sight of a tiny spider dangling in front of his face.  The winged and horned spiders Curse of the Dark Wind didn’t do him any wonders either.  Still, there were a few complaints over the years when I had this without an explanation.  This is prior to publishing and during the time I was letting anyone read it.  Readers said that it made him appear too weak to be a hero if he was irrationally scared of spiders.  I didn’t really understand that, but I went along and had it that he got trapped in a large spider infested area as a child.  Luke was rescued by his grandfather, but one of the spiders was hiding in his backpack.  It crawled out that night and attacked him in his bed.  Geez, just writing that is making my skin squirm and pulse quicken.

I really should try to defend spiders here.  They are important organisms for any ecosystem and it isn’t their fault that they’re creepy.  Doubt they even consider our emotions and feelings on the subject, which is how it should be.  Though, would it really hurt them to avoid the shower and not go for the face?  Okay, this definitely isn’t working like I’d hoped.  Anybody want to take over in the comments?  Feel free.

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(This is an old poem that I posted back in 2014 and wrote even early than that.  Figure I’d put it back up considering the theme.)

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The darkest depths of the mind are my playgrounds

I am omnipotent

Spiders, heights, and death are my faithful minions

I am everlasting

Both strong and weak fall before me

I am destructive

My power will consume the cosmos

I am unbeatable

This world would be nothing without me


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Present Tense Writing: A Refresher

Fry from Futurama

So, I realized that I haven’t really mentioned that I’m a present tense author for a while on this blog.  The way I realized this was by getting a few messages about ‘typos’ that turned out to be present tense.  I routinely run into people who mistake my present tense style for being horribly unedited.  Now, there could be typos in there because I’m human and those who help me edit are human too.  Yet, I’ve found that there’s a 50/50 shot at it being a misunderstanding.  There’s also the fact that Amazon can screw with the format of a book after it’s uploaded.  I remember comparing one of my books to the file I uploaded and I found rearranged and missing words.  Anyway, I’m not here to talk about that stuff since I can only do so much with the tech.

Long ago, I wondered why present tense throws people off so badly and then I stumbled onto a possible answer.  Stick with me on a story and theory here. Back when Beginning of a Hero came out, my friends had picked it up to read.  Now, one of my high school friends and his wife were listening to an audiobook of The Hunger Games (another present tense book) before getting to my book.  My friend’s wife had never read my stuff before and she said something was off.  His response when she explained was ‘That’s just how Charlie writes’ and he had no blips on his radar.  The reason was because he’d been reading my stuff in high school since we did a lot of English projects together.  So, hearing present tense was fine, but reading it was awkward.  That is unless you’ve been exposed to both and can transition without a problem.  Kind of strange, right?

Not really if you think about it.  We talk in real time, so we’re used to hearing present tense directed at us.  Meanwhile, writing is primarily past tense.  Why?  Because it was originally created to preserve history and pass it down the generations.  Fiction came after non-fiction, so the early stories must have been written to mimic history and then gradually get more and more diverse from reality.  This would have required that early fiction authors write about their fake events as if they already happened.  There was never a purpose to writing present tense and the use of past tense ended up becoming the norm and more natural way of reading.  Simply because it was what people learned on.  Think about it. All of the classics we read throughout school are past tense.  We don’t realize that we’re conditioning ourselves to be more comfortable with past tense than present tense.  When we do run into the latter, it’s jarring and many can mistake it for poor writing or an unedited work instead of a difference in style.

Again, this is just my theory from experience and thought.  It doesn’t even connect to why I write in present tense.  Way back in high school, I always mixed up my tenses even in mid-sentence.  My English teacher sat me down and explained that I had to pick one or the other in order to get taken seriously.  I ended up picking and running with present tense since I wrote with the images in my head acting in real time.  Honestly, I didn’t even know present tense was frowned upon until after I released my first book in 2013.  That means I’d already been doing present tense for 17 years, so it was locked in.  I’ve tried to change stuff to past tense once or twice, but it doesn’t feel natural.  Guess I conditioned myself on that one too.

Anyway, that’s basically a long reminder of me being a present tense author and throwing some thoughts about it out there.  I’m never really sure what else to say, but I have to talk about it from time to time.  Definitely makes my author journey harder than it would be with past tense, especially since flashbacks and exposition to explain the history of a place doesn’t really work.  Not like I expected this gig to be easy though . . . Okay, I didn’t think tense would be a battle.  It’s an oops that I’m willing to live with.

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A New Venue For Authors

via A new venue for authors


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Comfort Reading or Comfort Food?- Guest Post by Felicity Sidnell Reid (Originally on The StoryReading Ape)


via Comfort Reading or Comfort Food? – Guest Post by, Felicity Sidnell Reid…

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Creatures of Fear: Serpents of Various Sizes

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So, I was thinking of making this week about three common animal-based ‘fears’ that seem to show up in fiction.  It’s not too strange to know a person is scared of an animal, but these three seem to always get a bad rep.  I’m not going to mention the other two even though I’m sure you can figure out one of them pretty easily.  Just going right into our slithering ‘death machine’.

What is it about snakes that scare us?  Even in mythology and religion, the serpent gets used as a villain.  They show up very often as obstacles in dungeons and their poison is the dramatic death of choice.  Many of us probably thought of quote:  “Asps. Very dangerous. You go first.”  Those two things might really be it if you think about it.  Much of our animal-based fears could go back to our prehistoric instincts since we are animals ourselves.  When it comes to snakes, there are two aspects that commonly that stand out in the mind of someone they terrify.

  1. Snakes are very thin and can hide very easily.  If there are snakes in your area, you watch out for them sleeping under the car or getting into the house.  Some people are afraid of them coming up the sewer pipes and getting them on the toilet.  In fact, I read an article about cobras in India getting into plumbing.  Even for the big serpents, we have this idea that they can be in every shadow and are lurking.  The thought of a one coiled behind a box isn’t far-fetched and it’s made worse when you consider the striking speed and the-
  2. FANGS AND VENOM!  This is probably the bigger source of fear than their ability to get into anything.  It isn’t very surprising since humans don’t have a natural resistance to venom.  Other animals with this problem make it a point to steer clear of venomous snakes too.  It could be worse with us because of how our minds work.  We imagine getting bitten and dying a horrible death.  At the very least, we are scared, lose the limb, or are left with some debilitating reminder of the encounter.

All of this is entirely logical and should make us cautious about snakes.  Yet, we get it wrong to many extents as well.  One way is that we sometimes forget that not every snake is venomous.  I’ve read stories where a person is bitten by a python and dies a painful death, which makes no sense.  Pythons are a constrictor type, which means they wrap around and crush their prey.  If they’re big enough to swallow a man then they could be a danger, but the real ones would be more inclined to leave a human alone.  This is obviously done to take advantage of the fear and doesn’t really do any research.  I can only see it working for a fantasy world since you can mess with the fauna.  When your story is on Earth then you really need to be careful of the snake breed.

Another mistake people make when writing snakes is their aggression.  First, realize that snakes don’t eat as often as warm-blooded animals.  Smaller ones eat maybe twice a week and larger ones can even go a few weeks without food.  That means an anaconda won’t really go around devouring an entire crew over the course of a few hours.  Most snakes will only eat what they need and all other attacks stem from one thing: FEAR.  Like all animals, they can be startled and strike out at anything they perceive as a threat.  This seems to feed the idea of a lurking danger because they rest in the sun or shade a lot to regulate their body temperature.  Running into a groggy or resting snake could be easier than one realizes, but it isn’t like humans are pleasant gems when we’re startled.

Now, this isn’t to say snakes can’t be aggressive.  If they’re hungry then they act like one would expect of a starving predator.  For example, the following GRAPHIC scene from Planet Earth 2:

So, what do you think about snakes?  Do they scare you?  Do you think they’re unfairly feared?  Feel free to add to the info here because I don’t live in an area with snakes.  So, I’d love to see some comments from people with experience.

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WordPress Problems . . . Sort Of

So, I’ve run into a problem with WordPress.  Specifically, I can’t access it on my phone.  The app works, but the pages I follow and check don’t open there.  They open in Safari, which keeps me as logged out.  For example, I’d been trying all morning to check John W. Howell’s blog and it kept having me logged out.  I would log in to get to my dashboard, but it still didn’t register that I was there.  When I finally got home and on a desktop, I was logged in and got to like and comment.

This hampers me for the week because my son is home, which means I was going to depend on my phone to keep up with things.  Tomorrow is a trip to the zoo, so I might not be able to visit beyond early morning and late at night.  I’ll probably be exhausted by the time I get home, so we’ll see what happens.  This is really frustrating.

So, I’m sorry if I miss stuff.  The murdered reblog button is already making things tough, but now I can’t do anything unless I’m at a computer.  2018 is really not going well because of this crap.

ADD ON-  NOW IT WORKS!?  I knew I should have saved that last bit of rum for a day when I really needed it.  Bet it’ll stop working by the morning.

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