Artistic License

Hi Gang! Craig with you again today to talk about artistic license. I am not an expert here, so this is presented with the desire to get some …

Artistic License
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The Rarest Animal in the World: The Vaquita

How rare is the vaquita?  There are only 10 left in the world.

The vaquita is a small porpoise found in the waters of Mexico.  They weren’t discovered until 1958 and now they’re almost gone.  Why?  They get tangled in gillnets being used for illegal fishing in the area.  The real target is the totoaba, which have a $4,000/pound of swim bladder price.  The vaquita are a terrible consequence of this illegal activity, which groups are trying to stop.  Yet, this cannot be accomplished without the help of the Mexican government to crackdown on illegal fishing.

Here is a site about saving the Vaquita!

So, what are some Vaquita facts?

  • They are the smallest species of porpoise at 5 feet long and 120 pounds.
  • Their most notable features are black rings around their eyes and black curved lips.  People say they look like pandas.
  • They only live in the northern end of Mexico’s Gulf of California.

That’s really it for major facts since they’re mostly known for their critical endangered status.  Let’s get a look at them.  Preferably alive, which seems to be a challenge in the Google Image Search.

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Goal Post: I Kept On Keeping On

Another week that felt like a month.  The plus side is that many of the people I knew were feeling the same thing.  Tuesday felt like it should have been Thursday, which resulted in a week that is a haze.  I had trouble sleeping too, which might have added to the overall confusion.

So, I had a doctor appointment last weekend, which didn’t go as badly as I expected.  It still wasn’t great and I’m waiting for returning blood tests to make things worse.  My blood pressure is high, so I have to check it 3 times a week for a while to see if it’s time for me to go on medication.  It’s that bottom number being in the 80’s and 90’s.  Going to keep improving the diet and try to start increasing the biking amount to maybe 75 minutes a week.  Keep in mind that I bike around 15-18 mph for most of this time, so it counts as intense according to Internet sources.  Sounds like it should be improving . . . That was the plan.

Unfortunately, the week kicked off with some massive drama that makes me worried about how these blood pressure numbers look.  They started going down by Friday, but the rest of the week was a headache.  This really drove home the fact that our health can be influenced by people around us.  Selfish and stubborn people who we can’t avoid or eliminate from our lives can take their toll.  Sometimes, they start whittling away at your health on purpose.  Not saying that’s happening here, but I sometimes wonder if me getting sick or dying is a goal of a few people.  Can’t say any more about that without stirring the pot, but you get the general idea.

Another source of stress was my son having trouble with some work.  It looked like his grades took a massive hit, but then it was revealed that they weren’t fully counted.  As someone who works in education, I should really be able to recognize when this is going on.  That part of my brain doesn’t kick in when it’s my own son, especially when I’m already tired from another issues.  By Thursday, I was sporting a migraine and feeling like I was dragging myself to the end of the week.  Glad I caught a second wind in time for a field trip on Friday.

Speaking of Thursday, I got to take my son to an event at my school.  Several of our Life Skills students are on a unified basketball team.  This is a small local league where each team is a mixed of special and general education students.  The Gen-Ed students usually do passing and work to help the Special-Ed students score.  It’s all about having fun and good sportsmanship.  Winning is also good and our team is still undefeated.  This is the first game I got to go to also, so I was excited.  My son is now a big fan of one of my students who is amazing on defense.  Really hoping we can go to their next home game, which is a semi-final.  If they win that, they’ll be off to the finals.  Really proud at what they’ve accomplished.

Not much writing happened here.  I did finish the August posts and start working on the September ones.  Phi Beta Files only gained 2 new characters.  I thought I could design more during school breaks, but I was too tired or busy.  I might try for next weekend on that project, but I’m leaning more towards working on the outline for Darwin & the Beast Collector.  If I can start writing that by the end of June or early July then I have a good chance of finishing it before the next school year.  Still haven’t decided on the publishing schedule for it.  Need to reach out to my cover artist too.  Got caught up in parenting, working, catching Covid, and other health issues.

Really nothing else to talk about from what I remember.  This coming week is going to be busy as well.  My son has his Lego Robotics tournament coming up, so this is the last week for staying late to practice.  Got a big field trip on Wednesday and various appointments to juggle.  I don’t expect to get to any real writing until everything is over, which might not be until next Sunday.  That’s why this weekend is about resting and regaining enough energy to make it through a potentially crazy week.  Promised my son he could play video games all afternoon after lunch since it’ll be raining, so maybe I’ll work on some September posts during that time.  Should probably tackle laundry too.

What am I watching?  Still watching ‘White Collar’ when I’m not too exhausted.  I think I’ll watch the new season of ‘The Great’ once I’m done with my current binge.  Yeah, my life is getting kind of boring lately, but that’s what happens when you start getting near the end of a school year.  Everything is crazy busy, but not really exciting to talk about on a blog.  I should have Lego Robotics news next weekend though.

Goals of the week:

  1. Rest up this weekend.
  2. Watch ‘Gremlins 2’ with my son.
  3. Help him with homework.
  4. Lego Robotics competition coming up.
  5. Work on September posts.
  6. Start a new puzzle.
  7. Watch more ‘White Collar’.
  8. Read more ‘Naruto’.
  9. Biking and improving diet.
  10. Really need to get better sleep.
  11. Keep checking blood pressure and hope it goes down.  Really not looking forward the medicated part of human existence.

(Huh.  Just noticed that Twitter isn’t supported by WordPress, so my posts might not be going there any more.  Really makes me wonder why I keep that app on my phone.)

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Music Inspired Post: Taking the Risk

‘Get Up’ by Shinedown actually started playing while I was writing Monday’s post.  I put it here since the topic it made me think of fit more as a finale.  Hope people have been enjoying this experiment.

I think this song touches on something that every author . . . artist . . . person needs to take to heart.  It talks about simply getting up and trying to be better.  The part that really drew me out of what I was doing to listen was ‘hard to move mountains when you’re paralyzed’.  This hits on the fear of the unknown that people have when they are facing a change.  Anyone who has taken the plunge into writing books knows this.  It was there at some point even if it showed up later.  That moment where you hit the crossroads of moving forward or giving up.  I think most people take the latter when it comes to their dreams because there’s always a risk.  Some come back later in life to try, but humans enjoy comfort and certainty.

For myself, I think about my own journey as an author.  I loved writing stories in 2nd grade, but stopped because some people made me think I was wasting my time.  I got back into it in 9th grade after reading ‘The Books of Lost Swords’ by Fred Saberhagen.  Ending up designing a series about immortal superheroes in our galaxy and another series taking place in a fantasy world before graduating.  In college, I refined my imagination and came up with Windemere.  Then . . . Then . . .

Here is where the song hits me a bit because I remember graduating college and not knowing what to do.  I had all of these story ideas, but no way to use them.  Amazon hadn’t made self-publishing a thing and my attempt at a Vanity Press failed.  People told me it was time to grow up again and I needed to get a real job.  Writing could be done once stability was found.  This began a full decade of working other jobs and only tinkering with my notebooks.  In that time, I only wrote 3 full books and kept designing more series to make sure I didn’t lose the ideas.  I wasn’t getting up and I was deluding myself into thinking I was following my dream.

It would be December 2012 that I took the plunge and began this blog.  I edited the finished volumes of Legends of Windemere and published my first book in February 2013.  It was a fun ride for a few years with good sales, exciting promos, and a lot of new friends.  Then, things started falling apart.  I wasn’t standing up any more and just limping along.  My divorce, a few personal things that are slightly connected to that, and a general chaos of my life made things tougher.  People didn’t seem to want to jump from my first series to any of my other ideas.  So, Bedlam and Ichabod Brooks got shelved.  War of Nytefall went until the end since I had already started it and it was one of my big series that I was determined to bring to life.  Now, I’m in a position where I don’t know what I’m doing or what I want any more.

All of that brings me to the reality that I don’t have the confidence that I used to.  Years ago, I had no doubts about my imagination and storytelling ability.  Now, I don’t know if I was ever any good.  Lack of book sales and no real reviews feed this doubt, which prevents me from standing back up.  It makes me scared about the end of next month when I try to publish Do I Need to Use a Dragon?.  I mean, it’s a book on how to write fantasy, but why should a guy like me do something like that?  This adventure takes a different type of confidence than publishing fiction, which the song really started to get me thinking about.  I need to have faith in my own abilities, but I don’t have that right now.  It was there when I wrote the thing.  Authors really do have fragile senses of self-worth and confidence, which depend on sales and the opinions on strangers.  We simply can’t trust our own egos at most points.

This post turned more into a flash biography and a pity party, but I’m following the music here.  That’s how it goes.

Google Image Search

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Homonyms with Harmony, Part 3–The Origins of Homonyms

This post explores the origins of homonyms—words spelt and pronounced the same but with different meanings. We’ll discover how we use them in …

Homonyms with Harmony, Part 3–The Origins of Homonyms
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Poetry Day: Edge of the Blade

Google Image Search

(Fencing.  This is definitely about fencing.)

I stare down its length
At the one I have to beat
Letting the finest edge
Be the guide within my hands
Leading me to victory
Before my opponent takes me down
He shifts his weight
Coming up to pounce
A subtle flex to his narrow blade
Makes it hard to follow true
Still I move
And give him ground
As I bat his blow away
I try my luck
Pushing hard ahead
Nearly slamming face to face
We are in too close
Forced to push away
And stare each other down
All we hear is the ticking timer
I look down my blade
While he rushes forward
I wait until he nears
I beat up his blade
Sending it above my head
Piercing open air
I take my chance
Lunging at his chest
To score the final beat

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Miss Laura #newbook

It’s time to put a little more bait in the water to see if any readers will nibble. This is a promo post for “Once Upon a Time in the Swamp.” Along …

Miss Laura #newbook
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Music Inspired Post: Stressing Your Characters

‘Overwhelmed’ by Royal & the Serpent is a song that makes me think about myself.  The fun of having anxiety.  It does make me feel like I don’t know myself, but that’s not what I’m going for here.  This is about writing.

As an author, I put my characters through a lot of physical and emotional torment.  It’s rare that I have any heroes who make it through their adventure without earning at least some mental scars.  Ichabod Brooks might be it because you meet him long after he’s established his career.  All of the others are battered to the point where you can see they get overwhelmed.  This goes back to the emotions mentioned on Monday.  Sometimes, you need to push really hard and create some cracks.

Why do we do this?  I think it helps that these are fictional characters, so they’re easier to repair than a real human being.  You can also show that these heroes are strong-willed if they can continue advancing after being brutalized.  There are real people like that and we tend to hold them up as symbols of resilience.  In fantasy adventures, you want your heroes to be that way.  They are supposed to have been chosen for greatness even if they’re not destined.  By this I mean, you put them in the spotlight for a reason, which is why they are going to be going through so much.

Overwhelming your heroes has to be done carefully.  If you’re putting them under constant pressure with no signs of crumbling then you might have made a misstep.  We like to believe that a person can shoulder any amount of pressure, but this isn’t true.  They might develop some doubt, anxiety, depression, a mild phobia, physical scars, or any number of issues that will linger.  This is why overwhelming a hero, especially in a lengthy series, can help with evolution.  It gives them a new hurdle and may even set them back enough that they can start growing again.  Having a hero who doesn’t crack in the slightest means they are fully evolved and there’s no way to grow.  Hit them hard and you can open another door for them.

It’s understandable that an author might want to play nice with their characters.  Also that some authors are out for blood.  No idea why it seems to be extremes these days. I try to aim for the middle.  Putting heroes through difficult situations and having them come out damage, but still moving forward can be inspirational.  If a hero is never tested then an average reader can’t feel like they share that life experience.  If a hero is killed then they’re dead and that’s the end of their adventure, which means closure.  By having a hero be overwhelmed and keep going, you can show the reader an example of someone who is trying to heal.  This can be very important in this day and age since mental illness is on the rise.  People take inspiration from fictional characters all the time, so having one that shows such resilience can have a positive impact.

So, what do you think about overwhelming your characters?  Can it be inspirational for a reader to see a hero break, survive, and then continue while healing?

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Metaphysical elements in writing – #Astrology

Greetings, SE’ers! It’s Jan again with another look at ways to add metaphysical elements to fiction writing. Today’s topic is one I love—Astrology! …

Metaphysical elements in writing – #Astrology
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Revisiting Origins: Sari

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

(Time for Legends of Windemere champion #3.  That would be Sari who started off in a bad spot and seemed to routinely find trouble.  Her debut was in Allure of the Gypsies, which also caused a fairly big stir among what few readers I had.  Although, she wasn’t the character people aimed their anger at when the dust settled.)

Where to even begin with this colorful ball of chaos?  The beginning is the best, but only because it might make her slightly more understandable.  Sari was played by Sarah who joined the game during our third semester after it had been Luke and Nyx alone for a few months.  This gypsy was an immediate surge of humor, energy, and passion into the game.  She whirled into the game with an energy that I had never seen in a new gamer and it immediately drew Luke to her.  So, within a few weeks, Sari and Luke were hooking up every time Nyx turned her back on them.  It became the love story of the game that was swiftly dashed when Sarah left college.  At this point, I had become a person who played Luke true to his character and killing Sari would have crushed him.  This is where the books began falling out of step with the game.  The gamemaster wanted to kill Sari off (even though she had been established as plot necessary) and I wanted Sari to stay because I couldn’t find a way for Luke to go on without her.  So, Sari was constantly kidnapped or put into a healing coma for an entire year until she was returned to the group.  The gamemaster tried to play her, but flirting with him was awkward.  I tried to play her, but flirting with myself got me odd stares.  In the end, Sari became a silent character who people eventually forgot about and she was practically a shadow by the time the game crashed and burned.

This brought a few interesting opportunities for book Sari.  First thing was that I wasn’t around for the gaming session where she started on the path that would lead her to us.  That was just Sarah and the gamemaster.  So, I had to make up a lot of that and factor in some of the random events that occurred with her.  She also had a clean slate in terms of abilities beyond illusions and thief skills, but she was supposed to eventually reach an equal level to Nyx and Luke.  This has led to one of the more amusing things about writing Sari.  She is a Swiss Army Knife character that would reveal a new ability to suit her needs in the earlier books.  While Nyx and Luke are rather straightforward in what they are capable of, Sari has enough abilities to make her a wild card.  I did the math once and a villain would need 5 levels of defense/protection to have a shot at containing Sari.  If you get by her daggers, she still has thief skills, water powers, immovability, illusions, and Gabriel only knows what else she’s going to hit you with.  The craziest part of this is that the powers and abilities make sense and there are signs that she has them before I reveal what she’s truly capable of.  So, I have definitely learned a lot from Sari in terms of listening to my characters and giving them some freedom.

All of this doesn’t even include her personality.  I had Luke who was recklessly heroic and Nyx who was short-tempered, which made them predictable to some extent.  Sari came out the other way by becoming a mood chameleon.  She is always trying to stay happy and make the people around her feel loved and happy.   Many times this comes out as flirty, slutty, and/or dim-witted, but she retains a sense of cunning.  Several times, other characters wonder if Sari is smarter than she lets on and they are probably right.  She is also a roiling storm of emotions that she manages to keep under control most of the time.  She starts off being sad and scared, but she’s defiant and oddly calm/passive in the next scene.  She does have a habit of erupting into tears or public displays of affection without warning, which throws the other characters off.  She’s a big hug and kiss character and the Windemere gypsy belief in freedom and tolerance leads to several . . . let’s just say Nyx gets very tempted to burn Sari on several occasions.

That does bring me to the final point of Sari and her origin.  Sari is the one responsible for upping the sexual innuendo and . . . well, just the sex.  I’m not talking full-on sex scenes because I can’t bring myself to write those.  The worst I do is passionate make-out scenes and the before or after cuddling talks.  Still, this was relatively tame until Sari showed up to openly talk about having sex.  She has no fear of the subject and is quiet amused at the other characters being squeamish about how open she is.  It has made a very entertaining dynamic between the lustful Sari and the restrained Nyx who are childhood friends.  They play off each other like sisters with Nyx being the protective older sister and Sari being the fun, loosen-Nyx-up younger sister.  It’s the inclusion of Sari that also helped me figure out how the characters think about sex, love, lust, and even their future.  She is certainly a major influence on character development, which is something that I never planned.  Sari simply stepped into every character’s life with a desire to make them happy and wouldn’t leave them alone until she made them smile.  Even then, she usually stuck around to see what else she could make them do.

2023 Update– Looking back, I start to wonder if Sari was a missed opportunity.  Then again, I also think I never really got her over her initial trauma.  To the very end of the series, she was a character who seemed to live to make others happen and not do anything to heal herself.  I can’t tell if I simply missed that issue or she was never meant to become whole in the first place.  Would I do it differently?  I don’t know.  I might have focused a bit more on her trauma or delved into her sexual side.  Once I got push back from readers being angry at ‘all of the sex’ (again, no sex scenes written), I started to rein Sari in a bit there.  Learned my lesson that I shouldn’t let vocal readers cause me to do major redesigns of characters and stories, especially if others are fine.

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