Munchkins eating lunch

Just a very short post with a picture:

The munchkins set up their little table and had lunch there.

A post shared by Kessie (@netraptor001) on

The kids wanted to eat lunch at their little table.

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Plugged in

On Friday afternoon, Cox came out to shut off the Internet next door, since our neighbor was moving out. They shut off our Internet instead.

We then went all weekend with no Internet and only got it fixed yesterday.

It was annoying, but also nice to take a break. Talk to people face to face. My hubby got me hooked on the Stanley Parable, which I want to play with the kids so we can talk about it.

I wrote a lot on my iPod. Chewed through a new story outline, even. I am the flying single-finger typist!

I also cooked a ton of food and messed with house stuff, trying to reduce visual clutter. I’m almost nine months pregnant and nesting is hitting hard.

We were making my daughter’s bed yesterday and a mosquito flew out of her blankets. So yesterday I washed the kids’ linens. I’m so tired of mosquitos. I hope they don’t carry malaria anymore, because that’s how much we’ve been bitten.

So, having no Internet is incentive to get things done! Maybe I should unplug more often.

Life finds a way

I’m constantly baffled by animal conservationists. They scream about an animal dying out, but when that species adapts and changes, they scream about that, too.
image

Take the polar bear grizzly hybrids. They know very well that polar bears descended from grizzly bears in the first place–I believe they traced the genetic line to a female bear in Northern Ireland, but don’t quote me.

So some ice is melting and some grizzlies and polar bears have interbred. And the conservationists are wailing that this color won’t be around anymore. In the same breath, they scream about new diseases getting into the Arctic and how hybrids can’t adapt to the environment of the parent species.

In the same article, they say this:

Two days later, the scientists saw another grizzly bear 15 miles offshore on sea ice in Viscount Melville Sound, closer to 74 degrees North. This bear was so fat and healthy that it was almost certainly hunting seals, something that grizzlies on the mainland don’t normally do

So the bears are changing their behavior, too, hybrids or not.

Another fun one is coywolves–a cross between coyotes and wolves. Seems that as people killed off gray wolves, the smaller coyotes took up the slack in the ecosystem. Then the two species interbred, creating a bigger, nastier coyote with the strength to bring down deer. And apparently they’re all over the place.

coywolf

And oh, are the conservationists screaming. The pretty gray wolves are evolving into skinny coywolves!

The bad is that while coyote populations have been expanding, wolf populations have become endangered. Hybridization with coyotes is now a major threat to the recovery of wolves.

Wait, doesn’t a successful hybrid mean that the type of animal is making a dramatic comeback?

I swear, it all comes down to people being mad that animals don’t come in the colors they like.

It’s the same type of animals–ursids and canids. They’re still doing what they’re supposed to do out there in the wild. And they’re adapting to a changing environment, the way they’re supposed to. It’s not like dying species like the river dolphin, which couldn’t hybridize and is officially extinct.

Do we want our designer color animals, or would we rather see them extinct? Sometimes I wonder.

A homeschooling post

School has been rolling right along this year, so I thought I ought to chronicle how we’re doing.

My mother in law bought us a big pack of A Beka curriculum. The teacher’s manuals have a lot of busywork in them, so I narrowed it down to just the subjects I knew they needed–math and reading. For first grade and kindergarten, that’s all the book work they need.

My first grader has been working through math and phonics, and his reading and spelling has really improved. He learned to sight read over a year ago, but I always felt he lacked a good phonics foundation, and now he’s getting that. He knows his math cold.

My daughter in kindergarten is also really good at math. Both of them are better at numbers than at reading, so I’m backing off on that for a while to being their reading up to speed. For her I’m using Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons.

That book is amaaaazing. We’re on lesson 17 and she’s reading simple words and sentences. When we started, she couldn’t read at all! She’s not as driven as her brother. Although I did catch her sounding out words in a book. 🙂

My youngest, who is 3, is content to color and learn letters. I think she’ll learn to read earlier than her sister, because she has the interest. She’s wanted to read since she was born.

So that’s been how our school is going. We also play games together (Go Fish is always a favorite) and do flash cards when I’m tired of books. We look up items of interest on YouTube and check out science books from the library. The book on Gravity was a real hit.

I’m not real stressed about academic achievement. I want them to read and write, and understand math, and tougher subjects will come as they’re ready. So many things, they’re just not ready for.

Friday featured writing: S. Davis

Way back in my fanfiction era, I encountered a lot of darn good writing from really talented young writers. One scene from a particular story still sticks in my mind, because it’s so terrifying and so well written. This is from Project Mobitropolis, a Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic by S. Davis.

Watch the way he varies the sentence structure. Long sentences that get shorter and shorter. Finally even punctuation is missing, conveying the frantic panic of Sonic’s nightmare.

__________________

Sonic drifted through the water, semiconscious and delirious. He couldn’t see ahead in the darkness, but then he couldn’t see much of anything anymore. He knew nothing but the sound beating through the recesses of his mind. A countdown.

t minus eight

As it counted down, he pondered. Snakes lay eggs, don’t they? Perhaps that’s what the mother hen was. Not a hen at all but a snake. A gigantic coiled snake, slithering through the vastness of space, just waiting for its abominable child to incubate. A blue snake, or a red one. Perhaps two snakes, coiled together in that ladder-shape, just waiting to lay one giant egg, big enough to destroy Mobius. An egg represents new life, but this is no ordinary egg. It is a death egg. When the death egg hatches, only chaos spills forth. Chaos spills forth, just

t minus seven

like it did before, all those years ago. The red people, all decorated in gold and silver, running away from (the death egg?) from (snakes?) from some beast that hid out of sight, it changed shape somehow, it… it… wasn’t… possible, it defied possibility, it wasn’t a snake but something… it makes the mind hurt, it makes it ache

t minus six

It doesn’t matter. The beast is gone now. It’s in the emeralds. Chaos is in the emeralds now, it has saturated them, twisted them, they seek the evil, they seek it like they desire to be with it forever, because it’s a part of them. Why do the red people still run? No, no it isn’t them, they’re not running,

t minus five

it’s Sonic who’s running, he’s running, he’s running and the Master is standing next to him and commanding him to run and he must or he will be punished and it hurts where they poke him and he’s running but not moving he isn’t going anywhere he’s running in one place and it’s killing him

t minus four, sonic

and the Master is laughing is laughing at his pain and the Death Egg is launching and his friends are dying they’re dying the king is dying and the snakes are laughing the red people are dying the emeralds are laughing and Chaos is roaring and Sonic is running

t minus three, sonic, hurry

and he can’t make it in time because the Egg is hatching and he’s so fast he’s the fastest thing alive but oh God he’s not going anywhere he’s running on the spot and the red people are crying out to him

t minus two sonic hurry hurry up

and they are all dying every one the egg is hatching death the chaos the fury the death the machine the fate the death he’s not moving he’s not moving he’s not moving he’s not moving

t minus one sonic hurry hurry hurry just

just

run.

Sonic realised that he was screaming and that screaming meant that he wasn’t under the water anymore.

___________________

You don’t have to understand what he’s talking about to pick up on the hysteria. It’s all in the style–full sentences, to run-on-sentences, to a bunch of fragments all chained together. Shorter and shorter paragraphs. And italics on almost all the nouns and verbs. You can almost hear the character’s voice screaming.

And the mystifying countdown. Countdowns are always terrifying, particularly in narrative. It’s like in a movie when the camera keeps cutting to that bomb’s timer.

I’m not sure if a professional editor would pass something like this. But to me, this scene is all art. The sort of experimental writing I’ve only ever seen when the unpublished writer is writing from the bottom of their heart, and just want to hear the words sing.

Random on Wednesday

I’m having kind of an ADD day, so here’s my random thoughts.

1. My oldest lost his first tooth today! I’m pondering whether to do the whole toothfairy thing. It does make losing a tooth into a fun tradition.

2. I only mess around with Wattpad every couple of weeks, but when I do, I get sucked down the rabbit hole. You know how people will spend a zillion hours on Pinterest? That’s me on Wattpad. I’ve recently gotten some very nice comments on this story I’m writing my guts out on (it’s a World of Warcraft worgen story I’m rewriting into the terribly-titled A Victorian Werewolf Love Story).

3. Wattpad has taught me the value of always being very, very nice. Online, we can’t watch people interact in real life–we only have constant chatter. So we read peoples’ chatter and keep tabs on the overall impression they make on us. It’s keeping their Regard Score. A consistently kind person winds up with an “I like them, they’re nice” score. A less nice person winds up with “Meh” or “they’re not very nice” to even “man, I’m unfriending you and your venom on Facebook!”

Like it or not, we’re always marketing ourselves if we use the internet for any length of time. People who start all their Facebook/other social media posts with “I hate, I hate, I hate” start to slide down my Regard Score.

4. I’m confused by Christians who shriek about how much they hate fantasy in their fantasy. They don’t want to read magic, they don’t want monsters, they don’t want wizards, they don’t want dragons. I can never figure out what they do want. Lord of the Rings, with its practically no magic? Oh yeah, Gandalf is allowed to make fireworks and the elves are allowed to put a time-stop bubble over Lothlorien, but NOTHING ELSE.

Oh yeah, talking lions are okay. And somehow they ignore the whole Lilith thing in Narnia, too.

And magic is okay as long as it’s BAD and the people using it are BAD.

5. This article on Speculative Faith. Christians shouldn’t write about demons? Just … wut.

Sorry, I got a little ranty there. I guess you can tell what I’ve talked about on social media this week. :-p

Sketches and artwork

I’ve been working on some art commissions lately. I thought it’d be fun to show the one I finished last week.

First off, my commissioner asked for a scene from one of her fanfics, where a guy finds baby Sonic lost in a snowstorm. So I did some thumbnail sketches of how this might look as a pic.

aura-commission-sketches

She liked the one with the guy holding up the lantern, so I sketched it out in a larger size.

aura-commission-sad-hedgehog-in-snow-sketch

When she approved that, I colored it. I did the background first, working off a spiffy picture of some mountains in the Swiss Alps somewhere.

aura-commission-sad-hedgehog-in-snow-final

It’s supposed to be a very cold, sad sort of picture, with muted warmth from baby Sonic in the foreground and more warmth from the guy in the background, with the lantern.

Also, snowflakes are really fun to do. These were just a fat airbrush set to a really big size, so the dots were a couple pixels wide. Most are dark blue and some are lighter, right around the light source.

I’ll show off my second commission once I get it finished.

The problem with SHOULD

A few weeks ago, someone posted this remark on a writers’ forum.

I’d have things really flowing, then start second-guessing myself on matters of theology and morality. “Oh…That should actually work out this way, in order to demonstrate this principle.” “This should be set up this other way instead, to be more in keeping with God’s character according to His self-revelation” (in a fantasy world under our God, somewhat like Tolkien’s Iluvatar but less standoffish). “How in the world do I explain X without compromising some theological point?” “Where IS the Savior in my world’s history or hope, anyway? But I doooon’t waaaaant allegoryyyyy…!” And before I knew it, the writing was bogging down and the creativity drying up.

Photographer: Tom Woodward, via Wikimedia Commons
Photographer: Tom Woodward, via Wikimedia Commons

I read a lot of blogs and interviews, and Christians are the only writers who wear this particular straitjacket. And it shows in our books.

I recently finished a two-book story arc by a very sweet author. I love her to bits and her writing is beautiful.

But she’s constrained by SHOULD.

On her blog, at one point she mentioned that second book and how she ran up against a point where the hero had to get redeemed. And okay, there’s nothing wrong with that. I spotted the point halfway through the book.

The trouble was the straitjacket on the story afterward.

The hero never learned to stand on his own and become a hero. He went from weak and whiny to weak and whiny with the Jesus figure holding his hand. He was like a kid being herded around by his mom, and therefore was hard to respect as a character. (The Jesus figure: Our Heavenly Mother.)

You know the story of the Hobbit. There wasn’t much to Bilbo until Gandalf left, and Bilbo becomes the leader during the Mirkwood crawl. Without the stronger savior figure, Bilbo has to step up to the plate and become a hero.

If the Jesus figure sticks around, the hero has no reason to grow. Mummy’s taking care of him and there’s no reason to man up. I kept hoping the hero of the aforementioned book would get to stand on his own and the Jesus figure would stand back and let the hero breathe.

Nope.

The hero, being weak and unmanned, goes on to a pathetic, ignoble ending and leaves the girl in the lurch. I was terribly disappointed. There’s no more books, either. That story is done.

The hero winds up married to the Jesus figure, for all intents and purposes.

I know this is how our relationship with Jesus works in real life. But somehow it doesn’t work the same in fiction, particularly when the god is incarnate and fixated on saving one person. In real life, our relationship works through the Holy Spirit. It’s a quiet, inter-dimensional thing that the general public doesn’t see.

This Jesus straitjacket appears in other Christian fiction, too. I’ve written it, myself, and felt the life choked out of my fiction as theology rose up and took over. I gave up writing intentionally Christian stories to escape those constraints.

I don’t know what the answer is, except maybe to grow both as a writer and a believer.

Wonderful October!

October is my birthday month, and I’ve always liked fall from an early age.

Well, sort of. As a kid, it’s hard not to be envious of all your friends who have summer birthdays and get swim parties. But we usually arranged to go camping at the beach around my birthday, so that was even better.

This fall, we’re in Arizona. In the fall, the desert looks like this.

Monument Valley, AZ, by Bernard Gagnon via Wikimedia Commons
Monument Valley, AZ, by Bernard Gagnon via Wikimedia Commons

…which is pretty much the same in the summer, winter and spring, too. Except in the spring there’s slightly more flowers.

I can dream about this …

640px-Herbst

Or this …

Autumn by Justin.Johnsen via Wikimedia Commons
Autumn by Justin.Johnsen via Wikimedia Commons

I suppose I could drive a couple hours up to Flagstaff and take a look at their fall color.

Or I could go to the grocery store and check out the gourds and squash.

Gourds and squash, by Wildfeuer via Wikimedia Commons
Gourds and squash, by Wildfeuer via Wikimedia Commons

Their colors are so refreshing.

Hard werewolf questions

This is continuing on from my previous post on werewolves and Christianity.

I guess with Halloween coming on, I’ve been slipping into that appetite for horror I get once a year. It’s pretty hard to ignore when one of your neighbors decorates their apartment in lime-green cobwebs with a Zombie Crossing sign outside. Once it got dark outside, inside you could see they had plastic skulls hanging from their ceiling fan, spinning round and round and looking frankly hilarious.

Everywhere you go, there’s spooky scarecrows and witches and ghosts and pumpkins and decorative gourds. The colors alone make my heart go pit-a-pat.

Pumpkin and Gourd Display, via Wikimedia Commons by Sdwelch1031
Pumpkin and Gourd Display, via Wikimedia Commons by Sdwelch1031

I read so many wolf books growing up, I guess werewolves are just my favorite monster.

That and any woman who has experienced PMS knows what it’s like to change into a monster once a month.

Maybe that’s why I don’t do vampires–I can’t figure out how to identify with them. Parasites just don’t strike me as adorable, I’m afraid.

My mom had this old, old book about the animal kingdom, and when I was feeling daring, I’d get it off the shelf and see how far I could get. It started with the small stuff–paramecium and amoebas and such. Then it worked up to worms and parasites. Earthworms I can handle, but not the tapeworms. All detailed with nice closeups.

Eventually I’d be so grossed out, I’d slam the book shut and shove it back on the shelf.

Vampires, to me, are about as attractive of those closeups of tapeworms.

I know there’s books out there that have vampires wrestling with the dual nature–their thirst for blood and their attempt to remain human. But that doesn’t excite me like seeing the werewolf do the same thing. The vampire succumbs to appetite, while the werewolf succumbs to insanity.

To me, slipping over that edge and losing your humanity–and your mind–is the truly frightening thing.

George McDonald played with wicked people evolving backward into beasts. At its root, that’s the werewolf myth. And who hasn’t seen evil, debased people who were far below any self-respecting member of the animal kingdom?

That’s why I think it’s a shame that Christians don’t write books dealing with monsters more often. I want to read a book about a classic werewolf like a Christian Lupin (from Harry Potter)–who struggles with his faith and his monthly craving for raw meat. Who is desperately seeking redemption, even though it might mean his death (you can’t kill Hyde without also killing Jekyll).

That’s one reason I just loved Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather books. His lycanthropes are the truly frightening ones, and when one of the heroes gets turned into one, it makes it all the more sad and terrifying.

I want to see someone tackle hard questions like, when a person loses their memory and their personality changes, are they still saved? How much of the evil coming through is their fallen nature, and how much is the true darkness of their soul?

Where does a Christian take that? Is God’s grace and mercy still bigger than the demented werewolf?