Moved

So, I’m in the new place as of yesterday. I still have a few items (not many) at the old place that the movers couldn’t take, but we’ll get those tomorrow. I wanted to take a break today to get settled and to unpack a few things. I found some of it, but there’s lots to do. However, I am at my dad’s, so there are things I don’t need to unpack until I get back on my feet. Hopefully, it won’t be too long, but I’m grateful not to be homeless and have nowhere to go.

Sophie is doing okay, although she’s a bit puzzled as to what we’re doing. She’s never lived with anyone but me, and it will be an adjustment. She was just a puppy when I moved into my apartment and home of the last 7 years, so it’s really weird for her. I’m sure she’ll be fine. She’s a happy girl normally, and she’ll adjust quickly. I’m really more worried about the cancer, but she seems to be tolerating the medication just fine. There’s no way to know how well it will slow the cancer’s progress, however. It’s not like they can do lung transplants for dogs, and if they did, we probably couldn’t afford it. I wish I could do more for my baby, but the vet referred me to a cancer specialist.

Right now, I just have to hope that things will get better for both of us. At least I had some good news with the two newest manuscripts, that they will someday see the light of day. I hope to have news soon regarding Descent of the Vile, but I was assured that it wouldn’t be too much longer. Take care, everyone.

Devastated

My baby girl went to the vet today, and the news was not what I was expecting. She has lung cancer. She has maybe 6-24 months. She’s only 7 years old. Words can’t express how I’m feeling right now. My poor baby girl. 💔

Sick puppy

My poor baby is not feeling well. She has been retching a lot lately, and it was almost nonstop all last night. This morning, she wasn’t much better. So, I called and made an appointment at the vet for Wednesday (they do surgery on Tuesdays, so I can’t take her tomorrow).

Of course, as soon as I made the appointment, the little sweetie must have sensed something was up, because she stopped retching and she seems almost normal again. I’ll keep an eye on her all day tomorrow and make a decision then as to whether I should reschedule the appointment. Hopefully, she’ll be feeling well soon.

Sophie under the weather

Cover reveal, double edition!

The first one is the cover for The Blood Hotel, sequel to Descent of the Vile.

Cover for The Blood Hotel

The next is the cover for a novella I wrote called The Chimera Gambit.

Cover for The Chimera Gambit

Can’t wait until you can read these. Descent of the Vile is still in the queue for editing. I hope it will be released before the end of the year. I will post more when I have it!

Two New Books!!!

Today, I signed the contracts for TWO new books with my current publisher!

AND

More details as I get them. These are not the covers, by the way. They’re the posts I put on my social media. I’m so excited!

Art School

When I went to college, I had desperately wanted to attend an art school. However, those were far out of my price range, and I decided that a four-year university would be better in that I would be educated in other subjects besides art. Over all, I would say that was a great choice, and I loved almost all of it. There were tough times, to be sure. But I made friends there that I am still in contact with, and I learned skills that have been useful to me outside of college. I especially loved my anthropology/archaeology and art history classes (if I had to pick a subject besides photography).

In my major, I had to select an area of concentration. I’d always wanted to study photography. I don’t think I even debated it for a second. It was always going to be photography. It wasn’t just about how to use a manual 35mm camera, although that was the main standby. But I learned to use medium format and large format cameras, as well (my favorite!), and we even learned a little about digital photography (although it was in its infancy) and Photoshop. And taking a good photo is only a small part of what we were expected to do. One class was devoted to using the camera properly, and the rest was on subject matter and understanding your place within the realm of art history. We had to be innovative and defend our choices, explaining why we did what we did. It was rarely one photo, either. We were being prepared to hold gallery shows, and everything was done to transform our work into a cohesive whole. It was challenging and rewarding.

Of course, in our efforts to embrace unfamiliar technology and experiment with the medium, we sometimes encountered the perfect moment at the perfect time, moments that would never come again and were captured for eternity on film. Once, I was extremely happy with my weeks’ worth of shooting large format photographs, and I was in the lab developing my sheet film. It was in a canister, rotating on an agitator so that the chemicals would be distributed evenly, when someone passed by and turned off the agitator. As the lab was noisy and very busy, I didn’t know this had happened until it was too late, and the timer went off and my film was ruined. I didn’t have time to reshoot, as travel would have been required. I had one day to shoot another weeks’ worth of photos, develop the film, and develop the perfect large format prints. I never found out who had turned off the agitator. No one ever admitted it or apologized, but I did save the ruined film as a reminder. Moments are just that. They never come again.

As frustrating as the agitator debacle was, I fell in love with large format photography. I’ve always wanted to buy one, but they are $6,000 at a minimum if you can find one new. Used, you can’t be sure it’s in working order, but they are fairly durable. However, you should still check the components thoroughly before you buy. I’ve, also, always wanted a good medium format camera. I have two that are of the rare, discontinued variety, but they are far from quality cameras. I just find them fun to use. But, just once, I’d like to have a good one. I’ll probably never be able to afford a Hasselblad, but I do have my knockoff Kiev-88. It was a Soviet-era camera that was meant as a copy of a Hasselblad, but the factory didn’t have the same quality-control. Sometimes the camera is great, but sometimes you can end up with a dud. I have yet to get my film developed, but I have a feeling that I will still use it, even if it’s not the best. I just love the feel of it, the sound of it, everything. Yes, even the loud shutter. I must be crazy.

Kiev-88

There is a short scene in Descent of the Vile which includes some large format photography. I wanted to include it as a tribute to my photography instructor from college, the amazing Neil Maurer. Hopefully, it adds something to the story, and I get to live vicariously through the actions of the main character (up until the plot twist, anyway).

I’m still waiting on the book to go into editing. As I am moving, it is causing a delay, although things are coming together and I should be at the new address in a couple of weeks or so. Therefore, I will have plenty of time to work on revisions should I get the manuscript back from my editor any time soon. Fingers crossed! I will keep you updated, and I can’t wait to share the story with you. Take care, peeps!

Cases for Evolution

I’ve heard many people say to me that they doubt evolution is real, mostly because it seems to them to have happened long ago. If it is real, they say, then why is it not happening now? If people evolved, then why are we not still evolving? Well, the truth is that we are still evolving.

In the past, humans did not grow to be very tall. Ancient artifacts were all created for people of a very small stature. Even a few generations ago, it was uncommon to find someone six feet tall. Of course, now, this is not as uncommon. Also, generations ago, people didn’t need their wisdom teeth removed. Those teeth did not impact those in front of them. Now, almost everyone needs the procedure, and there are even some people born without them at all. We are getting taller, and our jaws are getting smaller.

The reason for this might be alluded to by the presence of the appendix. In very ancient times, our ancestors ate raw foods. These needed an additional digestive organ to break them down and also additional molars. Once humans began to cook their food and prepare it in different ways, these were no longer needed. But implying that our bodies made a conscious decision to do away with them is misleading and untrue.

It comes down to understanding gene replication. Every time genes replicate, there are errors. Sometimes these errors are harmless and do nothing to cause any harm to the organism. However, other times, it can cause something that makes the organism more susceptible to natural selection. For example, the peppered moth underwent a very famous change toward the end of the Industrial Revolution in England. Prior to the end of the 19th century, black peppered moths were rarely seen, and the speckled variety was most common. However, when pollution rendered many of the host trees darkened with soot, the black peppered moths were prevalent. When the pollution was no longer as widespread, the moths became speckled again. The moths didn’t decide to turn black, obviously. There were peppered moths affected with melanism before the change, but they were highly visible to predators and were picked off. When the black wings became an advantage, the black moths were no longer as vulnerable to predation and were able to reproduce. The speckled moths were more visible against the dark tree trunks and were then the vulnerable population.

Another example is the vampire finch, which lives on Wolf and Darwin Islands in the Galapagos. When the finches first arrived on the named islands, there was a relative scarcity of fresh water for them to rely on. Therefore, they found other sources. Although they do eat eggs and other foods, they also began to drink the blood of the boobies that lived on the islands as well, taking advantage of open wounds. However, scientists watched the later generations of finches becoming more and more aggressive, until they began to actually pick at the skin of the birds to draw blood. As this happened, their beaks became more and more curved, like a predator’s beak. This is, again, not because the birds needed it, but because it was no longer a disadvantage to have such a beak should a finch be born with a deformed one. As it actually served their purposes better, these finches were more successful in the environment and were able to reproduce.

Also, I should point out that the term “evolved” implies an adaptation to a particular environment and does not imply any superiority. People often misuse the term to say that the “evolved” are somehow “better”. This is ignorance of the term and the theory of evolution in the first place. Please don’t do that.

Charles Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species before the discovery of DNA or the proposed theory of plate tectonics, but even then, he knew something would be discovered later to explain it. The book is actually very enlightening, if you haven’t read it. But of course, later scientists were able to expand on the theory and offer more thorough explanations.

Personally, I’m fascinated by it, and especially with the subject of archaeology and anthropology in relation to it. Yes, I was an art major. But my academic courses were the easiest to me, especially if I was interested in the subject. My sister and I had the highest averages in our archaeology classes (both 104) and we were the only non-archaeology majors in the classes. To explain their lapses, the other students put us down, saying we should only take “easy” classes if we were art majors (I hate to tell them, but that was easy to me), and they said the professor was going easy on us because he knew we weren’t archaeology majors (he actually begged us to change our majors and said we were “wasting our talent”, so no, he wasn’t going easy on us).

Anyway, I’m not expecting to convince anyone, but do further reading on the subject of evolution if you are interested. I could probably write a whole book on it as I’m so in love with it, but I’ll stick with science-fiction. Don’t worry.

Student loans

I can’t believe this is controversial. There are people who took out student loans to pay for college who didn’t make it rich. There are people who were taken advantage of by these loan companies and didn’t quite understand how it would affect them later. There are people who are in disadvantaged households who thought college would help them in the long run, but it didn’t pan out.

My family has never been wealthy by any means. I qualified for the Pell grant, but I still needed to borrow to pay living expenses and supplies. I didn’t see that I had a choice. This was not explained to me. I didn’t know I was eligible for scholarships or how to apply (this was before this was online). I borrowed thousands, hoping I would get a good job with the education and be able to pay them off.

Unfortunately, I had health problems almost immediately after I graduated. They persisted and persisted. Nothing helped, and my health actually deteriorated over the next several years. I couldn’t hold down a job. I still can’t. I miss too many days due to illness and get let go. There is no way I’ll ever be able to pay those loans back. I’ll never get better. I’ll never be rich.

It isn’t fair to saddle my family with debt (they don’t have any more money than I do), when college was a necessary risk. Other countries provide this for free, as they are concerned with the well-being of their citizens. I’m constantly puzzled why Americans don’t do the same. They blame the disadvantaged for their plight instead of helping them to rise above it. They praise “sucking it up” and other toxic behaviors that lead to inadequate coping strategies. They blame sick people for getting sick when our health care system is designed to help only the wealthy, cutting programs to help mental illness and low income households so that they have to declare bankruptcy to deal with the oppressive debt.

Why don’t Americans want to help others? It’s all about “me, me, me” when many of them claim to be Christian. They don’t want to provide charity of any sort, and they certainly don’t want their taxes to pay for services they don’t use themselves. This is the point of taxes. It’s like insurance. You pay because you never know. And it’s the right thing to do. If you’re lucky enough to never need help, that’s great. But you shouldn’t look down on others because they weren’t as fortunate. It’s just selfish.

Ukraine

I keep seeing posts online and hearing people talking about the bad things Ukraine has done, saying it’s a totalitarian regime. Keep in mind that Russia is a totalitarian regime as well. They are not benevolent minders. Whatever Ukraine is doing, it is up to the people there to decide their own fate. Nothing Ukraine has done justifies the war crimes committed by Russia when they bomb hospitals and shopping malls full of civilians.

Russia attacked Ukraine. Ukraine did not provoke them. But do not assume they would be better off under the Russian umbrella. Even many Russians opposed the invasion. It was obviously wrong. Of course, the Russian people aren’t responsible for what their leaders do, so I don’t hate Russians. But I also remember the days of the Cold War and I don’t want to return to it. That means that I don’t want the Soviet Union to return in any form, and as a world power, the United States has a duty to protect those less fortunate.

Anyway, giving aid to Ukraine does not mean we can’t take care of our own. Fixing the broken tax code will help, but we also have to fight totalitarianism at home. Please don’t let it happen again. Extremists are trying to turn us on each other, to get you to blame minorities and anyone who you don’t like for your troubles. This happened in Nazi Germany and I see it happening here. Don’t give in to the hate. Take care of each other and don’t use violence to solve your problems. It causes more problems instead. We can’t allow our country to become a lawless wasteland. It’s too tragic.

Twitter rudeness

I just had my first block on Twitter because some guy thought he could mansplain something to me. That is one thing I do not tolerate. My ex did it to me, and it showed a real lack of respect. I, also, suspect a great deal of ego is involved in doing it, so I blocked the Twitter guy. Having a decent conversation is fine, even if you disagree. But, once you decide to talk down to me, we’re done. I tolerated far to much of it with my ex, and I don’t plan on doing it any longer or ever again. In fact, I didn’t even cry when I broke up with my ex, and I haven’t since, either. I cried enough while with him, but shed not a tear to leave him.

I am smart enough to know I’m not an expert in all subjects, but I also know I’m not stupid, either. If you have the courtesy to have a civil discussion and can explain your reasons without being condescending, I will listen. However, when you don’t know me, and you still talk down to me without understanding that I might have expertise that you didn’t know about, I don’t appreciate it. Life is too short to worry about being bullied online. I don’t like bullies.

So, keep it friendly, people. Be kind. Listen.