The Story of Oscar Wilde, Stud Cat

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Pictured above is Oscar Wilde, who came to our door for help last week. We were hoping he’d find his way home, but after a few hours it was clear it wasn’t going anywhere, so we put out some water for him, a towel and some food. He is extraordinarily friendly, and didn’t exhibit any of the other signs feral cats tend to do. No ear mites, good teeth, etc.

He came back the next day. First, he was spotted chasing a squirrel of enormous size. (We do have rather large squirrels, mind you. Some as big as a small cat.) I didn’t see the result of said cat chasing, but when he showed up again a few days later, we finally escorted him into the Dane County Humane Society. Now, the shelters have odd hours and, as it turns out, MANY places in town either don’t take cats or aren’t no-kill shelters. In Oscar’s case, we suspect he might be local to our neighborhood, and may have been accidentally abandoned when the owners moved out. We were advised not to bring him in, especially since we have two other fuzzballs already, but we were told he’s very healthy.

So what’s next for Oscar Wilde? Well, the shelter is going to try and find his owner first, then keep him under observation for a week. If you ARE the guardian of this cat? That’s where he is, and I hope you have a happy reunion! Then, if they can’t find his owner, Oscar Wilde will go up for adoption for the next thirty-odd days. When he’s listed, I’ll post the link to share.

It’d really mean a lot to us if we can find a home for him. I’d hate to think we rescued him, only to find out he can’t be saved.

150 Years Later. The Long Walk.

American history is rife with varying perspectives, and there is a lot that often gets missed. To make way for certain points-of-view, whether they’re political or not, it’s rare when you get to hear both sides of any story–especially when there are problematic points in our history that have been obscured by time and eclipsed by wars.

The Long Walk is one such event. This 400-mile march, which took place in 1864, forced approximately 10,000 Navajo and Mescalero Apache from their lands to a place called “Bosque Redondo.” Thousands died. The impact of this event, which was led by the U.S. Army, is still being felt today.

U.S. history is not squeaky clean (as no history is) and lesser-known tragedies rarely get a blip until the survivors(1) speak up, like the internment of Japanese-American children during WWII. Indeed, though January marked the 150th anniversary of the Long Walk, it wasn’t talked about very much.(2)

For many personal reasons, reading about this dark event has impacted me greatly, not as a Navajo or Mescalero Apache, but as a writer(3) and student of humanity. This story I’m linking to, this one in particular, is extremely powerful. If you know who the musician Clearance Clearwater is, then you will appreciate this article even more. Legacy of Forced March Still Haunts Navajo Nation.

If you’re not clear on what the Long Walk was, there are several links in the aforementioned article that go into detail, like this one to The Bosque Redondo Memorial. For a more educational take, the Arizona Memory Project–GO LIBRARIES–has a lesson plan about it, too.

(1) When I was visiting Las Vegas a few years back, a moment of serendipity somehow brought this up in casual conversation. To hear a story about this, from someone who had family who was there? It was powerful. Very, very powerful.
(2) I had known it was an anniversary year due to prior research for my work, but wasn’t clear on the month. Quite embarrassed about that, actually.
(3) Out of respect, I’m not linking to any of those posts or that story.

In the Category of Fun Time-Wasters…

Big Giant Sword Fighting Avatar

Thunderstorms and lightning were very, very frightening last night, so I hopped on our Kindle and allowed the very addicting Samurai vs. Zombies 2 to take over.

Samurai vs Zombies 2

Swipe games are a lot of fun to play for me, because each level provides something new. I finally beat the game last night, not without help mind, and have been taking advantage of some of the enhancements to get more coin. There are three separate levels: a daily challenge, the main quest, and multiplayer aspect that pits your main character against the zombie horde. There is a large variety of zombies, oni, and what-have-you; some that are definitely nastier than others. The mechanic is pretty straightforward, and it’s very easy to learn. You have a leadership bar at four tiers that fills up. The more leadership you have, the more allies you can summon, and each has various abilities and specialties. Your main character has two special abilities they can access to impact what’s on the screen. They are also varied and unlocked through play, like the Divine Wind and the Flash Bomb. Outside of these aspects, you level up your character and your defenses as you earn coins during gameplay.

What I like about this version of the game, is that there are multiple ways to play it. The Daily Challenge locks in your strategy, and you win for a nice reward. Multiplayers are nice, but wow…I did burn through a few Revives just to spite the other player for the non-stop barrage. (An aspect I don’t like about playing with stranger, but is mildly reduced here given you don’t have chat and it’s not a free-for-all; multiplayer options do try to match up to your power and expertise.

Once you beat the game at Level 50, you do get the opportunity to replay any level — and earn more coins. The challenge levels post-50 are fairly tough, and I despise certain monsters with a passion as you have to get behind them in order to take them down, but strategy? Well, that’s part of the fun!

It’s not a “deep” game, and the art strays into manga-territory, but that’s okay for me. Sometimes, brain turn-y, off-y swipe swipe and tappity, tap, tapp games are exactly what’s needed when the to-do list overwhelms. The game can be found on iTunes, Facebook, Amazon, Google Play — pretty much everywhere you can find mobile games. Support, like through the Samurai vs. Zombies Defense 2 forums, is available too.

Yep, time-waster. Ah well! After defeating this game, it’s back to late nights of Skyrim for me! Using that one as a reward, because flower collection is time-consuming. Heh.

    Mood: Late start. Super hot yesterday; perfectly cool today!
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Two LARGE cups so far. Switched to tea. Yes, it’s Aveda. And your point is?
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Up down left right up up down down.
    In My Ears: I Love Paris by Frank Sinatra
    Game Last Played: Samurai vs. Zombies and Samurai vs. Zombies 2
    Book Last Read: *eyebrow raise* There was something…
    Movie Last Viewed: The Matrix
    Latest Artistic Project: CLASSES! But… Shoot. Need pictures.
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Mortal Remains
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work, original comics, short stories, and novels.


Shelley Wasn’t a Corpse-Stitching Necromancer

The Tick Weapons Lab Avatar

Spring is definitely ushering in a lot of change on my end. Allllllllll good, and forcing me to clean, reorganize, get situated, and uncover new opportunities where I can. I am reinvigorated by the sunshine! Today, though, I put on my serious face. Ready?

A long time ago, I got into an heated argument about author’s intent with respect to Frankenstein. I will never forget this discussion, because my professor claimed that intent didn’t matter. (Never mind that I was surrounded by all of my classmates. I, um… I’ve simmered down quite a bit since then.) She pointed to all the outside influences Shelley had, pointed to what might have inspired her, her past tragedies, building her case. And it was a good case, too. Victorian era life — especially for women — was not the romanticized life often popularized today. All that aside, Shelley wrote Frankenstein on a dare, and Lord Byron’s invitation sparked an idea, one that led to her signature work.

Do I feel that author’s intent matters? Yes and no. Varying degrees of intent will shape many things about a story, but what it can’t and won’t do is guarantee how that work will be received.

Hence the title for my post today, for there has been a lot of discussion lately about the more problematic aspects of fiction online. Namely, how rape, race, and gender are handled, and whether or not it accurately reflects the writer as a person. This is not a new conversation, mind. This is a very old conversation. Ancient. Most horror writers have had to put up with this — even me.

The conversation goes something like this:

“Why are you writing about cultists?”
“Because they’re a good fit for this story, and the cultist implies a certain–“
“HOW DO YOU KNOW SO MUCH ABOUT THE OCCULT? YOU MUST BE A SATAN-WORSHIPPER, ZOMG!”
“Um…”

Women? Yeah, we get it worse. Shelley was not someone who cut up corpses for funsies; she wrote her story on a dare. The comments about horror writers make me giggle, really, because I write in the genre because I like writing in the genre. Not because I want to do those horrible things in real life, nor because I’m promoting that horrible thing, either. There are writers who do promote their world views in their fiction, and some of them come forth and relay that. Even so, promoting a belief doesn’t actually make that person a terrible, evil person. Add in the layer of “I need to promote myself so here’s my shiny, new writer’s platform which is based on this stunningly outrageous belief so I get attention!!” and I need time to sort through that. (See also: a long, windy rant about writer’s platforms.)

And this is where I believe the conversation of author’s intent then deviates to how the reader interprets the work. Currently, this specific point is also where I’m having a huge disconnect, and where I get confused and tired and frustrated. I do think it’s a good idea to critique works and have those hard discussions. This is how the craft improves; this is how writers take new risks, too.

However, I’m not a fan of accusing the author of being a terrible, human being by default, just because they wrote or said something I don’t agree with. (The reverse is also true: popularity and success often excuses the worst sort of human behavior, so I don’t believe the person is an exemplary human being because I love a book that person wrote.) It’d be great if I could discuss certain aspects openly, without being afraid that the author will be attacked by others, or without that author believing I’m attacking her/him, or without someone turning around and doing the same thing to me.

Satan-worshipping is WAY easier than being a writer.*

*cues ominous music*

Now, if only those demonic rituals would conjure me up more words… Who is the Demon of Prose, anyway? Oh right, that’d be me.

* My sarcastic side is poking through. Heh.

    Mood: I have coffee. Life is good.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Coffee is the blood that floweth through my veins.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Got sick. (Don’t ask.)
    In My Ears: LOUD BRAIN IS LOUD.
    Game Last Played: Samurai vs. Zombies and Samurai vs. Zombies 2
    Book Last Read: An encyclopedia about the paranormal. Something, something.
    Movie Last Viewed: The Matrix
    Latest Artistic Project: CLASSES! But… Shoot. Need pictures.
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Mortal Remains
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work, original comics, short stories, and novels.


For the Love of Story

The Tick Weapons Lab Avatar

I’ve decided to keep Raymond Day in my novel. I feel the story is going to suffer greatly without it; he needs to be there. Day, who first appeared in The Queen of Crows, is a problematic character for a few reasons. First, his origin story dates back to the Westward expansion in the 1830s era. He is a vampire (not spoiling anything by telling you that) and how he became an undead being that can only survive on human blood is the stuff of nightmares. But that particular detail, mind, is tied to what happened historically. Yes, it’s alternate history. However, to make his Native American character believable, certain details reflect what happened at the time. I haven’t settled on a specific tribe yet, as he played a minor role in the short story, but thinking Cherokee might be the best fit.

I have a stack of books on the subject, and the one I started reading last night is by Peter Nabokov. It’s called Indian Running, Native American Testimony: From Prophecy to the Present 1442 – 1992. I’ve decided to take the academic approach, by reading first-hand accounts, to make Day’s character believable — but also handle one of the trickier bits about him. That is, often when Native American characters are presented in fiction (if at all), there’s a tendency to put them in a historical context as if they are invisible in the modern world. (This is a PolicyMic article that gives a brief overview of some of those issues.)

On the flip side, there is also a tendency to lump every tribe together, so a character becomes representative of all Native Americans; much like when whites are all lumped together and the distinction between the French and the English, for example, is completely erased. Saying that all tribes got along just fine is like saying all of Europe is one big happy family. Really, the lumping occurs from a lack of knowledge. It’s easy to categorize when you don’t know the details, and as a writer it’s my job NOT to do that.

Am I obsessing about research? Oh hell, yes. I’m going to get parts wrong, but at the same time? I would rather be smart about characterization, which is often embedded in the style of language and descriptions I use, than be like: “Oh hey, here’s this pulp-y character that comes along and is there to move the plot forward.” There are very few Native Americans in modern-day fiction. Few. I can’t remember the last time I saw one in a film; The Prophecy, maybe? Native Americans are not fantasy elves with mystical powers that have their own form of magic because of their deep connection to the land. Beliefs? Yes. Aliens from outer space? No.

And what of those beliefs? Well, you see this is the other reason why research is a requirement for me. No two tribes are alike, and beliefs vary widely. The vast majority of Native American beliefs don’t match European goals and thought processes, either. That’s where these accounts are helping me, because I am reading and seeing exactly what people from the era believed, what they experienced, and how they viewed the expansion. Hey, big hint folks: it’s not what Hollywood has depicted. Ever.

I’m lucky, I suppose, in that there’s no shortage of materials out there. I think the only reason I’m not (lucky), is because it’s going to take me longer to finish writing the book, but once I have his character down it’ll go much faster. I mean, sure it sounds like an excuse. Research can be a way to procrastinate, but the thing is: I’m not reading any of these books or diving in because I don’t trust myself as a writer, or because I’m freezing up, or any of those other “lets-beat-ourselves-up” reasons… I’m reading all this to internalize the information, so that I do the best job I possibly can. With so few Native American characters out there, that’s immensely important to me, and I’d never forgive myself if I was sloppy about it even though I’m writing fiction knowing what I know. Call it pride or whatever you like, but that’s just how it’s gotta be. I LOVE BEING A WRITER. And this? This research? It’s part of my job.

    Mood: Strangely strange.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Quite a bit.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: I moved. Well, kind of.
    In My Ears: White noise. ZZZzzzzzz
    Game Last Played: Ninjas versus Zombies
    Book Last Read: Indian Running, Native American Testimony: From Prophecy to the Present 1442 – 1992
    Movie Last Viewed: Kill Bill II
    Latest Artistic Project: Art classes. SON OF A BISCUIT! That reminds me…
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Mortal Remains
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work, original comics, short stories, and novels.
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