Yellow is the Color of Spring

I don’t know about you, but it felt like spring took forever to get here. Then last week, the final week of winter, suddenly our temperatures were so warm! I went to my car after work one day to find it was 90 (32 ºC) degrees inside. Of course with the warm temperatures came the sea of pollen. 

 

They say that if you don’t have allergies when you first come to Georgia, you’ll probably have them in 2-3 years. It’s not surprising either when you find out how bad pollen season is. (Pollen Season Starting Early This Year) It’s even worse if you have allergies and asthma like I do. You have to do regular inventories to make sure you’ve got the tools you need on hand and increase your medication to stay healthy. Otherwise you end up with regular sinus infections that can turn much worse.

Despite that though, I do love springtime. I wanted to share this pic of one of our Redbuds in the yard. If you follow me on Instagram then you already know the story, but I wanted to share it here too.
  
If memory serves me right, we got our two Redbud trees the year after we moved into our house, so that would be in 2010. My younger sister offered to pick up a couple of trees from City Hall because they were being given away for free on Arbor Day. She got a tree for herself too, but a neighbor mowed over it thinking it was a weed. (How do you even do that?)

The first few years we had them, I don’t recall seeing any real flowers on them. There were maybe a handful before the leaves came in, then they were gone before you could even notice them. This year they’re simply beautiful.

For lovely shots like this I’ll gladly deal with all that pollen!

Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Yesterday R. Michael made a post, Blogging Lessons and Woes, about how it’s important as an author to write outside of your comfort zone. In his case, he was very referring to blogging. After a year of having his blog, he was shocked at how much he appreciated it. I’ve run this blog for almost six years now, and I can easily admit that it gets difficult figuring out what to blog about. (Doing the Blogging University challenge this month has helped, but more on that in another post.) I’ve come to accept that blogging is always going to be a challenge, but I’ve also learned there are far much more uncomfortable subjects to write about.

I’m a nature lover. As a kid I dreamed of growing up to be a veterinarian. I follow The Cornell Lab’s awesome newsletter, getting info on fun topics like how to build proper bird houses and where to place them in your yard. So you can imagine my surprise when I saw, nested in the comments, someone detail how they get rid of House Sparrows which are apparently considered pests in certain areas. Not only did they detail the method, but they also gave an estimate of how many birds they had disposed of over the past two years.

crowTrapsI was horrified but, being a writer, I wanted to know more. I live in the U.S. South, so I understand how overpopulation can become an issue. That’s why we have deer hunting season after all, and even though deer are my favorite animals, I understand how they can take over a place if left unchecked. I soon stumbled upon control methods for crows, using a disturbing but ingenious cage. I found out that they’re difficult to deal with because they’re just so darn intelligent.

One amusing comment from this video stuck with me, and I just had to share it:

I don’t have time to scroll through all 2768 comments at the moment but I have lived, treeplanting, in the woods with ravens on Queen Charlotte Islands, Canada and this simple test is nothing compared to the ravens stealing my lunch. Pardon me, my third lunch in three days.   Opening my click locks, then opening the zipper then pulling out the tupperware and getting the duct tape off of it to open it and then eating my sandwich. THEN flying by me on the side of a mountain to caw at me!!! Did I mention the cedar sticks and large boulders I put on the knapsack within which this prize was hidden? This was the third lunch they stole from me and after that I LEARNED to just leave them a freebie on the ground and they’d leave me my lunch.  I still shake my fist every time I see a crow. They are brilliant.

It’s amazing to me that we spend so much energy trying to capture and dispose of nuisance animals when sometimes we might be better off learning to live with them.

So yes, the story was very difficult to write and I’m pretty sure I was frowning the entire time I wrote it. However I think my disgust only made the story better. It took longer to write since I was putting so much energy into it. I challenged myself in a way I hadn’t done before, and I think the writing benefits from it. Of course, you’ll have to read it for yourself and let me know!

“Tiny Necks” is set to be released in Not Your Average Monster Volume 2  by Bloodshot Books on February 29th, but should be up for pre-order earlier than that.

People Want a Mystery

So when I logged on to Facebook this morning, guess what I saw trending on the sidebar? Something along the lines of…

Man takes picture of the Jersey Devil!

You can probably already guess the ridiculous photo that is associated with it, but I’ll send you over to the original article. Go take a peek, I’ll wait.

Pretty silly, huh? Other than the fact that it looks like a thrown stuffed toy, there’s another way you can tell this was faked. Instead of sending the picture to a scientist, he sent it to a news agency. Now if you took a photo of some crazy thing in the woods at night, or even in the day like this photo, would your first instinct be to send it to the news? Of course not, unless you thought you might get some notoriety/money/attention from it. Most logical folks would send any picture they legitimately believed was a new species off to a university, perhaps even submit it to cryptozoologists who are used to vetting this kind of evidence. If it was a picture of a new potential insect or bird, it wouldn’t have first been sent to a news agency.

Yet it was trending on Facebook, so that means plenty of people found it interesting enough to share it. Why do we find these stories of monsters hiding in the woods so fascinating? Why do we eagerly go to look at what the supposed Jersey Devil looks like? Why do we hunt for Bigfoot footprints, long lost sea monsters, and vampiric squirrels even when we know it will more than likely be a waste of time and energy, or at least not live up to our grandiose expectations?

tufted-squirrel-featSeriously, the vampiric squirrel did not live up to expectations!

Perhaps in this increasingly understood world, where we can glimpse beautiful photos of Saturn’s rings (that you at first think must be Photoshopped because surely nature couldn’t produce something so perfect), where we can use pencil lead to wire circuitry, where we can carry a device to communicate around the world in our back pockets, people want a mystery. People want to look at their surroundings and see more than just trees or buildings around them, they want to see the potential for something different, something beyond the familiar. That isn’t to say that the world isn’t full of mysteries waiting to be solved, or locations that have never been explored, but it’s much easier to toss a homemade toy into the air and have a friend snap a picture than it is to become a deep sea explorer.

So like the famous hoaxes of the past, I’m sure this one will soon be debunked too. I just wish they had gone somewhere other than the news media first though, because this kind of press always makes cryptozoology look bad in the public eye.

Creepy NaNo Research

Camp NaNo is off to a great start, even if I am a thousand words behind right now. This month I’m working on writing four short stories, all weird horror pieces. I wrote back in March about some story ideas that I had, but looking back on them, I haven’t used a single one. That said, all of these had a loose to detailed outline to go along with them. I’ll give their tentative titles below and a bit of research I had to do for each of them.

  • Just Too Sweet – Not much research had to be done here, cause I already had a good understanding of beer, Twitter, and apartment complexes. 😉
  • The Odd House – Now this one needed quite a bit of research. I needed to know the name of a particular Interstate, I-16, that runs from Macon, GA down to Savannah, GA. I’ve had to drive this a couple of times, and running over 80 miles long with hardly any exits or rest stops, it definitely feels long, especially if you already have a lot of asphalt behind you. I’ve never had to drive this stretch of road late at night by myself, but I would give anyone who did plenty of respect. With the endless trees on either side of the two-lane road, I imagine your mind could get to you.
    I-16_Map

    I-16

    Another fun aspect of this story was finding some fun inspiration. This one especially caught my eye and the mood of my story. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any ownership info on it though.

    Mothman_Wallpaper_yvt2

    Really, it just wants hugs.

  • The Thirteenth Crow – This one hasn’t been written quite yet. I’ll be starting on it tomorrow morning, and it was certainly one of the more difficult stories to research. Not that it was difficult to find information on this, but it was difficult for me personally as a bird-lover.

    Yep, that's a crow trap.

    Yep, that’s a crow trap.

  • The Masked King’s Dance – I’ll admit, this was completely inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s The Trap, which I heard about from the HP Podcraft podcast (which is freaking awesome if you haven’t heard). Admittedly it isn’t a very good story, but the premise just really got my creative juices flowing. So many of Lovecraft’s stories do though. 🙂

 

So there are my plans so far! I’ve got some catching up to do still, but I doubt I’m the only one. With a total monthly goal of 20k words, I think it’s completely do-able.

For the Love of Tigers

Today is International Tiger Day, so I thought I needed to give a shout-out to some of my favorite animals. First and foremost, let’s get the adorable pictures out of the way.

Adorable doesn’t even begin to describe this cub.

Not enough cuteness for you? Then I recommend you head over to Mother Jones and check out their whole page dedicated to the beautiful creatures. Don’t worry, I’ll wait until you get back. Got to get the Aww! out of your system after all.

Now if you want to read more about Siberian tigers, I recommend checking out The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant. I listened to this book on audio last year, checked out for free from my library, and I have to say it was an intense listen. For me at least, the audio book helped because listening to how the names were pronounced helped me to have more of a distinction for the characters. Check out a snippet of my review of the book:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tiger is revered, feared, compartmentalized, and idealized. There is a main story, but mixed throughout are backgrounds for the various people whose lives were affected, as well as fascinating tales of the various tigers that our main forest ranger has encountered.

I learned a lot about Russian history and its economy in this book, as well as all the temperamental relations that have existed in the past with her neighbors. The book is also peppered with adventurous tiger stories (besides the primary tale), even from a few survivors, and you learn how intelligent, territorial, and vengeful these animals are. These sections were by far my favorite parts of the book, and made for some entertaining discussions around the dinner table.

[…]

As frustrating as the structure was at times, listening to it in audiobook format made the Russian names, terms, and locales easier to understand and I didn’t feel daunted by the language as much as I think I would have been had I read this in paper/ebook format.

Overall a fascinating book about a beautiful but dangerous predator.

Another good source for information on not only the Siberian tiger but also the people of the Taiga is the documentary titled Happy People (available on Netflix), which walks you through a regular working day for people who live among the largest land man-eaters on the planet. You really get a good taste for the environment in Vaillant’s The Tiger, but it really hits home to see the reality of it. Not only do you see how they have to create makeshift traps in the woods but you also watch them make their own boats, all using the simple but reliable tools at their disposal.

Finally I’d like to leave you with some excellent places that work with tigers on a regular basis.

  • Big Cat Rescue in Florida. A wildlife conservatory for big cats that are rescued and given a happy home. The video and pictures they post on a regular basis will make your heart melt.
  • Noah’s Ark in Georgia. I have a special fondness for this non-profit located right around the corner from where I live. They take in all sorts of animals, not just tigers. Recently they took in a bunch of dogs that were removed from a puppy mill, got them cleaned up, gave them medical exams, and will soon be adopting them out. One of their biggest attractions though is their BLT trio – a bear, lion, and tiger who live in the same enclosure and are incidentally best friends.

Happy World Tiger Day everybody!