“Are you all right?”

Alan let out a long breath, something between a sigh and a hiss, and looked at his assistant’s concerned expression through the darkness. Trevor was new, and young; he could be forgiven a few stupid questions at stressful moments, at least. He might even have missed the bullet hitting Alan’s leg.

“No.” Despite his best efforts at being patient with the boy, he sounded annoyed. “It could be worse; I think it just grazed my thigh.”
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Among The Trees

Written for Lyn Thorne-Alder in a fic exchange.

Vidrou, sa’Tree-Hugger – more commonly known as Vid or Viddie – hummed quietly as he inspected his orchard. It was summer, which meant the seasons for peaches, plums and nectarines. Never mind that their home in ex-Michigan was nowhere near the right climate. He might not be able to change the weather, but he could change the trees. Combined with his diligent and affectionate caretaking, this meant come midsummer, there were fresh peaches.

Aside from tending to the trees, gathering fruit for the next few days was Vid’s main purpose in being out at the orchard this sunny afternoon. The basket slung over his shoulder was already half full, bearing a mix of red plums and yellow peaches.

“Papa, papa, look!” Seven-year-old Tilden raced across the grass, ignorant of the scrapes and dirt on his shins and elbows. He bounced to a stop in front of his father, proudly displaying a nectarine. “I picked it myself, just like you showed me.”
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Writing Meme

The rules are simple:

Copy paste the questions below onto your blog;
Fill in your answers;
Drop a link to your post in the comments here.

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Posted in Miscellaney | Tagged | 1 Comment

Reptiles and Revelry

So I found myself working on my draconic growth chart and contemplating, at the simplest level, whether the males would tend to be larger, or the females would. My initial tentative hypothesis was that females would, partly because I like the idea of dragon society tending to have matriarchal characteristics (it is technically geriarchal, although it would be more specific if I were to construct a word for ‘rule by the largest’ but since age and size are directly correlated in dragons, it is close enough). Theoretically, one could achieve similar effects by having the females live longer.

But! I took that initial idea and started investigating the realism/feasibility of it, and found in cursory research some good evidence supporting the thought. Some quotes from Wikipedia:

In some species such as insects, spiders, many fish, reptiles, birds of prey and certain mammals such as the spotted hyena, and blue whale, the female is larger than the male. As an example, in some species females are sedentary and sparsely distributed, and so males must search for them.

The difference in size is believed to be caused by natural selection for a large female size due to a fecundity advantage. … The fecundity advantage hypothesis states, that a big mother is able to produce more offspring and give those offspring more favorable conditions to ensure their survival. This is true for most ectotherms. Another reason why females are believed to be larger is due to the fact that they provide parental care for a substantial amount of time while the offspring matures.

Those both work well for the ideas that I have for how dragons breed, nest, and develop, and the line regarding ectotherms is particularly comforting. (although fully adult dragons are more gigantotherms) So I think I am going to go with that.

Other forms of sexual dimorphism such as coloration or decoration are, sadly, irrelevant.

Ooh! I want this book, even if the reviewer found it poorly cited and maddeningly formatted.

Pleasures and Pastimes in Victorian Britain by Pamela Horn

Oh my gosh I love academia. I want to just sit down and go through them all. I wonder if the local university has them available without a student ID?

So anyway, let’s see. Shopping. Annual faires/festivals. Public dances, possibly. What sort of accompaniment would be socially expected to things like the theatre or concerts? Picnic-type outings outside of town. Various sporting events. How many different sports do they have, how many would have spectators, and what would the comparative respectability be of each?

Then there’s the important question of: how much does Dallowton in particular have? I didn’t even mention museums because they definitely wouldn’t have one. Probably a theatre and/or concert hall, though, as it is a decent-sized city in relative terms. It isn’t really a touristy sort of place. I am sure it has sporting events. Horse and dog racing for sure, as well as a couple of field sports I need to make up.

Small private parties or gatherings, of course, but while Juli would go to those, they won’t come up. I’d be effectively limited to things she needs a chaperone/reliable companion for, but nothing that requires it to be an older guardian type person.

Relatedly, I decided I should have more family meals. I could work some plot or exposition into them and it’d be nice. I tend to have too few visible characters.

Sam’s parents are just so much harder to write bleh bleh

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Dinosaurs and Dragons

One of the biggest issues I come across when doing research for things (usually a combination of world-building and just-for–fun) is that all of the interesting scholarly papers – the ones that have actual data, usually – are not publicly accessible in full.

For example, Assessing dinosaur growth patterns: a microscopic revolution by Gregory M. Erickson, which is the top result I got in my search for dinosaur growth rates. Bah.

On the plus side, J has university account access to a bunch of things, like JSTOR, and I also learned through him of which is basically an unofficial online publication place where scientists can upload their papers even while still undergoing review. Which I had actually forgotten about until I started complaining about the paper above! Unfortunately, I think arXiv is mostly physics papers, while what I’m doing right now is biology. …Paleobiology?

OH BOY! This PDF one has a GRAPH! I need more data, though. Deinosuchus is pretty similar to a crocodile so it makes sense it’d have a similar curve – but the Maiasaura has a much more rapid initial growth. But why, is the question. Is it related to its physical structure? To being herbivorous? Something else entirely?

I’ll need to check if I can access this paper on JSTOR with J’s account, later.

….oh, forget that, I just hit the jackpot. Yesss. I think I’m going to tweak my growth curve based on this new data. Or maybe not… I think the initial growth rate should, probably, be steeper, but at the same time, I really like having the sizes sort of spread out. Maybe I’ll put more of a kink in it or something; it can level out faster after reproductive maturity. Hmm. So many thoughts. SO MANY DECISIONS.

On a tangential note, I just discovered that the reason snakes shed a layer off of their eyes as well is because they actually have a scale over their eye instead of an eyelid. Like a contact lens, except… not really.

Man. Snakes.

OH MAN I JUST HAD THE BEST IDEA, okay so see one of the characteristics of my dragons is that they are super colorful (“but aren’t they invisible” yes shut up I’m talking) and you know that there is like this tradition of dragons as being treasure-hoarders, forming beds of gold and gems and suchlike, right?

So, what if – what if – that came from draconic nesting areas having a tendency to collect piles of shed scales? All of these beautiful gem-toned shiny objects in piles that you don’t really get to see up close because OH HELLO THERE IS A GIANT SCARY CREATURE GRINNING ITS FANGS AT ME RUN AWAYYYYY. There may even be a sort of semi-instinctive cultural impetus behind it, like tribal identifiers. Family lines would probably tend to have certain color patterns, so like if it’s mostly blue-greens it could be the Smith family tribe, and if it’s mostly golds then it could be the Jensen family tribe, and so on.

DID YOU KNOW: it is ridiculously difficult to find pictures of shed scales on the internet? I have yet to find any. (tangent: maybe they also use skeletal remains of prior prey in den decoration, that’d be kind of neat. Too bad they don’t have hands, or I bet they’d have a lot of craft-y stuff.)

I wonder how long a fully adult dragon can go without eating, without any major effects on its health… I don’t even know what to research for that. Ooh do you think they have messengers, I bet they have messengers, THAT EXPLAINS MY LAST DILEMMA okay we are good. Still wondering about the eating thing, though.

I wonder if they have colored eggs; I suspect not. I could make them have colored eggs, but I don’t think [spoilers redacted] so I don’t really have a sufficiently plausible excuse to hand-wave it.

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A Rocky Beginning

for Lyn!

“And I’m the rightful king of Scotland.” Jake snorted derisively, looking down at her – or trying, at least. At five foot eight (and a half), Desdemona was taller than at least half the school. “You think I give a shit who your parents are?”

“I think you should know better than to think I’m some weak little girl.” She sank back into a fighter’s crouch, raising her fists. “I also think you’re an asshole.”
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Posted in Fan Fiction | Tagged , | 8 Comments

REVIEW: Grammarly, a web-based grammar-checking program

So my friend B found and linked to this site, Grammarly, and I was intrigued, so decided to check it out.

In order to get an actual breakdown of the proofreading, however, you need to register.

And in order to register, you need to give them payment information for a 7-day free trial with automatic billing if you don’t cancel your subscription before then.

SO! In order to save any of my fellows the trouble of doing that, I have done it and am presenting a detailed summary of how well (or not) it works!

TL;DR: it is terrible for fiction, might be good for academic or professional paper writing.

Let’s begin with the interface.

So that’s how it looks. The right-hand side menu gives an overview of how much it found wrong, and also allows you to click to a specific category of errors to navigate through them specifically.

Since I’m just going through all of them, I’m just using that little ‘Next’ link on the error-info window to progress through the list.

Also, you can see it shows the text which was flagged as an ‘error’ in this context highlighted red, with an explanation of the error and a brief grammar lesson thing.

The ‘Long Explanation’ is basically just a less-brief grammar lesson, so I ignored them because I am grammatically educated.

Now, moving on to the actual grammatical analysis.

Okay, that’s interesting. I admit, it’s a kind of odd turn of phrase on my part, so I can see where that comes from. However, the ‘a’ is actually an article on the ‘half dozen’, not on ‘roses’, so it’s fine.

Fairish point, but I’m using it to modify an adjective, not a verb. It’s exactly where it’s supposed to be.

Haha! I didn’t even know “faulty parallelism” was a thing, actually, in the sense of the term. I just call it verb agreement (which is not the same as subject-verb agreement), but I guess this is why I am not a grammar teacher.

Anyway, JOKE’S ON YOU, “being” is a gerund here so my parallelism is not, in fact, faulty.

…er…….. no. “Perfumed” is an adjective here, and so is “origami”. The noun is “orchids”. (To be fair(?), it is a sentence fragment, so maybe that confused it.)

Nice try but no, it is in fact supposed to be an infinitive right there. Sorry.

I sat here for a few moments just going “omitted words? What?”

And then I realized it thinks the subject of that sentence is “myself”. Ha? No?

My complex sentences apparently confuse the heck out of the poor thing.

It says the subject is the word “her”. Can you find the word “her”? HERE’S A TIP: It’s not even remotely a subject. (I actually had to read it three times before realizing “oh, wait, THAT’S the word they think is the subject?”)

…Huh. I didn’t know that. This warrants further investigation. Potentially good catch.

No, that’s not a comma splice, it’s a… I forget what the word for it is. I do it a lot, though. I just call it an introductory phrase.

It’s totally fine, although I think maybe there should be a comma after “Now”?

That is not doing any of the things you think it’s doing; it’s being a serial comma. Then again, you didn’t realize ‘being’ was a gerund, so…

Grammarly does not like my asides, it appears.

Well, I just reviewed it and I can assure you that there are no commas here between the subject and the verb. (Because there’s no subject.)

Okay so this is in retrospect a terribly written sentence, but it is not in fact a comma splice. It should be rewritten anyway.

Yeah… that’s a sentence fragment. I got nothin’.

Oh well that’s okay, this isn’t formal writing! (I skipped all the other ‘And’ ones because boring.)

Yeahhh that’s a sentence fragment alright.

Also a sentence fragment!

As it turns out, I use quite a lot of sentence fragments in dialogue, so I skipped the rest of them because it was getting tedious.

Okay, okay, that is a horrible sentence. It is. I admit it. But it’s not a sentence fragment. (I know, I know, it sounds like one, but it’s not! ‘His amusement’ is the subject!)

Hmm. Interesting thing to catch! I rather approve. In this particular case, however, it is actually relevant. I could theoretically have said “Is this an elaborate joke?” but the “some sort of” gives it a particular impact.

Also, I think they are going more for writing things such as “that is sort of nice”.

Ooh, another one! That’s fair. I could scrap ‘generally’. I wonder if the effect on the tone would be too much.

“Oh it’s this sentence again.”

Grammarly still does not like my asides.

And it’s still confused as all get-out by my gerund “being”. (I copied the whole thing for the passive voice this time so you can see it, but shan’t for the next few.)

This is, in fact, the passive voice. But I think it’s a legitimate use. “A quiet sound from behind me distracted me from my musings.” No, the passive is better there. It keeps the emphasis on “I”, which is where it should be.

Same as the last one. Interestingly enough, I appear to have used the passive voice for partly the same reason both of these times. This one, however, I also used it for the subject agreement with the second clause.

…yeah no that’s not the passive voice this time, it’s just past.

That’s a copula.

That’s still a copula.

“Hey it’s that sentence again!” Is it the passive if you have an implied doer, i.e. what the thing is being done by? Questioning minds would like to know.

Haha, Grammarly does not like my apostrophes. It yelled at me all four times!

Oh boy. Well, this isn’t formal writing, so…

It yelled at me for every single contraction, which I decided really did not need to be posted.

I am sensing this was definitely not designed to accommodate fiction.

…interesting! I like it! This would potentially be very useful indeed.

It caught all of my uses of ones you would expect; very, nice, good. But…

Simple? Really? You think “easy” is less vague and overused than “simple”? Really?

Boring is a perfectly fine word, I shall have you know!

And that’s that. I am definitely going to be cancelling my account; it is really not worth the kind of money they are charging at all. Even if you are writing formal papers and whatnot. (I hope it’s not too difficult to unsubscribe, blah.)

Posted in Ramblings | Leave a comment

A Rainy Afternoon

It was raining outside; not simply rain, but waves cascading down in a ceaseless deluge. Wall-like sheets of the stuff were the only thing visible out the window, casting a watery grey light into the Burnwood common room – which, as only a few daring souls had ventured out of doors, was rather more densely populated than usual. And as a direct result, substantially louder.

Off in a (relatively) quiet corner of the room in a kidnapped armchair sat – sprawled, rather – Theodore Gainsfeld, a tall dark-haired older boy, maybe sixteen, thoroughly absorbed in a book. Also in the corner were Mallory Waters-Kingston, a tousle-haired boy with an insouciant smile, and Justice Babbet (full name Justice Abides, which his schoolmates treated predictably), a younger freckled boy with curly brown hair and a permanent air of resignation.

Mallory, being the older of the two, had claimed the also-kidnapped ottoman belonging with the armchair, relegating Justice to the floor as the two did their best to talk over the general chaos.
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Posted in Flash Fiction | Tagged | 1 Comment


Part of this setting, but except for a couple unimportant references you don’t need to know about it.

I tossed yet another dozen red roses into the discard pile, flinging myself back into the pile of cushions with a pained sigh. As much as the idea of a day entirely devoted to professions of romantic inclinations appealed to me, the sheer quantities of trite poetry and overpriced roses had led my enthusiasm to wear thin.

Now I must admit, I am quite fond of chocolates, flowers, jewelry, and being showered with gifts from my devoted admirers. That was all well enough. The irritating part was how cheap they all were! Oh, not in terms of cost; they were all quite evidently the most expensive roses and chocolates they could lay their adoring hands upon. Which only served to emphasize their complete lack of discerning taste.

Although sometimes one of them did get things right. There was that one gentleman, David I think his name was, who had a true eye for flowers. He hand-picked a half dozen musk roses in an absolutely beautiful shade of pink and, I could tell, had lovingly arranged the bouquet himself with a few sprigs of purple lilacs and delicate ferns. Now that had been a bouquet to be proud of, both in giving and receiving.

Not like these expensively generic commercial… things.
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Being Normal

part of this thing

All Kristin really wanted in life was to be normal. To outward appearances she seemed normal enough; good grades but not great, a decent boyfriend, a small group of friends, a license but no car. Nothing that would say “there is something strange about this girl”. She did her best to keep it that way.

So it was with a confused lack of enthusiasm that she opened what appeared to be an acceptance packet to a college she had never applied to. Skimming the letter, her eyes immediately zeroed in on one word: magic.

She went back and read the letter again, more carefully. It was an acceptance packet, all right. To a university for people with “special abilities”. People like her.

She viciously crumpled up the letter and shoved the whole packet into the trash, slamming the lid down on it as if she were only forceful enough, it would all go away.

Later that night, after dinner, her mother gave her that “we need to talk, dear” smile and sat down in the kitchen, placing a slightly crumpled but already familiar packet on the table. Kristin’s heart sank.
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