I Was a Child Sexual Harasser

(Edited on 12/18 to make my own viewpoint clearer.)

So, there’s a lot of talk about this little boy who kissed a girl’s hand without her permission, and got suspended for sexual harassment. People seem to be outraged about it, for various reasons, and given my own experience with discipline as a child, I’m a bit baffled.

Is it an outrage because the kid did nothing wrong? No, he did something wrong– he kissed a girl without permission. Someone has to tell him that’s not okay.

Is it an outrage because he’ll have a record of sexual harassment for the rest of his life? No he won’t– as far as I can tell from the articles, no legal charges were brought against him, that was just the language used when punishing him. It will be on his grade-school disciplinary record, but that is not going to follow him into adulthood.

Is it an outrage because suspension is a harsh punishment for a child who didn’t know he was doing anything wrong? Maybe, but according to news stories, this boy had harassed this girl multiple times before, and whatever the teachers had done to try and discourage him, it wasn’t working. They may have seen suspension as a last resort. (Of course, maybe I’m influenced by the fact that suspension never seemed like a big deal when I was a kid… I got suspended a LOT, and my childhood self always felt that it couldn’t be a very severe offense if it was punishable by getting a day off school.)

Let me tell you something about my childhood. I was a socially awkward, often disruptive and badly behaved kid. I’ve talked about it in my book and in speeches. Because I lacked impulse control and understanding of social rules, I did the same sort of thing this kid did. I hurt, offended, and yes, sometimes kissed other students without their permission.

Often, I got suspended for it.

Often, the words “sexual harassment” were used when suspending me.

And I survived. I am now a law-abiding, kind, thoughtful, empathetic, and relatively successful adult.

Punishing children for sexual harassment is not a new thing. I was a kid in the ’80s and ’90s.

It is not unfairly singling out boys. I was a girl, and the kids I kissed were often male.

It does not label you for life as a sex offender. I had a disciplinary record in school, but no one looks at your elementary school record when deciding anything in your adult life.

And it does not ruin your life. In the best cases, it can make kids realize they’re doing something wrong, and turn their behavior around.

Yes, kids don’t necessarily understand what they’re doing. But that is what discipline is for.

Not all disciplinary actions are helpful, of course. But telling a child it’s wrong to steal kisses, and using a suspension to drive the point home, is perfectly reasonable.

I helped write one of the best books of the year, apparently

This is How You Die, the collection that published one of my stories, has been listed on the AV Club’s best books list! I’ll try not to let it go to my head.

Last Christmas

Last year, I was killed in a tragic car crash on Christmas Day. Thanks to my organ donor card, you received a life-saving heart transplant… only to die in another crash on December 26th. Luckily for another heart patient, you also had a donor card. #ParaphrasedSongLyrics

Breathing in a Balloon: The economy when you’re thinking in pictures

When I visualize the economy, I think of a big air-filled balloon we all live in. We float around, breathing in, breathing out, the air flowing from place to place. It’s possible to imagine a world where we could get by without air, but here in the world of this balloon, we all need air to live.

We’re all part plant and part animal in this balloon, because after we breathe air out, anyone else can breathe it in and get the same benefits we got from it. The air passes from person to person, circulating. The whole thing should be a self-sustaining system.

Lately, though… there have been lots of people building additions onto the outside of this balloon, little extra bubbles. Air savings accounts. Now this is fine in moderation, if you have a nice small bubble, just big enough for you. It sets aside a bit of extra air in case you need it later. But some people are taking it to an extreme, making big bloaty bubbles sprout on the outside of our balloon, which begins to look like an inflated rubber glove with hundreds of big fat fingers.

These air-hoarders don’t actually use most of the air they set aside in their bubbles. From time to time, one of them might start a business that pumps a little bit of air back into the main balloon, but for every little bit it pumps in, it pumps more back into that air-hoarder’s bubble. And the bubble gets bigger and bigger, just sitting there not being breathed.

As time went on, the hundreds of people who had huge bubbles on the outside of the balloon gathered so much air into them that there wasn’t enough air left in the main balloon. It got small and soft, like a balloon that’s been leaking air for days, while the air-hoarders’ bubbles stayed fat and shiny. Things got tough for the millions of people who lived and breathed inside the main balloon. Some people went around feeling faint all the time. Some actually suffocated to death.

When they complained, sometimes the only answer they got was, “You’re just not trying hard enough to get air. Anyone can have enough air if they try hard enough.” But the less air there was in the balloon, the harder it was to round up enough for yourself, especially when there were hundreds of millions trying just as hard as you, and only enough air for maybe two-thirds of them to breathe comfortably.

It got to a point where people were panicking about the lack of air. Finally most people agreed that there was a crisis.

The government did some things that didn’t help at all, like pumping a bunch of their air in to fill up some of the air-hoarders’ bubbles that had started to leak air back out into the balloon.

The government also did some things that kind of helped a little, like using a magic machine that could create air out of thin nothingness. They made this air and let it loose into the sagging main balloon. Some people said, “That’s crazy. If you make air out of nothing and add it to what’s already in the balloon, there will be too much inflation, and it’ll ruin our whole system.”

And logically that should have been true, but this wasn’t a logical situation. In this crazy illogical situation, it didn’t hurt to add air to what was already there, because a lot of the air that was already there didn’t count, because it was locked away in the air-hoarders’ bubbles, and couldn’t be affected by anything out in the main balloon.

This doesn’t mean that the choice to make air out of nothing was a great choice. It wasn’t the best thing they could have done, but the fact that it didn’t ruin things just goes to show how crazy the whole scenario was.

And so the crisis got a little less terrible. People weren’t panicking as much anymore. The air-hoarders didn’t learn the lesson that their hoarding was ruining the balloon. After the worst of the crisis passed, they just kept sucking more air out into their bubbles as if nothing had happened, as if they couldn’t even see how the air in the main balloon was getting thin again as they continued.

People went on feeling faint, and people went on suffocating. When they complained, sometimes the only answer they got was, “If you don’t have enough air to breathe, then don’t breathe so much! You can survive on less than you’re breathing.” But those same people didn’t say the same thing to the air-hoarders, who were the ones who were really taking a lot more air than they needed.

This really is the imagery I get when I think about the economy. I think in pictures, especially when I’m trying to understand a complex system. And to visualize this system, the soft sagging balloon with growing, swelling bubbles on the outside is the picture my mind makes.

Seeing this picture in my head, it’s incredibly hard not to conclude that the logical solution is for the bubbles on the outside to release their air back in. It’s simple physics. I can’t imagine anything that would work better.

When somebody says, “But the big businesses are creating jobs and putting money into the economy!” I don’t know how I can make others see what I see. As the businesses get more profitable, my mind’s eye can see the bubbles swelling, and I can see the relative amount they’re pumping back in, and it is not enough to help.

When someone says, “Poor people are a drain on the economy because they’re accepting welfare when they don’t need it!” I am baffled, because I can see the tiny, tiny puffs of air that welfare is directing at the poor people in the balloon, and it is practically nothing compared to the big fat rubber-glove-fingers that belong to the air-hoarders.

When someone says “Anyone can become rich if they try hard enough,” I try to picture every person in the main balloon getting really industrious and working hard to build a big fat bubble-account. I try to picture it, but the math doesn’t work– there are too many of them, and not enough air left in the main balloon, and they each end up with just a teeny tiny soda-pop bubble that would barely last them a day.

Am I seeing it wrong? Is everyone else visualizing a different picture? Or are most people not thinking in pictures at all?

The Second Mango, by Shira Glassman: A Book Review

Full disclosure: I didn’t receive any gifts in exchange for writing this review. However, the author is a dear friend of mine, and she and I were sharing and proofreading each other’s writing back when we were college kids, so I can’t promise a purely objective review. I will do my best to be honest, though, and I wouldn’t write this if I didn’t like the book!

“The Second Mango,” by Shira Glassman, is a fantasy story about (as the author says) “a gay woman, a straight woman, and a dragon.” The gay woman, Shulamit, is the young queen of Perach. The straight woman, Rivka, is a warrior from another nation. The dragon is a shape-shifter that can be either dragon or horse, and provides transportation as the two women travel together, seeking a potential sweetheart for the lonely Shulamit.

The account of their journey is interspersed with flashbacks to the passions in each of their pasts: Rivka’s star-crossed love for her late mentor Isaac, whose vow of chastity prevented anything from happening even before she lost him… and Shulamit’s long-ago romance with the palace cook Aviva, who nursed her through sickness, won her heart, and then left. Despite their differences, Shula and Riv find they have an uncommon amount in common.

The story, however, steers clear of the expected tropes. This is not a tale of a lesbian convincing a straight woman to explore gay love; the plot goes in another direction, which I think turns out to be far more satisfying. Things work out in a way that I never saw coming, even though in retrospect it makes perfect sense.

There were some aspects of the surprise ending that seemed perhaps too convenient, but then, this is a world of magic and mysticism, where it’s easy to imagine a kindly personification of Fate smiling on the heroines. They certainly deserve it; I liked them both from the beginning.

I also loved the characters of Isaac and Aviva in the flashbacks. Rivka and Isaac have a very entertaining rapport, and Aviva’s voice is adorable, constantly finding weird and random ways to describe things. (I guess this is one more thing Shira Glassman and I have in common. I too have a weakness for bizarre speech patterns, although Draz’s speech in my book “Kea’s Flight” is a different brand of weirdness.)

The approach to social issues is also very fresh and original. Shulamit is wealthy and sheltered, Rivka is a skilled warrior who supports herself. Shulamit is a lesbian in a country where such things are barely talked about; Rivka belongs to the expected sexual orientation. Rivka grew up shamed for being born out of wedlock, and never got to know her father; Shulamit grew up with a loving father but then lost him in a tragic accident. Their struggles are different, but the story never implies that one struggles more than the other, or that one’s concerns are more valid.

It also breaks many rules about what character traits are “supposed” to go together. The lesbian loves pretty dresses and jewelry; the straight woman carries a sword and dresses in men’s armor. The seasoned warrior is a virgin; the sweet and sheltered princess has experience with physical intimacy. Both are far more complex than the archetypes of fairy tales.

Shulamit’s complexity contains a few more interesting factors. She is a bit of a geek and bookworm, with great talent for figuring out puzzles. And, unlike any other heroine I’ve seen in an adventure novel, she suffers from debilitating allergies: some foods are indigestible to her and make her violently ill.

Having a somewhat sensitive digestive system myself, I was initially concerned that the book would contain some distasteful scenes. Such issues hit close to home for me, and I can get very uncomfortable reading about them. But I needn’t have worried. By the time the story happens, Shulamit has gotten very good at managing her condition. Though her need to avoid certain foods becomes very relevant to the plot in some places, the worst events are all in the past, and are mentioned quite discreetly.

And I have to admit it’s wonderful to see a heroine with a disability, even one that’s considered “mild,” such as food sensitivities. As a girl who grew up diagnosed with various mild disorders, I had a shortage of relatable role models in popular culture.

No Disney princess even wears glasses, not even the book-loving Belle. Little girls with less-than-perfect vision learn early that they have to get contacts or eye surgery if they want to dress up convincingly as their fairy tale heroines. Girls with allergies must similarly feel that there’s no one in the world who has faced the same troubles and succeeded in life.

Shulamit breaks with tradition here, and unlike heroines “cursed” with a disability, like Disney’s mute Little Mermaid, Shulamit doesn’t need to break her curse to have a happy ending.

The title, “The Second Mango,” reminds me of the struggling author in Agatha Christie’s “Mystery of the Spanish Shawl,” who was writing a story titled “The Second Cucumber” just because he thought the words sounded interesting. I imagine Shira Glassman having similar inspiration. The title is certainly intriguing, and while it does tie in to a market-shopping scene that forms a significant point in the development of the heroines’ friendship, it feels as if the story was built more around the title than vice versa. But then, the book is partly about playful words and food metaphors, so it doesn’t seem so out of place.

Yes, this is the author’s first novel, and in some ways the writing shows this. But it also shows a creative and clever mind, and a skill for delicately beautiful descriptions of food, flowers and nature, which often have a charming old-fashioned feel that hearkens back to the prose of Jane Austen or Lucy Maud Montgomery. And, as someone who has been allowed a sneak preview of the sequel, I can say with certainty that this new author is getting better and better.

“The Second Mango” is available from Prizm Books.

Smartphone Software Review

phone

So, a while ago I saw an ad, on the top of the webcomic “Questionable Content.” It’s one of my favorite webcomics, and it usually doesn’t support itself with ads for crappy stuff, so I thought the ad was worth a try– even though it made the dubious claim that the advertised product allowed you to earn money with your smartphone.

Turned out the ad was for an app called “tTap,” downloadable at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bcd.ttap. The idea is: 

-The app makes an advertisement show up on your screen before you unlock your phone. 

-A company is paying to put the ad there. Some of the money from that goes to the makers of the app, and some goes to you.

-You get the money by saving up “points” that you get when you unlock the phone. When you have enough points, you can exchange them for money that is deposited in your PayPal account.

The app had pretty good reviews, and I didn’t have anything better to do at the moment, so I downloaded it. First it had me set up an account on their website, and give them the email address connected to my PayPal account. 

After a few weeks of using it, these are my observations:

1. 

The app runs pretty smoothly now. During the first week I was using it, it was still pretty buggy, and crashed a few times– I had to reinstall it at one point. But because my account is on their site, I didn’t lose any points when reinstalling. And now they seem to have fixed most of the bugs.

2.

The ads are not that bad. They don’t play sound, and they aren’t videos, they’re just a picture and words (sometimes with a little bit of animation) that you see before you unlock the phone. You get it to go away by putting your finger in the lower right corner and moving the circle across the screen to the left. As you move it, a number will appear, showing you how many points you will get for that ad. 

Once you’ve done this, it takes you to your usual screen where you enter your PIN to unlock the phone, and then it opens up a website linked from the ad. Based on the interests I entered when I signed up for it, I generally get ads for apps, games, photographers and other artists. It doesn’t fit perfectly with what I thought I expressed in my choice of interests, but it’s not totally obnoxious.

You can close the website right after it opens, or even as it’s loading. For me, the whole process only takes a few seconds longer than unlocking my phone normally. 

3.

It really does pay you money. If you have a Paypal account and you have at least 1500 points to cash in, you can receive an actual Paypal payment. I’ve received three payouts so far– totalling $3.

Which brings us to the one catch:

 
4.

Unsurprisingly,  it doesn’t pay very much money. 

On a typical ad, unlocking your phone gets you 10 points. Every once in a while you get an ad for a free app that gives you 150 points if you download the app– because certain apps are supported with ads from tTap’s sponsors– but those are rare; I’ve only gotten 2 so far.

It takes 1500 points to equal one dollar, so 10 points is less than a cent. To earn a dollar (the minimum amount for getting a Paypal payout) you have to gain points from unlocking your phone 150 times.

Of course, if you sat around all day constantly unlocking your phone, you could game the system, so there are some restrictions. Unlocking your phone doesn’t get you points if it’s been less than 20 minutes since the last time you earned points. So in addition to taking 150 unlocks to earn a dollar, it also takes about ten days, if you unlock your phone an average of 15 times a day. Even if you unlocked it every 20 minutes, like clockwork, for ten hours a day, it would still take five days to make a dollar.

So is it worth it? Suppose unlocking your phone this way takes about 5 seconds longer than unlocking your phone without the ads. Every 150 unlocks (or every 750 seconds of your time) earns you a dollar, so you’re working for about $4.80 an hour. Not a great wage by any stretch of the imagination.

But on the other hand, I figure my time is only worth money if I might otherwise be using it to earn money, or do something else valuable. I use my smartphone just to keep myself from dying of boredom while waiting for various things, and I have an unlimited data plan. If I weren’t spending those five extra seconds seeing an ad, those would just be five more seconds I’d be blankly staring at some website to kill time, so I might as well make three-quarters of a cent off it.

Full disclosure: The company that made tTap didn’t offer me anything in exchange for writing this review. However, if you download this app and enter “earthtoerika” (my tTap username) when it asks how you found out about it, I get 500 points, so I can’t claim this review has no motive to be biased.

Is it safe for pregnant women to eat pomegranates?

A while ago I was reading about the history of pomegranates, and saw some mention that they were used as birth control in ancient times. Researching more on the subject, I found a few other mentions of this, including several references to a study that showed an effectiveness rate of 72% in rats and 100% in guinea pigs.

I can’t find anything that specifically quotes the source of the study, or whether it has been successfully repeated with other groups of rats or guinea pigs. And I can’t find out whether any studies suggest it works in humans, or any mentions of how it’s supposed to work. (What chemicals in the fruit have that effect? Does it prevent conception, or cause miscarriage?) It’s as if this study happened and then everyone lost interest, and no one ever tried to do any more research on the subject.

Now, I can understand that science would have little interest in this for purposes of birth control, because we already have effective birth control methods, and thus we have no real need for any insights the pomegranate might give us.

But, what about women who WANT to have kids? If eating pomegranates can prevent, or even end, a pregnancy, surely those who hope to be mothers would want to know that! And lately, with pomegranates being constantly touted as superfoods and healthy sources of antioxidants, there must be lots of expectant mothers eating them, with no knowledge of their other possible effects.

Now, I have no interest in ever having children, and I love pomegranates and would never stop eating them. But considering how many women are desperate to conceive and give birth, I’m scratching my head as to why there hasn’t been more research on this.

Siri Foraging in an Advent Calendar


Starlings– mostly insectivorous in the wild– love to stick their beaks into small spaces and pry them open looking for food. Sirius Marley does this with pockets, folds in clothing, our mouths, the spaces between our fingers, any little nook and cranny he can find. His current favorite foraging toy is a cloth Advent calendar with 25 pockets, in which I hide treats for him.

Blueberry massacre

Sirius Marley eats a blueberry: stab, stab, pry apart, tear into shreds, fling the shreds everywhere, hunt them down and eat them one by one.

My Christmas tradition

When I was a kid, I had a little fake tree for Christmas, and a whole box of cheap wooden earrings shaped like parrots. I’d gotten them on sale at the shop of a bird-breeder friend of the family, and I used them as ornaments.

Gradually the tree and the earrings fell apart, to the point they weren’t worth keeping anymore. But the tradition lives on.

My tree now is made of copper wire, which I twisted into branches and planted in a round ceramic pot.

Each year, I buy a pair of earrings from some independent artist on Etsy: earrings with gemstones and birds. All sorts of gemstones, all sorts of birds, many different artists, supporting a new small-time jeweler every year. Once I bought a big round ring for a tree topper.

I fill the extra space with ball ornaments, but as time goes on, I’ll need fewer of those. I bought and cut the copper wire with serious consideration for the number of end twigs it would give me, and there are hundreds. Copper lasts forever. In another eighty years, the tree may be totally covered with shiny birds.

Siri’s healthy new feathers and feet

Sirius Marley the starling is no longer bald-faced from fighting with other starlings. In the time he’s been living with me, he’s grown a face full of pretty feathers!

That picture is also the latest in a series of photos showing the improvement of Siri’s feet! When we first adopted him, he had pretty severe hyperkeratosis (overgrowth of keratin, such as leg scales, claws and beak), which can be a result of nutrient deficiency or other things that can impede a healthy molt. His leg scales in particular were huge! With good food, sunlight and an aloe gel regimen, he’s made a lot of progress:

(Update: Another picture added in December)

(Update: Another picture added in January)

Lunchbox lifehack

I’ve started using little glass canning jars as lunch containers. You can get them quite cheap in the kitchen supplies section of a big Target store. They get cleaner than plastic containers when you wash them (no food odors hanging around!) and if you take the tops off, they’re microwave safe. Freezer safe too, according to the package, and dishwasher safe. (The tops might rust after too many times in the dishwasher, but can easily be replaced with any jar lid of the same size.)

Eight of them in a little lunchbox, filled with things like squash, lentil soup, watermelon chunks, mixed nuts, crackers, cottage cheese, yogurt and applesauce, is enough to get me through a full day at work.

Also, if you can find this pumpkin-spice cider at Aldi, it’s delicious, and the bottles make great, well-sealed water containers to take to lunch.

What you’re in for, if you party with me

Dirty Halloween costumes? Nerdy Halloween costumes? I’m beyond that. I’ll fake you out with a costume that looks as if it’s going to be dirty, then hits you in the face with nerdy.

And then halfway through the party I’ll turn into a leather-clad Romulan, just because.

Also, I’ll eat ALL your caramel apples.

Fall Extravaganza, more info

Here’s the latest info on the Fall Extravaganza. To enter to win copies of my books, sign in with Facebook at the bottom (or your email address), and follow the Facebook page for Kea’s Flight, my @earthtoerika Twitter account, or my Abby and Norma blog.

(I’m not yet quite sure if which page you follow affects which book you’ll be entered to win. I’ll look into that.)

Welcome to the 

Fall Book Extravaganza Giveaway!


 

We are excited to announce that this is our first year hosting the Fall Book Extravaganza Giveaway and we had 25 awesome authors and book bloggers sponsor over 55 prizes, including a Kindle Fire! Below you will find a Rafflecopter where you can enter to win one of these FABULOUS PRIZES! 

GRAND PRIZE: Kindle Fire HD
Plus, 55+ other great prizes!

ENTER TO WIN!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


You can find more information about the great 
authors & bloggers who made this giveaway possible at: 

Overcompensating Aspie: now I take everything figuratively.

A beautifully framed proverb was displayed on a bookshelf in the room where we had the autism meet last night.

“When the flame is on, the glass doors are to be left open.”

It took me about five minutes to realize this was right next to a fireplace, and it wasn’t a metaphor.

Fall Extravaganza!

Here’s a little post to tell you about my participation in the Beyond Words Fall Extravaganza Giveaway! Between October 21st and November 9th, you can enter to win any of several free copies of my books, as well as other cool prizes.

Prizes I’m contributing:

2 signed print copies of the science fiction novel Kea’s Flight (the special exclusive edition that you can only get directly from me, containing a lexicon of the made-up language described in the book)

2 signed print copies of the story collection If the World Ended, Would I Notice?

2 digital copies of Kea’s Flight in mobi, epub or pdf form

2 digital copies of If the World Ended, Would I Notice? in mobi, epub or pdf form

Recently added:

2 signed print copies of the Abby and Norma comic collection, “Everything Happens for a Reason (but nothing happens for a GOOD reason)”

Go on over and check it out!

Sirius Marley Black, our new pet

I have been waiting for this so long.

Yesterday we adopted a new bird!

Machine of Death sequel finally out!

The story anthology “This is How You Die” is out today!!! My story “Furnace” is in it, and so are lots of other great stories and illustrations.
My story is illustrated by Trudy Cooper of the webcomic Oglaf!

It’s already at like #143 on the Amazon bestsellers… let’s get it even higher!

And if you like my story, remember I also have a collection of my own short stories: If the World Ended, Would I Notice?

Review for Deltan Skies

Today I’m being a host for an online book tour for Deltan Skies, by Noah Murphy.

This is a very unique and complex science-fantasy novel in which humans, dragons, trolls, goblins, elves, and several other mythical species live in a high-tech world dominated by various warring corporations and mobs. A detective and his assistant struggle to face growing conflict with a parrot-like avian species that has built an enormous crime syndicate in the city of New Delta.

Murphy shows a remarkable grasp of the workings of politics and economics. I was also impressed by the amount of thought that went into this complex world of mythical creatures and their different psychologies and cultures. The book does have various editing and formatting errors, and sometimes the sections of expository narrative can seem out of place, but I still say this author has great potential.

Here’s my interview with him:

1. I’ve volunteered at a parrot rescue, and I also kept a very difficult rescued parrot for many years. I can see a lot of genuine parrot characteristics in your avian characters: affectionate but vengeful and misunderstood. How has your own experience with birds influenced your writing?

Before I begin it’s important to note that Deltan Skies grew out of a novella called a Clear and Feathered Danger I released 2 years ago, but decided to rewrite because I felt the story could’ve been done better.

Now, the entire idea for parrot gangsters can from my experiences volunteering at a parrot rescue myself. Despite the avians in the book are based on macaws, it was actually cockatoos that inspired me initially. The cockatoos at the rescue would escape their cages, steal your feed, stalk you around, and hold you hostage until you preened them. So I though what if they were a criminal empire meant to make you miserable? To get a plot out of the criminal parrots, I added them into the wider fantasy world of Terrall, a fantasy world that I had been toying around with for several years.

When I wrote A Clear and Feathered Danger, I found myself paralleling the misunderstood nature of parrots to a point. The avians were bad guys who wanted to blow up and destroy New Delta because they had been mistreated by society. When I turned the novella into Delta Skies, I emphasized their mistreatment to make them more sympathetic, and have other groups take the role of the big bad villains.

2. What education do you have in economics and politics? Your portrayal of this dysfunctional city seems very true to life in many places. 

I have a BA in Philosophy and Religion. Originally I was going to go to philosophy grad school, but decided that it wasn’t for me so I left and went into accounting for a few years, working while taking courses at a community college. Had the requisite course work to take the CPA exam, but again, it wasn’t for me. Therefore, while I have no formal education in politics, studying accounting gave me a very good understanding of business and economics.

When I set out to create the city of New Delta and other societies in my world, I speculated how they might end up functioning based on a set of parameters, in many ways like a science-fiction author would. By doing this, Terrall becomes a living world as complex as our own.

For example, let’s take New Delta’s legislature, the City Senate. Because New Delta is an ultra-dense city with two hundred million citizens packed into sixteen hundred mile-high towers, elections based on location didn’t make sense. Trying to make districts like they are in the real world, based on population would be a nightmare in a three-dimensional space, especially with gerrymandering. To simplify things in New Delta, senators would be elected in a glorified popularity contest, only needing a minimum number of votes to get elected. This creates its own set of unique problems and circumstances, which also get addressed in the same manner.

3. How do you choose the characters’ names? Do any of them have meanings to you?

Names don’t have meanings to me since I use a variety of different naming patterns. Humans have a Hispanic name with a random last name. This came from Alfonso Deegan, the first human character I named. While I made Alfonso’s name up, I decided to have it fit into a larger pattern of human naming. For some fantasy races including elves and orcs, meanwhile, I use online name generators to make it simpler. For others, I make them up using a general idea. Ogres and trolls, for example, have short one-or-two syllable first names with a descriptive surname, like Trogg the Genius or Borga the Rocket.

4. As a language lover, I was interested by the wide variety of dialects and speech patterns you used for the different species. People who grew up speaking different languages bring different distortions to English when they learn it, based on the grammar of their own languages. Have you thought a lot about the structure of the native languages spoken by the non-human characters?

Have I come with up entire fantasy languages like Klingon or Elvish in Lord of the Rings? No. You’ll never “hear” Goblin Energongnan or Teolian Elvish. I’m incredibly poor at foreign languages. However, language reflects culture and identity, and I sought to emphasize that. Goblin dialect reflects their learned, but aloof nature. They can say very profound things, but their syntax is just different enough to justify dismissing them. It’s not even human languages I do this with. The clicking of the dolphin-like Mer translates into childlike speech. While Mer don’t have the minds of children, they can often act like children in terms of how they approach the world and it’s reflected in their speech.

Full disclosure: I was given a free copy of Deltan Skies so I could do this review. I don’t say anything untrue in my reviews, but I am Minnesota Nice, so I can’t guarantee my statements are unbiased.

Jewelry site revamped!

In case anyone cares about my weird obsessions: I’ve totally recreated my jewelry website!

I feel that the appearance now fits my medieval sense of aesthetics– my jewelry would sell better at a Renaissance fair than any of the places I’ve tried to sell it, and up until now, the website design didn’t quite reflect that.

Also, I have to say mercantec.com is a *wonderful* shopping cart generator to work with. I had no trouble at all getting it set up and integrated with Amazon Payments, and it’s so very user friendly– little things like saving details I’ve entered on one item so that I don’t have to re-enter them for every item, you’d be amazed at how helpful that is.