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Welcome to the untidy corner where I toss my random thoughts and crib sheets.

My suggestions for writing military women originate from experience I share with under two million women in this country. While perceptions and social interactions in the military can be related to gender, the work and some of the traits can be gender agnostic. Even though I point out traits and experiences that can be similar for military women, remember that soldiers and veterans are still individuals with a unique personality.

The barebone notes I capture from MinnSpec workshops target attendees of the workshops for use as a memory aid. If based out of the Twin City area, consider attending the workshop events to obtain more detailed information. MinnSpec hosts two workshops a month, one in Minneapolis, and one in East Saint Paul. Sorry that ESP stands for East Saint Paul and not extrasensory powers.

The remaining posts contain random musings unrelated to writing.

Bring Your Dragon to Work Day 2019

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Pictures from the inaugural “Bring Your Dragon to Work Day” celebrated the Tuesday following Memorial Day. Don’t tell the Dammit Doll it’s not a dragon.

Mine! Mine! Picking the Mind of a Geologist

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Luckily I had a geologist up my sleeve when creating the story of a dragon snoozing in a copper mine. A friend of mine with a degree in geology had worked in a geology-based field. I plied her with coffee and wheedled her secrets from her!

The technology in this story correlates to roughly what existed in the 11th to 13th century. A portion of the tale occurs in a volcano turned mountain containing natural copper veins.

Q: Could the mountain have a forest on it?
If yes, what is the minimum span that would need to occur for conditions to have a dense forest at least at the base of the mountain?

A: Yes – Depends on the rest of the composition of the mountain. Standard mountains where copper exists requires hundreds to thousands of years for a luscious forest to form.

The trees would be mostly coniferous trees; Douglas firs, hemlocks, cedars, and pines.

Q: Could there still be warmth, even slight warmth in the mountain.
If so, how far down?

A: Yes – at least 9km miles down (the crust is 10km thick at the ocean) if the cavern is at sea level.

Q: Could natural copper exist in this mountain?
If not, is there a metal that could?

A: Yes, it can. Copper can form in volcanic mountains depending on how the mountain is created. If the mountain is like the volcanoes on the west coast – intrusive (inside) magma deposits – you can find copper and other minerals) in vein deposits. The veins form when the rocks in the middle of the mountains break because of various pressures (happens naturally) and those cracks and spaces fill with the deposits of your choice (depends on the chemistry of the lava). This kind of extraction requires a mine like you are talking about to be created to go into the mountain and receive it. They did this a long time ago, so your timeline works as well. I would recommend you use this type of “rock building.”

Another way copper deposits can form is through basaltic lava flows – extrusive (outside of the volcano). This volcano would be similar to the Hawaii Island volcanoes. The lava is rich in all sorts of minerals, but they are TINY. In the cooling process, similar mineral structures grow around each other but in smaller deposits. The way to gather these deposits is through open pit mining and then melt them down to extract all of the minerals separately (this is based on my VERY limited knowledge of mining PS).

Q: What gem could exist here too?

A: With the intrusive way of mining – yes. You can get gold, iron, silver, and lots of gems (emeralds [mineral name: Beryl], rubies and sapphires, but not diamonds though – those are a special kind of gem).

Q: I picked obsidian because it looked like it could work, but I’m happy with any gem.

A: Obsidian requires extrusive volcanoes as it’s volcanic glass that cools rapidly. Obsidian deposits form in the layers of basaltic flows over hundreds of thousands of years that volcanoes erupt. Its harder to get other types of mineral deposits with extrusive deposits.

Iron is VERY commonly found with copper and gold if you are going for accuracy
Copper prefers to bond with itself and other minerals.

Q: Could the metal and gem both be found in the same large cavern?

A: Yes because the chemical makeup of the magma is ever changing as is slowly cools.
One additional note was that the metals would be on the surface of the cavern, but the gems would be inside the walls.

Q: Were wooden beams used to reinforce mine shafts during the period where my story takes place?

A: I’m not sure – I want to say yes as it was how the Egyptians kept their small spaces open while they were building tombs and that was a LONG time before the time frame of your story.

Q: Would it be possible for the dragon to cause a cave-in of the tunnel he used to get into the large cavern to make it so people wouldn’t easily find him?

A: Yes, it just depends on how broken up the rock is structurally.

Q: How would he cause the cave-in?

A: He’s clumsy and disturbs the precariously positioned rocks that have already been broken up over the natural pressures. It’s known as “rotten” mountains.

Q: How would he undo it when he wanted to leave?

A: Good question – usually you can’t. I would recommend having two release tubes/venting shafts. One the dragon can destroy and the secondary being a “secret” one that people don’t know exists.

Q: Is there a more straightforward way to ensure his privacy while he hibernates that hasn’t occurred to me?

A: Secret secondary vent shaft thing that the humans never found.

Additional Information

  • The presence of water is necessary for all of this to happen.
  • At some point up the side of the mountain, the vegetation will cease to grow making a sharp demarcation line.
  • Three different ways to form mountains
    • Intrusive made by lava flows – big crystal structures, granite, explosive eruptions
    • Extrusive are lava flows on lava flows – Hawaiian islands there are rocks – won’t have crystals
    • Rocks smashed together – Himalayas pressurized metamorphosed granite, not mined; except for countertops.

One of the things she geeked out about was the how copper changes to glossy, bubbly shapes called popcorn when heated and cooled in its veins. I told her about basic dragon first aid and its heating element.

Thank you Julie for taking the time to explain rocks to me.


Reverend Matt’s Monster Science Theater – MSP Workshop Notes

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Matt Kensen, the creator of Reverend Matt’s Monster Science, shared his experiences building the series from its origins in 2012 to its current state.  The performance series Reverend Matt’s Monster Science meshes science and historical fact with humor to educate and entertain.

Workshop notes:

  • The series contains informational and humor
    • Weaves in science and history
    • Adding comedy hooks people to listen to the non-fictional information
      • The sword’s edge of using comedy nicks when people think everything being said is a joke
    • He enjoys both the fact and the humor, and wouldn’t willing pick to drop either aspect of the series
      • But the exploring the facts is a large part of what draws him to the content
  • Development history
    • Matt had been in theater for a number of years
    • In 2012 contacted by someone involved with The Encyclopedia Show held at Kieran’s Irish Pub
      • The show is a monthly verbal presentation of an encyclopedia entry
      • The theme for August 2012 theme was mythological creatures
      • Matt created The Mystery of the Griffin’s Ears, 8 minute talk
    • For a number of years he presented monster facts and humor related to the show’s monthly topic
    • Approached by Fearless Comedy Production’s 50 hour comedy marathon, Die Laughing
      • Created his first long form 30 minute set
    • Phoenix Theater used to have a late night monthly series
      • Matt became a regular
    • In the beginning of 2017,  the Science Museum of Minnesota had a special exhibit about mythological creatures
      • An acquaintance approached Matt about doing a 40 minute presentation
    • Won the performer lottery and presented “What To Do In Case Of Dinosaur Attack” at the 2018 Minnesota Fringe Festival
      • Only had a slight uptick in followers afterward
      • The Fringe audience doesn’t follow artists outside of Fringe
    • Now has a late night series at the Phoenix Theater devoted to Reverend Matt’s Monster Science
  • Monstrous information
    • The definition of monster he uses in regard to the series: a creature that does not currently exist.
    • Four categories for the presentations
      • Paleontology
      • Cryptozoology – things people believe currently, big foot, loch ness
      • Mythology
      • Outright fictional
    • Why do monsters cause fear?
      • A portion of the fear derives from the survival instinct
        • Claws and teeth can kill
      • Some of the best terror is the terror of the unknown
      • Monsters are quintessential outsiders
        • Monster are about the outside
        • Creatures made of other creatures is unnatural
    • Read Joseph Nigg’s The Book of Fabulous Beasts  for its compilation of western mythology.
      • He wished the book covered eastern mythology too.
    • Most of what he knows about physical structure is from studying paleontology
      • There are two general levels of paleontology books
        • This is a triceratops.
        • This is the length of the tooth of <abc dinosaur> found at the <xyz dig>.
      • The trick is to find books that balance between those two
    • I asked questions about the issues with griffin flight he mentioned because dragons would have similar issue
      • Two big problems are the attachment of muscles, and weight
        • For muscle attachment he has a theory of a double rib cage to support the structure of the muscles for six limbs
        • For the weight issue he talked about the pterasaur  quetzalcoatlus
          • 30 foot wing span, 400 lbs
          • Hollow bones, optimized for flight
          • A paleontologist did a study to determine if you could strap yourself the bottom of a quetzalcoatlus and it could still fly
            • The study results determined it would still be capable of flight.
  • Creating a presentation
    • Pick a topic
      • Generating initial ideas isn’t a problem
        • The effort comes in creating something informational, entertaining, and approachable
    • Research to get supporting facts
      • His research for the shows delved into eclectic areas of history, science, and politics based on the driving idea of a specific presentation
    • Deadlines are necessary because it’s easy to procrastinate without a deadline
    • He re-reads old scripts that have been successful in the past as a good luck talisman
  • Evolving as an artist
    • Find your audience
      • Who enjoys your work?
    • Find out what your place is in the world and do that thing
      • Said humorously, what’s the difficulty in that?
      • What you love may not be too weird for the world
      • People are drawn to people doing what they obviously love
    •  Have an ambition more specific than being a writer
      • His example is that he would like to have a show where he goes to locations and talks about the monsters from that location
        • Loch Ness, etc.
    • Be self analytical
      • He thinks about how comedy works
    • Keep doing your thing
      • Experience leads to improvements
        • Even if you don’t feel like you are getting better, you can without perceiving it yourself
      • Confidence increases as you do a thing more
      • Building a reputation for your work helps
        • In his case people laugh more because his reputation helps them
    • Get feedback
  • General tips
    • Don’t devalue yourself
      • Ask for money
      • They aren’t going to be angry
    • Originality is arranging and combining ideas in ways they haven’t been seen before
      • Complete originality prohibits communication
        • Art is self expression
        • But expression doesn’t work unless there is communication
      • Don’t emulate a single other artist
      • Emulating a conglomeration of your influences is okay because that’s who you are
        • Goes back to the point of originality combining things in a way that hasn’t been seen before
    • Impostor syndrome is a natural state for most of us
    • Collaborate when you can
    • If providing time for questions at the end, let people know at the beginning of the presentation
    • Interviewing people is a skill set
      • If you are going to interview someone, intentionally seek to learn the skill
    • Reading your work to an audience isn’t necessary
      • Reading is completely different animal from writing


Minneapolis Speculative Fiction for Your Auditory Consumption

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If you suffer from an insatiable desire to consume tales of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, Minneapolis boasts multiple recurring speculative fiction reading events showcasing talented authors. Their stories transport listeners to other worlds, worlds with humor, terror, or frighteningly realistic corollaries to today.

The monthly Speculations Reading Series at DreamHaven Books selects a book a month nestling the audience among tempting shelves full of stories. Authors read from the book, and are available for signings of the books. In January, the series switches up the format with a round robin reading open to speculative fiction authors in attendance.

The Not-So-Silent Planet: A Speculative Fiction Open-Mic invites speculative fiction authors to read from their works in an open mic format, and sprinkles two or three special guests readings into each event. The monthly events occur October through March in Kieran’s Irish Pub.

WordBrew curates a dozen local authors annually to read a few minutes of their works to a live audience. After the readings, they hang out,  to connect with new fans, and the authors to sell and sign books.

Other annual sources of access to these authors are local conventions; CONvergenceMinicon, and Diversicon.

The Not-So-Silent Planet and Wordbrew represent excellent opportunities for fans to experience a variety of authors and genres all in one event. The Speculation Reading Series offers extended time with an individual book. Find your next favorite author at one of these events.



Writing Diverse Characters – ESP Workshop

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Notes from the MinnSpec ESP Writing Diverse Characters workshop led by Nishi Peters.

There is not a lot of diversity in science fiction and fantasy. The representation doesn’t match the world around us.

Not a lot of people have backgrounds of characters they create, so they create stereotypical characters.

Our responsibility as writers is to show people who have a different way of thinking.

Common themes, or lack of theme

  • Disabilities are rarely portrayed.
  • Heroes are pretty.
  • Villains are ugly.

Consider when writing diverse characters, are they authentic?

  • Merely changing the appearance isn’t enough.
  • Make the character believable and not stereotyped.

As an example, when considering writing Indian people, learn about who they are as people. People from India, and people with Indian heritage raised in America have differing cultures. Even in India, a lot of variable cultures exist.

General Comments

  • Portray the characters as human beings
  • Do a lot of research on them
    • Follow actor training by observing people in public.
    • Read biographies.
    • Talk to people.
  • Begin with the rules, and how your character interacts in the rules.
    • Common, shared experiences can be used as a basis for the character.
    • No one is perfectly representative.
    • After understanding the rules, consider how each person handles problems in their own way.
      • People from the same background can have dissimilar perspectives and preferences
  • Provide the sort of depth you would about any character.
  • We can relate to each other through our differences without making it a big deal.
  • What does your character notice first when they enter the scene? What they notice can provide a clue to their character.
  • What if a character isn’t human and doesn’t have the same primary senses than us?
  • If you are going to write a character that is different from yourself, don’t make the story about that difference.
  • Characterization can be small nuances, how someone holds a fork or slouches
  • Visualize the gestures and actions in the story
    • Imagine acting out the gestures can help write them, and flesh them out.