04. September 2017 · Comments Off on BLOG, Sept. 2, 2017 · Categories: Blog

I just wanted to tell you about a new story I’m working on, a departure for me. It’s a children’s book about a boy who lives in prehistoric times. His people are hunter-gatherers, but they’re living in a pre-agricultural revolution period.  In other words, though his people are mostly nomadic, and travel from place to place depending on the season, other people, even in their living area, are beginning to plant trees and vegetables, in order to have food available where they live, rather than having to move around all the time.

So here’s a portion of my first draft of GORTA AND THE HOLE.

Page 1 – A long, long time ago, little Gorta lived in a hut with his mama and daddy.  Gorta was 7 years old, and he had a dog.  The two of them loved to play.

Page 2 – The dog’s name was Broot.  He was almost as big as Gorta.  The hut where they lived in the summer was only half of their home.

Page 3 – In the winter, Gorta and his mama and daddy and Broot would go to their winter hut.  They would walk a long way, for three whole days, to their hut near a river.

Page 4 – When it was almost time to go to the winter hut, Mama started to pack up food.  She went to the store house and packed some meat that Daddy had hunted.

Page 5 – The day before they would leave for the river, Daddy went on a last hunt with four other hunters.  The shaman prayed to the people’s gods that the hunt would be good.

Page 6 – When Daddy came home from the hunt, he had enough meat for their walk to the winter hut.  Mama was happy, so Gorta and Broot were happy, too.

I plan (hope) to get someone to do illustrations for the book; my vision is an illustration on each page showing whatever I wrote for the page.  For instance, for page 4, the illustration would show Mama packing some food in the store house.

I’ll share the next 6 or 7 pages in a few days. 

I’m also on the lookout for a photographer or artist to help me design a better cover for my book “The Dawn People.”  I’m just not happy with the cave and seashore image the book has now.

 

29. August 2017 · Comments Off on BLOG, Aug. 29, 2017 · Categories: Blog

This blog is about what’s going on with me today and in recent days.

Today I spent an hour looking for and adding Sacramento Writing Events for any readers who might be interested; they’re for writers and readers; one is for writers and readers of children’s books, and also for children themselves.  (Look in the Events category in the Menu bar.)

In the past week I participated in a writing event via Facebook: “How to Write a Captivating Book Blurb to Sell More Books,” or something like that. Participants were provided with a workbook to help us learn to convey our book’s content in a captivating blurb.  After completing the course, several class members uploaded our two blurbs and Janelle Alex, the instructor, gave us a final critique; in some cases, mine included, other writers/readers in the group, Authors Talk About It, chimed in, some with excellent suggestions.

We were encouraged to ask for feedback from others (family, friends, and/or a poll of readers we knew). I did the poll bit, and received 57 responses, of which only three were for my first attempt. So of course the second attempt won. I offered a prize for a random participant (the prize being one of my books), and the winner received “The Wizard’s Key,” my YA fantasy novella. I included the sequel, “Adventures in Fyelda,” and sent them both on to her.

While all this was going on, my son Andy and his wife Cathy were on a long weekend trip with their RV. They went to a campground north of Fort Bragg, meeting friends, and began their return trip on Monday, yesterday. I say they “began” their return trip because at about 1 p.m. I got a message that they were stuck in or near Willets because their truck had heated up. An hour later, I learned they had waited a while and started out again, but now they were stuck in Ukiah, and were trying to get a mechanic to tell them what was wrong.

They were planning to stay overnight (by now it was after 4 p.m.) even though they were only three hours from home, and come home today.  I haven’t heard yet whether they made it.

So that’s been my day so far, and it’s only 11:15 a.m.

Harriet

05. July 2017 · Comments Off on BLOG, July 5, 2017 · Categories: Blog

EVOLUTION

Here’s a question many people are asking:  “How do we know we evolved from the ape family millions of years ago, and did not just appear 6,600 years ago exactly as we are now?”

The answer can be complicated.  First, humans evolved from a creature whose descendants eventually became two species of primate – apes and humans.  So the fact is that we did not evolve from “an ape family,” but from an ancestor of both the ape family and the human family.  These two families split from one another many hundreds or thousands of years after the original primate lived, and then split again many thousands of years later, and kept on splitting until now, when we have apes and humans.  And many scientists believe that there will continue to be new splits in the future.

Some of the tests that have proven the “theory” of evolution include the fossil record, DNA similarities, geographic patterns, embryonic similarities, various methods of dating (e.g., carbon, tree-ring, radiometric, coral, etc.), and quite a few other factors.

Evolution is a “theory” and a fact.  This seems contradictory to many since in everyday terminology, the word “theory” is often used in place of words like “hunch,” or “inclination.”  But in science, the word represents an idea or a set of ideas that explain facts or events.  Evolution is the only theory that can explain the diversity of life, and how it came to be.  It explains why fossils are arranged in the strata (a bed of sedimentary rock that represents continuous deposits) in the very order that they are, and how this correlates to modern fauna, even in terms of geography.

We know all this because of DNA, which is organized into chromosomes.  A simple definition of DNA:  “DNA is a very large molecule built up from smaller molecules known as nucleotides. The exact sequence of these nucleotides, much like the sequence of words in a recipe, tells the living cell how to put organic molecules together to form proteins.  Unlike a blueprint, to which DNA is often compared, slight changes to DNA can dramatically affect the end product, making the process dependent on the sequence of steps, as in a recipe.”

Every living thing has DNA, and this is how we can identify what type of living thing, or what person we’re looking at.  Chromosomes vary in number and shape among living things.  Humans, along with other animals and plants, have linear chromosomes that are arranged in pairs within the nucleus of the cell.  Humans have 23 pairs for a total of 46 chromosomes.  In fact, each species of plants and animals has a set number of chromosomes.  A fruit fly, for example, has four pairs of chromosomes, while a rice plant has 12 and a dog, 39.

The fact that we did not just appear exactly as we are now, six thousand six hundred years ago, is proven by the fossil record.  This is the collective record of biological development reflected in the fossilized remains of organisms through geological history.  The fossil record in fact refers to the collection of physical and research evidence that paleontologists and geologists have used to prove the truth of evolutionary theory.  The physical evidence in the fossil record comes from fossilized remains of prehistoric animals.  Many fossils (which is what we call pieces of bone from animals that lived long ago) have been dug up and studied, and DNA has been useful in determining what class of animal the living creature would have been.

For instance, someone in rural England (maybe in present times, maybe years and years ago) wished to dig holes in his land in order to change something; he might have wanted to build a fence or wall, or he may have simply wished to plow the land for planting.  But while he was digging, he happened on a fossil.  Wondering how this bone got onto his land, this person might have sent the bone to a research facility of whatever type (maybe a friend who was interested in things people found in their yards, or a sterile laboratory set up specifically to study fossils), and was told that tests (including DNA and carbon-dating) proved the bone was from an apelike creature that lived seven million years ago (e.g., the small ape-like primate scientists have nicknamed “Lucy”).

Scientists believe that an asteroid landed in what’s now Central America 65 million years ago, causing fires and leading to what they call a “nuclear winter.”  This means that the dust and debris kicked up by the impact, and smoke and ash from the fires, filled the air and created a barrier to sunlight for a long time, so that plants and animals that depended on sunlight could not grow.  This in turn was believed to be the cause of the disappearance of dinosaurs that lived at that time all over the earth.  They died off eventually from starvation, or dehydration, or other unknown causes (e.g., battles for the last vegetation).

10. June 2017 · Comments Off on BLOG, June 10, 2017 · Categories: Blog

Some time ago, I designed a board game I called “Genre.” I made a prototype and had several groups of people play it; they all liked it and wanted to play it again. I was encouraged to try to get it published, but after months of trying to contact game designer companies, I was convinced the only way to sell it would be to attend a Game Convention in Berlin, or spend a fortune making a true prototype and publishing it myself.  As I was unable to afford to do either of those things, the game pretty much fazed out. I still have the initial prototype, but I’d made the board out of Styrofoam and it also fazed out eventually.

But after that, I found myself thinking about designing games, and my son and I came up with several possibilities. We never really went any further, but I stumbled across the games just now when looking for something to post on my blog.  So here is one of those games. If anyone wants to take on the job of further designing and/or manufacturing, or even selling one of them, feel free; it would be nice to have either a small percentage of anything you sell it for, or at least my name in the credits.

TRAVEL USA

Up to 4 players, ages 8 to adult.

The board is a “replica” of a U.S. map, and there are squares within each state – only two squares in Rhode Island, but as many as 10 (or more) in Alaska. Half of the squares are Challenges and half are Obstacles. Each player starts at a different corner of the map – one die is rolled, and the player with the lowest number starts in Vermont, the player with the next highest number starts in Florida, then in Hawaii, and the player with the highest number starts in Alaska. (Or player number one selects which corner he wants to start in, player number two gets second choice, etc.)

Players roll the dice and travel around each state, landing on a Challenge or an Obstacle square, with a tiny vehicle as their token (e.g., a sedan or SUV, a motorcycle, a van, a skateboard or hover board, a surfboard, an RV).  Players earn points by guessing, or knowing, answers to specific categories of questions (e.g., a player lands on New Mexico and the question is “What’s the population?  Choices: 20 thousand, 2 million, 20 million.”)  Points are awarded based on correctness or, if not correct, the closest guess; so if there are three choices, the correct one gets 5 points, the closest incorrect answer gets 3 points, and the wrong answer gets 1 point.

Each “state” might depict a collage of features of that state (e.g., for California a Pacific Ocean beach, a movie scene, a field of poppies, etc.; for Texas, a Dallas cityscape, a Texas Ranger, a desert scene, etc.). Another area of questions might involve methods of transportation possible between states (e.g., ship or boat, jet or prop airplane, car, truck, motorcycle, etc.).

Challenge categories might include:  State Population, Date Admitted to Union, Claim to Fame, Top Export, Capital City, etc. Obstacles might include:  “Vehicle breaks down,” “The kids need a rest stop,” “A cop gives you a ticket,” etc.  Each Obstacle subtracts points, each Challenge adds points.

Make sure the game has as few pieces as possible.  It could have a relatively soft board that folds and opens big enough so players can move on proportionately sized states, and can kneel or sit on the “board.”  Challenge cards might have to be rethought – five challenge cards for each state adds up to 250 cards; conversely, if there’s only one card for each category, it would need answers for each of 50 states.

12. May 2017 · Comments Off on BLOG, May 12, 2017 · Categories: Blog

MORAL VALUES

What might happen if all religions suddenly disappeared off the face of the earth?  For a generation or two, not much of anything would change except there would be more freedom on Sunday mornings and other religious holidays.  However, when the third or fourth generation is raised without direct religious teachings, how likely is it that they would maintain the moral values of their ancestors, and continue to be honest, reliable, conscientious, truthful, kind, chaste, pious, courageous, dignified, humble, sensitive, and honorable?   Aren’t nearly all, if not all, of these traits inculcated into young people by religion, even if the children themselves aren’t religious?  Would moral values disappear if there were no religion?  And, in fact, if all religions disappeared, how likely is it that people would make up religions of their own?  Do we in fact NEED religion?

There is a feasible argument that we do need religion, even organized religion, to supply control over our lives.  Many people perceive their lives as being ruled by external forces, rather than by their own internal leanings.  The belief that fate or the gods rule their lives, or that there is a better place for them after they die, relieves them of the pain of the life they’re living now and also relieves them of responsibility to live this life morally, if that’s what they choose.

What else does organized religion provide?  The rituals and ceremonies of organized religion serve some need in us, since it’s certain that even Ancient Man performed rituals and ascribed outside events to external beings. Religion itself led us to creativity; the emotions people felt needed to be expressed, and music, art and literature, as well as the performing arts, allowed this expression to be shared.  Religion, or the belief that there was something more than ourselves caring for us, may have given our ancestors courage, which must have led to their ability to hunt and evade predators, and thus increase brain size.  Science must also be associated with religion, since it’s the attempt to answer questions raised and unanswered by religion. (E.g., If the sun, moon and stars are not gods, what are they really?)

Children are pressured by peers to conform as they grow up and, if a majority of children have taken in religious teachings, even atheists and agnostics tend to conform with them, not because they believe in the Bible, but because the examples they see are for these moral values.  It’s unlikely that immoral people will generate admiration among children since children are innately selfish, and immoral people don’t respond well to selfishness in children.

Other examples include the law of the land, which enforces moral values.  The first laws were laid down by ancient Egyptians about 3000 BC, and then codified by King Hammurabi in 1760 BC.  By 1280 BC, these laws had been incorporated into organized religion.  I believe that even Early Man had laws, handed down by the gods to their shamans, or witch doctors.  These laws admittedly were sometimes biased towards the lawmaker (the tribe’s Chief, or the shaman himself), but in general they were meant to maintain the moral values of the tribe.

Then there’s the Nature/Nurture controversy—Nature selects for altruism, which itself is a moral value, and also drives humans to be social, requiring the ability to get along with others, which enforces moral values.  Movies, TV, and books aside, children observe the behaviors of their parents, and the parents and families of other children, and emulate those they admire, just because that’s human nature.  Mother love is not always completely unconditional, so children learn to behave the way mother wishes while they’re still young—another set of moral values.

Is there an argument against religion?  Certainly religious zealots have led many people to their deaths, and the question of which religion is the ONE TRUE RELIGION has caused much dissention.  Without organized religion, would zealots and bigots still cause problems?  If organized religion had never existed which, given human nature, is unlikely, it would be different, but if all religions disappeared overnight, remnants and memories would cause problems for many decades to come.  Spirituality can be thought of as unorganized religion, but it provides many of the same benefits as religion.  A Supreme Being, or even aliens watching over us, gives those who need it the crutch that organized religion provides.

Even though I’m an agnostic, tending towards atheism, I don’t think religion is unnecessary.  When someone is ill, or a loved one has died, it’s very comforting to depend on one’s religion for answers to questions about cause, and what happens after death, even though religion doesn’t really provide final, logical answers.