Getting Somewhere

I’m not sure where, mind you, but I’m getting somewhere.

It’s not so much the writing, which has been painfully slow. I’m not complaining about that. I’ve been writing, and that’s better than not-writing. And it’s not transportation, since I haven’t gone anywhere… although I’m getting driving lessons today. Yes, I do know how to drive. But I can’t drive a stick, so a friend and former truck driver is giving me lessons on it. Yesterday I was flattered because he’d told my husband ‘Cedar picks stuff up so quick, I’ll bet she only needs an hour for the basics.” This morning, pre-coffee, with lessons in an hour, I’m pretty sure I’m going to screw this up.

Not that I’m not going to do it – I need to learn this skill. Along with many others in my life, it’s an important one. Why? Well, in my case it’s because my husband’s car is a manual, so if I need to drive it I have to learn how. In the past? I’ve picked up skills as I needed, things like making websites and graphic design, because I couldn’t afford to pay someone to do them, and they needed to be done. I might not have always done the best job when I started, but if you’re persistent…

That’s what this post is about, really. Persistence. Not giving up. When you’re writing, if you ever want to hold a book in your hands, you can’t give up on it. You have to keep plugging away at the writing part until the story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Then you have to worry about the editing, and… so on and so forth.

In your story, your character has to have persistence, too. My friend just walked in, and as promised, coffee was the first thing. Are all truck drivers massive coffee drinkers? Must research – pertinent to the story in progress about a star traveling trader ship. Anyway, I grabbed the first cup at hand in the cupboard, and then started laughing as I handed at him. “I’m sorry…” he looked at it and busted up, too. That cup was a gift to me and it reads ‘Self-Rescuing Princess.’ But if you think about it – no, not the image of a big burly bearded bald man sipping from over that slogan – then you’ll realize that it’s a fun way to start off in a story. What if the princess doesn’t need rescuing? It’s something Dave Freer did recently in Tom, although it wasn’t the central conceit of the story.

And I’m wandering all over the road this morning. Sorry, I still haven’t picked up my coffee, although I can. and now I have. Takes a while to hit the bloodstream, though. Oh! which reminds me. I was watching some TV while doing data entry (data entry is boring) and on the show they injected something (never said what) and the person went down as soon as the needle went in. Um, no, that isn’t how it works. While I can sort of see the justification on television, for the story not to lag while they waited for the person to collapse (and even that could have been written in for more action and tension) in a book it’s inexcusable. Taking the time to understand circulation and uptake – and especially the blood brain barrier a drug would have to cross – is important.

Which reminds me that recently I’d gotten into an argument online. I didn’t mean to – I really try to avoid them because they are mostly a waste of my time and energy and spike my blood pressure for no reason at all. The premise of the argument revolved around werewolf reproduction. Which in and of itself is a fun rabbit trail for an author to wander down. The OP had wondered if that meant that menstruation and the moon might not align and female werewolves would thus have two times of the month. Which, I gotta admit, is both funny and horrifying. But the post that set me off was talking about human reproduction and showed it very clearly that the person writing didn’t even have an elementary grasp of biology. No, sorry, a fetus is not a parasite. Look, reproduction is one of the most basic biological urges. The woman’s body is (mostly, and there are rare cases that aren’t) trying their best to hold onto a developing child. So speculation of werewolves and pregnancy does indeed get interesting. Frankly, I find that the common author’s trick of ‘oh, female werewolves just miscarry when they shift forms and they have to shift at the full moon…’ a lazy author trick.

Look, I realize that it limits the werewolf population if you make it near impossible for them to reproduce. And in theory, this keeps them from overrunning humanity. I think that biology wins, and there has to be a better way to write the limitations – but that probably involves deep genetics, and from a person who believes that her own child is a parasite, that’s probably not going to happen.

However, I am going to chug my coffee and go take driving lessons. And then think about how to apply them to my writing. Because that’s what I do with nearly everything.

I’m getting somewhere. Don’t know where, yet. I’ll let you know when I’ve arrived.

29 Comments

Filed under CEDAR SANDERSON, WRITING: LIFE

29 responses to “Getting Somewhere

  1. Draven

    of course, if you think that werewolves heal any non-silver wounds when they shift, technically if the times overlapped it would stop…

    • Draven, my friend… menstruation is not a wound, just like shedding skin cells isn’t the result of cutting your skin. Or like earwax doesn’t mean your ears are full of wax that comes out when you wound them.

      It’s actually the woman’s body dumping stuff it doesn’t need anymore because it didn’t get pregnant this month – ie, the special lining of the uterus. (Or at least the bits that the body can’t reabsorb easily.)

      And so actually, it’s blood-and-other-stuff, not just blood. But it’s a thin enough solution, and kept warm enough that it doesn’t clot much, and you can’t see the other-stuff with the naked eye (usually). So the general impression is that it’s just blood, sure.

      But no, it’s not a wound, and it doesn’t need healing. And if your body gets confused and decides to try again a second time, the second time is probably going to be just spotting because it just can’t gear up that fast.

      Since wolves don’t go into season as often as humans (it’s only once a year for them, and only 5-14 days during that time), the tendency would probably be to slow down cycles, not speed ’em up. Mares have a cycle-length similar to humans, but they only have it during the temperate months (unless you do weird things with temperature and daylight cues). Other mammals do different stuff.

      Guys: you can look this stuff up for various species under “estrus” or “estrous cycle”. Here’s a nice one for mares, talking about how their cycles work and how they shift into pregnancy mode. There are probably all kinds of info for cows, nanny goats, etc.

      • Draven

        yeah i know and i probably should have elaborated.

        • Well, on the one hand, I’m glad! But sorry that I typed so much.

          On the other hand, there are a lot of people writing fanfic who want to write about characters going into heat, while knowing absolutely nothing about reproductive systems. Perhaps they will find my post.

  2. Werewolf reproduction . . . well that’s going to depend on your definition of werewolf, isn’t it? And the same for vampires.

    I mean, if either is bite contagious, there’s a good chance it’s bacterial or viral. I can see a chronic disease interfering with reproduction.

    On the other hand, if it’s genetic, I suspect either trait would be recessive and like some known human conditions, require an environmental trigger to actually express.

    Oh, sorry, brain latched onto an idea and had to chew it over. Very persistent of it . . .

    • And if magic is involved, like the loup garou traditions, then will the energy shifts (depending on magic system) cause problems for the fetus, or are they critical to the development, assuming that shifting requires a large amount of metabolic as well as magical energy? Hmmmm.

  3. Assuming that the werewolf child shifts when the mother does, does that mean that the gestational age of the child changes when the mother shifts? Wolves and humans have very different rates of fetal development. And if shifting is voluntary I would imagine the mother would want to shift in order to give birth.

    After birth, I can imagine the young werewolf learning shifting by responding to hormonal triggers from the mother–shifting in reflex when the mother shifts. Also species specific hormones and antibodies being fed to the infant in breast milk.

    All of which means that a young shifter who is raised by humans is going to have a very hard road–his body is going to be missing those cues and have the capability to change without the chemical triggers to ease him into the process.

  4. Robin Munn

    No, sorry, a fetus is not a parasite.

    Though I do know a woman who announced her pregnancy by posting on Facebook, “The doctors tell me that I have an abdominal parasite, but that it should be out of there in about nine months or so.” Most people, who knew that she and her husband were trying to have their first child, got the joke, and sent her “Congrats on your pregnancy!” messages. But she did get some very concerned messages from sweet older ladies who thought “Oh, the poor dear, she picked up some weird infection in Thailand.” I’m pretty sure she’ll never announce a pregnancy that way again… but it makes for a great story.

  5. I’ve found that the worst thing about regularly driving a stick shift is when I have the rare occasion too go back to driving an automatic, and forgetting there’s no clutch. That can get bumpy.

    • It’s really bad when the automatic equipped car has a super-wide brake pedal. $SISTAUR was convinced I couldn’t drive well, because I hadn’t driven an automatic since Driver’s Ed. and then the old ’74 Hornet had the wiiiiide brake pedal. Stops were… rather sudden.

    • TRX

      I got my motorcycle license at 13. When I got my car license at 16 I had a bit of trouble unlearning braking reflexes. Gripping the steering wheel firmly with the right hand while pressing down with the right foot does the opposite of what a motorcyclist expect…

  6. Bob

    I addressed the issue of shifter reproduction in an early, now abandoned attempt at a novel.

    In brief, if you fall pregnant, you’re stuck in whichever form you’re in when conception of uccurs and you stay that way till the pregnancy lasts.

    Necessary, considering you’d probably birth a litter in your shifted form.

  7. Cat

    A fetus is an organism that lives inside another organism, drawing its nutrients from, and depositing its metabolic wastes into, its host’s tissues to the measurable detriment of the host. If you want to pretend that process is not parasitical because … uh, because…

    Well anyway, I suppose you’re perfectly free to do that, because.

    And if you’re writing werewolves, they’re your werewolves and if you say they can have babies, then they can. Either your story world is very different from the real world (as in, even mundanes know about werewolves), or they have some way of keeping their numbers under control. But the writer decides how to handle that, and the reader finds it believable, or doesn’t.

    I have seen the whole “werewolves can’t have babies” thing handled to great effect, though. Some of my favorite werewolf stories turn on it.

    • Sorry, but a parasite is a foreign organism co-opting another organism’s metabolism for it’s own growth and reproduction. A fetus is the host’s method of reproduction.

      • Reality Observer

        I once listened to just about this definition of “parasitism” from an “educated” person.

        I asked when their cerebrectomy was scheduled – or had they already had it?

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Men are vegetable, and are Earth’s native intelligent species. Females are insectoid extraterrestrial invaders which have interrupted the natural cycle. Women are parasites on men and on the earth.

      Only by cleansing the world of female contamination can we restore the environment to its natural state.

      In conclusion *Thbbbt!*

    • I just found out that the wolf gestation period is only 63 days.

      Oh, come on (looking hard at certain werewolf writers). You have your folks changing every night, and you have them living luxury lifestyles, but the women can’t take off and be wolves for two months and three days? Seriously??? Why do you have all these pristine wilderness estates for your werewolf characters, then?

    • Bibliotheca Servare

      And just when I think you’ve hit rock-bottom with regards to brainless idiocy and despicable inhumanity, Cat, you find a bag of ANFO (Ammonium Nitrate/Fuel Oil. It’s a low explosive frequently used for taking large amounts of rock -etc- from one place…and rapidly transferring it to another, more convenient place) and blast your way even deeper! I suppose I ought to congratulate you on the accomplishment, but I find myself unwilling to do so. Ah, well, such is life. I dearly hope you never have the opportunity to inflict your monstrous, sick, warped ideology upon innocent children. Sorry, innocent “parasites”.

  8. TRX

    If the shifters are a species, then reproduction would apply. But if shifting is a contagious disease, they don’t need to reproduce, because the “shifter” part is the disease, not the victims.

    • Which is why the species evolved to express themselves around the 28 day cycle, to improve their odds of reproduction. The other form, that diseased one, certainly has plenty of opportunity to reproduce, but having the expression of the true species tied to an easily synchronized moon cycle made reproduction so much easier.

      Which one did you say was the disease, again?

  9. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Does the transformation conserve mass? What about the energy budget? It would take some doing to convince me that a werewolf was strictly following conservation of energy.

    Zygotes and fetuses are delicate. Bringing werewolf babies to term implies some measure of allowances and protection. That said, werewolf models that don’t have the werewolves going mad quickly from shift induced CNS damage can probably justify it.

    • If weremagic is all that anti-evolution, werewolves would have all died out.

      A pack without pups would lose a pretty important dimension of pack life, too. You’d expect to see werewolves stealing babies and converting them into werewolves, for example.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        This post has left me imagining a version that bears two or three young for around five and a half months, shifting between forms over the course of the pregnancy. Still coloring in the rest, and of course haven’t a plot.

        Course one reason not to do PNR werewolves this way is as follows: You have this kickass female werewolf with the hunky male werewolf. You are set up to do a big series of adventures, but they are sexually active and fertile. There are going to be children, which means additional characters hogging the attention of the viewpoint character. If your assumptions are say, two pregnancies a year, things become unwieldy fast, and the reader starts to wonder why everyone isn’t a werewolf.

        • This is why you have to look at it and figure out why werewolves either don’t reproduce often, or don’t make it to adulthood. Puberty as a human is rough. Puberty as a shifter?

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            Or have a setting where that is a feature, not a bug.

            1. Our werewolf couple are Catholic Preppers or Mormans, werewolves are a recent event, and our view point character goes around solving mysteries while pregnant. (Go with Sarah’s claim that human population numbers are wildly inflated.)
            2. Werewolves are with the civilization faction of a multi-generational genocidal conflict involving many intelligent species in a world where civilization doesn’t control much territory.
            3. Colonizing other worlds.

            That said, I haven’t built a population growth model lately, am not sure what peak fecundity would look like here, or how it varies with assumptions as compared to standard human.