Learning in the Animal World

I am not the most… disciplinary of pet people.  I blame it on my scientist background.  When it comes down to a disciplinary moment, at least fifty percent of the time, I just sit back and watch things play out instead of leaping in with a stern “NO!” and redirection.  I like to see animals problem solve, even if that problem is: the new bag of dog cookies is up higher than I can reach by stretching, how can I get to that delicious bag, maybe if I stand on this chair here, and LEAP….  Or maybe I can scare a cat into running across the bookshelf and knocking it down….

I like to see things learn, is what it comes down to.  And pets do learn!  They learn from each other, they learn from other species, and they learn from watching us.

IMG_2217I have a kitten (though he turned two earlier this month) who I adopted from my vet clinic.  Remy.  He’s a little psycho, and was obviously feral before he was captured and cleaned up.  As my friend Leigh says, “He didn’t know how to cat.”  One of the little hiccups in this behavior earned him the nickname “Stinkpot” from the vet clinic, because he’d hit the litter box and then zip out, without covering his waste.  This behavior continued when I brought him home.  It continued until the day my older, bigger cat Dean followed him into the litterbox, and bitching the entire time, covered up the waste.

Now Remy covers up.  He covers up OBSESSIVELY but cats can never do things the easy way.  But hey, he learned his lesson.  And often he runs over to Dean to whisker talk right after. I have to assume it’s the equivalent of a toddler reporting in to their parents that they went potty!

Ursula curious 2I have Ursula, the young dog (she is just shy of two years and she is a veritable sponge of learning.)

Sometimes she learns things I would prefer her not to learn, but that’s the way it goes.

My roommate found a muppet running loose on the street and brought it home for its own safety (a golden doodle pup about Ursula’s age, twice her size).  Ursula was ENCHANTED, right up to the moment where the muppet leaped up on her hind legs, and smacked Ursula flat to  the floor with both front legs.  SMACK!  FLAT DOG!

Ursula was stunned.  What was that?  She didn’t know dogs could do that???  They went on to play until the muppet’s owner was located.

Then, two days later, Ursula rose onto her hind legs and brought both forepaws down at once and SMACKED Dean into the floor.  Ursula was thrilled!  She did it right!  Sadly, she’s been doing it ever since.  SMACK goes the kitten.  SMACK goes the other dog.  SMACK goes Dean–though, showing his own learning, he’s learned to get out of the way.  I do intervene when she attempts to smack down the elderly cat who is pretty much all bones and attitude.

And she learns from me. Not just the useful things like “sit”, “no teeth”, “drop the ball”, and “for god’s sake don’t eat that, drop it drop it now!” But things I never ever had any intention or concept that I could teach her.

As an example, I make my bed every morning (ADULTING!) and every morning I have to kick the dogs off so that I can get it tidy.  This involves a lot of complaining and saying “Scoot!” and flipping the covers around.  This is particularly complicated by the fact that I have a top layer that gets changed daily so the dog fur and dog detritus does not get into the actual bedding.

Lately, Ursula has been performing a strange behavior.  One where she races into the bedroom, starts yanking on all the blankets, and making her strange little talky noises.  She only does this when I’m there to watch her, and she always stops and grins at me after she’s gone mangling the top of my bed.  It has finally dawned on me: the damn dog is mocking me.  She’s doing the equivalent of saying “Haha, this is you!  Look at me, I’m being the silly person! Wah wah wah toss the sheets around. Wah wah wah.”

It makes me wonder what else they learn from us that we don’t recognize right away.

 

 

 

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Learning in the Animal World

JL Gribble’s Steel Time : Book Release

So a fellow Speculative Chic has her book out this week!  While I haven’t read the Steel Empires books yet, this sounds like a fun series, and I am going to remedy this lack!  I’m always on the hunt for good urban fantasy.  Mothers and daughters and vampires and that gorgeous cover!  But I’ll be honest; she had me at sarcastic violin players. Definitely a series I’ll be checking out.  What’s it about?  Look below!

 

This week, book 4 of the Steel Empires urban fantasy/alternate series is released! In a world with vampires, warrior-mages, weredragons, and sarcastic violin players, time travel seems like the obvious next step. Read on for more information about Steel Time, by J.L. Gribble

ABOUT THE BOOK

You’re never too young or too old to experience a paradigm shift.

Toria Connor is 25 when tripping over an artifact in the ruins of Nacostina thrusts her a century into the past, before the city is destroyed during the Last War. Now, she finds herself alone. Adrift in a time where she must hide everything important to her, from her mercenary career to her true magical ability.

Victory is over eight centuries old when she follows her adopted daughter. She has seen empires rise and fall, but never anything like this. She must survive alone in a city inhospitable to vampires, dodging friends and foes from her past alike.

Both of them know the clock is ticking down to the moment when the city is wiped off the map. Now, they’re in a race against time. To find each other. To escape the past. And to save the future.

Currently available from:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Direct from publisher
Carpe Librum (the author’s local indie bookseller)
Or support your own local independent bookstore by requesting a copy today!

ABOUT THE SERIES

It is possible to read Steel Time as a stand-alone book, but don’t miss out on Toria and Victory’s previous adventures!

Book 1: Steel Victory
Book 2: Steel Magic
Book 2: Steel Blood

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

By day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. She is currently working on the Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books, the science-fiction/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. Previously, she was an editor for the Far Worlds anthology.

Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where her debut novel Steel Victory was her thesis for the program.

She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats.

Find her online at:

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads

JL Gribble’s Steel Time : Book Release

Vacation miscellany

So the weird thing about working a day job as well as working for yourself is that you can take a vacation from one or the other as well as both.  Having finished up a writing project (the draft of Ring of Stones is done!  Hoorah! and in the agent’s lap!  Hooray!  Not my problem for a little bit!) I decided I wanted a week off without coming home from the day job and sitting right back down in front of the computer.

Not writing in the evening is giving me a strange, luxurious feeling right now.  It won’t last.  I’ll get antsy and the scene notes I’m taking currently (that doesn’t count as work, right?) will demand to be made into actual scenes and chapters and so forth.  But for right now, I feel like I have all this free time!

I have watched the entirety of The Good Place, season 2!  I do love those characters.  I love how clever the show-writers are in making this premise continue to work for them. As a side note, I hate sitcoms, so the fact that I love this one should tell you they’re doing something quite different than the usual sitcom fare.

I have attempted to make stir-fried rice.  That… was not quite a failure, in that the end result was edible.  Just not good.  I need to figure out the heat issue better, find a more useful recipe (though a friend linked me to an NYT recipe that looks good), and use the good cast iron skillet.  The one I used is still pretty new and not as seasoned as it should be. The cast iron skillet that I took from my childhood home, on the other hand, is amazing.

I have read three books:

Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine: seriously intense thriller.  I loved it.  Had to put it down a couple of times just to go breathe.  I think it’s that you know she has significant enemies, but like her, you just don’t know what direction they’re coming from. Recommended if you like thrillers. Or Kelley Armstrong’s Casey Duncan series.

Hazard by Devon Monk: Magical Hockey League.  Wizards and werewolves on the ice, oh my!  Not an unqualified success, but fun to read.

Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett: I’m always seeing comedic mysteries compared to Stephanie Plum books, but this one kind of merits the comparison (in the good way!).  Dayna and her friends are funny, a little nuts, loyal, and moving through LA society in a very entertaining way.  That they’re trying to solve crime at the same time–a definite plus.

I’m embarking on City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett, both because it’s been in my TBR pile since it came out and as a consolation prize for being on a book budget at the moment and not buying Foundryside right away.  Later, Foundryside, I’m coming for you!  RJB is a writer I really admire, incorporating great characters–realistic, interesting, compelling–in a wonderful setting. You are definitely “there” when you read his works.

Vacation miscellany

Book Review: All But a Bloody Mouth

So I’ve been reading and reading all summer long, but not finding things that really satisfy.  It’s the downside of being voracious and pretty indiscriminate about your reading: you get jaded pretty quickly–been there, seen that, seen it done BETTER, and now you’re bored.  Every now and then, I just hit a run of meh books.

And every now and then, I stumble over something strange and wonderful.

In this case, the online novel All But a Bloody Mouth by Becca De La Rosa

The details:

All But a Bloody Mouth  published on tumblr in 2016 and later assembled into a free download—technically self-pubbed, but not available for sale in stores.  If you find it, it feels … serendipitous.
Written by: Becca De La Rosa
Genre: um…. I’m thinking of it as feminist noir horror? Which is a genre I didn’t know I wanted, but apparently was starving for.
Pages: 259 per pdf
Publisher: self-published, nicely formatted, not available in stores.

Why I chose it: During my podcast resolution over on Spec Chic, I listened to podcast Mabel (not reviewed yet–look for my review in Oct or Nov), and wandered over to the website and found the writer for Mabel had also written this novel. Since I was enjoying Mabel so much, and the premise of this book appealed to me, it seemed only natural to dive right in.

The Premise:
All But the Bloody Mouth. First published on Tumblr in 2016; a novel about murder, mystery cults, and apotheosis.

Eleven days ago Loan Santos came home to discover her boyfriend Jack violently attacking a young woman on the kitchen floor. Following the revelation, Jack admitted to committing the five murders attributed to the Red Deer Valley Slasher; he claimed he killed those five girls, however, for a very particular reason. Now, Loan must piece together the facts of the matter (a girl with a scar on her throat who knows more than she lets on, a monster in the wetlands) to find herself some kind of – meaning, or understanding, or transcendence.

​All But the Bloody Mouth is free to download, read, and share.

Spoilers ahead, but I’m going to try to keep them small, because watching this book unfold is a delight.

Discussion:

I read a lot of serial killer stories. It’s almost inevitable. I love fantasy, but as a child, I cut my teeth on mystery. Nancy Drew, Kay Tracey, Meg, Trixie freaking Belden. And oh, here’s a fantasy twist: The Girl with the Silver Eyes, which was a childhood form of an urban fantasy—young girl with a magical gift learns that there are others like her and enemies out there who want to control them, and she assembles a team to fight back…. Tell me that doesn’t sound urban fantasy-ish.

The point being, after a while, mystery divides itself into cozies and murders. (Not that no one dies in cozies, it’s just that no one seems to care much.) So yeah, serial killers. And I enjoy the genre but it is definitely a genre of dead tortured women, usually with graphic scenes, where the saving grace is that many, many of the serial killer stories are written by women, with women as their active protagonists.

That said, there is a certain sameness to the formula. So, I really enjoy the books that turn the story on its end—the killer caught on the first page!? The story about the recovery of the people affected—yeah, show me that!

And All But a Bloody Mouth begins with Jack, the Red Deer Valley killer caught and jailed before the first page. Because he’s not the focus here. It’s about the two women he left behind—the woman who nearly died, and the woman who loved him, unknowing. But it’s also about pulling back the veil on the lives that women lead.

I said feminist noir and I meant it. Mandy Jane Donovan, the would-be victim is the blonde femme fatale, swanning through the story and helping to open Loan’s eyes to the world she’s always moved through, but always repressed. That Loan surpasses Mandy’s understanding in the end is also noir—Mandy is ephemeral, her importance is to lead Loan in the direction of the truth. Mandy is a vector of sorts, a proselytizer. But unlike classic noir, Mandy has her own successful agenda. She doesn’t come to ruin. She starts there and grows past it.

These truths are about men and women, more than anything else. And they’re not necessarily pleasant truths. Here, each gender is pretty much posed always in opposition to each other.

I also said horror, and I meant it. The horror here is both occasionally gory—though elegantly presented—and social; there’s a scene with Loan and her lawyer that’s just fundamentally upsetting in oh so many ways. Loan starts off quiet and repressed, but it’s definitely the quiet of a banked fire.

There’s real fantasy here also. But it’s a fantasy that is more about mythology than casting spells or having magical abilities doled out. It’s about change. I thought the ending was both surprising and well-led up to, if a little short on the mechanics.

There were small things that bugged me:

I wasn’t sure about Loan’s name. It’s unusual enough to strike the reader as continually odd. It felt more like a symbol than a name. Loan? Like lone? Or Loan, like her life had been on loan…. I don’t know. But it was distracting.*

I adored the ending, but thought it felt a little bit abrupt. A lot of the big moments in this book are a little rushed.

De La Rosa’s writing is full of literary goodness, but occasionally one of her metaphors falls a little flat.

In conclusion:

I’d actually recommend All But the Bloody Mouth to anyone who enjoys Gemma Files—the introspection, the dissection of relationships, the precision in language, and yes, the mythic horror. Elizabeth Hand as well. Try the first few pages; if you like those, you’ll probably enjoy the rest. If you don’t get a tiny little shiver at the end of the first scene, you might not.

 

*ETA and today, Kelly Marie Tran explains that her given name is Loan, and suddenly I have more context for the name.  So, less odd, then.  I have learned something!

Book Review: All But a Bloody Mouth

Ant-Man and the Wasp! And the Wasp’s wardrobe* choices!

A rare movie post:

A friend was in town so we all went off to see Ant-Man and the Wasp, which I’d been wanting to see, but kept putting off.  I am constantly surprised at how much I enjoy the Ant-Man entries.  It’s not just Paul Rudd, though he is more charming than he has any right to be.  It’s not just that I’ve loved their casting; I adore his weirdo little daughter Cassie, and in this movie, I felt like we really got a glimmer of why Scott Lang and Maggie ever connected in the first place.  Last movie, she was shoe-horned into the humorless control freak ex-wife.  This movie she had a tiny spark that made me say hey, someone put a little character into this character this time around.  (The “what does the FBI stand for?  Forever Bothering Individuals? Followed by a little self-satisfied smirk… It was the smirk that made it.  That is exactly the kind of attitude that would have married Scott.)  They seem to have taken the character away from Cassie’s stepfather though.  Oh well. He was pretty one-note last movie too.

I liked Ghost.  I liked her anger.  I liked that it was justified!  The government was content to use her abilities, but didn’t care enough about her to try to cure them.

But what I really liked?  This is so shallow you’ll laugh.  But I loved Hope’s clothes.  When we saw her in the first movie, she’s Corporate Shark Barbie, hard-edged bob, suits cut like corsets, and lips as red as blood. Don’t get me wrong; she was dressed in a completely plausible way for her role.  And we did get to see her in training gear etc., but the primary impression of her was high-gloss perfection.

Wasp 1

Then came Ant-Man & the Wasp.  Two years later, her company gone, on the run with her father, trading for fancy electronic components on the black market.  They could have gone the Natasha Romanoff route, and made her into a glamorous sort of hero on the run.  But they went for honest to god reality.

Not for the easy sexy vigilante stuff.

No, Hope wears cropped leggings and flat heeled boots and a black tee with a coat thrown over for “business wear”.  It’s not sexy.  It’s not exciting.  (And the proof of that is no matter how I search for an image of her in her “civvies”, the internet doesn’t provide it.)  What is is, is very practical.  Easy to be unseen in–tons of women wear activewear in public as their day off clothing.  Easy to slip into a Wasp suit without effort.  And of course, it’s all wash and wear.

Ghost is similar.

As is

SPOILER….

Janet Van Dyne.  Two superheroes and one supervillain, and they all dress without Teh Sexy in mind.  You can make arguments about the effects of formfitting Wasp suits on a woman as beautiful as Evangeline Lilly, but in the end, her suit really reads on screen more like a tool than a display unit.

I loved the movie.  It was fun, beyond everything else.  But it was nice to have some variation in the go-to-guidebook of sexy female heroes.

*aka a tall dresser thingy, though not in this usage.

 

 

Ant-Man and the Wasp! And the Wasp’s wardrobe* choices!

5 am and miscellany

So the puppy needed to go run amok at 5am; a heavy work load currently means she’s been a bit neglected and the boredom has built up.  So out she went into the yard, a neon pink flashing circlet around her neck–have you ever tried to find a black dog in the dark??  Then the little old mini schnauzer wanted to go out as well.

Twenty minutes later, every one is inside, given a cookie, and taken back up to bed.  I lay down and the 5am questions began: how screwed up is my shoulder/neck tonight?  Should I take an advil or a muscle relaxant or will I be able to fall back asleep?  If I do take a pill, I will have to eat something, and while I’m contemplating the idea of wandering back downstairs to joylessly eat a few saltines, Jeffrey (the schnauzer) prompted an entirely new set of questions: Where does he GET the damned spiders and why has he put one on my face!!!

This is a recurring question, sadly.  I swept the spider off, turned the lights back on, and cleared my sheets of an annoyed wolf spider.  Then I took the dog back downstairs and removed the other spider clinging to his fur.  This is the second time Jeffrey has come in from the yard in the middle of the night wearing spiders that he generously shares with me.

I am going to have to institute a spider check at the door, to go along with the other procedures: no sticks? No rocks? Feet not too muddy? Did you roll in something I don’t want to smell in the house?  Are you wearing spiders???

I am very grateful to not be alarmed by spiders.

Still fighting the revision, though I’m hopeful that once I get through chapters 18-22, matters will get easier.  No snippet today though.

Listening to Meg Myers’ Take Me to the Disco.  So far, a lot of powerful songs. My favorites are probably Jealous Sea, Little Black Death, and Funeral.   Also listening to Kandle and really liking her as well. Discovered her via July Talk’s Peter Dreimanis doing backing vocals for When My Body Breaks.

 

 

5 am and miscellany