August 20, 2019

Nervous System: Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fun!

Sort of a new take on just the idea of us having "fight or flight" feelings when activated by a stimulus. The Vagal Theory is the up and coming approach to stress reactions. Well, not really an approach, more of a reason why we have different reactions. Have you ever gone to a haunted house with someone and the moment something scary pops up, you and your companion have two different reactions? Like one of you might go screaming/running away and the other might freeze and just stop moving altogether. That's because the former of you is a mobilizer and the other an immobilizer, your bodies follow different pathways to prepare you for the best way to handle the stressor.

Going off of that, there is another pathway - a myelinated nerve which has evolved over time due to our reliance on social interactions. So, while one of you might be running, the other freezing, there might be a third person that decides to just chat up the axe murderer-clown (bit of an exaggerated example, but hopefully you get the point). This third reaction and pathway reorients the body so that you are still capable of processing the situation and engaging with the stimulus.

Engagement is key. This myelinated vagal pathway changes the stressed reaction and can help improve your health.

We can't stay in an activated, sympathetic state, all of the time - we'll end up crashing. You also can't play dead forever or you're really going to be dead. Our body is supposed to regulate to responses in the environment then go back to the homeostatic base. Furthermore, even though the engagement state is beneficial - it's not something you should be in all the time either.

It's fascinating though to think that we are all wired differently and respond differently to stimuli. Our reactions to the world shape our world, and the events of the world shape our reactions. It's a cycle of call-and-response where we're continuously orienting.

Each of these states are beneficial and also harmful. A happy medium is best.

For some more examples and application of this theory, let's turn to the main characters in Island Whispers:

Adam is flight of freeze depending on the situation.
Grant is definitely fight, so is Monica.
Angelica is probably the fun, social category of interaction more than anything.

August 13, 2019

Art Escape

I love all forms of art. It's beautiful. It's fun. "It is what it is."

Sometimes I don't understand a piece, but maybe I'm just trying too hard to put meaning to something abstract. After all, "l'art pour l'art" or "art for art's sake." I'm not sure who said it, but I definitely agree. Art is what it is for itself, not the opinions or judgments of others.

I'm mainly a writer. I've chosen the written word as my medium and the forging of sentences as my masterpiece. It's something I enjoy and work to perfect. It's something that I want to learn more about and that I admire. However, there are times when I want to use my creative juices in some other form of art.

I've got an amateur hand when it comes to drawing. I am fairly competent at playing the flute. But, when it comes to other art forms, painting is relaxing for me. It has probably been months, maybe a year, since I shared painting on this blog but I know I've done it in the past.

Relatively recently, I moved to a new place. The thing about moving is that you have to get settled again. Every time you move, you have to find your niche and make a home for yourself. Part of this is done by setting up your room.

For the most part, I set up the essence of my room immediately. I had the basic functioning items. A bed and desk, I use my stepladder as a bookcase and I have a dresser in my closet. But, the soul of the room was missing.

All of my walls were bare in the beginning and I didn't have anything to hang. I didn't even have paper or art materials to make something. So, I've spent a number of weeks surrounded by blankness and while it's not urgent, I knew that I needed some more color.

So, I decided to create my own artwork for my walls. Creating a painting seemed like a good idea. I've done miniature ones before. I've painted a bike and avocados for my sister (on separate canvases) and I've done some flowers, landscapes and abstract pieces for myself.

However, when you're putting art in a room, it needs to coordinate with the other stuff. My issue is that I'm not style savvy. Still, the centerpiece of my room is my bed and the one thing that isn't going to change is my quilt. The quilt is a patchwork piece that my Nana sewed for me years ago. I've kept it and brought it everywhere since I left home. It's a bright spot and beautiful reminder. There are so many different colors on the quilt so I knew that my painting could be fairly colorful, but it also needed simplicity.

My best art usually has nature in it. It's easier for me to draw flowers or paint trees than work on animals or humans. Therefore, I decided that I wanted flowers to decorate my walls.

It turns out that I'm a very lucky person because a neighbor down the street is an artist. She willingly allowed me to use her studio, paints and brushes while I created my art. I felt a little funny walking down the street with two canvases half my height, but I'm super grateful that she gave me space to work. She also gave me suggestions and tips for painting.

As I mentioned, I'm amateurish when it comes to all other art forms. So, I learned a way to paint that didn't leave streaks across the canvas. I learned about mixing paint and different things that made it runny. I learned the proper method of washing brushes and the rule of never letting paint dry on your brush. It took almost two weeks, but I finally finished. You can see the finished product below.

I wanted something simple but also connected. The green vine and leaves connected the paintings together and the flowers separated them while showing off different colors of the quilt. Also, I kept with the rule of three for balance in the purple flowers. From my own experience with drawing, outlining in a darker shade brings out the lines and creates a contrast, so I outlined the pink petals to make it stand out and not so much of a blob. The white behind the yellow stamen in the center was under the advisement of my artist-neighbor and I did the same with the purple flowers to keep things balanced.

What do you think and what would you want to paint?
Flower painting for my walls. Original artwork!

August 6, 2019

Book Review: August

I've mentioned that I love being entertained before and books are very entertaining. For this month, I've chosen The Lightning Thief and I am fond of it. Certainly, Percy Jackson and The Olympians is a good series and appropriate for a young age group. I first read this when I was in 6th grade. It was actually the summer reading assignment, but I enjoyed every moment of it. When you have a book that is fun, it is not a chore; it is a chance to learn something interesting.

Rick Riordan is also a funny/sarcastic writer. As evidenced by the table of contents in The Lightning Thief. The chapters are amusing and also make you want to read further. Why are three old ladies knitting death socks? What is a Garden Gnome Emporium? Which god buys them cheeseburgers? How does he settle his tab? And where does he battle his jerk relative? 

All of your questions will be answered if you dare to flip the pages. And I do mean dare. Percy warns you on the first page that if you're one of them, then you might want to stop reading immediately. Because they'll find you.
And who are they, you might ask.
They are the monsters. The things that stalk and hunt demigods.
Or as Percy says, half-bloods.

It's a very down-to-earth story. I mean that in readability and the way that it is written. The beginning is like Percy is speaking directly to you. He gives you the basics, tells you who he is and then gets into the story. We learn that he has had an unusual childhood. Strange things happen around him and he's been kicked out of more schools than your average middle schooler. 

It isn't until later that we understand what the other half of his heritage might be. Part god. Greek god to be exact. Olympus is real. Monsters are real. And well, they're all...mad because something has been stolen. It doesn't take a genius to figure it out. Merely read the title and I think you know what it is. Begin the chant of: quest! Quest! Quest! We need a quest!

Give us a Joseph Campbell Hero's Journey!

The setting is a sort of modern day mixed with mythology. The things we know exist, but there is a hidden world that our mortal eyes can't see. Namely because of the mist, but that concept will be explained later. However, a modern day setting means that Percy and his two companions will be traveling in a modern day world. Buses, trains, walking...actually I just thought about a fun vacation where you mimicked his journey across the states. Wouldn't that be fun? If only some of the more fanciful locations were real. 

Back to the book. Percy is relatable, especially if you're around 12 when you're reading this. He has to deal with bullying, not fitting in, strange teachers, and an awful step parent. And that is before he learns that he is a demigod. 

Also, I think that it is really great that Rick Riordan invented the story for his son, Haley, and that it was meant to normalize ADHD and dyslexia. These aren't bad things. They're signs that you're a demigod - you can't sit still because of your fighting reflexes and your brain finds it easier to read ancient Greek than the modern alphabet. 

Besides that, Greek mythology is cool. It is absolutely fascinating. There are so many stories and variations on stories. There is so much art to be found. Our language has some roots in Greek. And they have some of the weirdest/terrifying monsters. How is a half-man, half-bull possible? Yet, it happens. What about a woman with snakes for hair and a petrifying gaze? And that is just scratching the surface. 

Consider Percy Jackson as an introduction to the world of Greek mythology and perhaps you'll feel spurred on to dig deeper and uncover buried bones of myths not so dead. 

July 30, 2019

Winding Down the Story

One more day left in July and then it's August!
Which means that Camp Nano will end in one more day. 

It has been quite a month. For those unfamiliar with Camp Nano, basically it is the "off-season" of National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) and it is a time for writers to work on projects of their choosing. Participants can also set their own goal for the month, choosing between words, minutes, hours, or even sentences!

I've been working on a new project. A story of fae and faeries, magic and wonder. I've had the idea on my mind for several months, (since last fall, I think). I had come across several stories with faeries. Sarah J. Maas' A Court of Thorns and Roses series, Holly Black - The Cruel Prince, mentions of the fae in Cassandra Clare's The Dark Artifices, along with stories and other small mentions in literature. Besides that I have always been fascinated with and enamored by faeries.

Side tangent - Have you ever built a faerie home?

Back when I was below the age of ten, I went to Girl Scout camp and they had a faerie forest with a place to add homes for the faeries. The homes were built from twigs, leaves and everything was natural. You had to construct something welcoming and sturdy. 

The Little Folk are shy creatures but they pervade every natural place. While in England, I told my friend Griffin (as we walked to Stonehenge) that the fun of imagination lay in the possibilities of everything. Including little faeries hiding in the trees and hollows, watching and waiting, and if you polluted their homes - you'd find mud and bugs in your bed!

So you see, my world has been primed with faeries and the idea of them, but for this story, I wanted to focus solely on the Fae. Most stories are stories with faeries and I wanted this story to be about a fairy. 

Also, have you noticed that there are variations on spelling and terminology?
We have faeries, fae, fairies, fairy, the little folk, the little people, fey, fays, faery, the fair folk, etc...

Setting aside all those different ways. My story is about Kira Ragwort. As a teaser, here is the beginning of the first chapter:

What do you think?

Beginnings are tricky.

They are the hooks that draw a reader into the story-world and if they don't add mystery and questions, people may set them down. So for this entire month, I've written and worked on this story. Since I'd put thought into it before hand, I had a general idea of where I wanted to go. I actually had titles and vague plans for the first fourteen chapters. 

Of course, stories rarely go to plan and once I really dove into the world, I discovered more characters and events then I'd originally thought of. 

Before the month of nano even started, I reworked the beginning and order of events. I'd sent a very rough draft to my friend and she'd given me some feedback on how to really get the action moving. It's a habit of mine to go into the mundane before the exciting which can be off-putting and disinteresting to a reader. I tend to over describe the littlest things and gloss over the big which really should be the other way around. Which is why I'm so grateful for my writing friends, I have so much support in the writing community and my buddies help me figure out where improvements need to be made.

If you want to see some quotes from the work, check out my instagram. I go by author.meganwong - not super creative, but it makes me easy to find. I'll be editing and revising the story in the coming months and I'll update on Kira's journey as I go. Perhaps something new shall hit me and create a new twist. All will be revealed in time.

What are your favorite "fairy tales" or encounters with the fae?

I'm a bit behind on my goal, so if you'll excuse me, I'll be furiously typing away now