All posts by blair

Writer, educator, speaker, karateka, and proud single parent. Actively wondering every day.

Collision, Concussion, Consequence

carcrash3.1If you follow me on different platforms–okay, primarily Twitter, truth told–you’ll know I was in a car accident about a week ago.  At first, I considered myself unhurt, applying the rather incomplete and stupid standard of, “No bleeding, no broken bones, able to walk–I’m good.”  Then I spent the night with an increasing painful headache, dropping off to sleep whether I wanted to or not, and awakening over and over with room-spinning nausea.  Word mix-ups, wonky scent and taste perception, and time distortions came next.

Yep.  Concussion.

So I’ve been under all sorts of restrictions, including time spent on any sort of screen.  Much more than thirty minutes in, and I have to quit for at least a couple of hours because the headache and blurry vision start closing in.

Writing by hand is a tad easier, simply because–unlike computer work–the vision starts to blur before the headache comes along.  Believe me, as much as I’d rather speed along on the computer, I’ll take the blurry-vision warning over the headache any day.  But it does mean I pretty much can’t work right now.

Putting together a blog post over the course of two days is one thing, but copyediting ad and marketing copy is quite another.  And keeping the plot straight while revising a multi-POV novel.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

So while I’m waiting for my smooshed brain to recover, I’ll just remind y’all my Patreon is still plugging along with original articles on self-defense, fight scenes, whiskey, and puppers.  A dollar a month gets you first-eyes access.  In the next four weeks, there will be a new fight scene analysis, too, so it’s a good time to jump in if you haven’t already!

And I’m having a Post-Collision Concussion Sale on all the novels!  Sand of Bone, Breath of Stone, and the stand-alone Sword and Chant are all only $2.99 until the doctors clear me to resume working.  If you’ve been waiting for the price-drop, this is your chance!  If you liked any of them, please pass along the links!  If you didn’t like them at all… well, thank you for sticking with me anyway!  🙂

Next week, brain willing, I’ll also be talking about the upcoming Sirens Conference, timing for new releases, and the cookbook that I swear I haven’t forgotten.

So in the meantime… Stay safe, my Darlings, and enjoy this season of transition.

#SFWApro

 

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Creative Weaponry

This article originally appeared for patrons only at Patreon.

I learned a new word recently: parallax. It has become one of my favorites.

Parallax is the visual difference we perceive in an object’s position when we change our own position in relation to the stationary object. It’s why we get the most accurate reading from a standard dial when we view it directly. Tilt your head from one side to the other, or close one eye and then the other, and the dial’s needle will appear to give you a different reading each time. The reading itself doesn’t change, but our perception of it does.

So we’re going to chat today about using the parallax principle in a self-defense context.

It isn’t a revolutionary concept. Think asymmetric warfare, where one side has all the fire power and the other side has… whatever they can find. It’s easy to assume the Big Fire side can inflict horrible destruction on the Whatever side with impunity, and quickly win the day. Easy, and wrong. Rather, the first part can be correct, but the second doesn’t automatically follow.

The parallax, in this context, is mentally shifting one’s own perspective to see the unchangeable from a different angle

So let’s apply this to self-defense.

First, if you’re targeted directly, it’s usually because your attacker has done a quick survival-based calculus and determined you are on the Whatever side, while they are on the Big Fire side. Thousands upon thousands of words can be written about how to project Big Fire rather than Whatever, and they’re all valid to a degree. But even if you perfectly project I AM BIG FIRE DON’T MESS, there will always be someone who decides they’re Bigger Fire, or who will misjudge you completely. And really, any Big Fire attack that assumes Whatevers are easy targets can be proven wrong in ways they can’t imagine. (Because, honestly, if they had imagined, they wouldn’t be attacking.)

But the bottom line is this: unless you’ve been told in advance to expect an attack, the attacker will always have the advantage of surprise.

Second, get used to thinking creatively now, while you’re reading this article in safety, rather than in the middle of a crisis. Give your mind a chance to practice such creativity. Create the neuropathways for your synapses to follow, the emotional response pattern for fear and panic to fall into when things go sideways. Let self-defense creativity become a habit rather than a special event.IMG_20170609_194433_322

A decent starting place is to look at the weapons you are not permitted to carry under most circumstances, and determine what traits make those weapons weapons in the eyes of those banning them for safety purposes.

For example, it’s illegal to carry the keyring pictured above onto an airplane, and it’s illegal to carry it on the ground in many places, because it’s considered akin to knuckle dusters. And yet, the principle behind its use is no different from the “standard” self-defense advice to hold your keys in your fist… with the keys sticking out.

The first one is considered a weapon dangerous enough to outlaw. The second is just something you carry around in your pocket or purse.

Knives? Right out in restricted settings, because people fear (with good reason!) being stabbed. But pencils, Uniball fine point pens, hair sticks, fondue sets, knitting needles… Well, for awhile those last two were indeed banned from airplanes as “dual use” items. But can you imagine everyone tossing out our pens and pencils as well before boarding a plane? Maybe, under the same “BAN ALL LIGHTERS AND BULLWHIPS” craze from a few years ago. The point is, there’s a point. A sharp point. A sharp point that can stab. And the sharp point is shared by many items folks don’t consider weapons because they haven’t shifted their perspective.

I could bring along a six-inch screwdriver on any U.S. flight, whereas a seven-inch one is considered too dangerous—odd, since no one needs a full seven inches to penetrate an eyeball. Also permitted are under-four-inch scissors that have blunt, rather than sharp, tips… which ignores the fact the slash of a sharp edge is almost always more deadly than the stab.

The reality is a weapon is anything that helps you defeat your attacker. It’s why twenty people and four planes can alter the course of an entire nation without once engaging that nation’s powerful military. It’s why fertilizer sales of large quantities are monitored. It’s why a calmly raised voice in a professional situation can stop a harasser from putting hands on your body. And it’s why those TSA lists of banned items sometimes seem ridiculous. Once you start down the mental road of possibilities, the “safety” that comes from banning certain items becomes increasingly brittle.  That’s the parallax, my darlings.

So let’s play a little bit:

I’m at a restaurant. I have at hand the items pictured below. It isn’t the best picture, so I’ll tell you want I have at hand. From left to right: heavy glass salt and pepper shakers, ceramic sugar-packet holder that fits in the palm of my hand, multi-page bound menu with soft metal corners, silverware wrapped in a large cloth napkin, the computer cord, my drink (vodka tonic), a lightweight candle holder and candle (unlit), and the computer. How many of those things are weapons?

All of them, in some context or another, though a couple might take a bit of MacGuyver-ing than others.

The silverware is an easy go-to, whether it’s fork, knife, or spoon. Each can be effective, depending on the target. But the napkin is also a weapon. If I need a non-finesse move, I can throw it in the face of my attacker to gain a second of time. If I want to get all fancy (and therefore more risky), I could dunk a corner in my drink and snap the attacker’s eye with it.

As for the drink, I could toss the contents in the attacker’s face, too. While it’s tempting to consider the glass itself a weapon, think through what it would take to make that a weapon that wouldn’t also slice up my own hand. Possible, certainly, but again more risky. If I had enough distance, I might throw it, though. The little candle holder, or the ceramic sugar packet holder, would actually make the better blunt striking weapon.

The salt and pepper shakers will work for that purpose, too. But if the situation allows nine seconds* to spare—and that’s a really long time in most self-defense contexts—I’d rip the tops off each shaker. Salt in one hand, aimed for the eyes. Picture starting the strike with a closed fist, then splaying the hand open right before contact. Sure, the salt will burn the eyes, but it’ll also scratch them, causing vision impairment that doesn’t depend on a pain threshold.

Pepper goes in the other hand. This time, picture a palm strike, driving upward, to deliver that pepper directly into the nose or mouth. Again, this sort of thing will be… uncomfortable, shall we say, but it’s the impaired breathing that’s truly the desired result. Inhaling a tablespoon of black pepper in the middle of a fight is not conducive to victory.

That multipage menu is stiff enough that it would cause a little, but not much, discomfort if I struck someone with its metal corners. But folded up, it could slow a knife-stab were I really good at keeping it between me and the attacker. If I’m lucky (and holding the menu far enough from my own body) the knife would penetrate the menu, which could allow me a moment to yank the knife from the attacker’s grasp. In that way, the menu is actually a better shield than the computer, as most strikes would bounce off the latter.

And as I’m writing this, I’m realizing I’d have to be damned desperate to put my computer in harm’s way, let alone risk swinging it against someone’s head. I know that’s stupid—I mean, Yay, Carbonite!—but there it is. I now know I’ll hesitate to damage my computer. Good job, silly subconscious!

Ahem. Moving on.

The computer cord is most certainly a weapon—as a strangle-cord, if nothing else—but that does require an up-close and personal aspect, not to mention the need to maneuver behind my opponent to put the weapon to good use. The better use, if I want to maintain distance, might be double it up, with the heavier power pack hanging free to swing it at my attacker. I wouldn’t consider that very effective, though, unless my purpose were to distract before my actual attack.

I admit I’m at a total loss on the sugar packets. I’d love to hear your parallax on that one, my darlings.

One last thing on the parallax: It is all about you, and what you choose to see. It’s all about taking a step to one side or the other, or seeing the subtle shift that can happen when you use but one eye instead of two… and that leads to the final lesson.

You need two eyes to achieve accurate depth perception.

You need two views to understand self-defense.

This article originally appeared for patrons only at Patreon.  Because they’re wonderful patrons, they support making the articles on self-defense available to everyone after a period of exclusivity.  But Patrons have access to exclusive content and other benefits as well–whiskey posts, pupper posts, advance ebook copies, and more!  So if you find it valuable and helpful, thank the patrons, and consider becoming one yourself!

#SFWApro

 

Speaking of Authors Speaking…

I gave my first keynote presentation when I was eighteen. Since then, I’ve come up against dang near every minor and moderate issue a presenter might encounter.

As writers, panels, conferences, readings, classes and workshops are likely to come our way. I’m not going to speak here about choosing your topic or material, or outlining and establishing a talk or class (but will later, if folks are interested!). Instead, we’re going to chat about… problems.BookLook

No matter how fantastic the story you’ll be reading or how perfect the PowerPoint you’ve created, the difference between a great presentation—for you and your audience—and a bad presentation doesn’t lie in whether you encounter problems. It depends on how well you face the challenge, crisis, or OH SHIT moment.

We could drill through a score of subcategories and specifics. But we’re going to touch on the three areas most speaking challenges fall under: Technology Is Fickle, Who the Hell Is In Charge, and I Misjudged My Audience.

  1. Technology Is Fickle

Don’t skip this one, thinking your talks are “too small” to involve AV equipment. Electricity falls under “technology,” and the power grid doesn’t care if you have twenty-seven people ready to learn self-defense in a windowless hotel conference room when a lacking-judgement squirrel loses its life to a transformer up the road.

Yep, it happened. Continue reading Speaking of Authors Speaking…

Five Striking Truths

This article originally appeared for patrons only at Patreon.

1. Strength Is Overrated  

Bulked-up muscular strength, that is. Big biceps will help you choke someone out, but don’t do as much for straight-on strikes as the coordination of muscles with tendons and ligaments and overall body alignment. And if the muscles were strengthened with isolation exercises, chances are the result will be reduced mobility, shortened reach and increased risk of joint injury.

There are indeed a few athletes who can carry their bulk with unbelievable agility, but that takes an incredible amount of skill, is really hard on the joints, and is an ability more the exception than the rule.100_2182

In storytelling, the victory of the seemingly-weak over the hulking enemy is older than the Biblical tale of David and Goliath. It endures because there is truth in it. Sure, a haymaker thrown by a bulked-up fighter can indeed break a jaw and knock someone out cold, just like a sledgehammer strike. But there’s a reason bodybuilders aren’t boxers. Lots of reasons, actually. Most of those reasons have to do with agility and coordination. While the Bulky Guy is swinging that sledgehammer of a punch, you can land a few hits to his most vulnerable targets and get out of the way before the punch lands.

Speaking of vulnerable targets… Continue reading Five Striking Truths

Grief Is Sneaky, Reprised

I did not intend to let our little corner here lapse into silence for nearly three months.  The reasons are mostly boring–having to do on one hand with a job possibility that did not come to pass, and on the other hand with freelance projects that indeed came to pass (but on an uncomfortably tight deadline for even a fast writer) at the same time extensive home remodeling kicked into high gear.

I also did not intend for the first post in forever to be on the topic of grief.  I would have preferred the Patreon re-launch, truly.

But I also made a commitment to be honest and open about grief because it so rarely is discussed once “the expected” period of mourning is over.  So here I am, Memorial Day morning, typing despite an ocular migraine, because I spent half of yesterday weeping.

That… was unexpected.  Yes, I’ve been immensely stressed all the way around, yet thinking the weekend would be fine regardless.  Yesterday being race day, we had the whole family over.  I had a drink, started showing off what we’ve been doing in the basement to my sister, then spotted the pictures my son had just unpacked.

And there was the framed show poster from when my late husband and I were dating, and the sole professional photo of the three of us when Dev wasn’t much more than a year old.  And this one.

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I lost it.  I cried, then apologized for crying, then cried again, then assured everyone I was fine.  I went into my half-finished bedroom to work on a few things once everyone else had left, then started crying again.  At some point, for reasons I don’t know, I crawled into the closet to huddle up and cry some more.  I pulled it together to get something to eat and act sociable for awhile, then made an excuse to go for a drive so I could cry again.

It’s been six years since my husband’s funeral.  It’s been four years since my best friend’s memorial.  Now another dear friend is starting chemo.  I just… lost it.

Today, I’m feeling all cried out.  I’m tired.  Tired.  Usually, I attend a service or ceremony to mark this day, but I am still under the bedcovers.  I absolutely must work on the freelance project today.  I’m thinking it’ll all happen in my pajamas.

So… There it is.  That grief and loss thing, feeling bigger for a few hours yesterday than it has in a long, long time because–if I’m painfully honest–it is cranked up by the terror of losing my recently-diagnosed friend as well.

 

Logan: The Movie I Saw Might Have Been Different

So my son and I saw Logan a couple nights ago, and I mentioned on Twitter that I nearly walked out about ten minutes in. What I didn’t add was that I wanted to walk out and throw up. Neither the urge to walk nor the queasiness happened because the film did anything wrong for me. Instead, it was because the film depicted something so incredibly well, I took the gut punch before I even knew it was coming.

So this is not a review. It’s a reaction. Mild spoilers shall follow in this post, and might show up in comments should folks choose to chime in.

First, a review-ish thing unrelated to the gut punch: The fight scenes are incredible, and not because they’re all fancied up with slow-motion or odd lingering close-ups or flashy weapon manipulation that actual fighters won’t bring to an actual fight. No, my darlings, the fights in Logan are logical and smart. They are swift. They are economical. And those are the two traits a fighter who is experienced—and, frankly, plagued by a lifetime of scars and reduced stamina—will demonstrate in real life. Fighters who survive don’t become flashier as they age. They become efficient.

Now for the gut punch.

Many people have mentioned the aspect of abuse and trauma survivorship. I was hit with something else early in the film.

Caregiving.

Spoilers are below the cut for courtesy.

Continue reading Logan: The Movie I Saw Might Have Been Different

Even the Deer Are Different

I could go on and on and on about the differences between Colorado living and Indiana living.  The landscape, the diversity, the climate, the opportunities…

But I’m going to tell you about the deer.

Indiana has white-tailed deer.  Colorado has mule deer.  I could go on about differences in their mass and height, but the real difference is in attitude.

White-tailed deer are anxiety ridden things, truly.

If they’re browsing at the side of the road and a car comes by, they panic and bolt.  They often bolt in front of the car.

If they’re browsing in a large field and see or hear something disturbing, they panic and bolt.  They often bolt toward a road.  Where cars are.

And if they’re just moving from one field to another, they leap onto roads.  When cars are passing.

If the deer is calmly crossing the road, and a car comes close, the deer will sometimes stand in place, or stutter-step back and forth before bounding off.  But—and here’s the crazy part—that deer will often trot out of the car’s path… then change its mind and dash the opposite direction just in time to get hit by the car whose driver thought the deer was (reasonably) going to stay ten feet away.

I lived just outside the edge of town.  I saw this a great deal.

Once upon a time, my late husband was driving on 465, the major highway that encircles Indianapolis.  He didn’t hit a deer.  The deer hit him.  Slammed right into the side of the car, buckling the rear door and shattering the window.

White-tailed deer are skittish and unpredictable.

Mule deer, on the other hand, don’t give a fuck.

Mule deer browse on the side of the road.  And when I say “side of the road,” I mean they’re right there.  Two feet from the pavement.  They really don’t care about the traffic.  They might look up now and then, but it’s passing curiosity and nothing more.

If they cross the road, they usually do it as a mosey, and they’ll make eye contact as they do it.  “Go ahead, hit me,” the even stare says.  “Just wait until you see what I can do to your car.”

(I should mention mule deer look a damn sight more solid than white-tailed deer, too.)

And before they cross the road, I swear they look both ways.

I’ve come upon mule deer while driving, and they don’t spook like white-tailed deer do.  They just give me The Look, and keep on with their mosey.

My oddest mule deer moment came when I was driving home from Tai Chi, on a well-used road with development on one side and open hills on the other.  I rolled up to a stop sign, and glanced both directions before moving forward.

And caught my breath.

Out the passenger window of my little Hyundai sedan, I could just see the chest and chin of a huge mule deer.  I had to lean over to see his antlers.  He was massive.  And he was just standing there, close enough I could have touched his muzzle were I in the passenger seat (and dared to roll down the window), waiting for me to get the hell out of his way.  Sure enough, as I rolled forward, he strolled across the road behind me as if he had all the time in the world.  And he looked at my tail lights as if thinking, “Yeah, you better move along.”

But the most unsettling mule deer moment came last fall, when I’d run away to a local campground for a couple nights.  My little Tanner-pup spotted a collection of mule deer, ran to the end of her lead, and barked like crazy.  The mule deer looked up from their browsing and advanced.  Even Tanner decided it was best to shut up and back down.

White-tailed deer were annoying and dangerous.

Mule deer…  I don’t want to mess with them at all.