Chameleons Really Belong in Sci-Fi

Drawing this reminded me of how weird they are, and how much they really don’t seem like they belong in the real world. If I had never heard of them and someone described a chameleon to me, I’d probably call bullshit.

Their fingers are fused to form perfect little tree-grabbing pinchers. They change color according to their mood. (Not to blend in to their environment, as is commonly believed. This one was almost perfectly¬†millennial pink when I met him, and that’s not exactly a common shade in their natural habitat.) Their eyes bug out from their heads and swivel around independently from each other. Their tails function like a fifth limb. Some of them have straight-up Triceratops horns. They can shoot their tongues out to grab food as it goes about its business a foot or more away from what would have been the danger zone for a normal lizard. They’re basically just cute, grumpy little aliens.

A sketch of a juvenile panther chameleon in pen and ink

Because I’ve worked in reptile stores, I also need to add that they’re high maintenance creatures and you should not go out and buy your own grumpy little alien unless you’re very prepared to spend a decent chunk of money on proper lighting and a large, well-ventilated enclosure. They don’t even like to be held, generally, and picking them up without a great deal of care can break their ribs. They’re strictly display aliens, not cuddly pets.

A Quick Visit and Some Very Cute Chickens

I visited my family in California this week and had a nice time. My grandma is almost ninety one, and has been losing some of her memory, so I’m trying to spend more time down there. Her memories are important, and I want to take some of them on when I can.

That means flying, which I’m generally not a fan of, but it’s more efficient than spending the better part of four days driving down to the Bay Area and back. Seeing my family is worth it, though, and having my ADHD under better control means that getting to flights on time and handling the bustle of a chaotic airport is less intimidating than it used to be. It also makes it easier to plan ahead to take my anti-nausea meds in time, because, oh boy, does flying play merry havoc with my inner ear.

While I was there, I also got my meet the newest batch of miniature chickens in my friend’s backyard farm. They’re only about a week old, or they were when I met them, but they’re also seramas, a breed of chicken that don’t typically get much bigger than large pigeons as adults. Their babies are impossibly tiny and adorable.

A little sketch of one of her hens watching over the babies while they practiced their very important pecking skills.
One of the serama mamas giving me a good eyeballing for being near the chicks. Her hens tend to sit on their eggs in pairs, so the chicks always have two mamas to watch over them.
This chick seemed mostly okay with being held. They’re so soft!
The yellow chick had some rather loud objections to me holding her, so I returned her to her little family pretty quickly. She’s still totally my favorite of this clutch.

Sorry for Ghosting on Y’all

Some things that happened over the last couple of months:

We had an unexpected houseguest who stayed with us for a month and some change.

My dogs consequently developed the delightful habit of baying almost constantly at any hint of someone walking by the house, instead of just barking their heads off at the odd squirrel or package delivery. It was not great for my nerves.

I adopted a little rabbit in need. His name is Frodo. He has some special needs that he’ll hopefully grow out of, so I occasionally get to stay up until 4am nursing him. It’s okay, though. He gives me cute bunny kisses to make up for it.

Some of the African violets my friend gave me finally bloomed for the first time, and they were lovely. For a couple of days.

Frodo ate all the flowers off of the African violets, dug up a fern, and then decimated my windowbox basil, making himself temporarily ill and living up to his hobbit name.

The beautiful fish pond that came with our house quit working for real and several solid weekends of work haven’t managed to get it up and running yet. Our fish are not happy about this, but the mosquitos are.

An unexplained fly invasion of almost biblical proportions. The lizard and our small, bouncy dog enjoyed this more than I did.

Several meltdowns on my part, or possibly one slow and prolonged meltdown that lasted for about a month and some change.

I eventually stopped banging my head against a brick wall in my Somnolence manuscript and decided to work on something lighter for a while, so I’m currently writing the second draft of a young adult book that’s been waiting in my project list for years. It is cute and it has dragons. Jumping between projects usually isn’t recommended, but if it’s between less than ideal practice and another month of being too stressed and up in my own head to actually get words on the page, I’ll take it. Some words written, even on what’s technically the wrong project, are infinitely better than no words written at all.

I learned how to make pizza without garlic or dairy, so my husband and I can both eat it, and it is really awesome.

I completely reworked my scheduling practices and managed to wrench my sleeping patterns back to mostly normal and almost enough rest each night.

I got a couple of very cute pink plants today, partially as a reward to myself for pulling my shit back together after letting myself get pretty thoroughly derailed, and partially as a bribe to myself to get back into writing blog posts even though it’s embarrassing to have just vanished for two months. So, I’m back now.

The Goose Girl

So, my little sister gave me The Goose Girl ¬†by Shannon Hale many years ago, and then it sat on my shelf and moved from apartment to apartment with me for so long that I completely forgot where it even came from, and I almost tossed it out when she was helping me sort my office. She kindly reminded me that she had given it to me, because she’s a very nice person, so I finally sat down to read it. It’s a little bit slow to start, so it took me a few sittings to get through the set-up, and then I hit the part where the story really takes off and binged the rest in one night. It was pretty great. I totally regret not having read it sooner.

First off, I think anyone who is not neurotypical has a good chance of finding the main character, Ani, highly relatable. She doesn’t connect easily with other humans, but not for lack of trying. She doesn’t have an instinctive grasp of social interactions and protocol, so it feels like everyone around her is understanding and communicating things that aren’t accessible to her. She doesn’t read people super well, so she tends to take what they say fairly literally and at face value. She’s naturally honest and forthright, and has a strong sense of justice. She has a deep interest in animals, and feels stifled when she’s forced to focus on all the things that people think are more appropriate for her. She tries her best to fit into a mold that isn’t made for someone like her, and feels like a failure because she can’t do it. She’s pretty much every autistic or ADHD teenage girl, basically.

I kind of love Ani.

I also love that the story doesn’t frame her as a failure, even though she often feels like one. Her differentness isn’t portrayed as the problem, her unsuitable environment and the people who take advantage of her are. She doesn’t need to change who she is in order to succeed, she needs to find a place where she can heal, grow, and be appreciated for the kind of person that she already is.

The set-up: Ani, short for Anidori-Kiladra, is the crown princess of a small kingdom. Some people in this world have different magical gifts which allow them to understand and speak the languages of animals, elements, or other people. Her mother the queen is a skilled people-speaker, but Ani has a talent for understanding animals rather than other humans. Her aunt helps her to develop this skill when she’s very young, but soon Ani is pressured by her mother to focus only on her future duties as queen and to put aside her “childish” interests.

When it becomes clear that she’s not well-suited to the life that her mother had originally planned out for her, she is sent away to marry a prince from a neighboring kingdom, but she meets tragedy and betrayal along the way. In order to survive, she has to run away from everything she’s ever known and learn to trust her own judgement.

Content warnings after the picture, if you’re interested.

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CW: Emotional abuse, some physical violence, and animal-related tragedy.
(If you’re the kind of person who breaks down when bad stuff happens to the dog in the movie, you’re gonna have a hard time with some parts of this book. There’s no dog, but you get the idea.)