Update: Tasmakat

So, last week I said I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. How is that tunnel looking now?

Progress over the week last week was really slow. I had a lot of other stuff going on, including grading the second Gen Bio test, which took an entire evening that I’ll never get back, sigh. (I was happy to see that two students brought their scores up A LOT compared to the first test; alas, at least one student did much worse than on the first test.) I will have lab reports to grade … sometime … but they are going to be so deeply boring and time-consuming that I’m putting that off till … I don’t know. Later. Tonight or tomorrow morning, I will need to set up a lab practical, which is amazingly annoying, but will at least be fast to grade. Traditionally every student bombs the first lab practical. I’m hoping some of them beat that expectation by a lot.

I also completed the extensive revision to the genetics powerpoint that will accompany a series of lectures. I took out almost all the pea plants and all the Drosophila and whatever else, and put in dogs, horses, cows, cats, just threw in tons of mammals everywhere, which increases the visual appeal tremendously. Sure, you can use pea plants to talk about straight-up dominance and recessiveness, but you can perfectly well use copper toxicosis in Bedlington Terriers and then you can add pictures of puppies and that is WAY cuter than pea plants.

I do have a couple of slides about blood types because, sure, that’s a fine example of multiple alleles plus codominance, but you know what else is a fine example of multiple alleles? The four alleles at the Agouti locus that helps set base color for dogs. I used a Belgian Tervuren to show red sable, a Keeshond — that’s a lovely breed that should be a thousand times more popular — for wolf sable, a Shiba for black-and-tan, and a German Shepherd for the surprisingly rare recessive black. (Most breeds have dominant black from the K locus, not recessive black from the Agouti locus.) And so on, right through the whole presentation.

I also added roughly ten thousand slides that walk students very carefully step by step through Punnett Squares and should help everyone avoid the common mistakes students make with all this material. (Well, everyone who pays the least bit of attention, anyway.) Tons of places where the slide says Do this now and I pause to give everyone a chance to try it themselves before moving on. Everything got rephrased and clarified, and the most crucial text is now RED to help it pop. The overall effect is to increase the number of slides A LOT, improve the clarity of the subject A LOT, and slow down the lectures A LOT, all to help everyone get this often challenging subject that I happen to really love.

Everything in this presentation is true, too, none of this nonsense about “brown eyes are dominant to blue eyes” and other total garbage that is too often presented in kindergarten genetics and gives students a thoroughly misleading idea of the subject. I should add, I’ve never had a chance to teach genetics using powerpoint — we drew stuff on whiteboards last time I did this. But I’ve taught this subject both in the classroom and to random people who are breeding dogs and want to know more about it and I’m very, very familiar with the most common misconceptions and mistakes. Every single student who wants to learn this is going to learn it.

I greatly enjoyed putting this presentation together and I’m really looking forward to getting to it, probably next week. I’m adding a big genetics problem set too, which will help students who care to take it seriously because I’m putting a lot of points on it, probably equivalent to a whole lab practical. But all this did of course take a good deal of time.

So how did that affect progress with Tasmakat?

I wrote just four thousand words during the week last week. OUCH. But then Saturday and Sunday, I made up for it, so I wound up writing 16,000 words total for the week. Where are we now?

–The important conversation is long over

–We are moving toward the action climax

–I wrote a scene that I didn’t see coming. Could it come out again? Sure, maybe, possibly. It’s not a crucial scene. But it sets Ryo up to have a specific thought in the next scene. That thought provides, I hope, clarity about what is going on with Aras, who is, I have to say, having a tough time right now, though he’s barely aware of that himself. Remember that all this is difficult to handle because we can only see Aras through Ryo’s pov. That means that it’s really important for Ryo to explicitly realize certain things so that the reader can understand what’s happening.

–That next scene has also been written, so that moment of clarity has occurred. That’s where we are right now.

What’s coming up:

–Clarification of the essential problem. I mean the action plot here.

–Movement toward dealing with the essential problem.

–Dealing with the essential problem.

This is three scenes, one each. As far as I know. I mean, I could very easily write another scene I don’t see coming. But at the moment, that’s what I think is coming up. That will take us into the scenes I’ve already written and therefore straight to the second part of the relationship climax, which I believe is the last thing we’re going to hit before the denouement.

We’re therefore still in the tunnel, BUT, maybe halfway through it. The light at the end is the denouement, by the way. I’m going to really love writing that! I just have to get through the action climax first. Will I get through that this week? Of course I don’t know, but I think overall this week should be calmer than last week, so I hope so.

Length: Tasmakat just hit 296,000 words. That means it’s exactly the same length right now as the Death’s Lady trilogy, which was previously the longest single work I’ve ever written. BUT, that was the final length for Death’s Lady, while this is the draft length for Tasmakat. This one will go longer, obviously, but I think they’ll probably be comparable in final length.

I will just mention, I started seriously working on Tasmakat in the middle of June. At the time I picked it up, I had 40,000 words written. This was the beginning plus something that now occurs in about chapter 12 or so rather than a smooth hundred and thirty pages. It’s now the middle of October. That’s 256k in four months, or 64,000 words per month, so even though it’s been difficult since the Gen Bio class started, really, I’m feeling pretty good about that.

Please Feel Free to Share:


6 thoughts on “Update: Tasmakat”

  1. If you really want to blow their minds, there is always wheat. Hexaploidy! Almost impossible to breed selectively, never mind GMO. I got curious about attempts to breed for drought tolerance recently. What a total rabbit hole.

  2. Pete, I absolutely do say, “Ploidy is something animals can’t screw around with, but most daylilies are tetraploid! Wheat is hexaploid! Plants do crazy things with ploidy!”

    Ann, thanks! Maybe I’ll put it somewhere and link to it. Not sure how, but we’ll see.

    Our best current understanding of everything involved in dog coat color is laid out here, if you’re interested.

  3. I’m curious about the Powerpoint, too. I’m ignorant about genetics, and this sounds interesting. I’m also curious to see the difference between Rachel-the-teacher and Rachel-the-writer. :-)

  4. Just going to point out that Rachel wins Nanowrimo. Every month!

    Also I wish you had been my genetics teacher! (Fruit flies: ugh!)(Though I suppose breeding rabbits would be impractical for a college class!)

  5. I might have arranged Virtual Breeding of dogs, with (if I could manage it) ways to go wrong and oops! all the puppies died because you made a mistake. (Not like I have a soapbox here.) (Fine, I absolutely do have a soapbox here.)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top