Free Dino Art Lessons for Kids!

I have been blessed with the chance to lead free art lessons at events held by the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center. And now I can share some of the lessons I started making.

These are mainly for the little artists in your family, but feel free to try one yourself, if you want.

Here are Brontosaurus, Velociraptor, and Stegosaurus. Entirely free. No copyright. Just print and follow the directions. Make copies if you want.

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Is it Okay to Keep Scaly Raptors in Jurassic World?

Raptor with feathers (1)

Speedy seems to have no problems with the idea.

It’s a Velociraptor. With feathers.

I regret nothing.

There’s a huge difference between caring about accuracy (that’s good), and whining about it with an overpowering sense of entitlement (that’s bad) to see feathered dinosaurs in a movie series where the already-cloned Velociraptors┬áhave a few differences in color, but lack any plumage. I tried treating the plumage-pushers like they had a sense of decency, flexibility, and/or maturity. Turns out I was naive.

The best way to deal with these bullies is to mock them, then ignore their tantrums. Consider this my farewell letter to the┬ástark-raving madness and nitpicking. No point in arguing anymore with those who fume, fuss, and froth at the mouth over feathers. It’s Christmas time.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

A Brighter Day for Paleontology? Switek Steps Down

Edit: June 05, 2013

Evidently, reacting to a link I stumbled across on another paleontologist’s site and then having something critical to say about it is clear proof of “trolling” in Mr. Switek’s mind, just because I’ve criticized him in the past, and I must be someone who’s obsessed and out to “get” him.

Or maybe I saw him doing something I cannot stand (condescending to others if they don’t see the world like he does, and making mountains out of paleontological mole hills), and tried multiple times to call him out for it. Either way, I neither threaten him nor trawl his account for excuses to snipe at him, nor do I call him names. Nothing that I can remember, in any case. If I think he says something that insults my intelligence, I’ll say so. But his best excuse is “go away and shut up.” Which of course doesn’t go over well with me, since I see a problem in his treatment of other people that’s still not getting solved.

Is that “trolling,” or being an annoying busybody? Either way, it’s not laudable. I apologize for sometimes being frustrated. I confess I should have let it go long ago, something I already admitted. For honesty’s sake, I’d just love to see him treat others with more respect and more open-mindedness. But fine. I’ll gladly stop paying him attention. He already gets far too much as it is.

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After four years, Brian Switek is leaving his “Dinosaur Tracking” Blog for the Smithsonian and moving on to what I hope are bigger and better things. Though I wish him the best of luck (honest, I do), I confess that I’m glad about it. Sorry, fellow paleo-nerds.

Here’s the thing: I wanted to love Switek’s blog. I really did. There are many informative posts, I admire and envy his depth and breadth of knowledge, and his devotion to scientific accuracy is quite laudable.

Here’s the problem: His concern for scientific accuracy was rarely expressed in a constructive light. Most of the time it was excessive griping about how movies and TV shows don’t portray dinosaurs quite as accurately as museums and the peer-reviewed literature, or bemoaning all the “inexcusable” mistakes the public at large was making about dinosaurs. At one point he even asked the media to “leave dinosaurs alone” because he couldn’t stand the inaccuracies.

But that’s like asking science fiction movies to “leave space alone” because they rarely get their astrophysics right. I don’t recall Neil DeGrasse Tyson stating that we should stop making space operas. And for all their inaccuracies, Star Wars and Star Trek somehow inspired a whole generation of scientists, engineers, and astronauts.

Wait, inaccurate movies inspiring people toward science and education?! No. Freaking. Way. Imagine that! Maybe there’s a glimmer of hope for Jurassic Park to keep inspiring kids to become paleontologists, even with its featherless Velociraptors and poisonous Dilophosaurs.

Not that science isn’t important — of course it is! And I am not saying entertainers have license to throw accuracy to the wind — they should make an effort, most of the time. But entertainment has purposes besides educating people about all the minutiae of scientific accuracy. Sometimes you just get a better story by fudging a couple of details. And if it is somehow a flaw or a mistake, it’s not the end of the world (today’s date notwithstanding). It’s best to shrug it off and let it go, rather than hop onto a Smithsonian blog and sniffle at all those uneducated masses, as they make errors so tremendous and damaging, they’d be better off just leaving dinosaurs to the professionals.

I’ll listen gladly to other paleontologists, thank you, namely those who allow people to imagine and exercise a little artistic license.

More Thoughts on Reader-Focused Fiction

Considering the rhetoric of self-publishers and indie publishers these days, especially in regards to traditional publishing, you’d think that authors are finally unshackled from the chains of tyrants who cruelly eviscerated work that “didn’t sell” and denied them entry into the life meant for them, the life of a Writer. Even if you’re not looking for Stephen King-caliber popularity, you are apparently being cheated out of your true potential by going with a gatekeeper. The image of the big publishing companies has rather swiftly evolved into something a little like this.

Meet my pet. His name's Skippy. Yes, you read that right. Skippy. Don't judge me.

But as happy as I am that everyone now has the option for selling their work and becoming known as an official Author, I want to reiterate from a previous post: your writing is meant to serve others.

I mentioned that I appreciate the gatekeepers, and that some people are running away from them for the wrong reasons. Even though the self-publishing industry is thriving more than ever, it seems to have lost a great deal of focus on serving readers with great storytelling, and shifted its focus to marketing. That could be just my limited exposure to such talk, so please tell me if I am wrong.

Most writing talks and articles nowadays are geared toward self-pubbers, with instructions on how to format a book, what price the Kindle edition should have, and how you can advertise your name through social media (Maybe that’s just “most” articles and talks I’ve seen and I need to hit the Writer’s Digests again).

I’m here to ask all fiction writers, no matter what they write or how they publish it: how high is excellent storytelling on your priorities list?

What of the readers who need a great book in their hands? What of the complex characters and patiently built plots they hunger for, flowing in the veins of a living story that tells them something True about themselves and about mankind?

Are you willing to kill your ego and send the book to an agent, or hire an editor for it? Remember this: every writer goes to war, picking up a rifle and doing their part. And whether or not they know it, they’ll need a drill sergeant to let them know what they’re getting right, and what they’re totally screwing up. If you’re a writer, you need such a colleague because you are bound to a cause that serves others, gifting them with an endless supply of new stories that they will care about. Readers want and need stories that challenge, that bewilder, that terrify and amuse and race through the blood until it becomes a part of them. Renewing your commitment to excellence is more important than ever, for your readers have so many excuses to be distracted.

Don’t let them be distracted. Give them a story that captures them as surely as a spell, and do this by honing your skills and wit until they are as sharp as obsidian. Learn to care about your readers more than whether the story needs to run through a gauntlet of “gatekeepers” to reach them. Your readers are starving for wonderful new fiction. They need the best tales you’ve got.