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Monthly Archives: May 2011

Attitude is Everything

So starting May 2nd, I moved into my new position at work. It requires longer hours than my previous position, but my writing output has skyrocketed. Here are my accomplishments for the past month:

  • Finished a critique that was long overdue,
  • Did another revision of my epic fantasy,
  • Prepped and submitted my epic fantasy,
  • Tackled my Cinderella story again, adding almost 5000 words.

Compared to what I’ve been doing over the previous half-year, this is remarkable. The difference, I believe, is attitude.

In my previous job, I was very morose. There were a number of difficulties I won’t get into here, but it affected my attitude in making me nervous of the future, depressed, and feeling somewhat worthless. I tried gamely to write–almost every night, except when we had our Firefly marathon–but I was unsatisfied with the results. Nothing was good enough. I thought it was all crap.

I knew I needed a change at work, so I started talking to people. I spoke to a previous manager, who spoke to her manager, who spoke to her husband, who hired me. It turned out that he spoke to some people too, and got some recommendations from unexpectedly high places. When I went for my interview, he told me that it was mostly a formality, because I came highly recommended. And then he proceeded to tell me exactly who had recommended me. Leaving me open-mouthed in shock.

One thing about getting recommendations is what it does for your confidence. I still work my butt off to earn those recommendations that those people gave me. And I come home with such a transformed attitude that my husband still remarks about it.

If you manage people, please, let them know when they are doing a good job. Don’t wait until performance review, when you’ll forget the specifics. Send it in writing, and then keep them for the performance review, when you can refer to all the kudos you have given out. I know you probably only can give so many “exceeds expectations” a year, but it’s not fair to your employees to make that decision hard on them. Won’t you feel better about making that decision if you can take a folder out just filled with kudos that you have given your team? Knowing that you have so many good people to choose from? And even if you can’t give them all an exceeds, you an find other ways to reward them. It doesn’t have to cost money. We employees know what’s going on.

Also, if you manage people, especially professional people, please, trust them. Yes, they’ll screw up, but they don’t want to, and most employees will try to fix their mistakes. When you micromanage, you make your employees feel worthless. Like you don’t even trust them to do their job. It has helped my attitude so much that my new manager simply flings work at me, often without bothering to check the results. And I get it done.

And even if you don’t manage or supervise anyone, no matter what you do, your attitude is going to affect how you perceive the quality of what you are doing. I looked over the stuff I had written before my transfer, and I was surprised to find myself laughing at least once a page. Before my transfer, I thought everything I had written was crap. Now, I’m looking at it and I know that it was just my poor attitude, looking at my writing through turd-colored glasses. It isn’t crap. My enthusiasm for the story has rebounded after months and months of thinking it was awful.

If your attitude is poor, please, look for the source of that poor attitude and try to do something about it. Focus on one problem at a time–the one that is the most easily solved. I couldn’t do anything about this poor housing market, the depressing economy, the tumult in the publishing industry, and  certain other things affecting my life. But I could and did change my job. It very unexpectedly turned out to be the easiest thing to change. And it helped so much. A similar change may help you, too.

Attitude is everything.

My Writer's Block Writing Cycle

Writing Update: I finished my epic fantasy revision, and after a reread of a section I had to rewrite, I’m packing it up for submission, hopefully by Friday. When it is off and I can forget about it, I’ll return my efforts to finishing the Cinderella story. I think my new job is going to be good for my writing output because I’m not so frustrated all the time.

~*~

I’ve mentioned briefly how I tend to have stories in a rotation. I call it my Writer’s Block Story Rotation. In order to maintain a reasonably prolific pace (and I admit that this has been a horrible year for my writing output), I like to cycle a short work with a long work.

When I was writing The Sevenfold Spell, it was a short story that I wrote in tandem with and just after my spy fantasy. The Sevenfold Spell was written during a bit of a novel drought for me, during which time I wrote several short stories, and started three novels while abandoning one. So what I was left with was four short stories–including The Sevenfold Spell— and two solid starts to promising novels. (In case you’re curious, one of those short stories has been under submission for 8 months, one I submitted to a bunch of places, and the other needs some finishing touches but it’s kind of my last priority now. It almost fits in my fairy tale theme because it’s based on a Native American Legend, but it’s not nearly long enough.)

I’ve also done this with a single work, which I think would be a better idea if I can discipline myself into the habit. When I was working on my spy fantasy, I got stuck in the middle, but I kept having this scene that bugged me, and which took place toward the end.  I called it The Kiss Scene that Would Not Die. So, I wrote it way before I needed it. Once it was out of the way, I found that I could go back and write the rest of the novel in sequence.

I’ve also done this with my current novel, my time travel historical. The novel has two parts, one during a road trip and the other at the destination. When I got stuck in the road trip part, I jump ahead to the destination, and I’ve pretty much been writing both parts in tandem. I guess my mind just doesn’t think sequentially. But even that has been set aside most of the time, while I try to finish my second fairy tale.

It may sound chaotic, but I almost always finish everything I write, unless I decide that the story is just not viable, or I lose the spark for the characters. You’ve got to have that love, I think. It sees you through until you write “the end”.

In other words, when I abandon a work, it is always a conscious decision, not just unresolved writer’s block.

Does anything else do this? (If you’re looking for the comment link, scroll to the top of the post.)

Lazy Weekend

For the first weekend in a very long time, I just read. I’ve been needing a weekend like this, I think. I also really wanted to finish reading the Mistborn trilogy. There are a lot of books on my Nook that I want to read, but Mistborn was was just getting in my way! In all the best possible ways, of course. I’ll do a review of the entire trilogy very soon–this week, I hope.

Katie (Superwench83) tells me that my site is slow. I think I know what the problem is; my database needs to be optimized. I’ve just been letting WordPress manage my database and that’s probably stupid. So I’m going to have to heave a sigh and spend a night or two learning how to optimize it, hopefully manage it without crashing my site.

Part of the reason I changed themes is because I suspected that the other one was slow. That and it was a bit inflexible and temperamental. I really like this one–enough to go out and buy the full-featured version … if only it didn’t cost 99 dollars. I like it, but I’m not sure I like it that much. Do WordPress themes really cost that much? If it was 40 dollars, I would have bought it already.

I have a guest post, but I asked the author if I could wait a few weeks while I work out problems with my site. If Katie is having problems with it being too slow to post a comment, then other people will have troubles as well and it’s not really fair to the author. So I’ll try to get this worked out soon.

I mentioned in a comment that I’m thinking about going and re-watching another old science fiction series that died before its time. Anyone remember Space: Above and Beyond? I don’t remember much other than it involved space marines.

TV Series Review – Firefly

I’m an eccentric in my family because I’m not much of a TV watcher. I don’t pay for cable or satellite. I get the little TV that I watch for free, off the airwaves. A few years back, I was one of those people who had to buy a converter box for my television because the rabbit ears were going to stop working. You probably always wondered just who those people are. Well, now you know.

Internet had long since replaced the TV for both my husband and I. When we moved in 2004, we canceled our satellite subscription for the last time. The person we spoke to when cancelling our service was a bit nasty. “You’ll be back,” they said. “No, we won’t,” my husband said. And we haven’t.

You’d be surprised at the good television you can get in reruns. For a while, RTV (Retro TV) was playing The Incredible Hulk, Dragnet, and Adam-12 one right after another (woohoo, Officers Malloy and Reed!). When I was pregnant, I planted myself in my chair (I was on bedrest–good excuse, I think) and watched 3rd Rock, Frasier and Seinfeld reruns one right after another. Later, we watched JAG.

But the TV is on for an hour at most, and at eight o’clock, the TV goes off, and the writing begins.

And then … along came NetFlix. My husband had watched all the episodes of Battlestar Galactica, and was trying to find something to watch next. I remembered a Twitter conversation I had with Anna the Piper — aka Angela Korra’ti — in which I asked her who Nathan Fillion was. Um. Dumb question. I got quite an answer, and was told to watch Firefly.

So when my husband was looking around for something to watch on Netflix, I suggested Firefly. And as an added bonus for him, I  told him that I would watch it with him. Because I promised Anna that I would.

So we  started watching it. (And I’m sorry about all the backstory. You know how chattery I get.)

~*~

Try Googleing the word “firefly”. No longer is the top link to a definition of a cute little bug with a rear end that lights up. No, that firefly is passe, a mere product of Nature. The true definition of “firefly” is now “an American space western television series created by writer and director Joss Whedon, under his Mutant Enemy Productions label.” Seriously. The word has been overtaken by a television series that was cancelled after eleven episodes. (Yeah, I know there is fourteen episodes; fourteen were filmed; eleven of them were originally aired.)

Unfortunately, in today’s world, everything must be a blockbuster or it gets cancelled or dropped. Ask any midlist author.

But about the series. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Remember Star Trek? Meh. It’s captain was an egomaniac who slept with every woman he could and who wasn’t particularly likable. I watched it for Spock. And McCoy.

The captain of the Serenity, by contrast, is almost completely chaste.

Plus–get this–there is a preacher on board.

Rather than review the whole series, I’ll give a brief overview and then talk about my favorite part–the characters.

The series is billed as a “space western”, but none of the characters are particularly cowboy-like. Which, I think, is a good thing. It’s about the crew of a Firefly-class space freighter named Serenity. The ship is named after the Battle of Serenity Valley, which is when an organized rebellion was finally defeated by a powerful and heartless Alliance. The captain of the Serenity and his first mate–who fought at his side in the war–now try to make their living on board the Serenity. Their goal? “You got a job, we can do it, don’t much care what it is.”

Malcolm Reynolds – The captain of the ship. Not a lot of his backstory is given, but you do get tantalizing glimpses. In the first episode, he visibly prays and is seen kissing a cross. By the time the war is over and he’s the owner of the Serenity, he is openly hostile to Christianity, and makes it plain to Book (the preacher–see below) that he will not be preached to. He has somewhat mixed morals–does not hesitate to throw one enemy into his engine intake, but will not kill another man who put him through an extensive torture session. Usually does the right thing … but it may take him a while to get to that point.

Zoe Washburne – Second in command, fighter. She was a soldier for the rebellion (or the “Browncoats”) in the war. Zoe and Wash are married at the start of the series. They are very happy, no children. She is a pure fighter and a natural leader. Mal always leaves her in charge when he goes out to get contracts–unless he is bringing her along.

Wash Washburne – Zoe’s husband, pilot. Wash is the comic relief. He played Watt in A Knight’s Tale, and he essentially is playing the same character, except less goofy. Is a totally unlikely match for Zoe, which is why it works. He’s fun and likable, and is often Mal’s moral compass.

Inara Sarra – a “companion”. A companion is a courtesan. I didn’t really get why companions have such a high social status, but I successfully suspended disbelief. She rents one of the ship shuttles, and has it all decked out in veils and bedding. You can’t even see the walls. It looks like the inside of a very lavish tent. Except the pilot’s compartment, where she flies with expertise. There is a lot of unresolved romantic tension between Inara and Mal.

Jayne Cobb – a tough. He’s the quintessential “boy named Sue”. He’s tough and mean, just like in Johnny Cash’s song. He is in favor of betrayal if he thinks it will get him ahead. Has a large collection of guns. He’s also a Mama’s boy who regularly corresponds with his mother. I read in a program guide that he sends her his money, but I missed that in the episodes. Very funny character–watch for his T-shirt slogans!

Kaylee Frye – the ship’s “mechanic” (really an engineer). She’s a sweet girl-next-door type, except she’s a brilliant mechanic. Falls for the doctor (see below) at her first glimpse of him. Loves lace and frills and strawberries. Is sweet and gentle, and would go out of her way to avoid hurting a fly.

Dr. Simon Tam – a doctor. Starts the show dressed in a suit that looks like it comes out of a Regency ballroom. Relaxes only slightly over the course of the episodes. Is the older brother of River (see below), and although they are both brilliant, he acknowledges that he is an idiot compared to his sister. Will do anything to protect his sister, and is somewhat blind to Kaylee’s affections until she pretty much throws herself at him.

River Tam – Simon’s sister, all-around genius and psychic. Was invited to a special Alliance school, from which she later escaped with the help of her brother. Why did she have to escape? Well, that’s one of the major plot points of the series, so I won’t give it away. River is extremely unpredictable, but really comes through and saves the crew a couple of times. Also gets the crew in an awful lot of trouble many more times. She’s only seventeen years old.

Shepherd Book – a Christian preacher. “Shepherd” is actually his title. Has some mysterious clout with the Alliance. Not a whole lot is known about him. Does not really have a function on the ship, but he doesn’t leave either, and proves to have some handy skills, including some mysterious fighting skills.

There’s not one character who I don’t like. And with such a large cast, that’s impressive.

So, yeah, I became a fan. Will I join fireflyans.net or browncoats.com? Maybe. But I gotta tell you–I’m really torn, here. On the one hand, I miss watching the episodes, and even though they closed the Tam storyline in the movie followup, Serenity (which I’ll review separately), there are a lot of other unfinished plots, and I just loved the characters. But on the other hand, I can write again. And lack of writing time was the whole reason I stopped watching TV in the first place. But if there were dozens and dozens of episodes, I could have disciplined myself into watching one show a week. Really. I could.

But as it was, I had two and a half weeks of blissful Firefly watching, one night after another. And I’m still thinking about it. And that’s what storytelling is all about.

I highly recommend the series.

Junior Size Girl’s Clothing – a Screed

What is up with junior size clothing? I went to get some shorts for my daughter a few weekends ago. I wanted a pair of reasonable shorts so the poor thing doesn’t have to wear long pants everywhere. There were two extremes—itty bitty micro-shorts, or capris that go past her knees. And it took hours of shopping to reach this conclusion

It was ridiculous. The micro shorts were designed to sit on a girl’s hip bones and end right past the buttocks.  You have about five inches of material at the hip from top to bottom. Maybe.

My daughter is a study lass without being overweight. At ten years old, she’s almost five feet tall and wears a size nine. Little girl clothing no longer works for her.

I ask you, in a world where we are so concerned with sexual predators, why are we dressing our daughters like this?

When my daughter was born, I had some hopeful optimism that the low-waisted designs then currently in fashion would have passed out of fashion by the time she was in junior clothing. After all, the bowl cut finally went out of fashion for boys after an absurd amount of time. But no, the low-waist designs persisted. And those fashions have gotten more ridiculous. Almost no girl looks good in them. Little girls tend to have poochy tummies, and those tummies are going to stick out over any low-cut pants that aren’t too big. There’s even a new word for them: muffin tops.

When I was in junior sizes, blue jeans were practically like corsets. We had wonderful little hourglass figures. We lay on our beds to zip up our pants. Yes, they were too tight, but at least we were covered. We didn’t wear low-cut shirts. Tucked-in buttondown shirts were in fashion, and only the sluts wore them very low, and even then, not as low as today. The cut of bras available back then didn’t allow for it. Now you have bras that allow for a shirt to be cut all the way down to the bottom of the boobs. And young girls, looking for attention, often wear their shirts that way, and for boys, it’s a boob paradise.

Back to the microshorts—they went up to a size seventeen! They shouldn’t go beyond a size seven. Any size seventeen girl wearing one of these shorts would look awful. I feel sorry for the poor size seventeen girl who has no choice but to either wear these or wear long pants.

So, my daughter now has a fashionable, low-waisted pair of capris pants. I refuse to buy her microshorts. And she’s constantly trying to pull them up. She doesn’t like them. They were twenty bucks.

I went on line and googled “modest clothing”. There are some sites that cater to LDS, Muslim and other religious communities. But none of them carried shorts. There are some cute dresses, though.

I guess what I’m going to have to do is buy her a pair of pants, cut them off a few inches down the thigh, and hem them. Anyone have any other ideas, or know of a good place to get modest clothing?

I need a sewing machine.

Serial, Anyone?

I’m thinking of serializing my epic fantasy here. I would also link or somehow otherwise mirror it in my Free Reads section. What do you think? Do people serialize fiction on their blogs anymore? Should I do it on Facebook, instead? Should I post just a few chapters or commit to the whole book?

The title is Forging a Legend. Here’s the pitch I evolved in my  queries:

Verit is a broken-down, powerless former deity, waiting for death. Then, an old nemesis appears on his doorstop — his former follower, lover, and pupil, Abriel. After telling him that he deserves an explanation for what she has done, she leaves him with her memoirs. And thus, her words carry him back to the old days, the glorious days of his godhood, when he was at the very height of his power . . .

Abriel is a discarded wife, sent back to her father like worn-out sandals. Instead, she chooses her own fate and attracts the attention of Verit, the god of Truth. In an age-old contest among the gods for the celestial throne, Abriel becomes Verit’s chosen game piece. A divine contest requires divine stakes, and in order for Verit even to be able to compete, Abriel must become nothing short of a living legend. Therefore, he sends her for training as a warrior. However, other powers are afoot to cut down the legend before she can become one.

This pleases Verit, because  nothing forges a legend quite as well as adversity.

Some of you might suggest I publish it as an ebook, but I don’t want to take that route. I would be using up a very valuable right that I’d rather negotiate with a publisher. I would need to hire an editor to edit it, and a cover artist, and someone to convert it to all the ebook formats. It is a project that I simply don’t have time for.

But serializing it is something I can do. If it takes off, it could help me get it published, and help me with publicity. If it doesn’t, your feedback would be valuable to me, anyway.

What do you think? And should I do it here or at Facebook?

New Job

Wow, I had all kinds of great plans for the blog this week, but they sort of fizzled because this is the week I transferred to a new job in my company. I think I’m going to love the new job, but I’m just frazzled. This is mostly because I’ve been running from one building to the other all week. All of my meetings take place in one building, but my computer and phone are in the other. So it’s back, forth, back, forth. But! I received my laptop yesterday afternoon–I stayed late so I could get it, actually–which means I ought to be able to stay in one building for most of the day.

My feet rejoice!

But really, I just CAN’T believe it is Thursday already!

Please bear with me as I adjust. I can usually scrounge together two posts a week, so I’ll continue that schedule. I just had an idea about a review on my latest all-too-short-lived distraction. Anna the Piper can probably guess what it is. Sigh. She’ll know the reason for the sigh, too.

Thoughts on the Royal Wedding and British Majesty

So Prince Wills got married, and the whole world watched. But it’s over, now. The pomp, the majesty–it won’t happen again until Harry gets married, and even then it won’t be as exciting (even though he’s my personal favorite prince) because he’s not the heir.

But royal weddings happen more frequently than you might think. The Greeks have royals, as do the Danish, the Spanish, many Arabic nations, the Japanese, and assorted others. (I’m not a royal watcher; this is just the result of some quick research.)

I looked at some of the images of the of the wedding and something struck me: no one has majesty down like the British. Check it out:

Carriage procession

Look at it. Six matched black horses, with the only difference between them being the occasional white sock. Six golden helmets, six of those famous red coats. They all look to even be close to the same height. Behind them, you see similar groups. And behind all of them, flag after British flag.

Look at the crowds this thing drew:

Crowds in the Mall

So even the British people get in on it. There could be no majesty without the crowds. Without the love and approval of the people, all the pomp and wealth would just be ostentation.

By the way, my husband was in the crowds at Chuck and Di’s wedding. He was serving in the military in England at the time.

This image is unrelated to the Royal Wedding, but it shows exactly what I mean:

The Queen knights the Hon. Michael Ogio

This is His Excellency the Hon. Michael Ogio and he is receiving a knighthood–a Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George. Look at the details. The stool upon which he is kneeling is placed in the exact center of that rug, which is place precisely between the two couches, between which is a gold chair, which is precisely centered in front of a window. Gold trim frames everything. The Queen must have done this thousands of times, but you get the impression that she understands that it will be an unforgettable event to the recipient of the knighthood.

There is majesty is in the details. Here is a single ceiling tile from one of the drawing rooms:

Buckingham Palace

It’s a work of art. One ceiling tile.

But does gold and the obvious display of wealth make majesty? All royal families have these, but their weddings don’t have the unforgettable quality of a British royal wedding. I simply don’t remember any all the way back to Prince Andrew’s marriage to Sarah Ferguson, even though other weddings must have certainly made the news.

The British Royals even have their share of flakes:

I give you the Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice.

And to expunge that image from your mind, here is the wedding party:

The Official Royal Wedding photographs

Why this post? Because I’m trying to recall novels that doing a good job of portraying majesty. The Lord of the Rings did it, especially with the regal nature of the elves. Phillipa Gregory managed it with The Other Boleyn Girl, a book I still need to finish reading (it was taking me too long to read when I had books to review.) Brandon Sanderson managed to portray regalness without wealth in the Mistborn series that I’m reading now.

But I’m thinking that it must be a difficult thing to portray, because not many other books are springing to mind. These ruminations are well-timed for me, because I realized that I am not portraying any royal majesty in my Cinderella story. (Correction–I wasn’t. I have added a few things.)

Do you know of any stories that do a good job of portraying royals?

Stuff This Week

I’m hoping to get back on a fuller schedule for this week. Definitely in the pipeline is my thoughts on the Royal Wedding and how they seem to do royalty better than anyone else–right down to their quirkiness. Also, I have another steampunk guest, and we’ll be closing out Christine’s giveaway, so be sure to get over there and enter. Plus, I have a screed. Y’all like to read my screeds, don’t you?

I finished reading Brandon Sanderson’s second Mistborn novel, and since I have the third one right here, I’m thinking about doing a series review when I’m finished. I’m not reading very quickly these days–which is part of the reason why I won’t commit to reviews–but this should be fun.

Would you like me to put up posts as I read it? I haven’t done that since Fantasy Debut, but I think I could rig up my mobile phone to post, which would make short, frequent posts easier. In fact, that’s something I should do anyway.

My new gig at work starts tomorrow, so wish me luck. This will be an entirely new set of people for me. I really hated to leave the old group, but the time was obviously ripe, and this job should allow me to use stuff I’m good at. We all like doing stuff we’re good at. (Either that or we like to delude ourselves.)

Most of my posts are already written, or mostly so, which certainly makes it easier.

Oh! And I lost 5 pounds! Happydance! (Even though it was 5 pounds I gained in the fall…)