Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I Swear it Isn't Me

Novelist Has Whole Shitty World Plotted Out

GLOUCESTER, MA—As he neared completion this week on his latest novel, By The Water's Edge, author Edward Milligan marveled aloud to reporters how he was able to flesh out, in meticulous detail, every single corner of his book's vast and stunningly shitty world.
According to Milligan, he spent seven months conducting in-depth historical research in order to conjure, as if out of thin air, the fictional and entirely bullshit universe of Connor's Cove, Massachusetts, including its utterly uninspired lighthouse, the predictably dark underbelly lurking beneath its quaint exterior, and its painfully trite main thoroughfare known as Chance Street.
 Makes me wonder if other regions of America inspire the sort of cliches the article is sounding off on. I'm thinking of the whole "quaint small town" thing. I'll bet the south does. But as a pointlessly patriotic yankee, I'll bet we do it better.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Feet, Shoes, Walkin'

But before all that, I'm happy to announce that my dark fantasy/fairy tale story, "Those Who Came Before" will be published in 2012 by the good folks at Kaleidotrope. Hooray!

I bought new shoes today. The old ones? I could put my hand through the bottom of the left. Air flow is not typically a quality you want in a shoe. It keeps happening though. My wife has had the same pair of sneakers for ten years. Me? Even though I no longer walk 3-4 miles per day, I still somehow go through shoes about every six months.

I enjoy walking, and travel in general. It's kind of a shame that it makes for boring reading. I recently finished George "Railroad" Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" series and it seems to me that by the fourth book he's been glad to include lengthy scenes of people going places rather than letting them get there and finding something for them to do. I get it: it's partly an adventure series and so some travel out into the wild and wooly wocales of Westeros is to be expected, but it still feels like this is more of an excuse  to drag out a cash cow a little longer.

Not that I can blame him. If at any point in my life I have a wildly successful series that somehow comes to star Sean Bean on HBO, I might be tempted to have my characters wear out their shoes. I just think back on the efforts of Robert Jordan. Never got past book six of "Wheel of Time", and thought of going back to read all of those just to be able to finish the series kind of makes me cringe.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Coming Through

I'm sure I'll change my mind some time on Sunday, but part of me is giddy at the prospect of really horrifically bad weather. I love walking in the rain and I love hearing thunder and lightning and sheets of water spraying at 75-degree angles.

Maybe it's related to my anxiety. When the clouds go black and seem to bubble, and the thunder booms and the lightning flashes and everyone is running for cover, I actually feel relieved. There's a moment when everyone is in a panic, and it feels like we're all equal at that point.

New England is more familiar with blizzards than hurricanes, but of the few we've had (or were supposed to have) I remember Gloria best. We were living in a set of housing projects in Manchester, CT, a place by the name of Squire Village. Mom made us stay in narrow hall just in front of the bathroom on the first floor. She read. I don't recall how my sister and I passed the time, just that when we were finally allowed out the sky was this deep gray, and it was somehow like being on the bottom of the ocean. The only casualties nearby were a pair of enormous trees a street over, which we played on until we were shooed away by concerned adults.

Maybe that's it then. I think my memories of storms generally end pleasantly. Or maybe it's the Scandinavian-ness calling out to me, saying "Hey, hail Thor, right?"

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Man, Look At This Place!

It needs a new roof, a better background, content and regular updates. You know how much that's going to run? Neither do I.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Employment: Very unlikely - Not likely - Likely - Somewhat likely - Very likely

Well, here I am, about to interview for a tech writing position tomorrow.

It's been a while since I've been a regular part of the work force. I had a temp job last year that only lasted a week and a half. Prior to that there was a summer job I had to wake up at 4:00 in the morning to get to, to walk 2.5 miles to spend the entire day building up pallets of dog food and other items to be shipped to pet stores. After all that was done I'd walk the same span back in the midday heat. All for $9 an hour. That only lasted about three months though, and I'm still alive.

And in the meantime I've either been in school or writing for free or as near to free as possible that the amounts make no difference. And I've sent out resumes to libraries and newspapers and companies that publish maps and phone books and books and literature and pamphlets all to no real gain. And the black-dust warehouses I'd worked in prior don't want a thirty-year old with a BA in English, for fear that I'd jump ship when a better job came along.

It's all kind of frustrating.

I can deal with being turned down for a job, I think the worst part of it is not knowing how to traverse the application circus. Parts of the process seem to have gotten so convoluted that I'd be amazed if they still served the purpose they intended. For instance, who in their right mind, when confronted by a sequence of five empty bubbles, is going to fill in the one indicating that they're "somewhat likely to steal"?

Or to put it another way, a person applying for a job with significant social interaction is "very unlikely" to put down that they are "very likely" going to be afraid of any sort of socialization. In fact, nobody is going to bubble in anything that damages their chances at employment. Such tests only serve to make it "very likely" that you'll be lying to your employer from day one; they actively encourage dishonesty and serve to make that another aspect of the employee/employer relationship. That's not to mention the inherently baffling notion that you "likely" know what you'll do in a given situation, without context.

I found my last job through Careerbuilder. I'm not sure if it was always this way, but it seems like half the listings there now are for MLM schemes and work that promises to pay you big bucks to work at home, like some apparently now rich housewife is doing.

But the worst of it is how muddled and arbitrary the language of these listings have gotten. I clicked the first result I saw on the Careerbuilder home page and was rewarded with the following text.

Job Summary

Working with the Learning Services Manager to deliver select presales services and manage implementations of company offerings with corporate clients. The LSPM role requires strong project management and customer facing skills, a professional services mindset, passion for the leadership and management development space, and sureness with technology enabled and learning solutions. Will participate in the presales process to position the company’s leadership development capabilities. Will project manage client implementations and serve as an internal project lead for a variety of projects.

What to make of this? What is "strong" project management? What are "customer facing skills"? Presumably this just means knowing how to talk to people, keep them happy and keep them coming back to your service, company or what have you. But it's made indistinct by a haze of professional speech.I can't even figure out what exactly it is I'd be doing here, and that seems bad for finding potential candidates. Maybe I've never helped "position the company's leadership development capabilities," but I've helped "allocate the company's management training potential." Is that the same thing? Damned if I know.

Clarity is key. It probably sounds less glorious or impressive to just point me to my desk and tell me to fill out that form that gets us more paper clips, but that's all I really need to know to do my job.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Consider the Cantaloupe

Do you like cantaloupe? I do, though only if it's a bit soft. And I don't always eat down to the rind. Sometimes the bit near the rind is too hard. And it has to be cut thin?

What's that? You like the rind? Go what myself? And you'd rather have hard, crisp cantaloupe? Well I never!

I bet you and I are on opposite sides of the political spectrum, too. And I'll tell you that I'm largely indifferent to gun control and for the death penalty (with a big healthy asterisk next to it). So now you know all you need to know about me, and if you're a Democrat we likely have nothing to say to one another, right? But hang on, I'm also pro-choice and all for marriage equality and disgusted by the Tea Party lunatics. Where does that leave us? Now if you're a Republican you know all there is to know about me, right?

The internet seems to be pushing this sort of behavior. Twenty years ago if you thought of dressing up in a panda costume and spanking your neighbor, you kept it to yourself. Maybe the urge went away eventually, or maybe you just kept it locked up and never acted on it. With the advent of easy communication and anonymity, you can panda yourself up and spank until your palms are sore. Or discuss it at least. It must be great to find so many like-minded friends, even if none are in your area.

But, now the people in your local, physical community are less important, aren't they? Previously you had to compromise: you'd only put on the panda suit when the wife was out of town on weekends, and never in front of anyone. And you'd never in a million years talk to anyone about it. Now you don't need to compromise.

If you enjoy deep sea fishing, well, fuck the trout fishermen quit frankly. You can find other marlin enthusiasts. If you like the Portland Sea Dogs you can tell the rest of the country to go to hell if they don't because now you have a place to talk about them. And if mustard is your thing there's no problem tucking yourself away from those who'd rather have ketchup.

There are forums out there dedicated to just about anything, and it makes me think that we're losing our ability to compromise and that extreme behaviors are being brought into sharper contrast.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Now Playing

My novelette, Jam Don't Shake is now up at Vagabondage Press!

This is the longest story I've written to date. I know "length of story" isn't typically high on most authors' lists as an accomplishment, but it means something here. It takes time to figure out a story and make it coherent and consistent from end to end. I'd like to think that this represents an achievement. Flash  and short fiction are good, and I love them, but it's nice knowing that you have a handle on longer narratives. Hope this bodes well for the novel I'm working on.

As to "Jam Don't Shake," it's basically a little horror, a little sci-fi, and a fair share of sex drugs and violence. Or to put it another way.

They seem so innocent: jars of jellies and jams. But the inhabitants of the town of Goodman know better.
An additive in Auntie Goodtimes Jams and Jellies turns good people into rioting murderers when their supply is cut off, the factory burned to the ground, and the National Guard closing in.
Doug is trying to survive in this post-Goodtimes world, sating his addiction with a carefully dosed tablespoon a day of jelly. And, when supplies get low, Doug, like others, finds that cravings can be quelled with the blood of fellow addicts.
Is it really murder when it’s a matter of survival?