Friday, June 29, 2012

Wildfire Season

So I heard it was going to be 108 degrees in Nashville sometime this week.


The above sentence is a swear-word. You pick which one. 

Glad I'm no longer living there. Yes, I'm a true desert-lover. This is where I belong, where wildfires ravage through the scrub from the merest evil glare or fiery glance. That seems to be the case, anyway. All it takes is a tiny spark and whoosh! The entire place has gone up in flames. I forgot that summers were considered wildfire season out here until this summer.

Smoke from the fire across the valley hovering ominously above my house. Was it the end of the world? Almost

There was a small fire across the street from my house last weekend. I don't know how it started. The houses are brand new there, and the fire department came out and extinguished it. Thankfully.

Our neighbor was like, "Yeah, no idea how it started. Just a little blaze in the mulch. Spontaneous combustion, I guess. The fire department couldn't tell us how it started."

Yeah right. I'm sure he was out there, hiding between the houses–which are these very narrow alleyways–sneaking a smoke, when his wife came out looking for him, "Honey! Honey!"

And he threw down the cigarette and ran inside.

That's what I was thinking, anyway. They're new in the neighborhood, so I don't know them. Maybe he doesn't have to sneak a smoke when he wants one.

Though he did blame the construction workers down the street as a possible source for the fire. "Could have been one of the construction workers, or landscapers, smoking, who knows?"

That's more believable than spontaneous combustion. Right?

Then a few days later, the entire mountain across the valley from us went up in flames. I tweeted about it, because Corbet and I drove over there to get an up-close view. So we took some pictures and put them up.

We weren't really in danger from that one, although, after the Colorado Springs fire, anything is possible. Also, there was a huge fire in central Utah that burned over 39,000 acres, so, I suppose the dump fire, as it was called, COULD have crossed the valley and reached the Thanksgiving Point area.

Watching the dump-fire from a relatively safe distance.

Despite the wildfires, nearly every day, I look outside and think, "Man, I love Utah."

But I'm sure everyone else hates it and if you can't tolerate a religious majority or the dry heat, you would hate it here too. That encompasses, what, ninety-nine percent of the world's population? So don't move here, unless you get a personal OK from me, and then you can come. That's how it works here.

Lemon sunsets. Every night, almost. When I lived in Nashville, I really missed those. Sunsets in the south were these sultry, hazy affairs that blurred against the trees or rolling hills. In Utah they're always colorful and sharp, defined in dark lines against the mountainous horizon.

The sunrises are probably the same, but I'm usually sleeping.

And the temperatures. What a dream! If it got to 108 here, it would be far more tolerable than a 108 in Nashville, where the humidity would push it up to a 120 or something murderous like that.

I've gotten sunburned and stuff living here again because I forget what it's like to spend time outside, because in Nashville, I never wanted to be outside in the summer. So I stayed in.

Another thing, no cicadas. None. Just the sweet symphony of the crickets and grasshoppers. Also, no human-sized insects to torment you.

Monstrous bugs are very common in the South.

So anyway, if I had to choose the west with all the wildfires or the south with the humidity and temperatures ranging +105 degrees (F), which would I pick?

Really, not a tough choice. 

Baby screaming at me. Must go....

Friday, June 22, 2012

I'm an Indie-Author.

Just updated my About page and wanted you to see it: 

I’m an indie-author. For five years I worked in publishing, which gave me insight into author-contracts, acquisitions, and the pre-publication process, as well as how things work in that mysterious machine—the publishing house. Hint: it's not that mysterious and it's not romantic, really. But it IS a machine. A cold, heartless machine. ;) Plus, the velvet rope that separates writers from agents and publishers is disintegrating, much to the chagrin of those businesses.

What happened in the music industry (an industry that my husband worked in for five years in Nashville) is happening in the publishing industry. Why should I hunger for a publishing deal? I could get one. But it will trap me. You see, a publishing house fronts the money for editing, copyediting, proofreading, paper, binding, and any marketing they do. That's a loan. If an author doesn't sell enough books to pay it back . . .  well.

All that has prompted me to go it on my own and publish my own stuff using the widely available and easy to use venues like Kindle, Smashwords, and Lulu. Everything the publishing house would do for me, I can now do for myself. With the budgets of publishers shrinking and layoffs (they were a constant where I used to work) happening all the time, cover designers, story editors, and copyeditors are out on their own, freelancing. They're available to me as much as they're available to publishers or other indie-authors.

Most authors think that once they land a deal with a publisher, all the hard work has paid off and now they can rest on their laurels and simply write. Not true. Never rest on your laurels. Be ready to work hard for the rest of your life. I work for me and I love it. I'm saying these things for the other indie-authors out there who are secretly hoping to get a book deal or strike it rich. Maybe that could happen for you, but don't bet on it. Enjoy your freedom. Write for yourself and your fans. Work hard. Market yourself, you'd have to even if you had a book deal with a major publisher.

All that said, this is my website, which is a cross between an old MobileMe website that was sort of sci-fi and my long-running blog, which has always been sort of frenetic. I've loved sci-fi (Ten is mine!) and fantasy for a long time, and I think speculative fiction is the most gratifying of the genres to work in. But I’ve been known to write non-fantastical stuff as well. I liked Twilight, not ashamed to admit it, but I confess I’m worn out on the vampire crap and don't even get me started on zombies (hate 'em). I read Anne Rice growing up, but found it cold and soulless, which you might say is rather fitting. I like trying to come up with new ideas and things that haven’t been done to death in fiction already, but for all I know, I’m failing miserably at that. Give my stuff a try and let me know what you think.

The End.

OK, that's it! One thing I didn't mention there but will mention here is the discrepancy between royalties that authors get from publishers and those that Amazon and the other indie-publishing sites offer. For more on these things, read these posts that appear on J.A. Konrath's blog, A Newbie's Guide to Publishing: Guest Post By Barry Eisler and The Agency Model Sucks.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A White Winged Horse

So I asked my sister what her little girl wants for her birthday and she said, "She told Anji that she wants a white winged horse." I have no idea if there's some special toy out there that she's looking for or if I should go buy the porcelain Pegasus statue that came up when I did a Google search for "white winged horse."

I think a four-year-old might get hours of fun out of a porcelain statue. You can do so much with breakable items.

That's actually the kind of present my dad always gave me after my parents were divorced and he was really out of touch with how to be a dad. No big deal, the poor guy, he did the best he could. No hard feelings, Dad.

His reasoning was that we got toys from our mom. From him we'd get some type of sculpture or art that would appreciate in value (or so he thought. I haven't actually looked yet to see if I can sell that dog statue for millions of dollars). Toys just turned to dirty hunks of plastic and metal.

But a dog statue! You can display that in your curio cabinet as a trophy and once in all while, all you've got to do is dust it off.

Anyway, so then I was looking for a My Little Pony horse and this gorgeous purple horse came up with a beautiful long mane that a girl would have fun braiding and whatnot. I stared at it for a second and thought to myself, "Dang. I wish I could be appeased with a toy."

Wouldn't it be great to reach thirty (or whatever age you are) and still have your dreams hanging on a My Little Pony or a Tonka dump truck? Such a simple item. Costs so little. And so readily available. All you have to do is hop down to the Target and buy it and there, you've got everything your heart ever wished for.

I don't know about you, but I'm seriously considering exchanging the American Dream for a much simpler dream: cheap objects that engage my imagination. Like maybe some Dr. Who action figures. Or a slew of Doc Martin action figures. They don't make those? They should. They really should. Then, when the show ends, fans can just keep making up stories. Kind of like how when Futurama was off the air (before it started on Comedy Central or wherever), I had to buy the comics to get new stories.

 Damn you, David Tennant. Damn you for ever leaving Dr. Who.

Oh my hell. I just realized, I can get more of the Tenth Doctor if I just buy a Tenth Doctor action figure and make up my own stories! Let's see, I'll need a Tardis, obviously, and maybe a Donna Noble action figure too, since she was my favorite of his companions (I loved Rose until she came back with weird teeth in the later episodes). Hmm. That should be all. And then just my imagination, right?

This will be good. I can totally see this turning into some really great fan-fiction.

Monday, June 11, 2012

How to Not Make Friends and Influence People

I don't know how to make friends any more.

That's a true confession.

Ever since I left college and got married, it's like I have no interpersonal skills. When I was in college, it was relatively easy to connect with people and strike up a friendship. But now it's worse than what it was like to try to date or hook up with someone.

By hook-up I mean, maybe make-out at a party or something. Do they say make-out any more? When I was in junior high and high school, the word of choice was scam. It sounds so 90s now. And I think when kids today say hook-up, they mean, have sex. Right?

I don't keep up.

I'm too busy not knowing how to make friends. I obviously don't have time to follow what the cool kids say these days.

I'm fairly certain I'm not the only one who gets a big WTF? on her forehead when looking at the prospect of making friends. A friend of mine (old friend) works in a marketing agency. She started there recently and she was giving me the rundown on the office politics and her attempts to make friends with some of the girls there.

And another friend (also an old friend) went through the "it's like dating. Or worse..." thing recently when she started working at a restaurant in between her semesters in a doctorate program.

"I've got to play it cool," she'd say. "____ doesn't work on Friday, and someone wanted to switch shifts with me and I said yes because ____ was working that shift too. But I've got to play it cool, like nonchalant though or else I'll seem desperate."

And it's totally true. They're friends now, but it was one of those foggy starts where it could go either way.

I haven't made a friend that I've kept since leaving college. And I've been out now for eight years. I've had several jobs and almost become pretty good friends with some girls. But for one reason or another, they've never stuck with me.

Maybe it's me.

But now I'm here, back in Utah, and I'm looking around at some potential friend material and I'm dying to figure out a way to play it cool but also show my interest. I feel like a borderline stalker or like I'm trying to catch a man. It's completely ridiculous.

I mean, making friends with someone shouldn't be this hard. It's like all my insecurities have poked through the surface and I feel like a worthless piece of crap. Who would want to be friends with me? I've met several cool chicks in my area and I have no idea how to proceed from thinking, "She's cool. She should be my best friend," to actually fostering a friendship.

What does one do?

My sister offered me totally useless advice. She said, "I'm always the instigator of get-togethers with the girls. So you say to her, 'Hey, want to go to the park and let our kids play?' and then you guys go hang out at the park. Simple."

And one day I screwed up my courage and walked to this cool girl's house with my son in the jog-stroller (I don't have her phone number) and when I got there, I knocked real lightly on her door (my excuse was that her kids might be napping). No answer! I turned and hurried home, embarrassed that I even tried.

So that was my attempt. And now I think I'll just stay home during the day and work on my career. I have old friends. They're all I need, right? I mean, they're great! They're perfect! I adore them! They just have careers outside the home and now I don't (opted to stay home with kid and it's right for us). And they live far away. But hey! Who needs new friends? It's worse than dating!

So glad I don't have to date any more.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Woman in Pink Buying Diapers for All the Babies Everywhere

Yesterday I was leaving Target, you know, that upscale store that everyone loves? And this lady paused to let me exit before her. She was pushing a cart with about a thousand boxes of diapers in it, and even carrying a couple in her arms. So I let her go in front of me. All I was carrying was Corbet and one bag of shirts.

The first thing I noticed about her, besides the gazillion diapers, was how done up she was. She had on shiny pink high heels. And I mean, HIGH, high heels. Like stilts. Just seeing them I tipped over. She had extremely blonde hair, a very perfect tan, and her outfit was pink and black and it matched her shoes perfectly. She was also in a tiny skirt of some kind. It eludes me right now, but it most likely went very well with her heels and her top.

Normally I'd scoff at the value of this type of woman. I'd think to myself, "Lady, you are one done up girl." And I'd consider her vacuous, vapid, and a series of other adjectives that either begin with a V or are synonymous with the other words I've already used to describe her.

I know! This is a real confession. Because I try to be decent. And I guess you could say that I've always thought being decent meant not being like women who pay extreme amounts of attention to looking like a trillion bucks at all times. You know, waxing, tanning, dyeing, spending exorbitant amounts of money on a wardrobe, botox, and face-lifts.

More than that, I thought I was a kind person even though secretly I'd see a woman like her and feel superior in some way because I know that what matters most is what's inside. That a person's heart is more important than what they look like. And a woman like that doesn't get that, obviously, otherwise she wouldn't feel like she had to invest so much in her appearance.

That's what I thought, I guess.

Stuff like that.

It's completely hysterical that I thought things like this, all while finding myself at ease with judging someone based purely on how they looked. It's easy to see someone who looks like crap and feel a tugging at your heart that lets you think, "Awww, bless their heart, bless them, they're unfortunate. Bless them to have lots of good things happen." Or whatever.

It's harder to look at a person who looks good or beautiful, or like they care a lot about how they appear, and think, "Awww, bless their heart. Bless them." Because you're thinking, instead, "Ridiculous. They're putting too much emphasis on what they look like. How disappointing."

Anyway, so I learned my lesson at Target. This woman had a bazillion diapers.

I said to her, "That's a lot of diapers!" Just to be conversational.

She said, in a really sweet, polite voice (I might add), "Did you see that thing on the news yesterday?"

"No, what thing?"

"About the crisis shelter? Yeah, it was so sad. They don't have any diapers. They said the babies that show up there, end up leaving with the same diaper they arrived in because the shelter can't afford more diapers. It broke my heart. Those poor kids. I had to run out and buy some diapers for them. I just can't stand the thought of them being stuck in the same diaper like that."

She explained all of this as we walked out into the parking lot, while she tried to push a cartload of a billion boxes of diapers. 

I offered to help her carry them. I didn't see the thing on the news about the shelter. We talked about diaper brands for a minute, and I let her know what a sweetheart she is (like she needed that validation, right?), and off she went into the sunset.

So, how could I not tear up a little when I realized what a jerk I have been? I will never judge another woman who looks like she cares about her appearance a lot. What do I even know about it? Chances are, all that makeup and glam is concealing a heart as big as the moon, and a desire to love and be loved as wide as the ocean.

She restored my hope in humankind. So thank you for teaching me that lesson, woman in pink, whoever you are, wherever you are. I love your pink and high-heeled guts to pieces.