Sunday, October 20, 2013

Help me I-70! You're my only hope!

A small business owner, a teacher, and a grad student walk into to go to a writer's conference. (Almost had you there, didn't I?) Each had a complicated piece of technology, a general idea, and one even had printed maps to lead them to their destination. All of them had been there before. Two of them several times. How could things POSSIBLY go wrong?

The trip started off well enough that afternoon. No racing out of town from shadowy figures trying to kill them, no wracking their brains for a way to blow up the asteroid before Earth was sent into the next ice age. Just cruising at 70mph north hoping they hadn't forgotten to pack something vital, like deodorant or earrings.

They hit Big City #1 stop and stop and go rush hour traffic just in time to accelerate the arthritis in the driver's hands by two years, but it could have been worse. When she almost missed the exit lane because of backed-up traffic, a nice lady let them in and the guy behind didn't rear-end them when the driver stopped too quickly. Finally, they were safely on I-70 and off to their next destination: supper with Aunt L and Uncle B in (evil sounding music) Nemesis, MO.

You see, there's this town off of I-70 (which shall remain nameless, but if you know the area of which I speak, you'll know) that contains a black vortex that not only scrambles the signals of satellites to $200 tablet locator maps and $400 Garmin navigators, but scrambles the brains of otherwise intelligent people. Every region has one. So does every good horror movie.

So, since none of the navigation equipment was working, in order to GET to the restaurant, they had to pull out the questionable printed directions, backtrack, drive scary back roads, and fight impending car sickness. But they got there. An hour late. Not bad, but by then it was cold and raining.

The soup was good. The conversation was great. The soup was good. Was the soup mentioned? (Momma said if you don't have anything good to say....)

As the hour was late and the three travelers were tired and needed to get to their hotel in the conference city, they said their goodbyes and parted. Should have asked directions then....

What followed was a harrowing hour of  cold, dark, and rainy "Interstate exit pinball" where they thought they were going in the wrong direction, found an exit ramp/overpass to turn around, then promptly realized they were right in the first place and there were NO MORE EXITS FOR SIXTY ZILLION MORE MILES. No, Mexico was NOT their preferred destination.

Finally, after heading in the correct direction, they saw the sign for I-70, the light at the end of a long, dark, rainy tunnel. They sighed and relaxed and counted the minutes until they were snug in their warm hotel beds.

That's not the end of the story. It never is in a horror flick.

Arriving in Big City #2, location of the conference, they were greeted by heavy construction, lack of street lamps because of said construction, and hundreds of rabid football fans in monster trucks driving around like crazed teenagers. The poor paper map just couldn't convey the information the travelers needed and once again, our intrepid band got lost.

No Garmin. No map. No lights. Crazy drivers. Cold, wet, car sick, headaches, (and the driver's contacts were drying out), what were they to do?

"Hey, guys? Anyone have the number to the hotel?"

And thus Customer Service Cassie saved the day by providing the path to salvation and soon, our three travelers were happily ensconced in PJs and comforters.

What's the takeaway? Even when your characters have travels well planned out, stress, hunger, environment, and the unknown always play a factor in mucking things up. It's amazing how a person's brain DOESN'T work when we're focused on the wrong problem and not thinking out of the box. Use that in writing and your characters become more real.

Oh. And the name of the conference? "The Write Direction"

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Kindness as the Bus Drives By: A Rant

One of the things I love about the running community in my town is its support of the individual efforts of its members. No matter how fast, no matter how slow, we all cheer, coach, encourage, and support each other during training.

When we get to the race, though, we all run our own race. It isn't dirty, It isn't cut throat. But best friends will run harder than they've ever run, other friends will bet to see who wins (this time), and the losers congratulate the winners and we all go out for pancakes afterward.

Granted, this kind of idealistic POV isn't true for every runner in my town. But it's true for the majority.

Okay, writers, what's the deal? Why can't we do this?

When I see writers ripping OTHER writers to shreds on reviews, on critiques, even (goodness!) in person, it makes my gut roil in disgust. Why? It doesn't sell your book any faster. It doesn't make you a better writer. It doesn't make the community see us as a legitimate professional organization. WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Throwing others of our community under the bus only threatens to overturn the whole bus, YOU INCLUDED! It's hard enough to get things published as it is with all the negative press that "regular" people are throwing around. When we get the riot act from our own ranks, what does that say about our profession?

A little kindness never hurt anyone. A little extra time to help someone pays off in the end, even if it's only that good feeling that you're not a bully or a grammar nazi. Not everyone you meet is going to know "the basics." If they need, and are willing to accept, a little coaching, do so without criticizing the fact that, "You should have known that." Well, they didn't. So what. Does that make you a god?

The "competition" shouldn't start until the book is on the shelf, and even then, especially then, we should celebrate our competition's winnings. If you don't have anything good to say in a review, then keep your fingers off the keyboard. Your work should speak for itself by its good writing. If you have to rip someone to shreads to get readers to read your book, then it probably isn't written well, anyway.

I have two degrees in English, a certificate to teach English, ten years + of teaching experience in computers and communication arts (and the occasional math class) and I still find myself learning things I didn't know. And making mistakes along the way. Life is about making yourself a better person and making your little corner of the world a better place. So start doing so. And please, please, people: start treating each other with a little more respect.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

This Post Sponsored by the Letter...Squirrel!

Above is a picture of the trophy our local Writers' chapter received for our April win at the state conference. Notice the chip in the small marble block at the top? Notice the chips around the hole in the center of the big block? Notice that the nut isn't holding any of it together? Let's just say that when my husband and I--he holding the cup and me holding the marble blocks--tried to put it back together, comments were exchanged that aren't publishable on a public channel and we were laughing so hard we had tears rolling off our cheeks. For those of you are still confused, let's just say, the thing wouldn't fit and shoving over and over just didn't get the job done. 'Nuff said.

I got my hair cut this week. Short. Very short. My husband says it will grow out. Everyone else says it's cute. My stylist didn't quite do what I wanted--it came out looking more like a mullet than layered curls--so that night I literally took a whack at it and, now, yes, it's very short. It will grow out. I look like a crazed Anime character when I get out bed in the morning.

My computers today at school kept displaying the boot-up icon of a particular program and the icon WOULD NOT GO AWAY. It displayed in FRONT of every other program we pulled up. So there's this 2" by 4" eyesore in the middle of the screens, the children are all, "What's happening? I can't see anything! Mrs. Cannon! Fix this!" I'm on the phone with the tech department (we have an AWESOME tech department and they did eventually fix it) when glory be, the FIRE ALARM goes off for our yearly drill. So much for trying to finish that lesson a week before the quarter ends.

(Stick with me here, I do have a point.)

Last week I went to my trainer at the gym again about my injured foot. It wasn't getting better. She agreed with me it was time to go see a doc. I went to see the doc. He gave me the exact same exam, exact same diagnosis as my trainer. The only difference was his ability to prescribe an anti-inflammatory cream to rub on the sore areas. That has made a huge difference and it won't be long before I'm back out on the road running again. Personally, I think they should give my trainer a raise and the ability to prescribe this stuff 'cause she's awesome.

(One more. Promise I'll tie it together! Promise!)

I pulled into the gas station to fill up my car and a lady nearly sideswiped me to pull into the same slot I was heading for. The patient person I am, I simply drove around the parking lot, chose another station, and parked. When I inserted my credit card, the machine wouldn't take it. After three tries, it locked up and insisted I go inside. The nice lady at the counter (I could tell she was frazzled from a day of unhappy gas customers) said I had to prepay. So I did. When I reached the said amount, it wasn't enough to fill my tank, but I was too tired to go back in and pay more, so I simply took my second receipt, closed everything up, and drove myself home.

THE MORAL OF THE STORIES...Bad stuff happens. Deal with it. Accept it. Go on. Don't whine. Don't get your panties in a wad because the world ain't fair. There's always someone who's story is worse than yours, so be thankful for what you have. I may have injured my foot, but I have two relatives right now that are about to LOSE their feet due to health issues. I may have my lesson interrupted at school but at least we didn't have a real fire and lose the lives of children. Keep perspective. Be thankful for what you have. Even if your trophy is broken, you have it. Cherish it. Because you earned it.

Is that hot chocolate I smell?