Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Whole Bunch of Nope

Hello everyone, I hope your weeks have all been more fantastic than the thought of Captain America riding an American flag colored unicorn!

Well it's been a bit of a fascinating week for me. Due to several conferences and trainings all being in one week, a vast majority of the staff at the place I work were missing.

This means that for three days it was left to one other staff member and I to keep our well-oiled (fine, WD-40-ed) machine running. I do rather wonder if this is what my boss pictured as she left us on our ownsies:

Actually, that would probably be relatively accurate.

Of course, because there were only two of us, it meant that every crazy, attention seeking, person with serious disorders (with "A doctor's note and everything!") decided to pay us a visit.

I had people in my office demanding counseling sessions (something that is not really in my certification wheelhouse), telling me about their alien abductions and trying to show me various rashes/cysts/skin issues and asking for my medical opinion.

The person who took the cake, which was probably made from sugar, spite and the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," actually caught me on my way in to work.

I was already running late that morning, thanks to a small furry somebody that decided to vomit directly on my work clothes.

As I was hurrying down the sidewalk at a pace that could only be matched by those speed-walking mall-grannies, a guy approached me from one of the parking lots and asked for some change.

I gave him an apologetic smile and said, "Sorry, I don't carry any change on me."

He looked bummed for about half a second before asking, "Well, can I give you a hug?"

I shook my head, "No, thanks, really I have to get to work."

"Well, umm... I'm just gonna give you a kiss then," and he went for it.

I dove to the side, "What!? No! Do not try that again!"

That day I was wearing a v-neck shirt and my angel tattoo was showing just a little bit. He looked at my tattoo and said, "Well, can I at least kiss her then?"

I blinked, "Only if you want me to break every last bone in your body."

"You wouldn't..." he gave me his best attempt at puppy dog eyes, which really just made him look more like the bad guy in a "Criminal Minds" episode.

"Oh, believe me, they would be collecting you in a bucket if you tried," I then dipped around my random, creepy, attempted paramour and continued on my way to work.

Coming in at 8:05 instead of 8:00, I definitely had the best, "I was late to work because..." story of the week. 

Did anyone else have a bizarre experience or two this week? I'd love to hear about them!

As always, my daily adventures can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Off To a Magical Land... That I Cannot Pronounce

Ahoy thar all ye scurvy bilge rats!

In honor of it bein' the week of "National Talk Like a Pirate Day," (Sep. 19), I plan on celebratin' in the traditional manner. Yes indeed, I'm gonna join a bunch of scallawags on an old creakin' ship and sing sea shanties as we raid other sailing vessels for their bounty... in the nearest irrigation ditch?

You know, it's hard being a pirate in a land-locked relatively rainless city. I think the closest I could get to true piracy is roving around in an Oldsmobile Cutlass while I shake one of those tiny swords that come in drinks at restaurants menacingly at all of the gang bangers in Escalades. Or maybe I'll just stay at home with a book.

Anyways, that's neither here nor there or even under there.  This week I have the good fortune to have interviewed the two coauthors of the book "A Quest of Undoing: A Tale From the Land of Ononokin," John Logsdon and Christopher Young!

"A Quest of Undoing: A Tale from the Land of Ononokin" is a fantastic read for anyone looking for something on the lighter side of fantasy. Funny, inventive and not laboriously detailed, this is a read that will have you smiling and chuckling the entire way through.

The book successfully parodies other fantasy and adventure staples, such as "Lord of the Rings," while maintaining it's own plot. Set in a rather distinct world, with bizarre characters and an interesting quest, "A Quest of Undoing" sets itself apart from many other works in its genre. 

Overall, this was an enjoyable book that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys any form of fantasy and making unashamed fun of other works.

And here is what our two authors have to say for themselves: 

> What inspired you to start writing?

Chris: I find stories running through my head all the time and since nobody ever listens to me when I talk, I figured writing them out would be the most beneficial means of sharing them. Some of my early influences were Tanith Lee, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Harry Harrison.

The desire to do comedic writing came from Harry Harrison’s “Stainless Steel Rat” and also the “Myth Adventure” books by Robert Asprin. My true writing adventure started in high school when I would sit down with a pencil and piece of paper and words would pour out faster than I could write them.

John: That’s easy: reading Isaac Asimov. “Robots of Dawn” opened the door for me at the right time when I was a teenager. I haven’t been able to stop writing since then. I didn’t actually get into reading fantasy until “The Lord of the Rings” movies and “Harry Potter” as well. Until those, I was mostly a science fiction kind-o-guy. Comedic writing came to me simply because I’m a goofball. I tried to write serious stories, but after about 20 pages I always end up falling back into something odd. I can’t help myself. It’s nearly impossible for me to stay serious for more than a few minutes at a time.

>Where did you come up with such creative names, like “Whizzfiddle” and “Muppy?”

Chris: Talk to my co-author. He’s the names guy.

John: I have always had the ability to come up with tons of names. I don’t know why this is. Maybe it’s because I don’t worry too much about correctness. As a demonstration, here are a couple of quick names that I’ll come up with right now: Hembly Steknish, Princess Ladalia Yemooth, and Zort Qwet (King of the Orcs). I guess now I’ll have to include those three in an upcoming story! And, it turns out that the king of the orcs is gonna be named Zort Qwet. Who knew?

Specifically on Whizzfiddle, there is a backstory on that. His real name was “Lenny Flepp,” and it looked like he was going to be stuck with that name for all eternity until he had his first ale. That’s when he learned that he was a wizard because alcohol turned out to be his power source. Not wanting to be known as Master Wizard Lenny Flepp, he sought out a better name. 

At first, he just went with “Xebdigon” because it sounded strong to him. But one night, after a particularly heavy bout of drinking, he ended up using a bard’s violin as a urinal. The bard, none too happy with this, yelled, “Hey, you, don’t whizz on my fiddle!” and the people started calling him “Whizzfiddle.”

>Your antagonist, Treneth, has quite the abrasive personality. Did you base Treneth off of someone you knew in real life?

John: Treneth is an amalgamation of a number of our bosses that we’ve had in the past. This doesn’t include all of my bosses, of course, as I quite liked some of them (like when I was self-employed, for example), but just a few of the more egotistical ones.

>Judging by all the other fantasy books that you parody in your own work, you have read quite a bit of fantasy yourself. What do you most enjoy about the fantasy genre?

Chris: That it provides an enormous landscape of ways to make fun of it. There is so much material to draw from for comedy. Seriously, though, I love the freedom that fantasy provides. Being able to build a world from scratch that has no inherent limitations is a lot of fun. The trick is to be careful to not break your own rules.

John: I enjoy fantasy because it’s loosely based on reality. There are heroes and villains that are beyond the realm of possibility, there are creative beasties, and there magical wonders to delight and entertain the mind.

From a writing standpoint, though, I would have to agree with Chris. World-building is a blast. Character creation can be flamboyant and a bit wacky. Readers get that. They actually like characters and places that are a somewhat over-the-top. That’s what makes it all so much fun.

> In your book, the world is split into the Upperworld and the Underworld. Which would you prefer to live in?

John: Upperworld, but I would visit the Underworld often. This means that I would have to be a wizard, since inter-dimensional travel would otherwise require me to be royalty and I’m far too goofy to be royalty.

Chris: Underworld, because I am a slave to technology. Also, I find the people in the Underworld more interesting and open-minded, especially in Dakmenhem. However, I wouldn’t mind dating some of the princesses in the Upperworld.

>The world you have set your story in is called Ononokin, how in the heavens do you pronounce that?
John: Oh-no-no-kin. Like, imagine you have just finished a book that is set in a fantasy world that you created, but, because you’re not very bright, you forgot to come up with a name for this world. So you say, aloud, “Oh no!” Next, you say, “Oh, no, no, no…” And then you think to yourself, well, it’s a medieval world, so everyone there is “kin.” So you slap those together and you come with, “Oh, no, no, kin!” That, sadly, is a true story.  
Chris: See, now I didn’t know that story. I thought “Ononokin” was to sound like “Oh, no, not again.”

>If you had to choose between being stuck in a room with an annoyed Cher for eternity or being attacked by three thousand crack-crazed gerbils, which would you choose?

Chris: I would have to take the room with Cher, since she’s at least not attacking me.
John: I fail to see the difference between the two, but I also have always failed to see a difference between Cher and Paul Stanley from the band Kiss. We are sure that its Cher and not Paul Stanley, right? Anyway, I guess I’d have to flip a coin, which would likely land me in a room for eternity with Chris and Cher.

If "A Quest of Undoing" is book sounds like something that you would like to add to your physical library or your Kindle stash you can check it out here.

As always, you can follow my perilous, sea-faring (or puddle-faring, whatever) adventures on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Writing Proce-- HEY A BUNNY!

Hello all of you who have somehow managed to scrape past another week in the real world! I hope you are all alive and well.

So a question that I have been asked more times than William Shatner has over-acted in regards to "Life is a Circus Run by a Platypus" is, "What does your writing process look like?"

The last person who asked me this I decided to answer in the Socratic method with another question, "What do you think it looks like?"

This is pretty much what they described:

I think I laughed for a solid 5 minutes, because in reality this is what my writing process looks like:

Because I have been asked multiple times, I decided I might as well just post the "secrets" of my writing process here:

Everything starts out well. I select some motivational music, don my writing Batman boxers (alternatively, I also have my writing basketball shorts) and open up my most recent project, all the while contemplating the things I wish to add.

Then I stare blankly at the screen for a couple of minutes as I suddenly realize that I have no idea what I wish to title my story. I throw around ideas for a minute or two, before titling it something like, "That One Time I Dropped a Carrot," resolving to come back and think up a witty title later.

Now I can dive into my story, except I have to come up with a first line, and those are always difficult. I spend another two minutes singing along with MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This," and may or may not get up to do the corresponding dance.

Can I just say, that no matter how ridiculous MC Hammer's pants are, you can't deny that they look super duper comfy. It's like the Snuggie of pants. Anyways, I digress, which is pretty much where my writing process is at this juncture.

Of course, after singing along to a classic hit you have to look up the lyrics to make sure you got the second verse right. Then you look up the music video just to make sure you did the dance right too.

After 3 or 4 more nostalgic music videos, I finally return to writing and get a couple of solid paragraphs down. Suddenly, my mental thesaurus fails me and I return to the internet to find a synonym for "ostentatious."

When you go online, you can't help but check your Facebook, which somehow ends with you watching a video on how to peel garlic in less than ten seconds (no really, it's mesmerizing). Ten minutes later I find myself watching a video about how gerbils digest their food.

I return to writing, and get a few more paragraphs done when this happens:

 After I have extricated the cat, and erased the resulting page long line of random kitty-butt-gibberish, I get down a few more sentences.

I'm just getting into the groove when I remember that my laundry has been in the washer for approximately the same amount of time it takes to boil an ostrich egg, and I dash off to fix that conundrum.

I return, swearing that I will not lose track of time and the laundry will not be neglected. As I'm about to sit down and resume writing, I realize that I my coffee cup is empty. While in the kitchen replacing my writers' fuel I discover that one of my little fuzzy bandits has decided to open a drawer and eviscerate its contents. Cleaning commences.

Then on my way back to my computer, I look out my window to see two rednecks attempting to push a refrigerator out of a second story window, and there is just no way I am going to miss this first rate fiasco.

After the crash and half of the rednecks' porch subsequently vanishing, I finally get back to writing. At this point I finally can refocus a bit as the caffeine kicks in and I get a ton of writing done (most of which I will look at later and say, "What was that!? No, bad plan," before shuddering and deleting it).

There are days when I am a good little focused writer and I get mass amounts written. But for the most part, what you just read is pretty much how my "writing process" works.

So let this be a lesson to all aspiring writers, if your writing process involves being able to sit for long periods of time and pounding out thousands of words, then good for you.

However, if you're like me, and your writing process often times takes you down the rabbit hole to Wonderland, through Narnia and then possibly takes bribing yourself with ice cream just to get something down, don't worry. I got a book published via my method, you can too!

Remember if you ever need to be provided with a distraction of your own you can follow me on FacebookTwitterGoodreads

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, I did forget the laundry again.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Everyone Just Calm Down!

Hello ladies, gentlemen and the nest of bees that somehow managed to develop in my coat closet.

As you can tell by that previous statement, it has been an interesting week.

Well aside from dealing with a home invasion by bees, watching a little old lady at the the laundromat teach two gang bangers how to do laundry and seeing a man being chased down the street by cops as he yells, "I have the doughnuts!" the week has been relatively calm.

"Life is a Circus Run by a Platypus" has gotten another awesome review from fellow author John Logsdon who writes:

"I think if I were to write up a series of stories about my life, they'd pale in comparison to Allison Hawn's. She has a way of making even the scariest (a 104+ degree temperature comes to mind!) moments quite humorous, though many of her bizarre tales are humorous on their own.

I think my favorite moment was when one of her not-so-bright college dorm mates explained that she had just peed green and Allison replied that the aliens must have gotten to her! So cruel. So mischievous. So...damn...funny.

If you're into reading Dave Barry style articles, "Life is a Circus Run by a Platypus" is for you."

Well, it is the start of a new school year for most universities and colleges, which means it is also the start of many internships and work study terms. I have spoken to quite a few interns and work study students in the past week (both the ones coming to work for the organization I work for and those placed in various agencies around town), and this pretty much the reaction they have all had:

So I have spent a good chunk of time this week talking to interns and finding out why they looked like someone had just told them they had to fight off the Four Riders of the Apocalypse armed only with a shred of tin-foil and a used toilet scrubber.

I have a feeling that a lot of interns and work studies who are just starting out in their placements feel the same amount of overwhelmed panic that I saw on quite a few faces in the past few days. So, for those of you who are starting out as a work study or intern, here are some things to keep in mind.

1. No one expects you to be perfect.

Everyone understands that you are a college student just getting your feet wet in whatever industry you choose to explore. No one at your placement is going to expect that you are coming into this knowing exactly how to react to every situation and do absolutely everything.

I know it's hard to believe, but the supervisors at your site were not born, fully grown, dressed for business and competent, at their desks. Most of us were exactly where you are once upon a time.

2. You will make mistakes, learn from them.

The one thing that I consistently heard this week was the fear that supervisors were going to be expecting interns and work studies to do this:

When in reality they know that you are sometimes going to do this:

It does not matter if you make a mistake. What matters is how you react to the mistake. If you make a mistake and then either wallow in guilt over it or just continue on doing the same thing that caused the mistake the first time, you will frustrate your supervisor.

Instead, view the mistake as a learning experience and apply it to your time at your placement site. Again, supervisors know you are just learning, so prove to them that you are indeed learning and turn mistakes into usable knowledge.

3. Be proactive and productive.

Just because you are free or extremely cheap labor does not mean you get to sit back on your laurels and watch the world go by like some crazy circus-meets-sitcom show.

The world is a lot smaller than you think. Whether this internship seems valuable to your future career or not, or even if you plan on leaving the area where you are attending school, you never know who your supervisors know or who they will run into. It is in your best interest to prove yourself as competent and useful.

The bare minimum is unacceptable. If you get done with what you've been asked to do, look for something else to do to fill your time. If you can't find anything else to do to fill your time, then ask for something to do.

There is nothing that frustrates a supervisor more than seeing an intern or work study sitting on their phone on Facebook next to a group of clients or customers who are obviously being ignored. There is ALWAYS something to do.

4. Be mindful of how new experiences affect you.

I work in social work, where a constant stream of crazy is kind of the norm. I am pretty used to the sight of tweakers dancing in the street and someone telling me that they want me to find them a job working with vampires.

I also realize, this is not everyone's status quo.

Even if you are not in an internship involving social work, it is likely that you are going to run into situations that are not only new, but a little bracing and outside your wheelhouse. If this happens, talk to your supervisor, ask them about it, see what they would suggest in the future for dealing with what you just experienced. No one expects you to come to your placement like this:

You are going to have moments of feeling out of place and vulnerable and that is perfectly o.k. Just make sure you identify those moments and talk with someone more experienced in the field about them so you can get some perspective and assistance with dealing with it. 

5. Get over yourself.

If you come into your placement thinking that you are the coolest thing since CD's and that the people working at these places are there to focus on you and your education let me be the first to say, "STOP!"

The people at your placement sites will help you and want you to learn and have a good experience. However, their goal in life is not to make you happy. Their goal in life is to do their job and make sure that their clients and/or customers are satisfied.

While you shouldn't be afraid to ask for help, don't be shocked if the employees at your placement seem more interested in getting their jobs done than making sure that they hear your epic half-hour long saga of struggle and strife as you fixed the jam in the copier.

Also, remember, your supervisors are not there to provide you with constant entertainment. Sometimes you are going to have boring things to do. This is a part of life. Believe me, I really don't find filing mass amounts of case notes every week to be the most fun I've ever had in my entire life, but is a part of my job and therefore I have to do it.

Doing entry level work is not an insult, it's a starting point. If you prove that you can do the basics, then you will get to do more interesting things, but don't take it for granted that your supervisors are going to make your placement the Disneyland of work sites.

6. Remember that it is your choice whether this will be a helpful experience or not.

When it comes to internships and work study placements, you only get out what you put into your time at your site.

I was an intern for a police department for a semester during my college career. I could easily have stayed in the back, filing papers and typing up reports. Instead, I jumped at every opportunity I got to experience something new.

Because I invested my energy, was curious and willing to try new things, I got to go on cop car ride-alongs, help interview criminals for intake and learned a ton about how the criminal justice system works on the ground level.  Just don't miss the opportunity to give yourself an awesome experience.

Well, anyways, I hope that helps some of you headed towards your first internship to stop looking like an incoming semi-truck driven by drunk lemurs is heading your way. Good luck!

Remember you can always follow my escapades on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads!