Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Quest for (Awkward) Social Encounters

Lately I've been thinking a lot of how people interact with each other in public. People in this case, meaning strangers and public meaning stores, public transportation, etc. Where I reside, in the DC metro area people are always so concerned with getting to their next destination, what they're going to make for dinner that night, beating traffic, etc, that they never take the time to notice people around them much less have a conversation with them.

Where I've noticed this as of late is at the checkout in stores. I am always thrilled when I have an animated checker who makes a funny comment about something I'm buying, or even just simply asking how my day is going. Me, being me, always happily strikes up a conversation and will chat with them literally about anything.

This happened the other day when I was in Target. It was the day after Black Friday and I asked the checker how crazy it was there on Black Friday. He started telling me about his experience (some negative, some positive) and as he talked to me the lady behind me started to tap her foot and clear her throat. I ignored it and continued to talk with the very pleasant checker. I LOVE when people like him are so animated and love their job. I see it all the time at other stores where employees drag there feet and barely say Hello to you.

Now I happen to be an extreme example of someone who interacts with strangers on a daily basis. It is completely normal for me to strike up a conversation with a random stranger for sometimes really no reason. This past weekend I was at Grant's high school reunion. Only about 75 people showed up (probably due to the Holidays) but I had a blast. Grant knew many of the people there, but not all of them. I though only knew two people, one who I had met while playing Frisbee with Grant and one that I knew online mostly through facebook. The other people, no clue. But heck I had to entertian myself while Grant caught up with his people. So I randomly went up to people and starting talking to them (I had wanted to go up to the group of cheerleaders crowding around a table and just start pretending that I went to school with them throwing out "Oh you don't remember me? I sat behind you in Math class" type of comments. Grant didn't want me to embarras him too much though so I refrained).

One girl had this really cool tattoo of a Voodoo doll so of course I went up and started talking to her about it. Turns out she was a girlfriend of a kid Grant went to school with so she didn't know anyone either. We started talking a lot and soon I even pulled her out onto the dance floor and had her dancing with us. That's another thing, all the "Popular" people were just standing around with their drinks where as the group of us (Grant included) were tearing it up on the dance floor, kicking off our shoes and dancing to Gagnam Style (yes at this point I had, had a couple of drinks). We had a great time and it didn't matter if we didn't know each other at all. At the end of the night I got big hugs and even a kiss on the cheek from one guy (since he was gay, Grant was cool with it). It just goes to show that beign uptight and thinking that you can't talk to strangers won't get you anywhere in life.

I'd rather be that awkward girl that goes up to random people, holds up check out lines in stores, and comments on people's unique attributes than someone who rushes through life not paying attention to those amazing people around her.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Connection Failed

There are many traits that I have inherited from my ancestors but the one that has been sticking out a lot lately is my stubbornness. This mainly come from my Norwegian heritage but some of my Irish heritage has to do with it as well. Lately I have been noticing it more and more and though it's not necessarily a bad thing I've been working on changing.

Yesterday I received the manuscript for Summer's Hollow back from my editor. To say there is some work to be done on it is an understatement. She loved the plot and the mythology behind it but she felt my characters were a little flat. Honestly this did sting a little but I got over it and read all her comments and suggestion. What she suggested is to sit down and write out "character sheets" for my two main characters. This is a wonderful idea and really a must for most writers. Problem is that is not my style at all.

How I write is I start with an idea and then, well I just start writing. I never know how it's going to end or what's going to happen along the way. I let my characters reveal themselves to the reader from their actions and dialogue with one another. It usually works but what I realized is it might only work for my short stories. With this full lenghted novel I think I got so caught up in getting the plot the way I wanted it and getting the message to come through that I left Rylie (the main character) kind of on the back burner. Then I came to a bit of an epiphany: I don't really like Rylie that much; I feel no connection to her.

Rylie is a character that actually is loosely based on me but she doesn't feel a part of me that way Emma does, or Aer does, or Penn and Doyle do. She is foreign to me; I feel as though I am watching her from far away rather than right next to her like my other characters. I want to fix that; I want to have that connection to her. Now the plot and the message I am tied to. It is that pychological notion that I have always wanted to create; something different than all the other horror novels out there. I have achieved that in this novel. What I haven't achieved is creating a character that my readers can fall in love with the way they fall in love with my other characters.

So my mission: to figure out just who Rylie Bradford is. I am putting away my stubborn ways of always using the same process and I am taking the advice from my Editor. This may even mean writing back stories for Rylie that are simply for me to discover her through her own words. What this means for you, my faithful followers is that the release date for Summer's Hollow is going to be pushed back. I'm shooting for February but honestly it could be much later than that. This book is my baby and I want my characters to be that as well. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Loss of Sanity

Hoards of pseudo-humanoids crowd into the narrow passageways. The stronger of the hoards trample and stamp out the runts. The victors claim their prizes while walking triumphantly out of the structure and back to their resting places. They reward themselves with hot beverages of sorts and delight over their spoils.

No, I am not describing the hunting and gathering people of Papua New Guinea; this is a description of what Black Friday has become in the United States. Thousands of shoppers ditch their families and trek to the stores to stand in absurdly long lines to get that marked down item. Now I'm guilty of loving the bargains but I, unlike many treat this excursion with poise and dignity.

Last year Grant and I did the whole wait in line at 12am so we could get the deals on the TVs. That was actually fun since it was great to see Grant proudly dragging his TVs around the store (one was for my parents by the way) as I walked like a zombie pushing the cart. This year we didn't really need anything but I ventured out this morning anyways to do some shopping for others.

My first mistake: no coffee. Why I decided to go "sober" to Black Friday shopping at the local mall is beyond me. Perhaps I was still drunk off of mashed potatoes and pie. I made it through but rushed to Starbucks afterwards to get my gingerbread latte (which mind you I think may be better than the pumpkin spice, blasphemous I know).

My second mistake: thinking people would be nice and courteous. One of the main reasons I went to JcPenny was to get a pair of boots for my mom to give me for Christmas. Needless to say I gave up after crowds of women were blocking the aisles as they rooted through boxes and left the carcases of shoe boxes on the ground. At one point I started to pick up boxes on the floor and put them back on the shelves in neat rows (which I got stares from).

My third mistake: getting my mom a large, heavy Christmas gift. Okay well not the gift itself because it is really awesome and I know she is going to love it. The problem was is was heavy, large, and extremely awkward to carry. I had to go down the escalator and across two parking lots with it to put it in the car. I completely consider that my work out for the day.

My realization: all the trouble that I went through to get a few good deals really wasn't worth my loss of sanity.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Many of These Things are Not Like the Other

There are a few words that I really can't stand that are thrown around a lot in society. These are words that shouldn't be used for various reasons. For me though the most heinous of all is the arrowhead since it is used in the scientific community as well.

The word itself doesn't bother me, as there are many true arrowheads that are found at archeological sites. What bothers me is that it is used for describing many different projectile points and sometimes just stone tools in general. There are many different forms of stone tools as follows:

  • Bi-faces: blade on both sides held in the hand and used for making things, killing animals and warfare (picture below)
  • Arrowheads: a head of an arrow made from stone and nothing more. As you can see in the picture about they are clearly made for fixing on the end of a wooden shaft.  
  • Spearpoints: a stone head for a spear used in battle and hunting
  • Other stone tools: some were very rudimentary and used for variety of things such as cutting meat, cloth, skin, plants, etc. 

Now keep in mind those are my definitions and are very general terms. I could probably right a whole book on each on of them (and it has been done by others) and how they are made. Stone tools have always fascinated me since they can tell so much about a society; this is especially true about early hominids.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Charity Round Up!

So we are heading into the Holiday season. There are many great causes that need your help if you have any money or items that you can spare. See the list below and message me if you're interested in helping out!

Mrs. B over at Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom needs your help with her fundraiser to help kids who were affected by Hurricane Sandy. If you can give just a dollar (or more) you would be providing these kids with gifts that they otherwise wouldn't be receiving.

Radius has partnered with Shepherd's Table, a local shelter, to help those who are less fortunate than us. From October 22 – November 16th Radius will be participating in a Food and Clothing Drive through Shepherd’s Table.

Below are items taken from the organization’s wish list:
Food Items:
Margarine or butter
Salad dressing
Hot sauce (an item our guests love)
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Canned vegetables (large #10 cans)
Soup (cream-based or broth)
Sweet-N-Low or other sugar substitutes
Kitchen Items:
Aluminum foil (large industrial roll)
Saran Wrap
Paper Napkins
Industrial Can Openers
Tide Laundry Detergent (powder)
Metal Silverware (spoons and forks)
Clothing Closet Items:
Shepherd’s Table always accepts donations of new and gently used-clothing and shoes. Please donate seasonal items that will enhance the dignity of their clients.
Men’s Jackets
Children's Clothing
New Men’s and Women’s Socks
New Men’s Underwear (smaller sizes)
New Women’s Underwear (all sizes)
Shampoo, conditioner, soap, shaving cream, toothpaste, and deodorant (travel-size bottles)
Resource Center Items:
Safety Razors
Administrative Items:
Paper (97 bright white)
Looking for a way to make a difference in people's lives? Well how about joining the Relay for Life team I just joined? It takes place on the University of Maryland on April 20, 2013 which means you have plenty of time to prepare and to meet the team goal of $1,500!

Thanks in advanced for all your help! 
- Sam 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Another One Bytes the Dust

Yes, I am very proud of myself for that pun; I am giggling at myself as I write to tell you: My first grad school class is over! Last night we had our final session where were went over some exercises and talked about our final projects. My professor even extended the final project deadline until this Sunday because of any problems people have been having with the storm. Any of you who know me though are aware that I'm an anti-procrastinator so I've had my final project done before the storm even happened.

After many times back and forth with the professor I finally ended up doing my project on: Using Geospatial Analysis can we determine the impact of future volcanoes? I was very happy with myself for coming up with that since it combined my love of geology, anthropology and of course GIS since this is a Spatial Analysis class. I used Mount St. Helens as my study area and the results came out pretty cool! (I will post the proposal document and the poster for  my project after I turn it in).

Last night Grant looked over it for me and was impressed and though that it looked great visually and made sense scientifically. It was cute, he was looking over my project and then I listened to the presentation that he is going to give to a group of High Schoolers this morning about his work with Nuclear Waste (of course I have to brag about him).

Tonight after I turn the project in and will have completed my first class of Grad School and I expect it will feel awesome! I have a bit of a break between this class and the next one (Programming and Scripting) so I will use that time to get a bunch of writing done, as well as take some trainings for work to hone my technical writing skills. 

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Friday, November 2, 2012

The Thinning of the Veil (part 2)

Samhain has come and gone and this year it was a strange one to say the least. This year I didn't hand out candy or even wear a costume since I was so inundated with work. The hurricane messed up my plans for the night so instead I ended up spending it helping  my parents take pictures of their hurricane damage, eating fish chowder and playing cards with my grandparents, and reading over yet another contract proposal.

But I know that's not what you want to hear about. You want to hear about all the spirit encounters I've had since in the first part of this post I mentioned just how thin the veil was this year. Let's just say I had quite a few different visitors starting Monday night into yesterday.

The first spirit I encountered was my guardian spirit. She was with me through pretty much the entire day on Monday and into Tuesday. She knew that I was going to be alone during the hurricane and she was there to comfort me. Part of me was scared to death about coming in contact with another demonic spirit like last hurricane that hit but thankfully there were none this year. That demonic spirit seemed to be tied to that old house and that's it. Still, I could feel her next to me throughout the storm and every once in a while would feel her brush my hair back or put her hand on mine. This was all the comfort I needed to feel safe.

On Wednesday, the actual start of Halloween/Samhain, I didn't have much time to sit down and take in the spirit world that was walking among us. Usually I use my pendulum to contact spirits, do a tarot reading for myself, and meditate. With my schedule I didn't have a chance to do any of that. In the chaos of my week I seemed to bring a choatic/trikster spirit into my life. He was harmless but none the less annoying. It seemed every time I put something somewhere he would move it. This happened not only at the apartment, but at work and even in my car. Yesterday I was still moving things back around.

The most noticeable was he decided to hide the peacock figurines that we have on the table next to the couch. I looked everywhere for them and eventually found them sitting under my old computer that is inside a compartment in the table. I just laughed at him and told him to cut it out. The most frustrating though was when I finally had a chance to fully clean and organize the apartment (for the first time since Grant left for North Carolina, before he even went to India, three weeks ago) he decided it would be fun to move the things I was putting away back to the place they were before. Eventually, as I got organized he seemed to wane in his efforts. Around 8pm or so when I sat down to watch some TV I didn't feel his presence at all.

The last encounter that I had was when I was driving home from work yesterday. Traffic was horrendous on Rt. 29 as usual so I took that back road that I had mentioned to you guys before. Yes, this meant crossing that same bridge. Well at the bridge itself I didn't see anything, but as soon as a crossed it the air grew extremely heavy. As I drove up the hill all I could feel is eyes on me coming from either sides of the road. Even though I didn't see anything it felt as though there were dozens or more spirits lined up on either side of the road watching me as if I were a parade. I've never felt that many spirits at once before that were staring right at me.

That was pretty much it though, nothing too crazy happened which I think is mostly due to me being so busy this year. It was eventful to say the least but not in the usual way that Samhain is for me. I hope that each of you had a blessed day as well and if you have any stories that you would like to share from the day or at all feel free to do so!

And don't forget! My new short story series "Deal with the Devil" is now available on Amazon for download! It's only $0.99 and well worth the price!

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