Sunday, November 30, 2014

Brought to You by an Insane Amount of Coffee

Seriously, at this point the coffee and I have become one entity entirely. You might have noticed my complete lack of blog posts as of late. That’s because my life has decided to become a splash page of multiple jobs, school, and gods knows what else. At this point the closest thing I have to a social life is my Netflix account.

Since September 23 (my last post) I have been officially promoted to Lead Writer/Editor, have taken on a second job as a Fitness Instructor, completed my second to last Master’s course, and finished the first draft to Return to Summer’s Hollow. I get winded just from typing that. Here I thought once I was married, settled into my house, and got a hold on work things would slow down. Yeah, they sped up to light speed rates. But hey, that’s how I roll. Sleep, pshhh, who needs it?

In reality though I’m so happy with the direction that things have been going. My promotion has come with new responsibilities and the ability to actually write some official DoD articles/papers. This of course though means more meetings, more interaction with the big wigs, and more time spent actually doing work at work (imagine that).

In addition to my full-time job, I was asked to teach the fitness class that I have been taking for the past year. It’s called SkyCore and it’s a strength training/core class done on trampolines. That then takes up my Tuesday nights and Sunday mornings. It is insanely awesome and I love teaching it. I’ve have a new obsession with researching work outs and posing the question: “Can this be done on a trampoline?”

Then there’s my Master’s Program that I have a love/hate relationship with. I really do love Geospatial Science; I love creating these interactive maps/databases/websites. On the flipside though, it is SO TIME CONSUMING. On average I spend about 4 hours on each homework assignment. Final projects I spend anywhere from 15 hours to 35 hours all together. The end is in sight though. My final class starts this Wednesday and then after that I have a semester to work solely on my Capstone Project. The home stretch has started and then I will be done with school (until I decide to get another degree).

Lastly (drum roll please) I FINISHED the first draft to Return to Summer’s Hollow. For a while I was stuck with the purpose of this story but I punched write through that writer’s block and finished the last half of the book within the spans of two weeks. Knowing that it is finished is SUCH a load off of me. Also the story turned out amazing and opened up this world for one last novel to tie it all together. I also finished working on the cover design. To the right you’ll see the low res version of the cover. I opted for green tones rather than the red tones from the first book.

Needless to say my absence from the blogging world is well justified. It is my hope that I will be able to go back to my once a week posts on various anthropology, technology, and writing posts. Frankly, not having this outlet to get my thoughts out has had me a little backed up lately. I’ve been waiting to burst with all this great news for a while now, but it was never quite the time. Today, the start of a new month, seemed like the perfect day to put all of this out there. Now excuse me while I go drink my 18th cup of coffee for the day.         

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Irrational Fears

Last week we discussed weird things that comfort us, but what about the flip side of that? What are the weird things that scare us? For me I have two main things that scare me more than anything: tunnels and ventriloquist dummies. Yes I know I write horror yet am terrified of two pretty nondescript things.

We’ll start with the tunnels. Up until these past few years I was incapable of driving through tunnels. Add that to the fact that I live near Baltimore which has two tunnels, sometimes this is a problem. It stems from a form of claustrophobia. I don’t like being totally enclosed like that – I always like to have an exit strategy. Then there is the fact that there is that added problem of all the water pushing down on you. Whenever I go through a tunnel I tend to shake uncontrollably. The best thing to do is to crank my metalcore music and focus on getting out. 

Then there is my problem with ventriloquist dummies. This stems from a traumatic experience I had as a child. My uncle had me go down in his basement to get something. He then threw his voice to act like his dummy was talking. This of course scarred me for life but also just the thought of a ventriloquist dummy gives me shivers. Anything that shouldn’t be talking really creeps me out. Puppets do too. Weirdly enough though possessed dolls, possessed puppets (a la Buffy or Child’s Play) don’t bother me since there is a reason they are talking/moving: they have a demon or a spirit in them. Yes I know, weird logic but it makes me feel better. 

So now I ask you. What irrational fear makes your body tense up or keeps you awake at night? What weird things send shivers down your spine? 

Image from "Howdy Doody Time" 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Strange Comforts

Lately life has been utterly crazy busy; but if you all know me at all, you know that’s how I like it. Grad school has kicked up again and I’m slugging through my Spatial Modeling class with lots of coffee. Work has been busy as well since we’re coming to the end of the government fiscal year. Though I wish I had a little bit more time to write, overall things are going pretty well.

Of course between all of this I make time for myself and lately that has been spent either working out or watching TV at night. The number one show on my watch list of course is Sons of Anarchy. If you follow me on twitter you know how far this obsession goes. I realize now that this obsession stems from what was going on in my life at the time I started watching the show. Last Fall I lost my job due to budget cuts and then my Dad wound up in the hospital with kidney failure and was near death.

It was a pretty dark time in my life so I started watching Sons of Anarchy to escape from it all. For the month of September and the beginning of October that was all I watched. I zoomed through the series and for that moment in time it was like I was living in Charming. At first I thought it strange that I found comfort in a show about violence, crime, and death but then I thought about it. When I write I exaggerate horrors of my own life to cope; wasn’t I just doing the same thing with watching this show? If I focused on the horrible things on the show then maybe the things going on in my own life weren’t as horrible. Throw in some Shakespearean themes, amazing writing, and an amazing cast and I was hooked.

This has caused Sons of Anarchy to be my “security blanket” as of late. Used to be whenever I was upset or angry I would turn to my Whedon shows (Firefly, Angel, Dollhouse, and Buffy) to calm me down. Lately they have been replaced with Sons of Anarchy (though let’s not get crazy I still rewatch all those shows as well). It’s gotten to the point that I am so invested in this show that Tuesday night is almost an extension of my own life: I wait with bated breath for what’s going to happen next. Like my Whedon shows, it has become so much more than just a television show.

All this might sound a little looney but hey, it works and it got me through a hard time in my life (of which has now done a complete 180). In fact I know a handful of people that feel the same way about other TV shows. So I ask you, my faithful readers, what is your TV show “security blanket?” When you want to be comforted, what is the one thing you watch more than most?

Image: Cover of the 2nd Season Sons of Anarchy DVD

Thursday, September 4, 2014

First Big Break

The year was 1996. I was a confident six year old with a Little Mermaid backpack, My Little Pony lunch box, and a head filled with extensive knowledge. Maybe I wasn’t the most popular in my first grade class but I had a nice group of friends who put up with my creative genius. All in all I had a pretty damn good life. 

The other kids were slightly jealous of my teacher’s pet status as I was highly intelligent for my young age. The pig-adorned classroom was filled with my perfect penmanship (as well as others, I suppose) and quick math skills (which were promptly lost somewhere around fourth grade). I was living the first grade dream, and my friends were riding on my coattails. 

Then I got my first gig in the spotlight. My teacher noticed that I always had a notebook on hand; I was always scribbling down short stories (couple sentences here and there). She tasked me with writing a puppet show for a group of my friends to act out. I took to my blank pages and crafted a harrowing story of a pig and a dog who, against all odds, became best friends.  My friends fought over the coveted spot of the pig and were quick to skillfully craft their Popsicle stick puppets. 

The show went on without a hitch and we ended with a thunderous applause from the captivated audience. I was awarded a certificate for my achievement and was crowned with the highest honor of “Pigtastic Author.” To this day I still have that certificate and shirt with the ironed on pig in a dress. From there the fame only increased but I am always remembered my big break into the world of storytelling.  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What is Your Background?

This is a question that I get asked a lot in my line of work. I’m a contractor at a DoD site that provides IT and Security training/education to the government and military. The majority of people have a laundry list of experience that range from military IT work to the Pentagon. Then there’s me. I’m the technical editor/writer; I make sure that all documents are edited for content and I also work with the Subject Matter Experts to write reports and articles.

My background to back all this up? Well I have an undergrad degree in Anthropology and am working on my Master’s in Geospatial Science. My technical background is in web design, programming, and Geographical Information Systems (GIS). At my previous jobs I have played multiple rolls but all come back to technical writing. 

After I explain that to people I tend to get the head tilt followed by “So all that and you’re an editor?” My response usually is: yes; I’m a techy who can write, so this job is perfect for me. The reality is though there is no justification. To some this job might not seem glamourous, but to me it is. Not only do I get to use my editing and writing skills to “clean up” all the documents (classified and unclassified), but I get to read all this incredibly cool material from all IT and Security disciplines. I’m never bored with it. Sure there are times where I get frustrated (a lot of times my “grammar lesson” posts on my Facebook are blunders I see at work), but that can be said of any job. 

The follow-up to the “background” question usually is “After you get your Master’s will you get an analyst or more tech-heavy position?” I’m open to that but it’s not what I’m shooting for. Sure I could make a butt-load of money sitting in front of a computer all day developing databases and maps for the NGA or a similar government agency. That though isn’t necessarily what I want. In the end what I want is to be able to use my knowledge of GIS, IT, and Security to write about it. One of the things I pride myself on doing, as a technical writer/editor, is taking these incredibly tech-heavy disciplines and writing about them in a way that anyone can understand. At my job one of the best compliments I received was from the division chief. He pulled me aside one day and said “This is awesome; even now I can understand how to do [this].” 

In the end am I using my undergrad degree? Directly, no. Am I using my Master’s knowledge (and eventually degree)? Directly, no. However, the knowledge that I’ve picked up along the way about the tech field, writing, and even how to interact with people has shaped me into the technical writer/editor I am today.