Geek. Pirate. Mom

The Life and Times of Whitney Drake

Archive for January, 2012

Who are you and what did you do with my sons?

I admit, I’m not the strictest of parents. While I don’t put up with a lot of whining, I have not made a firm stance against messes. I was a kid once, I know that messes are part of playtime. Of course, I’m a bit of a slob myself, and admit that I don’t necessarily have the urges to clean constantly.

As a result, neither of my boys likes to clean up much and I usually have to fight with them to clean up after themselves. We’ll have a couple of good days where they’ll pick up as they play, and then forget the rules and things get messy again.

However, I’ve been trying to get the boys to help more. They’re four and six, and when I was finally able to get the Little Kidlet to join in when I was cleaning I knew that I needed to make them pull their weight a little bit.

So I made a chart. Where I could draw stars on it, and when they got up to 10 stars they could pick a prize from our treasure box. It has Hot Wheels, pencils, stickers. Nothing expensive, but definitely fun.

We weren’t making much headway… but then I got to take Sunday off for my birthday. TheBoy and I went out (more on that another day), but when I came home, I was told that the boys both earned stars for cleaning. Not just their toys, but their bedroom as well.

The next morning, the Oldest Kidlet made his bed. Today, both of them made their bed! Weirdly, they didn’t insist that I immediately give them a star for doing this… I know I make a lot of references to the looking glass, but today I definitely feel like I’ve gone through the Looking Glass.

Hello 32.

I figured I’d try out making vlogs, since I’ve got the Flip and usually a little quiet during the day. True story – every time I started to make this, someone would walk into the room. It took me 6 tries.

Hospital Trip #2

Or, What it’s like to have a colonoscopy.

To catch everyone up, over the last year or so I’ve felt pains in my abdomen that come and go, usually after eating. I’ve had mysterious fevers that come and go. The most important issue was my weight loss. I lost some weight, and on my slight frame (I’m only 5’2″), that meant a lot. Then, I was hospitalized in December with severe anemia.

In the latest part of my journey to figure out what the heck is wrong with me, I had a colonoscopy (and endoscopy) on Tuesday. Which basically involves putting cameras inside me through either end of my digestive tract to look for certain kind of damage that comes from certain disorders/diseases. And no, you aren’t conscious for any of it.

Since more people are likely to have a colonoscopy (they’re recommended for anyone over 50) than the endoscopy, this is what to expect. You’ll be put on a clear liquid diet (broth, clear juices like apple or grape, non-red Jello, popcicles that aren’t red, purple or green) for the entire day before. Then, the night before, you’ll have to drink a “prep liquid” which clears out your bowels. Honestly, sitting on the toilet for the bulk of the night wasn’t the problem. It was the hour in which I had to drink 32 oz of a salty liquid that tasted a little orange and metallic.

The next morning, I woke up and had to drink another 32 oz of the liquid. Followed by 16 oz of water, and then nothing for hours before my appointment. At my hospital I went to fill out paperwork and was ushered off to a waiting area where I stripped into a hospital gown and waited on a gurney. And waited. And waited. And waited.

Then, I was finally taken into the procedure room where they positioned my body and started to inject the sedative. It’s done while you’re in a twilight stage so that they can talk to you and do things like ask you to relax. But you don’t remember any of it. The only thing I vaguely remember was the start of the endoscopy- and that was just because they were putting something down my throat, and I only remembered a second of it. Afterwards, I was taken to the recovery room where they waited for me to wake up and gave me juice (this is an assumption of mine based on what I saw happen with other patients). Then they called TheBoy (my ride home) to say I was ready to be picked up, and had me get dressed and wait for him.

The kicker is that they probably explained the pictures taken during my procedure. But I don’t remember a thing. I remember an orderly (who TheBoy confirmed as the orderly who’d been telling me about his brother living with ulcerative colitis) wheeling me outside towards the car, and TheBoy standing there in his Pac Man shirt, looking as adorable as ever. I remember a moment in the car ride home where TheBoy told me that the Oldest Kidlet had gotten in trouble at school for pushing a boy. Then the next thing I remember, I woke up in my bed probably about 3 hours later. My day was a bit fuzzy around the edges. I can’t really explain it, but it’s not that my vision was literally fuzzy. It’s that my brain function was a little hazy. I could almost put together complex thoughts. There was a lot of me standing around trying to remember what I was doing.

But I wasn’t in any pain from the colonoscopy- in fact, the only pain I had was the endoscopy. My poor tender esophagus.

I’m fine now, and in a week I’ll be talking to my doctor about the results. Here’s to hoping that I finally get some answers.

I’ve been dreading this day…

Just as a recap, I have two boys. The Oldest Kidlet (6) talks a mile a minute. The Little Kidlet (4) is much quieter, and usually only talks if he’s really excited, playing, or wants something.

I’ve been using LK’s quiet nature to help keep secrets and to save time during my day. After I picking up LK from preschool, if I’m too tired to make lunch I’ll go ahead and pick up fries for him and a burger for me. I know that he won’t tell his brother (getting what happened at school out from him takes some interrogation), so I don’t have to worry about one brother freaking out because the other brother got something else.

Well, up until yesterday, that was the case.

Yesterday, I picked up fries for the Little Kidlet and a soda for me. We drove home, he ate his fries and life was great.

Then we went to pick up his brother. I was worried the car might smell like fries, but I didn’t think so, and off we went to collect the Oldest Kidlet.

Nothing was said about the smell of fries, and we pulled into our driveway. As I put the car in park, the Little Kidlet said, “I had some fries today.”

The Oldest Kidlet looked at me. “I knew the car smelled like something delicious. You didn’t get me fries? This isn’t faaaaiiiiiiiir.”

“No,” I deadpanned. “He said we have a surprise for you today.” He didn’t buy it- he speaks LK better than anyone in this house.

Needless to say, I’m not going to be picking up lunch for the two of us anymore. I’m fairly certain that the days of the Little Kidlet keeping quiet are over, and I doubt it’ll be any time soon that the Oldest Kidlet will realize that he has it a lot easier than his brother. Oh well.

Why yes. I do like my weekly burger.

Thank you, teenage fanfic writers. I learned a lot from you.

On Saturday, I admitted that I used to write fanfiction, and there were other things I’d wanted to include in the post but didn’t have the space. This is one of them.

Writing is writing, no matter where you start.

Things posted by a teenager just embarking on their writing career will usually be riddled with spelling errors, unrealistic characters, and have no understanding about what an adult life actually is. If the teenage author happens to write RPF (real-person fiction, a subset of fan fiction involving the actors themselves), somehow there will be many pregnancies that occur. You get a baby! You get a baby! Everyone gets a baby!

I left an online forum when it seemed as though one actor was single handledly fathering the next generation of children with under-aged mothers. While I get the appeal of the particular actor, but it was a more than a little disturbing. And no matter what the older forum members said, these young teens all insisted that sex + love = baby. (I really hope these girls changed their minds by the time they actually started having sex)

The teenage writer’s stories usually feature Mary Sues. My definition:

A Mary Sue is a female character (though male versions do exist) added to a fanfic that is of the author’s creation. Not all original characters are Mary Sues. A Mary Sue is unique in that she usually has a name worthy of a Harlequin novel, eyes of an unusual hue (violet, white, or any color described as “unlike anything ever seen before”). She manages to become central to the plot, and possesses skills that would rival everyone from the original movie/book.

In a Harry Potter story, she is smarter than Hermoine, and also possibly be the Chosen One. Or if this is a Slytherin centric story, some family with closer ties to Voldemort than Draco’s family. Also, she’s likely an American girl. Just to make her stand out more at Hogwarts.

In Pirates, she would be more of a budding feminist than Elizabeth (who let’s admit, is a bit of a canon* Sue), better at swordfighting than Will and better in bed than Jack Sparrow, even though she’s just young and was probably a virgin when the story began.

No matter what the fandom, everyone can’t help but fall in love with her.

Lest anyone think I’m being unfair, I wrote a horrible novel with an “original plot” when I was 12 or 13. I lifted ideas from just about everything I’d read up until that point, so it’s hard for me to actually use the term original. It was set in some vague point in history that wasn’t Medieval, but wasn’t Renaissance either. Oh, I don’t know… the Disney Days of Yore, where it’s sort of Dark Ages, but nobody is dying of the plague. It was set in France, but I knew nothing about France, so it was more like what I knew from German Fairy Tales. I believe there were twins girls separated at birth- one who was rich and one who was poor. The poor girl was even the rich girl’s handmaiden and nobody noticed that they were identical. Worse yet, I gave everyone ridiculous names that I thought were clever. There was a Frenchman named Monsieur Anly. So when you wrote it out, it was M. Anly. No, no copies of this exist.

At 16, I wrote a spy short story that was not as bad, but certainly was cringe-worthy now. Being a spy story, the plot was fairly cookie cutter, but most in the genre are. Mostly it suffered from a lot of “telling” and not much “showing.” However, a teacher of mind raid the spy story and told me that I would never be a writer. Which actually led to me not wanting to pick up a pen and write for years. I told myself that I didn’t have it in me and focused on other things. (That would be when I started playing role-playing games, yes the kind with dice, and ran a game with a colossal world. I was writing, but I didn’t realize it at the time)

I’m sharing all of this, including my own horrible stories because part of writing is being able to draw from your own observations about human nature. The more you experience and the older you get, the more you have to draw from. And no, you don’t have to experience it all personally.

I knew a girl from the fanfic community who had a novel published by a real publisher by the age of 18. I was 24 and as jealous as I could possibly be about this girl’s talent. Looking back on it now, I realize that she’d spent the two years I’d known her devouring other people’s fiction- the writing of older women who understood real heartbreak. She had to have spent at least an hour a day reading other people’s work and personal journals and learning from those who were older than her. I know she spent at least five or six hours a day writing her own work. She always asked for critiques (most people posting didn’t want criticism at all) and found “beta” readers (aka editors) whose work she admired, and who she thought had points of view that could help her learn more. She wound up where she was because she worked to get there, and worked hard. She had to have spent at least 4,000 years in the time that I knew her writing- and she’d already been writing regularly for years before. I remember all of us being surprised that she was only 16 when she joined the group.

So, write and read. As much as you possibly can. The more you write, the better you’ll get. I only wish that I hadn’t listened to that horrible teacher of mine and lost years to my own insecurity.

If you want your own community to join in, there are lots of writer’s communities springing up on the internet. You can find self published writers on Twitter and Google+, and I’ve seen a lot of the same love that I found back in my fandom days. It’s all there. But most importantly, write!

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*Canon – Canon refers to the original material in a book, comic, television show or movie. It’s what is explicitly said. In Star Wars, it’s canon that Alderaan was destroyed by the Death Star.

Confession: I used to write fanfiction.

If you’ve hung around the internet long enough, you’ve probably heard about fanfiction. Where writers take an existing work (book, comic, movie, television show) and write stories about it. Sometimes of an adult nature. Sometimes smashing together “fandoms” (the distinct properties) and coming up with something new.

Yes, I wrote fanfiction. You can shake your head all you like- just stop if your brain starts to rattle around. After Pirates of the Caribbean came out, I had an idea for a spinoff adventure and started writing it. In doing so, I got involved in fandom and learned a lot about writing. I had access to people (mostly women) who wrote all sorts of things, used fanfiction to experiment in styles… it was pretty great. (It wasn’t all great, but that’s a post for another day)

After awhile, I no longer felt the siren’s call of fanfic, and had a lot of projects of my own that I felt brave enough to tackle. I slowly left the communities, though I do keep in touch with some of the writers I was close to.

Here’s the list of the fandoms I played around in. I wrote some things in Pirates, King Arthur, Once Upon a Time in Mexico and Kill Bill. And Supernatural (the television series). Nearly forgot about that one. I didn’t write a huge volume of fanfiction, either in frequency or length. I knew women who wrote epics every single week- I preferred to write the occasional “ficlet.” I also didn’t finish a lot of what I wrote, as the folder of WIPs (works in progress) I found on an old computer backup can attest to. That is still a bad habit of mine.

As proof of my past, I offer two short bits from two different fandoms. Both were written in 2004, though the first I edited a bit today. There was one sentence that had always bothered me, and I realized why this morning.

Read More…

Victories.

I dread Thursday afternoons. You see, the Oldest Kidlet has a homework packet that’s due every Friday. One of the pages is a quiz page. You set a timer for a minute and see how much your child can read in both words and numbers. (Actually, he’s in the advanced group, so he gets words. I believe it’s letters and small words for the rest of the class)

OK is a perfectionist. When he sets out to do something, he wants to get it right. Every new batch of words, he expects to know them all. This wasn’t a problem when the words were short. He flew through those. But now we have longer words (this week’s batch included because, there, their and words with lots of silent letters. Like know), and it’s difficult to get through them all. Which usually leads into a full on meltdown.

This week he made it through half of them. The timer went off and he looked at me, smiling. Smiling!

“That’s pretty good, if you ask me.” Then he picked up his pencil. “And I didn’t even cry.”

Of course, that feeling of pride didn’t last too long. No long after, he and his brother were trading blows over a booklet from a LEGO set that he had stolen from his little brother. You can’t win them all.

Hard to pick just one.

Yesterday was a rough day for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, the boys decided to be difficult. The Oldest Kidlet wanted to sit down to do his homework, but wasn’t focusing on anything. This isn’t entirely new, minimum days at school tend to be rough on all of us. I get tired constantly running around, and the Oldest Kidlet gets thrown off by having one less hour of school.

That’s right, when most kids are excited about that hour less of school, he doesn’t know what to do with himself. It took a lot of coaxing and an extra hour for us to get through our homework. Just in case you think it was because we just got back to school, we did the same amount of work the day before in half the time.

As if that wasn’t enough to make my day rough, I spent yesterday reading links on building successful social media brands and mostly I walked away feeling like I’m failing in who I am.

I’m one person. I’m a mom, a geek and a writer. Is it weird that I try to be all these things in one blog, or is it just too scattered to keep interest? Every single story I read said that it’s just too much for one site.

I keep trying to tell myself that this is just my own anxiety at work, which is a problem I have. So realistically, I can be me. It’s my blog after all. I am who I am, and I need to accept it.

I’ve never been a person with one main interest. In high school I either wanted to be an actress or a coroner. In college, it shifted to computer programming or theater- though theater dropped away when I realized every theater degree needed me to spend all my free time crewing shows instead of working at my job.

Yes, I’m a mom. But I’m a writer and a social media junkie. I cook, too, and all that’s here. I’m also dealing with social anxiety, but that’s all here too as well. So tell me… who else here has a hard time picking one thing to be when they grow up?

All is quiet, all is busy.

I’ve been quiet, and as usual, it means I’m busy.

Busy getting the kidlets ready to go back to school. The Oldest Kidlet was so excited to go back to school yesterday that he jumped for joy Sunday night and did a happy dance today. I joined in both times. As excited as he was to get back to normal and seeing his friends, I was thrilled that I wouldn’t have him around 24/7. Don’t get me wrong, I love him so much that words can’t describe it. But he’d gotten an idea that I lead an exciting life when he wasn’t around.

Every day he expected to run new errands, and did his best to try to get special perks for being my assistant. He tried to get us to go to Starbucks every day, and didn’t quite understand when I explained about Starbucks being a sometimes thing. I lost all my daily writing time. He spent the rest of it asking me 5,000 questions, which I can’t be upset about. I know I did the same thing to my mom.

He stopped calling me Mommy. I’m now just Mom. I’m torn between being happy that Mom sounds hipper than Mommy, or sad that my son is growing up. Worse yet, when I told him not to call me Mom, he said, “Should I call you Whitney instead?”

I’ve been busy with lots of other things, too. Doing some research on a project I’m involved with… secretsecretsecret stuff for now. It’s not writing related, but definitely in line with things I’m good at.

And I’ve been working on my WIP. Not the novel, but the WIP that constantly distracts me, with the character that seems to invade my head more often than not. I admit, I’m working on the novel too- but mostly in planning phases and not text yet. To steal film jargon, it’s in pre-production. Still, always, forever. (Just kidding. That first draft will get done by the end of the year)

If nothing, 2012 has started off looking like a great year. Lots of opportunities and I just have to keep myself going.

Next time, things I’ve realized now that I’m turning 32.

Forget what they say, Bad PR exists.

We’ve all heard the adage, “There’s no such thing as bad PR.” And in some fields, it’s true. In the entertainment industry, a negative news story is less likely to have a long term effect on someone’s career. (Unless you’re Lindsay Lohan, but that seems to be more of an addiction problem than a PR issue)

But for everyone else, it’s a lie.

Bad PR exists.

Not that long ago, Jenny Lawson (better known to you as The Bloggess) got an email pitching her pantyhose as a style fad (as seen on the Kardashians!) so she did as she always does, replied with a link to a page that explains that she’s not interested and includes a picture of Wil Wheaton collating paper. A VP of the PR company hit reply all (which of course means that she got to see it) while calling her an f*cking bitch and The Bloggess shared it. He had to shut down his Twitter account and illustrated what we all thought was the worse part of the PR field.

And this week, Penny Arcade shared an email thread between a customer and Paul of Ocean Marketing about the status of an order. The jist was that the customer had bought some during a pre-order where the delivery window had been specified as late November to early December. When that was nearing a close, he emailed to ask when the controllers were coming, since he was counting on them for Christmas. From there on, it spiraled into a customer service nightmare, where Dave wasn’t getting any answers and Paul treated him like an idiot. When Dave replied back with a fair email detailing where Ocean Marketing had failed in their response (which he forwarded to notable people in tech outlets including Penny Arcade), Paul began to thank him for all the free PR.

After Paul gloated that he’d be going to PAX East, “Gabe” aka Mike Krahulik, responded, saying that PAX was his convention and Paul then proceeded to rant about how that couldn’t be true. So Gabe posted Paul’s information. And Reddit quickly revealed that the content on his website was plagiarized from other sites (even the About Us section), and forced him to change his Twitter handle.

Paul attempted to apologize to Gabe, by saying that he didn’t know who he was and asked him to call off the internet mob. Apparently I’ve been apologizing wrong- you’re supposed to admit that you never would have done X if you only knew that your target was someone, at least according to Paul.

Of course, asking Mike/Gabe was pretty silly. There’s no real way to stop an angry mob once the torches are lit. He was fired from the account, and after being publicly shamed by most of the people he said had his back it’s unlikely he’ll work in the tech field handling PR ever again.

So why am I bringing this up? Not long ago, I saw a friend retweet an author saying that you should remember that there’s no such thing as bad PR, that even a bad review is getting your name out there. Which is half-true.

Bad PR won’t hurt you if it’s about a product (well at least if it’s a product that can’t kill you). You can always write a new book, or make something new. But if the bad PR is about you specifically? It’s not so easy to start over.

Thankfully, bad PR about yourself is easy to avoid. Don’t be a jerk. And never send off a quick response, especially if you’re annoyed. Blog comments and emails aren’t private. It only takes a moment for someone to share them, and then… you never know what’ll happen next. Maybe it’ll be ignored, but if it’s bad enough, people will share it. That’s what the internet does. It’s what Facebook and Twitter have made second nature.

From past incidents, I’ve learned that you never respond to bad reviews. It will end badly, even if you’re a published author. Especially if you’re a published author. People will think what they think, and hopefully you can learn something for your next project (or fix an error in a file, if that’s the case). But realistically, once a project is out of your hands… you’re done. Succeed where George Lucas has failed, and once something is done, even if you think a scene is weak resist the temptation to change it. (Honestly George, it doesn’t matter that technology wasn’t where you wanted it for the original Star Wars trilogy- we already love it. Stuff fussing with our memories!)

Not too long ago I blogged about expectation and rating things, a post which stemmed from reading about a self-published author who posted a missive about how to review a book on her blog. A woman who felt like you should be generous with your 5-star reviews on Amazon, especially if you know the person. And that as an author it was your job to game the review system to get your book noticed.

It’s hard, we all want to succeed- but it took that one post for a lot of the writing community to roll their eyes and say that she was giving them a bad name. Especially those who put a lot of thought into their reviews. Every explanation she had for why she had meant her post to be taken differently (as explaining the system, not saying that you’re entitled to review everything highly) just seemed like backpedaling to try to keep an annoyed mob away.

Cross Stitch by Craftster Menolly07. The QR code works.

Cross Stitch by Craftster Menolly07

My rule of thumb is that I never publish a blog post without stepping away and coming back. I usually read it out loud to help catch errors that I missed while reading it. If it’s blogging about anything that upset me, or replying to an email or comment that drives me up the wall… I do the same thing. I wait until I’ve calmed down before sharing it. Just to make sure that what I post is what I mean to say- and that I’m not asking to become the next flameworthy target. While I haven’t put a project out there yet… I know I’m going to check my reviews. But I vow to never respond to them unless I really think my response is a good reflection on me and my work. It’s just not worth it to lose my cool and my reputation.

In short, just follow Wheaton’s Law- Don’t Be a Dick. It’s amazing how far that’ll get you in life.

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Oddly, I had this post schedule to go up later today. And I saw this post tweeted by a woman who reviews books. Yes, it’s an author who saw a negative review of her book and decided to go off on anyone who gives negative reviews.

Remember, reviews are not for the person who created it. They are for the people who might want to buy. They’re based on an opinion, and if you can glean something useful… fine. If something didn’t ring true to the reader, then it didn’t- it doesn’t matter if it was based off your own life. Going off on a rant and calling someone beyotch for not enjoying your book in a rant that doesn’t contain any paragraph breaks isn’t going to help you sell your next book. (Update: She felt bad about calling the reviewer beyotch, but not so much about insisting that negative reviews don’t serve a purpose other than to hurt authors’ feelings. Then she started deleting comments, and now she’s deleted the original post, which is why I’m linking to a screenccap rather than the blog post. Update to Update: Apparently she deleted the first version, but I believe it’s cached in Google already)

So really, if you can find a way to reply with dignity, do it. If not, just move on!

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