Thursday, October 30, 2008

Chicken Feathers

We moved to Jordan's Croft Valentine's Day 2005. I started thinking about adding chickens to the list of critters even before we moved.

One day when I went to the feed store, the metal tubs of peepers stole my heart. My husband rolled his eyes when I started cooing over them. We picked out six little Rhode Island Reds.

These tiny balls of fluffy cuteness grew into a handsome mahogany rooster and four red-blond hens. Rhodies are big dual-purpose birds. The males are big enough to eat. The hens produced an egg a day faithfully for two years. Our Rooster was a gorgeous bird with long gleaming red hackle feathers and dark green tail feathers. I called him Roo-Fasa because of the mane-like hackle feathers, and his Kingly attitude.

By the end of the summer, he had taken over the barnyard. The dogs didn't mess with him. The drakes didn't mess with him, though they outweighed him by several pounds. The duck hens scrapped with him, but didn't win. He had his run-ins with us humans as well. Roo-Fasa took many a boot-ride when he attacked the wrong person.

He took his flock into the stalls, over the hill, into the neighbors soybean field, then into my flower garden. I started to dream of a time when the chickens would have an enclosed pen.

Rhodes are incredible at foraging. They aren't the bug eaters that the ducks are, but they are pure death on sow bugs, crickets and grasshoppers. They lay big brown eggs and a lot of them. The hens don't want to go broody, and they won't take any guff from a medium size dog.

Year two, Roo-Fasa got to about 8 lbs., his spurs were three inches long and pointed like arrows. He was a walking time bomb. When he started attacking children, he had to go.

The girls and he found a new home with an egg farmer. There were 3o hens for him to lord over. I would imagine that it would be the chicken equivalent of heaven.

We missed fresh eggs. So I started looking for a breed with a better temperament. Heritage breeds are losing ground, many are all but extinct.

I started looking online for a local source.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Agent Search

I talk to people all day, it's my job. I can talk to between 20 to 30 people in a day. All perfect strangers, never bothers me. In fact, I can get a heck of a good feeling from solving a problem for someone who has little or no computer experience.

I've been cruising the internet, fishing for agents in the ocean of publishing. Yeah, deep water, unfamiliar territory, all that and worse, I'm soliciting. Trying to sell when sales is my weakest skill. Worse yet, I'm trying to sell my beloved manuscript, the one that I slaved over all winter with blessedly patient strangers who slogged through the whole manuscript with me.

Karen read it twice. Bless her heart! May a thousand fireflies dance for her enjoyment! I trust the second draft was a 100% better than the first draft. (Had to be, she and the others found every weakness!)

The point (yes there is a point) is that I'm having a hard time pressing that "Send" button. Researching an agent isn't a problem. Writing the letters is more difficult. Assembling it all in an email, and putting that name in the 'to' field. Then pressing that button. EEEKKKK!

I read Romance. I know what's out there. And many times I shake my head (just like Bird) thinking 'I can do better.' HA! Head-hopping until the POV switches have me dizzy! Hero's so dour I wouldn't kiss them with borrowed lips! Alpha males who are poster boys for S&M domination! Now I have put my money (email) where my mouth (manuscript) is.

Has my mouth written a check my *ss can't cash? I should be sending out a dozen of these a week. I'm lucky to get two out a week. Granted I lucked out on Query #2 when she replied SAME DAY, with ENCOURAGING words in a rejection letter.

I'm just getting started. I got people rooting for me. The numbers are in my favor. AND I have my hero, only a woman with a heart of stone could resist him.

Unfortunately the freaking economy is in the toilet.

Can't win them all.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The First Amendment on the Job

These are interesting times.

The country is at war on two fronts. The financial sector has crashed and every one is trying to lay blame all the way back to Jimmy Carter. It is an election year; no matter who wins, history will be made.

The media has over saturated both candidates. Emotions are running so high that our company sent out an email telling everyone that talking about politics at work is not allowed. In fact, it hinted that there could be repercussions for people talking about politics at work. An American citizen's most important act is to vote in any election. Just don't talk about it.

Kiss the First Amendment goodbye.

Do they have the right to do that? Can my employer tell me what to say at work? Can they legally dictate my choice of words? We already have the sexual harassment laws that govern behavior at work.

Is that the same?

Some people would say: "Yes, those bleeding-hearted liberal communists have already taken the First Amendment! I can't tell my secretary dirty stories, or grab her butt or anything FUN anymore. So it's all their fault! I'm just trying to keep the managers for McCain from being attacked by the (slur inserted here) workers in their 'Obama' t-shirts."

I call that the 'pinko liberals did it first' defense.

I could almost buy into it. I didn't want some reactionary conservative in my face telling me why my favorite candidate wasn't fit for office, back when she was still running.

Oh, just in case you are curious about my politics, I'm a conservative Democrat. The Constitution is sacred, don't touch it. Gun control is hitting your target, on the first shot. Equal work for equal pay. Education is for every one. Old school, yes, raised in the sixties, yes. Stereotypical "liberal" values, no.

Yes, conservative Democrats exist. Gnashing our teeth at extremists in both parties, paying our taxes, attending church and hunting in season. But we aren't as newsworthy as the 'pinko liberal' so we are invisible.

Let's get back on track.

Freedom of Speech in the Work Place

Does it exist or has the Corporate Dragon eaten it for lunch? We all work for someone. So how many of our rights do we give up to the corporation in exchange for a paycheck. Even a big fat paycheck shouldn't be a gag order from above. Though the majority of workers aren't making a hell of a lot, they still have traded freedom for the same harness as the overworked yuppie with the SUV and the McMansion. It's just not a well-padded harness.

Let's take this a step further.

What about scripting?

Have you heard about the policy of scripting? Customer Service Representatives in many companies have been handed scripted speeches. "This is what you are allowed to say to the customer, anything else will count against your job performance." When you call to complain/purchase/get support for whatever and it sounds like you are talking to a robot, the Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are scripted. It's not bad enough that "your calls are monitored to ensure quality service." The CSRs can't deviate from these speeches or they will lose their jobs.

Is this legal? Is it a violation of workers First Amendment rights?

What is the justification? "Scripts work. Sales are up. If you say 'this' when the customer says 'that' then the customer will 'action'. Nothing less than 99.5% obedience will be tolerated." My favorites are the unspoken: "What we need is a robot, but people are cheaper, and more easily disposed of."

Does it matter? It's not WASP yuppies being scripted, not managers, supervisors (unless we count the 'yes men'), or the Board of Directors. Just ordinary Joe's and Jane's who need to keep their jobs, no matter which of their rights are violated by the Corporate Dragons.

We are subject to censorship. The year 1984 has come and gone (TVs are getting bigger!) Big Brother has the phones tapped, and is reading your email. Media monopolies filter our 'information/entertainment' content. Only the 'right' images are put into our brains. We are programmed by Madison Avenue to buy certain items at inflated prices.

The Corporate Dragons are stealing our rights. Nobody cares.

Where is Saint George when you need him?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Romance and Obsession

I'm still working on marketing my novel. I had to rewrite the synopsis because it didn't reflect enough of the plot. It is hard to cut 80k words, 3 plot threads, and 8 characters to 3 pages. It takes the voice right out of the work.

Been reading a commercially successful romance writer, this was a 'western' type, 160k words long. I noticed how many of those words had nothing to do with the plot. Most of it was him obsessing about her, not her problems, but her appearance! The plot wasn't advanced by this, it just made him look like a fool. A fool in love, I suppose, as it was all about her being plump and how he didn't mind. (Bulletin: men aren't that picky.) Scarcely a thought for the villain lurking in the background, though the man had whipped a horse half to death.

The operative word is "commercial" as in women's commercial fiction. It was just like a Harlequin only 3 times as long.

I didn't write a traditional romance. My focus was on the plot, not what she looks like. (Can you focus on the POV's appearance when she's not looking in a mirror?) I may not be able to market it as 'romance' first. I didn't dwell on the obsession of 'love' Heroine is too busy trying to keep ahead of her employees.

I'm so glad that I kept the POV changes to a minimum! If he spent all his time mentally undressing her, the plot would be strangled. And the book would double in size. (Yikes!) Especially with the hero's back story, I don't want him to appear unbalanced. As Hero says to Heroine: "I'm not a nutcase."

Oh there is so much to learn! I suppose it all comes down to writing what I want to read, and can't find: Intelligent, well plotted fiction, with two adults who fall in love and solve a problem. A story that avoids both the 'dour alpha-male' who is brainless brawn, mentally undressing the heroine because he's driven by his hormones. As well as the shallow self-obsessed heroine who spends all her time looking in mirrors and wondering what clothes to wear.

Is there a market for such fiction? Or am I the only woman who browses through the book stores thinking: "I could write so much better than that!"

Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Looking Ahead to "Interesting Times"

Have you heard of the old Chinese curse? "May you life in interesting times." Worst curse in the culture. Yep!

Are we scared yet?

What is scarier, the financial meltdown or the election?

Hmm, I'm not really sure. I'm plenty scared.

This will be a historic election. Some kind of record will be made. A black president or a woman vice president. The last of the old guard and the first of the new will battle it out. Winner take all. All the glory and all the problems.

Close your eyes, hold your nose and vote.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! The great and wonderful OZ has all the answers. One way or another, we're off to see the wizard. 700 billion dollars of yellow brick road, our grandchildren will be paying for this.

Thanks Wall Street! Take a week at the spa on us.