About Me

Trying Something New

Posted on August 14, 2010. Filed under: About Me, About This Blog | Tags: , , |

Hello all!

I’ve missed posting like I used to, but it’s been such a whirlwind I haven’t had the time to do that and keep up with plans, friends, and family. As it is, I’m currently in Nashville at my best friend’s apartment where I’m hoping to round out the last of my “family and friends” visits before spending my last week in the states at home.

I just returned from Indiana where I visited some of my family and spent some time at the State Fair, which is probably third in my list of favorite times of the year. The first would be Christmas, and the second is Halloween, if only because that’s my birthday. That being said, I live for the Indiana State Fair, and I could write a book on my experiences there and how I learned how to eat at the fair and what wonders there are to be experienced there.

The only thing I will mention is that if you ever make your way to the Indiana State Fair, which trumps just about every other state fair that’s south of the midwest, you have to be careful. Here are a few of Rae’s tips about avoiding some of the pitfalls of the fair.

1. When entering the animal barns, look down and up.

Normally the obvious thing to do would be to look down and watch your step. After all, pigs, sheep, horses, and cows are herded along the rows and aisles of these barns, and we all know what that means. However, I say to look up because it’s a well known fact that 4H kids are notoriously deviant in their own, good-natured way. They like to use the rafters to hang those Halloween-inspired spiders from strings that they then lower in front of unsuspecting fair-goers. Let’s just say if you’re terrified of spiders (like me) and experience this once, you spend all other years looking down and up at the fair.

2. Deep-fried foods are good, but don’t go overboard!

We know Americans are obese. My mother told me the other day that according to something she heard on the news we (meaning she and I) are now categorized as obese. Very encouraging right before we go to the fair to pig out! That being said, I have a saying regarding the fair: “If you fry it, they will eat it!”

You’ve probably heard of deep-fried Twinkies, deep-fried candy bars, and deep-fried pickles, all of which are delicious. But one of the new specialties at the fair this year was something called deep-fried butter. I don’t know about you, but if we’re deep frying something that’s normally used in deep frying, that’s a little bit of overkill. And considering the heart attack-inducing qualities of plain butter, I have to wonder why more people didn’t keel over at the fair after sampling this new delicacy. Personally, I say stick with some of the standard fair foods, and you’ll be fine.

3. When at the Indy State Fair, ALWAYS visit the Expo Hall.

This is a must. If you don’t do this, you are crazy. Why is that? Because the Expo Hall is like the Holy Grail of incredible offerings for the avid fair shopper. No, I know fairs are supposed to be about the food, the midway rides, the animals, but when they’re selling things like motorcycles, gutters, windows, customized license plates, and license renewals in one place, you have to take notice.

4. Walk around the fairgrounds, but find some place cool to eat.

This is especially important when you go to the fair in 99 degree weather with a heat index of 107, like my family and I did this year. If you don’t go somewhere cool to eat, you’re asking to be sick as a dog, and really, with all the amazing fair foods to sample, that’s quite foolish. So be smart and go to the Pepsi Coliseum where you’re sure to find some cool air.

5. Ride the tram.

It costs $0.75 to ride the tractor-driven trolleys around the fairgrounds once. They stop several places along the way, and you can plan where you want to get off to go to your next location. But ride them because they’re nice on your feet after you’ve been walking all day, they give you a break from the heat, and it’s quite fun just to chill and watch the people walking around.

That said, this was not the only thing I wanted to share in this post.

So I’ve decided on my plan of attack for posting new information about China once I arrive and have all my access cut off. I’m hoping things will work smoothly, but you’ll have to bear with me if they don’t. I decided against making my own website as there’s really no guarantee they won’t block that one, too.

What I have done is got a Posterous account. This website allows you to post to multiple sites at once, but it also sets up a blog and allows you to customize the domain so that you can share your blog with friends. It’s really a good idea because Posterous allows you to email blog posts to the website, and it pulls all the information from the email and transfers it into a blog post for your blog. This includes attachments of pictures and videos, which the site will host for you.

So I’ve made myself a new blog, which you can find here if you’re inclined to go ahead and subscribe. I’ll add the link in to my sidebar links as well, and I think you’ll appreciate the website once you see the name. I’m also going to use Posterous to continue posting at this address as well. However, I’m going to try to maintain some semblance of the original spirit of this blog, so I won’t be posting here as often while I’m gone.

Hopefully I’ll be able to update again before I leave. I wanted to do a post that lists all the books I’ve read lately just to prove I’m still getting in reading time while I’m getting ready for China. So I do hope you’re all doing well, and I look forward to seeing some of you catch up on my new blog when I get it up and running!

Thanks for staying with me so far, and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on everything from books to life adventures to whatever comes your way!

Rae

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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Posted on August 2, 2010. Filed under: About Me |

August has arrived, and that means I have less than a month before I leave for China.

Yes, that’s right. I’m leaving at the end of the month. Everything’s moving so quickly I don’t know how I’m going to get everything done in time.

So here are the details of my trip. I’m flying to China on August 24. It’s going to be a long flight. I leave early, early morning on the 24th from Atlanta, and I won’t be getting into my destination till 8:20 p.m. the next day. I’m supposed to have a total travel and layover time of around 25 hours, and my longest flight will be 14 hours and 40 minutes. If that’s not long, I don’t know what is.

And I’ll most likely have trouble sleeping on the plane, even if it is longer than 12 hours in flight. I’ve been to Europe twice, and both times (coming and going) I had trouble getting to sleep. With that said, who knows what will happen on a longer flight? The longest flight I had was only around 8 hours, so I might just get too tired to stay awake any longer and pass out.

When I arrive in Wuhan, I’m supposed to be greeted by a student from the school. That’s a big relief because I was nervous that I’d have to attempt navigating a completely foreign environment on my own after little to no sleep over the course of 24 hours. Can you say disaster? Cause that’s exactly what that would be. I’m excited, though, because I was informed they would have my apartment ready for me to move in that very day and I will be heading there after arriving in town.

The best part about all this? I can start getting past my jet lag quickly. I’m getting into the city at 8:20, and I’m sure it will take some time to sort out my luggage, find the person I’m supposed to meet, and then travel to the university apartment I’ll be using. There are all sorts of logistics to figure out, but in general, I think this will be great since I’ll be able to just get in, put a few things away, grab some pajamas, and pass out for a good 12 hours.

I’m arriving in Wuhan a full week before I have to report for orientation of any kind. That’s also a plus cause I’ll have plenty of time to get used to the campus, get over jet lag, and start acclimating my stomach to some of the spicier foods they serve there. I’m really looking forward to it!

Ah, and I almost forgot, but I did get my passport back with Visa intact. I’m thrilled about that cause I was very nervous sending it out in the first place. That passport’s rather important to me, you know?

As of right now, I don’t have a new domain. I’m still debating about getting one set up. Does anyone out there have any tips and tricks of the trade? I’m thinking about setting up a website and have a domain name picked out that so far hasn’t appeared to be taken. I’ve been debating about who to go through and how to get it put together, but in essence, I want a place where I can put up pictures and videos of my adventures and keep people updated via a blog. If you’ve got any ideas about that, shoot them my way! I’d really appreciate it!

I’ll be back before I go to China to update the blog a few more times. This month is super busy with a trip to Indiana for the state fair and to visit my mom’s family coming up at the end of the week. Then I’ll be going to Nashville to visit my best friend, who would otherwise kill me for not seeing her one last time before I fly out. In the midst of all this, I’ve got one friend who’s newly engaged and raring for my time, a boyfriend who’s driving himself miserable thinking about my imminent departure, a mother who keeps praying I won’t get eaten or be forced to eat dog, and other friends who will no doubt be demanding I spend some of my precious time with them.

Let’s just say I’ll be busy this month. I’m looking forward to every minute of it, though, and I’ll be sure to stay in touch and let you all know if I get a domain set up! Hope you’re doing well, and I wish you all luck in whatever you’re pursuing!

Rae

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Follow the spiders? Why couldn’t it be follow the butterflies?!

Posted on July 7, 2010. Filed under: About Me |

I’m back! I’m sure you missed me while I was gone, especially since the last time I wrote was Memorial Day weekend. Let me just say that it has been an entirely too busy time for me over the last month and a half or so, and things have just gotten crazier and crazier.

Let me go over the basics so that you’ll be caught up to speed.

First, our house wasn’t overly damaged by the fire back in May. However, we had enough smoke and carbon monoxide damage to warrant having a cleaning crew come in and work on our house. So we had ServePro cleaners in their awesome green truck come to the house every day for a week to clean. They washed the walls, cleaned the surfaces of things, cleaned the windows, and did all sorts of other things. They came back the following week to clean the carpets. We had painters come and paint the garage as well. Oh, and we had a plumber come out to look at the jacuzzi because one of the ServePro people who cleaned the bathroom managed to turn on the jets without leaving any water in the tub, which is obviously not a good idea.

So now that my house is back to normal and with a nice, new coat of paint in the garage, we’ve settled back into some semblance of normalcy. But that normalcy has been disrupted by all sorts of other things that have made our lives feel rather up in the air, especially things concerning me.

I’ll start in chronological order telling you all the wonderful details of my life over the past few months.

First, I was in a wedding in June. My friend got married, and I was one of the blushing bridesmaids. (Granted it’s normally brides who blush, but I had good reason!) It was quite the affair, and I’m very happy it’s over–for myself and for her. The wedding was a night wedding about an hour out of town, so by the time I got home that night, I was rather exhausted. However, one of the guys who was at the wedding had added me as a friend on Facebook and sent me a message asking me out. It threw me completely for a loop.

Let me just admit that I’ve never actually been in a dating relationship before or had a boyfriend or been kissed. It’s almost embarrassing, but I’m really not too worried about it. Before I was asked out at the wedding, I’d been dabbling a bit in online dating to see how that was, and it certainly was an adventure to be shared. But that said, I’m very happy that Oliver asked me out after the wedding.

Yes, his name is Oliver, and while I would normally have turned him down flat out of insecurity and ridiculous fears, I decided I would go for it and see what happened. That was June 11, and now almost a month later, I have a boyfriend.

Now the only problem with getting a boyfriend is that I also have another commitment that I made prior to Oliver’s asking me out. Yes, that’s right: China. I’m still planning to go, even though Oliver probably wishes I wouldn’t. (He says he’s happy for me, but I don’t know if he’s just saying that to make me feel better or not.) At this moment in time, I’m working on getting my Visa papers sent off to the nearest Chinese consulate (Chicago, most likely) so that I’ll receive the Visa in time to go to China. I’m also trying to find a flight, which is easier said than done given the hike in prices the closer I get to the D-date (departure-date).

I have to be in China on September 1, so I’m planning to fly in at the end of August. I’ve got to figure out a lot of details and have all sorts of doctor appointments scheduled to get necessary vaccinations, have my eyes checked, get my teeth cleaned, etc. It’s been an entertaining but exhausting process.

To add to the busyness of my life, I only recently found out that the Book Gallery is moving. Our lease was recently terminated because the owners of the facility found a different renter who wants to pay the full $60,000 a month rent or whatever the rent originally was. Because Book Gallery was on a discounted rent, the results are that we have until August 10 to move out. That said, we’re starting the process of dealing with more customers coming in for our incredible “progressive” sale (going on till the end of July) while trying to field calls from the other locations and boxing things up either for Amazon purchases or for other stores.

In between hanging out with Oliver, working, and researching for China, I’m sleeping and eating. It has obviously been a rather busy time for me, and it’s only going to get worse as August draws near. I am hoping to start a second blog or an extension of this one for my actual China trip to record my life and things that are happening. We’ll see how that goes. I’ve been tinkering with websites that allow me to check which websites will go through the Great Firewall of China, and unfortunately I’m not sure I’ll always be able to use WordPress as the Chinese apparently don’t like the liberties of free speech and try to stifle it online. I may end up getting my own domain and making my own website, so if I do, I’ll be sure to post it here so you can follow my Chinese adventures.

With that said, I know this has been kind of a crazy update, but I’ll end it by explaining my title. If you don’t get the quote, I am very sorry and sad. But for the record, that particular movie and the others in the series have been much fun to watch with Oliver. And that is where I’ll leave you.

Feel free to comment, especially if you can name that movie and the person who said the line. I hope you’re all doing well, and I’ll update before I leave for sure, if not sooner.

-Rae-

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China Bound

Posted on May 27, 2010. Filed under: About Me | Tags: |

I didn’t get the job.

Not for lack of trying, obviously. I mean, I did my best in that interview. I wanted to make an impression, and while I’m sure I did make an impression, the results were fairly lackluster.

I received an email from someone at corporate thanking me for my time. They appreciated my being willing to come down for an interview but were unable to hire me because I didn’t have the appropriate combination of education and experience.

And that’s it.

So now I’m going to China for real. None of this messing around with Amazon interviews stuff. I’m going to China where I’ll be teaching Chinese students the wonders of speaking the English language.

Now I know I mentioned this in a previous blog, but I attended the University of Tennessee, which happens to have one of the most recognizable school fight songs of any public university. That’s not to say others aren’t, but ours is, quite frankly, very well-known. And if you don’t know “Rocky Top,” that’s okay. Just ask me about it. I know all the verses, which every self-respecting Tennessean should know. (Unfortunately the numbers are dwindling and roughly 10% of the population can actually sing the first verse. After that, you’re on your own.)

So I’ve been discussing the move with my parents, making plans, submitting applications for getting the correct paperwork to submit my passport for a Visa, you know, the typical going overseas job stuff. It’s a lot of busy work that would really be much easier if I managed to have an actual date of arrival (or departure) that I could be purchasing plane tickets for. I’d rather purchase them now when I know rates are going to be lower than wait until closer to time and have to pay the exorbitant fees.

My father, ever the joker and the source of all my sarcastic humor, mentioned something I might want to teach my students.

He now expects me to send him a recording of my students singing, “Wocky Top, you’re arways be, home sweet home to meee…”

You can imagine where that’s going.

I know it’s wrong to stereotype, but in all honesty, we only do it jokingly. And personally I think it’s a hilarious joke. It always cracks us up when Dad affects an Asian accent and begins to sing or speak. He’s just good at that sort of thing.

I guess the whole point of this blog is to inform you all that I’m not really worried that Amazon gave me the brush off. It’s going to be okay after all. I’m still planning to go to China, and I’m going to make it on my own somehow.

I’m looking forward to the adventure.

-Rae-

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Tips for Interviewing: An Insider’s Guide

Posted on May 20, 2010. Filed under: About Me | Tags: |

Some things they don’t tell you when you interview are…

1. Don’t be too creative. You might stump the interviewers.

Yes, that’s right. I was the one interviewee who managed to both come up with a correct answer to the math problem I was presented and have an answer that rendered the typical follow-up questions unnecessary. Don’t ask me how I did it. I was just playing it by ear and using my best judgment on answers. It was, however, quite worthwhile to watch the two men’s expressions as they tried to figure out what to do with my answer. (The woman in the group, on the other hand, just smiled and told me I had a right answer but one they hadn’t anticipated.)

2. Tell the truth about your college choice… the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You might be surprised how they react!

So they asked me why I’d chosen the university I did. For the record, I’m a University of Tennessee girl, and I’ll freely admit to most anyone that I did not want to go there. However, I wanted to be tactful about my school experiences when the gentleman asked me the question.

So I just spat it out. “I wanted to go to Furman University, but they rejected me. UT offered me enough money to go for free, so I decided to go where it was cheap.”

Yep, that’s pretty much exactly what I said. And the interviewers? They all three seemed to agree. “I kind of wish I’d done the same thing.” So perhaps my cheapskate college attitude wasn’t that bad after all.

3. Make faces, but don’t overdo it.

In the middle of the above question about why I chose UT, I must have gotten a rather entertaining expression on my face because the woman commented that there had to be a good story behind that face. She was right, and I hammed it up, telling her all about the two choices of schools I normally would have had from my particular high school. (One of those schools is a technical community college I fondly refer to as “Smell-a-Hippy School.”)

The second time they called me out for making faces was when they decided to give me the follow-up questions to the math problem after all. They just made me assume I’d answered the way they wanted me to and not in the way that rendered the questions unnecessary. (Personally I thought I should get points for thinking ahead, but oh well.) I made a face about having to do math on the fly, and the woman commented, “Oh! We got the snarl!”

Don’t worry. They laughed about it afterward! I just had to explain that I wasn’t a big fan of math. Not sure that won me any points, but they at least had good humor about it.

4. Make ’em laugh.

Hey, it’s one of the oldest tricks in the book! It’s a proven fact. People think you’re more personable if you can get them to laugh. And I made good on that by peppering my conversation with my trademark sarcastic wit.

I would comment here on something that happened during my tour, but I’m not entirely sure whether that would be giving away trade secrets or not. I rather doubt it, but why risk it? Needless to say, there was an incident where a comment I made prompted some very entertaining and hilarious conversation between myself, the two people taking me on the tour, and the other guy who was also interviewing.

So those are my big tips for those of you out there interviewing or attempting to interview. Granted, I didn’t exactly get a job offer at the end of my interview, but hey, I don’t feel as badly about it now as I did before. I simply have to wait for word from the people up top and see if I did well or not.

I have no clue when they’re going to contact me, but I’m not worried about it. Life is good. And that’s my update!

-Rae-

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On Downtown Driving

Posted on May 19, 2010. Filed under: About Me | Tags: |

Hello from the wonderful world of Kentucky!

I’m obviously not at home now, and since Amazon was kind enough to provide me free wireless internet at the hotel they’re having me stay in, I thought I’d write a blog post to let you all know I’m alive and kicking and terrified about tomorrow’s interview. There’s a good reason for me to be afraid, too. They’re requiring me to do a math problem for them as part of the interview criteria.

Let’s get one thing straight: I don’t do math. Math is not my thing, and even though I can do it when I sit down and think through it, I’ve never seen the purpose. The only purpose I have for math is in making sure my money adds up in my finances and purchases. Granted, that’s a pretty big reason to know math, but still… I just hate having to wade through problems and find answers.

Give me an essay any day. Want me to write you a page on Amazon? I’m there. Give me a pen and a piece of paper, and I’m on my way. Want me to solve a problem concerning production? No thank you.

I have no idea what this particular problem is going to be, and I’m not sure I want to know. But even so, I’m here and interviewing tomorrow for better or worse.

My self-confidence isn’t that great, but I keep reminding myself that I must have done something right to get a second interview in the first place. Not only that but I must have done something right to land an interview where the company is paying to put me up in a rather nice hotel for a night and pay for my mileage and meals while I’m here. So maybe the math won’t be so bad, right?

I’ll keep telling myself that.

Like I said, the hotel is great. I have two double beds, a flat-screen TV, free wireless internet, a nice desk where I’m currently seated with my laptop in front of me, and a bathroom fully equipped for my needs. (It even has a blow-dryer and toothpaste.)

I just finished eating dinner at one of Lexington’s finest restaurants. Although, I have to admit, it’s not really that fine of a restaurant. It’s just a local, downtown place that’s close enough to the hotel I could walk there. To be fair, I wanted something easy that would give me enough options to find something that sounded halfway decent cause I’m still a wee bit nervous about all of this.

I wound up at deSha’s Lexington, a rather eclectic and very pretty little restaurant. They’re a bit on the pricey side, but that’s okay. I asked the waiter what was good, and he suggested the stuffed mushroom appetizer and a new item on the menu, the Smoky Mountain pasta. I tried it out, but it was a wee bit disappointing.

It’s not that the service was bad or the food undercooked. But the dishes themselves were lacking a bit of flavor. I think I would have spiced the pasta up with some garlic, basil, parsley, and arugula, personally. (Of course, I love the nutty flavor of arugula and think it would have complimented the bacon and shredded parmesan nicely.) Oh well, it was dinner and filling, and now I’ve got a comfortably well-fed tummy.

After a while, I may even go down to the indoor pool and swim a bit to wear myself out so I can sleep tonight.

I’m not sure how I feel yet, but I’ll be sure to write a post-interview blog to let you know how it went. Unfortunately, I can’t divulge everything as I’m expected to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Anything Amazon deems confidential information is going to be withheld from any public venues, but I’m sure I’ll at least be able to tell you all how I felt the interview went. (And I’ll mention whether I was able to do the math or not!)

So you’ll have to be looking forward to that, and hopefully I’ll be able to get up another book review or something similar later this week. There’s a particular website I’ve been itching to get my hands on in another review as well, so I’ll have to work that in at some point.

I hope you’re all doing well, and if you think about it, please wish me luck for tomorrow and keep me in your thoughts! I could certainly use all the help I can get! Either way, though, no matter how it turns out, life’s good, and I’ll be happy.

Until tomorrow…

-Rae-

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Moving with the Big Dogs

Posted on May 12, 2010. Filed under: About Me | Tags: , |

Today is May 12, 2010. On this day in history… I found out when my interview with Amazon would be.

Yes, that’s right. The mecha of the online world finally saw fit to contact me after I called my recruiter.

I’m not upset about it, though. It’ll be good to get away for a while and see the sights of the city I’ll be visiting overnight. They were gracious enough to book a hotel for me for the night before my interview, and I’ll be able to appear fresh and relaxed on the day of. That’s always a plus in my book, especially considering I’m going out of state for this particular interview.

So what are some of the more interesting things I’ve learned about Amazon since I jump-started my thinking about the company again this afternoon?

Well, first of all, I learned that, like any large company, Amazon has its fiercely loyal consumers and its angry detractors. For example, this woman on Associated Content explains her problems dealing with Amazon’s outsourced customer service department in an article written in 2007. Outsourcing has created a wealth of problems for similarly oversized corporations, and apparently even the giant Amazon isn’t immune to the issues in communicating with customer service agents located in India.

I could write all day long about posts like this that describe the horrors of customer service and the ways people battle them, but really, hasn’t it been done? On the bright side, that particular page does list Amazon’s customer service number as well as a whole host of other phone numbers for various companies.

As a business major, problems with customer service are always going to be a headache that no one wants to tackle, and I am the last person who would want to say whether a company was doing good or bad at handling customer service issues. Right now I can say with honesty that I’ve never had a problem in my dealings with Amazon, and I really like the company. (As a matter of fact, I’m considering ordering a book we were selling in the store for $4.99 from Amazon because I found a listing for it that would cost me less than that amount including shipping.)

That said, there was one other thing that I researched today on Amazon. And that is their corporate website. It’s something I look up for all companies I’ve ever interviewed with. The corporate website is generally where I find the information I arm myself with about the company in case interviewers ask me pointed questions about my knowledge of the company. But it also gives me a jumping off point for questions of my own.

A typical corporate website will include such basics as the company’s mission and vision statements, form of business (corporation, sole proprietorship, limited liability corporation), governing board, history, and other tidbits that are all essentials for the interviewee. But then there are other things that I look for. For example, is Amazon public? Yes, it’s traded on NASDAQ under the hash AMZN and is currently priced at $133.87. When did Amazon go public? May 15, 1997.

Another interesting point to make about corporate websites is that they are typically where one finds the links to pages on careers, including information about benefits offered to employees. Now that’s something anyone wants to read about but interviewees especially need to be aware of what they’re going to be offered. The great thing about a company’s career pages is that it allows you to get a quick look at some of the items you might hear about in the interview and provides you a starting point for more personal questions (i.e. the ever-present ‘how much will I be paid’).

I would, however, suggest not asking directly how much money you’ll be paid until you get a job offer. 😉 That’s just good business sense if you ask me.

With that said, I’ve got quite a bit of research to do on Amazon as I prepare for my interview. I’m getting nervous already, and it’s a little overwhelming to consider going to an interview with a company that’s willing to pay to put me up in a hotel overnight, but I think it’ll be worth it. I’ll do my best and put my best foot forward as I make my attempt to break into the world of online booksellers.

And if you’re hoping to do something interesting and new (like me with all my crazy ideas), I wish you luck on your road to success, too!

-Rae

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I Was Walking Through The Park One Day…

Posted on May 2, 2010. Filed under: About Me, About This Blog, Uncategorized | Tags: , |

…in the merry, merry month of May. You know the rest of the song, don’t you? I’m not even sure what the title is to be honest, but I was struck by the song and felt it appropriate to throw that out there.

Now, randomness aside, I have some goals and plans that I’d like to share with you lovely readers of mine. I’m very grateful that you’ve chosen to read this humble blog, and since April was a bust, I have a specific plan for May.

I’ve decided that I’m going to have to get back in the habit of posting a blog regularly because I do terribly if I’m just let go. So I’m proposing that I write a blog post three times a week. I haven’t decided if I’ll post on specific days, but I think I can manage three times a week well enough. It might be a Monday, Wednesday, Friday week or it might be a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday week, but either way I’ll be posting more regularly. And I won’t be limiting myself to just three times a week. If I have more to post that week, I’ll do it.

All of this is to keep my blog more current than I did in April. I have several topics I can post on as well as an archive of book reviews I’ve been writing as I finish reading books over the year 2010. Speaking of, that was one of my goals for this year. I have a never ending list of to-be-read books on my computer that I keep updated based on what books I buy and what books I read and review. As of today, the list of total books to be read in 2010 has reached 55, meaning I have 55 books in my room to be read. Of those, I’ve managed to read and review somewhere in the neighborhood of 16.

I’ve got a lot of reading to do.

But I was thinking that one way to motivate myself to finish reading the five books I wanted to read and review this month would be to begin posting my book reviews on my blog. They’re rather lengthy, but they’re thorough enough for me. And quite frankly I only wrote them for me, but you might find them amusing.

So feel free to weigh in on that. Would you like to read my book reviews of some of the books I’ve read, or would you like me to write fresh things to post? Or some combination of the two? Let me know.

What I’ll do is post a book review this week and let you see what my style is for writing these reviews. If you’re interested in seeing more, I’ll post them. Sound like a plan? I thought so.

And since we’re talking plans, May is going to be a rather big month for me. I’m supposed to be receiving the contract from the university in China soon, and that’ll mean lots of time spent perusing all the nitty-gritty details of this job offer. On top of that, I have a second interview with Amazon May 20 that I have to arrange with their logistics people. They mentioned flying me in, but I’d prefer to drive up as long as they’re still willing to put me up in a hotel for a night. And I’ll be going to visit with a Chinese English teacher from the university in China who’s studying at my university and is in town right now. He’s offered to answer any questions I might have.

Here’s hoping May will bring some concrete decisions to make and allow June to begin my planning months!

What else did I want to say? I’m writing again even though it’s not on anything original. I made a goal to write something, anything fiction this month. I don’t even have to finish a piece of fiction. I just need to work on it steadily to fulfill that goal. So I’m working on a piece of fanfiction I began last year. It’s rather cathartic to have something productive to work on that isn’t bookstore work.

Finally I am going to get my butt in gear and start editing my novel again. It fell by the wayside at the end of March, but we’re fast approaching the deadline for getting my order in for the proof copy, and darn it, I still want that shiny proof. So I’ve made a goal to at least correct all the glaring grammatical errors by the end of this month. Feel free to cheer me on and check in on how I’m doing.

Well, I think that’s everything I needed to share. I’ll be back later this week with my first book review post. I hope you’ll enjoy it. Let me know what’s new with you, and hopefully I’ll go above and beyond and actually get back to reading and commenting on other blogs!

-Rae-

P.S. Is the line to that song “merry, merry month of May” or “very merry month of May”? I’m not actually sure.

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History of the Author Part 5

Posted on March 30, 2010. Filed under: About Me, Books, My Writing | Tags: , , |

Here it is, the story you’ve all been waiting for!

History of an Author:

As it’s the last Tuesday in March, I’ll be posting today about how I got into the world of long, original fiction. Obviously you’ve read about my start in poetry, my love of books, my foray into fanfics, and my short stories. Now I have to admit the truth.

All of that was just the path I took to novel-length fiction. It’s true. I’ve always wanted to be a novel writer ever since my first look into a Lori Wick novel. Even as a little kid, I knew I had what it took to be a novelist.

I admit that I’ve taken a rather circuitous route thus far to achieving my goals. A lot of that is due to my grandparents who always made a point of telling me what I could and (more frustratingly) could not do. I’ve always been easily influenced by the opinions of those closest to me, and knowing that my grandparents thought I would not make it in an artistic field has shaped a lot of my choices.

Thus I earned a Bachelors of Science instead of a Bachelors of Arts. I majored in business and am now qualified to run your business as a manager, and I’m sure I’d do a darn good job of it. I know the ins and outs, have taken the financial classes, the logistics courses, and the information technology classes to give me the edge. I’ve made presentation after presentation and learned business communication techniques to make me formidable in the office.

But my heart isn’t in business, and it never will be. Give me pen and paper, and I’m at home. Offer me a computer and word processor and I’ll be happy as a clam.

That’s why I am where I am now: lack of confidence due to family opinion. But I’m getting to the point that I believe in my own writing, and I’m willing to pursue it.

With that in mind, let me tell you a little about how I started writing my first novel.

It was through NaNoWriMo, as you might have already guessed. I had some harsh circumstances hit me in the middle of fall 2008, and I’d dared two friends to do NaNoWriMo with me. I figured they would back out and I wouldn’t have to do it. They didn’t back out, though, so I was stuck on November 2 trying to sign up for the event and figure out a plot.

I needed some catharsis after some personal trauma, so I started writing my story. I changed names to protect the innocent and wrote in the style of a diary entry. The story wasn’t completely autobiographical, but it was definitely heavily influenced by my circumstances and relationships at the time. And as it was supposed to be a novel, I came up with a title for what I was considering “Chick Lit” in the genre category. So what did I call it? Insert Witty Title Here. Yeah, it was a cop-out, but I actually like that title and think it would be great for a book someday.

During NaNo2008, I managed to write about 34,000 words before life happened again and I quit. To be fair, the two friends who were writing with me also quit that year, too. It didn’t bother me either considering it wasn’t a novel I believed in.

By the early fall of 2009, I was in a much better place. Lots of things had finally come together for me, including a graduation date from the school I hated. And I dug out some old notebooks while cleaning that led me to my notes on a fantasy novel I wanted to write. I even had my friend come up with symbols and character sketched for me. Two of my friends had created characters for the book, and I had the basis for a pretty involved story.

I started looking at my notes and realized I wanted to write this story. It wasn’t just for myself, but my own selfish pride was definitely a big part of why I wanted to write it. I already had a number of characters mapped out, and my only problem was figuring out a plot. I’m sure when I first started brainstorming for this story a year or two ago I had a great plot idea. Unfortunately I never wrote it down, so I began brainstorming again and came up with a number of different ideas that were pretty viable with the world I’d created.

I titled my story Fire and Ice Bound, and I made plans to write it during NaNo2009. By the end of October 2009, I had a blog dedicated to the story to keep me motivated, several friends agreeing to participate with me, parents who wanted to see how the story would play out, and the piece de resistance: a 12-page Word document full of outline, plot, character, and miscellaneous notes. I also typed up a separate character profiles page as well as various other related sets of notes. I had the whole story outlined in my mind, and it was enough information to comprise three different and distinct books.

***

The forum banner I made for my novel - I'm obsessed; yes, I am.

Synopsis of Fire and Ice Bound:

Brenn Redoix is a 19-year-old fire-bonded living in Devalt, Ezer Kenegdo. She’s been attending Devalt’s elite preparatory academy since she was 7 and is preparing to graduate with a number of her peers. All that’s left for these exceptional element bonded students is to take their legitimacy exams. Once they’ve received the legitimacy certification, they’ll be eligible for government service.

In Ezer Kenegdo, the government is ruled by a number of ‘old’ families, including the family of Brenn’s best friend Levi Devalt. Brenn and Levi, however, have always entertained the notion that the government is slowly tightening its grip on the rest of the country. Policies concerning inter-element marriages and laws declaring a person can only bond to one element have solidified the two friends’ stance on their government, and while neither particularly wants to work with the shady electorate, they have no choice now.

As the legitimacy exam draws nearer, strange things begin to happen. A negotiator from Ezer Kenegdo is killed by neighboring Pridemos Nald. A state of heightened alert is sounded throughout the city, and the electorate begins discussing changes to the legitimacy exam. When Brenn and her 13 classmates hear from their instructor that the exam had been changed to a more practical version, she and Levi know something’s amiss.

That’s when Levi overhears a conversation between his father and Devalt’s representative: the exam has been changed in order to oust a student they believe is multi-bonded, or bonded to more than one element.

Now in even more dangerous territory than before, Brenn and Levi begin training doubly hard for their mysterious exam. But what is it? A harrowing trek through Centrale Foraois, a no-man’s volcanic wasteland in the center of three bordering countries. The students are divided into two teams on a competition to answer a set of clues, but what they encounter in the forest is more deadly than any of them expected.

***

Because I’m still trying to pin down a good synopsis, that’s what you get. 😛 I figured some of you might be interested in hearing what my novel was about. Ezer Kenegdo is a world of 10 elements. There are a lot of technical terms that I didn’t use in the synopsis because it makes more sense to simply read the story.

This first book is more of a coming-of-age tale. It’s tragic and dark, and my main character, Brenn, learns more than she expected. But it’s also the lead in to the sequel: Water Based. That book will be even darker with mentions of warfare and runaways, dangerous chases and deadly enemies. I’m not sure when I’ll write it at this point, but I want to give Brenn her due in Water Based because there’s a lot I didn’t cover in F&IB.

With that said, now you know where I’ve come from. My stories are all rather odd, and my background is fun. I don’t know how interesting a book like Fire and Ice Bound would be to the mass market, but I like the concept. It’s been fun to write, too, and if I never sell it, I’ll still be glad I wrote it. After all, this was a labor of love for myself, not for anyone else.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? What do you think of the synopsis? Let me know!

-Rae-

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History of the Author – Part Three

Posted on March 16, 2010. Filed under: About Me, My Writing | Tags: , , , , |

Surgery is not fun business. My mom’s currently ensconced in her darkened bedroom, curled up in bed under covers and a robe, trying to sleep off the rest of the nasty anesthesia medications she received yesterday.

I’ve been trying to help, but it’s hard to know what’s best to do. My dad hovers like crazy, trying to make sure she’s got everything she needs, and my grandparents are making sure to have food cooked and talking to her when she’s downstairs.

Eventually it’ll be just me and mom when the grandparents go home and dad has to go back to work. Maybe then I’ll feel more useful than I do now.

Anyway, today is Tuesday, so it’s time for:

History of the Author

We’ve covered a bit about my creative writing past, but I’ll bet you didn’t know that before I graduated college I had a double major. For those of you who don’t know, I majored in something called “enterprise management.” And while I like to crack jokes that my major qualifies me to captain the Starship Enterprise, it really only qualifies me to do some general management and entrepreneurship.

But before I finished that major, on a lark, I decided it would be fun to double major in journalism as well. Let me back up a step, though.

In my junior year of high school, I joined the newspaper class. I liked writing and didn’t have many opportunities to practice otherwise, so I figured it would be fun to join the newspaper class. The blissful thing about this was that high school newspapers are generally nothing like real, for-profit newspapers. By senior year, I was the only senior in the class and was elected by the older group to be the editor-in-chief.

Jump to sophomore year of college: I remembered how much fun writing was but didn’t want to deal with all the excess general education classes I’d have to take for a regular B.A. degree, so I jumped into some basic journalism classes. It was a whole different world.

I went from writing cutesy stories about new high school principals (i.e. “The Big Red Dog Meets The Big Blue Beaver” – yes, an actual article title for the school paper) to learning about AP Style and carrying the hallowed handbook around. I learned editing tips and the key to writing concise sentences. (I obviously don’t use that rule here!)

What were the results of this year and a half excursion down the journalism major road? Published writing.

Yes, that’s right. I can claim to have been published and not just in some two-bit high school newspaper. Or even in some online college newspaper, though I was published there as well. I scored, through a fair bit of serendipity, an internship with a local community newspaper that lasted a year.

I’ve got piles and piles of newspapers under my desk that I kept on the off chance I’d need them for a portfolio. There are articles about churches and red lights, volunteer fire departments, and giant garage sales, all stacked in the pages of these newspapers. For what it’s worth, the papers are widely read around here and are distributed once a week.

I got very used to working under a deadline, and I really fell quite in love with it. Interviewing is a breeze, and while I worked for the paper, I got the chance to interview a local talk show host who complimented my interview skills. He mentioned I had a knack for turning an interview into a comfortable conversation.

And my work with the newspaper wasn’t without its adventures.

It came with a side job of organizing the high school intern program. During the summer, we had about 15 high school juniors and seniors (and one sophomore, I believe) who joined us and wrote pieces on their excursions learning about the world around them.

Long story short? I was almost required to catch a fainting boy when he passed out in a hospital during a tour. I started to grab him because he looked rather pale and was swaying with these very vague, unfocused eyes. When he fell, I and two orderlies who happened to be walking by, managed to grab him before he could hit the ground.

And let’s also not forget: that was the job where I learned about lecherous old men.

“Excuse me, sir? I was wondering if you could come with me to get that picture of you in front of your painting?”

“Of course. I’ll come with you, but it’ll cost you.”

I studiously ignored that last comment and walked into the library with the man whose hand rode dangerously low on my back. I took a step to the side; he followed. We arrived in front of the painting.

“I told you it would cost you.” A pause for effect. “The cost is seduction.”

Needless to say I didn’t stay at the library much longer.

On the bright side, though, my venture into the journalism world also landed me a freelance writing position for a few months. Nothing big, mind you, but enough to get my writing out in bright, shiny publications.

What about you? Have you had any jobs that bring back savory and not-so-savory memories? What about serendipitous positions? Tell me about it!

-Rae-

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