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I have a serious question: What gives with this job market?

Allow me to explain. I've been in the workforce since 1982, minus the four years I took off from late 2006 through 2010 to care for an elderly parent at home. That's thirty years of work experience. Like many people, I started out in restaurant and retail jobs, the kinds of work college students and other young adults do at first. But I have between 20 and 25 years of experience in administrative/clerical support, sales support, customer service, project coordination and office management. I can handle a spreadsheet like it was a lethal weapon, type correspondence and reports in clear, error-free English, and I can write, edit and proofread just about any kind of business or other document you care to mention. I've done desktop publishing, handled web content, and helped bosses and coworkers untangle their computer issues without needing to call the help desk. Hell, I've been pressed into service by IT departments when push came to shove, like the time an entire corporate computer system where I worked as a secretary fell victim to an outside attack and they needed people who could apply patches.

In short, I've got skills. Mad skills. I have a college education and more common sense than is probably good for me in a business environment. So why can't I get a decent job with a decent salary? I find it hard to believe that my skill set should only be able to command $12 to $15 per hour in this day and age, but apparently 90% of administrative-support positions are now considered entry-level, even if the hiring company specifies a preference for those with college degrees and/or loads of experience.

Let's look at the timeline here for a moment. In 1982, the US federal minimum wage was $3.35 per hour. That's how much I earned as a hostess in a restaurant, or a cashier at a department store. It was also how much I earned in 1985 doing layout and paste-up in the advertising department at my local newspaper, even though that was a job requiring skill and experience. I lived in an economically-depressed area where most jobs paid very little, so I didn't question it too much at the time, and when my hours were later cut because the paper was having financial difficulties, I changed jobs to something with more hours and went back to college. Things happen, I figured.

In 1987 I moved to a large city in another state, and the booming economy there meant a lot of those same jobs that had paid minimum wage in my hometown were going for upwards of $7 and $8 per hour in my new location. That was more than DOUBLE the minimum wage. I transitioned from restaurant and retail to office work. Over the next decade-plus, the minimum wage went up and so did my own wages.

In 1999/2000, the minimum wage was $5.15 per hour, and I was making $15 per hour -- nearly THREE TIMES the minimum -- working 40 hours a week in an office job. Granted, the cost of living had risen as well and sometimes I needed a second job to make ends meet for a while, like when I had to spend money on a car repair or replacing a vehicle, or to save up for some other big-ticket expenditure. No problem; I could wait tables or deliver pizzas or run a cash register for a few hours on the side to cover things. I figured I would soon get to where my full-time wages or salary would be high enough that I could leave the two-job two-step behind forever instead of just for a few months at a time.

Boy, was I ever dreaming. In 2006, I maxed out at $16 per hour. Minimum wage was still $5.15; it hadn't budged since 1998, although its purchasing power had slipped some. I was living in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio -- not the priciest of places, so that helped. I was married and my husband made a bit less than I did, although he picked up overtime when he could at time-and-a-half, so while things were tight they were manageable. He'd actually been forced out of a position in the mortgage industry a few years before -- we should have seen the writing on the financial wall then -- and taken a pay cut in transitioning to a different field. Between the two of us, we got by.

Then my dad fell ill, and over a period of several months it became clear that the only two choices were to have him living in a care facility or bring him home to live with us. He'd spent some time in an assisted-living home, but I really didn't like the quality of care he'd received and they'd overmedicated him to the point of stupor, so my husband said, "Enough is enough. Move him in with us, quit your job and stay home to look after him. It'll be better for everyone, and the money the facility is charging will go twice as far if he lives with family." I did, and for those four years I was a full-time homemaker. I picked up a few hours waiting tables now and then, or did some freelance editing and other things from home, but I didn't set foot in an office job until after my dad's health had declined to the point where we could no longer attend properly to his needs and he had to go into 24-hour nursing care.

Then I went back out into the job market, in December of 2010. The landscape had changed. Federal minimum wage was $7.25 as of 2009; and Ohio's minimum was $7.70 (it went up to $7.85 by 2013), meaning my most recent full-time rate was equivalent to a little over twice the local minimum. But Cleveland had lost enormous numbers of middle-income jobs like mine while I was sidelined, and in fact had seen administrative positions decline by nearly 51%. Ouch. Everyone and their cat was scrambling for the jobs that were left, and most of them didn't pay squat. Mind you, Northeast Ohio had never really recovered fully from the recession of 2001 before the next one hit in 2007 (and in fact still hadn't as of last year).

More ouch: Having managed to injure both of my legs in 2007-2008 I was no longer capable of spending long hours on my feet regularly without pain, so neither retail work and waiting tables was really much of an option even as a second job, not that they'd have paid much anyway. I went back to doing the exact same kind of administrative office work I'd done previously, working on a temp-contract basis, only now I was getting paid between $8 and $12 per hour on average because employers knew administrative and clerical folks were a dime a dozen in that market. My marriage disintegrated -- amicably -- shortly after my dad stopped living with us (frankly, it had been on the rocks even before 2006, but we'd pulled together while Dad needed us), and I had already decided I was going to get out of Cleveland's crappy economy and chilly climate as soon as I could manage it. With leaving in mind, I worked temp/contract and sent résumés out of state rather than looking for a permanent local job. I did land one really good contract at $25 per hour, but it was a one-and-done project that took only two weeks to complete. The rest of the time I limped along at $12 or less an hour and looking for a way out of town.

I moved to Annapolis, Maryland in the spring of 2014. I likely wouldn't have been able to do it if not for serendipity. Roughly a year previously, someone I'd known almost two decades earlier -- long before my marriage -- surfaced on Facebook and sent me a friend request. He was from Cleveland, but had since moved to Annapolis. We were both divorced and had a lot in common, and by early 2014 things had progressed between us to the point where he invited me to come and live with him. I did, and we've been together ever since. I arrived with what I could fit into my old Grand Cherokee and took a temp job so I could earn a paycheck while searching for something permanent.

And there's the rub. The cost of living here is about 70% higher than it was in Cleveland. The job market in the Baltimore-Washington, DC corridor (of which Annapolis is part) never suffered the kind of hit that Cleveland did, and the economy overall is more robust here. One would expect most mid-range jobs here to pay more than the same jobs would in Cleveland.

Yet here I am, getting $10 to $16 hourly as a temp and answering ads for permanent work that pays roughly the same in most cases. Maryland's minimum wage is $8 per hour, so I'm getting paid between 125% and 200% of minimum for the same damn work that used to pay me 300% of minimum fifteen or twenty years ago, and on a good day I'm making the same dollar figure I made ten years ago. The difference is that I now have a lot more experience at it and money here and now goes nowhere near as far as it did then and there, which only highlights my disgust at not making more.

You know what? I don't even LIKE administrative support and office management all that much. It was never my favorite thing; I just sort of fell into it when I was in my twenties and never really got out. I like it even less now that no one wants to actually pay much for it. I really need a better use for my time and talents, and I need it to pay me more.

I'm open to ideas, hivemind. They can't involve relocation, as my Significant Other's work is here. They can't involve spending money on more schooling until at least a year from now, and I'd need to earn more money between now and then to even make that possible. Ideally, I'd like something where I can do much of my work remotely, because SigOther's job is set up that way and given we're both in our fifties we'd like to incorporate some flexibility into our lifestyle if we can.
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It's November again, the month when half my social circle decide they're going to write novels, whether or not they're normally given to auctorial pursuits.

You see, November is National Novel-Writing Month, affectionately (and sometimes less so) referred to as NaNoWriMo or simply NaNo for short. The idea is to write an entire novel in a month, from start to finish. Complete that task and you're said to have "won" NaNoWriMo. 50,000 words in 30 days, or 1,667 per day. It seems so... arbitrary. I'm all in favor of motivation and measurable progress, and having deadlines can be helpful in these areas. Still, there are things that cannot be rushed, or at least that perhaps shouldn't be. High on this list, at least by my lights, is the creative process.

Now, I've been writing novel-length fiction for a few years. Quite a few. (All right, since the Carter administration. Happy now?) Under a full head of steam, I can generate a couple of thousand words in an hour or two. But whenever I've focused more on wordcount than on form and content, it hasn't taken too long for the quality of my output to fall off dramatically.

For me, that's the biggest problem with NaNoWriMo. I tried it once. Somewhere around the 18,000-word mark I found myself writing in circles, just trying to make wordcount. What I'd lost sight of was how to make my words count.

I didn't "win" NaNo that year, and I haven't played since. For one thing, I'm old-school enough to regard 50k words as pretty slim -- in fact, for my money that's a novella, not a full-blown novel. If I'm going to write a novel, the story will be complex enough to require at least 80k to 90k words to really tell it properly. That's more than I'm likely to churn out in a month's time, however, unless I have virtually nothing else that requires my attention during that month -- no job, no freelance work, no other responsibilities, and enough money on-hand to not waste time worrying about how to pay the bills. Suffice it to say I've never been in that situation. At best, I've had the free time OR the money, but not both, and certainly not the lack of other responsibilities.

Writing fiction takes work. It takes thought, and the freedom to indulge one's imagination. Some days are better spent just figuring out how some new element that's presented itself can be made useful to the story than in pounding out another thousand or so words. I outline my work, but my Muse always surprises me with something I hadn't planned on, or else my characters take on lives of their own and insist on doing things I hadn't anticipated. I've learned the hard way to let them, because if they're fully-formed enough to be doing that in the first place, it usually means they have a better idea of what's going on in the story than I do. If an author is God in relation to his or her fictional world, then I am an absolute pushover of a deity 90% of the time. My characters tend to exercise enormous amounts of free will. Of course, this may also explain why so many of them can be best described as agnostic...

All this is in aid of saying that while I am indeed in the process of writing a novel, I'm not doing NaNoWriMo. I began this project a bit before November, and I'm sure I won't finish it before Christmas. And that's all right. My characters don't feel rushed, the plot isn't slapped together with chewing gum and baling twine, and I'm not as likely to lose whatever sanity I may have before the denouement. Mind, I'm not saying that any of these things are the case with all NaNo novels. I'm quite sure there are some good ones out there. Even so, I have to wonder whether they'd perhaps be even better for having being written in a slightly more relaxed manner, with the author taking his or her time at crafting them.

They say you can't hurry Art, much like you can't hurry love, or the perfect wine. Things take time, and that's fine by me.

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I recently watched a story on my local newscast addressing the dangers of trampolines. That’s right – trampolines, long the joy of children everywhere, are now considered too dangerous to be used by today’s youth. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that kids and teens should never use trampolines at home or even in routine gym classes.

Now wait just a minute. Isn’t this the same American Academy of Pediatrics that’s been so very vocal about the epidemic of childhood obesity? Haven’t they been advocating that children and teens put down the video game controller, turn off the TV, log off the Internet and go outside for some vigorous physical activity?

Let’s face it: ALL physical activity carries risks. And childhood has never been without them anyway. Simply being born is itself dangerous, after all. And if you’re over thirty-five or forty, chances are you remember doing all sorts of things as a kid that didn’t even raise eyebrows back then, but would be considered unacceptable risks in today’s overprotective world. Things like riding bikes without a helmet, climbing trees, jumping off a rope swing into a swimming hole or pond (a favorite of my own rural childhood), rollerskating on the sidewalk, playing dodgeball (in gym class, no less, and without any sort of safety equipment) and yes, even jumping on trampolines.

I remember trampolines fondly. My next-door neighbors had one in their backyard. It wasn’t one of those slick, store-bought jobs you see today with padded edges and safety nets, either. This was a crude, homemade unit constructed by digging a shallow oval pit, surrounding it with a foot-high wooden enclosure topped by a six-inch-wide metal beam running all round its circumference, painting the whole thing white and then installing thick metal springs all the way around with a trampoline bed made of green, rubberized canvas. We simply stepped up onto the edge and then jumped onto the canvas, ready to bounce to our hearts’ content. This trampoline was large enough to accommodate two teenagers or three younger kids. One of our favorite games was the “seat-drop” contest, in which two of us would get onto the trampoline together and do seat-drops with no bounce between – simply feet-seat-feet-seat – for as long as we could. The first one to tire or miss a beat lost the contest. We also practiced forward and backward flips (only one allowed on the “tramp” at a time for those) and other tricks. A warm summer day would find up to a dozen or more kids of all ages in my neighbors’ backyard, all taking turns on the trampoline. Standing on the grass in our bare feet, without a mat in sight. It was glorious!

Now, I was definitely not the most athletic kid around. In fact, I was probably one of the clumsiest. Always picked last for teams, I abhorred gym class and was absolutely no good at sports. Except for one thing: that particular gym unit each year where we got to use gymnastics equipment, and even then, I found the uneven bars, the pommel horse and the vaulting box daunting. But when it came to the trampoline – that big white elastic square with padding all around and standing chest-high to many of us – I was finally in my element. Most of my classmates did not have access to a trampoline outside of these two or three short weeks, and had to work to master even the most basic of moves. But I could execute even double flips with an ease born of long practice, and I eagerly looked forward each year to the one time in gym class when I morphed, however briefly, from the klutziest student to one of the most graceful. Even my gym teacher was stumped by my transformation, until one year I finally explained my secret to her.

Of course, these days, people are so worried about protecting children from every childhood bump and scrape that it’s a wonder we don’t just pack them in Styrofoam and feed them strained peas until they’re eighteen. Good grief, here we are, worried about plus-size children who would rather spend all summer in the living room with the latest games for Playstation than take a walk around the block, and we’re complaining about the dangers of trampolines, skateboards, bicycles, rollerblades and swimming pools. Does anyone see the irony here?

In all the years my neighbors had their trampoline, I think there were only two injuries – a sprained ankle suffered when one boy stepped off onto the ground wrong and twisted his foot, and a swollen big toe on yours truly when I stepped off the trampoline and onto a yellowjacket that was sunning itself on the edge. Either of the above could have happened as a result of many other activities. Meanwhile, my friends and I were outdoors and engaging in healthy physical activity rather than inside eating chips and playing video games. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating against things like bike helmets and protective gear for rollerblading and skateboarding, nor do I believe that parents should leave their kids unsupervised while engaging in certain activities. It’s a good idea to have someone keep an eye on them when they’re on a trampoline in the same way that it’s a good idea to have someone watching out for them while they’re in a swimming pool. But I don’t think it’s necessary to forbid kids to engage in an activity at all just because it’s possible that they could get hurt doing it. Otherwise, they shouldn’t even be allowed to get out of bed in the morning.
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This was inspired by a question in a forum where I participate regularly. A poster asked, "What would you tell your 20-year-old self if you had the opportunity to speak to them or write them a letter?" Here is my response:

Dear 20-year-old-Self:

You know that dude you're engaged to? The one you think you're so in love with? Well, much as it pains me to tell you this, Mom and Dad are right, although possibly not for the reasons they think they are. (Especially not Mom.) But you're not going to marry him, and if you're smart you'll dump him NOW, before the really abusive stuff starts. Trust me on this; you'll thank me later.

In fact, DON'T ever stay in ANY relationship where you don't feel respected. You're worthy of respect, and deep down you know it. Give this more than lip service; go out and live your life that way.

While I have your attention, you really need to reopen the discussion about college with the 'rents. If you offer to dump Le Dude in exchange for them finally sending you away to that university you really want to go to, there's a good chance they'll take you up on it. But you need to strike while the iron is hot, because if you wait until they've settled in Ohio (oh, yeah, forgot you didn't know that was coming either -- well, it is) they're not going to be happy about your staying in New York. So jump on it now, while they're still in a state of flux themselves. You can sell them on the idea that even if they don't know where they're going, at least you may as well have some kind of stability in the offing. At this point, I think they're a lot less enamored of the idea of community college than they were when you graduated from high school, especially given that's where you met Le Dude. He isn't much use to you and you're on the verge of figuring that out -- but he's the best bargaining chip you have right now. Take the opportunity.

Believe me, it'll beat the hell out of being the only employed person in the family next year. Yeah, you'll feel all responsible when you're the one bringing home the proverbial bacon while simultaneously navigating part-time community college, but what you don't know right now is that this is completely unnecessary... even though nobody's going to tell you that until you're almost 30, and then you're going to be really pissed off that you wasted all that effort when you were convinced your parents didn't have squat. Ask the difficult questions. Don't be a martyr.

By the way, don't pick Linguistics as your major. I know academia sounds like a fascinating career path, but it's going to tank in about 20 years as a means of making a reliable living. Nobody's more disturbed by that prospect than I am, but it's best you know this now. You know those computer science courses you've been contemplating? Sign up for them earlier rather than later, because that's where the money and the fun will be, at least for a while. There's going to be this neat thing called the Internet in a few years, and electronic media will become very popular. You'll definitely want to be in a position to ride that train, so think smart. When you first hear the phrase "web design", jump on board.

Have a firm plan for what you want to do with your life if you don't have kids, because there's a distinct possibility that you won't. And that's okay. Trust me on this, too.

Finish that novel you just started writing. Finish the one you started before that and have had sitting in a drawer. Find a literary agent. Get serious about it. Write more after that. (Don't worry; you will. But you should get serious about it sooner.)

Don't buy the blue car.

Tequila belongs in the bottle. You're allergic; don't find this out the hard way. You're better off sticking to beer or wine.

You're not cut out for skiing, so hang it up now while you still have both ACLs.

Don't take a long hiatus from theatre. It's easier to knock the rust off when you haven't accumulated a lot of it. We got lucky and accomplished that, but it could've been so much easier.

Take every extra hour of work you can get for a while, and buy that guitar. It isn't as frivolous an expense as some might tell you.

Practice. Every. Day.

Be nice to Mom. She won't be here a whole lot longer.

Put up with Dad as best you can, but don't let him intimidate you. He means well; he's just profoundly clueless about some things. Like human relationships. With adult children. Or anyone else. He'll get better at it eventually... like in about 20 years. By then he won't have a choice.

Above all, be nice to yourself. At the end of the day, if you respect yourself, it's a lot easier for others to respect you. The same goes for love.

Be well.


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...because, you see, it's damned difficult to type while wearing them.

I spend a lot of time thinking in terms of blog posts. I make comments or posts on Facebook and think to myself, "If I expanded on that, it would make a great blog post." I sit in traffic or stand in line at the grocery store and think about this or that topic, and the words just come. Sometimes they even come over a second cup of coffee on a lazy Sunday morning when I have nothing pressing to do that should keep me from writing.

And then I don't actually do anything with them. It's time for that to stop.

This blog is my voice on the internet. Well, one of them, anyway. Facebook is something I restrict primarily to my circle of friends. I have a lot of them over there, although most actually are people I know personally whether in meatspace or online. Still, I post very little over there that's public; the vast majority of what I say in that venue is between myself and the people I know and trust. My real name and my photo are on Facebook, so I tend to be careful about making my activity there visible to the general public.

Here on Dreamwidth and in other blogging environments, I don't make my personal identity so well known, and while there are some here who do know me on a personal level, I trust their discretion. So that makes this a venue where I can feel reasonably comfortable about posting my views publicly. I have opinions -- quite a lot of them, in fact, and on all manner of topics. I'm going to try posting a lot more often, and on a wide variety of subjects. You may find me mouthing off about politics and current events one day, and musing about the meaning of life the next. I might post what amount to diary entries chronicling events in my life as they unfold, or offer my opinion on some film or book or album. I promise to be careful with regard to tagging things so that if you want to skip certain topics, or you have a preference to read about others, you should be able to tailor your experience accordingly.
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Haven't posted in a while, and at this point I'm saying to hell with my commitment to never using this blog as a diary. It's my blog, and if some of the posts are more personal than others, so be it. For all I know, there isn't anyone reading currently anyway, and shouting into the ether can be cathartic. Or not.

To be fair, there's little to actually shout about at present. Summer weather on the North Coast is what it is, and the job market and local economy still suck. I've given up shouting as a waste of effort, though I reserve the right to whine on occasion. Or perhaps simply whimper. Okay, so profanity still isn't out of the question. In any case...

I keep getting job leads and nibbles in the Baltimore area and nearby portions of Maryland. I've had precious few of them local to Cleveland, my current location, so I'm glad to be getting them from at least somewhere. Of course, what I really need is for one of them to actually pan out.

Pennsic is coming, and I need to make new garb to replace older garb that is either worn out or too big. Yes, too big. Not a problem I mind having, but holy cannoli, do I have my work cut out for me. Well, actually, having it cut out would put me a step ahead. Right now I need to get busy drafting patterns.

RoomieDearest, aka ArguesWithObjects, continues to blow hot and cold depending on the day. We get along better as roommates than we ever did as anything else, but his job is stressing him out and I sometimes get the backlash. Not fun. I feel sorry for him on days like that, but my patience only stretches so far. I understand all about being Type A (being one myself) but really, does one have to let every little thing become a Big Deal?

Meh. With any luck, by September I'll be out of here. *crosses fingers*

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If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you already know that I write fiction. I've been doing so, off and on, for over 35 years. Recently, I found myself engaged in helping two friends, both aspiring fiction authors, with some elements in their writing. We got onto the topic of narrative voice, and the question of exactly who should be telling the story. The following is a short primer I put together on the subject, using examples from a piece of Stargate SG-1 fan fiction I've written, with which both of the friends in question are familiar.

(Disclosure: I write fan fiction because it's something I can actually publish on the web and gain reader feedback from, which allows me to experiment with various elements of technique. What I learn via this feedback then goes into my brainspace and is used to continually improve my writing of original fiction. It should be noted that I use examples from my own work here only because they are readily available online and I know exactly what my intentions were when I wrote each chapter, NOT because I think that my work is particularly good or awesome or exemplary in any but the most rudimentary sense of that last adjective.)

So, onward:

When I was first learning to write fiction, back in the days when we charred sticks in the fire and used the carbonized tips to scrawl our tales on the walls of caves now lost to distant memory, I wrote in omniscient third person. It’s a fairly common method of narration and storytelling that nearly all of us have encountered at one time or another, most likely during courses in literature when we were in secondary school. The bulk of 19th-century literature was written in this manner. However, omniscient third can be disorienting for the modern reader, and recent decades especially have seen a rise in the use of other third-person narrative modes such as tight (also known as ‘limited’) third-person and tight (or limited) third-person multiple-point-of-view.

In All That We Leave Behind, I write in tight third-person multi, utilizing a number of different characters as the narrators of my story. We experience the story through different people’s eyes and perceptions (also known as their ‘point of view’, often abbreviated ‘POV’) as it unfolds. My protagonist, Colonel Frank Cromwell, is the POV character I use the most, and we experience much of the story through his perceptions. However, there are chapters and scenes in the story for which he is not present, including a number of scenes that take place on Earth while he is off-world. Since there is no way for Frank to be aware of what is happening in a place where he is not present to observe events, I must of necessity use other characters who are present as my POV characters in those scenes.

In a similar manner, there are some events for which Frank is present, but which I have chosen to let the reader view through the perceptions of other characters. I do this both to give the reader a glimpse into the minds and personalities of these other characters and how they perceive the events of the story, and to illustrate how these other characters perceive Frank himself.

Using multiple characters as narrators in telling a story while remaining firmly in the POV character’s head throughout the entirety of a given scene or chapter is an effective way to tell a story from multiple angles while minimizing confusion for the reader. Science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer, who also teaches creative writing at the university level in Canada, has written a great lesson on this which I highly recommend reading.

When writing in 3rd-person multiple POV, it is important to remain inside a single character’s head throughout the entire scene, and if possible, the entire chapter. This is to avoid confusing your reader with dizzying hops from head to head. Of course sometimes it isn’t possible for an entire chapter to be told from a single viewpoint, as in instances where you have a brief scene that isn’t long enough to qualify as a chapter in its own right but also doesn’t tie in with any other nearby (in the temporal sense) scenes involving the same characters. When that happens, it makes sense to append such scenes to other chapters in such a way as to create continuity in your plot. In so doing, however, care must be taken to make the transition from one person’s POV to another as painless and as clear as possible for the reader, and once you have transitioned into another character’s head, it is essential to remain there either until the end of the chapter, or at least until the end of the scene, at which point it is permissible to transition into someone else’s POV if the chapter calls for it.

Chapter breaks are the most common and natural places to switch POV, but when you make the switch within a chapter instead, the switch should either coincide with a scene break or — if a full-on scene break is not possible — with the exit of the initial POV character from the scene which then continues on with the remaining characters and must be told from the POV of one of those remaining characters. Note that if a character is going to leave a scene before that scene ends, it is usually NOT a good idea to make him or her the initial POV character, unless you have some compelling reason to do so — say, for example, that you really do need to convey his or her direct impressions of what occurs up until the exit. I rarely have a POV character leave a scene, but I’ve done it on occasion. Also note that if you have your initial POV character exit a scene which then continues on in someone else’s POV, you MUST treat this the same way you treat a full scene break, by inserting an indicator that this change is occurring.

When you switch POV within a single chapter, whether or not you are fully switching scenes at the same time, it is imperative that you include some indication to the reader that the change is about to occur. Usually, leaving some white space — say, a blank line, followed by a centered row of three asterisks, followed by another blank line —  will do the trick nicely, and is my preferred method.

Here is an example from ATWLB of a chapter in three scenes, with each scene being experienced through the POV of a different character. They take place in three distinct locations: the planet known to its inhabitants as Tir 'nAwyr and to the SGC as P2A-870, the SGC itself, and Jack O’Neill’s house. Note how I have separated each scene and POV switch using space and asterisks. We experience the first scene through Frank’s perceptions, the second through Samantha Carter’s, and the third through Jack’s. Yet at no time is it unclear to the reader whose head he or she is inhabiting. The first scene opens with Frank’s name, and what follows indicates to the reader that these are Frank’s direct perceptions and experiences. Italicized material indicates his internal self-talk, the mental vocalization of a sampling of his thoughts.

For the second scene, we switch to Carter’s perceptions, again naming her in the first sentence and indicating clearly that these are her perceptions. A portion of her own self-talk is presented in italics as well; although it is not strictly necessary to go as far as to do this in every instance, it can be useful for firmly defining the fact that we are in one particular character’s head when multiple characters inhabit a scene. Another cue is the fact that the reader is presented with Carter’s own observations of the other characters, and that she is shown speculating on a number of things.

The third scene opens by naming Jack, and we experience his thoughts and emotions in this scene, including self-talk. In fact, the scene closes on an instance of his internal thoughts.

With practice, it isn’t difficult to learn how to write in limited 3rd person. The main thing to keep in mind is that you must ONLY write what your POV character of-the-moment is able to perceive, know, think or feel. Unless this character is a telepath or empath, he or she won’t know what other characters are thinking or feeling, although you can use perceptual cues to indicate that, such as having the POV character note that another character’s carried a note of amusement, or that the other character grimaced as if in pain, looked confused, or spoke in an angry tone.

Likewise, your POV character won’t be aware of things occurring beyond the area that he can see or hear, unless he is clairvoyant! This is actually the reason why this particular technique is called “limited” or “tight” 3rd-person — the POV is focused tightly on the character currently serving as narrator, and he or she is limited to telling us only what he or she observes or experiences and sharing with us his or her own thoughts and feelings.

With these restrictions in mind, however, you can write extremely detailed and personal scenes, and even expository passages if need be, simply by making the information you impart to the reader be information that the POV character knows and happens to be thinking about at the time. Here is an example of exposition presented as Frank’s reflections on all that he has learned thus far in his time on Tir Awyr. The reader comes away from this passage with a detailed body of knowledge regarding the environment in which Frank is living and an overview of the experiences he has had up until the present time, all filtered through Frank’s own direct thought processes.

By now it should be apparent that limited 3rd-person multiple-POV allows for a rich and detailed interaction between the reader and the characters in your story, encouraging the reader to identify with the protagonists and to at least understand anyone else in whose head he or she has spent some time. It also allows for you, the author, to explore your characters deeply and to tell the story on many levels. And all it takes is a little bit of practice!

On Trust

Mar. 11th, 2012 09:49 pm
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I've always been the sort of person who prefers to believe the best about people -- individually and collectively -- rather than the worst.

You might call me a cockeyed optimist, or say that my faith in humanity is misplaced. You might call me naive, I suppose, although after close to half a century on this planet I think that might be stretching things a bit. I've witnessed, heard of and directly experienced plenty of things that would certainly provide justification for an absence of trust, or at least a large dose of skepticism over the existence of mankind's better nature, etc. That is, if I were willing to allow myself to become jaded.

But, you see, that's the point. I'm not willing to let that happen.

I approach the concept of trust with my eyes open. I know that people don't always do right by one another. I've experienced this myself. And I know that it is so easy to say one thing and do something completely different. Again, I've experienced this -- from both sides, sadly. Oh, I won't deliberately make a promise and then renege, but I've had circumstances change and prevent me from carrying through on things. I feel awful every time it happens, too... and I prefer to believe that other people feel bad when they can't follow through on things they've promised me. Even though I  know that some folks don't even bat an eye, whether on the giving or receiving end of the equation, I have to believe that most people will try to do what they say they will, and won't take any pleasure in failing to do so. That they might even feel guilt over it.

In short, I believe that honor is a virtue, and I sincerely believe that I am not the only person who sees it thus. Honor is a virtue, as is trustworthiness... but each of those things requires its complement to function. Trustworthiness might as well be invisible if no one is willing to place their trust in you. And honorable people are best perceived by those who recognize honor and appreciate it. As the Russian playwright and author Anton Chekhov famously wrote: "You must trust and believe in people, or life becomes impossible." Life is difficult enough without the need to carry a heavy burden of suspicion; surely it would be impossible if I were to add that to my load. And so, I don't.

I can hear the question going through your mind. "But CB, how can you trust everyone? Hasn't anyone ever deliberately abused your trust? And once that happens, can you seriously continue to give it to the other people you meet?" Don't get me wrong. I've had my trust abused countless times. I've had everyone from parents and teachers to friends and lovers break promises. I've been cheated on by lovers, lied to and about by friends; hell, I had an abusive boyfriend when I was a young college student. Talk about things that will erode one's trust! Believe me, plenty of stuff has happened in my life, and I have no illusions about living in some happily-ever-after world where everything and everyone is perfect.

And yet...

You see, I am a whole person. I came into this world a whole, entire person, and I am determined to remain that way. No one can change me without my permission. And I have not given anyone permission to take away from me the ability to trust, which I feel is one of my most precious possessions. I refuse to become jaded, to become less than who I am meant to be, or to allow anyone to leave me less whole than I was when they first crossed my path.

Cautious? Sure; I know how to be cautious. I understand how to protect myself against those who would take advantage of me and of my trusting nature. But in each and every situation, I have to weigh the cost of those safeguards against the cost of having my trust abused. That weighing is what determines the extent to which I am willing to go to protect myself. And if that protection is likely to also prevent me from fully experiencing the potential good in an encounter or interaction or new friendship, that's a pretty high price. Granted, if someone has given me reason to expect that they will take advantage of me, then I generally will be on my guard. But if I know a person, or am getting to know them and they have given me no cause to mistrust them, then my default setting is to trust, at least within reason.

I also believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt when appropriate. We all make mistakes, and I would certainly hope that others would be lenient with me as regards the ones I make. However, I can hardly ask others to grant me a leniency that I myself am not willing to give. Therefore, I do my best to look for the best in others, as I would hope they will do when looking at me.

Going out into the world each day, mindful of the fact that we are all human, all of us at one and the same time both flawed and yet perfect... for the state of being flawed is natural to us, and therefore we would be imperfectly natural without it... this is what it is to retain one's own full self, I think. And trust is a big part of that.

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I've sort of abandoned this blog for a bit, because save for the occasional substantive entry it had begun to feel like more of a diary than anything. I'm not really the type of person to keep a diary, and I seriously doubt anyone's all that interested in the minutiae of my daily life. (And anyway, the people who are have already "friended" me on Facebook... where, as it turns out, I actually haven't spent much time talking about my daily life recently. Ah, well.) Not to mention that I am a writer of fiction, and my current fiction projects have taken up quite a bit of my mental real estate for the past few months...

However, from time to time I get the urge, or maybe "compulsion" would be a better term, to write something that is neither fiction nor a narrative of my day. And, well, if I'm going to write, I want to have an outlet for it. No sense keeping it to myself!

So, I'm going to take a different tack with this blog going forward, and try to limit my entries to the substantive, the humorous, or even the sarcastic. (Yes, yes, Dear Reader, I'll wait while you pick your jaw up off the floor where it fell  at the thought of my employing actual sarcasm.)

Oftentimes, I'll be doing some fairly mindless task such as yard work, folding laundry or washing dishes -- I lead such an exciting life! -- while mulling over some topic or other, and a fully-formed essay will come into being in my head. I've decided to start writing those out again and put them here, rather than allowing them to simply rattle about in my cranium and have wild parties (besides, I got stuck with the pizza bill the last time that happened). Having an outlet seems to be a useful thing, and just maybe someone will find my thoughts on this or that subject interesting enough to sit down and actually read them.

I'm not sure when the first entry in the "new" paradigm will occur, but as soon as something good pops into my brain and demands to be written, it'll wind up here. Stay tuned!

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"Sometimes we expect more from others because we would be willing to do that much for them." -- unknown, gleaned from Facebook
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I found out today that I'll be working all next weekend at the Lego Kidsfest at the IX Center. That's right: I'm going to get paid to help kids build stuff out of Legos. This will be awesome!

Told some of my friends about it tonight. The nearly unanimous response? "We hate you."

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Felt under the weather on Thursday and Friday. The upper-respiratory "Cleveland crud" again, right on schedule. My sinuses hate this town.

Need to get some automotive issues straightened out before my road trip. I foresee scheduling fun involving the fact that my mechanic and my job keep similar hours.

Went shopping; needed another couple pairs of smaller work pants. Apparently, the box of older ones is missing a size group. I've had worse reasons to shop!

Slightly sore; increased my workout intensity again. Finally pushing it on upper body now that my shoulder seems to have fully healed. At some point I expect to be in balance, and until then I plan to enjoy the process. Had my body composition done again (the monthly routine) and found out I have more lean mass than I thought I did, which revises my expectations or at least my timetable. And it's one of those good revisions. I'll take those any day!

By the way, have I mentioned how great it feels to have my only source of soreness be from exercise? Back when I was on the "rat poison regimen" I swear I felt like death warmed over 90% of the time, and not much better for a while afterward, either. But these days, I feel like a million bucks. It really is amazing what the drug companies don't tell people about some of the pills they make.
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If you're going to make a value judgment about someone, wouldn't it be better to actually know what they're like and base it on that, rather than on wild-assed guesswork and erroneous assumptions? Not to mention hurling accusations at them on the basis of the same guesswork and assumptions.

Just an idea...
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Just confirmed that I'm attending the Lion's Head Tavern event held by the Barony of Bright Hills (Baltimore, MD... though the actual event itself will be in a location roughly an hour away from there) on the second weekend of November. Someone from Bright Hills (or was it one of the neighboring groups?) was talking to me in a dance workshop at Pennsic back in August, and suggested I come and visit an event. Had a reminder email on this one the other day, so I said "count me in". Looks like I've got another SCAdian road trip in my future.
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So I got a link from a friend a few days ago that went to a test she'd taken online. Decided to take it myself out of boredom, mostly, and then realized that the dating site it was part of required me to make a free account and a basic profile in order to use the test and see the results.

Hmmmm. I've never really used internet dating sites before. I think I may have a profile on OK Cupid because of some dumb quiz I took there a while back, but I can't even remember how to log into it, that's how much I've ever bothered with it. You hear all the time how people lie on those sites, and you might think you're talking to some perfectly decent, civilized person only to find out later that you've been chatting with an axe murderer or something.

Then again, that can happen in meatspace, too, and I've never been particularly given to paranoia. Well, I thought, what the hell? It's just a test, I don't actually have to stick around and do anything.

So I went ahead and plugged in some info (have I mentioned that I really hate online forms with a million little dropdown boxes? I always screw them up!) managed to come up with a username that didn't sound too dorky, and used Rockville, MD as my location, since that's the home of a friend I'd just been talking to the day before. (Regular readers of this journal know I'm planning to move to central Maryland as soon as I can manage it, preferably within the next few months.) I've no interest in having a dating site match me with men here in Cleveland, because I'm leaving as soon as everything falls into place jobwise, and I've had no trouble meeting guys here on my own for whatever purely casual dating I've felt like doing since rejoining the ranks of the single and unattached back in January. Not that there's been a lot of that, as busy as I've been and with my not wanting to risk getting attached to someone in a place I'm leaving, but a girl's got to have some fun, right?

Took the test and got my results, reconfirming that no matter how good the program or test may be, there are always bound to be glitches somewhere. But for the most part, it was fairly close to pegging my basic personality type, I think. I plugged in the one close-up photo I had of myself since my external drive got fried (yay for Facebook, which is where I pulled it from), left the info section mostly blank, and noodled around a bit looking at the matches the site sent me. A few decent-seeming guys, a few others that made me really question the matching program, and the rest were middle-of-the-road types. Only two really caught my eye, and only one of those had a profile that actually made me laugh. If someone can make me laugh in the first two seconds and they're not even in the room, that's a good sign. I did send him a quick note complimenting him on his sense of humor, because people whose minds appear to work that similarly to my own don't cross my path terribly often. Wasn't looking for anything in particular and didn't actually expect to hear back, and was surprised when I did. We've had a bit of conversation since then, and it's been thoroughly enjoyable.

I fleshed out my profile and had contacts from a few guys, including one who was twenty-nine and couldn't fathom why I said he was way too young for me. I'm forty-seven, for cryin' out loud. I have several good friends in their late twenties, but I don't want to date men that much younger than I am. I'd already explained to him that I wasn't even local -- I've been careful to do that in the first exchange or so with everyone, because it would be neither fair nor honest not to -- and he still kept on. Guess some guys are really into the whole "cougar" thing. Problem is, I'm not one of those women. I've dated younger men often enough, and I got kind of tired of having to be the sole adult in my relationships. Granted, this all happened when I was between twenty-five and thirty-five, and guys under thirty aren't exactly well-known for high levels of emotional maturity, but still. I'd rather date guys my age or older, because I've generally had better experiences with them.

Of course, I'm not looking to start any kind of relationship with anyone from the site right at the moment, beyond just making friends. After all, these are guys who live at least 300 miles from me, so anything beyond basic "getting to know you" stuff pretty much has to wait on account of geography. I've had long-distance relationships before, and they're difficult on the best of days. In fact, when I actually got around to writing the text section of my profile, I toyed with the idea of putting my current location in to make my entire situation clear at a glance, but I had a hard time coming up with a way to explain it that didn't sound lame. So I left that part on the mental "back burner" to percolate a bit and figured that in the meantime I'd just keep explaining my situation to anyone I wound up talking to. It's still percolating, though now I've seen another couple of profiles where the guy is in the same situation, so I may crib an idea or two from their wording, because I think it it probably should be there. (Does that make me too honest for my own good, or is wanting to be that up-front about things just an unavoidable part of my nature that I should embrace and quit second-guessing? )

In any case, I am curious to find out what kind of men I'll be likely to meet after moving. Not that I even know where I'm going to wind up yet. Could be near DC, could be in or near Baltimore (picking the two areas where I have friends, either from college, from the SCA or other organizations, or friends from Cleveland who have relocated ahead of me), or could conceivably be anywhere else in the state -- though not as likely, because I prefer to live in the near environs of large cities. Obviously, as in so much of life, everything depends on work, though of course I'm partial to large metro areas and I'd prefer to be where I already know people. But making contacts and cultivating new friendships even ahead of a move isn't a bad thing, I think.
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Blogger has been a pain in the rear lately, so I'm moving everything to Dreamwidth. I'll lose the comments, sadly, but there aren't that many of them, so I suppose it's okay. At least Dreamwidth plays reasonably well with most people, whereas Blogger has had issues. You'd think it would work quite well for me, given that I use Google's Chrome browser and use Gmail as my primary e-mail, but I think I'm just more comfortable with the Dreamwidth interface and its ease of use. I generally write blog entries when I have limited time to mess around, and would prefer to save the more complicated stuff for my author's website, since I maintain that completely on my own.

The good part about all of this is that I'm likely to post a lot more often if I'm using Dreamwidth. So watch for more entries.

The link to the new site will stay live on Blogger for a week or two before I wipe the account, and I'll see you all on the flip side.


Sep. 10th, 2011 09:47 am
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Friends who help you move: priceless.

Now if I could only find everything! But at least I knew where the coffee pot was right away!
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Labor Day is always one of those slightly bittersweet holidays. It's nice to have the day off, but this day marks the end of summer, even if not quite according to the pattern of solstices and equinoxes.

And this year, I get to spend it moving additional boxes from my old apartment to my new one. At least I've managed to arrange things so that I won't be locked into a lease that prevents me from leaving Cleveland when a job offer comes through that will let me. I'd have stayed in the old place until then, but between the rent being high enough that it wasn't letting me save up the kind of money I'd like to and the facts that A) the landlord was being a complete jackass about fixing things and B) the otherwise perfectly nice girls upstairs had a thoroughly nasty habit of dropping their cigarette butts all over the front yard and front steps that both units shared, it was time to move to other digs. So now I'm a couple of miles down the road, in a transitional neighborhood sandwiched between the Battery Park condos and the Gordon Square Arts district. Got a nifty little wine bar a couple of blocks away with free wi-fi, a pool table and a nice patio. There's another friendly little pub between here and there, also with a patio. If I want to go see something at Cleveland Public Theater, I can walk there too. Downtown Cleveland is a less than ten-minute drive away if I use the Shoreway. Edgewater Park is within walking distance as well, and Whiskey Island Marina isn't much farther if I want to go see whatever band is playing at the Sunset Grille there (sorry, but I still don't like its new name, the Cropicana... no, that's not a typo) though I'd probably drive if I'm going there because of the weird little road you have to follow to reach it.

Home sweet home for probably no more than four or five months, if that long. Now if I can just get the internet connection sorted so I don't have to keep going out to places with wi-fi in order to get online...


Aug. 14th, 2011 07:28 pm
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Pennsic was a blast, as always. Got to more classes this year than in the past, especially music and dance classes. Laughed myself silly at my campmates' bad jokes, tried to drink enough water, drank my share of mead, nearly wore out a pair of shoe soles walking around, made a bunch of new friends and watched for shooting stars late at night. (The Perseid meteor shower coincides with Pennsic, although this year's full moon made viewing more problematic than it otherwise might have been.) Planned some road trips for later on in the year to visit some of the new friends I made, and am looking forward to it!

I even managed to avoid the upper respiratory crud that began to circulate during the last couple days of War. No plague for me!

Now I'm looking at the enormous pile of laundry in the basement and wishing the Laundry Fairy would put in an appearance. Maybe if I leave a Downy dryer sheet under my pillow?

I think I'll christen the laundry pile "Mount Washmore".
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Whatever I could finish on the sewing and other projects has been done. Well, except for the bits I've saved to work on next week, since I'll set up camp this weekend, come back to Cleveland to work during Peace Week, then return to Pennsic for War Week. (Some year maybe I'll spend the entire two weeks on-site.) The van I've borrowed from friends is mostly loaded, the last-minute odds and ends are being rounded up, and I'm going to try to get a good night's sleep tonight, although I'm generally like a kid right before Christmas around this time.

Tomorrow night is Zero Night, and I will be partying on the battlefield at Cooper's Lake and then sleeping in the van until it's time to get in line for Troll (event check-in, for those unfamiliar with SCAdian lingo) in the morning.

Pennsic or bust!

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