Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Only 5 Jobs!

Do you remember the Hey, Mon! skits on In Living Color? And Bitch, if you're too young to remember In Living Color, get-the- fuck-out-of-here! Anyway, here's a refresher about the Hey, Mon! skits. In these skits, a West Indian family brags about how many jobs they are each holding down. Anyone with one or two jobs is seen as lazy. Anyway, watch this clip, and then I'll tell you why I'm bring this up:

Lately, I've had quite a few people comment on the number of different jobs I worked last year. I was a paralegal, and a sales clerk for an online business... and an exam scorer for standardized tests, and a real estate agent. While it is true that I had several jobs ("Only five jobs!") last year, I was quite surprised that people commented on this... often in a snarky way that bordered on passive aggressive. Do you think I wanted to move from job to job last year? Hell, nah! I wanted each and every position to work out, but there were a number of reasons why they didn't. Let me tell ya about them...

Job #1-- Paralegal

I started the year off as a paralegal in a two-lawyer law firm. The pay was fantastic-- the most I had earned since leaving California. What wasn't quite so fantastic? Managing three law clerks-- three 20-30-something-year-old, male law clerks. They gave no heed to my pleas that they turn in their hours on time or update me about the projects they were working on. And having to take time out from all my other duties to call each of the clerks while they were in class each day, to nag them? That was not a pleasant task.

 But dealing with the law clerks wasn't the worst it. I had the stressful job of setting up and maintaining a server and document library for the firm... which would be great-- only I had no experience doing that kind of system administration work (especially with Apple products). I spent a great deal of time reading support documentation so I could stay ahead of the game. But in the end, I had to give up. That law firm needed a legal secretary, instead of a paralegal, and an IT officer. Not me! I loved my boss. I loved my paycheck (though benefits would have been nice too...health, sick leave, vacation, 401k-- that job had none of those), but that was more than my hypertension could take.

Job #2-- Sales Clerk for an online business

I landed Job #2 before I left the first one of the year. Someone I knew locally was looking for a sales clerk for a business he operated out of his home. I thought this would be a great job because the owner lived five minutes away from me and he was flexible on the hours I needed to work and was willing to let me off to go to doctor appointments (since I'm a kidney patient, there are a lot of those).

Everything was fine the first couple of days on that job-- I worked on preparing quotes for incoming customer calls. My boss had his own system for doing things-- which is okay, up to a point. But then he started meddling with how I wanted to arrange physical things on my desk-- and on my computer's desktop (he didn't like that I changed the font on my computer so I could better see things, or that I had a special wrist pad next to my computer, or that I preferred a smaller mouse that fit my hand).

Granted, that boss was a Dom-- as in BDSM Dominant, and I knew that going in. I just didn't think he'd stoop to bossing me around like I was his slave-- I'm nobody's slave. I'm quite capable of choosing what I want to eat for lunch, and I certainly don't need to wait until the boss opens the car door for me to get into the car. I mean, I know that can be gentlemanly, but the boss was giving off a "I'm your Master" vibe. Nuh-unh.

The clincher with this job was that my boss's good friend would come over and hangout at the boss's house/the office-- and that friend was someone I had a history with... someone who has a "rape-y" reputation. Unfortunately, the creeper would come over to hang out and I was expected to go out with the boss and the creeper for lunch (and yes, I tried the "No, thanks, I brought my lunch-- to no avail). The last straw was when the boss screamed-- literally screamed-- when I made a mistake entering some data (trying to follow his unclear directions to the letter). I don't cotton bosses who scream. Or have rape-y guests over. So, that was that.

 Job #3-- Educational Testing Scorer

I knew #3 was going to be a temp job-- scoring season only lasts a semester at a time. The first few days of training were a bit stressful-- but I caught on... well enough to figure out how to make a bonus each day. There were issues on this job-- every job has its issues. Probably the worst for me was that I have taught elementary English composition (and tutored college comp)and I graded too harshly-- according to the bots (I would go into all that, but I signed an NDA. Drat!) I left before the season was over, but by that time, most of the group I was hired with had departed for greener pastures. I can tell you this, the scoring for my team went way down without me-- I was a bit of a rock star!

 Job #4-- Paralegal, Part Deux

When I graduated from paralegal school last year (a fast-paced, rigorous 4-month program at University of Texas) I expected to land a job at some well-appointed law office-- probably in family law or intellectual property. I interviewed with several firms, but none of them bit. They wanted more experience than I had (and I had worked at a law firm after I separated from my first husband 25 years ago).

 Anyhoo, I did land another paralegal gig-- with a legal outsourcing company. Seemed like a nice outfit. Oh, and the client we worked for? It's a household name! Which I can't share (another NDA), but suffice it to say, it was a sweet setup. I had a corporate email and a fancy job title. We had free snacks and soda. A food truck visited the campus every morning. Oh, it was nice! But, I did not receive enough training in the beginning and some of the women I worked with were Mean Girls who did not want to help me. Absentee Millennial bosses also did not help. I felt I wasn't a good fit. When I said that to my supervisor, she kinda shrugged. Adios free snacks and soda!

Job #5-- Real Estate Agent

So, now we come to the final job of the year-- Real Estate Agent. I paid my $1k, and breezed through real estate school in three weeks. That wasn't too bad because my job, 35 years ago, was being the youngest real estate agent in the state of South Carolina. I had retained a lot of real estate knowledge from back then, so that helped me pass my licensing exam. But whew! Texas real estate is in a world of its own.

 If we're friends IRL, I've probably already hit you up with my business card and for referrals. So far, I've only done a little bit of business.  I've done a lot of online advertising and I have been out networking-- in spite of a surgery, an injury, a bout of pneumonia and additional medical procedures. And hey, I recently got my first paycheck! Woohoo! It almost covered all the gas I've spent helping some folks find rental properties. But that's real estate.

Luckily, there was no Job #6 last year. But 2018 is another year! Hehehe. I think this year will be more of the same. It's February and I've already applied for 15 jobs. I have had a few recruiters contact me, and I will at least hear them out. And I've been looking into buying a franchise-- but I'm still investigating whether that would be a good move. I have returned to freelance editing (please, send fiction authors my way) and may do some ESL tutoring. Yep, it's going to be an Only * Jobs! year, again.

Hey, Mon!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Blast from the Past-- Salvation Army

This post was originally published on my BiVirtue blog in 2011-- but it's still relevant.

It seems that the Salvation Army has a position on homosexuality-- "Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life."

Say what? Embrace celibacy? I'm thinkin' that embracing is going to cause epic fails in the celibacy game. That is preposterous advice, on so many levels.

And where does that leave us Bis-- who may not be primarily or exclusively same-sex-seeking? Does that mean it's still a free-for-all for us? Not that I have been able to take advantage of the free-for-all. For the past 15 years it's been a none-for-me. And those have been a really loooooong 15 years. Ugh. I wonder if SA has a position that unmarrieds should embrace celibacy, too. What about heteros that aren't trying to get pregnant-- should they abstain? The Salvation Army seems mired in its original 19th century beliefs (or the Bible-- either way, draconian).

So yeah, I support a boycott of the SA bell-ringers this season. Well, not that this is something new-- I never put money in those buckets, but find other ways of donating during the holidays. Homosexuality is not a choice, Salvation Army, but not dropping funds in your buckets, is.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Random tandem: I Will End You!

See the title of this post? I always wanted to say that. I'm (virtually) saying it right now. Er, not really ending Bitch Factor 10, altogether. But this Bitch needs to take a small vacation. Well, ok, a somewhat large vacation... say, until the end of 2012. At least. And hey, isn't there a good chance that the world is ending in December anyway? If that happens, you won't even notice that Bitch Factor 10 has gone on hiatus, because you'll be fighting off the zombies and raiding the compounds of the rich for their gold.

I love BF10 and I love my visitors. All 4 or 5 (avg) of you that visit each day. Ok, maybe I exaggerated a bit. All 1 or 2 of you per day. I do really appreciate my followers, and I hope that you will join me in vacationing out the rest of the year. I give you permission to do so.

Please drop by January 1 and find out if I survived the starting of a new editing business and my on-going struggle with kidney disease (if I'm dead by 1/1/13, you're excused from visiting. Consider it my gift to you).

If during the BF10 pause you want to know what I'm reading, you can return to BF10 because my Goodreads widget will still be operational and you'll at least get an idea of my number rating for each book I read in the interim. I am always available through Twitter, if you just need a quick Emme fix (@emmepangala).

Love you to all and take care. Yes! Take care...and run with it. Go hide it. Keep it safe until I return. Then, we'll talk!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bitch Factor 10 presents: Question or Two with Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane, Authors of The Druid Stone

Treats, treats. I love treats! You probably already knew that, if you've ever seen a pic of this curvaceous Bitch. But today's treat will not require an hour of Wii Fitness after consuming. Bitch Factor 10 is lucky to have two fantastic writers visiting today, Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane, authors of The Druid Stone. Heidi and Violetta were given the Question or Two treatment. Here goes:

  1. First for some probing personal questions. Heidi, please give us a detailed description of your fave "fat slutty bi girl" look (er, we need a Heidi paper doll for this, hmmm).  Violetta, give up some deets on your "checkered past".

Heidi: Oh my! I actually dress very conservatively now! My high school best friend calls it “kindergarten teacher chic”. But if I think back on my proudest fat slutty bi girl look, it would have to be the matching nurse uniforms I and a friend wore for Halloween a couple years back. We got hit on . . . a lot.

Violetta: I used to smoke PCP in graveyards. Oh wait, I already used that line for another interview, sorry! I do have a history with certain chemicals, but I gave them up a long time ago, way before I had kids. I’ve been arrested but I haven’t been to jail. I guess the legal transgression I’m most OK with being public about is going to Cuba, which is mainly illegal for US citizens. I went there with my family for an educational vacation because we think the US embargo is ridiculous. It’s quite easy, actually: we just went via Nassau and asked Cuban customs not to stamp our passports.

  1. How did you two come together to start co-writing together? What clued you in that you could be simpatico as co-writers?

Violetta: We beta’ed for each other and had a great rapport.

Heidi: Our first time co-writing was writing a short porn story. We had so much fun bouncing ideas off of each other and egging each other on we had to give it a go on a bigger (and more serious) scale. I still love writing sex with her though.

  1. Please speak about your transition from fanfictioners to being full-blown novelists. What habits carried over? In what way have you had to become more disciplined writers, as novelists?

Violetta: I wrote a fairly long blog post about the transition. I think the habit of writing steadily carried over. That is, once you start writing, don’t stop. Being a novelist means kicking it up about ten notches in terms of organizing and motivation. Writing fanfiction is a gregarious activity; writing a novel is more isolated, less immediately rewarding.

Heidi: When it comes to fanfic, I think what I learned was just what kinds of characters really appeal to people and what touches and intrigues them enough to want to explore more, read more, write more, discuss more. I’m always searching to capture that spark in my own characters. (Hopefully someday I manage it!) Discipline wise? I definitely agree with V on discipline. Fanfic is a world of immediate gratification, where there’s always a beta-reader nearby and a built-in audience for whatever you do. Original fiction, you’re starting from scratch. You have to find an audience. You have to forge a new emotional connection to get people to care. And yeah, in fanfic you can leave a WIP hanging and it’s sort of accepted. With original fiction, if you don’t finish the novel, you don’t get paid, and then you don’t eat!

  1. What writerly quality would you want to borrow from your co-writer?

Violetta: I love Heidi’s banter and body language. It really makes dialogue scenes come alive.

Heidi: Violetta has a really wonderful grasp of authentic cultural representation. She has a great “ear” for dialects and slang and is so empathic when it comes to people’s values and beliefs. Take a story like “Harm Reduction” and that sense of place and personhood? That’s her magic.

  1. Have either of you written any non-fanfic solo works since starting to co-write, and if so, what was it like writing without the other? Have you co-written with other authors yet? If so, how has that experience differed from writing with each other?

Violetta: I’m working on a solo effort now. It’s moving steadily but very slowly! I’m pretty much resigned to the slowness, however, even if it gets frustrating at times.

Heidi: I’m working on a solo project right now too, a series of short novels / novellas about a group of guys who work at a seedy porn store. I find writing solo absolutely terrifying! I’m hoping once I finish this book, my confidence will get better, but for now I feel very insecure about what I’m writing. And yes, it’s very slow going!

I’m actually co-writing with someone other than Violetta for the first time right now, as well! I’m writing a series of non-con slave/capture stories with Rachel Haimowitz. We’re having a blast, and I hope that people into that sort of thing will enjoy what we’ve come up with.

  1. You both have spoken up about the importance of creating diverse, multi-cultural characters, like Ori in Hawaiian Gothic or Sean in Cruce de Caminos and The Druid Stone. Why is this important to you? What challenges and/or criticisms have you faced in doing this?

Violetta: It’s important to me because... that’s me. I’m Asian and I come from a multicultural family. I live in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. I don’t want to go into the challenges too much because they’re kind of depressing. But I will see that the most frustrating force is not negative reaction, it’s simply... ignoring. I see people doing that all the time. They’ll spend thirty seconds blasting Victoria Foyt for Save the Pearls, get a lot of backpats, then go on buying and reading nothing but novels with white people on the cover. I’m bored with attacks du jour and bored of white self-flagellation. I just want readers of color to have more choice, writers of color to be more financially rewarded, characters of color to be more prevalent. I don’t care how that happens, I just want it to happen.

I do think m/m is actually somewhat better in regards to racial representation than mainstream romance, but on the downside, the drekkier stuff is full of the most ridiculous and ludicrous fetishization of Asian men. I mean, romance and erotica is kind of fetishistic by nature, but you can do it in a smart or stupid way, and I see way too much of the stupid.

Heidi: Violetta pretty much covered this one. I think the issue with IR/MC romance is quite the same as say trans* romance or lesbian romance. People say they want to read more or think they should read more, but often don’t.

  1. The Druid Stone is a sequel to your Riptide Publishing Rentboy Collection novella, Cruce de Caminos. I loved both stories, which feature Sean O'Hara as a main character, yet the tenor of TDS and CdC wildly differ. What accounts for that difference?  What was it about Sean in CdC that made you hold on to him for further fantastical adventures, a continent away in The Druid Stone? Or was the expansion from CdC to TDS the plan all along?

Violetta: We actually wrote CdC after TDS. The main thing that accounts for the difference in tone is that we knew CdC wasn’t going to be a romance. We didn’t need to have a happy ending. So we felt very free to let psychology and mood be the guiding forces for the narrative.

Heidi: What she said! After we wrote TDS, we sort of wanted to explore that aspect of Sean’s history (and his sexuality) more. But it really is a completely different experience, and that was what we wanted.

  1. What magic underbelly do you imagine existing beneath the surface of your "real" world? What fantastical element from The Druid Stone would you run away from, if it suddenly appeared in our world?

Violetta: Atlanta, where I live, used to be called Terminus. An ominous name, although it simply meant where the railroads ended. This used to be Cherokee land, and the Civil War is still being waged in sideways cultural forms.

I think my favorite monster from The Druid Stone is the giant eel with human hands for whiskers. I don’t know where I got the idea, although it feels vaguely Cronenberg.

 Heidi Belleau was born and raised in small town NB, Canada. She now lives in the rugged oil-patch frontier of Northern BC with her husband, an Irish ex-pat whose long work hours in the trades leave her plenty of quiet time to write. She has a degree in History from Simon Fraser University with a concentration in British and Irish studies; much of her work centred on popular culture, oral folklore, and sexuality, but she was known to perplex her professors with unironic papers on the historical roots of modern romance novel tropes. You can find her at Heidi Belleau.com

 Violetta Vane grew up a drifter and a third culture kid who eventually put down roots in the Southeast US, although her heart lives somewhere along the Pacific coast of Mexico. She's worked in restaurants, strip clubs, academia and the corporate world and studied everything from the philosophy of science to queer theory to medieval Spanish literature. You can find her at ViolettaVane.com.

A big Bitch Factor 10 thank you to Heidi and Violetta for dropping by and sharing. The best of luck with The Druid Stone and all your writing endeavors!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Non-Random Tandem: Presenting a Virtual Book Tour Visit by Kirby Crow and Reya Starck

I am soooo excited for Bitch Factor 10 to be a stop on the Circuit Theory Virtual Book Tour. Circuit Theory, written by Kirby Crow and Reya Starck, takes place in a virtual world, much like our own. Wait, no, this is the real world. Kirby and Reya are real world authors. Yet, I am... ok, maybe I better ponder that another time. Now, I hand BF10 over to Reya for a guest post. Stay tuned at the end of Reya's post for a Circuit Theory blurb and don't forget to leave a comment and your email addy to be entered in the CT giveaway.

Game Worlds as Inspiration

Reya Starck

As I write this I’m sheltering under a gilt-trimmed gazebo from a violent thunderstorm that blew in across the vertiginous canyon walls that surround me. A small cloud of fireflies is keeping me company and providing some comforting light as the rain pelts onto the metal canopy of the gazebo and I shiver under the blackened clouds in my t-shirt and jeans.

The storm departs as quickly as it arrived, and I step out into a miraculously dry world, taking my fireflies with me. Following a winding path built along what appears to be a dry riverbed, I find myself in a clearing, surrounded by the strangest plants (at least, I hope they’re plants!) I have ever seen.

They look like floating brains with straggling, jellyfish-like tentacles, and they are just as unreal as the bulbous green tubes that sporadically puff out golden spores a little farther along the clearing, and just as unlikely as the angular black creatures that are dangling from the overhang of the canyon walls: the ones I’m trying not to look too closely at.

I am, of course, not in any place that can be found on Earth. In fact, I’m in a place called Eder Kemo, one of the garden ages in the online world of URU Live, and if I keep walking past the floating brains and puffing plants I will pass through a low stone tunnel and arrive at my destination.

It’s just one small area of this virtual world: a peaceful pond with stepping stones leading to the exit of this age. Above it, a massive stone causeway soars, casting a deep shadow across the water. It’s here that I stop, because this is the place I have logged in for.

It never changes (apart from the regular, but short-lived storms) and its tranquillity and atmosphere are exactly what I need for a scene in a story that I’m writing. My headphones are clamped to my ears, and the game sounds are perfect: the soft slap of water against rock, the chirring of insects, the sigh of wind high above me as it follows the same canyon path that I’ve just taken. I bring my text file to the fore: URU window on the left of my widescreen monitor, Word on the right, and I begin typing.

A few days later, I log in again, but this time I head to the derelict ‘pod age’ of Tetsonot. A creaking, rusting observation chamber filled with darkness, dripping water, and the occasional last-gasp flash of dying red lights. My main character is in a prison and, while it’s not as battered and neglected as this area of the game, it’s what I’m feeling as I stand in there that’s important.

I don’t like total darkness, so fear is edging its way around me, looking for a way in. The pod is hollow, the drips echo, the staccato flashes of light startle me. I’m unsettled, in a place that I desperately want to escape from. It’s every prison, everywhere. This time I’m not here for my eyes; I’m here for my gut.

It can be difficult to explain to a non-gamer the level of immersion that’s possible, but if you’ve ever been late for work or bed because you got lost in a good book, or you’ve exited a movie theatre and been blindsided by having to fit your cinematically-altered peg back into the hole of real life, then you’ll understand that it’s perfectly possible to stand on a virtual beach under a virtual sunset with virtual waves crashing, and experience a very real kind of relaxation.

All writers end up with folders on their computers that are stuffed full of inspirational images. Writers who are also gamers often have additional folders full of game screen grabs which, while they don’t find their way into stories in their game format, nonetheless lurk in the writer’s mind as they type. The shimmering green mosaic roof of an in-game temple may end up as a translucent blue mosaic window in the home of a healer; and the primitive carvings on a canyon wall might become stylised hints of a visiting alien salvage company on the outside of a rusting spaceship’s hulk.

Some might think that using parts of game worlds to inspire creative writing is a form of cheating, and indeed it would be if images were lifted wholesale from the coded world and dropped into the written one without any further creative thought given to them. But there is no more deception involved in loving that green mosaic roof and transmuting it into a blue mosaic window than there is in any form of art over the centuries.

Creative people have always found inspiration in whatever world they inhabit. Rand and Robyn Miller, the creators of the original Myst series on which URU Live is based, took hundreds of real world photographs, parts of which they later used as textures in their games. And Myst itself was the forerunner of all Steampunk games; its look and feel and even its music inspiring a new generation of game-creators.

We pick and we sift. A bit of rock from here, the gleam of mosaic glass from there, the annoying habit of a work colleague, and the scent of mildew in an old library. We stir it with a pen, let it simmer in our minds, and then dish it up on the page.

We hope you enjoy your meal.


Attraction is Binary.

Dante and Byron are avatars. Driven by human beings, yet still only digital representations of their ideal selves. In reality, they live far apart, but share most of their waking and working hours together in a virtual world called Synth.

In Synth, like in most code, the laws are infinitely more simple and infinitely more complex. Navigating the system rules of virtual lovers is like steering through a minefield of deceit, suspicion, heartbreak, and half-truths.

Under pressure, Dante makes a friendship that trips Byron’s warning bells, disrupting their carefully-ordered lives and calling into question the wisdom of trusting your heart to a man you can never touch in the flesh.

Kirby Crow worked as an entertainment editor and ghostwriter for several years before happily giving it up to bake more brownies, read more yaoi, play more video games, and write her own novels.

Kirby is a 2010 winner of the Epic Award and a two-time winner of the Rainbow Award for her published works in fiction.

Her published novels are:
Prisoner of the Raven (historical romance, Torquere Press, 2005)
Scarlet and the White Wolf: The Pedlar and the Bandit King (fantasy romance, Torquere Press, 2006)
Scarlet and the White Wolf: Mariner's Luck (fantasy romance, Torquere Press, 2007)
Scarlet and the White Wolf: The Land of Night (fantasy romance, Torquere Press, 2007)
Angels of the Deep (paranormal/horror, MLR Press, 2009)
Circuit Theory (scifi, Riptide, 2012)

Reya Starck lives in England, never gets quite enough sleep, and is a professional procrastinator and consumer of chocolate. By day she is an intrepid bacteriologist, eradicating microbes for a better world order. By night she writes wonderfully queer stories featuring an array of lovely men.

My thanks go out to Reya and Kirby for including Bitch Factor 10 in the Circuit Theory Virtual Book Tour. I'll (virtually) see everyone later!

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