Reading Problems and New Steps

I’m trying to read this one book, but I don’t really like how it’s written. I’m determined to get through it, though, before I move on to the ones I just ordered online. I know I’ll tear through at least one of those (Kelley Armstrong is my spirit animal some days), and so I’ll use that as incentive to get through this one.

It’s disappointing because the author is a woman, and I loved the sound of the plot premise so fully expected it to not be such a struggle for me to read. I still like the story itself thus far, but there are a couple of things that tear me out of it, and therein lies my disappointment.

One is that she chose to write her protagonist as a man, and for me, it’s just not working. It just doesn’t read male, to me. I can’t put my finger on it, whether it’s the language used to convey the character’s inner thoughts, or imagery described, or even just the fact that I knew the author was a woman going into it, so my mind just keeps going back to a female voice when it’s supposed to be a male. It’s fine, but having to continually remind myself that I’m reading from a guy’s perspective makes it difficult to remain enveloped in the story. I think if the character was female – as my brain keeps insisting – I’d have a much easier time of it. And she would be pretty kickass so far, too!

Another little quirk that’s just annoying to me is her constant use of italics. Like, every few sentences. Be it to accent something a character (any character, all characters) says, or just in the narration – I had thought at first that maybe it was some kind of code, because the words she chose to highlight didn’t always make sense and seemed kind of random on occasion, but I think maybe she just loves italics. Loves them. Overuses them to the extreme, in my opinion. I have started trying to train my mind to just not see them, because stressing that many words on a single page can be exhausting to read.

I’m not going to reveal which book it is, as I like to support authors, especially lady authors, but yeah…it’s a frustrating read thus far, which is really unfortunate.

Tim and I are hopefully getting started on a little something new, now, too. I am cautiously excited about it, even though my fail rate lately has been pretty complete! If by some chance it works out even remotely the way I hope it will, it would require very little extra effort on our part to maintain, but enrich The Mind Reels, our audience, and perhaps even some young lives by unimaginable volumes! As with many of my ideas, the possibilities are endless, but my ability to see them through to fruition is, more often than not, average on a stellar day. So we’ll see. I really hope it takes off, but I won’t hold my breath.

At least we are trying, though. There can be no measure of success without first putting in the effort to take the initial steps, so in that, at least, we are closer to succeeding today than we were yesterday.

And sometimes that makes all the difference.

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Volunteering

This morning, I went to my first volunteer shift at a place called Hands On Exotics.  They are a shelter/zoo of sorts, accredited by CAZA but not open to the public.  They take in mostly animals on the more exotic side of the spectrum, from rats, bunnies and ferrets, to parrots and other bird species, to a whack of reptiles and snakes, all the way to a lynx, various lemurs, a porcupine, kangaroos, a quokka, skunks, foxes…and the list goes on.  Many came from being either pets that were given up, or illegally owned, some from other zoos, but not matter where they come from, each individual critter has a story.  And the people who work at Hands On Exotics do their best to give each one of them the best quality of life possible.

They do a lot of outreach with many of the animals – birthday parties, presentations, fairs and other shows.  Some of the animals have appeared in film and television, and some are even capable therapy animals.  Any funds earned are funnelled back into the centre and the maintenance/improvement of the animals in their care.

A former co-worker and I once talked about possibly hiring them to do a birthday party for US, and we planned to only invite a handful of people so that we could mostly have the animals all to ourselves!

I actually haven’t ruled that out, if I could save enough for it and find a place we could do it outside.

Anyway, any doubts or concerns I’d had about volunteering there were laid to rest during the orientation session, but I really didn’t have a good sense of what it would be like until I worked my first shift.  That’s what I did today.

I did basically 3 tasks, and there were a couple on the board that I didn’t even get to, but already there’s a ton to remember, and to keep in mind.

I started off in the small rodents area, where I had to wash/change/refresh all the food and water dishes.  There were rats, ferrets, sugar gliders, a bunny, hedgehogs, and an opossum.  Or possum?  It was sleeping and I can’t remember what the sign said.  Anyway, most of them were pretty easy, even though I was slow at it.  I did each thing one at a time so that I wouldn’t forget anybody’s bowl.  The only real issue was the bitey ferrets.  Two of them were okay and mostly ignored me, but the other two (and I was warned) were not going to make it simple for me.  I locked them into one part of their cage so that they couldn’t get at me while I changed their bowls out.  But then I had to drop their ladder back down so they could get to their fresh food and water.  I put on some gloves to give me an extra layer of protection, and just as I managed to loosen the ladder, one of the little boogers nipped at me.  But…gloves, so no harm done.  They look at you so innocently and cute, too.  I considered it to be part of my initiation.

Up next was misting the reptiles.  Only 4 get misted on Sunday’s – a chameleon, an iguana (who loves it), and two different kinds of python.

Yeesh.

Luckily, it wasn’t as involved as I’d feared, and I was actually okay with it.  I kind of liked it, too, because it was refreshing after getting so sweaty earlier.  I didn’t finish that part, though, because I was up in the bird area changing papers in the small bird cages, and when I went to check on the misting situation, everything had already been put away.  I’ll try to be more on top of that next time.

The bird cages were interesting.  I was paranoid about any of them escaping, so that took me longer than it should have, too, but I’ll get better at all of it as I go.  I talked to the birds a bit as I worked, too, since I’m a stranger, and all.  There were two in the final two cages that weren’t impressed with me at all.  I think one just got tired of me taking so long.  The other was in a bad mood today to begin with, so her patience was only ever going to last so long, anyway.  I started going back and forth between the two until I got both done, so it took a while, but was a success overall, I think.

Plus, one of the bigger birds in a cage across from the ones I was working with started talking to me!  Naturally I talked back.  Well, responded – not talked back.

Anyway, there was a lot of “hello” back and forth, and then a few rounds of, “I’m a pretty bird!”

“You ARE a pretty bird!”

Made me laugh.

It was around the time that I was finishing up those last two bird cages when something completely random and never happens…happened.  I won’t go into details because they are not important.  What’s important is that I got to go into the lemur enclosure for a few minutes!!!

One my first day!!!

There were two occupants left in there because everyone else had gone out to a show our something, but the more outgoing of the two spent some time on my shoulder, and the timid one let me crouch next to him while he had a snack.

And I freaking love lemurs, so this was pretty ,Cush the greatest end to a shift I could have imagined.

I’ll go back next weekend, and see if I can get things done a little faster on my second go at it.

For now, my exhausted body hurts.  Time for beer.

Writing Choices

I realized something this morning, or at least noticed it happening again.

I was going over in my head some of the things I’m planning to do with the story contained in my first novel, and what I’m toying with having some of the characters do. One in particular is bothering me more than I’d realized at first, because it’s the one loosely based on moi.

Now, don’t get me wrong – our lives are not at all the same. I have a brother not sisters, I am the oldest not the youngest, and I am nearly a decade older than the character is in the book. I’m not with a Sarah, both my parents are still alive, I didn’t grow up in that house, or have Trick for a dog. I don’t think I’ve ever even carved a pumpkin for Halloween. Not on my own, at least.

So really, I guess that character is just more like how I think I’d react in the situation I wrote her into. Though I guess that could be said for everyone I write, in a way, because there’s part of me in all of my creations, to a certain extent. But that one in particular was written to give myself an alternate story to exist in, just as Sarah was written to give the person she was inspired by a different imaginary path to tread upon. Neither of them are more or less real to me than the others in their story, though. I just have I guess more of an emotional attachment to one in particular. I don’t want her to do anything I don’t think I would do.

But since the screenwriting conference, I’ve been considering doing just that. I’ve been struggling with a reason for it – a believeable reason, something that felt true – and haven’t come up with one as of yet. I did come up with a plausible yet similar act for which there would be justification (at least in her mind and kind of mine), so I might very well go with that. I’m not certain it’ll make the story stronger, but I’m not sure that it won’t, either, so I am betting on at least keeping the sense of truth to it all, instead. Because truth can do wonders for the power in a story, and for real life.

The crazy thing I realized or noticed again this morning was how much it was actually bothering me to try and come up for a reason for my character to do something against my own inner traits. I felt a little nauseous, and distracted, headachey and sadder than usual. When I say it was depressing to think about – to imagine possible scenes that would lead the character down the path to making that choice – I don’t mean it in a flippant or surface way. I mean that it affected me on every level – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. I felt horrible just thinking about it in detail and trying to make it work.

My imagination can be pretty strong sometimes.

I felt worse about that than I have about many actual things that have happened.

So I’ve decided that – whether it works in theory or not – it won’t work for me. As in, I won’t be able to make it work, not for that character. I could easily have a different character in the story perform the act as it started out in my head, but that would have been more believable and far less powerful than having this particular character do this particular thing, but have the scenario leading up to it be a little different from what I had originally considered. Which means I get to add power to my story, while not making myself sick, or at least not in that way.

It’s amazing how much better I felt as soon as I realized the effect even thinking about it was having on me and made the decision to literally change my story. Even just a tiny alteration made all the difference.

Short Story Long

I am a storyteller.

I think I always have been, for at least as long as I could speak and think in language.

I have always written stories, dreamed stories, imagined stories, and told stories – for as long as I can remember.

Unfortunately, for the most part, this aspect of my personality does not manifest itself in a good way. Instead, it causes me to ramble on and on, and watch the eyes of my family and friends glaze over as they patiently wait for me to get to the fucking point. Oftentimes, I go on so long that I can’t even remember whatever I was trying to say, so I ramble on longer, hoping it’ll come back to me eventually if I just keep talking. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I bore even myself.

Sometimes, when I finally do arrive at the goal point, I realize it really hadn’t even been worth the journey to get there.

I fill up space with words, and realize that – while there are a lot of them – they haven’t really been understood by the listener or reader. All that effort, all that time, and still no point of connection made. Sometimes we’re not even in the same book, let alone on the same page.

My vocabulary is not very advanced, to be sure, but even using all the words I do know is not usually sufficient in expressing whatever it is I am trying to share. And the more I go on, the further away from my audience I drift. I live in a world where I don’t really speak the language to any degree of common fluency, and yet still I try to string words together into something that makes sense to another person. Like a fool, beating my head against the wall, over and over again. Endless, which I’m certain is how some of my stories feel to whoever I’m torturing with them at the time.

I realize they are not always that bad, of course. Most times, though. It’s become a joke on more than one occasion, that’s for sure. I can even feel myself doing it, and yet not seem to be able to stop myself. The easiest way to stop is to just not start. Usually. But then I sit with all those words in my head, and no place to put them. I feel like that confuses things even more.

Language, man. I’m not sure it’s really an effective tool for true communication. It’s just the best one we have. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t flawed. I am a walking, talking example of that!

I can’t even remember the actual point of writing this post.