Thursday, February 28, 2008

"The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude" by Jeffrey Gitomer

This was in the corporate library, highly recommended by the director of my group, so in order to kiss ass a little bit in a way that is of low cost to me (as I read a lot anyway), I picked it up. My favourite part of this book was on p.7. This is where the author mentioned that Yes! Attitude is in fact trademarked, so if you want to use it in your powerpoints or other training material, you have to contact him first.

He talked early on about the difference between stupid and hokey. Stupid doesn't work; hokey does. I liked that.

However, I didn't even pay for this book (it came out of the corporate library), and I felt ripped off by it. Every few pages, there was a comment to "check out the author's website and enter in this secret code in order to find out the seven ways that you can sell shit to people with diarrhea" or whatever. I am already investing time in this book, I don't want to have to save my place, go boot up the computer, go to the website and probably be advertised to, and find out some other bit of information that may or may not apply to me so the author can make a little bit of extra money. Or maybe this is something that fiction writers should try out -- "back when I met my therapist Marianne... but you can read all about that in the previous volume, if you haven't picked it up already!"

Another thing that bugged me was a quiz that suggested that one should not watch/read the news. I get many of my best ideas from the news, and I'm not likely to give it up. So I guess I just have to keep progressing through life with my "think I have a good attitude, but really have much room for improvement" ways. I'm not sure I was the target audience for this book anyway.

And the definition of a good attitude was the same as the definition of a bad attitude which I thought was kind of NewSpeak. And I think that people who quote themselves and then attribute the quote to themselves are pompous asses. And the lists of "10.5 reasons why your attitude is lame, Robyn" was gimmicky. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what made that last item half as valuable as each of the others. But that's just me and my bad attitude.

So I was reading along last night, thinking it was generally full of easy solutions to complicated problems, and meant for a middle-class audience of salespeople. And Ed wandered in and asked me if we had a less falling-apart copy of "Wheel of Time" by Robert Jordan. I said no, and inside my brain I started to say something about "you're pretty hard on books, you know." But instead I said "It's rather known for falling apart. There are whole websites devoted to instructions on how to glue it back together." Because that's true. And Ed already knows he's hard on bindings. He doesn't need me to point it out again. So "Yes! Attitude" did lead to at least one positive interation.

Things I will try to incorporate into my life: "Not sorry; thank you." "How can we avoid this happening in the future?" is already a mantra, so I don't need to add that.

Anyway, the last couple of days at work have been funner than usual, because I came up with a project that both was requested by customer service, and is along the lines of things I enjoy doing. So maybe the book is working. I just can't see reading two pages of it every day.

Update (June 17, 2008)
I was feeling bad that I hadn't made the full effort reading this book, so I went to www.gitomer.com and entered a gitbit keyword so I could get one of his pithy pieces of advice.

Um, yeah. They seemed sort of like the list of things I have on my desk at work, where I write down my latest foibles to improve my own writing. But nobody else wants my word list -- definitions of discreet and discrete (I made that mistake in a manual once, and the QA guy who caught it thought it was funny and "unprofessional") and notes about avoiding the possessive just because one of my copy editors dislikes it and I dislike a lot of markups on my text. I thought the writing tips didn't apply to me. But maybe that's because I'm not writing "motivational" stuff. Or maybe, I should write a "Motivational" hardware manual sometime. That would be entertaining.

3.5 reasons your module did not work after being installed in frame
1. Board and frame goals not aligned (module not seated correctly).
2. Frame not motivated (frame not on).
3. Frame disempowered (as in, power cord not connected).
3.5 Front module and back module goals not aligned (front and back modules do not match).

(The problem here being that in the TW world, this would be a bulleted list, because a numbered list indicates a sequence of steps to produce a desired outcome. )

Well, I used my corporate email address when I was forced to register. I hope they're sorry they made me read this book now!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"Incubus Dreams" Laurell K. Hamilton

This is I believe book 12 of a series. I haven't read any of the preceding books. It's an interesting exercise to read, because I always feel like editors force authors to put in little explanations for the benefit of people who haven't read the other books, and those little gifts are annoying to me as a reader-from-the-beginning.

Well, let me tell you, those little gifts are annoying to me as a reader-for-this-volume-only as well. I wish there was a better way to work in that Marianne was Anita's therapist a little more smoothly. I feel like the editor wrote on "Introduce" or something in various spots, and the author did so in the most hostile way possible. There was no massaging. Either that, or the author was writing 1300 words per day come hell or high water in order to finish the draft and had a projected page count that was way higher than suited the plot, so it was all written stream-of-consciousness.

So the book opens with a wedding, and then our hero Anita gets called out of the reception to consult on a murder investigation. She goes back to the wedding and has sex and relationship problems for about a hundred pages, then goes to the office and meets a couple who want her to re-animate their dead (murdered) son, then has sex and relationship problems for another hundred pages. And the sex and relationship problems are special, because she's a necromancer who has a pet vampire and a vampire lover who has a psychic connection to her, and lives with a couple of WereLeopards and has a Werewolf ex.

One of my favourite passages was where she discovered thongs (the underwear, not the sandals). She went on at great length about how cold her butt felt while she was wearing it, and how she hadn't realized that the little scrap of silk or cotton was providing so much warmth. That was because she was wearing a short skirt over the thong, but anyway. TMI.

About Chapter 48, which could be summarized as I went inside and went to sleep, I realized that what the book really lacked was a sense of proportion. Every event, no matter how miniscule, is spun out into a chapter. We followed as Aniat unlocked various doors and looked in various rooms before selecting a bed to lie down in, for probably one writing day's entire 1300-word count.

And then, about page 550 or so, Anita stopped having sex all the time and actually solved the mystery. There was only one more sex scene in the whole book (actually, the fact that she could stop all the sex and do something... I'm trying not to say useful or productive, because certainly for her the sex seems to be more goal-oriented than for the rest of us... was a plot point). At work, I would occasionally describe the dreck I was reading, in my usual colourful terms, and people would ask me why I kept reading it (I get the feeling a lot of people around here don't read much at all). You know, all the sex was annoying, but the blurb from Diana Gabaldon on the back had a point: the world she's created is really interesting, and she's got an excellent imagination, and there's a lot of depth to the world, and really interesting characters with interesting problems. I just wish she had a good, ruthless editor.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I am Toronto

Every once in a while something happens that reminds me that I've lived here a really long time. I mean, usually we live our separate lives, Toronto and me. I don't attend any of the fabulous cultural activities that are available here, or visit many of its sights or sites, or dine in any of the fine, unique restaurants.

But today my old apartment burned down.

I walked past it on the news on the TV near my desk a few times this morning -- 6 alarm blaze, Queen St. W. I thought nothing of it. A colleague pointed it out as some big fire, and said a famous, historic bike shop had burned down. I said I'd bought a bike there, and felt I'd been ripped off. (That was wrong, actually. I bought the bike farther down Queen W., and it was when I was still thinking the fire was on the north side. That was probably because the TV faced northwest in my office, which is a little snippet of insight into my bizarre geographical sense and nothing else.)

Someone else came in and said "Oh, that's old news, I heard about it on the radio on the way in," because the TV kept showing it (CablePulse24 is on 24/7 over my desk). I saw mention of Queen and Bathurst, and then the south side of Queen between Bathurst and Portland.

I pulled out my map book to remind myself of where Portland was... was that East or West of Bathurst? East, it turns out.

I went to www.thestar.com, where naturally it was a lead story.

Featured in the article, the proprietor/ess of the dollar store at 633 Queen St. W. had lost everything. Her ID was in the cash register. And I thought, wow. That's an address I'll never forget. I used to have a PO box of 633. I had an employee ID number of 633 when I lived at 633 Queen St. W. At the time, it was just a weird synchronicity, but it certainly meant I'd never forget the number. I always described it to people who knew the neighbourhood as "three doors from The Big Bop". I guess that would be gone now, too.

I lived there for about 18 months. Downstairs wasn't a dollar store then, it was an appliance store. I had the steepest stairs ever, the ugliest mustard-colored walls. I had a bedroom and a bathroom, and I shared a kitchen with three other people, and none of them lived there as long as me. There was a guy who smelled weird, and another guy who had no furniture. And there was this girl who worked at a clothing store and drank a lot of vermouth. Like, gallons of it. She asked me once, when she was preparing for her mother to visit, if there was anything wrong with her room, if she'd cleaned it up nice. I mentioned the 23 or so (I didn't actually count) vermouth bottles behind the TV. She was surprised I'd noticed them. I wonder what happened to her.

At the time, it was an amazing place to live. I could walk to work. I could walk home at midnight and feel reasonably safe, because there were always people on the street. I could always get a falafel when I needed one.

I didn't know it had been designated a historical block. I wonder if that had been so people wouldn't knock it over to make condos (Toronto might have enough condos). I hope it wasn't burned down by an accidental meth lab explosion.

Maybe someday soon I'll take a vacation day and go down to Romni Wools, and walk by my old block.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"Skulduggery Pleasant" Derek Landy

I didn't like the first hundred or so pages that much. I felt like it needed massaging. It seemed like the first book in a harry potter-like series, they were trying to set too much up. There was too much dialog, not enough action. And every once in a while it felt like DL was introducing an item just to move the plot along.

The book opens with the death of 12-year-old Stephanie's uncle. At the funeral and then the reading of the will, Stephanie sees the title character. She's left pretty much everything in the will, except for a car, a boat, a vacation home, and some ugly jewellery. She decides to stay in her new mansion overnight, and that's when the bad things start to happen.

Eventually things improved. The characters stopped talking quite so much and started doing things. They bought clothes and rode around in cars, got horrible injuries just like adults in thrillers and kept going anyway in order to save the world. They did magic and created alliances and got double-crossed. Stuff turned out to have been important that was mentioned in passing in the beginning. I quite liked the end, though. It tied everything up while leaving plenty of room for sequels.

The author's bio was excellent, too. He teaches karate to kids in order to build his own munchkin army. Hey, I want to do that!

Unfortunately, as I read I realized I was planning future fashion purchases on this 12-year-old heroine, and that may be kind of lame. I may need a fashion intervention. But, since I rarely buy anything because I can't seem to throw anything away, maybe I won't wind up dressing like her.

Monday, February 04, 2008

"Pushed" by Jennifer Block

Nonfiction, horribly depressing. I read this over Christmas, actually. My dad had asked for it, I think because the author went to BU (though not at the same time as him). It's about why so many US women have bad birthing experiences (C-sections and inductions, etc). It seemed extremely one-sided, and the doctors and OB/GYNs came off pretty badly. And as usual, the drug companies didn't come off that well, either. I would have found the argument more convincing if every mention of the doctors doing all this inducing and C-sectioning hadn't been so snide.

The book made me think, though. For example, one time I was sitting around chatting with a couple of female coworkers, and I said I had been induced, and one of the others said "oh, we were all induced". Interesting. Why? And that in Canada, not the US, where the book is about.

I have a short story in my head about this, actually. Maybe when I'm done the draft of what I'm working on now (when I'm done the next draft in the Saturday Night Rewrites project) I'll whip something up.

Speaking of Saturday Night Rewrites, after falling off the wagon for two weeks (one because I had to go out of town to a wedding that took up the whole weekend, the other because I'm lazy), this weekend I managed to not only get through the paper draft, but pick up one of the 2-hour blocks I lost in the previous weekends. Now I just have to finish doing all the changes I marked. This seems like a "the sooner the better" task, so I don't forget where I was going with it all.

I'm thinking now is the time I should give more characters their forever names, so I can copy edit them better. I've moved tons of sections around, but I don't think I'm done with that yet. I've also found some places where I could have written more.

The thing I'm currently editing, which I refer to as "Toothbrush", is one of the few things I first-drafted on the computer. Next thing I edit I think should be something I wrote in long-hand. I want to see if there's as much "missing" content and the like when I've done it the other way. It's very tempting for me, when I'm writing on the computer, to not start at the beginning and progress in a linear fashion, but to write the start and the end and then fill in the middle. I feel like there's a lot of content missing in that middle now.