2013 March : Oh Fair New Mexico

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by Karen Fayeth

Tints My World View

Lately I am all about my Kindle. I had an actual Kindle eReader for a while and then I migrated to using the Kindle app on my iPad and iPhone.

Love, love, love it.

As a writer, I am interested in the people who manage to self-publish and get a little traction on Kindle. As in, who are these people who are making it into the Kindle 100?

As a commuter, I like quick, lightweight and fun reading to pass the time on long BART treks.

With all of this in mind, I went and scoured the Kindle 100 list for downloadable fun. On the top seller list, I found mostly genre books, and most of the genre stuff falls squarely under romance.

Hey, look, cheap romance novels and I go way back. I was reading Harlequin paperbacks when I was in mid-school. My Grandma loved those inexpensive books so much. She’d read one and then my mom, sister and I would pass it around when she was done.

Not much has changed in the romantic genre since moving to Kindle. I looked at all the cheap and tarty romance eBooks and paid anywhere from $1.99 to $7.99 for three different titles.

I have made my way through two of them and am working on the third. I find that immersing myself into this world of genre fiction has sort of tinged my world view. The real world and actual human romantic relationships look a little weird after living in genre world.

In no particular order, what I’ve learned from $13 worth of literary cotton candy:


Everything old is new again.


The basic formula for a good Harlequin romance goes something like this:

There is a dark and brooding man. There is a troubled and innocent woman. Their worlds collide in some fashion. Usually the man is some brash worldly guy like a sea captain or an army general (most Harlequin’s are set in a historical era).

She hates him or he hates her or they hate each other and they fight. He curses the headstrong woman, she alternately loves and hates how manly and forceful he is.

One or both of these characters has a secret. This secret means they can never truly love. That said, a little roll in the hay and it turns out that the love of a good person can cure all their problems.

Cue riding off into the sunset.

Yeah. Not much has changed. Instead of sea captain insert Chief Operating Officer of a big marketing firm, CEO of his family’s insurance company, and famous rock star.

I’m not making any of these up.

Apparently the new brash sea captain wears a tie and worries about his stock portfolio.

Also, apparently male victims of sexual abuse seem to be the new theme. In one it was his step mom, in another it was his foster mom, in the third there was physical but not sexual abuse because his mom was a junkie who died thus preventing him from ever truly loving a woman…blah blah blah.

*sigh*


One really cringe worthy success spawns many, many more. Like evil bunnies.


I am learning about this phenomenon called Fan Fiction, which has been around for ages, dating back to early Sci Fi books, and perhaps older than that, even.

In a nutshell, people love a book and then take the same characters or the same setting or both and write a new work. Rarely is the fanfic sanctioned by the original author. It’s written largely for other fans of the original work.

Just so you know, the author of the weirdly successful “Fifty Shades of Gray” series admits that she took her inspiration and characters from Twilight.

Hackdom begats hackdom begats hackdom.

I realized post-purchase that the authors of one of my three eBooks also took their inspiration from Twilight. Edward is now named Jake and wears a suit and is a surly corporate executive. Bella is now named Chloe and is an MBA intern.

Yeah. I might note here that I got through one and a half of the Twilight books and hated them immensely. So fanfic based on a series I can’t stand isn’t really working for me, but oh damn is it working for a whole lot of other people.


Careless disregard for the English language, grammar, readability, and formatting does not prevent the sale of books or degrade the author’s credibility.


So that book I just referenced, the Jake and Chloe one? Reached number nine on the New York Times bestseller list for fiction (and higher than that on the ebook list).

This, despite the fact that it was riddled with formatting issues, typos and grammar errors.

Just cuz ya popular don’t mean yer quality.

Whooo doggies. The language abuses I’ve seen.


Character development? Pfft! Who needs it?


Apparently writing about lots and lots of sex, in rather graphic detail, trumps the need to actually develop the characters.

Usually when reading a book I can “see” the characters. They take on fully formed beings in my head and in a book I like, they become like friends I get to visit with for a while.

Not from this book. I know very little about the characters other than he is tall and has tousled hair. She is short and skinny with dark hair. And has big boobs.

There you go. Characters for the ages.


Euphemisms! I got your euphemisms right here!


This is the most awkward part about reading these books. Look, even Harlequin used euphemisms for body parts and particular actions. You’d think some thirty to forty years later we’d be better at providing color commentary.

Nope. We’ve graduated past “towering manhood” and “her most delicate flower” but not by much. Now the in-favor euphemisms seem to be “his sex” and “her opening”.

I cringe just typing those words. Ew.

Can we just agree that “thingy” and “hoo-ha” are the generally accepted nomenclature and be done with it?


Everything ends up “happily every after” unless, of course, the author is working on grinding out a series of books.


And then it makes sense to leave your character lying in a pile of leaves in the woods, distraught over a break up (ahem, *coff*Twilight*coff*) and the fans begging for the next book.

Nice work if you can get it.

I had a rather in depth conversation with The Good Man last night over whether I have it in me to crank out some of this genre stuff. I *can* do it, meaning I have the skills and capability, but somehow it feels, to me anyway, a little soul deadening.

So this was a good sashay into the current state of publishing. Not sure what it means for my writing. Though my commutes have never been hotter, all that thingy on hoo-ha action!

Or, you know, not.

I guess at this point in my life, you gotta make it GOOD to get this old girl rolling. And by rolling, I mean something other than my eyes.





“Coffee Flavored Kisses” — java, my true romance!




Image Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone 5 and the Camera+ app, and sweetened by a little iPhoto touchup and an Instagram filter.




Let’s Get Caught Up

There I was complaining about Monday and suddenly it was Thursday. Where do the days go?

Oh, right, twelve hours engaged in job plus commute, eight hours sleeping, let’s see, that leaves exactly four hours for having a nosh and nuzzling my husband and using the ladies room. That is not much.

Excuses, excuses! Let’s get caught up!

Last week I told you about the new Photography Group that I had joined at work and my anxiety about it being a predominately male group (only three ladies) and men of science at that.

Well, I attended my first meeting yesterday. The cost of entrance was to upload two photos to our sharing site that are in line with the assigned theme. This month’s theme was depth of field/bokeh.

Fair enough, I had a couple photos I wasn’t ashamed to show.

Turns out it was a pretty nice group of guys. Yes, very scientific minded. Quite nerdy really, in that cool way that scientists who do major world bending research can be. Think the middle aged version of “Big Bang Theory.”

Let me just tell you this: Having an optical physicist evaluate your photo brings a whole new perspective to photography.

This guy showed off a little by asking what lens was used and what f/stop on one of the team’s photos, and then told us why the bokeh bubbles were shaped the way they were (if you look at bokeh photos you’ll see some are round, some are pentagons, some are hexagons, etc). It was actually fascinating, not that I could recite it again for you.

Something to do with the angle of the light and the shutter speed and the curvature of the glass on the lens along with focal point. He called the sides of the bokeh bubbles “blades”. Weird, yet cool.

Plus, his eye for the lighting and focus in the photos was like none I’ve ever seen.

All in all, it was a successful first meeting and we talked about the club’s upcoming photo show. I’m already trying to decide which photos I will add to the exhibit. Evidently they set it up near the cafeteria and as people walk by and see the photos, they are encouraged to vote for their favorite. Well ok!

In other news…

The meeting was held at the main site for our employer and I work at a remote location. I was able to secure the official department car to make the journey.

This ding-dang thing is a Ford Escape hybrid. My first issue was turning the thing on. I turned the key, it did nothing except blink a few lights at me. Now, in my beloved Jeep, if I turn the key and only get lights in return, it’s time to visit the mechanic. Not so with this thing. I kept cranking the key and it kept blinking at me.

Maybe it’s just me, but I like a nice solid rumble to my car’s ignition. Nice American metal that growls a little at start up and purrs at idle. Not the “oh yes thank you” silence of this thing! Bah!

The next problem is that the car was made for a Lilliputian, which I am most certainly not. I drove with my knees at my earlobes and when I whipped my head to the side to see if one lane over was clear, I bonked my head where the roof meets the window. I can’t even imagine the very tall Good Man trying to drive this thing.

The third problem is that my destination is at the top of a very steep hill. I usually drive my straight six Jeep up there, an engine made for towing and scaling hills. This little hybrid bucked and faltered and demurred the whole way up. I wanted to put one foot out the door to help push the thing up the hill. Lame!

But it got me there and since parking is quite limited at the main site, company cars get reserved spots. It was totally worth the trouble.

In other, other news…

After a long string of beautiful California days, it’s raining again. *sigh*

Though I’m not surprised. When I moved here a wise native gave me many rules of thumb for life in the Bay Area, one of which was, “It always rains for Easter.”

Indeed it does.

Well that’s where it’s at for this Holy Moly I can’t believe it’s Thursday.






Bokeh-riffic!




Photo by Abhishek Jacob and used under a Wikimedia Creative Commons license.




Oh. It’s You Again.

I see, well, as much as I asked you not to come, Mr. Monday, you have invited yourself into my life anyway. Fine. Harrumph. I know you feel you need to arrive here promptly every seven days, but rest assured no one here looks fondly upon your visits.

Why oh why can’t you be more like that beautiful boy Mr. Saturday? He’s always kind, generous and quite well behaved. I enjoy being in his company and revel in the smiles he brings. It’s so difficult after living in the sun and light that is Mr. Saturday to have to endure your sour puss face, Mr. Monday. I mean really. Can’t you arrive here with a little more class and grace?

You are all clanging alarms and car horns and rush rush rush after long glorious Saturdays of lazy fingers trailing in the lake and dandelion seeds on the breeze.

Ok, maybe if you can’t find it in your heart to emulate Mr. Saturday, might you perhaps try to be a bit more like Ms. Thursday? She’s still a work day but she comes with softer edges and kinder words. She still starts the day with a clanging alarm but her traffic is a little calmer and she doesn’t fill my email inbox with nonsense before 8:00am. She waits a little. Comes on a little less strong. Understands the needs and wants of the average corporate drone.

Shoot, at this point I’d take it if you would act a bit more like Ms. Wednesday with all her midpoint optimism.

But no, you Mr. Monday insist upon being a creep. A grump. A crufty ol’ toad and I, for one, don’t think that’s very nice.

Oh, you say you were quite kind to me on that last President’s Day three day weekend? Yes, that was true. Quite civil you were that day. You are nice exactly four times a year. Four nice government approved holidays that bring me you, Mr. Monday, wearing madras shorts, sunscreen, a big floppy hat and a rakish look in your eye.

The other 48 visits during the year you come on with a bad attitude wearing severe gray suits with sharp shoulders. Your unkind spectacles giving me clear insight into the horror of the week that lies ahead.

Why must this be so? Why can’t we capture the beauty and harmony of those four holiday Mondays more often? Loosen your tie a little!

But no, you feel you must be severe. And so I say…

Harrumph, dear Monday. Harrumph on you.








Image by user ltz and used royalty free from stock.xchng.




I’m So Arty. And Maybe A Little Farty.

It’s been two months now at the new gig and I’m really getting into it. The job, the management and the culture are all really in my wheelhouse. Even though I’m crazy busy and working hard, I really do like the job.

So I guess at sixty days into this gig I am making plans to hang around a while. When I went through new hire orientation, they talked up their employee activities program and mentioned that there are a lot of strong clubs here at the company. It seems most employees participate in at least one club. It’s not required, people just want to be involved.

Cool!

I took a look at the list of clubs and the one that jumped out at me was the photography group. Rock on! I haven’t been shooting much lately and I certainly need a kick in the butt. I belong to a photographer’s salon group where once a month we meet and critique images, but I felt like this new group would really expand my horizons.

I dropped an email to the co-presidents of the group, two female coworkers, who were listed on the webpage and told them I’d like to be part of the group. They answered pretty quickly and said they were actually the last year’s co-presidents (the webpage is out of date) and handed me off to the new leadership. In closing, one of the women said, “I’m so glad another woman is joining the group. It’s mostly men right now. They are all nice but it’s all men!”

Oh. Well ok! My photography teacher and mentor has spoken about this. She has been a professional photographer for a long time and has dealt with the male dominated world of photography for years. I’m unsure why it’s still so heavily male dominated, but fair enough. I know my work can stack up.

I got an invite to the online user group and to the meeting coming up next week. I also got access to the club’s site where members upload their photos. Each month there is a theme and a contest to pick a winner.

Whooo doggies, the photos on that page are really good but they are all very technical. I don’t feel a lot of emotion in the photos. Then I recalled that I work with mostly engineers and scientists. Yeah. These are the kind of folks who will sniffily say they only shoot in manual and can calculate the exposure triangle in their heads.

I have taken other photography courses, including a class from a well-known and well-respected landscape photographer. That guy wasn’t too uptight about the stuff, but several of the men in the class were. One guy challenged me on the spot to calculate the exposure triangle for a particular photo and I said, “Nope. I don’t need to. I shoot in Aperture mode and am happy there.” He looked like he had bad gas and walked away from me.

Look, I know *how* to calculate the exposure triangle. I just choose not to.

So we’ll see how this group thang goes. I decided I should put together a quick portfolio of photos to show the rest of the group what I’m about.

What do you think?





“Knob” — I feel this piece speaks to the inaccessibility of the world and the challenges of just getting past closed doors. Should you walk away or bang on the door demanding to be heard? That is for you to decide.





“Elusive” — This is a study in hiding behind false coverings, like the fur that covers a Cranky Feline. And the need to hide behind artificiality and illusion. The grain reminds us of the blurry nature that life presents and the need to have better lighting.





“Have A Seat” — The black and white really captures the moodiness that comes with the decision of whether or not to have a seat. The push-pull of subverting yourself to the will of powers greater than you or maybe standing up to fight instead. This thought provoking piece required meticulous set up and lighting.



I think I am a shoo-in for high praises and honor from this new club. I can hardly wait to reel in all my accolades!





All photos Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons in the right column of this page. (why would you steal these masterpieces anyway?). All three taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.




It Works Great. Until It Doesn’t.

Over the past months I have been regaling you, my loyal reader, with tales from the rails as I find myself commuting several days a week on the Bay Area Rapid Transit, colloquially known as BART.

I study timetables like a monk, leap tall staircases like a superhero and have learned which seats face forward for the ride (good) instead of backward (nausea).

I got this. I so got this. I am a commuter! And I have to say that for all the complaints and issues and bad press BART takes, they really do run a pretty efficient system.

Well. Most of the time.

Today was one of those outlier days.

Seems the San Francisco Police Department was alerted to a suspicious package at the Powell street station and thus all BART trains were brought to a rapid halt.

Not so much rapid transit as rapid sit there and wait.

I was further down the peninsula when this closure came down, so we sat at one station for about ten minutes. Then we advanced to the next station and waited about fifteen minutes. Then we moved on to the next.

I thought “ok, they are just slowing traffic. No problem.”

Nope. At the 24th street station they announced “This train is now out of service, all passengers must exit the train.” No warning. No lead up to the bad news. Just “get off!”

What? I say again….WHAT?!?!

So there I was about halfway through my ride standing on the platform in a so-so neighborhood of San Francisco wondering what in the sam hell I was going to do.

I considered taking a cab to a farther station along the line, but since no trains were being allowed through the onel station, there was really no advantage to this.

So I waited.

And waited.

Finally they said that trains were being allowed through the station but not stopping.

Fine.

A train came along directly that was already full of people trying to make the morning commute (they weren’t thrown off of their train!).

All of us orphaned commuters tried to shove onto that train but it just wasn’t working. Curse words were shouted. Bodies were smashed up against each other. I briefly thought that we needed Japanese-style commuter train pushers.

Me? I balked. I stood back from the fray.

Then I got smart. I turned away from the crowd and walked all the way to the end of the platform. When the next train arrived, there was hardly anyone waiting to get onto the first car and I slipped onboard.

All in, I was only about half hour later to work than I’d intended, so I can’t really complain.

But I’m gonna anyway. Ok, maybe not too much. In hindsight, throwing us all off the train seems like a bad idea. I think they took the train out of service in order to try to make up schedule time.

And the yo-yo who left the shoebox with blinking lights and wires isn’t BART’s fault.

But. Just. GRRRRR!






Image from SFGate.com.




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