Dog Ear
Pitching (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 15 March 2018 00:00

’m not why I’m writing this – I should be telling you how to do things, rather than expressing my own shortcomings. But making a pitch is an art totally beyond me.

You might have remembered my review for Dark Matter. It was a cool book about possibility, life and its spawning timelines. I really enjoyed it and ranted about it in my review. Three of you reported to have pursued it and are all currently reading it. In that, I made a successful pitch.

But then there was Railsea, a book I read a while ago and am rereading. I am enjoying it a lot more and frankly, it’s still a pretty freaky book. So tonight I pitched it before the model railroad club. I presented a three-minute talkup, a pocket rant about it. Talk about a cold reception. Everyone gave me that “Can we adjourn?” look.

Why did one pitch work and another didn’t? I’ve thought about it on the drive home. For Dark Matter, I was pitching it to a reader site whereas the pearl of Railsea was tossed before the swine of the Orlando N-trak (not the best allegory, I’m afraid – I do like these guys). For Dark, I was writing – I could compose and reorder and craft. For Railsea, I was speaking – no editing here. And for Dark, I was writing it on a weekend morning when I was fully rested. Railsea was at 8pm after a long day filled with pointless meetings.

I’m going to think more about the art of the pitch and write about what I decide in future DOG EARS.

So read them when they come out.



Million Yen Women (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 07 March 2018 22:10

o the setup in his Netflix Series from Japan is that a young, rather unsuccessful writer finds out that some unknown person has “invited” five women to live with him. They are told that they must pay the writer a million yen a month (roughly $10,000) and cannot tell anything about the invitation or answer any personal questions. And, seemingly, all of the women can afford this.

Outside of his strange houseguests, there are other esoteric touches to this stage. A fax machine that spews out scrawling death threats. A flat-eared kitten that prefers to be called “cat”. The writer’s dark family secret (and his inability to write about anything involving death).

So this is a slow-paced series but what caught my attention was that it focused on writing, the act of such, and how to be true to your voice. Sure, his nemesis (a successful writer who places more worth on his “truths” that are warranted, his toady webhost, his spineless publisher). But really the focus is on Shin, his search for the voice that will drive him, the essence of being read by others and the shared bond between the writer and the reader.

I really rather enjoyed this little tale that looked at Shin and each of his women, gradually unfolding their beings for us to understand. It’s a story about writing (and not a well-received story – two stars or so on the ratings). But if you are reading this then you are interested, to some degree, in writing. So yes, check this series out and see if you find your own truth in it.


Perv (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 28 February 2018 23:37

ot to go into details, but someone loosely tied to my team is getting rotated out. In the area I manage, it’s getting more and more obvious that this person can’t produce. So they are going into some sort of remedial track and rotating off to a slower-paced team.

And that got me to thinking.

On the train ride in, I began to empathize with that person. I know that in our remote location (half a world away) our culture and their culture sometimes clash. Things that are understood here aren’t there. Expectations, as foreign as they are, must be met. Or else.

And so that led to a short story idea. As the train rocked and the Brompton bike rubbed my leg in faithful devotion, I began to consider a story. Imagine a young Indian girl from a small village who wants to be successful and Western. Turning against family and culture, with disapproval ringing in her ears, she works her way through university and eventually lands a job in an offshore programming house. She’s on her way.

But what if she was no good at coding? University is one thing, Agile development under a tight cycle is something else. The classroom isn’t the meeting room. The world is not what you expect.

And what would this girl think, feel, and suffer as she sees her dreams implode, the reprimands  come in, her termination looming. Would she have to return to her village to suffer the chagrin of failure to everyone, parents, neighbors, suitors, everyone.

Everyone thinks that there is no cost to failing at dreams. But there is. Public dreams and public failures can be terrible. People suicide over less.

Off the train, onto the bus, back onto the bike, and at the desk, this image formed of this quite village girl so doomed in her pursuits. I could almost see her. I could picture the world she lives in (from my own trip to India and my own talks with coworkers). There she was, a character I my mind’s eye, an interesting protagonist for a short story. But who was she?

Since I was going to write at lunch, I needed a name to work off of (my tinytop doesn’t have internet access much these days). So I hopped about my work computer for names, saw one or two interesting Bengal names (you couldn’t be from a more remote region in India than West Bengal), and typed “Bengal female names” in the search engine. Found a couple of good ones and transferred them to the tinytop (i.e. I stuck a postit note to the case for later). Now the workday was beginning. I jumped into prepping for my meetings, pulling capacities and tasks and performance, everything I’d need for my fifteen minute standup. Took the room about ten minutes early, fired the wall monitor, brought up my displays in correct order (so we could work down through them in orderly fashion), connected to the skype call. The wall screen showed my laptop view. Now the team was coming in the room and I launched into the meeting – rapid fire, keep it moving, keep people sharp. If I can accelerate them, we’ll get more done over the long work day.

We were largely done – the teammembers had all given status, we’d looked over the two efforts, we had everything rolling. Two or three people were tussling in a code fuss, arguing finer points but since the meeting was just about over I let it pass. I was just standing there looking at the wall screen when I realized, in the upper corner, was the search: Bengal female names.

Remember those dreams about being in school in your underwear? This was kinda like that. Grimacing, I quickly highlighted the search and cleared it. Thought I’d pulled it off but then one of the arguers, an Indian mom, half-turned to me. “You trying to date Indian women now?”

Yeah, that feeling.

So yes, there is a danger to being a writer. Do they believe my explanation about story research? Don’t know. About the only way I could justify this now is to win a Noble in publishing for my short story (and frankly, they wouldn’t read it even then). At this point I’m pretty much down to smiling greasily when people joke about it.

Like in today’s meeting, when one of the Indians asked, “So, you go on a date last night?”

Ha ha. Very funny.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 February 2018 23:45
Fatalism (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 22 February 2018 00:00

thought I’d pissed off the Russian mob and had suffered a contract hit.

You’ll remember how I mentioned I shut off my blog comments because of all the entries being placed on it (sites get a lot more traffic the more places they are featured, which is a faulty algorithm that drives disreputable behaviors). I’d decided that the last time my site got hacked it was through this mechanism and, if anything, my feedback mechanism was getting stone-aged. Once I started getting volumes of Russian traffic, I decided to mitigate the risk and shut it down. And three days later, my site went down. Just totally, utterly blank.

I sat there looking at the void where my site had been, figuring I’d been vengeance-hacked by some angry Russian cyber-pirate. Something like a thousand postings (book reviews and Dog Ears, but even my trip reports) all gone. It was a lot to take in.

I lay in bed that night, wondering what I could do. Yes, I have backups but I’m not sure how to do a full cold restart (and even if I could, might I not get knocked down again?) And I had to come to terms that I might have lost it all. So, was that a bad thing?

One thing I learned (from my complete system reinstall after a malware attack) is that nothing is permanent. Hackers can get into just about everything. Margot Kidder went crazy years back when her memoirs were hacked and deleted – ended up babbling through people’s backyards in the dead of night, as I recall. But I’d read that the best armor there was against hacking was not to care. Do not place great sentimental value in the late-winter snow-dusting that is your computer files. Back up the irreplaceable. Print off the critical. And the rest? Be ready to bid it a sorrowful goodbye.

And that’s what I did. As I lay there, I changed my thinking from what I’d possibly lost to what might be my future site. First off, I’d find a better platform than creaky old Joomla. And maybe I’d change the nature of my blogs into a more freeform style, less formal, more flowing (possibly combining book reviews with writer perspective). Possibly a more engaging background than my parchment and pen template. But there was no rush – my replacement of would be careful and considered, not a blind rush to duplicate it. It was actually heady to shake off the chains of what-was and embrace what-could-be.

I dropped off to sleep for a bit but woke up in the dead of night. Just because I am who I am, I decided to look to the site one more time. Booted up and Firefoxed in and pop! Here was the Blogotorium, all up and running (slowly). I would find out later that a new Russian cyber-offensive directed at the Ukraine might have had something to do with it. So maybe that’s it and the worse is behind me. Maybe the site will stay up. We’ll see.

Tune in.

If you can.


P.S. GoDaddy (my host) confirmed that the server where this site resides had been down for a few days. The timing was magnificent.

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 February 2018 05:48

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