Archive for October 2011

Adventures in gas

Several weeks ago I had a gas leak around the water heater. Of course, when the ONG technician came he couldn’t find anything wrong, and then it happened again a couple of days later. I think I figured out what was happening, after much research: the breeze from the dryer sometimes keeps the water heater from lighting. The only thing I’ve changed is to not let the dryer run after about nine o’clock. That way we won’t get gassed in our sleep if it happens again. It hasn’t.

Now I have another gas problem, this time with the furnace. It’s not a constant leak but appears to be related to the operation, like maybe the gas stays on after the fire goes out, or something like that. So the heat was right there, but I couldn’t risk it. We spent a chilly night under extra covers, and the kids sure did complain getting ready for school this morning.

So I have to call the furnace guy here in a few minutes. And I have to go to Walmart in Shawnee. And I have to drop off my resume at the college in Seminole, which means I want to look nice when I do. But if I have to wait for the furnace guy all day, I don’t know how I’m going to do that other stuff. I have to decide pretty quick if I want to just mail my resume, but I’m afraid it won’t get there by Monday, the cutoff date. It should, but it is the United States Postal Service, so, you know.

Still, not dying from a gas leak is priority one, so I’ll work it out somehow. Meanwhile, feel free to make your gas jokes. You know you want to go there. The ONG guy eyed my kittens and asked if I was sure it wasn’t cat gas I was smelling. There’s your bar.

Update: The furnace guys have come and gone and found no reason for the gas smell. They did find why it was running weirdly, and that's because of high gas line pressure. So now I have to call ONG to have them check the pressure, yada yada yada. Anyhoo, after lunch I'm going to get pretty and go drop off my resume and then to Walmart, even though I don't want to. It won't be long before won't get to decide how I spend my days, so I have to get used to it.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Posted by Sherri Cornelius

A tale of two jobs

The job search continues…slowly. I’m taking it slow on purpose, because my tendency is to go 24/7 on a project till I collapse, and after that collapse it takes a lot of time to get back into it. I saw the pattern emerging with the job search, too, working in spurts and ignoring between. I’m also trying to mix it up a little bit, spending a day on one or two tasks, like resume writing, and the next something else, like searching the Internet job boards and narrowing down the field, then the next day maybe following up on those. As a result, this week was more productive. I didn’t get burned out on any one thing.

Yesterday was feet-on-pavement day. I had leads on two jobs I thought worth pursuing. My expectations were low already, looking at the jobs available for someone of my education and needs. Most positions have seemed like settling; these seemed like a good fit. Since air freshener is a concern, I want to check out the workplaces before I apply, if possible.

The first job was doing land and title research for the Seminole Nation. The place I applied is 23 minutes from my house (I timed it). Just on the edge of my ideal commute and pay, but an interesting job worth checking out.

I think it was doomed from the start. They made me fill out an application, and some of the information they wanted I didn’t have with me. I kept making mistakes on the app, so it looked sloppy by the time I was finished. Then after I finally handed it back, the lady said I’d be doing most of my work in another town a full 15 minutes further down the road. The commute would eat up too much of the already-low wage. Also, they don’t withhold taxes, so that’s a hassle. My first visit to a potential workplace turned out to be a bust.

The second place was on the way back from the first place. It was sort of a whim to stop there, because I figured it would be too smelly, but I also thought, it’s right there, so why not? Seminole State College is 13 minutes from my house, so that’s a plus. It’s a college office, a pleasant, clean workplace—plus. It’s a college, so smelly, Axe-wearing young adults—minus. Pay is good enough, but the benefits are like a dream. I’d overlooked the fact that it’s a state agency with state benefits. PLUS.

The lady in charge was so nice. She took ten minutes out of her day just to tell me all about the benefits of working in her office, and I hadn’t even applied yet. She seemed very open to me as a person. I’m really glad I needed college transcripts and a cover letter to apply, otherwise I’d have given her this resume that isn’t tailored to the job. Just thinking about working there gives me shivers, makes me want to cry, and sends me into spontaneous prayer. Please let the smells be okay, please don’t let me sound stupid in my resume, please don’t let those couple of failing semesters put her off, please oh please oh please.

One note about the fragrance issue: I didn’t feel bothered while in the office, even though I could smell something, the source wasn’t clear. I think it might have been the people, and not air freshener, which, while still not ideal, gives me great hope I can tolerate it. One test of whether or not I’ve been exposed to copious amounts of fragrance is to smell the clothes I wore the next day. Your nose shuts down after a while, so it’s hard to assess it that way. So I smelled my clothes this morning, and … nothing. No smell, except for my own nervous sweat.

I’m afraid to hope, but I’m moving forward on this today. I have until October 24 to assemble all the documents, improve my resume, and write my cover letter—and of course I don’t want to cut it too close.

Getting a job is a lot of work.

Friday, October 14, 2011
Posted by Sherri Cornelius

So many jobs, so little relevant experience

Whew. The resume is finito. Finally! Well, I still have to write a skills page, because I’ve gained a lot of undocumented experience from my prolonged attempt to be a writer. Or wait. Maybe I should make that an entry in my employment history…? What do you think?

It’s amazing, the things you learn when you look at your history in the space of a couple pages. For instance, with the exception of one, all my jobs have been two years or less. The exception was five years, and I probably would have stayed there unhappily forever, if a Venezuelan hadn’t apparently needed the job more than I did.

There’s only one job I needed a resume to get, and that one lasted 3-4 months. The work was wonderful, but my boss was crazy. Looking back I can see she was probably an alcoholic, but I didn’t know what to call it back then. I still have dreams about working for her, in which I walk on eggshells and feel stupid all the time.

The work I enjoyed the most, regardless of environment, involved some kind of organization. The crazy lady job was office manager of a photography studio, before digital photography had completely taken over. That was my favorite work, cropping photos, collaborating with customers on extras, keeping records out the wazoo. My sewing factory job, the five-year one, was acceptable. I detested the environment, but with piecework you’re always trying to figure out a more efficient way to do it and then implementing it. The repetition was soothing. My wrists are shot now because of it, but it satisfied the (literally) OCD part of my brain.

Another really cool job was merchandising at a retail store, which I did on top of other, not-so-fun duties. Using my creativity to come up with displays and ads, using my hands to put those together, collaborating with different areas to make a cohesive plan that benefitted everyone—that was fun. If it weren’t for the extreme smells of the retail environment, that’s the one I’d go for. That or office manager. If I had a good boss, that might work.

I have trouble picking a direction. Too many variables. I’m still confident the right job is out there, but soon I might have to settle for the right-now job.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Posted by Sherri Cornelius

My experience with e-publishing

The past couple of days have been pretty cool. Since I put my short story on Smashwords, it’s been downloaded over 60 times. I find it unbearable not knowing how many are friends and family, and how many are strangers. So far I’ve had a review on Smashwords from Allie, and several have supported me by sharing my link on Facebook and writing short reviews to go along with it. Thank you all! In a few days it’ll go into Smashwords’ Premium Catalog, which means it will be distributed to online retailers. It’s been a fun experiment.

So the next step is to get it on Kindle Direct. I uploaded it yesterday, but it’s still under review so it’s not available yet. While I’ve put it on Smashwords for free, Amazon makes you charge a dollar minimum. I’ve got to figure out if I want to charge for the Smashwords version as well, but I don’t think I want to do that yet--I might have to charge and then give a coupon to make it free, because of Amazon’s terms of service.

Even if I don’t make a dime from online publishing, I’m glad I did it once. I’m now more secure in my knowledge of how publishing works, and the thrill of having work out there has erased most of my concerns about imperfection. And the thing is, I’ve found you can’t truly understand epublishing from just studying it or reading blogs—you have to dig in. I’m surprised at how not scary it is on this side of clicking “publish,” and while I thought I would feel more pressure afterwards, it’s actually been quite freeing.

I have a couple of books that couldn’t find homes with traditional big publishers (and a couple of small presses), so I’d been considering going with a small-but-successful online publisher like Damnation Books and others.(You might remember I edited for DB’s sister company, Eternal Press.) After all, they have a customer base all ready, free editing and cover design (free for me), and they pay for the ISBN. On the other side, self-publishing lets me keep a bigger chunk of the profits, and while I can’t afford to buy ISBNs right now, I could probably trade editing services with some trusted friends. And after making the cover for Mon Petit Ami myself, I think I might enjoy making others.

But I don’t have to decide right now. I’m not very good at taking incremental steps—a stumbling block to my writing career up to this point—so it’s time I learned. I’m slowly making a plan.

So what’s your experience with self-publishing?

Taking the plunge

TM cover 2 flat
An OCD housewife falls in love with her son's toy ninja--but she does find it odd that the toy speaks French...

Or possibly just dipping a toe. I took one of my old, beloved stories and published it on Smashwords. For those who've never heard of it, Smashwords is a website that automates the self-epublishing process. You upload your story, and their machine converts your file into all the popular e-reading formats. Very easy.

I have lots of friends who’ve published with Smashwords, but I haven’t been interested in doing it. My writing career was up in the air, so far that I didn’t know where it would come down, or even if it would. I needed things to settle--in particular, my feelings about writing. I’ve been hiding from the world while I sort things out.

Then a lot of things happened all at once. I had a birthday (41). We ran out of money and had to eat beans and hamburger stew for a week, which put me in action mode real quick as I started looking for a job. Putting myself out there flipped the switch, and suddenly I’m ready to start blogging again, Facebooking with purpose, discussing writing and publishing.

Now as this switch was being flipped, my friend Allie had a pretty awesome experience. She’s been self-epublishing on Smashwords and Kindle, and I don’t know where else, and she’s much more prolific than I, so she has lots of titles available. One day, Amazon started offering one of her titles for free and downloads went through the roof--like, 10,000 in a couple of days. She didn’t get a penny for these downloads, but thousands of people were reading her work.

It was eye-opening for me, watching this unfold. I had thought of epublishing as another career direction, with all that entailed: marketing and money and business and blah, blah, blah. I knew I didn’t want to do all that stuff myself. Allie’s exhilarating experience reminded me that writing is also fun, with an element of chance. The wheel of fortune can’t turn if you’ve stuck a stick in the spokes. The past couple of weeks has unstuck the wheel.

So. The story’s not perfect, but I’ve been waiting for perfection to grace me and I can’t wait any longer. The story’s good; some have told me it’s funny and/or creepy. It’s also free, so you don’t have to have a Smashwords account to read it. If you do read it, I’d appreciate a short and honest review. I promise I’ll still love ya.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Posted by Sherri Cornelius

Craziness in Blossomland

Craziness in Blossomland yesterday. I live about a quarter mile from a medium-security juvenile detention center, and every so often a kid makes a run for it. Where they think they'll go, I don't know--they aren't good at making wise choices or they wouldn't be in that place to begin with.

Anyway, Sunday night three of them escaped, only these were more dangerous than the normal escapee. All night and half of Monday the cops sat on my corner with their lights on. We're at the last intersection before country roads begin, so anytime something happens in town the police set up a roadblock in front of my house. (Like this incident.) I'm thinking of investing in a police scanner, because it's a bit disconcerting to have 11 cop cars converging in my yard unannounced. They don't like questions, either.

At one point, the Channel 9 van was also parked on the shoulder in front of my house. I hid in case they came knocking before I showered. They didn't come. Later I saw my neighborhood on the news, but since they were shooting from my yard they got my neighbor's house but not mine. They did get the corner of my yard when they shot the intersection. This is more than fine.

And everything's back to normal again.

Let's see, what else is going on... Well, I've had a cold for a couple of weeks now. I'm tired of coughing, mostly because coughing makes me pee my pants. (TMI?) Such is the lot of the middle-aged mother. Still looking for a job, but it sure makes my brain hurt.

I can only do job search activities for a couple of hours each day, so I have time to ready a short story for Smashwords. Yesterday I made a cover for it, and that was the hard part. I think I might be ready to put it in the queue later today. I don't know if self-epublishing will be something I use regularly, but I thought it would be prudent to familiarize myself with the process. Times, they are a-changin'.

Have a great Tuesday.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Posted by Sherri Cornelius

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