This is my personal blog and does not necessarily reflect the collective views of Hard Limits Press

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How to leave a good phone message

A lot of us have trouble with social interaction for one reason or another. Maybe you're on the autism spectrum. Maybe you have social phobia, or you grew up in an extremely restrictive environment and you're only now finding yourself dealing with the real world.

When I was a child I had a number of hurdles that kept me from interacting as fully as I might have liked. I didn't understand why people did things or why, partly because my blindness kept me from studying people's expressions. We learn so much from imitating each other, a limitation like that can have a profound impact.

So, here's some things I've learned. I had to make a conscious effort to watch and decode the behavior of others, so I could make the connections I wanted. Today, I'm going to talk about leaving a good phone message.

It can be terrifying even picking up the phone. If you're to the point where your anxiety won't let you interact through this medium, please consider seeking professional help. Avoidance of phones, email, messaging and so on can be a sign of deeper problems. However, if you're at the stage where you'd like to try and tackle communicating in this fashion but you still have some lingering fears, here are some things to consider:

Who are you calling, and why?

Let's say you have a question about a particular university's admission process. Let's assume that you've gone to their website and you have the number for the admissions counselor. This is the time to figure out exactly what you hope to gain from leaving your message, and what exactly your questions are. Write down your questions ahead of time. "Do I have to use sources in my admissions essay?" "Would topic X be appropriate for my social problem analyses?"

What does the person on the other end of the phone need to know about me and my issue in order to best address my needs? 

Let's look at this through a continuation of the admissions process example:

A good phone message has a progression much like a basic essay. In a basic essay you have a title page. In a phone message, this is your nuts and bolts info. Provide your name, your number, and why you are calling. Listen carefully to the message and note anything they specifically want you to add, like birth date. List these: "Hello. My name is Tiger Gray. My birthdate is <XXXXXX> and my phone number is <XXXXXXXXXX>. I am calling because I'm curious about the requirements for my written admissions essay." You can also put the phone number stuff at the end of the message if you so desire.

In an essay, we'd now go in to supporting paragraphs. In a phone message, this is the time to provide specifics. Your watchword here should be brevity. Keep it simple and direct, since this will keep you from rambling and will make it easier for the person on the other end to discern your reasons for calling. "I'm curious about whether I need to include sources in my social problem analyses. If so, what style of citations would be appropriate?" Now, plenty of folks can't simply come up with this level of precision on the spot, so again writing things down ahead of time will greatly lessen anxiety and do away with the feeling of being put on the spot once that little answering machine beep kicks in. Try to devote only one or two sentences to each sub paragraph, if you will.

Your conclusion should include an acknowledgement of the effort the other person will be making on your behalf, and a subtle prod to have them call you in return. Essentially all you have to do here is say, "thank you for your time and I hope to hear back at your convenience."

Hang up! You're done!

Other tips and tricks

Tone of voice can make a big difference. This is one of those squishy concepts that can be nigh impossible to grasp. If you have anyone you trust, ask to practice in front of them so they can give you feedback on whether you sound, bored, pleasant, irritable etc.

Many people often complain that things like small talk and good phone messages and the like are superficial and silly. Remember, these things are social lubricant and can make sharing this planet with billions of other people a little more bearable. Any time you can establish a mutually beneficial connection, the likelihood is that your experience will improve alongside.

A handy script:

1). Hello.
2). Name, phone number, other information as requested.
3). Questions you have or points you need to make, basically the reason you are calling.
4). Conclusion and thanks.
5). Hang up and pour yourself a big glass of wine. (or whatever your calming drink of choice may be.)

Hopefully this has been helpful. If you're ashamed of needing a script for something as seemingly simple as a phone call, know that many, many people trip up on things like this. It's a skill that you can learn, not an inherent quality. Good luck out there!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

first draft stuff!

Hey all. I have some very rough unedited stuff from the new novel to show you. This book is a prequel to No Deadly Thing, set far back in history. There probably won't be a direct bridge to the events of Ashrinn's world, but this one needed to be done so I could figure out the cultural basis for the Wolfen. 

Again, this will probably change with edits, edits, and moar edits, but here's a sneak peek anyway:

6 Sky waited at the foot of the temple, gazing up at its steep sides. The masks carved in to the cliff face at the top caught the sun each day, the leering faces glowing gold and red in turn. The humans came out in to the ball court at high noon to play the sacred game, presenting offerings and tithes to the Lord of the city. Their chanting reverberated even in to the caves of the Bat wayob, stirring the soulchangers and mundane kin alike.

The human priests wove golden feathers in to their capes and coats and heaped praises on the Lord and his council, calling down the light and its blessings. The jungle made it easy to revel in signs of life. Everything from the bright birds to the chattering monkeys to the moist, warm air reminded the humans that the days belonged to them.

But at night, the humans hid and cold hung between the trees like funeral cloth. The mortals sensed that the moon belonged to the wayob and to women, when the path to Xilbaba stood open. 6 Sky knew that if they won the city from the Jaguar people, she would be headed to that same Underworld soon enough. She looked up at the White Path, the trail of stars that made up the branches of the sacred ceiba tree, the Raised Up Sky. She felt no fear. How could she, when the glory of the gods and goddesses was right there for the naked eye?

She stood straight and proud as her mother tucked white flowers in to her hair and hung sacred jewelry around her neck. The gold and jewels felt heavy and cold. Yet, her heart felt hot in her breast. Already 6 Sky could imagine the void child holding it in her claw, still beating, ready to be eaten.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Update + new book in the works

Hi guys. Yes, I'm still alive. I have to be careful about how I use the internet for my own health, but things have been getting steadily better. Every time I identify a trigger I gain power over it. Anything that contributes to my autonomy is a plus.

Now that said, I've started the next book. I'm going backwards in time and fleshing out the mythology that informs the present in terms of the Twisted Tree world. This could turn in to a trilogy all its own. If you're in to really immersing yourself in a big world with a lot of things happening, this is truly the series for you. Technically it's urban fantasy but as I go forward as an author it becomes apparent to me that these works have more in common with epic fantasy than anything. They're quite character driven and probably always will be.

I bet many of you have manuscripts that suck. They sit in bottom drawers and on closet shelves, tucked away in shame somewhere. Well, so do I but I'm going to mine them for good ideas and apply my current skills to them. This book (books?) is one of those stories. It's turning in to something I'm proud of. Once I'm a little more solid as to where I am going plot wise, I'll post some excerpts.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Link salad

And now for something completely different.

I give the side eye to any article that mentions The Help in a favorable light, but it's only a small bullet point in an otherwise very interesting article. Kelsey McKinney writes about how It's Frustratingly Rare to Find a Novel About Women That's Not About Love

Dear fandom, I have sinned. I am not a big fan of Joss Whedon. I know, I know. But even so the guy has some good advice on how to get shit done, which lord knows we all have problems with.

Who I am as a writer can in part be summarized thus: I like to take tropes and twist them. I've always thought of No Deadly Thing as a fractured fairy tale of sorts. Oh, I ought to warn you that the first link is to a T.V. Tropes page. Abandon all hope of productive work, ye who click here.

So, Laurell K. Hamilton's newest Anita Blake book, Affliction, is out. Fangs for the Fantasy has a review up here . I am weirdly obsessed with LKH. I find her gender politics absolutely disgusting, the treatment of rape as well, not rape really gross, and the blatant homophobia deplorable. Yet at the same time these books have hidden gems there that I just want to dig out of the mud and admire. She deals with things that I want to address in my books (polyamory, BDSM). She writes a world like mine. But she has been off the rails for at least ten books. I don't understand! I can't stop watching!

In positive news, Donate to the Carl Brandon Society!

Robert Lashley is the smartest. Seriously, check this guy out.

And since I think it's important to spread love as well as outrage, Warren Buffet continues to be a class act.

Peace out.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

"his ripeness"

His ripeness is apparently an erection and not an alarming snakebite or worrisome reaction to shellfish.

LKH calls being double penetrated being "double berthed."


P.S. Chelsea is now snarking Incubus Dreams. Don't miss it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Wish me luck!

The James Tiptree Jr. Award

Thanks to Nisi Shawl for telling me about this opportunity. It was awesome to share Dealer space with you at Norwescon!