The Anthropology of Office Attire: The Lady with a Tool Set.

I don't know how many of you readers work in an office, and I have had the good fortune to work in place where office attire was a very relaxed set of prescriptions as opposed to a codified law. That being said, there is still a level of conformity required when you are working in an office setting.

I was having this argument the other day with my older brother, Gabe, and he was complaining about how easy women's dress code was to follow. He proposed, even, that women didn't really have to follow the dress code at all.

I get where he's coming from. From all appearances, women's attire is the exception to the workplace outfit. Women can ignore things like 'must wear tie' and 'dress slacks required'. Even prohibitions against flip flops can sometimes be circumvented by a fancy sandal.


Whereas men have to follow a strict code that involves dress slacks and a button-down shirt, women, from the outside appear to have more autonomy. Not so. Women have their own laws.

I know this because I stress everyday about what to wear. You can't wear anything too revealing, and you can't wear something that is too eye-catching, unless you want to, and then it better look good on you.

You can't wear sneakers, or other comfortable shoes, but wearing high heels will make walking anywhere tourture.

You should aim to be trendy and fashionable, but if you try for trendy and fashionable and fail, it's incredibly embarrassing.

having worked in offices all over the world, it's always an interesting thing to try to piece together the rules for office attire.

In Korea, someone mentioned in passing that, wow I sure did like to wear bright colors, and hmmm it must be different in America, Korean women don't usually feel comfortable wearing such low cut shirts.
 - as a side note on that, it wasn't that I was wearing low-cut shirts, it's that I wasn't wearing turtlenecks, and anything short of that shows much more of the girls than is necessary. I refuse to wear turtlenecks on principle.

In Saudi, it was all about being the most fashionable, which was hard when you could get written up/ fired for wearing anything too revealing. In Saudi Arabia, 'too revealing' was anything that showed your ankles and above, and anything that showed your elbows and above.

As you can imagine, this seriously cut down our choices, and I was content to go to work in anything that would fit those prescriptions. But I always felt the pressure from my co-workers to dress more fashionable. We even had an award for the best dresser among the teachers.
 - as a side note: we didn't have a 'best teacher' award....

In America, it's a little easier, but not by much. You do have to be fashionable, but most stores for women's clothes I go to either try to sell you something my grandmother would wear, or something I wouldn't even wear to go clubbing in. There are very few shops that sell something in between, and even those have few choices.

Covering the girls is always a problem - like I said, I don't like turtlenecks - and the girls will have their say if I wear anything but. I've come to terms with this, because this is the way I was made, but it doesn't help when I get disparaging looks from women in the metro or cat calls from men walking down the street.

Fashion fluctuates, but it is rare that it favors the lady with a tool set.

This is all to present the question: Who has it worse?

Men have to dress by a strict uniform code and can rarely deviate into something more comfortable or interesting, but they don't have to worry about what they wear.

Women are expected to walk the line between fashionable and professional, and are constantly worrying if what they are wearing is acceptable, but they can flout some of the more strict provisions in the dress code.

What do you think?

As a side anecdote consider this:

One of my male co-workers told me of his experience at my current job, which has a very relaxed dress code. He came in the first day with a tie, and many people joked that he was being so formal.

He considered the joking good-natured and was glad he wasn't expected to wear a tie.

But then.

One day, about three months into working for our company, my friend, let's call him Zack, decided he would spice it up, and wear a tie to work. Within three minutes of him coming into work, several people had strong reactions ranging from making fun to despairing that Zack was making everyone look bad. One of his bosses came in and good-naturedly, but very firmly, told him to take it off.

It kind of went from joking to panicked in zero seconds flat. The reason for this, Zack told me, was because our new CEO wears suits and ties to work everyday, and everyone is worried he's going to up the ante on the dress code for men.

Apparently, no one wants to give him any ideas that they want to start wearing ties.

Meditations on Creative Juices

I haven't been writing for the past four months, and I'm trying to understand why, out of nowhere, I suddenly get the urge to WRITE WRITE WRITE like there's no tomorrow.

Maybe it's something like Mars being in retrograde, or some sort of biological cycle - something I have no control over, but I've been trying to put the pieces into a sensible whole.

And I think I've hit on something: I write when I'm bored, and since I am bored most of the time, I'm a perpetual writer.

BUT the last four months I've been consumed by moving and exploring the new neighborhood, and getting situated with the new job, etc. so I haven't had a chance to be bored. My thoughts have been all tied up in living my life. 

I can feel myself getting less stressed about the job, and settling into my house, so naturally, my brain starts to wander; and it has invariably wandered back to my current WIP, thank god.

I've found that, if I'm trying to work, and my mind goes off on a tangent like a two year old with a shiny new whistle, it's counterproductive to try and stop it. All of those 'lock your computer down so you can work' programs and apps don't work for me because when my Brain Two Year Old is deprived of something interesting, it refuses to work. I will then be spending my time trying to massage some creative juices out of my brain while it tells me to fuck off.

Many of you may have the same problem. 

So try this: Next time your Brain Two Year Old gets a new whistle, let it play. Give it a 10 minute time limit and let it exhaust itself on the topic. It will be much easier to bring your brain back to work then if you are still hung up on the new toy.

This can, and has, backfired for me. But the percentage of time I waste trying to corral my brain is SIGNIFICANTLY higher than the time I loose when my brain wanders off on a tangent for too long.

Something else I've discovered about my creative Juices: I write better when I'm miserable. 
Not depressed, you understand, because I have been that and it's not at all conducive to a creative endeavor. Miserable.

When I was in India for five months, I oscillated between being thrilled spitless at all the things and people around me, and wallowing in abject misery. 
This was because of many things that started with the frequency of stomach viruses I got (I lost 30lbs in India, and not in a good way), and ends with the unrelenting, soup-like heat. 
BUT some of my best writing was done then, while I was living out of a backpack, sleeping on trains, and being a general vagabond. 
I look back at my creative journals from that time and think: 'Man, that was a great piece of writing.' 
This is, btw, something I NEVER think about my creative journals. Usually it's: 'I guess I could make that into something good eventually' at best.

And maybe the quality and quantity of the writing had something to do with my surroundings. I had new things to look at every day and a constant supply of things to feed my creativity - old stories, crazy experiences, etc.

Plus, there were long periods of downtime when I was in India where we couldn't really go wandering, and we couldn't really do anything BUT write.

Usually my writing is better when I'm abroad, just because of the quality of the experiences I have.

I guess, in the end, I have surmised that I need several conditions to be creative

- I must have sufficient creative food
- I must have downtime (read: I must be bored occasionally)
- I must be out of my comfort zone (read: Miserable)

I've also found that certain things can also KILL your creativity. For me, it's TV. And I'm not saying this in a snobby I-don't-own-a-TV kind of way. I own several TVs. But when I sit down and watch something - even on netflix with no commercials - my brain is only receiving information, not being actively engaged. No matter how clever the story is, or how well-done the quality, it's still just sapping up my brain-power.

I limit TV watching to when I'm doing mind-numbing tasks: folding laundry, cleaning my room, cooking, etc.

This is something you should all figure out for yourself - what makes you creative? What feeds your writing? Do you have to take walks by yourself every once in a while (like I do)? Do you take a shot of whiskey before you start to write? Tell me about it in comments!

Before I sign off, I'd like to mention that my BFF has moved to Scotland (ABANDONING ME) and she is going to waitress and write like a true penniless writer. She's keeping a blog about her adventures as an American in Scotland and as a penniless writer, so you should check it out!

My Book is Published!

Here's the thing about creative projects: it's almost impossible to finish them.

When I'm painting, I'll have a painting sitting in my studio for months before I finally decide I need to stop, and even then I'll sometimes bring it back for touch-ups.

Writing is even worse, because there are so many moving parts, you just want to keep revising until everything is perfect. But here's a secret: IT WILL NEVER BE PERFECT.

Even if you get an agent and a million dollar deal with the dream publisher, you will still open the book up and immediately see a typo. Or think - well that sentence is terrible. It's human nature.

All this is to say that I've finally decided to put a ribbon on my first project - The Osprey.

It's not perfect, but I've spent so much time and energy on it that I need it to be done. It's fantastic for a first book, and I love it, flaws and all. I think it's a fun story and I loved the way I wrote it.

I'm face-deep in another project right now and I'm glad to be unburdened by the last one.

SO! Consider this my cover reveal and book launch all in one! I drew up a cover in Photoshop and self-pubbed through Check it out:

When Atalanta discovered she could move things with her mind, she did what any self-respecting girl with a hero complex would – start fighting crime. But crime is hard to come by in De Luna, Florida (population 1,982), where the only saving to be done is fishing pugs out of alligator-infested waters.

A crusading thief comes to town with a rob-from-the-rich mentality, and Atalanta, or the Osprey as the locals call her, gets the crime spree she always thought she wanted. But she doesn't count on the thief being just as interested in her as he is in looting the mansions on the waterfront.

Her boyfriend is getting jealous, her best friend is getting suspicious, and when Atalanta uncovers a drug trafficking ring operating out of the town's marina, she knows she's in way over her head.

She's left with no choice but to trust the somewhat charming, possibly stalking, definitely thieving newcomer who just might be behind it all.

Link to the paperback:

Here's the goodreads page:
If you read it - review it!

PS - I loved doing this cover, so if anyone is interested in getting me to do one for their book, I'd love to talk about it!

I Think I Joined a Cult?

I haven't been posting but this time there's a reason!

I moved last weekend, and I started a new job on monday, so lots of things have been going on.

Especially because... well I think I've joined a cult. Or been hired by a cult? Is that a thing?

Seriously, everyone I work with is so nice and open and friendly and this is DC where people don't do nice and open and friendly. Politically correct and politely evasive? Yes. Say hi to you on the elevator? They must have mistaken you for someone else.

So when everyone at work greets me in the hallway; when strangers strike up conversations with me in the elevators; when my new boss hugs me after knowing me for a week, I have to wonder. Is there something in the water? Or have I joined a cult?

Maybe - and this is the really crazy thing about where I work - maybe people just freaking love their jobs. Which is the strangest explanation of all.

I mean, I LOVE my job so far, but I'm still in the honey-moon stage, so my judgement can't really be trusted.

All this is to say that I haven't posted in a while cause I've been caught up with things. I've also not written in a while, but this weekend is a long one (four days) so I am going to devote it to being a LEGIT writer.

PS - if you are bored/want to read more short stories, check out Internet Troubadours - they have The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe up. Read it here:

My Foray into Cover Design

For those of you who follow me on twitter, I'm sure you've noticed me talking about my book cover designing adventures.

See, I have this book that I wrote, (don't we all?) and I feel like I've moved on artistically, but I still love the book and would love to see it in print. It's a shame, because if I were to write it again, I know I could make it great, but I don't want to. At least not right now.

And the truth is, it is great. I just see it with a more critical eye than most.

All this is to say, that I'm looking to self publish quickly, and probably not with a lot of fanfare. I don't have the time and will-power to make a serious go of self publishing (i.e.: with all the publicity and whatnot) but I would love it if my book were out there in people's hands, whether or not it has a wide dispersal range.

So. To that end I've been laboring over a cover for my book for days now, and I've finally gotten something that looks great. But in the meantime, I've been obsessing over well-made covers and I thought I would share some of my favorite with you:

<<This version of Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth (apparently in Italian) is just fabulous. It's a series of paper cut-outs that are arranged into the levels of the story. It's eye-catching, and it tells a story, which is what you want.

I've notices that a lot of classic books have a billion and one redone covers, and I think it's kind of a fun exercise. If you want to make book covers, think of a classic in the public domain, and make your own cover for it.

This cover art was done by Carlo Giovani

>> This one of Peter and the Wolf is just amazing. It took me a while to see the silhouette of the boy's head in the shape of the wolf's body, but even if you never notice that, the image is great.

You've got an interesting perspective, like a bird looking down on the whole thing, a story happening right in front of you, and a lot of great art.

This one actually looks like it's a movie poster, but same difference, really. If I had to change one thing, I would say the font should be something more substantial, maybe even something more... refined? to contrast with the savagery of the scene.

This one was done by Phoebe Morris

<<Here we have another 'classic' story, I guess, with a new cover. Ian Fleming, famous for writing a bunch of the original James Bond novels, has had all of his books redone in this style. I love the font and the colors and everything about it.

I'm not a big fan of some aspects of the James Bond franchise that this poster plays on for reasons that are apparent to anyone who knows me, but I think these covers are very appropriate for the series.

These were designed by Michael Gillette and issued by Penguin.

>>Normally, I like a cover because of how the art is done, but in this case, the cover tells such a great story, that it doesn't matter that I'm not too fond of the art style.

There's a lady pirate! And a tied up chef! What's going on! I've already made up a story in my head for this and I haven't even read the back of the book.

I love the idea of a lady pirate kidnapping a chef and making him cook her elaborate meals or whatever. Priceless!

This one was designed by Jennifer Carrow

<< This one I can't get over. I just can't. The title is Just In Case and the look on that dog's face, like he's a perpetual worrier.

This is the best.

I actually am not a big fan of that font, but the dogface more than makes up for it. Like, times a billion.

He's so worried for you! He wants you to be safe!

Designed by Clare Skeats.

>>This book is kind of what got me started on this tear. Not only is the cover interesting and thought-provoking, but the whole inside of this book has the same half art-nouveau, half cyber-punk kind of lettering. and designs. The whole book is a work of art.

If you see it in a book store, stop a second and browse through it - it's amazing to look at. The cover illustration is by Greg Ruth

<< This cover is so intriguing, I have to read this book. Just look at it - LOOK AT IT. Half the story is already told - but you know you have something interesting waiting for you inside.

I don't know who designed this one, but you can find the book here.

I'll be posting my cover when it's done (aaahhh!) and you can all see it. There are so many more awesome book covers out there, but I feel like this post is long enough, so here I leave you.

Send me links to your favorite book covers!

PS - incidentally, I also have a Pinterest dedicated to this topic. check it out!

Series That Never Sucked

Have you ever had that experience where you love a series, but you can't help but notice how the writing has gone downhill? You love the characters, but the books are starting to seem episodic and nothing really changes? I'm looking at you Evanovich.

Well, a couple of my favortie series have gone that way and I wanted to take a moment to commemorate the ones that have thus far avoided what I am now calling the Series Downward Spiral.

Patricia Brigg's Mercedes Thompson Series
Number of books: 8
Status: Ongoing
I love this series. I just finished reading this last one, Night Broken, so I'm still running on the high from that book and probably will be over gushy about this series. I'll try to keep it short and o the point: the major innovation that Briggs brings to the paranormal series population is change. Her characters change, her worlds change. It's a crazy concept, I know.

I'll try to explain without giving too much of the story away. In most series, each book is just more of the same. And in some cases, that's great. You like how the first one went and you want more. But Briggs' worlds have major shifts - one group of supernaturals declares war on the US, another decides to cooperate with the FBI to help boost their image. The characters change, too. Life events have lasting effects and patterns are changed.

I'm being super vague, I know. But if I could make you read one series on this list, it would be this one.

Also, the covers. The covers.

Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Series
Number of Books: 13?
Status: Ended
Despite the crazy-pants turn the popular TV series True Blood has taken with the series, I will always appreciate the original. Because throughout the story, Sookie, our heroine, just becomes more and more disenfranchised with the whole supernatural institution.

She falls in love with men, but when they do something froggy, she kicks them to the curb. That's what I really appreciate about this series. Sookie doesn't forgive these massively horrible things her lovers do just because she loves them. Love is something that is earned, not given blindly.

It's an authentic portrayal (I mean, minus vampires, etc.) of what a real dating life is. Sookie may be a waitress, but she is not stupid, and she knows exactly who she is, which is really a great way to be. This series is over now, but I love the way it ended. If you haven't read it, I would suggest it. As much as I love True Blood for it's own wacky story lines, only the first season is really similar to the books in any way, shape, or form.

Kristain Britain's Green Rider Series
Number of Books: 5
Status: Ongoing
This series seriously just keeps getting better and better. It started out with Green Rider, which was a true-blue adventure tale with monsters and spies and coups and all sorts of other interesting things. But the subsequent books have broadened the scope of the story to the point where it's this massively intertwined narrative that spans over centuries and countries.

The world building is excellent, the characters are interesting, and the dogged determination of the protagonist to not be involved in any of this shit is truly inspiring.

If I had one major complaint about this series, it would be that each book takes about four years to come out.


But that is a trade I am willing to make if they continue to be awesome. I guess.

J.K.Rowling's Harrry Potter Series
Number of Books: 7 Glorious tomes
Status: Ended
Obvi. If I have to explain this, I don't know if we can hang out any more...

All excessive fan-girling aside, this series is truly an example of a dynamic and masterful narrative. In the beginning the stories were simple and clear-cut because the protagonists were eleven and everything is simple and clear-cut when you are eleven. Just ask my nephew.

As the story grows, so do the characters, who look deeper into what is actually going on in their world. Things that were true in the first couple of books are examined with a more jaded eye and turn out to be not exactly what you wanted them to be. And I think that's fantastic.

Meg Cabot's 1800-Where-Are-You Series
Number of Books: 5
Status: Ended
Though this series suffered from originally being planned as a 6 part and ending up as a 5 part, I still count it as one of the best YA series.

To be fair, though, the very fact that it was cut short might have been what saved it. Cabot has a tendency to ride storylines into the ground, and I say that with all the love in my heart because Meg Cabot was who inspired me to write in the first place.

To be honest, the greatness of this series rests in the last book, in which all the characters have changed and conclusions are drawn. I would have liked to read the book between the last two books, because it would have been endlessly entertaining and dealt with a lot of things that interest me - spies, international intrigue, etc - but I understand why the last book was more important.

I will be adding to this list as time goes on, because I know I've left some out. Let me know what your favorite series is and I will check it out!

On Horror

I will be the first to tell you, I am not a fan of horror.

When I was little, even a scary episode of the X-Files would make me have nightmares for a week. I have an overactive imagination.

Even movies like Gravity I would consider horror because after the movie is over, I'm not going to be thinking about the graphics, or how great the acting was, or the emotional journey of the characters. I'm going to be thinking - for weeks - about how freaking scary space is.

Which I already knew, by the way. Thanks, though.

But now I find myself in the position of having a work in progress that I want to add an element of horror to, but I have no idea how to do it.

So I started off slow.

I'm a big fan of Welcome to Night Vale, which employs Lovecraftian ideals of horror around every turn, but treats it with such eye-rolling and shoulder shrugs as to make it mundane.

Lovecraft was known as the writer of gaps and he wrote around and between things but never at them. I honestly appreciate his style and the way the Night Vale uses it.

Stephen King is another horror writer who I've been meaning to read. Though I've seen a lot of criticism of his recent books, I know him to be a fantastic writer. I've read several essays of his that were just amazing. So I'd love to read more of his short stories and get more into his style.

I was also directed to Richard Matheson, who wrote I am Legend and was a frequent writer for the Twilight Zone. Every time I looked for classic horror stories, Matheson's name came up over and over again. I loved the movie I am Legend, even though I hate zombie stories, and I would love to read the actual story.

I want to reach out to you, dear reader, who is likely more of an aficionado of horror than I. Do you have any recommendations for great horror short stories? Any favorite authors whose techniques in the field you admire?


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About Me

I am a legit writer living in Durham, North Carolina, working at a publishing company, and ruthlessly fumigate for travel bugs on a daily basis. Follow my adventures as I try to get published, learn marketing voodoo, and pretend to be an adult.

Other Blogs

I have traveled a lot in the past teaching English and just being a general vagabond, so I have some blogs in my past. I will be consolidating them all - slowly but surely - into a single blog:

No Cilantro Extra Olives

This blog already contains my adventures in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, such as they are.

Updates on my other blogs, from Korea to India will be posted as I go through the laborious process of pulling them from their current blogs into that one.

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