Jerks & Irks LXIV: Where’s My Easy Button?!?

easy

The other day I went to the office supply store, Staples. I’ve been to this specific location several times and I hate to say that my experiences haven’t always been pleasurable. I don’t know why I keep going there, but the other day was just as disappointing.

I had three author events last week and all I needed was to print an “Enter to Win” sign I’d made to raffle off a signed paperback copy of Blood in the Paint (since I don’t have the paperback version yet) and a few pages of raffle tickets. Should have been easy-peasy. But it wasn’t.

I entered the store and headed straight for the do-it-yourself printers. I scanned my membership card, inserted my business debit card, and selected the first file from my USB flash drive. The damn machine took almost 7 minutes to tell me that the loading of the preview image had taken too long. Well, no $hit! It had been SEVEN MINUTES! I could have used an Easy Button just then…

So I moseyed on over to the print desk. The man who usually works in this area is 103 years old and I’m surprised he doesn’t think computers are the devil and will steal his ancient soul. (In case you’re wondering, yes, he’s the reason why I originally went to the do-it-yourself area.) Let’s call him Whitey. Not because he’s Caucasian, but because his hair is as white and blinding as snow in the sun. His presence alone justifies an Easy Button, but let’s move on…

Whitey was busy with another customer. Said customer was trying to print a list of several names, in large font, on one sheet of paper. The font said customer wanted was like size 72 or something, and, as one would expect, the last name wouldn’t fit. It would print out on a separate piece of paper. But said customer didn’t want to pay for two sheets of paper. Heaven forbid he should pay the extra TEN CENTS to accommodate his size 72 freaking font. I was forced to stand beside him, thrumming my fingers on the counter, wondering where my Easy Button was…

While I waited, I noticed two employees to the right of the print desk, behind a “tech” desk, just shooting the $hit. I know it’s not their area, but I’m willing to bet anyone behind a “tech” desk knows how to pull up a file from a flash drive and print it out. It would have been nice if one of those fellas would have asked if I needed help. There was also a store manager chatting with her associates up front. She could have helped me out. But she didn’t. Maybe if I’d had an Easy Button…

FINALLY, Whitey told the customer how the universe works, told him that the last name would have to print on a second sheet of paper if the font were enlarged so much. The customer walked off in a huff to complete the rest of his shopping and Whitey was able to get to my project. For a second, one glorious second, I thought I was no longer in need of an Easy Button. I was wrong…

Whitey printed out my files. But he accidentally printed them out on better quality paper. At this point, I had been in Staples for almost thirty minutes. I think I actually felt a few new gray hairs sprout from my scalp. As such, I offered to pay whatever the better quality paper cost. It wasn’t card stock for heaven’s sake; how much could it be? (And for the love of everything sacred and holy, where was my EASY BUTTON???) But Whitey refused, seeming flustered by the mishap. He insisted on reprinting my files on the regular paper I had requested, which took so much longer because he was too old to remember the names of the files (because “Enter to Win” and “Enter to Win 2” were not the helpful file names I had meant them to be), and I had to shout the file names several times before he heard/understood me. Guys, I would have given anything for an Easy Button…

So, have any of you lovely readers experienced any shopping nightmares recently?

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Jerks & Irks LXIII: A Bittersweet Return

The weekend before last, I went to Rehoboth Beach for a weekend writing retreat, as many of you may know. This past weekend, Hubby-pants and I went down near Atlanta, GA for our friends’ wedding. We returned late last night and, just as it was when I returned home from the retreat, home can be bittersweet.

Of course, coming home from the retreat was much less bitter and way more sweet because that was a Hubby-pants-less excursion and I missed him terribly. But today, after being in beautiful Georgia from Thursday to Sunday, I feel like I’m coming down with a case of the Mondays.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t hate our home, but hotels and lodges are so neat and clean (I think I mentioned that in my post about the retreat) and crisp-smelling. The beds are more comfortable, the pillows more decadent, and, for us, the temperature is easier to control. We arrived home late last night and we hadn’t had time to do the dishes before we left and we had also forgotten to take out the trash. I can’t describe the lovely aroma that permeated throughout our home after four stuffy days, during which Spring had finally decided to show itself and there was exceptionally warm weather. I think our bed is pretty comfortable, but the pillows leave something to be desired, for sure. (I’m in love with the down pillows the Hilton and the Hampton Inns use, but they’re like $80. Each.) And did I mention the house was stuffy and the weather had been warm? Our ancient thermostat dial read 80 degrees (F)! We don’t have central air, so we had to open the windows, turn on the ceiling fans, and suffer in silence until the place aired out and cooled down.

All in all, I’m missing digital thermostats and turn down service and squishily-fluffy down pillows, but I guess I’m a little glad to be home. If for no other reason than I get to start really promoting Blood in the Paint’s release, expediting the paperback release, and working on the next novel in the series, Blood in the Paper.

How was everyone else’s weekend?

Jerks & Irks LXII: The Pros and Cons of a Writing Retreat

Well, folks, I’m back from the weekend writing retreat in Rehoboth Beach, DE. I am happy to say I was pretty productive. I regret to say I don’t know if I’ll do another one. What? I know. Crazy talk. But let’s break the experience down a bit, shall we?

PROS:

  • I was very productive. I wrote over 10,000 words between Friday night, when we checked in, and Saturday evening. It came out to be about fourteen ‘bare bones’ chapters. I wrote so much I had to stop early. While the other ladies were still typing away, I buried my face in my Kindle. Check out was early on Sunday morning and I left even earlier than that, without so much as cracking open my laptop. I had nothing else left in me.
  • It’s easy to write when everyone else around you is writing. I currently write full-time and aim for at least a thousand words a day when I write. But some days I don’t feel like it and some days Hubby-pants comes home early. Other days, there are shows clogging up the DVR that require my attention. But when there are five other people, arduously working, the television is off, etc., there’s really nothing to do but write or risk feeling like an ass. Even though I had nothing left to do by 9pm on Saturday, I still felt a little like an ass when I curled up on the couch with my Kindle.
  • The surroundings are inspirational. Not only was the cottage about twenty feet from the water, not only was there a beautiful view from the main window, not only was there a lovely gas fireplace, but the cottage itself was nice and clean. Why does that matter? It just created a sense of “not a care in the world.” When I’m home, even though I could strictly dedicate two full days to writing and vow not to turn on the TV or surf the internet, the environment isn’t always very appealing. The stains in the carpet. The cats in the hallway throwing up hairballs. The dishes in the sink. The cars driving by. My dumbass neighbor, Tool Time, clamoring away at some home project. These things aren’t inspirational, no matter how nicely my desk is set up.

CONS:

  • There was NO WiFi. My phone barely had enough reception to send texts to my husband. I’m sure there are other locales with WiFi available, but this past weekend, not having WiFi was a drag. Not because I missed scrolling through Facebook (okay, maybe I missed that a little bit), but because writing psychological/crime fiction takes a lot of research. When I arrived at the cottage, I had less than a thousand words written of the next book, Blood in the Paper. I had a general storyline, but I hadn’t done any research yet. I do research as I go, as questions arise. Without WiFi, I was forced to keep writing without knowing if my characters’ surroundings, circumstances, and decisions were even plausible. I ended up stopping on Saturday evening because I refused to go any further without knowing if I was on the right track, if my story was realistic. Before I picked up my Kindle, I read through what I had written so far and jotted down any questions that popped into my head. When all was said and done, I had SEVEN notebook pages of questions that needed answering! Now, do you see why I stopped? The worst case scenario is I have to scrap all the work I did over the weekend and start over and that really grinds my gears, guys.
  • I don’t write like everyone else. I already knew that I don’t fancy writing to music. Instead, I prefer writing with TV reruns on in the background as white noise. At the retreat, however, everyone was fine writing in silence. This drove me nuts. The sound of six people click-clacking away at their keyboards for hours on end was like an auditory form of torture that I think they should experiment with at Guantanamo. On Saturday afternoon, one of the women mentioned she was going for a walk on the beach and I couldn’t put my shoes on fast enough to join her, to hear gentle waves instead of incessant typing for just a few minutes. When we returned from the walk, I found the sound of typing even more jarring and had to sit outside for a little while so I didn’t overturn furniture in a rage of irritation. Why didn’t I just force myself to listen to music, you ask? Because I don’t have any songs stored on my phone or laptop; I love streaming too much. And without WiFi or proper cell phone reception, I couldn’t stream a damn thing.
  • I really did feel like an ass when I couldn’t write anymore. As inspirational as the surroundings and the company proved to be, I don’t like being judged for not writing. At home, there are no judgments. If I want to stop to watch an hour of TV, I can. If I want to catch some of the Final Four games, or watch the Yankees for a bit, I can. There, like I said above, you feel like an ass if you stop writing. I actually had to explain myself to someone when I picked up my Kindle in lieu of my laptop. Mind you, the person wasn’t accusatory when they asked if I was “done for the night” or whatever, but a small part of me resented being asked.
  • People have different sleep schedules. After the whole No WiFi thing, this probably bothered me the most. I slept in the living room, on an air mattress beside the fireplace. It was very cozy and I enjoyed not having to share a room with anyone else (I’m a very light sleeper, even with ear plugs). However, I did not enjoy having to wake up at 7am on both Saturday and Sunday. Not that I’m the type of person to sleep until noon, but I normally wake up at 8 or 9am. I think that’s respectable. Then, even though I was tired later in the day, I had to watch everyone else be able to retreat to their rooms to nap whereas I didn’t have any such option, being set up in the living room. At night, I felt like I was kicking people out when I began setting up my bed to go to sleep. I felt like they wanted to keep writing. Again, I felt judged for wanting to call it a day a little before midnight. Now, I understand that these complaints are probably the sole result of having been the one who slept in the living room, but had I shared a room with someone else, you would have seen that listed here under ‘cons’ instead. I would have been the one waking up whoever was in the living room, or the person sharing the room with me would have woken me up. I would have been the one who wanted everyone to be quiet while I was taking a nap. I would have been the one who felt put out when the living room sleeper set up their air mattress. So you see, there’s no winning when it comes to sleep schedules.

All in all, I’ll summarize the experience like this: My first weekend writing retreat was quite possibly very productive (only time and research will tell), but the arrangements themselves were a bit uncomfortable. Will I do it again? Not sure. Maybe when I start the last book in the Blood for Blood Series, I’ll venture out again to get a 10,000 word head start. But I will only go if there’s WiFi and I have my own room. 😉

 

Jerks & Irks LXI: Predictability

While Blood in the Paint is with my proofreader, I’ve found myself with an abundance of free time. I could use these idle hours to clean the house, but instead I’ve been watching the television series, 24, from the beginning. I don’t know if you were paying attention to the commercials during the Super Bowl last month, but “Jack’s Back!” Well, he will be. Very soon. And I’m preparing myself.

Now, I had started watching 24 from the beginning once before, years ago. I got as far as the third season before I inexplicably stopped. Having just finished the third season again, I think I know why I originally stopped watching: the show is painfully predictable in some respects. In fact, I’ve made up a drinking game to illustrate my point. While watching the remaining seasons, I’ll take a swig of beer/wine/liquor/cocktail whenever any of the following things take place:

  • Jack Bauer disobeys orders and does his own thing.
  • Jack Bauer, or anyone else, screams, “You’re just gonna have to trust me!” to another character.
  • A character withholds crucial information that, if shared, would clear up a major misunderstanding. (Usually followed by “You’re just gonna have to trust me!”)
  • Someone in CTU pulls a gun on another person working for CTU.
  • Someone in CTU or the White House is suspected of being a mole.
  • Someone shouts, “There’s no time for that!”
  • *DRINK TWICE* if “There’s no time for that!” is coupled with, “There are thousands/millions of lives at stake!”
  • Kim Bauer’s in trouble.
  • Kim Bauer asks a shit load of questions at an inopportune time.
  • *DRINK TWICE* if Kim Bauer asks a shit load of questions while someone is trying to help her get out of trouble.
  • Chloe says something awkward.
  • The phone in CTU goes: bloop-bloop-ring-rinnnggg.
  • Jack Bauer’s death seems imminent.
  • The world is going to end.

As you can probably tell, 24 is a little on the formulaic side. At least, for the first three seasons. (I’m not sure if this criticism applies to the remaining series or if it will apply to the reboot this spring. I’m not even sure if my drinking game will still apply. For all I know, I could be frighteningly sober while watching the remaining seasons, when I would have fallen off my couch had I applied the game to the first three seasons.)

24 was a very popular show. I mean, they’re bringing “Jack Back!” after all these years. Perhaps, then, I’m being a bit hyper-critical because of all the reading and writing I do. A book series, a good one, wouldn’t bore its reader with the same situations over and over, just slightly changed for originality’s sake (nuclear bomb in season two, deadly bio-weapon in season three), would it? I don’t think I’ve read anything that qualifies as that overly formulaic. Have you? What about 24, have you seen it? What do think about it? I’d love to know!

Jerks & Irks LX: What’s the Deal With Romance?

Warning: This is going to be an unpopular post.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not a romance reader. I don’t watch romance movies either. If there were a romance food, I probably wouldn’t eat it. Nothing really against it, it just doesn’t appeal to me personally. That being said, I recently finished reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. The book came highly recommended by my mother-in-law, who assured me it was more historical fiction than it was romance. Her recommendation, coupled with the fact that it’s been adapted for a television series on STARZ, led me to give it a try. I like historical fiction, even if there’s just a bit of romance thrown in. After reading the 900-page tome however, I can wholeheartedly disagree with that description.

I had two major gripes with this book. (Spolilers ahead).

  1. Claire Beauchamp is unrealistic. For those who don’t know, Claire touches some kind of mystical stone in Scotland and it whips her through time. She lands in the 1700’s, 200 years prior to her own life. My issue is that she is supposedly happily married in her timeline, but when she ends up with some Scottish clansmen in the earlier time period, she attempts to get back to her husband exactly TWICE in a period of six months or more. Not only that, but when she’s forced to marry one of the clansmen (for political reasons, as well as to save her own ass), she goes along with it with very little resistance. Given the life-saving factor involved, I can forgive her union to Jamie Fraser. Unfortunately, she offers even less resistance when it comes to consummating the marriage. Multiple times. (I mentioned the book is 900 pages, well I’d say between 100-200 of them are dedicated to her having sex with her “new” husband.) Don’t misunderstand, I’m not a prude. I just don’t understand why she acquiesced to her situation so easily, and so readily, when she had a loving husband waiting for her at home. There was no indication that he was abusive or philandering. What gives?
  2. Jamie Fraser is NOT a catch. A lot of readers refer to Jamie Fraser as their “book boyfriend.” Why? I would have slit his throat. First, he beats Claire “within an inch of her life” (direct quote) for disobeying an order and justifies it with some old world, clansmen bullshit. (At least the order was to stay put and she disobeyed by trying to get back to her own time period). He whipped her savagely across the ass like a child. Second, there’s a scene where she tells him she’s not particularly ‘in the mood’ and he proceeds as though he’s going to just take what he wants. They argue and fight. He eventually ‘asks for permission” but explains that “he can’t be gentle about it.” In my opinion, he all but rapes her (the description of the bruises left on her thighs are sickening). But she enjoys it? And afterwards she thinks to herself, “Gentle he would be, denied he would not.” implying he would be gentle if she gave in to his desires, but he would take her by force if need be. Later on in the novel, after Jamie has been rescued from capture, where he was sexually assaulted and feeling particularly emasculated, he says to her, “I want to take you in my bed and use you like a whore.” I get that he wanted to assert his heterosexual-ness, but really? Honestly, this is what passes for romance? Jamie Fraser is women’s idea of the ideal man? Give me a break.

I know this is a very popular series. I’m not hating on it because of that. The book itself was very well-written and extremely well-researched. But I don’t understand the themes enumerated above. Admittedly, I don’t read a lot of romance, but I have come to understand from readers forums that these are common threads.

I have another example if you haven’t clicked out of my post already. Last year I watched The White Queen, adapted from Philippa Gregory’s series. In the first episode, Elizabeth comes across the newly crowned King Richard in the forest. She explains that her husband was killed in the war and she’s about to lose her land. About four seconds later she falls for the young king, even though she’s supposed to be grieving the very recent loss of her husband and father to her children. They meet a day or two later to discuss her land situation and he all but rapes her in the forest. She has to press a dagger TO HER OWN THROAT to get away. The next time they see each other, they get married. Honestly, what in the actual frick?

Please, tell me what is WITH romance? I’m begging someone to explain it to me. (Nicely and politely though. I tried not to bash the genre or those who read it. I just want to start a dialogue.) I’ll see you in the comments section.

 

Jerks & Irks LIX: E-Book Extras?

Last week, I posted several reasons for loving my Kindle. Were any of you wondering if there was anything I didn’t love about my Kindle? Because there’s one tiny thing. Well, I’m assuming it’s a tiny thing because I’ve never heard anyone else complain about it.

What am I rambling about? Allow me to paint a picture for you. I am about to start a new book. I pick one from the TBR list I keep on my phone. I search for the title in my Kindle’s library. I click on the novel I want to read and my Kindle opens to…the first page of the first chapter.

That just drives me batty, guys.

I wanna read the fore-matter, dammit!

I wanna see the cover art again! Especially if it was particularly eye-catching.

I wanna read the list of other books by the author! What if there’s something I’ve heard of, but hadn’t attributed to the author? What if I fall in love with the book and want to read more by the author? Wouldn’t it be helpful to think, “Oh, there’s that list at the front of the book that I can look over!”

I wanna see who the author deemed worthy enough to dedicate the book to! In our current society, where we can follow authors on Facebook and Twitter and get to know them intimately, why wouldn’t I want another peek into the author’s life? Why wouldn’t I want to know who inspires and drives their creativity?

I wanna see the Table of Contents! I want to know how many chapters I’m getting into and what’s waiting for me at the end of my read. An epilogue? A bio? What???

I wanna see any other extras the author decided to include. An introduction or an epigraph, perhaps. These things set the tone for the novel. Don’t deprive me of that!

Why are you robbing me of these things, Kindle? WHY?

Am I crazy? Does anyone else feel this way? Am I the only one who sees the first page of the first chapter pop up, sucks her teeth, and rapidly swipes backward to see everything I missed? Even the damn copyright page? Tell me I’m not alone, guys!

 

Jerks & Irks LVIII: I Failed My 2013 Goodreads Challenge

2012 was The Year of the Kindle. Having received a Kindle Fire for Christmas 2011, I devoured books the following year, reading over 75 altogether. I realize that number is subjective: impressive to some, a drop in the bucket to even more voracious readers than myself. But I was excited to have so many books at my fingertips.

In 2013, I set my first Goodreads Challenge for 75 books. I figured since I had done it the year before, I could do it again, right? Wrong. I failed to realize how much more I’d be writing in 2013 than the previous year (3 books and a couple of short stories), or how many hours would be spent marketing and maintaining a presence on social media. December rolled around and, with the end of the year in sight, I was forced to cheat amend my Challenge total to 60 books. I had read 59 and was reading the 60th with more than enough time to spare. I even fantasized about reading a 61st book for good measure.

Then the library–the LIBRARY of all places–took me down, guys. You see, some of the traditional publishers still insist on charging $10 or more for an e-book, which is irksome in and of itself. Therefore, if I want to read one of these books, I usually see if my local library network has a digital copy first. Thus was my process when I downloaded Night Film, by Marisha Pessl (EXCELLENT book so far, by the way).

I was 57% through it when my lending period was about to expire. I renewed it, as I had done before with other borrowed books, but THE LIBRARY took it away anyway. Just electronically snatched it off my Kindle and placed me on a waiting list (1 of 1). I was devastated. I’m not the type of person who can read multiple books at once; I have the short-term memory of a pill bug. I whined a lot, trudging through short stories and trolling Facebook instead of reading myself awake in the morning and to sleep at night.

The new year came and went and I was stuck on 59 books. I failed my Goodreads Challenge.

The library sabotaged me. CURSES! *waves fist in the air*

How about you? How did you fare with your own Goodreads Challenges?