Sunday, December 7, 2014

The holiday season is here

I love this time a year. I love the colors of the holiday decorations, all the lights, foods, goodies, presents, and a chance to pause and reflect on life, the universe, and everything. However, I think I liked it better back home than here in the USA.

Take this for what it is - I'm a foreigner and I see things from another point of view that might not always sit well with Americans. In this country everything is a religious battle.

I don't care who believes in what, who celebrates or doesn't celebrate, or how a person celebrates. Live and let live.

The American debate of what to call the holiday season drives me nuts. I don't understand how people can be offended by the phrases "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" - how does it matter what greeting a person chooses? The important thing is that someone took the time to pause, see you, and wish you joy.

I often mention that Sweden is one of the most secular countries in the world. We say "God Jul" and we call the season "Juletid." This is clearly related to the ancient yuletide traditions, but it's still neutral enough for no one to be offended. It's what we call it, it's a name, and I don't think anyone gives it any more thought than you would be offended by the names of the week.

I also don't understand bumper stickers saying "Put Christ back in Christmas." The church decided to celebrate the birth of Christ at this time a year because people refused to let go of their old traditions. I sort of think the old traditions won, because they're still present in almost every home.

The Christmas tree comes from pagan origins, and the Mistletoe has origins in Norse mythology. Christmas presents come from pre-Christian Saturnalia. Santa Claus is believed to be a mix of a Turkish bishop who lived around the year 300 and norse god Oden.

Did you know that Christmas was banned by the Puritans and illegal in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681 because of the pagan origins?

What do you think? Does it matter what we call the season?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Real life problems

It has been a long time since I blogged. Months. I've been too exhausted and most of this fall is a blur, so even when I've encountered blog-worthy things I haven't gotten around to writing about them.

So, where are we at?

You might remember the husband got the big C in a big way. We're both hanging in. He got chemotherapy for months and we went to get radiation treatments every day for seven weeks, and it hardly put a dent in that thing. The doctor said the tumor shrunk from 8 cm to 6 and then went right back up to 8 again.

Disheartening, but we live in a time of medical miracles, and we're trying a new chemotherapy cocktail. This one is much more aggressive and pretty much knocks him out for days - he can't eat or drink - so every time he gets it we have to go to Sarasota every day for the rest of that week so he can get fluids.

All this sounds pretty easy in writing, but I'm spent. I'm so exhausted I barely know my name some days.

The day he gets his treatment I drop him off in the morning, go back to check in on him during lunch, and go get him in the evening. The only do infusions once a week here in Bradenton, so the other days we have to go to the Sarasota office. It's 45 minutes away, and these are whole day adventures. The whole operation takes at least five hours, but often longer.

Of course, he'll be sick during the nights, which wakes everyone up. Sleep is good. I miss sleeping.

All this still wouldn't be so bad, if it wasn't for bills, and life, lol. People - especially the ones working with health care - think I can spend all my time taking care of hubs. They really think I have nothing to do besides caring for him. I guess other people have fairies that take care of everything else?

In reality, everything we both used to do is now on my plate. There's everyday stuff like cooking, dishes, dogs, laundry, cleaning, yard work, and so on, but also finding money for us.

I have to pay everything everyone else has to pay. All those bills don't stop just because one person is sick. Mortgage, power, water, phones, insurances, car payments, food, dog food, credit card bills... And then there are healthcare bills. We owe more to healthcare providers than our house is worth. I never thought it was possible to owe someone more money for anything than for a house.

I could pull the everyday stuff off if I could put in the time, but when being away with him at 20-30 hours every week... You get the picture.

I'm not saying this to complain; I still have a roof over my head and we're all fed. I'm just saying it so you'll understand why I'm absent and grumpy.

My local friends here are wonderful, especially the family for whom I used to work. They have been angels, and I can't thank them enough for their support.

Okay, let's talk about something more light hearted, or I fear you'll never want to come back to my blog again, lol.

Early this week, hubs felt good enough to take himself to the pharmacy to pick up more medicine. It is a long and outdrawn process because of all the pill mills Florida used to have, and I was grateful to be spared an hour at CVS. I sat in my office, typing away on a project, and I heard a male voice say something. I couldn't make out the words, but it was definitely a man's voice coming in the direction of our living room.

It made me jump in my seat and my heart race.

It wasn't my husband - when he comes home all the dogs go crazy happy.

Boo Bear barked as if there were an intruder in the room, but the other three dogs didn't make a sound.

I went to look. The living room was empty - except for Boo Bear barking at the front door. Ellie must have been sleeping right inside the door, because she was looking up with an expression of "What's with all the noise?"

If there really had been someone in the house, all the dogs would have been going bonkers. Bonnie loves people, but she wouldn't let someone in without telling me.

I threw a quick status update up on Facebook just in case someone was really there and I would disappear, and went with Boo to look through the house.

No one inside.

No one outside.

If he hadn't heard the voice too I would have thought I was dreaming.

My theories cover everything from a ghost to someone peeking in through the front door, realizing they were in the wrong house.

The comical thing is that one of my heroines would have undertaken this search task armed with something - knife, baseball bat, something - while calling for help, because my heroines have self preservation instinct. Me, not so much.

I have a gun - in the office. I put it there after the big police thing we had here a few months ago, and it would take a couple of seconds to grab it. An intruder could have been in the house. Did I bring my gun?

Nope. I brought my cell phone and a furry little dog. In retrospect I'm surprised I didn't grab my coffee cup, LOL.

I guess my life expectancy if there were an actual disaster wouldn't be all that good.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A bit too exciting for my taste

I had a hard time finding my "work-groove" this morning, and spent an inappropriate amount of time dilly-dallying around on Facebook, playing with the dogs, and making coffee. Right before eleven I decided that I had to buckle down and do something. No work means no pay, which makes Maria a sad girl, lol.

I was formatting a blog post about the benefits of Tourmaline hairdryers (long story) when a siren made me look out the window. Bradenton is filled with old people and there are sirens all the time from emergency vehicles and ambulances. This one sounded close, and I kept peeking out to see what type of car it would be.

An ordinary gray car drove past and turned in on the road across from ours. Two police cars with blinking lights followed. Then, two more, and two more, and two more. I stopped counting at fifteen.

That never happened before. The most exciting thing along our street is normally the neighbor's dog getting out of the yard and going walkabout.

When officers bounced out of the cars with drawn guns and police dogs I finally closed my gaping mouth. They have big guns! There were at least fifteen police cars between our house and the potential threat, but it still seemed prudent to lock the doors and tell the dogs to go lie down.

The neighbors ventured outside - one guy came right out of the shower with a towel around his waist. I thought, "No way, indoors might not be safe if there's a shoot-out, but it's sure safer than outside."

Since hubs got sick he's almost always home, but not today, so I called him and reported all the excitement. By the time I thought to pull out my camera about ten of the police cars had already left.



Later in the day, after all the cops left, the local newspaper updated its website. Allegedly, three men kidnapped a guy in the parking lot of our nearby Walmart. They took him to a place on a street a couple of blocks away from here and beat him up, but he managed to escape - despite them trying to shoot him.

Police officers saw the suspects' car five blocks from my house and chased it here where they could trap it. Right outside my window.

I do hope these men had a previous relation so bad guys aren't just kidnapping random people at Walmart!

Not much getting done around here today - I keep peeking out the window, expecting more stuff to happen.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Undercover is a winner!

There is a wonderful screenwriting contest called the WILDsound festival. It is the coolest thing ever, because winners get their script read by professional actors.

I tried with Kidnapped, but the judges thought the script moves too slow. Go figure - I've gotten so much criticism saying it moves too fast. They sent a list with constructive points to look at in the screenplay, and I put all that to the side for another day. I need to tweak it so I can submit it again - I really want to hear it read - but I'm too scattered to take on something big right now.

Anyway, I submitted the first ten pages of my screenplay for Undercover to their "first scene" contest and forced myself to forget about it, so I wouldn't be too disappointed when I didn't win.

Undercover did really well! The judges said, "An extremely strong opening to a first scene. It has everything: Mystery, Drama, Romance, Friendship, Intrigue, Foreign Relations... And asks key questions that are relevant to today's world without being too preachy about it."

Yay!

The first scene has been read, and Undercover has its own page here. And, I have an interview page here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Close to going Viking #frustration

I'll have to back up a bit for this post to make sense. I'm sure some of you have heard it before, so skip the first couple of paragraphs, LOL.

A couple of months ago my husband fell ill and eventually had to succumb to going to the hospital. To make a long story short, he has a big tumor, and ever since then we've bounced between healthcare providers like balls in a pinball machine. It's tough, and poses many challenges.  Like, I had to quit my job, because I couldn't make the schedule work out.

Going from full time employed to self-employed virtually overnight was scary, but I was confident I could pull it off. Right now I work more than ever before and make less money, but I'm happy. I like working from home, surrounded by my doggies, and I'm glad life pushed me to really do it.

The problem is, hubs refuses to go to his appointments on his own, which I understand. He's not feeling well, and dealing with all this takes a healthy person and more. I can't make the healthcare providers understand that in order to make money - which pays for health insurance, amongst other things - I have to work. That implies being able to plan my days.

I have a schedule. It starts at 7:30 AM every day around the week, and I know exactly what I need to do every half hour of the day to make everything come together.

Healthcare providers set appointments, and naturally, I plan around them.

Cancer center number one - the one that gives chemo - has done good with scheduling for a while.

They're really sweet, but changed the appointments at least three times every day until I lost the Swedish polish and told them this would have to stop. Since then they've been really good until today. If they start all that again I might have to remind them how much trouble they cause, but I'd really rather not, because they're awesome. The doctor is so nice, the nurses are fabulous, and the front desk girls are fantastic.

Cancer center number two gives radiation treatments and we have to go there every day. They're also awesome, but they don't get it at all.

The first day we sat foot in the clinic - and waited for well over three hours which has caused me to live on toast for the past week due to loss of income - I told everyone that we need appointments in the afternoon. Preferably after four. Everyone nodded and pretended that they understood.

Reason? We have to be there every day for seven weeks. Driving there, waiting, the procedure, and driving home takes at least an hour. I can't afford to lose 35 hours more of income than I already have through sitting in waiting rooms. If I do, we'll lose the house.

I'm not joking. I'm a lone provider for two adults and four dogs. We have hospital bills for almost $60,000. I need to work to pay the mortgage, keep the power on, keep the phones working, and all other good stuff a household needs - like food.

Every day, they give us an appointment for the next day at a decent time, and every day they change it. Every day, they seem equally shocked when I say no.

I've tried to explain that if they reschedule with us, I'll have to reschedule everything with all my clients, which means that they have to reschedule, and it's a never ending domino effect.

I explain this every day. I'm starting to think I accidentally speak Swedish.

Check this out. Tuesday morning last week they had us come in at 6:30 in the morning. That was going to be a one-time thing only, and we had a time set for late in the afternoon Wednesday. As I sat there watching the sun rise, the nurse came out and said, "I'll need to change your appointment tomorrow. How about 10:30?"

I said, "No. I'm going to St Pete's for a meeting tomorrow morning. We need a time in the afternoon. Like the one we already have at 4:30."

She said, "I understand. How long will you be gone?"

"I don't know for sure, but I don't count on being back before lunch."

"So you can't do eleven?"

"No, I'm going to St Pete's, and I won't be back until after lunch." I feel like a parrot - I say the same thing over and over and over again, every day, and they still don't listen.

"Okay, I'll let you keep your appointment. I guess we'll have to move someone else."

The next day, they started calling hubs, trying to change the appointment to the morning. He explained that I was away at a meeting and he couldn't come. The same person called several times within a few minutes. Because if I'm expected back after lunch I will surely come home between 9:30, 9:32, 9:35 and 9:40...

I came back around one, and we went in at the time we originally had.

This continued through the week. Thursday night I wrote the clinic an e-mail. The only answer was to call hubs and change the Friday 4:30 appointment to 12:30. I said no, but it was still 12:30, because suddenly every other appointment - including ours - was impossible.

I'd had it. I was so mad when I came in I was about to storm past the reception desk and find someone responsible for all this crap.

They saw the crazy-woman glow in my eyes and the horns about to grow out on my head and ran for reinforcements. An experienced nurse came to the waiting room, sat down, listened patiently, nodded, and said,  "So how about right after one?"

I said "No" and explained it all again. She tried to counter and I said, "I'm sorry, but there's too much at stake here for me to be able to care about that."

I save up the type of work I can do in the waiting room in the afternoon. The parts of the job that include communicating with people needs to happen when they're available.

The other people in the waiting room chimed in, "C'mon, she has to work, give her a late appointment."

Faced with overwhelming and probably surprising opposition, she disappeared off and came back with a note. "Monday through Wednesday next week, we'll get you a 4:30 appointment. After that you will have a standing time at 4:15 every day. We will not change this."

I was really happy all weekend. I felt like a boulder lifted from my chest. Silly naive Maria, believing what people tell her, after all these years...

Yesterday, a new nurse came out and wanted to change today's appointment from 4:30 to earlier in the day. I said no, and explained the whole thing again. We ended up settling for 4:15.

Today, another new nurse came out. She said, "I have an appointment for you tomorrow at 3:30."

I said, "We already have an appointment for tomorrow at 4:30."

"Yes, well, now it's at 3:30."

"We can't come at 3:30."

She looked at me as if I sprouted antennae.

"But, we have so many empty spots in the middle of the day, and we have to fill them. Can you come earlier?"

"No. I have planned my day around being here at 4:30. He has another doctor's appointment in the morning, and I have a meeting between two and four.

She still didn't get it. "But, I'm giving you this appointment at 3:30."

"Yeah, in that case we'll be late."

"How late?"

"Probably around 4:30. I'm not sure how long my meeting will take, but I counted on it lasting until four."

It still didn't sink in. She said, "Our managers look at the schedule, and they see all these openings in the middle of the day, and we have to fill them."

By now I'm starting to think I'm surrounded by kind and pleasant idiots. These people are the nicest you can imagine, but they clearly don't understand English.

I said, "I'm sorry to have to say this, but your scheduling issues aren't my problem."

She recovered quickly, and said in a cheerful voice, "So we'll see you at 3:30 tomorrow."

"No you won't. I have a meeting. I have to work. If I can't work I can't pay his health insurance, and no one here gets paid."

That one usually works. She said, "So, when do you think you'll be here?"

"I'd say around 4:30."

"Okay, I'll keep this time for you at 3:30, and we'll wait for him. Some patients are really serious and we try to take them in late in the day in case it takes longer, so everyone else won't have to wait. Especially on Thursdays, but tomorrow isn't Thursday, so we should be able to get him in."

I thought,  "So why are you changing the appointment in the first place, when you know we won't be here until 4:30, which was our original time?"

The problem clearly needed another approach. I held up the computer and explained what I do for a living. I showed the blog posts I'd written while waiting, and showed that company's app on my cell phone. I explained how I have customers I need to talk to at particular times every day, and how I have a break around four every day. I explained - again - the domino effect of changing appointments.

She nodded and said, "Okay. I'll try to get you a steady appointment, so you can come in at the same time every day."

"They gave us that on Friday. It was supposed to be 4:30 Monday through Wednesday this week, and after that 4:15 every day."

"Yeah, that's not gonna work. When is a good time for you?"

It's a good thing these people are so nice and friendly. It keeps me from snapping.

I took a deep breath and said, "In the afternoon. Some time after four is best, like 4:15, when our appointment is."

"I can get you any time in the mornings. I can get you in early, so you don't have to worry about this the rest of the day."

She's doing her best, I get it, but it still doesn't work.

"No, as I mentioned, I have a lot to do in the mornings. As long as he needs me to take him here we will come as late in the day as possible."

She attempted to explain their scheduling problem with a lot of gaps during the day again. It's a valiant effort, but it doesn't change the fact: as long as he needs me to take him, we can't come in the middle of the day.

I said, "I'm sorry, but that's still not my problem. I have other problems of my own, like supporting my family."

"So, we'll see you at 3:30 tomorrow."

Yeah, whatever...

I have to see this from the comical side, but even when doing so it's still frustrating.

It reminds me of these commercials, "Nine months? I can have a healthcare career in only nine months?"

Friday, July 18, 2014

Frog adventures

Mornings aren't my thing, and it takes a while for me to open my eyes and actually see something. Isn't it strange how you go to bed awake and wake up super tired? Shouldn't it be the other way around? Anyway, it took a few minutes to spot the very large frog on the living room floor.

It was huge, and looked dead. No movement, closed eyes, entangled in dog hair... It looked almost collapsed, if that makes any sense, and I worried that one of the dogs might have found it first and chewed on it. I know some Florida toads are poisonous. When it comes to frogs, no idea. And how the heck did it get in here?

I tipped our spare food bowl over it, so the doggies wouldn't get the idea to taste dead frog, and proceeded with their morning routine.

But, what should I do with it? It was beautiful, and it deserved a proper frog burial. Where could I bury it where the dogs wouldn't dig it up? Had it come to the house to die, or did something inside kill it?

The froggie would have to wait. I needed doggies to do their outside stuff, have breakfast, and settle down enough to be locked in my office. Some things are just easier to deal with if there aren't four curious dogs helping. LOL!

Removing the bowl, I tried to push my super-cool hot-pink dustpan under the frog. It opened its eyes, looked like, "What the hell are you doing?" and jumped away to the kitchen.

I'm not afraid of frogs, they're really cute, but it startled me and I yelped. I hate that I do that - I sound like a huge wuss - but the sound just comes out without any conscious decision.

Naturally, that woke hubs. He probably thought I was being murdered or something.

He said, "What are you doing?"

My answer came out in one long breath. It's a miracle the man makes any sense out of anything I say. "There's this really big frog and I thought he was dead so I was taking him out but he's alive and jumped away and I caught him and he's really big and beautiful and I don't know what to do."

Hubs said, "I see. How did you catch him?"

He was, of course, smart enough to push a thin piece of cardboard under the bowl so we could carry froggie outside. We put him on a chair so he wouldn't have to battle the fire ants on the ground, and once he realized he was free and outside, he jumped away.

Hubs also solved the mystery of froggie's origin. He said, "I thought I saw something jump in here last night." The poor thing probably spent the night under the sofa or something. I hope he makes it. I should have taken a photo of him, but I didn't think of that.

That was my morning. How 'bout you? Did you have any adventures?

Monday, July 7, 2014

King's by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

I wrote about Vampires Need Not Apply and the Accidentally Yours series by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff the other day. She has a grip on me; after I read all those books I looked at my iPad, expecting it to automatically fill up with new excellent reads to entertain me. It didn't. The absence of something great to read created a void in my life, and I had to fill it with something.

Enter The King Trilogy, also by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff. There are currently two books available: King's, and King for a Day, and I'm waiting eagerly for the third to be released.

The main character, Mia, is a young woman whose life is shattered when her brother is reported kidnapped in Mexico. When she seeks help, she accidentally stumbles into an agency that helps immigrants locate relatives. They can't help her, but the receptionist slips her a note and tells her King can find anything or anyone, at a price. In her desperation Mia agrees - even though the price is steep.

Pamfiloff's characters jumps off the pages and pulls you in. Mia is - in my opinion - an ungrateful and angry girl. It doesn't matter what people do for her; she will never be happy. Others risk their lives for her, save her when she gets herself into trouble, and she keeps yelling insults at them.

She is also unreasonably attached to her family and sounds as if she might be nine years old instead of twenty-something. Despite this, the men in the book seem willing to do anything to appease her. I had to keep reading to see if she would ever become nicer.

King is an enigma. Pamfiloff drops clues to his true nature through the books, but it still took me quite a while to figure him out. He's an interesting character and I sort of wish I had invented him.

Page-turner? Yes. Unfortunately, the last book isn't published yet. I need to know what will happen and how everything will end. Please, hurry up with the writing! =D


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Vampires need not apply, by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

Vampires Need Not Apply belongs to a series called "Accidentally Yours" by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff. I got the book at the RT conference in May and thought, "Vampires... Another book about vampires. Can't people think of anything else?" Bad attitude on my part, I know, LOL. I started reading it anyway, and I'm so happy I did. This is an excellent book.

Ixtab is the Goddess of suicide. Her job is to take darkness and depression out of good people, and to send the truly bad over the edge so the world gets rid of them. Not a pleasant job, especially since everyone who accidentally bumps into her is filled by an irresistible urge to kill themselves.

The situation doesn't get better by feeling responsible for the death of her one true love. When she meets scientist Antonio Acero, he is a dead ringer for her lost beloved, but everything goes wrong, and to make matters even worse, his cat bumps into her and jumps out a window.

The book is laugh out loud funny, dramatic, sexy, and nearly impossible to put down. The characters are endearing, silly, and hilarious, and Pamfiloff has created a believable backstory and setting.

After reading this I bought the other books in the series. They are also good, but do quite a bit of jumping between first and third person, which throws me out of the story. If you can live with the first/third POV hopping, I would warmly recommend them, because they are also hilarious. Just be prepared to set off a few days to reading, because reading one makes you want more.

Vampires Need Not Apply is consistent third person - it is a long and hilarious adventure - and it's one of the best books I've read for a long time.

I want more!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

My new obsession: Royale

Today is a big day for me: I've given in to vanity. I've never owned a flat iron. Ever. One of my friends used one on my hair once and I thought it was pretty neat, but I never got around to buying one. Why would I? My hair is so straight I struggle with it every morning to get some volume. Why would I want to get it straighter?

If you're rolling on the floor laughing right now, all I can say to my defense is that I was a teenager in the 1980s. Back then, hair was supposed to be large and curly. Mine succumbed to perms and excessive amounts of hairspray, and still insisted on being straight.

Yes, I've lived under a rock since then. I'm a writer. I don't know what goes on in the real world around me. LOL!

Anyway, a few weeks ago I visited a company not far from here that makes hair straighteners, curlers, hair dryers, and other fun stuff. As I waited in the lobby, I couldn't help but watching the commercial video; the TV was right there.

I had no idea hair straighteners could curl hair, or that a flat iron would make it softer and shinier. To make the temptation worse, they come in all forms of fun colors and patterns. I wanted one. Seeing the price of $350, not so much. Not even Santa would bring me one of those, and it's half a year until Christmas, lol.

Last week a little bird told me about the site ceramicflatiron.com. All of a sudden, one of these miracle inventions could be bought for $30 instead of over $300. I think the computer clicked on "add to cart" on its own.

Today, the FedEx truck arrived with a box. My photo doesn't do it justice; this is a very nice box.


I was a little concerned that it says "classic green" because I ordered the bright and happy summer green, but it's okay, because it held the right color.


This flat iron has completely ceramic plates, on/off button, and temperature setting from 176 F to 450 F. It also runs on both 110 and 240 V, so if I ever go back home it will still work.

In the box came a DVD with instruction video, and some brochures. They have curling irons with zebra and giraffe print. These are also for sale on ceramicflatiron.com, and I might have to get one. Yes, I'm like a magpie, and these are shiny objects!


Naturally, I ripped it out of the box and scurried to the bathroom to try. Since I never used a flat iron before I was a bit clumsy, but I love it.

My hair is so stubborn that I can't curl it with a regular hair curler, even on max heat. It remains straight. I went to the salon and got a perm once. Could just as well have thrown the money in the river; my hair was curly for about a week, and after that it was back to straight.

I tried the flat iron on about 300 F, and it worked. I can curl my hair with it, and make the edges bend the way I want - which is the opposite way of what the hair wants.

Now I want a flat iron holder and/or a heat mat, so I have somewhere to put the thing when I'm done playing. They have a pink leopard heat mat. I know it wouldn't match green, but I like it, and I'm eccentric, so who cares. Right!

I also want a purple leopard hair curler and a red hairdryer. Hubs used my hairdryer for something a couple of years ago and broke it, so we haven't had one for ages. Hmm, I'd better get to work to finance this shopping spree.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

This TV commercial changed my life

After reading a headline like that you might think it's about a new diet, a miracle skin cure, or a new and previously undiscovered way to make money. Nope.

The commercial shows an elderly woman who proudly shares her photos on her wall - her living room wall - and the part that has etched its way into my memory comes right at the end.

The older woman says, "I unfriend you."

Her friend says, "That's not how it works. That's not how any of this works."


When I first saw it I thought it was kind of funny. They've been playing it a lot on the TV channels we watch, and it's still funny.

The thing is, every time someone says something really strange to me now I hear, "That's not how it works. That's not how any of this works" in my head. You'd be surprised at how many times it happens every day.

I tend to assume that my measurement for what's self-evident or common sense applies to everyone, but that's not true. Something that comes easy to me can be difficult to someone else, and something that's easy to that person can be impossible for me.

My brain knows this, but emotionally it's still easy to fall into a line of thinking where, "it's so easy, doesn't everyone know this?"

Of course they don't.

People aren't born with the knowledge of how a website works, how to use social media, how to edit images or video, or the importance of building a brand. I'm certainly not born with the knowledge of how to fix my drain, or how to repair hub's car.

Knowing this doesn't change the fact; every time someone says something that's counter-intuitive to my version of reality I hear, "That's not how it works. That's not how any of this works." It's pretty hilarious!


Friday, June 20, 2014

Happy Midsummer!

Today is a big deal for Swedish people; we celebrate the summer solstice. It's done all over the country, but I believe people in my area have taken it to heart the most. People actually travel from other parts of the country to Dalarna to experience a "genuine" midsummer. 

That doesn't sound like a big deal, because Sweden is rather small, right?

It's true if you measure on population, we're just some nine million people. If you measure on area, Sweden is the third largest country in the European Union. It is approximately 978 miles from north to south, and Dalarna is just south of the middle.

In Sweden, the summer solstice always happens on a Friday. This was decided in the 1950s, because we lost too much productivity closing everything down for days if Midsummer happened to be on some other weekday. This way businesses are only closed for one day, and people can celebrate Friday and Saturday, and recuperate on Sunday.

To celebrate properly, you're supposed to pick flowers and make a "midsommarkrans" that you put on your head. Every village with any sense of pride has a "midsommarstång" and this is sort of a flag pole clad with flowers and greenery that is raised at a central spot. Many households put up a little one in their yard, some villages have a smaller one, and some have huge ones. It becomes very heavy, and the raising is a big ceremony.

I would love to put one in my yard here in Florida, just to see if people would react, but we don't have the right kinds of greenery and flowers here, so it wouldn't be the same. LOL.

Anyway, once the midsommarstång is up, dancing commences. There will also be big cook-outs, fancy dinners, and lots of drinking all around the country. 

We believe that Midsummer is the time when the veil between worlds is the thinnest. You're supposed to pick seven kinds of flowers and put under your pillow - which kinds of flowers depends on who you ask - to dream of your true love. If you're lucky, you might see fairies dance on the meadows, but if you walk in the woods and hear someone play violin you'd better watch out. That might be Näcken. He sits naked in a stream playing his violin, hoping to lure maidens in the water so he can grab them and take them to the underworld.

Happy Midsummer! 



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A little bit of this and a little bit of that

Sometimes things worth mentioning pile up, but there's not enough of each to justify a full blog post. Does that make sense? Here's a mix of things that have passed my desk lately that might be of interest. And trust me, this is a mix. ;-)


New title to long for


Fabulous Christy Elkins is about to release a new psychological thriller. Swim will be coming to a retailer near you June 25th.

I was fortunate to get to read an early version of the story, and it is fantastic. I will talk more about the book when it is released and you can actually get it. =)

I love Christy Elkins's books, because she keeps me guessing. I can never figure out who-dun-it, and it keeps me turning the pages at record speed, because I have to know what's really going on.




Sale on professional hair styling tools


Yes, this mix-and-match edition of my blog makes abrupt turns. The new website ceramicflatiron.com sells professional flat irons, hair dryers, and curling irons from Royale USA at bargain prices. I'm particularly enthralled with the automatic curler. Put a strand of hair in it, close the handles, and it curls the hair up by itself.

I'm also fascinated with the colors and patterns. I've never owned a flat iron, but I am sorely tempted to get a pink zebra. Normal price $300, now $64.99. It's still a lot of money, but with lifetime warranty...

If I do get one, I'll tell you all about it. If someone here has already tried one, I'd love to hear what you think.

Ooh, they have another super-cool item; wet-to-dry flat irons. I would love to try one of those.


Something for the pet lovers


PlexiDor Pet Doors have a super-fun contest where you can win 1,000 lbs of dog food. I've been trying to visualize 1,000 lbs of dog food, counting the food bags I get for my doggie-gang, and it's hard to imagine. Freight is included in the prize; it will be delivered to your door. Would be a perfect thing to win and donate to a rescue.

To enter, visit http://www.plexidors.com/contest-2014 and post a photo of your dog using a pet door. It can be any pet door, it doesn't have to be a PlexiDor. If you don't have a pet door, get creative.


And, some news from me!


I haven't accomplished much along the lines of fiction this year, but I did write something. Conversion is a novella that will be published in the anthology "Futuristic in Nature" later this year together with stories by L.R. Currell and Dave Chattaway. It is also available as a free-standing book.

Blurb:

Rhodesia runs through the forest, hunted by creatures wearing the faces of people she loves. They plead to her to wait in the voices of her family, and the sound sends chills down her back. What is worse? Succumbing, and becoming a mindless drone with the others, or perishing in the forest, alone?

Roy Planter is a man with a mission, and he has no intention of staying on a plague-ridden planet where more humans turn into mindless drones every day. Being stuck in a city, grouped with a sword-wielding stick insect of a man and a busty blonde with a too vivid sense of humor are only temporary setbacks. He's leaving, first chance he gets. At least that's what he thinks until Rhodesia arrives.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

If I were... Subjunctive mood.

When you grow up with a language you just know some things, without having to think about it. When you learn a new language, it's different. 

My English teachers way back when drilled me with tables like:

I  am
You  are
He, She, It  is
We  are
You  are
They  are

And

I  was
You  were
He, She, It  was
We  were
You  were
They  were


After a while it sticks and becomes natural.

So, why do I have such an urge to say, "If I were" or, "If she were?" According to the tables it should clearly be was, not were. Right?

Wrong.

My "were" in these types of sentences have been corrected by many editors in different situations. When it comes to fiction I generally go along with it. It's not that big a deal. However, the word were is the right form to use together with if. 

It shows a wish or thought that isn't true; a statement that doesn't form an established fact. It can also be about someone's state of mind, opinion, purpose, belief, desire, or intention. This is called subjunctive form.

For example, saying, "If he were a blue elephant" is correct, because the were indicates that something is out of the ordinary and not true.

Here are a couple of examples in present and past form.

Present indicative Present subjunctive
I own I own
You own You own
He, She, It owns He, She, It own
We own We own
You own You own
They own They own
Past indicative Past subjunctive
I was I were
You were You were
He, She, It was He, She, It were
We were We were
You were You were
They were They were

If you want to delve into this, here are some great resources:

  • The Oxford Dictionaries have a great explanation.
  • The Language Log elaborates on, "The 'were' form is often wrongly called a past subjunctive, but of course 'it were done' is not a past tense of 'it be done'.
  • Englishclub.com also elaborates on the subjunctive.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

CVS: Customer service fail.

I've never had problems with American pharmacies before. I find it peculiar that pharmacies sell coffee, snacks, toys, and electronics, but once I find the pharmacy section tucked away at the back of the store I haven't had problems with them.

This week, our local CVS has annoyed me to the point where I wanted to tell them what I really feel. That is a bad thing.

Let's back up for a moment. I need to give some personal background for all this to make sense.

I am personally between health insurances right now. For some reason I can't figure out, the insurance companies refused to give me coverage that started when my coverage from my previous employer ended, so I'm spending June sad and uninsured.

I tried to get an interim insurance for this month, but they wouldn't sign me up because I had a pre-existing problem; high blood pressure.

That shouldn't have had to be a disaster. I thought I could re-fill my own prescriptions late May and get by through June, but Florida Blue only let me have the cheap cholesterol pills that I could live without for a month, or pay for. They refused to pay for the last refill of my expensive blood pressure pills.

That pretty much determined that I wouldn't get a new policy with them. Anyway, my blood pressure is a disaster. I can't afford to buy the medicine without insurance, and I'm allergic to the cheaper versions. Thus, I feel awful. I have headaches, I can barely keep my eyes open, and some days I see funny patterns in front of my eyes.

Thank you Florida Blue, insensitive bastards. *glares*

None of this is the fault of CVS. I just need to man up and push through the entire month until my new coverage with Aetna starts.

Now, I don't mean to whine, but since I don't feel well at all, I have a low tolerance level for bs. Right now, I have enough on my plate surviving, providing for us, caring for hubs and his cancer, caring for the dogs, taking care of the yard and the house...

Monday this week, hubs went his round to the doctors and his general physician gave him new prescriptions. After seeing the general physician, we went to the cancer center, and the doctor there wanted to adjust one of the prescriptions from doctor number one.

We arrived to CVS with one prescription from doctor one to cancel, one prescription from doctor one to fill, and one prescription from doctor two to fill.

They looked at the papers and said, "Why are these from two different doctors?"

We explained the situation, and they looked in their computer. Hubs has so many pills. There are pain pills, prescription vitamins, anti-nausea pills, steroids, medicine to increase his appetite, I can't keep track of them all. Furthermore, he's 5'10" and weighs 115 lbs. Strangers ask him if he's okay. When a person like that shows up with a prescription from a cancer center you'd think they'd be able to realize he's really sick and try to make things easy. Right?

Wrong.

Three pharmacists stood there looking at the papers, looking at him, and looking at the computer. One guy said, "We can't fill this. I'll have to call the doctors."

I said, "Well, then, call the cancer center who made the corrections. They will explain everything to you."

He said, "No, I'll have to call them both."

Hubs headed for the chairs to sit down and wait, and I said, "Wait, how long is this going to take?"

The guy behind the counter made a dismissive gesture. "I have many other calls to make."

It was clear that he had no intention of calling anyone. We had already spent four hours waiting at different doctor's offices and I had to get back to trying to make money for us to pay the bills, so I said, "Will you call him when you're done?"

"Sure."

It didn't sound reassuring, but we left for home.

Hubs waited all day. Nothing.

Yesterday morning, he started calling himself. The pharmacy hadn't even tried calling the doctors. When hubs started calling, the cancer center first got angry with the pharmacy, and then told us to come down to sign a release form that would get him his medicine for sure.

That was the start of bouncing between doctor's offices and the pharmacy for two hours.

Two hours of doctor's notes, phone calls, re-written prescriptions, and CVS still refused to give him his medicine. 

How do you refuse a cancer patient medicine after talking to a doctor who says it's necessary? The cancer center said, "Of all our patients right now, he is the one who needs this the most."

What really made me mad was when the pharmacy people all stood behind the counter, refusing to pick up the phone to call the doctors and double-check the dang prescriptions themselves. Hubs called on the cell phone, got hold of the right person, and the pharmacists shied away saying, "No, we don't talk on cell phones."

I get it, he could have called anyone, but if you refuse to call yourselves, tell him to do it and don't let him use the pharmacy phone, how can he get hold on anyone besides on his cell phone? Drop the attitude, pick up the phone, and call yourself. It's your job!

At this point, after dealing with this for two days, my patience was gone. I wanted to growl and show my teeth, like a dog would have done. On the other end of my computer at home was a company waiting for urgent material for me, I felt like shit, I wanted my husband to have his medicine, we were both hungry, and so on.

Hubs said, "You're starting to be really mean to people."

I said, "I'm sorry. There's a certain level of idiocy I can accept, and these people have gone far beyond that."

When all this was finally settled, they had somehow lost one of his previous prescriptions for anti-nausea pills. It's just gone. It was in their computer yesterday, but it's not there anymore. Luckily, he doesn't feel all that nauseous right now, because neither of us have the strength to enter the battle to get them.

On the bright side, the doctors think hubs will feel much better in a couple of months. In four weeks or so I will be covered again, so I can get my medicine and feel better again, if these people don't give me a stroke before that. I'm supposed to stay away from stress in order to survive this month. CVS are not helping! We only have to push through a little further...

Have you had problems with pharmacies? I'm thinking of sending a letter to CVS corporate. A part of the job of being a pharmacist is caring for people and helping people. I think the pharmacists should have been all over him, helping him, making sure he had somewhere to sit and was comfortable with a glass of water while they sorted their own problems out. What do you think?

Monday, June 9, 2014

What's the most annoying thing people say to you?

When I still had a daytime job and mostly wrote fiction at home, people saying things like, "But you're only playing on the computer" would drive me crazy. Phrases like that convey that whatever is being done isn't important. 

I think everyone with a creative job encounters comments that push their buttons at some time. I base that assumption on finding innumerable images like the below on the Internet. ;-) Most of the points in the image don't annoy me, actually. People mean well, and it's a good thing that they show interest.

I mean, I don't walk up to people and say, "Oh, you're a plumber/carpenter/teacher? Is it hard? I've thought of doing some plumbing at some point in time." Writing is interesting enough to engage people's imagination even when they're not reading.


Anyway, since my husband fell ill and I started my little Sadowski Media to be able to be home with him, I've encountered a similar problem.

This time it's not just annoying; it's serious.

My husband told his doctor's office that I have my office in the back of the house. It's true, and this room is one of the reasons I really wanted this house. My office is bright with four windows, has a door to the outside, and can be shut off from the rest of the house. It's awesome!

Anyway, it took them about 0.2 seconds to reach the conclusion that if I work from home I don't do anything, and I have all the time in the world.


They think it's okay to call at all weird hours to reschedule appointments, create new and unexpected appointments, and let us wait forever, because I work from home so they can't possibly be disturbing something. I have a hard time appreciating the attitude of, "at least you guys aren't in a hurry anywhere."

This week they even took upon themselves to call and reschedule his appointments with other doctors, so they could get a time that fits them better than the one they originally gave him. Happy surprise, we've changed your day around.

It could still be okay if he would go to the appointments on his own, but if I don't follow him, he won't go.

There's only one of me and I have to plan my time. I work seven days a week, usually from morning until night. I need to provide for us, spend days every week in doctors' offices, take care of the dogs, cook, shop for groceries, fetch lunch for hubs, do laundry, do dishes, clean the house, care for the yard, and so on. There isn't enough Maria to cover everything, especially when people keep messing up the schedule.

Replace the baby with a dog, and the image below becomes pretty accurate. (That, of course, doesn't stop people from wanting to pile more stuff on me.)


The funny thing is, if I went away from the house to work for someone else every day, people would get it. There's something magical about the phrase, "I have to go to work" that implies, "Leave me alone."

I'm pretty good at what I do. I have an ample supply of work, but in order to get paid I have to actually do it. Every day. If I move too many of my appointments people will think I'm difficult and find someone more reliable and easier to work with. Worst case scenario, well...


I'm frustrated and exhausted, and thus far, saying no has accomplished nothing. We'll be going in to the doctor's office soon, because naturally today's appointments were moved, and I will have to explain all this again. If they don't stop screwing with my time I won't be able to pay his health insurance, and then they won't get paid. Maybe that's a line of thought they can understand...

For all you writers, artists, and small company owners out there, have you experienced something similar? What is the most annoying thing people say to you?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Anthology coming soon

I haven't written a lot of fiction this year, real life has been too intense to allow me to disappear off into a world of my own, but I am participating in an anthology of short science fiction stories. The name is Futuristic in Nature and it will be released late July.

My story is called "Conversion" - at least for now - and it is set in the future on a planet colonized by mankind. I will probably release it on its own as a short novella as well, the other writers are doing that with theirs and it's a good idea, but I have yet to come up with a blurb.

Anyway, I wanted to share an excerpt:



The great escape stopped just minutes later. She threw herself down on her stomach and took in glimpses of a large road. The pavement looked golden in the sun, and it stretched out with no interruptions as far as she could see. Days earlier it would have been crowded with traffic both on wheels and in the air. Now it lay deserted.
Walking on the road would be easier than trekking through the forest. It would also make her an easy target.
It led to New London. She had been there a few times. It was a nice city. Crowded, but pleasant. People were polite.
Cities had clean clothes, water, and food.
It was just an illusion. New London would be in no better shape than New Tampa, and getting out of there almost killed her. Mankind was overrun by its own creations, and any city would be a deathtrap.
Maybe she should cross the road and resume her trek through the terrain on the other side?
It was just an excuse to feel the pavement under her feet, and once she stepped onto it the call of civilization might be too strong. She might not be willing to step off. She’d keep walking, comforted by a remains of her lost world, and it would lead her to her death.
On the other hand, did she stand a chance alone in the woods? She could hold out for a few days, but what were the odds of someone solving the world’s problem before she succumbed to starvation and fatigue?
What if I’m the only human left on the planet?
She would need a ride off-world. The elders had placed the planet in quarantine and there were surely beacons transmitting gloomy messages of death and destruction, but there might still be ships able to fly. She had never left the planet, but how hard could it be?
The spaceport couldn’t be far, and to get to it she’d have to cross the road.
She climbed the short but slippery bank on all fours, determined to get to the other side before she changed her mind again. Minds were such fickle things.
The deserted road was eerie. Alone in the forest she had been able to pretend the world still functioned, but roads were never empty.
She reached down to press her palm against the smooth surface. It was cool and smooth. At least buildings and roads were still reliable. For now.
“We accomplished this. We built this.”
Her words were too loud. Now would be a good time to run, stay out of sight, and hopefully be forgotten.
Get off the road.
As much as she told herself to hurry, she dragged her feet. New London had a thick wall and it looked safe. Tempting.
“Doesn’t matter when the danger comes from within.”
Her voice sounded spooky in the thick silence, but talking to herself helped her move forward.
Getting up on the road hadn’t been difficult, but seen from above the bank of gravel slanting down to the forest seemed steep. She crouched and squinted, attempting to make out a safe way down. Falling would be bad.
Was that movement?
No. Imagination. Or maybe an animal.
She kept her eyes on the spot, just in case the leaves would separate and show a human face. This was the end of the world and her instincts might be reliable.
At first nothing moved, but then the greenery parted and a man looked out. He stared at her and held out a hand.
“Come with us. You will be safe.”
Right. Sure I will.
She got to her feet slowly. He might still be human, but odds were against it. Even if he were human, he might also be a crazy cannibal rapist.
“You will be safe.”
The slow repeating of words and the lack of expression on his face convinced her.
Not human.
Where there was one, there might be more.
Had he come from the city?
She nodded, pretending to consider the offer, and glanced to the side. A group of five advanced in an eerie, synchronized manner.
The man said, “You will be safe” one more time, and the others repeated the words. An eerie choir of human voices void of emotion.
The only way clear led to the city.


Preliminary release, late July. I'll keep you updated. =)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Exercising my freedom of speech: Makers of pet treats create $6.5 million fund to compensate dog owners

I have been informed that reporting on news regarding certain big companies is bad form, even when they kill tens of thousands of pets. Luckily we have freedom of speech, so I'll just do it on my own blog instead of on the pet-related one. I'm pretty angry right now, so imagine a raving mad smiley here, LOL

The news are as follows:

There has been warnings about pet jerky treats from China since 2007, and with 10,000 pet deaths, almost 5,000 complaints of animals severely sick, and even three humans affected, it is hard to disregard the problem.

Pet treat makers Nestle Purina Pet-Care Co and Waggin' Train LLC both claim there's nothing wrong with the treats, but in settling a recent class action lawsuit in the matter, the two companies have agreed to create a $6.5 million fund to compensate dog owners who believe their animals were harmed.

Money can never erase the pain of losing a furry friend, especially not after wanting to make them happy through a tasty treat, but the settlement is a step in the right direction. If approved, it will also require enhanced quality measures when it comes to treats made in China, and modifications of the text on treat packages.

PetCo and PetSmart have already announced that they will no longer sell pet treats made in China. These companies do a great thing taking the dangerous treats off the shelves. Despite extensive testing, no direct cause have been found for the deaths and illnesses, but the treats are the only common denominator.


My curious question: after reading the above, do you find reporting on it offensive? I think that killing ten thousand pets is pretty damned offensive, excuse the language. Even the FDA has issued warnings about these treats.



Sunday, May 25, 2014

Why do so many big companies stop their e-mail support?

Have you noticed that it's almost impossible to contact larger companies via e-mail nowadays? They have phone and a chat function that no one ever monitors, but all e-mail addresses are removed. Why is that?

I can imagine a long row of reasons companies don't want e-mail addresses. They don't want to be spammed, they want to keep a history of the support case, and probably believe that everyone is happiest getting an immediate answer. I believe that customers appreciate the ability to send a question via e-mail and get an answer later.

Since I started Sadowski Media I've needed to sort out several annoying details - I need everything in my little office to work the way it's supposed to - and I have needed to reach Apple, T-mobile, Symantec, GoDaddy, and Bing ads. None of them have e-mail support.

I hate phones. I won't call anyone unless I absolutely have to. I'd rather buy a new computer than call support.

Chat is okay, I can start chat sessions, but in my experience you usually have to wait 20 minutes for someone on the other end to wake up and answer, and I do believe the junior support staff gets to man the chat. It's difficult to find anyone who knows anything, and if I need support I really want to talk to someone who knows more than I do myself.

This is the result of my attempts to get help.

1. Apple. I have a simple question about file conversions in/from iBooks Author.

I dug around on the website until I found an e-mail address, sent them my question, and asked them to forward my question to the right support people. I got an e-mail back with the same phone number that's already available on the website. There is no other way to contact them than through phone.

Apple support: Fail.

2. T-mobile. I had a question about my cell phone plan since I wanted to add a line and the website wouldn't let me.

They don't have e-mail addresses for support on the website, but I finally dug up a link that sent an e-mail to them through Facebook's messaging system. I didn't really expect an answer, but got one within minutes. They helped me through everything in a smooth and professional manner.

T-mobil support: Success.

3. Symantec. I've had a Norton subscription for years, and the license stopped working when I had to re-install my PC. I couldn't find a viable support option and finally threw a fit on Twitter. Symantec contacted me via e-mail and solved my problem within minutes. They also asked how I would want support to work.

Symantec support: Success.

4. GoDaddy. I've been trying to create subdomains. Again threw a fit on Twitter - nothing. Sent them a message through Facebook, and they gave me the phone number to support, even though I told them I wasn't interested in calling. *eyeroll* After messaging back and forth a few times they weren't able to solve my problem.

GoDaddy support: Fail.

5. Bing Ads. I got an email from PayPal about a payment to a Bing Ad I didn't know I had. I finally resorted to contacting them too through Facebook, and found myself in the old discussion of why I don't want to call support. After going back and forth for a day I managed to persuade them to forward my question to support and someone e-mailed me back.

Thus far I've provided my account number four times, asking how to find out what user name or e-mail address is connected to it. Every time they answer back that I should attempt to log on with the e-mail address I'm sending messages from - which is not connected to Bing Ads at all - and use the link to reset my password.

They're clearly idiots.
Bing support: Fail.


What do you think? Is providing a phone number adequate support in the year 2014? Do people want e-mail support, or is it just me?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Year of change

I knew 2014 was going to be a year of change, but I couldn't predict the extent of the changes. If you read my blog on a regular basis you might know I changed jobs and became a full time writer. You might also know I had a hard time getting the hours together with my personal life and fiction writing. Well, all that has changed.

Something - you might call it an inner voice, instinct, fate, voice of God - pushed me to seek out and take on writing clients besides my daytime job, even though I didn't have the time or energy for it. I already spent 10-11 hours every day away, and thought I was crazy diving into even more. I still registered a company name, made a logo and a website, and raced forward against sense and better judgement.

This happens to me from time to time; I feel an inner pressure to do something that appears less than sane. I have learned that it usually makes sense in the long run. Like, one time I took out a loan and drove across Sweden to buy a really big American car that I didn't need and couldn't afford. A couple of months later a semi rammed me, and would have killed me if I'd had a normal vehicle.

Anyway, I raced forward and toyed with going down in time at the Fraud Practice. I even got so far I contacted the company owner and said I wanted to discuss going down in time.

It didn't turn out like that.

Earlier this year I read a horoscope saying, "For Pisces, 2014 will bring a completely new game." That's an underestimate.

A few weeks ago my husband started to cough up blood, lots of blood, and three weeks ago today he finally agreed to see a doctor. We went to a nearby clinic, and the doctor took one look at him and sent us to the ER. Hubs ended up staying at the hospital for days. He had pneumonia, fluid around his lungs, skyrocketing blood pressure, fluttering heartbeats, and an at the time unknown "mass" in his chest. By day three it was clear that this will require many doctor's visits, and that I couldn't commit to being in an office at certain hours every day, for the entire day every day.

I went back to work to pick up my things and quit. I feel bad about it because I wasn't even able to give a decent notice. Under the circumstances I think they understand.

Since then he has had surgery and gotten a tube implanted in his side where we tap out fluid as it builds up in his chest. A biopsy of the "mass" showed lung cancer, and today we went to get a PET scan so they can see if it has spread or not. I'm praying for not - if it has spread it will reduce his chances dramatically. We have a long row of wonderful doctors, nurses, and helpers.

To make things even more complicated, all this came a week and a half before the big RT Convention in New Orleans. I considered not going, but I had spent so much time and money on it already that it would be outright stupid not to go. I had my doubts, but it worked out pretty well.

Today is Thursday, and we've spent most of Monday, Wednesday, and today at doctors' offices. My initial estimation was correct; there's no way I could have kept my job. One day out of four wouldn't cut it, and hubs would never go see all these doctors on his own. I mean, I think it's a lot to deal with, and I'm not sick.

Hopefully, my new Sadowski Media will be able to support us all, and I have some hope that everything will turn out for the best. It is a blessing to be able to work when I can, and I am so grateful I started up when I did. Website work, social media, and writing can be done from anywhere at any time. I bring my laptop or iPad and type away. I bet all the keyboard clicking annoys other people in the waiting rooms, but they'll just have to live with it.

If I seem more distracted and scatter-brained than usual, this is why.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Thoughts from the RT convention

I am home again after my RT convention adventure, and look back at the event with mixed feelings. I had some great experiences that wouldn't have been possible without RT, but funny enough, my good memories aren't related to the convention itself.

What was good?

I met a lot of great people. This is the first time I met my publisher and any of the co-authors at Desert Breeze in real life. We talk on Facebook all the time, but meeting people face to face is awesome. I also met some other Internet friends, and made new acquaintances in the lobby and at the events.

The Intergalactic Bar and Grille. I met wonderful Linnea Sinclair in real life for the first time, met Vijaya Schartz for the first time, and got to know some other wonderful sci-fi romance writers. I had a blast at the IBG.

The first night had a Mardi Gras event where participants got to see the huge Mardi Gras floats, listen to appropriate music, get beads, and get a feeling of Mardi Gras. Very cool, lots of fun.

The Fan-Tastic day brought people in on day passes. I met some truly awesome readers and other writers.

What was bad?

The organization of the event leaves a lot to wish for. I don't know how you can be unprepared for managing a large amount of people when you know exactly how many have signed up, but that's the impression I got. "Ooops, that's a really long line, guess we don't have enough buses."  "Ooops, we don't have enough food." "Ooops, we're out of coffee." Logistics can be difficult, but the convention has the advantage of knowing how many attendants they have.

Setting details like food and buses to the side for a bit, the fiasco I will remember that has tainted RT Conventions for me for the future is...

...drumroll...

The book fair. 

Before I start sounding like a real rambling bitch, I want to point out some facts that non-authors often don't know, or don't think about.

  • An event such as the RT Convention is planned far in advance. I'm a last minute girl, but I know many authors who started to plan their displays in September last year.
  • Displays, posters, swag, and books are ordered far in advance. 
  • A vast majority of writers travel to the convention. Most come from different parts of the USA, but some come from Australia and the UK. This means that authors have either paid to send their things ahead, or brought them on planes.
  • Everyone pays for the conference, for travel, for hotel rooms, and everyone has taken time off from their writing, daytime jobs, families, or whatever they would normally do.
It's easy to forget that all this stuff that we hand out don't just magically appear. Someone has taken time to design it, order it, pay for it, and bring it. One of my neighbors at the fair had ordered her swag from China to be able to get suitable quantities.

When the authors signed up for the fair, the information said, "For the first time in RT history, the Giant Book Fair and the e-Book/Indie Book Fair have been combined! It's a one stop shopping experience for everyone!" I also have a number of e-mails and information letters saying, "Two authors will be at each table; therefore, you will have half of a 6 foot table - which is a 3 foot length."

Thus, every participating author - and there were 700 total at the fair - planned for a 3 foot length. Everyone brought displays and stuff for a 3 foot length. 

When we arrived, it turns out that a foot in New Orleans is quite different from a foot in the rest of the world. Instead of two authors per table, there were three to four. So, the three foot length turned out to be 1.5. Two feet at most.

I've had three foot spaces at other fairs, and had room for my displays and books in between. Here, everything was crammed in and as you can see in the image below, we're sitting shoulder to shoulder. Luckily, one author in our row didn't show up, so we could expand to getting this much room per person. Yes, it was smaller at first.



I would be fine with that, if someone had bothered to communicate it in advance. I would have been gravy if I had gotten an email saying, "We have overbooked the fair, and in order to accommodate everyone, we must ask you to accept a smaller space." Everyone found out when it was time to set up. I wouldn't have hauled a suitcase filled with extra stuff for the book fair if I had known I wouldn't have room for it!

I asked a volunteer why the spaces were so small - there were plenty of room for more tables - and she said, "Well, you know, Indie authors. I guess we expected you to have ebooks. No one expects Indie authors to have real books."

Really? I didn't sign up for the e-book fair. I signed up for paperbacks. RT crew counted and packaged my paperbacks, and then unpacked them and stamped them. The piles of books could hardly have been a surprise.

On top of this, the one stop shopping experience turned out to be big publishing houses in one room with ample space, and everyone else crammed into another room. I could live with that too, if it hadn't been for RT volunteers telling guests that, "This is the room for aspiring authors," "Don't go there, that's not an exit," and "That's just the Indie authors. You want to go in there to the real authors."

That's not an exit? 

Seriously? I had few people find me, and those who did said, "I didn't think you were here, I thought I missed you." "I couldn't find you." "I wasn't allowed to go in here."

I think someone discovered the boo-boo and tried to make up for it; the speaker started calling out, "...and then we have New York Times bestselling authors at the Indie book fair..." By then it was too late. Everyone were already mad.

And... There was a young adult section of the Indie room. Funny enough, only YA authors from the big publishers were allowed to sit there. YA from non New York houses were placed alphabetically with everyone else, which meant that fiction geared towards very young people ended up next to explicit erotica. Not cool.

I understand that it might be necessary to divide this many people into more than one room. Do it alphabetically, and don't have people showing guests away.

I believe that RT should offer an apology to all the writers and publishers in the Indie room. They should also offer some token of compensation. I don't think this will happen, and for that reason, I am out. Next year I'm going to Arizona Dreaming.