BioBooksAwardsComing NextContactBlogFun StuffHome

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Online Shopping Pain

I've been dealing with a couple of online shopping irritations this week. Well, one of them has been going on for more than a week, but it reached the apex for me now.

Usually when I order online, I sign up for the emails because I want to know when there's a good sale. It's easy enough to delete the few emails that come from that one company every week if I'm not looking to buy anything. Well, I recently purchased from two reputable, brick-and-mortar companies that I hadn't purchased from before--online at least--and had two different issues.

I found a pair of tennis shoes that I really loved, but they ran small, and by the time I realized I wanted a second pair in a larger size, they were in end-of-season status. Meaning I could find them, but colors and sizes were limited. I finally located a pair in the size I wanted, and because they were a national name store that I recognized, I ordered. I received my confirmation email and waited.


When are they going to ship it? I wondered. I hadn't signed up for an account because I didn't think I'd buy from them in the future, so I wasn't sure if I could check my account. Finally, I decided to try and was able to do so with my order number. There was zero information about shipping there, just that the order was closed.

This frustration ended up being short lived because when I got home from work, my shoes were there. But really, send out an email with shipping and tracking information. How hard is that?

The other company is one where I did create an account because I knew I'd buy from them again and I also signed up for their emails. And received one every single solitary day. I hate that. Once or twice a week is enough, but still, I could have lived with that feeling minimal irritation except for one thing.

The title of their emails were misleading.

Every single title had me thinking that something was wrong with my recent order from them. I'd open the message, worrying about what the problem was only to discover the mail was promotional. WTF? And they never stopped doing this, even a couple of weeks after my order had arrived.

Okay, I get that they want people to open their emails, but tricking your customers only works so long. For me, it lasted maybe two, two and a half weeks and then I unsubscribed. I could tolerate the constant emails, but the titles irritated the heck out of me. File this one under how not to treat your customers.

At least the things I ordered were worth it. That's something, but what a pain.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Smart Phone Zink Printer

***I received NO compensation of any kind for this post.***

I'm on a Facebook group for people who use planners. I joined it after I tried to Bullet Journal and it's a fun place to hang out, but a little bit expensive because the others find the coolest stuff. One of the awesome finds was the Polaroid Zink printer. It basically hooks via Bluetooth to your smart phone and prints photos on special paper. The paper is 2 inches by 3 inches, and once you peel off the back, is adhesive. Yes, your own sticker!

Here's what it looks like. I took a picture of it on top of my Bullet Journal so you can see how small it is.

As you can imagine, it fits really well on a lot of different planners--not so much mine, but my current planner is a daily instead of a weekly. But if you're someone who keeps their planner as a diary/memory book, it's a nice way to keep a memory.

So a lot of the women in this FB group bought this printer when it was on sale, but I didn't. I really don't need it, I told myself and valiantly resisted buying it.

And then all the others received their printers and started using them in cool ways and I totally regretted not buying one. Sadly, they were back to full price, which was $50 more than what they'd been and there was no way I was paying that much more for the device. Then I found a return from that big sale and the price was good. I hurried up and bought it.

My plan is to take a picture of each pair of my shoes, print them out, and put the photo sticker on each shoe box so that I know which shoes are in there. Once upon a time, I used to have this information memorized, but I don't anymore and I waste a lot of time looking for a particular pair of shoes. Or I forget I have a pair of shoes until I'm looking for something else completely and then I'm like, hell, I could have been wearing those!

I think this will be a super cool idea and I can't wait to finish it so I can see if I'm right about that. And I'm sure that after this I'll find another use for the printer. Maybe I'll try to do pictures in my planner even if it doesn't fit as well as on a weekly planner.

I have printed out a few pictures on the new printer and the color is a little off even after editing the images. For example, my hot pink tennis shoes look like a muddy reddish color. I did print out one old black and white photo my dad found and that came out really well, but I'm not printing my shoe pictures in gray scale!

Despite this, I'm happy with my purchase overall, which is the important thing.

***I received NO compensation for this post. I bought my Zink printer as an open-box return.***

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Review: Stranger Things


I kept hearing about a TV series called Stranger Things over and over. It seemed as if everyone was talking about it and the overwhelming majority didn't just like the show, they thought it was awesome! It also sounded like something right up my alley and I caved in and joined Netflix so I could see it.

Basically, it has a paranormal premise. A young boy goes missing and there are dark and scary things on the loose.

Episode one was...okay. Not good, not bad, just okay. IMO. But sometimes shows take a little while to get rolling. I'd give it another shot.

It took me a few weeks to carve out time to watch again. Unlike the first time, I wasn't feeling excited about it and I didn't make it a priority. Finally, though, I managed to watch episodes 2 and 3. And I am still feeling meh about the show. I had to think about why since this should be something I liked and I'm not sure I have all the answers, but I have some suspicions.

The big thing is that I don't feel really invested in any of the characters. I don't feel like I really know them. Sure, I have facts about them, but that's not the same thing. I feel very distant from them and that makes it difficult to care.

Of all the characters, the three boys who are looking for their friend are the most interesting and I didn't expect to relate to them. When they're on screen, it's more interesting to me, but they're not on screen often enough.

I also really like the sheriff--he's smart and suspicious--and I like the missing boy's older brother, although in episode one, I didn't because of his carelessness.

There are characters I don't much like, too. Most of the rest of the cast. Winona Ryder's character, the boy's mom, is weird. She believes her son is communicating with her through the lights. Okay, so he is, but she buys into it like immediately without any skepticism at all. WTF? No matter how distraught someone is, I find it difficult to believe they'd leap at blinking Christmas lights the way she did. I'd have no problem if it took her an episode or two to believe it, but immediately? No.

I also hate the teenage girl who's younger brother is one of the friends. She is totally TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) and the worst thing about her is her stupidity got her friend killed. I know teenagers are not known for their good judgment, but her actions are not motivated well enough to make me like her despite her idiocy. It's too bad the monster/alien/whatever didn't kill her instead.

To get away from the characters, the show's lighting is also dark. I know, it's a dark show and a lot of it happens at night. I also know that a lot of TV shows have dark lighting now, but honestly, I find it annoying. Brighten it up a little bit.

And I'm not sure why else I'm so meh on Stranger Things. It feels as if there should be more reasons than this, but I can't come up with them. Although--for me--the weak characterization alone is a big thing. I want to know and love the major characters.

What I liked about the show? The sheriff and the fact that he's not stupid. It's set in a small town, so it would have been easy to do that to him. I also like the music! Hey, 80s music is the best music. It was also kind of cool to see the old phones and period cars and stuff.

So I don't like the show, but I don't really dislike it either and that makes it hard to know what to do. Do I keep watching it, just to see if it improves? Or do I write it off and watch something else?

I guess I give this 2.5 stars which is exactly half of the 5 star scale and befitting a meh show.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Local Booksellers

Once upon a time, there was an awesome bookstore called Waldenbooks. They had a small store in my mall and I would go there on the days books were released and buy everything I had written on my To Be Bought list. The manager and the clerks knew me by name and I would talk books with them.

Then my bookstore closed, but there was another Waldenbooks at another nearby mall. I started shopping there. This store was bigger, but it didn't take long before they knew my name there, too. In fact, if they didn't have a chance to unpack the new books yet when I showed up to buy them, they would let me go through the boxes to find the titles I wanted to buy. Like I said, they were awesome.

They would even save books for me that came in while I was on vacation so that I didn't miss out on my favorite authors. There might not be a discount, but there were benefits that outweighed the extra cost.

And then things began to change. They started hiring people who didn't know anything about books. They could be selling burgers or shoes or anything. There were no more conversations with salespeople who loved books as much as I did. The perks went away too, like saving books for me or letting me go through the boxes.

Then this bookstore closed too. My sadness would have been greater except I felt as if what I'd loved about the store had been dying for a while.

I tried other stores, but they were big and impersonal. I started buying books online and then I switched to ebooks after the Kindle came out. I never thought I'd rather read on screen, but I do now. I also like the instant gratification of having whatever I want to read in seconds.

But I miss Waldenbooks and I wish they were still around. That store and the people who worked there were special.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Creativity Exercises

I've been listening to a lecture series on creativity. I'm not very far into it yet, but there's been one episode with an exercise in it and it was sort of interesting. Maybe not too helpful, though? I'm not sure about it.

The exercise was to use a random word generator and try to think on a different path, one guided by this unconnected word. The example the professor gave involved "Tadpole" and he showed how the person used that word to come up with a solution to a teacher shortage in a school system.

Okay, I can see how the solution this person came up with sort of fell into line with the word. Hmm, I thought. I found an online word generator and got my word. I did it again. And then a third time, this time requesting a word with more than one syllable.

Three times and I didn't find it particularly helpful, but I'm going to give it another shot. I was distracted while I was trying to use my words and that's not conducive to creativity.

Creativity is one of those skills that grows the more you use it and I think it stretches it further if you try to make your brain work in new ways. That's why I'm going to try that random word thing again and why I'll try any other exercises that come up in the lecture series because no matter how silly something might sound, you never know what paths it might open up. Brains can be strange things.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Wandering into New Territory

I've been stagnate for a while with my musical choices, so I decided to shake things up a little bit. I started by using the curated playlists available on Amazon Music. (I received absolutely no compensation for this article. I'm a Prime member had can stream a lot of music for free.) After listening, changing to a different playlist, and skipping a bunch of songs, I tried stations. This is seeded with one artist or theme. I started out with Pitbull. ;-)

The Pitbull station was interesting and I discovered that while I like some of his songs, there are more that I don't like. The station played a lot of other artists and there were some I enjoyed, but when I heard Counting Stars by One Republic, I knew I'd found a new band to listen to.

Radio in Atlanta isn't good. I'm not the only one who thinks this either. A couple of Georgia natives agree with me. Because of this, I mostly listen to my own music. The one radio station I use to wake up to plays oldies. My old wake up radio station was far enough out of range that some mornings all I'd have was static and I can sleep through white noise. That radio station was super cool, though, because it played everything. One morning I'd wake up to the Partridge Family and the next day it would be Lady Gaga. I called it radio roulette because I never knew which decade I'd be hearing.

Too bad the signal wasn't better because I was hearing new music there. It's this station that introduced me to Maroon 5 and some other bands.

It's always easier to listen to what's familiar, but I have an eclectic taste in music and I like adding to my collection. I'm all excited to have a new band to follow.

Edited to add: Two new bands! Between the time I wrote this and now, I discovered Fitz and the Tantrums. I'd actually heard one of their songs before, but didn't know the band. Now I do and I like a lot of their music.

***There was no compensation from anyone for this post. This is my opinion and Amazon Prime allows any member to stream a large selection of music for free. I also have no affiliation or ties to One Republic, Maroon 5 or anyone else for that matter.***

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Burning Through the Podcasts

I've mentioned it before, but I enjoy listening to podcasts. All of them are free or at least mostly/partially free. My favorite is Mysterious Universe and is hosted by two Australian men. They talk about lots of woo woo stuff like UFOs, ghosts, alternate realities, anything along those lines and they regularly have guests. A recent episode had a biologist who studies animal venom, so not all the topics are strange in nature.

Another favorite is Lexicon Valley. They talk with linguists about the English language. I totally geek out about words so this is awesome! There's Flash Forward which looks at a possible future and discusses how likely (or unlikely) it might be.

More recently, I discovered Origin Stories by the Leakey Foundation. The topics here are related to anthropology, natch!

If you're into writing podcasts, a friend of mine from when we worked together on Crimson City is podcasting with another author. The Business of Writing Romance is hosted by Carolyn Jewel and Rachael Herron. There's something for writers of all levels here and I think the information is presented in a very entertaining way.

But I was caught up on all of these podcasts recently and I needed something more, so I went looking. I discovered another new podcast that I really enjoy and it's completely different from anything I've listened to before. It's called Slate's Culture Gabfest and topics include movies, television, theater, music, books/authors, and even Pokemon Go. Pretty much anything that involves entertainment in some way.

TBH, I never thought I'd enjoy what is essentially an entertainment podcast, but it's not gossip-based. I enjoy listening to the three hosts discuss their thoughts about the various topics, and while they don't always agree, they're always respectful of each other which is so refreshing in this day and age.

I have a few more podcasts cued up to try, but haven't had a chance to sample them yet, but it would be nice to listen to a wide variety of different things.

All the podcasts I mentioned are free. A few of them have additional content that requires payment, but I don't subscribe to that and I usually don't feel as if I'm missing out on anything. So if you want to try any of these podcasts, it won't cost you anything but time. :-) Because they're free, most of them have advertising, but I don't find it particularly intrusive.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Why My Characters Make Me Nuts

Last week I blogged about character names and what kicked off the entire thing was the fact that my heroine in the idea for book 1 had a name that a TV character had messed up for me. Every time I thought of her, this other character would come in and take over. Clearly, this was a huge issue for getting to know this heroine well enough to write her.

I thought we had it all settled. Cool new name with a nickname that was also super cool and added color to her father who is also part of the three book arc. I fought my way through the issues this raised for other characters and it was all good.

My peace lasted three days. Heroine number 1 is back to her original name: Claire.

This is the stuff that makes me insane and why I say my characters insist on torturing me. This is mild compared to some of the things they've pulled on me, but still I wasted a lot of time on the name thing and I'll be wasting a lot more going forward. Why? Because I'm going to have to do a lot of extra work to get to know my heroine and obliterate TV Claire from my head.

I did think about fighting her on this, but that idea didn't last long. I've never won a fight with my characters about their names.

So Claire it is no matter how difficult it makes things for m.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

You Are Two

This kind of freaked me out once I started thinking about it.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Name Hijinks Continues

My name issues continue. Once the heroine changed her name, her hero was like, this isn't my name either. This is unusual for me because they generally don't let up on me until I do have their names right. I've spent more than a few late nights searching because I hadn't hit on the correct moniker yet. So it was back to the name sites again.

With the first name picked, he decided he wanted the surname that the hero from the second story had. Sigh. Last names are a lot more fluid for me. It's rare for a character to protest any last name I might tag them with, so it wasn't a big deal to give hero 2 a new one.

Problem solved.

Until the next day when I start thinking about the series arc on the van ride to work and realized that hero 1 has a name far too similar to heroine 2. Close enough in sound that it would be horrible when the two of them were on the page together and since the heroine from the second story works for the hero in the first book, they would be on the page together.

Now I have to convince hero 1 that he has to change his name. Heroine 2 was the first of the characters from the three books to have a name and she didn't make me search at all. She told me. That means her name was non-negotiable.

Hero 1 resisted--like I expected. I started looking at names anyway because he had to change it. Luckily, I finally found one that he was willing to accept as his.

But then the last name that he'd appropriated suddenly became wrong again. Argh! So back to searching for surnames. I found one that had potential and hero 2 spoke up and grabbed it. ::sigh:: I searched some more and then I found it. And hero 1 agreed it was perfect. Whew! I think (hope!) that I finally have all the names in place for this three book series idea.

I tell you, I'm simply not used to this much changing and turmoil. What heroine 2 did is much more typical for me. She said: here's my name. Done. I hope next story idea has that kind of easiness again.