Grocery Glitches

Yesterday got disrupted by having to deal with a grocery glitch. After lunch, while I waited for the kettle to boil to make some afternoon tea, I put away my groceries. The bill had been a bit higher than I’d expected, but I knew I was doing a massive re-stock and buying holiday cooking supplies, so I hadn’t argued at the store. But as I put the groceries away, I was trying to do an estimated running total, and I didn’t get anywhere near the right amount. So I looked at the receipt and saw that it wasn’t just my groceries on it. The first half was the previous person’s order, with mine added on. Then I noticed that the credit card digits showing on it had nothing to do with mine, and it was even a different kind of credit card. So, I ended up running back to the store to straighten it all out. I had to stand in line at customer service, and it baffled the clerk there, who called in a manager. Two managers eventually came over, and they were baffled. They had to call in their front-end supervisor. That involved a lot more waiting (they paged him several times). He groaned because apparently this has been coming up with their latest system upgrade. He copied my receipt so they could investigate further. Fortunately, the person ahead of me has a Kroger Plus account, so they might be able to get in touch with her. They added up my actual bill (nearly $100 less than it had been), and I paid that. I haven’t noticed any odd charges on my card, so it looks like it didn’t get charged at all the first time, either for my groceries or the next person’s.

And I was able to pick up something I realized I’d forgotten.

I think they were a little surprised that I came back to draw this to their attention when it actually worked in my favor, with someone else paying for my groceries. And unless this person pays close attention to her credit card account and notices that the amount is off, she might not notice this unless the store is able to do something to either contact her or void the transaction without having her card.

But I don’t know that I could have lived with myself taking advantage of something like that.

Anyway, I guess that’s a lesson to question when something seems that off and to keep an eye on your credit card statements. I’d have saved myself a trip if I’d said, “Whoa, how did I buy that much? That doesn’t seem right,” right there at the register.

But that was more than an hour out of my afternoon. Still, I’ve got an easy run toward completing the 50,000 word National Novel Writing Month goal. I may or may not get to the end of the story today.

Ready for Crazy Time

It’s not even lunchtime yet, and so far today I’ve written 1,000 words and done my major pre-Christmas shopping expedition. I’ve bought most of my Christmas gifts and did the big grocery run, so I should be set for everything but produce, dairy, and specific ingredients to make certain things until after Christmas. The cupboard had been looking pretty bare. I didn’t even have the key ingredients I needed to make anything out of leftover turkey (bad planning on my part — I should have stocked up on that stuff before Thanksgiving).

I have two days before holiday madness really kicks in, and I actually should start some of the cooking tomorrow. Then I have two things to go to Saturday. I’m probably going to put up my decorations on Sunday. There’s something I want to go to on Monday. The neighborhood tree lighting is Tuesday night. Next Friday is baking day. Next weekend is my official Holiday Crazy Weekend — On Saturday, I’ve got a choir rehearsal in the morning, a luncheon, then a meeting in the afternoon. Sunday morning my children’s choir sings in the early service and I’m singing in a concert that night. Whew! Then there’s a party Monday night, but it’s a spa night, and I may need it by then. I have more choir stuff the following weekend. So I guess it’s good that I got a lot of errands out of the way today.

Once I get the crazy done, I’m looking forward to some quiet. I need to find some appropriate seasonal reading material since not having cable means I’m missing out on the frenzy of Christmas movies. I get the ones on the ION network, and there are a few streaming on Amazon, but I’m not getting all the Hallmark, Lifetime, and Freeform movies. I think it’ll be nice reading instead, with some music playing, a mug of cocoa, and a cozy blanket around me. If you’ve read a good book that’s kind of like the TV Christmas movies — a bit romantic (but more romantic comedy, less on the heavy-duty, sexy romance) with great holiday atmosphere, I’d love some recommendations.

And now for lunch, then more work.

The Joy of Not Commuting

I’m in the home stretch of this draft of the book, and barring a major disaster, I should easily hit the word count I was aiming for. I might even get to the end of the story. I’m quite proud of myself for having made my target word count yesterday, in spite of being out all afternoon.

I had a bit of a flashback to my commuting days, since I was driving home in rush-hour traffic, and I had to stop by the grocery store on my way home, since I needed milk for breakfast today. I even drove part of a stretch of road I used to take when I commuted, though I was going in the opposite direction from the way I used to come home. It made me so glad I don’t have to do that on a daily basis anymore. I can go to the store on weekdays during the day when it’s not so crowded, and I can usually avoid rush-hour traffic. I don’t get on the road at that time of day if I can help it.

I’m so appreciative this morning to be working at home, currently still in my pajamas, bundled under the electric blanket on my bed. I’ll move to the office later, but the mornings are chilly, and it’s nice to luxuriate for a little while.

I swear, I’ll have more interesting things to say next week when I get this draft done and can think about something else, for a change.

Return to the Office

I write this today from my desk in my office. You have no idea what a monumental achievement that is. I spent much of Saturday filing the things that had piled up on my desk, then managed to empty one of the “to be filed” boxes in my office. It’s still a work in progress and there’s a lot more to do, but now it’s not entirely unpleasant to work in here, so I thought I’d give it a try today. Yesterday was so cold that I allowed myself another day curled up on the bed under the electric blanket, but I have some stuff to print today, which meant hauling the laptop upstairs anyway. I’m hoping that moving around and changing my sitting position will mean less back/shoulder/neck pain. Too long in any one position is bad, but moving my working location throughout the day may help.

The trick to working in my office will be to stay focused on the work instead of doing all the stuff I want to deal with in the office. Today, I have no time for getting sidetracked since I have to go this afternoon to speak to a college class. I’ve already done half my writing quota for the day and need to do the rest before lunch.

But if I can do this much before lunch, that opens up a world of possibilities …

Writing through the Holidays

The nice thing about an early Thanksgiving is that it gives us a bit of a grace period between Thanksgiving and the Christmas season. December doesn’t start until next Saturday, and Advent begins next Sunday. That makes this a relatively quiet week, holiday-wise, so there’s a chance to recover between holidays.

Which is good because this is going to be a busy week for me. I’m speaking to a university writing class tomorrow, I have a pretty intense choir night Wednesday, and I’m wrapping up a book. The book isn’t on a real deadline, as it’s mostly a personal project, but I figure that since it’s National Novel Writing Month, I might as well go with it, even though I didn’t start until halfway through the month. I’m a cinch to get to the NaNoWriMo 50,000 words, but I suspect I’ll end up going beyond that to get the whole story in, and I don’t know if I’ll get all that done by the end of the month.

Then I’ll have written two rough drafts in two months. Whew! December will be devoted to revising rough draft #1, which is due in January. I may work on something else for fun the rest of the month. Then January will be for revising rough draft #2 and proofreading draft #1. After that, it’s Rebels #4.

I think I’m going to keep up my current work schedule on most days in December, but when there’s the option for a fun holiday event or activity, I’ll let myself take time off for it. For instance, the classical radio station is doing a week of live lunchtime concerts downtown, and I plan to hit at least one of them. On nice evenings, I’m going to try to take a twilight walk to look at Christmas lights (the extra exercise will be good for me). There will be at least one shopping day, maybe a weekday trip or two to the nice malls.

I had a good Thanksgiving, and I even managed to get in at least a minimum word count while I was out of town, which I generally haven’t been able to do. I usually really slack off in writing time in December, so we’ll see if I can maintain some kind of consistency and also enjoy the holidays. Not having cable will help, since I won’t be able to spend all my evenings watching cheesy Christmas movies.

movies

Thanksgiving Week

I can’t believe it’s almost Thanksgiving! I’m going to be taking the rest of the week off from posting since I want to get some writing done and something has to go to free up time for travel and hanging out with the family. Today is for working my way through the pre-holiday checklist. I’ve had my tires rotated and have bought a birthday gift for my mother (she has a Thanksgiving-week birthday) and a Christmas gift for my brother (since we probably won’t overlap at Christmas), and now the laundry is going.

I went to see the new Fantastic Beasts movie on Friday, and I may need a refresher re-read of the Harry Potter books because I’d forgotten who a lot of the people from that era were to recognize how they linked to the generation from this series. Like, there was one big revelation that I got an entirely different meaning out of until I read something online and realized that I’d mixed up some things and had the timeline off.

I’m hoping now that things are set up that the future films can focus more on the characters because that’s where the strength of this series is. Newt is such a refreshing hero because he doesn’t have any of the usual “hero” traits. He’s shy, somewhere on the autistic spectrum (Eddie Redmayne confirmed that this is the way he’s playing him), not at all interested in power or glory or being considered brave. He just wants to take care of his creatures and have a world where creatures and people are treated well, but when something threatens that, he’ll step up.

Jude Law is one of those actors I don’t think of as a favorite, but I seem to really like him in everything I see him in. He makes a good younger Dumbledore. It’s fun getting to see Hogwarts in various other eras.

But at the same time, I wasn’t particularly blown away by the movie. I don’t know if I was in the wrong frame of mind, if I was hungry (I’d planned on getting popcorn and had eaten lunch accordingly, but couldn’t get any service at the concession stand and gave up), or if I was distracted by the book I’m writing that kept trying to play itself out in my head while I was watching the movie.

It’s great that this book is so alive in my head. It makes writing it like taking dictation. But it’s also a pain because it makes it difficult to enjoy anything else.

Have a happy Thanksgiving! See you next week.

writing life

The Closet vs. the Book

I am tentatively planning the Epic Closet Purge this weekend. I need to do the seasonal closet changeover, anyway, as the old suitcase full of my winter clothes is currently sitting in the closet floor, where I’ve been pulling things out as needed. I need to pull the summer things out of the closet to make room for the winter things, and that makes it a good time to really evaluate the summer things as I take them out and the winter things as I put them away.

When I’m trying to clear out my closet, I have a bad habit of not wanting to get rid of anything. Either I’m still wearing things (whether or not I should) or I have sentimental attachments based on where I got things or where I’ve worn things. Sometimes it’s good when I stumble upon something I haven’t worn in ages and realize it makes a good outfit with something else, so it’s like shopping in my closet. But other times it means I’m hanging on to things I never wear. Then when it’s time to get dressed, I stare at a closet full of things I supposedly love too much to get rid of and wail, “I hate all my clothes and have nothing to wear!”

The “tentatively” part is because I’m really on a roll with this book I’m working on. I know what will happen several scenes ahead, and I’m having fun writing it. I want to be writing rather than having to force myself to write. When I’m supposed to be writing, I often have cleaning and organizing urges. I desperately want to purge and organize my closet. Now that I really need to purge and organize my closet, I desperately want to write.

So, I may not quite get to the full-on “take everything out and assess each item as to whether it sparks joy in you” purge. I may get rid of a few of the obvious things while I do a seasonal swap and then get back to writing. And then when I’m working on something else, maybe I’ll act on the “I must organize my closet” urge.

Publicity

Will I Be in Your Town?

I think one of the questions I’m asked most often by readers, other than “when is the next book coming?” is something along the lines of “will you be coming to my town?” This especially tends to come up when I announce any kind of public appearance.

The answer is usually no, and the reasons apply to other authors, not just me.

For most authors other than big names or those a publisher has decided to really push, we have to pay for our own travel to book events. A few conferences pay travel expenses for speakers, and the guests of honor at conventions have their travel paid by the conventions, but otherwise, we’re on our own. That makes it expensive to travel beyond the immediate area, and few book events pay off well enough to make it worth our while.

For a traditionally published book, the author earns less than a dollar per copy, and most of that will end up going toward the advance that was already paid, so it takes a while before authors will earn extra money by selling more books. A really good booksigning for someone at my level will sell about twenty books. There are indirect benefits, though. Any advance publicity for the signing will help increase awareness, there’s usually a display of the books in the store before and after the signing for more visibility, and once the staff has met an author, they’re more likely to hand-sell and recommend those books. That all might add up to make gas money on a short road trip and a night in a cheap motel worth it.

Conventions may or may not sell a lot of books for an author. It depends on whether booksellers at the con stock your books or are willing to take consignment if you bring books (but then you have to buy those books). There’s potential for good exposure on panels because people come to the panels because of the topic or because of other authors on the panels, and they might be intrigued enough with you to look up your books, even if they don’t buy them at the convention. I have had people make Kindle purchases of my books while I was speaking on a panel. I think attending conventions early in my career did a lot for getting my name out there, so there was some benefit. There’s a little less benefit now that I’m established and people aren’t really discovering me unless I go someplace where I’m still unknown, but those places are farther away and more expensive to get to. That’s one of the downsides to living in Texas. It’s so big that the nearest other conventions in the regional circuit are about a three to four-hour drive away, and anything beyond that usually involves flying. Then there’s the issue of getting on programming at conventions where you’re not known. Some conventions require authors to be invited. Some have an application process, but you have to buy a membership before you can apply to speak, so you don’t even know at the time you plan to attend the con whether you’ll get any visibility out of it.

Most of the book festivals don’t cover any expenses for attending authors. I think some publishers may pay to send some authors, but I had to pay my own way to Louisiana for the one I just went to.

I now make my convention plans based on whether there’s something I get out of the event other than publicity and exposure. I usually attend the Nebula Awards conference because I learn a lot there about writing and the business and it’s a valuable networking opportunity. There’s also a booksigning open to the public, so there’s a potential for meeting fans, but selling books is a bonus at that event. I sometimes travel to go to the World Science Fiction Convention or World Fantasy Convention, but again, that’s more about networking and learning than about promotion or meeting fans, and it depends on a lot of factors whether I decide to go. I’m thinking about doing the WorldCon in New Zealand in a couple of years, mostly because it’s a chance to visit there and take a business write-off for the trip. I probably won’t do World Fantasy next year because it’s in the same city as the Nebulas.

Maybe one day I’ll have a publisher decide to give me a push and send me on a book tour. So far, the biggest push I’ve been given was a $300 budget for travel to booksignings in my region, and I stretched it out by staying at inexpensive hotels (they caught the Austin bomber at the hotel where I stayed for a booksigning on that tour). I’ve been a guest of honor at one convention. I’ve been a speaker at a couple of state library conventions where they covered my travel, and I’ve spoken at a couple of writers’ conferences where they paid for me to travel. Otherwise, everywhere I’ve gone, it’s been on my own dime. It gets expensive, especially when you factor in lost time from work. I’m not someone who manages to write during a convention, and then there are the preparation days before and recovery days after, so I could write about a quarter of a novel (or more) during the time I’d be gone for a big convention, and I could buy a BookBub ad for what it costs to go to a WorldCon, and that would sell thousands of books.

So, if you want to see me (or any other author) in your area and it’s far from where I am, the best way would be to suggest me as a guest of honor at a convention in your area (or toastmaster or writers’ workshop instructor). Or suggest me as a speaker at your local writers’ workshop (if they pay travel). If you’re a librarian, state library association conferences (or the ALA) usually pay for authors to speak, so you can suggest me there. Otherwise, I guess just buy a lot of books and tell a lot of people about my books so I sell enough that a publisher might think it’s worthwhile to send me on tour. I’m unlikely to be doing any bookstore signings until I have a new release that’s in stores.

In the meantime, I’m trying to focus on writing rather than traveling because that seems to be the best use of my time and budget. Maybe if I write something really spectacular, that will catch a publisher’s interest.

writing

A New Beginning

I started writing a new book yesterday afternoon. I don’t know where it will go, but more and more of it kept coming to life in my head until I had to get it out, and I got close to 2,000 words written. So I guess I’m doing National Novel Writing Month with a bit of a late start. We’ll see what happens with it, but I did the usual “shiny new idea” thing by writing down what I knew about it, and it kept building and developing instead of fizzling out. Now I have fleshed-out characters and a world with history.

So, I guess I have a new story in the works. We’ll see where it goes from here, but so far, writing has been fun and I’ve looked forward to working on it. I got up this morning and wrote more than a thousand words. When work feels like play, it’s a good sign.

Now, about 25,000 words from now I’ll be struggling and another new idea will hit and it won’t be as much fun, but I’ll enjoy this while it lasts. Even if it doesn’t go anywhere, it’s good to be reminded that I started doing this for fun and only later made any money at it. This is reminding me of when I used to scribble in spiral notebooks in my bedroom when I was a teenager, making up stories. I just hope I finish this, unlike those things I wrote as a kid. I was really bad about getting an idea, starting to write it, then getting another idea that was even better, and starting to write it, and so forth.

Now I really want to get back to the story because something good is about to happen and I can’t wait to see it.

writing

Ready to Start

I’m on the verge of starting to write something new. The opening scene has been playing out in my head in different variations, and the one that hit me last night as I was falling asleep feels like it’s the right one. That led to seeing the second scene, and that means that the characters are pretty solid in my head and I’m seeing the movie of this book in my mind. That’s when it gets exciting and fun.

It’s a cold day and I still have a bit of a cold, so spending a day playing in an imaginary land sounds like the way to go. I’ve got my adjustable bed in what I call “recliner mode” so that it works like a chair, I’ve got the electric blanket, and I’ve got a pot of hot tea in the thermos. I’m all set.

Now watch me sputter out after an hour of writing, and I’ll know that there’s more work to do or maybe the idea isn’t viable. That’s why this is a fun/scary/exciting phase of writing, when that perfect, wonderful story in my head crashes into reality and I see what it really looks like.

Fortunately, the cold weather isn’t supposed to stick around long, but it’s been below freezing enough to kill off the mosquitoes, so I’ll be able to enjoy the outdoors even more. Now let’s just hope my cold goes away that quickly.