Saturday, April 26, 2014

Another Book Hits the Wall

Have you settled into your reading chair with great expectations only to have them dashed by the second or third chapter? Don't you want to throw that book against something hard and make a big, ugly noise? When the first five or so pages breeze by in character suspense and dialogue and I'm anticipating the next development, nothing makes me set a book down faster than suddenly running into pages and pages of background fill-in, or where suddenly the main character is thrust into a long flashback to bring the reader up to where the story started. I want to start at the beginning and progress, not digress.

I also don't like tedious and unnecessary detail that slows reading but know other readers who do like all that description. I just prefer mine in small doses. Another pet peeve is running into some inane dialogue after the characters got off to a good beginning or sections where the dialogue tells about another character's personality or situation in a most unrealistic manner. When characters' dialect speech is constantly spelled in phonetics can make me unhappy while reading, too, although I've also read this done by using the cadence of correctly spelled words to carry this out and thought it very compelling.

As a teen when I ran out of Georgette Heyer novels, I turned to Barbara Cartland. I liked her novels well enough, but looking back… I…wonder…why. Because… that… is… how… the… virginal… heroine… spoke to the most refined, rich, and powerful hero. Even then, I found the dialogue bizarre. Now I use ellipses in writing dialogue, but not so often that they draw attention to the story's mechanics, or at least I sure hope I don't. At the same time, I liked Emily Loring too, but as the 60s drew on, I found some of her dialogue racists and very much in the category of a woman who must find a man to take care of her. Of course, her books had been written many years before the civil rights movement, so I guess likes and dislikes can change as the reader and history change.

Today I read most genres except horror and like almost everything with convoluted situations that develop from twisting cause and effect plots, and with multifaceted characters who the author slowly reveals. I enjoy characters who are deceivers with good hearts, manipulators working to solve impending calamities, stories with moral messages the reader needs to discover, and villains who are only too human.

I have a horrible secret to disclose. To prevent wasting my money, when buying a print book I read the first two pages, and then skip to the end and read the last two pages. I have done this since I started reading and ran into my first, 'I don't like that book' occasion. One of my friends asks how can I do that, doesn't it ruins all the drama? Not so long ago I found out one of my sisters does the same thing. We did not know we both did it, so perhaps it's a genetic thing. Anyhow, if I like the ending, I usually like the book, but I have to say it is not a foolproof method to prevent buying a book I don't enjoy.

So there you have it. If you hear a book hit the wall in this house, you know what caused it. Check out the authors below to see their story-enders.

Beverley Bateman
Connie Vines
Geeta Kakade
Ginger Simpson
Margaret Fieland
Fiona McGier
Diane Bator
Anne Stenhouse
Heidi M. Thomas
Marci Baun

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Third Freebit from Acceptance

Another very short excerpt! Kissre leaves after a confrontation with her sister.

~ * ~ 
"Am I detained?" 

"No, Ma'am," Tomel said. "It was a request only. If I may say so, it is a little late in the day to start such a long journey." 

"Now is as good a time as any. Thank you. Send thanks to Captain Tyna, but I think it best to leave now." She offered her hand to Tomel. "Thank you for your previous service, Tomel. I might wish for your clear tenor on my return trip."

"Then good journey, Mistress Pierce." Tomel took her extended hand, his eyes resting on the blue tracings. They shook once. 

She nodded and opened a saddle pack, withdrew her gloves and put them on. "Family visits, you know, should always be kept short and sweet." She grinned. It cost her, but Tomel didn't notice. He grinned back. "Goodbye, then, Kissre." 

A side-glance caught furtive movement even as Fudge growled in warning. Swinging her head she glimpsed activity in the rooftops lining the road. She yelled a warning to the people following her through the city's gate and wheeled Bother broadside to the stone archway for added protection. Searing pain pierced her thigh. Time slowed. She watched as people retreated to safety. Arrows pelted the cobbled ground and gate guards ran forward from the screaming mob, knocking arrows as they knelt. Agony lanced her arm and side. She felt Bother go down in a sluggish sinking motion, heard his anguished squeals and Fudge's frenzied barks as her vision faded. 

~ * ~ 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

On Any Single Day

Every day is just another day until something happens, but it seems something meaningful happens every day only most people remain unaware of it.

Which leads me to admit I've always been fascinated with numbers and symbols and how we attach meaning to them and the links between everything. Whether these meanings have anything to do with reality is debatable, after all, the meaning is a mental connection even if the historical roots come from astrology, numerology, mythology, or folklore. If you're wondering how this applies to writing, these psychic meanings often run deep within humanity's soul, so a mention of a strategic symbol, number, or date, can give hidden depth to characters, settings, and drama for authors.

Consider today, April 19. Understand, dates are man-made systems tied to astronomical events, and that the calendar and other methods of timekeeping time have changed through history. However, in numerology, the numbers make it a day of 1 (1+9=10=1), and this year it is the 109th day of the year, so also adds up to 1, or the number of creation, the creator, and man. It is a day of beginnings, and in Tarot, the card of the magician which represents power, expertise, and action. According to astrology, people with this birthday are born with an innate psychic ability. Which leads to my first serendipity coincidence concerning today. In 1943, Albert Hofman, a Swiss doctor, took the first psychedelic acid trip with the drug he developed, the now illegal LSD. Afterward, he rode a bicycle home, making today 'Bicycle Day.' And yes, I know psychic and psychedelic have two different connotations -- still a mind thing.

As for the power and action aspects of today's date, in 1775 the Revolutionary War began with shots being fired at Lexington and Concord. Men died there; they also died when the gun turret exploded on the USS Iowa in 1989. Women and children died at Ruby Ridge, and at the Waco Texas compound when the people inside the AFT-besieged compound set it on fire which all lead to the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995. All these events happened on April 19. Mentioning explosions and fires lead to rockets and lift-offs, and both the first black astronaut and the first woman astronaut were announced on this day in 1982.

Maine, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin celebrate Patriot's Day to remember Lexington and Concord's "shot heard 'round the world." It is held the third Monday of April, which of course is the running of the Boston Marathon, which was first run on April 19, 1897.

Here's a connection between me deciding to write about this topic today and my birthday, which is basically just another summer day. Today the Revolutionary War started. A year later in 1776 on my birthday most of the delegates signed the Declaration of Independence, and it wasn't on July 4th.

So here we all are on just another ordinary day. Perhaps it's time to make it meaningful… and perhaps read a story involving numbers, symbols, and lore.

Reprint from Writer's Vineyard post

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Second Freebit from Acceptance

Here are six more paragraphs from Acceptance for Ginger Simson's Friday Freebits.

Acceptance is the paranormal fantasy story of two sisters in a Renaissance type world, one with magical 'Talent', the other a null without talent. Acceptance is from the Magic Aegis series.

~ * ~
Alarm entered Tyna's face and Kissre's smile twisted in elation. At Tyna's sudden movement, she rushed the door ahead of her prey and turned the lock. The bolts clicked into place just in time. An instant later the door reverberated with pounding fists. Beyond the iron hinged and banded oak planks, muffled voices shouted to Tyna. Kissre inspected the door and smiled. It was a well-made, heavy door.

"Enough, Kissre, say no more. You're right. We can only hurt each other," Tyna said. She backed away, her look not so scorning now.

Kissre ignored her, stalked her retreat. "Maybe it is time you grew up, learned what life is like for those who aren't cosseted, spoiled Talent brats. Yes, I am a coarse barbaric slut, but I didn't make me so."

Tyna backed a step.

"Guess who paid for your safety, paid for your food and your upkeep, paid all those years before Naomi bought the Caravan? Guess where she got the money to buy a caravan? What? Didn't you know how profitable soldiering could be? I didn't drink, gamble or whore away every pay pack."

Tyna dodged behind her desk. Kissre leaned over it but went no further. Battle-trained reflexes held her, but unbearable heat consumed her. The kill was close at hand. She sensed it, reveled in it—to hell with consequences. "Can't guess?"

~ * ~

Friday, April 11, 2014

First Freebit from Acceptance

I am joining author Ginger Simson's Friday Freebits, six paragraphs from one of my published books or one I'm in the process of writing.

Below are six paragraphs from Acceptance, a story about two sisters, one with magical 'Talent', the other a null without Talent. Acceptance is from the Magic Aegis series, a Renaissance type world.
~ * ~
The unexpected hospitality at that first stop forecast her trip. As she traveled further into Cygna, the less alarm she engendered. Like magic, she seemed expected. Hostlers waited and approached only after watching her loosen the saddle girth. They would then carefully remove Bother’s saddle, take the reins and lead both horses to the stable. Innkeepers welcomed Fudge. She knew her journey’s progress was reported by the damn Adepts communicating between themselves. Comments were made on her likeness to Captain Tyna. She smiled and made no comment such as: ‘Yeah, like salt and vinegar. Both sting in an open wound, but it all ends there.’

The covert side-glances at her unusual appearance never ended, but were at least, politely disguised. Word seemed to have spread about the tattoo, for she noticed people looking for it with appalling expectation as she removed her gloves.

Their fashion confounded her. She’d never seen a more conforming dress in a population. Men always wore a long coat, over a tunic, topping trews and long boots. Women wore the same style tunic top over a long skirt and slippers. Clothes varied in fabric and dark color, usually brown or gray, but always the same cut. Their only extravagance seemed jewelry, which inevitably consisted of rings, at least one on each finger, usually more. Sometimes a color patch appeared on a sleeve, mostly solid blue, but sometimes striped in blue and red. Other than that, she occasionally saw a necklace or broach decorating a citizen, but rarely. Decidedly no gold pierced any skin.

Used to anonymity and paying her own way, becoming the center of interest for so many made Kissre uneasy. A mercenary usually spawned fear and wariness; they seldom received any sort of privilege, especially on price. She did not imagine the eyes following her. They came to the roadside to watch her pass on the mountainous road to Sidih, the Cygnese capital.

Three days from Sidih, a small troop met her. From their manner, Kissre identified them as military men, not Talents. It hadn’t taken long to realize the colored sleeve patches indicated Talent, or to learn ‘nulls’ were non-Talents, like her. These three were soldiers, also like her. While they initially seemed wary of a woman, it wasn’t long before introductory talk of the road, the weather, and her trip turned to anecdotes of other journeys, then of funny, stupid or dangerous situations, their business precipitated. None of her company had ever fought outside Cygna, or even in anything other than border skirmishes. Her own tales of Pertelon, the Eastern Empire, the Doane Desert, and Kaereya openly delighted them. She knew they thought her a magnificent liar.

The sergeant, Tomel, and his two men were cheerful company. Tomel, noticing her guith on the roan, proclaimed himself a good tenor with a fondness for camp-side entertainment. Kissre played that evening. The small string instrument, with its deep voice, complimented her alto. Tomel proved himself as capable as he claimed, and the other men provided enthusiastic volume. Once they settled for the night, Kissre worked on the puzzle for the need of an escort—to insure her arrival or to protect the citizenry? Tyna must be desperate for her visit.
~ * ~

Monday, April 7, 2014

Phone Answering Systems Drive Me Insane!

I had to call Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBS) because my account had been debited twice in February and I wanted to know why. I got out my insurance card and called the support number on the back.

You know what happened.

A cheerful, too precise woman's voice welcomes the caller in English followed in Spanish and then tells numbers to push for specific questions. I punched billing question and the electronic voice told me all operators were busy with previous callers and to please wait.

Okay, this is the norm now, right? I punched zero several times, but this system had no override to get you to an operator, only a 'that is a wrong connection please try again' message came on. They're obviously aware of these shortcuts and stopped them.

As a result, I redialed and waited. During the wait, some synthesized music played about ten bars that repeated. It was awful with what tried to be an uplifting and cheerful beat but possessed a carillon crossed with a xylophone sound. If I wasn't crazy about waiting, the music surely sent me over the edge.

Finally, a man answered, but he couldn’t help me because he couldn’t access the information needed. WHAT? This was a billing question, wasn’t it? On the punch number 8 selection? He apologized and sent me to another operator, and I was again put on suspended animation, twenty-plus minutes worth of that psychotic rage-inducing noise. Does this health company know what mental torture they are putting their clients through? Just as I was talking to the computer, swearing up a blue storm, and about to hang up, a woman answered.

It seems the operator who originally took my application put in the wrong premium amount, and so it was billed twice. Would I like the extra placed towards March’s bill? Yes, I would. She gave me an amount that would be applied to March’s bill. I thanked her and hung up. Afterward, I figured it out and I’d paid exactly March’s bill amount, and guessed the computer that did billing would figure that out.

Nope. In March an automatic deduction for eleven dollars came through my account. Feeling rather pissed because I knew I was right, I decided it wasn’t worth waiting on the phone and possibly emerging a serial killer or worse for eleven dollars.

BCBS isn’t the only company with whom I’ve had this problem. I absolutely hate corporate phone answering systems. What is the problem? Can’t they afford more than two operators (I’m guessing that number from the phone wait)? I know their CEO took home 6 million dollars last year, but they can't afford customer service? What if their client has to pay for phone minutes or use a limited minute phone access? How much do clients have to spend in time and money to have a problem solved or a question answered?

Talking it over with someone, we decided it’s because they don’t want your call. These companies bet their callers will hang up before an operator ever has to deal with their petty concerns. Yes, this is a biased and undocumented statement. I'm mad.

I understand not all callers need to talk to an operator. I use phone systems to pay bills all the time without wanting or needing to talk to an operator; no problem. And I know those 'if you want... punch this number' directions help direct callers to the right area of the corporation. HOWEVER. When I need a human, I'd like to talk to one in a timely manner without all the time and computer BS.

Okay, rant over, thanks for listening.

Update: Currently on the phone system of the 5th 3rd Bank. Laughing hysterically. Wait only ten minutes. The system is just amaze-like as BCBS.