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Help me. I work retail.

I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time, just haven’t had the time. But today I’m making the time. As I’m sure most of you are aware, I work … think SuperStore. Yeah buddy. And just like my Here’s Your Sign series when I worked there last time, I’m posting some of my fun moments. So, so fun moments.

I presently work at the self-checkout area. Let me clarify. The SELF-checkout area. This does not mean you ask me to ring you up personally at a kiosk while all the other customers have to wait on me to stop theirs from yelling at them, “Please wait for assistance!”.

The policy of our store is known to the world. “Steal from us. Please. We’ll even help you.” But there are a few things us employees are allowed to do. One of them is look inside large items being purchased, like suitcases, backpacks, purses, etc. Yes, even in SELF-checkout.

I got to put that allowance in action last night while trying not to laugh at two very sloppy thieves. Over time, you get to know the difference between lazy, disabled, methhead, poor, and many other subcultures of retail patrons. These two were just plain crazy. Hair sticking out all over the place like a cliche cartoon drawing of Einstein with glasses that would make Professor Trelawney jealous, these two old women kept looking up at me, a sure sign of something fishy. Most patrons who come through my area don’t want to be talked to. They want to be left alone. The last thing they do is watch me, unless they need something. So, I get to watching them and their order, and things aren’t adding up. Literally. Like their two foot tall pile of fabric that rings up for 97¢ and is called “baby jungle”. That kind of not adding up.

They had two buggies, one full of stuff, another to put the stuff in after it’s rung up. This is common, so I ignore it, but what I can’t ignore is the large tote they move from one buggy to the next without scanning it with the little wand. This is when I get to make my move.

“Did you get this?” I tap the tote.

“Yeah. Yeah.”

No, no they didn’t. “I don’t think it registered. Oh!” I “casually” look into the tote to see the large pile of fabric with a sticker of a UPC stuck to the real price tag. “Someone put the wrong sticker on here. Let me fix that for you.” I radio for a CSM. They would have to come do the void anyway, but I wanted them to see this. I took the sticker off and rummaged through their items as innocently as possible.

The CSM came by. “This was stuck to one of their tags. It needs to be voided off.” She voided it off, not really caring, and then left. I resumed my rummaging.

Their tote had many items. None of which had been rung up, nor were going to be from what I could tell. The pile of fabric had six UPC’s alone. Stuffed between the folds was clothing. I just handed each item to them, letting them ring it up. Three small plastic doo-dahs, quilting batting, toddler clothes… At that point I moseyed a few feet away, radioed the noncaring CSM, and as quietly as possible asked for the person who stops thieves. They weren’t in yet but would be later on.

Another CSM comes by, along with a manager. They had heard the radio chatter. At this particular time, the kiosks have a glitch where every 7 items, I have to press a button. I use this to my advantage, and instead of standing at my podium pressing buttons, I stand directly with them and fix it right there, acting ignorant as to what was wrong with it, assuring them I would look into their register as soon as they left, and apologizing for its misbehavior. While I’m personally handling this order, I peek down into one of their purses without being seen. It was fairly easy to do.

I kid you not. There in the purse was a big ol’ can of Bushes Baked Beans. I literally felt my eyes grow cold from all the extra air hitting them because of how big they had gotten. Kinda hard not to laugh at it now.

Several items later, I went up to talk to the manager and other CSM to tell them what was going on. The CSM looks over at them and slowly says in an astonished voice, “There is the outline of a can in their purse.” Sure enough, the can had fallen to where its outline could be clearly seen at that point.

I wasn’t allowed to do anything about it. I just told her, “Honey, there’s a whole bunch of food in that thing.” Three sets of lips were heavily bitten for several minutes to keep from smiling and bursting out laughing.

Sloppy thieves.

As soon as they left, I walked over and picked up a price tag they had dropped on the floor. The CSM printed out a copy of their receipt, and these things were left for the thief catcher. She came and talked to me, laughing a lot in the process, then watched the videos. She said she thinks I caught everything but the food that got away in their purse.

I see a lot of thieves where I work. Half the time we just let them go, there’s nothing we can do with a motto like that. Other than laugh, that is, like when they forget to take the sticker price tags off the backs of their shirts. Oooohhhhh, we laugh.

The cost of any business

Recent Catastrophe

I haven’t blogged in forever, but there’s a reason. I’m lazy. Well, and I don’t have time. I’ve had to stop writing for nearly a week at this point. See, my husband got an abscessed tooth and was put on amoxicillin. He had two teeth removed and remained on the drug for a while. Two days after his last dose, he broke out into a rash.

I was at work and having my own rash trouble. It was under my right armpit. When my husband texted me that he had an all over body rash, I put two and two together. My coworkers tell me it’s shingles. Next thing I know, I’m standing topless in the manager’s office while two female managers stick their noses in my unshaved, rashy pit. I was not prepared for this level of intimacy.

I was told it wasn’t shingles, and I figured it to be a wardrobe malfunction and bought me some Body Glide for future use. It is a tiny bottle and $8. I have no idea if it works or not, but it comes highly recommended by my runner friends.

That night’s not that big of a deal, but the next morning, my husband and dad go to Cookeville for the day to run some errands. Good thing too, because the reaction got worse. My husband ran into the walk-in associated with our doctor and was given a steroid shot. A few hours later, on the interstate headed back home, his tongue starts to swell. We’re thinking it’s a reaction to the steroids. It wasn’t.

He ran to our doctor and was immediately seen. They gave him another shot and brought every doctor in the building there to look at him, said it was the worst reaction they had seen to amoxicillin. He was given 4 Rx’s (Pepsid, Sinclair, Medrol-a tapering steroid, and Benedryl) on top of his maintenance Allegra, which he has since doubled in dose.

This was Monday afternoon. Wednesday morning, my dad is in Ohio, and my husband wakes up at three AM itching so bad he can’t go back to sleep. By ten that night, we head to the ER. We’re told his steroids from Monday wore off and he’s filled with a cocktail of IV steroids, Sinclair, Pepsid-basically what he’s already on, just mega doses. A couple of hours later, we’re sent home, better but scared of another attack.

We got home at three AM Thursday morning. I went to work Thursday night, 3-11, but there was another catch. In our late night stupid of terror, we left the inside light on in the car and the battery died. I had to drive the truck. Not a big deal, but I’m not used to it, and so my leg hurt all night from having to use that ginormous clutch. (It’s not a small truck).

The ER doctor told us to ask his regular doctor to double the steroid pack. We called and left a message. While I’m at work, they call to say they’ve called in a Rx. As I’m sure you know, my husband is disabled and unable to drive. He walks down the road begging at neighbors’ doors until he finds one at home. The neighbor takes him to Crossville, a thirty minute trip one way, to get (get this) the WRONG Rx. Gotta love doctors. For whatever reason, my husband pays for it anyway (eye roll). I call the on-call doctor and get the correct one called in. Right as the pharmacy closed. Sigh. So I got to spend the rest of the night waiting to see if my husband was going to go into anaphylaxis, and I was going to have to leave work, drive the 30 minutes home coupled with the hour to the closest hospital that won’t kill him all in time for him to survive. OK. Other than that, Thursday was pretty good. Work was going to throw out seven pounds of chicken tenders, so my freezer now has several meals of chicken in it.

Friday (no, the adventure isn’t over yet, sorry) we took a trip to Crossville, the pharmacy we told them not to send it to, and picked up his new steroids. A bit of relief spread through us. I then set out in the newly charged car that afternoon for work and run over this—

Yee gads!! While I’m trying to change my tire into my donut spare and call work to say I’ll be late, a guy shows up to help. Nice of him, but pointless as I have two different sized lug bolts on this wheel. Great. My husband gets the same neighbor to meet me. They change my tire, find one of the lugbolts is stripped, and follow me to the tire place not far from our house. I’m thinking, I’ll leave the car here, grab the truck, go to work, and pick it up Monday. It needed four new tires anyway, what’s the big deal?

The big deal was they weren’t up for that. They wanted me to stay and wait. So I did. Two hours. By the time I got the car home, there was no reason to go into work, my husband and I are fighting, and I can’t drive the car to work anyway because there’s only three lug nuts on the one tire. I fell exhausted into bed and slept from 8:15 to after midnight and tried to sleep the rest of the night after that.

Yesterday was pretty normal, except for my sore leg, which wasn’t as sore as Thursday. Today is Sunday, my last day until Thursday to work. We already have plans for doctor, dentist, and Dollywood visits (our last trip to Splash Country for the year 😦 ) Monday-Thursday. School starts the next week. Oh, and it’s tax free weekend. Just when you thought work couldn’t get worse. Heaven help me.

Is Publishing Dead? (aka, is making a living as a writer still possible?)

Of course, anything is possible, but let’s answer this correctly. No, publishing is not dead, not yet; neither are agents or traditional publishers. But. It is changing, and quite possibly not for the better. I read a recent article on an agency’s website while querying this morning. We’re not a fit, but I thought I would read their stuff anyway, and I’m glad I did. The agency’s name is Doug Grad Literary Agency, Inc, and the article can be found here amongst their FAQ section. (They’re also looking for an intern at the time of writing this post, something I would LOVE to do but can’t-le sigh!) Here is what they had to say (I apologize for the font, but that’s the best Word press allows.):

Publishing is an odd business, as you will come to learn if you get involved in it.  The business model is completely obsolete, dating back to the Great Depression.  In the 1920s and earlier, books were sold on a non-returnable basis, like clothing, or food (non-returnable from seller to manufacturer—customers return things all the time).  There weren’t very many bookstores in the U.S., the population was about one half to one third of what it is today, and relatively few people had college educations, or enough leisure time to read.  That’s why first editions of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway are so rare and expensive—it’s not just that they were great writers, but that a first printing in those days would be about 2,000 or 3,000 copies.  When the stock market crashed and the Depression set in, bookstores would have gone out of business if they hadn’t convinced publishers to make the books fully returnable.  It kept the publishers afloat as well as the stores, and maybe even a few printers.  When the economy picked up going into WWII and the post war years, publishers and bookstores didn’t go back to the pre-war model.  But our soldiers had gotten so hooked on reading paperbacks while fighting in Europe or the Pacific, that they took their habit back home with them, and publishing flourished.  In the 1960s and 1970s, a bestselling paperback would sell 6-12 million copies.  But in the late 1980s, hardcovers began to take precedence over paperbacks.  There was a perceived prestige factor associated with hardcovers, and publishers loved the much higher cover price.  As they started to price themselves out of the market, the discount booksellers came to the rescue, as well as the on-line booksellers.  But a recent study showed that while the U.S. population has increased, readership has not.  As technology has taken over our lives, the competition for our leisure time has grown fierce, from TV and movies to cable TV (500 channels!), and the internet.  And it seems as though our leisure time has decreased and become fragmented–we’re all working harder to stay at the same level.  We as a nation have also gotten out of the habit of reading books, especially compared to Europe, but publishers continue to pump out more and more books every year.  As costs have risen and profit margins have shrunk, and per title sales have decreased (a mega-bestseller today is 2-4 million copies), publishers have tried to make up their profits by publishing more titles.  Great, you say, more books are being published!  But since overall readership levels have remained static for 20 years, that means that each title is selling fewer copies.  Kind of a long-winded way of saying, “You do the math…”

I went to a book signing in Knoxville last year for a NYT bestseller, and was saddened, terrified even at what I saw. This man, this man who had a successful career in the technological world and quit all that to write full time was standing before me and dozens of children asking them for help. “Please, tell your friends about this book. Write reviews about this book. Share this book on social media.” How sad is it that we have come to a time when that is required of a NYT bestselling author!!

I still remember querying my first picture book, a sad thing it was, to publishers and agents. The publishers actually responded better than the agents, but the difference was staggering. If I were to query that book now, I would be ignored by every one of them. A great book gets ignored by most now.

So, where am I going with this? Good question! #1, read the FAQ section in the link I provided. I wish we were a fit, because I really like the guy’s personality from what I can tell, but alas, so goes it. His history of publishing comment got me to thinking. At the present time, it looks rather bleak. I asked around (non-writers) “Tell me a household author’s name that’s new since Stephanie Meyer.” No one could. But look how publishing has changed over the last century and surely will again. Everything does. So little is the same any more, not even nature, which is terribly terribly sad. But I see people all the time who have grown sick of tech, who have thrown out their TV’s. Tech may be a fad, it may destroy the world, there is no way to know. There never was a way to know. All we can do is do what we love whether it brings us fortune or not.

I work a terrible job to pay the bills. I write to pay my desires. Maybe one day they will coalesce, but I’m not holding my breath, nor am I going to worry about it. I think the mentality that they must be one and the same is the 40’s cliche, “What do you do?” that still haunts society now. What difference does it make? Shouldn’t we ask instead, “What is your passion?” or “Tell me about yourself.”? (Unfortunately that second one is reserved for interviews and therefore it’s answer is already programmed into our brain and more than likely untrue. So it’s probably a good thing it isn’t used socially.)

What do I do? I try my best to be a good servant of my God. I try my best to be a good wife, mother, daughter (aka family member) in whatever way I am needed. I try my best to take care of myself, and I try my best to balance all of this together. What do you do?

Getting Things Done When You Already Have Anxiety

Anxiety can take many forms and has many beastly heads. For me, one common monster is getting things done. Sadly, I can feel a great sense of success and accomplishment by playing a task management game or any game with labeled tasks and awards or trophies for doing said tasks. But I know that’s not real success and save that form of entertainment for my relaxing hours.

What my habit had gotten to be was listing all my to-do’s and then doing as many of those do’s as possible in a given day. This was a great in between lifestyle, as it kept me from forgetting to do things, thereby creating a great air of relief.

But.

I’ve grown since then, and therefore outgrown this method. My new method, starting yesterday I think, is to list all my tasks somewhere (as that really has to be done if I’m ever going to sleep again!), but then segregating off what I think I can, or should, accomplish today. This is in the beta stage, of course, so I’m sure the lists will change with time. But this way, I’ll feel accomplished at the end of the day.

See, before, I just had this huge list, and though I was doing everything I could on that list, I never finished it. So I never felt like I was done for the day. I never switched off. I never relaxed. I never spent time with my family. This way, I actually feel like I’ve accomplished what I need to, like I’m done for the day.

Today’s list? Well, with my work/sleep schedule, I don’t finish things when I would like, but it’s getting worked on. And I feel pretty good about that.

The New Laptop

When I started writing, I bought a laptop. I couldn’t afford the prices but by a miracle, found a used one for $250. It was an HP Pavilion dv6. It was made in 2012. Brand new, it was $750. Alas, this poor laptop is now limping its last limps.

I had tolerated the BSOD (blue screen of death) for years. It came and went without rhyme or reason. Its parameters were just as random, sometimes the same, other times not. Nowhere online could tell me what the parameters meant. They either weren’t listed or came up as “random memory failure”. My frustration and fear had mounted to where I relinquished in buying a new one.

I thought, “I’ll try to keep it around the $250. I mean, come on, I’m trying to match a five year old device, so it shouldn’t be that expensive.” Please, save your laughter for later.

Upon browsing Amazon, my price slowly rose, with great opposition, until it was around $500. I found one, but it was plastic, not metal, and one reviewer said not to use it for Photoshop, etc, you know, what I’ll be using it for. My Dad offered a Macbook, but I’d rather die. Literally. My hatred for Macs only grew when I was forced to use one at the law office. Not a single person there liked them or could use them. They came to me for help, even the networking professional complained about it. I remapped the keyboards to that of a PC, something the other secretary asked me to do to hers as well. But I digress.

When we went on our anniversary trip, Arlis said to try Best Buy. It was on the way, why not? Oh I found the equivalent of what I had in metal, etc. For $800. I was MAD (I’m still pretty peeved). Why should I pay MORE for a device equivalent to that of five years ago?!?!?!

Computers go through this wavy phase of good machines/bad machines, good prices/bad prices. Right now we’re in a bad machine/bad price phase, hence why I built my past desktop, which still out performs most new ones. The public has been brainwashed to think it’s all about RAM when it’s not. The CPU is vital, something the Best Buy salesman agreed with me on. Don’t get me wrong, RAM is important, but it is useless without the processing power required. It’s like feet without legs.

So anyway, I bring home the new laptop and find a black line down the monitor. I didn’t really care, but online said it would only get worse. We exchanged it for a new one, and now I’m spending FOREVER downloading all the software I need to install in order to see if it will even run what I need it to.

This is part of why I’m so discouraged of late. My schedule has been drastically held back when it was already months behind. I accept that I’ll never catch up, but I don’t want to make it worse!

There is some solace. I posted about my BSOD on a professional forum. After two days, ZERO response on a very active forum. Now, this could mean they don’t take me seriously enough to respond, but I don’t think so. I honestly believe it’s because I made the right decision and got a new machine before the old one bit the dust. I’m just happy I saved all my books in time. That last error message was scary!!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I haven’t run in nearly a week due to our trip, and I have some frustration to remove. Running always makes me feel better.

Writing Dialogue

If there’s one thing I can write well, it’s dialogue. It’s probably the only thing I write well. Unfortunately, it’s also the only thing I write. Let me explain. Most of my Cupolian books were practically scripts before the details were added. I didn’t even have tags to tell me who said what. I had to either know, tell by the words used, or guess when I went in later to add what was needed. I’ve gotten better, but it’s still my main method at times.

Here’s the problem. You don’t want just dialogue. They say for your books to be mainly dialogue because that’s what readers like. I could go on as to why, but I shan’t for now. Let me simply say they don’t actually mean that. Dialogue should be less than half of your story. The other half needs to consist of tag lines and action (I don’t mean shooting fight scene action-I simply mean things happening, etc). If you have the same problem I do when writing dialogue, and you want your dialogue to read better, here’s my trick.

Dialogue has several purposes, and pacing your dialogue is extremely important. Slow a scene down by adding more words outside of the quotes-quicken the scene by having less. Use action tags when you can instead of regular tags. For example, if I have an argument between two people, I would set the conversation up with two tag lines, one after each has spoken the first time, and then have no more. This makes a 1,2,1,2,1,2 dialogue that reads fast. Obviously, you don’t want that all the time.

If your characters are talking casually, and you find there’s too many quotes and not enough action, give them something to do. Ever notice how Harry, Ron, and Hermione are always doing homework or knitting elf hats or some other thing you really don’t care about? There’s a reason for that. Take this section here:

“Excuse me?” asked Taika.
“Well, I came over here to prepare for our journey into the labyrinth, but Gevin here beat me to it.” Anya could feel her emotions rising again, but this time they were different, more edgy and with a pinch of anger.
Taika sighed deeply and stepped down from the shelf she had been balancing on. She dusted her hands off and faced the two of them. “Actually, I did most of that planning last night, and I came to the conclusion there is only one way in.”
Anya stared at her and said, “And?” after she didn’t continue.
“We’ll have to sneak back into Cupola.”
Anya peeked over at Gevin who was still busying himself by putting parchment markers into books. “I don’t understand. I thought we knew that already.”
“That part, yes, but not the addendum.”

I gave them something to do. They’re indexing books for Taika. Without this activity, it would read like this:

“Excuse me?” asked Taika.
“Well, I came over here to prepare for our journey into the labyrinth, but Gevin here beat me to it,” said Anya.
“Actually, I did most of that planning last night, and I came to the conclusion there is only one way in.”
Anya stared at her and said, “And?” after she didn’t continue.
“We’ll have to sneak back into Cupola.”
“I don’t understand. I thought we knew that already.”
“That part, yes, but not the addendum.”

See the difference? Now, the second part is great if you want a fast paced conversation, but you should only use faster paces if there’s a reason, like an argument or a quick discussion because the characters are running out of time and have to discover something fast. The opposite is also true. Do not draw out a conversation that needs to be fast. If two siblings are having a fight, don’t describe them at a quilting bee in the process, unless of course they are at a quilting bee and have to fight through the corners of their mouths so as not to draw attention which would be rather amusing. But-you get the idea.

Summary—if you need to draw out the dialogue, give the characters something to do. It doesn’t have to be relevant, although that helps, but find something, even if it’s knitting or poker. Anything.

Reasons I prefer British TV to American over 80% of the time.

#4-Their accent. Yes, I like it. It’s comforting, but it’s not the #1 reason, so I’m OK with that.

#3-The differing culture with the same language. I love watching about other cultures. They’re very interesting, but subtitles or guessing is not as enjoyable as the same language. I believe this is one of the main reasons a lot of Americans first start getting into BBC, because they’re able to explore another world with enough similarities to make it like a parallel universe.

#2-There is better TV as opposed to nothing but reality TV or zombies or other such programmes (pun intended).

#1-They base their choice of actors on talent, not bra size/washboard quality or the willingness to display said body parts at all available opportunities. This in an of itself is enough for many, but it has a result that makes it #1 for me. Better acting. Better scripts. Better shows.

Don’t get me wrong. BBC sucks at sci-fi. But they are getting better. With the buyout of Merlin by NBC, Dr Who made a comeback. Its American fan base has allowed it a budget that allows for better quality CGI/etc. Primeval was decent, but held back by the Brit’s sci-fi abilities. I haven’t watch Primeval:A New World yet, so maybe they’re fixed that. BBC just doesn’t have the budget Hollywood does. But that just makes them more impressive imo.

What are your favorite British shows?

The pile on the end of the desk

If you’ve kept up, I used to work at a law office. If you haven’t kept up, no biggie, just know that I used to work in a law office. Please also note that I have anxiety. (I hesitate to say, “I suffer from anxiety,” but I do, although not nearly as bad as before.)

But anyway, so most days I would walk in to a giant pile of files on the end of my desk or would leave with a giant pile on the end of my desk because the attorneys liked to pile me up half an hour before quitting time.

What did I learn?

That that’s OK. Take your time, and it’ll get done. It’s OK to be piled up, and I applied that knowledge today. I had a LOAD of things to do today, or so I thought. My trouble with anxiety is, if I don’t know how to easily do something, I think it’s going to take forever because I have to research and figure everything out. And today I had to do something new that was overcomplicated, annoying, and took several hours.

Now before you go off wondering why that’s a big deal for me, apparently I’m the only adult in my family capable of learning. My husband and father request and usually require me to make all business transactions and phone calls for them. They are incapable of calling the phone company to ask why their bill is off or when the next one is due, etc. And they’re unwilling to learn how to. If they can’t figure something out, they don’t try, and will wait until they get a cut-off notice before asking me for help. I have to keep a calendar of when other people’s bills are due because of this, and remind them daily until I finally demand to see proof that it was paid, in which I sometimes hear, “Fine. Will you do it for me?”

Sigh.

This is also why my house will never be tidy.

Back to my point. Ah yes, the pile on the end of the desk. So, I get home from dropping my kid off from school and eat a leisurely breakfast before getting started. The anxiety builds, but I tell myself, no it’ll get done. At one time my brain quits, so I take a break, eating a leisurely lunch.( I also had a headache and upset stomach, so said break was needed.) I come back feeling better and finish everything that needs doing, and it’s not even time to pick up my kid from school. Why yes, I am finished with everything. Now to get ahead.

It’s OK. That pile on the end of the desk? Just take it one file at a time. It’ll get done.

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