Authors Life, Blog, life, moving

If I Ever Go Back Home Again

Historic Shops along Chillicothe Street

I don’t know when it happened that most people in American lived in or around cities. When I grew up on a farm in the 1960’s and early 1970’s it didn’t feel that way. In the part of Ohio where I lived, I think roughly half the people at that time lived in small towns, on farms, or in the countryside. After visiting my old hometown, I get the feeling that things haven’t changed all that much in the past 50 or so years.

A few months ago, I wrote a piece about going home to South Charleston, Ohio. The visit was rushed because of the schedule my publicist and I were on. We had less than a week to cover scheduled and unscheduled visits in three states. It was interesting seeing some of the places I used to live, though. Noting what had changed and what had not (most things hadn’t changed all that much) fascinated me.

I had a crazy idea about visiting my old library, the place I learned to love books. I thought I’d donate my most recent books, the ones of which I’m proudest and a few others titles from my publisher, the great and underappreciated works of some of my dearest colleagues. Disappointingly, the librarians at the Houston Library of South Charleston were at best cool to the idea. To them, I was just another author (maybe they thought I was self-published) who wanted to get my opus onto the shelves of their hallowed halls. Really, what I expected was a brief conversation about my connection to the town and perhaps sharing a few anecdotes from the past – things that only someone my age might remember about the curious little town. That part of the conversation never happened.

It is a rite of passage for an author to have a book on the shelves of a library. It’s not as easily accomplished as you might think. Space in a library is at a premium. Although they may want to support authors, especially local ones, they also have to answer to superiors about their borrowing rates.

When I lived in Melbourne, FL, the local library was more receptive to my first two publications. I recall the feeling of accomplishment I had when later on I visited the library with my daughters and together we perused the stacks until we found my books, alphabetical by author. No, it didn’t appear that anyone had checked either of them out. But still, that ranked high on the cool factor for all concerned.

I was speechless after the reception I received in my hometown, which is something for me to say. My publicist commented that the ladies were rather rude. As I said in the previous blog post, they weren’t expecting me.

Houston Library of South Charleston

Since then, a lot of things have changed. I moved to Southern California, meaning I’m farther away from my roots. Although I have visited Ohio several times in the past few years, always before I stayed around Cleveland. The visits were intended to have a more local base of operation for other excursions. One year Christine and I went to Chicago, for example. As my publicist lives less than a hour to the west of the Cleveland, it made some sense going there and driving to various places across the Midwest.

Since I’m now three time zones distant, I’m not sure when I’ll next be able to swing a trip to the Ohio. I know that if I do return I want to have something scheduled for South Charleston, perhaps at the library of maybe Miami View Elementary. I’d also like to visit Shawnee High School in Springfield. That is where I graduated in ’74. Actually, I’d like to spend a few days in the general area, connecting with some old friends and relatives. On the past trip I was able to meet up with two of my cousins, Randy and Lanelle, but the schedule was so tight that even that almost didn’t happen.

I realize that everything in the world has grown older around me. I refuse to admit that I’ve changed too. I’m stubborn like that. There is a scene in one of my books where a guy who is my age is talking to a slightly older man who says, “When you get old everything starts falling apart, not just your body but the world around you, too.” To which the slightly younger character responds, “I’ll try to keep that in mind.”

Truth is that the potential I had at eighteen years of age when I went off to college has greatly diminished. I had lots of dreams, and some were pretty big. Forty-four years later, I’ve accomplished some things I set out to do, but certainly not everything. I have seen a lot of the world, places the average person from South Charleston, Ohio never has. I’ve lived here and there throughout the US. And I have friends from all over the country and many around the world.

I guess I’d like to go back home to tell the people who live there, people I have never met (or the sons and daughters of people I grew up with), that as scary as the big bad world may seem when you’re a teenager in a small town, there are enchanting places to see and wonderful people to meet everywhere you go. Most people are wonderful, you know – once you get to know them, once you get past the artificial barriers that separate us. Also, I’d tell them not to sell themselves short of the opportunity of stepping out and making a lasting mark. And, by all means, NEVER stop dreaming.

Authors Life, Blog, Books, Editing, Publishing, Urban Fantasy, Writing

2019: Starting Out in So Cal

I’ll be consolidating my Facebook pages from three to one. It has been cumbersome maintaining the three pages and, frankly, I haven’t been keeping up with regular posts. Also, my FB account has nearly maxed out with the mythical 5000 friends limit, so I’m directing everyone to my author’s page. I will be posting everything book related there and, for the short term, some of those items may be posted on my timeline as well. Ideally, I will end up with a author’s page and a timeline which caters more to my family and close friends.

2019 promises to be a wild ride. I’m starting out in So Cal. There have been some adjustments to make, but overall I like it here. And I can finally say I’ve eaten at In-And-Out Burger and shopped at Ralph’s. I’m not sure that makes me a Californian or that anything ever will, but that’s okay.

I’ve been working on a project titled Dead Men Don’t Wear Watches, which fits into the larger Fried Windows/Becoming Thuperman universe. Although the main character is a badass female detective named Mona Parker, Brent Wood and well as Will and Sandra make helpful appearances.

The book is set in this area of California. I wrote the draft for it several years ago and, while I’m here, I’ll be fine tuning the details to make a better fit to this setting. In the overall chronology of the fictional universe I’ve been working on, DMDWW come after Fried Windows and its sequel, Castles of Ninja Bread, which, of course, occurs a decade later than the Thuperman Trilogy (Becoming Thuperman, Homer Underby and Thuperman & Cassandra). It serves as a backstory piece for my Wolfcats series as well, filling it a few details not covered in that story. There is also a prequel to DMDWW, which is set in the Boston area as well as a sequel, which is set in central Texas.

Anyway, I’ll be busy for a while finishing those stories . For now, they exist in various stages of completion but certainly need updating.

Amazon, Online Ordering, Shopping, Uncategorized

Shopping with Amazon -or- How to Wrestle with the 800-Pound Gorilla & Sometimes Win

I use Amazon. These days, who doesn’t? I own a Kindle Paperwhite and use it about 80% of the time when I read eBooks. When I read at my desk I use the computer Kindle App. And because the Kindle device and app synch, I can switch back and forth without losing my place. Convenient.

About once a month or so I order something, occasionally more, but it has never been enough for me to justify the expense of an Amazon Prime membership. Yes, it would be nice to download and read books for free, but not worth the monthly fee. And I’m not one of those people who needs two-day delivery on everything I buy. If I do, I guess I can pay for rapid delivery.

So, even though there are a lot of things about Amazon that I like, their hard and heavy push to boost their Amazon Prime memberships each time I buy something irritates me. What’s more, I don’t appreciate the heavy-handed tactics they use to entice people to subscribe. Let me explain.

In case you don’t know, Amazon delays shipping orders going to non-Prime customers. It is a fact. I’ve seen it first-hand. Things that I order will sit in the queue for 3 days (or more) before processing begins. It’s a penalty for checking the little box that says, “No, I don’t want my order shipped in the quickest way possible” – or whatever the exact verbiage is for that button I must check to not sign up for the trial Prime account they offer with each purchase.

If the order is fulfilled by Amazon from one of their warehouses, sometimes it appears to be routed from an alternate location that is farther away. Yes, I get it that sometimes a nearer location may be out of something, or perhaps they don’t stock the item, but it happens often enough that I think I’m right on this one. It is yet another way to delay an order from shipping.

The tactic used to be blatantly obvious. If you ordered two things, one fulfilled from an Amazon authorized supplier on the other coast from where you live and the other from Amazon (an item they stock in the warehouse nearest you) the item from across the country would arrive a couple or three days before the Amazon supplied item. To prevent that from happening (and being obvious), if you don’t use Prime, Amazon sits on your order for three days regardless of the fulfillment.

If you doubt any of this, test it. I have several times.

If Amazon wants (or rather if they need to because of a problem) they can get something to you from one of their warehouses on the same day you ordered it. They can certainly ship anything you order that is stocked in one of their facilities and get it to you within two days. That’s the Prime deal, right? They should be able to get a non-Prime package to me within four days, which I’m okay with. I think most people would be. But that is contrary to Amazon’s goal of having everyone signed up for Prime. So, without Prime I’ve come to expect seven days or maybe ten.

Why does Amazon rule the world? That’s the real question every one of their competitors needs to ask. You see, any company that wants to capture the hearts of disgruntled Amazon customers (like me) only has to do things the same or (preferably) better. For example, guarantee FREE two-day delivery for any purchase $20 or more, which undercuts Amazon’s $25 – without any membership fee. Heck, guarantee FREE 3 or 4 day delivery without a fee. That’s still better than the service from Amazon for non-Prime members.

Last Saturday I ordered a few things I’ll need for a trip I’m taking to the Midwest to promote my books. As always, I didn’t select the One Month Trial for Prime. And I confirmed that I didn’t want the items shipped in the fastest way possible. I expected I’d get them in a week or so. And that was fine. One of the four items was coming from an authorized supplier. The other items were fulfilled by Amazon, two from the warehouse south of Tampa and the other from a warehouse in South Carolina. I use past tense because the items have all arrived (two on Monday and one of them on Tuesday). Why so soon? Well, you see, I decided to cancel the item coming from the authorized supplier because it would take so long (possibly two weeks). I had decided to buy somewhere else or make a different selection. The box I checked for the reason for the cancellation was “It will take too long to arrive.” Then a funny thing happened. The next morning, Sunday, I received shipping confirmation on all my Amazon fulfilled items, showing them expected on Monday and Tuesday. This sort of proves that Amazon could get the items to me faster if they wanted to. Obviously, someone decided to get my stuff to me before I cancelled the whole order.

Despite my attempt to cancel the order for the last item (within 24 hours, mind you) Amazon was unable to kill the order with the vendor. I’m skeptical about that whole thing, but I’m receiving the item on Saturday. That is a week earlier than the expected date given to me when they sent the order confirmation. We’ll see if the product suits my needs, which was one of the reasons I tried to cancel the order. The supplier received some negative reviews about the item being a cheap knock off, not the real thing.

Yes, all this expedited order shipping could be a coincidence? Except, I write mysteries often enough that I don’t believe in coincidences. The fact remains that an 800-pound gorilla can do pretty-much what it wants. Amazon can make anything happen with shipping, if they want to. You can believe that.