Friday, March 30, 2012

In Theory, When You Take A Vacation Day, You're Supposed To Relax

I was kind of on the fence today on what to write for a post. I originally wanted to write about getting caught by the language police at work a couple of weeks ago. But it's the type of post that requires a lot of thought, which usually means that I write the first draft out by hand. Which, if you know anything about me after four years of blogging, usually means that a very nasty and very pointed post will pollute this blog as an end result.

Since I really wasn't in the mood to construct a well thought out post, I thought that for general ha-ha's and slight head scratching I would share with you my slightly screwed up week.

On Saturday, the day after my wonderful phone calls to the IRS and TD Bank, I bought my new/used car: a 2009 blackish gray Nissan Altima. That was the easiest part of my Saturday. The rest of the Saturday was spent running around trying to get my morning errands done so that I could pick up the car before running another afternoon errand and then going to a family friend's 25th wedding anniversary party.

Now repeat after me: Murphy's Law is a very good thing.

Anything that could go wrong, did. I bought my money orders from the post office and staggered home (more on the staggering shortly) to pay my bills. As I got to the last bill, I realized that I was short a money order. So I hopped into my-previous-car-that-I'd-just-removed-the-insurance-and-placed-it-on-the-other and drove to the post office to register a very tiny complaint.

One thing that you probably don't know is that I very seldom complain about things. I honestly try to nurture a good working/customer relationship with the entities/people that I deal with on a daily basis, so that when I do have to make a complaint, it gets taken care of promptly.

And this was no exception. About a half hour later, the problem was resolved and I was able to get my money order later in the evening (they found it and I had them put it in my p.o. box).

The rest of the weekend went okay, did a little writing and basically relaxed and chilled. Even my Monday went relatively well. However, my Tuesday sucked major moose testicles.

I woke up about 3:30a in a world of excruciating pain. I couldn't bend or straighten out my leg, and I couldn't fall back to sleep. When 5:30a rolled around, I was still in excruciating pain, so as I managed to hop around on one foot, I told Joanne that once Jenelle was on her way to school, I needed her to drive me to the E.R.

About three to four weeks ago, I banged/twisted my knee. Not sure how I did it, but it had gotten progressively worse during the month until Tuesday, when I couldn't do anything.

Another positive customer service experience was had as the hospital that I went to made everything smooth as silk. Even though I live about the same distance from each major city hospital (Hartford Hospital and the Hospital of Central Connecticut, located in New Britain), I make it point to always go to New Britain. Why? Because it's never crowded, the wait is very tolerable, and you're treated like a person, so a three hour visit to the E.R. in New Britain feels like a one hour visit.

Case in point: when I'd got there, I didn't even have time to get comfortable in the waiting room as I immediately got called to triage. A few minutes later, was put into an examination room, and within the hour had x-rays done, blood work done and I.V. with some major pain meds pumped in (took them only two tries to get a line in, which is a record for me, because I blow lines like crazy).

About an hour later, a diagnosis was made, fluid in the knee, and a minor surgical procedure performed (big ass 18 gauge needles that removed about 50cc's of yellow fluid).

While I was waiting for the lab work to come back, which was the only bad part of the visit because it took about an hour and a half for the lab work, I managed to talk to my boss at work and fix a few problems over the phone (multi-tasking at its finest).

After discharge is when things got to be interesting. Because of the major changes made to my health insurance, I spent about fifteen minutes on the phone with my insurance company making sure that I could get two prescriptions filled. Why? Because my insurance has a policy that 'scripts need to be 90 days/minimum three refills, so I wanted to make sure that they would fill these two one shot 'scripts.

With my phone call concluded, my wife then drove me to lunch, to the bank and to the package store. If you think that this isn't interesting, think again. I am a horrible passenger. I am the equivalent of Sheldon Cooper from "The Big Bang Theory" and Walter Mitty's wife rolled into one.

Anyways, when I got home, I spent the rest of the day staggering (remember later? this isn't it) from floor to floor in a semi-successful attempt at relaxing.

Wednesday picked up from where Tuesday evening left off at (remember later? this ain't it either) and I gimped my way through the morning and got driven to work. At work, we basically staggered through the day (remember later? this is later) playing catch up with my work and trying to fly under the radar.

However, the one highlight from Wednesday was this: I had called my primary in the morning because that's what the discharge instructions required. He gave me permission to contact my ortho for a follow up. So I called up my ortho, who I was already seeing for my shoulders (keep this fact in mind), to schedule an appointment.

She took my information and confirmed my insurance (keep this fact in mind too), then told me I had to go back to the E.R. to get the results of my lab work and my x-rays. I politely told her that was something that I never had to do before, so I asked if they could request it. She said because I wasn't a patient yet, they couldn't do it.

We continued in this same vein for another minute or so, until I finally said, "I'm already seeing the doctor for my shoulder. Doesn't that count?"

My friends, my phone went dead for about five seconds, then she came back on the line and scheduled an appointment for today.

And that my friends, is how my week went.

Oh yeah, here's the connection to the post title: I'd originally planned to take all day Thursday and Friday morning off as vacation time. However, I had a job interview on Thursday and have my follow up appointment this Friday afternoon. So no, I'm not relaxing Thursday and Friday because I gots a little bit of stress for those two days and possibly the weekend.

Yay, me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Padding That Expense Account With Words And Actions

Yeah, once again got a slight disconnect between post title and post, but I'm slowly running out of words and phrases to use when I want to give an update on my writing.

But, in a small way, I am sort of padding my expense account and it is sort of writing related, and I'll tell you why it's writing related.

Back in early March, I finally got off my ass and designed a business card for myself at VistaPrint, which incidentally a few days later coincided with my new blogger name (G. B. Miller) and new title for my book blog (Books by G. B. Miller). This past Thursday, my business cards came in.

The back side of the card has the same picture and says "Books By G. B. Miller" along with the current addy.

Pretty cool, eh?

I also picked up a very nice small leather carrying case for the cards, as well as a small card holder that I'll have placed in front of my chapbook that is currently for sale at work. Even if they don't buy the book, I'm hoping that they'll be interested enough to take the card, and thus be interested enough to hear my pitch about my writing and my blog.

And if anyone is interested in acquiring a few of these goodies for your personal use and hand outs, feel free to drop me an e-mail and I'll be more than happy to mail a few out to you.

Now that we got the padded expense account portion of the post out of the way, we will now move onto the writing portion of the post.

Ever since my novel was acquired by Solstice Publishing, I've been thinking quite a bit about the partial novels that I got laying about here in my den. Mostly, I've been thinking about how a couple those partials are roughly in the same vein as "Line 21", which is to say that they sort of blur the line between reality and fantasy.

And the more I thought about them, the more I came to the conclusion that maybe I should dig one of them out and take a serious whack at completing it. However, before I can dig one of those out (I have two excellent candidates btw) to complete, there's this teeny tiny problem of completing the novella that I've been working on since late last year, which is "Blackness In The White Sand". 

As some of you may or may not know, I have this thorny problem of completing projects, especially stories. When I'm one hundred percent motivated, I'll work on a story until it's completed, no matter what gets in my way. When the motivation isn't so complete, that's when we have problems.

In this particular instance though, it's a matter of principle. I started this particular novella because I was very gung ho on writing it as a trilogy. Even when I added chapters to it, I remained motivated. Now we're at the point where I really want to take this novella and just bury it. Not because I'm tired of writing it, but because those incomplete novels are really hitting my brain with the force of a ball peen hammer, saying, "Do me next! Do me next! Do me next!"

But I'm very determined to complete this novella, no matter what it takes. It's now become a "writing because I have to" as opposed to "writing because I want to", and I'll be damned if my conscience or my muse tells me otherwise.

So with that said, let me give you a brief update of where I'm at, which is not with two turntables and a microphone. I got over the small hump of where I'd previously left off at some two months ago and wrote a key scene for the ending. And yes, it is a blatant sex scene, but more often than not, some type of sex usually works as a nice transition/bridge to wherever it is that I need to get to, and in this case, it fits perfectly.

I should be able to continue chopping away at it until I get it done, and I'm giving myself a one month deadline as a motivational tool.

And that my friends, is the writing news for yours truly, and while I may not be Gary Gnu, I certainly ain't whistling Dixie. So tune in next week when I may have some better news about one of my previously submitted short stories.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sure Money Talks, But It Depends On Who's Pulling The Strings

I thought I would revisit the theme of customer service today by sharing with you two incidents involving a business and the government that I experienced this week.

The Business

Late last month I decided to refinance my home equity loan so that I could come up with a down payment for a new/used car (which I ultimately bought this past Friday). So after sending in the requested paperwork (W-2's and paycheck stubs) the previous week, I decided to inquire about the status of it. It was already conditionally approved and all I wanted to know was either a closing date or what additional information was needed.

I called up TD Bank, which is where my loan is through, to find out the status. For the next three days, I got the following answers to my query:

1} It's not my department.
2} I'm sorry.
3} It's still being worked on.
4} I'll send an e-mail to the proper department and they will get back to you.

No matter who I spoke to, be it a worker bee or their supervisor (I tried the bank branch that our family has their accounts with, but that person got stonewalled as well), no one would give me an answer. As a matter of fact, the closest I got to an answer was a supervisor telling me that it was being worked on as we spoke about.

Eventually, after spending another four hours getting the run around and getting apologized to, I wound up yanking my application. But wait, it gets better. I called the next day to see if I could get the information that I had mailed in back.

I then proceeded to spend the next five minutes having a nasty argument with the customer service rep who was trying to tell me that it takes about three weeks to move from conditionally approved to approved (among other things). Two issues quickly emerged from this argument: one, she wasn't listening to what I was saying, which was that someone was already entering my info in the system; and two, she wasn't catching my increasing vitriolic tone. So I told her to shut up for a minute so that I could speak. She got offended by that comment (really?), so I escalated my anger and about thirty seconds later, dropped the proverbial F bomb and ended the conversation.

I'm sure at this point that I'll probably become a case history on how not to handle an irate customer. For those who do customer service and might be reading this, I offer this suggestion: give the person a solid answer to their question. Go that extra mile and give them what they want, even if it means bending the rules in order to do it.

The Government

There are only two government entities that I will bend over backwards and grovel for: Motor Vehicles and the IRS.

Since things have been quiet on the home front with my car/driver's license, let's concentrate with the IRS.

This past Friday (3/23) I went to the bank to get some money and when I had gotten my passbook back, I noticed an odd deposit posted. I inquired to the teller, who told me it was from the U.S. Treasury. I said, "That amount doesn't sound right." So I made a beeline back to the house in order to dig out my tax return and check what I had written down.

Turns out there was a $1550 discrepancy between what I had written down and what was given. Extremely worried that I did something really not right with my return, I called the IRS about it. After getting a computer generated explanation as to why, which was what I wrote down for a number for my daughter did not match up with their records, I decided to continue with my phone call and talk to a customer service rep to see how I might be able to fix the error and expedite the fixing of the error in whatever method they'd deem necessary.

So when I got put on hold, the friendly voice said, "Your estimated wait time is more than 15 minutes."

I said to myself, "No big thing."

Little did I know how much of a wait beyond those 15 minutes would await me.

Like times 3.

Yes, I was on hold for 45 minutes before I got to talk to a customer service rep about my particular issue. Now normally, I would of long ago gone absolutely nuclear if I had spent more than ten minutes on hold. However, since this was about three-quarters of my legitimate tax refund, I was more than willing to spend the entire evening on hold in order to jump through whatever hoop they wanted me to jump through.

Turns out that there wasn't that much of a hoop to jump through. I gave them the appropriate number, confirmed a few important details and after a grand total of 57 minutes and 7 seconds, I had the rest of my tax refund.

Which I'll see in about three to four weeks.

Oh, and out of that 57 minutes and 7 seconds, I was on hold for about 52 of those minutes.

And I will say with genuine sincerity that the person I'd talked to on the phone was extremely helpful and polite throughout the entire encounter.

So there you have it, two unique customer service experiences from the private and public sector. Who would've thought that one my better customer service experiences would come from an entity that developed a reputation of mediocre customer service?

Certainly not me.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Exploring The Spam Within You

I thought for a slight change of pace that exploring the world of Spam, both the edible kind and the Internet kind.

Edible Spam

For edible Spam, we offer the following recipe that was culled from my Gmail e-mail. Like most e-mail addresses, Gmail has a spam folder, in which all kinds of spam are directed to. However, unlike other e-mail addresses, such as Hotmail (I gots) and Yahoo (I gots), Gmail offers Spam recipe links as a header within the spam folder. So the other day, I saw a link for Spam tortilla sandwiches, and I thought, "Wow, this sounds really, really good." So my friends, I offer up to you, a good outdoorsy Spam recipe, courtesy of Gmail and Recipe Source. Hope you give it a try and find it to your liking.

Spam Imperial Tortilla Sandwiches

1 can of SPAM luncheon meat (12 oz. size)
1 pack of cream cheese, softened (8 oz. size)
1/3 cup of chopped green onion
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh dill
3 flour tortillas (8")
1 medium cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup of sunflower seeds
1/2 cup of alfalfa sprouts

In bowl, combine SPAM and cream cheese. Stir in green onion and dill. Spread 1/3 of SPAM mixture evenly over each tortilla. Top with 1/3 each cucumber, sunflower seeds, and alfalfa sprouts. Roll up tortilla jelly roll fashion and wrap in plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Refrigerate 2 hours. To serve, cut each roll in half.

Internet Spam

And now we come to the non-calorie non-edible but certainly a Maalox moment portion of our post.

Internet Spam.

Specifically, how it relates to blogs.

If you haven't gotten a chance to peruse this blog's front page before reading this post, please do so for the next several seconds.

See something different?

That's right, I returned the spammer's delight back to this blog's front page: the popular post list. And for a completely tongue-planted-firmly-in-check title, I call it "Your Top 5 Of The Month".

The reason why I call it "the spammer's delight" is that at least 2 posts on the list got there by being spammed to death.

To elaborate, if you take a quick look at your stats link for you blog, one of the items that you see on the screen is "traffic source". And chances are that the top three sources that you see are links to very strange websites. It's those very strange websites that about 85% of the time artificially pump up the amount of pageviews for a given post.

If you recall late last year, I wrote about a two year old post of mine that I had removed because it had about 1,800 pageviews on it, and even though I'd eventually removed all the content, it was still in my top five list. Well, the main reason why it was in my top five list was that spammers were consistently clicking on the link in order to drive up the pageview count and thus attempt to generate traffic to their websites.

Anyways, in spite of the fact that spammers are once again visiting certain posts on my blog with gusto, or because of it, who knows, maybe I'm a closet masochist, I decided to bring back the top five blog post list, so that you could see for yourselves what my resident spammers are finding so incredibly fascinating these days.

And believe it or not, my Valentine's post of 2010 is still generating enough pageviews per month that it is still in my all-time top ten.

And believe it or not, no video to close out the week. Instead, I leave you with this non-movable picture to soothe your tired body and quell your achy breaky head.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I'm Gonna Pull Your Tweezers Out With A Pair of Whiskers!

Not really solid to report for writing today, so I thought I would offer up a few random tangents that have been swirling around my head for the past few days/weeks.

First up, an explanation for the post title.

My mother has a dog that barks at every single person that comes into the house. Now if you couple that with the fact that this dog has perpetual short term memory, you can see how this gets super annoying for me to walk out of the house for ten seconds then come back in and then get barked at for thirty seconds.

Anyways, while I was being barked at yet again one day, I yelled at the dog. What I intended to say was, "If you don't shut up, I'm gonna pull your whiskers out with a pair of tweezers!" What came out instead was a perfect Norm Crosby moment from the old Natural Light Commercials.

Suffice to say, the family found it incredibly hilarious and some two months later, still find it incredibly hilarious as whenever I decide to yell at the dogs (yes all three of them), they innocently bring up my busted Norm Crosby syntax.

Anyways, continuing with the rest of the random tangents we present to you the one full positive from this past weekend (3/16-18).

Yahoo Groups.

Specifically, a Yahoo Group that is sponsored by my publisher Solstice Publishing. I haven't done the chat rooms or any kind of forums for the better part of two years, so even though this is something new and exciting, I'll still be performing the old habit of lurking on the outside for a while to see how things work. Once I get used to it, I'll probably perform my other old habit of jumping in feet first into the fray.

The half positive from this past weekend featured, believe or not and contrary to the opening sentence, writing.

I took my own advice from Sunday's post and on Saturday (fyi, I always write my posts at least two days in advance) took a trip to Westfarms Mall here in Connecticut. I did a little walking and a little note taking, which taking into consideration that the weather here was exceptionally fine (please be jealous, I beg of you) was a very good thing. Because not only did it help clear my head, but it helped me churn out about 670 fresh words for my novella.

I also have to mention here the one positive from the previous weekend (3/9-11), which was changing my anti-virus software.

Norton not only drove me to the edge of the cliff, but that weekend pushed me off as well. In the course of one Sunday morning, for three solid hours, I manged to have a grand total of 15 minutes of usable computer time. The other 2 hours and 45 minutes were spent battling a serious computer freeze/jam job.

So once I had gotten back from my afternoon festivities, which was lunch and grocery shopping, I called up AT&T to find out how to get McAfee for free on my computer. After spending about thirty minutes on the phone with AT&T working on a proper solution, I got rid of Norton (who never responded to my letter back in late February) and uploaded McAfee. One of the better moves that I've done for my computer and something that I should've done two years ago, which would've saved me about $140. My computer now runs a hell of lot smoother, has a quick start up and shut down, and most importantly, no freeze ups.

And that my friends, is the news, and I'm not Gary Gnu.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sometimes, Escaping Is Damn Near Impossible

For the past couple of weeks, I've been internally rocking to the music of The Who. Specifically, these two songs:


Well, the reason why I decided to latch onto these particular songs is that I've been suffering through a particularly long spate of personal/family burnout, and to me, these songs represent the kind of escapism that's been sorely lacking in my life these days.

We all need a little escapism now and again in order to recalibrate our well being, but since my escapism has been in the form of writing, re-calibration has been virtually non-existent.

For example, not many of you out there know this, but the last original writing that I did this year was back in January, which was just prior to receiving my first semi-rejection for my novel "Line 21". Once I decided to buckle down and work with the feedback that the publisher had suggested, the novella that I was working on got put on the back burner.

For those of you who might find it weird to read the word "feedback" and "publisher" in the same sentence on this blog, please check out this link for the end result of the last paragraph

When it finally came time to turn my attention back to my novella, I found that real world blindsided me with such an open ice hit, that some four weeks later, I'm still at a loss on how to dig myself out.

Right now, writing is unable to provide the escapism that I desperately need, simply because I can't get that familiar stability that I desperately need in order to write.

So my escapism for the time being is work. Which in my world, is not a good thing. Work shouldn't be a refuge from family life, it should be the other way around. But the grim reality is that the second I step into my office building, my stress level goes down and my inner chi becomes semi-restored. And on the other side of the coin, the second I step out of my office building, my stress level zooms and my inner chi drops down to what it was prior to entering the building.

So I soldier on, put up with the various physical ailments and mental strain to the best of my ability, try to find the small things in my little corner of the neighborhood that I can take refuge in, and apply my vast writing talent (such as it is) towards my blog, of which the ultimate goal is jump starting my writing again.

In the meantime, not only will we continue with our best effort to keep my real world from bleeding into my blog world, but we'll keep on trying to fill this blog with type of escapism that you've come to enjoy and appreciate during the past four years.

Because, after all, the main duty of a blog is to provide a little escapism from your very busy day.

I leave you with one last item on the agenda that stays within the theme of this post:

Friday, March 16, 2012

When All You Have Is An Epic Fail... turn to a handy dandy late 20th century e-mail to bail you out.


The Mess Test

Smear peanut butter on the sofa and curtains. Place a fish stick behind the couch and leave it there all summer.

The Toy Test

Obtain a 55 gallon box of Legos (or you may substitute roofing tacks). Have a friend spread them all over the house. Put on a blindfold. Try to walk to the bathroom or kitchen. No screaming allowed, as this would wake a child at night.

The Grocery Store Test

Borrow one or two small animals (goats are best) and take them with you as you shop. Always keep them in sight and pay for anything they eat or damage.

The Dressing Test

Obtain one large, unhappy, live octopus. Stuff into a small net bag making sure that all the arms stay inside.

The Feeding Test

Obtain a large plastic milk jug. Fill halfway with water. Suspend from the ceiling with a cord. Start the jug swinging. Try to insert spoonfuls of soggy cereal into the mouth of the jug, while pretending to be an airplane. Now dump contents of the jog on the floor.

The Night Test

Prepare by obtaining a small cloth bag and fill it with 8-12 pounds of sand. Soak it thoroughly in water. At 3:00p begin to waltz and hum with the bag until 9:00p. Lay down your bag and set your alarm for 10p. Get up, pick up your bag, and sing every song you have ever heard. Make up about a dozen more songs and sing these too until 4a. Set alarm for 5a. Get up and make breakfast. Keep this up for 5 years. Look cheerful.

The Ingenuity Test

Take an egg carton. Using a pair of scissors and pot of paint, turn it into an alligator. Now take a toilet paper tube and turn it into an attractive Christmas candle. Use only scotch tap and a piece of foil. Last, take a milk carton, a ping-pong ball, and an empty box of Cocoa Puffs. Make an exact replica of the Eiffel Tower.

The Automobile Test

Forget the BMW and buy a station wagon. Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment. Leave it there. Get a dime. Stick it into the cassette player. Take a family size package of chocolate chip cookies. Mash them into the back seat. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car. There, perfect!

Physical Test (Women)

Obtain a large beanbag chair and attach it to the front of your clothes. Leave it there for 9 month. Now remove 10 of the beans.

Physical Test (Men)

Go to the nearest drug store. Set your wallet on the counter. Tell the clerk to help himself. Now proceed to the nearest food store. Go to the head office an arrange for your paycheck to be directly deposited to the store. Purchase a newspaper. Go home and read it quietly for the last time.

Final Assignment

Find a couple who already have a small child. Lecture them on how they can improve their discipline. patience, tolerance, toilet training and child's table manners. Emphasize to them that they should never allow their children to run wild. Enjoy this time since you will never have all the answers again.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Perpendicular? Not At Albuquerque

Yeah, I'm perpendicular. So what? Lots of people are perpendicular these days. Take my good friend Sir Loin of Beef.

Now, my good buddy Sir Loin of Beef always sits perpendicular, but never at Albuquerque, because at Albuquerque, he's required to always make a left turn, except on Tuesdays, when he has to make right turns while hanging upside down.

However, the head cheese of Albuquerque, Sachmo of Armstrong:

has granted a special waiver for Sir Loin of Beef, in that he doesn't have to make that right turn while hanging upside down today. Instead, Sir Loin of Beef and his trusted steed Steed have galloped onto this blog to enlighten you about a few things in the Bastille countryside...ummm...the windmills?

starts flipping though the script as he has gotten completely lost. after furious flipping back and forth for thirty seconds, he finds where he's supposed to be, and thus, tosses the script off to the side. boldly stepping forward, he clears and throat and says in a voice dripping with confidence

Sir Loin of Beef and his trusted steed Steed have galloped onto this blog with a late breaking news story that had its origins created in the basement of Don Quixote's sidekick Pancho's hacienda. Without further ado, fresh from his successful run at the Duke of Ellington's Tuxedo Junction, here is Sir Loin of Beef and his faithful steed Steed.

These are the times that tries even the most fervent admirer of Frankie, who didn't go to Hollywood but instead became known as the Voice with the Golden Arm and who didn't originate from Amherst and never became pixilated, can plainly see that plain Jane is a lot smoother than Mary, but if Mary Jane were joined together, they would be the ultimate pharmaceutical smoothie, which is to say, medicinal as the Recipe, but not as medicinal as the holes in Albert Hall.

However, the most fervent admirer of Frankie, who doesn't like Baked Van De Kamp but certainly likes sleeping with a blanket, will admit that sometimes, you really have to drive along the highway not only with a thousand screaming trucks, but also with my twelve long hair friends too. Especially if you're hauling a conservative Democrat or a liberal Republican.

With that being said, I, Sir Loin of Beef will now step into the swing of things, and I don't mean New Jack, and say what inquiring minds have been clamoring for since the age of Aquarius, or at the very least, in conujuction with letting the sunshine in and the dropping of Jupiter to the land of Orion's Belt.

Dang! I knew I should've made that left turn at Albuquerque!

And what did we learn, if anything today?

That's right, a blog writer with an empty screen and an equally empty head can always beyond a shadow of a doubt, make you grab head and say in your whiniest voice, "Make it stop!"



Sunday, March 11, 2012

Fear Of The Family


Not of the unknown, but of the family. Whether it's the immediate family (mother, father, sister, brother) or the screwy relations (cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and other assorted odds and ends), the family is what probably scares the writer the most.

I know it does me.

My comfort level in having people read my short stories/novels/novellas looks something like this, with 10 being the highest and 1 being the lowest:

Complete strangers: 10
Blog readers: 8
Friends, no matter what the pecking order is: 6
Screwy relations: 4
Immediate family: 0

Notice how the immediate family ranks a 0, even though 1 was the lowest you can get.

Well my friends, let me tell you something. Ever since I'd started writing some six years ago, I made a personal vow that I would never show any of my stories to my immediate family. Why? Because my immediate family has, over the years, mocked and never took seriously anything that I've tried to do to either better myself or simply expand my knowledge and horizons.

So you can imagine both my surprise and my concern when my wife decided in the tail end of 2011, that she wanted to read my some of my short stories. Basically, the conversation went something like this:

"Can I read some of your short stories?"

And then it continued with me asking what she wanted to read and she told me what she wanted and with great reluctance, I pulled out my Spiderman folder that contained about six short stories: two that were published and four more that I was shopping around.

She enjoyed the stories and thus I dodged another bullet, since I was totally petrified that she would have a very negative reaction to what I had written, because as most of you know, I do not write clean normal stuff.

Fast forward to this year. This past weekend, she asked if she could read my chapbook "Betrayed!". Stupidly I had asked why. Smartly, she answered that while she was interested in the novel that I'd just sold, she didn't quite have enough time to read it, so she wanted to read something shorter.

With no option available to me beyond saying yes, I pointed to the small box sitting in the corner that contained pristine unsold copies and told her to help herself to a copy.

At this point, I had moved way beyond being petrified and was now residing in the realm of "I am in deep shit."

Yes, I really was that scared. Up until six months ago, my wife was both blissfully unaware of what I wrote for fiction and not even remotely interested in what I'd actually written. Now, not only is she aware of the kind of fiction that I write, but she actually wants to read it. Thus, I was occupying the residence of "I am in deep shit."

So I spent the entire weekend asking how she was liking the book, and much to my surprise (and quite frankly, to my relief), she said that she was enjoying the book very much.

Even though she was enjoying the book (and more pointedly, asked about my first one) and had enjoyed the few short stories that I'd felt comfortable in showing to her, it still doesn't change my personal rule of not showing my writing to my immediate family. I should mention one other reason why I won't show my stories to any of my immediate family: my immediate family, save for my daughter, don't read.

Yup, kind of hard to believe, but the plain truth is that except for my daughter, who inherited her love of reading from me, no one in my house likes to read. As a rule, my wife normally doesn't read except when she's feeling really adventurous, and neither do my son or my mother read, except the t.v. viewing guide.

So because of those reasons, I feel more comfortable in showing/talking about my stories to complete strangers, readers, friends, co-workers and screwy relations, than I do with my own family.

How about you? Do you feel more comfortable in showing whatever your hobby/passion happens to be, to your immediate family? Or, do you feel more comfortable in showing your hobby/passion to people who arne't your immediate family? Or is it a complete toss-up?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Someone Yumped On My Yimmity!

What's wrong with this picture?

Rhode Island lottery officials announce today (3/6) that an 81 year old woman took the top Powerball prize of $364 million, which as a lump sum was only a paltry $210 million.

Please insert any comment that you see fit to make about this whacked out slice of life from New England.

The other day I found this cool recipe from my local paper that I'm looking to try once things settle down at home.

Baked eggs in ham cups

2 tsps of butter for the pan
4 slices of ham that are round
2 tsps of pesto
8 eggs
4 cubes of mozzarella, fresh or domestic (or any other kind of cheese for that matter)
4 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Black pepper to taste


Butter four compartments of a metal muffin tin well. Fold the ham slices into quarters and place one in each cup to line it with ham. It will ruffle, which is what you want. Place 1/4 teaspoon pesto in the bottom of the ham cup, then crack two eggs into a cup and pour it in. Tuck in a piece of mozzarella, two halves of cherry tomatoes and another 1/4 teaspoon pesto, then sprinkle with pepper to taste. No salt is needed because the ham may be salty and the pesto has some in it, too.

Bake in a 375 degree preheated oven for twelve to fifteen minutes till the white looks set but the yolk is still a bit runny. Remove from the muffin tin and serve in small bowls or line them up on a platter to serve.

Yield: 4

To partially quote Barnes & Barnes: Eat them up, yum!

To continue on a mindless tangent, I found a neat television show to watch about a month ago called "The Big Bang Theory".

I first saw this show during the Super Bowl weekend when I went to my local fast food restaurant to buy some buffalo wings. While I was waiting for my order, this show was blaring on the television. After watching it for about ten minutes, I got hooked.

And what really got me hooked was not so much the premise of the show (which centered around four geeky scientists who are friends with a woman who moved to California to become an actress) but the actors themselves. I've always liked Johnny Galecki as an actor, starting with his days on the show "Roseanne", and this show, he really shows his comedic chops. But Jim Parsons, who plays the character Sheldon Cooper, is an absolute riot.

I haven't seen first run current episodes yet (and probably won't) but I have been watching it on TBS for the past month or so and its become one of the few shows that I actually look forward to watching during the week.

Finally, to finish up this strange post, I decided that since I was going to be published under a pen name (G. B. Miller) for my book, I should make all things in my writing world gel. So the first thing that I'm currently doing, is exploring Vista Print, so that I can make some personal business cards for myself under my pen name.

The second thing that I decided to do was to change my name on my blog. For only the second time in my and this blog's existence, I am changing my blogger name. When I'd first started this blog, my name at the time was Georgie B. About a year later, I changed it to G. Now, with the advent of my first book being published sometime this year (hopefully), I'm changing my blogger name to G. B. Miller.

However, because I care about my friends and readers, I decided to gradually work my new name in. For the time being, my full blogger name is G. B. Miller (aka G). Once everyone gets used to my new blogger name, I'll remove the "aka" and simply go by the name G. B. Miller, at least for the Blogger blogs. For the WordPress blogs, I'll still be known as G, simply because that was the name I had used when I' set up my profile with Gravatar some two+ years ago. And since I can't recall the password to the account, it stays as G.

This has been the news, with Gary Gnu.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Blurb Is Just A Synopsis Missing Its Extremities

There comes a time in every writer's life where he/she has to write the dreaded blurb for their novel. Doesn't matter whether you're a newbie commercial writer (like myself) or an old pro at it, it's something that we all loathe to do, but it's an essential if we want our potential readers to do more than just fondle our book.

I have never been any good at writing short concise summaries of anything, so asking me to write a blurb is tantamount to asking me not to talk to my computer at work when someone irritates me by showing their stupidity.

In other words...well, we're all adults here, so you can pretty much figure it out.

Still, writing a blurb is a necessary evil, and fortunately, I've had some practice in doing it. Not very well, but I did it just the same.

The first blurb that I'd wrote was for my first self-pubbed book "Shades of Love":

Stuck in a marriage where the only thing he had in common with his wife were their children, Wally was one very unhappy soul. One of the few things that gave him happiness was flirting with his co-workers. On this particular day though, those flirtations turn serious with one particular person.

She was a bold, dynamic, vivacious free spirit who triggered a yearning deep within Wally's very soul. Azalea was intrigued by this charming yet down to earth person, whose wit, guile and audacity, ignited a long dormant fame of passion and sensuality.

United by their growing love for each other, they experience emotional upheaval and heartache, as they strive for that final golden ring.
Average don't you think? Would it make you pick up the book and read a few pages? Or would you put it back on the shelf and move on to another book?

In any event, it was a decent first attempt at writing a blurb. A bit wordy and it rambled a little, but you pretty much got the basic idea.

My next attempt at writing a blurb was precursor of things to come. As some of you may have read in the past year or so while I was going through the submission process with Line 21, I had a tendency to procrastinate in doing the real important things that were needed for querying (the query letter and the synopsis) until I decided to sit my ass down and hammer it out in one fell swoop.

Well, the blurb for my chapbook Betrayed! was pretty much written that way. I procrastinated for about a week, then simply sat my ass down and wrote this in about thirty minutes:

Theirs was a doomed relationship that even a marriage couldn't fix.

Ray was the antithesis of a hairdresser. Handsome, muscular and a natural flirt, he was the solution to every women's fantasies. All he wanted, though, was to be loved by the mercurial woman of his dreams.

Gwendolyn was a passionate young woman with a temper that ran as dark as her complexion. Desirable to both sexes, she was determined to find love, no matter what the consequences.

Who would be the first to betray their marital vows? Ray, who although was enlightened about the world around him, still had those old fashioned values that made him a hot commodity. Gwendolyn, vivacious and passionate, had the looks and the body that could destroy anyone that got in the way of her ultimate goal.

To be unconditionally loved. Can that particular end really justify the means?
Compared to the first one, this one is on a whole other planet. Doesn't ramble, the wording is tighter and you definitely got the idea of the plot right from the first sentence. The questions are still the same. Would it make you pick up the book and read a few pages? Or would you put it back on the shelf and move on to another book?

As you can, the difference between the two blurbs is like night and day. The first one was written back in '08, when I really didn't have a clue about writing. The second was written in '09, when I started to have a clue about writing. The reason as to why I brought up these two blurbs is that I'm trying to get a jump on writing a blurb for my novel. Believe it or not, I am a bit anal about being surprised. I don't like being surprised by stuff that I saw coming ahead of time and didn't bothering preparing for it.

So as a rough draft, I'm thinking of using the mini-synopsis from my query letter as a basis for the blurb:

Playing the game of public sex is hard enough when you got the family loan shark bothering you for a piece of your action, but when your symbiont wants a piece as well, it can make you question your own sanity.

Flat broke with no job, Jeannie was terrified of becoming just like one of her uncle’s deadbeat customers. Even though she was able to smooth talk her way into a five day extension of her loan, she was still stuck in the same dead end with the same problem: no money. Still, God must’ve had an ulterior motive, because no sooner than she had closed her phone, a young man sat down next to her and began talking. A few minutes later, Jeannie was holding a business card that could just be her potential salvation from a world of hurt. After a brief, yet highly insulting conversation with her symbiont Aissa, Jeannie was determined to test her mettle as an adult performer. Not because she needed the money, but more to the point of proving her symbiont wrong as well as proving to herself that she could play the game of public sex and still have her morals intact.

Line 21 is not just a story about a young woman’s dilemma in reconciling her values to a new and exciting career, but it’s also a story about living with a free spirit that’s crying out for adventure.

So my friends, your opinion of this last blurb would be what? Needs more depth? More punch? Does it answer the question "Would it make you pick up the book and read a few pages?" or does it answer the question "Would you put it back on the shelf and move on to another book?"

Inquiring minds do want to know, because not only will the truth set me free, but it will sure as hell point me in the right direction.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I'm Feeling 619, But I'm Looking 925!

I got to thinking the other day about the distinct lack of exposure to live music during my lifetime. Why? Just needed something to think about on my morning drive.

Anyways, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I am pretty much an anomaly when it comes to live music, both as a teenager and as an adult.

As a teenager, I saw exactly one concert: AC/DC.

Great first date concert, but because of the fire regulations at the time, 'twas no cannon fired during the finale.

As an adult, it got a little better. I saw quite a few more concerts, and each has a strange tidbit attached to them.

1} Jethro Tull-Broadsword And The Beast tour: I got stuck seeing that one by myself as a friend I was suppose to go with was denied permission by his parental unit. Thus, we took a bus to and from New Haven to seen them perform. Opening act was called Midnight Star, I believe.

2} Wang Chung/The Cars: Don't even remember what album the tour was supporting. Bought the tickets from a cousin's dopey boyfriend when he couldn't go. Went with my brother, lost about $20 and got lost going home from Hartford.

3} The Beach Boys (mid 80's): Went with this flaky girl, which was very surprising since her mother was a major control freak and didn't let her go anywhere.

As the 80's melded into the 90's, the concert experience got better, but not by much.

4} David Hasselhoff at the Big E: To all of my married male readers, sometimes you really do have to bite the bullet and take your wife to see someone you truly loathe, just so that can score some major brownie pints for the rest of the year. 'Nuff said.

5} "Weird Al" Yankovic: Also at the Big E. This was the last time that I went to the Big E, since I found it to be a big waste of money, since because I could not partake in all of the good food being offered.

6} Atwater & Donnelly: Fantastic New England area folk duo that I first heard on WWUH in the mid-to-late 90's. Remains the only original artist that I've seen twice.

7} The Grass Roots: Not the 60's pop band, but the New England bluegrass version.

8} The New England Fiddlefest: Spent a few hours at this festival, which was held at the Bushnell Park in Hartford back in 2000 I believe.

The 2000's became incredibly bad when it came to live music. I have seem to come full circle as the only band I saw twice was a cover band.

9} Shaded Soul (I think that was the name): Decent cover band that a former co-worker of mine fronted.

So my friends, as you can plainly see my live music experience has been sporadic to say the least. I've seen exactly two concerts in this particular century (13 years and counting) and that was four years ago. The reasons as to why aren't many and in fact boil down to three.


The first two are easy to explain but the 3rd is a little trickier.

The joys of being a bad diabetic means that sometimes you can't go to a concert at night because you really have no way of keeping your insulin both cool and your syringe in one undamaged piece.

I suppose I could hit daytime festivals, which would solve number three but not quite solve one or two. In any event, it's definitely something to think about.

To close out this post, I leave you with this two part question.

The title of the post refers to the following items: a song and a band.

The first one to name the both of them correctly can win a copy of my chapbook Betrayed!

Copies are still available for purchase, which would make a great intro to the kind of story that my upcoming novel "Line 21" is all about.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Renew My Subscription To Norton? Are You Insane?

What better way to celebrate this blog's 801st post than to rant about something which is necessary to keep you protected in the Cyber World?

What you're about to read is a two page letter that I wrote to Symantec Corporation, makers of Norton Anti-Virus software products, explaining in great detail why I'm switching to McAfee. I mailed this bad boy on February 26th.

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing you this letter, which will also double as a complaint, to let you know in no uncertain terms why I won't be renewing my subscription to your product.

For the past six months, your product has produced nothing but major headaches, intense frustration and perpetual freeze ups, as I tried to use my computer for Internet surfing and writing.

Let me give you a typical example of what I go through whenever I want to use my computer.

1} I turn on my computer and wait for it to boot.
2} A couple of minutes later, I start to use the Internet to conduct my daily business (checking e-mails, correspondence, blogging, etc.).
3} Less than five minutes later, computer freezes up due to an executable file that you use called "ccsvchst.exe".
4} I manage to disable the anti-virus program after about a solid minute of right clicking my mouse. I can never disable it through my Windows Task Manager, and in fact, my Windows Task Manager is always open so that whenever my computer jams, I can take the appropriate action.
5} I wait for it to kick in, then I either do a regular restart of my computer, or if the CPU has been jammed for an extended period of time, a cold reboot.
6} More often than not, I also have to reset my router multiple times as well as unplug my router multiple times before the problem finally goes away.

This is something that I have to do on a frequent basis as your program stubbornly refuses to do what it's requested to do by the user the first time.

I've also had my computer jammed by your program in the most bizarre ways imaginable:

1} I've had my computer freeze up on the log-in screen. This usually happens if I have to go away for a few minutes to take care of something, and I wind up doing a cold re-boot to fix.
2} I've had my computer freeze up when it goes into screen saver mode.
3} I've had my computer freeze up when I try to open a typical personal program like Word.
4} I've had my computer freeze up and a print job interrupted multiple times because of your program.
5} I've had my computer freeze up when nothing is being done on it. I would just have it on and it would freeze up.
6} Even when I would unplug my router, thus having no Internet capabilities so I could spend my time writing, my computer would freeze up.
7} And should I be able to get on the Internet while you software is severely jamming my computer, I can't access any of my bookmarks or subscription links until it finishes compiling whatever pointless information it needs.

Quite often, your program would jam my computer up so severely that in a course of a typical hour, I would be able to get on the Internet for about fifteen minutes, with the rest of the hour spend trying to disable Norton and re-booting my computer.

Finally, what good is an anti-virus program if you have to disable it in order to do what you want and need to do on the Internet?

So when my subscription expires in about two months, I will not renew it. Instead, I will install what my Internet provider (AT&T) offers for free and what our household computer has: McAfee

I sincerely doubt that I will ever go back to using Norton Anti-Virus software, simply because I don't need the stress or the aggravation. One more thing: during the entire time that I was writing this letter, my computer got jammed by your software, even though I had disabled it and re-booted my computer prior to writing this letter.



The Legal Disclaimer

All the content that you see here, except for the posting of links that refer to other off-blog stories, is (c) 2008-17 by G.B. Miller. Nothing in whole or in part may be used without the express written permission of myself. If you wish to use any part of what you see here, please contact me at