What Stace had to say on Friday, November 14th, 2014
FIVE DOWN updates!

Okay, if you pre-ordered or have ordered since I posted Wednesday, you should have received either:

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A. The file in the format you requested; or

B. An email from me asking what format you need.

If you pre-ordered or paid and have NOT received the file, please email me and let me know right away! I am 99.9% certain that everyone is taken care of, but in a situation like this I don’t want to assume and have you end up not getting something you should have.

Please note that all emails and files were sent to the email address listed by Paypal! (Unless you specifically requested otherwise in the Notes or Instructions.) So if you use AwesomeReader@gmail as your primary account, but have your Paypal set up under your old AwesomeReader@hotmail account or something, any correspondence from me would have gone to the hotmail account.

Now. As for the PDFs: I am having an absolute bitchfuck of a time trying to get the Table of Contents to work. I’ve done all of the things I was supposed to do and fiddled with all of the things I was supposed to fiddle with and it is just not. fucking. happening. So, rather than make anyone wait any longer, I’ve sent out the ToC-less PDFs, so at least you have them. I think this weekend I’m going to try re-formatting the entire thing from scratch, and see if maybe that fixes it. In that case, I’m happy to send new files to you PDF folks.

Also! It is UP on Amazon! It’s right here, for your Amazon-purchasing pleasure. (Link will open in new window/tab.)

I’m still waiting on B&N, sigh.

But, for you Nook-ers (or anyone else who does not want to buy from Amazon/doesn’t have a Kindle/whatever) you can still buy it directly from me.

The price is $3.49 (US$). Paypal is apparently set to GBP, in which case it’s apparently £2.20 at today’s exchange rate. Please let me know in the Instructions or wherever what format you want: .mobi, .epub, or PDF. (If you forget, no big deal; I’ll just email you and ask which you need, which is not a problem.)





Whatever you decide to do, thank you! It’s really exciting to see how enthusiastic you all are, and the lovely comments you’ve made so far about the new story PLAYING WITH FIRE have really been awesome to see. I’m so, so glad you like it!

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, November 12th, 2014
FIVE DOWN is available!

If you pre-ordered back in July, you should have* woken up this morning (awakened this morning? I never know which is right) to find a shiny new copy of FIVE DOWN, the Downside anthology, in your email inbox!

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Yes, it’s finally here! I know, it seems like it took forever, and believe me it feels that way to me, too. But I’m really, really happy with how it turned out, and I hope you will be, too.

As the title implies (and the cover outright says), it’s five stories. They are:

RICK THE BRAVE (from the HOME IMPROVEMENT: UNDEAD EDITION anthology)
HOME (a Heroes & Heartbreakers original)
CLOSE TO YOU (a Heroes & Heartbreakers original)
KEEPING IT CLOSE (web original)
…aaaaaand a brand new novella (33k words) called PLAYING WITH FIRE, which has spontaneous combustion and divided loyalties and a confrontation and big decisions and a character or two who I’m pretty sure will be back again in later books.

Which does NOT mean that you MUST purchase and read the anthology in order to not be lost in later books. Think of PLAYING WITH FIRE as sort of like FINDING MAGIC: nice background, but not absolutely necessary. I dislike the idea of forcing people to buy extra content/previously published content if they want to understand later events, so I haven’t done that here. But I do think PLAYING WITH FIRE is a nifty novella, and Chess actually gets to have a little fun with another Church employee, which was kind of cool to do. Plus, again, spontaneous combustion!

I added a little intro to each story, just a note on where the idea or characters came from, or what influenced it, or whatever. I didn’t do much of that with PLAYING WITH FIRE, though, to avoid being spoiler-y.

I have begun the process of getting the book uploaded to Amazon and B&N. iBooks/iTunes is going to be quite a bit trickier, I’m afraid, since I no longer have a Mac–I actually have not even installed iTunes on this computer–and that seems to be a necessary part of the process. So we’ll see how that goes (we had some difficulty getting WRONG WAYS DOWN onto iTunes as well; it took like an extra couple of weeks).

BUT!

This book is different, and the process is different, so here’s what I’m doing.

You may remember how we ran KEEPING IT CLOSE through Paypal, and then I sent out the completed story file to those who requested it? It worked pretty well, I think, so I’m going to do the same here. If you do not want to wait for the anthology to be loaded onto your ebookstore of choice (I may or may not do a print version, I haven’t decided, but I can’t get that going until I have a PDF, and PDFs are unfortunately not quite ready–see below * section, sigh), you can go ahead and use the Paypal button to, well, pay for the book, and I will send you your copy in your preferred format as close to Immediately as I possibly can. (With KEEPING IT CLOSE I managed to be pretty damn close with the majority of requests; I think a couple of people may have had to wait a couple of hours, and in rare cases it was overnight–time zones, you know–but overall turnaround was pretty fast.)

I realize this isn’t ideal, but it’s the only way I can think of to make sure everyone can get it in their desired format, right away. And you are welcome to wait, of course. (Again, if you want PDF please give me another day or two!)

The price for the anthology is $3.49 (that’s US dollars; Paypal is apparently set to GBP, in which case it’s about £2.20. So if it won’t let you submit a dollar amount, go for that).





*Or, well, if you pre-ordered AND included what format you prefer. A few of you did not specify, and I’m in the process of emailing you to ask which you’d like. Also, a couple of you asked for PDF, which is unfortunately taking me just a tad longer to put together. I’m so sorry about that!

Want another excerpt? Here you go!

Instead a new man—an Inquisitor Third, obviously the guy in charge since the others were uniforms—arrived, spoke to one of the initial responders, and then approached her with a hesitant smile on his pleasant face. “Chess? Do you remember me?”

The second he said it, she realized she did. Of course she did. It wasn’t easy to forget the brother of an Elder Chief Inquisitor, especially when that brother had been only a year ahead of her in Church training. “Well, hey, Will, how have you been?”

“Not bad, not bad. It’s good to see you.” He tipped his head toward Ella’s corpse, now being photographed by the Body Removal Squad. “You know, if you wanted to catch up, you could have just left me a note or something.”

She fought back her smile. Will always had been fun to talk to, though they’d probably only spoken a handful of times. “Nah, that’s boring.”

“A lot safer, though. What happened?”

She gave him a quick run-down, and agreed to hang on while he talked to the other witnesses. Which gave her time to think, too, about what the hell could have happened to that poor waitress. How had she burned up so fast? How had that fire started? It was so hard not to start talking to the witnesses herself, not to dig in and start investigating. No, it wasn’t a Debunking case, but it wasn’t like she’d been given a decent Debunking case in the last few months. And really, she’d done enough non-Debunking shit for Bump that it hardly seemed to matter anymore.

But she couldn’t. She especially didn’t think she could go shoving herself into a case being handled by someone whose family name carried serious weight in the Church, and who was himself probably on a fast-track to further glory. The fact that he couldn’t have been more than twenty-six and was already an Inquisitor Third told her that.

All of which meant she was going to have to sit this one out, and hope she got an update when it was all over.

She’d just come back in from having a cigarette when Will motioned for her to join him near the back of the room, by the soda machines and kitchen entrance. The smell of hot oil and bacon drifted through the gaps around the flimsy two-way door as she sat in one of the chairs that had been placed on the grimy floor. Hopefully somebody had turned the fryer back there off, because another fire was the last thing they all needed.

Will sat in the chair opposite and scanned the written statements in his hand. “So you didn’t see the fire start?”

“No.” It was unnerving to be the subject of official questioning, rather than the questioner. It had only happened to her a few times in her cases—she never closed a case without solid, inarguable evidence, and the Church almost always got a confession anyway—but even when it had, she’d been backed up by the Church, testifying on their behalf. This was not the same.

Nothing in Will’s demeanor indicated he thought of her as a suspect. Why would he? Everyone else had seen that fire start, too, and they knew she hadn’t been touching Ella or standing next to her or whatever. But she still had to fight the instinct to clam up, to tell half-truths or deny everything. Old habits died hard, she guessed, especially when there were other kinds of habits that had to be kept hidden.

“You just felt the heat and turned to see her on fire.”

Chess nodded. “I’d only just looked at her when the flames started to die, and then the other waitress threw water on her. That’s when she broke apart. The cook came out with the fire extinguisher but I managed to stop him from spraying everything.”

“Thanks.” Will had a nice smile; he was a decent-looking guy, actually, with short sandy hair and blue eyes. Way too preppie for her tastes even if she’d been remotely interested in any man but Terrible, which she wasn’t, but still not bad-looking. “Or, I guess Kevin should really be the one to thank you, since he’s the one who’d have to scoop up all that foam and go digging through it.”

“Kevin’s the fire investigator?”

“Yep.” Will hesitated. Like he was about to ask an uncomfortable question, or one more important than he wanted it to seem. Hmm. “Did you feel anything before the fire started, or notice anything strange?”

“She was really hot,” she said slowly. Why had he hesitated before that question? What was he looking for? “She came to drop off our drinks, a couple of minutes before it happened, and I noticed she looked really overheated. But she seemed fine, she was smiling and energetic.”

“Nothing else?”

“No” was just about to jump off the tip of her tongue, when she remembered it wasn’t entirely true. “There was, actually. When she gave us our drinks…”

Shit shit shit, this was so fucking embarrassing. “I felt sick when she got close. But it didn’t feel like how magic usually feels, and my friend and I—I just thought it was the heat outside catching up with me, or something.”

Amazing. Lex could fuck things up for her by just being mentioned in a conversation.

“Do you think maybe you were picking up something from her? Her energy, I mean. Maybe something was wrong with her?” Will was looking at her very oddly. Very closely. What the—shit. Fuck, he could ask her to take a blood test, couldn’t he? He could search her bag.

Okay, now she was being ridiculous. Calm down. Yes, he could, but he probably wouldn’t. Why would he? Unless she started acting like she was nervous and high, of course.

“I don’t know,” she said, knowing it sounded cagey but really not sure how to change that. “I don’t know what happened.”

What Stace had to say on Thursday, September 11th, 2014
A little bit, and more

Well, what a month it’s been. My oldest daughter had a birthday, I had a birthday. The children spent a week with their grandmother, and I–who was convinced this would be the greatest week I’d had in years–actually spent a large chunk of that time moping and wishing they were home. How pitiful is that? I was ashamed of myself. Almost as ashamed as I was when, the night Mr. Hubs delivered them to his mother, I actually was afraid to go to bed by myself, although in fairness I have to say that this is a big, old house, which makes lots of bizarre creaks and pings and noises in the night. Almost as ashamed as I was when I realized, at about nine o’clock that night, that with no husband or kids in the house I could watch whatever I wanted on TV and there I was watching Goodfellas on DVD for the millionth time. Not that there’s anything wrong with Goodfellas, of course–it’s one of my favorite movies, as evinced by my having seen it like a million times–but I can watch Goodfellas anytime I want when the kids are in bed or at school or whatever, whereas bad TV about plastic surgery disasters or documentaries about murders or whatever else only air at specific times and I usually never even find out they’re on.

Also, I was sick last weekend. Stomach bug or something, I don’t know, but it was awful.

What else? Hubs and I have been watching Twin Peaks and this Venezuelan soap opera called Eva Luna, which is dubbed in English. The dubbing is…interesting, I’ll just put it that way. But it’s fun. I wish my Spanish was better, because the telenovelas always look like the coolest things ever.

Anyway. Enough about dull things like me. I meant to post this last Friday (but again, sick, bleh) so here it is today: a little sneak peek from the newest short which will be part of the collection I’m hoping like hell to have out this month. (As usual, this isn’t copyedited so may change slightly when published.)

The Perfect Plate was a sort of overdressed greasy spoon, squeezed in between a dry cleaner and a dollar store in a bland-looking strip mall a few blocks away from Church headquarters. The food there pretty much sucked, but that didn’t matter. It wasn’t like Chess was going to eat anyway.

What mattered was that the place wasn’t in Downside, which made it a place she could meet Beulah for lunch without people noticing them together. Word that Bump’s Churchwitch was hanging out with the sister of his rival, Lex, would travel pretty fast; word that Terrible’s girlfriend was hanging out with Lex’s sister would travel even faster. Nobody would be happy about that.

It was a good thing she’d spent her entire life keeping secrets. Otherwise she might wonder if she was ever going to be able to just be honest with other people. Other people besides Terrible, at least.

Speaking of secrets…she dug her pillbox out of her bag, grabbed three Cepts from it, and choked them down dry before she got out of the car and made her way through the heavy, steamy heat toward the restaurant.

Ice-cold air blasted her the second she opened the door, instantly chilling the sweat on her skin. It took her eyes a second to adjust to the dim interior—well, dim compared to the sunlight outside, so bright it felt like an assault—to see Blue already there, lounging at one of the little tables in that elegantly lazy way she shared with Lex. Her white sleeveless top exposed bare golden-skinned shoulders; her hair was up in a perfect messy twist, and her black cigarette pants probably cost more than Chess’s base monthly salary.

She smiled when Chess sat down. “You’re late.”

“It’s only five past.”

“Five minutes late is still late.”

“Well, you’re still a bitch,” Chess said, “so I guess we’re even.”

“True.” Blue straightened in her chair and picked up the menu. “Are you eating? Am I actually going to see you consume food?”

Chess shook her head, just as the waitress arrived and they went through the whole dull just-a-Coke-no-really-just-a-Coke routine and Blue ordered one of those rich-girl salads that were mostly green Styrofoam and cost fifteen dollars.

“Busy at work?” Blue asked, when the waitress finally wandered off.

“No.” Damn, that came out kind of flat and cold, didn’t it? “It’s just, August is a really slow month. It’s been a really slow summer.”

Blue’s slightly raised eyebrows showed that she’d caught the lame repetitions of ‘really,’ and knew what they were hiding. “And I guess it doesn’t help that you’re not the most popular girl in the place these days.”

“I guess it doesn’t.” That was an understatement. Ever since Elder Griffin found out about the psychopomp hawk she’d killed and the illegal sigil she’d carved on Terrible’s chest to save his life, he’d been, well, less than enthusiastic about her.

To be fair, at least she was still alive. Both of those crimes were executable offenses, and if Elder Griffin had turned her in for them she wouldn’t have been sitting there whining to Blue. She wouldn’t even have been in the City of Eternity, the enormous cavern beneath the earth where the spirits of the dead wandered in endless silence. She’d be in the spirit prisons, her soul forced into solidity by electric current and tortured by fire and light and iron and whatever else the Church could think of to torture it with—and they were awfully inventive.

It was worth losing some income to stay alive and out of the City. It was worth losing every penny she had to keep Terrible alive; hell, if she had been busted and sent to spirit prison, that would have been worth it, too.

But it wasn’t the loss of income that depressed her. It was the loss of Elder Griffin himself. He’d been…he’d been her friend. More than her friend. He’d cared about her, helped her. Stood behind her. That had mattered more than she’d ever realized until the day it was gone, and it still made her chest feel hollow when she let herself think about it.

Which she didn’t want to do, any more than she wanted to talk about it for even one more second. “No big deal. How’s your thing, did you look at that place yesterday?”

A totally-not-fooled expression played over Blue’s face, but thankfully she let it drop before Chess could finish bracing herself. “I think it’s going to work, yeah. There’s enough space for all the girls to practice, and it’s not far from the school.” She hesitated. “The owner’s son asked me out.”

“Oh? What’s wrong with him?”

“I’m sure I’ll find out. Or, you know, Lex will, and he’ll tell me.”

The waitress arrived with their drinks. Good. Not only was Chess thirsty, but hearing Lex’s name, so casually, made her feel sick. It was as if a greenish lens of nausea had suddenly slid over everything. Not unusual, for thinking about him to make her feel…well, bad, but it was unusual for her to feel it so strongly.

The waitress—her name, according to the plastic tag on her white short-sleeved button-down, was Emma—didn’t look too hot, either. Or rather, she looked exactly too hot, as if she’d taken their orders and then zipped into a rubber suit and gone for a jog. Her dark hair was damp, her face flushed.

But she smiled to acknowledge their thanks, and seemed sprightly enough as she trotted off back toward the kitchen. Maybe she’d just been making out with the cook or something. Not Chess’s business, certainly, but at least it got her mind off Lex for a second and eased some of the queasy feeling. The Coke helped, too.

What really helped was the fact that her pills started to kick in, sending enough warm peace through her body that she didn’t blink when Blue asked, “Are you ever going to talk to him?”

Unfortunately, not blinking didn’t mean she didn’t still feel the hit, or that she had any idea what to say. “I don’t know.”

“It was just business. And he did warn you. He asked for your help and you said no, what was he supposed to do?”

Like what Lex had done to Terrible—trying to hire him, and then when Terrible refused, trying to have him killed—was the only reason she was pissed. It was the main reason, yes, but not the only reason at all. But then, Blue probably didn’t know about the rest of it, about Lex’s little “Too bad it ain’t in you to make that mean shit,” speech or how he’d almost destroyed everything for her just to prove he could. Somehow she doubted he’d told Blue about that, and she certainly wasn’t going to.

“Not what he did,” she said. “Kind of anything other than what he did, actually.”

Blue ignored that. “Look, I was pissed at him, too. I don’t blame you. But I know he feels bad about it.”

“I’m sure he spends hours crying from shame. Is this why you wanted to hang out today?”

“No. We just haven’t talked about it and I thought I’d—”

A blast of heat on Chess’s right side so hot it lifted her hair from her shoulder; screams erupted in the room, and Chess started moving. Fuck, what was that, had someone set off a bomb or—what the hell?

The waitress was on fire.

No, that wasn’t accurate. The waitress wasn’t on fire. The waitress was fire, a column of fire about a foot and a half in diameter that reached from the floor to the ceiling. Her unmoving black shape was barely visible through a wall of blue-orange, one arm extended like she’d been reaching for something.

It’ll be out as soon as I can get it out! It is coming along, so like I said I’m *very* hopeful for a release before the month ends. I’m hoping for the next Terrible novella to be out by the end of October, and a bunch of other stuff in the months to follow, too (including some all-new non-Downside stuff I’ve been working on), so I hope you’re as excited as I am.

What Stace had to say on Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
Judged by Netflix

Goodness, it’s been a while again, hasn’t it? I’m sorry! I’ve been working very hard, and now the girls are off school for the summer so we first had a bunch of school activities and now me trying to keep them amused. And by “me trying to keep them amused,” I mean me taking two or three times as long to do any household task because they’re “helping” me, and me teaching them how to play Solitaire in the desperate (and failed, sadly) hope that it would give them something to do other than hanging out and “helping” me with the aforementioned activities.

At the end of next week they’re going to visit their grandmother (my MIL) for about five days. I’m kind of freaking out about that–I’ve never been away from them for so long, and while I’m glad they’re going to go and hope they have fun, and I’m looking forward to the uninterrupted work time…ack, they won’t be home with me!

Aaanyway. One of the things I do when I’m alone in the kitchen is watch Netflix on my phone. Watching it on my phone means I’m limited to UK Netflix, which is frankly rather shitty, so I watch things I may not otherwise watch just because at least it’s available.

But here’s the problem with UK Netflix–it seems to be a slight issue with US Netflix, too, but to a lesser extent, because on US Netflix you can click on a category and see everything available, whereas here you only see what in that category UK Netflix thinks you might be interested in based on what you’ve watched before. Which means UK Netflix is constantly making these weird suggestions to me based on the fact that, for example, I watched ten minutes of the first episode of Sons of Anarchy before I switched to something else. (Sons of Anarchy actually seemed like a pretty good show, but one I’d have to pay real attention to, which isn’t easy when I’m watching in the kitchen because, you know, I’m cooking or doing dishes or sweeping or whatever.) I am still getting recommendations from them based on Sons of Anarchy, and that was four months ago that I watched those few minutes.

And their recommendations are, well, they don’t make much sense, because of the categories they put things in. I watched Memoirs of a Geisha one afternoon in May. I am still getting recommendations based on it, and those recommendations are all romantic comedies/chick flicks. I watched Memoirs because I read and liked the book and have seen the movie before, and because I was in the mood for something sort of historical and about Japan. So recommending Confessions of a Shopaholic to me based on the fact that I wanted to watch something historical and Japanese makes about as much sense as recommending Fatal Attraction to me because I watched a movie about bunnies (it would not surprise me to learn this actually happened).

Now, I sound like I’m whining, and that’s not my intent–I love Netflix, I really do, and hubs and I have been absolutely spellbound by House of Cards over the last few weeks. My intent is simply to use the above to illustrate why I am also afraid of Netflix.

See, I have a lot of interests, some of which are rather odd. Some of which aren’t odd at all but are rather odd for me. For example, in the last few years I’ve developed this weird but semi-passionate interest in mountain climbing. I have never climbed a mountain and I have no plans to–my idea of exercise is baking bread (you would be amazed how much upper-body strength that can require, if you’ve never done it yourself) or having to walk the girls to school instead of driving. I am not an outdoorsy girl at all; I don’t even like picnics or eating outside (I loathe insects). So while there’s nothing particularly odd about being interested in mountain climbing, it is rather odd for me to be interested in it.

But I am. So I’ve watched a lot of mountain-climbing documentaries and read quite a few books/listened to a few audiobooks. I’ve spent more time than I should online reading articles and stories (especially haunting Outside magazine’s excellent website. I even caved and bought a copy of Jon Krakauer’s INTO THIN AIR, even though I have some issues with Krakauer (I find it really annoying and borderline irresponsible the way he keeps insisting Christopher McCandless died of accidental poisoning instead of admitting the truth, which is that the kid starved to death; I found this same “I admire this person therefore they cannot have possibly made a mistake” attitude evident in INTO THIN AIR but still enjoyed the book). Documentaries on Everest? Of course. Ghosts of K2? Bring it, baby. The amazing Eiger: Wall of Death? Hells yeah. And pretty much any other doc I can find.

But here’s the thing. I find mountain climbing and, really, stories about mountains fascinating. But that doesn’t mean all of my interests necessarily follow, which is why I am afraid of Netflix judging me.

See, there’s some documentary on Netflix that looks like it could be rather fun, in a weird and ridiculous kind of way. I can’t remember the name offhand, but it’s basically a documentary that claims the Bush family was responsible for the death of John Kennedy Jr., presumably because of politics/GWB running for President in 2000–I’m not entirely sure. And I really do not mean to get into politics here (you all know this is not a political place) but I find the idea of this so, well, silly, that I would actually like to watch this documentary, because it seems like such a far-out idea that I’d enjoy seeing what evidence they’ve managed to come up with for this theory.

But when we first got Netflix, I made the mistake of watching David Brashears’ Everest documentary (the one filmed in IMAX; it loses quite a bit on a regular TV, I think, but it was still pretty good). Netflix decided that my interest in Everest must also translate to an interest in all things outdoorsy and, well, neo-hippie-like, which means that I am *still* trying to clear my suggestions of various documentaries about the evils of corporations and Enron and militant environmentalism and whatever else. It’s not that I don’t think any of those issues are important; it’s just that I don’t care about them enough to want them recommended to me instead of things I might actually want to watch. And it seems like no matter what other things I watch, no matter how frivolous they are, no matter how many times I click “Not Interested” or try to “refine” my interests, Netflix insists on suggesting documentaries about soccer and environmental terrorism to me.

So you can imagine my fear of actually watching that JFK Jr. documentary on Netflix. What would Netflix think of me then? What in the world would they start recommending to me based on that? There is no box to tick that says, “I’m watching this ironically,” or “I just think this might be amusing but it’s not a topic I care much about.” That box does not exist. Netflix insists on seeing me as, I dunno, some sort of chick-flick loving environmental activist from a motorcycle gang who likes to snowboard. I cannot imagine what they would add to that if I watched some JFK Jr. conspiracy movie. It’s at the point now where I quite literally skip watching things that might interest me because I’m worried about what dark paths of the soul it might lead Netflix down as far as recommendations.

I know this is paranoid…but I bet I’m not the only one, either. (I hope not, anyway.) Anyone else find their Netflix recommendations rather silly or impossible to change?

I will have some news-updates next week.

What Stace had to say on Sunday, July 13th, 2014
Groan, sigh

(Yes, a Sunday post! I am ALL OVER this blog thing, baby! Well, sort of. This isn’t really a “fun” post. But I’ll do my best.)

So as I said last month, I’ve got a lot of projects on the go, several of them Downside-related, a couple of them brand-new. I’ve been very, very busy, especially because my goal was to get something out next month–it was going to be a surprise, basically, and then the next Terrible novella was to be out in September. That was my plan, and I was (essentially) on track for it. Including earmarking a particular royalty check for various production costs and such.

Except the check’s been lost. It’s not the publisher’s fault (we know this for a fact); it’s not really anyone’s fault, it’s just happened. This is worrying, as you can imagine, and frustrating. Because while I can hunt down the number for this particular house’s payment office–which isn’t the main office and only accepts phone calls for like three hours when the moon is full or some weird draconian thing, at least that’s how I remember my attempts to call them several years ago when I changed my address–they may not be happy to stop payment on and reissue a check which may simply be delayed in the post and could turn up a month from now (which did happen to us once before–an envelope took seven weeks to arrive). Which is a valid point. And of course even if they do so now (as opposed to telling me to wait thirty days or whatever) that could take more weeks, and then it’ll be a couple of weeks to get to our forwarder, and then who knows when they’ll send it out. So we’re looking at another month or two at least, which misses the deadline I had in mind.

So this is basically my apology for that, and explanation. I’d really wanted this week to be able to give you an estimated release date–well, an estimated release week, anyway–but without knowing when the check will arrive I can’t say, because pre-production takes time, obviously.

I mentioned this to Mr. Husband–well, I whined and moped and bitched about this for the last two weeks, is more like it, really–and a friend of his suggested Kickstarter, but you all know that Kickstarter weirds me out. If nothing else, I really dislike some of their policies. And you know I hate, hate, HATE asking or expecting you guys to pay for things or donate to help me get work out there or anything of that nature. It makes me feel icky. Really, truly icky, not just sort of icky, but ICKY.

But I also truly hate the idea of making you wait even longer for more stories, and while the pay-as-we-go story we did here on the blog was fun (and you are all so generous, a few of you so much so that it brought me to tears), and I think true serial stories are tons of fun, I do also think that when it comes to a self-contained short or novella it kind of… You know the sense of excitement that you get (as in the universal YOU, not you specifically) when you actually get to buy a copy of a book you’ve been looking forward to, and open it up, and read it all right there? There’s something really awesome about that feeling–that you’re about to dive into another world for a few hours–and you just don’t get that when reading a story in 3000-word clips on a blog. And of course posting it on the blog means it needs to be read on the blog, as opposed to it being something you can read offline or whatever. And again, having read it all on the blog means it’s kind of an anticlimax when you actually get a copy of it–and it’s an anticlimax for me, too, really, and I think it leaves out a lot of readers who don’t regularly read the blog or whatever. So that’s not my ideal option and I don’t think it’s yours.

So, okay. I’m trying to think of a way for this to work. It occurs to me that I *am* comfortable with the idea of pre-orders, and I like the idea that if you pre-order now, you get a copy pre-release. So what do we all think of this: Donate something now, and in the Notes section on Paypal write in what ebook format you prefer, and then I will send you a copy of the collection of shorts (with a new short) and an additional short* (see below), in that format before the final release date.

IN ADDITION…some of you have asked me if I’m planning to do shorts for other characters, which is something I hadn’t really thought much about. But…let’s do something fun with this. If you donate, also put in the comments which character you’d like to see in his or her own own-POV story. And I will write the winner. (If you cannot/do not donate, you can of course still vote; just comment or email your choice to DownsideArmy AT gmail.





Let’s have some fun, huh?

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, July 9th, 2014
Random Things (mostly about TV)

I realized some time ago–but promptly forgot again, because I’m forgetful that way–that my posts from here were no longer mirroring to my livejournal blog. I know, ha ha ha, livejournal, it’s so 2002 or whatever. But I actually liked livejournal and still do; it’s a pretty simple platform to use. Anyway. I’m considering starting to copy-paste my posts back over there until I can get the plugin fixed or get a new plugin or whatever it is that needs to be done, but I’m also wondering if maybe that would be a good place to post recipes and such. Because right now I have–I am not exaggerating–six notebooks stacked in the corner of my kitchen counter which are full or half-full of random recipes and notes (I tend to just grab whatever notebook is handy for both of those things, and I copy recipes into notebooks and take them into the kitchen rather than take my computer, and I make notes on how I’ve altered those recipes in the notebooks). It would be nice to save some of those elsewhere.

Oh, and it’s fun the way I copy a recipe down without titling it or specifying what it is, and sometimes I end up not making it, and then two months later I’m flipping through said notebook and wondering wth all that stuff was supposed to be. Was it a muffin? Was it cake? Bar cookies? Who knows? One of these days I’m just going to start cooking random recipes and seeing if I can figure out what they were supposed to be.

A week or so ago I found myself looking online at AV Club recaps of The Office (US). They weren’t recaps so much as reviews, and it kind of got me thinking about one of the stupidest and silliest little disappointments in the world: that feeling you get when you read a recap/review of a TV show and find the writer missed your favorite joke, or missed a point, or loves a character you hate or vice versa. Because it kind of ruins the recaps from then on, doesn’t it? Like, I never really watched that show How I Met Your Mother. It just wasn’t my thing, really, although I usually found it at least somewhat amusing when I turned it on–largely because of Allison Hannigan and Jason Segal, and of course Mr. Harris–but it just never grabbed me. I found the conceit irritating, and I could never figure out why the show had to focus so much on that awful annoying Robin character who I hated. Of course, turns out the show was pretty much all about her. Turns out, too, that everybody loves Robin except me. It makes you feel so out of touch with the world when everyone is slathering spitty-sloppy love all over an insufferable jerk of a character, or an annoying one, or a stupid one, or whatever. Or am I alone in that feeling, too? Heh. Here I go again on my own…

And speaking of TV, I’ve been having tons of fun watching old episodes of Beverly Hills 90210. Some of you may recall that I was a huge fan and avid viewer of this rather ridiculous teen soap opera, which makes me seem like a total dork, but I don’t care. I love the show and the characters, and am a die-hard Kelly/Dylan person. I WILL FIGHT TO THE DEATH FOR DYLAN AND KELLY TO DO SEX AND LOVE TOGETHER. One of the reasons I did not watch the “new 90210″–aside from the “god, really?” factor, which was admittedly the main reason–was learning that although Kelly would be back, Dylan would not, and in my mind Kelly and Dylan are together 4ever. I also heard that David and Donna were split up on the new show; I can only assume this is because David’s insipid semi-melodic whining made him a Huge Star in that “Hip-Hop Nation” he was always giving “props/shout-outs/thanks” to. We all know there was no harder hip-hop than “You’re so precious to meeeee…am I precious to yooooo-oooouuu,” right? Sing it, David! Sing it hard.

Do not, however, let this discussion of recipes and TV make you think I’m not working hard. I am. Very hard. In fact, really? I’m working so hard that I have very little else on my mind, which is why I keep blogging about rather inane subjects–there’s not much room for anything more weighty in my head these days. But I have promised to be more on top of the blog and around more in general, and I hate neglecting you all, so I hope frivolous me is better than nothing.

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
Meh

I had a really good idea for a title for this post, which is fairly inane in general, but I decided it’s too long to be an effective blog-post title. So I’m using it as a subhead:

Serial Killers Leave Me Cold

(Get it? Cold, because dead.)

Please do not interpret that as me thinking serial killers are funny. They’re not funny, at all. There are very few things less funny, actually, than a serial killer, even if said serial killer wears hilarious costumes and recites lines from Caddyshack while he kills you. Unless the serial killer is the Joker, in which case he might occasionally achieve a sort of amusing insouciance or crack a good one-liner. Freddy Krueger also often elicited a smile or two in the later films, when they decided having him be genuinely terrifying (as he was in the first movie) was getting boring and so turned him into some kind of badly-scarred pedophile Shecky Greene.

(And speaking of pedophiles–boy, this post is just all kinds of light-hearted, isn’t it?–there are new and more horrifying allegations about Jimmy Savile, the BBC celebrity that the British government allowed to molest and abuse hundreds of children for decades while they covered it all up and pretended there was something charming and heartwarming about a man who was literally one of the creepiest and most disgusting creatures who ever walked the planet. Seriously, look at this sicko [I'm only linking to a Google Image search result, because I don't want pictures of that piece of shit on my blog; also, remember all my links open a new window]–but beware, the mere sight of him could cause you to both vomit and question the sanity of a large number of people. I mean, if a person ever existed who looked more like a twisted pedophile than Jimmy Savile, I don’t know who it was. Jimmy Savile looks like what would happen if Cruella DeVille got triple-teamed by the Child-Killer from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, an evil leprechaun, and Golem, and then the resulting excrescence vomited up all of the evil in its soul, and that vomit took a shit on everything good and happy and fun and loving in the world, and that shit was a cackling, hideous, tackily dressed Jimmy Savile. Seriously, Leatherface would be terrified to look at Jimmy Savile. Buffalo Bill would think Jimmy Savile was just too gross to hang out with. And every day it seems more and more is revealed about Jimmy and his hideous, disgusting cronies and how they loved to wander through children’s wards in hospitals randomly abusing patients and–God, it’s just too hideous to even discuss further.)

And it’s too hideous to discuss further because some crimes just are hideous.

I like true crime shows. I know it’s very fashionable to refer to them as “murder porn,” and there is definitely that aspect to some of them, but at the risk of sounding like some kind of murder porn snob, those aren’t the ones that interest me very much. In fact, I find them kind of offensive (more on that in a second, as it leads into my main point about serial killers). I like watching true crime shows–and reading true crime books, which I’ve done since I was a kid and saw Diane Downs and Ann Rule on Oprah (and by the way SMALL SACRIFICES is still an amazing and chilling book)–because the investigation fascinate me, the clues and the alibis and interviews and tactics and how it all comes together. I do enjoy it when the villain is especially dastardly and overconfident, because it’s fun to see a bad guy’s plots fail, but the crime itself isn’t generally the reason I read true crime. I read it for the plot, I guess you could say, not the gore.

Which may be why, as much as I will happily spend the day watching “48 Hours” (I looove 48 Hours, Dateline, and when they do special episodes of 20/20) or “True Crime with Aphrodite Jones” or “On the Case with Paula Zahn,” and even occasionally a “Nightmare Next Door” or “Snapped” or “Unusual Suspects,” I tend to shy away from the more lurid shows, which kind of seem more like a “Hyuk, look at how a bunch of trashy people got kilt!” or “Daaamn, girl, your murder is sexay!” than an actual serious “Look at how we catch criminals and how hard we work to keep the darkness at bay.” Perhaps that thought says more about me than anyone or anything else, but that doesn’t change the fact that for me the line can be rather thin between fascinatingly twisty and offensively lurid. And for me, the line is almost always crossed when it comes to shows about serial killers.

In a show about a serial killer the serial killer is the star, see; the victims are afterthoughts. Often the investigators are kind of afterthoughts, too. It’s all about the killer: his twisted psyche, his grisly crimes, his facade of normalcy (or not), his travels and burial grounds. And honestly, I don’t care. Most people do not become serial killers because they’re interesting guys to hang around with; they become serial killers because they’re just human shells wrapped around an empty, silent darkness, and honestly even that description makes them seem more interesting than I actually find them. (Especially Gary Ridgeway. For a while last year it seemed like every time I turned on the TV they were showing something about Gary Ridgeway or Gary Ridgeway’s wife or Gary Ridgeway’s truck or Gary Ridgeway’s ski pants or something, as though Gary Ridgeway was somehow the world’s most important person and his actions ought to be studied in as much depth as the Challenger explosion, when really Gary Ridgeway is dull as dirt. Tax forms are more interesting than Gary Ridgeway. Listening to a stranger tell you about their toenails is more interesting than Gary Ridgeway. I’m telling you, Gary Ridgeway = dull.)

But they’re all dull, really. Most serial killers–I’d venture so far as to say pretty much all of them, in fact–are not Hannibal Lecter, Dexter Morgan, or even Patrick Bateman. They’re not smooth and erudite or articulate about their emptiness, killing rude people or other serial killers and serving their bones to other rude people in complicated recipes more like art than food and playing complex, clever games with other killers or FBI behavioral analysts/professors. They tend to just clump around killing people–innocent people–and every time Discovery ID or the Investigation Channel or whatever does a big Serial Killer Week or some new serial killer specials, it makes me wonder if we’re learning how good our investigators are and memorializing the victims, or making further celebrities of some people who deserve no celebrity (that isn’t to say they deserve death or they do not deserve death or anything–I’m making zero statement on our justice system itself, okay?–but what I definitely think is that the reward for slaughtering innocent people should NOT be fame and groupies mailing you panties and cash, and that comes not from the justice system but from the media. Save the panties for Tom Jones and the cash for me, guys, and change the channel). This is true even if they already were celebrities, like Savile, and if the world has learned anything from Savile I hope it is that being a celebrity doesn’t make you a good person–or even one worthy of not being spat upon by leprous monkeys while having their balls shaved with a cheese-grater and then fed to them.

Shows about serial killers make me feel like a voyeur, really, and I don’t like that feeling.

Endnotes:

1. Sorry this is so late. I’ve been behind all week. I hate summer so much; I’m barely sleeping because the sun rises three hours after I go to bed, and while my sleepshades help with that they do nothing to shut up the fucking birds right outside our bedroom window.

2. Also, have I mentioned that it’s really hot here? And there’s no A/C? Yeah, it’s hot here. I can’t sleep when it’s hot. I hate the heat.

3. Work, work, working very hard!

4. I think that’s it, I’ll be back sooner than later, and I am still hoping/planning to show you all my First Book Ever.

What Stace had to say on Monday, June 23rd, 2014
Oh the things

So who else is watching the World Cup?

I don’t actually care much about soccer, really. I never watch it outside of the Cup (and I don’t always watch or pay attention to the Cup, either). I don’t watch gymnastics or swimming competitions outside of the Summer Olympics, either, or likewise with any of the winter sports. But I am having fun watching this year, and it’s not just because of how insanely hot a lot of the players are, or the amusing way they all stand in a line cupping their balls when there’s a free kick, like preschoolers who really have to pee. (Even funnier is the way the camera always zooms way out when this is happening, and even funnier than that are the occasional players who do something like put their hands deliberately behind their back as a way of psyching out the opposing players or demonstrating to the audience how they don’t worry about getting racked by a soccer ball because their own balls are literally made of steel, motherfuckers! Bring it ON!)

(I also noticed that none of the Iranian players did this. I don’t know if it was modesty or toughness. Because man, those guys fought hard. It was very impressive.)

(Why yes, I suppose I do spend a weirdly long amount of time thinking about the players’ balls. So? You act like there’s something wrong with that, when in fact I suspect most people are thinking about balls at least 30% of the time. Men would be thinking about their own–and possibly those of other men–and women would be thinking about the ones they wouldn’t mind getting a peek at or perhaps fondling in a friendly manner. Or balls they have known in the past, or whatever. Point is, people think about balls, so it’s not at all weird to notice a bunch of grown men standing in a line gently cupping their own, sometimes with their other hands over their hearts like the national anthem of the world’s weirdest country is being played and they are all loyal citizens. Imagine the flag of that country.)

Anyway. So I’m watching, and enjoying it. I don’t have any idea who’s going to win the whole thing, because–as I said–I don’t pay attention to soccer any other time, and haven’t really paid a lot of attention to the standings and such, although I seem to think Argentina is the general opinion? Or was, anyway, because from what I’ve seen a whole bunch of teams aren’t performing as expected, either for the worse or for the better.

Meanwhile, I am busily at work, rewriting stuff and making notes and all that sort of thing. I am also trying to find the time for the fun thing I want to do here over the summer–it requires rather a lot of prep work, see. Also, now I feel like I’m building this up way too high and everyone is going to be disappointed, because it’s really not that big a thing. It’s just an old piece of writing of mine that I thought was lost forever, but which has been found, and I think it might be really fun to post some of it here. But that requires me reading the whole thing to find the choice bits, hence the delay.

Also, it’s hot here. Hot and sunny, and some of you may remember that my productivity takes a nosedive when it’s hot out. Not because I’m out hiking or swimming or doing other healthy outdoorsy things in the sunshine like a girl in a Noxema ad, but because I’m inside with all the curtains drawn, cursing the heat, slathering myself with unguents, and wishing I could sleep more than four hours without being awakened by A) the stupid fucking sun or B) the stupid fucking heat. Sometimes I’m debating the logic of sleeping in the car with the engine running and the AC on, but I generally discard that idea as impractical. Oh, and I spend time trying to think of things to make for dinner that won’t result in my kitchen turning into a sweatlodge. I do not have a lot of luck with that.

But I am chugging on, though I’ve reached the point in my latest edit/rewrite where I start thinking, “God, why am I bothering, this is just a piece of shit and nothing can fix it ever.” I hate this point. But I force myself to keep going because I have so many other things I need to do and won’t let myself do them until I’m done with this. So there you go.

And yes, of course I saw the Game of Thrones finale last week. OMG!!

What Stace had to say on Monday, June 16th, 2014
Hiding

I’m hiding from the internet today.

See, last night all you lucky people in the US got to watch the GAME OF THRONES finale. Whereas the hubs and I–and everyone else in England–have to wait until 9 pm tonight. A WHOLE DAY LATER IT IS KILLING ME BLAAAH.

*******SPOILERS! SPOILERS UP TO THE PENULTIMATE EP OF SEASON 4!! HIGHLIGHT TO SEE SPOILERS!*******

What happens to Tyrion? Will Arya find Sansa? Does that psychopathic bastard Ramsey move his sadistic ass into the ruins of Winterfell to rebuild it and, I dunno, have a place where he can grin his evil grin while he drinks blood and tortures infants and conducts medical experiments that would shock Josef Mengele? What’s Stannis going to do? What about Sir Jorah–I love Sir Jorah and I’m so sad, even though really he did ruin everything and it’s his fault I don’t get to look at Khal Drogo anymore.

Some of the anticipation is gone now that Joffrey is dead and all; I mean, I was thrilled to see him die but it felt sort of anticlimactic. Mainly because I suspect most of us–or, okay, maybe just me–would only have been happy if the show had done a one-hour “Joffrey dies the hideous death he deserves” special, in which we saw clips of all of his worst acts–okay, it’d need to be, like, a four-hour miniseries event–and the people he’d wronged each got to come up, call him names, and slap him, and then stab him somewhere painful but non-deadly, like the Death of a Thousand You’re-A-Hideous-Shitbird Cuts, until finally Sansa and the ghost of Ned Stark finish him off by ass-fucking him with Ned’s sword Ice. And also, I’m disappointed that we found out so quickly who killed Joffrey, because Hubs and I were having a lot of fun imagining it like a game of GOT Clue: was it Sansa in the Observatory with the Poison Wine? Tyrion in the Tower of the Hand with the Valyrian Sword? Cersei in the Red Keep with the Crazy Malevolent Mother-Obsession? Margaery in the Garden with some sort of Magical Ingestible Torture Device? It was fun, but sadly, we now know Emma Peele did it, along with Littlefinger, who is just as sinister as the Red Death when the clock strikes twelve.

Feel free to comment on any of the above, but for the love of all that’s holy please don’t spoil me for the finale!! Because seriously, I will be very upset and will probably put you in a book suffering some sort of very undignified and stupid death. “We have a new case, Chess…there’s a woman who reported a ghost but then we found her dead. Apparently she was masturbating with a carrot and it broke, so she sent a mouse up there to eat it, and it died so she sat on the toilet to try to douche with bleach to clean it out but it hurt, so she stood up and tripped and drowned with her head in the bleach-filled toilet and a dead bleach-soaked mouse and a half-eaten carrot inside her ladybusiness there. Her name was _____ ____, and everyone hated her guts because she couldn’t keep her spoiling mouth shut. So I say we don’t need to investigate her ghost, because she got what she deserved for being stupid and horrible and spoiling GAME OF THRONES.”

Um…sorry, guys, that got sort of needlessly graphic and horrible, huh.

Anyway. I know there are spoilers out there, and so I must hide.

Not because I’m afraid of, say, being randomly attacked by a spoiler as I mind my own business walking down the internet street. No, I’m reasonably certain that most spoilers–not all, of course–mark themselves clearly as such, as they are respectable spoilers and do not wish to be mistaken for hints, previews, or mere theories. They’re proud to be spoilers and want the world to know it. Yes, there’s always that moron or dickhead who enjoys spoiling things for others, or dismisses complaints with, “It was on LAST NIGHT, man, if you haven’t seen it by now, that’s your fault,” but in general I’m not too afraid that I’ll be accosted by a spoiler while innocently researching the death penalty in Victorian England or reading humorous anecdotes on notalwaysright.com.

I just don’t trust myself. Right now I’m practically sweating, because I know there are spoilers out there and that I could find them. Easily. Five minutes from now I could know everything that happens; it’s the digital equivalent of knowing exactly where your parents hide the Christmas presents.

But you know, one year I found those presents, and realized that it really did ruin the run-up to the actual holiday and the holiday itself. It just wasn’t as much fun knowing exactly what was coming. Same with spoilers. (Plus, the hubs hates it when I know what’s coming and he doesn’t.) At least, not when I actually care what happens. I no longer particularly care what happens on MAD MEN, frex–watching Don Draper have a meltdown and turn into an insignificant sadsack, living in roach-infested filth and failing at everything he attempts, is not really what I signed up for when I got on board the MAD MEN train however many years ago (and don’t even get me started on splitting the final season in two, seriously. Because that story moves so fast it needs to give us time to breathe? uh-huh).

I watch MAD MEN to watch Don be clever and drink and get laid a lot while being impossibly smooth in nice suits. I don’t care if the point of the whole show is how men like that are secretly miserable or how that image is a miserable facade just like America in the early 60s or how the majority of men lead lives of quiet desperation in their gray flannel suits. That’s not a show I want to watch. I want Don to be awesome, and Roger to be awesome, and Peggy to not turn into a shrew right out of the pages of a 1950s True Confessions magazine (“I had it all, but I cried every night because without a husband it’s all meaningless, which is why I became a barfly and lost all my teeth and then had a hissybabyfit in the office because my secretary got flowers”), and Stan to be hilarious, and Joan to appear in every scene being cutting and gorgeous. (I can’t complain about what they did with Pete in the S7 episodes I watched, because he’s pretty much how he’s always been, only with louder pants.) That is why I watch.

To replace MAD MEN, we started watching HANNIBAL. I said on Twitter that if you’re not watching HANNIBAL, you are missing the fuck out, and that is entirely 100% true. More than that, even. It’s more true than even the craziest stereotypical football coach would feel comfortable expressing in a percentage (“That truth is giving 469%–oh, dammit, now I just sound like a moron, don’t I.”) so s/he would just go back to shouting “WIN! WIN! WIN!” (Remember, we’re discussing stereotypes here. Please do not get angry at me if you know and love a football coach, or are personally a football coach.) Seriously, you guys, HANNIBAL is SO GOOD. SO FUCKING GOOD. I thought it wouldn’t be good–it sounded sort of dumb and pointless to me–but I was wrong. It’s amazing. It’s so good that after the first couple of episodes I completely stopped noticing that Hugh Dancy’s earlobes are kind of hobbit-like.

But of course, it’s on summer hiatus. As GAME OF THRONES will be after tonight, and I honestly do not know what we’re going to do here–at least, what we’re going to do until JUSTIFIED’s fifth season comes out on DVD and we scrape together some money to buy it and have it shipped to us. But that’ll last us, like, a week and a half if we’re lucky. (Because JUSTIFIED? Also AWESOME, and you should watch it so we can all talk about it and trade little references like, “It was in your glass,” and dissolve into happy drooling sighs over Raylan and Boyd.

And we have some episodes of THE BLACKLIST still to watch, which is also a very good show and we like it a lot, although let’s be honest, compared to GAME OF THRONES it might as well be The Teletubbies. We have a couple of seasons of THE SOPRANOS that we never finished watching (I know, I know) and–shocking as I’m sure this will be–we have never actually seen THE WIRE, although we’ve both really wanted to.

So there will be things for me to watch on warm evenings as I sit on the couch and apply lotion to every exposed bit of skin I possess. (I realized last night that I do this every summer. It’s like I’m anointing myself for some sort of ritual, or I’m about to be placed on a very hot grill. You guys know I’m never far from a bottle of lotion anyway, because I’m constantly washing my hands, but in summer it gets sort of weirdly obsessive and at any given moment I’m contorting myself oddly on the couch rubbing coconut oil into my elbows, or something. I also put it in my hair. I’m like some sort of grooming machine.) I will somehow manage to be entertained throughout the summer, aside from the time I spend working, which will be plenty.

But what I’m watching won’t be new episodes of GAME OF THRONES, which is the saddest thing…well, the saddest thing I’ve said in this paragraph, because the stuff about the lotion is pretty pitiful, really.

What Stace had to say on Monday, June 9th, 2014
Updates, upgrades, and bad things

I’ve been neglecting you, and I’m sorry. I really am. Things have not been great here and I’ve fallen into some lazy habits and been working on a number of other things, and blogging (all social media, really) has fallen by the wayside. I feel awful about neglecting you all like that. But this will be a looong post, and I have something planned for the next week or two here that should be really, really fun, so…

First. Downside 6. You’ve been asking and I’ve been somewhat evasive. There’s been some behind-the-scenes stuff going on with it that I wasn’t/am not really at liberty to discuss. What I can say, with absolute certainty, is that there WILL be a number 6, that I am indeed working on it, that I’m quite excited about it and think it’s going to be great, and that as soon as I have some bits to put up here for you all I will. Look for them in the next month or two (the excerpts, I mean). I have #7 in the late planning stages, too.

I am also hard at work on the second Terrible novella (which will cover the events of UM and CoG), and a new short which will round out the collection of shorts that I’m hoping to get put together by the end of June. (To that end, btw, I have a question: has anyone had any experience with Jutoh? It’s an ebook formatting program. I’d like to try it, but $40 is rather a lot to spend for me, especially on something I’m not sure will work.) My plan–as I think I’ve stated before–is to take the already-published shorts to which I now have rights (that would be RICK THE BRAVE and HOME) then add KEEPING IT CLOSE and another new one.

Then there’s the New Stuff: a stand-alone contemp paranormal romance; a new UF series; and a new UF-type series which I’m going to do in serial form, which I’m really excited about and think will be a ton of fun. Oh, and a different thing I’ve had going for a while, which I am almost done editing.

All of this is being done on the Toshiba Satellite I bought back at the end of March, after being essentially computer-less for over a month. Astute readers may notice that I am now using a Windows machine rather than a Mac. Here’s why (and settle in, because this is long):

On the 15th of February, I–like a dumbass–knocked my Macbook off the kitchen table. Well, technically I didn’t knock it off, I just rested it precariously on something else that was on the table, and it fell to the floor. The hard, linoleum-covered-cement floor. Sigh. Aside from the cracked case and loose screen bezel, I ended up with what’s known as “the gray screen of death,” which basically means “your computer is fucked.”

So we made an appointment at the nearest Apple store, which is about an hour and a half away. They couldn’t fix it because they no longer fix 2007 machines, which is what mine was/is. They didn’t even open it up or anything. The Genius suggested a new hard drive, but gave us nothing in writing to say what kind, and I couldn’t call Apple customer service without paying for the call, which was quite frustrating. I asked about that online and got an email from someone in Apple’s Executive Relations; I’ll call her Lydia. Lydia was happy–sort of–to find out what kind of hard drive I’d need and where I could get one, but Lydia was not remotely interested in anything else, like the casing or screen or any other internal parts, or in telling me what to do should the new hard drive not fix the problem. Lydia also confirmed for me several times that the computer–which she could see on my account–was too old for Apple to fix, and that it was “not possible” for them to do that. Well, okay. I did suspect its age might be a problem, after all. She said she’d research the hard drive thing and get back to me; I said fine.

That’s where it all goes to hell.

We have home contents insurance. Very good home contents insurance, it turns out. The Hubs called them and discovered that, thanks to the awesomeness of them and their policy, they would replace the Macbook with a brand new one if it can’t be repaired to like-new condition. Not like-before-the-accident-my-dumbassery-caused; like brand-new. It doesn’t matter that I accidentally broke it; it’s a no-fault policy. Keep in mind, this is the reason people buy insurance: so that when they fuck up like morons and accidentally destroy valuable items, or a blameless accident happens and a valuable item is destroyed, said item can be replaced without financial hardship. That is the purpose of insurance. That is its entire reason for existence. It is why we all have it, right?

So I, giddy as a wee child at Christmas, contacted Lydia and told her that my insurance would replace the Macbook. She interrupted me and said, in the sort of tone she might use if I’d just informed her that I was mailing her a sack of roaches as a present, “YOUR insurance?”

Well, yeah, I said, and quickly explained the whole no-fault-like-new thing and how all I’d need from her was confirmation that the Macbook in question belonged to me, and–

She interrupted me (again; she interrupted me a lot, from the very beginning) to tell me she was not going to do that. When I asked why, she told me it was because of the Data Protection Act. I’m no expert on the Act, but I’m pretty sure that me personally requesting information Apple has on my account is in fact a request that the Data Protection Act legally requires Apple to fulfill. And even if it is not, I was giving my express permission for Apple to share this data with me–for me to pass to my insurer–to confirm my ownership. I honestly can see no reason why Apple couldn’t do this, as it gives away zero confidential information about Apple as a company, and certainly it does not give out any personal information about anyone but myself, and even then it’s hardly the sort of information spies pass around in manila folders; it’s “Macbook serial number WXXXXXXX was registered to Stacia Kane in [month/year].” I have grocery store receipts with more confidential information than that.

So I was beginning to get a very sinking feeling. For whatever reason, Lydia didn’t seem at all pleased and delighted that I could get my Macbook replaced at no cost to me–and at no cost to Apple, either. Win-win, right? But if anything she sounded quite annoyed, rather suspicious, and generally as if she was tired of me wasting her time with my nonsense. “You’ll have to prove ownership yourself,” she told me.

Well, whatever. I could just screen-shot my Apple account, I figured, with the computer listed right there. So I moved on, and told her that what I really needed was written confirmation from Apple that the computer could not be fixed by them. There was a pause, and then she said something about needing to research that and she’d call me the next day. Now I really had a sinking feeling. But hey, she was probably just being cautious or needed to check with a supervisor or something. I told her I’d send her an email with exactly what I needed, so she would have it there in writing, and we terminated the call.

I wrote and sent her the email. It reiterated my request for Apple to confirm the registration of that Macbook to my Apple account/confirm my date of purchase. (I note that in my understanding, putting this request was in writing meant that under the terms of the Data Protection Act it constituted a formal, legal SAR request that this information be provided to me.) I mentioned the Act and stated that I hereby gave permission for her to share that bit of information. But I reiterated that the proof of ownership was not the main part of my request. What I needed was for Apple to simply confirm in writing what they’d already told me more than once: that they could not repair the damage to my Macbook.

It wasn’t about the hard drive alone; our policy covers the entire machine, every curve of plastic, every part, every tiny screw, everything. If any part of it cannot be repaired or replaced to like-new condition, the entire machine qualifies for a brand-new replacement. I explained this to Lydia in the email, because I thought having it in writing might be helpful for her (I also offered to send her pictures of the damage if she wanted to confirm it all herself). I assured her–because she sounded so doubtful and suspicious on the phone–that this was a perfectly straightforward and legitimate insurance claim (I repeated the “no-fault” terms of the policy again as well, in hopes of reassuring her, although I didn’t particularly enjoy feeling like I needed to reassure her that I was not committing fraud) and that we were not asking for her to make any false statements or anything of that nature at all, simply to confirm in writing exactly what she’d already confirmed verbally more than once. No more, no less. I even wrote out a very brief statement for her–which didn’t specify the damage or anything, just that they no longer have the parts or ability to repair 2007 Macbooks–which she could just copy and paste, and pointed out that she could see herself that it was a true and accurate account of what both she and the Genius had told us (which it was). I told her I’d be happy to give her the email address or fax number or whatever of our insurer, if she felt more comfortable sending it directly to them (again, I didn’t like feeling as if I was trying to convince someone that I wasn’t committing fraud, but I was trying my best to be understanding).

And I sent it off, confident that I would soon have a reply from her with the information. Again, why would she not give it to me? Apple had indeed stated more than once that my Macbook could not be repaired, and what company refuses to provide confirmation that an item can or cannot be replaced? What company would refuse to provide a statement of same for a customer’s insurance claim–a claim which has absolutely nothing to do with said company beyond confirming the damage to the item, and does not hold them liable for anything or require them to do anything other than sit back and wait to accept payment for the new item? I could walk into any PC World store with a Windows machine in a similar state, and their service department would write such a statement for me without blinking; surely some random PC World didn’t provide better customer service than Apple. That wasn’t possible.

But it turns out it was. Lydia called me the next day to inform me that no, Apple would absolutely not confirm that my Macbook is registered to me, because of something about the Data Protection Act which I frankly could not follow since she was speaking at a breakneck speed, so couldn’t refute, but oh well. I said, “Okay, so–” and she once again interrupted me to say that Apple also would not confirm that they could not repair my Macbook.

I asked her why, since she’d been able to state that to me several times over the phone and the Genius had stated it in person, she could not put it in writing? Because it’s not Apple’s policy, apparently. It’s not Apple’s policy to provide a written record of their verbal repair estimations or evaluations? It’s not Apple’s policy to back up what they’ve said? It’s not Apple’s policy to help their customers?

Thinking that perhaps she was hinting, or could assist me in another version of my request, I asked her if I could get such a statement from an Apple Genius if I made the trek back to the Apple store. That was up to the individual Genius, she said; they had no obligation to provide any sort of statement or evaluation of damage or estimate. I could try my luck, basically. She made no offer to contact the nearest Apple store and explain my situation or request that they provide assistance to me.

At this point I was fuming. Apple would not repair my Macbook–they flat-out refused–but also would not state that they won’t repair it so I can get a new one from my insurance, because POLICY. What kind of service is that?

I said that what she was basically telling me, then, was that Apple did not care to keep me as a customer or to sell me a new Macbook. She said no, she wouldn’t say that. I said that actually, yes, that was exactly what she was saying, because what this all boiled down to was Apple’s policy being “If you want a new Macbook, you can pay for it yourself; only peons and Poors need insurance.”

I was in tears at that point. I absolutely could not believe that the company I had so much faith in was so coldly refusing to help me in any way, when all I was asking was for them to confirm their verbal statements in writing. That is not, I don’t think, an unreasonable request. It’s one other manufacturers, retailers, and service providers fulfill every minute of every day. I asked why she could not just send me a quick email confirming what she’d told me and she said she could not do that because she is PHONE support (I thought Executive Relations was supposed to be above phone support, with abilities and powers beyond what they have?). I asked who I needed to speak to, then, who were the representatives or people who could write things down (which was honestly one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever had to say to a Customer Service rep), and she said nobody would be able to do this for me. Apparently no one at Apple is allowed to email anything to anyone or write anything at all down, ever. She told me she could send me the link to the page on the Apple site where it says they no longer make parts for or service the 2007 Macbook. I informed her that I can find a link myself, and that if a webpage was likely to be enough to satisfy my insurer I wouldn’t have asked her for a written statement to begin with. And also, that meant that while Apple will happily state publicly and openly online that they wouldn’t fix my Macbook, they absolutely would not take the five seconds to write that down separately for me.

So I asked to speak to someone else; she refused. I told her I wanted to speak to her supervisor or someone above her; she told me no one was above her and that this was “Apple’s final statement,” and this was the end of the matter. So Apple’s final statement, then, was “Sucks to be you!”

I called Apple’s main service line again the next day, thinking that perhaps Lydia just didn’t understand or was misinformed. I was told that once a situation goes to Executive Relations no one else can touch it, and any issues I might have with my Executive Relations rep would be given to her again. So if I had a complaint about Lydia, I’d have to take it up with Lydia. Seems like the way things should work, right? Who better to deal with my complaint about Lydia than Lydia? She’d been so helpful already. What exactly was she going to do for me, aside from talk over and interrupt and make me feel like she’s thinking about all of the better and more important things she could be doing with her time, instead of listening to some spoiled American whine about how her computer is quite literally her livelihood, as if that’s Lydia’s problem or something?

So Lydia called me again, because of course my phone call was instantly reported to her, much in the manner of how a grade-school snitch reports another kid sticking out his tongue at them. She was very displeased with me at that point, which made sense because I wasn’t exactly thrilled with her. I asked again if there was any way to get the four fucking sentences I needed written down, if a Genius could do it, an Apple store manager, an Apple-licensed repair shop. She told me–very hotly–that NO ONE, absolutely no one at any Apple-affiliated place anywhere, would EVER write that down for me. NO ONE EVER.

So I asked her, then, if there was anything else Apple was willing to do for me, to show me that they actually gave a shit about my business and wanted me to spend my money on a new Macbook. Anything at all. Now, I didn’t start the whole mess expecting to be offered anything; I started it knowing that the damage to my laptop was all my fault and that the laptop was old, and all I was hoping for was an estimate for repairs. But it seemed to me (and still does) that when a company is refusing a customer request as simple and basic as “Write down what you told me, please,” and they know that said refusal is causing that customer serious difficulty, and they know the customer is very seriously considering giving up on their company altogether (I told Lydia several times that this was really making me rethink dealing with the company at all), I’d think they’d consider some way of making up for the loss. Certainly in the 6+ years or so I spent working as a customer service rep (mostly in banking, for one of the world’s largest credit card banks), that was standard practice. You can’t help them, they’re upset, you try to do something to make them happy. It’s pretty basic. I did stuff like that every day, as did all of my co-workers.

I literally begged her to give me a reason, any reason, why I should buy a new Macbook instead of a Windows machine. Any reason at all; was there honestly nothing she could do for me? Ten percent off AppleCare, a fucking $5 iTunes credit? I hear stories all the time about Apple going above and beyond, and there I was just asking for some confirmation that my business matters. No, she said. There is nothing Apple will do for me (I believe her exact words, said in a tone of surprised disdain, were, “We’re not going to do anything for you,” actually). She wouldn’t even say the words, “Your business matters; you are important to Apple,” when I asked her she could even tell me that.

The next week, the hubs went back to the Apple store. The manager was happy to give him a work estimate/order thingie that said “We cannot repair this Macbook.” Shockingly, this happened even though Lydia had informed me with such confidence that NO ONE EVER ANYWHERE at Apple would EVER do this for me.

And about a week after that we got a check from our insurance company, and I decided that given how very, very little of a fuck Apple gave about its customers and how it was willing to do absolutely nothing–beyond feeding me misinformation and making an already upsetting and difficult process even harder–to help me, and how if I ever had another problem with a new Macbook the odds were extremely high that Apple would once again tell me to go fuck myself, I was not going to buy a new Macbook. Especially not since I would have had to provide the deductible myself, and money is so extremely tight for us. I was not about to struggle to scrounge up that cash on something when if there was ever a problem I’d be left in the lurch, especially since there was no way we could scrape together enough to pay for AppleCare, too.

So I used it to get a Toshiba Satellite, and pay for data recovery/installation (from the Mac’s hard drive) and warranty and data back-up, and for Word. (Which we had trouble installing; funnily enough, the Microsoft rep we called was friendly and awesome and spent a good half-hour with us getting it all set up.)

It’s okay. It’s not a bad computer. It’s not like the little Mac I loved. It’s less convenient and I still loathe several things about Windows machines in general. I’m not crazy about Windows 8. I set it to open directly to the background screen instead of that awful Windows 8 menu thingy with all the blocks.

I lost all of my cool installed fonts and all of the cool fonts that came with Word for Mac. I lost all of my bookmarked sites, going back almost five years–tons of research and recipes. I lost a bunch of music. I lost a few programs I used all the time and I lost several capabilities I liked a lot, and I don’t like Chrome for Windows as much as I liked Chrome for Mac, which was awesome. None of that is good; it’s very depressing, in fact. But at least I didn’t lose any documents or any pictures of my little ones, which was/is what really matters–along with knowing that if I have a problem I won’t have a customer service rep who seems to think I’m trying to defraud everyone tell me that’s just too damn bad.

So there you go. That’s part of the reason, at least, why I’m behind on things. And I know I have several other things to tell you about, but this is very long already so I will end it there.

Again, though…I’ll be back again in the next few days, and I have something that will hopefully provide us all some fun and amusement coming up this week or next. Something from the vault, to show you all.

I miss you all terribly, and hope you forgive me for being so absent.