Call Centre Blues

sixstringsamuraiicon I condensed all my errands for the week onto Wednesday, and the day repaid me in kind. Actually, the errands were the fun part. I got candy for my little monsters, general grocery shopping was done, pumpkins were picked up, and a visit to the Sprint store went smoothly.

The only snag in the day was Comcast. I finally found the chat link so I could talk to an agent about my account. Said agent was very helpful…except there was nothing he could do, he had to tell me to call the customer service line. He was extremely apologetic. I hate the phone, but I buckled on my big-girl panties and dialed. I made my way through a phone tree that seemed determined to sell me everything but what I actually needed, and finally reached a human being, again. Who heard that I wanted to cancel a specific part of my services, and promptly put me on hold.

For twenty minutes.

I called back. The same thing happened. I called a third time. Another twenty minutes spent on hold. That made a full hour, at which point I decided I was feeling just murderous enough to go grocery shopping. I got on customer chat again, asking if there was some other avenue for me to cancel that specific part of my services. The second chat was full of the guy apologizing, but there was nothing. No supervisor, nobody I could email.

Just the “customer service” line. I know Chat #2 would have helped me if he could; he seemed to genuinely sense my frustration.

When I came home, I tried calling four more times. Each time, the phone tree (creepily verifying the number I was calling from as associated with the account in question) sent me to an “unassigned” number and hung up on me.

I was beginning to suspect Nefarious Things, but by then, I had started to see the funny side of things. Of course, I updated the entire internet on my almost-travail–did you know, there is a Fiverr who will deal with Comcast for you?–when hallelujah, I finally, FINALLY, on the eighth try, got through to a lovely lady named Shaniqua. (I hope I haven’t misspelled that.)

It took exactly three minutes for Shaniqua to do what I needed done on my account. She was pleasant, forthcoming, and quick. At this point I was almost pathetically grateful, and I am sure I would marry her if she asked, just on the strength of that phone call alone.

I know I got off lucky. Comcast, for some reason, had pity upon me after only eight calls and an hour on hold. I can only surmise they were having an off day. Poor Shaniqua, while just doing her job and making me pretty much the happiest woman in the world for a few moments, might be reprimanded for actually letting me cancel some part of my service. I understood why the first three reps dumped me into Hold Hell–even in a special call centre division for cancellations, they’re graded on customer retention. They’re damned by the company if they do their job, and damned by the customers if they don’t.

After I had that all sorted and the groceries put away, I headed out to the Sprint store, and I might have seen the devil carrying ice skates, because I was out of there in under an hour with everything I needed. (Shout-out to Matt–you were a gem, dear, and your Schwarzenegger impression is tops.)

When I am actually preferring going out to a store full of people to calling your customer service line, congratulations, you are the WORST. The fact that I was lucky, and only had a mildly unpleasant waste of a few hours of my time, just drives that home all the more. I’d shift to a different internet provider, but all the ones in my area are either too small to give me what I need or just as awful as Comcast.

After all that, though, I had a lovely chat with my boss-ass Padawan, and we managed to cover film criticism, podcasts, the role of art in Western culture, and conspiracy theories, all in under an hour and a half. (His brain goes at an amazing speed.)

The day finished off with the accidental pouring of a glass of wine into the silverware drawer. (Don’t ask.) I would have been upset, but I still had one glass left in the bottle and I figured the hardworking forks and knives needed a drink too. The Princess observed this after-dinner maneuver, and gently suggested I should go sit the fuck down and not be near any sharp edges for a while. And it occurs to me that I shouldn’t be sure everything is ducky with my Comcast account until I see the next bill.

All in all, I was extremely lucky. But I really, really, do NOT want to leave the house today. If I have to, I might take a machete with me.

Just in case.

Eating My Harmony

Windows The weekend was full of storms. Yesterday in particular, the wind made the cedars thrash, and the honeysuckle on the north side-fence narrowly missed being flattened by a fir bough. The noise made both dogs nervous, and the presence of punch balloons turned Odd Trundles into a ball of protective rage. (He was also bathed, so that probably had a little to do with his mood.) I had to put a couple balloons on the floor and pet them to make Trundles realize they weren’t enemies, and wouldn’t harm him. Poor little fellow.

This was also the weekend we discovered a lemon cake with chocolate frosting was not necessarily a good idea, though the kid who requested it loved it to stomach-burning distraction. I was glad to provide such joy, but really, lemon cakes belong with super-sour lemon glazes, in my humble opinion.

It was also (so much happened!) the weekend the Princess and I got addicted to Egg Baby. They’re cute! You tickle them! You feed them and bathe them and they hatch! There’s an achievement for letting an egg die, but neither of us can bear to do that. We’re bonding over fire eggs and ghost eggs and how long to let them sleep.

Hey, when you’ve got teenagers, you take every bit of commonality you can. I’m just thrilled both of them want to talk to me as often as they do. I gather it’s not normal for them to actually want to converse with a parental unit, so I’m glad to be bucking the trend.

Come Sunday, we were all in the living room. I was tending eggs and reading Che Guevara, the Prince was playing Fantasy Life, and the Princess alternating between egg-tending and Animal Crossing. The family that games together ends up not throttling each other, I guess.

I did finish the Guevara reader. It wasn’t until I got to the letters in Part IV that I realized Guevara had more than one child. Being left alone with multiple children to raise while a guy hares off to Bolivia isn’t my idea of a good time, but I guess Aleida March was okay with it. She wrote a book about the relationship, which I should add to my reading list just on general principle. I’m generally more interested in what those who actually raised the children have to say about revolutions.

What I didn’t get done over the weekend: finishing Cal & Trinity. I hoped I would, but last week the horrorshow of stress coming from a publisher’s extremely sloppy manner of business (yes, still waiting to be paid) put a dent in my productivity. I suspect I could work much more effectively if the worry over whether or not a contractually mandated cheque will arrive WEEKS AFTER it was supposed to wasn’t eating my harmony. This is another thing plenty of new authors aren’t told: employees of publishing houses generally don’t understand that for a writer, late cheques are like the salaried’s paycheck just not showing up. “Oh, we’ll fix paying you…eventually…” isn’t good enough for a salaried employee, but it’s expected to be good enough for a writer. It’s not fair, it’s pretty hideous, but it’s the way things are and one needs to be prepared for it. This is the sort of situation where having an agent is crucial, because, in Caitlin Kittredge’s immortal words, you can lose count of the many ways in which you’ll be screwed without one.

*looks back over preceding paragraphs* God. I feel like I need a nap just to recover from the weekend. But the kids are at school, the music is playing, and I’ve got work to catch up on. The proof copy of Rose & Thunder arrives today for my approval, and hopefully I’ll be able to approve it and have the paper version on sale early. We’ll see…

Casa to Chez, Part III

Title companies are like copyeditors. Their job is to help. By being as nitpicky and insanely detailed as possible. It’s not their fault–house-buying is a fraught experience anyway, and making sure every I is dotted and T is crossed is a thankless task both for them…and for underwriters.

I was told the underwriters and the title company loved me, because as soon as they came up with a problem I provided the relevant documentation to fix it within an hour or so. This necessitated all sorts of bother and to-ing and fro-ing, especially when dealing with Time Bombs Left Behind From The Divorce. I suppose I should be grateful that I know everything is cleared up now, even the clerical errors breeding several trips to the federal building downtown. (I now know where the County Auditor’s office is too! They were beginning to recognize me…)

And I was told we would be closing “within days.” I was told this every day.

For two months.

Oh, wait, it gets better!

Both the mortgage broker and the person handling everything at the title company went on long-planned vacations the week we were really, truly, no-fooling supposed to close. Which meant “the file”–meaning me and the house I had grown to love and despair of ever moving into–was in the hands of people who didn’t know what was happening…

…and they requested documentation I’d sent in months before. Again. Weeping with frustration, I complied.

I was even polite.

And then…nothing.

I found out later what the hold-up was. Suffice to say there were a batch of home loans that were, shall we say, not handled correctly by a subcontractor. Wouldn’t you know, mine was among them? DEAR UNIVERSE: PLEASE TO STOP HELPING ME OUT, KTHXBAI.

This is the part where I started deconstructing. (And my writing partner started making plans to visit with two tranquilizer guns and a baseball bat just to get me to calm down.) Dear Reader, the stress got to me. I wasn’t eating, I couldn’t sleep much, all I could think of was the house, the house, the house. I was, in technical terms, wiggin’.

This went on until I broke under the strain, during a week where we were supposed to close Monday…but things weren’t ready, Wednesday was really the day, but again, things weren’t ready. I lost my ever-loving mind. I told my realtor that Friday at 5pm was my deadline, and if we did not sign by then, I wanted the papers for rescission-of-sale ready so I could sign them and be done. I would rather rent the rest of my fucking life than deal with this, I told everyone who would listen. I just wanted to make the pain stop. My realtor was frantic too. “We are so close, don’t give up now! This will be so worth it once you have your new house keys!”

I did not believe her. Because Friday dawned, bright and clear…and there was no progress to be seen.

To Be Continued…

Pitchforks And Torches

Get out the pitchforks and torches, it’s that kind of day…

So, there’s been some brouhaha in the book-reviewing world. Mostly, it’s been yet another edition of Authors Behaving Badly, and I’ll just point you at Cleolinda’s rundown and my own hoary old advice. Of course writers shouldn’t respond, positively or negatively, to reviews. Of course it’s wrestling a pig in mud–the pig loves it, and you just get dirty and look like an idiot. Of course. Of course.

But.

Look, it would take the patience of a saint to put up with some of this shit. And writers are most definitely not saints. Neither, dear Reader, are you.

In any group of people, X% are going to be assholes. It’s like the speed of light–it’s a fucking constant, so let’s get used to it and go on from there. Even those who are not assholes as a matter of course can sometimes act in an asshole manner, given the right conditions. Sometimes, we’re all assholes. You, me, that guy over there, everyone.

I have to tell you, though, sometimes I just don’t blame authors as much as you’d think. There are “review” sites that only serve to aggrandize their owners’ precious little pretensions, and there are “review” sites that should have a sign attached saying “LOOK, JUST FEED MY ENTITLEMENT COMPLEX BECAUSE OTHERWISE I’LL BADMOUTH YOU!”. Then there’s Goodreads–which I use myself, as a means of tracking my reading, and to be available, to a certain degree, to fans. Which is all fine and good, but just like EVERY OTHER SOCIAL NETWORKING SITE, there are some corners of Goodreads that might as well be 4chan. That’s all right if you like 4chan, and of course, if I claim the right to say whatever the hell I want here on this corner of the Internet that I pay for and maintain, I can certainly allow it to “review” sites that appear to be someone’s shallow little reproductions of high-school cliquishness. C’est la vie, c’est la guerre, c’est the fucking marmalade.

A lot of times, however, when I see an Author Behaving Badly On Teh Interwebs–I’m not talking about harassment, I’m not talking about plagiarism–I see a writer getting mad at some deliberately provocative pieces of horseshit. There are “review” sites that keep waving red flags and waiting for the moment a writer, any writer, will snap. They get a charge off this, and I don’t precisely blame some writers for responding. It turns into a situation that only ends well for the petty little provocateur, because they end up getting the emotional charge and the hit count. It never, ever ends well for the writer.

So while I don’t precisely blame the writer sometimes, I do wince. And I do sometimes privately agree with the kernel of some of their rants. I am, and plenty of other writers are, in the position of not being able to offer agreement publicly or professionally, and I think a lot of “review” sites and Mean People on social networking sites bank on that. It’s like the Speshul Snowflakes who decide to be rude to retail or food-service workers. They get the emotional charge and get a kick out of being the “injured party” or merely the Stirrer Of The Shit, and their stink spreads far and wide.

The point of all this is, sooner or later a writer is going to be tempted to respond. If the idea of taking the high road and behaving professionally isn’t enough to stop you, just think about what it means to descend to the level of the jackass who’s trying to taunt you into reacting. Is it worth being just like him or her? Is it truly worth it, when you know you’re just going to end up covered in shit while they laugh at the fact that they made you respond while basking in their brief Internet celebrity? Is it seriously worth it?

This isn’t to exonerate every writer who behaves badly on the Internet. It’s just to say that sometimes, you know, I don’t exactly blame the ones who do snap under the provocation. There but for the grace of God goes anyone, really.

It would do well for us all to remember that.

Over and out.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

That Gargling Sound

Hear that? The gargling sound? That’s the sound of one of the worst weekends in recent history swirling down the drain. I am not sad to see it go, either. This morning’s run was a pounding away of stress, frustration, anger, sadness, you name it. It was only four miles, but both Miss B and I were much calmer at the end of it. Funny thing–I was told Aussies get very attached to their owners, but I didn’t realize until this weekend just how attached Miss B is. She was up with me all night Saturday, corralling and helping me handle another very sick animal, and every once in a while she would give me a low, soft, consolatory woof! and a sideways glance, clearly saying “I’m right with you, Mum. Just tell me what to do next.” All damn night, and she was up with me all day Sunday dealing with fallout and cleanup. When things had finally settled down and I patted the bed last night, telling her she had earned (again) the privilege of sleeping on the Big Soft, she settled down and groaned a little, flipped an ear, and was out like a light. And this morning, she was antsy because I was needing to work some of the stress off, so we hit the pavement and went for it.

I can’t talk about the rest of the weekend, because dealing with other people’s thoughtless cruelty just works me up into a ball of frustration. A lot of why I write what I do is to understand. But no matter how much I can paint a picture of it, I just don’t get it. It doesn’t make sense to me. The frustration of my own incomprehension is very large. I keep aiming to have some sort of compassion for assholes, but it’s very difficult when I simply don’t get it. Suffice to say the animal is in good hands and resting comfortably, and everyone here is very glad of it.

Anyway, it’s Monday, and the dread beast of Revisions is nigh. I finished the proofs for Iron Wyrm and am now hard at work on revising Bandit King. I’ve hit the point where I have fully realized that my editor, bless her hard little heart, is right about pretty much everything, and my ego, while staggering under the blow, has accepted it and moved on. I have to go back and tweak what work I did manage to get done through the hustle and bustle of the weekend, for I suspect I was too agonized to think clearly.

So, yeah. Any work I did in the past two days is suspect. I might as well have just lit it on fire, for all the good it’s going to do the manuscript in the end. Which is a big pile of argh, but it’s something fixable, something I can do, and something I understand the process behind.

I suppose I’ll take what I can get.

See you around…

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

Shame On You, Topeka

Last night, the Topeka, Kansas, city council voted to decriminalize domestic violence.

I can’t say it any better than Jim C. Hines does: “To the folks behind this mess, congratulations! You not only fail as decent human beings, you also suck at math.”

As Erik Scott deBie remarked: To paraphrase Kansas govt: “Down with the wimmins! Yays for abusers! LOL!” http://bit.ly/pwZ1a4 #ugh #electricshockneeded

So, yeah. In Topeka, beating your spouse is okay. Unless someone will foot the legal bills, in which case, it’s wrong.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

Quiet Again

Some tidbits for your consideration:

* Dina James’s new book is out! Dina is my Evil #1 over at the ELEW, and a lovely person.

* A call to action against a serial plagiarist.

* Topeka, Kansas, is looking to decriminalize domestic violence. To, erm, save money. (If I halt to comment on this, there will be a whole day’s worth of ranting. I’ll just skip it, and you can fill in your own.)

The kids are at school, the houseguests are gone, my street is empty, and I can hear the ticking of the cat clocks on my wall. Archibald Clare has a man in knee-deep Londinium sewer water, and has a mouthful of blood besides. I can feel the rest of the book calling me. Plague pits, sorcery, potential zombies, and a mad art professor beckon, and the hunt is afoot again.

I’m swamped.

See you guys around…

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.