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Convenience vs. Privacy: Smart Speakers?

Amazon Prime Day was this past week (like the “Black Friday” of summer), and apparently their Echo smart home devices were the best sellers. Other companies took advantage of the day as well, and sold similar products (most notably the Google Home) at a discount too. So now we have a crazy number of households with these smart devices in them, all hooked up either to Amazon or Google’s databases, recording pretty much everything said and responding when the AI algorithms tell it to.

Now, I’ve never actually wanted to talk to my computer, Star Trek-style. I’d rather say hello to my dogs when I walk in the house and flip a light switch than actually tell the lights to come on. I’d be okay using an app with buttons to tap to turn the lights on, or schedules to input, but I don’t want to do any of that verbally – I want it all text-based. I am often “verbally challenged” – what I want to say doesn’t come out correctly. So I’m not keen on verbal commands.

*Quick note: as I’m writing this, Evernote keeps blip-ing and telling me it can’t save. This only adds to my conspiracy theorist paranoia…

ANYways. I don’t particularly want all of my appliances connected to one app or main control “unit”. It’s the same reason I still have a landline phone – and not a digital “landline” that travels via digital internet cables and is bundled up with your cable & internet, but a “real” analog landline – the kind that will still work even if all the power is out, internet is out and cell towers are down or whatever.

I don’t ever want a single point of failure for all of my stuff. Nor do I want a single point where someone could hack into my personal “mainframe” and gain control of my door locks, my thermostat, my lights, and my oven/washer/dryer/whatever.

Don’t get me wrong – I love gadgets and convenience as much as anyone else, and the very thought of controlling the whole house via one app is appealing on many lazy levels, I just can’t actually make myself “go there”, because I’m all too aware of how easily it could all turn upside down and work against me in a very short amount of time.

It also makes me uneasy to think that there’s something in my house always listening for verbal cues. Some would argue that my cell is always listening and my laptop probably could too (I should check if it has a built in microphone…probably does!), but I’m fairly certain the cell companies aren’t organized enough with their data to actually make anything of what it hears (I mostly know this because I’ve seen the kind of reports they run…they’re…antiquated, at best). Amazon and Google though? Conspiracy theory hat on again – they are ready, willing and excited to mine everything anyone says in a room with one of their connected smart-devices for every little bit of usable information they can get from it. Much like the whole smart TV fiasco…except those companies were listening without permission.

Amazon and Google have your explicit permission…probably laid out in those “Terms of Service” documents that no one ever reads.

I talk to myself when I’m home alone. I talk to my dogs. When my husband is there, I talk to him, sometimes saying things I wouldn’t say to anyone else. We have private conversations, like most couples probably do. I have private conversations with myself. And the last thing I want is for these discussions to be logged and tagged and cross-referenced and stored in some big data repository where it can potentially be used against me – either by the original collectors, or the hackers who steal it (eventually).

And no, reassurances from the company that they don’t, won’t, would never, ever do that are meaningless, because…well, once the data is out there, it’s out there, and you just never know what the government or other entities might do years after these particular people are long gone.

Understand, I’d still like my washer/dryer to text or message me when they’re done. And I’d like to be able to control the thermostat through an app. Heck, I wouldn’t even mind controlling some of the lights via an app, as long as some are left “dumb”.

I just…have very strong security and privacy concerns with this whole “connect all the things!” movement. And I’m kind of surprised that more people don’t, to be honest. But maybe I am just being all paranoid about nothing. Certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

Do you have an Echo or Home device? Are you working on connecting all your “things” to one master controller? Is the convenience overcoming any skepticism you might have, or are you just not worried about what might happen?

Inquiring minds…

Swirly Thoughts

So many topics to choose from given last week’s more-social-than-normal obligations, and as I sit here late Sunday night trying to convince myself that I should have written this post earlier instead of watching that movie, I’m having a hard time deciding what to blog about. Writers of all kinds are often asked how they get their ideas, and the answer is always the same – ideas are a dime a dozen. They’re everywhere. The trouble comes in distilling them down and deciding which are actually worth pursuing, and which to leave lying about for someone else to pick up as they go by.

The issue of appearances came up several times last week in a few different contexts, and that always makes me think. How we present ourselves both physically and intellectually is something I’ve been fascinated with since I was very young, and social conventions regarding that topic are varied and complex enough to analyze for years.

And then there’s entertainment and media, which I partook rather lavishly in last week (and enjoyed every minute of it). So much food for thought, both on screen and in print…it was a very creatively rich week, and inspiring as well.

There’s also the fact that I started using my Alphasmart Neo to write with again, and started a brand new romance draft that I feel really good about, and also really odd about, but the important part is, I’m writing again, regularly, and I really, really want to keep that going because I love it.

I hired a part-time promotor for Brazen Snake Books this weekend on a trial basis, which includes a whole lot of mental conflict on my part but also some extraordinarily long-term planning, which is not something I do well or often. But neither is promotion, and I’m already seeing good things happening in that arena, so I’m anxious to see what she can do for both myself and Carol, my best buddy and the other writer who publishes under the BSB umbrella.

That got me thinking about longer-term plans for writing, my pen names, the BSB business, and my day job too. Not conflict, necessarily, just potential progressions of work and life.

Friday was tattoo day, and not just because I finally got the grasshopper/ladybug tattoo I’ve been wanting for the last few months, which took care of the last large open space on my lower left arm. I thought a lot about coverage and perception and appearances (see above) and living in the moment rather than in the future, and my next appointment (which I made after Friday’s tattoo was done).

There’s a lot going on in my head, obviously – which isn’t a bad thing. And I’m not stressed, which is odd, frankly. Normally having this much swirling around at once would be pushing me close to the edge, but I’m surprisingly relaxed. Hopefully I can keep it that way.

Next week, I’ll tease out a topic to go into more depth on. For this week, I’m content to let ’em swirl around unfettered in my brain for awhile yet. They’ll eventually sort themselves out, I’m sure.

This Noisy World

This past Saturday morning I went out to clean up the yard a bit, as I occasionally do. At first, it was cool, quiet and peaceful, and I love being outside when it’s like that. But it never seems to last for long, and as usual, pretty soon I was hearing chain saws, yard trimmers, nail guns, and the occasional motorcycle and loud car driving past.

I can’t adequately describe the effect the sound of a power tool has on my psyche. It’s very close to the quintessential “nails-on-a-chalkboard” analogy. My muscles tighten, my teeth want to grind, and all I can think about is how to get away from the noise. If I’m ready for it, and I know it’s necessary for something we’re working on, I can handle it, but just random neighborhood noise that never, ever seems to quit as long as there’s daylight…it makes me want to move to that oft-romanticized cabin-in-the-woods.

It seems like lately this is an ongoing thing, on the weekends at least. I understand on a practical level – it’s cooler in the mornings, and people need to get things done, but at the same time, I just…want quiet. I want to be able to go out on the back patio, drink my tea, and enjoy the (late) morning without having to listen to machinery constantly grinding at my brain.

The majority of humans do seem to lean toward the “noisy” side of things. I know a great many people who cannot sit in a quiet room for too long without doing something to break the silence. As I write this, my dogs are snoozing and I’m in my quiet living room, the only noise is my fingers tapping across the keyboard…which is how I prefer things to be, perhaps without the occasional shout/yell from the neighbor kids playing in the yard. There is no radio on, no TV, it’s just…quiet. Which is exactly what my introverted little self needs to rest and recharge.

But after I pegged humans as the noisiest living beings on earth, I realized that wasn’t true at all. Nature is not “quiet” either. There are generally always birds chirping, squirrels chattering, other animals talking to each other incessantly (and probably driving other animal-introverts insane). Add to that rushing rivers, waves lapping at beaches, trees blowing in the breeze, grasses rustling, insects buzzing, and wind itself howling along as a merry backdrop to the whole thing. It can actually get quite cacophonous at times, especially when you add in mating seasons and migratory patterns.

Natural noise doesn’t bother me nearly as much as a lot of man-made noise though. I don’t know why.

I was born in the winter, when the natural soundtrack to life is quieter overall, both in the city and out. Snow crunches, ice cracks, cars are out for as little time as possible and people are huddled inside staying warm. For the most part, things are quieter, more muffled. There is no outside construction, no lawn care, no bending nature to our will (okay, the occasional snow-blower or shovel, but it’s as quick as possible, because everyone just wants to go get warm again). And I wonder sometimes if that contributed to why I am the way I am…that is, why I prefer quiet…silence, even, to the hustle and bustle of a summer cityscape.

I do like music, of course, and I like to watch TV, and videos, and I even like a good party here and there. I just wish it was easier to find these quiet times in which to think and recharge and even get things done. I am vastly more productive in a dead quiet environment – and I realize I am in a severe minority on that particular point.

Maybe someday, perhaps when I retire, I’ll be able to live somewhere quieter. Somewhere slower, where maybe new construction and perfectly manicured lawns aren’t the most important weekend activities to complete.

And then I’ll have something different to complain about. Like the fact that the nearest pizza place is a hundred miles away…


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“Pretty-Shinys” and Crow-Like Behavior

Luckily for me, crows are also very smart birds, so comparing myself to one isn’t completely derogatory. But my love of bright, shiny things is a serious issue sometimes. I have such a hard time resisting the pull…

I’ve been lusting after the new Samsung Galaxy Note 7 ever since pictures started to leak months ago. For those who don’t know, I’ve been using a Galaxy Note 3 as a data-only device since shortly after my beloved Palm Pilots went obsolete (I had a brief dalliance with a small tablet, but the pocket-sized format is just so much more portable). In order to “hack” the cell system and get data-only, I got a Verizon Jetpack Hotspot from Amazon with a data plan, and once it was activated, I put the sim card into my Note 3. Voila! Data only cell connection. Works great!

Why data only? Because I’m not all that fond of phone conversations, and I don’t want people calling me when I’m out and about and expecting me to…you know…answer. It’s odd, but when you have a landline and don’t answer, people just assume that you’re out or busy. If you have a cell and don’t answer, they tend to take it more personally. Stupid, but true.

I do respond to texts and Facebook messages pretty quickly for the most part. So it’s not like I’m a total miscreant when it comes to being accessible.

In any case, Samsung’s devices are not cheap, and while I bought my Note 3 outright (an unlocked version used off Swappa), I didn’t really want to spend nearly $1k up front for a new Note 7. Since I have no plans to leave Verizon anytime soon (very reliable around here, though expensive), I figured I’d just buy the Note 7 from them on a monthly plan, and add it to my current data-only plan.

Alas, Verizon is too smart for that, and they would not let me buy the phone without “upgrading” to a new smartphone plan. Dang it. But the pull of the shiny was too strong to resist, and after talking myself through the logic that I could just turn off the call ringtone and not answer actual phone calls (unless I really, really need to for some reason), I went ahead and capitulated like the gadget-loving-crow I am. *sigh*

I figured I could at least keep the data-only plan for my old Note 3, and give that to my husband so he’ll have data and texting too. But Verizon was not playing around, and they went ahead and just upgraded my current sim card to a secondary smartphone line (probably because it was in my Note 3 – I should have put it back in the JetPack before starting this process). So now I have (or I will, when my Note 7 gets here next week) two smartphones with unlimited talk (which will be severely underused, given how little my husband and I actually use the phone) and text (which I’ll use, but I doubt my husband will much, if at all), and 4 GB of shared data for about double what I was paying before with data-only.

And all I really wanted was two smartphones with data-only (texting with Google works just fine for free). I don’t understand why that’s so difficult. No different than a wifi hotspot. Though now both phones do work for that too, which will be handy when Charter goes out here at the house (handier than having to take the sim card out of the cell and put it back in the hotspot, I mean).

I suppose I could call my hair stylist again to set up appointments if I want. Her cell number is her only phone, and it’s long distance, which I don’t carry on our landline (because we never need it). But texting her works well enough, so I’ll probably continue doing that.

I wonder if I can set up specific ringtones just for a few numbers, and then have all the rest silent? Anyone who uses a cell phone know? Immediate family and a couple people at work are really the only people who might ever need to get a hold of me while I’m out and about. I could set ringtones for them (those would be rare calls anyways), silence everyone else, and have the best of both worlds.

In any case, I will soon have a lovely new Blue Coral Galaxy Note 7, and it will be useful in all the ways my Note 3 is now for organization, email and internet “stuff”, and it will have an even better camera, and improved note/stylus functions, and those are the most important things to me. Exciting, I tell ya. So shiny it almost hurts. 🙂

It’s too bad I’m not fond of reading on a backlit screen, because the Note 7 curved edges would provide a nice frame for e-reading. Maybe I’ll try it again. I have a kindle backlog like you wouldn’t believe, because I’ve been reading predominantly print lately.

Is there really anything more fun than new gadgetry?

Tattoos may be a close second…and I have an appointment for two more smallish ones coming up this Saturday. So that will be fun too. Pictures next week…


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The Alarming Truth About Mornings

PebbleBacklight

My new Pebble Time Round – backlit.

Four out of five mornings last week started out on a less-than-great note, all because I have to get up quite a bit earlier than my husband so we can both be ready for work on time. I typically get up between 5:30 and 6am, and he gets up around 8 (though he has me wake him up at 7 in case he feels like working out).

I used to use a really loud, annoying alarm in the bathroom (which is across the hall from our bedroom) to ensure I’d get up and out of bed on time. We’re both night people, which means mornings are painful for us anyways, and I can’t tell you how much I hated that alarm. But it did get me out of bed quickly…until one morning it didn’t. And then it didn’t again, even after I replaced the batteries. And I had to find something else to use.

I started using my cell (left in the bathroom so I’d have to get up)…but sometimes after a particularly late night I wouldn’t hear it. Sometimes hubby would though, and it would drive him nuts that I didn’t get up and shut it off right away. So I started using the clock radio alarm by the bed (the beeping one…the radio wouldn’t get me up), and setting the cell as a backup (in case I hit the snooze button or worse, turned off the bedroom alarm and went back to sleep). That worked fine for awhile too, but I still don’t get up as quickly as hubby would like most mornings, so he’s stuck listening to the alarm that early.

Last week, one morning I didn’t hear it, one morning I got up early (dog got me up) and forgot to turn off the alarm by the bed so it woke hubby up (and he couldn’t figure out how to turn it off), another morning I just didn’t move fast enough…you get the drift. There was only one morning the whole week that actually started off in a peaceful manner. The rest sucked, and when your morning starts off all angsty, the rest of the day doesn’t have much of a chance.

Needless to say, I’d had enough after the third morning, and that night, I decided to try one more thing before converting my office into a bedroom and just sleeping in there during the week. I ordered a smart watch – the smallest, most basic model with good reviews that I thought would work as a vibrating wrist alarm. I thought the “smart alarm” feature sounded neat, so I picked on that would work for that as well. My new Pebble Time Round was delivered Friday, and I tried it out right away for Saturday morning.

PebbleEPaper

Epaper background – easy to see in sunlight, but a bit dim inside…

The “smart” alarm really isn’t smart at all…it runs through a third party phone app, and both Sat. and Sun. mornings it went off later than the “last possible time” I’d picked. Supposedly it can sense when you’re in deep sleep vs. light (based on your movements), but it’s not supposed to go past the time you pick as the last possible. So Sunday when I went back to bed after feeding the dogs, I just set the standard alarm on the Pebble itself, and it worked pretty well to wake me up around 10am.

So I’m going to try that this week – setting the pebble alarm to go off first, and then my cell alarm as a backup. If all goes well, hubby shouldn’t hear one alarm this week. If not…well, I may be shopping for a bed in the near future, as I’m kind of out of options. Fingers crossed – I’d really prefer not to convert the office. I suppose I could go back to the super-loud annoying alarm again, but that makes my mornings stressful too.

For those morning people out there wondering why I don’t just go to bed earlier…I prefer the night, always have. And late nights are the only time it’s quiet enough around here to get any writing done. To have a chance at “just waking up”, I’d have to go to bed (sleep) around 11:30pm, or even 10pm. Which would leave me absolutely no time at all for writing…or anything in the evenings, really. Just not happening.

Speaking of which, my “get ready for bed” alarm just went off, so I need to get this posted and head to bed so I can read for half an hour and then be asleep by 1am. Here’s hoping the vibrating alarm works well from here on out!

Over-Stimulation & The Need for Silence

No post last week – if you noticed and missed it, my apologies. If not, well, it doesn’t matter now, does it? But it is relevant to this week’s post that last week’s never materialized.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve needed to be quite a bit more social than normal due to some changes at work. These are good changes, not bad, and the “more social than normal” thing is temporary (it was waning by last Friday, thank goodness) and was necessary. I knew this logically before it even happened (and I was aware it was going to happen). So I’m not complaining, but the fact is, I just don’t deal well with stuff like that…it’s a bug, not a feature.

Quick super-basic reference going forward, keeping in mind that these are sliding scales, and many (most?) people are somewhere in the middle:

Introvert: Someone who gets energy/recharges by being alone (I am on the extreme end of this scale/continuum, and always have been)
Extrovert: Someone who gets energy/recharges by being around others

I think a lot of us, whether we’re introverts or not, tend to discount just how much “down time” an introvert (like myself) needs to recharge. And by “downtime”, I don’t mean time not doing anything, I mean time to be alone in my head without anyone else there too (so devoid of outside stimulation like conversation, TV/radio noise, etc). I can very easily recharge while working on a project at work, so long as I’m working on it by myself with little or no input from others. At home, I can sort of recharge with the TV on, but not well…I really kind of need a few hours of quiet to myself, but I can be writing or blogging or cooking or whatever – I don’t need to be in some sort of meditative state, I just need time to think and process and not constantly be filtering outside stimulation.

It all sounds very narcissistic, I know, but it’s how my brain works, and when I don’t get that quiet time to recharge, I get crabby, and angsty, and even more socially awkward than I already am (which is not pretty, and can lead to some pretty big misunderstandings simply due to my lack of thought before speaking/typing/whatever…and that’s embarrassing, at best). I second-guess nearly everything I do and every interaction I have, and worry piles up in my head because I have no way to process even normal, daily occurrences if I don’t have that quiet time to myself to think.

Needless to say, between work and home and family obligations for the past couple of weeks…it’s been rough. I’ve been crabby, and anxious, and awkward, and constantly second-guessing myself, and unable to make decisions, unable to keep track of all the things that would normally just be a matter of course, and barely able to get my writing time in. One of the serials I just couldn’t even deal with – it was emotionally draining to write on a good day, and with everything else demanding every ounce of energy I had just to “act” somewhat normal from day to day, I just…couldn’t this week, so I ended the story on a not-so-satisfying note, and that was that.

And that’s why there was no blog post last week. It was all I could do just to maintain my normal daily life in the face of too much chatter and general “noise” all around me, with not enough silence to allow me recovery or processing time. The blog post and several other things just had to be let go, because I could not deal with “just one more thing”. Which is frustrating, but it is what it is, and I didn’t handle it as well as I could/should have.

I love being around the people I like, and I love a good conversation just as much as the next person, and I love TV and movies and music and all sorts of things that involve being with/ around people or stimulating the mind.

But I *need* silence. I crave it, but more than that, I can’t actually function for long without it. Which wouldn’t be such an Achilles heel for me if I could just learn to do one little thing:

When I need quiet, I need to ask for it. Or just take it.

It seems so simple, doesn’t it? But like many women, I’m good at taking care of others and making sure their needs are met. Not so good at making sure I get what I need, especially if it means someone else won’t get what they need (not right away, in any case).

But considering I can’t function well without that quiet time, it’s in everyone’s best interest that I get it. And I need to keep that in mind when I find myself getting overwhelmed and anxious – that I will be more useful after a short break alone than I’d be without one, and that if I need to take a couple hours to myself at home to recover from a busy day at work, I shouldn’t be shy about just saying that. I just need to do it.

As I said, the work situation is leveling out, and things will be back to normal soon. I’ve got the prospect of a week off in the near future to look forward to as well – a really big reboot, so to speak.

I’m really going to try harder to make sure I get the quiet time I need on a daily basis from here on out. There will always be days where it’s just too chaotic and there’s no way to break free, but it’s rare that I can’t snag some time *somewhere* to rest and recharge.

Taking care of ourselves. Novel concept, isn’t it?


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Mental Calisthenics

A modge-podge of things this week, because my brain’s been bouncing all over the place this weekend. That’s what happens when I manage not to stress or obsess about anything – my poor mind doesn’t know what to do, and starts looking for something to focus on/obsess over. It doesn’t really handle “free time” too well…

Something I have been sort of obsessing over in the back of my head for quite some time now (years, in fact) is summed up very nicely in this blog post at Brain Pickings:

In Praise of Missing Out: Psychoanalyst Adam Phillips on the Paradoxical Value of Our Unlived Lives

Yes, the title is a mouthful (eyeful?), and if that intimidates you, you probably want to skip the article. For those interested though, it basically talks about how we’re constantly thinking about the paths we didn’t choose – ie, when we choose one thing, it means we don’t choose another…and humans generally give at least some thought to the “Option B’s” we leave behind (or don’t, in some cases). I know I often think about the “other lives” I’d live if I’d made a different choice at once crossroads or another, and in some cases, I struggle with it. This post actually kind of made me relieved that it’s not just me…and I ordered a copy of Phillips’ book which I’m very much looking forward to reading.

I also loved this post by KD Sarge this weekend, because it’s just…so very, very true:

Procrastination Bites

Also, I’m really not fond of cupcakes. The cake part is generally okay, but I really am not big on frosting (or anything that sugary), and it seems like most cupcakes are all frosting. Way too sweet for my taste.

Amusingly enough, KD’s post made me feel like I should clean my shower this weekend (a couple mentions of pulling hair out of the drain), but in a hilarious twist, I didn’t actually do that. Instead, I procrastinated on that particular project by reorganizing two drawers in my kitchen. Because that makes perfect sense, right?

An interesting post by the always funny Perry Block shed some light on why my husband’s attitude on tattoos has always been…lukewarm at best (he was born in the 60’s, which Perry explains was still the wild-west of body art:

Tattoo Breakthrough

When I got my first tat, they were just starting to become more trendy, but they were still a sort of “badge of rebelliousness” and a tribute to how tough you were, and I’ve always been sort of a laid-back rebel. The kicker with tattoos is (and anyone who has one will tell you this), they’re very addictive. You get one, and all you can think about is your next one. I stopped after the fourth for awhile out of respect for my husband’s dislike of them, but I still thought about what I’d get next. It was a good decade until dear hubby put me out of my misery and encouraged me to go get that next one, and I knew exactly what I wanted, and where. I’m already planning my next appointment, probably sometime in September.

And finally, this enlightening post gave me an epiphany about my attitude towards phone calls:

Phone-Reluctant Introvert 

I don’t hate them like this person does, but I struggle with them, and this post does an excellent job of explaining why. For me, it’s not even the intrusion so much as the fact that I simply cannot communicate well when my auditory system is the only one involved. I do hate calling people when I know it’s a cell phone, for precisely the fact that I know people will feel obligated to answer, and I hate the idea of interrupting people while they are shopping or working or…not somewhere it’s convenient to take a call. With landlines, I know if they aren’t home, they’re busy and I can just leave a message and it wasn’t an intrusion. With a cell, I’m always afraid they’re doing something else, and I’m butting in on whatever that is, and the sense of manners and politeness that was drilled into me as a child is just completely mortified by that knowledge. So I rarely call cell numbers outside of work (and then only when people tell me to call them there) – only when I have absolutely no other choice.

This is why I don’t have a voice cell plan either – my cell only has data, and I use Google voice for free texting. If people want to call me, they have to call my landline, and if I’m busy or out, I don’t answer, and if they don’t leave a message, I assume it’s not important and they don’t need a call back. When I am talking on the phone, I’m pacing and moving and “doing things”, as the blog post author writes. It helps me focus on the conversation, which really is interesting, I think.

Email, text, or some form of social media is generally the best way to communicate with me, though I understand that not all people are like that, and I do try to accommodate others when I can…or at least meet them half-way on the way they like to communicate best. I certainly don’t expect everyone to just cater to my needs, but it’s still fascinating to know that my communication style is probably inherent to my personality.

So there you have it…just a few of the things that have caught my attention recently. Never a dull moment in the gray matter, I tell you what…

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On Short Weeks, “This City”, & Wet Socks…

Monday was a holiday here in the states for many of us, or a day of remembering, in any case. There were still plenty of people who had to work, but I was off, thus my laziness in getting this post up and out.

I actually don’t care much for four-day work weeks, to be honest. Everything just seems that much more…immediate, which means the whole week feels hectic and strained. If they were the “norm”, then I’m sure we’d all adjust and having three days off every week would be really nice (though with IT, there’s always a chance of having to work – nature of the 24/7 beast). But since our current norm is a 5-day week, the shortened ones just feel to crammed with stuff. To me, anyways.

Tomorrow will be a short day for me too, because I have two hours in the dentist chair to look forward to at the end of the day. I need to leave work by 3:30pm, and then I’ll be in the chair from 4-6pm while the dentist preps two of my teeth for crowns. I know, I know. The excitement just never stops with my teeth…

Good winter TV finally ran out, and we’ve been watching Daredevil on Netflix – actually, we just finished the first season. It was good…dark and bloody, but exactly the kind of hero I like who’s constantly wrestling with that line between good and evil, and occasionally stepping over it out of necessity. I like Arrow for the same reason, and The Flash for different reasons entirely, but there’s one thing that absolutely drives me *nuts* about these shows, and it’s kind of a trademark thing.

The phrase “this city” just bugs the crap out of me every time I hear a hero or villain utter it (and yes, all three of the aforementioned shows are guilty).

I think it’s because it’s overused. It’s such a constant thing that I just get tired of hearing it. It sounds cheesy and limiting and just…too narrow-minded for a person with such weighty philosophical concerns and that requisite hero…uh…complex.

Or it could just be that it’s horribly overused and I get tired of hearing it spoken in what seems like every other line. I feel like I’m getting beaten over the head with the mantra…it’s wearisome.

In other news, I finished my first knitted sock this week, and I’m pretty proud of it. I need to figure out how to make the ribbing tighter, and I could use a little work with the closing, but other than that, I’m very happy with how it turned out, and looking forward to making a second to match.

And then I need to remember to take my nice, hand-knitted socks off when I venture out into the kitchen. My dogs cannot seem to keep the water in their bowls contained to either the bowl or their mouths. It’s crazy how much of a swimming pool the kitchen floor is near their bowls, and that happens to be the main thoroughfare to the back door and into the rest of the kitchen. Since I often wear socks in the house (it has to be incredibly warm for me not to), this means I generally have damp socks on my feet throughout the evening.

I changed socks twice tonight just because I was sick of them being wet, and then one of the dogs needed out again not five minutes after the first change.

Yes, I should get some good slippers, which would solve that problem. One of these days, I might even actually do that…

Here’s hoping the short week treats you well…or at least somewhat gently!


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On Social Oddities, Boxing & New Books…

*cautiously looks around, keeping a close eye on the shadows*

My last few Mondays haven’t been exactly stellar, so I’m approaching this one with a healthy dose of caution and skepticism (much like a normal Tuesday). But my weekend was good – very productive, and I’ve got my schedule and workload(s) back under control, which should help me deal effectively with anything that comes up (or goes down, which actually happens more often in my world, sadly).

In any case, something odd that I noticed about last Monday was the high percentage of red shirts being worn. We’re talking several of my co-workers, my husband, and more than a few people I saw randomly walking on the streets. Why did I even notice? Because I’d nearly reached for a red shirt myself (a color I rarely wear), and then decided against it because red is an aggressive, active color, and I didn’t want that sort of “vibe” around me for a Monday. I wore blue (calming, trustworthy), but I think I ended up dealing with the fallout of “red” by default, given how many other people in my immediate circle were wearing it that day.

It does make me wonder what was in the air, so to speak, to make everyone reach for a red shirt that morning (including myself)… *cue alien invasion music*

This weekend, of course, the big “thing” was a boxing match on Saturday night. I’m not a boxing fan…it makes me physically ill to watch two people beating each other to a pulp for nothing other than…money? Fame? Whatever. And yes, I’ve been informed that there wasn’t much actual boxing during Saturday’s match, which is a bit ironic, I think.

I can normally at least appreciate the intricacies of pretty much anything if I understand the underlying logic to it, even if it involves physical violence/danger, and even if I don’t necessarily enjoy whatever “it” happens to be. An old-fashioned duel for honor, for instance…still seems like overkill to me depending on the circumstances, but I get the underlying motivation, so I’m okay with it. Most serial killers, I get (I probably shouldn’t admit that). But I admit to being completely perplexed by boxing. I want to understand, and I do understand how a lot of people get into it, I just don’t get why people keep doing it, considering how high the percentage of giving or receiving a life-altering injury is. It…makes no logical sense. And yes, I know that makes me sound like Spock.

I always was partial to Spock, even as a little kid. Which is no surprise to anyone who knows me, I’m sure.

What else? Oh right! BeauTEAful Summer, the collected edition of three romantic suspense shorts I wrote last year is finally available (sort of a buy two/get the third free deal), and one of my alter-egos has a new book out today as well. My other alter-ego has a new audiobook out, so something for everyone – I’ll be setting up contests for free copies here and there this week…

And now, to bed (it’s 12:30am as I write this). I skimped on sleep every night last week, and paid dearly for it. Not going to make the same mistake twice (at least not two weeks in a row)!


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On Leather, SNL, & Innocent Attraction…

Happy Monday/President’s Day! Happy because due to the fact it’s a federal holiday, I’m off work and at home. A very good thing, considering how far behind I am on my writing schedule. I’m hoping to get a lot of words written today…

This past Saturday (Valentine’s Day, though I’m not big on celebrating Hallmark holidays), hubby and I took advantage of a special dinner deal one of our local wine shops was having. A four course dinner with four wines/drinks to match by a local chef. Hubby and I both agreed that the salad and main courses were the best (and neither of us cared much for the cold potato soup – though it was a rather pretty purple color), and interestingly enough, the first and third drinks were also the best (though I think I liked the third wine better than he did). The first was a Spicy Beet Cider to go with a beet and walnut salad. That cider was absolutely stunning, and reminded me of the stock art photo I found for a book my horror alter-ego will be writing later this year. I think I might actually incorporate the flavors and textures into that book, somehow. It really was stellar.

The wine that was served with the main course (beef & mushroom pasta) was Cascina Ca’Rossa Langhe Nebbiolo 2010, and I was utterly fascinated and intrigued by it. It tasted and smelled of leather and smoke, which sounds weird, I know, but from the very first sip it reminded me of an old study or library, with a fire roaring in a big stone fireplace, the walls lined with built-in bookshelves filled with old leather-bound tomes, and big wing-back chairs where one might sit and read and smoke a cigar, if that’s your thing (not mine, but that’s the general environment). The color was even reminiscent of leather, clear dark burgundy-brown that flashed lighter as it swirled in the glass.

It wasn’t just another wine, it was a sensory experience, and I really must find a bottle of that to have for my very own. Or two, perhaps – one to drink, and one to just admire and remember…

Interestingly, my husband bought new leather shoes earlier that day as well. When I came home from grocery shopping on Sunday morning, I smelled the new leather, and immediately thought of that wine. Fascinating, isn’t it?

Sunday night, I watched the Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary special. That show is as old as I am, and I’ve seen a lot of it. When I really was old enough to start watching it in the late 80’s/early 90’s, I remember so many people complaining about how bad it had gotten. And I watched old episodes, and I watched new episodes, and some I liked, and some I didn’t, and there were years when I didn’t watch at all and then I’d pick it back up again…but it’s always been there, part of the soundtrack of my life, as it were. Isn’t it odd how one TV show can be so ever-present, and watching the clips last night made me realize just how big of an impact it’s had on society as well as my own perspective on things. So many catch-phrases and things that have become all pervasive, and some I didn’t even realize had come from SNL in the beginning…

You’d think watching something like that would make me feel old, especially seeing some of the older actors now, but it really didn’t. It was just a really pleasant trip down memory lane, both personally, and in a cultural sense too.

Which brings us to today, and the draft I’m working on at the moment. I’ve mentioned before that I’m working on a kid’s novel for a brand new small press, and I’m pretty sure I mentioned my misgivings about it too. It really gave me some serious cognitive dissonance at the start, because it’s so far out of the realm I normally like to work in that I felt very…constrained in what I could and couldn’t do with it. But I kept forging ahead, largely because I’d committed to finishing it, and as I’ve pressed on, a few things have really started to make this a much more enjoyable endeavor.

The first was the happy coincidence that one of the TV stations decided to play the Harry Potter movies over the last few weeks. I’ve watched a couple now (re-watched, I guess), and while my plot and characters aren’t even remotely similar to the Potter series, I’ve really gained a lot of insight into character development as it pertains to children through those stories. I don’t have kids, and haven’t worked around them in nearly 20 years, so that helped a lot just to see how someone else did it, and to realize where I was going wrong in terms of “kid culture” (because even as a child, I never really was one, if that makes sense – I’ve never identified with my own age group, and also never been part of the “crowd”, so to speak). Once I figured that out, my storyline started working a lot better.

And the second happy coincidence was the Charlie Brown Valentine’s Day Special on TV. We only watched a little bit of it, but it reminded me that there’s a very innocent side of romance that kids experience even when they’re young (not *that* young…my heroine is 11), and while I’d thought about that, I was afraid to really “go there” with my young cast of characters. But Charlie Brown and the Little Red-Haired Girl and Peppermint Patty and Lucy and Linus and the whole gang reminded me of that sweeter, innocent side of attraction, and just how completely adorable it is, and I went ahead and took my young characters there. Not only does it work, it’s going to really set up the next few stories in the series, as my characters grow together. And since romance is a predominant part of what I write in my other genres (it even has a place in my horror…attraction is all pervasive in human society, and I find it fascinating no matter what light you put it in), I suddenly felt more comfortable with my “kid lit”, and the story just started to take off after that.

This is part of why I write…to explore new perspectives on life, to see how others view the world, and to explore the various decisions that might be made, and how they affect us as we see them through.

With that said, I’m going to post this, grab another cup of tea and a snack, and see where my characters will take me today…


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