I have no more words.
So, there was just another brouhaha on Goodreads and its environs. And I swore I would keep my hands to myself and not take part.
It seems to have blown over, at least where I’ve been able to see, and I’m not about to stir it all up again, so I will name no names and tag no tags. The poor silly author person has gotten a bit beaten up, and while I still want to speak my piece somewhere it won’t get deleted I don’t want to beat a beaten horse. So to speak.
It seems to have all begun with someone’s first book, which I just saw was, oddly, self-published back in September. But apparently as of a little while ago the book was saddled with a very long, very poorly written description on GR, and a few people took that as a sure and certain sign that this was a book to avoid. Some of them (or at least one, though some “reviews” have been deleted by GR) evidently took the description apart line by line – and from what I’m seeing, it was indeed pretty bad. And pretty long.
The first I heard of it, though, was when a friend (hi, Jane!) wrote a blog post about a blog post by the author. (So now I’m writing a blog post about a blog post about a blog post. Funny old world.) The author’s blog post – and in fact her whole blog – was deleted over that weekend; I think she got some serious backlash in her comments section. I kind of wish I’d saved it, but what I do have is my visceral response to it – not quite line by line, but enough.
The first thing I took issue with was the Victorian-twee capitalization of certain nouns, particularly “Writer” and “Reader” (why, that would be Me! If I ever decided to read the thing, that is.) Done with tongue in cheek, say by an Austen fan, I’m fine with this. But done with a straight face… why? I don’t understand. Are you a time traveler from Dickens’s London? Another odd quirk in the blog post was a near-constant use of “we”. I don’t know whether it was intended as a collective “we”, somehow speaking for all writers, or as a royal “we”, but either way it wasn’t a great idea.
Also not such a great idea, I suppose, was putting down my thoughts in the review section for the book on Goodreads. It was deleted, of course (after it garnered over 50 “likes” in a couple of days – and, obviously, at least one flag as against guidelines). But my points still stand, so here they are. I was pretty disgusted when I wrote it. Obviously.
The author’s part of this is not verbatim, since I didn’t save her post – but it is as close to what was actually said as possible.
The author’s blog: I wish readers would only post four- or five-star reviews, and if they have complaints they should write me directly to tell me instead of putting that in a review.
Me: If I have spent time and/or money on your precious flower of a book, and I don’t like said book, then I have every right to express my opinion – yes, even if I haven’t read the whole thing. And yes, in a legit review and not a private email to you. Unless I have been provided with a free copy for the purpose, or unless you have paid me to copyedit, it’s not my job to send you a politely worded detail of why your book isn’t the Masterpiece you think it is. If your writing is laughable, I’m sorry: I will probably laugh.
The author: People should remember that my book is the work of my heart, my baby.
Me: It’s not your baby. It’s a book.
Just to clarify – Baby:
A better metaphor might be raising a lion cub and releasing him into the wild. Once it’s literally out of your hands, it is completely out of your hands – if the other lions don’t like him, you can’t go wading in and shake your finger under those other lions’ noses. (Well, you can, but they will eat you alive. Which given the parallel illustrated here makes this a pretty good simile.)
The author: I feel personally injured when someone says harsh things about my book.
Me: A mediocre or bad review is not, unless you are personally attacked in it, an attack on you. It’s not an attack on your precious petal of a book. It’s a book review. An expression of opinion. A summation of what was enjoyed – and not enjoyed – during the reading experience. Je ne suis pas Charlie, but je suis moi: a reader, with only so much time to spend in reading and only so much money to spend on books – and with every right to express opinions. (Except on Goodreads, of course, where the original thing I wrote vanished like my coworkers two minutes before closing time.)
The author: if you’re going to dare to write a critique of my book or my book description pointing out spelling and grammar errors, you had best be certain your own spelling and grammar is impeccable.
Me: While in my reviews and blog posts I always certainly strive to make sure my spelling and grammar are correct, even if they are not I also have every right to point out places where your spelling and grammar are not up to par. Why? Because if I screw up in a review, it’s something I wrote for myself and my friends, to plunk onto my blog or on Goodreads or some such. If you screw up in a book you’ve published, it’s something you have offered for sale, for the consumption of strangers, in the expectation that time and/or money will be spent on it (as mentioned above). If you do not understand the difference here, you have no business writing for anyone but yourself. If I purchase a book, it is with the presumption that the author has performed due diligence in making it as close to a perfect thing as possible, has made noticeable effort to clean up style errors and make it worth reading. If you have not done your utmost best to ensure that simple, stupid things like grammar and spelling are not as perfect as they can be, it only shows a complete lack of respect for your “Readers”, and I have no time or patience for you.
The author (and this is a quote, because I copied and pasted it): “The only thing I am telling you right now is: Please, when writing your review, consider our feelings and sensitivity – and respect our work.”
Me: Well, to all “Writers”, the only thing I am telling you is: Please, when writing your book, consider the rights, time, and wallet of the reader – and respect us enough not to whine when we take the time to exercise our rights and give you feedback. Good, bad, or indifferent.
The author’s blog post title: “How Authors would wish their books to be reviewed”
“How Authors would wish their books to be reviewed”? How dare you.
In predicting (correctly) that my original post would be deleted, I said that I would likely copy it over onto my blog – because this whole thing just ticks me off so very much. For one thing, doesn’t she realize how this has all been said before, a thousand and six times? How are these people not getting the message?
I mean, I get it. I do. Like probably half the people on Goodreads I’ve tried my hand at writing a book. It is hard work. But I want criticism. I want to improve, and I want my work to improve. The idea of expecting universal adoration for anything I do is completely alien.
I’m not so arrogant as to think that my book will be War and Peace, or The Lord of the Rings – and even if it somehow did manage to be kind of super, there are people who dislike War and Peace and The Lord of the Rings. And you know? That’s okay. (Except for the people who dislike The Lord of the Rings; they’re just wrong, of course.)
As I mentioned, I got a lot of support for the post. And then I got this, from someone calling himself JR:
Boy… You’ve got a lot of time on your hands.
I agree with your freedom of opinion statement, and to be fully transparent here, I haven’t finished reading the book yet nor have I read the author’s blog.
Like you and the rest of the commenters on here, I am a big believer in freedom of expression.
But it seems to me before you stomp a new author into the ground, you ought to take a step back, take a deep breath and follow some of your own advice.
I don’t respect your hatemongering way.
It’s oppressive and goes against what you say you believe in.
I don’t think it makes me trust in your opinion as a reviewer – and that is my opinion.
Now you are free to rip me apart in a personal way. I hope it makes you sleep better at night.
I admit- I kind of did want to rip him apart. But that goes against the grain. So I checked the commenter’s profile page, and wrote what seemed reasonable.
Thanks for your comment, I guess. Joined in January 2015, eh? So, JR is a pseudonym? (Mind, this is not a personal attack any more than my commentary above is, but merely observation. Not that I expect you to agree with that.)(ETA, also: zero friends, zero books, no avatar = did you think no one would notice?)
It didn’t take all that long to write what I wrote, thanks for your … concern? I type pretty quickly. I have no desire to stomp a new author into the ground. I am more than happy to live and let live. But I also don’t suffer foolishness gladly, and the oft-heard plaint of “I-worked-so-hard-give-me-five-stars” is pure foolishness. And not even original foolishness. I’m not sure where you’re getting hatemongering; please enlighten me. Are you sure it’s the word you’re looking for? “The act or practice of stirring up hatred or enmity” – I wasn’t expressing hatred, and don’t encourage it; I was expressing disgust and irritation. The author in question is not my enemy, or at least I’m not hers, and I care to fulfill the role. So – please insert Inigo Montoya quote here.
It matters little to me whether you trust my opinion as a reviewer. I don’t write reviews for anyone but myself and, perhaps, my friends (I take it you won’t be sending me a friend request either as JR or as your non-sock-puppet persona?). I’ll forget about all of this in about 46 seconds, and sleep just fine, thank you for your kind wish. I hope you sleep well yourself, having gotten this off your anonymous chest.
[Added the following day:] Having had a good night’s sleep: I was wrong, I did think about this longer than 46 seconds. Long enough to think about that word “hatemongering” a little bit. I don’t hate the author of this book I’ll never read, any more than I hate the coworker who routinely butchers the English language in ways that make me want to weep. “Hate” is a ridiculously strong word, and for myself I reserve it for, you know, Hitler. So, my good sockpuppet, no – I don’t think that word means what you think it means.
“He” didn’t respond. Though now that I’m thinking about it I’d bet “he” was one who threw a flag on the play, so to speak. (
Again, I’m not trying to stir up the sediment that has settled to the bottom; I don’t care enough about the author or the book to make this specific. But I really, really care about people attempting to get some kind of control over reviewers, and who can’t behave like adults and professionals.
I’m not deleting my last post; the situation was what it was, and the fact that it was resolved doesn’t make what happened any easier to sleep with at night. I am, however, deleting the tag and changing the title.
Before it got better, it actually got worse. A friend of the family suggested I contact a rescue group called Halfway Home Rescue. I wrote a (looking back on it now) pitiful, seriously pathetic message to them through Facebook. No response. The friend had mentioned that they’re small, so to keep trying; this was hard, because I was getting desperate. I wrote a second time. This time, to my horror, I got an answer. Part of it:
“You [sic] dog has some very serious medical conditions that private non-profits will not be able to afford. We suggest you look for low cost veterinary care and resolve her medical conditions rather than expecting a rescue to pay. If she gets on her feet, perhaps a rescue will be able to help. When you adopt an animal, it is supposed to be for life.” I responded heatedly; it was a very bad time, is my only excuse, and I still find that reply completely heartless. At which point they wrote me back saying that I needed to act like a responsible dog owner… which was what I was trying to be. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive them for that.
However, somewhere in there Michelle from Animal Haven got in touch with me about my post on Facebook – and, thank God, she couldn’t have been kinder or more patient. She has apparently had to deal before with people facing some of the worst moments of their lives. We emailed back and forth for a few days, and then one Saturday I called her. She suggested I bring Daisy in to meet her. I came home alone. And that is a drive I don’t think I want to dwell on, ever. Michelle was again wonderfully patient as I checked in with her every now and then to see how Daisy was doing… and then on December 2 she replied that they found a place for her, with a stay-at-home mom, whose kids already adored Daisy. There was a photo posted on Facebook, of possibly the most content-looking dog I’ve ever seen.
So, while I won’t delete that earlier post … things got better. Sort of. Animal Haven turned out to be a true blessing. Michelle took immediately to Daisy, and Daisy glommed onto her enough that I don’t think she noticed when I left. And … On the one hand I don’t have to worry about her anymore. She’s happier, and I have a little more freedom to do what I need to do and also not worry about not being home, and then of course there’s the only-apartment-I-could-afford-but-which-doesn’t-take-pets. But after almost two months I’m still reluctant to get out of the car when I get home. Every day, twice a day, I would pull in to the driveway, and as soon as I got a window or door open I would hear the barking. It’s incredibly hard still to stand on a silent doorstep, and go into an empty and silent house. It’s hard to handle that silence; it took a while before I could get to sleep without music or a podcast playing, something, anything. It’s hard to have the whole bed to myself.
And that is all I’m going to say about that situation. I didn’t particularly want to write this – but I couldn’t not clear things up about Animal Haven. The person I originally spoke to there was, apparently, an aberration, or also having a very bad day. I was going to insert a picture of her here… but I’m not that sadistic.
‘Bye, my Brussels. Miss you.
Dear Animal Haven,
I’ve always had a pretty decent respect for you. Our neighbors have been involved with you forever, and after all you are a no-kill animal shelter with an excellent reputation – what’s not to love? So when I discovered Goodsearch (the web search site which raises money for a charity with every search, every game played, every online purchase) I made sure my neighbors knew about it, helped them get you signed up, and when you were established made sure that I picked you as the beneficiary of my searches. Over the last couple of years, over $650 has been raised for you; there are 72 supporters. The second strongest supporter seems to be “Angela”, who has raised $2.16 since they started keeping individual track. I’ve raised over $100.
That, Animal Haven, is over now. Because, you see, I needed *your* help recently. My life has gone pear-shaped over the past year; by the time 2015 comes along I expect nearly every single aspect of my life to be completely flipped. And part of that is that I expect to have to carry on without my dog, Daisy. There are a lot of reasons, but suffice to say it’s breaking my heart, and I have no choice. For her sake, for my sake, financially, logistically, I have no choice. That last is my mother’s phrase: no choice; I’m really tired of not having a choice. Regardless, the decision was made for me recently, and I called your number looking for help. I need to give up my dog, I said. I was upset; I think the woman who answered the call would have had to be an idiot, deaf, or a sociopath not to recognize that. But instead of offering sympathy, instead of taking any form of action to comfort or help me, with her tone of voice and choice of words made it clear that her opinion of me was slightly higher than of people who drown kittens in sacks. Your representative kicked me when I was down. I won’t forgive that, ever.
So now my searches on Goodsearch will benefit a random horse rescue I picked off the list, unless and until I find a cause with personal resonance again. I wish you luck placing the animals you deign to take in, and I wish you better luck in the employees you have in future – because that one was horrible.
I never did write up my ever-so-exciting experience at the Jeopardy audition in Boston in May, did I? The hotel was a kind of miserable experience, but the rest of it was fun – especially the audition itself, of course. Jimmy from the Clue Crew (also known as one of the people with the best jobs on earth) happened to be in the area, and stopped in while we were getting our Polaroids taken, so that was exciting.
Somewhere I have the list I made of my fellow auditioners’ names. After the first audition I regretted not having made better notes about my comrades in quiz, so I tried to get everyone this time. I do need to track that down. I didn’t need it tonight, though, because – well, I missed the first segment, just got home during the first commercial break, and was puttering a little as Alex was introducing tonight’s contestants – and my head shot up when he came to the young man at the center podium, John Campbell, a romance novelist from Weymouth. Because he was one of my fellow auditioners on May 12.
It’s kind of stupid how excited I got.
Glenn, running the audition, pushed him to say what name he writes under, and he declined to answer; if I recall correctly he said “I have to hold something back for the show” – another good reason to be glad he’s coming back. I support my fellow Boston auditioners – his books? I’d buy ‘em.
Go, John, go. I can now say I “know” a Jeopardy champ; let’s make it a multi-day champ.
(CNN) — Most of the shock that resounds after hearing that Robin Williams died Monday comes from its utter implausibility. How could Robin Williams, of all people, just stop breathing, moving and, most of all, talking?
It’s as though we’ve been told the moon spun out of orbit or that water no longer boiled, or froze, at the proper temperature. If Robin Williams is dead, then light no longer refracts, atoms no longer bond and gravity has gone out of business.
Yes. It’s that implausible.
Well, sometimes it is, but then I get a little annoyed – you broke into whatever I was watching to tell me that? Tonight they broke into Jeopardy, which resulted in, first, a flash of irritation (for obvious reasons), and then the thought “Oh crap, we’re at war again.”
That’s the good news – we’re not (really) (technically) at war again.
But the bad news … Ah, God, the bad news.
All I can keep saying is … it doesn’t make any sense that the world no longer has him in it. I can’t wrap my mind around it.
The movie of his that means the most to me, the one that simultaneously saved and shattered my adolescence, which told the story of what a remarkable teacher could be when I hadn’t had a teacher who gave a damn since the second grade … Dead Poets Society. I saw that movie probably more often than was healthy, and I haven’t seen it in years. I fully expect to be watching it in the very near future, and sobbing like a heart-broken child.
But I’ll stand on a desk to do it.
Not from the film in question – but I think we could all use a smile…
“That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” What will your verse be?
Keating: “O Captain! My Captain!” Who knows where that comes from? Anybody. Not a clue? It’s from a poem by Walt Whitman about Mr. Abraham Lincoln. Now, this class, you can either call me Mr. Keating, or, if you’re slightly more daring, “O Captain! My Captain.” Now let me dispel a few rumors, so they don’t fester into facts. Yes, I, too, attended Hellton and have survived. And no, at that time, I was not the mental giant you see before you. I was the intellectual equivalent of a ninety-eight-pound weakling. I would go to the beach, and people would kick copies of Byron in my face. Now, Mr. … Pitts? That’s rather unfortunate name. Mr. Pitts, where are you? Mr. Pitts, will you open your hymnal to page 542? Read the first stanza of the poem you find there.
Pitts: “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time”?
Keating: Yes. That’s the one. Somewhat appropriate, isn’t it?
Pitts: Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying:
And this same flowers that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.
Keating: Thank you, Mr. Pitts. “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” The Latin term for that sentiment is “Carpe diem“. Now who knows what that means?
Meeks: Carpe diem. That’s “seize the day.”
Keating: Very good, Mr–
Keating: Meeks. Another unusual name. Seize the day. “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” Why does the writer use these lines?
Charlie: Because he’s in a hurry.
Keating: No! Ding! Thank you for playing anyway. Because we are food for worms, lads. Because, believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is, one day, gonna stop breathing, turn cold, and die. I would like you to step forward over here and peruse some of the faces from the past. You’ve walked past them many times, but I don’t think you’ve really looked at them. They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts, full of hormones just like you. Invincible just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see, gentlemen, those boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen. Do you hear it? Carpe. Hear it? Carpe. Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.
Neil: Mr. Keating! Mr. Keating! Sir? (Keating keeps walking, whistling the 1812 Overture)
Charlie: Say something.
Neil: O Captain! My Captain! (Keating stops and turns)
Come my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world
for my purpose holds to sail beyond the sunset.
And though we are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;–
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will.
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Keating: Why do I stand up here? Anybody?
Charlie: To feel taller.
Keating: No! (hits bell on desk with foot) Thank you for playing, Mr. Dalton. I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way. You see, the world looks very different from up here. You don’t believe me? Come see for yourself. Come on. Come on! Just when you think you know something, you have to look at it in another way. Even though it may seem silly or wrong, you must try! Now, when you read, don’t just consider what the author thinks. Consider what you think. Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Don’t be resigned to that. Break out! Don’t just walk off the edge like lemmings. Look around you. There! There you go, Mr. Priske. Thank you! Yes! Dare to strike out and find new ground. Now, in addition to your essays, I would like you to compose a poem of your own, an original work. (the class groans; Keating flickers lights off and on a few times with an operatic “la ha ha hum!” ) That’s right! You have to deliver it aloud in front of the class on Monday. Bonne chance, gentlemen. Mr. Anderson? (Todd is just about to take his turn stepping off the desk – he stops, catching his balance as he looks up) Don’t think that I don’t know that this assignment scares the hell out of you, you mole. (turns light off as he leaves, Todd still stranded, horrified, upon the desk)
Cameron: That page has been ripped out, sir.
Todd: O Captain! My Captain!
Mr. Nolan: Sit down, Mr. Anderson! Do you hear me? Sit down! Sit down! This is your final warning, Anderson. How dare you? Do you hear me?
Knox: O Captain! My Captain!
Mr. Nolan: Mr. Overstreet, I warn you! Sit down! Sit down! Sit down. All of you. I want you seated. Sit down. Leave, Mr. Keating. All of you, down. I want you seated. Do you hear me? Sit down!
Keating: Thank you, boys. Thank you.
Keating: All right, who’s up first?
Todd: I have something.
Keating: Mr. Anderson.
Knox: That thing you’ve been writing!
Todd: Yeah, that “thing”.
Keating: I’ll take my old seat.
(Meeks goes to stand beside Todd with a lamp, as he takes out a piece of paper and unfolds it)
Todd: In between the verses, all of you say “And still we sleep”.
Charlie (?): And still we what?
Todd: And still we sleep.
We’re dreaming of tomorrow, and tomorrow isn’t coming
We’re dreaming of the glory that we don’t really want
We’re dreaming of a new day when the new day’s there already
And we’re running from the battle when it’s one that must be fought.
All: And still we sleep.
Todd: We’re listening for the calling, but never really heeding
Hoping for the future when the future’s only plans
Dreaming of the wisdom that we’re dodging daily
And praying for a savior when salvation’s in our hands
All: And still we sleep.
Todd: And still we dream, and still we fear, and still we pray, and still we sleep.
Life is interesting, isn’t it? And you know how the Chinese look at the adjective “interesting…”
July = a very bad month for me and technology. First of all, three…? weeks ago today on my way home from work my old Buick died. It felt like the passenger side front tire blew out, so I took it into the nearest parking lot – but the tire was fine. Uh oh, I thought, and popped the hood; I know nothing about engines, but given what I felt I thought maybe I’d see something obvious, a cap off or a break or disconnection somewhere. Nope. I pulled out my phone to call home and/or AAA… dead. Oh… bother.
The nearest shop open was a tobacco shop (which stank to highest heaven), and the man behind the counter allowed me (very reluctantly) to call home; I didn’t dare try calling AAA. No one with a car was home, so … I walked. It was only about a mile, but I, my friends, am not a walker, and I barely made it.
When I could breathe again I called AAA – only to find I’ve used up my three service calls this year. Stupid Buick. Stupid snow the stupid Buick got stuck in. Stupid Buick battery. But it would only be about $35 … but I would need to be with the car to pay the tow truck. There’s a tale in the towing – isn’t there always a tale? – but suffice to say that after a rigamarole the car was towed to the mechanic I trust (whose shop is four miles away; Triple-A towing covers three free. I owed something like $4.21. (Tax.) I only had a ten on me. Did the driver have change? You just sit there and think about how silly that question is), and I, happily, was set up to borrow my sister’s old car, which will be my niece’s when she eventually learns to drive. Conveniently, she has not done so yet, and in fact the car had been sitting around a bit lately, so – yay.
My mechanic may be trusted, but he’s hard to get hold of, and he very much does not work weekends (including Fridays). So it was a few days later that I got the news: the Buick, he is dead.
*moment of silence*
We hated each other for over a year, that car and I, but it got me where I need to go, usually. Oh well.
I decided I wasn’t going to make the same mistake, buying the cheapest possible thing which would only stave off disaster for a couple of years. When I had my Jeopardy! audition this past May (I never wrote that up, did I? Oops) I had it all planned out. They always asked what each person would do with the money they won, and I wanted something to say other than “pay the mortgage” (woo hoo) or “travel” (what EVERYone says, including me the first time) – and it finally came to me. “I’m driving a ’99 Buick,” I would answer; “I want to buy a car built in this millennium.”
I did better than that – I got one built in this decade. Well, depending on how you look at it, I suppose; technically I guess 2010 belongs to the first decade. Darn. Still. It’s a Ford Fusion … hands up, those who knew there were Fusions that weren’t hybrids? *counts* Humph. I didn’t know that. I especially felt a little stupid because during the test drive I asked about how emissions work with a hybrid – is it still the same frequency of a normal car, or – ? The dealer guy sort of got a funny look on his face, and said “Oh, we’ll take care of emissions before you pick up the car.” Okay. That’s not an answer, but okay. It wasn’t till the next day that I somehow figured it out, and looked again at the listing – no mention of hybrid. And it’s not. Oh well.
It was yet another long and bumpy road to work out the details of obtaining the car (which means car payments and twice the insurance payment, so I may rediscover ramen noodles over the next couple of years), clean out and okay the sale-for-scrap of the Buick, and start to find a new normal. Which only lasted a couple of days, because I had to bring the new car back on Monday to go through emissions again.(I don’t know why – I’ve kind of stopped asking why by now)… and because the service-engine-soon light came on. Oh, and I noticed a panel popped partway out by the front left wheel. They gave me a loaner for the meantime. The reason I’m still driving the loaner this weekend is that an O2 sensor needed replacing (slightly ironic, given I work for a medical oxygen supplier). The sensor took a day or so to come in. Then the mechanic’s wife was sick and that was another day. Then the car had to go back to emissions, because it couldn’t go till the sensor was replaced. Then it failed, and honestly somewhere in that phone call the guy’s voice became the teacher’s from Charlie Brown.
The dealer guy said I should have it Monday. He didn’t sound confident. I know I’m not. But at least he called me today; I’ve had to call them every other time – why, coincidentally, since they got my money.
The other Bad Technology story is much shorter; my wireless router died shortly after the Buick, and nearly every penny I had access to went to the Ford down payment. But today was payday, so – look! The internet! Neat.
Now about the title of this post… I’m curious if anyone out there has had a similar incident. I come home for lunch every day to walk the dog, and when I came in today my mother told me that the Internal Revenue Service had called. My eyebrows went up. They had left a number, but Mom didn’t get it written down, so I checked the phone and called the number that had called here. An Indian voice responded “Internal Revenue Service, this is Frank.” It was a terrible connection, so I hung up and called back – and got Frank again. He seemed disapproving that I had hung up. He informed me that I needed to provide my lawyer’s information, because I was being charged with tax fraud and something else I didn’t catch because the accent was so heavy. I was mildly surprised; he got grumpier the more I reacted, and demanded to know if I wanted him to read the affadavit. I said of course I did, and he warned me not to interrupt him – which was a challenge as he went on for some time about how much trouble I was in, involving fines and fees and a marshall probably on his way to my door that moment and my license and passport being suspended for ten years and *insert Charlie Brown teacher voice here*… Again, the accent was pretty heavy. When he finally shut up, I asked how I was supposed to know this was legitimate; he replied nastily that when they came to arrest me I could ask all the questions I wanted, and I’d want to have my lawyer present. I laughed – couldn’t help it. He hung up.
I’ll admit it – while he was going on and on in fairly realistic bureaucracy-ese about how my credit would be destroyed and and I’d lose all my assets (not the car!!) and so on and on, I sat here thinking “But … I mean, the clothes we donated to Goodwill might have only been worth about $50 when I claimed $75, but it’s not like they’d know, or it would make a difference…” And wondering if somehow my last employer managed to do something evil about my unemployment … And “Frank” didn’t get to the point of telling me to send money (or if he did I didn’t understand him.) But it was all so stupid, and hard to swallow, and while I’ll also admit I didn’t quite dare cuss out “Frank from the IRS” (you don’t want to piss off the real IRS), I couldn’t keep from laughing in the end. When I got back to an internet connection – work, that is – I took a few minutes I really didn’t have and hunted for a way to report the call to the Real IRS. It ended up taking about half an hour, two phone calls to local branches who don’t provide off-season customer service, a call to the IRS 800-number that led in circles, and finally a link to a different site where I could start a report. See, now, a runaround – that’s how you know you’re actually working with a government agency. Some guy answering his own phone after only a couple of rings? Clearly a fake.
Here’s the kicker: I thought I’d Nancy Drew it a little and call the number back from my cell phone, act scared and try to get an address to send a certified check to; I was going to come up with some cock and bull story about why I wouldn’t want to make a payment electronically. So I did: 202-506-9717. Which now reaches a message stating that the MagicJack number I had called has not been assigned to a subscriber yet… How very strange! I never would have thought the IRS would use something like MagicJack! Anyway, I only hope I get put into some minimum security Club Fed sort of place – but if this blog goes quiet again you’ll know I’m serving my sentence. For tax fraud and something or other.
This was a preview copy from Netgalley, thank you. (This is actually quite an old review that never got here, somehow.)
I have a habit (bad? Maybe) of requesting advanced readers’ copies of books or such, downloading them in ebook format, and then forgetting everything their blurbs said about them. So it wasn’t until I opened the epub of The Alchemy of Desire that I realized that it was from Carina Press, which I afterward discovered is a sort of PNR subdivision of … Harlequin. Oh dear. I mean, yes, the title should be a dead giveaway that it’s a romance, but somehow it wasn’t (the man on the cover is fully clothed!) (I quite like the cover, actually), and I braced myself.
And the beginning was good. So good. It was an alternate-19th century urban fantasy set in New Orleans post-Civil War. And this was not Ken Burns’s Civil War; the main issue of the war seems to have been neither slavery nor states’ rights but a fight between those who can wield magic (Wielders) “the Confederacy“ and those who can’t and use steampunk machinery instead (Machinists): the Union. (The Machinists’ Union? Really? What local?) I loved the beginning. There was a lot of good stuff there, despite some typos I hope were corrected for a paper edition.
Then the story left New Orleans.
There was so much scope in that setup – it was deep and rife with possibility. I didn’t expect that. Finding it unexpectedly makes it even more of a shame that the possibilities were unexplored.
The two brothers at the heart of the story, Diah and Cager, are forced into going off to hunt the White Buffalo, and for this they need a guide. And the only guide willing to have them is Oni, a half-Lakota woman who is a bundle of secrets and Issues. She’s not taken terribly seriously, at least by the elder and more obnoxious of the two brothers, Cager, because she’s a woman and because she’s a half-breed. She’s an illegal, unlicensed Wielder (like Cager; Diah is an Alchemist – hence the title). She’s a shapeshifter. And she has no intention of taking them to kill the White Buffalo, because the White Buffalo is sacred to her tribe. Oh, and she killed a guy who tried to rape her, and begins almost at once to fall in love with the younger brother, Diah after an initial reaction which seems paranormal but is never explained.
(The brothers’ names are actually nicknames for Jebediah and Micajuh or some such, which is a stretch. I was pronouncing “Diah” as “dee-ah” in my head, because otherwise it’s somewhere between “die” and, I’m sorry, “diarrhea”, but if it’s short for Jebediah it probably is “die”. And “Cager” is just … odd.)
From the moment the trio of the two brothers and their Sacajawea set foot on a boat to begin their journey after the White Buffalo, the Harlequin roots begin to show. There is a great deal of teasing and frustration and timely – or untimely – interruptions, and bulges and pools of wetness. Unfortunately, the latter two items are verbatim; I began to wish for Oni’s sake that Depends had been invented in the 1860’s sometime.
There were parts of this that were a lot of fun. As I said, the setting and storyline of the beginning was dandy. The setting up of Alchemists/Machinists and Wielders is something I wanted more about. (Pity – it seems to be a standalone.) Once the focus moved west and to the R of PNR, it quickly became less interesting to me. I shouldn’t complain, because it does after all say on the tin that it is what it is, and what it is isn’t bad. But if this had been a steampunk Western with an integral romance instead of a Western romance with elements of steampunk it could have been something really special.