It’s Disney Time!

  We decided a few months ago that it was time to take the kids to Disney World again. They’ve been running some great package deals, and my mom’s a travel agent, so she can always get us the best rates available. So we booked it.
I’ve been to Disney lots of times – a few times when I was a kid and it was only the Magic Kingdom at that point, and you had to use those paper tickets, the best rides were always the “E” tickets. We had friends who lived in the area and we’d always stay with them.
When I got married, I went there on my honeymoon. After that, often because of business travel, either mine or DH’s, we’d tack on some vacation time and buzz around Disney for a few days. We stayed in lots of different places, with different options. From top of the line, to economy style.
When my daughter was in kindergarten, we took her for the first time. We decided, after having tried out various other hotels, we wanted one with the monorail. We booked the Polynesian, which was one of the first resorts when the park first opened. My daughter loved it – she got to ride with the conductor on her first monorail trip, back when they still allowed people in there. It was Halloween too, so she dressed up as Sleeping Beauty and we partied in the Magic Kingdom with characters in costume, trick or treating and the whole works. Disney does an amazing Halloween party. Breakfast in Cinderella’s Castle – for which I had to get up early and call three days in a row, 30 days in advance to get those reservations.

We took the family two years ago, again for Halloween. This time we stayed at the Grand Floridian. We stayed there on our honeymoon, and have concluded there is no place better to stay – and it’s where we’re staying again this time. Last time was the little guy’s first experience, and I have to say, much as I love everything about Disney, the best thing about it was seeing my kids’ faces when they saw it all for the first time. It is impossible to accurately describe the expressions. They’re just that amazing. He met his favorite characters – Woody! Buzz Lightyear! Lightning McQueen! Tigger! He loves rides, and wanted to go on everything he could.  He did have a few sort-of catastrophes – got so excited to see Mickey for the first time at breakfast, he fell and hit his cheek on the corner of the table. Then nearly choked on a piece of  the ice we’d gotten to reduce the swelling. But overall, he had a blast!

What kills me is the fact that both times, all they wanted to do was get back to the hotel and go in the pool. Seriously? What is with that? Not that I minded – DH and I would get a few drinks and hang out poolside while they splashed and swam. The pool is open 24/7, so we were often there at 11:00 or later. But come on – with all the cool things there are to do in Disney, they wanted to go swimming? Really? 
We hung out with other parents, all saying the same thing. Their kids loved everything in the parks, couldn’t get enough, but throughout, all they heard, just like we did, “Is it time to go back to the hotel yet?”  I guess in Disney, that’s the equivalent of “Are we there yet?”
There are some new things this time around but sadly, we’re getting there too early to see all the new Beauty and the Beast attractions. That’ll be for next time – maybe two years, when DD is a senior and can afford to miss a couple days of school again. We’re both disappointed – from the age of 2 until nearly 6, Beauty & the Beast was her favorite. We watched it at least daily the first couple of years, and several times a month for a few years after. We still find ourselves watching it together when they show it on one of the Disney channels. Sometimes I think I love the story more than she does! Actually, there’s no surprise there. The Beast, like many of my heroes, is rather a jerk in the beginning, though he has good reason to be. Then again, being a jerk got him in that whole mess anyway, but Belle saw through all the crap to the real hero within. Personally, I preferred he would have stayed as the Beast, but that’s not how the fairy tale goes. But he is definitely one of my favorite heroes, simply by the virtue of his un-heroic traits. 😀

As for our trip, we will get to see the Christmas party this go-round. We’re a little later than normal, so that’ll be something new and fun we haven’t done before. We’ve seen the start of the decorative prep our last couple of trips, it’ll be cool to see it all done. One thing about Disney, no one does it better. The attention to the tiniest detail, both in the attractions, events and shows, as well as the guest services, blows me away. I’ve yet to find a place that does it better. Some come close, true, but IMO, Disney still holds the top spot by a very wide margin.
In any case, we’re about a month or so out and I’ve got to start my lists. I already have a folder with all my reservation info – hotel and dining so far – I love that everything is online now, planning all the details is so much easier. This time, we’re kind of going to just go where the mood takes us – this trip is way less structured and scheduled than the last. But there’s still so much more to do to be ready. I need to figure out what to bring – car trips are easy, we bring it all. Can’t do that on a plane. But I am a good packer and can get a ton into a suitcase without going over weight restrictions.
Should be an interesting month as I try to wrap up this ms, get the last of the revisions on the other done, and prep for the trip. Oh yeah, and Halloween’s coming, too.

The Office Dictionary

That would be me. I’m a good speller. Always have been – it’s a natural instinct for me. It’s very rare that I’ll spell a word wrong, though it does happen on occasion. It’s something that my colleagues all picked up on very early in my career at the day job. I can guarantee that at least 4 or 5 times a day, someone will ask me to spell a word. I can rattle it off without even looking up. I admit it’s something I am proud of.  I can usually give you the definition in some form, and a few other words that might work in their place, as well. There are advantages to being a word person, as opposed to being a numbers person. Ask me how to spell and/or use a word, no problem! Just don’t ask me to add more than 2 and 2 without a calculator!
I love it when they ask me to spell a word, and I tell them, and then they ask “Are you sure?” My reply was usually, “Do a spell check, you’ll see!”  It’s happened more than once, and my response is now condensed to a withering stare. It’s enough.
Anyway, because I am picky about words being spelled correctly (perhaps because I’ve always had a name difficult to spell and/or pronounce), I notice it when other people don’t spell the words right. Guaranteed to make me cringe – especially when people mix up there, their and they’re, or to, two and too, and others. What I’ve noticed lately is that it seems to have gotten worse. It’s most noticeable in handwritten notes.  And thanks to a conversation with a co-worker, I know why.
Spell check. My very response to someone questioning my spelling skills. I pointed out a misspelled word and the response was “I didn’t have spell check on my pen.”
It’s true – people can be lazy and let their word processors do the work. Now I understand there are people that need spell check, or they’d never even spell “the” correctly. But people run a spell check and automatically accept the change, without bothering to see which way is the right way to spell a word, or even if the corrected version being suggested is the right word. So when writing a note by hand, though it’s rare these days, it’s often riddled with spelling errors. Because the author never bothered to learn the correct spelling. That’s what annoys me – spell check is there for a reason (though I still haven’t been able to get the stupid French dictionary to turn off on a few of my documents, so it appears those files are full of errors). Spell-check is supposed to be a back-up. Not the answer. And sometimes, a typo is actually a real word, but it’s the wrong word, and can throw the context of your entire message off.
Of course, our culture of “text speak” doesn’t help either. I received an email from a salesperson at one of my distributors that literally read “Can u pls chek stock 4 me?” Seriously. In a business letter (never mind that isn’t even my job function anyway). I was horrified.
Text speak and abbreviations have their place – text messages, Twitter, and the like. I use those abbreviations in those places, just because of size limitations. Those tasks require the use of creatively spelled and used words. Not business communication. Ever. It doesn’t happen often, but enough that truly alarms me. When did it become acceptable for all communication to devolve into this? I think one of the basics taught in school now need to focus on this very issue – and emphasize the proper place and time to use this new version of our language.
But maybe it’s just me.

Publisher Woes Part 2

Here we go again. I spoke a couple of months back about the implosion at Noble Romance. Jill Noble pulled a major flounce (not my term, but it certainly fits! Don’t remember who used it first, but thank you and if you tell me, I’ll update here! :D) and then proceeded to publicly dump on all the authors, calling them trash, recruiting her daughter to get engaged in the public name-calling and smear tactics, etc. It pissed me off – after all, despite what Jill & Co. might say publicly, I did nothing wrong. Well, other than bug her for my owed royalties. BTW, in case you haven’t heard, Jill is now an agent – representing authors! Ain’t that a hoot? I wonder how many will want to work with her after seeing how she treated her authors previously.
In any case, after that initial brouhaha, the powers that be at Noble hired a new CEO. I have to say, he made getting royalties paid a priority and he did it fairly quickly considering the disaster he stepped into. I sent off an email explaining my issues with Noble. I didn’t rant, or threaten, didn’t act out of line, but strongly pointed out my serious concerns about the company. I didn’t hear anything back, but information started to filter through and I decided before I went the certified letter route, I’d watch and see if anything looked to be improving. It wasn’t.
So I typed up a very professional letter, stating my issues in a very business-like manner (I’ve written a ton of business letters – 23 years in sales & marketing for a global corp. gave me a lot of experience). I took it to the post office, paid for it to go certified, with return receipt and tracking. And off it went.
It sat in the PO box for some time before it was finally signed for. I do have my receipt in hand now, in my file with all the other documents. However, after several weeks, there has not been a response. Granted, I gave them the contract-required 90 days to resolve the issues, but I expected at least some sort of reply. Something to indicate they received my letter and are reviewing my issues. Nothing. As I thought on it, I realized the people running this company have no idea how to be professional in any way.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. Some of what I heard he had to say about dealing with the Noble authors truly disturbed me. Who did this guy think he was to tell us how we should react and behave? There is no doubt after being royally screwed over by Jill and Noble in general that several authors, including myself, are angry. We have a right to be. But that doesn’t mean we behaved less than professionally. And for the CEO to insinuate that, and further alienate the very authors that provide Noble with their product, was not a smart move. While I can’t speak for them, I strongly doubt many of the current Noble authors are planning to ever send any more manuscripts to them. I know I’m not. Poor marketing – hell, poor organization and business management, period – lack of communication, truly horrible POD’s and a general contempt for the authors have made them a serious NEVER AGAIN on my list of publishers.
But what has really sent me over the edge is the latest information from various sources. It has come to my attention that our new CEO, Jean Marc Philippe Gombart, has no intention of responding to certified letters (or even reading them), or to anyone who expresses any anger. Um, excuse me? Does he not realize there are serious breaches of contract going on here? I am owed royalties on each of my books – one of them for over a year now! That’s MAJOR! I don’t have the proper forms for the IRS (I don’t care what the hell stupid phrase you put in your contract, the IRS regulations trump that and if I get fucked over because Noble refuses to provide me with form 1099’s, it won’t be pretty).  Piss-poor POD formatting and lack of author copies in all available formats (outlined in my contract as due to me) I can see being a minor point of contention to someone who HAS NO PRIOR PUBLISHING EXPERIENCE AND STILL NO CLUE HOW PUBLISHING WORKS. 
I can deal with the “minor” issues – I admit to being willing to work with a learning curve (23 years of business experience has taught me that as well). But this guy is a seasoned businessman according to the press release. Knows how to run a business. Is that so? By allowing the lack of payment to continue, and flouting IRS regulations? Not smart business-like behavior to my perspective. In fact, it’s foolish. Because if I complain to the IRS that Noble hasn’t provided me with all the forms I need to have for accurate files, the IRS is going to be going after Noble. Not me. Not paying me the money I am due on the books that I sweated over is going to get them a letter from a lawyer. Not me. (Okay, the IRS might look closer at me, but I have a really good CPA – my sister. And I keep copies of everything. I’m clean!)
Yes, I am contractually obligated to give them 90 days to resolve the breaches (you wouldn’t believe the list I now have of contract no-no’s. I learned, sadly, the hard way). But if they’re not even going to read my letter, then the 90 days becomes irrelevant. How can you fix the breaches if you don’t know what they are? And how in the fucking hell can you expect to keep my rights with such grievous breaches?
The sheer arrogance of this man boggles my mind. When authors send him an email he lowers himself to actually read, his response is “Call me.”  Shouldn’t that be the other way around? My 23 years of experience in business (yes, I am repeating it again – I’m not a green newbie in every way) have taught me that the new boss reaches out to the employees, (in this case, the authors, though I wouldn’t exactly say we’re employees), not the other way around. Besides, someone like me, who works that FT job, can’t make calls related to writing on work hours. My boss and coworkers support my writing career – as long as it doesn’t interfere with the job that actually pays my mortgage and covers my kids’ health insurance. When I get home from that paying job, it’s too late to call, business has ended for the day. Besides, there is no way in eternal hell I am racking up long distance charges for someone who can’t even be bothered to read a certified letter concerning major breaches of contract.
The unethical and downright rude behavior of the management at Noble (TIIC) is appalling. Sneering at authors and acting like they’re gum stuck on your shoe is not the way to win loyalty.  This lesson has been a costly one for me, but I am now wiser. While the loss of unpaid royalties will not get my electricity shut off, it will do that to others. Now I have to say – how dare they trifle with people’s lives as if they mean nothing? I seriously feel like I’m dealing with a Leona Helmsley-type here – self-centered, vain and arrogant, everyone should show them respect. No way. Not when you don’t give me that same respect. It’s clear from what I’ve learned in the last few months the people who provide Noble’s products are somehow viewed by management as inferior and not worth dealing with. You know, eventually, all those contracts will expire (have no doubt, the letter intending not to renew my contracts is drafted and ready to go, even if it has to wait. For now, anyway). And all those rights will legally revert to the authors. Does Noble’s management not worry about that? Do they truly think the continued lack of communication is going to make the authors want to keep their work there, and submit more? And do they really think anyone in the publishing universe will forget what has happened? Actually, on that last point, they do seem to think that. I find that rather amusing – no one ever forgets (or forgives) in the internet age.
If they do truly think all those things, then I have to believe we are dealing with very ignorant and clueless people here. If this type of behavior continues, my guess is that Noble won’t survive for much longer anyway.
At least, that’s what I’m hoping. Yeah, I know, I’m coming off like a bitch. Hell, I am one, usually! lol But I don’t care anymore. I will never send them another word of my work again, and I will, one way or another, come hell or high water, get my rights back and leave them in a trail of dust so big, they’ll be choking for weeks!

Changing of the Seasons

Not really a complete change though – technically the cooler fall weather and the leaves turning won’t really start for a few more weeks around here. But summer vacation is ending, school is starting in a few days, so to me that signals the change. And I’m hoping it will bring a little more order to our little corner of the world.
It’s been a busy and eventful summer. On the home front, I can now honestly say I can’t wait for my daughter to get her driver’s license. The chauffeuring gets old fast, and somehow she had somewhere to go nearly every night. Much easier when her friends come over here, but that brings its own set of dilemmas. At least now, I can say no to Tuesday night guests and not be made to feel like I’m the evil stepmother in Snow White!
I turned a lot of my focus toward revising my next vampire story, The Night Club. It’s just about finished – I’m still doing some final revisions and adding a couple new scenes and just trying to get everything clean and logical. Which got me thinking ahead to my next vampire book. I actually began sketching it out. Just jotting down some ideas of what I think should happen, no real writing. Yet. You may remember Josh and Sophie from The Taste of Magic – well, they have their own tale to tell. So I started my spreadsheet for their story.
In the midst of that, I also began the sequel to Warrior’s Vengeance. Rowan Langley is the hero in Warrior’s Wrath, and if you read WV, you know him as Marissa’s brother. He learns a few things about himself that turn him very angry and bitter. This doesn’t bode well for the heroine, Aeron, a Welsh woman who steals from him. I’m having lots of fun getting this first draft down, and hopefully will complete it quickly. At the rate I’m going, there’s actually a good chance of that.
I’m also doing some minor work on the sequel to Prince of the Universe. I had lost my fire for that story a couple months ago, but it’s back. Christina and Reygar’s story is a bit more difficult to pinpoint. I’m focusing on world building at this point, and making my usual lists – these are of various cultural customs and societal norms. With each one that becomes clear, the trouble between the Aldarran and “Earth Woman” gets stronger. This book will be set entirely on the planet of Aldarra – and civilization on that planet is very different from Earth’s.
Lots of irons in the fire, which is kind of crazy, considering the insanity and chaos of the rest of my life. But my mind just works that way – I suppose because I’m a Gemini and there are way more than two of me in here! 😀 Each part of me wants to be focused on something, so to appease them all, I spend a little time on each planned book, at least so when I finish the two I’m neck deep in, I’ll have at least two more to get to work on. The madness keeps me focused – I get 2 to 2 ½ hours a night to write, so I’ve been trying to use it wisely. With school starting, I may even gain another hour – no more kids staying up late because they don’t have to get up in the morning! It’s really hard to concentrate on medieval England when Mario’s in the background trying to save the Princess!