Writing-Advice Book Released

When my readers commented about how much they enjoyed my blogs, I decided to combine the best of my nonfiction—including all the posts I wrote about my journey to become a full-time novelist—into a book. I thought my readers would like to know more about me, and authors would find the writing, editing, and promotion advice helpful and inspiring. Read more

Junk Mail That Makes Me Crazy

Has anyone noticed how hard it is to cancel a magazine subscription these days? They simply won’t let you go. They may stop sending you copies, but the invoices just keep coming. Usually with some pitch like: “If you pay this low, low amount, we’ll keep you on our list.” I canceled my subscription to Entertainment Weekly at least three years ago and have moved twice since, but still I get “invoices.” How do they know where I live?

And what about those mailings with the block printing that says: “Warning: $2,000 fine, 5 years imprisonment, or both for any person interfering or obstructing with the delivery of the letter. “ As if it’s REALLY important mail from the CIA or something. And then it’s some mortgage company offering to refinance your house. They need to get over themselves, stamp “Junk” on the envelope, and recycle it themselves.

Get this one. I recently started work for our local paper. So my paid subscription (which I’ve had for 20 years) got transferred to a free subscription (woohoo, my one benefit). So now the newspaper I work for is sending me surveys asking me how I like my new subscription. Save your money!

And then there are the free AAPR issues I’ve been getting recently. No thanks. Back off. I’m not there yet. (But how do you cancel a subscription you didn’t order?)

It’s one thing to kill trees for no good reason, but to annoy me at the same time? I always think about watching Andy Rooney one night on 60 Minutes talking about stuffing junk mail from one company into a return envelope from another company and mailing it back just for spite. That was a good laugh!

It can’t just be me. What kind of crap mail do you still get? And how can I stop mine?

Things I Want to Know

It’s time for another non-writing/reading rave. These have been simmering for a while.

Why are automated voice mail greetings so long?
How many options do we need and does anyone ever use them? Wouldn’t voice mail be much friendlier if it simply said, “No one is answering, so leave a message”? Furthermore, it seems that few people actually listen to their voice messages. Time and again, people who call me back say, “So what’s up?” or “I saw that you called.” I politely ask, “Did you listen to my message?” Because I don’t want to bore them with a repeat of what they’ve already heard. They invariably say, “No. I just saw that I’d missed your call and called you back.” My feeling is that if I suffer through five minutes of voice mail options, waiting patiently for the tone that says I can finally talk, I expect you to listen to the thoughtful message that I’ve left. Because if I’m on my way to the emergency room, I may not be able to answer when you call back.

Why is all packaging so hard to get into?
This would be the reason that I’m on my way to the hospital—because I just sliced open my hand with a utility blade trying to open a package a batteries. Don’t manufacturers know that people who need batteries need them right f**king now because the damn smoke alarm won’t shut the hell up?

Sleep-aid packaging is the worst. Each pill is set in a little plastic cup with a paper covering glued down over the whole thing. It’s after midnight and I’m exhausted yet can’t sleep, so I’m in the kitchen trying to access a single little sleeping pill. I do not have sharp fingernails, and like everyone else my age I can’t focus well on things that are 18 inches from my face. After five minutes of clawing and tearing, I realize the task is beyond my skills. I reach for the utility knife, then remember the incident with the batteries. So I think “to hell with it” and grab the Nyquil. (Fortunately, I have mastered childproof caps.)

Things I Want to Know

I’m veering off the subject of writing again for a moment to do a little more raving. Here are some hump-day humdinger questions:

Why do bills (i.e., monthly invoices from the electric and cable company) say “amount enclosed”? Is the payable amount optional? Can I send $49 instead of the $178 that’s listed in the amount due box? Or do they think this little phrase might encourage some people to pay extra?

Why is the checker at Albertsons wearing a wrinkled white t-shirt and plaid pajama bottoms? Is it “come as you are day” or has our culture gone that casual? (I work at home, and I still get dressed every day.) But does it matter? Is he any less efficient? Why does it bug me?

Why do men reorganize everything in the dishwasher before starting it? What difference does it make if the plates are lined up straight or not? Did men all attend the same disherwasher-loading class? And if they have five minutes to donate to housework—why don’t they do something useful instead and scrub a toilet?

Speaking of toilets, why is it so hard to start a roll of toilet paper? It’s as if the first six layers are melded together with Super Glue. Why is that necessary? Why can’t it be more like peeling up a little yellow sticky note?

If you know the answers, please share.