Monday, November 28, 2005

Riding a snail into battle

Years (and years) ago, in a sci-fi magazine, I remember seeing a sculpture in silver that really caught my eye. Had it not cost $2,000, it might be adorning my living room as we speak. But it really spoke to me then, and the memory of it is really speaking to me now.

It was a knight, in full armor carrying a battle lance, sitting astride his equally-armored, trusty steed as they rode into battle.

The steed was a snail.

Three weeks ago, I called my ISP (oz.net) and requested a second email address be created. My account comes with up to 5, and I've never utilized them. I've been with OZ since my first days on the internet - back when they were this little Seattle-area only ISP, and it was the owner you spoke with when you called.

Well I called Billing, and the very polite lady on the other end of the phone gladly opened up a second email name for me, and allowed me to choose a password. She told me the new email name would be up and running within the hour. I was too busy that day to care much about using it, but I was very pleased that it was available and feeling rather oddly proud of myself for actually taking advantage of something that was available to me all these years.

Feeling proud that following Monday, I went online to use my ISP's online email reader to check the new account, before setting it up to read at home on my computer. I type the name, and the password. Nothing.

I type the name and password again. Nothing.

I retype the password, very carefully. Nothing.

Calmly, I decide the online mail reader is having difficulty, even though my regular email addy works just fine.

I can hear my trusty steed snorting in the barn.

That night, I get my good old dial-up driven computer online and check my mail, working fine. I set up the new email name . . . nothing.

I emailed tech support at oz.net and they politely tell me I'll have to call tech support, they're not going to help me via email - even though the web page sure enough does say you can email tech support.

Slipping on my battle boots, I pick up the phone, dial the number. After choosing 4 for tech support, I'm treated to the usual recorded message, thanking me very much for holding, a technician will be with me shortly. (I'm subjected to rock-n-roll from the 1950's as my reward for holding) and I can hear the barn door swinging open.

Finally, someone answers the phone, and I politely explain my dilemma. "Ah," the tech support person says, "that's not a problem. We'll just reset the password." As I'm confirming the email name, the password, my address, my full name, my phone number, my credit card that's used to automatically pay every month, and my mother's maiden name, I realize I'll need more than just my boots, as I see my trusty steed snorting in the barn.

"Give it an hour," the tech happily informs. "It'll be working by then."

"Uh-huh." As I hang up the phone, I take a deep breath and expect that surely - THIS will work out fine. I go back to work, giving the hour an extra 30 minutes before I try again.

I try again.

Nothing.

I call again. This time Kevin answers the phone - I think to jot down his name - and I explain what's happening. Or rather, what's not happening. Kevin assures me they just have to reset the password - give it an hour, it'll work just fine.

Kevin lied.

I'm fully dressed now, heading out to the barn. After an additional 2 hours for good measure, I try again and am not overly surprised to find nothing is working. That night, from home, I call again while saddling my steed.

Ella answers the phone, and listens politely to my explanation of the problem - and after assuring me resetting the password will fix it all - I being to smell the dung. Politely, to be sure, I explain to her the futility in that action, and beg a more reliable solution. Understanding my problem, she assures me a work request is being filled out now, and tech support will phone me back within 6 to 12 hours with a resolution.

Grasping the reigns of false hope, I go about my weekend fully expecting a phone call.

By Monday, I'm understandably tense and already mounted, ready to ride into battle.

I phone oz again. Todd answers. I explain the issue. Todd wants to reset my password. Don't even bother, I tell Todd. So, reconsidering this, Todd suggests we CHANGE the password - surely that will fix it within one hour.

One and one half hour later - Nothing.

My steed and I are riding into battle, fully armored.

I call oz again, and get Josh (or Joss or John - could hardly tell from his accent) and this poor Pakistani gets an earful. AH . . . but he has decided to "take ownership of this issue." And by God he'll call me back in one hour with a solution.

He called me back, actually. Josh (turns out it was Josh) assures me it's not the password that's the problem (!) he's now changed it to something only he knows, and it still doesn't work - so he's going to fill out a work request and it'll be taken care of. Tech support will phone me back no later than 24 hours from now.

26 hours later, I call oz and get John. My face is reddish, I'm feeling the anger. My steed and I are in a full gallop, heading straight at the enemy. After hearing my tale, and looking up the many "notes" on my account, John checks it out.

John comes back - after a round of Beatles tunes I still can't get out of my head - and explains it all. See, Josh didn’t fill out the work request correctly. Ah, but John knows how to do this - and there's even a (are you sitting down?) Level 2 technician standing right beside him ! Seems John will fill out this work request, and my new email will be fixed and working within 7 hours, tops ! Oh, sure, no one else has called back when they said, and okay, it MIGHT take up to 24 hours, but these guys are good, and they'll be calling me back in 7 hours or John will eat his hat. Of course, hang on, it's the day before Thanksgiving - okay so they'll for SURE have this fixed by Sunday at the very very latest, and they WILL call back at home to assure me of this repair. No doubts at all. For sure.

Today is Monday.

My armored snail and I are charging head-on.

Jerome answered the phone this time - after someone else simply hung up (caller ID, no doubt). My snail and I let it all loose on Jerome. And when Jerome offers to reset my password, I went medieval on his ass.

I had to explain to Jerome that Josh changed the password, and even I don't know what it is any more. After giving Jerome enough time to read the pages of notes, and put me on hold for 10 minutes, I'm told that the work request was never seen by anyone - because they're so backlogged right now. Oh, but he assures me it's been in the queue for 3 weeks.

Liar, Jerome. When I called last Tuesday, it was never created.

Oh no, he assures me, it's been there this whole time.

You're lying to me, Jerome. Either that, or Josh, Kevin, Ella, Todd and John have all lied, and only YOU know the truth - which is it?

Jerome again offers to reset the password.

I offered to shove my battle lance up Jerome's ass.

Jerome now says that since we all NOW know what the password is, he can simply reset it and it'll be working in one hour.

Jerome - you're pushing it. We already KNOW it's not a password problem. I explained the entire saga to Jerome once again, and I doubt he's listening.

I suspect Jerome is an animatronic puppet - like that chimpanzee you can buy at Sharper Image.

My conversation with Jerome ended with him stammering, and my declaration that the great and powerful OZ has but one week, and one week only, to have this problem remedied - after that, my snail and I are riding off into the sunset and switching to cable internet !

What was once a small, local ISP concerned with the little guy and his/her problems, has become The River - a nationwide ISP that doesn't give one little white rat's ass about any single customer.

And I'm left riding my snail into battle, with justified frustration and righteous anger as my armor - going up against a nuclear warhead that can't even hear my battle cry.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

She's Off !

My baby - my little novel of 160,400 words has been sent off to the publisher for "consideration".

I'm not kidding myself - the chances are extremely slim. But being published is not WHY I write. It shouldn't be WHY anyone writes - and if it is, then that writer should stop writing.

But I won't lie - it's been a dream of mine since I was very young. The idea of actually being published someday still tantalizes me, and I will still yearn for that to happen. But rejections won't stop me from writing, I know that too.

Over the past week or so I've read some interesting things, author experiences and such. Like the highly published author who couldn't sell one of his novels to anyone, so he decided to sell it himself, online, for donations - a chapter at a time (No, I don't mean Stephen full-of-himself-King). Or the author who self-published, then sold so many copies of his book to friends, business acquaintances and booksellers, a publishing company picked up on him and he's been cranking them out ever since. Or the (local) 8-year old girl who just published her first book on how to write books!

Among all of these, I like the man who published his first novel at age 60 and went on to become a Nobel Laureate.

One thing that did upset me as I poured over this novel and changed some things around - was the sometimes-appalling writing! Looking back, I realize that I rarely read my work when it's finished out of fear. Fear I'll realize it sucks. Fear I'll find glaring mistakes and not know how to fix them. Fear I'll chicken out and throw it away.

Fear that I'll realized with horrific certainty that I'm nothing more than a poser, and a bad one at that.

So this bizarre, embarrassed fear keeps me from scrutinizing my novels as a whole when they're completed. And the result is, obviously, poor style and bad habits. Things I had trusted my editor to catch and prevent. Things my editor should have been good enough to realize.

I am reminded more and more of the many reasons why I fired my editor.

I'm giving one of my other earlier novels the same treatment as this one I've just completed, to change it and make it stronger. This one was edited by someone else, someone with a different style. I'm interested in seeing if I - as the writer - can see the difference.

My current editor is more of a reader and style guide than nit-picking detailer, and I much prefer that. Our styles and desires match completely, and I'm more free and unfettered when I write. More confident.

Confident enough to start submitting, and DOING something about this life-long dream of mine, to one day see my name on the cover of a book, perched neatly on the shelf of your local Barnes & Noble !