I complained a while ago about how EU privacy laws and US anti-spam laws involve having to publicise your address on every email newsletter you send out, even if it's your home address, or risk a fine of $42,530 per email under the US's CAN-SPAM Act or a max fine of €20 million or 4% of your global turnover, whichever's higher, under EU rules. (That giving out my home address per-email would be a breach of GDPR is a bit of irony, I guess...)
While I can see the logic, kind of, it's... not something any LGBT person feels safe doing. Nothing like hanging a big sign over your door and yelling "hey, here I am" by handing out your home address willy-nilly, right? I'm only a writer who barely sells a couple of books a year, not a massive company like Facebook who, incidentally, have already begun appealing their £500,000 fine over Cambridge Analytica, not something I think l'il old me could get away with.
The advice most often given on sites is "get a PO Box." Unfortunately, it's advice usually given by American writers who have a massive range of variable prices for them, ranging from as little $34/year (£26) for little ones in small towns to ~$150-200 (£115-154) for larger areas.
In contrast, a Royal Mail PO Box in the UK, if you travel out to pick up any mail yourself (you're screwed if you don't live near an accessible delivery office) is £270 ($351) a year. If you want them to forward your mail on to you, then it's £342 ($444) a year.
So... bearing in mind my stunning book sales, that is... well, bluntly, it's one hell of a rip-off. (But it's the Royal Mail, so what did I expect? I have a hard enough time stopping them from stealing my deliveries as it is. They had another Kickstarter reward away a few months ago, the thieving bastards. With the value of goods they've stolen from me now, I should be good for a whole free year of collect-your-own...)
So I figured that was it, I'd just give up. As the Canadian humourist Stephen Leacock said, "If at first you don’t succeed, quit, quit at once." It's a bit galling though, especially when everyone's banging on about how 'every author needs a mailing list' but it's out of your reach because of pricing and privacy issues.
Well, I can't remember what I was irritably Googling last night, but I remembered the whole thorny problem and eventually stumbled over UK Postbox, a non-Royal Mail PO box with a wide variety of plans including crucially, one that gives you a PO Box and only charges you for the mail you receive (£1.20): they open it and scan it for you (£1.20 per letter) and you can decide if you want it forwarding on to your home address.
As it's priced per letter it could easily add up to be expensive if you were expecting a deluge of post, but as I suspect that at even ~£2.40/letter it'll be under £12/month, the Pay As You Go tier is the best for me. There are other prices available, as well as other services (you can pay to have a fancy London address, for example, should your audience be more on the snobbish side) and on the whole it beats having a Royal Mail PO Box. Particularly as, with the price of petrol (or indeed the extortionate cost of the Skylink to Derby, which is a whole separate rant regarding Trent Barton's misleading advertising practices) I don't think I'd actually be saving money on fetching the post myself.
Unless I suddenly become massively popular and end up needing a proper PO Box, but if that ever happens then I'd hope the book sales might, just might, cover it...
Until that day so distant on the horizon it might as well not exist... at least this is another thing now out of the way.
The problem with it in particular is how very not-fixed it is — shifts can change and be assigned while I'm asleep. For instance, while I slept this morning another two hours were added to my working day today (which is going to make voting fun) and five hours were added to tomorrow, bringing the working day up from five hours to ten.
Which is why I have RSI.
The brace does seem to be working, although now my left wrist has started hurting. Can't tell if it's psychosomatic or compensation or just a sore wrist though. I'm starting to get paranoid.
And no, there's nothing I can do about the hours. If I complain then I start to get much fewer (which is what happened a couple of years ago when they'd drop shifts on me every day at short notice — they don't much like people complaining) and I do need the money, but it eats into literally everything else.
Like the drawing I planned to work on today, for instance, or the nice dinner I'd planned to make tomorrow that I now can't because I've had five hours dropped on me at short notice. I guess I should've known better than to plan to do something.
It's funny really. All these years of desk jobs and writing and the most I've ever had is a little twinge or two, soon gone again. Hell, I've been doing this job for eight or nine years now and I've been fine.
Four months of 10-hour days doing little more than pointing and clicking?
Bang. Pain down all my fingers and my thumb, that goes all the way up to the elbow. Even just typing this has made my first knuckle and my little finger start to tingle. Even daily chores have become, well, a chore (not that there's a snowflake in hell's chance of getting out of them), so I've had to order* the Instrument of Torture up there in the right hand corner: an RSI / carpal tunnel wrist brace. It kinks up at one end because it's got a metal bar in to stop me bending my hand down — which is now at war with my arm because apparently I bend my hand down way too much.
It may only be psychosomatic but I feel like it's starting to help already. I finish work in less agony than usual, although my thumb's been getting more painful. I suspect it's trying to compensate for restricted movement elsewhere. It's likely to take months, however, and it does make typing very awkward — I never realised how much my hand moves around the keyboard, although it's probably good practice for writing in its own way.
At least now I have an excuse for my dismal failure of Camp NaNo, I guess.
* I haven't visited the doctor about this, because it's a six-week waiting period for an appointment. I just know Repetitive Strain Injury when it bites me.
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Hit the button beneath to be taken, by the power of magic and some nifty coding, to your local Amazon store.
...is very little.
I vary wildly between plotting and pantsing, and while I like both for various reasons, sometimes I still struggle. I pantsed Gabrys because it wasn't supposed to be anything more than ~600 words of fluff for the A-Z Challenge. That it turned into over 20k words was a bit of a shock for all concerned. And I used to pants most of my stuff, particularly the NaNo events, because November has a bad habit of being insanely busy at very short notice.
But at the same time, I do like having a plan. I planned out both Kirill novels in full (although it still ended up allowing for a little wiggle room), but that was an odd experience — a kind of dreaming out the story that allowed me to take the plot, turn it and examine it from every angle until I found the right approach, and then write its outline down for actual writing. It felt odd and constricting at the time, and it was difficult to force myself to sit and write what I'd already 'written' in my head... but when it came to writing Reconstruction, it turned out to be beneficial: I'd got to chapter five, keeled over from a variety of reasons, and left it for a couple of years. Eventually I decided to finish it for Camp NaNo, dug out the notebook I'd written it in (harder than you'd think.... took a while) and, with my carefully-plotted notes, worked through and finished it.
It is, to date, my only Camp NaNo win. Me and Camp NaNo don't get on.
I don't think I'd have finished at all if it wasn't for my meticulous notes, but when an extra scene presented itself, I could still add it in because it worked in context.
So I know plotting works — particularly if there's a big gap between plotting it and writing it, because plotting it then writing it feels like a massive effort in redundancy... which is, perhaps, why I'm not a good plotter.
Either way, it's Camp NaNo again, so I'm trying to plot out my story. It's... not going well. The main character told me his name quite happily, he even named his business, but I feel like writing might actually propel me along the plot line better than plotting is.
But without a plot to write, I feel paralysed. It doesn't help I don't have the space or time to sit and dream out the plot like I did with Kirill, because without going into too much detail, that amount of time and quiet isn't not really an option any more. Honestly, any sort of writing at all is difficult these days. I'm trying to edit Gabrys and... yeah, it's not going well, and all I want is something half-decent to bind myself, but actually being able to sit uninterrupted and work on it simply ain't happening.
Sooooo I don't know. Do I sit with half a plot and start writing to see where it takes me? Or do I try to work through it properly?
Who the fuck knows? It's only four days into the damn event, right? *groan*
Even if it's just that privacy laws are fucked if you live in the UK.
I can legally shield my address in my domain name details for obvious privacy purposes — no one, particularly no LGBT person, wants a disgruntled or angry person turning up at their door.
But if you set up a mailing list, as authors are encouraged to do, then you're forced to send your home address to every single person who receives an email from you. Just so you can tell them exactly where to find you if they don't like you or your writing and they're a trifle unhinged.
"But what about a PO Box? People use those!"
Yeah, rich people use PO Boxes. Current prices are £29.40 a month, £152.40 for 6 months, or £267.00 for a year. And that's for the privilege of travelling 30-45 minutes on the bus to pick up any mail myself: they're only at sorting offices. If I want it forwarded on to me, you guessed it, that's more money.
Worth it for someone who sells maybe one book a month? Nope.
So, no mailing list. It's just not worth it for the massive risk it poses.
And that is that you get a much more cohesive conversation with Paypal (albeit eventually) over Twitter. You even get the same customer service rep every time.
I mean, I wouldn't need to have discovered the only way to have a sensible conversation is via Twitter versus via email* if someone hadn't decided to sign up to Paypal using my email address, and if Paypal didn't allow them to set up a bank/card account without needing to verify their email, which would have stopped the whole debacle in its tracks.
Which, in this day and age and with Google's bizarre "the dots aren't important" approach to email addresses, you would think would be a standard approach but apparently not. Unfortunately, the dots are important to quite literally everyone else, because I can't shut down this peculiar attempt at identity fraud because they omitted the dots in my account.
BUT! Apparently this person with the remarkably lax approach to personal and financial safety (they used my account to sign up for something else as well, which contained their full phone and address...) can't receive payment until they verify their account, and since they can't verify their account... I suspect their cunning plan is depressingly easily thwarted.
Or possibly it's all a big scam, albeit perpetrated by the world's worst scammer.
Either way, if you need to contact Paypal, Twitter is a great approach.
* I had a problem with my account maybe ten years ago and Paypal were the most spectacularly unhelpful entity ever. Email, phone, nothing worked. I just kept getting the same badly-cobbled-together form responses again, and again, and again... until they (eventually) asked for a notarised fax of my passport.
I can only assume they thought a photocopy of my passport signed by a lawyer would be an inconvenient and relatively expensive thing to obtain (think £20 per signed copy at the time). Unfortunately for them, I worked in a solicitor's office. I just asked a lawyer to sign it and then sent it from a machine that conveniently printed "_______ Solicitors" at the top.
It was resolved within a day.
There's something irritating about the way when you upload the file to Amazon, it says "no spelling erors."
Because it didn't notice Sigil had somehow lost half the damn opening speech marks, did it??
So I've just had to correct that and re-upload the file, and now I have to check the others too.
I'd love to know what happened there. I just hope it doesn't happen again.
I finished editing Gabrys's Gods Only Know What and I think it works better for the changes, particularly one section that worked, but a little crudely. I think that particular change works better and is actually a little more disturbing for being, well, less disturbing.
That sounds a little more weird than it really should.
I sent it off to a beta reader who'd read the initial version, but I've not heard back and I'm not wholly expecting to if I'm honest. I mostly did it for bookbinding purposes — yes, I bind books, although I lack the time and space to do it properly: the best I've managed recently was a small stab-bound sketchbook a couple of years ago — so whether I actually do anything with it beyond that is in the air. It's been sat around long enough, longer won't kill it or me.
One of the side effects from finishing this round of editing is it finally kickstarted me to write, albeit a little sporadically. I'm particularly happy that I managed to write a new chapter to the first arc of Radial, something I started years ago and lacked the impetus to continue given it's now spanning three or four main arcs and various short stories. I need to figure out how that's going, and again, whether that sees the light of day is anyone's guess. It's... not romantic. In the slightest. Alex and Milos loathe one another in this arc, even if they end up together (this really is not a spoiler given that 1. the storylines are all over the place already and 2. no one is ever gonna read it so who the fuck cares?)
The main problem is the day job has started taking up a lot of time. In the region of between 40-60 hours a week sort of time. It doesn't leave much time to actually write, given I have all the fun of being a full-time carer and also looking after the pets on top of it all. Which means, of course, this is the only time I get that itch in my fingers to write... probably because I have no time to write... or read or play video games — currently on Far Cry: New Dawn, Far Cry 5 being a game I somehow wrote an entire sub-narrative about in my head during many, many hours of playthrough.
I have managed to snag a few episodes of The Umbrella Academy though, which I love (so far; Gerard Way's stories have a bad habit of becoming incredibly sad). Gotta take the enjoyment where I can I guess, since I don't get much of it these days.
...Haven't I used that as a title before?
I've been a quiet lately, mostly because I've had the Horrific 'Flu (tm) that's given me a still-lingering cough, ridiculously bad sneezes and regular thumping headaches. Not really conducive to doing very much. Annnnd honestly I still feel like a poorly-reanimated corpse, which is proving fun.
BUT! Despite all that, I've finally got off my backside and started editing (again) the story occasionally known as Gabrys, and occasionally as The Prince's Last Whatever The Hell It Was. ...It needs a better name. I think it's working better for it, although who actually knows? It's slow going though, especially as some chapters needed at least half of them rewriting, which means braining, which is proving awkward with the headaches and having to fit it in between work.
So this is mostly just an update to say, I'm not dead even if I feel like it.
And that this round of editing is very almost proving fun. But only very almost.
Asexual, aromantic, and transmasc non-binary. No, I have no idea how I ended up writing romance either.