Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Why I quit my job.

I couldn't think of a clever title, so yeah.  I quit a little over two weeks ago.  On my last day, I turned my keys into the security office and let them know that I was no longer an employee of the college.
“Where ya goin’?” the (white-haired) security guard asked.
Very honestly, I replied, “I’m taking some time off.”
He snorted.  “You’re too young to take time off.”
And I got to bust out the immortal line from Indiana Jones: “It’s not the years, sir.  It’s the mileage.”

___

In this economy, quitting your as-secure-as-it-gets job with benefits after almost seven years is generally looked upon as an act of lunacy.  Especially when I don’t have another job lined up—nor am I looking for one. 
Indeed, as I was making my escape plans, it felt, more than once, like I was about to step off a cliff.  It didn’t matter how long I’d been thinking about it (since Thanksgiving).  It didn’t matter how carefully I went over the numbers.  What I was about to do was mad—but also exhilarating, liberating, cathartic. 
It is, quite possibly, the smartest thing I’ve ever done. 
I figured if I cash in my retirement fund, after taxes, I would be left with a year’s salary.  Maybe 18 months if I make it stretch.  (Nothing says futile like realizing seven years of paying into the retirement kitty = only one year’s salary.)
The only hitch was insurance.  My husband is a transplant patient.  He needs antirejection medication to keep his one functioning kidney—well, functioning.  Insurance is an absolute necessity.  But then, my organization, like so many others, has been trimming back our benefits every year since I started working there.  I keep paying more for less coverage. 
And now—oh, looky here.  There’s this little thing called ObamaCare.  I sincerely hope that companies and individuals understand how important the Affordable Care Act is to workers.  We are no longer married to jobs that treat us badly because we rely on them for insurance access. 
So—income for the foreseeable future?  Check.  Insurance?  Check.  And, if all else fails?  Well, we’ve been poor before.
But in the end, sometimes logic isn’t the deciding argument.  It was the list of reasons I wrote out that really swayed me.  I won’t call them reasons of the heart.  That’s entirely too hokey, and anyway, it comes from a place deeper and even more essential than that. 
Let’s call them reasons of the soul:
First and foremost, my health.  I have suffered from migraines since I was seven years old.  Briefly, in my twenties, I found a preventative that kept them at bay.  About five years ago, that preventative quit working.  No one knows why.  Since then, the headaches have gotten progressively worse.  In February, I had an ocular migraine that put me in the hospital.  From January to the beginning of April, I missed 25 days of work.  That’s a solid month of working days gone.  So, on top of being in (literally) blinding pain, I felt bad about being absent all the time.  Talk about a negative feedback loop.
Almost equally important, I was miserable.  Like many people, I hated my job (which was, of course, affecting my health).  I hate the working life.  I hate everything about it.  I’m not a morning person.  I hate driving.  I hate that work takes time away from what I actually care about, which is writing.  I have been in the workforce for 14 years (20, if you count the minimum wage jobs I worked as a teenager) and I have precious little to show for it. 
I’m a workaholic.  I know this about myself.  My brother is also a workaholic.  How could we be otherwise?  We were raised by a pair of workaholics.  But I keep looking around and asking myself—is work ethic really such a virtue?    
During the years that Patrick was sick and I was working, (sometimes two jobs), and going to school nearly killed me.  But it also made me a better person in a lot of ways, a stronger person.  It made me see how little time we have on this planet.  I don’t want to look back on my life and see that I’ve spent it as an office drudge for bullshit pay. 
And money isn’t even the biggest issue for me.  I’ve never considered myself a materialistic person.  Don’t get me wrong, I expect to be compensated appropriately for my work and my expertise.  Otherwise, the only reason I want nice things, like fancy clothes, is to wear to the office.  It’s the classic dilemma-- I don’t own the things, the things own me.  When I think of what I really want to do in life, which is to write and travel, I realize that work is actually the thing preventing me from doing either. 

___

If I quit, I realized, my time would be completely my own.  I could focus on getting healthy.  Oh, I don’t harbor any illusions about the migraines improving.  I’ve had them my whole life.  But being home would mean I could implement some more aggressive lifestyle changes that could, maybe—just maybe, reduce them. 
With the job, I had to expend so much of my energy just dragging myself to and from the office, so that at the end of the day, I was left with nothing.  No energy to take care of my home.  No energy to visit friends and family.  No energy to go out and do the things I wanted to do, and certainly no energy to write.  That’s fucked.  Even more fucked is the idea that I am spending the few good hours that I do have in some fucking office.  Life is too short to be anything but absolutely free. 
The farther I wade into this—this idea that I don’t have to work for someone else, I began to realize that what I’ve done may be more than crazy.  It may just be a revolutionary act. 


Monday, April 21, 2014

Blog Tour: Tales of Finndragon by Richie Earl


I'm very pleased, as always, to be a part of a fellow writer's blog tour.  I'm very glad to have met Richie, who is a tireless promoter of indie authors.  Please enjoy an excerpt of his Finndragon books, and do be sure to visit his blog, One Thousand Worlds in One Thousand Words, where he showcases scifi/fantasy novels (link below).

Thanks for sharing, Richie!

~~~~~~

Tales of Finndragon is an original and unique fantasy adventure, which will appeal primarily to older children and teens, but also adult readers who like a bit of escapism. It is the story of three ordinary children, Emma, Megan, Scott and their pet dog Bones in their quest to find their father, who has been missing for nearly a year.

The story is based on an ancient Welsh legend which has been kept alive by bedtime stories for countless generations. The two sisters and their brother unravel the riddle of an ancient scroll. This helps them find the gateway that leads to a 6th century Welsh kingdom in search of their dad. The scroll states that anyone who stays in the kingdom for more than a year can never leave. The journey through the gateway is a mini-adventure in itself; involving finding their way through a maze of caves, and ends with them entering the magnificent medieval Castell y Mynydd.

~~~~~

This extract is taken from the second and concluding book in the series, Return to Finndragon’s Den:



They struggled on towards the hoped for sanctuary of the huts, ever watchful and always frightened. Emma began to realise that whatever Finndragon had unleashed upon King Dafydd and his people, was far greater and infinitely worse than ever before.

However brave Scott was trying to be, he couldn’t help but let out the odd whimper or cry of pain. Emma called for a halt, partly because of her brother, but equally for Megan and herself to recuperate from their exertions. A five minute rest and they were underway again. Their progress was still slow, painfully slow for all of them, but at last they neared the small cluster of five still erect huts. All the doors were closed and the windows shuttered tight; as if whoever sought shelter inside hoped these flimsy dwellings could do what no other part of the castle had managed to do; withstand the might of whatever evil force had devastated the rest of the castle.

“You had both better wait here,” Emma indicated a spot some twenty yards from the nearest hut. “I’ll check it out myself.”

Scott sat on the ground and rested his back against a small pile, which had probably once been a similar construction to those Emma now approached. Both he and Megan sat silently; hardly able to breathe as they watched on nervously.

Emma walked extremely slowly toward the first hut, cautiously looking left and right as she prayed there would be no demons lurking inside. She got within five yards when she was knocked backwards slightly by an unseen, but rigid object. She was hurt a little, but utterly shocked at what had just happened. She edged forwards with arms outstretched, feeling for any obstructions. Suddenly she felt something, she couldn’t see anything, but she could definitely feel it.

“There’s something here!” she called. “It’s very smooth, but solid; it feels like a wall and it’s stopping me from getting to the huts.”

“Walk around it, there may be an opening somewhere,” Scott advised optimistically.

So Emma moved to the side, feeling her way all the time. The invisible barrier seemed to be curving with the shape of the hut. As she approached the next hut, the barrier changed direction slightly and followed the shape of this hut. And so it continued until Emma found her way back to where she had begun.

“There’s no way through this barrier, it’s like some kind of force field,” she said as she returned to the others. “Maybe if we shouted, whoever is inside might let us in?”

“But what if Finndragon himself is inside? It could be risky,” Megan said nervously. “We don’t want to face him just yet; we’re no match for him at all at the moment.”

Eventually they decided that the risk was worth taking and they all shouted, “Hello in there. Is there anyone there?” They waited for a few moments, looking anxiously from building to building, but there was no movement from within. So they all repeated the call even louder, “HELLO! Is there anyone in there?”

Still nothing stirred inside the magical barrier, but after a minute or so passed Emma thought she heard something. She looked at each hut in turn, listening intently to the almost inaudible sound. She couldn’t even make out exactly what type of sound it was, “Can you two hear that?” she asked her brother and sister.

Megan began to shake her head, but Scott said that he thought he could hear something too. Then Megan quickly agreed as the noise began to get louder, “I don’t know what it is,” she said uneasily pointing towards the huts, “But it doesn’t seem to be coming from in there!”

They turned their heads, looking this way and that as they scanned the horizon in all directions. “Something is coming, look!” And the two girls followed the line of Scott’s outstretched index finger. Still some way off in the distance, just about flying over what was once the outer wall of the castle, was an object which was gradually getting bigger. “It’s coming this way!” Scott cried anxiously, “It must be a Clubber; quickly, we need to find some protection.”

“But there’s nothing out here, we can’t hide and you can’t even run!” Megan replied with horror etched all over her face.

The object was beginning to loom large and as it came closer Emma remembered her phone and she scrambled through her backpack, desperately looking for her secret weapon.

They could now see the entity was some kind of flying creature, but the dread in their hearts heightened as they realised the beast was obviously no Clubber. Its wingspan was so long that it was starting to block out the orange horizon and it was approaching faster than any Clubber could fly. Panic started to set in as they realised there was nowhere to hide.

The high-flying creature was now so close that they could start to make out its features, silhouetted against the shimmering surroundings. Emma guessed it must be at least twenty feet in length with a muscular, scaly and reptilian body. It had a long jagged tail which tapered to a sharp point and four powerful limbs descended from its huge body.

As the beast got closer still, they could see it was blood red in colour. This almost camouflaged it against the glowing background and its underbelly was an even darker shade again. The beast had an enormous head set on an elongated neck, with a long snout protruding from the middle of its head.

Large flaring nostrils sat on the end of the snout, below which was a mouth filled with jagged teeth. The whites of its eyes were punctured by green, laser-like pupils which almost burnt into their skin. The creature moved gracefully through the air as its colossal wings beat slowly, efficiently and rhythmically, extending outwards at least the length of its huge body to either side.

~~~~~

Also be sure to check out The Legend of Finndragon's Curse:


Kindle Countdown Promotion - up to 67% discount.
The Legend of Finndragon's Curse is on offer 15th-21st April.
Return to Finndragon's Den is on offer 21st-28th April.


Available to purchase from:

Amazon - Kindle

Lulu Publishing - paperback

~~~~~


About the Author

Richie Earl is the writer of fantastical fantasy adventures. Earl's first series, Tales of Finndragon, is a two part adventure which started life as a bedtime story for his three children, who nagged him so much that he finally agreed to write a book. Only one book was intended, but Earl came to realise that a second was required.

Earl was offered a publishing contract from a small Welsh press, but after much deliberation and discussion with the publisher, decided not to accept the offer. This proved to be a shrewd move, as he later discovered the press was struggling to meet the costs of publishing and have since moved its business solely into the field of printing.

Earl is currently working on two projects, a young adult paranormal mystery and another fantasy adventure, which may turn into a trilogy.

Links
Twitter (@finndragons)
Book Trailer            




Sunday, April 6, 2014

Ebook Subscription Services (or why you may never see me again)

So two big things happened last month for indie authors:

1.) Scribd launched Smashwords authors on their site.  

2.) Inkbok went live.  

Both sites are ebook subscription services, which means that you pay a monthly fee to download all the books you want.  Including mine.  

Which, incidentally, my books are available here on Scribd, and here on Inkbok.  

As a Smashwords author on Scribd, I get a free subscription for a year.  Today was the first day I had a chance to sit down and tool around on the site and so far, I've downloaded . . . well, I'd really rather not say how many books I've downloaded.  Suffice it to say that I'm going to be spending a lot of quality time with my Kindle.  

A lot.    

I am reminded of when Netflix first launched.  Once upon a time, I would drop $40 a week on video rentals, easy.  I had come to prefer Hollywood Video to Blockbuster because they had a better selection of indie (yes, even then, I was an indie girl) and foreign films, but that wasn't saying much.  Then, of course, there was the  scrambling around on Monday morning to get the videos returned before the late fees kicked in.  When my husband told me about Netflix, my mouth went dry and my palms went sweaty.  I'm sure my eyes glowed with the peculiar fervor of a religious convert.  I was all, "Yes, yes we must do this thing immediately."  For about three years, my queue was constantly maxed out, and I could be found, most evenings and weekends, squarely glued to the couch, luxuriating in the thousands of film titles, new and old, foreign and domestic.  I had, indeed, found my religion. 

Now this?  This thing with Scribd and Inkbok?  Is gonna be worse.  

It's like Christmas and the Holy Grail and winning a jackpot and kittens and fresh homemade chocolate chip cookies and all kinds of great and good things all rolled up into one.  No, I don't think I'm exaggerating.  If it's possible to have the good kind of panic attack, I may be having it right now.  

In other words . . .



So, yeah.  Don't look for me for a while.  I'm going to go get hopped up on fiction.