Wednesday, January 20, 2010

You Can Keep Him, by Matt Birch

I can't wait for Matt's book to be published. I've read most of it, and I can tell you it will make you laugh, cry, and want to be a better person.

Check out the first trailer:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Taking a moment to vent about AT&T's terrible service

Yes, I know I'm on deadline. Yes, I know I am supposed to be in hibernation. Yes, I have to get this off my chest.

I've been with AT&T for approximately 10 years. I have spent, very conservatively speaking, at least $25,000 with them through the years on phones and service. Now with four phones on my plan, my bill averages $270 a month.

I won't get into how terrible their coverage is. You've certainly seen the Verizon ads poking fun at AT&T's coverage. "There's a map for that."

Obviously they struck a nerve because AT&T now has their own ads touting the speed of their 3G network. Newsflash AT&T: Speed is great if you just happen to be standing next to a cell tower having a sandwich, but does you little good if you have no signal at all.

AT&T's argument is like saying: "Look at us! We make the fastest sports cars on the planet, but they don't always start! But zooooooom, when they do, baby watch out!"

Back to venting. A few weeks ago I added a line to my account for a "family phone", a phone available to the kids but tightly controlled by Mom and Dad. They have access to it when they babysit, when we're gone, field trips, etc.

If only it worked.

Within two weeks the phone was dead. No problem, right? Just take it back? Sure, if you have the original box. When I went to AT&T, I was told they couldn't replace it without every stitch of the original packaging, even though I was well within the 30-day return window.

My options?

1. Purchase a replacement model for $299. (That's the price you pay when you're not activating service, which is where wireless carriers make their real profits. Phones are just a means to a contract.)

2. Roll the dice and purchase a used phone with no warranty on eBay from some guy in a "Finding Nemo" bathroom logging on from his mother's half-finished basement.

3. Pay an early termination fee of $175.

4. Throw the dead phone in the Shenandoah River and pay for the service, without actually using it, until the contract expires. Then renew my contract and get a phone at the "new customer" discount.

So I tried calling. What did AT&T say?

"No box, no replacement. No box, no canceling. No box, no soup for you."

Frustrated, I sent an admittedly "aggressive" e-mail through their web site. To their credit, a polite woman called from customer service, reiterated their policy, but made an enticing offer to keep me from leaving. AT&T would credit my account for up to $40 if I replaced the dead phone with one of their cheapo pre-paid models available at finer convenience stores everywhere.

I wonder if she'd also cover my Big Gulp.

Whew. I feel better already. Now it's back to comparison shopping at Verizon and Sprint.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Deadlines, cabins and hotels, oh my!

Well it's that time again. A deadline is racing toward me at 1,000 miles-per-hour and I'm steadying myself for impact.

When I signed with Penguin/Berkley, we decided to try two novels in 2010. The first, THE CROSS GARDENER, will be released nationally on March 2. The second should hit stores in the fall, presumably late August or early September.

The first, which I'm very proud of, has been polished and in production since August. The second is -- well -- um -- well -- much of the second is still lodged in my noggin.

If you've followed me or the blog in the past, you know that I work best under the pressure of deadlines. With the exception of CHRISTMAS JARS, every manuscript has been a very late bloomer. Such will (hopefully) be the case (gulp) with the new one.

Since March of last year, I will have written CHRISTMAS JARS REUNION, PENNY'S CHRISTMAS JAR MIRACLE, THE CROSS GARDENER, spent the fall on the road promoting the first two, and finished my fall 2010 release.

I need a nap.

But, sadly, no nap. Unless writing hibernation counts.

As of Monday (1/4) I've said goodbye to e-mail, Facebook, and showering until the latest manuscript is in. I'll spend time at a dear friend's cabin in the mountains of West Virginia, long days at my office in Woodstock, and, if history is any guide, a few nights at a local hotel in protective custody.

This might all sound a little strange. But, actually, with few exceptions, most writers operate this way. Everyone works a little differently, but many of my full-time author chums plug away slowly day-by-day until the agent or editor start pressing, and then they go into Hulk Hogan lockdown mode until the last page is written.

And now it's my turn. I'll try to come up for air as time permits, but it's time to generate high daily word counts and purple prose.

If you've emailed, called, or Tweeted me this week, rest assured I'm not ignoring you. Unless you're you-know-who, in which case I'm absolutely ignoring you and considering a restraining order.

Stay warm. Read a good book. And, as my mother used to say, remember who you are and what you stand for.