?

Log in

Working for wages

Jan. 19th, 2016 | 07:22 pm

Originally published at Megan Lindholm. You can comment here or there.

Once upon a time, I was not a full time writer. I was a writer, and the book it took me a year to write earned me about $4500.00 That’s not a livable income, even with an employed spouse. So I worked many another job as well.

I worked as a waitress in Seattle at a restaurant called Sambo’s Pancake House. Yes. Later, they changed the name to Seasons after a bankruptcy, I believe, but it still foundered and went out of business. I worked there in the early 80’s, a tough time in the Seattle area.

At that time, it was perfectly legal for a restaurant to pay their wait staff less than minimum wage. The assumption was that the tips we earned made up the difference, and so we were actually getting the minimum wage. The restaurant demanded that we report enough tips to show that we were getting minimum wage, and they looked aside from the fact that some of us made more than that.

I worked hard for those tips. At night, I emptied out the coffee cup I kept under the counter and took all my change home. Dollars were pretty rare and very welcome. My kids helped me roll the coins into coin holders, and we took them to Albertsons and bought our groceries with my tips. Shortly before I left Seasons, the restaurant inaugurated a new rule. Wait staff were expected to share tips with the new hostess they had hired and with the dish washer who sometimes doubled as a bus boy. It didn’t strike me as fair at the time. They were not putting up with the rude remarks nor doing all the little extra service perks that earned a good tip. Nonetheless, I shared.

Recently Washington State voted to increase the minimum wage, in increments, to $15 an hour from $9.67 an hour. Currently it has risen to $10 or $11, depending on how many employees the business has. That’s a leap upward and restaurants said they might be hard pressed to keep up with that and still keep menu prices low.

So, some restaurants have come up with a solution. They add and automatic 20% service charge to the bill. And advertise that there is no need to tip anymore.

Who gets that 20%? The restaurants. And they redistribute it so that all employees now make the new state minimum wage. Unsurprisingly, some wait staff are now taking home less money than they used to. And with it, I imagine (If I were working there, frankly) goes the incentive to do all those extra little services to earn a good tip.

I strongly favor a living wage. But it should be paid by the employers rather than by the other employees. I think this is an extremely poor way to raise the minimum wage and redistribute income so that the dishwashers are paid on a par. It feels dishonest to me. And I do wonder how the patrons will react when the option of tipping for excellent service becomes a requirement to be served at all.

Tags:

Link | Leave a comment | Share

New Year’s Resolutions

Jan. 2nd, 2016 | 10:50 am

Originally published at Megan Lindholm. You can comment here or there.

Are they futile? Do they just make us feel bad when we fail? I think that happens only if you approach them with the wrong attitude. The goal is improvement. Not perfection, I don’t think I’ll achieve that. But improvement.

So for 2016 I have chosen three words: Efficiency, clarity and simplicity.

I will activate these three words today.

Simplicity: I’m going to start with my kitchen cupboards. Everything out where I can see it. Outdated? Dispose of it. Never going to use that ingredient? Donate it. Someone wants a can of sardines in tomato sauce, but it’s not me or Diego cat. Put it all back in an orderly manner. That’s something I can do in one hour. And then it’s done. And I continue my regular life the rest of the day. Tomorrow, I will find another one hour chore that creates simplicity in my life and do it.

Efficiency: I will pay each of my bills as they come in. Then I will scan if needed and shred and get it out of the office. No more misplaced bills or stacks of paper. Resolve to put things away, not put things down. Plan the weeks meals, shop once. That will be reviving a lot of old habits that have fallen by the wayside. And I hope to add new ones.

Clarity: I need clarity in my ambitions and in my relationships. Gentle honesty about how much time I have to give to people. Clarity for me to know what I can accomplish in one day, in one week, in one month.

I think I can use these three words to reduce anxiety in my life, and to become a calmer and more rational person. That is my hope. And the goal is still improvement, not perfection.

Tags:

Link | Leave a comment | Share

Degenerate me!

Dec. 28th, 2015 | 12:26 pm

Originally published at Megan Lindholm. You can comment here or there.

My goodness, it’s dusty in here. I haven’t done a post here in a long, long time.

So. Well. I’m facing another new year with Robin Hobb hogging the keyboard and the writing time. I do hope I’ll find a bit of space for at least a few short stories and novellas in 2016. There’s a character and a setting that trapped in my brain, and neither one of us will be happy until she gets out.

In the mean time, I am dealing with the aging process. Not gracefully, I admit, but dealing with it. It’s more than looking at Christmas snapshots of my siblings and wondering how they suddenly got so old! And gray! And then checking my own silvering locks in the mirror.

It’s more than declining night vision, which is far more annoying and inconvenient than you might think. Friends in town and an invitation to dinner. Oh, sorry, can’t. Have to be home before nightfall if I’m driving. Parties at a local convention. No, no, I’m afraid that sundown is at 4:20, so I’d best be on the road by 3 PM. Or drag along someone who is willing to pick me up in the morning, stay all day and then drive me all the way home that night.

But the worst is the grinding realization that some parts of me are just wearing out. Not only my eyes. Hips and knees. Degenerative arthritis they call it, or as Dr. Attig explained it to me, ‘ordinary wear and tear on your body.’ Meaning that I’ve just worn out some of the bendy parts. Hips and knees, well, those can be replaced, though I’m thankful I’m not near that yet.

Ah but the typity finger thingys? The fingers that have been relentlessly pressing down keys for well over forty years now on a daily basis? I haven’t heard of finger joint replacements. And that, if you’ll pardon the pun, is where the rub is. It’s bad enough that I have to call Chase, the new assistant, into the office kitchens to peel the foil off the top of the coffee creamer for me. Bad enough that I have to request pill bottles that don’t have child proof caps. I can no longer grip tight enough to tug open a bag of chips. I have to use a tool to weed my garden now. And hand snippers for pruning the trees are painful to use. But the worst, the very worst, is my space bar thumbs. ‘E’ may be the most common letter in the English language, but there is a space between every two words. And my long ago training as a typist means that I reflexively still hit the space bar twice at the end of every sentence. Like that. Thud, thud.

Years ago, I tried speech to text software. It was pretty good. Great for email. But I couldn’t write with it. It wasn’t even that I tend to ‘do the voices’ if I read aloud. It is something about the wiring in my brain, I think. Story comes from my brain and out my fingers. It does not divert to my mouth. I sit and ‘um’ and ‘er’ and the software faithfully records each sound. Halting words come out of my mouth, but it’s not my story telling voice. And as I doggedly pushed on, my fingers would creep toward the keyboard. Just to fix that little mistake. Just to insert that comma. Maybe to change that word. And soon I was typing away again.

So what is the solution. Simple. I keep on typing!

Best wishes to any who may chance upon this rather strange entry as we stagger toward 2016.

Tags:

Link | Leave a comment | Share

Liavek, in France

Feb. 25th, 2014 | 02:51 pm

Originally published at Megan Lindholm. You can comment here or there.

Liavek BD

Many years ago, in 1985, when Steven Brust and I were but junior writers, we were invited to submit stories to a shared world anthology entitled LIAVEK. The world was loosely based on a game scenario that Will Shetterley and Emma Bull had invented. The idea was that they would present the world and the magic system to a group of authors and invite us to each create a story within that framework.

I did not know Steve at the time, but I had read at least one of his books. Jhereg was the heartwarming tale of a boy and his small dragon . . . not. More like a witch and his familiar working as temporary assassins. Well, not as a temp job, but as in temporarily making people dead. Um. I really think you need to read this book to get what I’m talking about. Anyway, I read, I liked, and when I was invited to submit a story for the first Liavek anthology, and I asked Will and Emma to steer me toward a nasty and dangerous character in the city, they immediately recommended Steven Brust’s Count Dashif. And I was in!

Over the course of writing for the anthologies, our characters crossed paths and discovered connections. Strange to say, so did Steve and I! It was a wonderful experience to write in parallel with him and years later it would lead to us collaborating on a novel, The Gypsy.

And now, close to thirty years since we first wrote together, the Liavek stories have been translated into French and will appear soon from ActuSF. For those of you who speak French, here is a lovely interview on Liavek and writing that I did with ActuSF.

If you had told me back then that this would happen . . . I never would have believed it.

Tags:

Link | Leave a comment | Share

Dangerous Women, or Travels with Kat, the Evil Assistant

Dec. 17th, 2013 | 10:59 pm

Originally published at Megan Lindholm. You can comment here or there.

Well, it started out as a lovely idea! And ultimately, all the problems endured were well worth the journey.

Dangerous Women, a new anthology edited by Gardner Dozois and George RR Martin, debuted at #18 on the Best Seller list! I’m extremely happy about this, as one of my stories, “Neighbors” is included in the book.

But before it debuted, I was invited to help launch the book from The Jean Cocteau Cinema, a small theater in Santa Fe that had recently been saved from going dark when it was purchased by George R R Martin. I leaped at the opportunity. I’d never been to Santa Fe, and many of the writers who were attending are among my favorite authors.

So I set out with Robin Hobb’s trusty evil assistant Kat.

Our first hurdle was presented by American Eagle airlines.
When we got to the airport, we attempted to get our boarding passes from American Airlines. Kat’s passport would not scan but eventually she found a number on the e-ticket that American Airlines recognized. It listed our names, Kat selected both of us, and then it printed out a slip that said we were at the wrong airlines. That was all. No hint as to why a ticket purchased by American Airlines was not a ticket on an American Airlines flight. A wait at the counter, and the nice lady sent us to Alaska Airlines. A wait at that counter, and then boarding passes obtained, we started through security.

There at SeaTac, something happened to Kat that previously had happened to Robin Hobb, but to few others of our acquaintance. She was taken aside, her hands swabbed for explosive residue. Okay. On we went. At security, she was taken aside, wanded, and then patted down. Okay. Two ‘random’ checks for Kat. Note that she had used her employee Robin Hobb credit card to book the flight.

At Alaska, our boarding passes would not scan, but the attendant typed them in and we boarded the plane. We enjoyed an uneventful flight to Los Angeles. We had over an hour to our next flight, so our plan was to find our gate, get a bite to eat, and travel on to Santa Fe.

We landed, and deplaned, and looked around for our next flight. Our tickets said American Eagle. The American Eagle flight to Santa Fe did not show up on any of the departure/arrival boards we could find. We had to ask at a counter to be directed to an obscure door where, the Bejeweled-playing attendant assured us, a shuttle would soon come. We were hungry but resolved to find our gate and then eat before boarding. We had 45 minutes left. Surely that would be enough?

The shuttle took its sweet time to arrive. We got on, and then got off. We started to go inside, but were halted. This was not our destination. We boarded a second shuttle. It took us to an obscure gate that appeared to still be under construction. Food was available from one vendor, and about of the quality one might get from a corner convenience store. As the Kat cannot eat gluten, her choices were even more limited than mine. But eventually, yes, we did get on the American Eagle airplane.

We sat and waited. Then we were told the airplane had a problem, so we de-planed. And eventually got on another American Eagle plane. We sat and waited. Then we were told the cargo hatch would not shut. Another wait, and the hatch was finally closed and off to Santa Fe we flew.

We claimed out suitcases upon landing, and rented a car from Avis. Avis apologized that the outside of the Ford Explorer was dirty. The weather was too cold for car washing. No problem! The inside was fine and we liked its road handling ability. Off we went.

The Hotel Santa Fe completely charmed both of us. Big, welcoming fireplace! A nice room. We were late for a welcoming party due to our earlier aircraft delays, but our GPS worked well and we found ourselves driving through snowy roads over the low hills until we reached the lovely home of Melinda Snodgrass. The scent of pinon welcomed us, and we spent a long and lovely evening enjoying hospitality and wonderful writerly company!
The food was very nice, the conversation amazing. I learned that George RR Martin has four minions to my paltry one, but decided I was keeping mine all the same. A light snow began to fall, and so we headed back to our hotel.

The next day we explored Santa Fe a bit. It’s a lovely place. The cold weather kept us dashing in and out of stores, and art galleries and book stores. We consumed excellent food, bought many touristy items, visited a chapel with a miraculous spiral staircase and attended late Mass at St. Francis Cathedral.
The next day we arose, did a bit more exploring, met up with Kat’s friend Rachel who helped us with an insider’s tour of Santa Fe, had a lovely dinner with Gardner and George, and then on the Cinema. The book launch was amazing fun! George Martin did a question and answer session with the attending authors as panelists, we each had the opportunity to do a brief reading, and then we signed books for attendees.
In all, a wonderful experience for me. I had the pleasure of meeting Sam Sykes, Diana Rowland, Diana Gabaldon, Melinda Snodgrass, Carrie Vaughn and S. M. Sterling, as well as conversation with George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois. As we parked the car, Kat noted that a tiny rock ding close to the windshield wiper was just beginning to climb up the glass.

The next morning, Kat and I had time for a bit of Christmas shopping and then headed out to our rental car. It was cold, very cold. And as we drove, the crack from the tiny rock ding began to travel up the windshield. I hadn’t bought rental car insurance, as my business credit card is supposed to cover that. And besides, we hadn’t put the ding in the window, so no worries.

I thought.

We arrived at the tiny Santa Fe airport to find our flight delayed by several hours. And Avis thought otherwise about the crack in the windshield. We were told we were responsible for it. No matter that a dirty windshield had obscured the ding when we accepted the car. We were liable. First bummer of the day.

We waited a long time for our flight. Bad weather back east had delayed many flights. Then our airplane came, circled the Santa Fe airport, and then flew on to Albuquerque. Apparently there was something wrong with a flap, and it was too serious to be fixed at the little airport. Another wait, and we were told that all flights from the airport were now cancelled. We held back and let others stampede to the counter. Some were quite wroth with the attendants, but really, what control did they have. Kat and I did note to ourselves that this was the 3rd American Eagle plane in a row that seemed to have something wrong with the plane itself. Not reassuring. And when our luggage was returned to us, the collapsible handle of my suitcase was stuck in the half up position. It wouldn’t go up and it wouldn’t go down. Lovely.

By the time we reached our turn at the counter, the shuttle carrying most of the others to Albuquerque had been filled and left. The woman at the counter said we could taken a second shuttle there, then board a late flight for Los Angeles. The airlines would pay for the shuttle ride, and a hotel in Los Angeles.

A driver in a clean, warm car gave us and another lady with a large load of luggage a ride to Albuquerque. The hour long night drive was actually pleasant. I wished I were able to see more of the scenery. The only unpleasant moment was when he off loaded us at the airport and drove off, leaving the poor woman with us standing and looking at her four suitcases. We helped her get them inside and got in line behind her.

Kat’s passport wouldn’t scan. My passport wouldn’t scan. We went to the counter for help. Yes, they could help us get our boarding passes. Could we get a voucher for food. No, they couldn’t help us with that.

At the counter, the attendant accidentally booked Kat’s suitcase all the way through to Seattle and sent it on its way. I was still struggling to get the handle down on mine. After a bit of a struggle, we were able to get Kat’s suitcase back and book it only to Los Angeles. I ended up completely unpacking my suitcase on a chair in the airport, struggling to get the handle down to no avail, re-packing it, and talking them into checking it to Los Angeles as it was.

Okay. A bad luck day, but there it was. We were on our way to LA. We could deal with this.

Little was open in the airport. We looked forward to some sort of a meal in Los Angeles. At security, Kat was swabbed again for explosives. And again, she was randomly chosen for a wanding and a pat down. On we went to the gate, where we waited. Flight delayed. Then the gate was changed. Another trot through the terminal, and then, finally, the flight came. Our boarding passes would not scan, but an attendant typed our information and we boarded the plane. Hurray! We took out our books and settled in.

Ours were the only seats on the flight where the overhead reading lights wouldn’t work. Of course.

We landed at the same miserable half-finished gate in Los Angeles. We stood in line, and were given a phone number to call for a hotel for the night, and a voucher for breakfast the next day. $14. Okay. Off to the main terminal, where we claimed our luggage, and then out to find a shuttle for the Holiday Inn. We didn’t wait long, and were glad to arrive. We were too tired to eat, and nothing was open anyway. A simple room, five hours of sleep, and then we were up and on the shuttle back to the airport. Nothing was open in the hotel for food. Off to American Airlines. We hopped off and went to check in our luggage.

Only, NO, not again! The self-check spit out a note that we were at the wrong airlines. We needed Alaska Airlines. Two terminals away.

So, after a brisk jog down the sidewalk with my recalcitrant suitcase jouncing and clipping me all the way, we managed to check our luggage in at Alaska. They understood about the balky handle, too.

Another trip through security. Another wanding and pat down for Kat. Totally random, of course!

We got to our gate, and found that our $14 breakfast voucher would not feed both of us. Well, had we really expected it would? No. We got some airport food for breakfast, knowing we would regret it later but we were both really hungry.

Then off to our gate, where again our boarding passes would not scan. We were keyed in and got onto the airplane. Where Alaska had given us extra legroom seat. Ah. An uneventful flight home. Fred picked us up and we got to the house and ate real food.

Upon unpacking, we both found slips from the TSA in our checked suitcases. They had both been opened and inspected. Randomly, of course.

So. That is the tale of my adventure, shared at length. Why? Because I do think that some information needs to be shared.

I doubt I will fly American Eagle Airlines again. Nor will I rent from Avis again. Nice people served us at the face-to-face level, but the corporate level fails my expectations. I should not get 3 defective airplanes in a row. And being held financially accountable for a rock chip crack on a dirty windshield is similar to being held accountable for a tire that goes flat, or a radiator leak.

And the other piece of information I want to share. For the past six years, I have been regularly wanded, patted down, had my fingers swabbed for explosives, and had my laptop opened and my keyboard swabbed. I am always told that I’ve been ‘randomly’ selected. My record was on a trip home from Amsterdam, where first my suitcase was ‘randomly’ searched, followed by a ‘random’ pat-down as I went through security, and finally I was stopped at the boarding area of my flight, for a ‘random’ search of my carry-on. I do not know anyone else who has been swabbed for explosives at the airport, let alone anyone to whom it has happened more than once. Only me. And now Kat.

Robin Hobb writes lots of email. It goes out to readers in response from letters all over the world. Unsurprisingly, the word ‘assassin’ crops up in many of those emails. It’s in three of my titles. And I’m sure it’s one of the button words that NSA scans for in email.

I love my country, and I’m probably more of a patriot than is currently fashionable. I want terrorism stopped. But I still deplore private emails and phone calls being screened by the NSA. Even more do I deplore sloppy workmanship. If, indeed, I am being scrutinized because I write a lot of email with ‘red flag’ words, then please, do read the entire email and realize that I am just a writer replying to readers about my books. Just because my assistant booked the flights using a Robin Hobb credit card does not mean Kat deserves to be treated with such a high level of suspicion. While I take pride in being among Dangerous Women, it does not mean we are dangerous women.

Until I watched this happening to Kat, saw her hands swabbed twice and saw her patted down at literally every security check point, I was able to speak about my security experiences wryly. At every point of our travel, our passports and ID’s had to be hand entered rather than scanned. Every single boarding pass has to be typed in rather than scanned.

Before this trip, I could wonder if I were being paranoid, if, indeed, like my bad luck with the flights and the cars, I was simply drawing the ‘search her’ card in a bizarrely regular fashion. But this was just a little too peculiar. A tad too ‘un’random.

Am I paranoid? Of course. But that doesn’t mean it’s without reason. And it’s time to share my experience with others.

Tags:

Link | Leave a comment {1} | Share

Hypericon

Jun. 6th, 2013 | 08:44 am

Originally published at Megan Lindholm. You can comment here or there.

Hypericon is a speculative fiction and gaming convention in Nashville, Tennessee. It’s coming up fast, but you can still get the pre-registration price if you sign up before June 10!

I will be there, masquerading as Robin Hobb. As always, I’ll be happy to sign any Megan Lindholm books or stories as well as the Robin Hobb ones.

Hope to see you there!

Tags:

Link | Leave a comment | Share

Writer Beware!

Mar. 8th, 2013 | 01:44 pm

Originally published at Megan Lindholm. You can comment here or there.

If you’ve read my blogs or facebook posts at all, then you’ve seen me recommend this site more than once.

Today, there is a wonderful article on Book View Cafe Blog that highlights just why this site is so important to writers both old and new.  There’s a terrible new e-book contract out there from a very reputable publishing house.  Random House. 

I won’t repeat their entire article here. Go, read, and please send a note of thanks to the hardworking people at Writer Beware who are watching our backs.

Tags:

Link | Leave a comment | Share

The Box Car Children

Mar. 7th, 2013 | 10:13 pm

Originally published at Megan Lindholm. You can comment here or there.

What is it about this book?

I read it probably over fifty years ago. As I recall, my older sister had recommended it to me, and it was every bit as good as she said it would be. 

For the past few days, I’ve been reliving the adventure as my grand-daughter does her required twenty minutes a night of reading aloud. Only the adventures of the four orphaned and hungry children who seem to relish the challenge of making a home out of an abandoned box car have made those sessions stretch past the twenty minute allottment. 

Perhaps it is how bravely the children approach the challenges, and how creatively the deal with getting what they need.  They deliberately search for a dump where they can salvage things. They not only put up a shelf in their boxcar but beautify it with a vase of flowers.

The story is so simply written and told. We don’t know how the children were orphaned, or how they left the home they were raised in.  We simply meet them as they go forth into the world to survive.

My grand daughter loves this story just as much as I did when I read it half a century ago.

 

Tags:

Link | Leave a comment {1} | Share

Speculate!

Mar. 5th, 2013 | 04:56 pm

Originally published at Megan Lindholm. You can comment here or there.

Over at Speculate you will find a review of my story collection: The Inheritance & Other Stories.

Here is Speculate’s own description:

Welcome to Episode 69 of Speculate! The Podcast for Writers, Readers and Fans. With this episode we begin a new triptych of shows on the work of Robin Hobb and Megan Lindholm, looking at the 2011 short story collection The Inheritance and Other Stories–the first time both pseudonyms have been brought together in one volume. In particular we talk about Lindholm’s stories “A Touch of Lavender” and “The Fifth Squashed Cat,” along with Hobb’s stories “The Inheritance” and “Cat’s Meat”; although both names belong to one author, the voices and emphases are quite different, and we look at both those differences and the assured touch of a speculative fiction master evident throughout all of the book. If you like what you hear, don’t forget to check back next week when we’ll continue the triptych with our interview of Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm herself. Until then, thanks as always for listening to the show, and please continue to spread the word.

I had a wonderful time doing the interview via Skype (but it is audio only!) despite the challenges of doing this in a lively household. The first time we attempted it, I was knocked off the internet several times, possibly by my home phone ringing.

In the second episode, I waged a mostly silent battle with Diego the desk cat over whether or not he was allowed to stroll on the keyboard, or perhaps just sit on it during the interview. And, of course, I was knocked off Skype once, and had three phone calls making my house phone ring. I’m trusting those will be barely audible.

Nonetheless, it was very enjoyable and I hope readers will likewise enjoy the interview when it comes up.

In the meantime, I commend to your attention the Speculate interview with Peter V. Brett and Myke Cole, findable (did I just invent that word) on the right hand side of the Skype site. Good stuff there.

Happy March!

Tags:

Link | Leave a comment | Share

See You at DragconCon and Decatur Book Festival

Aug. 29th, 2012 | 12:48 pm

Originally published at Megan Lindholm. You can comment here or there.

I’ll be tagging along with Robin Hobb for these events!

As always, I’m glad to sign Megan Lindholm items as well as Robin Hobb ones, or to have a cup of coffee with you and discuss the older book.

I’ll hope to see some readers there.  My complete schedule is up at Robinhobb.com and on the Robin Hobb Facebook.

Tags:

Link | Leave a comment {1} | Share