Really, Jeff? Really?!

First, let me say thank you to Amazon for allowing a lowly, self-published children’s book author to have a safe and welcoming space through which to sell my books.  I’m thrilled to say that I’ve sold a few and given away a truckload!  I’m also proud of the 30+ reviews I’ve gotten from satisfied readers including parents, grandparents and educators.  After all, the books do have a message of kindness, friendship and being good human “beans.”  [A silly euphemism for “beings” to add a bit of levity. You will see why soon]

Despite the praise offered above, I have to say that your e-mail of August 3rd was super harsh, dude.  Here is one excerpt to refresh your memory:

We understand that you may have manipulated product reviews. Authors on Amazon.com are not allowed to manipulate ratings, feedback, or reviews.

Really? Being dishonest and crooked is not allowed? Thank you for the tip because I was certain this was acceptable behavior. Shows you what I know.

But I digress.

Since I’m barely capable of updating my author page, I found this accusation quite amusing. How does one accomplish this so-called manipulation?  I would assume tech skills are required and this Amazon seller is seriously considering getting one of those Cricket cell phones because the smart versions are just too damn intimidating. Besides,  I need bigger, Playskool-like keys so I can see the numbers better.  Get the picture?

As I read further, my shock and dismay became more and more profound.  Get a load of these little nuggets of what-the-fuck:

Violations of our policies may also violate state and federal laws, including the Federal Trade Commission Act. Amazon tries to maintain customer trust and provide the best possible shopping experience. For this reason, Amazon investigates if it learns that sellers, vendors, or others have attempted to manipulate reviews. It also investigates if it learns that third parties have offered reviews in exchange for compensation.

Breaking federal FTC laws?? Seriously, Jeff, I have 37 total reviews.  Logic would dictate that if I actually knew how to rig the system, I’d go for broke and crank that Richter scale up to at least a 6.9. You know,  all Loma Prieta like.

Perhaps you’ve been hacked by the Russians? Or the Trump campaign? I hear he’s all hot to trot to wrap you around that greasy axle known as the IRS for avoiding taxes by getting all cozy with Luxembourg, so there could be a conspiracy afoot here. You might want to have your tech peeps look into that.

Be that as it may, I believe you owe me (and perhaps others?) an apology.  Nothing too elaborate. “I’m sorry that you were wrongly accused and I hope the FTC doesn’t fine you a billion dollars” will suffice.

Fondly,

Jules Howe

The Discovery

Sometimes I buy things on-line that shouldn’t be bought on-line.

Like desk chairs.

Big mistake.

This one required assembly and I do not possess good assembly skills.

It was also too big and I kept whacking my toes on it because it stuck out from the desk too far and nothing pisses me off more than fucking up a fresh pedicure so something had to give.

Said chair now resides at a re-sale shop associated with a very worthy and distinguished charitable organization that, hopefully, is not frequented by buyers who don’t like fucking up their pedicures. 

Perhaps a nice man will buy this otherwise perfectly fine desk chair.   I’m sure he wouldn’t mind the Ragin’ Cajun polish chips embedded in the chair’s wheels.

After I wrestled this behemoth out of the back of my car and wheeled it in to my friends who volunteer there, I took a load off and had a chat during which time another generous lady dropped off a dusty, vintage box that contained something that looked like a vibrating grenade. 

Fortunately, it wasn’t a grenade because I don’t think they take grenades as a rule just like another shall-remain-nameless resale shop wouldn’t take the baby gate I tried to unload on them because they don’t take anything “that protects babies”.  They did not seem at all bothered by the dry-cleaning plastic that covered a coat I was donating.  I hope somebody with a baby doesn’t get that plastic wrapped coat since baby safety is not a priority with this shall-remain-nameless resale shop.

The vibrating grenade turned out to be a Stimu-Lax machine.  Now, to me, anything that contains the word “lax” conjures images of something that wouldn’t necessarily be the size of a grenade so said vintage box required a closer look.

The Stimu-Lax was a hand held vibrator from probably the late 50s or early 60s thus the vintage packing.  The woman who dropped it off cheerfully told us that she used it all the time when she was a kid.

Uh  huh. 

After she left, we opened it. 

Inside we found a pocket-sized paperback.  A national bestseller called How to Make Love to a Man by Alexandra Penney.  It was bright pink with a pair of lipstick lips on the front of it. 

It was “The sexiest book of the year” according to Self Magazine.

Naturally, I sharked the book since a blog opportunity of this magnitude does not come along often.  After all, a totally fine desk chair was a fair trade for a 25 cent book and there was no way in bloody hell I was leaving that store without that book.

I mean, come on! An entire book devoted to making women feel like sexual idiots?  I was in h.e.a.v.e.n.  I tore into it with the enthusiasm of a little boy with a book of matches and a can of flammable liquid.  I hadn’t been this excited since I found a travel-sized dildo in a Gucci purse my friend wanted to put on E-bay.  She was quite happy to be reunited with it, by the by.

But I digress.

The book was better than I thought.  I was on ridicule overload.  I think I actually had a spontaneous orgasm when I read the chapter headings:

Beating the Jitters (Funny. But it would have been funnier if it was Beating Off the Jitters don’t you think?)

Giving Yourself Permission(To use the Stimu-lax?)

Oral Sex Step-by-Step (There’s actually a learning curve?)

Gee, I had no idea that “learning oral sex is a little like learning to swim” and that “…in swimming, you’ve got to remember your breathing” (as opposed to holding your breath until you pass out which is always a mood killer).  Thanks, sex book!  You’ve saved my husband some future 911 calls!

Here’s the kicker….

Just before I absconded with the sex book, another lady of similar age spotted the Stimu-Lax .  “Oh, I used to play with one of those when I was a kid.” 

Uh huh.

A Window To My Soul

No, it’s not a man.

It’s Amazon.

As in dot com.

As in they know me better than anyone has a right to which can either make me feel special OR  piss me off depending on my mood.

Today, I’m on the fence as I’m not yet sure what my mood is because I’ve only had 3 cups of coffee. 

Clearly, Amazon wants me to take a hard look at myself which I try to avoid on most days because it’s risky; like putting my face up to a 12X magnifying mirror and realizing that up close, my eye-brows have taken on an Andy Rooney-esque quality and I haven’t even  noticed.  How does this happen?  I’m better off in a state of blissful ignorance.

But no,  Amazon is determined to make me a more well-rounded  individual and who am I to argue?  Jeff Bezos is a genius and I (as stated in previous posts) clearly am not a genius.   And who knows?  I may even learn something a bout myself I didn’t already know which is always helpful. 

To wit:  Amazon’s recent recommendations selected “just for me”:

A Touch of Evil – 50th Anniversary Edition DVD – starring Charleton Heston and Vivien Lee

Okay…I haven’t figured this one out yet but I’m a work in progress so be  patient.

The Extended Phenotype:  The Long Reach of the Gene (by a really smart researcher)

I may or may not have blogged about my gene pool in previous posts.  I’m looking into that.

The Quotable Atheist:  Ammunition for Non-Believers, Political Junkies, Gadflies, and Those Generally Hell-bound

I have to admit that being called a gadfly was a little hurtful.

A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste:  (by some French guy)

I never thought of myself as judgmental.  This one bugged me because I always thought that the word “judgement” was spelled j-u-d-g-m-e-n-t (no “e”).  At least this is what spell check always told me.  Then I realized that this book was translated from French to English by a British guy and leave it to the British to fuck up a word with unnecessary vowels but, hey, I’m not judging or anything.

And here’s one I totally get:

Losing Itby Valerie Bertinelli

So, the way I see it, Amazon has summed me up this way:

I’m a little sinister because of something that went wonky in my gene pool which probably made me an atheist, really judgmental and dangerously close to madness over weight issues that I didn’t know I had.

Oh, I forgot.  There’s one more.

The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and  the Failure of Reason (by somebody who is obviously a very cheery optimist)

Actually, I am a cheery optimist.  I always try to look at the bright side albeit with a heavy dose of cynicism.  I find cynicism amusing which troubled me a bit….until….  I found the following on a web-site called everything2  dot com:

“A cynic can be optimistically defined as a person who is dedicated to perceiving the truth, no matter how awful or depressing it is. An optimist can be cynically defined as a person who looks for the kind of truth that makes him or her psychologically most healthy”.

“With a cynically optimistic definition of truth, we arrive at the cynical optimist — a person who finds out all the possible ways of looking at the truth, no matter how awful, and then chooses the one which is both plausible and psychologically healthy”.

I feel so much better now.

Does This Count?

About a year ago, I took a writing class through Gotham Writers.

One day as I was going about my weekly assignments, I got a pop-up message about submitting a 6-word summary about love or heartbreak for a book entitled Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak by Writers Famous & Obscure. 

And I thought to myself, why the hell not?

And I sent one in.

And it got in.

And I thought to myself holy crap I hope I didn’t embarass myself.

Did they catch me in an uncharacteristically sappy moment??

Will I be horrified??

If it’s about my husband and me, will my husband get it??

The answers are yes, yes and hell no (the latter of which I disclose in the most loving of ways).

So…today I got my copy and nervously searched for my entry.  

I found it on page 30 with my name as the “author” and yes, it’s sappy.   And no, my husband did’n’t get it but he was psyched that I got in all the same and that’s enough for me.

But now I’m wondering if this officially counts as being published….even though it’s only 6 words?  I mean, it’s published by a real live publisher:  Harper Perennial, rather than off someone’s copy machine and it doesn’t have staples as a binding so I think it’s legit.  And the people doing the book previously had a bestseller called Not Quite What I Was Planning which may have something to do with having a baby when you’re 55 or finding your husband in bed with the neighbor’s hampster but I’m not entirely sure.  Either way, NY Times Bestseller sounds pretty damned official to me.

So, I’m thinking maybe yes.  I can say I’m published.  Or at least definitely maybe.

P.S.   Since the publishers have asked everyone to hawk the book, you’ll have to buy it if you’re interested in reading the 6 words that expose my soft, chewy center.  Some of you (you know who you are!!) will get it just to torture me which I can totally relate to.   You can get it on Amazon.   Don’t be shocked when/if you get it.  It’s kinda small. Like it will fit in a purse.  Or a back pocket of a pair of  really tight jeans.

On Memories

I’ve always been fascinated at how I can be immediately transported back in time by words, a smell, the way the sun shines on a particular stretch of road or a reminder from someone I don’t really even know.   It fills me with a sense of wonder.  It pushes away the jaded thoughts that threaten to undermine the last remant of “kid” that clings to my psyche like a drowning sailor if only for an instant.

That happened today.

A guy in a writing workshop I’m in made mention of a kid’s book called The Monster At The End Of This Book based on the  Sesame Street character, Grover.  It was my son’s favorite when he was about 3.   He’s nearly 31 now but that memory is so very precious that it had me rushing to Amazon to get a copy;  one for me and one for him.   I don’t know if he remembers it.   No matter.  I will send it to him anyway and tell him his sappy mom is not as hard-assed as she appears.  I’m sure he’ll laugh and pretend he doesn’t already know that.  He still humors me when necessary.  

The memory of that book hit me like a tsunami because, for me, it represents a bond, a connection so utterly profound as to bring tears to my eyes remembering it.  He never tired of that ending where the “monster” is revealed to be Grover himself;  as benign and innocent as that full-of-wonder little boy to whom I was reading the story.  I can see my son’s  beaming face to this day as I’d turn that last page over with the best mommy drama I could muster, that furry creature  revealing himself with the same ear-to-ear smile as if to say “See!  No need to be afraid.   I’m just like you!”   I may be wrong about this but I felt  it held a poignant message:  do not judge or fear others by how they appear but rather what is in their hearts. 

As a realist, I know that’s not always possible but as a human, I desperately want it to be.

What a glorious thing, memory. 

Thank you, David.  You are my hero today.

The Tao of Donna

yin-yang.jpgI love my friends!  They are an endless source of blog fodder which makes it so much easier for me when my head is otherwise devoid of interesting thoughts.  This is one such moment.

My friend Donna, after a rough patch in the road threw her life off track, has discovered the wisdom of Tao Te Ching (or Dao De Jing as they spell it on Wikipedia which always makes me a bit suspect.  Who the hell are all those Wiki-philes anyway and what do you have to do to be one??)  Anyway, she was was quite taken by a book she has purchased called The Story of Tao Te Ching and how beautiful and profound it was in its simplicity.  I was thrilled for her!  Everybody needs to find a peaceful path, right?   Why the hell didn’t I have the good sense to reach for this book 20 years ago?  I could have found the peaceful path rather than the one I was on which was the path of emotional land mines.  Oh well, I’ve always had to learn the hard way but that’s another story and it’s much more fun to expose the soft underbellies of my friends rather than my own.    I do it with the utmost love and respect…. really!

So… Donna tells another friend about this awesome book.  She tells him about the colorful illustrations and the sweet story of this ancient sage and the calming effect it had on her. 

Her friend said it sounded like a children’s book.

When she hung up the phone, she looked more closely at the cover.

Ages 7 – ll. 

Doesn’t matter how you get peace, my friend.  Just that you get it!

“Those who understand themselves are enlightened”

A Time to Read

I don’t spend much time reading these days as I’m too busy writing until I have no fingerprints in hopes that I will create something worthwhile.  The last book I read was Advanced Screenwriting by Linda Seger.  It’s about advanced screenwriting if you were wondering.  I have read many how-to books about the right way to write a screenplay.  They are all different, they all use different terminology and they all have their own wonderfully unique ways of saying that I’d be better off spending my time in night school to become a dental assistant.  I am, as usual, over-dramatizing.  But the message is clear:  unless you have come up with a way to channel Billy Wilder, you’re pretty much screwed.  But for some unforeseen reason, the powers that be have bestowed up on me the character flaw of always choosing the hardest path.  Damn.

But enough about me.  Today I started a new book and it’s not about screenwriting.  It is called A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance by Jane Juska.   I read a review in a magazine the name of which I don’t recall (but it wasn’t US Weekly or People) while I was getting a pedicure by a lovely Vietnamese man who wanted to know if I had any “big plans” for the evening.   As soon as I read the title, I was hooked.  After I read the actual review, I rushed home and bought 6 copies.  I plan on devouring my copy before dinnertime.   The other 5 will be doled out to some of my dearest friends.  You know who you are!

As an aspiring writer, I know you gotta grab the reader by the short hairs right up front.  To put an exclamation point on that theory, I will share with you the opening of the book:

Do You think you’re a nymphomaniac?” Bill wants to know.  We sit on my couch close enough for him to grab me should I offer the right answer.  Bill obviously thinks there is a strong possibility, and inches closer. He is an attractive man of sixty-one, six years younger than I.

I love you Jane Juska.