All Aboard the Hot Mess Express

If you follow me on Twitter or read the September projects post, then you’ll know that the day job is no more.

It didn’t work out for various reasons. To be honest, the whole deal was a hot mess from the beginning.

The same day I got the job I was diagnosed with anemia, which I didn’t tell anybody about because, hey, it was just continuing to function with the extreme fatigue I’d been dealing with for months while I waited for the iron pills to do their thing, no big deal. My second shift I was offered a promotion because the store had been operating with only three people and they desperately needed anyone with experience to step up. I took it because even though it wasn’t what I really wanted for a day job, I wanted to help out and the responsibility didn’t sound too bad.

I was given maybe a week of training and then given my own shifts, call us if you need us, which probably would have worked out better if they answered their phones more often. Anyway, after about a week of being on my own and getting the hang of things, the tiniest Wal-Mart in the world, the one in my town, announced it was closing. Oh goodie. Now the small, two-register store I worked at was inundated with their business and complaints. The computer system was too old to keep up with the increase so it crashed at least once a shift, sometimes just needing the pinpad for the card readers reset and sometimes needing the entire register rebooted.

We were also still operating understaffed and the people we did have were new. I’d been there less than a month and was considered a vet. I was training the new cashiers. So, we had all of this new business and under-trained employees. When we had employees at all. I ended up working several of my shifts alone because nobody showed up or somebody called in. I also got called in early or on my days off pretty regularly.

There was also an increase in freight. Quite simply we were drowning in it. We couldn’t keep up with it because we didn’t have enough people to put it up and/or were too busy to put it up because of all the customers.

Meanwhile, I’m barely writing because I’m wiped out. The whole point of the day job was to supply me with a steady income because I wasn’t making enough by writing alone. This was supposed to take some pressure off of me. Instead, I was stressed and my anxiety was so bad I was having trouble sleeping.

There was a stretch when things were improving. First of all, my anemia got better so I wasn’t totally exhausted all of the time. We started getting two trucks a week, which made the freight easier to handle. The people we hired were getting better and showing up and sticking around. Business slowed some after the Wal-Mart finally closed in July because people stopped panicking about having to go out of town to get toilet paper. Someone that had hired in at the same time I did finally decided to become a key like me.

But then I found out that I was going to be training. From her. The night I was supposed to start training her. And I was given less than a week to do it. She called me on her first solo shifts because she couldn’t get a hold of either of the managers. One day included four phone calls, one text message, and two trips to the store to help her out.

And finally, we got a new district manager who wanted pretty much everyone, including yours truly, fired because we weren’t doing our jobs well enough.

That was all she wrote for me. I called it quits.

The thing is that I didn’t feel at all relieved about quitting. I felt like (and still feel like) a failure. If I had been better, I would have been able to make it work. I would have been able to handle that job and write. I wouldn’t have been tired and stressed and anxious all of the time. I let everyone down because I couldn’t hack it. I couldn’t do what everyone else does: go to work, do their job, go home and function there. I couldn’t fucking do it.

I expressed these sentiments on Twitter after I turned in my keys and made it official and everyone was very kind (because I follow some awesome folks there) and assured me that I wasn’t a failure, but if that were true…I wouldn’t have quit, would I?

Yeah.

Since my last day, I’ve been struggling to right my emotional ship as well as everything else. I finally got my sleep schedule adjusted closer to where I’d like it to be and I’m actually sleeping most of the night instead of fighting sleep for hours because I keep dreaming I’m at work and not really sleeping until dawn. I’m working on getting off the retail diet, too. And, of course, my writing is happening more like normal again. Yet, I’m still frustrated that I’m not doing all of this faster and better.

Because the feeling of failure lingers.

I can’t quit it. It won’t take my notice.

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September Writing Projects

Some good news on the Murderville front. Season 2 has come to a successful close and I hope all of my patrons enjoyed it. I also finished writing the first draft of Murderville Season 3. It’s a damn mess and it’s going to need a lot of work and that’s what I’m going to focus on this month.

Last month I also revised and polished the Season 3 preview story. Normally, I’d put that out next month, but until I get a good handle on where I’m at with Season 3, I can’t commit to that. Unless I’m sure that I can have Season 3 ready to roll on time, I don’t want to get ahead of myself with the previews and such.

If you follow me on Twitter, you might know that the day job is no more. Due to various reasons (some of which I may detail in another post), it didn’t work out, so I’m back to where I was at the beginning of May. In theory, I should be able to play catch up this month and put everything Murderville-related back on schedule. But again, I don’t want to commit to anything considering I’ve basically been disappointing if not everyone, then at least myself all summer with my ability to live up to my commitments. It’s been a very frustrating season for me.

But, it’s not frustrating for my patrons because the ebook of Murderville: The End Of comes out this month. Become a patron now and get in on this sweet deal.

The Retail Diet

When I worked at Wal-Mart for the last time, some ten years ago now, my diet was pretty terrible. I believe I once compared it to eating like a racoon raiding a dumpster. I drank a lot of soda, ate a lot of fast food, Hot Pockets and microwavable beef stew being the extent of my cooking. By the time I quit that gig, I had cut down on the soda drinking, but that was about it.

After I quit, I made some dietary improvements, mainly by actually cooking meals instead of microwaving whatever I could find and making soda and fast food a rarity. And I managed to continue with this for the next ten years or so, despite the different day jobs, even while holding three day jobs at once, and even while technically working in retail.

But doing floorset isn’t the same as working retail. I wasn’t dealing with customers on top of resetting an entire store; I was just doing a lot of folding, rearranging, and swearing. Working retail means dealing with customers while trying to put up freight, answer the phone, and keep the store in order. It means walking two to six miles during any given shift and never leaving the store. It means having registers crash during busy times, people calling in and leaving you to work a Saturday shift alone for several hours, listening to customers say the same things over and over again thinking they’re the first to be so clever. It means answering the same questions over and over again, listening to the same complaints over and over again, and holding your tongue during both.

In short, retail can be (and currently is for me) a high-stress, low-wage job.

And it kills my eating habits.

In the past few months of my new retail day job, I’ve drunk more soda and eaten more junk food than I have in years. I’ve craved soda and junk food more in the past few months than I have in the past ten years. Working retail triggers in me the need for a garbage diet that I might be able to get away with in my twenties, but not when I’m pushing forty. Yet, here I am, despite all wisdom, going right back to it.

I’m guessing the combination of stress and anxiety is the trigger for me here. I can’t say that I’m much of an emotional eater. However, I think that the stress/anxiety combo wears me out to the point that my willpower is gone and I’m too tired to care about what I’m ingesting. That’s definitely how it feels. It’s not a particularly healthy mindset, but it’s hard to maintain one when all of my energy is focused on getting through another shift. It leaves little energy for the effort of making good choices.

Right now I’m struggling with it. I can only hope that the stress recedes soon (the anxiety, I don’t think, ever will) and gives me a break that doesn’t come in the form of a Kit Kat Bar.

I Shoulda Been…

Do you ever think about what you could been? Or shoulda been?

Being a writer is a natural choice for me in many respects. I wrote my first story at six. I wrote and produced plays for the neighborhood kids in the summer. I wrote a radio play and we recorded it on a blank cassette tape using our old red radio. I’d make up stories for us to act out when we were playing pretend and then I’d try to write them down later. I was always starting stories that never got finished (that discipline came later). I read a lot and enjoyed living in those worlds, marveling at how those stories were created. Writing is something I’ve always done. I’m plagued with stories that demand to get out of my head even if I’m just telling them to myself.

However.

I probably shoulda been something else.

If I’m going to be honest, I shoulda been a bookkeeper or an accountant or a professional budget creator or something. Because I like money. And I like math when it relates to money. Since my mother first paid me to work in her daycare, I’ve tracked my money, estimated my paychecks, created budgets for myself, figured out payment plans for debt, figured out savings plans. I am annoyingly enthusiastic when it comes to finding new ways to manipulate and math my money. I’ll even math other people’s money.

Right now, I keep a monthly spreadsheet to track my income and spending. And I like it.

When people talk about making money by doing things they love, it’s usually said sort of wistfully, like what they love to do couldn’t easily be translated into a steady income. And here my love of crunching numbers is not only an actual job, but you can get a whole college degree in it.

I’m not exactly sure why I never thought about it as a viable career route, especially considering my limited college options at the time. My great-aunt had been a bookkeeper for years as well. It would have been an easy opportunity to explore. And yet…

It never came up. Never even crossed my mind as I budgeted the paychecks I collected from working in retail and worked in a credit union. Never thought much about it while I worked in the cash office of a store, calculating deposits worth thousands. It was right there in front of me and I never saw it.

If I had, maybe I’d be enjoying a day job of crunching numbers to pay my bills while I wrote.

Maybe I still can.

August Writing Projects

Wow, look at that. August already. This year is just rolling by.

And I’m still working on stuff that I swore I’d have done in June.

Yeah.

So, this day job is turning into one of the hardest retail jobs I’ve ever had and what was supposed to be an easy part-time gig to help pay the bills is actually a huge time and energy vortex that I’m getting swallowed up in. My plan was to write at least a page on all of my current projects on the days that I work and then really rack up the words on my days off. The struggle with that, though, is that sometimes I don’t have the time (or energy) to get in my one page on everything, and then on my days off, I can still only manage the absolute minimum because I’m recovering from working.

If there’s going to be anything new, then August will see a shift in priorities. As much as I hate to stop working on a project in the middle, The Coop Run rewrite has to go on the back burner for now. Season 3 of Murderville needs to be my focus until I get it done, and I need to get it done as quickly as possible. Ideally, I’ll have it finished in the first couple of weeks of the month so I can let it rest a bit and then revise it in September. Because here’s the thing. Season 3 needs to be done all the way down to the eBook before NaNo. I’m already way behind my usual schedule. Now I have to play catch up and hope I don’t fuck up.

I also need to make some time to revise and polish next season’s preview story. But that’s a problem for next month me.

Right now, it’s all about finishing Murderville Season 3.

I’ll work out the rest later.

Speaking of Murderville, the very last episode of season 2, The End Of, goes live on August 14th. Don’t worry! It’s easy to catch up. Just become a patron and you’ll get access to every intriguing moment. $1 an episode let’s you read; $2 an episode lets you read AND gets you swell bonuses every other month, like whatever is happening on the 28th. Don’t miss out!

Rerun Junkie–Best Characters to Join a Show After the First Season

One day a question floated across my Twitter timeline: Who’s the best character to join a show after the first season?

And my immediate response was, “I can’t answer this with a tweet. I need a blog post!”

So here I am, months later, finally getting around to answering that highly subjective question. In order to keep from rambling, I only picked characters from shows I’ve written about here. And even then, I restrained myself to keep it down to a dull roar.

Let’s start off with a couple of the more subjective ones and work our way (okay, my way) closer to objective.

Ben Kokua (Al Harrington) and Duke Lukela (Herman Wedemeyer), Hawaii Five-OYeah, you’re going to have to fight me on this one. Ben replaced Kono (Zulu) at the beginning of the fifth season and stayed through the seventh season. I feel he made a nice addition to the team. Solid, native, not flashy, except when he was undercover and had to wear ugly shirts as part of the gig. Al Harrington had already been on the show a few times, playing other (and usually bad) guys, and has since had a recurring role on the new show (playing yet another character). Clearly, every version of this show needs Al Harrington in some form, though I maintain Ben was the best.

Duke is a legend in my mind. Though Herman Wedemeyer was there from the beginning, the character of Duke didn’t actually happen until the fourth season. Of the 155 episodes that Herman Wedemeyer is credited for, only seven were not as Duke Lukela. Better yet, we get to watch as Duke goes from uniformed officer bit role to a detective with a starring credit in the final season. How marvelous is that? And if you still doubt that Duke should be on this list, then let me point out that the current show also has a Duke Lukela and he’s played by Dennis Chun, the son of the original Chin Ho, Kam Fong. Now that’s legend.

Sheriff Mort Metzger (Ron Masak), Murder, She Wrote–When Tom Bosley left the show, Cabot Cove needed a new sheriff. With Amos Tupper retired, the new law in town came in the form of Mort Metzger, a city cop who didn’t understand why the murder rate of a small town was so high and why some old woman was so involved in solving them. It was the fish-out-of-water aspect of Ron Masak’s character that not only separated him from Amos, but from everyone else in town. He spent half of his time bewildered by the goings-on of the locals, his hard line approach not so effective in a town where everybody knows everybody. Considering Ron Masak was in episodes of both The Monkees and Land of the Lost, it’s no wonder he was able to bring a touch of brilliance to this character and even make his never-seen, often-referred to wife Adelle come to life.

Detective Arthur Dietrich (Steve Landesberg) and Officer Carl Levitt (Ron Carey), Barney Miller–Both Steve Landesberg and Ron Carey appeared on the show as different characters prior to becoming the two of the characters on this list. Steve Landesburg first appeared as Father Paul in the first episode of season 2. The 12th episode of that same season, he made his first appearance as Dietrich, a dry-humored, incredibly intelligent detective who came in as Fish was going out. Of course, the two would appear together for over a season until Abe Vigoda’s official departure at the beginning of season 4. Many of his first episodes involved him trying to find a place in the 12th precinct. By the time the show ended, it was hard to imagine what it was like without him.

Ron Carey’s first appearance was as a character called The Mole in the last episode of the second season. It was only the third episode of the third season when he made his first appearance as Carl Levitt, a short, overly-enthusiastic uniform keen on making detective some day and taking every available opportunity to get into plain clothes. Not just a punchline, Levitt got to be the hero by saving some kids, ratted out the squad room with petty grievances to both protect them and to express his displeasure from being put down all the time, and eventually made detective in the final episode. As well he should.

Festus Haggen (Ken Curtis), Gunsmoke–This twenty-year show was on the air nine years before Festus Haggen settled in Dodge City permanently. It’s hard to imagine Gunsmoke without Ken Curtis, especially since most of the syndication packages typically show the later episodes, but Dennis Weaver played Chester Good for 290 episodes (1955-1964). Festus’s first appearance actually came in 1962, but he became a regular in 1964 after Dennis Weaver left and ended up becoming such an iconic character that it’s hard to imagine Ken Curtis as anyone else (he was, though, playing a few different characters on the show before becoming Festus). Dodge City wouldn’t be the same without him.

This list is far from complete, of course. And it’s far from objective, as I warned. I might just answer this question again sometime in the future. New list, new shows, new characters. The answers are endless.

Who do you think the best characters are that joined a show after the first season?