The Pros and Cons of Self-Checkout

Yes, today is a book giveaway. But first . . .

Have you noticed more and more self-checkout lanes recently? I have. I used to think self-checkout lanes were the next best thing since the invention of Reese’s peanut butter cups. After all, I could check my groceries quickly and go home to eat my Reese’s peanut butter cups. (Who am I kidding? I usually start on those as soon as I reach the car.)

walmart-self-checkout Reeses

But Self-checkout Lanes, I’m no longer feeling you, know what I mean? Because now I wonder if your population has increased to allow a company to get away with hiring fewer employees or laying off some. 😦

I recently walked into the branch of my bank and saw three employees. This branch had five times that amount a couple of years ago. Of the three, one quickly steered me toward using the ATM to make a deposit, instead of expecting him to do it. I’m not sure what else he planned to do, since I was the only customer in the bank. Perhaps give his full attention to the businesses making deposits in the drive-thru? Only people with business accounts are allowed to use the drive-thru. Makes me feel like a valued customer.

ATM Machine

Afterward, I shopped at a store with a ton of self-checkout lanes. The express lanes were closed to push people toward the self-checkout lanes. Meanwhile, a dozen employees raced about. Some stocked shelves. Some simply stood there, speaking into walkie-talkies. But none asked me if I needed help. So if the self-checkout lanes were set up to allow employees more time to help shoppers looking for items in the store, well, let’s just say I found Siri to be more helpful. I’ve had retail jobs. I know how difficult working with the public can be. But when a store seems to go out of its way to avoid dealing with me, I’m tempted to shop elsewhere.

The library installed more self-checkout machines. A librarian quickly pointed one out when I approached the circulation desk. I wanted to ask her, “Are you trying to point your way out of a job?” But I decided not to. I’m fairly certain I would be told how much more important other tasks are than checking out books. But if checking books out for a patron means one more librarian keeps his or her job, I would be all for that.

(By the way, I am aware of how hard librarians work. I have friends who are librarians. Believe it or not, I have applied for jobs at libraries and would have been more than happy to be the book checker.)

I’m reminded of a scene in the 2005 movie adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In that scene, Mr. Bucket lost his job to a machine at the toothpaste factory.

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If you’re thinking, Don’t guilt trip me. I love using self-checkout lanes, rest assured that no one is interfering with your right to use those lanes. Labor-saving devices may save time and money. But I have to wonder if in the long run they’ll cost us more than we save.

Now let’s move on to the winner of Kate Sparkes’s fantasy novel, Torn. Click here for the interview with Kate.

torn_full  Kate author photo 4

That winner is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Charles Yallowitz!

Congrats, Charles! Please comment below to let me know if you’d like a print copy or an ebook!

Thank you to all who commented.

Peanut butter cups image from thehersheystore.com. Wal-Mart self-checkout lanes from merchandisingmatters.com. Noah Taylor as Mr. Bucket from Rotten Tomatoes.com. ATM machine from classroom clipart.com.

Check This Out: Torn

If you follow Disregard the Prologue, then you’re already aware of the clever and cool Kate Sparkes and her fantasy trilogy named after the first book, Bound. She’s here today to talk about Torn, book 2 of the series. Ready? Let’s rock and roll!

Kate author photo 4  torn_full

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Kate: Hmm. . . . Okay. One: We bought our first house this summer, and I finally have my own office space. It’s just as amazing as I imagined it would be, but I will be forever grateful for the fact that I had to write my first books in a stinky basement.
Two: I’m not a dog person, and I’m really not a small dog person, but I have a chihuahua snuggled on my lap right now, and it is most excellent.

Kate Dog

Bruno, Kate’s dog

Three: I just took up running, and can’t believe how much I’m enjoying it. It’s amazing what not being able to do something for years will do for your motivation.
Four: I’m a little obsessed with paper products, specifically planners. I use one for home and one for work, plus a lined journal for tracking productivity.

El Space: So, Torn is out in the world, along with his sister, Bound. And your editor has Sworn, book three. Now that your trilogy is coming to an end, how are you feeling? Sad? Elated?
Kate: Nervouscited? Bitterswelated? I’m not sure any real word captures how I feel. I think Sworn is the best and strongest book of the series, and I’m excited to finish writing a story that I still adore almost five years after I started it. At the same time, I’m sad to be finishing it. And happy to be able to move on to new things. And terrified, as I always am before I release anything. And tearing my hair out over deadlines. And . . . you get the idea.

bound_promo

El Space: I do! Without giving a spoiler, was there a character whose development surprised you the most as you wrote this series? Perhaps you started off thinking, I’ll only include this person in a scene, but the character wound up getting more book time.
Kate: I guess Nox would be the obvious answer. I didn’t know she existed until well after I’d finished the first draft of Bound, and she ended up being a major character in books two and three. Her development and involvement in the story has really surprised me, too, ending up fairly far off from what I’d anticipated.

major-vs-mn

There are others, too. There were a few characters in Bound I never expected to see again, but who have come back to play a larger part in the story. One of them really shocked me, and another made me squeak with excitement when her wee face popped up again. Wow. This is really hard to do without spoilers!

El Space: How long did it take you to write each book? How much research did you do as you created the world?
Kate: Bound took me 3.5 years from first draft to publication. Torn was a little less than 2.5 years, and when Sworn comes out it should be about sixteen months. I’m a fairly quick first drafter, but I take my time over revisions.

I don’t do a lot of research for my world building. Most of the research I do is on things like, “If someone got stabbed in X, how long would she live?” or “Oops—how far away did I say Y was from Z?” My internal record-keeping systems could use a good overhauling.

El Space: Are you a plotter or a pantser? When you started writing Bound, how much of the end of the trilogy did you know? If you already knew the ending, did you find the outcome different or relatively the same as you envisioned?
Kate: I’m very much a plotter at this point. I’ve tried diving into a story with nothing more than an amazing character and a cool concept, and ended up writing myself straight into a brick wall. I do leave plenty of room for wonderful surprises along the way, but I like to have most of the major twists and turns—and the ending—planned out before I start. I think plotting and pantsing are quite similar, actually. It’s just that I do my exploring and experimenting in my head and in quick notes, whereas a pantser works it out in the first draft.

pantser

I didn’t have this whole trilogy plotted out before I started, though. I had a vague idea of the ending, but when I started Bound, it didn’t seem like I’d actually finish one book, never mind three of them.

Most of Sworn was a mass of fog and vague ideas until after I’d finished the first draft of Torn. I had the ending quite solidly in mind, but the road that led there was quite an interesting experience as I explored it while outlining and drafting.

El Space: Were you always thinking you’d write a trilogy set in this world and maybe some shorter pieces? How did you decide whose stories should be told through a sequel, a prequel, a short story, or a novella?
Kate: I didn’t initially plan to write more than the main novels, but I think I always knew I wouldn’t want to limit what I could do in this world. I have a set of characters I adore who constantly surprise me, a deep and rich world that still has so much to explore, and a story with a long history and more events that could play out in the future. I do have other worlds and stories to work on, but I don’t think this well will ever run dry.

Deciding which stories to tell is quite easy. Though I do listen to reader suggestions, the deciding factor is always whether there’s a full story there—a solid plot rather than just a series of events that a few people might find interesting—and whether the idea lights a fire in my imagination. Out of ten ideas, one might really make me want to sit down and start writing. Some stories just beg to be told.

Stories-at-Work

J.K.-RowlingEl Space: Many readers wanted J. K. Rowling to continue writing books set in the world of Harry Potter. But she wanted to tackle other genres. What would you say to readers who want you to continue writing this series to the exclusion of all others?
Kate: I’d say I completely understand. There’s a part of me that’s scared to leave behind what works and what readers already love, but I can’t let myself get burned out on one story or one genre. I want to keep my love of this world alive, and that means that sometimes I need to work on something else. I drafted an urban fantasy novella after Bound, and it refreshed me for Torn. I played with a different, more steampunk-esque version of fantasy between Torn and Sworn, and it helped me get the distance I needed to fall in love with my world and characters again.

I will work in other genres. I will write for other age groups, with more adult content or maybe even something for younger folk some day. And I’ll be a better writer for it when I come back to this world and these characters.

fantasy-world-wallpaper

El Space: What are you working on now?
Kate: Right now, I’m at an awkward stage. Sworn is with my editor. I’ve drafted and revised a prequel novella over the past few months that I’m excessively excited about, and that’s gone to a new editor. Now I have a week to wait before Sworn comes back, which means I have time for business. . . . But really, I know I won’t be able to help picking at my next project. It’s an idea that came to me during a night of insomnia—totally worth it—a semi-dystopian YA fantasy involving vengeful gods, human sacrifice, rebirth, and some characters I can’t wait to explore.

Sounds exciting! Thanks, Kate, for being my guest.

You can find Kate at her blog, website, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Torn is available here:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble

And one commenter will get a free copy of Torn. Remember, this is book 2. You should read Bound first! Winner to be announced on October 6.

Author photo and covers courtesy of the author. Character sign from sophia.org. Pants/plots image from rinellegrey.com. Fantasy world image from wallpaperpassion.com. Stories sign from transformleaders.tv. J. K. Rowling from inquisitr.com.

Check This Out: The Merchant of Nevra Coil

Cover art by Jason Pedersen

Cover art by Jason Pedersen

When the mischievous and random Goddess of Chaos gets angry, all of Windemere becomes her plaything.

It all starts with a collection of toys that have taken the populace by storm. People of all races flood the marketplaces to gather figurines of the champions whose adventures are starting to spread across the land. Stemming from the flying city of Nevra Coil, these toys bring with them a terrible curse: Fame. Every town becomes a mob of fans that hound their new idols and the delay is bringing the world closer to the hands of Baron Kernaghan. Perhaps worst of all, the creator of these toys forgot to include a certain exiled deity who is now out to earn herself a figurine.

Who would have thought a bunch of toys could cause so much trouble and lead to the breaking of a champion’s confidence?

Sound exciting?
CLICK HERE TO GRAB IT ON AMAZON FOR $2.99!
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Welcome to Nevra Coil Excerpt

A screeching alarm goes off inside the vessel, signaling for everyone to pay attention to the pilot. Jo flicks a few switches above her head, amplifying her voice so everyone can clearly hear her. “We’re coming to Nevra Coil. Get ready for docking at Inspiration Tower instead of one of the Ring Houses. If you want to see the city then come to the front, but you better not complain while I’m giving the tour. I’ll be going too fast to repeat myself. We’re starting with the bottom, so don’t be scared. There hasn’t been a crash in a month. Two months since a fatality.”

The champions gather around Jo’s chair and watch as the clouds part to reveal the underside of the flying city. The steel gray earth has several narrow tubes of yellow crystal spread along its gleaming surface, the enchanted objects creating a spiral that leads to a red, metal rod. An occasional spark falls from the central pole and dissipates into the clouds, giving the illusion of lightning. Jo has the vessel steadily rise to give everyone a clear view and she taps her ear to silently get her passengers to listen. Beneath the sounds of the ship’s rotors, the champions hear a dull hum whenever they pass close to a crystal. Those with keen eyes can see a sapphire orb that flickers like a flame inside the yellow tube’s core, but the strange object is definitely solid like a rock.

“The flight crystals are designed to push off and ride the waves of the ocean. The outer tube is the reflector and the ice gem is the controller,” Jo explains as they flip around the far side of Nevra Coil. She scowls at the whimpering gypsy and begrudgingly slows the vessel down. “The central rod is what keeps us in a small area as we spin like a very slow top. Without that, we’d be floating all over Windemere’s oceans. You’ll feel the rotation at first, but the awkwardness will pass within a few hours. Before you ask, the system does nothing to the ocean below. We keep ourselves at a great height to prevent that and we turn off the crystals if we have to drop. That’s only in case of severe damage, so they would probably be malfunctioning in such an event anyway. Our backup system is a small army of pedaling stone golems that we activate in the core of Nevra Coil. Let’s get to the real event. Hey! Watch where you’re going, you son of an oil slick!”

The vessel swerves out of the way of a small, windowless craft that is powered by a pedaling gnome. Once their heads stop spinning, the champions get their first look at the city of Nevra Coil. Glistening towers are everywhere with a vast collection of flying devices and beasts moving among them. Several structures are missing pieces, revealing metal beams and hardworking gnomes who are trying to finish the construction. The city is a beautiful creation of metal, stone, and glass with nothing on the earthy ground besides several colonies of orange slimes. The burbling creatures feast on the garbage that falls out of hatches, which are built into the lower floors of every tower. Compared to the enormous buildings, Jo’s vessel feels like a rowboat as it weaves among the chaos. Several times they come close to hitting another ship, their skilled pilot meeting each encounter with a slew of insults and curses. They hover when a claxon goes off and the circular tower ahead opens one of its floors to reveal another ring-shaped ship.

“This is where we would normally dock, but you’re wanted on the one-hundred and eighty-sixth and a half floor of Inspiration Tower,” Jo says while waving to the other ship. She waits for them to leave before rising to the higher sky lanes where there is more space. “If you look to the right, you’ll see the Lizard. It’s used by those of us who don’t have a flying device due to no interest, accidents, revoked license, or whatever else can go wrong. I’ll swing by to give you a better look, but don’t stare directly into the golem’s eye. You never know if it’s going to be friendly or . . . churlish.”

Dipping toward a metallic rail, the ship comes alongside a green-scaled reptile with seats grown into its wide back. A throbbing bubble covers the sitting area, the oily membrane protecting riders from the elements until the transport comes to a stop. Gnomes are comfortably sitting in the chairs, most of them reading notes or sleeping. The creature’s tail is merged with the track to prevent it from falling off while it pulls itself along using powerful front legs. A driver on its head opens a hatch in the top of its long nose to drop in a shovelful of screeching beetles. The Lizard slows down while everyone hears the insects getting crunched in the construct’s mouth. When the strange transport hisses at the ship, Jo pulls away and heads for where a trio of metallic birds are sitting on a windowless tower.

I’m giving away a copy of this book to a commenter! Winner to be announced on September 15.

AND DON’T FORGET!

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen 3D Conversion by Bestt_graphics

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen
3D Conversion by Bestt_graphics

Click here for the $4.99 Bundle to start your journey into Windemere!

Charles E YallowitzAbout the Author:

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

Blog: Legends of Windemere
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com

Cover Reveal: Ichabod Brooks and the City of Beasts

Coming on June 1st for 99 cents!

Ichabod Brooks & the City of Beasts (Cover by Nio Mendoza)

Ichabod Brooks & the City of Beasts (Cover by Nio Mendoza)

In a time of heroes, a man will take any job to provide for his family.

Ichabod Brooks has earned a reputation for taking the jobs most men and women fear to challenge. This reputation has brought him to the charred remains of a small village nestled within the hills and forest of Ralian. The ruins are a source of strange monsters that terrorize the countryside and repeatedly elude the local guards and hunters. The few brave souls who have entered the creatures’ lair have yet to come out alive or dead.

The chances of survival are slim, but that generous payment is too much for Ichabod to resist. After all, a man and his family have to eat.

Author PhotoAuthor Biography

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn’t working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. ‘Legends of Windemere’ is his first series, but it certainly won’t be his last.

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