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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday - Is Big Brother Really Watching?

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Your eBook is Reading You."  Okay, that seems ominous.  My Kindle has been getting a lot of use lately, and if anyone is tracking my reading habits, I'm afraid they're going to think I'm a psychopathic eroticist.  Books on poison, murder, police procedures and some less than family-friendly fiction top the list.

According to the article, "In the past, publishers and authors had no way of knowing what happens when a reader sits down with a book. Does the reader quit after three pages, or finish it in a single sitting? Do most readers skip over the introduction, or read it closely, underlining passages and scrawling notes in the margins? Now, e-books are providing a glimpse into the story behind the sales figures, revealing not only how many people buy particular books, but how intensely they read them."

Now, as an author, this information would be very helpful and interesting.  As a reader, not so much.  I'm not a paranoid person, but the notion that someone knows not only what I'm reading, but how intensely or quickly I'm reading the books I purchase, gives me goose bumps.  The article goes on to say, "The major new players in e-book publishing—Amazon, Apple and Google—can easily track how far readers are getting in books, how long they spend reading them and which search terms they use to find books."

Photo credit – William Duke

Usually, I search for books by title on Amazon.  Occasionally, I'll use Google to find a book I want.  I'm fully aware that Amazon keeps track of my digital purchases.  They have to, so I can download a book again if I've removed it from my device.  They also keep track of any paperbacks or hardbacks I purchase in my order history.  But do they have to "watch" me read?  I mean, I don't like someone reading over my shoulder, so why are they peeking into my Kindle?

Don't get me wrong.  I love eBooks.  I'd better love them, because I write them, too.  So, I have no intention of changing my reading habits, but that doesn't mean I'm totally comfortable with an unknown entity taking note of how many times I open my Kindle and how long I spend reading from it.  However, I did feel a little less paranoid when I read this, "But the data—which focuses on groups of readers, not individuals—has already yielded some useful insights into how people read particular genres. Some of the findings confirm what retailers already know by glancing at the best-seller lists. For example, Nook users who buy the first book in a popular series like "Fifty Shades of Grey" or "Divergent," a young-adult series by Veronica Roth, tend to tear through all the books in the series, almost as if they were reading a single novel."

They got me there.  Since I was one of those million or more readers who purchased all three Fifty Shades of Grey books at the same time, I'm in those statistics somewhere.  Another thing I found of interest was, "Science-fiction, romance and crime-fiction fans often read more books more quickly than readers of literary fiction do, and finish most of the books they start. Readers of literary fiction quit books more often and tend skip around between books."

I'm not a speed-reader by any means, but when I'm on a reading kick, it's not unusual for me to read one or two books a day.

EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), a non-profit group that advocates for consumer rights and privacy, is pressing for legislation that will limit how a retailer can use the information they gather.  They also want a way for readers to "opt out" of having their reading habits tracked.

What worries me most, no doubt worries other authors as well.  "… that readers may steer clear of digital books on sensitive subjects such as health, sexuality and security—out of fear that their reading is being tracked. "There are a gazillion things that we read that we want to read in private," Mr. Bruce Schneier, a cyber-security expert and author, says."  And even though I don't intend to change how I purchase or read, others may be more sensitive about having their habits tracked than I am.

So, why am I posting this information on my blog?  I find technology fascinating, and I know we're barely scratching the surface of what we'll be able to do in the future.  I don't want anyone to stop purchasing books out of fear, but I felt the topic was worth sharing, so I decided to take the risk.

To read the WSJ article in full, please click the URL below. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday - Procrastination "A Time Killer"

I recently read an article by Maria Mallory about the top six ways a writer procrastinates.  Guess what?  All of them involve social media, which means by writing this article I am procrastinating.  I'd like to say I'm surprised, but I'm not.  The six she listed are:

KDP/Pub It
Writer Forums

 Now a few of those are writer related only, but Twitter and Facebook along with Google+ chew up and swallow the time of everyone who chooses to play in their sandbox.  Time that some of us should be spending doing other things. 

Okay, as a writer, I'm guilty of all those listed above except Kindle Direct Publishing and Pub It, since I haven't yet ventured into self-publishing.  Although I do have a NovelRank account to track my Amazon sales.  However, I can't say I spend too much time ogling my sales numbers since they aren't very stellar at the moment, and I don't like getting depressed.

A great procrastination tool, which the author failed to mention, is Pinterest.  Also not specifically writer related.  I've visited and poked around, but managed not to fall prey to its enticements, yet.
E-mail is another evil, time-sucking vampire.  I spend way too many hours playing in my e-mail box, though I will admit most of what I'm reading are postings from the writer forums and Yahoo groups I've joined.  So, for my major time wasting activities, I'm an avid Triberr user, which counts as Twitter in my book, even if I am not directly viewing the tweets I've received.  Facebook, which I try to limit my postings to once a week.  Google+, which I should check once a week, but haven't so much as peeked in for a few months, and my two blogs where I currently do only 4 blog posts a week between them.  Even so, I don't spend as much time writing as I should.  So, now what?

 A week later, Mallory wrote another blog article on the six ways to combat procrastination.  What she lists is very good advice, except I know I won't follow it.  All the same, I'll share the list with you.

Disconnect your router - I'm not the only one using the Internet in our house, so that's not possible for me.
Turn off the phones - not a major time waster for me, so little point in doing something I'm simply going to have to undo a few hours afterwards.
Limit your music to non-intrusive instrumentals when you're writing - already do that, so it's not going to change anything for me.
Skip the household chores - What? I'm supposed to do housework? Who knew?
Enlist a writing buddy and/or timer - Just discovered "Write or Die," but haven't employed it yet, so that's still in the realm of possibilities for me.
Search out items that will inspire you to write - I tend to do this in my spare time, since I can get story ideas from the strangest places, like those little teasers you see on AOL's home page.

Most of these recommendations can be applied to anything you want to accomplish, not just writing.  Painting, needlework, even reading, if that's one of your goals.  So, although this article is directed toward writers, if you have a hobby or avocation that you just aren't getting to because of time wasters absorbing all your attention, maybe these suggestions from Maria Mallory will work for you, too.

It's a thought.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday - No Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2012

I never considered my writing eligible for a Pulitzer Prize, and, as an erotic genre writer, I'm pretty sure it's not.  What I find interesting, however, is that the Pulitzer committee decided none of the three novel finalists was eligible this year, either.

So, what makes a novel Pulitzer eligible?  According the Pulitzer site, the qualifications are: "For distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life."  So, the author needs to be American, preferably writing about American life, in a work that a committee would consider "distinguished fiction."  I have a feeling the last point is the stickler.  What exactly makes a piece of fiction "distinguished?"

If we look at some past winners, we can get an idea of the sort of fiction the Pulitzer committee considers up to their standard of excellence.

1921: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
1925: So Big by Edna Ferber
1932: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
1937: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
1940: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
1953: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
1961: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
1980: The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer
1983: The Color Purple by Alice Walker
1988: Beloved by Toni Morrison
1992: A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
2011: A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

An impressive list to be sure, though I primarily picked the ones that were familiar to me.  The years in which fiction entered and nominated as finalists did not garner a Pulitzer are: 1917, 1920, 1941, 1946, 1954, 1957, 1964, 1971, 1974, 1977 and 2012.  So, not giving out a Pulitzer isn't something new or shocking, I guess.  Still, every year since 1977 the committee awarded a prize, which made me wonder why this year was an exception.  Below is the list of the 2012 finalists, with a brief description of each story, posted at the Pulitzer site.

Pulitzer Award


Nominated as finalists in this category were:

"Train Dreams," by Denis Johnson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a novella about a day laborer in the old American West, bearing witness to terrors and glories with compassionate, heartbreaking calm.

 "Swamplandia!" by Karen Russell (Alfred A. Knopf), an adventure tale about an eccentric family adrift in its failing alligator-wrestling theme park, told by a 13-year-old heroine wise beyond her years.

"The Pale King," by the late David Foster Wallace (Little, Brown and Company), a posthumously completed novel, animated by grand ambition that explores boredom and bureaucracy in the American workplace.

I can't say I've read any of the books, so I'm no judge of their quality, but perhaps they just weren't interesting enough.  A day laborer in the American West, a failing alligator-wrestling theme park and boredom and bureaucracy in the workplace may not be exciting enough when compared against the list of winners I selected.  Only the members of the committee know for sure, and they won't say.  Whatever the reason, I'm a little sad that none of the fiction entered was deemed worthy of a prize this year.  Perhaps next year…

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I'm Baaack!

Don't know if you've missed my normal Thoughtful Thursday posts, but I wanted to let everyone know I haven't posted since May because I got sick and had to be hospitalized.  Um, hospitals aren't really a fun place to visit, but they're even worse if you get admitted.  I'm a pretty patient, patient, but even I had to wonder how some of the things could happen to me while I was there.  Like the nurse giving me the hep-lock IV forgot to bring the locking part with her, so I bled all over the bed, onto the floor, the walls....  Even the phone had blood on it.  Good thing I'm not one to faint at the sight of my own blood.

She said she'd never seen anyone bleed as freely as I did, which is probably because she'd never forgotten the lock before.  And I hope she won't ever do it again to some other unlucky patient.  On top of that, she couldn't leave me to get one, or else my blood would have spurted out even more.  As it was, she was trying to maintain pressure on my arm to decrease the flow in addition to the tourniquet I still had on.  So, we were both calling "help" until someone was able to get the part for her.  Sigh.

In addition to the hep-lock IV, which has Heparin in it to prevent clotting, they gave me an anti-clotting agent shot in my tummy.  It wasn't as bad as it sounds, but I was a little surprised they wanted me to have one since it seems my blood was already flowing pretty smoothly.

However, I only had to spend one night, which is good since the story is true, you do not get any rest in a hospital.  I was on an hourly check, due to the seriousness of my condition, and people kept coming in to either take a vial of my blood, since my potassium was low, or prick my finger, since I'm also a borderline Diabetic

The worst, or funniest, thing that happened to me was on the day I was released when the nurse needed to give me a suppository.  To keep from getting gross, all I'm going to say is that she didn't know her body parts very well, so she inserted it in the wrong place.  She was very nice, but when she finally got one inserted correctly and left the room my husband said, "I bet she didn't graduate at the top of her class."  We had a good laugh about it, but it is a little scary in some ways.  I mean she's a female nurse.  Even if she didn't pass anatomy class, she should know the difference, right?

Oh well, I'm home now, I've finished taking all the meds needed to clear my infection, and I'm feeling a whole lot better.  So, I'm going to go back to posting again, and I bet you're glad to hear that, right?

Stay well, and keep out of the hospital if you can.


Marketing for Romance Writers (MFRW) Summer Camp - #MFRWSummerCamp

Marketing Summer Camp July 14-15, 2012
Marketing Summer Camp is a free, two-day online conference designed to help authors learn the basics of marketing and promotion, and to fine tune skills already obtained. It will include guest speakers, pitch opportunities, prizes, top giveaways, and plenty of learning and fun. It will be held on the Yahoo group, Marketing for Romance Writers. Membership is open to published as well as non-published authors, editors, publishers, literary agents, author promotion services, cover artists, and virtual assistants. MFRW members are automatically signed up for Camp. If you want to take a particular course, read the messages posted with that title of the class. If you want to skip that class, don't read them. It's going to be that easy. Handouts and goody bags will be up for grabs once the conference begins. Giveaways include advertising packages, blog tours, and more. Discounts on services will also be available for all attendees.
There will be pitch appointments with multiple publishers for camp attendees. These will take place after camp so you don't have to miss classes.
Sign up by joining the group: http://is.gd/mfrwgroup
To learn more:
Website: http://is.gd/mfrworg
Paperli: http://is.gd/mfrwpaperli
Newsletter: http://is.gd/mfrwnews
Facebook group: http://is.gd/mfrwfb
Marketing Camp Schedule: http://is.gd/mfrw_camp_hours
The MFRW Friends of Romance Award is presented to companies seeking to aid authors with promotion at little or no cost, and to offer affordable programs. In 2012 they are: The Romance StudioRomance Junkies, and CoffeeTime Romance. The award is one way we can help authors and publishers save money and obtain ethical and excellent service.http://marketingforromancewriters.org/friends.htm
Kathryn R. Blake

Free Training for #Authors #MFRWSummerCamp. http://is.gd/mfrworg July 14-15
No Cost Online conference for #Authors #MFRWSummerCamp. http://is.gd/mfrworg July 14-15
Four days to camp!