Saturday, March 29, 2014

Balancing on the Platform

I spent this afternoon at a presentation by historical fiction author Victoria Wilcox. One of the topics she brought up that raised a lot of questions among the audience members was about building an author's "platform." Apparently both aspiring and published authors have questions about what a "platform" is and how to create a successful one. I was among those with questions, and not surprisingly, I walked away feeling overwhelmed.

Modern authors are told repeatedly that we have to promote our own work by any means necessary. Those means always include – but aren't limited to – a website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and a zillion other social media avenues that have been created in the past 15 minutes. Apparently that contact with the public which can be used to sell books is an author's platform.
During today's presentation, Wilcox suggested that smart authors volunteer details about the dreaded platform when they're sending out query letters to literary agents and editors. When I heard that, it reminded me of the time that an agent asked what my platform was after I submitted a query to her for a nonfiction book. At the time, I was unclear on the concept. My first thought was that the agent was supposed to help me built a platform by securing a book deal. Yes, go ahead and laugh; I was naïve.
Needless to say, hearing people talk about their platforms today made me feel guilty about how I neglect both my blog and my Twitter account. I regularly talk myself out of posting by asking why anyone would want to read the ramblings of a stranger when they could instead be doing anything else on the planet. But it seems that putting material out there for the public to read is exactly what having a platform is all about.
No one reads it, but at least you can say that you're making the effort. At least you can write in your submission letters that you have a blog, and it's possible to post a link to it on your website. At least it makes you seem like you're not a complete Neanderthal when it comes to technology. Maybe it even makes you appear to be a serious writer. And if nothing else, it demonstrates that you have a clue what a platform is. Which puts you head and shoulders above where I was not too long ago.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Escape from LinkedIn

I need to get off the grid. Totally, completely unplugged from all electronics and modern technology. That's the only way to make LinkedIn leave me alone. Of course, I'm just speculating here. It's entirely possible that even if I'm living in a cave in a godforsaken wilderness, catching fish with my bare hands and fighting off grizzly bears that want to steal my hand-caught fish, LinkedIn might still find me. They'll drop little parachutes over me with messages tied to them, like the soon-to-be slaughtered tributes get in The Hunger Games. The LinkedIn parachutes will say, "A person who you once bought a used dishwasher from wants to connect with you on LinkedIn. They endorse you for 'Cleanliness.' Would you like to Accept?"
And if I ignore the request, as everyone in the real world does, then LinkedIn will keep sending requests. More and more little parachutes will drop onto my primitive campsite, starting the trees ablaze when they land near my campfire, attracting more grizzlies, scaring away the fish. And just like in the real world, there won't be any way to stop them. If I wad the stupid things up and throw them back at the sky, a new parachute will appear that says, "We're sorry, but your recent update to this support ticket came from an email address that's not the primary email address associated with your account." And of course, I'll need my log in information to use the Help Center to update my email address. Which I don't have because I'm living in a cave in the woods in order to escape LinkedIn.
I joined LinkedIn a couple years ago because they had started sending me messages to get me to "connect" with some friend-of-a-friend who was already a member. I didn't want to join, but I couldn't find any way to stop the messages from the outside, so I thought I'd and gain access and bring them down from the inside. No such luck. The "connect" messages continued, but now they were coming in greater numbers. Now, people who I was peripherally associated with were "endorsing" me for skills and apparently expecting me to endorse them in return.
I tried ignoring the requests, but LinkedIn keeps sending them. They're relentless. So I tried just saying "Yes, connect with this random person for God's sake!" but then I'd have to log in every time. Which begins the nightmare of digging through a drawer looking for current login passwords. All so I can make an email go away.
Last month I got so disgusted, I made a serious effort to make it stop. I tried to cancel my account and I found a link that would put me on a blocked email list. It seemed to work for a little while, until just recently when I started getting their emails again. Only this time, my login information doesn't work, probably because I might have cancelled the account. So I can't accept "connect" requests because I can't log in. And when I request help, they send me a link to their help center which requires a login.
I've tried multiple times to send them emails to make their communications stop, but every time I get the same response about how my email came from an email address that's not the primary email address on my account. First of all, I shouldn't have an account anymore because I can't log into it. But also, I swear I've sent them cancel requests from every single email address I've ever owned in my life, but still I get this same message. I think it's all just a huge trick being played on the American public. There's actually no way to unsubscribe. We're all supposed to keep receiving this nonsense until every man, woman, and child on the planet is "connected" and "endorsing" one another. Then LinkedIn will own the world.
In my efforts to unsubscribe, I've tried being nice, I've tried being polite, but after too many futile attempts, my most recent communication to LinkedIn went like this:
If that friendly missive doesn't work, the only way to escape is to go totally off the grid and hope LinkedIn can't find me. And I mean totally off the grid: using pinecones as toilet paper, skinning deer with tree bark, growing a Duck Dynasty beard even though I'm a woman.
I haven't received a reply yet from my latest email, but when I do it will no doubt say something like, "Some woman you vaguely knew in high school in the 1980s wants to connect with you. She endorses you for 'writing up chemistry lab reports' and 'wearing leg warmers.' Log in to accept." But I won't be able to read it because I'll be crouched in a forest someplace, brushing my teeth with a rock.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

To Sochi or not to Sochi?

When Olympics time comes around, I always honor the Games by wrestling with myself over whether to watch or not. Spending two weeks in front of the TV watching other people exercise isn't going to benefit me in any way. So this year I put together a list of pros and cons to help me decide.

-        Shaun White's hair
-        There's nothing else on
-        Epic fail figure skating crashes
-        Epic fail crashes for all other sports
-        Possibility of learning what a triple lutz is
-        Personal stories of athletes overcoming hardship to compete in Games
-        Watching U.S. athletes win
-        Being patriotic and supporting my team
-        Halfpipe and figure skating are the rare women's sports that are entertaining

-        Shaun White cut his hair this year
-        Could watch commercial-free DVDs instead
-        Figure skating reminds me of Tonya Harding
-        Curling doesn't move fast enough for epic fails
-        Lack of room in my brain for triple lutz
-        Athletes act like these pointless contests are as important as curing cancer
-        Watching U.S. athletes lose to tiny countries that don't even have snow
-        Won't make me smarter, richer, thinner, or more accomplished
-        Excuse to seem patriotic while just wasting time
-        No gymnastics in Winter Games

It seems like a wash, but I'll probably end up watching parts of the Olympics like usual. Something interesting usually happens that people are talking about, and it's always good to see that live. This year, I’m expecting Russian President Vladimir Putin to put exiled American NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in his presidential box with him for the Opening Ceremonies. And if the pair of them fail to land the triple lutz, then all the better.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Do Not Mow

It looks like Walking Dead might be revving up for some more filming in Senoia, Georgia this upcoming week. The now-familiar sign is back on Route 16 that says the street in front of the Senoia Library will be closed all day from September 23 until the 29th. It was shut down like that a couple weeks ago for WD filming, but I didn't want to jump to any conclusions.

So yesterday, I drove down the street to see if there was any other sign that there might be zombies invading Senoia this week. Sure enough, the lawns lining the street had "Do Not Mow" signs stuck in them. Normally that wouldn't mean much to me, but according to people who live in neighborhoods where they've filmed before, the WD producers sometimes pay homeowners in filming locations to not mow their lawns. This makes it look like the homes aren't being taken care of after their owners turn into mindless feeding machines.

Who would have guessed that during a zombie apocalypse, yard maintenance is the first thing to suffer.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Zombie disease?

So I'm minding  my own business today, watching the news and eating lunch, when the newscaster tells me about a patient who died in New Hampshire from some horrible brain disease that's related to Mad Cow. Apparently this disease might have infected up to 13 other people around the country because the deseased person had brain surgery before he died. The equipment they used for the surgery was rented (They rent surgical equipment?!?), and it's been used on other patients since then. Unfortunately, this strain of mad cow-related disease is so monsterous that it isn't killed by traditional sterilization techniques. So it's a deadly disease that's so dangerous it can't be killed. I immediately thought of zombies.

My advice for dealing with this potentially zombie-related situation:
1) Don't bother with sterilization. Just shoot the disease-causing organisms in the head.
2) Tell Daryl to get his crossbow.
3) Carl, stay in the house!

Stay safe out there.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

It's a (zombie) wrap

The zombies have left the building. Driving by downtown Senoia today, it was clear that this round of Walking Dead filming was done. The trailers and cars and signs redirecting traffic were all gone. Which is kind of scary because it means all those zombies are roaming the countryside, perhaps on their way to your community. Actually, they're probably going to Atlanta.

It makes sense that they'd have to finish up if any of the Walking Dead cast members are going to attend DragonCon in Atlanta this weekend. If you've never been to DragonCon, may I recommend that you slip into your Star Fleet uniform, jump in the car, and make your way to Atlanta. They do this massive sci fi/fantasy convention every year over Labor Day weekend, and it's crazy. Think tens of thousands of your best friends overflowing from multiple huge conference hotels, all talking about sci fi/fantasy movies, TV, books, gaming, and everything else you can imagine. I've never experienced anything quite like it. Bring your camera, your autograph book, and money for double espressos to keep you awake for the 24-hour festivities.

This year, some of my favorites are scheduled, including Data from Star Trek TNG, Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Monroe from Grimm. How can you help but have fun with a crew like that?

Have a happy DragonCon weekend!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Walking Dead still in Senoia

Roads are still closed and parking lots are still full of cars and trailers for the Walking Dead filming in Senoia, GA. According to the signs along Rt. 16, today's supposed to be the last day for road closures.

Rumor has it there was a private party for Walking Dead cast and crew last night at McGuire's  Restaurant in downtown Senoia. Of course, fans waited outside for their favorite cast members to emerge. Their patience was rewarded when Rick, Darryl, and a few others came out. The person who told me about this had been outside the restaurant and listed some other character names, but frankly, I stopped listening when I heard Darryl. All I could think about was whether he had his crossbow and motorcycle. And it gave me hope that he survives this upcoming season.

I also got a cool idea from one of the fans. She said she found a bag of plastic human ears at the dollar store. (Why would those exist? Maybe for Halloween?) She poked a hole in one and strung it on a chain and was wearing it around her neck a la Darryl in Season 2. Totally cool.

Happy zombie hunting, everyone! I'm going to go wait by the front door for UPS to arrive with the Season 3 DVDs that Amazon allegedly shipped yesterday.