Dear New Computer -

Dear New Computer –

I’d like to start out by saying, I will stop complaining about Windows 8.1.  I’m still not a fan, but it isn’t the worst thing to happen to the world of computing.  For example, spontaneous combustion is the worst.

However, I’d like to talk about a few other issues that seem to be prevalent.

Why don’t all my keys work all the time?  I’m a terrible typist to begin with.  If I have to remind myself every time I hit the space bar or “h” key to strike it a little hard than the others, one of two things is going to happen.  1.  There are going to be lots of missing “h”‘s and spaces.  2.  I will begin striking all the keys with incredible force until I have pounded the hell out of the keyboard and other keys will die a senseless, tragic death.  Please let this problem be resolvable by usage.

Why do you keep reinstalling Skype?  I have uninstalled this program three times.  I do not Skype.  I’m not the video chatting type.  I’m not even the chatting type.  I do not need this program.  I certainly do not need this program to run in the background all the time.  I would like for you to stop re-installing it.  Also, stop reminding me to set up a Skype account, log in to my non-existent Skype account, or giving me messages telling me that I’m not logged in to Skype and therefore, cannot receive messages.  It’s an issue of logic; I know that if I am not logged into Skype, I will not be able to receive requests to Skype.  Reminding me only ensures that we are going to go through the install/reinstall process all over again.

Finally, what is wrong with the mouse?  I have had three laptops and I am very comfortable using a swipe pad.  However, your swipe pad seems to have some issues.  For example, why did you highlight and delete three paragraphs tonight when I attempted to click the X button to close the program?  I will have to plug in a wireless mouse if this nonsense continues.

Your Interested Owner,

H

Writing & the New Computer

I replaced my old laptop.  The new one arrived just in time.  While the old one did give up the ghost, so to speak, it is still mildly functional, as long as you don’t do anything taxing.  Or mind random shut-downs…

The new machine is Windows 8.1 based.  I find the start menu pointless.  You click on something and it takes you back to the normal “computer screen” to run the program anyway… so why bother?  I get that it’s set up more like a phone or a tablet (the new laptop is not the tablet/laptop hybrid), but I have a phone and a tablet, I’d like my computer to look and feel like a computer.  If I wasn’t in love with that look and feel, I’d use a typewriter or *gasp* hand write everything.

However, there is a major problem.  I use WriteWay to compose all my novels.  The program is having issues installing/running on it.  I am in a holding pattern, waiting for their tech support to get back to me.  I’m not getting anything written or accomplished.  It is actually starting to bug me.  It’s been 4 days since I put words on paper… and I lost some of those words.  My old laptop turned them to gobbledity gook when it crashed during back-up, corrupting both files.

So, I’m twiddling my thumbs.  I am not very good at waiting.

Reviewing the Negative

I have spent the afternoon laptop shopping.  After two days of issues, some serious, I decided it was time to start looking for a replacement.  It soon became apparent that no matter what I bought, it was going to suck… but is it really?

The answer is no.  Yes, everyone gets a dud from time to time.  Every brand has issues.  But, I suddenly had some clarity while I was comparing brands: people are more likely to leave a review if it is negative.

I had a Dell Latitude for many years and I loved it.  I never once left a review for the product.  I am not as happy with my Asus (it would get 3 stars, my Latitude would have scored 5).  I haven’t left a review for it either.  However, if I had shelled out $600 for a machine that was nothing but problems, oh yeah, I’d be leaving a review… One-star: it’s junk!

The same goes for customer service.  I was sent a text message today from my cell phone carrier, asking me to take a quick survey: 3 questions.  I got five-star service today when I called with an issue.  I took the survey, but normally, I wouldn’t have.  I told the woman before we disconnected that I got great service, no complaints on my end, so why do I need to take a survey?  However, if they had pissed me off… Yep, I’d be more than willing to take that survey and tell them what stupid, unhelpful, and blustery assholes they were.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at today… Laptop shopping.  sigh  And thinking of customer service.

Healthy & Unhealthy Relationships

Someone recently recommended I read a book about healthy relationships.  I did peruse it, but the truth is, it seemed to have been written by a wanker who was more concerned with making everyone feel like their relationships are dysfunctional than actually helping anyone.

I completely believe that to have a “healthy” relationship, there has to be some dysfunction to it.  My SO and I don’t fight about big things.  We never fight about money, life choices, or other “important stuff.”  We’ve got that worked out.  We fight about small stuff… You know they say “don’t sweat the small stuff,” well, if we didn’t, we would never fight.  Our fights occur when we have to do a manual labor project together.  That’s like opening the gates of Hell and letting the demons come forth.  I am awkward, clumsy, and not mechanically inclined.  He is the exact opposite.  But I read directions and he doesn’t.  So for us to have to move something or build something or put something together as a couple is also a disaster.  I end up screwing it up, then I get mad and resent him for making me do it and he gets mad that I screwed it up and then resents my resentment… We end up shouting at each other in epic fashion.  We fight about laundry.

It takes us an hour to figure out where we are going to dinner, because we do this:

“Where do you want to go?”   “I don’t care, where ever.”    “How about Place A?”   “Nah, not really in the mood for that.”   “Ok, then what do you want?”   “I don’t care.”   “Obviously, you do… You rejected Place A.”   “We ate it last week, let’s go somewhere different.”    “Place B?”   “Meh, what about Place C?”    “I don’t like Place C.  How about D?”   “Well, we’ll just go to Place A”

No roles were assigned there because we both do it.

Picking movies is just as problematic.  I love action, horror, and sci-fi… He loves comedy, likes action, and can pretty much leave the rest.  I’m not much on comedy (I don’t get it and as a result, most of it isn’t funny… For example, I really enjoyed The Heat with Bullock and McCarthy… He sort of enjoyed it, but he loves every Adam Sandler movie ever made and I like 3 of them – The Longest Yard, Grown-ups, and Grown-ups 2).   He gets tired of watching action films much faster than me.  And we like different kinds of action… There isn’t a racing movie he hasn’t seen.  I want blood and gore.  On movie nights, we spend a half hour watching trailers on Vudu or Amazon before one of us gives in and we “agree” on something.  The last two have been Nightcrawler and Wild Card.  All I can say for Nightcrawler is that Jake should have given into the urge and become a serial killer.  All I can say for Wild Card is that Statham has had worse movies.

We both love darts.  We both love clip shows.  We both love camping.  We both love Whose Line is it Anyway?.  We both prefer to order dinner in than actually go deal with a crowded restaurant.  That’s where our mutual loves end.  I’m a book girl.  He’s a movie guy and he doesn’t seem to like talking about my books, at all.  He’ll listen, but he always looks dreadfully bored and slightly afraid.

However, there are some big things that we don’t have: Jealousy doesn’t exist in our relationship.  I’m never jealous about his female friends.  He’s never jealous of my guy friends.  Insecurity doesn’t exist.  We are both comfortable with ourselves, each other, and our relationship.  We aren’t clingy.  I’m a shut-in by nature, as is he, but come racing season, he’ll be gone several nights a week, working on the car, going to the track, helping his racer.  I have girls’ nights, which I love.

We don’t aspire to be the perfect couple.   We aspire to be what we are and make the relationship work.  And as odd and strange as it is… It works.

One day, I’ll talk about my previous relationships and prove what an “unhealthy relationship” looks like (one of my ex-boyfriends, became an ex when he got his half-sister pregnant while we were dating… that’s an unhealthy relationship).

Dreams & Reality Retrospective

I had a goal when I began this series… which is by far my best writing and my best selling.  In hindsight, I see three glaring errors.

The first is Tortured Dreams.  I look back on and think of all the things I should have done, could have done to make it a better book.  Too much Aislinn, not enough everyone else… Killer chapters would have been a nice edition… The ending had good planning and somewhere went awry… It is the worse book in the series.

The second is Mercurial Dreams.  I love it.  I think it is one of the best of the series.  My readers would disagree.  So would my sales figures.  For me, it is a dosage of real life.  The serial killer dies, leaving unanswered questions, lots of them.  The who and why mostly.  Aislinn and the men return to their normal lives shortly after the death of the killer.  That’s what they do.  They hunt down serials and then return to whatever counts as normalcy for them.  To me, it is a dose of reality.  Things ended, but they weren’t resolved.  To readers it is a disappointment, especially on the heels of Elysium Dreams.  They want answers, answers that do not exist in the book.  In the last few weeks, I have considered doing some reworks for the ending, but I haven’t, because it is exactly how I intended it.  But it does put readers off… I see it in reviews, I see it in retention rate after Mercurial Dreams

The third is Aislinn Cain herself.  She doesn’t deal with emotions, because she doesn’t have many and the few she has, she rarely understands.  This makes her character complicated, but it makes her world even more complicated.  True to her character, she has baggage and unresolved issues, issues that she is not going to deal with in a timely fashion.  Patterson for example, it will take more than a few days of thought to sort that out… It will take more than a few months to be honest.  It is hard to put that into a single book.  As a result, Butchered Dreams is seen as being anti-climatic, to a degree.  I am often asked “how could she just walk away from it?”  She certainly wasn’t going to deal with it right that moment, she’d have ended up in jail.  Her first reaction was to put a bullet in Patterson, but that would not have improved the series.  Even three months later, she is still unwilling to battle that demon and with good reason… Patterson is a reflection of her and while she knows this, she isn’t going to talk about it or admit it or lay on the couch and let Lucas pick it apart.  It is Patterson and Callow that have made her into the person she is and while she often says Callow no longer has an effect on her, the truth is, that even 20 years after the incident, she has never really dealt with it.  I love her and I’m not sure how to change this aspect of her.  She is who she is, created from the fires of misery and hell, she is cold, calculating, and distant.  As her creator, I’m fine with this.  But the readers need her to be a little more emotional than I can make her, it would not be true to her creation.

Just my thoughts for the night.

Rights – More Controversy

I don’t get it.  Seriously, I don’t.

We are still chasing our tails about racial equality and gender equality and gay rights.  Why?

Here’s the thing, all those “equality” issues are based upon fictitious constructs.  I don’t mind being asked my nationality, but I hate being asked my “race.”  I always check “other” and then right in “human” next to it.  People don’t like it, but that’s the only “race” I belong to… so it is technically correct.  Ethnically, I’m Scottish.  Nationally, I’m American.  I was born between these borders and I will live between these borders until nuclear holocaust forces me to move, I’m abducted by aliens and sent to a different planet, or I die.  The only minority group I can claim is being female and possibly viking, but they never ask about the viking thing.  (Gaelic Celts had a huge Norse gene pool… therefore, I very well could be a viking too… however, I’m not too keen on raping, pillaging, or looting, so those genes seem to have gone dormant in my family’s genome)

Yes, that was funny and this is a serious piece… but it was meant to illustrate the ridiculousness of the situation.  My ancestors were among the barbarian hordes.  Hadrian built a freakin’ wall to keep the Gaelic Celts out of his section of the Roman Empire.  The Saxons rebuilt it because the barbarians to the north were raiding their towns and villages (even William the Conqueror was going “meh, let’s not mess with them, they are rather violent.”). And then you have the Vikings, who were raping, pillaging, and looting their way across the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean and into Canada.  That means my ancestors were the type of people you didn’t want as neighbors, unless you were a member of the horde too.  The only people more barbaric were the Celts and they had their own island where “Civilized Men” refused to go.  Of course, that makes the Irish a barbarian horde too, so the Scots and Vikings didn’t mind them and everyone else was terrified.  And it shows, because my mother has a little Irish in her.  Her Scottish ancestors were looking at the Irish going “Hey!  We like to kill people too!  Let’s breed, baby!  My hut or yours?”  Thus proving that the Irish were “in” with the barbarian hordes of the north.

This is the reason the British considered enslaving the Irish before the Africans.  But it would have been harder to raid Irish cities than African coastal villages, so the Irish got a reprieve because they were too violent.  Score one for the horde? Most history books forget to mention that at the Super Secret Pre-Slave Trading Meeting someone with a mustache and wig said “Let’s enslave the Irish.  It would be for their own good.”  And someone with a monocle and a better wig went “Dude, I like the way you think, but remember they kick our asses every time we go over there… So, what’s your second choice?”

However, instead of justifying bigotry by actually disliking someone who deserves it, we dislike people based on inane things like skin color, gender, and sexuality.  If someone said “I hate the Celts because they are violent and like to kill people,” I would get it.  I don’t understand it when someone says “Well, he’s gay” like it’s the single most terrible thing on the planet.  So he likes guys.  In the world rankings of terrible people, there are a lot of heavy hitters well above “gay.”  There are also a lot of heavy hitters above “black,” “latino,” and “asian.”

Let’s make a quick list:

Hitler, Stalin, Alexander the Great, Attila the Hun, Slobodan Milosevic, Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, the group that started the genocide in the Congo and whose name I forget, Anatoly Onoprienko, Charles Whitman, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, any member of ISIS, Caligula, Adolpho Constanzo, Jim Jones, any Cartel, Fidel Castro, Lucretia Borgia, Elzabeth Bathory, Mary Ann Cotton, Queen Mary I, Ilse Koch, need I continue?

We have a genuine reason to dislike everyone on this list.  Why do we need to invent reasons to dislike other people?

Measles Controversy

As a child, I had measles.  I had been vaccinated.  However, I just don’t have immunity.  Even after having the stupid disease and 12 MMR vaccinations, I still have no measles immunity.

Measles is miserable.  I don’t think I have ever been that sick in my life.  Maybe when I had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever some years ago, but I remember more about that event.

Here’s what I remember about measles:  I was in my mom’s bed and there was a bucket beside the bed so I could throw up.

That’s it.  That’s all I remember.  Nothing more.  I don’t remember how long it lasted.  I don’t remember getting up to urinate or eat.  I remember throwing up in a bucket next to my mom’s bed.  I do remember the battle of trying to return to school.  I had to have more MMR shots.  I had to have a titter test.  And it followed me to college.  I had to get a special exemption from a doctor because I had been vaccinated… But I still didn’t have immunity.

Then there was that terrifying letter.  My 4th year of college, I got an email and a phone call all in the space of 20 minutes.  Someone in one of my history classes had just been diagnosed with measles.  And for 14 days, I was not allowed to attend any classes.  Not only was I at risk for catching the deadly disease, but I was at risk of already being infected and it was incubating inside my body.  Those 14 days turned into 21, then 28.  They included twice a day fever checks, multiple trips to student health, where I was forced to wear a mask just in case someone there had it and didn’t know it yet.  I felt like a leper, a leper that was going to have to suffer with a bucket next to a bed again as a fever raged through my body.  It also required another round of vaccinations and another titter test… still no immunity.

Thankfully, I didn’t get measles.  I did fall behind in some classes and had some work that had to be made up (one exam that couldn’t be because the professor was a dick that moved my grade from a C to a D because math is not my strongest subject… I ended up repeating the class completely because of that blasted measles scare).

And here I am again.  There’s a measles outbreak.  I’ve already received letters from my doctor, my county health department, and my state health department warning me about the risks of getting measles as an adult.  They informed me of the outbreak and my chances of catching it.  And while those chances are slim, they are large enough for them to send me a letter about it.

Why?  We practically eradicated measles once before.  Sure, there were still cases.  Cases like me where immunity just doesn’t exist.  Cases like my sister’s who got a bad dose of the vaccine and therefore caught it (the 1970 MMR was ineffective, just FYI).

Autism Speaks says there is no link between autism and vaccines.  This is echoed by several major health authorities.  But people are so afraid that everyone is lying about it, that they aren’t getting vaccines for their children.  They would rather risk their children’s lives and the lives of others, because they are convinced that vaccines are bad.  However, autism existed before vaccines.  And yes, there has been an increase in the number of cases over the last 30 years, but there has also been in an increase in Borderline Personality Disorder, depression, panic/anxiety disorder, ADHD/ADD, and Anti-Social Personality Disorder.  Are these all vaccine related as well?  Can the Flu Shot make you a psychopath?  Can a TDaP cause you to develop depression?

Or is there another candidate?  Could something else be causing this increase?  How about… Understanding.  Fifty years ago, if your kid wasn’t “normal” they were just lumped into a group of “mentally ill and deficient.”  We didn’t understand that Down’s Syndrome was caused by a genetic flaw, they were just “mentally disabled.”  An autistic child can exhibit symptoms of other “mental disabilities.”  Perhaps cases haven’t increased, we’ve just learned how to correctly diagnosis and classify them better.  Jack the Ripper wouldn’t have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, although he most certainly had it.  Hell, even 20 years ago, a psychopath was still being diagnosed as having Anti-Social Personality Disorder with Psychopathic Tendencies.  The classification of Borderline has only come about in the last decade or so.

Vaccinate, don’t vaccinate, that is the question… I know where my opinion lies, think about your own… really think about it.  Don’t just rehash crap you’ve heard on TV or read on the internet.  What makes more sense; vaccines cause autism or our understanding of autism has increased enough that we can properly identify it and a host of other problems?

Bad, Good, & WTF Reviews…

I would prefer every review be 4 or 5 stars.  I know that’s impossible.  I’m a reader too.  Sometimes, I just don’t like a book.  It happens.  So when I get bad reviews, it isn’t a big deal.  But I have issues with some reviews… I call them WTF Reviews.

WTF Reviews are fairly easy to spot.  They are nonsense.  I have one on B&N right now that won’t go away.  It says this:

When master mark had gone, i walked to coltin. Peering in his cage, he was spitting out mud and coughing. I sighed. “Im sorry.” i whispered. Coltin whiped around. “Oh……its you. Look i didnt say anything! I just wanted to be free!” He reached his muddy hand out of the cage. “Am i going to be ok?” He was whimpering. Tears im his eyes. I shook my head “i dont know. I really dont.” Master mark came in and handed me a bucket of water and a sponge. “Clean him. Then begin the opperation. K.c will help you with the plans.” He left and i was put inside the cage. I soaked the cloth and began to wash him. He didnt move. He just layed there. When i finished, he sat up. K.c and i straped him to the table. K.c gave me the baby bottle filled with the milky stuff. He layed still. “Open wide coltin.” K.c had a thin wire tipped with white. Coltin shook his head and clamped his jaw shut. K.c nodded to me and i eased open his mouth. Feeding him some of the formula. Coltin refused to swollow, so k.c punched him in the gut, forceing him to swollow.

In theory, this review is about Tortured Dreams.  It has absolutely nothing to do with my book.  It was left anonymously and they did give me 5-stars, but I hope like hell people don’t look at it and think it’s actually from Tortured Dreams.

My newest one though is just as great…  3 stars with this gem of a review:

not read it

Wait?  What?  How can you review a book you have yet to read?  Your stars are pointless.  You might end up loving the book.  You might end up hating it.  So, what exactly to the 3 stars indicate?

Endings

With the release of a new book, I always think about endings that have come before it.  How were they received?

I now have 3 books with… unsatisfactory endings.  I know it.  My readers know it.  They tell me about it, sort of.  I know that everyone’s least favorite book in the Dreams & Reality novels is Mercurial Dreams.  I know the second least favorite is Butchered Dreams.  Those two endings get mentioned to me.

In my defense, it would get old if Aislinn Cain killed every serial killer at the end of the book.  By book seven, as a reader, you’d be saying “Well, I know how it ends, she kills him.”  However, I knew when I wrote those endings that the readers would feel… disappointed.  I know because I felt disappointed.  Aislinn Cain felt disappointed.

But that’s what the reader is supposed to feel.  They are supposed to be as miserable as Aislinn when the book ends. They are supposed to be as pissed off as Aislinn with those finales.  Since they are, I feel I’m doing something right.

As I have finished with Summoned Dreams (another unexpected ending that has left the readers screaming BRING ON #8), I know that number 8, which is in the very early stages of progress (stupid Percocet), I know that the ending will have to be satisfying, gratifying, and make Aislinn feel like she accomplished something… so that the readers will feel it too.  No spoilers on the ending of Summoned if you please… Just know that there is a #8.

The ending of Explosive is not gratifying in the way that Elysium or Cannibal was… It was satisfying, but the victory belonged to Gabriel and Malachi, my leading men.  This lessened the disappointment for the readers, but not for Aislinn.

However, not every real serial killer goes out in a haze of bullets.  One was brought down when he couldn’t restrain a victim.  One was pulled over in a routine traffic stop and gave up the ghost, so to speak.  Yet another, really did accidentally kill himself with one of his torture devices when he stepped on the wrong spot.

Part of what makes this series a success, is it’s realism.  I’m not being narcissistic or arrogant here.  I see the sales climb every month (currently in the UK, thank you across the pond… I appreciate the support).  Tortured will never make the NYTimes best seller list, but it isn’t a flop either.  Well, Tortured might be a flop, but Elysium makes up for it, if you can convince yourself to buy the second in the series.

Uh, where was I?  Oh yeah, realism.  My greatest strength as a writer has been the creation of characters.  My serial killers can’t be the exception to the rule.  A reader should be able to read them and go “whoa, that’s terrifying, he could be my neighbor.”  Some go on for years as suspects without evidence to convict.  Some go unidentified for decades.  Some put a body in the trunk and then run a stoplight and get pulled over and arrested when the cop finds the dead body in the trunk.  Some get caught just because they lack the ingenuity to actually get away with it for very long.

So, as you continue to read the series, don’t be too disheartened by the “disappointing endings.”  Other endings will be contain hails of bullets; macho bullshit fights that include Aislinn or some other member of her deadly team (one is already planned in which a beloved member of the team takes out the killer and then makes a joke about Ace being a bad influence); and at least one includes saving the victim, something that Aislinn will take very personally.

As for her baggage, which she refuses to deal with… It will get dealt with, in Aislinn fashion… in book 8.  :-)  Good luck deciphering what that means.

Reviews and Advertising

Most readers don’t realize that the advertising sites authors use normally have a minimal number of reviews policy.  This means that a book has to have a certain number of reviews before they will even consider it for their newsletter or Facebook.  Also, there is a minimal-star limit.  Both these numbers are different for every site, but they have one thing in common: they use Amazon.

I’m sure they’d wave the requirements for James Patterson, but most authors aren’t James Patterson.  We aren’t even 1/20th as popular of James Patterson… They aren’t going to wave the requirements for us.

A great example: I recently ran an advert in the UK.  The requirements?  20+ reviews with a combined rating of 4.0 stars on Amazon.  Should I decide to do another advert on this site, with a different book, I only have 1 that qualifies – Elysium Dreams.

However, I’ve had lots of people tell me how much they enjoyed Explosive Dreams and Butchered Dreams.  I have the sales numbers to support this claim (Elysium, Explosive, & Butchered are currently my best sellers).  But I don’t have the reviews to support it.

This is why it is important to review books that you like.  I know, it’s a giant pain in the behind… I hate writing reviews as well, but I do it.  And I do it because I know if an author I like decides they want to advertise, they are probably going to need the reviews.  They don’t have to be long, just a few words about liking or disliking the book and a why.

Just something to remember.  :-)

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