Thursday, November 29, 2007
1) NY Times (11/28) reported that the Supreme Court upheld a decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to allow home searches without a warrant.
San Diego County’s district attorney has a program called Project 100% that is intended to reduce welfare fraud. Applicants for welfare benefits are visited by law enforcement agents, who show up unannounced and examine the family’s home, including the insides of cabinets and closets. Applicants who refuse to let the agents in are generally denied benefits.
The program does not meet the standards set out by the Fourth Amendment. For a search to be reasonable, there generally must be some kind of individualized suspicion of wrongdoing. These searches are done in the homes of people who have merely applied for welfare and have done nothing to arouse suspicion.
According to the editorial, the 9th Circuit believes that the home visits aren't really "searches", you see.
2) TSA, our buddies at the airports, will require airlines and travel agents to collect full names, gender and BIRTH DATES so they can check them against the terrorist watch lists. They believe that by doing so there will be less mismatches. Passengers will not be required to submit these answers, however that noncompliance may result in longer delays in the airport if their name matches one on the watch list.
Apply for welfare and you give up your Fourth Amendment Rights? Allow even more of your private data to be released? Will the agencies, airlines and TSA value that data, keep it secure? Will they do a better job than, let's say, Ameritrade or any of the other corporations who hold your private information but seem to "misplace" it on occasion?
Ron Paul's message would have seemed pretty bizarre a decade ago, but right now it's making sense to a lot of people. I'm still skeptical that returning to a minimalist government will fix stuff, but the man does have his moments. He does not believe we should be meddling in the affairs of other countries. Iran (remember the Shah?), Iraq (we used to love Hussein), etc. etc. Haven't had a great track record there. He suggests the use of Letters of Marque, which apparently is mentioned in the Constitution. Of course, we went to war against Iraq instead.
He's against the embargo against Cuba since it really hasn't done one damned bit of good. He is definitely pro-life, but believes that's not the purview of the government to regulate abortion. That's a State level issue.
Paul would like to ditch out most of the government agencies (Federal Reserve, IRS, etc.) And a few cabinet posts. I doubt that will happen. Bureaucracy is alive and well in DC. They'll do anything to keep The Firm running as is, including throwing the country under the bus.
Paul cites Washington, Jefferson and some of the other Founding Fathers, using their wisdom as his message. Fresh from a fight with a tyrannical king, they were worried about a standing Army and dangers of an overly strong government. Hence all the personal freedoms mentioned in the Constitution and other documents. The same ones that are now vanishing day by day.
Will Paul make to the White House? I doubt it. Still, his strong showing should be a wakeup call to those in power. There are a sizable number of Americans who are not happy with the direction their country is headed (last polls were in the 70% range) and the daily erosion of freedoms is beyond troubling. Some call us paranoid. I rather like to think it as "wary". We're not seeing that the two main parties are doing much to help the situation. They're too worried about their jobs. Paul's message is simple: Return to a Constitutional America. Whether his plans would make things worse, I'm not sure. At least they'd be different than the status quo, which I think is part of his appeal.
I'll continue to wander through the other candidates' positions as time goes on. I've already given Romney a few negative points for his repeated comments about not having a Muslim in his cabinet. Of all people, you'd think Romney would understand that religion is not the measure of the person. His answer should have been: "I really don't care who a person chooses to worship. If he or she is the best candidate for the job, they're in." But then that would open-minded. That particular trait is sadly lacking in DC these days.
12/7 - I've done a bit more research and realize that Mr. Paul and I do have a number of issues we disagree upon. One in particular: assault rifles. Now this will not earn me love from many firearms owners, but I actually support a ban on assault rifles (Mr. Paul does not). I have always supported a ban. I've actually fired one, an AR15. They are one sweet firearm. They are not for hunting. They're not ideal for home protection unless you're holding off an Army. I understand Mr. Paul (and others') concern about banning one firearm will lead to banning them all. That's always a risk. Still, assault rifles are designed for military and police use. That's where they should remain.
Monday, November 26, 2007
However, I was struck by how much Mr. Paul's being noticed in one niche - the gun owners of America. A Disclaimer: I own a firearm. I am licensed to carry said firearm as I occasionally drive across the country from Point A to Point B on my own. In a perfect world, I wouldn't have to think of such things. Unfortunately, we left "perfect" behind a long time ago. However, I'm not a member of the NRA as we part company on the notion of owning assault rifles. End Disclaimer.
So hubby and I attended a gun show on Saturday in search of a discrete carrying case that doesn't scream "she's got a gun" to all and sundry. I've never been to a gun show before. I figured it would be all Good Ole Boys. As usual, I got it wrong. There were a fair number of Georgia boys there, but the cross section of the attendees was like going to a baseball game: WASPs, Asians, African-Americans, Hispanics and everyone in between. So much for stereotypes. I should know better.
There was a Ron Paul supporter there who'd bought a table and was handing out his candidate's literature. That literature ended up on a number of the other dealers' tables, a not so subtle hint they like this guy. I didn't get a chance to buttonhole the Paul dude and ask pointed questions. I'll be doing that this Saturday at yet another gun show. After that, I'll be gun-showed out I suspect.
This week I'll be digging into what Paul's rhetoric actually means. My gut tells me that a hands-off government comes too late at this point in the game. We're terribly screwed up as a nation and trying to let States' Rights shift it back where it should be probably won't work. Not when you have 40 million people without health insurance.
So I admit my ignorance about Mr. Paul, at least until I do some research. I welcome my blog readers' input on the fellow. He's not as easily dismissed as Giuliani or some of the other nutters. I suspect I'll have the same difficulty with Obama. I'm saving Hillary for last
Thursday, November 22, 2007
However, if I was out there at the crack o'dawn, my bankcard would not be workable. As in kapput, da nada, no matter how many crazy American $$ I have in my account. Why is this, you ask? Let me digress.
The end of September a major bank went bust. As in bust like during the Depression, minus the long lines outside. There was virtually no news coverage of the event, which you would have thought should have created a financial ripple or two. The bank was NetBank who had started as a humble Internet bank and risen to prominent size and scope. They were apparently heavy into the mortgage business and got their corporate mammary glands caught in a ringer. When Ever Bank tried to buy them out, things didn't work out. So the Feds closed NB. This was on a Friday. We left for England the next Tuesday. Yes, there was some panic on this end as I'd moved a sizeable portion of $$ into our checking account so we could get to it while in Merry Olde. I also had a lot of Brit currency, which was all we actually needed. Luckily, the Feds and the bank that took control of the assets (ING Direct, the folks with the orange lion logo) got the online banking back up to snuff quickly. Somehow I suspected that not all of the shoes had dropped.
Then we got the email. On Friday, Nov. 23 our debit cards would not longer work. Sorry for the inconvenience. And that was ALL the message other than a phone number you could call if you were confused. No explanation why. I suspect the suspension of the debit cards (curiously 8 exact weeks after the takeover) is a Fed rule, but you never saw that in any of the paperwork we rec'd. Just "so sorry" and poof the debit cards are now neutered.
As is our checking account on Dec. 7th. ING doesn't do paper checks, you see, so we have to open a checking account at some other bank if we want to continue to that sort of outdated, Luddite thing. Okaaaaay. There are some folks who have to paid by check as they aren't wired for the online bill pay. Which is going away, as well. All those lovely accounts I've set up with addresses, acct numbers, etc. POOF.
Do you see a trend here? So we are trudging over to The Other Bank on Black Friday and opening accounts. They are a smaller banking group, very friendly and just what we need. We'd already moved our business accounts to them and been very pleased with their customer service.
So, Mr. Big Orange Lion -- ya got a snappy logo, I'll give you that, but nothing else is that exciting. That's one of the joys of America -- you can't sling the proverbial dead feline without hitting a bank. Hopefully this one does a much better job.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Adrienne joined us at the signing and then we went off to a yummy Singaporean restaurant for dinner. Lots of talking occurred as we've only communicated via the email in the past. Adrienne is not only a professional cellist, but a grad student, a mom and a freelance editor. I don't know how she does it all (and I suspect neither does she). Ed is also a professional musician (and dad to a two year old!) and we got to catch up with him in Valdosta later that night after he'd played a concert with the Valdosta Symphony. One other nifty talent Ed possesses is the ability to go through a manuscript and find mistakes, both typographical and continuity issues. I feel much better knowing a manuscript has been "Ed-ed" after Adrienne and I are through with it.
So in all, it was an absolutely wonderful weekend. Now we're home, we're tired and we need to get back in gear tomorrow. Luckily it's a short week for my hubby because of T'Giving. Just taking a quick look around, we have a lot to be thankful for.
My hope is that the same applies to you and yours....
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Uraina Z. asks, "How and why did you choose the glow watch to be your logo?"
Purely by accident. Lynn Perkins, one of my cover artists, designed the watch for the spine of the first book. It was so cool I asked permission to use it as the logo for the series. The second book has a different glow watch on the spine in keeping with the cover's color scheme (teal). The third book will have a different one, maybe in red, in keeping with the overall theme of the book.
She also asks, "What was your reaction to your previous book Sojourn winning so many awards? Has it made anything different for you towards the series?
I started with stunned. Then I moved on to thrilled. Then I hit scared to death. Why? At my level in the publishing world, this is like hitting the top of the NY Times list with your first book. It's a real adrenalin rush. The problem is -- what do you go from here? If I had "finaled" for or won a couple of awards, no sweat. But Sojourn was nominated for TEN awards and won seven of those. Now where do you go, Ms. Oliver? How do you top a book like that? I was already freaking about Virtual Evil being as good as Sojourn and then the awards goodies fall in my lap.
Admittedly it's nowhere near as career altering as #1 on one of the big lists, but those awards do impact my work. After a long period of introspection I finally adjusted to the fact that 1) I am a talented writer 2) that I can do that magic again and 3) freaking over this isn't productive.
Fortunately, I have a strong internal "resetting" mode. I adjusted and moved on. It appears that Virtual Evil is just as strong as Sojourn. Does that mean it will win a ton of awards? Most likely not. Good writing is always a must, but timing is key, as well. What was new and unique last year may not even be nominated for an award this year. Such is the way of publishing.
I am, however, still entering the contests. Lightening does strike twice, just not very often.
Brittney S asks, "I noticed on your website it said you have repeatedly married your husband. How many times have you two been married?"
Twice, so far. I figure we'll renew the vows again down the line. The last time was at an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica with hummingbirds flying all around. Really nice. And windy. Very windy. Ever try to recite your vows whilst trying to hold a bouquet and keep your skirt down at the same time? I needed more hands.
She also asks, "Did the name of your cat, Odds-Bobkin, come from a character in one of your books?"
No, just from the fact that Bob (he was a Manx) was just damned odd. He turned up on our doorstep and after a number of months actually allowed us to pet him. (He was always the outdoor cat as the inside feline (Midnight) would never tolerant interlopers.) Bobkin remained skittish no matter how decently we treated him. You will note the past tense here. Bob vanished on us this summer, along with a number of other neighborhood cats. There are coyotes in our area, the occasional owl and such. I like to think Bob returned to his original household. If not, then somewhere out there is a little kitten who is odder than anything and answer to the name of Odds-Bobkin. Cats are immediately reborn, you see. They're too cool to do anything else.
Jennifer J. inquires, "What advice do you have for beginning authors?"
Don't go there! I'm just kidding. If you intend to do this as a career, understand that it is just as much of a career as law, medicine or any other profession. There are rules, strata (as in another author is always higher on the food chain than you) and pitfalls. But if you burn to write your stories, then do it. Seek advice from those who know more than you do (which is about everyone when you're starting out). Never assume what you've written is Gospel. It's not. Editing saves your butt. Professional jealousy is a waste of time. Write what you love, not necessarily what you know.
Also understand that publishing, by and large, is still firmly routed in the 19th century. Innovations come slowly, if at all. Book distribution isn't a piece of cake. Even though I have an award-winning series, the books are not easily found in bookstores.
As you move forward in your career, cultivate friendships. I have a number of writer buddies to whom I can bitch, whine, ask advice or just generally b.s. with on a regular basis. They are my "sanity" monitors. If I think I'm going a bit off the dial, I check in with them. They are supportive of my career, but not enablers.
Ultimately, you are the pilot of your career. If you aren't willing to put butt in chair, write that short story or book, you're going nowhere. But if you are, welcome to the club. Now pass me that dictionary, will you?
Monday, November 12, 2007
Amanda A. asks - "Do you ever feel that being so open and blunt in your blogs, that fans of yours would stop reading your pieces if they disagreed with your personal opinions?"
Ah, you see, that's the rub. Blogs expose an author to the world in ways even we can't contemplate. Where there aren't many comments on my blogs, I do have a fair number of readers as per the stats page. Many authors stay strictly within the "here's a picture of my pet mongoose and here's me at the latest convention and by the way, my latest book is due out on Friday." I have no problems with that, but I'm just wired a bit different. I believe that with public exposure comes some responsibility as to social issues. My life is not entirely comprised of book signings, brushing the cat, etc., so I feel I should comment on the real world every now and then.
I don't expect my readers to accept what I write as it were Gospel. I just want folks to pry open their minds and think through stuff they might have previously just accepted without much thought. We all do that. It's easier. But the bigger questions in life need some careful consideration. I am blessed in the respect that I am not for one political party so my postings don't seem as partisan as they could be. So far I have had only one person take great exception to something I wrote and that was when I said that Jesus was a liberal, someone who bucked the establishment. The lady did not like that. We shall just have to disagree on that point.
In all honesty, I could be turning off readers. It's definitely a possibility. As with all things, one has to accept the cause and effect of one's actions. I do know that if I didn't post what I was thinking, the blog would have no meaning for me.
And Amanda also asks - "With regards to the Internet, how has the emergence of technology affected you as a writer? Do you consider it a positive or negative effect?"
It's both ways. The Internet is an incredible tool for research and promotion. I can wander through the records of Newgate Prison from the early 1800's. I can see who crossed on a ship from the UK to the US during that time. I can view images and read personal accounts of life in Late Victorian London that I would never have seen unless for the Internet. I can plan my research itinerary all from visiting museum websites. Previously these tasks would have required a trip to a library (if the books were available). Now I can do all that by moving my mouse.
The negative side is that the Internet now requires another level of marketing exposure. There are all those social networking sites, blogs, websites, chat rooms, message boards, you name it. I could spend all day just keeping up with those and not get a lick of writing accomplished. So the savvy writer quickly learns where to use their time for the most effect. I tend to avoid social networking sites like MySpace, etc., as I see them as a time sink. They may well bring new readers in the fold, but maybe they don't. I do visit one "social" site (Crimespace.ning.com) because it fits my need to interact with other mystery readers and writers. Obviously I blog. I try to keep my website up-to-date and I do troll around the message boards on occasion which range from paranormal mystery to romance to Jack the Ripper. Quite eclectic.
The problem with the Internet is that there is so much competition for the reader's attention and it's easy to get lost in the buzz. So it is a blessing and a curse from this writer's perspective, though I have to admit that writing my books would have been an incredibly difficult task if it wasn't for the Web.
This is Amanda's day! "Which award have you received that is the most special to you? Why?"
I hesitated tackling this one as I was sure I'd aggravate one of the contests if I said "X" is my favorite. At last count I've won seven awards so someone is going to feel left out. So let me go at this in a more balanced, Solomon-like approach:
The Compton Crook Award -- I didn't win this one but I got very close. This was the wake-up call. If I could get this near to such a major award, right behind Naomi Novik who is great writer, I knew something had changed. I was stunned by this and it was fortunate I made this adjustment early in the year as the rest of 2007 would have left me on life support.
The ForeWord Award -- to be chosen over all those other authors for THE fiction book of the year absolutely blew me away. I received the phone call from Brian Hades (Hades Publications) after the awards ceremony in NY. All I can remember saying is "OMG! OMG!" I don't usually take the Deity's name in vain, but somehow I think this one was kosher.
The Independent Publisher Award, Golden Quill, Bookseller's Best & Pluto Awards -- these were all very meaningful to me. They proved I had broad support across the genres, not only in science fiction and fantasy, but in romance. Each one reminded me this is what I was meant to do in this life.
The Daphne du Maurier and the Prism Awards -- These meant a bit more because of a couple of vows I'd made a few years back. I'd finaled for the Daphnes twice with my self-pubbed books. I swore that some day I'd be back up there to claim a First Place Daphne of my very own. Unfortunately, this year they did away with the speeches so I didn't get to deliver the one I'd worked on for an entire YEAR. Maybe in 2008.
The Prism -- I first held one of these gorgeous awards in 2002 when P.C. Cast won her first. (I think she's up to three now.) I vowed I'd write something good enough to win one. So when I did, I floated up to the podium and immediately discarded the speech I'd written.
Each of these awards are displayed prominently in my house. They are a reminder that others find my work of value, that what I write has meaning. When an author is hip deep in the middle of a particularly difficult passage/chapter/book, it helps to look up at those awards and say, "Yeah, I can write. So let's get this done, okay?"
Saturday, November 10, 2007
I recently took a step into the future with my own Bots. They're not very good with the dusting and can't make hot chocolate like Sigmund. Still the Roomba sweeps the floors and the Scooba "mops" them. My husband talked me into a refurnished Roomba a couple of months back and were so delighted at how it does its thing, my birthday present is a brand new Scooba.
Now I know this sounds lazy, but I detest, loathe and sincerely dislike to do that same thing over and over. Housekeeping falls in that realm. I do keep a fairly tidy house. There is clutter, I admit. But I do mop floors and sweep the carpets. It's just that I don't like doing these chores as they are a Waste of Time(TM). So I turn the Roomba loose after setting its boundaries with the Virtual Walls and the thing sweeps. And does a good job at it. We have a Furry Tyrant. It sheds. The Roomba solves a lot of that mess.
The Scooba just arrived today and so far it's cleaned the kitchen floor and is currently working on the front hallway. The front room and dining room on the list after that. Just move stuff out of their way and off they go. The Furry Tyrant glares at them and takes refuge on the top of the stuffed chair. Prudent cat.
Once the bots are done they return to their little recharging centers and blink away. I figure they're plotting world domination, learning the layout of every middle class house in America and beaming that data up to the Mother Ship. Well, maybe not.
I have to wonder what sorts of Bots will be in existence in another 10-20 years. Maybe they'll create one that does laundry and goes grocery shopping. Then I will truly love the things....
Friday, November 09, 2007
“You people are really nuts,” she told a reporter during a phone interview. “There’s kids dying in the war, the price of oil right now — there’s better things in this world to be thinking about than who served Hillary Clinton at Maid-Rite and who got a tip and who didn’t get a tip.”
Right on, sister.
Can I get an "Amen!"?
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Then comes the politicians. Back in the "good old days" I felt the media would take these bozos to task if they outright lied to the public. My gut tells me that a lot of b.s. got shoved past us back in those good old days, but not as much as today. When you add in the pressure of a presidential race, the pols really go to town.
Hopefully there will be more places like this one: FactCheck.org
An example from the site:
On his Web site, Rudy Giuliani claims that he grew New York City's police force by 12,000 officers between his inauguration as mayor in January 1994 and mid-2000. That's just not true. Most of the cops he's counting – 7,100 to be exact – were already housing or transit police who were simply folded into the New York Police Department. The merger of the departments didn't increase the number of police in the city at all.
The actual increase in the size of the force was about 3,660, or about 10 percent, during the period Giuliani pinpoints. And Giuliani doesn't mention that the cost of hiring about 3,500 of the officers was partially covered by the federal government under President Bill Clinton.Giuliani is particularly inclined to lie. Yes, I used that word. The media speaks of mendacity (the tendency to lie) rather than just saying, "Rudy. You couldn't tell the truth if you tried." He has an ego problem, a habit of going out of his way to punish enemies and the tact of a razor blade. And I'll go on record -- he will be a worse president that Mr. Bush. Bush may lie, but in his heart he believes what he's saying. Giuliani just doesn't care. He believes were all chumps and so far, he might be right.
Why? That's the question we Americans should be asking. If he (or any of the candidates) lie to us now, they'll do it later. (Remember those WMD in Iraq?) The consequences are far more grave than a "well, he did get those health care numbers wrong." A lying president sets the tone for the entire administration. A lying president covers his ass and in the process, people get hurt.
If Mr. G can't be bothered to tell the truth (and he has the staff to do the research so there is no reason he shouldn't know the numbers, details, etc.) then why do we need him? Why can't the American people say "No way. You lie. We want as honest an individual as we can get, and you are not it."
All politicians shade the truth. The ones that lie to your face and expect you to kiss their ring are the last thing this country needs. So do a little fact checking of your own. Don't believe a word they tell you. In the end, you will be the one to pay the penalty, not the Pinocchio in the White House.
Late addition: Here's another set of beauties at TPM Election Central The guy just won't quit.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
About that Second Book, Ms. Oliver --
I've been doing a lot of fidgeting lately. It's been because of VIRTUAL EVIL, the second book in my series. It's that second book thing, you see. Since the current story arc is three books, book #2 better rock or you've lost the readers. As I've mentioned before in my blogs, I agonized over VE, rewriting and rewriting even before it reached my editor. Then she grabbed me by the lapels and we redid the book over twice more. I worried over this book like a dog with a bone. The effort was worth it.
I'm thrilled (and relieved) to announce that VE (and SOJOURN for that matter) earned Romantic Times Book Review's 4-1/2 Star Top Picks in Science Fiction & Fantasy. It's probably the only time I'll have books earn a higher rating than those of Jim Butcher, Mercedes Lackey and George R.R. Martin. VE also earned 5 Angels from Fallen Angel Reviews and praise from Coffee Time Romance and ParaNormalRomance .
Romantic Times: "Readers are in for a gripping adventure!"
Fallen Angel: "This book is one of the most creative, imaginative, and exciting stories I've picked up in a long time."
ParaNormalRomance: "A rollicking good read!"
The one complaint? My cliffhanger ending. Now I don't like those myself, but no matter how I tried to write the ending in a different way, it just didn't work. That's the way VE was supposed to end. I pretty much know the ending for MADMAN'S DANCE (the next book) and it's not a cliffhanger. I won't do that to my readers two times in a row (or I'd probably be hung from the closest gas lamp).
And lest some of you are not romance readers and note that so far the reviews are all from that part of the world, not to fear. There is a strong romantic subplot weaving through the entire series, but these books also include mystery, suspense, paranormal elements and a good dose of 1888 London. I like to mix genres and see what happens. The mystery and science fiction/fantasy reviews are in the pipeline. I'm hoping they like the book as much as the romance reviewers. (fingers crossed).
So there is rejoicing on this end because of all the good news. And the sobering reality that MADMAN'S DANCE is due March 1st to my glorious publisher. That's 120 days from now. You know, I think I'll go type some words now...