But I Didn’t Order Spam

When I started this blog three years ago, I imagined people would view it, and comments would start pouring in.  I’m pleased to report the comments are pouring in, at a total of more than 37,000 so far.  The bad news is, all but 73 are spam.  Of the 73, only 42 are comments from other people, the remainder being my responses.

SpamWhat is this spam that constitutes 99.8% of the comments I receive?  It’s a comment not intended to respond to my blog post at all, but rather to create a link back to the spammer’s website that increases the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) ranking of that website.

At first I puzzled over these.  I’d get comments from someone named Daewrnad Ylkernkc, or Prostate Cancer, or Ugg Boots—vague comments like “Great blog post. I enjoyed it.” or “I was surfing the web, found your site, and the information here is great.  Keep it up!”  Often the comments contained spelling and grammatical errors.  Some went on and on about topics unrelated to my post. Some comments were in foreign languages, and some consisted of nothing but question marks.

I considered replying “Thanks, Ms. Ylkernkc, (or Mr. Cancer, etc.), I’m glad you enjoyed my blog post.  Visit any time.”  But a friend explained the concept of spam to me.

Now I use a WordPress plugin called Akismet to screen all the comments I receive and it sorts out which ones it thinks are spam and which are legitimate.  That Akismet software is pretty good, I must say.

Still, I do review every comment I get, whether Akismet considers it spam or not.  Often the spam is entertaining.  Sometimes I see a comment that comes quite close to a legitimate response to my specific blog post, but then I see that it’s from Ugg Boots and that there are seven more comments just like it from people with equally unlikely names.

I should state at this point that I do not mean to disparage the food product known as Spam® in any way.  My blog post refers solely to a different meaning of that word.  I’m sure Hormel Foods has considered renaming it, considering the negative connotations.

Akismet is not the only defense against spam. One day I might have to shift to Captcha, which makes would-be commenters have to pass a test to see if they’re human before they’re allowed to comment.

If you blog, are you inundated with spam, too?  How do you deal with it?  Leave a comment and let me know.  If you’re a spammer, feel free to leave a comment, but I’ll warn you right now that it won’t get approved by—

                                               Poseidon’s Scribe

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February 23, 2014Permalink

What Everyone’s Waiting For

Everybody’s talking about it.  It’s all over the internet, crashing servers with the added traffic.  Social media sites are abuzz about it.  You can feel the pervasive air of excitement and anticipation.

RallyingCry72dpiCalm down, world.  It’s just my next book.  You’re going to have to wait until the release date of March 1 to buy it.

Actually, it’s two stories in one e-book release, a two-fer.  “Rallying Cry” and “Last Vessel of Atlantis” are paired together.  What are these stories about?  Thought you’d never ask.

In “Rallying Cry,” an aimless youth named Kane Jones meets two old geezers who spin bizarre war stories.  They tell about having served in a secret World War I outfit in France—the Jules Verne Regiment—with ship-sized helicopters and mechanized walking tanks.   Just as an inspiring shout can move soldiers to action, perhaps all Kane really needs to turn his life around is a rallying cry.

Ever since reading John Biggins’ novel A Sailor of Austria, I’d longed to write a story set in a nursing home with an older character (two, in my story) imparting the memories of a bygone time to a younger character.  I finally did.  “Rallying Cry” takes off in different directions than Biggins’ book, of course, and I recommend you read both.

In “Last Vessel of Atlantis, a ship captain and his crew of explorers return to find Atlantis gone.  While facing violent savages, braving fierce storms, and solving internal disputes, they must somehow ensure their advanced Atlantean civilization is not lost forever.  Fans with long memories will realize this is a slightly revised version of another story of mine published as “The Vessel.”  The new title is better, don’t you think?

I explained the origin of this story in a previous blog post.  It was fun for me to imagine the difficulties faced by a small crew of sailors who find themselves the sole survivors of their advanced civilization, with all other continents populated by primitive savages.

If you can just hang on a couple of weeks until March 1, the book will be available here.  Deep breaths might help you cope with the anxiety until then, along with taking time to think about other, less exciting, things.  Your patience will be rewarded, and that’s a promise from—

                                                      Poseidon’s Scribe

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February 16, 2014Permalink

It’s All You, Dave

Remember ‘Dave’ from the Staples™ TV commercial from a Dave - Staplesfew years ago?  The guy walked into an office where everyone looked suspiciously like him, and they all greeted each other by saying, “Dave.”  The commercial closed with the voiceover saying, “In a small business, it’s all you.”

If you’re a writer these days, you’re much like Dave.  After all, in your corporation of one, you fill the following positions:

  • President.  Congratulations! You made it to the top, the big cheese, the high muckety-muck.  The company bears your name.  You’re praised when it succeeds, and blamed when…well, let’s not focus on that.
  • Vice President of Purchasing.  In days gone by, this job entailed keeping your business furnished with a functional typewriter, paper, pens, a nice desk, and a comfortable chair.  Now the job responsibilities have shrunk to ensuring a functional computer and a solid Internet connection.
  • V.P. of Research & Development.  This is one of the best jobs in the company, the department doing all the research for your stories.  If you write historical fiction, this is particularly important.  It’s so much fun, however, that this job will take over your company if left unchecked.
  • V.P. of Contracting.  You may not be a lawyer, but you’re going to have to know some basics about contracts.  Just reading the darn things can be tedious—nothing at all like reading fiction.  Once you sign, you’re bound by that agreement.
  • V.P. of Production.  Finally, a fun job.  This is the one you signed up for.  You manage the mental machinery that takes ideas from the R&D department, plus some coffee, and produces polished prose.
  • V.P. of Marketing and Sales.  Your company won’t promote itself, that’s for sure.  If you contract with a big publishing firm, they’ll take care of this, but with smaller publishers or with self-publishing, you’ve got to get your name out there by yourself.  You’ve got to work the social media, speak at conferences, arrange book signings, etc.
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO).  Unless you’ve got someone else handling the books, the ledgers, the taxes for you, it’s up to you.  Skill in accounting doesn’t always go hand in hand with skill in writing, so your on-the-job training better not take too long.
  • V. P. of Customer Service.  When your customers (readers) complain about the product, to whom do they turn?  You.  Although there’s no need to respond to negative reviews, you should respond to comments on your blog posts, and e-mails from readers.

All those fancy job titles lose some luster when they’re combined in one person, and that’s you.  However, look at the bright side:  decisions get made quickly in your company of one.  All those departments see eye-to-eye; they’re on the same page, so to speak.  No in-fighting, no hidden agendas, no stabbing in the back.

Unlike the conclusion of the commercial, there is no Easy button to push.  Purchasing is the only department Staples™ can help.

However, there are Help buttons, many sources of information to help writers figure out all these specialized jobs.  In fact my blog is dedicated to providing that information.

So, ‘Dave,’ get back to work.  It’s all you.  And I’ll return to my work, too.  At my company, it’s all—

                                                          Poseidon’s Scribe

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February 9, 2014Permalink

Your Baby’s Ugly

How should you, as an author, deal with negative reviews?  You’re going to get them, so you might as well prepare now.

Bad ReviewsNobody calls actual babies ugly, not to the Mom’s face anyway, but people will describe your novel or short story with some pretty ugly words.  Those words sure can sting, too.  After all, just as with real babies, writing is an act of creating something new from almost nothing, something that takes considerable effort and time, and you’re putting your creation out there for the world to see, unsure of what people will think.

Well, you soon find out that some people think your ‘baby’ is ugly. What to do?  Options include:

1.  Giving up this writing thing, and slink away to a hole where no one can see you or hurt you ever again.

2.  Lashing out at the reviewer, and maybe starting an online flame war to prove to the world your novel was prose perfection while the reviewer was an ignorant, unsophisticated numbskull.

3.  Ignoring the reviewer so you can keep on writing as you have been, since the reviewer obviously didn’t ‘get it’ and you can’t waste your time on idiots.

I’m not going to recommend you do any of those things, however much you will want to.  My advice is to move as quickly as you can through the first four of Kübler-Ross’ Five Stages of Grief—denial, anger, bargaining, and depression.  Get to the last stage, acceptance, as soon as possible.

No matter how poorly written the review, no matter how uninformed the reviewer seems, it’s just possible there’s a kernel of truth in the review.  No matter how you try to deny it, that reviewer has a point.

But it’s a point you can use to improve future stories. Whatever flaw the reviewer noted, you should strive to avoid repeating that problem again.  In the long run, you might even find that reviewer did you a favor.

Authors Joanna Penn and Rainy Kaye have posted some excellent advice on contending with unfavorable reviews.

The writer’s version of having your baby called ugly isn’t nearly as bad as having an ugly real baby.  Then again, sometimes ugly babies grow into good looking adults, whereas stories always stay the same.  Unless you revise your story.  Who picked this stupid ‘baby’ analogy anyway? Oh, yeah, it was—

                                                        Poseidon’s Scribe

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February 2, 2014Permalink