Tag Archives: frustration

Am I working or merely wasting my time?

As you may have noticed, I just published three books. That’s the good news. The bad news is that that means that I’m out of works in progress, and back to square one, to that dreadful stage that can probably be described as ‘pre-production’. Fair enough, that’s part of the game, and I do have an idea stuck between my ears that I’m currently trying to develop. The problem is that I usually try to maintain a certain routine when it comes to my writing habits, and at this stage the line between working and wasting my time has an annoying tendency to get more than a little blurry, why? Well, because in order to work out a story I have to give my mind a kind of freedom, but if I give it that freedom it tends to wander. If I try to drag it back to what it should be doing -usually kicking and screaming- it just sits there and sulks. If I allow it to go wandering along it doesn’t sulk, but I still don’t get much done.

So here I am, allowing my mind to go where it pleases… and wondering whether I am working or merely wasting my time.

NOTE- for the time being relevant posts such as this one are being crossposted from my new blog, but I’m not sure how long I’m going to keep up that particular practice. Of course, I’ll let you know when/if I decide to stop (as you might have noticed, right now things are in a state of flux)

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS

News and updates

Hi guys. Okay, so the blog has been languishing for a while, the good news is that I’ve been busy writing, and a few new titles should be coming out in the next few weeks. Another thing I’ll probably be doing is redesigning the site as a whole. This blog is not going anywhere, and the same goes for the legacy aspects of the site, but for the most part I’ll probably be changing the way in which things are organized by moving some things to a different site where I don’t have to worry about exceeding GreenGeek’s ridiculously limited ‘unlimited’ service (if you’ve been following this site for a while, you are probably aware that that’s been an ongoing issue for some time, as I’m fed up with the fact that traffic spikes are routinely penalized).

For a while there I considered of opening a facebook page. That would have been the logical thing, but I admit that by now my refusal to have a facebook account is pretty much a matter of principle (I don’t like the fact that having such an account seems to have become almost a requirement, especially considering their rather cavalier approach to privacy). Anyway, that’s where things stand, so watch this space!

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS

CreateSpace ruins the day!

Up until now my experience with Createspace had been a fairly positive one. Now I have to report an extremely unpleasant experience: I was in Mexico, and I needed some copies of my books in a hurry, so I placed an order and paid for priority shipping, which was ridiculously expensive (as in 150% of the cost of the books themselves!). I was told that the books would be there within a week. That felt a bit too long in light of what I was being charged, but seeing how I had ten days, I figured I could live with it. The order was placed on March 11, the books were ready to ship by the 13… and there they sat, neglected until the 17, when I finally got a notice letting me know that my order had shipped… and would arrive by the 23 (and that 23 has now been changed to a 24). That’s thirteen days for priority shipping, and long after the time those books will do me any good. I wrote back to them to ask what was going on, and I had my shipping fee refunded.

That was something, though there was nothing remotely resembling an explanation, and the truth is that it didn’t really do me one lick of good, as what I needed were the books, not the refund, that was why I had paid that outrageous shipping rate in the first place… and then I began poking around. It was then that I realized that they had sent an international shipment that had been billed as priority, and for which they had charged the same rate they would have charged if they had been sending the books all the way down to Argentina (there’s a flat rate for Latin America), using UPS’s Standard service, which the company itself lists as “economical ground delivery for your less-urgent shipments”.

Ground delivery? On an international shipment? And how do they reconcile the word ‘priority’ (as in priority shipping) with UPS’s   ‘less-urgent’ wording? Quick, someone get these folks a dictionary.

In short, buyer beware, when it comes to international orders CreateSpace’s ‘priority shipping’ is a mess, one that can leave you looking like a fool if you dare rely upon it, and no refund is ever going to fix that.

UPDATE: Okay, so the books won’t be here on time, there’s nothing anyone can do to change that, but I just got a call from a representative from CreateSpace, acknowledging their mistake in shipping via UPS Standard, and doing his best to find a way to make things right. Unfortunately there were some elements of this particular mess that made finding a real solution impossible, but I realize that those are not CreateSpace’s fault. Yes, they screwed up, but they owned up to their mistake, and I definitely appreciate it.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS

They were wearing their best clothes

Earlier today I witnessed a rather disturbing incident. As I’ve mentioned more than once, I live close to a river, in it there are a number of islets, and the people who live there usually come and go in canoes. Anyway, it was around dawn, I had taken my dogs out for their morning walk, and there were just two canoes in the water. The first one had in it three teenagers, wearing what were probably their best clothes, the second one had one man, rowing alone… and then the man’s canoe began to take in water until it eventually sank. The first canoe reached the bank, and I pointed out that there was a man in serious trouble less than a hundred yards away, their reaction was something along the lines of ‘not my problem’. I was feeling utterly powerless, watching the scene unfold, but luckily someone with a motorboat realized what was going on and got him out.

Now, I realize that considering the number of people that can usually be seen rowing around here these incidents are probably commonplace, but I had never seen one first-hand before, and I have to admit that those kids’ indifference bugged me. A man was in the water, and they had the means to help him, but they were unwilling to do anything. After all, they were wearing their best clothes…

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS

When does caring become abuse?

A few days ago my uncle passed away, he was eighty-nine. That left my aunt, who I freely admit is not at a hundred percent, to try to pick up the pieces of her life as best she can. They had been together for more than seventy years, a number I am still trying to wrap my mind around, and I realize she’s going to need help… lots of it. Anyway, some of their life-long friends seem to have effectively taken over her life, making all the choices on her behalf (up to and including burying my uncle, who considered himself Jewish, in a coffin that was decorated with a huge crucifix). I know these people mean well, I know they are doing their best, and I am grateful for everything they are doing, I would be lost without their help, but at the same time that gratitude seems to have become a trap because there have been some instances in which I feel those friends have crossed the line, making my aunt feel both humiliated and disrespected. I tried to point the problem out to one of them, but I was summarily dismissed, I tried to contact other family members to ask for some backup, but most of them are too caught up in their own grief, so here I am, wondering where the line between caring and abuse happens to be, and feeling utterly powerless. It’s not a pleasant feeling.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS

On the recent events

Okay, I admit that I am still trying to wrap my mind about last week’s events. I am also wondering what can I do… the problem is that I can’t think of anything that doesn’t feel trite in light of the magnitude of what happened. So here go my thanks to cartoonists everywhere for making us laugh, and maybe look at the world from a different perspective. Yours shouldn’t have be deemed a high risk job.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS

When a book is poisoned

Okay, as you may have noticed there have been a few delays when it comes to the third book of Citlalli. The truth is that the book itself is done and even formatted, but I’ve been having some issues with its cover. Without going into details, I got into a pretty big argument with my (former) cover artist a couple of days ago, and to make matters worse that cover artist was also one of my closest friends. The problem is that this situation hasn’t just left me in the lurch when to comes to this book’s cover (that’s not such a big deal), but also left me feeling like the whole series has been poisoned. Right now I can’t even think of this project without remembering the fight we had, and I think I need some time to regroup. So where does that leave me? Well, I’ll probably wait a few weeks and then I’ll try to find  a new cover artist. After that I will probably finish the first draft of a different book that is more that half-way done anyway, and then I’ll turn my attention to the fourth and final book. In other words, while there are going to be some additional delays, I am not abandoning the project. I have too much effort invested into it for that, but for the time being I do feel the need to take a step back.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know just where things stood.

No, I don’t like the idea of missing a deadline, not even if it is a self-imposed one, but unfortunately under the circumstance I honestly believe that this is the lesser evil.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS

Of growth and cringing

I am currently getting ready to tackle the last two rounds of corrections of the third book in the Citlalli series, and one of the things that entails is going over books one and two one more time to ensure continuity. The problem is that rereading them is incredibly frustrating, as I keep finding things I would like to change, but have no choice but to leave as they are. Yes, on a rational level I know, the fact that I can’t help but to feel that the earlier books are missing something is a good sign, I know it shows that I have grown since then, and so on… but I still cringe when I read them, I just can’t help it. Here’s hoping that when I go over book three a year from now, I won’t find it as cringe-worthy… or maybe I should hope that I will.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS

Technical difficulties may cause some delays

ARGH! Okay, so I had said that we had a tentative release date for book three of Citlalli, and that that date was late July/early August of this year, now it looks like that may have to be pushed back to March of next year. The book itself is coming along nicely, but this is due to some circumstances beyond my control. I am doing my best to remedy the situation and find some sort of a workaround, if I can things will probably go back to their original schedule, if I can’t I will probably wind up publishing a whole bunch of books simultaneously, as Citlalli is not the only one that would be delayed.

What can I say, human stupidity just got in my way.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS

Professional… sort of

A couple of days ago a friend pointed out that this blog is getting to be a little too personal, and that I should at least try to keep things professional. In other words, it was a ‘can the dog talk’ kind of advice. In a way I can see where she’s coming from. I realize that this blog is supposed to be about promoting my books, and that some of the things I’ve been writing about lately do little to add to my professional image, but there’s a reason why I called this blog ‘Message in a Bottle’ and the subtitle reads ‘random thoughts cast into a sea of voices’. As I’ve said countless times:

yes, I would love for my books to sell -and I won’t deny that getting the word out about the fact that they actually exist is one of the reasons I started blogging in the first place- but the bottom line is that I write because I love writing, because there’s a story stuck between my ears itching to get out… and because I want to be able to read how that story ends.

In other words, if things seem a little unprofessional to you at times, I’m sorry, but this blog was always meant to inhabit that odd in between space, and I really don’t see that changing any time soon.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS

A limited view of ‘unlimited’

And just a little update on my problems with my ‘unlimited’ host (that would be greengeeks). Since my site was taken off line for the better part of an afternoon with no previous warning whatsoever for using too many resources last week I have been keeping a closer eye on things (I had assumed that ‘unlimited’ meant that I could relax, or that they would let me know if there was a problem…I learned the hard way that that wasn’t anywhere near the case).

So far I have managed to get the number of spam comments being posted down to zero (the problem was caused largely by excessive spammer activity), but given that the site is already in those spammers’ databases, the fact that they can no longer post hasn’t really had much of an impact on my resource usage yet (and I don’t know if it ever will, as getting deleted from those databases is likely to be all but impossible). Still, the most interesting thing was a little tidbit I came across as I checked my resources usage statistics, as it made crystal clear just how ‘unlimited’ is defined: 256 MB per day.  I am including a series of screengrabs showing not just the limitation notice, but also some additional details about my data usage for the month (the site was restricted on the 12th).

Resource usage restrictions

Daily usage statsDecember stats

That means that, at least as far as greengeeks is concerned, ‘unlimited’ translates into between seven and eight gigabytes per month tops (as traffic varies from day to day, that would be if you reach the resource limit on a daily basis without ever going over it, and that’s not likely to be the case). Assuming that these restrictions are close to the industry standard, I have to say that it is a pretty rotten deal. In fact, with the exception of the most limited of starter plans, few metered packages restrict you to less than 10 GB per month… the problem is that most of the hosts that used to offer rollover bandwidth have either gone out of business, or they have converted to an ‘unlimited’ service… and yes, I am incredibly frustrated by this whole mess (and by the fact that while greengeeks  offers free migrations to entice new customers, it disables the ‘Backup Wizard’, making it that much harder for existing customers to move away, or even take the most basic precautions to ensure their data’s safety).

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS

The problem with Spanish

Lately I have taken to translating my shorter books into Spanish… and that in turn has gotten me thinking about the blasted thing.

As is the case with all languages, it has some things I like, and some I don’t. I love the fact that it makes sense from a phonetic perspective and that it doesn’t share English’s well known allergy to anything remotely resembling a subordinate clause, but verbs and accents drive me crazy, as does the rampant abuse of innocent adjectives. Still, my main objection is not so much to the language itself as to the way in which the powers that be have allowed a bunch of snobs not just to hijack it, but also to try and fossilize it. I am talking here about that hallowed institution known as the ‘Real Academia de la Lengua Española’  (Royal Academy of the Spanish Tongue).

Sure, all languages have their snobs who seem to be determined to tell others how to speak. As far as they are concerned just being able to communicate is nowhere near enough, in fact it doesn’t even seem to be  a major consideration, but even though those snobs seem to be required by law,  in the case of Spanish -and French- there is actually a centralized power that controls which words are worthy of being added to The Dictionary, and which words are not… and that power seems to be not just allergic to borrowing from other languages, but also to anything remotely resembling modernity. The purity of the blood may have gone out of fashion, but you are going to have to pry the purity of the tongue out of those particular PTB’s  cold, dead hands.

The way they see it, language worked just fine in the good old days, and there’s no reason why they should have to keep up with the times, or put up with the demands of this newfangled century, goddamnit. As for the fact that some words they look down on are an integral part of the everyday language of hundreds of millions of speakers, well, there’s no reason the speakers should be taken into account, whose language do those ordinary folks think it is anyway?

Okay, so maybe I am over-dramatizing a little, and there are other aspects that have to be taken into account, like the fact that, given the complexities it entails, editing a dictionary takes time… an awful lot of time. In fact a quick trip to the rae.es site will reveal that The Dictionary was last updated in 2001, which given the impact of technology on language since is pretty close to the dark ages (and that particular problem is then compounded by the fact that that 2001 date is in itself misleading, as words that had recently come into use in 2001 are not included). That means that anything remotely related to the internet is listed as a proposed addition to a future edition, and that’s only if you are lucky.

Of course, out in the real world people are not exactly waiting for the academy to make up its collective mind or to catch up with the times. In fact Spanish speakers demonstrate the same ability everyone else does to keep up on their own, so that the only thing the ‘proper forms’ do is separate the educated from the uneducated by providing snobs with a yardstick they can use to beat everyone else on the head with. It is only publishers, editors and teachers insist on going by their dictums (or dicta, if you insist on the proper latinate form)… the question is, should they? Personally I believe it’s time for speakers to start thinking about a revolution, and tell their snobbish overlords what they can do with themselves.

No, language does not belong to the snobs… in fact the snobs are the ones who insist on holding language back, and the bottom line is that, as long as we understand each other, we should be just fine.

When it comes to English the situation is nowhere near that dire, as there is no such centralized authority, and there is a greater respect for the different local varieties, but that doesn’t mean that there is much interest in  the upper echelons of the literate world to question the power of the almighty dictionary, and while I will be the first to admit that dictionaries can be extremely useful, the use we make of them, and the power we grant them, is part of the problem.

Long before the advent of dictionaries Shakespeare coined hundreds if not well over a thousand words (the official count stands at around 1,700, but some of those have been called into question). That is one of the things he is revered for, but the thing is that, if dictionaries had been around in those days, they would have denied him that freedom.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS

The problem with akismet

When it comes to fighting comment spam, akismet is the default, goto option… the problem is that, as I learned the hard way a few days ago when my host took my site off line for using up too many resources, it is an option that has a pretty major downside. Still, let’s focus on what akismet gets right first: it is extremely effective when it comes to identifying spam, quarantining it, and keeping it from showing up in your blog, that is most definitely a good thing. The problem is that this approach allows those comments to be added to your database before blocking them and keeping them from showing, and that means that it does nothing to keep spambots from using most of your bandwidth. In other words, what you need is something that can keep those comments from being posted in the first place, and that is where adding some sort of CAPTCHA can help you and/or an automated system that can tell bots from real users is bound to come in handy.

Now, I’m not saying that akismet is a bad idea, in fact I find it downright invaluable and it is definitely not going anywhere, but chances are that you’ll be better off making it your last resort for the odd spam comment that manages to get through, rather than your first line of defense.

And a word of caution, if you have a major spam problem already it may take a while to get the spam-bots off your case, as chances are that your site is already in their databases, and that means that they are going to keep on trying (if this remains a problem you may want to give blocking them via the .htaccess file a shot.. you can find the information on how to do that here, but the process is not for the faint of heart).

Okay, that’s it for now. Hopefully I will soon be able to go back to focusing on the things I actually care for, and I’ll finally be able to put spam and spam-bots off my mind.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS

The reader in me vs. the writer in me

I confess: when it comes to automated translations, I am a hypocrite. As a reader, I have turned to them on a couple of occasions. They are clumsy, and at times almost unreadable, but I admit I find them useful as a last resort. As a writer (one who does some translating on the side and is used to agonizing about each and every word), on the other hand, they make me cringe.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to favorites
  • Blogger
  • Email
  • RSS