Category Archives: Technology

Is there a support group for those of us not ready for technology?

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My DVR was really pushy.  It controlled my life.  On its own, the DVR decided what shows it would allow me to watch.  On Wednesday evenings, I have both Criminal Minds and Law and Order: SVU set to tape at eight o’clock CST.   However, once college basketball season started, there were often games that evening.  I have a first world problem: I can tape only two shows at the same time.  For that reason, I had to decide that I wouldn’t tape Criminal Minds so I could tape basketball.imagesThe DVR disagreed.  As soon as I set the timer, the DVR would change it so I was taping  Criminal Minds and SVU was put on the conflict list.  Every time.  Often fifteen times a week.  FInally, I had to wait until eight, delete  Criminal Minds, and record SVU.  

Last night, the DVR said, “Not so fast, lady,”  Yes, being a very polite unit, it always calls me “lady”.  It took me seven minutes to stop  Criminal Minds and start recording SVU

And it seems that my particular box has a time limit:  I can only keep programs for forty-eight hours or they will be erased–unless I do a six punch process to save the program until I can watch it.  For that reason, when I taped something Friday evening and planned to watch it Monday, it would be gone when I was ready.  In fact, between Friday evening and Monday morning, the DVR usually deleted fifty percent of the programs I wanted to save to view on later.  Perhaps the DVR felt as if it were helping me, telling me I should be writing, not watching televisionimages

Other than the efforts of the DVR, there were other problems with the machine. Dana–the woman I talked to–told me to go to the the business office and pick up a new box.  I did.  It took me ninety minutes, but I got a new DVR and rushed home to hook it up.  Took fifteen minutes for it to download everything and get itself ready.

And the first thing I saw was a black screen.  Printed on it was this message:  Your recorder state-board-of-regents-roles-responsibilities-1-638has not be cleared for use.  Please call the cable company at 800 xxx-xxxx.  Found the phone and dialed.  I reached the State of Utah DIvision of Higher Education.  Twice.  I was not happy.  Yes, the Utah Department of Higher Education.

Well, all in all, I got it fixed, have tried to remember the programs I watch and have set them.  Was it worth the time and energy?  Yes, I must confess, I’m addicted to television and do love my DVR, unless it overrides my choices.

Do you have a story about technology fails?

The Evolution of a Cover

Matchmakers cover 2Readers always ask me if I design my own covers.  A resounding NO on that!

One of the reasons I like traditional  publishing–where a publishing company buys the book and puts it out–is that I prefer writing to all the techie stuff.    With both Steeple Hill and FaithWords, I sent in a cover art sheet on which I made suggestions about scenes for a cover and described the setting and characters.  Then the editors took over, sent the pages to an artist, and she–the editor–worked with the artist.   And, voila, the cover was created.  I was happy with every one of them–except one.

I’ll use my first  published book The Mad Herringtons as an example.   I first contracted with a small, niche publisher in 1999.  The editor had an artistic friend come up with a cover.  The novel took place in England in 1812, during the dazzling Regency period, a time of waltzing, flirting, and house parties on huge estate.  That first cover started with a great idea:  a ball with the couples swirling around the dance floor.   Sadly, however, she had drawn a large chandalier on the ceiling of the ballroom that looked a great deal like an enormous pink spider.  The scene seemed like a horror movie with a mutant creature poised to fall on and consume the dancers.   Wish  I had a picture of this to show you.

That publishing house went bankrupt and I got the right back just as Mad HerringtonsAvalon opened their historical line.   Avalon sold our books to libraries so they were somewhat conservative and very lovely.  The plot took place at a country estate.   Here’s that cover.

A few years ago, I received my rights back from the-mad-herringtons-2Avalon which means I was free to publish this book myself.  It took me a while but I recently got in touch with By the Page.  The nice people there came up with this beautiful cover which will be sold to readers on Kindle, Nook, and most electronic readers.

Did that answer any questions?

Read the instructions

There are two kinds of people:  those who read the instructions and instructionsthose who don’t.  I imagine most of us belong to the latter group.     As a teacher for years, I can swear to the fact that teachers are worse about following instructions than students.  I guess we all believe we’ll figure that out.  We’re smart and creative, right?

In 1987, I went from Kentucky  to a work camp at Inman Christian Center WANG2in San Antonio during a really hot July.  We were scraping and painting  the playground equipment.  On the second day, one of the center staff asked if anyone knew how to set up a computer system.  We had Apples at home.   I used mine all the time but felt sure someone knew more than I did.   However no one did and the task meant working inside in the air conditioning so I volunteered.    This was a WANG, one of the early makes and not a bit user friendly but I set it up and trained staff.   When I called George to tell him what I was doing, he gasped and asked, “How did you do that?”  To his great surprise, I answered, “I read the instructions”

Sometimes that’s a good place to start.

coffee makerI learned that again a few  weeks ago.   I make a full pot of coffee every couple of days and stretch the length of time it lasts by adding water to the tank.    However, it does get weaker and weaker so I decided to add the already made coffee to the tank which will warm it up without thinning it.   Yes, I know the instructions say, “Use only water in the tank” but I considered that over regulation by a big business and poured my coffee in.   An hour later, I smelled something burning and searched for the cause.   Quickly I realized it smelled like burning coffee.  Oh-oh.  I poured water into the reservoir.  Issue resolved.  Coffee odor gone.  Lesson learned.

Which are you?  Do you always follow directions or do you take off on your own?

 

The most absurd commercial?

I’ve seen a lot of idiotic commercials on television–the Cialis bath tubs, for example–but a recent commercial makes me worry.  Perhaps we shouldn’t allow people who believe they can do whatever is done on television to ever leave their homes.  Ever.

smart car on trainThe one I’m talking about is an automobile commercial in which the driver zooms up a ramp.   The speed and angle of the car allow it to become airborne.  It lands on the top of a train.  A warning at the bottom of the screen says, “Fantasy.  Do not try this.”  If that’s not enough, the next warning reads:  “Fantasy.  Do not try this.  Cars cannot land on trains.”    Do people really not know this?    Again, if they don’t, they should not be allowed out on the street on foot or in any kind of vehicle.

What’s the most absurd commercial you’ve seen?  I’d like to know.

Also, as I searched for a picture, I couldn’t find one of a car on top of a train.   That lack tells me that, really, people seem to know this is not true.  All I could find is a car INSIDE a train (above) which, I’m fairly sure is fantasy as well but it was the best I could do.

Things I do not understand

imagesMy blog was down for a few days until Cheryl Rae, who does such a great job taking care of technical stuff I can’t figure out, got me back on.   This morning, when I sat down to write this blog, I couldn’t get on again.   So I restarted.  When the screen came back up, there was my WordPress login box and here I am.  I guess I’m going to have to restart every time I want to blog which seems unhandy, to say the least.  I don’t understand this at all.

However, because I logged on this morning with absolutely no idea what to blog about, I’m thankful for that glitch.  

I have an iMac which I like although there are some oddity which still confuse me.  That’s why I’m getting another training session this week.  As I type this, a large white arrow pointing to the top of the screen flashes on and off with some key strokes.  I don’t understand that either.  [Wow!  I figured it out.  That means my cap lock is on!  Now I understand something!]  There’s also a symbol like a cloverleaf ramp on an interstate that comes on and makes everything go crazy (I know that’s not exact but I can’t explain it any better) and I cannot type.  Yet one more thing I do not comprehend.images1

And my bank.  I left our automatic bill pay in the system George set up.  Now I need to change some of those.  One is  $56.89 payment which is deducted every month.  The next month I get a check for this exact amount which I deposit.  I’ve called the company and they have no record of either receiving the money or sending me the check.   Seems like sloppy bookkeeping but I can’t do anything about that.  What I CAN do is take that item off the bill pay.  But I can’t.  Although George is no longer on any accounts, this one keeps running along, paying bills and not letting anyone into it.   I’ve used his codes and get an “account closed” message.   I’ve spent hours on the phone with the national tech people for the bank.   The only suggestion they have was that I set up an account of my own and enter the bills to be paid.  This means, of course, that everyone except the $56.89 guy will be paid twice.    They offered to make the changes for me but, you know, I think I should be able to get into my account.    I don’t understand why a bank cannot delete that but they can’t so I’m going to have to withdraw my funds and go to another bank.

This is why I think it would be easier to dig a hole in the yard and bury all the money there.  However, the apartment managers have told me not to do that anymore.

What don’t you understand?  I always feel better to know I’m not alone.    And if you know what the cloverleaf symbol means, please let me know.

Hot, sexy covers and Facebook glitches

My good friend Kathy Bennett and I met nearly seventeen years ago at a writers’ conference in Dallas and we’ve kept up with each other as we worked to publish.  A retired police officer, Kathy writes great novels which draw on those experiences.   

On her blog, Kathy has an interesting interview technique.  She questions us in her interrogation room, then writes a police report about her guests.  It’s really creative and lots of fun.   She invited me to be questioned and I had a great time.   Sadly Kathy doesn’t archive these so it’s gone forever. 

I write the sweet books, the books where hero and heroine feel an attraction and kiss, but that’s it.  In my books, the characters never take off any article of clothing except hats, coats and shoes.   As far as the reader knows, my hero may shower in his pajamas.

The day the blog was up, I publicized it on Facebook and Twitter.   Later that evening, I went on Facebook to check my announcement and discovered it  was accompanied by the sexiest cover I’ve ever seen:  a well-shaped, curvy female body in almost no clothing and what wisps she wore were were red and lacy.  I flipped out.  Remember, I write the SWEET books in which everyone is fully clothed.  I could only imagine what my readers would think!  And my editor!  And my church friends.  Oh, my!

First I attempted to delete the picture but couldn’t because the little delete arrow didn’t show.   With that failure, I sent a hysterical message to Kathy and begged her to take that picture down.    Kathy leaped into action and tried to delete it but she didn’t have the button either and one of her pretty covers–with no nearly-naked people–showed on the page she could see.  

As always, Kathy was lovely and did everything she could from California while I worked hard in Texas but we never figured it out.   She felt terrible about it.   After I calmed down, I assured her we’d laugh about this–some day.  And I do not blame her.  I blame a Facebook glitch.

Little by little, that cover dropped down the page, shoved lower by new messages.  In fact, as small as the thumbnail was, I’m not sure anyone saw it.  No one wrote me accusatory letters or even mentioned the cover judgementally. 

Oh, wait, not true.  I just got a couple of emails.  One was from Roy, a friend from seminary and a minister.  He said he’d seen the cover a couple of times.  Fortunately, he was not incredibly shocked and still seems to be speaking to me.  My friend Marylin wrote she was sorry to have missed it.

What happened?  I don’t know.  My guess is that somehow a glitch on Facebook changed the image but we’ll never know.  Fortunately, it’s so far down the list, no one will see it now.  I hope.

Unless you go all the way down to that date (which I’m not mentioning) on the Facebook page.  Please don’t.