Coffee heat rising

Pace Facebook, Pace Twitter!

That’s pace, as in the Latin word for peace. Lordie, can those platforms be NUISANCEY!

The constant tide of “notifications” from Facebook and Twitter has taken to filling up my email inbox. Derailing these junk messages (“Olivia Boxankle commented on your comment to her comment!” “Wish Julia Neverheardofher a happy birthday!”) has turned into a BIG, time-consuming job.

Apple’s mail program has an inscrutably complicated method (if “method” it is) of dealing with nuisance mail. Instead of consigning suspect messages and messages from senders you’ve already flagged to one junk mail folder, it has a “Junk” folder and also a “Trash” folder. Exactly why some incoming goes to “Junk” while others go to “Trash” is opaque, and as far as I can tell, there’s no consistent way to clue MacMail as to where you want which flak messages to go. You can tag certain senders or subject matter as junk or trash, but the result isn’t reliable: it doesn’t always work the way you think it’s going to.

The result is that every few days, you get hundreds of messages consigned more or less randomly to these two folders.

And, just like Gmail and Outlook, MacMail often relegates legitimate messages from real, live senders — friends and clients and vendors — to “Junk.”

This means messages that you need or want to see often get submerged in the tsunami of incoming debris. And that means you have to scroll tediously through scores and scores of meaningless emails — in not one but two mailboxes — trying to catch one or two messages that matter.

Every few days I shovel out these mailboxes, confronting something over 200 messages in one and something over 100 in the other — not counting the ones that get through to the legitimate inbox. That’s THREE TO FOUR HUNDRED messages to have to review!

You wanna talk about time sucks?

Sick and tired of combing through this monumental nuisance, I realized that about 98% of the debris comes from Facebook or Twitter in the form of “notifications” flagging incoming comments or messages.

I use Facebook and Twitter primarily to publicize my blogs and try to peddle my books. Some years ago, a very clever Web guru — since retired — set up Facebook so that posts at Funny about Money (which was monetized at the time) would automatically post to Facebook. FB figured this out and brought a stop to it, so you can no longer do that — you have to jump through a series of third-party hoops, a process that’s rather too ditzily techie and annoying for me to be bothered with. So these days I manually link to FaM at Facebook.

Physically going there for that purpose leads me to browse through friends’ and enemies’ posts — amusing enough, but still: a time suck of the first water.

The appeal of Twitter escapes me. I cannot think of anything more boring or stupid than Twaddle posts. So it wastes less of my time…but still, it does take time to go there, post a link, find and post an image, and dream up a “tweet” to try to lure readers over…probably fruitlessly, if they find the platform as meaningful as I do.

It’s pretty easy to turn off “notifications” from Facebook and from Twitter. In both cases, it involves hoop-jumps. And in neither case is the “off” function 100% effective. But it cuts off most of the flow of electronic chatter the two platforms dump into your in-box. Facebook’s “off” function seems to be a little more effective than Twitter’s — I’m still getting some trash from Twaddle, but effectively none from FB.

So. At this point I’ve made myself kind of semi-demi-off those two platforms. To some degree, I’ll be able to view friends’ posts and comments at my convenience, not at some machine’s.

And one aspect of the intrusive dystopia we occupy these days is rendered partially under control.

Goodreads: The Last Social-Media Straw

Dear GOD how I hate these accursed faceless social media platforms, with their horrid “help” pages that run you around and around and around circles and don’t answer your question and seem to have been designed solely to frustrate users.

It’s been a while since I visited Goodreads. I need to get back into my author page, update my booklist, and start a blog. But GR has decided I’m “not a member,” even though it seems to recognize  me, sort of.

It wanted a password. I entered the pw I have in my records. It rejected that password. I clicked “forgot password.” It emailed a link to reset the password. I jumped through that hoop. When I tried to get in, it ran me RIGHT BACK TO THE SAME HOOP JUMP!

It asks me to enter a password, flicks me the electronic finger, and then tells me to enter my email and if it approves it will send me a link. I jump through that hoop again…with the same result.


Your choice is to “confirm” with a password or, astonishingly, to “confirm with Facebook.”

FACEBOOK? Why on earth would I want Facebook to have my Goodreads credentials or to “confirm” that I’m me or even to know that I’m on Goodreads?

It apparently is a choice (of sorts): either enter a password or “confirm” (whatever that means) with Facebook.

Over the past months, I’ve put off going back to Goodreads, even though it’s supposedly a key marketing tool, because I got so mad the first time I signed in there that my password is a near-obscenity. Because three of my books — published through real publishers, not through Amazon — came out under variants of my full name, they won’t let me post the Racy Books at my Goodreads site, because they’re published under the “Roberta Stuart” pseudonym. None of my bylines are pseudonyms.

My parents gave me a clunky, old-fashioned, ugly first name that made me the target of bullying throughout grade school. When we came back to the states, I started using a nickname based on my middle name. As a journalist, this was my standard byline, and The Essential Feature, a journalism textbook, naturally was published under that byline. But I had used my full formal name for my first book: a historical biography that grew out of my Ph.D. dissertation.

The first business partner I had, back in the day, was a marketing & PR guy of some skill. He felt I should go by the full, more formal-sounding middle name, which is also stuffy and stilted but at least most people can pronounce and spell it. So my third book had that name, and I still use it for business.

Amazon and its purchased underling Goodreads have decreed that a legal name consisting of three fungible parts — a first name, a middle name, and a last name — is actually three pseudonyms! No argument to the contrary is brooked.

That means, of course, that I can’t use Goodreads to market the steady stream of books we planned to emit — and have emitted — through Camptown Races Press! Goodreads had already glommed what it announced were “pseudonyms” from the books Columbia, Folger, and William Morrow had posted on Amazon years ago and so would not allow me to add a real pseudonym.

When I protested this, a CSR came back with an elaborate workaround. It was so complicated and promised to be such a vast time-suck that I was put off and let the whole project drop. Then I ended up in the operating room.

The medical nightmare was such a distraction that it was all I could do to try to meet our original goal of publishing 80 to 100 books within the year. Anything that was aversive — or that had an aversive element — got tabled. And the most solidly tabled of those was Goodreads, primarily because the first experience with it started off in full aversive mode.

Much as I dislike toilet-paper-style social media platforms, I did take up Twitter to a lesser extent Facebook. Facebook is inhabited by my coreligionists, whom I would rather not proselytize with Racy Books. So Twitter was pretty much it.

And the result was not very successful, probably because I don’t understand the point of social media and so don’t understand how to address them.

Magazines, books: I know why people read them, and I know how to reach magazine and book readers. Blogs are to a  large degree similar: you can see a reason that a person might want to read a given blog. A blog is magazine-like in that it has an editorial voice, it usually has a specific topic or slant, and it has a relatively consistent publication schedule.

But an endless, gestalt flow of nonstop babble about…what? Trivia? Cat pictures? Kid photos? The latest house you sold? That plate of food you bought at Alice’s Restaurant? Why? What is the appeal?????

Social media of the Facebook/Twaddle/Google+/Goodreads variety seem to me more like small talk than like journalism. And I’m really not good at small talk.  Because it bores me, I lack the patience to engage it for very long or to come back for repeat engagements. It’s part of the Aspergery character of my personality: I don’t connect with people in that way.

And…I don’t want to be “connected.” Not that I don’t like people. Most of them, I do. It’s just that I don’t want to be all over them, and I don’t want them all over me. 😉

So. I don’t know if I’ll ever get on Goodreads. And quite possibly don’t care.


Meanwhile, print copies of the cookbook have been flying out the door! It’s sold a few electronic copies on Amazon (why anyone would want an electronic device on a kitchen counter while water, olive oil, butter, and flour are floating around escapes me, what what the hey?). But I can barely keep up with the requests for hard copies.


So I’m thinking my real social medium may be Toastmasters. This would give me an opportunity to talk about writing and thence segue into mentioning my books. I’m pretty good at public speaking, after 20 years of teaching in a college classroom. But people I’ve met who’ve been to Toastmasters are really good at it. One woman who gave our writing group a presentation on public speaking was so skilled as to be downright gifted. She came across exactly like one of those people who give TED talks.

Maybe what I need is not to be parked in front of a computer poking useless messages into “social” media but out on the road, talking to live people face to face.

Yeah, I was right…

…I hate Twitter. Yes, I do. I hate Twitter.

Now, admittedly I thought I would hate Twitter when the thing first developed. The very concept was anathema, then as now. But okay. I know. One must go with the flow. Especially if one wishes to sell stuff, apparently. Or if one wishes to waste vast swaths of one’s time. I guess.

Lookit this:



Pretty typical stuff, it is. Either ad after ad after mind-numbing ad for low-rent self-published fiction (and YES that IS exactly what we’re publishing over at Camptown Races Press) or toilet-paper rolls of drivel and irrelevancy.


Can it possibly be effective, even faintly effective, to cultivate a presence in any such swamp? How? How on earth can anyone manage to get any worthwhile attention amid all this meaningless, mind-numbing, brain-thwacking static?

Okay. I’m tired. It’s raining. It’s so humid that just sitting here on a chair in front of a computer causes dew to form all over your body. The dogs are comatose. I am comatose.

But I believe the reason I’m comatose has more to do with Twitter than 90% humidity on a 90-degree day.

Ugh. Wasting my time gives me hives.


Marketing Away…time to take a break

Nothing like a blog post to occupy yourself while you snack on figs and cheese. Have been working on marketing Camptown Races most of the day, with the exception of a brief trip to the drugstore & the grocer’s. Finally got a Twitter page established for the Camptown Ladies:

If you’re into Twitter, please follow them! Mwa ha ha! They love camp(town) followers. 😉

Very soon now, we’ll have a Giveaway contest: The girls need names! I suggested they might like to be called Madison and Ashley, but they didn’t much like that idea. And Aunt Tilly was abhorred!

So it was decided that we would ask the Hive Mind to come up with something fitting and true. Watch for that!

LOL! I’ll bet  you can’t guess who Aunt Tilly is.

olive as tilly brightenedAunt Tilly is my grandmother, Olive, whom I never  met. She was a flapper, in the true sense of the word — which was somewhat pejorative at the time. Apparently she was one wild little number.

A divorce-court judge removed my mother from the custody of both Olive and her caddish husband, assigning the three-year-old to the care of the cad’s parents. The previous child, whom I found out about only when I unearthed my mother’s birth certificate after my father had died, must have been adopted out — Olive was 18 when my mother was born. So…what can one say?

Except, Olive, my dear: You are PERFECT for Aunt Tilly!

She certainly was a woman highly qualified to pronounce the words “Not husband material.” The ideal mentor for the Camptown Ladies.

As long as we’re uploading images… How do you like this new entry in the Home Decorating Awards Competition?


That little Talavera pot contained an elephant’s-foot plant that had taken root (from sprigs) and so outgrown its soil that there effectively was no soil left. It was shriveling from lack of water, especially in this summer’s unholy heat. Exit the elephant’s foot, into a larger pot.

Then it occurred to me that one of those little orchid plants you find at HD and Trader Joe’s would fit perfectly in there. And it does!

Here at the Funny Farm, orchids will survive, but they don’t grow appreciably. I expect this one will live for two or three years before giving up the ghost or outgrowing its home. Kinda cute, isn’t it?

To attach it to the wall, I hung the top end (which has a length of florist’s wire strung through a pair of holes in the back side) from one nail, and then a few inches below it inserted a tack into the wall which holds the pot’s lower end away from the drywall. To water it, of course, I’ll set it in the sink. But this will obviate any damage should I fail to wipe it dry before hanging it back up.

Ah. I see Amazon has responded to my query with an explanation as to how to establish a Goodreads Author profile.

And so, to work.

Taking a Brief Break…

“Brief” is the operative term. After several frantic weeks, things are cruising along on a fairly even keel just now, so I think I can take off a morning or so to rest and try to think. Actually, I should run out to a grocery store, but the crushing heat discourages one from venturing out of one’s burrow.

We are now ready with about a dozen racy bookoids for Camptown Races Press. That will provide about a month or six weeks’ worth of uploads, if we’re putting them online about every three or four days. With any luck, we’ll be able to run a month or so ahead of that.

Book V of Fire-Rider went online this morning: Kay’s Ghosts. After an angry confrontation leads Tavi to rebel against Kay’s apparent lack of empathy, Kay asks Tavi how he thinks he (Kay) came to learn the Espanyo language. In the absence of an answer, Kay’s horrifying personal story emerges, one that parallels Tavi’s and possibly even outdoes it.

Yesterday I spent some time trying to learn how to use Twitter. The “hashtag” thing has always been a mystery to me. I guess it amounts to a user-generated search term. Apparently you can found one simply by typing it into a tweet. And apparently you can associate a tweet of your own with a larger community (as it were) of people nattering on the same topic. Say, for example, something like “Camptown’s latest #eroticromance just went online at Amazon: http://bitly.hotsytotsy.”

The first experiment with Tweetvertising is branded (uhmmm… I guess that’s the term) with #FireRider, #postapocalyptic, #futurehistory, and #adventurestory. Now I need to find some cool things to share with readers, so I’m not just blitzing folks with ads.

Can you post images on Twitter?

What I don’t yet understand is what the “@” symbol is supposed to do. I think it’s some sort of identification badge.

And can you create a Twitter account or an entity in a new  name, or are you limited to one account? I think the FunnyAboutMoney Twitter persona was created way back in the day, by the delightful Mrs. Micah. (Remember her?)

Same question applies to FaceBook: can I create a site for Camptown RP and the Ladeez? Since certainly I can’t be blitzing my coreligionists, who comprise most of my FB “friends,” with news of lascivious literature.

Also yesterday I made an interesting discovery that will allow me to build a large and entertaining backlist quickly and easily. Better not discuss that here: it will soon become evident what I’m getting up to. It’s a stealable idea, and I think it’s best not tip my hand before the launch.

Working on learning how to make “boxed sets” compiling related bookoids under one electronic cover. You can do this cheaply using freeware called Gimp, but I think I’d rather have Gary Bennett, who designed the Fire-Rider cover, create the things, since he’s a pro, he has many years of experience with PhotoShop, and the result is likely to look a lot more professional than anything I could trick out in a program I don’t know.

Must decide today whether to cancel the New York Times.

The paper uses a local delivery service that also throws the Wall Street Journal and the Arizona Republic onto people’s driveways and into any available puddles. This delivery outfit just stinks. One of two specific reasons I canceled the Republic was that they used to call me on the phone about ten days before the bill was due and harass me to pay up right that minute, as though I were a deadbeat and was late on payment. (The other reason is that the Sunday paper contained nothing but advertising and went directly into the recycling bin without even being read.)

The Times wasn’t delivered either Saturday or Sunday. On Saturday, I don’t believe they came up our street at all: I walk the dogs before it gets too hot and so can see whose driveway has a dead tree on it.

I called and complained. No paper was ever forthcoming.

On Sunday (apparently as a consequence of my complaint), everyone else got a paper but I didn’t.

This is not the first time such a thing has happened, and it’s far from the first time I’ve complained about this bunch.

I have an “educator’s” discount for the Times, which makes it marginally affordable. Still, they’ve raised the bill with some regularity, to the extent that if I canceled that paper, I could use the money to subscribe either to the New York Review of Books (a favorite I can no longer afford) or to The Economist (a weekly that I’ve always coveted).

An online subscription comes with the dead-tree subscription to the Times. If you want to read the Times online only, you have to pay for the privilege. I don’t know if it’s a lot less. Nor do I know whether I would want to pay for the privilege: though I use it all the time to post links to Times articles, I usually find those articles first in the hard-copy version. And I do not find reading the thing on a tablet to be very alluring.

But even when they do deliver the damn thing, these days I rarely get a chance to read it. I’ll look at it while I’m bolting down breakfast, and then I’m launched into 14 or 18 hours of nonstop work. That means I may read maybe two or three pages. Why am I forking over money for that? At that rate, one issue of The Economist would provide reading material for an entire week of breakfasts.

I want to support the little high-quality journalism that survives in this country. But hell. Donating to Pro Publica or PBS would accomplish that.

Such a deal.


Are Your Name, Address, Phone Number, Income, and Credit Rating Being Broadcast to the Universe?

Holy God! Take a look at what Fabulously Broke found! Do not pass go before you click here and enter your own name.

When I went there, I discovered they’ve published my street address—with a map to my house!—telephone number; approximate age; credit rating; wealth level; value of my home; gender; marital status; length of time I’ve resided in my home; socioeconomic status of my neighborhood; type of structure I occupy and and the year it was built; its alleged value; whether it has a fireplace, central heating, central air, or a pool; how many kids I have; my educational level; my hobbies; my occupation; my interests; and my zodiac sign.

To be fair, some of these are left blank. Some are wrong—hilariously, they think my house is worth in excess of a million bucks. I wish!!! Some of the data clearly came from Facebook: I recognize the disinformation I entered there.

However… Spokeo also has another me in its bowels: Some woman by the same name is still living with my former husband at my former address. Interestingly, this woman’s information happens to match my own real-life personal data.

Folks. I divorced before there was such a thing as social media. The Internet barely existed when I ran away to the Alaskan outback. So…wherever these SOBs are aggregating their data from, it’s not all coming from the Internet.

If you go to their contact link and send them an e-mail demanding that they take your personal data down, you’re forced to enter their choice of subject lines. Select “business matter” instead of “privacy” to reach a human being. Select “privacy” and instead of sending the dear-sir-you-cur you’ve scorched into their contact form, you get instructions for a hoop-jump and the advice that the only way to get your information off their site is to remove yourself from all the social media sites you use.

In other words, if you don’t want these bustards publishing your current address and phone number to your abusive ex- who threatened to cut off your head, pee down the hole, and flee with your children to East Zambia, you may not participate in any social media of any kind. Either that, or you must leave a trail of lies wherever you go.

I wonder if Spokeo’s management can spell “class action suit.”

Postscript: Go here for an excellent video taking you through FaceBook’s new privacy settings, step-by-step.