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Check out my science fiction series - The Fall of the Altairan Empire

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Teenagers Need Instruction Manuals

I have a 17yo daughter.

According to her, I'm a blend of the Wicked Witch of the West and the Evil Stepmother. Catch 22. No matter what I do, I'm evil. If I let her go to a party, I'm evil for not caring about her safety. If I forbid her from going, then I'm determined to destroy her social life. If she sneaks out and goes anyway, then I'm evil for not stopping her. I lose.

Sons are much easier to deal with.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Miss Spelling Comments

It amazes me how many people promoting themselves as authors and writers post blogs and messages littered with misspelled words. The occasional grammar slipup can be excused, as long as it is rather obscure and not glaring. But using the wrong word or leaving misspelled words seriously damages your credibility as a professional.

It only takes a few moments to proofread and spellcheck a document. Take the time.

Spend a few moments learning commonly misused words. They're, there, and their; insure and ensure; and others. With online dictionaries, it's a snap to check the meaning of the word you are using. Do it.

Please, for the sake of communication, learn to do it right; especially if you call yourself a professional.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Censorship in the Library - Burn that Book!

A friend's Twitter post triggered a chain of thought on censorship in public libraries. I was on our community library board for four years. I've worked closely with the grade school librarian where my children attend school. I have a whole bunch of my own kids. It's interesting how the whole censorship thing works.

At the public library level, I found the choice of books people objected to very intriguing. They weren't objecting to the romance novels that bordered on outright porn. Nope. The books filled with profanity didn't make the list, either. They objected to books that portrayed Mormons in an unflattering way (I live in a predominantly Mormon community). The librarian explained her dilemma. The library is funded with public money, therefore, it should reflect the community's interests and values. But, libraries are also places that value freedom of thought and expression and are forbidden to practice censorship. Her solution? Pull the offending book for a month or two with a promise to the patron to review it for objectionable material, then after a few weeks, quietly slip the book back onto the shelf for circulation again.

At the school library, it was similar situation but a lot more volatile. We're talking about people's offspring and their tender little minds. One year, the librarian had a whole mob of very vocal parents objecting to Harry Potter, anything Star Wars, Animorphs, and a whole string of other popular children's books. The main complaint was that the books promoted witchcraft and a belief in "magic". I found it interesting that the books they wanted pulled were all science fiction and fantasy titles. Goosebumps were fine. The librarian knew how popular the books were and didn't want to create a scandal. If she refused, which was completely within her rights and job description, the parents would create a massive media scandal. If she complied, she could lose her job. She opted to create a waiver for parents to sign before their children were allowed to check out the unsavory books. Guess who was first in line to sign? Me.

I strongly believe in freedom. What I value may not be what my neighbor values. My right to read what I choose is just as valid as theirs. Public libraries, school or community, do not have the right to censor my choices. It ultimately is up to me to censor what I read. I do practice censorship with my kids, as is my right as their parent. There are books that I don't want them to read for a variety of reasons. Once they are out of my house, they can choose to read them if they want.

That is the beauty of our country. No one can dictate what we are allowed to read. Everyone has a right to their opinion and the option to air it. But no one has the right to force their opinions and values on me, just as I have no right to force you to read MY book list.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Nexus Point is getting closer to release

My novel is getting closer to release. I'm waiting on the final word from the publisher that everything is set. I'm hoping for Labor Day weekend, but it looks like it might be later into September. Meanwhile, just to whet your appetite, here's a teaser for it:

Dace’s wants are simple–a trading ship and the freedom to fly where she chooses. But on her first trip, her crew betrays her, her ship explodes, and she finds herself stranded on Dadilan, a planet locked in a feudal age.
Survival is hard enough when you have no technology or resources. It’s even harder when you have drug smugglers hunting you. Dadilan is the source of shara, a drug that enhances psychic abilities, a commodity so rare and precious people will kill for it.
Trapped between rival smugglers and the Patrol undercover investigation, Dace has one hope of rescue–convincing Tayvis, the undercover agent, she’s an innocent bystander. But those don’t exist on Dadilan. No one lands without authorization, unless they are smuggling.
Her ignorance may cost her life.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Losing a Battle but Winning the War

Good customer service will win the war.

I don't know about you, but I'm fed up with lousy customer service. You know what I'm talking about: clerks who chat with their friends and completely ignore you, sales reps who bypass you for someone who looks like a better prospect, phone service people who have no idea how to actually help you, grouchy employees who are downright rude that you would have the nerve to interrupt their day with a simple request.

There are stores that I no longer patronize because every time I step foot in the store, I'm treated with contempt. Wake up, people! I'm your customer, I'm the reason you stay in business. Yes, I'm just one, but I have friends and family and neighbors who hear about the lousy service I received at your establishment. When they ask me for recommendations, your business won't be anywhere near my list, in fact it will be on my list of places to avoid. The ones with polite employees who actually seem happy to help will be the ones who get mentioned, even if the prices are a little higher.

So how do you get good employees? You create them. Treat them well and they will treat your customers well. Show them decency, courtesy, and respect. Then train them to show those same qualities to your customers.

True, a rude, impatient customer can be hard to deal with but that is no excuse for a lack of professionalism from the employee or manager. There are a few that can't be satisfied no matter what you do, but most people just want their complaint addressed. Listen politely and then offer what you can. It will go a long way to mending customer opinion.

Before I leave my soapbox, I want to make a plea for a return of common courtesy. Treat others the way you want treated and even if they don't respond in kind, you'll come out the winner.