Free Copy of The Queen of Crows for All Hallows Reads

The Queen of Crows e-Book | Alternate CoverHappy Halloween! In honor of my favorite holiday, I’m participating in All Hallows Reads. I had every intention of offering you a library of spooky books to pick from, but sadly time and deadlines have caught up with me. So, instead of a contest? I’m going to do something I’ve never done before.

Anyone who comments on this post will get a coupon to download a free copy of The Queen of Crows. All you need is a valid e-mail address or an account on DriveThruRPG or DriveThruHorror. That’s it! I will follow up with you tomorrow or Wednesday to get everything situated.

I hope you enjoy my treat today, and encourage you to check out other author’s blogs and websites. There are a ton of give-a-ways. You can find quite a few by checking out the Twitter hashtag #allhallowsreads or visiting www.tor.com. for more give-a-ways. Other sites are participating, too, but I don’t have the full list. Go readers go!

Before you get too excited, I also want to share that Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror is $2.50 today at DriveThru.

Eleven spooky ghost hunting stories for less than what you’d pay on a bag of candy. Yep, that’s right. It is calorie-free but oh, so good.

Alex Bledsoe, Chuck Wendig, Jess Hartley, and many others will scare you silly and be kind to your waistline, too. I hope you will do me the honor of checking it out. Um, I won’t take responsibility for nightmares or ghostly visitors. Just in case.

Happy Halloween! Wheeeeeee!

EDIT: The free copy of The Queen of Crows lasts until midnight, or when all the pumpkins roll back into their beds. I was so excited I forgot to tell you when it ended!

Halloween Pumpkins and (Of Course) Cats!

Here’s some pictures of our Halloween festivities. Our cats are both rescues; Rimmon is a black kitty and Zakar (We call him Zak Zak for short or whiner-butt) is a polydactal manx. No tail and ginormous paws. Statistically, black cats are the most commonly ignored, abandoned, and abused. The current superstition that black cats are evil is a mixture of Hollywood symbolism, American advertising, misplaced superstition and biology. Some cats developed their “cry” to mimic the sound of a human child, which is part of where they got their reputation for being a witch’s familiar back in the day. (Just recently in the UK, they launched a Black Cat Awareness Day to highlight the issue that so many need a home.)

Anyway, sorry I got off on a tangent there. Think it’s crazy that people don’t like an animal (and sometimes people) purely based on its coloring. Our cats definitely have their own personalities! By the way, can you tell the vampire bat was mine?





        Happy Halloween Eve!

        Ramblings about Personal Bias Online

        One of the comments someone made about what they want to read here, was about what makes me “me.” During Speak Out with Your Geek Out, I talked about how I’m a hobby anthropologist. *flexes fingers*

        Yep, breaking that hat out today. One of the biggest challenges with online communication is the sheer volume of information we’re inundated with. And there’s a lot of it. The second biggest challenge? Your personal bias. A while back, I used to do a lot of keyword research on the day job, and I found that singular versions of search terms were almost always more popular than the plural. I think this is because the computer is such a singular experience physically. You sit down to your computer. You type on your keyboard. You chat or Tweet or message or e-mail on your account. The actions you take are yours. The words you type are yours. You, you, you.

        (Or rather… Me, me, me.)

        There’s a lot of “me’s” in online communication, which is why it’s so easy to forget that personal bias is common, rampant, and to be expected. What gets me, is the expectation part of personal bias and the hypersensitivity that results from that. Getting back to the whole “the internet is a singular experience” mindset, think about how this translates to what actions people take. Why does someone get pissed off when another person stops following them on Twitter? Why are there crappy comments on YouTube! videos, news sites, etc.? Why are people so gullible with respect to internet rumors?

        It all comes back to bias and what that person is reacting to. I’ve seen incredibly nice people spit vitriol online. I used to wonder why that was, until I realized that they may be incredibly nice “in person” but remove the face-to-face contact and something changes. What you’re left with? Is that person’s mind or psyche. If you’re in a crappy mood and nothing is going right, then that colors how you view the world. Same goes for online, too. Only, it may not be clear who we’re talking to. How old are they? What cultural background do they have? Are they in the city or the country?

        Similar to creating unique characters, when you start attaching other factors to a voice online, that voice is removed from the choir and becomes a soloist. When the only thing you have to go on is their words (and vice versa) they’re still part of the choir because they’re tapping into what you like, what you don’t, what you believe, and what you’re skeptical about. In other words, your ability to empathize is diminished because you’re hearing the words in the way you want to hear them. What you’re missing, is the “who” that’s speaking those words.

        My solution to eliminating personal bias online is to take a page from the instructions I got as a kid. Mind you, these directions were to avoid getting hit by a car, but I think the same applies here.

        Stop. Look. And listen.

        I feel that the way we communicate online will continue to suffer the more rapidly our access to communication increases. Can’t tell you how many e-mail signatures I’ve seen lately that say something to the effect of: “I’m on my Blackberry. Responses are short. Please don’t take it personally.”

        To explain every nuance in communication is nothing short of exhausting. To react emotionally to every nuance in communication is, in my mind, a consequence of hypersensitivity. Today, I had someone take a joke seriously. So I said: maybe I should start color-coding my words? When those misinterpretations happen, I feel that we begin to stray toward obsessive thinking about our words. Recently, John covered that concept in Dork Tower and based on the responses, I know I’m not alone in this.

        Quite frankly, I obsess enough over my stories. I don’t want to fixate on every turn of phrase I post online, because that’s an exercise in insanity. It happens, though. Especially when someone doesn’t stop, look or listen to the “me” behind the words.

        There are topics I avoid because I know what my buttons are. I do get a little frustrated when people feel compelled to edit my social media updates. It blows my mind when you see people criticize or edit other people’s Tweets by saying: “You should have…” Or “Company A has to…” or flat out corrects typos, etc.

        What they’re really saying? “I prefer that you…” Or “I feel that Company A should…”

        Again, it circles back to that personal bias. One of the lessons I learned from my hundred day experiment, is that the more connected I am, the worse my personal bias gets unless I catch myself. I feel this is universal. Maybe we could all use an internet detox every now and then?

        I don’t understand why, when people are unhappy with a company, they post about it online assuming that company will pay attention. Customer service departments do exist. Unfortunately, many companies have struggled with how to best communicate online. Instead of coming up with a plan before they dive in, they react to situations. While that may work for some, the end result is bad PR. I know a few companies think that bad PR is better than no PR at all because you’re no longer invisible.

        Recently, I sent a letter to Lego asking them about their board games and why the mini-figs were so small. I explained that I preferred a larger size because I wanted to use the figs in my fantasy game as miniatures. And they responded back explaining that the size of the figs was intentionally designed to match the size of the game. They also said that they do review suggestions internally. Makes sense to me. Their site was easy-to-use and the feedback loop was great!

        So in addition to Stop. Look. And listen. I’d also offer: Ask. Language is ever-changing and it’s proving to be the Tower of Babel. A lot of us are saying something and we all want to be heard. But even with all these words, how many of us really understand what is being said?

        Anyway, thanks for listening. Not sure if I’ve got any answers, but the hobby anthropologist in me had a blast.

        Awesome Halloween Light Show

        This light show to the tune of “This Is Halloween” is made out of win. And, um… To preserve your sanity, just mute the comments.

        I’ll Absorb Stories Wherever I Can

        I’ve been gearing up for several new things the past couple of weeks. New website, new job, new stories, new convention, new case of con crud after said convention… My ability to read or play games often becomes greatly impacted by life in general — even though I don’t want it to be.

        When this happens — and I feel like I’m turning into a cultist faster than you can say “Ia! Ia!” — I become the female version of Indiana Jones. (Mind you, this is not all that unpleasant.) I hunt stories wherever I can find them.

        The Halloween Tree by Ray BradburyWhen I’m swamped? I turn to audiobooks and radio plays to put on in the background. Sometimes, I’ll listen to them a couple of times because I won’t pick up everything the first time around. But, unlike reading books, I can listen to audiobooks multiple times and not get bored. It’s very rare for me to read the same book twice.

        I just listened to The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury. This is a brilliant, two hour radioplay that dives into the history of Halloween. I love the social commentary and the technique Bradbury uses to explore the historical aspects without bogging down the story. Even though there’s a cast of kids plus an iconic adult, I didn’t feel that this was written for kids in that sense. I’ve also got a radioplay version of The Martian Chronicles.

        5 Very Good Reasons To Punch a Dolphin In The MouthWhen I’m not listening to audiobooks (Hint: I could always use an iTunes gift card…) then I’ll turn to webcomics for a short, digestible story I can consume in five seconds or less. I recently turned to Twitter to ask for people’s recommendations; my repertoire consists of Dork Tower, Two Lumps, The Oatmeal, Order of the Stick, Irregular Webcomic, Questionable Content, PvP Player versus Player, Ctrl Alt Delete, and a few others. I just picked up 5 Very Good Reasons To Punch a Dolphin In The Mouth (And Other Useful Guides) at New York Comic Con. It’s signed! Yay! I’ve also been pouring through all the Dork Tower trades and getting new comics up for John at DriveThruComics.com.

        Both of these mediums allow me to dive into stories even though I may not have the time to block out an hour or two for reading. Since I’m always writing or working on some project (even if it’s in my head), I like to surround myself in stories to keep myself grounded.

        Have any audioplays, podcasts or webcomics to recommend? Share ’em!

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