Books, Publishing, and the Creative Life

Archive for September, 2014

The Case of the Missing iPad

The Crime

ipad-airOn Monday night of this week I went swimming at a local school’s swimming pool and, as always, my beloved iPad Air came with me. I don’t go anywhere without it. Except this time I left the pool and drove home alone, minus my pad. Somehow I became distracted and left it sitting on the bleachers near the pool.

I returned an hour later, found the security guard who locks and unlocks the doors for swimmers, and had him let me in.  I desperately hoped to find the iPad waiting for me, but the bleachers were empty. At the security guard’s suggestion I searched the parking lot and watched the road as I drove home, although I was 95% sure I hadn’t left the iPad on my car and it slid off (his idea). Three times the guy told me I’d probably left it on my car. (This may be a clue).

Losing this little machine is six hundred dollars down the drain. I figured I’d be sleeping in the chicken coop for at least a week, but luckily I have an understanding husband.

And a big THANK YOU to APPLE for making the new iPads password protected!

All night I prayed that the lifeguard, a high school student, noticed my iPad and took it home with her for safe keeping. The next morning I called the local park department, which sponsors swimming, and relayed my story. The woman I spoke with was not especially interested or caring, but did promise to tell her boss and have him contact the lifeguard after school. I paced the floor and stewed for a few hours, then called the park department again. The manager had not even been informed. When I mentioned the word POLICE, their attitude dramatically changed. A police case?  Of course they were concerned—now. He promised to contact the school on my behalf.

On Tuesday I dropped by their office and learned the lifeguard said she hadn’t seen my iPad and knew nothing about it. The manager was not willing to contact the three other swimmers, nor would he give me their names. Dead end.

A Cozy Mystery

 I realized this resembles a cozy mystery story. You know, a handful of guests attend a dinner party at a British manor house and we’re sure one of them committed the crime. Who kidnapped the iPad Air?  I had five ipad blogsuspects:

  • The lifeguard—an attractive blonde high school student who spent the entire evening doing her homework. She and the security guy were the last people to leave the pool.
  • A woman swimmer I’ve seen at the pool for years. I know she trains for triathlons and seems like a nice person.
  • The woman’s boyfriend—I’ve also seen him around for a long time.
  • A new swimmer to the group—a guy in his 30s, very fit.
  • The security guard—a scruffy looking fellow who kept trying to tell me I must’ve left the iPad on my car and it was probably lying in the road somewhere.

??????????????????????????????????????? Cue the Police

At first my husband and I were reluctant to involve the police. I might have left the iPad on my car while I unlocked the doors, although I didn’t think so. If that was true, then no crime was committed. And since I was careless with the iPad, I felt the theft was partly my fault. I hated to stir the waters and upset people at the high school and the park department.

Still  . . . we believed a crime had been committed, and if someone managed to gain access to the machine they might get into our accounts, even though I’d quickly changed my passwords.  If that happened, I would need a case number to back up my claim.

So, I went to the county sheriff’s office and filed a report. I expected indifference and cursory attention to my problem. After all, these folks deal with a meth epidemic, child abuse, domestic violence, traffic accidents, and more. I did not expect a stolen iPad to garner much attention–but I was pleasantly surprised. The deputy took my information in detail and promised to follow up at the school.

Within a couple of hours, I heard back from Andrew, the deputy. A woman emailed the school that her son found an iPad on the road while riding his bike. Andrew drove to her home, picked up the iPad, and brought it to our house that evening.

Yes, it was mine. The poor thing had been run over by cars and rained on. Even though the screen was shattered—it still worked!  After being trampled and drenched, the iPad turned on, accepted my password, and let me

My ZOMBIE iPad

My ZOMBIE iPad

access apps. Well done, APPLE!  This iPad is now a zombie machine with half the screen black, but at least it came home to me.

ipad blog 5The Plot Thickens

“So I guess you did leave it on your car,” Andrew concluded. I was embarrassed to hear that, but stubborn.  I knew I hadn’t carried it out of the building, so I asked him where the machine was found. The location was two miles in the wrong direction. I never drove that way.

Evidently the thief panicked and tossed the iPad onto the highway, hoping no one would believe  my story. A “nicer” thief might have left the iPad in a safe place instead of dumping it on the road. But I guess nice thief is an oxymoron.

With all this in mind, Andrew said he’d go back to the school and look at security tapes. He had me draw a map of the pool area and show him where I left the iPad. Now I’m waiting, but I suspect this is the end of the line for the case. We aren’t going to have fingerprinting, polygraph tests, and interrogations.

My chief suspect is now the security guard, with the lifeguard as a secondary suspect.  They’re the only two people who knew I planned to follow up with the authorities, and both of them have a lot to lose if they’re caught.

I feel an odd connection to this person who took my iPad. He or she changed my life in a small way. I imagine that person thinking he’s probably safe, but still feeling edgy. Maybe he gets a rush from stealing. Maybe he has no conscience.

attitude-affects-workVictimology

Even this minor crime caused ripples in our lives. According to psychologists, the most common problems affecting three quarters of victims are psychological issues, including fear, anxiety, nervousness, self-blame, anger, shame, and difficulty sleeping.  For about 24 hours I had some of these symptoms, and they are not pleasant. Now I’m more philosophical—and even grateful.

I’m grateful a check came in that will allow me to get a replacement iPad. I’m grateful for the caring police officers who watch over us. I’m grateful for my kind, loving husband who doesn’t blame me for being careless. I’m grateful to be well educated and hold a job that allows perks like smart phones and iPads.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. And I plan to chain the new iPad to my body.

 

Are You Ready to Publish?

If only it was this easy!

If only it was this easy!

If you’re an author who wants to publish soon, don’t let all the free, helpful advice from writers, publishers, and vendors persuade you to launch a book without taking the proper steps. Many published authors wish theycould take back ugly book covers, unedited stories, and cheesy book titles.  Even worse, many other published authors don’t even KNOW how horrible their books are.

If you’re getting close to publication, consider these eleven points:

EDITING: Has your manuscript been edited by a professional? This is a vital step for all writers, and even more important if you plan to self-publish. Your cousin who’s an English teacher and works cheap does not count as a professional editor.  A professional editor will go beyond finding typos and provide critical feedback you won’t get from friends and relatives.

INDUSTRY RESEARCH: Stay abreast of trends and changes inside the publishing industry by following news reports, blogs, and your favorite publishers’ web sites.

KNOW YOUR GENRE: What authors are hot in your genre? Why are they doing so well?  Who’s reading their books? Study these writers and learn why they’re successful. If your book doesn’t fit a specific genre, that’s a problem. A book without a genre is handicapped from the start.

ARE YOU MARKETING NOW?  You should already be marketing by networking, building a fan base, and making contacts. I know this is a challenge  for introverted writers—Self publishing 1but that’s another good reason to start early. Even as you write the book, begin reaching out to other writers and fans in your genre.  With over 300,000 books published every year, you can’t depend on good luck to sell a new title. If you hire a publicist, you’ll still need to carry on by yourself once the initial marketing push is over.

WRITE A PROPOSAL WITH A MARKETING PLAN: Even if you plan to self-publish, you should create a traditional book proposal for your own use.  The proposal should include a one-page summary of your book, a comparison to other books, a marketing plan, an author biography, and broad chapter outlines.  Are you writing a novel or memoir? Do a proposal anyway.  You’ll be glad you did. (You can find half a dozen excellent books on writing the perfect proposal).

SET MODEST GOALS: Many authors fall into despair and stop marketing when don’t sell a thousand books the first month or make the Amazon bestseller list. Be happy with local book signings, reviews, and accolades.  Keep reaching for the stars, but remember you first have to launch something. Book sales are never guaranteed and no one (not even the big publishers) can predict what will happen with a book. Fame is almost always created by hard work and perseverance. Follow the blogs of successful authors like Hugh Howey and J.A. Konrath, who clawed their way to top and now help other writers.

KNOW WHAT YOU WANT: Is book publishing just a check mark on your bucket list? If so, then finish your book, give it away to family and friends, sell a few copies, and move on. But if you’re passionately committed to writing and publishing—if you were born with a writing gene—then settle in for a long trip. Learn the craft, study the markets, join groups, and cultivate patience.

self publishing 3 BE PATIENT: Did I mention this before? Impatience can damage the relationship with your publisher and (if you’re self-publishing) cause you to turn out a shoddy product because you don’t wait to get things right. Everything in book publishing and marketing takes a while. Getting a book into print can be tedious and exacting. And then, when the initial excitement wears off, you wonder why the book isn’t selling the way you expected. You’re embarrassed and discouraged—tempted to give up. Publishers know it can take years to make back the money we invest in a book. If you stop marketing, you may never show a profit. Some books are slow starters, build momentum, and eventually begin selling. Other books catch on when a news story makes them timely.  Still other books begin selling when the author’s next book attracts new fans.

COVER DESIGN: Don’t go cheap, and don’t do it yourself.  Enough said.

BE SAVVY: Self-published authors support an industry of  printers, designers, editors, publicists, and firms that want to do everything for you. Amazon, Ingram, Author self publishing 5House, Writers Digest—the list is almost endless. Remember, the products they produce are only as good as the material you give them. Make sure you know what you’re paying for and check the competition before you invest.

YOUR NEXT BOOK: Plan on releasing another book within six months to a year. This will help you stop obsessing about book sales and give you something to talk about online.

DON”T CONTRIBUTE TO THE MASSIVE LOAD OF BAD BOOKS:

As a publisher who loves books, I beg you to perform due diligence with your work, especially if you’re an author-publisher.  As Chuck Wendig says in a blog rant:

Publishing isn’t an art — publishing is a business. A creative business, a weird business, but a business just the same, and so it behooves you to treat this like a business and to put out the best work you can. The overall property values of a neighborhood go up when you tend to your own yard — the more author-publishers who commit to doing their best and not just regurgitating warm story-barf into every conceivable nook and cranny of the Internet are going to contribute to an overall improvement. If you want the stink out of the air, spray a little perfume, you know? In short: we can all do better, so do better.”

attitude-affects-workSammie Justesen is a publisher with NorLightsPress and the author of Dialogue for Writers, released in May, 2014. She is also an artist and president of the Lawrence County Art Association.

A great investment for writers

 

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