Sunday, May 25, 2014

Why do so many big companies stop their e-mail support?

Have you noticed that it's almost impossible to contact larger companies via e-mail nowadays? They have phone and a chat function that no one ever monitors, but all e-mail addresses are removed. Why is that?

I can imagine a long row of reasons companies don't want e-mail addresses. They don't want to be spammed, they want to keep a history of the support case, and probably believe that everyone is happiest getting an immediate answer. I believe that customers appreciate the ability to send a question via e-mail and get an answer later.

Since I started Sadowski Media I've needed to sort out several annoying details - I need everything in my little office to work the way it's supposed to - and I have needed to reach Apple, T-mobile, Symantec, GoDaddy, and Bing ads. None of them have e-mail support.

I hate phones. I won't call anyone unless I absolutely have to. I'd rather buy a new computer than call support.

Chat is okay, I can start chat sessions, but in my experience you usually have to wait 20 minutes for someone on the other end to wake up and answer, and I do believe the junior support staff gets to man the chat. It's difficult to find anyone who knows anything, and if I need support I really want to talk to someone who knows more than I do myself.

This is the result of my attempts to get help.

1. Apple. I have a simple question about file conversions in/from iBooks Author.

I dug around on the website until I found an e-mail address, sent them my question, and asked them to forward my question to the right support people. I got an e-mail back with the same phone number that's already available on the website. There is no other way to contact them than through phone.

Apple support: Fail.

2. T-mobile. I had a question about my cell phone plan since I wanted to add a line and the website wouldn't let me.

They don't have e-mail addresses for support on the website, but I finally dug up a link that sent an e-mail to them through Facebook's messaging system. I didn't really expect an answer, but got one within minutes. They helped me through everything in a smooth and professional manner.

T-mobil support: Success.

3. Symantec. I've had a Norton subscription for years, and the license stopped working when I had to re-install my PC. I couldn't find a viable support option and finally threw a fit on Twitter. Symantec contacted me via e-mail and solved my problem within minutes. They also asked how I would want support to work.

Symantec support: Success.

4. GoDaddy. I've been trying to create subdomains. Again threw a fit on Twitter - nothing. Sent them a message through Facebook, and they gave me the phone number to support, even though I told them I wasn't interested in calling. *eyeroll* After messaging back and forth a few times they weren't able to solve my problem.

GoDaddy support: Fail.

5. Bing Ads. I got an email from PayPal about a payment to a Bing Ad I didn't know I had. I finally resorted to contacting them too through Facebook, and found myself in the old discussion of why I don't want to call support. After going back and forth for a day I managed to persuade them to forward my question to support and someone e-mailed me back.

Thus far I've provided my account number four times, asking how to find out what user name or e-mail address is connected to it. Every time they answer back that I should attempt to log on with the e-mail address I'm sending messages from - which is not connected to Bing Ads at all - and use the link to reset my password.

They're clearly idiots.
Bing support: Fail.


What do you think? Is providing a phone number adequate support in the year 2014? Do people want e-mail support, or is it just me?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Year of change

I knew 2014 was going to be a year of change, but I couldn't predict the extent of the changes. If you read my blog on a regular basis you might know I changed jobs and became a full time writer. You might also know I had a hard time getting the hours together with my personal life and fiction writing. Well, all that has changed.

Something - you might call it an inner voice, instinct, fate, voice of God - pushed me to seek out and take on writing clients besides my daytime job, even though I didn't have the time or energy for it. I already spent 10-11 hours every day away, and thought I was crazy diving into even more. I still registered a company name, made a logo and a website, and raced forward against sense and better judgement.

This happens to me from time to time; I feel an inner pressure to do something that appears less than sane. I have learned that it usually makes sense in the long run. Like, one time I took out a loan and drove across Sweden to buy a really big American car that I didn't need and couldn't afford. A couple of months later a semi rammed me, and would have killed me if I'd had a normal vehicle.

Anyway, I raced forward and toyed with going down in time at the Fraud Practice. I even got so far I contacted the company owner and said I wanted to discuss going down in time.

It didn't turn out like that.

Earlier this year I read a horoscope saying, "For Pisces, 2014 will bring a completely new game." That's an underestimate.

A few weeks ago my husband started to cough up blood, lots of blood, and three weeks ago today he finally agreed to see a doctor. We went to a nearby clinic, and the doctor took one look at him and sent us to the ER. Hubs ended up staying at the hospital for days. He had pneumonia, fluid around his lungs, skyrocketing blood pressure, fluttering heartbeats, and an at the time unknown "mass" in his chest. By day three it was clear that this will require many doctor's visits, and that I couldn't commit to being in an office at certain hours every day, for the entire day every day.

I went back to work to pick up my things and quit. I feel bad about it because I wasn't even able to give a decent notice. Under the circumstances I think they understand.

Since then he has had surgery and gotten a tube implanted in his side where we tap out fluid as it builds up in his chest. A biopsy of the "mass" showed lung cancer, and today we went to get a PET scan so they can see if it has spread or not. I'm praying for not - if it has spread it will reduce his chances dramatically. We have a long row of wonderful doctors, nurses, and helpers.

To make things even more complicated, all this came a week and a half before the big RT Convention in New Orleans. I considered not going, but I had spent so much time and money on it already that it would be outright stupid not to go. I had my doubts, but it worked out pretty well.

Today is Thursday, and we've spent most of Monday, Wednesday, and today at doctors' offices. My initial estimation was correct; there's no way I could have kept my job. One day out of four wouldn't cut it, and hubs would never go see all these doctors on his own. I mean, I think it's a lot to deal with, and I'm not sick.

Hopefully, my new Sadowski Media will be able to support us all, and I have some hope that everything will turn out for the best. It is a blessing to be able to work when I can, and I am so grateful I started up when I did. Website work, social media, and writing can be done from anywhere at any time. I bring my laptop or iPad and type away. I bet all the keyboard clicking annoys other people in the waiting rooms, but they'll just have to live with it.

If I seem more distracted and scatter-brained than usual, this is why.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Thoughts from the RT convention

I am home again after my RT convention adventure, and look back at the event with mixed feelings. I had some great experiences that wouldn't have been possible without RT, but funny enough, my good memories aren't related to the convention itself.

What was good?

I met a lot of great people. This is the first time I met my publisher and any of the co-authors at Desert Breeze in real life. We talk on Facebook all the time, but meeting people face to face is awesome. I also met some other Internet friends, and made new acquaintances in the lobby and at the events.

The Intergalactic Bar and Grille. I met wonderful Linnea Sinclair in real life for the first time, met Vijaya Schartz for the first time, and got to know some other wonderful sci-fi romance writers. I had a blast at the IBG.

The first night had a Mardi Gras event where participants got to see the huge Mardi Gras floats, listen to appropriate music, get beads, and get a feeling of Mardi Gras. Very cool, lots of fun.

The Fan-Tastic day brought people in on day passes. I met some truly awesome readers and other writers.

What was bad?

The organization of the event leaves a lot to wish for. I don't know how you can be unprepared for managing a large amount of people when you know exactly how many have signed up, but that's the impression I got. "Ooops, that's a really long line, guess we don't have enough buses."  "Ooops, we don't have enough food." "Ooops, we're out of coffee." Logistics can be difficult, but the convention has the advantage of knowing how many attendants they have.

Setting details like food and buses to the side for a bit, the fiasco I will remember that has tainted RT Conventions for me for the future is...

...drumroll...

The book fair. 

Before I start sounding like a real rambling bitch, I want to point out some facts that non-authors often don't know, or don't think about.

  • An event such as the RT Convention is planned far in advance. I'm a last minute girl, but I know many authors who started to plan their displays in September last year.
  • Displays, posters, swag, and books are ordered far in advance. 
  • A vast majority of writers travel to the convention. Most come from different parts of the USA, but some come from Australia and the UK. This means that authors have either paid to send their things ahead, or brought them on planes.
  • Everyone pays for the conference, for travel, for hotel rooms, and everyone has taken time off from their writing, daytime jobs, families, or whatever they would normally do.
It's easy to forget that all this stuff that we hand out don't just magically appear. Someone has taken time to design it, order it, pay for it, and bring it. One of my neighbors at the fair had ordered her swag from China to be able to get suitable quantities.

When the authors signed up for the fair, the information said, "For the first time in RT history, the Giant Book Fair and the e-Book/Indie Book Fair have been combined! It's a one stop shopping experience for everyone!" I also have a number of e-mails and information letters saying, "Two authors will be at each table; therefore, you will have half of a 6 foot table - which is a 3 foot length."

Thus, every participating author - and there were 700 total at the fair - planned for a 3 foot length. Everyone brought displays and stuff for a 3 foot length. 

When we arrived, it turns out that a foot in New Orleans is quite different from a foot in the rest of the world. Instead of two authors per table, there were three to four. So, the three foot length turned out to be 1.5. Two feet at most.

I've had three foot spaces at other fairs, and had room for my displays and books in between. Here, everything was crammed in and as you can see in the image below, we're sitting shoulder to shoulder. Luckily, one author in our row didn't show up, so we could expand to getting this much room per person. Yes, it was smaller at first.



I would be fine with that, if someone had bothered to communicate it in advance. I would have been gravy if I had gotten an email saying, "We have overbooked the fair, and in order to accommodate everyone, we must ask you to accept a smaller space." Everyone found out when it was time to set up. I wouldn't have hauled a suitcase filled with extra stuff for the book fair if I had known I wouldn't have room for it!

I asked a volunteer why the spaces were so small - there were plenty of room for more tables - and she said, "Well, you know, Indie authors. I guess we expected you to have ebooks. No one expects Indie authors to have real books."

Really? I didn't sign up for the e-book fair. I signed up for paperbacks. RT crew counted and packaged my paperbacks, and then unpacked them and stamped them. The piles of books could hardly have been a surprise.

On top of this, the one stop shopping experience turned out to be big publishing houses in one room with ample space, and everyone else crammed into another room. I could live with that too, if it hadn't been for RT volunteers telling guests that, "This is the room for aspiring authors," "Don't go there, that's not an exit," and "That's just the Indie authors. You want to go in there to the real authors."

That's not an exit? 

Seriously? I had few people find me, and those who did said, "I didn't think you were here, I thought I missed you." "I couldn't find you." "I wasn't allowed to go in here."

I think someone discovered the boo-boo and tried to make up for it; the speaker started calling out, "...and then we have New York Times bestselling authors at the Indie book fair..." By then it was too late. Everyone were already mad.

And... There was a young adult section of the Indie room. Funny enough, only YA authors from the big publishers were allowed to sit there. YA from non New York houses were placed alphabetically with everyone else, which meant that fiction geared towards very young people ended up next to explicit erotica. Not cool.

I understand that it might be necessary to divide this many people into more than one room. Do it alphabetically, and don't have people showing guests away.

I believe that RT should offer an apology to all the writers and publishers in the Indie room. They should also offer some token of compensation. I don't think this will happen, and for that reason, I am out. Next year I'm going to Arizona Dreaming.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

I've launched my first Kickstarter project!

After debating the matter with myself at great length (lol) I have now started my first Kickstarter project. I seek funding for writing time and editing to finish my new Embarkment novella: Arrival. Time and money permitting, the project will also fund one more Embarkment novella: Deadly Betrayal.

Kickstarter is an interesting way to seek funding. I ask for money in return for perks. Those who pledge larger sums would be eligible for larger perks.

However, if the project isn't fully funded, the pledgers won't pay anything, I won't get any money at all, and no one gets any perks. It's truly an all or nothing deal.

I have made drafts of the covers, and I have written a decent amount on both books. I just don't have time to finish anything.

Perks start at $1 and include thank you listings on my website, thank you in the book, e-versions or paperbacks of the final product, paperbacks of the entire series, having a character named after you, and similar.

If you want to join in the fun, visit this link!



Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Operation Earth as paperback!

The last couple of weeks have been tough on me and my family, I'll tell you more about that later. For now, let it suffice to say that I needed a pick-me-up. Desert Breeze Publishing provided: my book Operation Earth is now available as paperback.

What does the reviews say?

"Amazing story! I don't read a lot of alien stories but I couldn't put this one down! Maria Hammarblad is a fantastic storyteller who makes her story come alive with epic battles and heartfelt scenes.

Rachael Hill is just as lost as the rest of the world when they wake up to the EMP blast and the worlds Technology is dead. T.V's, Computers and cars all stop dead, planes fall from the sky no longer able to run their engines and strange ships enter Earth's atmosphere. When she runs into tall, sexy commander Peter she's not sure if she should run from him or kiss him.

If you haven't gotten this book you must now as it is a excellent read! and must be shared by all!"

-- Amazon reviewer --

"I love Rachael's little illicit thoughts about Peter. Makes me laugh. Actually, her thoughts in general are just precious. Probably some of the best parts of the story. I like how the invaders assume a successful hacker blocking their transmissions must be a woman."

-- Amazon reviewer --



Blurb:

Seven billion people on Earth go about their daily lives, and no one is prepared when a global EMP slows the world to a crawl. With all our technology incapacitated, everything changes. Within days alien soldiers line the streets, and life will never be the same. In the midst of chaos, Rachael Hill struggles to adapt to the new order, doing her best to keep herself and her cat alive.

On a ship far above the planet surface, Peter just got his new Earth name, and can’t even remember his identity from the last world he visited. It’s another day on the job, one more planet on a never-ending list. That is, until Rachael bumps into him, dropping exotic objects all around his feet. His culture taught him females should be obeyed and protected, but he never had an urge to leave himself at a woman’s mercy until now.

Rachael’s neighbor Ryan hounds her to join a brewing resistance movement and make a stand against the newcomers. She still befriends Peter, enthralled by his enigmatic personality and hypnotic golden eyes. Would falling in love with an alien be treason against humanity? When the rebellion gains momentum and open conflict with the newcomers is a fact, Rachael’s personal insurrection might be her doom, or bring salvation to us all.

See Operation Earth on Amazon

Monday, May 5, 2014

Liza O'Connor, Climbing Out of Hell

I have a special treat today: a guest blog by Liza O'Connor on her new book, Climbing Out of Hell. Welcome Liza!  




What type of changes can a plastic surgeon do to alter an identity?

Here’s Trent before and after his transformation.

Since Trent couldn’t decide between his choices, the doctor said he’d do the one that would require the least recovery time, so in many ways, the faces are much the same.

(Before is top left, the other two are afters)

The surgeon removed a bit of fat from below the cheeks to make his face gaunt and a bit of fat from the chin so it didn’t jut out so much. He used the fat to fill in the dimple.

Lower eyelid surgery combined with canthopexy turned the corners of his eyes slightly upwards and reduced the skin beneath, creating a pleasing, narrower almond shape to his eyes. His eye color was permanently changed from blue to brown with the use of Lumigan, which also gave him thicker eye lashes.

Rhinoplasty was done to add a very small bump to his nose. His lips got a bit of collagen. His ears where modified to prevent matching to former photos by the FBI.
Then he was given a low dose of steroids to build up his muscles

Other, non-surgical, but important changes were to cease plucking his eyebrows, allowing them to grow out naturally, to shave less often so he always had a facial shadow, and instead of sweeping his hair back, exposing his square forehead which was  now modified with some strategic hair plants, he let his locks flow down upon his forehead in a carefree style.

The above changes would prevent strangers from matching him to his former self.

However, a person who knew him well might still recognize Trent if he carried himself in with the same attitude and maintained the same expressions he had before. (In Trent’s case, that would be arrogant petulance.)

But Trent’s loss of Carrie broke him fundamentally. He lost his arrogance and without his money to back him up, he had to find a new way to get people to do things for him. He uses charm and persuasion like Carrie always did.

Not only did it help get people to work with him, but it changed his normal expressions, so when he follows his brother to Denton Iowa, Sam doesn’t recognize him and they become best of friends.


Here are some other changes that can realistically be made to change your looks:
        Bone can be shaped and new bone or chin implants can be added.
        Flat cheeks can get cheek implants or fat injections.
        Thick lips can be decreased in size by cutting out a thin strip (from inside the mouth).
        Loose skin can be pulled tight and excess removed.
        Scars on the face can be eliminated or improved by scar revision surgery.
        Body shape can be greatly modified (Increase or decreased).
        Liposuction can eliminate fat from any section of the body that holds fat. (double chins, flabby arms, waist, butt, thighs.)
        Acne or pock marks on the face can be smoothened by dermabrasion surgery.
        Botox injections can remove brow furrows & emotions from a face.

In the end, successfully changing yourself, is more about attitude and behaviors than it is about changing your body.

However, to be safe against software ID systems, you need physical modifications. And even then, you might still get flagged, depending on the work done to change you, since it uses the distance between the eyes, the width of the nose, the depth of the eye sockets, the shape of the cheekbones, and the length of the jaw line that software uses to match faces.

However, in real life practice, the software is far less accurate than TV makes it look.
Just a change in lighting can alter the way a camera reads the features. Eyes can look more hollow, cheeks more gaunt. Turns out in practical application the software is accurate less than 65% of the time.

The chances of Trevor being matched to an old Trent picture drops even lower. In fact, even if the computer flagged a match, when an FBI agent looked at the two pictures, he would probably declare it a false match and disregard it. That’s because Trevor’s new outlook on life is markedly different than old Trent’s. A good agent can read expressions and will conclude these are two different guys.


Book 4 of the series
A Long Road to Love
Romantic Comedy

Billionaire Trent Lancaster has destroyed his relationship with the only woman who ever loved him. Now we discover the full truth of what happened. 
He actually had reasons for his behaviors.
Still, there is no going back. Trent has lost Carrie forever, but he would rather die than marry Coco, so he does just that. Trent gives away most of his possessions, fakes his death, and starts over with a new face and a better attitude in a small town in Iowa where his half-brother Sam is sheriff.
Losing his true love has fundamentally broken Trent to his core. His only chance for happiness is to become the better man Carrie had always seen inside him.
True change is not easy. Can Trent grow up and become a man we can love?

Excerpt
Sam burst into the kitchen, frowned at Trent, then focused on Dani. “Leroy is at it again. I thought you said you were going to hide the damn thing?”

“I did. But there aren’t many places one can hide an AK-47 rifle.”

“Well, you hid it worth shit because it’s raining lead again at the downtown square!”

She gripped her head as if it might explode.

“What’s the problem?” Trent asked.

Sam rolled his eyes. “Iowa passed a law allowing blind people to carry guns in public. So her grandfather, who is blind as a bat, sits on a bench in the square and shoots his AK into the trees.”

“What’s he trying to shoot?”

“Pigeons,” Sam and Dani answered at once. She glared him into silence and continued her reply. “He likes pigeon soup. A Pakistani doctor told him it would prevent strokes.”

“Well, he’s giving me a stroke,” Sam snapped. “You have to make him stop!”

“I’ve talked to him until I’m blue in the face. He won’t listen to me. Most of the time he thinks I’m three-years old. Who listens to a three-year-old?” She threw her hands up in frustration and turned back to the grill.

Trent didn’t care for the way Sam pushed Dani. Grandparents were impossible to boss around…at least his had been. “Why don’t you talk to him?’

Sam released a hurricane of air. “Because the mayor told me to stay away from him, since he is not breaking any laws, and any attempt on my part could result in a lawsuit against the town.” He eyed Trent. “You should talk to him.”

“Sam, Trevor’s been in town an hour. You know Gramps doesn’t trust people right off.”

“Neither do you, yet here he sits, like an old friend, watching you cook him dinner.”
She rescued the burgers off the grill, slapped them both on buns, and shoved one at Sam. “This is your hamburger. Trevor is holding out for braised lamb.”

“Point still stands. Look, I think he can do the job. I intended to hit him with a ticket but he was so nice I sent him to you instead. He’s a likable guy. Let’s send him out and see if he can stop this madness.”

“No!”

“Then I’m shutting this bar down for safety violations.”

She stared at him in shock. “What violations?”

“Don’t worry. Mr. Olsen will find something. He owes me big time after last night’s poker game.”

Trent stood up. “Sam, you’re digging yourself into a hole. Your initial solution was excellent, and frankly I’m honored you think so well of me. I’ll go talk to him right now. Just tell me how to get to Pigeonville.”

Sam grinned and slapped him on the back as he led him out of the kitchen. “Way to man up. Seriously, I’ll owe you one if you can get the gun away from Leroy and bury it six feet under.”

Trent just hoped being a nice guy didn’t get him buried six feet under as well.

Links
Released May 1, 2014
Book Four of the series:
A Long Road to Love
Climbing out of Hell

Other books in the A Long Road to Love series
Book One
Worst Week Ever
“Love this book and couldn't stop laughing from beginning to end.” 5 stars – Alves - Amazon

Book Two
Oh Stupid Heart
“Be warned though, this book is completely different from The Worst Week Ever. Yes, there is still humor, dry wit, situations that you would think...NOT AGAIN but this one humanizes Trent more.” 5 stars - Brian’s Mom – Amazon

Book Three
Coming to Reason
Once again, Ms. O’Connor has written a brilliant book about the complexities of relationships, good and bad. Again, to me, the book is the best break up book EVER and it left my heart singing in the end. Best.Book.Ever…


Other Books by Liza O’Connor


Liza O’Connor
Author Bio:
Liza lives in Denville, NJ with her dog Jess. They hike in fabulous woods every day, rain or shine, sleet or snow. Having an adventurous nature, she learned to fly small Cessnas in NJ, hang-glide in New Zealand, kayak in Pennsylvania, ski in New York, scuba dive with great white sharks in Australia, dig up dinosaur bones in Montana, sky dive in Indiana, and raft a class four river in Tasmania. She’s an avid gardener, amateur photographer, and dabbler in watercolors and graphic arts. Yet through her entire life, her first love has and always will be writing novels. She loves to create interesting characters, set them loose, and scribe what happens.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT 
LIZA O'CONNOR & UPCOMING BOOKS:


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Worst Week Ever
Oh Stupid Heart
Coming to Reason
Ghost Lover