Archive for November, 2011

Personal information and Staples

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Sometimes one wonders why a company requires certain information when doing business with an individual. Well, maybe not just sometimes. For example Staples has a not so Easy online print service. I understand the need for some information, for example who you are and a contact phone number. But Staples moves this to a whole new level. Never mind I just want a few documents printed. First they insist you register with them and create yet another password. They want your phone numbers and your home address, despite the fact you have to pick up the documents. And, this is absolutely mandatory- they want to know what time zone you live in. How does this information have any bearing on a printed document? Idiots. Of course I supplied them with an incorrect address and spelled my name wrong (yes I do know how to spell my own name and where I live). I did give them the correct time zone but I wondered if I claimed a time zone in Russia if my Staples membership would have been refused.  

I normally take my printing needs to Copy City, a small but very good west end printing service. I send them print requests on-line and sometimes just phone them to do some minor work I’ve done in the past. What’s amazing is they have my phone number but don’t know, or care, where I live. They’re smart people and likely assume I live in the same time zone as they do. If they ever ask me for a password, I’ll use the one I have for Staples; $ucks2BU.

Now I don’t mean to just pick on Staples, but why do companies where you only want to do business one time with need so much personal information? As various companies have data bases hacked by some 16 year old kid, it becomes a little worrisome. My method is to lie. Transpose some numbers in your address. Use your brother’s name. Create an email address just for registration purposes (more_spam@ yahoo.ca).

Okay, that’s my rant for the week. After admitting I lied on my Staples registration form I hope the dreaded Staples Internet Security Team doesn’t pay me a visit. Wait- they only have my brother’s address, so it’s his problem.

Cheers

Jack

The Art of Writing

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

The art of writing a good story isn’t easily taught. I’m a believer in writing stories that I find interesting in the hope the reader finds it as well. But what makes a story interesting? What grips the reader? Some authors are very good at it and seem to do so without effort. That isn’t true in my case. I have to work hard to put the right “secret combination” of words to make my story interesting, with a bit of help from editors.

So what should a writer look out for? Well there are all kinds of books out there for writers and some of them do offer some valuable tips. For example in one of my writers’ group there is a link to http://romanceuniversity.org/2011/10/26/author-lucy-monroe-more-than-five-senses-writing-for-visceral-impact where author Lucy Monroe talks about 11 senses. The article was very interesting as I had no idea we possess so many senses. My wife is the opinion I have no sense at all at times and while I politely disagree with her, frankly eleven senses is more than I can count using both hands. I suppose I’ll have to drop one of the senses in my writing.

Another rule in writing is to show, not tell. I know some authors want to show everything through the character’s eyes and the other ten senses, but it can be a bit tedious how some of them go about it. It gets to be almost tunnel vision. Occasionally when I read their writing I wish they would just tell me the room was big in one sentence rather than a whole paragraph of their visual impressions. Now it is true in a mystery details are best delivered this way but in action stories you may want to speed up the pace. Ie: He charged into the large room.” Vs “Bill Gates charged past the door, scanning the interior of the large room. “ The second sentence is a bit too long for an action sequence and it’s hard to picture Bill Gates as an action figure. There has to be a balance of providing information to the reader so the story flows smoothly. Not everything can told through the character’s eyes.

One final trick for writers is to use alternate words to describe something. For example I have the following list of words instead of using White: alabaster, blanc, bone, cloud, cream, eggshell, fog, frost, ghost, ice, ivory, milk, oyster, pearl, porcelain, smoke, snow, whey. To tell you the truth I wouldn’t ever use “alabaster” as I haven’t a clue what it means. However others may come in handy someday as I search for a way to make a sentence a bit more interesting.

I didn’t produce a Halloween story this year. I did have one in mind but time ran out. However I’ll draw your attention to a short story I wrote previously and I hope it still has the some chills in for you.

  Click here for the Fallen Angel PDF.  This is   anthology of stories in Shadows and Sensations, published by Melange Books.

Cheers

Jack Wear