Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Mysterious Dog Virus – Should we be scared?

Typically a non pet owner, doesn’t think twice about an illness infecting dogs. We may glance at the news and go, ‘Oh that’s a shame,’ but if we don’t have a pet, it doesn’t affect us .. right? Or should I say ‘infect’.

When I first heard of this mysterious virus, I immediately thought of the movie, ‘Conquest of the Planet of the Apes’. Where pets are apes because there are no cats and dogs.  Ricardo Montalban’s characters tells Caesar, the ape. "They all died. Within a few months. Eight years ago. Every single dog and cat in the world. It was like a plague. The disease that killed them was a mysterious virus.”

Sound familiar?  Almost eerily prophetic.

A ‘form’ of this mystery virus has surfaced in the past. But this one, this new one, killing dogs within days if not hours of infection, is bold and brash. New and mutated. It hits, infects, devastates and kills. The pets suffers so much that the only recourse is euthanasia to stop their misery.

This has species extinction level potential.

Not much is being said, because no one really is standing up and paying attention to the vets. After all, they’re just dogs, right? They are yelling out and no one hears.

We should.

This mystery illness is being called an evolved form of Circovirus.  But even samples aren’t matching anything they knew. Post Mortem tissue samples of the dogs … breed nothing recognizable. No sign of the virus at all in some cases.

This form of virus, or something very similar,  is typically seen in two species. Pigs and birds. (Got the swine flu willies don’t ya).

A virus mutates and evolves when it jumps from one species to another, start with a bird one way, hit a pig another, and infect a human a whole other way.

Did this jump from pig to dog? How? It is speculated via humans. Speculated by the vets. Many are saying that pet owners are showing flu symptoms when they bring in the dogs, and sequentially, Vet Clinic workers are falling ill after dealing with the sick dogs. Not deathly ill, and hopefully, not yetl.

But is this an act of nature of a lab mishap.  Oddly enough, Michigan is an infected state not long after they initiated the Invasive Species Order.  Which is described by the farming consumer site as:  The order was issued by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in December 2010 to prohibit “feral” swine which are identified by such ubiquitous characteristics that most any swine, especially heritage breeds raised on family farms, are unjustly threatened with eradication.

Tossing out a conspiracy theory, could this be the way to eradicate the Invasive Species and it just got out of control? After all, the Mystery dog virus is airborne.

But should we, as people be concerned? Yes. Why? This is being labeled as a zoonotic infection. Simply, that is a virus or infection that can jump and spread between vertebrae species. If it can jump, it can mutate, if it jumps from your neighbors pet fido, it could mutate when it hits you. Those suspected as being infected by their dogs are merely sniffling and coughing now, but its possible it won’t always be like that.

History has shown it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sponge Bob - You sinner!

Let me start out by saying I am not some nut crazed right wing conservative fanatic. Although my kids may argue that fact because of my love of Ronald Reagan, John Wayne and Charlton Heston. I defend that by saying I just love macho men.

The other day, while watching yet, another episode of Sponge Bob, I decided to ‘fib’ to my oldest daughter and tell her she was in luck, they were removing Sponge Bob for good because he was a negative influence. My daughter who never believes anything I say, wholeheartedly bought my tale and even applauded the idea. “That makes perfect sense, it really isn’t a good influence.”

She then started spewing off examples. I was kinda taken aback, I mean, how often do we as caregivers watch the show? We see the bouncing yellow guy and the happiness (Not to mention hypnotic) effect it brings to the kids and we just let them love Sponge Bob. I love Sponge Bob, annoying as he is, the yellow sponge is a bartering tool, and a distraction for a half hour.

But is it a good distraction? No. He’s not. And I know I don’t have to convince anyone. Let’s be clear, I am not petitioning or calling for a ban on the Bob. I am a firm believer that we control what our kids watch, not the TV. If there is something bad our young ones are watching, it is our fault, not the networks.

That being said, as my daughter started pointing out specifics from episodes that depicted violence, rude behavior, bullying, it dawned on me that the creators of Sponge Bob must have the Seven Deadly sins hanging on the writing wall as a guide to follow. Each episode clearly commits 6 out of 7.

Sloth and Gluttony – Patrick is our culprit, he eats like a horse doesn’t care if anyone else has any, not to mention, he’s a slob who doesn’t work.
Pride – Sandy, who annoys me is always full of herself, along with Larry the Lobster and let’s not forget Squigward.
Envy – Well, that’s easy. Plankton is always chasing the secret formula.
Greed – Mr. Crabs is motivated and lives by the dollar.
Lust – Who can forget the episode when Patrick dressed as a girl and Mr. Crabs and Squigward were chasing after him.
Anger – Squigward is the meanest person on the show. How many times does he call Patrick and SB an idiot or moron. Not to mention all the beach bullies.

In all fairness though, while Sponge Bob depicts the seven sins , Tom and Jerry weren’t any better. They chased each other, fought, beat each other up and let’s not forget how many episodes they just got drunk. Drunk? Yeah. Drunk.

While Sponge Bob is basically teaching the youth to be greedy and mean, is at any worse than the cartoons that taught us to be violent drunks?

It’s all in what we view it as. A guide or entertainment and it is all in how the adults aid the child in understanding what they watch. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Eight Mistakes Indie Authors Should Avoid Making

Every author wants to have a bestselling novel. They have that daydream of collecting royalty checks, doing a spot on Good Morning America or Jay Leno, while sipping a fancy cocktail and writing by a pool. Truth is with the ease of the publishing now, good writers with great stories not only have to wade their way to the top through one hitters they now have to fight the stigma and the bad reputations given to Indie Authors.

I get asked quite a bit about how I do it. It’s not easy making a living as an Indie writer, it takes a lot of hard work, and there are times where I just want to chuck it all, trust me. But it’s my passion and my dream and I don’t give those up very easily. At least without a fight.

So, to be helpful, I have compiled a list of eight mistakes newbie and Indie authors make that should be avoided. It excludes the over advised grammar, book covers, etc ... It might be harsh, but it’s honest. I’m positive I have been guilty of a few of them at one time, early on. But as any established Indie will tell you, you learn. And the best way to learn is the first item on my list.

Eight Mistakes Often Made That Should Be Avoided

They ask but they don’t listen – Many times, in a state of confusion or loss at what to do, an author will reach out to a veteran author for advice. We give it. I know I spend time explaining why I am advising what I am. When we give the advice, we aren’t doing it to steer you in the wrong way, we do it because we have ‘been there, done that’ and paid the price. We honestly want to spare you. But I have learned, as many others, that 90% of the advice we give is not followed. I get so many emails stating, “UG, why didn’t I listen” to which I WANT to reply, ‘Why did you ask.”. But I don’t. The advice isn’t followed because it isn’t what they want to hear. I don't expect my advise to always be followed, but I hate hearing I was right and they didn't listen.  If you ask for advice and don’t follow it, do not express regret to the person who gave it to you. They’ll never help you again.

I’m a Writer but I don’t Write – This will be argued. Too many writers call themselves writers and are either not writing or working on multiple projects at once. I can’t tell you how many times I hear an author say they are working on three or four books and yet not one is near completion. Focus. Finish.  In this age of Instant books, no one wants to wait a year for your next project. They’ll forget you too easily, because are quick to take your place.  

Expectations and Laziness – Too many time Indies want instant recognition or sales and don’t want to work for it. They don’t seize every avenue or opportunity presented to them.  Big or small, if an opportunity is there to get one person to read … take it. You never know what that one person will do.  An example is, I posted on a big writers forum, about an opportunity to promote your work for free. A new opportunity. 10,000 plus members on the forum and I had 3 views. Pushed to the fifth page in a heartbeat, and replaced with threads griping about low sales and ….

They pimp their work to other authors – What is this? I don’t get this? Yet, authors continuously do it.  I kid you not, on that author board,  65,000 views 22,000 replies under a thread called “Authors Promote your work here’ To who? Other authors promoting their work. Really? How much sense does that make? I’d rather promote my work to five readers than 22,000 authors who will never look at my post. Insane. I guess it’s the lack of wanting to leave the comfort zone of one place. And on that …

They spend too much time on forums – If a writer wants bad reviews, torpedoes reviews, the best way to get them is too spend time on a writer’s forum. Try it, post about the success of a book and I can guarantee you’ll get a torpedo, negative review from a reviewer who never reviewed a book in their life. More so, they go to these forums and gripe about reviewers. I can bet reviewers are there.  Hit the readers not the writers unless you need advice and you can get that, one on one, on Facebook.

Loss of Marketing Tact – How many times have you seen this happen? You’re engaging in a  nice conversation about something on a forum or thread and suddenly some author posts ‘buy my book’.  Out of the blue, nothing to do with topic. Too often authors get pushy and post randomly about their work. It doesn’t get them noticed, it gets them ignored. Once I was watching a thread on Autism and a woman asking advice on how to handle her son and some author posted ‘Buy my book it has an autistic boy in it’. Grrr.

Hobby not a career – If you want to be a successful writer and make it your dream living then you have to work at it just like any other career. You wouldn’t tell your boss you can’t work because you have to sleep or watch a TV show. Writing shouldn’t play second fiddle to free time. I know how hard it is to write and work a full time job, while raising a family, but there is always time. Give up an hour sleep, a TV show. But work on it.

Readers Not Fans  - I love my readers but I would never call them fans. Me calling them ‘my fans’ lessens the importance they hold in my life. A good readership, like a friendship is built. It requires a building of trust. They trust you’ll deliver a good story, you’ll keep them reading, and trust you’ll appreciate them.  The best way to get readers is to stop being the author with a book, and be a person whose story they want to know.