Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On the mend...

Apologies for the long silence; I've been recovering after undergoing minor surgery at the beginning of last week. Thankfully I didn't have to stay in hospital but I did need a general anaesthetic which left me a little woozy and I've also been getting over the surgery itself. Glad to say I'm on the mend now and even managed a little writing today for the first time - a 75 word mini-story about an episode from my childhood involving a cactus!

The hospital I had the surgery at was the new Queen Elizabeth in Birmingham. It's only been open since mid-summer and is absolutely huge with 30 operating theatres and several miles of corridors - they have to employ volunteer guides at reception! It's wonderful, though. Spotlessly clean, nicely decorated, and all the staff seemed to be going out of their way to be friendly and informative. No more grumpy receptionists! No more patronising doctors! It made the whole ordeal much less of a, well, ordeal...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hotfrog? More like Notfrog...

Yesterday I received an email telling me that I'd had a profile entered for me at the 'small business directory' Hotfrog.

I'd never heard of the site before, but never one to pass up a promotion opportunity, I set about checking it wasn't spam and seeing what it could offer me. According to the spiel in the email each profile gets an average of 280 hits a day, which sounded encouraging... but after much tearing of hair I've concluded that most of those hits are frustrated advertisers trying to *find* their profile, rather than potential customers.

The email itself was distinctly unprofessional. There was no link to the main Hotfrog page, nor was there a link to my newly created profile. Instead, having told me that I had a profile, it invited me to create one of my own. Huh? And the only link anywhere in the email was to a 'create a profile' dedicated webpage... which also had no links to the main homepage or to anything else. If I wanted to access the main site, I was told, I had to search for it on Google or one of the other main search engines.

I didn't think I needed to create a profile since one already existed. I did, however, need to amend that profile, because the address they'd quoted for me was actually for one of my publishers, Byker Books, and there was no mention of a link to my web site (surely one of the main reasons for being on a directory like this in the first place). I went off, dutifully, to Google for the main site.

Once found, this proved to be an even bigger disappointment. The home page looks amateurish, with a couple of search boxes, a few non-clickable links and a lot of Google ads. You can't search the directory by name, only by place/post code and category - and there's no list of categories. So if you want to find your own profile (or that of anyone else) you have to guess which category it's been created in and you have to know the address. You can't search on one or the other - both boxes have to be filled in. I tried a couple of different combinations, including writer/Newcastle and publisher/Newcastle, neither of which brought up my profile. What they did bring up was an uninspiring 'Yellow Pages' style listing, in no apparent order. Where this ran to more than one page, the back button didn't work. And each page I visited was awash with yet more Google ads.

So. I have a profile, but I can't find it. If I can't find it, what chance have any of my readers of stumbling across it? How is it ever going to be seen by those '280 hits a day'? More worrying, I couldn't see any sign of a link to amend a profile, which means the incorrect address on mine is presumably there for all time. Even more worrying than that, there appears to be no way of getting a listing removed if you don't actually want it. All you can do is unsubscribe from the email notification service.

As I said above, I'm all in favour of new ways of promoting myself and my writing - but they have to work for me. I'm left with the impression that Hotfrog is much less about promotion for its participants, and much more about yet another way to cram Google ads down internet users' throats - and presumably get paid for the privilege.

I'm not impressed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Finishing touches

I'm just putting the last spit-and-polish to a new story for that crime/noir anthology I mentioned a few weeks ago.

Mind you, when I say 'new' I'm taking liberties, really. I first started the story so long ago it's buried in the mists of time, and I'd never finished it because I got hopelessly bogged down.

On re-reading I realised that I'd been trying to make it too long, and cram too much in, with the result that it lost focus and tailed off into pages of waffle and pointless dialogue with far too little action. There was a story in there somewhere if I hooked it out, though, so I cut away a lot of the later portion of the story, which wasn't very good, and added a whole new ending with what I hope is an entertaining twist.

I'm much happier with the result, which is about the same length but now actually *goes* somewhere, and it just shows that nothing you write is ever wasted, however awful it might seem at the time.