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Back Up!

First things first, the winners of the AFRAID free book contest were posted on my forum, in the AFRAID CONTEST heading, http://www.jakonrath.com/phpBB3.

Now, in the spirit of Halloween, I want to talk about the scariest thing that can happen to writers:

Losing our writing.

Data corruption, hard drive failure, viruses, operating systems failing to boot, power outages, and computer crashes can all cause our words to disappear forever.

My computer recently crashed, big time. It has crashed before (thank you Bill Gates) but I've always managed to recover data. But this was the mother of all crashes, my hard drive became corrupted, and I lost everything.

Luckily, because I was expecting this to happen eventually, I backed all of my writing up, so I didn't lose anything other than a few emails.

So here are my tips for all writers, for both before and after a crash, so they may never lose data to system instability.

BEFORE THE CRASH

You will lose data one day. It is inevitable. But if you plan for the eventuality, your data loss will be minor. Here's what all writers need to do.

1. Buy a UPS Back Up. There are many makes and models (I use an APC), but they start at only $40 and all writers should have one for their desktop. These are basically glorified power strips, that not only protect against power surges that could fry your computer, but also have a battery in them so they guard against power outages. Even if your electricity goes out while you're working on something, you'll still have time to save data.

2. www.Mozy.com. This is a free program that saves 2GB of your data off site. You set it to automatically save at a predetermined time of day, and even if your house burns down, you can get your data back.

3. MS Word. The latest version of this, and pretty much all word processing software, has Autosave and Autorecover functions. This means that your work is saved automatically while you're writing it, in a separate spot from where it is normally saved. These shadow copiues can often be recovered even when your original copies are lost.

4. External HDD. Back up to an external hard drive, in case your primary drive fails. If you don't have one, look into partitioning your hard drive. Your operating system is probably installed on your C: drive. If C: becomes corrupted, your data on it--even back up data--could be lost. But if you create a, E: or F: partition, and back up to that, your data should be safe even if C: becomes unstable. But having an entirely separate drive is a better way to go.

5. Hard Copies. Keep printed copies of all your work. Printing work in progress also helps witht he editing process, as going at a hard copy with a red pen is still the preferable way for editors to work.

6. Pen Drives, CDs, and Email. Have a pen drive on your keychain, and to back up your writing there in case someone breaks into your house and steals your computer and extrenal hard drive. Burn CDs and DVDs of all your important files. Email your strories to yourself, or to a family member,

7. Backup Now. Vista, for all its flaws, does have an easy, automatic way to back up files. The Backup Now feature enables users to automatically save any of their date once every 24 hours. At Drive>Properties>Tools you'll find this feature. Back up to a different partition, or even better, and external HDD.

8. www.Avast.com. Why pay for Norton Antivirus when Avast is less buggy, offers just as much protection, and is free? And while you're protecting your computer from trojans, viri, and worms, also protect against spyware and adware by going to www.pcworld.com and downloading the free programs Spybot and AdAware.


AFTER THE CRASH

If you followed any of the above suggestions, recovering your writing should be a snap. But if you were lackadaisical in your safety protocol, there are still ways to hopefully recover your lost words.

1. Read Iris. I love this OCR program. If you have a copy of your writing printed out, you can use this and a scanner, and it translates the typed words into a text file. No more retyping.

2. System Restore. If you can't boot your computer, you might be able to get things started again using this function. Tap F8 repeatedly when you start your computer, and rather than booting it will give you the option of starting in Safe Mode, or doing a System Restore to an earlier time (or loading Last Known Good Configuration.) Windows does this automatically, so before you run to the Geek Squad, try this out.

3. Startup Repair. If Vista doesn't start, it tries to fix itself by loading Startup Repair. If this won't load, there are repair disks available for free online (of if you have a hard copy of Vista you can use the install disk.) If this can't repair your computer, it will allow you to run the command prompt, and you can run a check disk which will try to fix itself. First type in C: (or whatever drive is buggy), then "chkdsk /r" without the quotes.

4. Active Boot Disk. This is free. You burn it onto a CD, and it functions as an operating system from your CD drive. This means you can try to repair your HDD, or even remove files from it, even if you can't launch Windows.

5. Spybot and AdAware. If your system caught something bad, you can clean it using these free aforementioned programs.


If you've never listened to another thing I've ever said, trust me on this: when it comes to losing your writing, and ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Use as many of these as you can. And if you have any ways I missed, put them in the comments to share with others.

Contest and Stuff

A few announcements to make on behalf of me and some good friends, and then a chance to win cool free stuff.

STUFF TO BUY:

WOLFSBANE & MISTLETOE, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni LP Kelner. This werewolf/Christmas anthology is available at bookstores everywhere, and has a novella by me, which I promise is a lot of fun. Plus, it's a NYT Bestseller. :)

BLOOD LITE, edited by Kevin J. Anderson. This humorous horror anthology has a funny/gory story I co-wrote with F. Paul Wilson. Go get it.

THE SPY WHO CAME FOR CHRISTMAS, by David Morrell. I was lucky enough to get an advance reading copy, and this book is terrific.

THE NEW WRITER'S HANDBOOK VOLUME 2, edited by Philip Martin. This is a good collection of essays about writing and publishing, including one by me. If you're a newbie or a pro, it's worth buying.

AFRAID, by Jack Kilborn. For the three of you in the world who don't already know, I'M JACK KILBORN. If you live in Europe or Australia, you'll be able to buy this in hardcover or trade paperback on November 13. If you live in the US and are a diehard collector and demand a hardcover edition, visit Amazon.co.uk. The rest of you must wait until April, when the US paperback edition is released.

PLACES TO GO:

My friend MJ Rose is teaching her Buzz Your Book class one time only next year. If you sign up and tell her I sent you, she'll donate $25 to Locks Of Love, which is the reason I'm growing my hair long.

My friend Henry Perez, whose first novel Killing Red is coming out in '09, finally joined the 21st century and got himself a website. It's at www.henryperezbooks.com. He also has a thoughtful blog. Be a good web friend and trade links with him. Henry's a good guy, and also a good person to know. Plus he promised to buy me a beer for every person I send over.

MURDER AND MAYHEM IN MUSKEGO. I'll be there in Wisconsin, along with a bunch of other authors, November 7 and 8. It's a lot of fun, and afterward we all drink. You should go. Trust me.

CONTEST:

Jack Kilborn's UK publisher, Headline, kindly sent me a few hardcovers and trade paperbacks of AFRAID, just in time for Halloween. In turn, I want to share these with you, my loyal fans.

There will be two contests.

HARDCOVER
To win an AFRAID hardcover (two of them are available) go to my forum at
http://www.jakonrath.com/phpBB3, sign up if you haven't already, and post something in the AFRAID CONTEST thread. The instructions are there.

TRADE PAPERBACK
To win an AFRAID trade paperback (three available), post a comment in this blog stating what makes you afraid. It could be one word (such as "spiders") or it could be more detailed.

You can enter both contests as often as you like. Winners in both categories will be judged on creativity. In the case of a tie, my wife will pick the winners. If I get a lot of entries, I reserve the right to give away more than five books.

On your end, if you do win a copy, you have to promise to review it online absolutely everywhere.

Fair enough? Happy Halloween!

Needy

We writers are a needy bunch.

Perhaps because the only way we can measure success is by the approval of others.

The act of writing is often fulfilling, but by its very nature self-indulgent. And after spending time in our own heads, we need others to validate our efforts because we can't objectively judge them ourselves.

Success in this business requires acceptance from agents, editors, and readers. From the first two, we seek this acceptance by submitting, rewriting, and editing manuscripts, and all too often we get rejection letters for our efforts.

As for readers, we naturally want to reach as many as possible, and get as many of those to like us as possible. But because reading, like writing, takes place in a person's head, there often isn't any indication of how much acceptance we're actually receiving.

So we seek it out. We Google our own names, and check our Amazon rank and reviews, and track our website hits, and count our blog comments, and obsess over royalty statements, and accumulate MySpace friends, and hope that all of this will somehow make us less neurotic and more confident.

But it doesn't make us more confident. It makes us ashamed. We wonder why more people don't like us, at the same time despising why we consistently seek out their acceptance, and hating ourselves for doing so in the first place.

This blog is not going to show you how to be less needy. If you're a writer, that's impossible.

But it is going to tell you something all writers need to know.

It's okay to be needy.

So you can stop feeling bad that you crave approval. You can stop thinking you obsess too much over your career. You can stop worrying that you're some lone freak, feeling small and weak while everyone around you overflows with confidence.

Everyone picks their nose. Everyone masturbates. And all writers are needy.

Neediness is wired into the artistic temperament. Not only does it make us strive to succeed and improve, but once you truly stop caring about what other people think you become both insufferable and a lazy writer.

So go ahead. Embrace being needy. Seek out the approval of others, and when you find it, enjoy it.

And when instead of approval you find scorn, envy, bitterness, and hateful attacks, remember that they're only opinions---opinions that come from whiny, unhappy, nose-picking morons who masturbate waaaaaay too much.

Now I encourage you to leave a comment here, and then forgive yourself when you check back 17 times today to see if anyone responded to you.

Conference Culture

I'm off to Bouchercon this weekend, and figured it would be a good time to talk about conferences.

The fact is, not many books are sold at these things. I can play the schmooze game as well as anyone, and over two thousand fans will be at Bouchercon, many of them who know and like me, but if I sell more than fifty books over the weekend I'll be surprised.

So why go? When this trip is over, my expenses will be well over a grand. Is it really worth my time and money?

In a word, yes.

Even though many writers attend Bouchercon (and the many other annual writing fairs and conventions) to sell books, that isn't the main goal. It's nice when it happens, but these appearances are more about goodwill than sales.

When we writers go anywhere, we become ambassadors for our writing. Projecting an image of success and confidence, while being gracious, funny, and accessible, does more than get a few people to part with their money. It helps establish a brand.

Word of mouth is the ultimate selling tool, and anytime you have a chance to speak in public, you're able to spread your message to others, who in turn (if they like you) will spread it to others. Being talked about favorably, even by those who haven't read your books and have no intention of reading your books, will lead others to read your books.

Ultimately, bookselling is a popularity contest. And befriending as many people as possible is in every writer's best interest. To do this, we must go where the people are.

There are other benefits of attending conventions as well. Networking with peers is a nice way to blow off steam and have fun, but it also results in meeting people who can potentially help your career. Conferences are great for establishing and solidifying work friendships. Then down the road, when someone is looking for stories for their antho, or you're looking for a blurb or an intro to an editor, the time you spent at the bar buying rounds of drinks will more than pay for itself.

The things to keep in mind, to help maximize your time at the convention, can be reduced to a simple list.

1. Stay in public. Hiding in your room between panels is not why you came here. Go where the people are.

2. Be friendly. A smile goes far, and kind words go even farther.

3. Meet people. Try to introduce yourself to as many people as possible. Sit with strangers, chat in elevators, ask fans questions, approach authors you like and buy them beer. The only time you should be alone is in the bathroom.

4. Promote yourself. All writers should have a 20 second pitch, that they can launch into when asked. Wait to be asked. Have business cards or something similar to hand out to people.

If you can keep those four things in mind, you'll have a productive conference. You'll also have some fun.
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