Gadgets R Us: The Good, The Bad and the Really Ugly

Our resident techie, Collin, makes sure we always have what we need to keep our life support equipment (you know, smartphones, smart TV, Blu-Ray player, computer, Roku, and tablets) functioning because we can’t live without them.

At least that’s how it feels sometimes.

Most recently, he bought each of us a solar charger to keep our stuff going in the event of a power outage. Had that recent massive solar storm taken out the earth’s power grids and all things tech, it might have killed us.

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At least that’s how it feels sometimes.

When I had trouble navigating my Windows 8 tablet, he got me a Bluetooth mouse. Problem solved.

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But the best find of all came quite by accident. A couple of weeks ago, we spent an afternoon at Five Below. They have some really great stuff–tablet cases, waterproof phone cases…and headphones. Using earphones has always been a problem for me. Once upon a time, I had Bluetooth for my phone. I couldn’t keep it in my ear. I’m still not sure what I was doing wrong. I like earbuds, but they tend to fall out. Again, I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. Five Below had something I had used a long time ago–large, padded headphones. There was quite an assortment–different brands, a multitude of colors. Collin and I each got two.

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It wasn’t until we got home that I discovered these headphones weren’t just for listening to music and audiobooks–they also worked for talking on the phone. There’s more, but I’ll get back to that discovery in a minute. Here comes the ugly.

For some reason, my entire Audible library had disappeared from my Kindle Fire HD. After a few choice expletives, I got on live chat with an Audible rep. This shows just how desperate I was–I hate chat almost as much as I hate talking on the phone. Both are considered last resort methods of communication in our house. The chat went nowhere, and I was transferred to an Amazon rep, since the problem, they said, was in my Kindle.

The Amazon rep informed me that the problem was that my Kindle had been de-registered. De-registered? I knew that wasn’t possible. I use it every day. I had just downloaded a new Audible book the day before. In fact, I had just gone through the naming process. Yes, for those of you who have never done this, there is a way to name your devices. Most of mine have Minion names, except the Windows tablet. That’s Rocket, so named in honor of the trigger-happy raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy.

I fired off an angry email to Audible, telling them I did not want to get a phone call. I did not want to chat. I just wanted my audiobooks back on my Kindle–or I would cancel my membership. It wasn’t long before I received an email from a very helpful tech who gave me detailed directions for restoring my library. Collin followed the instructions, and my books were back in minutes.

I know some people are still skeptical about ebooks, but this just made me more certain of my choice. Twenty years ago, I lost 90% of my books, mostly hardcover. It would have cost me a fortune to replace them–which, at the time, I didn’t have. So, my books were gone–until the Kindle came along. My audiobooks may have disappeared from my Kindle, but they were never really lost. I got them back at no further cost to me other than the stress that had my blood pressure shooting into the stratosphere until the problem was resolved.

Now, back to my unexpected headphone discovery. As some of you already know, my new publisher is going to re-release all of my backlist in print and ebook format–but there’s a problem. Most of those books were written on a typewriter, which meant there were no digital copies of the manuscripts. I no longer had the typed copies, either. This meant Collin and I would have to scan the pages and use an OCR program to produce a Word document for the publisher. That’s time-consuming and after full of errors. Or I could retype everything (even more time-consuming). Or I could dictate the text into the computer–where do I begin to explain why that wouldn’t work?

I do most of my writing on my phone or tablets. My phone does have a text-to-speech option, but the results are mixed. As I sat at McDonald’s waiting for Collin yesterday, I started to think. If the headphones worked for the phone, why not for dictation? It was worth a try. I started small, sending Collin a dictated text. It was perfect. As it turns out, my cheapy headphones ($1.99 at Five Below) produce flawless text from my dictation.

This might not take forever, after all.

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Spotlight on Creativity: Carole Morden

This is the first of a series I plan to do, regular posts focusing on the many creative people I’ve come to know and love–authors, bloggers, photobloggers, etc. I’m starting with first-time author Carole Morden, whose debut novel, Dry Bones, is getting off to an impressive start. Carole is not only a pastor’s wife, she’s my pastor’s wife (yes, I’m biased). I’ve known her for about ten years now–and lived with her and Pastor John for three months. Of course I’m going to promote her and her book!

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Carole was working on Dry Bones when I first met her. I knew the first time she showed it to me that she was going to be a successful author. (Yes, I’m patting myself on the back for being able to recognize talent. So sue me.) Buy the book and you’ll see I’m right. But now, let’s hear what the newly-minted author has to say for herself….

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Most of the writers I know realized they wanted to write at an early age. Do you recall when you knew you were a writer? What was your earliest inspiration?

I never dreamed about writing. That would have been a far too lofty goal.   I only knew I loved to read from the minute I read the Dick and Jane books in first grade. Every word was so amazing to me and even as a very young girl, I read 4 to 5 books a week.   And I thought authors were to be revered. In fact, I never went to book signings, because I thought the authors would think I was too lowly to buy their books. So about 15 years ago I decided to write a few things and try to get them published, instead of just journaling.

Revered? We wish. Most of us can’t get recognized in the grocery store. Our families want to know when we’re going to get “real” jobs. We’re like the prophets. We get no respect in our own homes.

Your protagonist, Jamie, is a pastor’s wife, as are you. How much of you is in Jamie? Have you used any of your personal experiences in the book?

Not much of me is Jamie. She has guts. I think of things, but never do them.   She does them.   Yes, I use some experiences, things that are common to many in the parsonage. That is mostly just background info and not plot lines.   The rest is just stuff I imagine.

Is Dry Bones being marketed as a Christian novel? I noticed it wasn’t mentioned in any of the book’s tags on Amazon. 

On the book it is listed as a Christian mystery and cozy. You notice the little things.   I don’t. But I will have to start learning.

As a pastor’s wife/church secretary/mother of three and grandmother of five, you’ve got a pretty hectic life. How do you find time to write? 

Early in the morning, whenever everyone else is asleep. And I only work three days a week so I usually can take a Friday or Monday morning to myself and the computer.

The Kindle edition of Dry Bones has gotten off to an impressive start. Aside from mysteries being a popular genre, to what do you attribute that?

I think most of my friends have been such good promoters. They post links to my book on Amazon and share my Facebook posts on a regular basis.   It is good to have people who believe in you.

This question is for your husband, John: writers are generally a quirky lot. We’re considered odd ducks by normal standards. How has it been for you, living with a struggling writer and now a published author? 

John says: For twenty-five years in ministry this author stood by me in everything I did. She stood by my side through thick and thin and now it is my turn to stand by her and be her greatest champion and cheerleader. And yes, she is quirky.

Carole, tell everyone about the contest you announced on your Facebook page.

I just finished a contest, but I will start one soon.   Because I do all my promotion through my Facebook author page, every time I get a new page “like” I add that person’s name in a hat. If I can trace the source of who recommended the page, I also put their name in the hat. That becomes the basis of who wins the next contest. Then I also add some twist to the contest.   I am not sure what it will be next, but I might just ask you Norma to give me an idea. You are always thinking.

Well, thank you, Carole, but not everybody thinks that’s such a good thing.

You mentioned that you’d considered using a pseudonym, your maiden name. I think that was a clever idea.

At first…but I changed my mind. Marjerrison. Just Marjerrison. No first name.

Dry Bones is the first of a planned series, right? What’s up next for Jamie Storm?

I am about a third of the way through with Earthly Treasures. This is based on real life hidden treasure in Montana.   A young sheriff by the name of Henry Plummer was hanged when he was about 28 (in 1864) but before that he hid a bunch of gold. He tried to trade it for his life but wasn’t allowed to. It is still considered one of the best hidden stashes of gold that has never been found. Fast forward to Jamie. She is trying to solve a cold case about a mother and son who were murdered 20 years previously. And guess what it all ties into? Yep, the hidden gold.   I am really enjoying writing it. Abigail Thornbush stays but the Cliffhangers will not make an appearance in this book. This all takes place in Montana.

Speaking of Abigail…any chance I can get you to finally tell me who was the inspiration for the old bat?

Abigail Thornbush is a conglomeration of several “Saints” but I have already had several people tell me that she is their favorite.

Good save! She is quite a character. I can see why she’s getting so much attention. And it’s obvious why you’re getting so much attention, too, Carole. You have more guts than you realize. You stuck it out in this perpetually nutty business, after all, and you made it!

For anyone who hasn’t yet read Dry Bones, it’s available at Amazon.