30 September, 2011

Reflections on Network TV.

This is all because of Star Trek Voyager.


I'd like to point out that I've never really watched much TV. Never seen The Sopranos or the West Wing, barely knew LOST existed, and, frankly, the one time I tried to sit through Sex in the City I thought WTF? People actually like this crap??

(Please don't be offended if you're a fan, I am just so far removed from New York, fashion, or being single that it was like watching a show of aliens doing alien things. In their alien language. Nowhere near a cornfield.)

Anyway, growing up and into my adulthood, I occasionally had one TV show that I watched, at least to the point where I looked forward to the day and time, and made plans in my life accordingly. One. Show. At a time. Not 'Fab Fridays' or whatever. Just the one show. SOAP was a must-see fave. Twin Peaks (oh, the flowcharts and character-plot-dissections I made) was another. And Voyager... Yup, it was a third.

I can't think of any *since* Voyager, at least none come to mind, (well, maybe the Goren and Eames episodes of Criminal Intent, which rock) but back in 1996 I was totally, completely hooked on happenings in the Delta Quadrant.

Then our local Fox affiliate quit buying the rights to show the new episodes. My one show, after a cliffhanger season ender, was gone. I was distraught, upset - not quite as upset as I was with Twin Peaks' cancellation, but close - and I frantically sent letters and searched far and wide for some way, any way to get my Voyager fix.

Very few stations picked it up that year (I think it was season 2??) but WSBK in Boston carried it. I lived in Iowa, though, and didn't know a soul in Boston who could tape it for me. Our local Fox affiliate was immune to my pleas, as was the cable company, but, lo and behold, there was a brand spanking new satellite dish company, Dish Network, that listed WSBK as one of their upgrade channels.

Because I get rabidly attached to a TV show roughly once a decade (and because I'm relentless when I'm fixated on something) my darling husband agreed to check into it (spouse speak for 'I'd better agree to this or she'll never give me any peace') and, right about the same time, like that very DAY if I remember right, a local radio station ran a promotional offer for this newfangled Dish Network. One phone call and a couple of days later, I became one of the very first Dish subscribers in Iowa. Seriously. Me, who didn't even watch TV, other than Voyager, of course.

This was back when internet service, at least for us, was dialup, btw. 28 baud or some crappy speed. Us getting a dish was a hugely big technological coup.

Yes, I know I'm spoiled. I do.

Anyway, I'd missed a good hunk of that season, but by-golly we had Dish. Voyager (spoiler alert!! ;) ) finally made it back to the Alpha Quadrant in 2001, and I went back to not-really-watching TV. My family watched, though, shows like MXC and South Park and some screwy ass thing called Cow and Chicken. (I pretty much hated Cow and Chicken. I'm sorry, but Cow bouncing through life with her udders bouncing along with her was just wrong on so many levels just thinking about it makes me cringe). Life moved on to Sponge Bob, CSI reruns on Spike (along with Voyager, wooohoooo!!!! who cares if it was on at 2am, it's VOYAGER!!), and crappy SyFy movies. We dragged the dish with us to the wilds of northern Iowa, upgraded our system a couple of times, and, even as the originally cheap fees steadily grew (and, for me at least, the TV was mostly background noise), we remained constant subscribers despite a hundred channels with nothing on (as Bill liked to say).

Until about a week ago.

With Bill's diminished hours at the posty office and rising prices on everything else in our universe, we decided to let Dish go. It was a luxury, and we didn't need all those channels anyway. Not even WSBK. So we cancelled our service, and promptly discovered that despite having digital TVs, we couldn't receive anything up here. Nothing. But static. And, once, a really grainy episode of Matlock.

So we bought an antenna - gasp! - a big, shiny aluminum monster that could supposedly pick up the signal all the way from Des Moines. It's mounted on the garage now. With its assistance, we receive 5 networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and THIS) plus three separate public television stations that show the exact same things. Despite it being 'on the list' the ION channel out of Newton is just too far away. All of the stations have additional 'kinda crappy' affiliate channels (1 to 3 more, like our FOX is 17.1, 17.2, 17.3) I find this perplexing. Why have these other subordinate channels? All Iowa weather? What's the point in that? Channels with sound but only a blank black screen? That's like radio. On TV! I do, however, really like how one channel is nothing but music videos!  It's what MTv used to be! Cool.

Like Spock, I squint at it and mutter, "Fascinating."

This week I half-watched auditions for X Factor. I'd never seen a 'talent reality TV show' before. Weird and sad, all at the same time. Why show the obviously awful entrants? It just seems cruel. I doubt I'll watch any more. I saw Aston Kutcher debut on 2 1/2 Men (which we'd seen in reruns) and, yanno, he seemed just like Kelso (on That 70's Show, also only seen in reruns). Saw the premier of TerraNova (other than Laura insisting we had to watch 2 1/2 Men during TerraNova's third quarter so I missed the kids getting chased by dinos) and it was a lot like a cardboard SyFy movie. Watched some PBS. The local news (first time in more than a decade) and a couple of things on daytime TV. Was vastly disappointed in The Chew.

Anyway, we've only had 'Broadcast TV' since Monday. It's just background noise now, if it's even on at all. I think the best thing we'd found was M*A*S*H reruns. Even my nearly-addicted-to-TV daughter isn't watching.

Maybe one day they'll rerun Voyager. Until then, I'll leave it on the music video channel. :)

26 September, 2011

Getting social

I'm on facebook (as myself, and as Tamara Siler Jones), on Google+, and on Twitter. Some of these activities are professional while some are purely social - I have quite a lot of friends and extended family who use some or all of these services, and, frankly, it's kind of nice to know what my cousin in Georgia is up to - but they do take a lot of time to monitor and update and such. I'd really like to cut back.

But, as an author and a somewhat public person, I need to maintain an online presence that's easy for fans and new readers to access. I've been thinking about re-starting the TSJ website again, that was certainly easy for the readers to find me, but interactions were difficult and often mired by spam. This blog has not yet received one single spam comment, and I've had no trouble with any of the social networks or their affiliates spamming me, not yet at least.

I am going to sell mainstream/thrillers under a different name, so there's that diversification, too. Do I have two unrelated sites? Put both under the 'tambo' banner somehow? Maintain two separate everythings? I've already made a blog, email and a G+ account for the pseudonym, but what about all the rest? Heck, am I better off, for sales and my sanity, to just write the mainstream books as Tammy Jones (or Tamara Jones) instead of a totally different name?

I love talking with all of you, comments and emails and other interactions (in some ways, that's the best part of this job, and many of you have become good friends over these past years), and I don't want to become a hermit, I'd just like to find a way to manage all of these 'internet presence' responsibilities without spending so much time doing it.

I'd love to hear any suggestions you might have, and remember, you can always email me at tambowrites AT gmail DOT com. :)

{{huggs}} and have a great week, everyone!

19 September, 2011

We have a winner!

All of the comments were awesome and really insightful - THANK YOU!!!

Bill picked the random number today and the price-point quilt winner is Childlight! Please send me your snail mail address to tambowrites AT gmail DOT com.

Thank you again everyone who commented. :)

09 September, 2011

Price Points

Since I've sort of lumbered into the self-publishing arena with the short stories (again, they're still available for FREE at http://tambowrites.blogspot.com/p/downloads.html) and listed them all for 99¢ at online retailers, I've noticed a few things.

Online sales - not the freebies. Btw, I do not track the freebies in ANY WAY, there are no counters at all and I don't even pay attention to how many people visit my blog or any page on it - show that FIRE sells about four copies for any single copy of the others. ENDORPHINS sells better than SID (more than twice as many). While I understand how fans are more likely to buy the story featuring Lars Hargrove, and 4:1 sounds like a reasonable ratio, I assumed the other two would sell at about the same rate. Nope. The lighter story of Edyth and her chomping quest for happy weight loss totally trumps the gruesome price of Theo facing his writer's block.


Is this due to the covers? The 'free sample' pages? The concept? Do readers care more about fat farms than writer angst? I dunno. But I find it very interesting. While I do write primarily to please myself and keep my own 'Sid' quiet and well fed, I also want to keep the fans happy. So I wonder.

I also wonder, especially after reading Chuck Wendig's essay on pricing ebooks at 99¢, if the perceived value of 99¢ or free is working against me and the stories. None have received any reviews anywhere that I have seen - despite dozens and dozens of paid downloads (and I can only assume even more free ones). Are they great? Are they crappy? Are they - most likely - somewhere between? Is there a stigma associated with reading, or reviewing, or, hell, enjoying, a super-cheap story? All things to ponder as I contemplate another Dubric short and the future completion of Stain of Corruption.

I'd like to try an experiment, but I'd also like some input beforehand. So, how do you all value free and cheap ebooks? Would they be more desirable if they were a bit more expensive - say $1.49 - $1.99 for short stories, more for novel length? Are you more inclined to read or review something you paid for vs something you picked up for free? If an author has a selection of super-cheap ebooks, does that make you more or less inclined to purchase their traditionally published works? Does the fact that I send all of my ebook royalties to charity make any difference at all? (John Hopkins Burn Unit is the fall recipient, btw.) Do you have any other comments or concerns as an ebook buyer?

How about I turn this into a contest? Anyone who leaves a comment answering questions about ebooks in general - or mine in particular - on the blog or facebook will be entered into a drawing to receive one of my table-topper quilts. I actually have four here ready to go. One's black, white and red, one's kinda purple, teal, and green, one's Christmas, and the other is neutrals and browns. So note a color scheme with your comments and I'll leave the contest open until Saturday September 17, at midnight.

Thanks for your help!!  {{huggs}}