Ghosts in the Machine

Perhaps not surprisingly, it turns out London’s Tube system is haunted by dozens of ghosts at various stations. This story at the Telegraph site includes a helpful map that can assist the rider in making appropriate decisions, whatever they are (i.e. hunt for the ghost or stay away). The story also provides a wealth of material for supernatural tales, from the spectral caretaker who comforted a stricken electrical worker to the spirit of a young girl killed by her employer.

I was reminded by this story that a friend lived in England for a time in a haunted residence, an old mansion that was pitched to her family proudly as a haven for ghosts. When house hunting myself several years ago, I was given an earnest speech by my buyer’s agent on the subject of a rather ordinary looking dormered cape on a dead end about the reported haunting of the house by a suicide victim. I asked if having a ghost helps sell a house. He replied that he hadn’t tried to sell enough haunted houses to know but it seemed to cut both ways. Sometimes buyers love the idea of a ghost and other times it’s a deal killer (which is why he was so serious with us when he shared that detail). We passed on the house ourselves, although it stayed in the top five on our list. The ghost played no part in the decision and I don’t think ghosts would convince me not to take the shortest route on the Tube.

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The Catfish Are Jumping And The Thumbs Are Up High

When NPR solemnly informed me this afternoon that self-published authors on Amazon in the Kindle Direct program were “catfishing” and “astroturfing,” I began to fret over whether that was me they were talking about. I’d heard both terms before but couldn’t remember exactly what they meant. My interest was further piqued by the announcement that there would be consequences and there were reporters and scholars fast on the heels of these scofflaws.

It turns out “catfishers” are people who pay poverty-stricken writers a little bit to slickly remount their stories and sell them under a pen name. After that, they apply “astroturf,” fake reviews (sometimes paid for, sometimes cajoled out of friends) that make the subject seem popular and desirable. They also dream up bios that make the fictional author seem like an expert in the subject and a genius in general. One catfisher covered in the story claimed his alter ego spoke fifteen languages. Catfished books can become bestsellers, thanks to the marketing genius of their creators. Real authors suffer as a result, losing sales to con artists who flood the market with books on subjects like weight loss and leave readers disillusioned and fed up.

One way to keep catfishers from manipulating your book buying choices is to carefully review the author’s background and also checkout other reviews written by positive reviewers (if all the reviews are glowingly positive, you may have some fakery going on, possibly for money). As for protecting yourself against these unscrupulous practices as an author, keep an eye on reviews and reporting suspicious entries. Of course, you should also try not to be so desperate that selling your goods to a catfisher sounds like a great source of cash.

Anyone who looks at my books on Amazon can satisfy themselves that I’m not pumping my brand up with hyperbole. One look at my bank account would confirm that.

Why Breaking Up is Hard to Do

I spotted this piece on Yahoo News that reports the results of a British study that shows what makes a break-up difficult from the point of view of the different genders. Along the way, they note that women are the ones more likely to initiate the dissolution of the relationship, in part because they are more apt to analyze and monitor the relationship all along. Men, on the other hand, do not review the situation or recognize the stages of grief through which they may pass if it was not understood from the start that the relationship was limited and short term. Men tend to drown their sorrows in serial relationships and if they do not have a support network they may never fully recover from the blow of losing their lover.