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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Day Two - not bad

I walked down to the meeting place at Jackson Brewery for the ghost tour at 5:30. It turns out the group was of about 25 folks or so. The woman who was the tour guide said we were the biggest group they'd had since August.

She was dressed normally, not in a hood and cape or anything weird, but was in all black. I'm glad I brought water with me!

For the next hour and a half we walked through the French Quarter, stopping off at spots that are supposed to be haunted. What was different about this tour was that the guide had friends who had actually experienced the hauntings, not just stories that have been floating around (pun intended). Plus she threw in historial bits as needed.

I liked this much better than wandering around by myself. I learned quite a bit, enjoyed the sites and took photos, which I will upload when I get home. I don't have my graphics software on this laptop, or I'd be putting photos up now.

On the walk back to the hotel, there was a commotion in the street. A police car with lights flashing was moving slowing down the street. Behind it was a man all in white with a white umbrella, pumping the umbrella up and down. Behind him came a group of people, including musicians and some dressed in Mardi Gras outfits. I got a couple of good photos.

Another woman who was taking photos began walking with me. Turns out she and her husband have a timeshare and she was just doing the tourist thing. I told her about the ghost tour and we wondered what the mini parade was for. Maybe it was just for the fun of it!

I was exhausted, hot and tired when I got back to the hotel, but hungry, too. I sat in the bar downstairs and ordered a virgin strawberry daiquiri because I wanted something cold and slushy. I ordered some blackened Gulf shrimp to eat. Only three lousy shrimp. Pfft. But they were good.

I read my magazine for a bit, then headed upstairs to crash.

In the morning, I got up, hit the fitness center, grabbed some food at the continental breakfast, went to my room, ate.

A Baton Rouge TV station had wanted to interview me Friday morning, but since I'd be flying out then, the reporter emailed me:

"Our show's host, Matt Kennedy, is also a host for a radio show in town and he said tomorrow morning at 9:30 would be the only time he'd be able to tape your segment ahead of time."

Now, wouldn't you read that as it would be a telephone interview? I certainly did. So I waited by the phone this morning and the reporter called to see where I was. Um, I'm in my hotel room. She said they were waiting for me. Really? And just how did she expect me to get there? Flap my arms? I told her I had no car and expected a telephone interview based on her last email to me.

She was flustered and apologized and said they couldn't do it. But this guy does a radio show? Hello?

Never mind. I bet she's blonde.

So I showered, dressed and headed back down to do some souvenir shopping and eat lunch. Lunch was much better - club sandwich with fries and too much food this time!

I went to set up my laptop for my presentation and everything went smoothly. The room wasn't quite as full as yesterday, but a good crowd and many promised to show up for the book signing tonight. I hope they do.

I went back to my room and Jhon from Montclair called. He was upset - his boss had made reservations at a "fancy" restaurant for 6:30 pm. Um, my book signing is at 7 pm. He said he knew and his boss thought my signing was last night. I won't say I'm not disappointed. I am. I was counting on sharing a cab to the bookstore and at least having two other people with me that I knew. Now I have to go alone. I am not happy.

So, I'm off to Barnes & Noble to get there by 6:30. I hope someone shows up for the signing. The bookstore manager said she ordered 50 copies. I'll be totally embarassed if no one shows up. And now I have no one to hang out with after the signing. I was really hoping to see the French Quarter "in action" tonight.

Oh well.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Day one down - Applause!

Went to Odyssey's Shipwreck & Treasure Adventure museum. It's about the finding of the wreck SS Republic and things that were found, including loads of gold coins, bottles and other artifacts. I did the tour with a group of about 50 little kids. My ears hurt.

After a short and well-done documentary, we were ushered into the first exhibit area. And guess what? A giant ship model of the SS Republic was there. . .built by Chris and his dad. I couldn't believe it!

I called both Chris and his dad to tell them one of the two models they'd built was on display here. I took loads of photos, of which I will put up when I get home. I talked with the manager and some of the employees and they were pretty impressed. The son of one of the men who found the wreck was there and he was excited.

How odd, but fun to see little kids looking at the model in awe.

Afterwards, I had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. I've found that when I'm alone, eating at the bar means faster service. So I sat at the bar, and the bartender was a bit, um, odd. Really strange. But he fit in with the place. I think it's a requirement to be weird to work at a Hard Rock Cafe.

Had iced tea and a French dip sandwich. I didn't want fries or a side, but this guy *insisted* I have something, so I told him cole slaw. The lunch comes with two sides of cole slow. Yeesh. I did eat some of one.

I got a t-shirt and a couple of cool buttons - one was for Katrina and some of the money went to the Red Cross.

Walked back to the hotel (and it was perfectly fine and safe walking), checked email, then dressed in my suit and headed downstairs for my talk.

I ran into Brian from Montclair University and we chatted, then I went to the room I'd be speaking in and set up my laptop and stuff. The room filled up and I did my talk. Got a lot of great questions, great feedback and one woman said I'd done a talk at her university and it impressed them so much they did a mini-documentary about staying safe on Myspace and Facebook. I was flattered and impressed with it (which I viewed afterward).

I had a lot of people come up and say my talk was the best one so far. I encouraged them all to go to the book signing tomorrow night. And to tell their friends to come to my talk after lunch tomorrow.

Now I'm getting ready to go on the ghost tour. I am so excited!

Trip to New Orleans

I love JetBlue! If you get the chance to fly them, do it! You need to check their web site for flights and cities they fly to, because Expedia, Travelocity, other travel sites do not include them in their results yet.

Not only is everyone at JetBlue friendly, funny and helpful, but boarding is painless, they offer free wireless Internet at most of the airports they fly out of and you get your very own TV screen on the back of the seat in front of you. This means no more dragging out my laptop to watch a DVD.

Very, very cool! Plus, they give you snacks and full size beverages. And you can ask for seconds if you want them.

The best part is that their ticket prices are lower than most of the other airlines.

When I found out they flew to New Orleans, I told the travel agent who booked me for the Dept. of Justice conference I wanted to fly JetBlue. She got a bit miffed because they weren't on her list of available airlines. I wonder if that means she doesn't get a cut of the airfare or whatever. Tough. I pushed and she got it approved from the DoJ.

So I flew out of Portland, Maine yesterday morning and had a two hour layover at JFK. No biggie - they have an Oasis Day Spa there. So I made an appointment for a 30minute chair massage, then headed for the sushi bar to get lunch. I think it's called Blue Fin or something. Don't eat there. Once I seated myself, it took 15 minutes for a waitress to come over to take my order, then another 15 to get my sushi. Although it was good, I was a bit miffed at the service.

The chair massage was wonderful. The lady who did it was great and boy, did I need it. My shoulder muscles were so tense it wasn't funny.

Got on the flight to NO and watched Kathy Griffin's D-List. I kept laughing and the people next to me kept looking at me. It is a funny show and Griffin is hilarious.

Got to NO, got my bags and took a taxi to the Sheraton Hotel on Canal Street. Didn't see any of the hurricane damage from the air or on the ride to the hotel. In fact, downtown NO looks perfectly fine.

The hotel is gorgeous, got my room key, got the package I had sent myself (tip $2 for the guy who had to run around the corner to get it) and headed up to my room. I got in (nice room) and the message light was blinking. I called and it kept ringing, so I had to call the concierge. He said an envelope was downstairs for me. So I called the bellhop stand and he checked and yep, there was. Someone brought it up. Another $1 tip.

Unpacked, called Chris, then headed downstairs to register for the conference. I wanted to do room service, but had discovered there was no menu in my room. And no folder (they call it a compendium) with info about the hotel. So after registering, I went down to the lobby, stood in line and asked the guy at the front desk if I could get one. Mind you, I'm right there. He could have handed it to me. But no, they promise wonderful service. So he said someone would bring it upstairs.

This was 7:15 pm. Got up to my room. At 7:35 pm, called downstairs to find out where the menu was. Oops. They sent it to the wrong room. A few minutes later a woman brought a menu to me. I didn't tip her. Enough with the frigging tipping!

So I picked out what I wanted and pressed the room service button. A man answered and I said I wanted to place an order. He told me he had to transfer me to room service.

Um, isn't that what the "Room Service" button on the phone does? Apparently not.

Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring.

No one answered at room service. So I hung up, grabbed my Vanity Fair magazine and headed down to the restaurant.

The dinner was wonderful - an 8 ounce filet (steak), zucchini, and mashed potatoes. It was relaxing and I was kind of glad I didn't do room service. Plus, I saved having to pay a 21% gratuity and a "service charge." Yikes.

Crashed, slept so-so (I always do the first night in a hotel), got up early and hit the treadmill in the fitness center.

Went to the conference continental breakfast, grabbed something to eat and came back up to the room. I don't have to speak until 3 pm today, so I plan on playing tourist, do some shopping and hit a museum.

Monday, June 26, 2006

I have a confession to make. . .

I'm in love with another. He is short, sweet, cuddly, a little nuts, and doesn't talk too much. We met in the backyard one day. An unspoken bond was created. Every morning when I wake up, he is waiting for me patiently out back. I sneak out of the house to meet with him.

My husband is very jealous.

So are the dogs.

My new love is named Chippy.






I don't know why he loves me, but he does. I do a little "chip chip chip" sound and he comes running. Chris didn't believe me until I dragged his sleep butt out of bed one morning. He took the photos to prove I'm now the crazy chipmunk lady.

I've made a promise that Chippy will be eating out of my hand by the end of the summer. And no cracks about the name. I like it.

My mom turned 80 on June 24th. We had her for lunch. She tastes like chicken.




I'm off to New Orleans tomorrow. I told Chris I planned on going on one of the ghost tours. I also told other people. I am so sick of hearing, "Well, there are a lot more ghosts there now." How cruel.

But true in a sick way.

I'm flying JetBlue out of Portland, Maine. Let's hope this travel agency didn't screw up my flight plans like my last trip to D.C.

The hotel is a Sheraton, and the conference is in the hotel. I have promised everyone I will stay inside unless I am with a group. You'd think I was five years old or something. Yeesh.

I'm doing a book signing while there, at a local Barnes & Noble. I'm allowed out of the hotel for that.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Book signing, media, more

Soooo, my first book signing was on Saturday. The day before Father's Day. There were a bunch of authors at tables located next to the cafe at the Barnes & Noble in Manchester, NH. Outside it was beautiful, but there were a lot of people in the store.

I got there and was assigned a spot and set up my books and the oversized poster my publisher had sent me.

I sneaked some looks at the books and authors near me. Most were self-published through a place called Author House and other vanity publishers. The guy next to me, Mark Okrant was the only one that was professionally done. His publisher, John Greene was actually there to help promote his books.

The woman next to me had her sci-fi books (done by Author House). They were about a female race car driver who has a rock star boyfriend and time travels. Seriously. Then there was the fairy lady who sprinkled us all with glitter. Yes, I am so serious.

It turned out the store didn't promote the event at all, not even on their web page in the calendar section. Plus the fact that we were at the back of the store, all in a long row, meant we weren't in foot traffic and honestly I think it scared customers to see a bunch of authors with books at tables.

It would have been better to have us sit separately, or at the most two together, throughout the store, but closer to the front.

I sold a whopping two books - one to a friend and one to John Greene, who has shown interest in publishing Gil The Gecko. He's a really small publisher, but he's local and I'd have more control over the whole process. So some good did come out of it.

The only author who sold a bunch of books was a high school student who had self-publshed a book of poetry. All her high school friends showed up and she sold almost 40 copies of her book.

Pfft.

Even Chris (my hubby) said I was out of their league and didn't fit in with any of them. Bless him for being so supportive.

Media complaint: So, I get a call from NECN on Friday that they want me to be on the Wired show, hosted by Jim Braude weekday afternoons from 4-5 pm. They were very hot to get me on the show right away. It would be live, I would be the only guest and we'd take calls from viewers. Very cool! They booked me for this afternoon and said a producer would call me Monday with final instructions. Directions were emailed to me and I set my time aside to go to the TV studio today.

Well, yesterday I get a phone call from a very flustered woman, not the male producer I was told would call me. She told me they had to cancel my appearance and I would get a call from their booker later in the day to appear on a different show or another date.

Huh?

What happened?

So I called the person who originally asked me to do this and left an email and voicemail message with her asking what happened. No reply yet. And no booker called me back yesterday.

This is not the first time this has happened to me. I posted about how a Dallas Fox affiliate was all hot to trot to interview me for a story about cyberstalking. He said he'd call back and never did. I called and emailed him a couple of times to find out what happened. No reply.

Then there was Jay Jones from the Tyra Banks Show. He was all excited about bringing me on the show and wanted a copy of my book, etc. Then nothing. Again, I emailed and called him, leaving messages. No reply.

I'm beginning to think that someone (who will remain nameless here, but for those who know me well, you know who I am talking about) is blacklisting me with the media. There is no reason to not use me.

I am an expert in my field - cyber crime. I am a published author on the subject, twice now. I am president of two organizations that solely help online victims.

So what is the deal? It is really and truly frustrating that if my suspicions are correct, that someone could be so damned petty and mean. The world is big enough for more than one cyber crime expert. And there are more experts than just the two of us, so grow up.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Network Solutions Spam Filter Sucks. . .and More

So I put in a bid for a domain name and won it from SnapNames because there was a very good possibility someone else was after it. I won the domain and got an email from SnapNames that Network Solutions would send me the login information within 48 hours. Three days later, still no email. So I email Network Solutions support and got a standard "we got your email and will be in touch soon" email. And I waited. Still no email with the login info.

But I did get a survey from them asking how their service was. I was honest. It sucked.

I got a prompt reply and a voicemail message from their corporate office apologizing and saying that the email had been sent out and was being sent out again. I still didn't receive it. Now this was earlier this week when that horrendous worm hit the net, so I thought that was why.

I waited another day and called Network Solutions and got a very nice woman, Jennifer to help me. We went through everything and it dawned on me. I bet they had a spam filter that was filtering out those wonderful penis spams with variations on the word penis. Now think, people - what is my last name? Hitchcock. And what is the last part of that name? A variation on penis.

Oy.

I asked Jennifer if they had filtering and she said she was pretty sure they did. So I asked her to change my email address from the one I used to win the domain (from my jahitchcock.com address) to a different one. She said they had to call me at the number I used to register the domain.

Well, that'd be a problem, since I use J2, a free voicemail/fax number service. The reason it's free is because the number you're assigned is not in your area code (that's a monthly fee if you do want it in your area code). I use that number to weed the whackos from the real people I want to speak with and explained this to her. I told her that was why I also used a PO Box for the domain registration. She said that was a problem and put me on hold.

She got back and said she was going to send me an email from her personal account and to read what she sent to her over the phone. I got that fine and read it:

"Red tree frog dancing the waltz."

Wallah! We changed my email address to the haltabuse.org one and I finally got my login information.

I told her they had better talk to their IT folks, as a lot of people have the word "cock" in their last name.

This isn't the first time this is happened. Hotmail made me change my last name when I got my account with them because they claimed my last name was obscene. So my last name reads "Hitchock" without the "c."

Sometimes these filters are a bit much.

On to other things:

Local bookstores in New England suck. Well, most of them. It's been like pulling teeth to get them to book me for a signing for my latest book. I did get a few that had me do book signings last time, but Borders is a huge pain in the butt.

Last time I could book a signing directly with the store. This time I have to go through their area manager, who has not gotten back to me, even though I have emailed and called her.

You know what? Fine. Doing book signings takes a lot of time and I do them for nothing. Driving to the bookstore averages 1-2 hours, plus 1-3 hours for a signing, then driving home. So I'm out a full day when I could be doing work, weeding my vegetable garden or spending time with my husband and dogs.

Pfft.

It's funny how I am having no problem booking signings at the places I'm speaking at. The Barnes & Noble in New Orleans was eager to have me do a signing and I called at pretty much the last minute. Same with Illinois, Atlanta, etc. Go figure.

I may have good news soon. Got a call from a former producer for the Montel Show. She's working on another talk show and wants to book me as an expert, along with victims I've worked with. The show will begin airing in September. I'll post more when I know for sure.

Also, another good thing may be happening. I'll know after my trip to New Orleans the end of this month. Cross your fingers for me - it may be a really good thing for me and my book!

On another note, local media in Maine/New Hampshire also suck. You would think they would jump at the chance to have a well-known cyber crime expert that is local. Only three media outlets use me regularly - WGAN Radio, The York Independent newspaper and NECN.

That's it. I'm central to Boston, MA; Portland, ME and Manchester, NH. Press releases go out to them every time either WHOA or I do something significant. No response. I wish they would wake up and realize they have an expert right here instead of having to call on experts that are across the country or elsewhere.

Yes, I'm in a pissy mood.

I'm off today to do a book signing at Barnes & Noble in Manchester, NH from 1-4 pm. It's a cooperative local authors signing. There will be a bunch of us - just in time for Father's Day, ha ha.

I hope my books sell well. The manager for the store couldn't get my books from the distributor in time, so I have to bring what I have on hand, about 10 books. I hope they all sell and people complain because there aren't enough books!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Monday morning humor

Okay, it's sick humor.

Tongue in cheek - don't forget that:

Bonsai Kittens

How to Hunt Feral Cats in Wisconsin with a 12 pound Coehorn Mortar Cannon

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Is Ann Coulter Insane?

I used to admire Ann Coulter. She used to make some sense. But her latest book (which I refuse to name here, as it would just promote it further) and her recent interviews have me seriously questioning her sanity.

She used to try to be the "voice of the people," saying things many of us wanted to say out loud. Now she is just plain mean. She is attacking four 9/11 widows, jumping down their throats for "making money" off of their husband's deaths.

Hello?

These four women lost their husbands, their soul mates, the fathers of their children. They were left without that income that was coming in. Yes, they got some money as compensation, but now these women have to fend for themselves, raise their children on their own and turned to each other for help. So what if they sell books, do interviews, etc? They are not letting what their husbands die for go away.

Besides, Ann Coulter is just as guilty as what she is accusing these women of. She is making money off of 9/11 and has been since that tragedy happened. Shame on her!

I tried to watch her on TV yesterday and her voice grates on my nerves. She doesn't even talk like a normal person anymore. She has this hoity-toity "I'm better than everyone else" voice. She is so thin on camera, it makes me wonder what she looks like off camera - knowing that the camera adds an average of 10-20 pounds.

Ann, honey, eat something!

It's one thing to voice your opinion, but to attack people like she is and to not listen to the person interviewing her and just spout her vitriol makes me sick. She is on a rocket sled to hell.

And that is MY personal opinion.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Myspace site

If you have a Myspace account, please add me to your friends list:

http://www.myspace.com/netcrimes

Rhode Island is Rainy

First, book news: For some reason, the 2nd edition of Net Crimes has problems. If you don't know about these, read my previous post about my trip to D.C. I began calling local bookstores to schedule a book signing. Well, Barnes & Noble and Borders are interested, but are having trouble getting the book. According to their distributors, the book came out in November 2005. Huh? I had to explain the book just came out and they could contact my publisher to verify. So, for the first few book signings, I have to bring copies of the book myself. To me that's unprofessional and makes it look like I self-published the book, which I did not. I am not a happy camper about this. My publisher is trying to fix it.

Now for my trip news: I told my mom she could come with me on my trip down to Smithfield, RI to speak at the Rhode Island Library Association annual conference. After I made the offer, I was wondering if I'd regret it. I love my mom, but she's my mom and she likes to speak her mind. She'll be 80 later this month and she says she's old enough that she doesn't care what other people think. Oh boy.

It rained the entire time.

So, I drove to Warner, NH to pick her up. That's a 2-hour drive from my house. We stopped for lunch in Salem, NH, which was nice. Then we headed to Smithfield. I had printed out directions from Yahoo and asked her to read them to me. She said we had to stay on Route 495 for 5 miles. That seemed weird. I had her hold up the directions and it read 51.3 miles.

So I told her she was a bad navigator. Bad mom. We get off at the exit we were supposed to take so that we would circumvent having to go by Worcester. She reads me the directions. We end up lost. She was reading .3 miles as three miles. Oy!

We finally found a nursery and it turned out we were only a mile away from 295, one exit away from our hotel. So it wasn't all bad. Total driving time: Over four hours.

The conference was held at Bryant University - a beautiful campus! I registered, then we headed to the hotel, which was less than a mile away. We drove by Parente's Restaurant, where we'd be eating later. Motorcycles out front, beer neon signs in the window. It was going to be an interesting night, LOL.

Checked into the Comfort Suites - good-sized room, unpacked, checked email, then changed and headed back to Bryant for a wine & cheese reception and bellydancing librarians. Yes, you read right.

Got there and the bellydancing lessons had already started. It was a hoot to see all these ladies up there learning to bellydance. At least this group of librarians appeared to be a lot more fun than the NELA conference I spoke at last year. Met Laura, who booked me and she asked if I'd brought books with me. I had one box of 20 that happened to come the day before. She was relieved. It turned out the local Barnes & Noble was in chaos - the woman who had been coordinating getting all the speakers books together for the conference up and quit without letting anyone else at the store know books needed to be ordered. So I was the only speaker with books available.

We went to Parente's and had a lovely dinner with some of the librarians. It was a lot of fun, good food - a very homey family restaurant. When I got home, tried Chris. The line was busy. We have call waiting, so I thought one of the phones was off the hook. I sent him an email.

The next morning I hit the treadmill in the exercise room, got some of the free continental breakfast (which was good), had coffee, then mom and I got showered and dressed and headed back to the university. Chris had finally called on his cell phone - lightning struck a house near us and knocked everything out, electricty, phone, cable.

I was going to surprise my mom for lunch. Jason Hawes, leader of a ghosthunting group called TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) was going to try to make it to my talk and lunch. He had gotten in touch with me the year before when some whacko was sending email threats to rape and kill his wife. If you go to the link, it doesn't mention Jason by name. I helped track the messages to the three public libraries they were coming from. The guy went to jail. So Jason said to let him know when I was in the area. Jason's group is highlighted in the Sci Fi channel's show Ghosthunters. He's the bald one.

Set up my laptop and got ready for my talk. The room was almost full and I got some great questions as usual and loads of compliments.

Here's a photo:



I use Jason's case as an example of the need for sign in/sign out procedures for libraries. He and one of the other ghosthunters, Donna, showed up halfway through my talk. My mom was thrilled. So was everyone else when I introduced him at the end. He was nice enough to talk to people while I signed books and answered questions.



I found my mom, Jason and Donna outside wandering around. My mom had brought her Polaroid camera. She insisted on photos. Jason and Donna were very nice and very patient. Here they are:



My hair looked awful because of the dampness from the rain and humidity. Blech.





Isn't my mom cute?



We had a great lunch at Parente's and talked about everything from ghosts to cyber crimes to giant squid, sharks and alligators. I asked Jason why they kept Brian on the show (if you haven't seen it yet, Brian is an idiot, IMHO). He said he likes to try to help people and had helped Brian too many times. Jason is a really nice guy. I just hope this doesn't all go to his head and I told him so! I'll have to kick his butt (ha ha).

One thing he mentioned was that he'd been signed by Simon & Schuster to write a book about ghosthunting. I'm happy for him, but at the same time resentful. I work my butt off to write good books. I've been writing for years, hoping for that one big break. I am a good writer (and no, I'm not saying that because I think I am - I really am a good writer). I have been trying so hard to get the attention of big publishers with my agent and no one will talk to me or my agent. Then someone comes along who is not a writer, but who happened to have the luck of getting a TV show and you know what? Yes, it pisses me off. I wouldn't be a normal human being if I wasn't resentful.

Oh well. Life goes on. But there is good news. I got an email from the folks at Video Professor. They want to do a cross promotio with Net Crimes & Misdemeanors. My publisher is talking with them today. Cross yor fingers for me! Maybe this will be the break I need.

P.S. Finally got the electricity and phone back. And cable/internet. Thank goodness.