Evite is Dead, or, Why My Husband Should Join Facebook.

My husband refuses to join Facebook.

That’s his choice, and I’ve been supportive, but man,  I wish he would join. Not because I think he needs to bond with Internet friends, or because I think he should communicate with long-lost buddies and ex-girlfriends, or even because I think the online world should be exposed to his unique brand of humor.*

It’s because Facebook has eclipsed Evite as a way of inviting people to events.
There was a time when my email inbox was cluttered with Evites. Evites for parties. Evites for work events. Evites for things I needed to cover for work. A long time ago, I got one Evite a week.

Alas, the golden age of Evite is over. An informal survey of my inbox reveals that in 2009, I got nine or 10 Evites. In 2010 I got three. Last year I got six – which is so many that I’m afraid I’ve miscounted.

You know how many Evites I’ve gotten in 2012? One. That’s because everyone is sending Facebook event invites instead. And that is why my husband really needs to join Facebook.

Let’s take this week for example. One of my husband’s friends is hosting a Depends-themed party.

I can’t make it to this event. I will be hanging out at the other end of the maturity scale that day, dispensing spatulas and marital advice at a bridal shower. So no Depends for me.** My husband, however, is going. (To the party. Not at the party. Although you never know, the invitation promises that anyone not in a diaper by dusk will be voted off the island.) The problem? I am the one who has all the details about where and when and who’s providing the pack of Depends, because I’m the one on Facebook.

This has happened with other events. I believe I once got a bachelor party invitation on Facebook. I’ve occasionally gotten communication for him through Facebook, because apparently Facebook’s sneaky tactics are working and FB  messages are also eclipsing traditional email.

You may think that my objections to my husband’s Facebook boycott stem from the fact that I don’t like being his secretary. That’s only 20 percent true. Yeah, the part of me that’s a hairy-legged overalls-weraring 1970s second-wave feminist objects to taking messages for my husband. But that’s not the real problem.

The real issue goes a little something like this: I don’t even look at my event invitations on Facebook.

I get so many random invites from bands and local organizations I covered when I was a local arts journalist, that I don’t register events anymore. When I see I have event invites, my brain blocks them from view as it does with junk mail and spam. They are invisible, and I wouldn’t have even noticed the Depends party invitation if the host hadn’t accosted me in person last week:

“Are you guys coming to my party?”

Uh-oh. “Party?”

“I sent you an invite.”

I panicked  and racked my brain. What invitations have come through my inbox? Have I looked? It must be on my phone, right? Luckily, his party has a pretty distinctive title.

“Was the word ‘poop’ in the event title?”

He grinned. Another Facebook event crisis averted.

So what’s the moral of this story? That Facebook is taking over all kinds of Internet services, from email to evite to the sort of social networking once provided by Friendster, I guess. Or maybe the moral is that if you’re married to someone who refuses to Facebook, you might end up being his Facebook receptionist. Or maybe it’s that you should always insert words that stand out in the titles of your Facebook invites. Like “poop.”

*It should.

** At least not yet.

Putting away the iPhone and stepping away from the laptop.

In my book,  I wrote a main character who is addicted to her iPhone. The character’s cell phone addiction was meant to be a commentary on all the people I saw hunched over their iPhone displays, gabbing about apps and texting their ways through life, rather than living it. I wrote the book before I actually had an iPhone, * but this may or may not have been hypocritical on my part anyhow, since at the time I rewrote Beware the Hawk, I possessed what my husband referred to as a Crackberry.

Smartphones have been making me dumber for years.

But I hardly used the browser. I didn’t play Blackberry games. I only communicated with one person (my editor, actually) over the messenger. Then my Blackberry died, and I got an iPhone.

All of a sudden, I understood. There were no tiny keys to wrestle with! The camera was not as good as the Blackberry camera, but I could have more fun with the photos! The touchscreen was so big that tweeting and Facebooking from my phone were a pleasure! I could play Words with Friends! I suddenly had GPS! Now I could see what all the Angry Birds fuss was about!

I know. That’s a lot of exclamation points, but I think that’s what the i in iPhone is. Turn it upside down and flip it around and what you get it is “Phone!” And that’s the iPhone. It’s not a phone. It’s a Phone! And it’s addictive.

Now I’m trying to break myself of the cycle of obsessively checking my phone, which is as rude as it is worthless. I’m pretty sure that having a smartphone is making me dumber. Here are some examples:

  • Having email on my phone has actually made me worse at correspondence. (“Oh, I’ll just email that person back when I’m at my laptop.”)
  • Having the calendar on it has made me worse at scheduling. (“Oh no, an event I’m supposed to be at is happening a state away in five minutes!”)
  • I can’t remember phone numbers anymore because they’re all programmed into my phone. (“Sure, Officer, let me just grab my phone and look up my husband’s phone number for you.”)

So, I’m stepping away from the phone and, to some extent the Internet, this summer. I’m not “quitting Facebook” or giving up my phone or anything dramatic, but I am going to set some limits.

Right now, my iPhone is hidden under a pillow in another room so I won’t hear it buzzing. I have disabled all Push notifications for my social networks. I will not pick it up until I have written a required number of words. I am checking email only a few times a day. I’ve put all my appointments onto an actual desk calendar that I can see. Who knows? Later I may make myself write my husband’s phone number on a piece of paper 50 times the way my fourth grade teacher made me do with multiplication tables when I was being punished for something.

*In all honesty, I wrote the first drafts before iPhones were invented. The original phones were just regular 2001 phones. I was all kinds of excited to add iPhones last year and write the scenes as an indictment of iPhone users. I think this is called Karma.

Beware the Hawk, in infographics

Thanks to my job, I’ve spent the last several days playing around with data visualizations and infographics. Tonight, I was fiddling around with word-related graphics that require a large block of text to work. I decided to use the first half of Beware the Hawk.*

This was just an exercise to help me learn some technology, but it turned out to be revealing. I wasn’t looking to learn anything about my writing. I figured I knew the words pretty well – I wrote them, yes?

I was surprised to discover that certain words important to the plot of my book don’t actually show up that much in the text, while certain other inane words seemed to have crept into my prose and taken over. Apparently I like to throw the words “look” and “looked” into every possible sentence. My characters do a lot of looking. Also, I like to schedule events for my characters. I’m not punctual in life, but in fiction, arrivals, departures and executions are all planned out. Times are given for almost all events.  I’m like my characters’ sadistic cruise director.

The flow chart below (which is nigh unreadable unless you click on it) shows the use of the word “resistance” in the first half of the book. The resistance is kind of an important element of Beware the Hawk, so I was sort of surprised to see that it only occurs 17 times. I thought it was all over the text when I was editing it. I was also shocked to see that “hawk” only occurred twice, which is why I’m not posting any code for a “hawk” word tree.  It looked more like a word twig.

The Resistance in Beware the Hawk

This is really hard to see unless you click on it. But if you DO click on it, it's interactive.

So what words do occur the most? Here’s a cloud that shows all the words that were used in the first half of the book. The biggest words occur most frequently. The smallest ones are the rarest.

Beware the Hawk word cloud

Well, would you look at that. Leo is all over this book, as is the word "like," because apparently, I write like a valley girl.

Lastly, here’s a phrase net, which is a kind of word infographic that I’m just beginning to explore. This graphic shows all the words I link with the preposition “at.” I think it paints picture that accurately describes the book.

Dead at 3

And the itineraries of certain characters.

I think that this sort of data visualization could be valuable to any writer, if only to expose their writing habits. So, if you’re interested, writer friends, check these free online graphic generators: Wordle is free and you don’t need to log in. Many Eyes you need a log in for, but it’s worth it. Just don’t go and upload the full text of your unpublished masterwork, because it’s stored and made available to all users.

* I only uploaded the first part of the book because I didn’t think my publishers would be happy if I gave the full text away for free on an infographic generating site.

Fabulous book news!

Last week I spoke to my editor at Vagabondage Press and she delivered some fabulous news: Beware the Hawk is coming to print on March 20!

This won’t come as a surprise to the people who follow my Facebook author page; they hear just about all my news just about as soon as it happens, thanks to my raging social media addiction and my possession of a smartphone. (Just another reason to “like” my author page, or stay the hell away from it.)

Beware The Hawk novellaI’m pretty excited. Beware the Hawk was planned as an e-book and an e-book only, so it’s exciting that a print edition is being released. Since it’s a novelette, it will be a pretty slim volume, but it will be fabulous to have it, to be able to do real book signings as well as virtual signings, to carry a bunch of books around in the trunk of my car so that I can peddle them.

Even better, it will be nice to have a copy of my book accessible to the folks who can’t read it on an e-reader, or who prefer not to. There are, actually, quite a few people who have approached me and said some variation of “I’d like to buy your book, but I don’t have an e-reader.” Well folks, save the date. On March 20, physical copies of Beware the Hawk will become available.

Another announcement: I will be doing my first actual event in my hometown, Watertown, Connecticut, at the Watertown Library. The date has changed from my original announcement. I will provide more information soon.