It's been an interesting week. For one thing, it's February. Is any Midwesterner shocked that the groundhog saw his shadow and we've got six more weeks of winter? I am... I suspected from the pile up of ice and snow outside that it might be more like sixteen weeks.
Of course, February does bring some good things. Valentine's Day, a.k.a. Another Excuse to Eat Chocolate. The latest release, TANGLED UP IN LOVE, by the lovely Heidi Betts. (Today! It's out today! Everyone, read Pam's great interview with her!) The premiere issue of the Marilyn Brant Newsletter... Okay, maybe that last one isn't on par with the previous two, but I'm excited about it! And I also have a new contest--The "Who Needs Valentine's Day?" Contest--which is a celebration of one sensuous thing you should treat yourself to anytime, not just on the upcoming heart-filled holiday: A Victoria's Secret lotion!
So, contest rules: I have 3 lotions to give away. 2 of the lotions (one "Pink" and one "Very Sexy") are in the smaller 1.7 fl.oz. size, and 1 lotion (Dream Angels "Wish") is in the significantly larger 8.4 fl.oz. size. I will be sending out Newsletter #1 toward the end of the month and would love and appreciate any new subscribers. (I'm trying very hard to be entertaining and add in little extras. :) That said, you do NOT have to sign up for my newsletter to be entered into the drawing, you just need to post a comment on my blog anytime between now and noon on February 28th. However, if you ARE a current or soon-to-be newsletter subscriber, I will enter your name TWICE in this month's contest, so you'll have double the chance of winning. And, just so I'm being fully transparent in my bribery, newsletter subscribers will have special contests JUST FOR THEM coming up soon--with even bigger and better prizes! That's right--you, too, could be one of the few, the proud, the Marilyn Brant Newsletter Readers! (Here...I'll even helpfully provide you with the link. :-)
Whew. End of promo.
In other news, the convergence of life and art is sometimes kinda creepy. I've had numerous conversations with several friends over the past two months on cyber stalking and related topics, such as Googling one's exs. Perhaps some of you have done a bit of the latter. Most people I've talked to have looked up themselves, a few past loves or, at the very least, some hot movie star. Since I'm currently writing about a couple of characters who have far more techno proficiency than I have, I've got them doing a little Internet "research" on each other. To make sure I understood the depth of information that might be possibly retrieved, I figured I ought to test out my real-life investigating skills.
Turns out, it's pretty difficult to hide online, even with lots of privacy measures in place. One friend I spoke with claimed it would be easier to find old buddies with unusual names, but she suggested I'd run into roadblocks trying to hunt down someone with a much more common one.
On my first attempt, I selected an individual (okay, I guy I'd dated briefly and was mildly curious about), whom I hadn't seen or communicated with since 1989. This person has a name so common it could almost be Jim Smith. It ISN'T, but you get the idea.... Here's what I knew about him aside from his first and last name: the state he grew up in, his middle name, his undergraduate university and his age.
Long story short--I found him. Right down to his work profile/address/phone number (in a state he had no history or interest in when we last spoke), the other cities he'd lived in over the past 20 years, a recent photograph, his house (an aerial view in addition to the address), his wife and her work profile/picture, awards and work recognition for them both, the names of their children, and even his sister and her husband. And I did it all in under 2 hours.
Now, lest you think I'm some super-detective chick, I'm afraid this is not the case. Or, perhaps, you already know how easy it is... With a tidbit or two of insider knowledge, some directed motivation and a willingness to deal with trial and error, you can cross-correlate the available online data on almost anyone and catch up on their life. To prove to myself that my first results weren't a fluke, I went on to pinpoint the locations of four other people--two that lived in foreign countries, three that had lives that were in no way "public," and none that I'd been in touch with in any way since the early '90s. In the process, I learned about their marriages/divorces/or lack of significant others and, in one memorable case, I even got to see someone's wedding photos (they were posted online, on a supposedly private site!). All of this without the benefit of even being a Facebook member yet...
Now, I don't have the interest or the inclination to contact any of these people, but the ease in which I COULD was enough to make me want to shout out a warning to you all: Beware, my friends! Take care in what you say online. Make sure you don't mind the world at large reading it. Yes, those of us who are writers DO choose to put a public face on our lives, and we tend to know our cyber community well enough to feel we're chatting with dear pals, but people do lurk with the intent of gathering personal information, even if they plan to do nothing malicious with it. This past week I was one of them. And, quite honestly, I don't know what scared me more: skulking through old friends' lives the way I did or knowing how easily someone else might do the same.