Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Am I spying on you?

Have you heard of this new GDPR thing coming out of the European Union? The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is supposed to give EU people control over their personal data.

Rumours are that it will have a huge impact on newsletters, so some authors are worried. I have to say, I’m not. And not just because I live in Malaysia.

The rules are written in legalese and I find them incomprehensible. However, from the very little I see, I think they are meant to force companies to give people what they sign up for and not muck them about.

What they don’t want:
o       You signing up for a newsletter about soap and being sent stuff about cars and loans.
o       You being faced with pre-ticked boxes that commit you automatically to pesky 'special offers' and other dodgy extras.
o       You signing up and having your data given away or shared with God knows who.

I don’t do that.  

If you're reading this, I have no clue who you are. Blogger does tell me how many people view this post and what country they are from. That's it.

You see that Follow By Email box on the top right? If you pop your email into that, blogger sends you a note every time I write a new post. 

When you do that, most blogs will show your blogger link to the sidebar. People only see your blog or your public profile. Learn how to manage that, here.

I don't show your link in the sidebar, because I think you should be private. I can if I want click through some stuff in the background and then I see your name and your blogger photo - but I don't bother.

If you want to get special offers nobody else gets, you have to sign up for my newsletter. This is what happens:

You Double Opt In To Protect You
When you sign up, you get an automated email asking you to confirm it really was you doing the typing.

Why do I do this? Because there are abusive individuals out there who harass others by signing them up for hundreds or thousands of newsletters. My double confirmation is to prevent some nut from hassling you.

I Don’t Collect Extra Information
When you sign up for my newsletter, you tell me your name and email address.  I don’t know anything else about you. Also, you can choose not to tell me your name, and just give me your email address.

MailChimp tells me if you open my newsletters all the time or just sometimes but I don’t look.

I Don’t Share Your Information - Ever
I write to you once in a blue moon about my books, and that’s basically it. I don’t share your email address with anyone, ever.

Actually, it’s a bit more than that. You see, your name and email are guarded by MailChimp. I can get a list if I want, but actually, I don’t even look.

The only time I know you get my newsletter is when you hit Reply and speak to me privately over email.

Your Privacy Matters
I have this approach because I hate it when companies bugger me about.  Like last month I discovered Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airlines have secretly taken the super personal private data I gave them to book airline tickets, and sold/shared it with their marketing partners.

As a result, I was inundated on my birthday by email and notices. I’m steaming angry about this because keeping my birth date safe is an integral part of preventing ID fraud.

Hopefully they’ll get hit by the GDPR but I doubt it. Big companies never stick to the rules.

Also, I once signed up for an ARC and found the author was signing me up to over 20 of her friends’ newsletters. My email box was jammed for months with email from people I’d never even heard of.  

So I take the approach that if I hate it, you will too.

Unsubscribing Is Easy
If you change your email address, or GASP, get bored with me, each newsletter comes with an unsubscribe button.

If you hit it, I get a notice that says, “X left your mailing list”. This sends me into a tailspin of doubt and despair but it won’t kill me. Probably :-)

I don’t mess about with asking you to change your mind; you want out, that’s your right. 

If you have questions, email me privately by hitting Reply.

Anyway, that’s all from me. I’ll let you know when I have the new book set up. In the meantime, do pop your email into the Follow This Blog box or come and see me on my personal timeline on Facebook.

Also, before I go, I want to say THANK YOU! You’ve all been super amazing with your support and I really appreciate it. Without you, I would not be writing.  

So muahs and see you all in 2 weeks or so.

Ellen aka AJ

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Life in Malaysia: When Bees Attack

Seeing we were talking about life in Malaysia, and how different it is from my home in Spain, Scotland and Holland (yes, my family is a bit mixed up) I thought you'd like to hear about my bee problem and a very remarkable man called Saiful.

As I said last time, we live in Subang Jaya, a posh neighbourhood just outside of Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia.

People here love living in condos. This is the view when I look up the street.

Me, I like to be a bit more private, so we live in a house. That red car is mine, and the truck is Sam's our neighbour.

As you can see, our home is very private, thanks to our tree.

Many people here cut down their trees and cement over everything. They don't like 'mess'. Me, I love the tree because it's home to lots of wildlife.

For example, we have tree shrews, called tupai in Malay.

These little creatures act a lot like squirrels. They run around the tree, shoving each other off branches as they quarrel over seeds. They also raid the cat biscuit bowl that belongs to the kitchen cats, the strays who live in the back lane.

This intrepid fellow came inside to steal, got caught in our bathroom and had to be escorted off the premises.

Luckily for them, our cats and the strays completely ignore them.

Our tree also attracts bats, and while they swoop through the living room on some nights, I've never been able to capture it on camera.

And we have birds. Loads of them. This one built a nest off our wall, which promptly collapsed when the monsoon rain hit. However, he was luckier next time round when he set up in our big tree.

We get all of this wildlife because we live almost on the equator. It's a balmy 34C/94F all year round and as we're tropical, we have tonnes of rainforest.

We also get some amazing bugs. Two years ago, we had termites. That took some effort to deal with and one of our neighbours actually lost a part of his house.

For us, the big problem was bees. They decided that our roof was the perfect place to build a hive.

In Europe, you'd call the council and they'd come and get the bees for you. Everyone back there is super protective of bees.

Here in Malaysia, we have loads of them and they're considered a pest. When I called our council, they were baffled. "Just set them on fire," the lady said. "We'll send the bomba.  (fire brigade)"

I called friends in the national wildlife department, the zoo, and even found the national bee keeper association, and got nothing. Zip, zero, zilch.

I tried lighting incense under the nest, hoping to drive them away. They liked the perfumed smoke. 

At this point, we had several hundred bees flying into the house every morning and evening. I got stung a couple of times, and so something had to be done. In short, the bomba came and set fire to the nest. While I was totally impressed by their bravery, it was sad.

The bees just came back and rebuilt. I went through all the motions again, and still couldn't find a proper way to deal with them. When my neighbour said she was fighting them off in the morning, I called Rentokill. That was a sad day.

Anyway, the bees came back again. And as they swarmed in the roof again, I got lucky. A totally random old blog post introduced me to Saiful Hizam, who runs Carambola Bee Farm. I emailed him, and the man called me back immediately.

It turns out they were wild tropical honey bees, and as that's Saiful's business, he said he'd like to have them. talk about happy!

Saiful lifted up some roof tiles and wafted some smoke into the gap, quieting them. And then he leaned in and picked out the queen. He put her in a box, set the box on the roof by the gap, and then we had a cup of tea while the hive packed up and got into the box with their leader.

This was the nest. It was about two shoe boxes in size.
The bees are crowding into the box, keen to be with their queen.


The whole thing took about an hour, and then Saiful closed the box up and toted the hive off to his farm.

Happily ever after, right? The thing is, the Saifuls of this world are few and far between.

Saiful is a walking encyclopedia about everything bee. He produces honey, goes trapping wild bees in the rainforest - it's absolutely fascinating. He's also doing bee sting therapy, which is not my cup of tea but I'm sure it's huge with the alternative crowd. (Please be super careful, and consult with your family doctor before you do anything like this.)

This is him, Saiful, the bee man from Carambola Bee Farm.

If I were back home in Spain, my local council would have him on speed dial. Or at least, they'd look up their contact list and find him for me.

In Malaysia, information is very hard to find. Councils, police stations, and services you'd think would be connected over super efficient networks, just aren't. You have to be jacked in to the local network to get things done.  It makes life very interesting, and I just love living here. However, it can also be infuriating, sad, and wasteful.

Anyway, should you be interested in bees, here's how to find Saiful.

Carambola Bee Farm No. 8-2 Jalan Wangsa Delima 11. D'wangsa, Wangsa Melawati 53300 Kuala Lumpur. Also, please visit him on his facebook page and check out his blog.

Also, if you are a bee wrangler in Malaysia, do let me know your name, your contact number and where you are. Then when people ask me for help, I can send them your way. You can find me here on Facebook. Or you can leave a note with your web site address in the comments below.

Also, please, please, please tell someone about my books.

The Zeta Cartel series

The Prydain series

Hugs and talk soon! PS If you want to be sure to catch every post, drop your email in the follow box, top right of this page.