Sunday, 20 March 2011

THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS - AND FRIENDS

Excuse me while I digress from the business of writing and publishing. I want and need to thank some people who have recently been extraordinarily kind, when they didn't need to be, people who have gone the extra mile for me, even though some of them have never met me and others have only met me once.

First, though, let me take a moment to spit vitriol at the nasty little creep who has so little of value in his head that he had to waste the cells he has in hacking into my author website. Some of you know that on Monday and Tuesday this week I had no website. For a while it consisted of a violent red and black screen, a nasty face sneering at me, flashing red words and Chinese script. Then it was a white screen with an error message. For some time I feared that I'd never get it back, that my nicolamorgan.co.uk / com names would never be mine again, that I'd have to re-write everything from scratch, losing my email addresses for ever, and losing business while people couldn't contact me through the site. It was a little bit like being burgled. No, I know it wasn't really as bad as that, but I did feel invaded. It felt personal. And to say that I didn't have time to deal with the bastard and the results of his malicious "work" is an understatement.

Enter the kindness of strangers. People who I've never met stepped in with advice on Twitter and Facebook. Some of it was reassuring and technical, others just sympathetic. A Facebook writer friend - who I've also never met - Dan Blythe, posted a request to people to buy Wasted in solidarity with me. That was such a kind and unexpected reaction that I felt a bit emotional. There was I, in internet meltdown after invasion by a spiteful bastard, and someone I've never met was bothering to care enough to tell people to buy my books.

Then there were two Twitter friends - again, never met them, never spoken to them before - Marshall Buckley (@marshallbuckley) and Andrew Laws (@Andrew_Culture). Both are webby experts but are also working on novels. They gave me their phone numbers, asking me to call. I did. They reassured me and gave me lots of practical advice. They both spent time rootling around trying to find out what was going on. (Yes, I'd contacted the host company and no, they hadn't replied - turns out that this is because I reported it under the category "Abuse" instead of "Technical". Silly me. Well, it bloody felt like abuse.) Then, the host company half got its act together but I still needed Andrew to go and get the site back up and running. He did it and didn't even make me feel stupid. He was still doing it late on Tuesday evening.

So, my first two thanks to friends I've never met but am proud to call friends go to Marshall Buckley and Andrew Laws. Do follow them on Twitter and be nice to them. I wish them success in their writing.

On a completely different subject, I want to thank Mike Jarman. He's also a Twitter friend but I have met him once. He and his wife own Botham's of Whitby, fabulous bakers, and last year they came to the Gardening Scotland show with their products. I swept by for a few minutes in my pink wellies - now sadly departed to welly heaven - and ice-blue raincoat, and frightened away the other customers. Since then, I've enjoyed a number of delicious Botham's products. Mmmmm.

But, what am I thanking him for? Well, I asked if he'd like to put a little smidgen of something in the goody bags for my workshops. I was thinking along the lines of little samples, but the other day two large boxes arrived, containing a whole fabulous packet of Shah biscuits for every participant. Along with my favourite plum bread (for me) and some stem ginger brack (for someone as yet unspecified). So, a huge thanks for that generosity. Do follow Mike on Twitter - @mikejarman - his tweets are renowned for their entertainment value. Especially when his thumbs get confused. And his cakes are ace.

And then there was Joanne Harris - again, a Twitter friend who I've met once - who took the trouble to read Write to be Published and wrote a fabulous review, which must have taken ages. Incredible generosity.

I also discovered how good my friends - online and offline - are when, against all expectations, I won the Coventry "Read it or Else" award. And this is where I thank many of you for going to the trouble of voting. I felt very overwhelmed by that, very. I know I had a lot of support from some Coventry pupils - one of whom repeatedly put comments on the site telling people to vote, and since I've never been to Coventry or had any contact with the schools there, that was overwhelming, too. But I also know that my friends - and I count my blog readers among them - went out of their way to help.

So, thanks to them and to you for being lovely. The world is sometimes a pretty good place full of pretty good people and I needed to be reminded of that. All I can do for you in return is keep on blogging and wishing you all the success you deserve.

26 comments:

catdownunder said...

And I made matters worse by thinking you were talking about your blog and saying it was up when it was your author site and not up - and you did not even tell me to go away and never come back.
"Thankyou" is a terribly important word - so thankyou from me to you too - for the words of wisdom and the occasional virtual paw pat when I have been feeling down - and a purry hug from Downunder

Anonymous said...

I read your first anguished Tweet when you found your site down and wished I could be useful but I knew that people would come forward to help. I've seen this kind of Twitter reaction several times since I joined a year ago and it's one of the reasons I stay on Twitter. It can be such a positive place to be. So glad you got this sorted and with help from 'strangers'. It really helps restore faith in humanity.

All the best

Ann Patey

emma laws said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Culture said...

Hackers are one of the worst type of criminals because they're so indiscriminate, it was a pleasure to be able to do something positive.

Andrew Culture said...

P.S I accidentally posted my first reply under my wife's login so I removed it :)

LizM said...

Just reading this post has made me feel uplifted and thankful that despite all the horrible things that happen in the world today the kindness of strangers still exists.Well done everyone.

Sally Zigmond said...

Nicola: I'm delighted everything is up and running again. I applaud this post because it's good to be reminded that, despite the existence of stupid and malicious idiots, most people are kind and helpful.

I imagine these people who hack websites and spread viruses are very small lonely, unloved people whose only sense of power is to make other people's lives difficult. Hard though it is, we should feel sorry for them but not let them get away with it, either.

And I second that about Mr Mike Jarman. He is one of nature's true gentlemen - and huge fun, too. (And Botham's bakes are out of this world.)

Jane Smith said...

Oh, Nicola. When will you stop pretending that it was someone else who did all that to your website when we all know that what really happened to it was that second bottle of gin you downed last Sunday? Ha!

Joking aside, though, it was heartwarming to see so many people stepping forward to help you. People are NICE, aren't they? I didn't know Dan Blythe had done that: I've met him and he's a good bloke and a lot of fun too. And yes, Mike Jarman's biscuits are the business. We're very lucky to have such kind friends.

Patsy said...

I'm glad everything is sorted now.

Godd to know that while just one nasty person caused the problem there were far more nice ones about to help you solve it.

Marshall Buckley said...

Firstly, it really was nothing. All I offered were a few reasuring words. Andrew was better placed to help and I was happy to let him do so!
Secondly, I thought we were already friends (!) even though we haven't met, so it was only appropriate that I offered my assistance.
And, thirdly, I'm happy to help in all things techy to all my Twitter friends (and friends of friends). I don't always know the answers but I'll damn well try...

In the words of The Simpsons: "You can always depend on the kindness of strangers... a stranger's just a friend you haven't met."

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Sorry to hear about the crap - but it is really lovely to know the writing world hath such decent people in it. And the bakers too! Onwards n upwards.

Nicola Morgan said...

Marshall _ a) the Simpsons quote was exactly why I used that title! It's lovely, isn't it? And b) I hasten to point out that i did actually call you a friend, not a stranger :) - "Then there were two Twitter friends - again, never met them, never spoken to them before - Marshall Buckley (@marshallbuckley) and Andrew Laws (@Andrew_Culture)." So, Nur, as Jane hprw would say.

Thanks to all for your comments!

JO said...

Great to have it confirmed that when crap happens there are always those who will help shovel up the mess.
And thanks, to, to you, Nicola - you put so much of yourself on this blog that there are over a thousand of us who feel we 'know' you. You've given us so much, I'm not surprised that 'friends' appeared just when you need them.

Julie Nilson said...

Even though I don't know you or any of the other players in your story, this made me tear up. The kindness of strangers (and friends) is such a lovely thing to discover in the midst of the crappy actions of one person. It's so nice to be reminded that the good people out there outnumber the bad.

Tracy said...

Nicola,
There are angels among us...Yes, blogging has reinforced to me that there are good people in the world and kindness is still in vogue!
Glad you got your difficulties resolved!

Ebony McKenna. said...

Ahhhhhh,
huge sigh of relief after all that crap.

Captain Black said...

I'm glad you have such great friends and that you got your web site sorted out.

I don't suppose that you (or your technical assistants) could offer us some advice about how to beef up the security for our own blogs and web sites? For example, how did the hacker get in? Did he crack a weak password or was it something more complicated? Let's see if we can avoid this happening to any of us.

Andrew Culture said...

I've been thinking of posting a few blogs about securing sites, it's good to know there's an audience out there.

Nicola Morgan said...

Captina Black - good point. ALthough Andrew is too kind to say so, this was my fault. (Well, no, it was the bastard hacker's fault, but i made it easy for him.) I had not installed the updates that Wordpress offered, meaning that my site was vulnerable. I hadn't realised the importance of updates. Having said that, I gather that Wordpress is particularly vulnerable.

Do keep an eye on Andrew's blog - and even consider asking him to secure your site: it's partly what his business does.

Captain Black said...

Andrew: Nice to meet you and please do! I've been meaning to start a "technical tips for writers" series for a while now. Perhaps we could collaborate?

Nicola: Captina – I like it ;o) I've been looking for a female pen name...
I use WordPress (3.0.5) for the Wannabe site. Gulp.

Nicola Morgan said...

Captina - LOL, as the youngsters say! Sorry.

Beth Kemp said...

This was lovely to read. And they say we don't have community anymore...

Marshall Buckley said...

@Captain Black
I think 3.0.5 is more secure (well, it's relative, but certainly an improvement over previous), though Andrew may have more info on that.

@Nicola
Uh, yeah, I know you said friends, but you must have changed it after I read it, or something. Yeah, that's it...
Nur, indeed. Damn.

Andrew Culture said...

Almost always the latest version is the most secure. There's no way to be totally secure, but keeping an eye on updates is crucial. Once a security hole has been identified the hackers scan for sites that haven't been updated (sometimes using Google!) and get in. They're not even being clever.

David Griffin said...

Excellent that people rally around! Glad you've got your site up and running again. :-)

womagwriter said...

They're repaying you for the years of fabulous free advice on this blog, Nicola. Glad your website is mended and now I really really want a Crabbit bag. You coming any further south than Cambridge at any time? (Bournemouth's nice...)