Author: normahorton

My Peaceful Coexistance with Hashtags—I am So Confused

I’ve been stalking the wily hashtag (pound sign—#) on twitter. People half my age are brought into the world understanding hashtags, while I am more of the Underwood-typewriter generation. <sigh> I have randomly scattered tweets with hashtags sensible to me, only recently discovering I could’ve better used those characters.


I understood the hashtag’s purpose—to link information about related, desirable topics, making the subjects easier to find—but didn’t understand which hastags were “real” and which ones waste a precious character (leaving only 139).

I didn’t know to omit spaces: #Women of the Wall should be #WomenoftheWall, or #WoW, for instance. And discovering abbreviations took time, but they’re valuable. Why use fifteen characters (#WomenoftheWall) when I can use four (#WoW)?

Hashtags ARE important. If you write about antiquities, lost World Heritage Sites, and the Middle East, you target your market tightly. Making posts easier to find is pivotal to building the essential public platform acquisitions editors and publishers demand.

Believing you might be as confused by hashtags as I am/was/will be, I’d like to suggest these sites explaining more about hashtags. If you know of others, I’m very interested. I suspect my days of stalking the elusive hashtag are far from over. — Twitter’s take on hashtags. Providing basic information, this is a great place to start. — Twitter’s recommended listing of in-voque hashtags. I like this site because it lets me know what others are tagging, and broadens my hashtag horizons. — This general summary of hastags is very user-friendly.



Why I Love Goodreads

If twitter is speed-dating for hermits ( http: // ), then Goodreads ( http: // ) is a slowly developed romance. I don’t participate as often as I’d like or should, but every time I read a review on Goodreads, or articulate what I think about something I’ve read, I appreciate the site more.


For one thing, the interaction is lengthy enough so I get a sense of other participants. Everyone is bound by a love of books, so the demographic is consistent with my interests (unlike, say, twitter, where pretty crass individuals doing really strange things believe the world needs to know). Recommendations from a book-loving congregation enable me to target my reading better—there are only so many hours in a day!—and I have quickly learned whose referrals to trust.

Goodreads also has a palpable sense of community, and the group of which I’m a member (Boomer Lit) actively promotes authors’ writing to those of us who remember the Vietnam war while occasionally wearing Birkenstocks with socks. (I confess I do, but only in the privacy of my office.)

I believe Goodreads is a valuable tool in the author’s tool box. It provides a context in which to see what others are reading—and why. It enables the author to develop a community as he or she prepares to release a book, building interest among people who genuinely might buy the work. And it’s an educated, thoughtful stopover, a Sherlockian bolthole in the craziness of the world-wide web.

Take a look, and I’d love your thoughts about what you find. Are there other pockets of literary civilization you enjoy while surfing the net? Or places you believe valuable to an aspiring or established author? I’m interested. Really I am.

Not A Drop to Drink

Although Not A Drop to Drink is the title of my first manuscript, this blog is about something far more important: the connection between drought and war. Almost every nation on earth faces a water shortage that will alter life as we know it. The U.S. is not exempt. This weekend’s Times of Israel ran an article ( from which I’d like to share.

“Some look at the upheaval in Syria through a religious lens…some see it through a social prism…and others look at the eroding boundaries of state in Syria and other parts of the Middle East as a direct result of the sins of Western hubris and Colonialism. Professor Arnon Sofer has no qualms with any of these claims and interpretations. But the upheaval in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, he says, cannot be fully understood without also taking two environmental truths into account: soaring birthrates and dwindling water supply.” Sofer is head of the Chaikin geo-strategy group, a longtime lecturer at the IDF’s top defense college, and head of the National Defense College Research Center.

The article goes on to state population in the Middle East has twice doubled in sixty years. (Funny how births escalate in countries where women’s rights don’t include birth control—my comment.) According to the U.S. Department of Defense, while the effects of climate change alone do not cause conflict, the report states, “they may act as accelerants of instability or conflict in parts of the world.” As with most of the region, Syria is now eighty-five-percent desert. It’s ample waterways are running dry because its upriver neighbor, Turkey, keeps much of that water. Damascus, being destroyed as Assad and Syrian rebels fight to dominate nothing (, was once a fabled oasis. But no more.

from the bottom of Nahal ZinWadi Zin, near the kibbutz Sde Boker

And water shortages don’t just make people thirsty. Think about it: water powers hydroelectroic plants that generate electricity. So reduced water supply reduces electricity as well. From 2007-2008, Sofer said, more than 160 Syrian villages were abandoned and 250,000 farmers relocated to Damascus and other cities. Residents dug 25,000 illegal wells in and around Damascus, pushing the water table lower and the salinity of the water higher. Add a million-plus refugees for the perfect environment of war and unrest.

And war broke out in Syria’s most-parched regions—“in Daraa [in the south] and in Kamishli in the northeast,” Sofer said. “Those are two of the driest places in the country.” Writing in the New York Times from Yemen on Thursday, Thomas Friedman embraced a similar thesis, noting that the heart of the al-Qaeda activity in the region corresponded with the areas most stricken by drought. While Assad seems to clear a path to an escape route from Syria, Egypt appears to bolster it’s progression south—toward countries using the Nile Delta before the water crosses into Egypt. Detect a trend?

Can we afford to ignore the correlation of drought and war, or will we awaken to the impending threat before there’s Not A Drop to Drink?[subscribe2]


Armchair Archaeology

Armchair archaeology: what a concept! I discovered last week a new technology poised to enable a person to make vicarious archaeological discoveries. Here’s the article link:

Two links embedded therein are quite cool: (a 3D exploration of the Giza pyramids as they looked thousands of years ago) and (a 3D Parisian stroll spanning centuries).

Sitting in my jammies, peering at my screen, sipping iced tea would be a LOT more comfortable than expiring in 118-degree June heat (almost 48 degrees Celsius) on the shores of Galilee, ferreting as an amateur in a pile of dusty debris to unearth obscure clay chunks. As a matter of fact, I can’t imagine a more enjoyable way to discover anything.


Archaeology is dirty, back-breaking, unglamorous work. (Kind of like writing.) It requires specialized knowledge of history, the patience of Job, and gallons of sunblock. Hands resembling claws, hair mimicking a broom, and skin of camel leather mark most professional archaeologist I’ve seen. In short, there’s nothing comfortable about the profession, nor is it easy. (Kind of like writing.) And the chances of a Howard-Carteresque-Tutankhamen discovery are one in a zillion. (Kind of like writing.)

Here in my office now, I have pottery dating from 11th- and 12th-century Persia, and 17th-century France. A Coptic manuscript page, and illustrated Byzantine ones. A (miraculously intact) 6th-century terracotta flask, and a 3rd-century Roman glass bottle. I can identify these items as easily as I can spot fluid syntax or a pronoun error. These skills have taken decades to develop, honing a weird, subconscious intuition. Could I have developed these off-site, or without laborious practical experience?

I’m excited about what the future holds, and actively watch developments in archaeology that ease, fine-tune, and speed the discovery process. These technologies offer great promise, like the social-media-management apps cited in last week’s blog ( that ease, fine-tune, and speed platform-building.

But what I’m really looking for is something to streamline the publishing process. Hope springs eternal.