Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Writer's Life: My Social Media Blackout

Whew! October is winding down and so is my seclusion from social media, namely Facebook, my addiction.

I went cold turkey. First, teaching myself how to delete my attempt at any response to a post or my post to my status update box. Then, I learned how to read newsfeed and not respond. Finally, training myself not to read or interact, while I communicated with my various Facebook writer groups. This sort of behavior could spell death to an author, such as me, right? Not really.

You see, unless you've made Facebook your one and only way to communicate and promote, you'll be fine with a little social media black out. But, I didn't do this to prove a point. And I certainly didn't do it because I'm anti-Facebook. I wanted to rein in time-wasting elements.

I was cognizant that another year was winding down. I had a long list of goals that were in place from the beginning of the year. Over the months, more projects were added, old goals got pushed aside, and due dates fast approached, causing an ugly bottle neck in October. I couldn't add hours to my day.  I couldn't duplicate me. So I had to look at how I was using my waking hours and make serious adjustments.

Trust me, it was damned difficult to wean myself off Facebook. Everything seemed worthy of a reply, even if it was to agree with the poster. Some days I would come off Facebook in a grumpy mood because of the vibes of the postings that day, when I was fine in my little bubble of happiness before I had signed on. And once I posted my intelligent philosophy on life, not a damn thing changed. I wasn't Gandhi or Mandela inspiring with my witty comments. Yeah, sometimes I could be entertaining. But most times, people don't approach social media to learn and change minds. I can't tell one sticking point that has me go...hmmm, maybe I will switch or convert or see you on the other side of that point.

When I approached Facebook in the first place, it was for promoting me and my work. No one wants to hear me ramble on about my book or harassing them to buy my book. The next step in author marketing was about creating that high like-ability factor, connecting with the readers, etc. That strategy sounds good on paper. It's easy--pop in, say hi, pop out. They've spent $5.99 to buy your book, this is the least you could do. That QUICK pop in, never is quick. Five minutes turn into 15 minutes, into an hour--several times a day.

I'd counter with the fact that I have must-read, and auto buy authors whom I've never met, probably won't ever meet, aren't on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Many of them know their social interaction limitations and make no apology. And frankly, I might be better off for not going after that like-ability factor because we've seen the harsh results at any glimmer of people's true thoughts, political affiliation, (consensual & legal) sexual practices, and on and on. If people knew my real feelings about squirrels, well....

When I published in the 90s, I just wanted to write my stories and send them out into the world. And I have a lot of them. Although I'm a whiz at multi-tasking, writer is only one of several titles in my life. Twelves years later in this career, I refuse to put so much time in creating/writing/editing (and it's long ass hours, trust me), my personal life, and then with rest, sit on social media just to be liked.

I will be on Facebook occasionally. I think a short breath at the end and beginning of each month is sufficient. I'll keep you updated. I'll try to be entertaining and witty. But the remainder of the month, I have to be  fully submerged in my world of creating. My Happy Place.

I started the month with nine projects in various stages of completion.  Five of those projects were completed and moved off my computer or to the next stage.  I still have one more day in the month for the other four--miracles can happen.

Next month is National Novel Writing Month NaNo, where you fast draft a 50K book in a month. I successfully did so last year with a New Adult novel that is in the "to be edited" queue. This time, I'm working on another project under the wing of a publisher. No promises or guarantees to this outcome, but I'm giving it all I've got. November has turned into a good opportunity to follow up with my Facebook blackout. Somehow, Twitter doesn't have same addictive hold on me.

For now,  this works for me. Hope my schedule works for you.

Take care,


Friday, August 22, 2014

Outlander--My New TV Show Obsession

For the first time in a while, I'm actually hooked on several TV shows. I watch a lot of TV and movies. Most times, it's way after the show is out, many seasons deep, or has ended.

And now I'm picky with the movies as the ticket price and the outrageous concession prices add up. So with the help of Netflix and my Comcast On Demand, I've fallen hard for Orphan Black, The Strain, Helix, The Last Ship, Longmire, Sherlock, Sleepy Hollow, Bitten, Blacklist.

If those weren't enough, I must add Outlander to the mix. I read the book many moons ago. Here's the blurb, (courtesy of Dell; Random House): Claire Randall is leading a double life. She has a husband in one century, and a lover in another...

In 1945, Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon—when she innocently touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an "outlander"—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord...1743.
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire's destiny in soon inextricably intertwined with Clan MacKenzie and the forbidden Castle Leoch. She is catapulted without warning into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life ...and shatter her heart. For here, James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire...and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

I might reread. But it's not necessary to enjoy this TV series on Starz. Every week, the episode is a tourism invite to visit Scotland with its sweeping shots of the landscape, kilts, and the wild haired men folk. Every week it's an invite to an older time of which we hold romantic notions about honor and duty, when it was more like survival of the fittest. Then there are the "feisty" women who must be able to hold their own and navigate through the confines of the day. And when you slide all that aside, there is a remarkable love story of a woman with two men. Get rid of those erotic fantasies.The woman has a husband in the present time (post WWII) and quite possibly will have this lover in an earlier era. You, however, might indulge in your fantasy as you head to Scotland on the hunt for the circle of stones to see if you can also defy the laws of time travel (are there laws?).

So if you'd like to catch up on my tongue in cheek review of each episode, which I share with Mandi Schreiner, please join us at the USA TODAY Happy Ever Blog every Saturday, immediately after the episode airs at 10 p.m. EST.

Episode 1: Please click here

Episode 2: Please click here

Friday, August 8, 2014

To MD's Prince George County Police

You would think that with the rash of negative publicity that cops from various states have earned by their own doing that the rest of the fraternity would have a more measured approach when dealing with the community. Apparently three of The Order didn't feel that the rules had to change. Instead, they preferred the "us" vs. "them" attitude and did their best to foster that feeling. For their efforts, they get an A+ for being total dicks. As a public servant, taking the vow to protect and serve, they've earned an F.

Over dinner late last night, after my son returned from work, I asked the obligatory question, "how was your day?" The reply wasn't the routine answer of "played video games," "working at the job is hard," or the latest happenings about a friend. Nope. He said, "I was stopped by the police." I laughed. "What do you mean stopped?" He doesn't drive. "I was stopped by the police. Me and my friend." I laugh because I can't tell whether he's being silly. So, I asked, "Why?" "Because I'm black." I laugh some more. He says, "I'm not kidding. It's because I'm black." I replied, "I don't doubt that they stopped you because you're black, but are you telling me that they just pulled up and said, 'hey, you, what are you doing?'" He said, "Yeah." And so I stopped laughing to hear the rest of this story.

I'm sure in all the police procedures and laws, you can stop a person for a variety of reasons, even on the basis of suspicion. But here's how it played out. So my son's friend, let's call him Bob, was walking toward the park in the neighborhood from one direction and my son was coming up from the opposite direction. They'd stopped Bob, questioned him (he texted another friend afterward about the entire thing), took down my son's name as the person Bob was going to meet, took a photo of him, and told him to go back home.

So then here comes my son. The officers are basically waiting for him, to ask him not only who he is, but has he been stealing from the houses in the neighborhood. He was asked this several times, in different ways. Then one officer asked if he had outstanding warrants. My son says no. The other officer says no outstanding warrants...yet. Third officer remains quiet (but he had done his part in the interrogation of Bob). My son didn't have ID on him. One officer said you're supposed to have your ID. My son said, I was just going to the park (again, in his neighborhood). Then they asked my son if he knew the people at the park, pushing to see if he's from the area, he named everyone. One officer says that's enough, as he laughs because the other officer is clearly annoyed because with all the questions my son is calm, but also not backing down from responding to all their asinine questions.

My son since senior year of high school has been stopped by county or park police 4 or 5 times in the area, just like this time, with this random questioning. The worst cops are the black ones he says. They approach with an attitude and aggression, even if another (white) cop is present. He said, the white cops have actually been kinder in the way they talk to him.

I'm not going to dissuade him that he wasn't stopped because he was black, but I'm also going to add that he was stopped also for being young. I watch how people, these officers, sales lady in a store, adults in general, react to young males. I watch because I use the information in my writing. Their body language changes, as if they are preparing themselves for a skirmish. In my son's case, when I identify that I'm his mother, then they are all smiles and solicitous...too late. I know how foul you are.

The youth are not the enemy. Black young men are not the enemy. You can't come into the neighborhood, of which he has lived for 18 years, and act like the Gestapo. Taking pictures of these men. What's next, a yellow star? How dare you tell anyone to go home, or go back to his own neighborhood, whatever. You have lost your sense of reality.

If you'd bother to take the time to get out of the car, walk around the neighborhood, stop in at the parks, introduce yourself to the kids, you'd start knowing the faces at these places. It's the same people who usually pop up to play basketball or skateboard.

As for the black male officers, you are looking at your citizens as failures, guilty until you convince me otherwise. Don't project your stereotypes, prejudices, and policing issues on all our young men. Don't look at him and decide he is a gang member, a thief, a burglar. Don't judge him and determine that he lacks a father figure, has an absentee mother, is a delinquent. You are the one who is the failure in the system. You fail as a police officer. You fail as a man. You are a bully with a badge and a gun.

For the Hispanic officer who said to my son, you don't have any warrants yet. I have to shake my head in utter disgust that you looked at my son as a statistic. You, part of the Latino population, dare to prejudge on statistical or stereotypical data. Let me turn the tables on you. How far into your family tree is someone on drugs, out of wedlock pregnant, on welfare, holding outstanding warrants, an alcoholic, illegal? Do I get to judge you, the member of a minority population, despite your gun and badge that give you a false sense of honor and identity. Another bully in the mix.

You are public servants. My taxes help to pay your salary. You serve the public. It's a job you chose to do. It wasn't thrust upon you. It wasn't a royal title that you were born into. My point is that, if you can't do the job properly, then like any job get the hell out. It doesn't matter to me if you are decorated with ribbons and awards, you, collectively, make the mistake of harming my son in any of your "stop and be an asshole" techniques of interrogation and I swear that my only mission in life is to make your life a living hell.