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Publishing Writing

NaNoWriMo Advice for All

NaNoWriMo Advice for All

NaNoWriMo advice? Yes; I’ve won it every year I’ve entered.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | NaNoWriMo Advice

This is (for real!) how to do NaNoWriMo. Learn from my mistakes!

Preliminaries

1) Plan if you can and if that helps you. I would suggest even pantsers should at least do research in advance. No sense in looking up how to say “I love you” in Latvian during November if you can do it beforehand. And no, that’s not cheating.

Dailies

2) Write every single day. It should be at least 1667 words, but even 1 word beats the hell out of none. I have found this is some of the best NaNoWriMo advice I have ever gotten. Writing every day gets you into a habit.

Move Ahead if You’re Stuck

3) Can’t write chapter 4? Then skip it and write chapter 5. You’ll go back, or maybe chapter 4 will turn out to be superfluous. You’ll stitch it together later.

Don’t Edit!

4) Don’t edit! Do that in January or February (in December, either finish or just leave it). In November, it’ll eat up time when you should be writing.

Manage Family Expectations

5) Tell your family or whoever you live with that you’re doing it. Ask someone else to take the kids for an hour, or say you’ll make dinner all December if someone else does it in November, etc. Just, set expectations and get some help from others to get all the other little things done around your home. E. g. my husband isn’t a writer but he’ll put on his headphones at his desk while I’m writing so his computer sounds won’t bother me. Little things like that help.

Getting Ahead

6) If and when you can get ahead, do so. Can you write 1800 or 2000 words or more instead of 1667? Then go for it. No law says you have to stop at 1667 and call it a day. If you’re feeling it, have at it!

November 30th Isn’t Some Magic Day When Suddenly You Have to be Done With Your Story

7) The story does not have to be finished at 11:59 PM on November 30th. You just need 50,000 words. For the last two years in a row, I finished NaNoWriMo in the middle of November but didn’t finish the books (they were both over 100,000 words) until January. No, this is not cheating.

Nixing Writer’s Block

8) Got writer’s block? Then step away from the keyboard and exercise for 15 – 30 minutes. Pump iron, take a walk, play frisbee, beat the rugs, shovel snow. I don’t care. Just burn calories and then go back to it. Because it really does help.

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

9) Don’t compare your accomplishments to others. Because there will always be someone who writes 100,000 words in one day or something like that. And there will always be people complaining that they’re behind. Also, there will always be people typing up until the very last second, and there will always be people wasting time online. Don’t worry about them.

Just take care of your own work and leave them to theirs. Their issues, quirks, and complaints are none of your concern.

Back Up Your Work!

10) Back up your work! I back up in three rather different places – my hard drive, a flash drive, and OneDrive, which is Microsoft’s cloud storage. So I highly recommend a similar setup for everyone. I had to replace a computer right before 2017 NaNo but I lost none of my prep work because it was on two places other than my old laptop’s hard drive.

There is always someone who loses their work during November. And I have seen it all, from soda on keyboards to toddlers stomping on flash drives and breaking them, to power outages. Don’t be that person.

Sabotage

Lots of people get this, and sometimes a friend or a loved one doesn’t even realize they are doing this. Remember what I said about managing family expectations? You may need to reiterate this. Or you may need to put it in writing so it’s not “forgotten”. Your solutions might be to get up early to write before others are up, or at lunch break, or during a commute, or late at night when everyone’s gone to bed.

Got headphones (or at least earbuds)? Then put those suckers on, even if you play no music at all. This is body language. You are busy and working; others will just have to wait. And tough on them.

You Take Care of You – And Guard Your Writing Time Jealously

Here is also where expectation management comes in handy. If your family was already told you would not be cooking in November, then they can’t say on the fourth that you didn’t warn them. You can also stave off some of this with family preparations before the first rolls around. Got a slow cooker? Then make a bunch of meals and freeze them for during the month. Get the kids’ haircuts and dentist appointments out of the way in October. You get the idea.

If it’s someone or something that really can’t wait (your toddler is screaming, your mother is in the emergency room, or your spouse is seriously threatening divorce), then by all means stop what you’re doing in order to deal with that.

And if you don’t make it to 50,000 words, it’s okay. Really, it is. NaNoWriMo exists so that writing, which is an often solitary endeavor, gets a social component. But that’s it. If you write in December or October, or you write less than 50,000 words, or you never validate, it’s equally okay.

Some Final Words of NaNoWriMo Advice

The best NaNoWriMo advice I can give anyone is to have fun with it. Otherwise, what’s the point?

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Publishing Writing

NaNoWriMo—Word Count, Love, and Please Don’t Panic

NaNoWrimo is Fun! But it’s  Misunderstood, Too

You may have heard, somewhere in your travels, about a little thing called NaNoWriMo. And while I don’t get paid by them or anything, I am still here to help you along in your quest.

Your quest, should you choose to accept it, should be to:

  • Learn what NaNoWrimo is
  • Figure out if you want to do it
  • And to succeed at NaNoWriMo

Sounds simple, right?

Not so fast, my writing pals.

What is This Stuff, Anyway?

So, the first thing you need to know is that NaNoWriMo is not a competition. Rather, it’s a personal challenge.

What do I mean by this?

The 1999 original idea behind it was to see if an amateur writer could crank out 50,000 words toward a new novel during a set amount of time. November was chosen, and I suspect that was because it starts with the letter ‘N’. It’s also because it’s 30 days long.

And while neither 31 nor 30 (nor 28 or 29, for that matter) divides evenly into 50,000, that’s not really an issue.

The Rules of NaNoWriMo

Write at least 50,000 words. During the calendar month of November.

And… that’s it.

Want to write a memoir rather than a novel? Have fun. Want to write more than 50,000 words? Go for it. Want to add 50,000 words to a preexisting project? Enjoy. Want to set a NaNoWriMo word count goal that’s less than 50,000? No one’s stopping you, although you won’t get a ‘traditional’ NaNo accomplishment.

There are no other rules to remember.

 

There are no NaNo police.

Math

If you divide 50,000 words by 30 days, you get 1,666.67, or 5,000 words every three days. Of course this is the minimum you need to succeed. Write 5,000 words every three days and, at 11:59 PM on November 30th, you can meet goal.

But life rarely works out that way. And God knows art does not.

There is nothing wrong with this.

Art

What happens if you write only 4,000 words in three days?

Then you’d better write 6,000 in some three-day period, not necessarily the one right after the period where, oops, you missed goal. Just do so before December 1st.

What happens if you write 6,000 words in three days, without having been behind? That is, what happens if you get ahead?

Give yourself a cookie or buy a flower or whatever you do for yourself to celebrate your small victories in life. Because, shhh—come closer now, for this is apparently a secret—getting ahead is the secret to winning NaNoWriMo.

Winning NaNoWriMo—Yes, You Can Do It!

Let’s get back to life.

Look Ma, No Plot!

So let’s say that you’re up early on November 12th, all set to write. You’ve got your lucky mouse pad. You’ve got your coffee (or tea, or juice, or cola, or whatever). And you’ve got time.

And…

… nothing.

No thoughts. No plot. And no words. The blank page or screen mocks you. You stare at it, then chug your beverage and surf the internet. All the while telling yourself that you’ll never succeed at this NaNo business.

Don’t fret, friends. Not every day will be perfect for creating. Our minds don’t really work that way. This isn’t a factory.

What Do You Do?

Give yourself a break. One big part of writer’s block is stress. So get up and stretch! Or take a walk around the block. Another thing you can do is brainstorm what should happen next. That’s even if the only thing you think of to happen next is someone gets a pedicure.

You need to write almost 1,700 words, right? Then that pedicure had better be spectacular. Describe the salon to every last detail. Have your heroine (or hero; not judging here) hem and haw over the color(s). Or even have them unable to pay. Another idea could be them skipping out on paying.

Imagine your character running down the road, Coral Sunset polish still drying on their bare toes, as they try to avoid paying the manicurist.

Silly? You betcha.

But it’s words. And words always beget more words. Your silly idea, by the way, just might lead to a better idea. But even if you scratch out the entire day when you start editing the piece, that’s fine. Right now, your goal is to write. Turn the key in the engine so you can drive to wherever you want to go—and don’t dwell on the fact that you had to drive through a rundown neighborhood in order to get there.

NaNoWriMo S-S-S-Sabotage!

The Facebook NaNo groups, when November (or December) rolls around, are filled with people who’ve got unsupportive families (by families, I am also referring to friends). What if someone you live with turns on the stereo or the TV—LOUD—when you’re trying to write? Headphones to the rescue. Either yours or theirs.

What happens if your kids get into the argument to end all arguments just when you’re trying to write the most amazing sex scene in the history of literature? Separate them, like you always do, and find something for them to do. It could be homework or chores, or contacting the parents of their friends and asking if they could have your little angels over for the afternoon. And volunteer to do the same after November 30th.

There are more ways you can be sabotaged; I’ll get to one of them when I get to the part about saving your work.

The Thrill is Gone

This isn’t writer’s block, per se. Rather, something is just plain keeping you from being creative. Major life events, even happy ones, can do that.

And that’s okay.

If you need to mourn the end of a life or a relationship, or you need to plan your wedding, then put NaNo on pause in your life. There’s Camp NaNo in April and June. Or you can write on your own. On the site, you can use their resources pretty much any time. It doesn’t have to be November.

Preventing Common Problems with NaNoWriMo

I’ve often heard that, to succeed, you need to visualize success. But I don’t do that. Rather, I visualize failure. And then I do everything in my power to avert and avoid catastrophe.

So hear (er, read) me out, okay?

No Brain, No Words, No Ideas

Let’s look back at the three things I said could happen when you try to write (there are more, but these are big ones).

The first is not having ideas.

So get ideas!

But how, I hear you ask.

As Sonny Curtis (and Joan Jett!) sang, love is all around. And so are ideas.

Ideas don’t just exist from November 1–30. They’re everywhere. And they don’t follow a calendar or set schedule. At the time of this posting, NaNo is still over a week away.

So get out and cultivate ideas. Write down whatever strikes your fancy. Whatever will work—or at least gets you words.

If you love to outline, then do so. If you just want a bunch of sticky notes with random phrases on them, go for it. And if you’re like me, and you’re in the middle, write a bare bones outline with some listed ideas and a ton of wiggle room.

You do you.

And no, dear friends, this is NOT cheating.

Because—as I said above—it’s not a competition.

NaNoWriMo Counterspy vs Sabotage

Okay, so maybe you’re not a spy, per se. But if you have the strong feeling that the fam is going to give you grief, prepare for that NOW.

How do you do this?

Have a special day in October. Eat out, go to a film, go leaf peeping, shop, whatever works. That one should be somewhat spur of the moment. And then schedule one, with a bit of planning, for December. With the exception of very small children (think preschool and younger), most people will be happy if they don’t feel you’re neglecting them. And most have enough patience to be able to wait 30 days.

For those who are older and should know better—and just can’t wait? Promise them something special, and of course you’ll need to deliver. A weekend away. Surprise bouquet. Cleaning the gutters without complaining or being nagged into doing it. Whatever works.

Will this perfectly eliminate every bit of sabotage? Perhaps not. But you have counterexamples to show off which can effectively combat any complaints that you’re not being attentive.

Get the Thrill Back

As I said above, you might have to put things off if life is dire or just plain too busy and hectic. Your best friend got Covid. Or your Mom is in hospice. Or the roof collapsed. You’ve got to make 200 favors for your best friend’s wedding in a month. You get the picture.

Your best bet is to keep plucking those ideas out of thin air, and writing them down. And then, when you’re ready, you’ll have a bank you can withdraw from.

And no, it’s not cheating!

Say it with me, people: NaNoWriMo is not a competition.

Practical Planning for NaNoWriMo

By the time this post goes live, you’ll have a little over a week before NaNo starts.

Clear the Decks

So—when does your family next go to the dentist? Make it for October or December. Same with haircuts and nights out. November doesn’t have to be 100% cleared of obligations. After all, Thanksgiving is right in there. But if you can change a few things here or there, do so. Oh, and if you can get ahead at work, at least make the effort. Less external pressure is a good thing.

Plan in Advance

Do you ever cook in advance? No? Then it’s high time you started. Make a few simple things which only need to be heated up. Pasta is your friend! Freeze whatever you can and you’re basically ready to rock. Take it out the night before to let it defrost (inside the fridge is better for food safety than your countertop) and then nuke it or toss in the oven to warm it and finish it off.

Boom, dinner is served.

You don’t have to do this every time, and you most likely won’t want to. But if you can get, say, four or five meals teed up this way, you’ll be a lot happier once you hit crunch time. And no one will have to wait for you to finish writing your epic battle scene so they can be fed.

Need to buy birthday presents, or go holiday shopping? Carve out time in October and December to git ‘er done.

Gather Your Tools

If you’re going to print anything, make sure you’ve got paper and ink, and your printer works. If you’re going to handwrite anything, make sure you’ve got pens/pencils and paper.

And make sure your computer has all the latest updates and patches. 

Practical Tidbits

Go to the NaNoWriMo site and, if you don’t already have an account, create one. Make sure you can get into your account! And check on how to save your NaNoWriMo word count.

Why am I not specifying how to do that here? Because it’s changed over the years. So go to the NaNo site.

Make sure you know how to save your word count.

Save, Save, and then Save Again

While saving your work is technically a part of planning ahead and being practical, it’s so vital that it gets its own section.

But keep in mind: you do NOT save your work on the NaNoWriMo website. Don’t even try; there’s no place for it, anyway.

That’s not the purpose of the site. So, you will need to save some other way(s).

The gold standard (it’s the standard because it’s what I do, ha!) is to save in three different types of places.

Here’s how.

#1 Save to Your Hard Drive

Saving your work to your hard drive usually means you can open it more quickly. You can probably find it faster. And it may save more quickly. All are good.

But if you’re using a public computer, or traveling and using someone else’s machine, then that’s out.

Also, this is the fourth laptop I have owned, and I’m on my second tablet. Before that, I went through I think three or four desktop units. And I’m on my third phone. In short, stuff breaks.

So don’t stop with your hard drive.

#2 Save to Portable Media Storage

Er, what’s that?

It’s flash drives, thumb drives, separate hard drives, and the like. Back in the day, it was floppy discs. It can be CDs or DVDs, too.

Whatever it is, it’s something you can hold in your hand.

But beware. Flash drives, CDs, etc. can break or die. And I will never forget when a young parent came into a NaNo Facebook group and said their toddler had stamped on their flash drive and destroyed it.

Plus, if you need to work with a public computer, then this may or may not be allowed. You may find that the library doesn’t allow anyone to use a flash drive. That’s okay. There’s another way to save your work.

#3 Save to the Cloud

There are a number of services by which you can store work in what is essentially a virtual form. You’ve probably heard of OneDrive, Dropbox, and Google Drives. Amazon also offers storage, and so does Apple (iCloud). You can use every single one of these for free, and they will most likely offer enough space for your needs without having to upgrade to a paid plan.

If you’re on a shared or public computer, this may also not be in the cards. But there’s one more way you can, in essence, save to a cloud.

Email your story to yourself.

While it’s a somewhat less elegant solution, it will still get the job done.

Let’s Get Psyched for NaNoWriMo!

You can write at any time. And you can write more, or less. You never have to sign up for NaNo, if you decide it’s not for you.

No biggie.

The main thing about NaNoWriMo is that it takes writing, an exceptionally solitary pursuit, and it turns it social. It’s also a convenient way to drum up interest in your work. On Facebook and Twitter, I use the hashtags #CountDownToNaNoWriMo and #CountDownToNaNoWriMo2021 (or whatever the year is).

I post little bits, and I write the blurb. Over time, I’ve found that writing the blurb early can help to crystallize my thoughts. And getting out a blurb and some basic info creates accountability for me. People cheer me on, and I don’t want to disappoint them.

It must be working, because I’ve made it to 50,000 words every time. 

Some Final Thoughts on NaNoWriMo

It took me about 3 hours to write this blog post. Its word count is almost 900 words above the minimum you need to write in one day to hit 50,000 words by the end of NaNoWriMo. Some days, it takes me more time than this. Other times, it takes less.

But in the end, it’s fun and rewarding. And no matter what, even if all you write is one word, that counts. If it’s a word you wouldn’t have written before, then NaNoWriMo has done its job, and you have succeeded.

Want to friend me on the NaNo site? Then go here. Go get ’em, tiger.

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Book Reviews Writing

Self-Review – The Badge of Humanity

Review – The Badge of Humanity

The Badge of Humanity is the upshot conclusion story in the Obolonks trilogy. It moves the action into more of the Peri-Dave romance. But it also follows to showing how she, Dave, and Tommy finally solve the murders.
The Badge of Humanity
Just like that universe’s society is tripartite, so are the three novels. So the first one, The Obolonk Murders, is devoted to the aliens. And the second work, The Polymer Beat, is dedicated to the semi-sapient and more than semi-sapient robots. Hence the third is all about humanity.

The second and third novels also have somewhat punny titles. They both play off the police props of badges and walking a beat.

Background for The Badge of Humanity

When I first started to write The Obolonk Murders, I had no plan and no idea it would turn into three books. At this point, I knew I really needed to finish up already. One thing Untrustworthy has proven, over and over again, is the value of an outline.

I knew the end had to happen, so the two biggest parts were solving the murders and, in some way, dealing with the Peri-Dave romance. I needed to tie up two very loose ends and do so in as satisfying a manner as possible.

Plot

Peri has to solve the last of the puzzle as more Obolonks are threatened. She senses they are the key to humanity’s future as the human population has swollen so much that it will soon overrun every inhabitable orb in the solar system.

As Tommy continues to seek what is essentially humanness—the badge of humanity—Peri and Dave’s relationship heats up. There are too many distractions and the president of the solar system also seems to have something to hide.

Characters

The main character (as before) is Detective Sergeant Peri Martin. Secondary characters of note are Tommy 2000 (with a Tommy McFarland alias so as to cover up his robot identity), Dave Shepherd, Greg Shapiro, Akanksha Kondapalli, and the glamorous president of the solar system, Ms. Fankald Williams.

The scenes shift from the Boston Megalopolis on Earth, to Venus, Callisto, and Eris, and back, even to the Hague on Earth (the capital).

Memorable Quotes

“What’s that?” Peri asked a woman sitting nearby, who was an octogenarian like her parents were. The woman had on a knit suit in mint green. Mrs. Franklin? Fredericks? Francis?

“I asked you where you live.”

“Oh, I’m in the Boston Meg, right downtown in a high rise.”

“Back on Earth? That seems so old-fashioned. Don’t you want to grow eggplants with your parents?”

“Uh, no, that’s okay,” Peri tried to be polite about things, but she could scarcely conceive of anything more boring than supervising a far less sophisticated robot than Tommy – the kind known as a Jack or Lumberjackbot – as it tended to the care and feeding of umpteen eggplants for sale to markets as far away as Venus or the Neptunian System. “Someone’s got to haul in the undesirables, Mrs. – er, Ma’am.” Nice save, she congratulated herself wryly.

“Oh, yes, Earth has so much more crime than we have out here,” the woman observed.

“No, thank you, Mrs. Martin,” Tommy remained polite but was getting a little bit insistent, adding just a touch of emphasis to his surprisingly lifelike tenor voice.

“Well, there’s crime everywhere, Mrs., er, Ma’am,” Peri countered, adding, “Ma, he’s not interested in the food, okay? Don’t push.”

“Perdy, honestly! Now, Thomas,” Peri’s mother addressed Tommy, “I can’t understand why you’d be fasting on a day like today. Is it for a religious reason? Do you need to keep kosher, or halal, or vegan? Because I don’t think you need to lose any weight.”

“I need to,” the sophisticated robot’s bluish-greenish-grayish eyes moved rapidly, horizontally, a few times. Peri knew that he was checking his long-term memory for a suitable response, “watch.”

Rating

The book has a T rating. It’s not quite enough for MA, but there are sex scenes and they can be a touch explicit at times. Peri and Dave have a very active relationship.  As for violence, it’s more threatened than anything else.

The Badge of Humanity: Upshot

The quoted portion comes from the first scene in the first chapter. I think the series ends pretty well. In particular, as I become a more sophisticated writer, I can see the holes in it. But I can still see a ton of potential.

And that’s why this trilogy is the first of three trilogies. The Obolonk universe is far too well-developed to let go to waste.

But this book really needs beta readers! Because the last thing that I want is for the story to end on a less than perfect note. Any volunteers for the beta reader badge?

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Self-Review – The Polymer Beat

Review – The Polymer Beat

The Polymer Beat moves the Obolonk action toward not just the robots which have an overall story line—it also explores main character Peri Martin’s romance with spy Dave Shepherd.
The Polymer Beat
Just like that universe’s society is tripartite, so are the three novels. So the first one, The Obolonk Murders, is all about the aliens.

And this, the second work, The Polymer Beat, is dedicated to semi-sapient and more than semi-sapient robots. Hence the third is all about humans and is called The Badge of Humanity.

The second and third novels also have somewhat punny titles, with both playing off the police props of badges and walking a beat. The reference to polymer is because of robots. These books all have themes. This one is robots although I will admit it’s subtle.

Background

After I picked The Obolonk Murders back up again in 2014, I realized I had the makings of a trilogy on my hands. Hence The Polymer Beat became my 2014 NaNoWriMo project.

I also had a few dangling bits from the first book, including solving the murder and Peri’s disastrous first date with Dave.

Plot

As Peri and Tommy work on the Obolonk cases, Peri and Dave Shepherd get closer. Peri knows this is a bad idea, but she goes along with it anyway. And, as she and Tommy continue to try to find the killers, she notices Tommy’s simplistic robotic feelings are taking a turn. Could Tommy become jealous?

Characters

The main character (as before) is Detective Sergeant Peri Martin. The scenes shift from the Boston Megalopolis to various places in the Solar System, including Ganymede.

Other characters include Tommy, Dave, They Say This is the One, Sally Bowles AKA They Say This One Tiles Bathrooms Adequately, and lawyer Akanksha Kondapalli.

Memorable Quotes

“Were you programmed to be an optimist?”

He considered the question briefly. “I cannot tell.”

“That’s okay. You know I’m gonna have dinner with Shepherd tonight, right?”

“Yes,” he mumbled as she hoisted her bag onto the room’s sole bed.

Peri stopped what she was doing and came close to the robot. “What is it?”

“It is nothing.”

She looked at him closely. “If I didn’t know any better, Tom, I’d swear you were upset.” He stood there stoically, although she did see him scan once, briefly.

Peri returned to her bag and began unpacking it, stuffing most of her clothing into the top drawer of the room’s sole bureau. “I’m not even so sure why I’m going out with him, truth be told.”

“I do not understand.”

“Heh, I would explain it if I could. It’s not like my mini-phone’s been chiming all day with offers since Charlie died.”

“Is this,” the robot paused, maybe to select the proper words, “your first such offer since that event?”

“Event,” she echoed, taking a shimmering silver dress out of her bag, “that makes it sound as if there were engraved invitations, or something.”

“I did not intend that definition.”

“I know you didn’t. But you gotta understand, Tom, or at least just, just try to. I saw Charlie mortally wounded by a scrubbed hot gun. It happened right in front of me.”

“That is what your psychiatric evaluation said.”

Trembling, she looked daggers at him. “What else do you know about me that’s private?”

Rating

The book has a T rating. There are no really violent scenes but there is an explicit sex scene. Occasional bad language, but not much.

The Polymer Beat: Upshot

Middle books in trilogies tend to drag, and this one is no exception. I need to improve it! In addition, beta readers would be helpful—hello!

It would be great to get some developmental editing help with the dragging parts in the middle to last third.

But I like the idea of it, and I think Tommy in particular gets developed much better. Dave remains an enigma, but that’s the idea. He is a spy, after all.

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Self-Review – The Obolonk Murders

Review – The Obolonk Murders

The Obolonk Murders was started several years ago (2002, to be exact) and I pulled it. But I loved the concept behind it. So I dusted it off and it became a trilogy.

… and then it became the first trilogy of three planned trilogies.

Just like that universe’s society is tripartite, so are the three initial novels. So this, the first one, The Obolonk Murders, is devoted to the aliens, and the second work, The Polymer Beat, is dedicated to the semi-sentient and more than semi-sentient robots. Hence the third is all about humans and its title is The Badge of Humanity.

The second and third novels also have somewhat punny titles, with both playing off the police props of badges and walking a beat. But the first title is just really straightforward.

Background

The Obolonk Murders started off life as a completely seat of my pants story which I put online as postings. I had no plot, no plans, nothing. At the time, I wrote the first three chapters. And I then got stuck. I didn’t pick it up again until 12 years had gone by. No lie!

Plot

Society breaks into three parts: humans, robots, and Obolonks. An Obolonk is an intersex alien (a little similar to the Untrustworthy aliens, the Cabossians), orange in color. They are of about equal intelligence to us, but with interstellar space travel.

The robots are of varying levels of sophistication. However, the most sophisticated are the creations of Dr. J. Carter Tinerrian. One of these robots is now the new partner to a human, Detective Sergeant Peri Martin, who needs to start solving the mystery of who is killing Obolonks.

Characters

The main character is Detective Sergeant Peri Martin. Her main motivations are to find the perpetrators and to work with her new partner, Tommy McFarland.

The scenes shift from the New York Megalopolis to the Boston Megalopolis to Callisto and back. Other characters include Tommy (as a robot, he goes by the identity Tommy 2000), Dr. Tinerrian, and the head of the Obolonks, whose only name is They Say This is the One.

Other Obolonks have their own reputationally-based names, such as They Say This One Tiles Bathrooms Adequately. That disaffected Obolonk…

Memorable Quotes

“Through that door,” motioned the robot.

“Thanks,” Peri smiled the half-smile she usually used when addressing robots.

“Your gratitude is unnecessary. I am merely performing my function,” replied the robot before turning and gliding away.

The door slid open after Peri underwent the same security protocols as at the front door. “Ah, come in, come in! I’m J. Carter Tinerrian. This lovely woman is Selkhet and this is your new partner.” Dr. Tinerrian was a nerdy sort of a fellow. He indicated a man in a suit sitting at a desk. The seated man was maybe 40, 45, seemingly younger than 50-year-old Peri, with a bit of salt to his brown peppery hair, and hazel eyes that varied in shade. He was well-built, too, although his nose looked like it might have been broken some time in his youth.

“Hi, there,” said Peri, shaking hands with the doctor and Selkhet and making her way to the man at the desk. He failed to respond. “Is he deaf? The department’s relaxed almost all physical rules but I don’t think total deafness is one of them.”

“Oh, he’s not deaf. He just needs to be activated,” explained Selkhet. Then, addressing the robot, she commanded sharply, “Tommy 2000, it is time.”

“A robot?” Peri asked. The doctor nodded but said nothing. “What the —?”

Rating

The book has a T rating. There are no sex scenes and maybe one or two stray swear words. The real issue is one act of terrorism. It’s violent but the violence is mainly offscreen although the characters talk about it. Plus there’s the aftermath.

The Obolonk Murders: Upshot

The plot is … okay. I like the idea of cops and robbers in space, and in November 2019 for NaNoWriMo, I started writing a successor trilogy. There are parts where this book could be better. But I have to admit it. I have come a long, long way since I first started writing it. It could use more beta readers!

In the meantime, the best thing about the Obolonks is the world building. It is potentially the best-built world I have ever created. Hence the sequels. There’s plenty of room in this universe.

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Facebook Social Media

… And Facebook for All – Offsite Sharing

… And Facebook for All — Offsite Sharing

Offsite sharing is a fascinating concept. Perhaps the most compelling feature of Facebook consists of the availability of the Like Button.

The Like Button and Offsite Sharing

Because the offsite Like Button dovetails beautifully with its presence on the site itself, i.e.,

“The Like button lets a user share your content with friends on Facebook. When the user clicks the Like button on your site, a story appears in the user’s friends’ News Feed with a link back to your website.”

Drag and Drop

Facebook Profile Page Part - home page

Furthermore, the site tries to make it easy for even novice programmers (and people who can really only do drag and drop) to place a Like Button on their own sites for offsite sharing.

The premise is irresistible. You add the Like Button, people “Like” your own site, and that information transmits back to Facebook and to the Likers’ friend lists. In addition, their friends, who may not have know about you at all, suddenly do, and the offsite sharing spreads even more. They, hopefully, check you out, Like you, and the process repeats on and on, ad infinitum, or at least in theory. And with enough intersecting friends with enough non-intersecting additional friendships, a few Likes could translate into dozens, if not hundreds, or even thousands, of new people who know about you.

Engagement and Reach

However, engagement and reach are both going down. And Facebook actually has the gall to try to get people to pay for what it does! Quelle horreur!

But, seriously folks, how do you think Facebook pays its bills? They do it with advertising. If users won’t be charged (and Facebook would be mighty foolish to start charging all of those free sources of detailed consumer data), then advertisers will be. And of course that already happens.

What gets a lot of people’s undershorts knotted is that the freebie advertising is harder and harder to implement. Facebook seems to push everyone with a page to start buying likes to get more offsite sharing.

Thumb on the Scale?

Whoa, Nelly! Because that would be kind of unethical, if the site was deliberately putting a thumb on an imaginary scale and making it harder for people to reach their fans without paying for reach and engagement.

So, are they doing that?

While the jury is still out (after years!), I’m still inclined to say no. After all, the site grows by leaps and bounds on a second by second basis. And so engagement and reach dilute without Facebook having to do a damned thing.

Finally, does the site benefit from making it harder for page and group administrators to connect for free? Absolutely. But do they have to work in order to create this condition?

Nope. Life does it for them.

Offsite Sharing: The Upshot

Beyond issues with Russian interference and how the Facebook algorithm can sometimes tamp down third parties, offsite sharing can work pretty well there.

Political and other paid ads, though, are another story. They are a reminder that, every year, Facebook becomes more and more of a “pay to play” platform. Hence if you want to share something from off the site, your shared content might be lost amidst the paid stuff. So be it.

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LinkedIn

The Conquest of LinkedIn – Meeting Offline

The Conquest of LinkedIn – Meeting Offline

Meeting Offline. Oh. My. God. You want me to do what?!??!

The Conquest of LinkedIn - Meeting Offline
linkedin logo (Photo credit: clasesdeperiodismo)

Go offline. Yes, I really and truly want you to do this. I want you to go out and meet real-live, honest to goodness human beings. You know, members of your own species.

But, but, but, I hear you saying, why am I on on online networking site in the first place? Isn’t it to build a network online?

Well, sure it is. But nowhere in there is the word only living. Online, yes. But not exclusively there.

Not by a long shot.

Traditional vs. New-Style Networking

Traditional networking involves fairly formalized, ritualized meetings between job seekers and employees of companies where the job seekers wish to work.

Here’s the drill: the job seeker gets an introduction via a friend, or a friend of a friend, and goes to the contact’s office. The job seeker brings his or her resume and the two of them chat, maybe for a half an hour or so. And the job seeker leaves the resume and, if he or she is good at follow up, sends a nice thank-you note. The contact may or may not respond, promising to get in touch if something comes up, or if the contact thinks of someone else for the job seeker to talk to. And the cycle either continues, or it dies on the vine. And so it goes.

LinkedIn Changes That

With LinkedIn, the drill differs. Here is what I found to be helpful. Your mileage may vary, or you may come up with something else. So, instead,

  1. You find a person you want to meet. They may be in your industry, or an industry you want to get into. Or they are in a company where you think you’d like to work. Make sure they are close enough to you that getting together is feasible.
  2. And you ask them to link to you.
  3. You do this with about 19 other people – this is a numbers game, and not everyone will say yes. My experience has been, out of over 200 of these, only one person has flat out said no. However, over half either ignored my link request or just never got around to it (I have even met some of these people under other circumstances – it’s not hostility that keeps them from linking to me, it’s that they are busy and processing far too much information at any given one time). So, give yourself better odds. Mine have been about 45% have said yes to the link request.

More

  1. Someone says yes. Great! Send them a note, saying something like, Thank you for linking with me. Would it be possible to meet briefly for coffee? I am interested in going into ___/working at ___ company/working as a ____ and can see that you have done that, and I hope that you have a few tips you can share. Thanks!
  2. Repeat this with anyone else who’s agreed to link with you, pursuant to your initial request. My experience has been that, out of the people who linked to me, I contacted about 55% of them to ask them to coffee (for the others, I realized they were either too geographically remote or they let me know they could link but were busy, e. g. they were new parents) and then, out of that group, about 25% of those actually got as far as scheduled meetings. Hence my success rate was that I met with about 6% of the people I initially wrote to.
  3. So block off an hour or two, but tell your guest that you only want 20 minutes of their time. Hence that way, if the meeting goes over, you’re covered.

Yet More!

  1. Don’t bring your resume! Instead, bring either a laptop or your smartphone or a pen and paper. And bring a paper list of companies you’re targeting. Because if the conversation flags, you can always ask your guest what he or she thinks of those companies, or if your guest knows anyone at any of them.
  2. Furthermore, have your guest select the date, time and place. In addition, give a couple of choices of dates or places for meeting offline, if your guest is having trouble deciding and
  3. Offer to pay for coffee. Even if you’ve been out of work for a long time, most people are sensitive enough, and realize you’re probably watching your funds. However, you must ask.

Meeting Offline Specifics

As for the meeting itself, make it whatever you want it to be. And if the conversation flags, remember it’s only 20 minutes out of your life. So you can always claim a prior appointment. However, if the conversation goes well, be sensitive to your guest’s time – just ask – do you need to go? And then just follow their lead.

So follow up with a thank-you email, and send a note every few months or so, to maintain the connection. Just send along an article or blog post that you think that your guest might enjoy. And it is also a courtesy – although not strictly necessary – to follow them on Twitter and/or read and comment on their blog, if any.

So will it work? It can. I did not meet with a lot of people in terms of percentages. However, the people I met with gave me very good information, and introduced me to others (or informed me of upcoming events) which helped me out even more. And it also was incredibly helpful to me in my work, as I had a good, strong network to draw on when we had events and needed to fill a room.

This kind of activity will certainly get you out and about, and give you exposure to people in your current or future field. Finally, meeting offline counts as making a job contact for virtually any Department of Unemployment.

There, now, meeting offline wasn’t so bad, was it?

Categories
Inspiration Writing

Writing Progress Report – Third Quarter 2021

Progress Report—Third Quarter 2021

How was third quarter 2021 for writing? So I spent third quarter 2021 writing short stories and working on planning NaNoWriMo. Work continued to be mega-busy, but I learned voice recognition on Word. It’s helped me tremendously with speed. So there was that…

Third Quarter 2021 Posted Works

Third Quarter 2021
First of all, I worked on a number of new short stories. A lot of these had been drafted on paper and so I spent some time fixing and polishing them. Some of these short stories work well together, so they have chapters and the like.

Then on Wattpad I posted on the WattNaNo profile and the Star Trek Fans profile and nowhere else.

Milestones

Also, I have written over two and a half million words (fan fiction and wholly original fiction combined). So right now my stats on Wattpad for wholly original works are as follows:

  • Dinosaurs – 38+ reads, 9+ comments
  • How to NaNoWriMo – 23,785+ reads, 323+ comments
  • My Favorite Things (like kibble) – 974 reads, 133 comments
  • Revved Up – 59,368+ reads, 530+ comments
  • Side By Side – 17 reads, 1 comments
  • Social Media Guide for Wattpad – 14,856+ reads, 591+ comments
  • The Canadian Caper – 496 reads, 37 comments
  • The Dish – 250 reads, 24 comments
  • There is a Road – 189 reads, 28 comments
  • WattNaNo’s Top Picks 2018 – 1,913+ reads, 45+ comments
  • WattNaNo’s Top Picks 2019 – 1,700+ reads, 10+ comments
  • What Now? – 2,553+ reads, 104+ comments

More Published Works

Also, I am amassing quite the collection of published works!

Untrustworthy, which is my first published novel. So yay!

A True Believer in Skepticism, to be published in Mythic Magazine.

Almost Shipwrecked, a story in the January 2019 edition of Empyreome.

Canaries, a short story in the March 29, 2019, edition of Theme of Absence.

Complications, a story in the Queer Sci Fi Discovery anthology. So this is an anthology where the proceeds went to supporting the QSF website.

Cynthia and Wilder Bloom, stories in the Longest Night Watch II anthology.

Props, a story in the Longest Night Watch I anthology. So this is an anthology where the proceeds go to Alzheimer’s research.

Surprises, a story in Book One of the 42 and Beyond Anthology set.

The Boy in the Band, a story in the Pride Park anthology. So this is an anthology where the proceeds go to the Trevor Project.

The Interview, the featured story in the December 14, 2018 edition of Theme of Absence. So they even interviewed me!

The Last Patient, a story in the Stardust, Always anthology. This was an anthology where the proceeds go to cancer research.

The Resurrection of Ditte, a story in the Unrealpolitik anthology.

This is My Child, a short story published in the April 8, 2019 edition of Asymmetry Fiction.

Three Minutes Back in Time, a short story published in Mythic Magazine.

Killing Us Softly, a short story published in Corner Bar Magazine.

Darkness into Light, a short story published in Corner Bar Magazine.

WIP Corner

So my current WIPs are as follows:

The Obolonk Murders Trilogy – so this one is all about a tripartite society. But who’s killing the aliens?

The Enigman Cave – can we find life on another planet and not screw it up? You know, like we do everything else?

The Real Hub of the Universe Trilogy – so the aliens who live among us in the 1870s and 1880s are at war. But why is that?

Mettle – society goes to hell in a hand basket when the metals of the periodic table start to disappear. Can a ragtag group in Boston figure out what’s going on before it’s too late?

Time Addicts – No One is Safe – so this one is all about what happens in the future when time travel becomes possible via narcotic.

Time Addicts – Nothing is Permanent – this is the second in this trilogy. What happens when time is tampered with and manipulated in all sorts of ways? It’s the ultimate in gaslighting, for one thing.

Time Addicts – Everything is Up For Grabs – coming in November 2021!

Prep Work

So currently, my intention, for this year’s NaNoWriMo, is that I am writing the third novel in the Time Addicts/Obolonks universe. But I need to iron out the plot! So a lot of this year has been spent on that. I am calling this one Time Addicts – Everything is Up for Grabs.

Third Quarter 2021 Queries and Submissions

So here’s how that’s been going during third quarter 2021.

In Progress

As of third quarter 2021, the following are still in the running for publishing:

Publisher Title
A Thousand One Stories Soul Rentals ‘R’ Us
Adbusters Justice
Gemini Magazine I Used to Be Happy
RAB Mettle
Sonder Review Who Do We Blame for This?

But I am doubtful about all of these. I just don’t have the time or energy to devote to regular querying, and I don’t expect that to change any time soon.

All Other Statuses

So be sure to see the Stats section for some details on any query statuses for third quarter 2021 which were not in progress.

Stats

So in 2018, my querying stats were:

  • 68 submissions of 19 stories
  • Acceptances: 4, 5.88%
  • In Progress-Under Consideration: 3, 4.41% (so these don’t seem to have panned out)
  • In Progress: 10, 14.71%
  • Rejected-Personal: 14, 20.59%
  • Rejected-Form: 24, 35.29%
  • Ghosted: 13 (so these were submissions where I never found out what happened), 19.12%

So in 2019 my querying stats were:

  • 23 submissions of 11 stories (so 6 submissions carry over from 2018)
  • Acceptances: 4, 17.39%
  • In Progress-Under Consideration: 0, 0%
  • In Progress: 11 (so this includes 2 holdovers from 2018), 47.83%
  • Rejected-Personal: 4, 17.39%
  • Rejected-Form: 3, 13.04%
  • Ghosted: 1 (so these are submissions where I never found out what happened), 4.35%

2020 Stats

So in 2020 my querying stats were:

  • 37 submissions of 12 stories (so 9 submissions carry over from 2019)
  • Acceptances: 3, 8.11%
  • In Progress-Under Consideration: 0, 0%
  • In Progress: 7, 18.92%
  • Rejected-Personal: 12, 32.43%
  • Rejected-Form: 4, 10.81%
  • Ghosted: 11 (so these are submissions where I never found out what happened), 29.73%

2021 Stats

So in 2021 my querying stats are:

    • 5+ submissions of 5+ stories (so 5 submissions carry over from 2020)
    • Acceptances: 0, 0%
    • In Progress-Under Consideration: 0, 0%
    • In Progress: 5, 100%
    • Rejected-Personal: 0, 0%
    • Rejected-Form: 0, 0%
  • Ghosted: 0 (so these are submissions where I never found out what happened), 0%

It can be pretty discouraging and hard to go on when nothing new comes up which is positive.

This Quarter’s Productivity Killers

So my productivity killers are work, what else? See, I got a raise and more responsibility. And I’m supposed to be getting another person under me soon. As may be expected, that made it harder to get fiction writing accomplished.

I am working on a ton of things. Since that is also writing, it can sometimes burn me out. There’s been a ton of stress but I am making an effort to at least write something every night. Because third quarter 2021 will not be the end of that!

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Categories
Community Management Social Media

The Cyber Legacy

The Cyber Legacy

What’s your cyber legacy?

Introductions

So you find a new site. You look around. And you think – this looks like a place I might like. Therefore, you take the plunge and you register.

And it doesn’t really matter if it’s Twitter, or Facebook or Able2know. If it’s big enough, it scrolls and leaps by so fast that you can barely get your arms around it. And in the beginning, that can be incredibly exciting.

However, after a while, it’s a bit too much. So if you want to hang around and have a more meaningful interactive experience than complaining about the weather, you end up finding yourself some sort of an enclave. I’ve covered this before, actually.

Life Online

You find your niche, whatever it is. And you start spending time with people. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, be it playing fantasy sports, or comparing notes as new mothers, or trading rumors about the next season of Doctor Who. What matters is, you’ve found your peeps.

And that’s when it can get kind of complicated.

Transitioning to the In-Person Experience

My husband and I once met a fellow we had know for a few years from online. He was passing through Boston on his way home from Maine. And one thing he mentioned was – my online friends and my offline friends are pretty well-integrated. I like that.

After all, consider some of my closest friends who I didn’t meet online. Most of them either attended school with me at some stage or another, or they worked with me. In some fashion or another, we hit it off. However, the same is true of the cyber world, is it not? You meet someone, and you hit it off with them, and you thereby become friends. No great mystery there. The only remarkable thing is that the lines are being forever blurred between people we met physically first, and people we physically met later, if at all. And we care less and less about how we met our friends, these days.

Cyber Mourning

With cyber friendships – as with all friendships – there can be loss. And we all know that it is going to happen sooner or later. A voice will be stilled, a timeline no longer updated. We may or may not know the correct or full name. We may never have heard that person so much as speak on a video or on the telephone. Yet we feel a sense of loss just the same.

I have found that, as this has happened on Able2know (and it has happened several times now, a function of both the size of the site and its skew in the direction of more elder demographics), people have wanted to rally around. It is not necessarily a formal obituary type of posting or topic. Instead, it can be a topic that’s more like a wake in its layout, verbiage and intent. There is no real template for this. You just go with what works. And recognize that there are people who grieve in their own ways. There may even be hostility (“You were never kind to him until it was too late!”) or one-upmanship (“I got to meet her in person!”).

Internet Afterlife and a Cyber Legacy

The If I Die app allows for a final status update once three people (you choose them) confirm to the service that you’ve shuffled the mortal coil off to Buffalo. It almost seems like a video will, where the rich uncle leaves everything to his parakeet and, while the cameras are rolling, also tells the assembled family that they’re all wastrels.

But it’s not just that. It’s also – look at the data that’s out there. What sort of a legacy are we leaving for future generations?

English: American actor George Takei at the St... cyber legacy
English: American actor George Takei at the Star Trek Convention UFP Con One in Hamm, Germany, 1996. Deutsch: Der US-amerikanische Schauspieler George Takei auf der Star Trek-Convention UFP Con One in Hamm, Deutschland, 1996. Français : L’acteur américain George Takei à la convention de Star Trek UFP Con One à Hamm, Allemagne, 1996. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A tour through Facebook reveals an awful lot of appreciation for cute cats who can’t spell, George Takei and political soundbite memes. And if future generations only look at that (which might happen, as it could very well be the only thing that survives long enough and is complete enough), they might just that cyber legacy and feel we are rather shallow people indeed.

Forums Tell a Different Story

However, if they dig into communities, I think they’ll see a rather different picture. A picture of real caring. Of reasoned and impassioned debate. Or of rabid fandom. Of people who help each other by answering questions or offering advice on things like repairing a fan belt on a ’68 Buick or ridding a computer of spyware. And of some fall on the floor humor as well.

Heiroglyphics cyber legacy
Heiroglyphics

So, what footprints and fingerprints will you leave behind for your cyber legacy? And what digital fossils will await future archaeologists’ discovery? What will the people of 3017 think of us? What’s your cyber legacy going to be?

Categories
Book Reviews

Self-Review – Three Minutes Back in Time

Review – Three Minutes Back in Time

Three Minutes Back in Time is a sequel of sorts to a fanfiction story I wrote called Crackerjack. It is also a bit of a sequel for a second fan fiction story, Concord. But for this particular short story, I took out all of the fan fiction elements, except for the names of the characters. So it is essentially a wholly original piece.
Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | Three Minutes Back in Time width=

Background for Three Minutes Back in Time

Science fiction often seems to be in the realm of today or the future. As I was also writing Real Hub of the Universe, the idea of setting sci fi in an unexpected time period became irresistible.

Hence the story takes place in the very beginning of the American involvement in the Second World War.

Plot

When Rosemary Parker and James Warren go to a fair outside Washington, DC, they do not expect to find a time machine. And they really don’t expect it to work.

But it can only work for three minutes at a time. So Rosemary decides to go to the one place and date and time she has ever wanted to – just before the death of her beloved brother, Freddie.

Characters

The characters are Rosemary Parker, James Warren, and Freddie Parker. Plus there is a carnival ticket taker, who doesn’t get a lot of “screen time”.

Memorable Quotes from Three Minutes Back in Time

At least the fair wasn’t segregated, like so many other places were. Its grounds were open to all, including James and Rosemary. And once they had determined the fair had little to offer, they had sat down on a bench and talked. He had wanted to discuss W.E.B. Du Bois and the recent allied raid on Rome. But Rosemary had wanted to talk about the upcoming premiere of Stormy Weather with Lena Horne and Fats Waller. He didn’t even want to discuss the recent All-Star game.

Rating

The story has a K rating.

Upshot

I think this one stands alone rather well. And I was so happy Three Minutes Back in Time was published by Mythic Magazine.

In particular, I think it evokes something of the mood of the time, not just through music, but also how Rosemary behaves. She’s a woman of color, and she has a decent education, but this is also way before Rosa Parks, who I swear I wasn’t thinking of when I wrote the piece. In fact, it’s even before Jackie Robinson.

As for what originally happened to Freddie, unfortunately, that is all too common these days.

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