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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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Book Reviews Writing

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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Book Reviews Writing

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?

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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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Employer Access to Employee Passwords

A Look at Employer Access to Employee Passwords

Employee passwords have become a new battleground. Because this issue has begun to crop up, and it will only continue to do so.

So does your employer have a right to your social media passwords?

Employer Access to Employee Passwords
Facebook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So before you reflexively say no, hold the phone. Because the truth is, unless the law expressly forbids it, companies can. They can take advantage of a less than stellar economy and less than powerful employees.

As a result, they can demand access into social media accounts and employee passwords. Hence a variety of bills have been introduced around the United States in an effort to address this matter.

Massachusetts

Let’s look at Massachusetts.

First of all, here in the Bay State, legislation is pending. This includes H.B 448, which relates to student data privacy. It also includes, which relates to social media consumer privacy protection. And it includes S.B 1055, which relates to social media privacy protection.

Arkansas and Employee Passwords

Arkansas Ark. Code Ann. § 11-2-124; Code Ark. R. 010.14.1-500 says:

“Employers may not ask or require employees or applicants to disclose their user names or passwords to a personal online account; change the privacy settlings on their accounts…”

California and Employee Passwords

Much like Arkansas, employers can’t get into employees’ social media accounts. But an exception exists for investigations into misconduct, per Cal. Lab. Code § 980.

Colorado

Colorado’s law is Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 8-2-127, which says:

“Employers can be fined up to $1,000 for the first violation and up to $5,000 for each subsequent violation.”

Connecticut

In Connecticut, the law is Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 31-40x, which says:

“Employers can be fined up to $500 for the first violation and between $500 and $1,000 for each subsequent violation. Employees can be awarded relief, including job reinstatement, payment of back wages, reestablishment of employee benefits, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.”

Delaware

And in Delaware, the law is Del. Code Ann. tit. 19, § 709A. It’s pretty similar to the law in Arkansas.

Illinois

So in Illinois, the law is 820 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 55/10; Ill. Admin. Code tit. 56, §§ 360.110, 360.120.

“If an employer violates the law, an employees and applicants may file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor.”

Louisiana

In addition, La. Stat. Ann. §§ 51:1951 to 51:1953, 51:1955 says:

“Employers may not request or require employees or applicants to disclose user names and passwords or other login information for their personal accounts.”

But in Louisiana, it’s okay for employers to push for a look into employee personal online accounts in one instance. This is if there are allegations of misconduct. So stop downloading porn at work!

And this is according to Nolo.

Maine

So in Maine, the law is Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 26, §§ 615 to 619.

“An employer that violates the law is subject to a fine from the Department of Labor of at least $100 for the first violation, $250 for the second violation, and $500 for subsequent violations.”

Maryland

So in Maryland, the law is Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 3-712. The provisions are pretty close to those in Arkansas.

Michigan

And then in Michigan, the law is Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §§ 37.271 to 37.278.

“Employers that violate the law can be convicted of a misdemeanor and fined up to $1,000. Employees and applicants may also file a civil claim and recover up to $1,000 in damages plus attorney fees’ and court costs.”

Montana

And then in Montana, the law is Mont. Code Ann. § 39-2-307.

“An employee or applicant may bring an action against an employer in small claims court for violations. If successful, an employee or applicant can receive $500 or actual damages up to $7,000, as well as legal costs.”

Nebraska

Then in Nebraska, the law is Neb. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 48-3501 to 48-3511. This is another law like the one in Arkansas.

Nevada

But in Nevada, the law is Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 613.135. This one is very short but it specifically includes blogs.

New Hampshire

Furthermore, N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 275:73 to 275:75 says:

“Employers may not require employees or applicants to change the privacy settings on their email or social media accounts or add anyone to their email or social media contact lists.”

But just like in Louisiana, Granite Staters will have to provide a look-see if there are any misconduct accusations flying around.

New Jersey

Then in New Jersey, the law is N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 34:6B-5 to 34:6B-10. So it says:

“Employers that violate the law are subject to a fine of up to $1,000 for the first violation and up to $2,500 for each subsequent violation from the New Jersey Labor Commissioner.”

New Mexico

So in New Mexico, the law is N.M. Stat. Ann. § 50-4-34. This one specifically extends to friend lists.

Oklahoma on Employee Passwords

In addition, when it comes to employee passwords, Oklahoma’s Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 40, § 173.2 says,

“Employers may not require employees or applicants to disclose passwords or other information that provide access to personal online social media accounts or require employees to access personal social media in the presence of the employer. A social media account is an online account used exclusively for personal communications and to generate or store content, including videos, photographs, blogs, instant messages, audio recordings, or email.”

So this is according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Oregon

Then in Oregon, the law is Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 659A.330. This is another law like the one in Arkansas.

Rhode Island

Furthermore, per R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-56-1 to 28-56-6:

“Employees and applicants may file a civil lawsuit for violations. The court can award declaratory relief, damages, reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, and injunctive relief against the employer.”

So this is beyond the standard where an employer can’t just take a peek whenever they feel like it.

Employer Access to Employee Passwords
English: Great seal of the state of Rhode Island Français : Sceau du Rhode Island (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tennessee on Employee Passwords

And per Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 50-1-1001 to 50-1-1004:

“Employers may not ask or require employees or applicants to disclose passwords to personal online accounts.”

Utah

So in Utah, the law is Utah Code Ann. §§ 34-48-101 to 34-48-301. So it says:

“Employees and applicants may file a civil lawsuit against the employer for violations, with a maximum award of $500.”

Virginia and Employee Passwords

So in Virginia, the law is Va. Code Ann. § 40.1-28.7:5. It’s not too far off from Arkansas, but an employer can get employee passwords under the guise of an investigation.

Washington (State) on Employee Passwords

So in Washington State, the law is Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 49.44.200 and 49.44.205. So it says:

“Employees and applicants may file a civil lawsuit against the employer for violations and obtain injunctive relief, actual damages, a penalty of $500, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.”

West Virginia

So in West Virginia, the law is W. Va. Code Ann. § 21-5H-1, another Arkansas clone, more or less.

Wisconsin on Employee Passwords

And then in Wisconsin, per Wis. Stat. Ann. § 995.55:

“Employees and applicants may file a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development for violations and receive appropriate relief.”

Other States on Employee Passwords

In addition, Maryland became apparently the first state to consider the matter, per the Boston Globe, in 2012. Furthermore, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, several bills have been proposed around the country.

However, aside from the ones listed above, only the following states seem to have these laws. Then according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are also such laws in Guam and the District of Columbia.

So these bills come up repeatedly.

Finally, the country still has a long way to go in terms of guaranteeing employees privacy in social media accounts. Hence we all need to look out more. In addition, it might end up a good idea to just out and out refuse when asked for passwords.

Facebooker, beware.

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Book Reviews

Self-Review – The Boy in the Band

Review – The Boy in the Band

The Boy in the Band came about because I wanted to write something special for an LGBTQ+ anthology.

So the first person I thought of, immediately, was Richard Holmstrom.
Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | The Boy in the Band width=

Background

So at the time I wrote the story, I had no idea what had happened to Rich. As it turned out, a mutual friend did some sleuthing. And so, I learned the truth. It was what I had been afraid of; he was dead.

Rich was the first gay man who ever came out to me. And I consider that to be one hell of an honor.

The Plot for The Boy in the Band

So the story is more or less accurate. Hence it wrote itself. And I was merely there to take mental dictation. And the title, of course, comes from the film.

In 1981 or 1982, my friend Rich asked me to the movies. And I had a crush on him and thought – this is great! He chose the films: Cabaret and The Boys in the Band. So I had no idea what I was in for. My innocent nineteen or twenty year old soul thought we were going to see a pair of musicals.

I swear to God this is true.

Characters

The characters are the narrator, Rich, and Paul. He was Rich’s boyfriend at the time. But unfortunately, I have no idea if they stayed together. Since I do not know Paul’s last name, I can’t even look him up.

Memorable Quotes

I gamely watched with Richard. Maybe he meant for it to be artsy? I had no idea, but then the Cowboy character showed up – a male prostitute. And so Richard asked, “What do you think of him?”

I replied, “He reminds me a bit of Rocky from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

“Which do you think is cuter?”

“Rocky.”

“So we will agree to disagree.”

And then I knew.

Rating

The story has a K rating.

Upshot for The Boy in the Band

So this one was highly emotional for me. And then when I learned, later, that I had been right, it all hit me rather hard. See, because of when we knew each other, it was the dawn of the age of AIDS. And I knew he was, let’s just say, a bit loose. Since no one really had any idea what was in store, and AIDS was a 100% painful death sentence at the time, being ‘loose’ was being foolish.

Yet it apparently did not kill him. At least, I can tell myself this. I think I’m right. I hope I’m right. But there is only so much the internet can tell me.

He did not even live long enough to see 9/11, President Obama, or even the Red Sox win the World Series (:)). So he is frozen in time, at age 39. And before I knew this much, he was frozen at age 21. Forever young.

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