Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Tag: social media

Head, meet desk

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last two days, you’ve probably heard more about the United Airlines kerfluffle than you ever wanted to know. It’s a given that the incident in Chicago is a public perception nightmare for the airline. No one, at least none that I know of, thinks the airline handled the original situation or the pr nightmare that followed in anything close to the right way. However, that’s not what this post is about — at least not completely.

Yesterday, as well as the day before, I blogged about how we need to be careful about what we do and say on social media. Those posts were mainly about how authors and editors present themselves to the reading public and to potential clients. Today’s post, however, comes via a series of comments in response to a FB post made by a friend of mine.

Now the post itself wasn’t that much different from many others I’ve seen over the last 24 hours or so. My friend discussed what happened on the flight and then talked about how the media not only named the passenger involved but how some outlets were attempting to smear his name in what looked like an attempt to make United appear to be the wronged party instead of the other way around. At some point, Sarah — and others — made the comment that they felt United might have been behind leaking the passenger’s name to the press.

And that is where the idiocy from a third-party came in. You see, this person read an opinion as a statement of fact and got all hot and bothered, demanding sources for such an outrageous statement. It didn’t matter that the people making it said it was their opinion. They had said it and he wanted proof.

No matter what anyone said, no matter how they tried to approach the situation, he kept wanting sources cited.

Now remember, this is in response to a personal opinion on FB, not a story released by a major media outlet. It was an opinion based on personal experience, on the reading and listening to a number of different sources reporting on the incident and more.

What gets me about how this person dug in and refused to let go of the demand for a source to back up the personal opinion is how they continue to ignore the fact that opinions and decisions are made all the time based on information from a number of different sources and that is colored through the lens of personal opinion. It is rare when we can point to something and say “THIS!” is the reason why something happened and have that, whatever it is, be the only factor involved.

In this particular case, I can see how United very well might have been the source of the leak of the passenger’s name to the media. After all, they knew who they had “picked” to be removed from the plane because they needed four seats for crew members. They knew who they had told security to remove. They knew who had tried to reboard and who had to be removed again. In other words, it all begins with United.

Now, it is also possible the security team leaked the man’s identity. However, usually when the media gets a suspect’s name from law enforcement, they tell us something along the lines of “as identified by”. I have seen none of that so far. In fact, the media is excruciatingly silent on how they identified the passenger.

One of the possible explanations thrown out by the person taking umbrage to the opinion United might have been involved was that the passenger had been in the news before and someone local might have recognized him and called the media to make the ID. Again, where is the confirmation of this. Media outlets aren’t hesitant to let us know how they came to identify someone — unless their source doesn’t want to be named. Then it is “an unnamed source” in the report.

Considering how some of the media reports have been trying to pain the passenger as being a “bad” person based on past behavior — which has nothing to do with what happened — I doubt a member of the reading/viewing public made the ID. No, this smacks of someone either at United or with airport security telling the press who the passenger was and the press trying to pain the airline in the best possible light by digging up events from the doctor’s life that had nothing to do with what happened onboard that jet.

So here’s the thing. While the person was demanding everyone give sources for their OPINION United was behind leaking the passenger’s name, he had no problem bringing up other scenarios about how it could have happened — without offering proof. Worse, and what brought about this post, was his inability or whatever to actually discuss the issue. He dug his heels in and wouldn’t let go.

Now, I love me a good debate. I’ve even been known to dig my heels in a time or two. But I also know I have to listen to what the other side is saying and make sure I understand their position. If they ask a question, I need to be prepared to answer it — not ignore it and continue to hold to my position without wavering. Hell, I have to be ready to admit I might be wrong or I might have misunderstood the original premise.

That is especially true when dealing with social media. One of my biggest pet peeves about it — and with email, texting and the like — is that we don’t get the human interaction. We see only words, not inflection or facial expression. What we might mean one way can be easily interpreted another because the person reading our words don’t see us or hear us as we speak them. They are nothing but words on the screen and in social media we tend to take shortcuts that don’t help get the real message across.

There is another thing to consider. If most of the commenters in a thread are taking you to task for something, whether you are right or wrong, you have to ask yourself if it is worth your time to keep coming back to the thread and trying to justify what you said. It is so very easy to fall down the time pit that is social media as it is. Do any of us need to add to the time we spend there?

In other words, think before you hit enter. Make sure you understand what someone said and ask for clarification if you don’t. Don’t waste time if the person has shown themselves to be incapable of engaging in discussion. And, most of all, follow Jim Baen’s main rule for Baen’s Bar — Don’t be a butthead.

Taking Responsibility

This morning, a couple of things caught my eye, and not in a good way. Both also center on social media. The first is a prime example of how we need to always be aware of the potential for anything we say or do being captured on someone else’s smart phone, either via video or through their social media accounts. The second is an prime example of the faux outrage that is gripping part of our country right now.

The first is actually getting more media coverage than the second. I first became aware of the situation when I saw it being retweeted on Facebook, along with all the accompanying outrage. Very simply put, over the weekend, a gate agent in Denver refused to allow an 11-year-old to board a United flight unless she put a dress (or, I’m sure, any other “appropriate” form of clothing”) on over her leggings.

Another passenger, waiting in line behind the girl, was outraged. So she took to social media to chastise the airline for what was happening. I’ll admit, my initial reaction was basically to wonder why leggings weren’t appropriate. But, as I read more about the situation, I soon realized there was more to the story than what the initial tweets, the ones raising all the outrage, told.

First of all, let’s be clear here. Most airlines have a provision in their terms of service that gives them the right to refuse boarding to anyone who violates those ToS. I know I’ve never read all the fine print and I doubt most of the rest of you have either. It would surprise me if the woman behind the tweets had.

Second, what isn’t clear in the initial tweets is the fact that the girl was flying non-rev. What that means is that either someone in her family or a third party works, or worked, for United, and gave her a pass to fly free. Most airlines have a separate set of rules for their non-rev passengers. These rules include provisions about what clothing is appropriate for the trip.

So, at least in the mind of the gate agent, the leggings the girl wore were in violation of the dress code.

When that provision was pointed out to some of those on FB who were condemning the airline and the gate agent, they shifted the goal posts. Suddenly, it became an issue of United and the agent applying a double standard because the girl’s father was allowed to board while wearing shorts. He was in casual clothes, so why couldn’t she?

I have two issues with this line of argument without further information being given. The first is a logic issue. Those making the argument assume the father was also flying non-rev. He may have been, but I’ve not seen that reported. The second is the assumption that the rules weren’t being applied to him when they were to the girl. What this second assumption fails to take into account is that some airlines, and I assume United is included in this, allow for shorts to be worn by non-rev passengers if the shorts meet certain standards. Because the father was allowed to board without changing clothes, and assuming he was also flying non-rev, it is safe to assume his clothing met the standard of the dress code.

Now, do I think an 11-year-old wearing leggings should have been denied boarding, non-rev or not? No. However, I get tired of situations being twisted just to fit a certain view point so they can be used to argue something that might not even be an issue. I do think United needs to review their non-rev dress code and make sure it is fair to both genders (oops, will I get in trouble for that?) But to make a federal case out of something, especially when you don’t know all the details and when you admit you are doing it because you assume a bias, helps no one.

It also shows the problem with the easy access to social media and the way one tweet can be taken viral — and how those following the original tweet on someone else’s social media feed may never see the follow-ups and learn the entire story.

The second example also came from Facebook and is a prime example of the Trump Derangement Syndrome that seems to have infected some of those on the left. I see it every morning with the Dallas Morning News. Reminiscent of the early days of ABC’s Nightline during the Iran hostage crisis where the show opened with “Day X”, the Dallas Morning News has an ongoing post of “Day Y of the Trump Presidency” (or words to that effect).

The Facebook post bringing it all to mind this morning was dated 18 hours before I first saw it. Someone was condemning Trump because he hadn’t issued a statement about the protests and arrests in Russia. The implication being he hadn’t issued a statement because he is a Russian mole in the White House. The only problem was I’d been up for more than an hour and hadn’t seen anything about the protests in my wandering through the interwebs, nor had I seen anything about it the night before when I watched the news.

So, I went strolling through the internet, looking at the homepages of some of the major news outlets and other sites where such a story might show up. It took me four sites before I found anything and, even then, I had to scroll down three screens or more before I found the story.

Funny, there had been no condemnation of the media for not carrying the story, only of Trump because he hadn’t been vocal in condemning the Russian handling of the situation as soon as he learned of it. Oh the horror because Russia did something and Trump didn’t instantly jump in to say Russia needed to stop being, well, Russia.

But let’s not consider the fact Trump might be waiting for more information about what really happened in Russia. Information not only from media sources and Russia itself but form our own intelligence community. Oh no, let’s immediately respond. How much you want to bet the person condemning him on Facebook would have a different view if the protest and arrests had occurred in London or Paris — or even Beijing? The fact it was Russia and Trump is president was enough of a connection for her to condemn him.

That’s the problem with social media. Well, one of the problems. We can do or say anything we want and hit enter without thinking. Too many of us tend to do so. We post things without considering that we might not have all the facts. We forget that once something hits the internet, it is there forever. Social media is the modern day version of walking out of the restroom with toilet paper trailing behind you, tucked into your pants or stuck on your heels.

But there is another problem with social media, one we are all guilty of. We are too quick to accept as accurate what we see posted on Twitter or FB or whatever our favorite platform might be. It is up to us to ask the same questions of those “sources” we do of the media and of our politicians, etc. If we don’t, then we hold at least some of the responsibility if a story is later clarified or proven to be false and we shared the false or misleading information without disclaimers or questions. It is time for each of us to start taking responsibility for what we put out into cyberspace.

In other words, it is time we start thinking before hitting the “share” button.

Context matters

I don’t know what I’m more disgusted with right now. Social media and how it has given so many people a carte blance to act without thinking how their words might impact others or those who use social media to try to enforce their point of view, no matter what it is, on the rest of us. Let’s face it, the fact we can say anything we want to someone without having to say it to their face has made us “brave”. We don’t consider that what we read into a comment might not be what they meant. Hell, what we read into that comment might not even be what it says. After all, despite what any of us might believe, we are none of us perfect and we do make mistakes.

But that doesn’t stop those who are convinced that what they read in a comment is what was actually said and meant.

This morning, a friend pointed me to a thread where someone had gotten upset to the point of unfriending another person because he had posted a picture of his wife and daughters and referred to them as his “girls”. The OP viewed the use of “girls” as demeaning and pointed out that a woman isn’t a girl. It was such a serious offense than she unfriended the man without considering context or relationship between the parties. Her excuse? She grew up in the ’60s and 70’s, a time of protest and bra burning. So her experience had to trump what both context and intent.

Sorry, but no. I grew up during the same time period. I graduated from high school the same year this woman did. But I don’t give a rat’s ass if a husband and father calls his wife and daughters his “girls” if he does so as a term of endearment and if they don’t mind. It isn’t my job to tell them what they should or should not call one another. My first thought as I read the OP and her objections was to wonder if she ever called her husband and sons — if she has them — her “boys”. If so, why isn’t that as bad as a man calling his female family members his “girls”?

Let me be clear here. I believe in equal rights and equal opportunity. I have no patience for a man who thinks he is better than a woman solely because he has a penis. Of course, I have no patience for any person who thinks they are better than another solely on the basis of race, color, creed or anything other reason beyond ability.

Ability. That should be the one and only determining factor in whether someone gets a job or not. Who has the best ability to do the job? If a man is better qualified for it than a woman, then he should get the job and vice versa. If they are equally qualified, then the prospective employer can look at other factors. Yes, I know this is a simplistic view because employers also have to worry about whether someone can fit in with the other workers, etc. But let’s face it. An employer needs to hire the best they can and that means not hamstringing them with artificial hiring quotas.

We have turned into a nation of “my feelings matter more than yours”. At Berkeley, we have students demanding segregated “safe spaces”. Can you imagine the hue and cry that would sound if white students started demanding that? Yet, it is all right for others to demand segregation. 50 years ago, we were marching to end segregation and now we are moving back toward it. That, to me, is a step backwards.

These same students and others posted fake eviction notices on a business that was legally there because they want that space for their “safe space”. No concern was shown for the business, those who work there and depend on it for their livelihoods or for those who need that business’ services. Nope. They want it so, by God, they are going to get it.

Of course, that shouldn’t surprise any of us, not after the way these same folks blocked a bridge, refusing to let whites cross. At one point, they forced an older man to cross a creek (or something similar) instead of using the bridge. Then they got upset when the cops showed up. After all, they are above the law. The should be able to block public access whenever and however they want and to hell with the rest of the world.

We have Trump being condemned for how he spoke about women — and it was horrible. In no way do I approve of what he said. — and yet none of those screaming about how awful he is said a word when some in the feminist world started advocating for men to be killed simply because they’re men. It’s horrible to have a female in scanty clothes on book covers and yet more than okay to have bare-chested men.

Folks, I hate to tell you this but that’s a double standard. If you want equality, you have to want it for everyone, not just for yourself.

Most of all, you can’t stand there and want to be the more equal among the equals. That smacks of Communism. (For those of you who don’t get the reference, socialism and communism are supposedly built on a foundation of equality. However, it is a poor illusion at best. There are the more equal among equals. Those who get better lodging, possessions, pay and amenities, etc.).

But I’ve gone afield.

Here’s the simple truth. Before condemning someone, especially in public, for what he said, you need to look at the context. Then you need to ask yourself — and answer honestly — if you are applying a double standard. In the case first mentioned, if the guy had called his employees his “girls”, he probably crossed the line. Yes, there are exceptions. The name of the business might be such that “girls” would be appropriate. A simple google search led me to any number of businesses with “girls” as part of the business name. One of them, Two Girls and a Bucket, is a cleaning service. I can see someone, as part of their business schtick, telling the client that the “girls” who would be coming are so and so. Conversely, if it is an office setting, introducing female workers as “girls” would be inappropriate. Context, again.

It really comes down to this. When we’re on social media we need to step back, take a deep breath, read and then reread what was originally posted. We need to ask ourselves if we are reading more into it than was there. Then, after typing in our response, we need to pause and think long and hard before hitting the enter button. Remember, nothing we post on the internet is truly private. It is there forever if someone wants to look hard enough for it. More importantly, at least in some ways, is that employers, schools, etc., can and do ask for the keys to your social media sites to see what you have posted.  So, for the love of all that is holy, think before entering and pay attention to context. Otherwise, you may find that what you post hurts yourself more than anyone else.

The problem with absolutes

Yesterday, I really wanted to avoid politics, controversy, and just about anything that would get my blood pressure up. Yesterday was, to me, a day of contemplation and remembrance. Like most Americans old enough to remember the events 15 years ago, I know exactly what I was doing when I first heard about a plane flying into one of the Twin Towers. I remember watching in disbelief as the second tower was hit. Then wondering, as the Pentagon was hit and the heroes of Flight 93 took their jet down in a filed outside of Shanksville, if the world had gone mad. I stood in line with so many others later that day, doing the only thing I could do: donating blood.

So, I planned to think about those men and women who sacrificed so much that day — as well as those men and women who stepped up and willingly served this country to protect it in the days since then — yesterday. Instead, I got pulled into a discussion (and I use that term loosely) because I had been tagged in a Facebook post.

Now, most times I don’t respond when I’m tagged on FB unless there is a specific need to. Social media is a time sink that can do terrible things to productivity. But this time, I’d been tagged to look at an article about something I care about and, because I’ve had a good online relationship with the person who tagged me, I decided to read the article and respond.

And that lead to my consideration about how, when we deal in absolutes, we tend to diminish our own arguments, whether we mean to or not.

I’ll admit, the first thing that had me looking askance at the article was in one of the opening paragraphs when the author stated that the Sad and Rabid Puppies had “hijacked” the Hugos. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen that particular word used but, on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it seemed a very poorly considered word choice. It also isn’t correct. But that’s not the purpose of this post.

What struck me throughout the conversation with the article’s author, and in viewing his conversations with others he had tagged, is how he chose a side, dealt in absolutes and refused to budge on some things. Even when he had to admit the Sad Puppies had done nothing against the rules, he clung to his belief they had “hijacked” the Hugos. His only reason, as far as I can tell, is because he didn’t like how it was done. He also clung to the assertion that those who supported the Sad Puppies should have publicly disavowed Vox Day. Why? Because Vox is evil (okay, I’m stretching it here but there are those who do say just that.)

But here is my question. Why should anyone be forced to disavow anyone else on a personal level when that person is not really involved in the crux of the matter being discussed? Vox has been made a lightning rod for those opposed to Puppies of all ilks. Vox as the person, not as the author and not as the publisher. His personal beliefs have been attached to both Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies and for two years or more, Sad Puppy supporters have been told the only way the other side will even consider looking at our work for the esteemed (by them) Hugo is if we personally and publicly disavow Vox.

That was an assertion put forth by this person who tagged me yesterday. Sads should “do the right thing” and tell the world how evil Vox is. Sorry, but that is a red herring in the entire Sad Puppy question. By making it an absolute that we have to do it to show we want to “do the right thing” is to hold us to a standard the other side isn’t willing to hold itself to.

When Irene Gallo called all Sad Puppies Nazis and misogynists, people rallied around her, citing her right to free speech. When someone — and I can’t remember who right now — accused Brad Torgersen of marrying his wife, who is African-American, simply to hide his prejudice (to act as a beard, if you will), there were few voices from that side saying the person had gone too far. When Sad Puppies put forth a list of recommended titles for the Hugos, it was called too white and too male even though there were women, people of color and gays on the list.

So, when someone tags me in a post and basically demands we admit these absolutes occurred and demands we “do the right thing” without, in the same article, requiring the same thing from the other side, I tend to dig my heels in and try to defend my position. That’s hard when the other side doesn’t want to discuss it. When they say, I did my research and I’m sticking with my choice of “hijack” and you need to condemn Vox, there is no discussion. There is only an absolute — the OP’s.

And that is sad. I love a good debate. I love to discuss. But when the discussion is one sided only, that isn’t a discussion. When someone says, “you have a point but it’s not going to change my mind”, that’s not discussion.

Here’s the thing. When you talk in absolutes, you are refusing to admit there are exceptions — and there are always exceptions. Too often, the absolute you point out is actually how the minority of a group act or think. So, by claiming it to be absolute, you dismiss how any number of people think. That’s not good in a writer of any sort, be it a blogger, a FBer or a novelist.

I’ll even admit I got a bit hotter under the collar about the discussion that I should have and that was because of what yesterday was and the OP’s conscious decision to use the term “hijack” and his refusal to even admit it might not have been the best choice of words considering the day.

So here’s the challenge we all face from time to time. It is easy to fall into the challenge of absolutes. We need to recognize it and be prepared to defend that stance when we take it. Defend it not with rhetoric but with facts. If you can’t do that — and if you aren’t prepared to show your hand when you say you have the facts to back you up — then maybe you need to reconsider your stance. This is true whether you are talking politics, economics, religion or — gasp — publishing.

The decline and fall of good intentions

Most people start projects with the best of intentions. It doesn’t matter if it is a school project or something for work or social media. Too often, unfortunately, those intentions get subverted somewhere along the line. It might be a case of “ooh, shiny” that sends us running off in another direction. It might be we get bored and realize the project isn’t going to work the way we want. Or it might, as I saw first-hand yesterday, be because personal feelings for one person in the project get in the way of good management skills.

In this particular situation, social media was involved. A group I belonged to started with the best of intentions. It was to be a place where you could gather with like-minded people to express opinions, talk about work, and bond. For a long time, it worked well. But, like so many groups on social media, it grew over time. When you get more than two humans together, whether in meat space or cyberspace, disagreements will happen. The key to managing them is to have rules and apply them equally. If you fail to do so, there will be fallout. It might not be immediately but it will happen. After all, people have long memories and grudges are held.

So, what happened yesterday?

It started in a way that anyone with a modicum of experience as a moderator should have realized could cause problems. Someone posted a link to something they had written. Nothing wrong there. The problem came when the OP said basically, “I know this is going to cause problems because there are so many X-type of people here but I don’t care.” Ding, ding, ding. Alarm bells are going off.

A discussion started. It wasn’t bad at first and then someone came in and posted a comment that called the article hysterical. The OP took exception and took the comment personally, as in claiming the person making the comment called her hysterical. Then the personal attacks began. What followed quickly were others in the group coming in and pointing out that the comment had not been personal and that the article linked was filled with misconceptions and errors. Then the attacks doubled down, especially from the OP.

The back and forth went on for hours. When a moderator finally showed up, sides were taken. Instead of telling both sides they were in the wrong and back off — or, better yet, closing the thread to comments — the only side reprimanded was that one pointing out the errors in the article. The responding side was told use of “hysterical” in relation to an articla was a personal attack but calling men “sexist” wasn’t.

I admit, I read the exchange and wondered what had happened to a group that had started out being open to ideas from all sides. Suddenly, it felt as if we were being told to march in lockstep or get out. I get being told you can live by the group rules or get out. I’ve told folks that in groups I moderate. But the members of a group have to be able to trust moderators to apply the rules equally, whether they are friends with one of the parties in a dispute or not.

I am not saying the moderators have ill-intent with this issue. I think they have allowed their friendship with someone blind them to what everyone else was trying to say. There comes a point in any group where the leaders have to make hard decisions — be it ruling against a friend, asking for help from others to moderate or stepping down as moderator. You have to look at what is best for the stated goals of the group.

The fall-out from yesterday continues. I know of others who have left the group, folks like me who had been with the group for a long time. The group will probably survive what happened yesterday but the moderators need to understand that yesterday put everyone on notice. Just because people didn’t leave, it doesn’t follow that they approve of what happened and how the moderators acted. It means that they have decided to stay and wait, hoping that yesterday and similar actions in the past are not repeated again.

Will that lesson be learned or will this become yet another group to fall victim to the good intentions gone wrong syndrome? I don’t know. Part of me hopes for the latter but the cynic in me expects the former. All I know for certain is I’m no longer a part of the group and I hope none of my friends still in it fall victim to similar circumstances.

Now is especially the time when we should be allowed to question the printed and spoken word, when we should be allowed to express our opinions. Should it be done politely? If possible but seeing personal insult where none was made is one of this country’s biggest problems right now. If you are willing to put yourself out there in social media and have an online presence, if you are linking to your work, you must be prepared for someone to challenge what your wrote. That is especially true if you wave a red flag when doing it. As moderators, it is our job to keep te discussion going and to apply the rules fairly to everyone involved. Otherwise, all your good intentions go for naught.

Speaking up and out

Yes, yes, I should be writing. What I’m finding is that these blog entries are acting like writing prompts of a sort and are helping kickstart the morning fiction. They are also helping lower my frustration level, something that also helps start the writing process. I will also finish up the posts about how I found myself writing a bunch-a-ton (yes, that is a word) of series without meaning to. That post should come out tomorrow.

Yesterday, I did a post over at According to Hoyt about how, if you demand equality — and it doesn’t matter who you are and what equality you are demanding — you have to take it all the way across the board. If that means equality in the military, you have to be ready to find yourself lining up for the draft along with the young men who already have to register, for just one example. It also means that you should not expect the requirements for jobs to be lowered just so you can qualify. The only time those qualifications should be lowered is when it is proven they are too high for the performance of that job and the new requirements still mean everyone who passes can go above and beyond what is expected because we have to prepare for the unexpected.

Today, I’ve seen a number of posts on various social media outlets shaming people who don’t believe how the OP believes they ought to. One was putting white shame on someone, along with a healthy dose of misogynistic accusation. No proof for the accusation was offered, other than the fact the person being accused was male, white and of a conservative bent in his postings. But that, you see, is wrong-think, at least according to the OP.

That’s fine. We live in a country where freedom of speech allows us to say what we want. Oh, wait, it doesn’t. At least not where a certain mindset of people are concerned. These people, like the OP, have no problems threatening the “wrong thinkers” with everything from trying to get them fired from their jobs to blackmailing them with telling their friends, family and customers how evil they are because of what they post on social media.

Yep, blackmail. Something that is against the law in every state in the Union. Something that forces someone to do something against their will or else something dire will happen. The so-called forward thinking sect has no problem with doing this to those they don’t agree with. Not just in the publishing field but everywhere. In the case I saw today, the person the OP was attempting to shame into changing his ways and deleting the offending comments from social media is not a writer but someone who works in the entertainment field.

In another post, the OP (a different one) was doing their best to shame all cis-gendered people. You see, according to the OP, if you are cis-gendered (or maybe it was just cis-male) you are born with a prejudice against those who are transgendered. Like the Catholic belief in Original Sin, this is the new and improved version (right along with white shame and male shame — does that make it the triumvirate of shame?) According to the OP, there is no way anyone who identifies as cis-gendered can be anything but prejudiced against those who are transgender and the only way we can be true friends to the transgender community to is accept this sin in ourselves and perform whatever it takes to drive this prejudice from ourselves.

So, yet another believer of the sect of moral superiority through self-identification speaks and makes a blanket condemnation of another portion of the population simply because that other portion is different.

Then there are those — and, yes, I know they are a not a huge number of people — who not only advocate the seizure of legally owned firearms but who have openly said the government should have a hit list of those who own guns, those who belong to the NRA and those who support gun rights. Those people, according to this particular sect, should die and the more painful the death, the better. Forget about the fact these are the legal gun owners they are targeting. Forget about the fact that such seizures wouldn’t stop gun violence because, guess what, boys and girls, most of gun-related crime is not committed by legal gun owners.

Not that such logic will sway the sect of the perpetual butt-hurt.

Yes, sect. This sort of thinking has become almost a religion to so many people — from the right, left and middle. You said something I don’t like. You just remove it an apologize for the rest of your life for your wrong-think or I will do everything in my power to prove you are evil. EVIL!

We are raising a generation of special egos, many of whom have never felt a negative consequence for their actions, no matter what those actions might be. Ethan Couch, better known as Affluenza Boy, is an example of what can happen when parents forget they are supposed to parent. Too many are willing to abdicate that role, expecting school or church to fill it in their kids’ lives but then not letting those institutions step up. There is always some academic who thinks it harms a child’s psyche by grading their papers and letting them see they aren’t the best at something. We will have a generation of mediocrity where feelz are more important that the actual doing.

Well, I, for one, have grave concerns for this country I love should this trend continue. I’m not sure what the ultimate solution will be but I know it starts with this election cycle. Maybe not on the national scale but on the local. The local scale where I can have an impact on what happens in my city and in my school district. The state level where I can let my voice be heard in the governance of the great Lone Star State. Yes, we have some crazies here, but so does every other state. At least most of our crazies err on the side of the individual. I will take that any day over higher taxes so everyone can go to college. (Guess what, Bernie, not everyone is suited for college and not everyone needs to go to college.)

This blog is one way for me to have a voice. Yes, it will still be where I talk about my writing and the publishing industry in general. But I am also going to talk about things that relate to life, liberty and the pursuit of not only happiness but justice. Why? Because I can and I should not allow that opportunity to be squandered.

Imagine my surprise

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled, pre-coffee, to my laptop and one of the first things I see is a notice from WordPress that my blog activity has spiked. Imagine my surprise to see it and know I hadn’t posted anything new for a few days. Imagine my surprise when I check the referrals to my blog and see that I’ve had a number of visitors suddenly showing up thanks to Twitter (a form of social media I hate because it can be such a time sink.). Imagine my surprise when I log onto Facebook and find a whole thread in one of the groups I belong to talking about why folks had linked to my blog.

Okay, I’m slow in the mornings, especially before coffee. I had to follow the links and find the post that was causing all the consternation. Except it wasn’t one of my posts. It wasn’t even something I’d written. Instead, it was a comment posted on my April 7th post about the Hugos and some of the accusations being flung around at that time by Puppy haters about those of us who were either on the Sad Puppies list of recommended nominees or who actually supported what Sad Puppies 3 was all about.

The comment, by someone calling himself Captain Comic, can be found here. Mind you, I can see how the comment might upset some of the more delicate folk but, to be honest, at the time it was posted, I laughed. Why? Because it was exactly how so many of us felt as we were constantly berated by Fans (with a big F) who told us we weren’t “real” fans because we hadn’t been attending WorldCon for years. You can check the post for my response to that and more.

So why did this comment suddenly start trending as WorldCon was getting started? That is the question I was asking myself. So I ventured over to the dreaded Twitter and I looked at the post of Facebook and I didn’t know whether to laugh, shake my head or start looking for false flags. Apparently, someone snapped a photo of the comment — with a change in name at the beginning of the “memo” — as it had been printed out and placed on one of the freebie tables at WorldCon.

Oh the howls of outrage and Puppy condemnation. But what caught my eye was how a fella by the name of Avrim Grumer pretty quickly identified that this Captain Comic had been posting things like this to According to Hoyt and then, immediately after revealing that he linked to my post. Now, it could be he was just using his google-fu. It could be that he reads both ATH and this blog. Doubtful, at least where this blog is concerned. I’m small time compared to Sarah’s blog. If you keep scrolling through the comments to the Twitter post, you’ll see the usual suspects chiming in.

Now, in my under-caffeinated state, I find myself wondering why anyone would be copying that comment and putting it out on a table at WorldCon. I have a hard time believing any of the Sad Puppies supporters would try to stir the pot like that. It would serve our side and our belief that the Hugos need to be awards of the fans, not the Fans. That every lover of science fiction and fantasy has the right to not only know they can nominate and vote for their favorites as long as they pay the appropriate fee but that they shouldn’t be afraid to do so.

Then my suspicious side comes out and I wonder if this was a ploy by a Puppy kicker to stir up trouble. After all, there have been comments on Twitter where people have discussed how afraid they were to attend WorldCon because — gasp — Sad Puppies or Rabid Puppies might be there. We’re such a violent group, after all. After all, we like guns and a lot of us served proudly — or still serve proudly — in the military. And, worst of all, we love entertaining stories. Sure, those stories can have a message but the message does not drown out the story. So that makes us all white, misogynistic male Mormons who are all proudly cis-male.

Bullshit.

Whoever copied that comment off and left it for all and sundry to see, well, bad judgment. For those who have linked back to my blog and tried to infer that I, and my fellow Sad Puppy 3 supporters, are somehow evil, not smart. We tend to have long memories of crap like this and we are tired of trying to play by rules you demand of us but you refuse to follow yourselves.

I’d been willing to sit back and wait to see what happened at WorldCon. I was proud of the fact that Sad Puppies 3 helped increase membership to WorldCon to levels never before seen. I was proud of the fact we showed lovers of science fiction and fantasy that they did have a voice in the Hugos. Why? Because the Hugo is something that once meant something to fans, not just to Fans. It should again.

Fans with a little “f” are what make our genre great. They are our supporters, our customers, our readers and our viewers. When we start forgetting that, we are doing no one, least of all ourselves, any good. That is true when it comes to cons and it is true when it comes to what we write. No one has said literary has no place in science fiction or fantasy. At least no one I’m aware of. What we’ve said is that it is time to remember that our readers want stories, not sermons.

When did we lose sight of that?

The trouble with social media

Social media has become a part of our lives. Between Facebook, Google+, Reddit, Twitter and all the rest of the various platforms as well as blogs, it is now a means of communicating our thoughts and feelings. But there are problems with it, problems we know, intellectually, are there but that we tend to forget. This is something that came to back smack me in the face yesterday. I’m hoping it hasn’t cost me a “friend” but it may have.

A little background before I go on. Back in the dark ages, I worked in a job that put me in direct contact with police on a daily basis. I knew good ones and bad ones. I went on patrol with them from time to time. I saw what they had to do and deal with, including some of the situations they often found themselves in. I’ve stood by the gravesides of some who lost their lives in the line of duty and I’ve visited others in the hospital after being injured. Some of the ones I worked with became good friends. Others I learned to keep at arm’s length — or more.

I’ve also had to deal with members of law enforcement from the victim and witness side of things. I won’t go into details because, frankly, it’s no one else’s business. Suffice it to say it was something that has stayed with me for years. The one thing I will say is that, in that particular instance, the police dealt with me in a professional and caring manner. And, before anyone asks, this was before I began working with them, so it had nothing to do with any sort of working relationship we might have had.

Over the last few months, I’ve seen more and more memes on Facebook criticizing cops. Some of my “friends” have taken to lumping all cops together with the few bad ones. There have been calls to do away with cops. There have been statements that we don’t need a police force. While I understand and share the frustration these folks have with the bad a few men and women do, I disagree that the majority of cops are corrupt or inept.

Sunday morning, well, I saw one meme and complaint about cops too many. So I posted the following on my Facebook wall:

Fair warning, folks. Yes, I know there are bad cops. I know there are cops who pull their guns and use them when they shouldn’t. But those are the exceptions. Those of you saying we just need to arm everyone and do away with the cops are living in a fantasyland. So are those who simply say we don’t need cops. What we need are to weed out the bad ones. We need to make sure their departments don’t cover for them. But, speaking as both a crime victim and as someone who used to work closely with cops, they are needed. Don’t believe me? Then talk to one of your friends or family members who have been victimized by burglars when they weren’t home to defend their property or who were raped — and don’t say they wouldn’t have been raped if they’d been armed. Sorry, that isn’t a be-all-end-all answer. Some folks — men and women — just don’t have it in them to shoot another person. So yes, prosecute criminally and civilly those cops who break the law. Hold them to a higher standard. But condemning them all for the actions of a few are like condemning all soldiers because a few went outside their orders or all teachers because a few have sexual relations with their students.

I made the mistake of assuming folks would understand this was just me venting and not inviting discussion. That was my first mistake. But then someone came to my wall and proceeded to explain why he didn’t trust cops. He based it on personal experience and I understand why he feels as he does. However, I wasn’t in the mood to debate the issue and told him to take it to his wall if he wanted to lump all cops together with the few bad.  My second mistake was then addressing issues that had arisen in the thread that sparked my frustration and the original Facebook post instead of just leaving off with telling him to take any debate, etc., to his own wall.

The problem is that my response, without my meaning for it to, upset the person who had commented. He had given a personal reason for why he feels the way he does about the police. I understand that. He felt, and I am reading a bit between the lines here, like I was blowing him off by not responding in kind. Unfortunately, I hadn’t seen his comment on his wall when he did as I asked until hours later and, by then, it would have been too little too late, I’m afraid.

But the truth of the matter is, I have reasons for why I feel as I do about the police just as he does. I respect his stance and understand it is based on his personal experience. I hope that he can understand mine as well. The lesson learned is that I will be more careful about how I respond to folks on FB. I’ll also probably return to my earlier self-imposed rule to not post anything political or politically charged on FB because it simply doesn’t serve any purpose.

However, I do not regret my initial post nor have I changed my mind about what I said. There are, in my opinion, many more good cops out there than there are bad ones. I will support those who take their oaths seriously just as I will push that those who violate their oaths be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. However, I also know that I have not had the negative experiences that others have.

But social media, especially Facebook and the like, is not the place to go into it. That’s something I’ve learned the hard way.

 

 

Friday morning rant

[Edited to add: I have taken great care not to name names in this post. While discussion is encouraged, I will not allow through any posts where names are mentioned or links given. Sorry, but this post is meant as a general blowing off of steam and comments about how we ALL need to be a bit more circumspect in what we post.]

I know, I know. I was supposed to come back yesterday and do a post. I promised and I really do try to keep my promises. However, yesterday was one of those days when it was wiser to stay away. You really wouldn’t have wanted me back. I was in a black mood. No, I wasn’t depressed. I was furious most of the day and then frustrated. Neither of which are good when it comes to blogging — or writing fiction — or editing, which is what I was trying to force myself to do.

That’s where the frustration came from. The editing is late. I had done it — and the book is wonderful. I can’t wait to announce it and link it here. No, it’s not one of mine but it is coming out from NRP from one of our other authors — but before I could save out the complete file, my hard drive died and I lost most of it. So, I’ve been going back through it. Real life, illness and other issues have kept me from finishing it so I’d put yesterday aside to do it.

Only to find myself unable to finish. I have maybe 75 pages left and I hope to get them done after a number of out of the house appointments today.

Anyway. . . .

As I said, that was the frustration. The fury came from idiocy on Facebook. My normal pattern of waking up each morning is to stumble in, turn off the alarm system, toss the dog out and make coffee. Then I sit down at the computer to check the headlines, the weather and social media. Facebook did me in. I started seeing red and it continued throughout the day.

Maybe I should have realized when the first thing I saw was a PM from a good friend saying she was ready to kill someone on her timeline. This friend is the nice one of our group. She’s the nurturing one and usually the last of the group to lose her temper. Me, well, I’m a natural redhead with the temper that goes with it. I’m also protective of friends and family. So, like any good friend, I went to her timeline to see what was happening.

Look, guys, social media is the bane of our existence and a necessary part of it if you are a writer. But we all tend to forget from time to time that it isn’t the same as face-to-face conversation. In this case, however, the person who’d upset my friend had decided to take her to task for something he saw as “wrong” in her status. He saw it as his job to “educate” her. And it went downhill from there.

Now, before you start saying that if she’d posted something wrong and he knew it, he was within his rights, you need to know one thing. What she’d done was simply “share” someone else’s blog post. The so-called offending statement wasn’t even my friend’s. It was from the blog. But that didn’t matter to this guy. Oh no. He was offended and he was going to lecture.

He even admitted that he hadn’t gone to read the linked blog. At least not for much of the discussion, and I use that word loosely. No, his duty, as he saw it, was to continue lecturing my friend and anyone else who didn’t agree with him because he was right. He didn’t need to prove he was right. All he had to do was teach what was right. (paraphrasing him here, but this is basically what he said).

Okay, to each his own. But if you are going to say you are right and everyone else is wrong, first, don’t be condescending. Second, present proof of it when you start out. My friend was giving cites to back up her responses as was at least one other commenter. But not him. He “didn’t have time”. Funny, he had plenty of time to lecture.

Okay, I’m giving too much word count to this. My point is, look at what is posted on Facebook or any other form of social media. Then look at the source of the material. If it is a “share” or a link to another site with nothing more than a “check this out”, then don’t start lecturing to show how wrong the poster is for their “position”. The simple truth of the matter is that a lot of folks share blogs and such from friends and they might not agree with everything that particular post says. Even if they do, if no discussion is invited — and if you aren’t a regular commenter on that person’s wall — then don’t start one by being in your face about it.

More than that, if you want to discuss the issue and show that there might be a faulty premise, take it to the originating site. That is the appropriate place for any discussion of the topic UNLESS the linking person on Facebook or wherever invites comments. Even then, if they cut off the discussion for whatever reason, drop it. It is their sandbox and you aren’t going to win any points by continuing on after they leave the virtual room.

This is especially true for writers or folks who are wanting to be writers. People “friend” writers because they want to know what’s going on in their lives and what they are working on. When someone comes in and is an ass, they remember and you have just lost a future sale. It really isn’t much different from going to a party and making a fool out of yourself.

Okay, this is a rant. Normally, I can let go of stuff like what happened yesterday. But the fact that this guy kept coming back instead of going to the source site to debate the issue, the fact he didn’t “get it” when some of us went in and suggested that he’d be better doing just that and that he’d been insulting in the way he’d tried to get his point across and then the fact that someone else came in and tried to get us to apologize to him (and that one still blows my mind) has continued to bother me. I finally figured out why.

Because I see this happening more and more. I see authors who think that just because they are a “name” that they can insult anyone who doesn’t agree with them on politics or religion or whatever making monumental asses out of themselves on Facebook. I see others who condemn men for being, gasp, men and then there are my all time favorites, the women who claim that every man is a rapist because no woman enjoys sex. Folks, get a grip. Start thinking before you type and, for the love of God, read what you just typed — read it aloud if you have t — before you hit enter.

Discussion is fine. Hell, it’s great. But condescending lecturing, condemnation because someone doesn’t agree with you and the overall idiocy of thinking that you aren’t hurting your bottom line by being an ass needs to stop.

End of rant.

Indie concerns

(Today I’m mirroring a post I did for Mad Genius Club this morning. I’ll be back tomorrow with a new post.)

Sarah is still feeling under the weather thanks to a virus that has made the rounds of her family. She pushed her luck by quipping that she thought she’d managed to escape it. Of course, that meant she was next to fall ill. So she asked me to fill in for her today and to offer her apologies. She will be back Wednesday with her regular post and then next Sunday with a new chapter.

After telling Sarah I’d fill in for her, I started thinking about what to blog about. I asked Kate and Cedar for suggestions and they were oh-so-helpful. Among the suggestions offered were doing a post explaining how I am not Sarah or actually writing an over-the-top chapter for her and seeing how long it would take before someone figured out Sarah really hadn’t gone insane. There was also a suggestion to do a post about the literati who, in an interview with the New York Times, said he never read fantasy because there was no death in it. What? No death in fantasy! Someone certainly hasn’t told George R. R. Martin that – or just about any other modern fantasy (of any ilk) author I can think of.

I’ll admit, going after the literati kind of appealed to me but I wasn’t sold on it. So I went searching for something else. That’s when I came across this post,“An Open Letter to Indie Authors”, by J. M. Gregoire. I highly recommend every author – indie or not – read and think about what is in the letter because it contains some pretty darned good advice.

I also understand what made Gregoire write the letter. The frustration expressed in it is something many of us share. How often have we shaken our heads after seeing an author attack a reviewer – either on their review site or on Facebook or Amazon – because the review wasn’t absolutely glowing? How often have we at least previewed an e-book that looked promising from the description or because we’ve already read something by that author only to find that it needed a really good editor? And yes, in my mind, this also applies to traditionally published books all too often these days.

So, what advice did Gregoire give to indie authors and publishers? (Note that I am paraphrasing some of the points and then giving my own thoughts afterwards.)

1. Don’t publish your book if it isn’t ready for primetime.

In other words, quantity does not trump quality. Yes, the more titles you have out there, the better your sales will be. However, if you are continually putting out what basically amounts to first drafts without proper editing, copy editing and proofing, you will drive away readers. They may forgive one or two stinkers, but not a continuing line of them.

2. Do your research before hiring an editor.

To start, understand what an editor is and make sure the person you are hiring knows as well. An editor isn’t a beta reader or a proofreader. An editor is someone who knows story structure and genre conventions as well as the technical aspects of grammar, punctuation and spelling.

From Gregoire’s “letter:

Beta Readers – These are the folks that read the pre-editing rough draft, and tell you what they do/do not like, what they feel does/doesn’t flow well.  They are there to analyze the story itself, not edit anything.

Editor – An editor does just that.  Edits.  Looks for mistakes – grammar, spelling, punctuation, made up words that don’t exist in any language never mind English, etc.

Proofreader – The proofer reads the final product through to catch any mistakes or typos that may have been missed somewhere along the way.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve talked with other authors who have paid big bucks for an “editor” only to discover they got nothing more than a glorified proofreader or beta reader. So please, do your homework, ask for references and samples of their work and make sure you both understand what an editor does before you sign any contract with them.

3. Social media is our friend – up to a point. There are a lot of folks out there who will “friend” every author they can find on Facebook and then volunteer to beta read. Please read and take very careful note of what Gregoire says here. Too often these folks can be more headache, and heartache, than they are worth.

Note here, choose your beta readers carefully. While I almost always have one who doesn’t read the genre of the book just written, my main betas are familiar with the genre and its conventions. The reason I have the one non-genre reader is to make sure I haven’t fallen back into tropes that signal those familiar with the genre but that will leave those not as familiar out in the cold wondering why my characters are acting as they are. I’ve heard horror stories of authors getting notes back from their betas with suggestions that make you wonder 1) if they read the same book you wrote and 2) what they were on when they read it. These are often the same beta readers who want to continually “help” you as you are writing, offering advice and plot ideas that not only don’t work but would never work in anything you write.

4. Books are judged by their covers.

Yes, I know there are those who say e-books aren’t judged by their covers. Bull. I agree with Gregoire here. We still look at the cover image on the description page and judge how “professional” the book is by how the cover looks. So put some time and effort into your covers. If you aren’t an artist, find one who can help. However, don’t spend a great deal of money on your covers unless you are already getting a nice income stream from your writing or have a job to supplement your writing. Spending a grand or two for a cover is insane. Heck, even spending a couple of hundred can be. Find yourself a graphic artist who is good and who is willing to work a deal with you for cover art. Ask other writers for recommendations. Most of all, look at their portfolios and see what sort of art they do. Finally, have a set date for delivery. Any change to that date has to be agreed upon in writing. Otherwise, you may find yourself waiting weeks or months, your e-book done but without a cover.

5. Don’t be an a-hole.

In other words, think before speaking – or hitting the “enter” button. If you don’t like a review, pull up your big boy pants and move on. Not everyone is going to love your book. Ranting and raving at the reviewer isn’t going to do you any good. It will lose you readers because that rant will make reviewers hesitant to review your next work and readers will simply move on to the next author. The drama might be entertaining for a few minutes but it isn’t something that will bring them back to your books later.

6. Don’t overextend yourself.

That’s pretty self-explanatory. Don’t overextend when it comes to time. Most of us can’t write book after book after book without a break. There comes a time when we not only hit the wall but it falls on us. We need time for a real life. The cat needs petting, the dog needs walking and the family would really like to have a conversation with you that doesn’t revolve around how long it is taking Character A to accomplish something.

It also applies to finances. How many of us know authors who financially strap themselves to go to every con, attend every writers’ workshop, etc., all in an attempt to “promote” their work? Cons help with networking but, on the whole, don’t have the same impact (in my opinion) they used to when it comes to winning over new readers. All you have to do is look at cons to see that they have the same basic concom every year and the same authors/publishers get the choice panels. If you aren’t one of the chosen ones, you are paying to rent a table and hoping someone buys enough of your books to pay for the table. Forget about recovering the other hundreds or thousands of dollars it costs to go to the con.

Am I saying not to do cons? No. But I am saying to be smart about which ones you go to and how much money you spend.

That same caveat about being aware of how much money you are spending applies to publishing your e-books/print books as well. Yes, you will have loss leaders. We all do. But if you are paying hundreds or thousands of dollars just to get your e-book into the market, consider how long it will take you to recover that cost and how many copies you will have to sell.

In other words, all the above advice, as well as everything Gregoire had to say, comes down to this: writing is our business and we have to treat it that way. Just because we can do it anytime and pretty much anywhere doesn’t make it any less so. Yes, we can do it in our PJs and we are our own bosses. But we still have to take pride in what we do and we have to put out the best product we can. So don’t rush it. Don’t skip steps – especially editing. Do invest the time into getting a good cover. Finally, follow Jim Baen’s rule and “don’t be a butthead”.

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