Posts Tagged ‘social media’

There has been lots of talk over the last few years about cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, echo chambers, and the general tendency of humans to hear what they want to hear, not what is actually being said. While this is a problem as old as humans, these last few years has seen it grow to an unprecedented volume. Largely thanks to social media, the fires of misogyny, bigotry, racism, and religious fervor have flared to global conflagrations. If it’s one thing humans really love to do, it’s hate.

The recent kerfluffle over the new female Doctor Who is but a small example of the hate parade out there. Pick just about anything on the Internet, and you’ll find scathing comments below. Pink posts a perfectly innocent family picture, and is slammed for being a terrible mom who’s endangering her children. The Afghani all female robotics team makes history for their country, and they receive death threats. Even cute little kittens aren’t exempt. Kittens!?! Come on, people!



Even that adorable fluff face…


I have to admit experiencing my own moments of “You’re stupid! Fuck you!” but I try to keep them to myself as much as possible. I was brought up with the if-you-can’t-say-anything-nice-don’t-say-anything-at-all philosophy. Though in later years I did learn how to offer constructive criticisms. You can’t be a decent artisan without that. But there’s nothing constructive about the vast majority of what goes flying over the interwebs. It’s just a vomit of anger for no apparent reason.

But there is a reason. The anger isn’t really about Dr. Who or Pink or kittens, it’s about change. The world is going through a maelstrom of change. Again, largely due to the inter-connectedness social media and the Internet offers. And most humans don’t do change all that well. We like our nice little comfortable bubbles of sameness. As long as we keep to the well-worn rut of routine, we can deal. We know what to expect and how to plan for it. Screw with that routine and we all fall apart.

Even the field of science fiction has experienced the pains of change. You’d think a group that pretty much epitomizes progressive thinking – you know, that whole new worlds, new peoples are cool thing – wouldn’t have such a problem. But there’s been a tiny group of grumpy white men (see Sad/Rabid Puppies) who have been railing against the SJW’s (social justice warriors) that have “taken over” THEIR science fiction. They view the inclusion of women, people of color, and LGBTQ issues in FICTION as a direct threat on them and their reign of control. They even went so far as to game the system for the Hugo awards a couple years ago, managing to get a goodly number of THEIR choices onto the ballots, at the expense of much more deserving writers. Thankfully, and to the credit of the majority of the voters, that year also saw the largest selection of “No Award” tallies ever seen at the Hugo’s.

Okay, guys. For one thing, it’s FICTION. ENTERTAINMENT. Don’t like anything that might threaten your delicate manhood? Don’t read/watch it. It’s not a life requirement. You want to live in a closed little bubble, while the rest of the world passes you by, you go right ahead. Since most of you can’t write worth a damn anyway, you’re not likely to get published beyond your vanity press, and you certainly won’t be missed.


Unicorn against idiots

I’m really going to be busy…


But what happens when a huge swath of the population at large has basically the same ideals? Change bad. Different wrong. And – even worse – disagreement equals attack, resistance equals persecution. The drama needle has swung off the scale and now even the tiniest difference between two people and their opinions becomes an apocalyptic battle of epic proportions.

Are we really that insecure? Are we so unsure of ourselves that we have to hate someone or something else to feel better about ourselves? We have to consider ourselves superior in ANY WAY just to make it through the day? Let’s think about that for a minute. What is hate? For me, hate is fear plus anger. Something scares us and we get angry and therefore we must hate it, because that’s better than running away. Only cowards run away and I’m certainly not a coward, right? Therefore, we must crush the object of our hate because that’s the only way to be safe.

So if the root cause of hate is fear, what are we afraid of? Or, more importantly, WHY are we afraid? Why is including more women – roughly half the entirety of the human race – both as creators and as characters in fiction so scary? Why are people of color – who actually comprise the majority in the world – too terrifying to be allowed equal representation? Why does it matter that the guy next door is having sex with another guy? Are you mad because you weren’t invited?


Fear is the enemy

Living your life in fear is no way to live.


We hate not because of a problem outside, but because of a problem inside, in our hearts and souls and minds. If you hate a young Afghani girl who wants to play with robots, then YOU are the problem, not her. But she’s a terrorist, you cry. She’s starting with robots and graduating to bombs! Congratulations. You’ve swallowed the cum of propaganda spewed by the fearful old white men who claim to run our country. Instead of thinking for yourself, you’ve followed the party line of hate, and there’s only one way that ends: in our destruction as a civilization.

And while there are those out there that just want to see the world burn, I’d bet most of us would rather that not happen. A hundred years ago, when it took days to walk to the next village, or months for a letter to wend its way to the New World from the old, it was easy to be isolated. And it made sense for local and state governments to have more autonomy over their territories, because they were right there, when the feds were weeks – even months – of travel away. But we’re not isolated anymore. Communication is virtually instantaneous. We can watch the protests in [obscure third-world country] in real-time from our couch in California. And we’re much more mobile, many of us commuting more in a day than our ancestors did in their lifetimes.

The world is not such a big place anymore. We can no longer be isolationist. We can no longer be separatists. We need more cooperation, not less; more integration, not less; more acceptance, not less.

And that means less hate, not more.


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I’ve been reading a lot lately about why and how authors should develop their brand. Like many of you, my first thought about branding had something to do with red-hot iron and pissed off cattle. After some of my research, I’m not entirely sure it still doesn’t mean that, at least in the metaphorical sense. No, this newest version has to do with authors developing a presence or package of what they represent, of what the reader can expect when picking up one of their works. It entails marketing strategies and social media and business plans and a huge amount of savvy and energy that I don’t have.

Wait, let me dust off my cane here. See, in the old days, authors wrote books, attended book signings and writer’s conventions, and answered the occasional fan letter. Mostly though, they wrote books. And stories. And articles. And poetry. And limericks. And… and… and… The brand was developed by having stuff out there for the masses to read. It took a lot of time and effort and a little bit of luck to get that “name recognition.” But thousands of them did it without any of these modern day contrivances. Just about anybody who reads knows exactly what they’re going to get when they pick up something by Shakespeare, Poe, Tolkien, Asimov, Herbert, Bradbury, or King. And those greats all had that recognition long before today’s FaceTwitGrams were even thought of. Or their respective developers, for that matter. All that marketing stuff was for the publisher to deal with.

But with the advent of indie publishing, a new breed of author has evolved. With the youngest among us practically born with a smart phone in their hands, it’s nothing for them to jump into this whole branding idea with both thumbs. They live on social media anyway, so it’s totally natural to just continue that existence with their writing. Where they find the time to write in between all the updates, tweets, selfies, shares, cute cat videos, and drunk fails, I’m not sure. Those young’uns are moving a whole lot faster than I did at their age, in a world that puts me into sensory overload and makes me want to hide under my bed, but seems to energize them to new levels of thought. I wish them well, but I’m not entirely convinced it’s good for them. Or the rest of us.

Maybe that’s just the old fogy in me talking. Maybe I’m just jealous because I know I can’t keep up with them when it comes to 21st Century media. Maybe I’m afraid the world has passed me by and my window of opportunity to be an actual paid writer has long since closed. Or maybe, just maybe, I know something they don’t know.

You see, there are certain advantages to being in the age and treachery division of life. One of them being that there are LOADS of us out there. Why do you think Mick Jagger is still rocking across the stage as a great-grandfather (besides that deal with the Devil, but that’s a story for another time)? Being middle-aged (or better) has an entirely new meaning with this new century. For one thing, we’re healthier as a group than the same age dynamic of previous generations enjoyed. And we’re not content to simply go to work, take the kids to ballet class and watch football. We want to play and explore and learn, too. We’re young enough to take on bungee jumping, zip-lining, white-water rafting or any number of other adventures, but old enough to know we need medical and life insurance first.

We straddle the line between the analog and digital ages. We look forward to the fascinating things to come, while sitting comfortably on the tried and true of the past. And we have certain expectations. We still want a well-written book to curl up with by the fire, even if we’re reading it on a tablet.

And that’s when I realized I already had my brand. I’m a middle-aged chronic depressive science fiction writer who plays with string and pretends to be somebody else on the weekends. I can text just fine, but use proper grammar and spelling because I just can’t do it any other way. I’m on Facebook, but I use it to actually keep in touch with family and friends instead of playing games or trading political memes. I know about Reddit and Tumblr and Instagram and Pinterest, but I’m not interested in spending more time in the digital world than I already am. And there are 76 million more like me in the US right now.

Let me be your favorite brand. I speak your language. I can be irreverent, judgmental, thoughtful, hopeful, angry, determined, educational, passionate and pointed. I know what it’s like to deal with the daily office grind, and then face the fear of starting a second career because you couldn’t retire from your first. I get Star Trek as well as Steampunk, love classic muscle cars while delighted by Tesla, and was doing cosplay way before it was a thing. I can give you well-crafted characters in a strong story line that simmers along with a quiet rage that leaves you satisfied and yet wanting more at the end. Let me be the one that helps you understand and enjoy the future while giving you the security of your past.

And if any of you young’uns want to come along for the ride, hop on board. There’s plenty we can teach each other.


© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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I’ve taken a little break from my novel. After grinding out nearly 16,000 words on it in November (yeah, I know – NaNoWriMo winner I’m not) I realized I needed to take a step back and look at the whole forest instead of just the trees. In reviewing the flow of things and all the little pieces of the story I’ve been allowed to see, it’s looking like I’m only about a third of the way through this particular book (@65K words already!), and there seem to be a couple more books to follow. This is going to be massive, which means it’s also going to take A LOT of time to sort out. At the rate I’m going, it’ll be about three years total for the series. I’m so screwed.

So I’m taking a break because I need to get some other things done. I have a couple short stories rattling around in my head I should actually write down, and a couple to submit to publications, and I have to make some more queries for my first novel. The submission and query process is the part about being a writer that I really can’t stand. Writing is hard enough, but now I have to be my own PR agent, too? That’s nearly impossible for a depressive with no self-esteem. Just imagine Eeyore being a cheerleader, and you’ll understand.

But it’s part of the package. And if you’re a writer and haven’t figured that out yet, get on the boat, kids. Even those really successful writers with big buck contracts and agents and managers and PR firms have to play salesman at some point for their product. Whether it’s a book signing, a convention appearance, or an interview, writers who actually sell their books will have to come out of their caves and pitch to the masses. Yeah, I’m not thrilled about it, either, but it’s what we signed on for, so might as well put on the sunscreen and practice walking in the daylight.

Now, some of you might be asking why I don’t just go the electronic/self-publishing route, and the answer would be because I’m a traditionalist. That translates to old fuddy-duddy. I like real books. I like the smell of old ones, the crisp feel of new ones, the weight of all of them. I like how they don’t require a battery to operate and how I can read them by the light of the moon when I’m out camping. I can even level a table or crack a crook over the head with one, and still be able to read it. Betcha can’t say that about your Kindle or iPad. Traditional printing is still the gold standard as far as I’m concerned, so that’s what I’m shooting for.

Plus, to go that electronic/self-publishing route, you REALLY have to promote yourself. You have to be well versed with all things social media, and you have to be willing to spam yourself across the Internet. In a good way, of course. I just don’t have those kinds of skills. I can barely handle e-mail and this blog. You can just forget about Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and whatever else there is out there. That’s a realm for the young, those kids born with smart phones in their hands and wondering how the hell anyone could possibly survive without instant access to everything. I need a guide for that strange world, and so I look to an agent and publisher to lead me through that maze.

To get those, I have to sell them on my novel. Agents and publishers all have query and submission guidelines. No two of them seem to be alike, but the one thing they all want is some form of summary or synopsis. A summary can be as short as a few lines, to several paragraphs. It’s that blurb on the back of the dust jacket that teases you into cracking the pages, or those tantalizing few paragraphs on the inside front that convince you to spend your hard earned cash on a few hours of escape. It has to be the kind of sales pitch that could sell ice to Eskimos, because your book is just one snowflake on the tundra of publishing, and it had better be damn good to get any attention.

My short summary for Decker is as follows:

The dreary rains of the Seattle Free Zone hide more than the hungry maw of a corporate power gone mad. In the streets a mercenary seeks redemption for a crime not hers, while the FBI agent sent to find her learns he no longer believes. Forced into an alliance against a foe long since human, the pair discovers success will demand a heavy price.

It took me two years to finally get it to that point, but I’m liking it now. Hopefully, so will an agent or publisher. I have a longer summary as well, but that still isn’t where I want it, so more angsting I will go…

A synopsis is a more in-depth summary. Usually two or three pages long, it includes your characters, plot points and how the whole thing ends. It’s your novel in a nutshell. That’s right, you just spent a year writing 100K wondrous words, only to turn around and cut it down to the bare bones. And it has to be fabulous bones.

My current synopsis sucks. But since I’m querying a publisher that wants one, I need to take these next few days and pull it together into a rousing, teasing, passionate read they won’t be able to resist. It’s going to mean some hair pulling, tea drinking, cat scratching hours in front of the computer. I think I’ve written a good novel. I think it’s something other people will want to read, and my beta readers seem to agree. But I have to convince some pretty skeptical professionals first.

Therein lies the hardest part about being a writer. You can’t just sit back and let your work speak for itself, because it will just be a miniscule voice in a massive chorus. You have to plant a flag, send up fireworks and summon a flyover from the USAF Thunderbirds just to get noticed. Luckily, I’m an Air Force brat, so don’t be surprised if there’s an F-16 parked out front. It’ll be on its way as soon as I get the flag and fireworks.

© 2013   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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It is said that knowledge is power. But if you have no way to show the rest of the world that knowledge, then what power do you really have? To use knowledge you must be able to communicate that knowledge, whether it is to simply impress your friends while watching Jeopardy, or lead the way in stunning scientific breakthroughs. Either way, you have to let that knowledge out.

The impetus to spread knowledge more quickly than show-and-grunt gave us the basics of communication. We began communicating that which we knew to those who wanted to learn, and found ourselves with language. Whether it is pictograms, signing, the spoken word or even mathematics, we depend on some form of language everyday to get by. Those ideas in your head need to be released somehow, and new ideas need to be put in.

We are constantly searching for better methods of communication. Through research we’ve discovered individuals who might not be able to speak or write normally had plenty to say once we figured out how to connect them to the world.  Without modern technology we would have missed the great mind of Stephen Hawking. He would have been long gone from this world and the field of physics would likely not be as far along as it is. Through his gift with language (both math and, yes, words), he has elevated us to a much higher level of understanding than we might have achieved otherwise.

Words are the most common form of language. Because of words, we have amazing scientific, literary and philosophical works. Words have been given meaning and strength and purpose. Words have power. Anybody that doesn’t believe that obviously has never been bullied. Whoever said, “Sticks and stones will break by bones, but words will never hurt me” was never a teenager on Facebook. Social media has allowed what might have been a random few bullies to turn into great hordes of hatred. And often those hordes don’t even know why they do it. But it all started with just a few words.

And while words have brought down great nations and lifted up individuals, my purpose as a fiction writer is to entertain. I use words to elicit responses, to play with your perceptions and emotions, and to offer you an escape from the usual stresses of the day. To be a good writer (not saying that I am, just that I’m aware of what it takes), you have to play with words like no one else, to be able to take some silly scratchings on a page and build everything, every mood, every shadow, every environment, every world. You have to know the grandiosity of words, as well as their subtleties. And, most importantly, you have to know when it’s the right time to use them.

Still not convinced that words make that much difference? Here, let me give you an example:

She walked into the room. She looked through everything and found nothing. She exited the room.

The paragraph above is simple and factual, but not really very interesting. It could be a police report, for all its straightforward words. It needs something else to hold our attention:

She tiptoed into the darkened room. Quickly she rifled through everything, but found nothing of interest. She quietly left the room in frustration.

A whole new tone becomes apparent, because of a few words. We have a different view of what might actually be going on. Who is she? What is she looking for? Why is she searching a room? It sounds like she might be there illicitly. Things might just be interesting after all. Or how about this one:

She barged into the quiet room. Angrily she tossed everything, coming up empty. She stormed out of the room cursing.

Well, that’s something yet again different, and brings up an all-together new set of questions, simply because a few words were changed. All sorts of things can be implied, inferred, or suggested by words, even when they don’t speak to the details explicitly:

Sister Hannah padded into the room. She regarded the contents, but found nothing she needed. She withdrew from the room slowly.

Dr. Beckett sauntered into the room. He glanced over the contents, but found little of interest. Whistling, he departed the room.

Detective Summerville strode into the room. He glared at the contents, but saw zilch to work with. Scowling, he spun on his heel and left.

Each of the above gives you a little bit different tone, starting with just the title of the individual. Each paragraph is giving you a description of the same basic act, but because of a few choice words and their placement, the reader gets a new experience with each reading. It is the experience that captures the reader, and that’s why words have power.

The examples I’ve given are just the beginnings of what words can offer. This same scenario can be written in thousands of different ways, offering shades of historical romance to modern comedy to hard-boiled detective mystery. And because no two people will read the same words the same way, there will be millions of interpretations and responses.

That’s the beauty of it. You never know what you’re going to get. So go out and play with words yourself. Use words like lugubrious, loquacious, and salacious instead of gloomy, talkative, or scandalous. Challenge yourself to learn a new word everyday. Listen to yourself talk and break your normal patterns of speech. Dig out the Scrabble board.

You can spend your life being a boring police blotter, or you can join me in the rapturous magnificence of libretti. I’ll keep the dictionary open.

© 2013   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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