Tag, You’re It or It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt

It started out as a simple notification. I’d been tagged on Twitter. Tagged for what, I didn’t know, but tagged all the same.

I opened the app. A lovely photograph filled my screen taken by another blogger who has frequently entertained me with her travel stories and photographs of parts known, as well as less discovered. But what was it doing on my Twitter feed?

The only information I could find was the hashtag, #7dayphotochallenge. No pictures. No explanations.

Being the sucker for friendly hashtag games, I clicked to learn more.

Following the tag, I saw a number of other posts featuring images of nature or various things around the house. The game seemed easy enough. I found a decent enough picture to share and tagged a couple other nice people I follow.

The following day, another photograph appeared in my feed posted by the same person who’d tagged me in the first place. However, this time other twitter handles were mentioned. It began to dawn on me then that this was one of the more run-of-the-mill twitter games.

I suppose the whole “#7day” part of the hashtag thing should have probably clued me in, but in my defense, I was somewhat distracted at the time by the pretty landscape. So I looked around the room, snapped a photo, and tagged another nice person.

It dawned on me then, that I may have made a tactical mistake. Before, I might have been able to pass off the first photo as a fluke or humoring a friend. But now, now I was invested.

I posted a third then started preparing my whole strategy for pictures 4,5,6, and 7.

Suddenly, this whole game thing was beginning to seem like work. Fun work, mind you. But work.

And I still didn’t have a clue what in the world purpose of the game was or the rules were – other than no people, no explanations.

I found myself thinking of a special I’d seen on Netflix a while ago called The Push. The film documented a social experiment designed to answer the following: could a regular person be manipulated into pushing another person off the top of a building based on nothing more than the power of suggestion and the perception of authority. It was a modern take on the Milgram experiment.

The experiment started by first identifying people who are more susceptible to suggestion than others. Potential subjects were sent into a room where a pair of people in on the experiment stood or sat whenever a bell rang. Those who joined in the exercise without ever once asking why the first few people were standing one moment and sitting the next were invited to the next round.

Once the subject was selected, he or she would be gradually conditioned to accept increasingly risky commands leading up to one final choice – would they continue to allow social pressures to influence their behavior, or would they stand up to something that they, being good people, knew to be morally repugnant?

Watching the experiment play out on the screen, I’d like to think I wouldn’t – that I’d draw a line in the sand before the situation progressed that far – but now, given how readily I jumped into a game that everyone else seemed to be playing no questions asked, it makes me start to wonder.

I like to think that people are good and well-intentioned overall. However, we can get carried away by an idea. Then, suddenly we find ourselves backed into a corner, blocked by the rigidness of our beliefs as much as by those who oppose them. At this point, it is only natural to forget about the larger implications and instead try to seek the protection of the closest group at hand. We then do or say whatever we can that either requires the least amount of thought or provides the most immediate relief. And this is when the bad stuff tends to happen.

People, for the most part, aren’t naturally bad in my opinion, but people sure can be lazy.

I’ve included a clip from a recent episode of Last Week Tonight on the topic of astroturfing, which was not a term I was familiar with, but now makes complete sense. The clip is NSFW, so wait until sensitive ears are not around before you watch it, but its worth the watch all the same. It’s a great reminder of the risk of getting so caught up in the group-think, emotional side of things, we forget to ask if what we are doing or saying is truly best, or based on any fact from the start.

If you aren’t able to view the clip, let me repeat with his key point: “It is now even more incumbent on us to use our judgment diligently.” So never forget to use yours. I’ll do the same.

Because while it’s easier than ever to get swept up in a trend, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

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How to Build a Readership with Blogging by Debby Gies and a progress update

I’ve finished my major re-writes and secondary edits for my upcoming sequel to An Uncertain Faith, entitled An Uncertain Confidence. This means the time has come to start talking with professional editors.

Admittedly, I could have, and probably should have, already had this conversation in order to a spot in an editor’s queue, but I wasn’t sure what my writing output would be after starting the new job. Therefore, I opted to hold off until I was sure I’d gotten it in a decent enough position to be handed off to anyone.

Such is flexibility that is self-publishing.

While I might be ready to hand off An Uncertain Confidence to an editor, there is still much to do before this book will be made available to the general public. In all probability, there will be yet another round of re-writes following editorial recommendations as well as a round of proof-reading or two (as typos have a way of waiting until you hit the publish button before they magically become visible to the naked eye). Then there is the oh-so-much fun process of lining up advanced reviews or preparing my pre-sales book launch marketing and I’m responsible for it all.

Because this is the joy that is self-publishing too.

For those of you considering going down this road too, which has been rewarding while being exhausting (much like being a parent is), I encourage you to check out an article recently published over on the Carrot Ranch Literary community on how to build a readership through blogging by fellow indie author, Debby Gies.


How to Build a Readership with Blogging and Prepare for Publishing

by Debby Gies

As writers who choose to self-publish, we must understand that we’ve chosen to be not only writers but publishers, marketers, and promoters of our work because these components are all essential parts of running a business. Yes, your business! If we intend to sell books, it’s in our best interests to learn about these things as well as building an author platform. If we don’t put in the time to promote our work, our books will surely sit and collect dust on the virtual shelves, lost in a sea of hundreds of thousands of other books…

To read more visit the source at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community Platform: Self-Publishing


As a way of saying thank you for your continued patience, I’d like to offer you with this sneak peek at the cover for An Uncertain Confidence

Set five years after the event’s of An Uncertain Faith (now available for Kindle, iBook, Nook, and other e-readers), Charlotte’s life is on an upward swing. She’s business partners with her best friend and her art is finally getting noticed.

Nothing could possibly go wrong – until everything does.

After a disastrous evening out, which results in the hospitalization of her friend’s husband, Charlotte is forced to seek other help to keep her business afloat, while juggling the ever-present demands of motherhood.  As a result, she has the potential to grow as a person and as an independent business owner in ways she never anticipated, but in doing so will also learn just how dangerous trusting the wrong person can be.

While the first book centered around family, this one focuses on the value of friendship, trust, and the often lengths we go to protect those we love.

Why Do We Walk on a Hot Summer Day

why do we walk on a hot summer day - www.alliepottswrites.comI went for a walk the other day.

It was hot, even by my southern standards. The mercury proclaimed the temperature to be somewhere in the mid-nineties. The density of sweat on the back of my neck suggested it was closer to triple digits (or thirty-seven for those who’ve long since abandoned the imperial system).

My children walked next to me until my youngest complained once too many that his feet were tired and was scooped up to be carried by his father. We still had at a mile or so to go.

Finally, we reached our destination. At least I thought it was our destination based on the number of people milling around. I honestly didn’t know.

I’d never gone on a walk like this before.

We lingered as more joined us in the square – bodies pressed together in the limited bits of shadow. Although there was insufficient protection from the morning sun, groups of people climbed up on planters, holding up cameras and snapping pictures of the view. More people arrived. Some shouted, some cheered, while others looked – much as I imagined we must have looked – confused and more than a little out of our depths.

My eldest son’s skin reddened as minutes ticked by. I handed him our single water bottle, encouraging him to drink. He looked up at me and asked for the tenth time that morning, “why are we doing this again?”

I glanced around, keenly aware that more than a few ears might hear what I had to say. “We’re here because this is one way to tell the people who make decisions that we think that certain things aren’t okay.”

“Oh,” he said. “Do you think they’ll listen?”

I looked at my son, who is now almost tall enough to meet my eye. I looked over his shoulder at the group of people holding up posters with witty, yet all too ignorable slogans. I listened to the shouts, some leaning more to the uncomfortable extreme. I looked into my son’s eyes once more. “No, sweetie,” I replied after some internal debate and a deep sigh. “I don’t.”

“Then why are we here?” he asked once more, taking another sip of water.

“Because I couldn’t stay away.”

I considered saying more, but then a siren sounded, a police car moved, and we were underway.

My son reached out and grabbed my hand as the crowd clumped and moved. “I don’t want to lose you,” he said.

I smiled, treasuring the moment in spite of the heat. “I don’t want to lose you either.”

We walked together that way – hand in hand – as a drum continued to play and pockets of individuals restarted their chanting refrains. My palms sweat, clutched so tightly by his, but he let go only to take another sip of water.

While we walked, he’d ask me questions, prompted in some part by the signs he read, which I did my best to answer as objectively as I could, considering the reason we’d left the comfort of our air-conditioned house that day. I wondered along the way if I was making any sense. I worried about how he’d taken my pessimism earlier.

A couple of days later the news showed a mother and daughter hugging each other. My son who’d been playing with his brother at the time looked up at me and smiled. “It worked, Mom. We did that.”

Technically, we hadn’t.

Aside from the fact that meeting of mother and daughter had been set up days to a week or so before, our particular contribution had barely registered as a blip on the news – overshadowed or outshone by bigger stories of the day. But as far as my son was concerned, that hug on the screen was his hug. He returned to his play, proud in the belief he’d made a difference in someone’s life that day.

Maybe he didn’t, but maybe he will.

Maybe someday he’ll go out there and truly make an impact, building on this experience, bolstered by the idea that we can make the world a little better even when it seems impossible. And all we have to do to get started is to simply leave our comfort zone once in a while, or get off the couch and try.

And that is why we walked on a hot summer day.

To my fellow Americans, I hope you all had a safe and happy Independence Day.

When Science Meets Magic – A Technology Round-up

science meets magic - a technology round-up -www.alliepottswrites.comIt has taken a bit to adjust to my new working schedule, especially as it pertains to writing for myself. When you find yourself researching and writing articles every day, it can be difficult to will yourself into remaining in your desk chair for an extra hour or two outside of regular business hours. If only the darn book would write itself, I’ve often complained. The story is there – swimming in my head. It’s just getting the words out on paper (or computer screen) that’s the problem.

Why don’t you try Dragon dictation? Some of my author friends have suggested. Once you get used to it, it is amazing how fast you can finish a draft.

Unfortunately, this would require I actually speak my story out loud. This means formulating the words to go along with the images floating around in my head, which is actually the hardest part of the process for me. Not only that, but I know from past personal experience, it isn’t a good idea for me to get into a habit of speaking as if no one can hear me. I tend to forget to turn it back off when I am around others.

Well, as luck might have it, I may just have a workaround soon. Back in April, researchers at MIT announced that they had created a wearable device that can ‘hear’ the voices words you say in your head, which is also known as subvocalization. The device itself looks like a cross between Google Glass and the headset used by a presentational speaker and picks up the electrical signals you generate when you think about words.

Speaking of Google Glass – Intel is coming up with smart glasses that actually look like regular glasses (source: The Verge).

But even then I am still a mom. Even if I am working in a cone of silence, there is still a good chance that either of my loving children will demand that I stop everything at once so that I might hear how they destroyed a creeper in Minecraft yet again. Did you know that in Minecraft’s creative mode, you can’t die? It’s true. And guess what, it’s still true five minutes later too!

If only I had an invisibility cloak. Oh, wait, that’s almost here too (source http://www.engadget.com).

Of course, then I also still have squeeze my writing in around weekly chores like folding the laundry. Thankfully my kids are now old enough to help out in this task, though they aren’t entirely reliable and often their little bundles have to be refolded before they can be put away. But maybe this won’t be a problem much longer either with the invention of a laundry folding machine Rosie from the Jetson’s might approve of.

Admittedly there isn’t much magic in this machine, but I want one all the same. As far as I am concerned, it creates time, which is a trick indeed.

Although, while I am on the topic of machines taking over time-consuming jobs, I was somewhat troubled to learn that scientists are continuing to hone in on what it is to be creative. In 2016, a computer ‘created’ a Beatles-esq song. Another computer, named “Shelley” has taken a crack at creative writing and is already working on its next anthology (source: livescience). And this was all before Google’s Duplex Assistant came on the scene and started tricking everyone into thinking a computer program was human.

What this means is the clock is ticking for me to finish my current works in progress before I have a whole new level of competition. Therefore it is best if I stop complaining about having no energy to write after work and get my rear back in the seat because science fiction is going to be science fact before you know it.

Project Gene Assist

 

Throwback Thursday – Be the change

Protest signI’ve had a lot on my mind this week. Too much actually. I find that the words are blocked and I’ve frankly run out of time. I am re-posting something I wrote back in 2014 which I feel is even more relevant today.

I was out-of-town for the last several days and was catching up on my reading when I came across a post written by one of my favorite bloggers. In her article she asked the question, do you ever involve yourself in a cause that doesn’t personally affect you?

Source: Be the change