Still crazy and hard to believe the end is so nigh for my Google+ playground. It keeps getting me in the feels.
Hey fellow writer types… do you have any big, lofty goals for 2019? If not, you probably should. In the very least, plan to keep at it.
But I really wanna hear what you have planned. And how you plan to accomplish those goals. So sound off in the comments. Maybe we can all learn a little something from each other’s lofty goals and how to achieve them.
Been swamped a lot lately. Trying to do too many things in a limited amount of time and burning myself out. It’s a miserable feeling. Need to give myself a little relaxing time to breathe and rejuvenate.
Side note… I have been working on a new story. A freebie, and horror. Been working on it with fellow author Trent Becker. We should have it done soon. Fingers crossed and all that. Below is a visual sneak peek. In the meantime, I’ll be breathing.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how social networks have become hotbeds of hostility and how new networks are trying to position themselves to answer actual and perceived problems. I want to talk a bit about that.
But first, a true story!
Several years back, I created an online community for writers. It was an odd system, it didn’t quite work perfectly, but it was fun while it lasted. At its peak, we were just under 100 members as I recall.
I had a single webpage for simple, no nonsense rules about how and how not to behave. Behaviors, or writing, that could get you banned. I wanted it to be simple, so when a person read them it just made sense. As I recall, it was one page long. Because, honestly, it doesn’t take much to spell out what kinds of behaviors or posts you don’t want on a platform. They were called Da Rules—here’s a snippet of those rules:
Things were smooth. People respected Da Rules. And each other.
And then… I got an email.
One of our female members had been harassed on our platform by a male member. He had begun by leaving writing criticism on her stories, and then it escalated beyond criticism. And then, he began to send her private messages through our messaging system on the platform. He escalated it to threats and even threats that involved real life threats against her family. That’s when she deleted her account and went running from the platform. She then decided to email me and let me know what had happened, as a warning, in case he went after other members.
It was one of those things where as a human I let out a big sigh. I don’t like it when people mistreat people. Especially in a space I provided. It was very upsetting, and I was hopeful her days of his terror were over.
I restricted the guy’s movements on the platform and sent him a private message. My first step was to try and be unbiased and get to the bottom of it. Provide him a chance to hear the allegations and respond. I did not tell him who it was.
Within the first few messages he had turned into a very critical, grumpy man. He had strong opinions about the fact I was even talking to him, basically. It was a personality and attitude I was all-too-familiar with. He was the victim, everyone else was wrong, and he was mad as hell about it. Despite the fact nothing had happened to him. We were just talking.
As his anger and retorts grew, it became clear this guy was trash—and just as hostile as portrayed. I banned him from the site and restricted site access to having to go through an admin approval before joining as a new member (assuming he’d come back). I took note of his IP address’s location as well to help determining if a new member request was him or someone else. It wasn’t perfect, but it was something.
Almost immediately, he asked to join with a different name (his email address gave him away). I rejected. He tried again (using feminine names and info, I might add), but his IP address gave him away. He tried several times, but his IP always betrayed him. Eventually he gave up.
Why did I tell you this story?
Because it almost always comes to my mind when questions of how to squash abusive users arise. And those questions have been everywhere as of late. People want Nazis off Twitter, Jack is all like, “But with a checkmark?” People want to squash the trash heap of trolls, racists, bots and filth of social platforms, and Mark Zuckerberg and others are like, “But what if they just don’t know any better?” People just want to not have threats slung at them for being women, black, Muslim, Jewish, whatevs, and the response is “this does not break our rules of bad behavior on our crap platform.”
WELL… I’m here to say that it should. You set the rules. So ask yourself, as a platform, do you want Nazis? Do you want racists? Do you want spammers? Do you want bots, trolls? Do you want the scum of the earth? Is that the kind of community you want to foster?
When I was first putting together our online writing community, the key thing for me for understanding what I was building was that it was a community. Yes, a community. We were going to live together. Work together, play together. Read and write together. A community cannot thrive, and be together, if it is divided. If you let people in who are angry, divisive, and there to cause a ruckus, it will become a hot mess. Good people will leave. You have to have your community’s back. You have to know the difference between a good member of the community, and a bad actor. A bad actor is one who just wants problems, always argues, can’t get along. Sure, they’ll often claim innocence. Sure, they’ll bemoan they’re being attacked for having different viewpoints or whatever. But the point is that as a community leader, you have to make that choice of what kind of members you want. Ones that are there to build up, or tear down?
New, reformed, and future social media networks.
Like I said, at the start, I’ve been thinking a lot about this stuff lately. With all that’s been going on, with all that’s not been going on, and so on and so forth. But also I’ve been trying new and upcoming platforms, too, and I’m noticing some trends over there. No one can know for sure what the future holds, but here’s some things I’m seeing and some things I’m thinking.
Some new networks are touting that they are pro-free speech and don’t censor. This should stand out as a red flag, like a major one. You should probably stop, drop, and roll when you see this message. That probably makes me sound horrible, but here’s what that means… people who got banned from Twitter, Facebook, and other networks for being human garbage can run free on these networks. Cool, right?
Some new networks are niche in focus. This might just be the future of networks, honestly. Think about it, if your network has a niche, like mine did so many years ago—it was a writing community—it stands a better chance of everyone being on the same page about standard behaviors. Some new networks are trying to meet this need times a thousand, by being group focused, which may work. But it runs a risk of trolls from other groups mingling into groups they don’t belong to stir up trouble. Hey, when I was 13, I entered a Titanic (movie) chat on mIRC with a buddy and we trolled it until we got banned. Been there, done that.
Is reforming a social network even possible? Serious question. I want serious answers on that in the comments too. Look at Facebook who is frantically trying to reform in an attempt to regain the trust of their userbase and public perception. They’re trying new things with how news and news stories are handled. They’re trying new things with how content is pushed to users. But at the end of the day, when you’re so many years steeped into a method like Facebook already is what are the odds of changing? Really changing? Without a major rehaul? Without pissing off your current userbase and chasing a bunch of them off—whether on purpose or not? Zuckerberg seems determined to keep every single user, gotta pay the bills, even when those users are those bad actors we talked about. In Google+, a place I love, there is a different sort of reform trying to take place. Spammers are horrendous on the platform, especially in Communities, and it’s not an easy task trying to reverse those behaviors. Even when plucking out all the bad actors, when there’s so many that have already infiltrated. It’s an endless battle of reporting, blocking, muting and any other tool a network gives its users.
Wow, this escalated out of control.
But seriously… what in the world? Guess I had a lot in mind. This is stuff that’s been spinning in my head about social networks, communities, and so on. I think so much of it is a perspective problem for leaders like Jack and Zuck. They aren’t trying to build and foster a community.
And because it feels like we need to send off on a good note, and a theme song, here’s the Tom Jones and The Cardigans’ cover of Burning Down the House.
This month I’ve been participating in my first ever beta readership. It’s something I’ve been curious about lately, but had never done. Since I’ve been working on the first in a series of books, I figured now would be the best time to tap into that feedback machine. Learn a little something about my first book before trotting into other books in the series. Maybe learn a few lessons before I get too far.
It’s been a curious journey so far. I set basic rules, as it’s my first time and have been pretty lax. So far I’ve gotten back some responses with the rest coming later in the month, I hope. But I totally understand if people can’t complete, life is busy.
I’ll break down my setup and share how I went about it after it’s over. Let me know in the comments if you want to hear about my first beta readership.
In the meantime, I’m just sitting here with bated breath.
Time for a new logo, me thinks
In June I decided to change things up logo wise a bit. I took on a new city icon logo, just mildly different from the old one. And I gave it a rainbow background for Pride month. Today, I’ve updated that look, trying a pink/purple scheme which is also present throughout the website and blog. The old city icon, which is a standard city icon from the Windows 8 standards for design, has served me well for years. Part of me hates to see it go. BUT, in with the new. Huzzah! Hope you like it.
Below, from left to right: (old logo, new logo):
So the spam is getting harsh. I mean I’ll be 35 in October, but sending me a Senior Dating site? That’s just harsh. Harsh, man.
The cake is a lie.
I told you I had a big update on Mercedes coming, and it’s huge. Big. Bigger. Enormous. Gigantuous. Okay, that’s enough of that. It’s just some really cool news. But I’m also wrapping this big update in Cellophane, which will make sense later down the read.
She has a new home.
What do I mean by this? Well, she’s moved over to Emerald Dragon Tales. Why? Because after some hard consideration, I’ve decided to publish her through my publishing brand Emerald Dragon. Emerald Dragon is the same brand we used to publish the collaborative novel Fatal Flaws, and will be using to publish the second String-Along GUN soon.
What does this mean for Mercedes? It means you’ll be finding a lot more about Mercedes over at the Emerald Dragon Tales website. So head over there and snatch the blog RSS feed for your Feedly or however you follow blogs. Also, sign up for the email newsletter to stay up-to-date. And check out her own page. There you’ll find a list of future working titles in the series of novellas I plan to do with our frustrated hero, Mercedes Masterson.
Where are things at?
I have a first draft complete of the first novella in the series, and am halfway through editing draft 2. When the second draft is complete, I’m gonna have some beta readers give it the once over. After that, I may make some more changes. And after that, I’ll need a professional to edit it, and then after all the butchering–publishing! And reading!
I can’t say for sure when the first book will land, but I would like to see it land before the end of this year or at the start of the next. GUN is currently slated to unveil this year, so that is taking priority publishing-wise.
Mercedes is wrapped in Cellophane.
Way back in the day, 2005 to be precise, I wrote a screenplay for a short film and introduced Mercedes for the first time. It was primarily a character written for the purpose of giving a friend a role in the film. We were 4-5 actors wanting to make a movie and as I began work on the screenplay of choice from the group, I realized I didn’t have enough characters in the original concept to fill the cast with all of us. So, I thought for a bit and asked myself what was missing from the little film noir homage I was working on. The cops. A murder took place almost immediately at the start of the script, and yet I didn’t appear to have any investigation taking place around it. While the investigation of that murder was unimportant to the plot, and more importantly the character development, I still needed to show that there were consequences in this story.
My solution? I created a female homicide detective strictly for that purpose and for giving my friend, Heather, a character to play.
I can remember sitting at the PC, with huge (read thick) monitor by today’s standards, trying to come up with a name before I could write the first line of her dialogue. I wanted a very traditional, noirish sounding detective name. I settled on Masterson. I also wanted a very distinct, equally fantastic first name, one that would roll right into that Masterson name well. I chose Mercedes, an homage to the character of the same name in Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. A French connection, which I liked, and felt there could always be more to that. I had it: Detective Mercedes Masterson.
When we went to film the first scene with Heather as Mercedes, something felt really right. Not only did she nail a lot of what I had in my head, she went beyond. She brought a lot of things to the table, some things I had only scratched the surface a little on in my head, others I had not even thought about. She was seeing the character on a higher level. And that brought it to my attention in a way, I had not even intended it when starting out. Remember, she was originally only a plot device.
When it came time to write the second screenplay (yes, it was planned as a trilogy), I had so much more to work with Mercedes and Heather. I knew this was a big character, and one I wanted to really develop. She became a much more prominent character in the second script, and Heather and I shared many conversations about the development of the character. That’s when she shared with me a song she listened to while getting into character for the first film, a little ditty called Cellophane by Amanda Ghost. I had never heard it. But I listened to it, and liked it. It felt appropriate to the character.
I always try to keep the song Cellophane around when I’m working on Mercedes. But I hadn’t really listened to it, I mean really listen, for several years. Until a few weeks ago. I set it on repeat and just listened to it over and over, each phrase of the lyrics. Really breaking it down with regards to the character. And I picked up on a lot.
Cellophane by Amanda Ghost.
A lot of this character is in this song. And so, I’d like to break down some of the ways I can I hear Mercedes in Cellophane by Amanda Ghost.
Firstly, I’d like to give credit to the songwriters: Lukas Burton, Ian Dench, Amanda Goseine (Ghost), and Sasha Skarbek. They have written a beautiful song with incredible lyrics that are very relateable.
You can listen along here:
Nobody moves me…
Right off the bat, this one grabs me. First line of the song. And truly, it would seem that nobody moves Mercedes. She has gone through a lot of relationships in her life, and from her point of view all relationships end poorly. And so the notion that nobody moves her, sounds about right to her view of the world around her and those in it.
I’ve been through this life
With no place that I can call my own…
Again. Relationships. This time on a much bigger scale. Through all of her life to date, she still can’t feel comfortable calling any place home. She’s lived in Babylon her whole life, grew up there. But it doesn’t feel like home. There’s no neighborhood she can call home, no house. No family she can call home.
I never seem to find anybody that can feel like home
And I try and I try and I try…
Carrying on with that theme, it strikes home more apparent. Despite all her trying, all the relationships she’s been through. She can’t seem to find anyone that feels like home. Someone she can call family. Someone that will always be there, through thick and thin. She tries and she tries and she tries, but all relationships end.
Funny how it feels
When there’s nothing to say…
Now we’re into the chorus, out of the first verse. This little piece speaks to me about her overall social anxiety. This is only something I’ve been able to understand more accurately in recent years, as my own social anxieties have kicked in. A lot of her social anxieties are wrapped around her general distrust of people, because of previous relationships and experiences. Another reason is because of her ideals…
Trapped with my ideals
I can’t contain…
If you’ve read or watched anything with Mercedes yet, you probably get this line. If not, you probably will. I always liken her as a good cop who occasionally goes vigilante when the justice system fails or is corrupt. She would burn the whole system down, if she determined it was the best possible outcome. And she surely can’t contain her ideals, as she has no problem speaking her mind in no uncertain terms.
And just to make sure there’s no confusion here, I’m not considering “ideals” with the most obvious definition. But rather as “a standard of perfection; a principle to be aimed at:” (Oxford Dictionary). She has her ideal of what justice is and anything that falls short of her definition, that standard or principle of justice, she can’t contain herself.
Nobody told me
Obsessive needs were always following me around…
I think in many ways this just speaks volumes to her overall character, and I like the idea that she’s blaming someone else. Nobody told her. Classic. But it also could be a reference to her “evil conscience” as I often refer to it. She has an identical twin so to speak, a figment of her imagination who follows her around. Occasionally appearing at the worst possible times, to give her the worst possible advice. To nag her about her obsessive needs.
And you can’t ignore me…
Word that. You can’t ignore Mercedes. You can try, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Look at my face and then tell me my place in town…
This one grips me, because it says something but I’m not even 100% certain what it all means. I feel like this line has tapped something I haven’t even tapped into yet with Mercedes. Her trying to find her place in Babylon. I don’t think this is something I’ve even addressed in the slightest, despite having written so much about her. Having meditated so much on her and discussed her so much with Heather. I feel like there is a conversation that needs to take place around this single line. We need to look her in the face and tell her what her place is in Babylon.
And he’s in and she’s in and he’s in and she’s in…
This one speaks to me again about her many failed relationships. He’s in, she’s in, he’s in, she’s in. They’re constantly coming and going. She can never maintain a single relationship indefinitely. And that’s not to say it’s always her fault when a relationship ends, because it’s not.
This has been a tremendously fun journey going through Cellophane’s lyrics with you all. It has given me a chance to think back a lot on Mercedes. She’s come a long way. A long, long way. Long, long. Really long way. And it’s always a pleasure for me to write any story with her in it. Heather and I have tried to bring so much to this character, so much. And I’m always happy to share more of her with you all. In many ways, she’s the person we always wished we were while at the same time being someone we can relate to through the pain. She’s a beast of a character. And I hope I never tire of her.
One last bit of trivia about her conception. My original thought on the character was to create a femme fatale who was also a protagonist. I think that still applies.