Perception is Reality

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When I was taking radio broadcasting classes in college, I was taught one thing that has stuck with me, even as I left broadcasting behind.

Perception is Reality.

I think there is a lot of truth to that. We create perceptions in the minds of other people and in their mind, the truth is born. Case in point — when we were taught this, the example we learned was about the noontime show on the college’s radio station. The show was called “Lunchtime Diner” so something like that. Whenever there was not the current radio singles playing, the DJ would be talking with diner noise in the background. The noise was pre-recorded and you could hear people talking, busboys cleaning up tables, forks and knives clinking — you know, diner noise. All prerecorded.

Yet the station would get call after call asking what restaurant the show was live broadcasting from. Listeners wanted to go there and eat while we broadcast this show. All just movie magic with a pre-recorded track playing while a guy talks between songs.

Perception is Reality.

We made a scene in people’s minds with a few simple tools and tricks and people were CONVINCED this restaurant was real.

How can we take this and spin it forward? If we can do this with a stupid pre-recorded track (it looped! If you listened closely, you could hear the same diner patron cough over and over!) then what are professionals in the media doing? What about the professionals in…sports? Entertainment? Politics?

Just pause for a moment and think about things that creep into your Facebook or Twitter feed? On a whim, I went through my Facebook feed and jotted down the headlines I saw from any post or video. Here are the first ones I saw:

“This May Shock You: Hillary Clinton is Fundamentally Honest”

“Pet Hedgehogs Who Are A Little Stuck”

“Kesha blasts body shamers in bikini photo”

“No charges against dog owner in mauling death in CA”

“Ebola meth? Police joke nets at least 1 drug arrest”

Maybe you’ve seen some of these stories. With so many of today’s news stories, they are painting a picture from the get-go. There is so little objective journalism anymore simply because they are roping in the readers with an intentionally provocative headline. The media (social and otherwise) is creating a reality that may or may not be there. 

But, maybe you haven’t seen these stories, either. That’s another aspect of our society that we shouldn’t overlook. We are so segmented. Our television choices (or lack thereof), social media, and altogether media consumption reflects that. When I was a kid, we had 4 TV channels, and one was PBS. We may have also had a couple independent channels that showed primarily syndicated shows (if you don’t know what those are, ask your parents). Either way, when you watched a TV show, you could be sure that most of the kids at school were also watching it, or that half of the office could talk about it around the watercooler. How many people watched the finale of M*A*S*H*? LIke a billion? (Quick research says just under 106 million viewers — WOW.) How many people watch Game of Thrones? A great audience for them is…8.1 million people. Less than 10 percent of the audience, yet it is considered to be a HUGE audience. Maybe that’s not right…how about the biggest audience for a network show? The Big Bang Theory averages….just under 15 million viewers.

We have dozens of TV networks, and even then, video games, social media, and other activities are taking numbers away. We get holed up and contained in our own little social bubbles and are CONVINCED that other people feel the same way.

Perception is Reality.

Let’s say the only thing I watch is ESPN. When I go to work, I’m surprised how many people aren’t as enamored as I am with the University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball team, or how Matt Harvey’s elbow will hold up this season. I have a deep knowledge of all things sports, but my knowledge of housing trends on HGTV, of stock prices from Bloomberg, of political races from any of the news networks…all that knowledge is nothing. Just vapor. I would be totally ignorant of all of that. And most people wouldn’t want it any other way. Don’t put politics in my sports! Don’t inject race relations or music or history into my enjoyment of a 3-4 defense!

The more we segment our society, the deeper those divisions get.

When these things overlap, we as a society literally cannot handle it. Look at the protests in Chicago that shut down the Trump rally. Look at any Trump rally. Just look at any debate on Facebook. When people are confronted with an opinion that doesn’t jibe with their preconceived ideas, they FREAK OUT. Names are thrown about — Communists, Socialist, Liberals, Radicals (and those are the ones I can print in good conscience!) — without even knowing what the names mean and without taking a moment to consider the potential truth in the other’s idea.

Thirty years ago, we all would’ve watched the Republican Debate, because it would have been the ONLY thing on TV. Now, we get the highlights in a 30-second clip we get from our most Conservative friend on Facebook, because we were playing Call of Duty, or were watching House of Cards. We’re more interested in a fictional President than the actual one.

What’s the fix?

I don’t know — but if we continue to let the media paint the candidates one way or another without us actually studying the issues for ourselves, we deserve what we get. If we want to choose our next President, we need to actually decide for ourselves what we want. Do we want pithy soundbites that mean nothing? Or do we want actual change?

Remember — Perception is Reality. A lot of people talk about how one candidate says what he means. Fine. Except he means to win the election without caring if he fulfills anything said in this calendar year. We are the generation that grew up with Google. Act like it and use those computer skills. Find the truth. Get past what the world is telling you through the filters on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Even there, you are shown what is “popular,” not always what is correct or what you might want to see.

It’s what you perceive. Is it accurate? Is it reality?

You decide.

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Baking With Swords: My Take

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Concept 3With all the blog posts I’ve shared lately, I haven’t offered my own take on Baking With Swords — why I decided to collaborate with my brother and sister, and what prompted me to write the story I included.

While I was whittling down the days until I was finished writing and editing Dead Sight, back in February and March, I started writing a short story. I never had any ambition beyond it being a short story that I would just release as a stand-alone tale, similar to the first story I’d ever written and published, Perfect Game.

I happened to say something on Facebook about it, and my brother, Paul, asked if I could wait to publish it until he was done writing a story. (Here is his story on how he started writing.) It was a strange request, so I waited a little bit. After some more inquiry, I found out he wanted to just throw it in at the end of my story as a “bonus” of a sort to any potential readers.

I read his story — or at least, what it was at that time. It was good. There was some great ideas in it and it just needed some polishing. It was better than just an unmentioned add-on to a little short story I was writing. I also knew my word count on A Whimper wasn’t going to be much — probably 6-8,000 words — and his was going to be about the same.

So, I proposed the idea of splitting the book title, or even inviting our sister, Betsy, along for the ride. I knew she had been dabbling with writing fiction since I started my publishing journey and figured maybe she had something she could work up fairly quickly. (Read more about her road to her inclusion here.)

Betsy was game, so I put my story on the backburner for a little while. School took over and I let the two of them tinker and finish their stories. In the end, each of our stories clocked in at roughly the same length — about 7,000 words a piece.

I love Paul’s story because it really is heartfelt. There is a lot of emotion from his main character, Max, and the choices he has made in his life. Obviously Paul isn’t Max, but you can see the questions he has asked are questions Max faces as well.

Betsy’s story fits her, as well. She is a mother to two little boys, both under the age of four. There are so many fears and insecurities that accompany being a parent to a toddler and an infant and she confronts them head-on in this tale. Paul and I really challenged her in the editing process and I think she came out of it with a great story that will connect with a lot of readers.

As for my story? Well, I shared a bit of it with you a few months ago. (Here’s that link.) I must’ve read some technology story, or even Michael Bunker’s Pennsylvania, and thought of the ramifications should we ever have chips in our heads (PIPs as I call them in A Whimper). What would the effects be? I think there are so many effects worldwide that I really could have written a full-length novel, but I chose personal ones to the main character. It is told first person and my brother said the tone reminded him of Ready, Player One, which is a huge compliment and may be true since I had just re-read it prior to starting the work on it.

How will the end come for humanity? Will it go out in a blaze of glory, or will it go in a whimper? Most books and stories choose the former, but I wanted a look at the latter.

I’ll confess I’m not the closest person to his family. I don’t talk to them much. I last talked on the phone to my mother probably two weeks ago (Reminder to myself to get on that), and Facebook and text messaging is the best way to get a hold of my brothers and sister. I live in Southern Illinois, one brother lives in northern Illinois, my sister in Michigan, and my older brother in Oregon. We are spread out, but when it counts, we are there for one another.

I don’t know if Paul and Betsy will continue to write and publish, but with my limited expertise, I wanted to be able to help them on their first trip into self-publishing.

As of this writing, the collaboration has received five reviews, four of which are five-star and the other is four-star. I would love to hear back from anyone else who has read it. Really, you should buy the book for my brother and sister and hopefully my story in this book is the bonus, not their’s.


Oh…don’t forget about the BWS Launch Party Monday on Facebook. <– Click there to join.

Find the link and the massive amount of giveaways I’ve got scheduled right here —> LOOK AT ALL THESE GIVEAWAYS!

 

Baking With Swords: The Agonizing (and Maddening) Search for a Title

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Alright, so if you haven’t been paying attention, my family collaboration Baking With Swords releases soon and the question at the tip of your brain is probably, “How much bacon is too much bacon?”

Concept 3Then, after you realize you can never have too much bacon, you ask, “Where and how did they come up with a goofy title like Baking With Swords? Well, contrary to my father’s short tale about warriors returning from battle, there is a story to the process. It may not be exciting, but at times it is fascinating and maybe even a little humorous. 

Since my brother, my sister, and I all contributed stories to this collection, I thought it only fair that we came up with a name together. So, the following is most of a Facebook private conversation between the three of us over a week’s time when we each tossed names out there. To be honest, these are probably only half the names we considered as I believe I had separate conversations with Paul and Betsy where I had a couple of other names tossed in as well as a public poll on potential titles. All in all, there was a moment I was about to bash my head into a wall. 

In the end, I think Baking With Swords has an even more special meaning since we have a half-baked title and we each can have sharp personalities with each other as siblings. So without any further delay, here is that conversation (please note we didn’t care about grammar or punctuation in our Facebook chat):


Paul: Thinking title ideas . How about From Shadows Revealed ?

Paul: Or, Finalities

Will: I like second better. Or we could go off our relationship and call it “Sibling Rivalry”

Paul: Familial Finalities?

Will: hmmm…

Will: I would go with Finalities over that.

Betsy: Finalities? Is that because everything we’ve written ends badly? Wow we’re a morbid bunch.

Paul: That’s my thought.

Will: Not necessarily badly…but just final.

Betsy: well…it’s not exactly a good ending for my main character…Ms. Adams…

Paul: Ok. Seems obvious that title still needs some thought. If we want to consider the sibling theme here’s two: Sib Tales or Sibblettes.

Will: Family Ties?

Paul: Makes me think of Tootie and Mrs Garrett

Will: Thats the Facts of Life

Paul: Oops, sorry Alex!

Will: Family Tithe?

Paul: Tales from the Stream?

Will: Bards, fairies, and the end of everything

Paul: Hmmm

Will: You like it, dont you?

Paul: Is that too revealing for 2 of you?

Will: May want to tweak it. Not sure we want to give all that away about betsy’s. Mine would be fine. Wings?

Paul: Idk

Will: A Bard, a Pair of Wings, and Your Internet Connection. Lol

Paul: Why not just call the whole thing Instability?

Will: I like it. Lets wait for betsy to chime in.

Betsy: It’s not awesome, but I’m ok with it.

Will: Well smarty pants…come up with something better to tie together our totally unrelated stories.

Betsy: Transience. And yes, I looked up Instability in the thesaurus….

Will: Fine with me too. Or we could just go with “We Have No Idea What To Call This Book”

Betsy: That could work… We can’t call it “The Search For Spock” can we? No…probably not.

Will: “The Search for a Decent Title”…  Skinny Genes… Acid-washed Genes… Sarah said she liked the title “Nerd Alert”

Betsy: “The Quest for Closure”… Bad Endings

Will: Morphin’ Time!

Betsy: YES! no. The Shaky Life of Fictional People

Betsy: I bet there are people out there whose sole job is to title books.

Will: A Requiem, A Metamorphosis, and a Coda… Insert title here…

Betsy: Isolation

Will: Ok….bringing it all back to this: how about Sibling Rivalry?

Paul: Hi. Wow. How about Three Nuts in a Jar ?

Betsy: That was your working title…I suggested it when I didn’t know it was your working title…

Will: Why dont you guys keep plugging away at your stories and keep the title in the back of your mind. I put my cover guy to work with a couple working titles and we’ll see how the mock-ups look in a few days.

Betsy: works for me.

Paul: Hey! I like 3 Nuts in a Jar!

Will: K. Thanks guys. I think this will be pretty cool. Collaborating on collections are sometimes tricky so thanks for being flexible.

Paul: How about we define our personal feelings about what goes into a title. Perhaps we find a commonality somewhere. For me, I like to find some common thread in all three stories, but I don’t care nearly so much about having a clever family reference in the title.

Will: That would be fine with me as well if there are any commonalities we can draw from. I’m ok with whatever.

Paul: However, the thought has also occurred to me that if we did find a good family-related name that it could be a name we come back to if this kind of thing turned into a series – (no promises.)

Will: Sibling Rivalry 3: Revenge of the Sis

Will: Wait for it…. Baking with Swords

Paul: Makes a good cover picture

Will: It could at that