Why Social Media is Failing Creative Women

May 16th, 2015

Today someone on one of the author loops complained about a Facebook page that was serving up pirated books. The FB site links were all bit.ly links so I went to a tool that tells you where the link will land you, so I wouldn’t have to actually click and land somewhere bad, and the site, Hot ebook download DOT com, was registered to a gentleman in Kiev with nameservers that ended in .RU. (A nameserver is responsible for resolving your domain name to the correct IP address as assigned through your webhost.) Two things are generally true, not every site that ends in .ru (Russia) is automatically bad, and an awful lot of malware comes from servers in the .ru domain.

Now, I highly doubt there are any actual books being served at the end of those links. I happen to strongly believe that anyone who clicks on those links gets malware, their credit card information collected, or a file with malware in it. Or all three. So this probably isn’t really piracy. But I’m not going to check and besides, I have an entirely different issue to talk about.

It bugs the heck out of me that FB seems to have nothing in place to prevent a page that is almost certainly serving up malware, or, possibly less dire in fact, but completely dire to lots of authors, pirating books and other copyrighted content. And the author was having a hard time figuring out how to report this to FB. Many of you are probably familiar with my position on piracy, which is mostly I don’t care too much, or, perhaps more accurately, I feel it’s not worth my time, and might actually be against my interests, to go around DMCA-ing every suspected site that has pirated my work. But sites serving up malware I do have a problem with.

The fact that the source is FB? Oh, the bitter taste of irony. At the same time, FB makes it harder and harder for authors to pay them money. (Boosting a post with a book cover in it? HAH! That’s three days of trying to make FB understand their own policy about book covers being exempt from the “text to picture” ratio. Want to advertise your book? Another circle of hell for the same reason.)

And now I get to the meat of this post.

Social Media has a hugely flawed view of the world. They’re so male-oriented that they have absolutely no ability to grok that women have a fundamentally different experience of social media, and the world, than men. And yes, the same is true for many many other classifications (Color, ethnicity, non-cis, not heterosexual and so on.) It’s why we see policies that actively endanger women and a big old “Huh?”  when women complain. Real Name policies endanger women. Until these companies understand WHY that is, it’s not possible for the policy to be crafted in a way that reduces the danger. There’s a flip side to everything. Not having Real Names can also endanger women. Understand what’s going on, and there’s a chance you might have a more effective policy instead of one that serves the few with real harm to many.

Instead of these companies thinking about what it means for them to offer a service to everyone when their model of the world is so deeply inaccurate, we keep hearing the equivalent of “It doesn’t happen to men, so it’s not real.” There are a lot of white people who think there’s not a problem with racism and policing, and they think that because they do not inhabit the world where dark skin gets you different treatment. At least recognize that blindness like this exists and that right now this minute, you, all of us, have these blind spots. All of us. No exceptions.

FB requires that a Fan Page be linked to a personal profile.

Per the FB TOS, people are supposed to have one and only one personal profile.

If you happen to be an artist or other creative, you live a life with (at least) two facets. A public one and one that is private. That private facet is associated with things like employers, potential employers, significant others, ex-significant others, and minor children. The public one is associated with people who like your work and are or want to be fans of your work. Social Media sites that insist on public links between a public life and a private one put women at risk. I’m quite sure there are people at risk in different ways.  I have direct experience with how women are at risk, so that is what I focus on here. It doesn’t mean no one else has a similar problem. Exactly the opposite, in fact.

Note that I am saying PUBLIC links.

As an author, I need to have a firewall between me and Carolyn Jewel, Author. I need to protect private aspects, including minor children, from the public me. And I must do this for my safety and theirs. No social media sites accommodate this need. I really don’t want to rehash all the ways in which women are punished or endangered for things that have no similar effect on men. Here’s a few, though: Having strong opinions, liking and wanting to have sex, being smart, being right, being a parent, the ability to get pregnant, the potential need not to be pregnant, being attractive, being pregnant, not being attractive enough, talking….

On my personal FB page, I get bombarded by friend requests from male profiles who immediately text me things like “You have a beautiful smile” blah blah blah. In fact, you cannot see my smile since the picture is my cat. And he cannot smile. Besides, that’s a totally creepy thing to say right off the bat between real people, but I believe just about all of those requests are fake profiles trying to get actual profiles to like them so they can be used to engage in click-fraud. I sometimes have three or four a day.

So, an author must link her Fan Page to her IRL personal page, where there may be links to employers, minor family members, and others with no way to protect themselves from weirdos. And fans, I will represent to you, often friend a personal profile rather than the Fan Page. Because Fan Pages are limited in the way they can interact with profiles, and fans know that and seek out the personal profile instead. In a perfect world, that would be totally awesome. But it’s not a perfect world, so it’s not awesome at all.

Think about that. These fake profiles are targeting female profiles but women live in what amounts to a trinary social world. The question isn’t just “Is this friend request real (YN)” but “Is this friend request real and if I accept it, will it be dangerous to me (YND).” Authors and other creatives, decline such requests at the risk of declining actual or potential fans. This is not a calculus male creatives (in the main) have to solve.  They can just accept all such friend requests because they do not, in the main, live in a world where a fake friend request represents potential harm.

I’m willing to bet that men get fake friend requests from women whose pictures feature large boobs, who would just love to date them. These profiles might be after their money, and also similarly fake, but they’re almost certainly not potential stalkers.

As an author, my choice is a personal profile that has NO links to family or my real life friends, or I accept the risk of having strangers conflate Carolyn Jewel with Carolyn Jewel, Author. When, actually, they’re not the same thing. That risk is, in our current culture, one that comes with dangers that are not present, in the main, for male authors.

And here is where the reality of being a woman creative really, really matters and why social media companies are failing us so deeply.

Every women author I know knows of another woman who has had a stranger send them an unwanted picture of his penis. I was at a signing once when a man physically gave the author next to me a picture of his penis. Trust me, men, this is scary and creepy. Who wants to walk back to their car, alone, after an encounter like that?

I’ve gotten emails to my writing email address from unhinged men who tell me they want to know me (and/or love me) and will I date them, and by the way, they know the name of my son. One of them also tried several times to get my agent to give up my personal contact information. I get emails from men in prison and have had at least two from men on death row. They know about me because Romance novels end up in prisons. I don’t mind that. I really don’t. I want more people to read Romance! But I have to worry about men with issues who get out of prison and start contacting my agent. There is always, always, an unsettling and creepy undertone to these communications.

This is the world women live in. It’s real. It happens. And almost none of it happens to men.

What women have seen over the last year and more is companies like FB and Twitter—anywhere, really, where woman are supposed to have an equal chance to participate in conversations— aid and abet harassers by doing… nothing. They have built their vision of “Social” on a world that does not exist for more than half the people they want participating in their environment.

For them, the world is fair (Land of Opportunity) and a meritocracy (tech companies) when really it’s not fair, equal, or a meritocracy unless you’re a straight white male. Asking for recognition of that fact and for policies that do not harm people who cannot operate  in the Opportunity Meritocracy should not be met with the equivalent of ‘I don’t see it, therefore it never happens.’

It means think about the world for people who do not look like you. Devise policies that protect and that allow all of us to separate public from private. If Twitter, Google, Facebook and more want Real Names, then they must accept that this comes with the duty not to endanger people. Their software and algorithms make them money. I would prefer that I not pay a disproportionate price for that.

Update

I didn’t think I’d have to explain this in more detail, but it seems I do. The solution is not my ability to block requests. That’s not relevant to the problem I’m pointing out. The problem is that in the real world, fans want to interact with an author’s personal profile and, frequently, they prefer the personal profile over the Fan Page. But the FB tos says a person gets one and only one personal profile.  This means the author’s personal profile ALSO acts as a means to interact with fans. And that personal profile has, well, personal, non-author related stuff on it. (Assuming the author is also using FB in a personal capacity.)

My point is that male authors can accept fake clicks without worrying much about being harassed or stalked or getting pestered with chat requests about whether you’re interested in a date etc, or sent pictures of penises you’re not interested in seeing. The threats that women endure in social spaces DO NOT HAPPEN to male authors. Please don’t make me talk about Gamergate.

Social Media has utterly failed to understand this. Society in general does not recognize this as a problem. But it is.

Also, as to my calling out the tech industry, my regular readers know I work in tech. I’m a SQL Server DBA. For non-tech people, this is a highly specialized, technical job that is, by definition, in tech. I understand quite well, because I have direct and relevant  experience with it, what happens to women in tech — because I am a woman in tech.

 

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Sale at Kobo: Lord Ruin 35% off (Other books too!)

May 15th, 2015

Are you in the US or UK? Kobo has a sale!! 35% off select books, including my historical, Lord Ruin.

Cover of Lord Ruin, super sexy Regnency dude looking at you like, yeah, I'm hot.

Lord Ruin.

Here’s the directions for this unlimited use coupon, good from May 15-18!

Kobo Buy page for Lord Ruin

To look for other titles that are 35%:

Promo Code: MAY35

Detailed Instructions:

If you already have a Kobo account
–    Follow the instructions outlined here: http://www.kobo.com/help/en-US/article/715/using-a-promo-code-in-the-kobo-store

If you do not have a Kobo account
–          Create a Kobo account.
–          Go into the My Account section and click on Payment Information.
–          Input your billing address and credit card info.
–          Save.
–          Return to the homepage.
–          Follow the directions in the “If you already have a Kobo account” section above.

If you don’t want to input your credit card info
–    Create a Kobo account.
–    Search for the title in question.
–    Click on “Buy Now.” You will be asked to fill in your billing address.
–    Instead of choosing credit card, choose “paypal” and hit “continue.”
–    Input your promo code in the box below the phrase “Have a Promo Code?”.
–    Hit Apply. The discount will be subtracted from the total on the right-hand side.
–    Complete your purchase by hitting “Buy Now.”
–    Proceed to paypal to complete your transaction.

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What I’ve Been Reading

May 2nd, 2015

Two books I’ve read recently had quite an impact on me, and so I am sharing them with you.

The Remains of War, Surviving the Other Concentration Camps of World War II
by Pauline Kok-Schurgers
Self-published (iUniverse)

I forget where I read about this book. Someone, somewhere had read it and another iUniverse book and remarked that The Remains of War was well worth reading. The comments were intriguing enough that I bought it and read it. It’s one of the most affecting books I’ve read in a while, and more about that later. I’m sorry indeed that the publisher is iUniverse. It means the author has not made the money she could have or deserves. That said, I’m glad the book is out there to be read.

The story is about a young Dutch girl who, with her family, was interned in a series of Japanese concentration camps in Indonesia. It’s as harrowing and heartbreaking as you’d expect. The family survives, by the way which is what got me through the book, though the power of the words and language would probably have kept me reading. Kok-Schurgers was nine when she and her family were interned and twelve by the time they were liberated. The men, her father included, were sent to a different camp, so she was with her mother, two sisters and a brother.

It’s a powerful story, powerfully told.

At first, the language was just ever so slightly loose, but by the second chapter, Ms. Kok-Schurgers’s story utterly drew me in. Everything was immediate and visceral. It’s not told from a distance, instead we get an astonishing, living, breathing girl on these pages who is both aware of her flaws and learning who she is. The quote below is something said to her by an adult in the camp about a young boy also interned.

“He liked the shadows, which gave him comfort and shelter, because light asked from him more than he was willing to give.”

Voices like that should not be forgotten. I’m glad I read this book. Other reviewers are right. This is an important text.

Kok-Schurgers has a blog here and an uninformative website here. Amazon link (Kindle Version). This is worth the price.

From Dust to Digital: Ten Years of the Endangered Archives Programme
Maja Kominko, Editor

Open Book Publishers

This work is from the British Library and describes several preservation programs dedicated to, as the title says, endangered archives. The forward is oh so slightly boring until it begins a discussion of the ways in which Western cultures have removed knowledge from indigenous populations, denied them access to their own heritage, and removed the artifacts from the very surroundings and people who gave the information meaning. The descriptions of the collections described in this volume are fascinating. This is wonderful, amazing material. Mind-blown. Myths exploded. Read it. Amazon Link

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The Fork is Out!

May 1st, 2015
Fork against a blue sky with white clouds

The Fork

The draft for my story in the June anthology Dancing in The Duke’s Arms is DONE! And boy, I wasn’t sure I’d hit the deadline. There was a point, on Wednesday, when I realized I was missing 5 chapters of edits [long explanation omitted] and I had to redo them all. ALL. OF. THEM.

My story is tentatively titled, “An Suitable Woman.”

And now, back to My Immortals 7.

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Truly Honored for this Honor

April 16th, 2015

Today, in passing, a fellow author said I win the Steamy Merit Badge. I thought that sounded awesome, so I made myself one. I think I’ll make it into a sticker for all my books. What do you think?

steamy

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Magic Keyboard

March 30th, 2015

Hard experience has taught me to keep a spare keyboard around because I am an optimist. Despite knowing full well that water and keyboards don’t mix, I routinely keep a glass of water by my computer. THIS time and forever more I will be CAREFUL and not spill any water on my keyboard.

Last year I went through three keyboards, and the last time I spilled water … on Christmas Eve, I made it to the store in time to buy a keyboard of the sort that is kind to my hands and wrists. I didn’t have a spare because the Christmas Eve incident took out keyboard No. 2. Then, and I kid you not, shortly after that, I spilled water again. I ended up finding and having to use a spare Apple keyboard of the sort that looks awesome but functions as a torture device.

One of those annoying Apple keyboards I can't actually use

Magic?

It’s a bluetooth keyboard. As soon as I had money and time, I went off to the store and bought two more keyboards. For about a month everything was fine. And then all of a sudden, my new keyboard was typing all by itself. I watched in horror as random strings began to overwrite part of my chapter. MY WORDS!!!!!!! I got things shut down keyboard-wise and swapped in the spare. Again, for some time, everything was fine.

Then, again, the keyboard had a life and a mind of its own. Again, I watched as nothing I did stopped the magical appearance of strings of text, spaces and characters overwriting portions of my chapter.

I did what every good tech person does when something bizarre happens. I rebooted. Things were fine. But hmmm. This was strange and odd and inexplicable when actually, in tech, nothing is really random like that. I was often afraid to type. What if my keyboard went all wacky again and had to reconstruct, AGAIN, a paragraph of text?

Then, not too long after that, a “low battery” notice popped up on the iMac. Low battery? For a keyboard? What keyboard—

Oh.

The bluetooth keyboard that I had apparently left on a side table three feet from my computer. Powered on.

The bluetooth keyboard that my cat would occasionally jump on and even sit on.

Allow me to represent to you that my cat is not a good typist.

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My Cousin David

March 25th, 2015

My cousin David was born eight years before me. His family lived in Oregon, mine lived in California, but we got to Oregon often enough that I knew I liked him. He was happy and always smiling. When I published my first novel, he wrote me a lovely letter of congratulations and excitement. He wrote me other letters over the years, and they were always funny and heartfelt, and sometimes he just wrote to tell me how much he admired my writing. One time, when Northern California was in the national news for rain and flooding, he sent me a letter with an expandable sponge in it, in case we needed it to mop up. I laughed hard when I read his letter and saw the sponge. I shared it with family, and they laughed, too. Because it was funny.

When I lived in San Francisco, he contacted me because his daughter was going to be in the city and he wanted to make sure she would be all right. I was happy to help. Not just happy, but grateful to have the opportunity. She wanted to see the Haight so while she was visiting, we went to the Haight and walked around. San Francisco is a great walking around city, and the Haight is fun.

Today, I read that the customers in the store where he worked part-time for 25 years remembered him as a happy, generous, helpful man. One person recalled that David had once given him his own paper because the store was sold out. That sounds like David. There was a video with the article, but I couldn’t bring myself to watch it.

I always thought one of these days I’d get to Salt Lake City and visit him, and now I can’t.

He was killed in a robbery, and I will miss him forever.

 

Update: Last week and today (Apr-20-2015) there were arrests in his murder.

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Shoe Off Rematch??

March 17th, 2015

Some of you may recall the great Shoe Off of 2013. No? You can read about it here.

Basically, I challenged Megan Frampton to a Shoe Off. Despite my best efforts to cheat, I lost. I have no idea why. But here’s the 2013 Shoe Off Photos.

photo of a black, low heeled boot. Megan is wearing it.

Megan’s Boot

 

Carolyn's light purple canvas slip on shoe.

Carolyn’s Shoe

It took some time, but I’ve recovered from my defeat and now I want a rematch. Obviously we would have to submit new shoe photos. 2013 is done. Those shoes are history.

I’m waiting to see if Megan says it’s on.

?

:::checks watch:::

 

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March Jewel Madness

March 15th, 2015

Here at Jewel Central we play along with the NCAA March madness tournament, but in a way that doesn’t stop the fun. If we used a traditional method, we’d all be out in the first round.

Instead, we pick one round at a time for each of the tourneys (women’s and men). This way, every one has something at stake in every round. Feel free to play along. Last year we had a blast, along with snarky comments. Everyone welcome. You get bragging rights for every win!

Link to a printable Men’s bracket (PDF): 2015 Men’s Bracket

Link to a printable Women’s bracket (PDF) 2015 Women’s Bracket

Select your predicted winners for the Men’s games taking place on March 17 and 18. Report your choices in the comments.

You have until Thursday to make your picks for the first round of both.

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Writing Progress and News

March 8th, 2015

I’ve been making good progress on My Immortals Book 7. It’s coming together well, which is good news. I’ve told my cover artist to consider My Demon Warlord the final title so there you go. I should have a final cover soon.

Shortly though, I’ll be writing a novella for the anthology Dancing in the Duke’s Arms. I’m hoping to have My Demon Warlord to some trusted readers while I’m doing that.

I’ve changed my mind about the project after that. I was going to start on the Dark Elf series but I have decided I should write Sinclair Sisters Series Book 3, THEN start the new series.

Here’s a picture of some of the tulips coming up in the garden. It looks a little better close up but hey! Spring is coming!

Pink tulips one with the sun on some dew. It's an okay picutre. The pink is pretty.

Pink Tulip with dew

 

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