Friday, July 27, 2012

Social Media & My Filtering Paradox

Lately, I’ve been splashing around at the edges of the social media ocean and having a fantastic time.  I’ve even followed a few of my favorite authors on Facebook and Twitter.  I’ve been following author Debora Geary on Facebook for more than six months and she’s an inspiration.  Not only does she write books (see A Modern Witch Series and the WitchLight Trilogy) that make me happy when I read them, she’s also created a joyous Facebook playground where she and her fans carry on genuine and uplifting conversations.  On days when I need a pick-me-up; that’s where I go.  Ms. Geary has become my role model for social media conduct. 
Social media is facilitating a new era of personal engagement and transparency and it changes the way we filter.  The large publishing houses (and I suspect this trend is as true for other arts as it is for writing) used to filter for us; most of us chose what to read from the narrow selection made available to us by publishers and bookstores.  With ebooks, independent publishing and social media, however, we now have access to a far greater number of authors and books than previously.  I find myself assessing authors’ social media behavior to help me filter who and what I pay attention to.      

About three months ago, I discovered a new author and devoured everything she had on Kindle.  I enjoyed her fantasy world, loved her characters and laughed aloud.  When I signed up for Twitter, I looked her up with every intention of following her.  I was astounded, however, to read in her timeline cranky and unpleasant responses to her fans.  I decided not to follow.  If she publishes more books, I’ll think twice before buying them.  Her negativity was a real turn-off. 

I realize that everyone is cranky and unpleasant at times.  My friends and family (and even a few strangers) know what a fire-breathing dragon I can be under the wrong circumstances.   Most of us, however, try to be our best selves during job interviews, book signings and other public events.  That’s the thing I think this author might be overlooking; her Twitter account is a public event. 

All of this got me thinking (perhaps I do too much of this) about how I, personally, filter.  It got me to thinking about the various pros and cons of filtering out people who have an attitude or interpersonal style that makes me uncomfortable.  And it got me thinking about one of my favorite authors.  An author I no longer read. 

There is a certain well-known author who wrote and published a lot of fantasy and science fiction during my late childhood and early adulthood.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that I idolized this author.  I loved the way he wrote about moral and philosophical issues.  I cared about his characters.  I wanted to grow-up and write books as deep and moving as what he wrote.  I was vaguely aware that he held religious views that I found puzzling, but I didn’t know what he was thinking or saying outside of his books.  It’s only since I’ve had internet access that I’ve learned that this authors’ religious and political views upset me to the point that I can no longer stomach his books.  It’s sad and sometimes I’m disappointed in my lack of tolerance.  This author rarely publishes in the fantasy and science fiction genres these days, but when he does, I forego purchasing or reading his work.  I recognize that if I had known then, what I know now, I may never have ready any of his work.  That’s a thought I find truly disturbing.  I would have missed countless hours of reading bliss not to mention years of hero-worship.

I don’t think it’s possible for me to filter out every person I disagree with.  In fact, I’m highly opinionated and I’d be willing to bet money that there isn’t anyone who agrees with all of my opinions.  Nevertheless, there are plenty of folks who I tune out because I don’t share their worldview or because I don’t  enjoy their attitude or interpersonal style.  Without social media, I might not know enough about an authors’ worldview, attitude or interpersonal style to filter out on that basis.  I certainly wouldn’t know about one author who is cranky with her fans.   

So, I’m faced with a paradox.  On the one hand, I find it empowering to filter out folks who I don’t enjoy interacting with.  I believe that we should surround ourselves with people who make us happy.  Don’t we all do this in our face-to-face relationships?  On the other hand, I know that I’m healthiest when my diet is varied.  Isn’t it important to my personal growth to be exposed to the thoughts and viewpoints of people very different from me?  I value diversity. 

My challenge, as I venture deeper into the ocean of social media, will be to reconcile these ideas: to find a greater, dialectical, truth that resolves the paradox.

If you’re inclined to comment, I’d enjoy reading about your thoughts and insights.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dog Spoiling

I recently read that bloggers are considered experts in the areas they blog about.  Naturally, this made me feel, briefly, insecure.  I suppose as a writer, feeling briefly insecure is something I could be an expert in.  Nah.  What else?  I’m pretty good at putting off house cleaning, but am I an expert?  Probably not.  I’m a good Scrabble player…but I’m not an expert.  I was wracking my brain for an area of expertise when my dog invited me to play.  He always wants to play as soon as I sit down at the computer to write.  And I indulge him just often enough to maintain the behavior, darn it.  I spoil my dog.  Aha!  I am an expert dog spoiler. With that in mind, I’ve written down a list of dog spoiling warning signs.  Beware: you may be an expert dog spoiler, too!

Twenty-five signs that you may be a dog spoiler:

·        You’ve had your dogs’ photo taken with Santa

·        Your dog unwraps his/her own holiday gifts

·        Your dog unwraps your holiday gifts

·        You sing to your dog

·        You change the words to those songs so that they’re about your dog

·        You have photos of your dog hanging on your wall

·        You carry photos of your dog in your purse or wallet

·        Your computer desktop image is a photo of your dog

·        Your parents refer to your dog as their “grandpuppy”

·        You have a circle of friends who know you only as “Rovers’ mom” or “Spots’ Dad”

·        Your dog has his/her own hiking, camping and traveling gear

·        You have dog ice cream in your freezer

·        You have homemade dog ice cream in your freezer

·        You have to spell in front of your dog.  C.O.O.K.I.E. or W.A.L.K.

·        You’ve posted your dogs’ photo on Facebook

·        Your dog has his/her own Facebook page

·        You’ve blogged about your dog  J

·        Your dog has his/her own drivers’ license

·        You decorate your home and/or wear clothes in colors that “don’t show dog hair”

·        Your dog has play dates

·        Your dog has birthday parties

·        Your dog has more than five nicknames

·        Your never go to the bank drive through without your dog

·        Your dog has written a letter to the editor of your local paper

·        Your license plate, bumper sticker or window decals refer to your dog


If you’ve just discovered that you are a dog spoiler, take heart, it’s safe, legal and fun.  Plus, your dog is loving every second of it.  J  Welcome to the club!

Monday, July 16, 2012

My Dog Is A Contortionist!

Downward Facing Puppy

Catching Snow

Tipping Over Backwards

Fell Asleep In This Position

Frog Dog

Running Sooooo Fast

Grandma Makes Me Happy

I've Lost My Head


Sunday, July 15, 2012


I’ve read that the savvy self-publishing author, these days, creates an on-line presence and, so, in addition to struggling through the myriad insecurities of revising and polishing my novel, I’ve been endeavoring to build my on-line presence.  My attempts to be savvy have led to the creation of this blog, my Facebook page and the delightful website that my generous and talented dad built for me.  I’ve been leaving the scariest for last.  Twitter. 

Why would I be scared of Twitter?  For the same reason that I’m still listening to cassette tapes. 
From the time I was four until I was 19, I lived in tents, campers, travel trailers, cars, boats and float houses.  For the last ten of those years, I lived in the tiny (50 residents) and isolated community of Edna Bay on Kosciusko Island in southern Southeast Alaska.  In other words, I learned to communicate via VHF radio but not telephone.  I learned to operate a boat but not a car.  Over twenty years later, I’m still marveling at indoor plumbing and missing the cozy glow of kerosene lamps.  I’m still filled with a sense of ecstatic relief when the power goes out and the ubiquitous hums, buzzes and whines of our modern household hush and the quiet seeps into my bones.

It isn’t that I dislike technology.  Believe me, there’s nothing like years of emptying a honey bucket, packing water and wood, washing blue jeans with a scrub brush and cooking over a kerosene stove to make you appreciate modern luxuries.  I like technology; I’m just not an early adopter and I’m not a digital native.  It doesn’t run through my blood.  I’m new to the country and I still look like a tourist with my camera ‘round my neck and my guidebook open in my hands as I gawk at the landmarks.  Someday I’ll tell you about my first few months of college and how much time I spent repeatedly flushing the toilet.  Because I could.  Really. 

All this is to say, it probably would have felt more natural for me to sign up for interplanetary travel than for a Twitter account.  But I did it and I’m here to tell you, it’s fantastic!  Sure, there are some folks out there posting the most mundane details of their lives as well as folks preoccupied by negativity and yes, there’s even a little spam.  The thing is; these unappealing aspects of Twitter are remarkably easy to avoid and the appealing aspects are, for an introverted, small town, digital immigrant like me, astounding. 
Twitter allows me to connect with an enormous number and variety of people.  I am now following more people on Twitter than the total number of people in the community I grew up in.  I’m connecting with people from right here in Juneau and people from other countries and continents; even people from another hemisphere!  These people are intelligent, interesting, artistic, visionary, funny and wise.  Every person that I’ve interacted with has been courteous and welcoming.  I am feeling, for the first time in my life, like a member of the global community. 

It remains to be seen whether I'm savvy, but I certainly am happy.  I signed up for Twitter for the manifest purpose of promoting my novel but I’ve already discovered that Twitter benefits me, not only as a writer, but as a global citizen and as a human.  The past twelve days have reminded me that sometimes the scariest things bring the most unexpected rewards.

Please feel free to connect with me via my Twitter account @MarcyPeska, my website, my Facebook page, or

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fireworks in Juneau, Alaska 2012

Magical Household Items

In my contemporary fantasy novel, Magic All Around, Vivian Marshall learns that the world around her is brimming with hidden magic.  People she once thought were ordinary turn out to be selkies, weredogs and faeries.  Magic is ubiquitous, making it as easy to overlook as the oxygen in our air.  Are you missing the signs of magic all around you?  The average household is full of magical objects.  Look in your spice rack; you’ll see.  Most of us have a magic (cursed may be a more accurate term) mirror, though few realize that the dysmorphic self-image and plague of insecurities we harbor after prolonged use of the mirror are a consequence of magic.   Then there’s the ordinary household clothes dryer.  Also cursed.  All those disappearing socks are being teleported to your dresser where they remain invisible until you throw away the apparently single partner.
There are dozens of magical objects influencing your life.  Here’s a list of just five rarely recognized magical items.

1-    Butter

You many know on an intuitive (and gastronomic) level, that butter has magical properties.  After all, who wants melted margarine on their popcorn?

2-    Brimmed hats

About 5% of the brimmed hats in the United States are magical and you cannot identify these hats prior to purchase.  If you’ve had the hat for at least one month and find that it garners compliments (“Gee, cool hat.  Looks good on you.”), keeps the sun out of your eyes, doesn’t blow off your head in the wind and doesn’t make your ears stick out, it’s probably a magic hat.  

You know that fellow that always wears the same hat, indoors and out, every day?  He has a magic hat.

3-    Chairs

Most homes have at least one magic chair.  It may be a porch swing, a rocking chair, a recliner, or even a straight-backed dining room chair.  Guests are automatically drawn to these seats and households with fur-children find it impossible to keep their four-footed denizens off these chairs.

4-    Television Remote Control

Every.  Single.  Television.  Remote.  Is.  Magical.  Even yours.  Television remote controls are actually conscious entities.  They, like a few furry pets, bond with a single household member and prefer not to be touched by anyone else.  They are also prone to fits of teleportation, hiding themselves away during The Academy Awards, the Olympics, election results and other major television events.

5-    Wall and ceiling texture

We’ve all seen those spots in the wall texture of a home that could have been applied by da Vinci.  At first glance, the texture is deceptively simple and abstract, but when you look carefully, you realize it looks exactly like the Mona Lisa.  The next day, you go back to look again and there’s no pretty lady.  Instead, there’s a terrifying image of a three-headed dragon and it looks so much like your mother-in-law, you find you’re compelled to cover that part of the wall with a cheesy inspirational poster.  A disturbing reminder that there is magic all around!