Why Mess With Perfection?

Why Mess With Perfection?

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I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. Honestly, I never really have. When I was younger there wasn’t anything I wanted to change badly enough that I resolved “this would be the year!” Now that I’m a bit older and I pretend to be a whole lot wiser, I’ve come to the conclusion that if something is important to you, why wait? The new year in and of itself isn’t going to be inherently different. Sure, the people around you might work furiously on their resolutions for a couple of weeks before reality sets in, motivation dwindles, and the flurry of activity previously encircling them fizzles and dies. They, like you, still have all the same time constraints, commitments, and responsibilities that kept them from following through last year too. new year, resolution, meme, funny

In and of itself, that sounds really pessimistic, but it actually isn’t intended to be. The truth is, life as we’ve built it tends to be pretty mundane. People are creatures of habit so it’s really not a surprise that much of our day follows the same predictable patterns time and time again. The problem– as I see it– with New Year’s resolutions is the seeming expectation that everything is going to be radically different right fucking now. Someone who wants to finally get fit, but has been totally sedentary for years, resolves to go to the gym 5 times per week– we’ve all seen the memes– they’re ready, they’re committed, they are going to keep this up for… not very long. For some it’s a few weeks, for others a matter of days, and some commit and never get started.

resolutions, new year, gym, ecard, meme, funny
Okay, I would totally go to this gym.

Don’t get me wrong, getting fit and improving your physical health are fantastic goals. But let’s be rational and honest with ourselves for a minute. Anyone who does 5-a-weeks can tell you that it’s a) time consuming, and b) hard as fuck, even if you’re conditioned for it. How much more difficult is that going to be for someone who has been inactive? Not only are they trying to create a new habit, they’re trying to squeeze it into their probably already busy schedule and it’s going to be extremely unpleasant. This is not a recipe for longevity.

Let’s take another popular example: “This year I’m going to get organized!” First of all, what does that even mean? A non-specific goal is like a moving target: how are you going to hit it? (You can actually apply that same principle to the fitness goal, or any goal, but that wasn’t the point I was making previously). Sooooooo specifics: if like me, you want to declutter your house– i.e. you want to trash, donate, or otherwise remove those things you don’t need and aren’t using– again, an admirable goal– the thing you have to remember is that you didn’t accumulate all of that stuff overnight and you certainly aren’t going to be able to clear it overnight, short of burning it all and starting over. Seriously, don’t do that, it’s super dangerous. You’re going to need time and energy, and in some cases emotional fortitude, to deal with all of the stuff you’ve been collecting.

Are you starting to see where I’m going with this? Rather than thinking about the New Year as the starting point to a 100 meter dash, think of it as a mile-marker in a marathon. You’re already running a race, don’t quit in the middle to start a new one. Distance runners use laps to measure race progress. They have target times per lap, which gives them a unit to measure progress and they adjust accordingly in order to stay on track for whatever the ultimate goal is: finishing the race, personal best, first place, etc.

Be a marathon runner: don’t try to achieve all your goals for the new year in January. Yes, a new year is a great time to assess progress and adjust accordingly, but remember that the adjustments don’t have to be huge to be impactful. Start small and build, consistency is far more important than volume. E.g.: rather than resolving to hit the gym at the ungodly hour of 6am 5 days per week, resolve to walk for 15 minutes per day after dinner. It’s good for digestion, doesn’t require a membership, and it’s far more sustainable. Plus, the cumulative effort will add up. Same goes for decluttering your house. Instead of thinking you have to find a whole weekend (or week, depending on the amount of stuff you’re hoarding) to take care of it all at once, spend 15-30 minutes a few times per week working in one area at a time until until you’ve made the rounds through the whole house.

Whether it’s a new year, new month, new week, or you’re just ready to make a change– believe it or not, you can make a change at any time, you don’t have to wait until the “start” of something new– look first to what you’ve actually achieved and take honest stock of where you are. Then reflect on the things you’d like to improve and achieve. Is it your finances? Your health? Do you want to write a book? (Yay!) Do you want to travel? All of the above? Pick the one goal that is most important to you and get specific. That will be your priority focus. Here’s the deal, you can’t change everything at once. There’s no magic wand or magic words, it’s going to be a whole lot of work and the more divided your focus is, the harder it will be to generate new habits. Be patient, you’ll get to the other goals, they don’t have to wait until next year, but take starting them on one at a time. Last, but certainly not least, try to enjoy the process, there’s no reason change needs to suck.

bob ross, meme, new year, resolution, mistakes
Be like Bob.

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10 Reasons Work Relationships are like Real Relationships without the Sex

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The other day I found myself in one of those hilarious “you had to be there” conversations with my boss in which I teasingly nagged at him about taking over his life (I’m his recently appointed office manager) and he threatened to break up with me in order to find a newer, younger office manager to replace me with. After sharing a good laugh, he brought up the point that work relationships are like real relationships, but without the sex. In other words, what many people would call marriage. Frankly, if this is your idea of marriage, you’re doing it wrong, but that’s another topic for another day.

Maybe it’s a reflection of my dysfunctional work relationships, but I do find myself agreeing with Boss-Man on this one. Because I love lists and funny comparisons: 10 reasons work relationships are like real relationships without the sex. You’re welcome.

1.  Everyone starts out on their best behavior, but eventually you get comfortable and just stop trying. This takes a fairly pessimistic view on relationships– and work– but stereotypes like this make me laugh, so naturally it made the cut.

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2.  Sometimes you love each other, sometimes you hate each other, most of the time you’re indifferent. More pessimism here, but what can I say? I think I’m funny.

3.  They instantly become a hero in your eyes if they bring you food unexpectedly. They say the secret to a man’s heart is in his stomach; I say, “that’s not exclusive to men.”

4.  Eventually, you adopt a “what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine too” attitude. This is particularly true in regards to food. I have no problem eating off my co-workers’ plates and they seem to have no problem eating off of mine. I’ve also been known to pout until my husband trades meals with me because I was hit with a particularly intense case of food envy. Okay, that was one time, but it still happened. Not my finest moment… Sharing is caring?

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5.  If sexual innuendos aren’t a part of your daily repartee, you’re not trying hard enough.

6.  Get drunk together: mistakes will be made and you’ll never look at each other the same. Holiday office parties are proof.

7.  It takes time, but you’ll reach levels of comfort with each other that culminates in discussions of and jokes about bodily functions. You all know what I’m getting at. Poop! No matter what your comfort level with the topic is, at some point you will talk to your co-worker and significant others about dookie. If you’re anything like me, it will be because you’re nearing a crisis and you have been left with absolutely no choice. After that bridge has been crossed, though, it’s anyone’s game. Bodily functions are hilarious.

8.  At some point, you may meet the family and it’s always awkward. In the case of your significant other, you want to make a good impression while in the case of your coworker, you’ll probably find yourself wondering why this is happening.

9.  You experience irrational jealousy at the attention others receive. You likely even know it’s irrational, but you can’t stop yourself.

10. And the magic that started it all: when you make a mistake or have a fight, you worry that they’re going to replace you with someone else.

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A Procrastinator’s Guide to Time Management

A Procrastinator’s Guide to Time Management

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late, every time, whatever, oops, clock

As I sat listening to another lecture from my boss about punctuality and found myself on Amazon’s pre-order blacklist for missing my deadline, I couldn’t help but wonder what it is about being on time that is such a struggle for me. Even as I write this blog, which I had every intention of posting about three weeks ago, I’ve managed to distract myself somewhat continuously by browsing unrelated memes, group messaging my friends, generally contemplating the meaning of everything, and pondering all the reasons anyone might take time management advice from me. People must learn about the existence of catermelon.

catermelon, cat, watermelon

 

But I digress. My friends are the first to tell me I have the time management skills of a carrot, the meaning of everything is forty-two, and while I’m aware I’m not off to a promising start demonstrating my credibility as a time management guru, the truth is, I get shit done when I need to. The problem is that I’m either moving from task to task with the speed of a two-year old on a sugar high, or I’ve passed out in the corner with my ass in the air. Basically, I do all of the things, or I do none of the things.

It was as I sat in a pit of self-loathing, worrying that my editor might fire me for postponing delivery of my latest manuscript for the umpteenth time, that I decided to sit back and honestly examine what is is during those times that I’m “on” that works and figure out what’s missing during those times when I’m “off.” The first thing I learned, infuriatingly, is that my mom was right. It isn’t until you’re older and catch yourself saying the very things you repeatedly heard growing up that you finally admit, maybe your parents knew some stuff. I’ve always known my mom was smarter than the average bear, but it was during my musings on time management, and my lack of it, that I acknowledged her old adage “Work expands to fill the time you have” as a reality, not philosophical mumbo jumbo.

Basic Principles of Time Management

1. Work expands to fill the time you have.

This sounds made up, but it’s true. Think about your morning routine. We all set our alarm and plan our morning according to the number of tasks– drink coffee, shower, get dressed, do hair/makeup– we’d like to complete before heading off to work for the day. Some of us budget lots of time to include workouts, cleaning house, curing cancer, etc.,  while others barely budget enough time to pee and don fresh underwear before tearing out the door. But no matter the number of tasks you strive to accomplish, like most people, you probably keep at them up until the time you have to leave. Or in my case, 5-30 minutes past the time I should have left. Now, think about that same morning routine, only this time you’ve overslept your alarm. Simmer in that moment of panic for a minute. Good? Okay. Now, we can cram an incredible amount of getting ready into 2 minutes or less when we’re forced to. And guess what? It works exactly the same in other areas of our life.

When we know we only have a short amount of time to complete a task, every second counts, so we work pointedly. But the longer we have to do something, the easier it is to be distracted by something else and put off the original task, because a) it doesn’t need to be done until later, and b) the new task is more pressing, more interesting, more fun– just more.

In college, I once wrote a 15 page, 10 source paper that I had to do a 50 minute presentation on and comprised 50% of my grade for the class the night before and the day that it was due. Mind you, I had an entire semester to finish said paper and I literally did not crack a book on the topic until the night before it was due. In case you were wondering, I was two minutes late to my own presentation. I also got an A- on the assignment. What can I say? Some people thrive under pressure.

2. Set a deadline.

I’m motivated by deadlines. I know, I know; I mentioned chronic tardiness at work and a missed deadline for submitting my manuscript as the reason I will be unable to put anything up for pre-order for a year, so you might  think that deadlines themselves don’t motivate me. And you’d be right, because it’s not the deadlines themselves so much as the consequences for meeting the deadline or not meeting it, as the case might be, that motivate me. I’ll address the idea of consequences in more detail when I discuss motivations, but for now we’re going to stick with deadlines.

From the time I started putting words on paper for Fallen to the time that I actually hit publish was about two years. Undoubtedly, I still wouldn’t be finished with it if a friend of mine hadn’t given me a reason to publish by a certain date. She was organizing and hosting her own author-reader con and as one of my beta readers and earliest fans, she told me she would include me as one of her featured authors, but only if I published Fallen before the con. Challenge accepted.

Like the paper that expanded the course of an entire semester, without a deadline, Fallen would have continued to expand to the point that I might have died before ever seeing it in print. A goal without a deadline is simply a wish, so while we all have them, if we don’t set a date for our some-day goals,  we’ll never achieve them. Remember, Someday is not an actual day. So when you tell yourself, I’ll [fill in the blank] some day, what you’ve just done is given your brain permission to put it off. And it will. All of the things that are in any way more will immediately move in to occupy your attention. Deadlines help to drive our focus so we can keep the clutter out.

3. Figure out what motivates you, and incentivize yourself appropriately.

There are intrinsic– internal– and extrinsic– external– motivators. Intrinsic motivators are things like pride, desire, a sense of accomplishment, while extrinsic motivators are things like material rewards, such as a paycheck, praise/attention, avoidance of punishment. I always believed I was a highly intrinsically motivated individual. I like to excel at the things that I do, so I work hard to build the know-how and skills to do them well. What I didn’t realize until very recently is that while my motives for the quality of my work may be internal, the incentives that drive me to actually finish things are very much external. And this is an important distinction because the reasons for how we do something are not necessarily the same as the reasons for why we do it, which includes why we do it within a certain amount of time.

Take, for example, the situation with my friend. She was going to yes, victory, we did itfeature me as an author at her conference if I published my book beforehand. It didn’t matter how much before, just that I commit and get it done. Day one of Reading Until Dawn Con 2015 was October 8. I hit publish on the paperback on October 2. If you’re thinking that is pretty impressive given my track record for timeliness, I didn’t hit publish on the ebook until day 2 of the 3.5 day con.

I learned a lot about myself and my writing process during those two years. So I thought publishing my second book would be a breeze. I knew when I needed to get the first draft to my editor, how long to expect the first round of revisions to take, and when I would need to have the final draft submitted if I were to put it up for pre-order, so I set my deadline. I watched my hopeful deadline approach, and then I watched it go screaming past. No problem. This is exactly why I set two deadlines. I’m smart like that. I then proceeded to watch my YNTTTIRFNOYWPOT (You Need To Turn This In Right Fucking Now Or You Won’t Publish On Time) deadline as it barreled toward me and continued to plow right over me.

Three months after I missed my YNTTTIRFNOYWPOT deadline, I turned the first and very ugly draft of The Beauty of the Beast in to my editor. This was shortly after I worried that she might fire me for being impossible to work with and well-beyond the point that I realized I was going to miss my pre-order deadline, landing myself on Amazon’s naughty list for changing the release date. Oops. By this time I’d acknowledge that I am not as intrinsically motivated as I’d always thought and it was through this experience that I learned that it is not enough to have a deadline, I need an external consequence for meeting or missing that deadline. Annnnd the consequence must be bigger than the more that might try to take up residence in my list of priorities.

As a brand new self-published author, being featured at an author-reader con next to New York Times and USA Today best sellers Darynda Jones, Jeffe Kennedy, and Cynthia St. Aubin was a huge incentive for me to finish Fallen. Being banned from using pre-order for one year because I wasn’t going to finish on time and changed my publish date for The Beauty of the Beast? Not so much. In the next year, I’ll probably only publish two books: The Beauty of the Beast (re-set for May 2 *aw, it’s really cute that I still believed that when I initially wrote this*) and Destroyed, the second book in the Fallen Series (set for October 2016 *my reasons for missing this deadline are a lot less quirky and adorable and a lot more FML*). Because I’ll only be publishing two books and I really don’t yet have a big enough audience to make pre-order a necessity, when I should have been writing and I felt like, you know, not writing, the knowledge of my upcoming restriction wasn’t enough to incentivize me to crack down and focus.

You know what did get me to finish? A burning desire to start working on Destroyed. Like the temptation of the forbidden fruit, nothing ignites a fiery passion to do one thing, like being forced to wait because you have to finish something else first. You might be wondering why wanting to work on Destroyed would be an incentive for me to finish The Beauty of the Beast. There was no external force stopping me from just working on both at the same time, right? Well, yeah, but that brings me to my next point.

4. Multi-tasking is a myth. 

I have a hard rule about only working on one book at a time. This means that while I might, and usually do, have multiple story lines running in my head at any given time, I am only allowed to put words on paper for a single story at a time. This can be really difficult because sometimes the voices that are loudest in my head are not the ones from the story I am presently working on. I know there are writers that will work simultaneously on multiple books from multiple series and the quality of their product is in no way diminished. I would argue that these writers are few and far between and I readily admit that I am not one of them. I tried working on multiple series at the same time, but quit when I thought my writing style, characters, and content were all starting to sound the same.

frye, bad at concentrating, multi-tasking

What happened to me isn’t all that unusual either. Our brains aren’t actually capable of multi-tasking. I’m not talking about the talking and chewing gum kind of multi-tasking, I’m talking about the kind of multi-tasking in which both undertakings require higher cognitive function, like critical thinking. When we think we’re multi-tasking, what we’re actually doing is ceasing to focus on one thing in order to focus on another, and then switching back. When we alternate our attention back and forth like this, we ultimately perform both tasks slower and less effectively even though we might believe we are being more productive. So if you want to do something and do it well, focus on one thing at a time.

5. It’s not about starting, it’s about finishing.

The book that my Kindle estimates will take 3 hours to read, took me 2 years to write. That would almost be depressing if it wasn’t so cool that I wrote a book. I wrote a fucking book! That’s awesome. Boom baby!

We’re wired to seek out instant gratification, but when we’re talking about our some-day goals, we’re usually talking about our big goals. The goals that are tied to our hopes and our dreams. As much as we might wish they were, these are not the type of thing that can be achieved in a day.

Writing a book takes time. A lot of it. Since I couldn’t up and quit my day job in order to focus on writing full time– because, you know, life costs money– I had to fit writing into the cracks of my life. Fifteen minutes here, a couple of hours there. Through diligence, the hours added up and eventually I had a completed product and a desire to do it all over again. You don’t have to know everything in order to get started. Time is going to pass regardless of whether or not you do that thing your inner voice has been whispering at you to do, so just go for it.

construction, dog, i have no idea what I'm doing

6. Make a plan.

Did you know that writing something down increases the chances that you will do it? Busy people are excellent time managers and it’s because they have to plan their time diligently in order to accomplish everything. Whether it’s in your phone, a day planner, or a sticky note on your computer, plan your time for the day, the week, the month.

borat, great success, we did itBe strategic about it. Give yourself an appropriate amount of time, but don’t stretch your deadlines so far that
you allow the clutter in. Understand what really motivates you and incentivize yourself accordingly. Interweave the things you want to do– things like your some-day goals– with the things you have to do– like work your J.O.B. Limit distractions and work with focus. Concentrate on one task at a time before moving on to the next and be specific. For example, schedule social media time so it doesn’t interfere with working time. Then get started and don’t quit.

Did you see what I did there tying it all together? Not bad, am I right? All right. And now, more cat videos.


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This blog was originally posted March 23, 2016 on my old website. For the latest updates on all my projects check out what’s On My Nightstand.

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The Real Reason I Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Talk to People

The Real Reason I Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Talk to People

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i hate pants and socializing, introvert, no to pantsYou may think all writers are anti-social introverts who hate interacting with others. While I would typically tell you not to be a judgmental twat-waffle, I can also acknowledge that some stereotypes exist for a reason and unfortunately this may be one that I live up to. No, I’m not anti-social per say, but I do enjoy my own company– and that of the voices in my head– more than I enjoy anyone else’s. And sure I don’t actually hate interacting with others, but there are certainly aspects of appropriate social behavior that I don’t love. Like small talk…and wearing pants.

There is no situation in which my social fuckery is more prevalent than when new men approach me to strike up a conversation. Why? Because no matter how mundane it starts, I assume they are eventually going to steer the conversation down a road I’m not interested in traveling. Is this judgmental and probably vain of me? Absofuckinglutely. Do I care? No.

Before you call me a hypocrite for being a judgy bitch– which I might be, but is beside the point– walk a mile in my shoes. Life experience has taught me that the subtext of “Hey, how are ya?” is actually “Hey, DTF?” Since my answer to this question has always been a loud and resounding no, I’ve had to learn to navigate these uncomfortable situations in ways that allow me to leave feeling good about myself, and comfortable with my safety, while still getting my message across.

When I was a young lass who cared too much what other people thought of me, I didn’t want to be presumptuous, so I always tried to be amiable and friendly while throwing subtle signs that I wasn’t interested in anything other than polite conversation. Seems like nice enough way of handling things if I do say so myself. Unfortunately, I’ve never found subtlety to be particularly effective, so when the inevitable advance was finally made and I said “Thanks, but no thanks,” I suddenly found myself branded a tease and wondering how the hell that happened. As this became a repetitive issue, I naturally thought the problem was me.

Not wanting to send mixed messages, I changed my approach. No one likes to feel strung along, so logically it follows that if subtlety doesn’t work, then a courteous but firm dismissal right out the gate would be appreciated, right? Wrong. Evidently, candidly expressing a lack of interest before an actual proposition has been made makes one a conceited bitch. Well, shit. I can’t fucking win, can I? The result is that navigating the line between demonstrating exclusively platonic interest and being a pleasant, sociable human being is stressful, not to mention exhausting. And I know I’m not the only woman that feels this way. It was out of this damned if I do, damned if I don’t reality that I adopted an “If you can’t beat ’em, fuck with ’em” attitude.

Sarcasm is, and kind of always has been, my thing. Some would call it a defense mechanism; I just think I’m funny. I used to temper my natural impulses because people that don’t realize I’m being sarcastic think I’m just an asshole. As I’ve gotten older and possibly a little wiser, I’ve decided that if I don’t want to wear pants, I simply won’t wear pants. And if I want to be sarcastic, by God, I’ll be sarcastic. I’m not malicious or cruel, I just happen to have a dry sense of humor. I’ve also found that maybe I can use my super-human ability for sarcasm for good rather than evil. You be the judge.

With social media rapidly replacing face-to-face interaction, and too many people treating Facebook like Tinder, social media has become an excellent forum for me to let my true colors fly. Ladies, I hope my methods amuse and inspire you. Gentlemen, it’s not personal, but if you private message me and I don’t know you, prepare to be trolled. Among my ever growing repertoire, here are some of my favorite tactics for deflecting unwanted attention, each used with varying levels of success by yours truly

P.S. I didn’t obtain permission before posting these, so I’ve deleted the names and pictures of everyone I’ve interacted with in order to protect their identity as well as avoid a lawsuit for slander or some shit. My side of the conversation is always in blue.

Tactic 1: The Curt Reply

Now, in my experience one-word answering someone only deters them about 50% of the time, and that’s when it’s used in person. Online the success rate is even lower. So, while I recognize the Curt Reply isn’t the most efficient deterrent, I like to use it to give potential would-be suitors an opportunity to declare their intentions. They rarely do, which means I go into the conversation planning on following up with one of my other tactics.

troll

 

This is as far as I ever go with the Curt Reply before employing something else. Which tactic I move to depends entirely on my mood and the general direction of the conversation thus far.

Tactic 2: Just Call a Spade a Spade

In spite of what I said earlier, there’s nothing wrong with taking the direct approach. If all your spidey senses are screaming stranger danger, you are well within your right to ask someone what they expect to get out of the conversation. But be warned, if you’re direct early on, you’re likely to be hit with defensiveness and/or a guilt trip. Like this guy, who got defensive and tried to make me feel like a jerkwad for asking him what his endgame was. SMH. He had no idea the can of worms he just opened up. I almost feel bad for him. Almost.

troll, direct, guilt trip, don't even

 

Tactic 3: Make Yourself as Pretentious, Vapid, and Self-Centered as Possible

This was my response to Mr. I Just Want To Have A Nice Chat. It seemed fair. One of the reasons I’m on social media is to interact with and reach readers. Maybe I’d spark his interest, we’d share a laugh, and he would look into my book. Right? Appallingly, as the conversation continued, my certainty that he hasn’t read a single book grew three times that day.

troll, vapid, self-centered, don't talk to me

I don’t always talk about my writing when using this approach. Any manner of superficial first world problem will do.

troll, nail polish, avoiding people

Tactic 4: Say It In Song

Sometimes they think I’m as funny as I think I am, though I’ll admit that’s a rare turn. More often I get a lot of okay’s in response to my antics, so props to this guy both for being direct and for taking my rejection in stride.

troll, say it in song

Tactic 5: Speak Exclusively in Quotes

These can be either book or movie quotes. The thing to remember is that the more famous and well recognized the quote, the less relevant it needs to be to whatever question you’ve been asked.

 

 

troll, book quotes, this happened

troll, quotes, seriously, this happened

Tactic 6: Give Them a Dose of Their Own Medicine

This is similar to Calling a Spade a Spade. Both tactics involve being direct about the situation, but Give Them a Dose of Their Own Medicine has the added element of twisting the situation to make them the bad guy. On a separate note, instant messengers, use some common sense! If you messaged me, you should know who the fuck you’re talking to. My name is on the top of the damn IM box. Jesus Christ.

troll, fuckboy, again seriously

 

Tactic 7: Use an Obscure Metaphor

And ride that gravy train all the way into the station. This one happened to have the added bonus of continuing the reverse guilt train he tried to start with me at the beginning of the conversation.

troll, metaphor, library book

 

Well, I certainly hope he learned his lesson, though given his excessive use of the word ‘okay’, I have my doubts.

In conclusion and summation of, there you have it: my favorite tactics for deflecting unwanted attention. While I may be an asshole, I’m a clever asshole. Remember, it only needs to be funny to me, and I have a weird sense of humor.


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A Stranger Broke My Heart Today

A Stranger Broke My Heart Today

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It’s a hostile world, perhaps exceptionally so in the online world. My step-dad, a software programmer, has been saying this to me for years. I always knew he was right, but it wasn’t until I found myself on the receiving end of what is ultimately an act of cyberterrorism that I truly internalized the lesson. I think, by now, most of us know that if you get an email regarding a distant relative and a small fortune that it’s probably a scam, and you should delete that shit ASAP. I mean, I don’t know your family, maybe it’s legit. Not where I’d place my bet, though.

But what if you requested the information?

My company posted a help wanted ad on Craigslist. Because I handle all of our communication with the outside world, it made sense to funnel applicants to me. We received lots of legitimate inquiries and have successfully hired employees this way in the past, so when I received an email referencing the ad I posted with a resume attached, I wasn’t suspicious. It caught my attention that it was password protected, but resumes frequently have personal information on them, so again, it didn’t really red flag for me. When it was all said and done, it only took 4 clicks for a complete stranger to thrash my entire world.

I was hit with Cerberware encryption software, which seeks out and encrypts your most important files: your .docs, .jpegs, .mp3s– basically, your documents, pictures, and music. Files that have the highest sentimental, monetary, or utility value to the user. The twats don’t steal them, they just make them completely inaccessible to you, the owner. Cerberware Ransomware is a 2 MB encryption code. I don’t know much about computers, but in essence it’s so big that it would be impossible to decode without a “key”. And that’s where they get you. You see, they send you this lovely notification telling you what you’ve been hit with, describing what encryption is, and then demanding– in my case– $679.00 to sell me the key I need to access my own property. The real kick in the teeth is the part where they tell you that this isn’t malicious and together we can make the internet a safer place.

Did I mention that in the event that you attempt to recover your files through other means, the Cerberware will corrupt them, rendering them permanently irrecoverable? Oh, and the assholes give you a deadline. I was given 5 days to pay the discounted rate and if I missed it, the amount would double. Fail to pay by the second deadline and they corrupt all your files anyway.

Not malicious? Fuck you very much.

As soon as reality came crashing through my confusion, I experienced the gut-wrenching horror that I am– was– 58k words into a novel that I needed to get to my editor in three weeks and nearly half of that was completely unrecoverable. At a conservative guess, the irrecoverable material represents around 80 hours of work on my part. That might not sound like a lot, but I have a full time job. That 80-hour effort has been spread out over months and it doesn’t include any of the time spent on research– files that I also lost, by the way.

The word ‘devastated’ comes to mind.

My knee-jerk reaction was to call my step-dad, upon which I received the comforting news that, “These guys are bastards. You’re going to have to pay them.” What he means is, I need to pay them  if I’m going to have any hope of getting anything back. After extensive research, what we found is that there are some reconfiguration programs that people have tried, but success rates are low– and by low, I mean practically zero. We also discovered that there are lots of reports of people paying the money and receiving nothing for it. Discouraging, to say the least.

Not surprisingly when the shock wore off, it made room for anger, at myself– for not backing up when I knew better– and at whoever did this. Perhaps naively, because I know that there are some truly terrible people out there, but I find myself oddly hurt that someone would do this. My moral compass might not always point True North, but I do take special care not to do things that I know will be hurtful to others, so this level of intentional cruelty is somewhat incomprehensible to me.

There’s no denying, all my options suck some serious hairy ball sac, so what do I do? Try to make the least crappy decision and hope for the best. Oh, and kiss my files goodbye.

To whoever did this,

I’m certain that you will never read this, but it makes me feel better to say it. I don’t know whether you believe the diatribe you’re spouting or if you’re just that much of an asshole, though I suppose it doesn’t matter. Whether or not you would have released my own property to me, your scheme works because people pay, which is a sort of endorsement of what you’re doing. I cannot in good conscience allow myself to financially support the deliberate harm you are causing.

You say this program isn’t malicious; I’d laugh at the sheer audacity of it if I wasn’t so compelled to cry. My friends tell me you don’t deserve my tears– and they’re right– but I know the truth. My tears are mine alone. I’m a drop in the ocean to you. Not even a blip on your radar. You don’t give a shit about my tears, just my money, which isn’t yours to have either. While I’m not exactly winning in this situation, neither are you, and that’s enough for me. It has to be.

To me, the work you stole is worth the amount you’re demanding. More, even. However, in spite of the fact that it literally makes me ill to think about my loss, I won’t pay you. Not one cent. Not ever.

Kindly, take your lack of maliciousness and choke on it.

nope, double bird, fuck you
You make me wish I had more middle fingers

To Anyone Reading This,

Life frequently gives the test first and teaches the lesson second. The internet is a hostile place. Don’t open things from people you don’t know, no matter how legitimate it might seem. It’s just not worth it. Perhaps even more importantly, back-up your work. Even if we’re cautious, accidents happen. Shit gets through. Computers crash. The worst sometimes happens. There are no words to express how desperately I wish I’d been on a back-up regimen. It takes only moments and I could have spared myself a great deal of agony. Discipline weighs ounces; regret weighs tons. Don’t set yourself up to run your race with weights around your ankles.

And last, but not least, To my Fallen Fans,

You might have guessed, but I lost half of what I’d written of Destroyed. The story’s still there, right where I need it: in my head. I can– and will– rebuild, but it would be a lie to say I’m fine. I’m not fine. I’ve spent the past ten days grieving. The task of re-writing and finishing in time to publish by October 2nd feels insurmountable. While it feels insurmountable, the only way to truly fail would be to quit. There’s nothing else for it except to get up, dust myself off, and keep on creeping on. So that’s what I’ll do.

Don’t let the bastards get you down. As an avid reader, I know how insufferable it is to wait for the next book in a series. I adore you all and would never make you wait longer than absolutely necessary. Bear with me Destroyed is coming.

galaxy quest, never give up, never surrender


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A lot has happened since this post– you know, relatively speaking– check out the latest chapter of my story: The 5 Stages of Moving the Fuck On

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