From the outside, Steampunk HQ looked like the coolest place in town. Unfortunately, we were on a strict timeline, so we didn’t have time to visit. According to TripAdvisor, Steampunk HQ is an art collaboration that portrays an industrial version of Steampunk. Rats! So wish we could have gone.
Politics are dangerous ground. Families stop talking, tensions rise, and people take stupid actions—including making financial contributions to organizations they know nothing about. And that’s the perfect setup for political scams that can cost you thousands of dollars.
Fake Political Action Committees (PACs)
A legitimate PAC must be registered with the Federal Election Commission. PACs have specific reporting requirements, and you can see what candidates/causes they support by looking them up at the Center for Responsive Politics or on the FEC website. No matter what your politics, there’s a PAC to support your team.
Fake PACs, however, have no such restrictions. In fact, they spend much of their money on fundraising or paying salaries to their own executives, not supporting their supposed cause. No matter which side you’re on, make sure your money goes to a legitimate organization, not one designed purely to line the pockets of its organizers.
Ads disguised as news
Part of the way PACs make their money is by advertising. Facebook is the granddaddy of all ad providers. It’s where most people go to interact with their friends, stay informed, and where they pay the most attention to online advertising.
Those Facebook ads are driven by your activity. Did you view a story about a particular candidate or cause? Facebook knows. Did you like a page? Facebook knows. The bottom line is Facebook knows far more that you realize about what you do and don’t like.
Facebook tracks your online activity. This practice makes them a powerful advertising medium—and why Facebook made $21 billion in the last quarter of 2019. If you’re a political activist and want to promote your agenda, target an ad on Facebook. Posts can look like news stories, cite fake sources, and do whatever you want. There’s no problem because Facebook doesn’t even try to weed out fact from fiction. In other words, just because you read it online, doesn’t make it true, but it does create fertile ground for political scams and misinformation.
Three tips to avoid political scams
Tip 1: Check out a political action committee or candidate before you give them money.
Tip 2: Don’t allow online ads to influence you. Those ads can easily lure you into a scam.
Tip 3: Create a script to use when you receive a phone or in-person solicitation. You don’t need to make this elaborate. It can be as simple as, “I’ve already determined my contributions for the year.”
The Australian Mutual Providence Society was formed in 1849. The insurance company is now one of Australia’s largest insurance companies. This building, is an example of the use of the local Omaru stone, which is quarried not far from the town of Omaru. While this building now houses a restaurant, it stands proudly as an example of architecture from a time when buildings were built to last.
More photos from New Zealand
Kelly Brakenhoff is an American Sign Language Interpreter and the author of the Cassandra Sato Mystery series. As an interpreter, Kelly often sees misunderstandings and miscommunications between people who don’t share the same language and culture. Because it’s her job to help that flow of communication happen as smoothly as possible, she felt strongly about making that issue part of her latest book. Here’s the story behind Dead Week, the second Cassandra Sato Mystery.
Even simple things can cause big problems
After the release of Death by Dissertation, Kelly started hearing from readers about how much they enjoyed learning what life is like for deaf college students on campus. “I thought Dead Week was a perfect opportunity to help people understand the world from their viewpoint a little more.”
While there is empathy for the Deaf Community and the challenges they face, Kelly said that’s not always the case. “Occasionally, I see communications between people go awry. Sometimes it’s hilarious, and sometimes it’s sad or even oppressive to witness the things people do to others.”
An important current issue within the Deaf Community right now is complete access to information in real time. “For example, during catastrophic weather events like hurricanes or floods, Deaf people want access in ASL to the alerts and updates at the same time as people who can hear are receiving them, without having to rely on family or neighbors to get the latest information. Another problem for the Deaf Community is limited access to the entertaining and educational videos made by professionals and amateurs alike. Many producers don’t take the time to caption their videos before uploading, rendering them useless to an entire group of people who can’t hear the sound.”
“I don’t know why I do this to myself, but I did the same approach for the first book in the series. I threw a bunch of topics I’m interested in onto a list of Stuff I Want in This Book, and then figured out how I could include all the elements together into a murder plot. I also wanted to spend time getting to know the characters at Morton College and the town of Carson more deeply. For Dead Week, I researched adoption, text-based emergency management systems, and Vietnam protests. As the mother of four grown children, I may have had some personal experience with Helicopter Moms, but I refuse to name names. I can tell you that every Helicopter Mom scenario is taken from real life experiences I’ve seen or heard about at the college where I work.”
On the personal side
“I began running about seven years ago when a work Wellness Program challenged me to register for a Couch-to-5K event. I’ve participated in many sports but hated running because it made my side ache and I’m short, therefore I’m slow. To my surprise, I found I could run long distances without dying. Now I run 10K races and half-marathons. The training runs give me plenty of time to think about my books and how to plot the next murder. Bonus, I can eat chocolate cake without the guilt.”
Kelly also said that while many authors are introverts, she’s exactly the opposite. She said she’s been pleasantly surprised by receiving photos of readers enjoying my book while lounging at the beach or watching their child’s softball games. “I love getting messages about what readers’ favorite scenes were, or how they couldn’t put the book down. Some send me recommendations about books I might like to read or authors who are similar to me. Please feel free to follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, BookBub or wherever you like to go to chat about books. I really enjoy getting to know my readers.”
Once again, truth is stranger than fiction
“In my more than twenty years of experience as an ASL Interpreter, I’ve worked in college classrooms for fifteen different majors. I actually attend classes with the deaf students and overhear both the most inspiring and the most inane professors you could imagine. At faculty meetings, I’ve seen the jockeying for position that happens on a daily basis. The most jaw-dropping dialogue in my books are often exact quotes I’ve overheard people say in real life.”
For Death by Dissertation, Kelly wanted to have her stalker have a prior arrest for harassing a former girlfriend even though he didn’t cause physical harm. “I turned to Google and typed something like ‘Creepy stalker stories not murder.’ My search feed filled with very disturbing scenarios that I gingerly picked through until I found one I could read without losing my lunch. Photos of weapons and cringe-inducing stalker articles popped up on my social media feeds for weeks afterwards.”
Learn more about Kelly Brakenhoff at /kellybrakenhoff.com/.
Charlotte Stuart has taught college courses in communication, gone commercial fishing in Alaska, and was the VP of HR and Training for a large credit union. Her latest challenge is writing lighthearted mysteries. The first book in her Cameron Chandler Mystery series is Survival Can Be Deadly.
All about relationships
“Survival Can Be Deadly is a lighthearted mystery that I’ve grounded in relationships – with family, friends and work colleagues,” Charlotte said. “For example, when Cameron tells her two kids that she has finally landed a job, her son’s response is not surprising. He tells her ‘that’s great,’ then turns back to the television.”
As part of this emphasis on relationships, Charlotte said she wanted her protagonist to be both strong and vulnerable. “She’s as close to a ‘real’ person as possible given the circumstances she finds herself in. As in this scene:
There seemed to be a lot of trails on their property. I hoped … they didn’t patrol them during the day. If there was anyone around, they would undoubtedly hear me. Although I was trying to walk quietly, I wasn’t exactly the last of the Mohicans. My shoes found things to crunch and grind no matter how hard I tried to be quiet.
Keeping it real
Charlotte said catalyst for the book came from several sources. “I visited a commune in a remote location, had friends who were making plans to survive a disaster, and came across a small detective agency in an offbeat neighborhood near downtown Seattle. The latter started me thinking about unusual locations for detective agencies. Researching survivalists revealed a goldmine of information. And, having spent time in the San Juan Islands, one of the islands seemed like the ideal place to locate a survivalist camp. After that, the storyline followed.”
When writing, Charlotte likes to keep the actions and events grounded in reality. “None of my characters have super powers,” she said. “Things that happen could happen. And, although violence and negativity are ubiquitous in today’s world, I lean toward writing about camaraderie and situations that hopefully make the reader smile from time to time. In my mind, humor and excitement are not polar opposites but good working partners.”
Charlotte and her husband take a daily walk, during which time they often talk about her writing. “We’re often on narrow paths in the woods and don’t always hear other people coming in our direction until we’re quite close. I always wonder how much of our conversation they’ve heard about such things as ways to sabotage cars, blood splatter, floaters, and great places to murder someone. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a police officer waiting for us at our car at the end.”
Interviewing the interviewees
After developing several workshops on interviewing for HR professionals, Charlotte decided she wanted to hear stories about the process from the interviewees’ point of view. The results were quite surprising.
“I quickly discovered that everyone has at least one bad interview that haunts them. I spent almost a year collecting interviews and used them in a book I wrote to use in my consulting practice. I hoped the stories would offer solace and a few laughs to interviewees and would provide perspective for my clients.
“Sometimes people were slow to open up, but when they did, many had multiple stories to share. They may not have landed the job they were trying for. And most kicked themselves for mistakes made. But in the retelling, they saw the humor in what had happened. One of the interviewees suggested the subtitle for my book: the comic, tragic and just plain ugly.
“As I collected these stories, I also learned a lot about interviewing techniques. For instance, one person explained how to beat a polygraph. First, you need to put a tack in your shoe so that your pain registers the same on the screen for all of the questions. Second, there’s the pad that you sit on. If you bunch up your butt cheeks or move your feet, that’s a sign that you might be lying. So, put a tack in your shoe and relax those buttocks. You’ll pass your polygraph and land the job of your dreams.”
Learn more about Charlotte Stuart at www.charlottestuart.com