True Crime Thursday – Invasion of the Body

By Debbie Burke

@burke_writer

Photo credit: atimedia – Pixabay

What if a device measures your heart and respiration rate, body temperature, and blood pressure from almost 200 feet away without you ever knowing it? What if that intimate information is collected into a database? Who uses that information and what do they do with it?

Is this the premise for a dystopian/sci-fi/horror story?

Nope. It’s reality.

Pandemic drones created by the Canadian company Draganfly can do all that and more. In a video interview here, Draganfly CEO Cameron Chell claims the software will help public safety officials (in other words, law enforcement) track and prevent spread of disease.

Huh? Cops are now in charge of public health?

On April 21, 2020, Westport, Connecticut police announced implementation of pandemic drones that measure people’s body temperature, heart and respiration rate, and coughing and sneezing. Drones are already being used for enforcement of social distancing in New Jersey, Florida, and elsewhere.

The next day, the ACLU filed a protest statement saying, “Towns and the state should be wary of self-interested, privacy-invading companies using COVID-19 as a chance to market their products and create future business opportunities.”

Following public outcry, on April 23, Westport reversed its decision to use pandemic drones.

Is sneezing, coughing, or running a temperature a crime?

Does invasion of a person’s body by technology constitute unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment?

TKZers: What do you think?

 

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Drones play a sinister role in Debbie Burke’s thriller Eyes in the Sky, available here

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A Lot Has Changed, But Reading Remains

by James Scott Bell
@jamesscottbell

The other day I woke up and felt like I was in Groundhog Day. Truly. When I tweeted about it, someone replied I should add I Am Legend and Swiss Family Robinson to the mix. That was brilliant. The streets of my city—Los Angeles—do look like the zombie apocalypse. And our homes are like tree houses in this urban archipelago.

And it’s like that every dang day.

Maybe you’re feeling something similar, wondering what to do next within the confines of your domicile.

Or what to read next. If that’s the case, I’ve got your back.

First off, ebooks are suddenly the coin of the realm for readers. With bookstores shuttered, print purchases have slowed considerably. I’ve also heard that audiobooks, once the growth slice of the publishing pie, have stalled. Why? Because no one is commuting to work!

So for homebound readers hungry for entertainment and escape, the ebook is fast and reasonably priced. As a recent BookBub post put it:

This is a turbulent time for the publishing industry. Many bookstores, publishers, and authors are facing significant challenges due to the impact on their print sales from store closures. However, one thing that seems clear is that people are still seeking out your books to help them learn, escape, find solace, and cope at this time. 

In that regard, I give you some new pulp fiction of my own — LAST CALL:

 

For call girl Keely Delmonico, having a client die was a new one. Now she has to avoid the cops and all their nasty questions. She manages to get out of the fancy hotel free and clear. But lurking in the shadows is another danger, a deadly one—a killer who is determined to make Keely’s next step her last call.

 

What possessed me to write a book from (mostly) the point of view of a call girl?

The challenge! Writers need to stretch if they’re going to stay on top of their game. As Kris so eloquently explained in her post on Tuesday, sometimes you just have to take a risk, knowing that at the very least the resulting book will:

  • Help you grow as a writer.
  • Make you stronger.
  • Help you find your way to your next story.

This book actually started some time ago when I sat down before a blank screen and asked myself what sort of book would I probably never write? A book about a call girl came immediately to mind. So what did I do? I wrote a first chapter. And liked it. I liked the character that was forming in my mind. Naturally I had to add a killer. From there I plotted and planned, and eventually wrote the thing.

Now, some of my loyal readers may be wondering if a) I’m off my rocker; and b) if the book has, um, well, racy parts.

As to a), I’m a writer. Of course I’m off my rocker.

And b), heck no. The content of the book is what would have been acceptable in a 1960s episode of Mannix or Mod Squad or Hawaii Five-O. The action takes place in L.A. and Las Vegas. Pre-pandemic. But I felt I had to handle that issue in the book. How did I do it? With a couple of Easter eggs I will not reveal here.

What a rat!

I know, but I want you to have the book as pure, lockdown reading pleasure. That’s why I’ve priced it at the lowest end of the Amazon scale—99¢—and will keep it there for the next few weeks. You can order in here.

So here we are, friends, deep into the shutdown. Lots of things have changed, but reading remains. I wonder, though, have you noticed any changes in your reading habits and/or preferences over the last six weeks? Do you think they will carry over when we get, finally, to the “new normal”?

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The Pandemic Invades Fiction – Is it a Game Changer?

Jordan Dane
@JordanDane

The longer I am cooped up behind my four walls, the more my mind wanders on how every day life will be changed by a life threatening virulent pathogen. When I thought the lock down would be for a month, I imagined it to be a vacation or an indulgence. But now that I see the virus invading all aspects of our lives – now and in the future – Covid19 will have an impact that we are only beginning to grasp. Similar to how 9/11 changed our sense of security in the world, how we traveled and how we fear “the other,” we will be defining this experience in new ways that will affect our writing too.

Writers at fanfiction.net are adapting very quickly to story lines that involve current events. They take their favorite TV shows or classic literature and add a COVID angle. Below are some spins I thought would give you an idea what I am writing about – my take.

1.) Imagine romance during the time of a pandemic. How would people “meet”? How would they practice social distancing & not jeopardize the important people in their lives? Is there an APP for that? Would they revive AVATARS to experience the physical aspects of a relationship from a safe distance? Let your imagination run wild. Stories could be romantic comedies or deadly angsty serious.

Picture a modernized version of ROMEO & JULIET where one family has antibodies but the other is pure blood and want to remain that way. Put two young lovers at the apex of a pandemic where governments must decide which family or race should be allowed to survive. A sick romance with a Hunger Games twist?

TAMING OF THE SHREW adaptation where genetics brings two unlikely & resentful lovers together for the sake of the human race’s survival.

2.) DOCTOR DOLITTLE UNDER QUARANTINE – A children’s book where the doctor only has animals to talk to.

3.) STEPHEN KING’S ‘IT’ ADAPTATION IN THE HORROR GENRE – where an isolated anti-hero has a lifelong neuroses about hygiene and disease and crosses the path of a vindictive serial-carrier (aka Pennywise, the clown). A series by the name of KILLING TIME.

4.) LES MISERABLES in a SciFi futuristic genre – Imagine a post-pandemic world where the politics of our time creates a rift between the classes. Rebellion born from pandemic and isolation.

5.) MAGAZINE SERIAL – For writers looking for a writer’s outlet. New York Magazine is looking for fresh takes on pandemic stories. Add the right amount of cynicism and angst with a vivid imagination, and you might sell your pitch.

What would happen if you wrote a series from the perspective of THE VIRUS? Think FANTASTIC VOYAGE (the movie) meets THE HOST (Author Stephenie Meyer-YA), a pathogen could be a sentient being (either from another planet or an awakened yet ancient species living deep in the rain forest until it’s disturbed). The only way they can survive is to inhabit a host and they live their lives by adapting to the human body and “living vicariously” through a larger host. 

FOR DISCUSSION:

1.) Have you been thinking of writing a story influenced by Covid19 or a pandemic? Tell us about it.

2.) How would you reinvent a classic literature or more modern bestseller to inject it with a deadly virus? Get creative.

PANDEMIC PASTTIMES:
If you’re going stir crazy during the Covid19 pandemic, Audible is generously offering FREE READS at this LINK. I love audio books and listen to them most nights. I can’t wait to dive into these Audible gems. The star series of the lot is Harry Potter by J. K. Rowland but there are books for young readers as well as literary classics for all ages.

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A Writer’s Guide to Surviving Social Distancing & Quarantine

JordanDane

@JordanDane

No one has to tell me twice to stay home. I work from there as a writer. My commute is from the bedroom to my office. (No. I don’t work in my PJs. Puleeze.)

Don’t mingle? I love people, but I’m a bit of an introvert. I’m perfectly happy entertaining myself in my head. No worries. But in order to flatten the curve of the #CoronaVirus and allow health professionals to get this pandemic under control for the hospital beds and respirators they have, I am determined to do my part, happily. I’m also the primary caregiver to my parents who are in their 90s. They’re in good health, but their age puts them at a disadvantage.

I’m limiting my errands, appointments and socializing for the next few months and am hoping we, as a country, can get this pandemic under control. I’ve cancelled my European trip in July and will target my travel for 2021-2022 when things might be better.

I thought I would share what I am doing during my self-imposed lock down and get a conversation going. Let’s share what we’re up to and make this quarantine/social distancing survivable.

ALWAYS allow time for your daily quota but think outside the box for how to spend your time. This shouldn’t be same-old-same-old time. Treat yourself & bolster your spirit. The last time I had to spend time sequestered at home, I wrote my debut book after I had surgery. Perhaps this inconvenience could be a renaissance of sorts, a rebirth like a Phoenix rising from the ashes.

Stay positive & fuel your creativity.

Ideas for Writers to survive the #CoronaVirus #Pandemic:

1.) Develop your cooking skills. Treat yourself well by making an effort, even if it’s for a party of one. I have fun posting recipes with pics on social media, like Twitter and Instagram. If you’re feeling generous, try supporting your local restaurants who are suffering during this shut down. They may only be making money on deliveries. Order online with delivery & make sure to wipe down the cartons/containers & throw away the bags. Plastic & cardboard surfaces can carry the virus for 24 to 72 hours–and tip your driver.

2.) Research cooking homemade dog food & treats. My sister and I have challenged each other, from our respective homes, of course. We are cooking our own nutritious dog food with healthy ingredients (meats, vegetables and fruit) with vitamin & probiotic supplements. I recently did the math and I’m saving $20/bag off my old kibble brand. I cook once or twice a month and freeze some to have inventory. It’s fun to be creative for them. My oldest dog is ten and she’s gobbling up her food like she has never done before. I love seeing the joy of my three rescue dogs at meal times and their appreciation shows.

3.) Organize your life. What needs doing? What have you put off? For me, it’s tackling a storage room & my office. I also cleaned out my freezer & made use of what I could to make dog food. These jobs were long overdue. Writing deadlines are pushed to the top of the list normally, but this time of self-reflection has helped me get after projects that will make me feel better in the long run.

4.) Spend time outdoors. It’s spring. Get fresh air by working in a garden, cleaning up, applying lawn treatments. I maintain my home & yard on my own. It’s rewarding, invigorating & a reminder of nature’s renewal. This time of year, it is cleaning up leaves and sprucing up the garden to make way for the new growth. My tangerine tree is blooming and my tulips and bulbs are flowering.

5.) Do an inventory of the favorite things in your home & post pics of them on social media. I saw this on social media and participated. I thought it was a great idea for the home bound. Share a story of why something means the world to you. Tell a story and invite your followers to share their prized possessions. Very touching and interesting.

6.) Post a video of your quarantine activities online if you’re tech savvy. Or read excerpts of your books on video to share with readers. Do you feel comfortable with recording writing craft tutorials? With all the late night shows getting creative on Youtube, I thought–why not share our work with other quarantiners or read an age appropriate book to children? What the hell. I can’t sing

7.) Catch up on research for your next book & dig into a new plot. Daily writing time is important. That should come first, but working on a new project can be invigorating.

8.) Reach out to friends & family on FaceTime or texting or calling. Reassure your loved ones & stay more connected with the people you value most. Not including family, ask yourself–who makes the list of my top 10 contacts? I call this – taking an inventory of the heart.

9.) Focus on your pets. Things have changed in their world too. They see you home more and want your time. Take them on longer walks. It’s good exercise for you. Buy new toys for them, something you can enjoy with them.

10.) Catch up on your reading. Authors should be avid readers. You’ll learn as you enjoy.

11.) Write a letter to someone special. We’re writers, after all. Or keep a daily journal to get in touch with the emotions you might be feeling.

12.) Go on an online shopping spree. Or send a special gift to someone you love.

13.) Plan a vacation for late 2021 or 2022. Save for it. Take your time researching it & make the trip special.

14.) With sports being cancelled across our country, check out what others are doing on TikTok to invent a sport. Here is a LINK. Roomba Curling, window tennis, turtle tic tac toe, Sock Pacman, & ping pong trick shots set up in your home with obstacles.

15.) Take a vitual tour of these great sites at this LINK. Over 30 sites. Animal cameras, national parks, touring famous places across the world, try a virtual trip on Mars.

I count my lucky stars for everything good in my life, despite what’s going on across the globe. I hear & read about horror all over the world and things happening close to home. People are hurting and they don’t have many options if our economy shuts down to a crawl. Be kind to one another and help where you can. You will not regret it.

FOR DISCUSSION:
What are you doing to keep your sanity during this challenging time?

 

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