…and other writing news, iffn you’re so inclined to lend an eye to reading about it.
ITEM: At the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference last month, I attended a very informative seminar done by Mindie Burgoyne about how to use social media to build audiences. Accordingly, I’ve been trying to implement Mindie’s advice, including using Twitter, which previously, I had no interest in.
To make a long and IT-geeky story short, that didn’t work out. I signed up for Twitter, spent time learning how to use it, spent more putting together my profile and researching hashtags (basically, how you label your tweets [or blurbs] so that people interested in your topic can read what you wrote), and jazzed up my website for the new visitors I hoped I would attract.
I tweeted a link to my latest blog post (before this one) and tagged it with #scifi and #sfwa and even @scalzi because I mentioned SFWA president John Scalzi, all in accordance with what I had learned were Twitter best practices. The next day, I checked my site stats to see who had followed my tweet to my blog and then to my site.
No bump in visitors.
Hmmm. Well, maybe no one cares about a 43-year old anthology that any serious sci-fi fan surely has on their bookshelf. Fair enough. I dug a little deeper into my blog archive and tweeted about the 31 things no one tells you about self-publishing, tagging it with #selfpub, #indie, #book, and #literary. Self-publishing’s a hot topic: that post was SURE to attract some eyeballs. I waited and checked back the next day.
Nyet. Nein. Nope. Nada.
I checked the list of all #selfpub tweets that had been indexed for that day. My tweet wasn’t there. Apparently, it had never been there. Could I have made a technical mistake as I sent it, and thus it went down the Memory Hole? Did I unknowingly break some Twitter etiquette and was being ostracized?
No, actually, my failing was that I’m a new user with few followers, and I had included a URL (i.e. a link to my blog) with the hashtags in my tweet. Twitter has set up an automated anti-spam whojeebob (that’s an IT term) that effectively blacklists newbies like me, never displaying our tweets, so that (in proper Catch-22 fashion), we can’t accumulate followers so as to get off this automated blacklist. The whojeebob isn’t malicious, it’s just overjealous in its attempts to keep Twitter free of spam. And apparently, this problem has been going on for quite a while, with Twitter doing exactly skadoosh about it.
The unintended blacklisting doesn’t apply, btw, to established Twitter users like the aforementioned John Scalzi: he and many others may include hashtags and URLs in their tweets and have them appear where they are meant to, to whom they are meant to, with no problems. Well, that’s wonderful for John and everyone else, but it sucks [bottom] for me. I’ll keep my Twitter account, but if I can’t promote this blog, my site, and my books with it, then it’s not that useful to me.
ITEM: Speaking of books, IndieReader has a great piece on why paying someone who’s never read your stuff to write glowing reviews is (duh) a bad idea. Like almost as bad an idea as shaking up a box of scorpions and dropping them down the front of your shirt.
ITEM: Becky’s Book Reviews has a quick take on one of my favorite books regardless of category (kid’s, adult, fiction, non-fiction): The Little Prince. I could write an entire thesis paper on the awesomenitude that is The Little Prince, but then, I could write a thesis paper on The Unending, Unobtainable Quest for Psychological, Physiological, Emotional, and Spiritual Healing and Renewal as Depicted in Guns ‘n’ Roses “Paradise City” and Its Correlation with the Fisher King Archetype and the Search for the Holy Grail in Arthurian Legend.
Oh, hell yeah, I can. I didn’t get this Master’s Degree in English Lit by being just a pretty face.
ITEM: I’ve had to backtrack a bit on Lost Dogs. I let my wife Joni, my daughter Ally-Jane, and my friend Pat read some pages, and they separately agreed that the copious “dog speech” that I was using made it a little difficult (but not impossible) to understand what was going on. Ally Jane noted that it slowed down her reading of the story, because she had to puzzle out what was being mentioned to come up with the “human” version of what was meant. Just as fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son, so too that confused, distracted, and annoyed is no way to go through a book.
So I’ve culled out a lot of the “canine vocabulary,” keeping some of the easier-to-understand words for flavor. The opening paragraph of the book used to be:
Buddy can’t see the Rumbler—it’s too far away for his Eyes—but he can hear it and he knows something’s wrong. It’s not high enough, and it’s coming too fast, and it shrieks like an angry Other, not making its usual low, soothing Noise. And then it screams past, almost too fast to see, Hot and Black spewing from it, right over the In where Buddy lives, and there’s a THOOOOOOOOM that fills the whole Everything, too loud for Buddy’s pointed Ears, and he barks, NO NO NO NO NO! into the uncaring blue Empty above him. And then the Yellow under him shakes as what’s left of the Rumbler smashes into the big Wet not far away.
…and is now:
Buddy can’t see the plane—it’s too far away for his eyes—but he can hear it and he knows something’s wrong. It’s not high enough, and it’s coming too fast, and it shrieks like an angry Other, not making its usual low, soothing noise. And then it screams past, almost too fast to see, flames and smoke spewing from it, right over the house where Buddy lives, and there’s a THOOOOOOOOM that fills the Everything, too loud for Buddy’s pointed ears, and he barks, NO NO NO NO NO! to the uncaring blue Empty above him. And then the ground under him shakes as what’s left of the airplane smashes into the Bay only a few houses away.
I’m bummed that “Yellow,” one of my favorite “dog words” got the chop, but perhaps it’s for the best. My “canine vocabulary” is very elementary: words used by my doggie characters are usually descriptive of either form or function. Thus, an airplane was a “Rumbler” because it makes that noise; fire is “Hot;” smoke is “Black;” an “In” is a house, because you go in it; and “Yellow” is “grass,” because that’s what color grass is to a dog.
So I’m in the process of editing what I’ve written. A lot of writers like to do a rough draft of the whole work, then go back and edit/rewrite it, but I can’t stand continuing on when I’m not happy with what came before. Most writing guides advise you not to do that, lest you edit, edit, edit forever and never get the whole piece written, but it’s how I did Dragontamer’s Daughters; persistence is not a problem for me.
ITEM: How ill is it that I’m not anywhere near done with Lost Dogs and I’m already contemplating my next book? The working title right now is City of Monsters (subject to change: Lost Dogs was originally Dogs of Doom, a phrase from Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter“), and it will be an urban fantasy/horror novel that is definitely NOT kid-friendly. Like, NC-17, no way in Gehenna should you let your kid read it. Like, extremely gory and violent and oogy and SICK. But that will have to wait…..