C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

Writers: Are you in the echo chamber?

I love my writing community here. I’ve learned a lot from others and, as indies, we share a lot of information. We’re a generous bunch with each other. I appreciate your comments and participation on my little writing and publishing blog. Because I’m a sweet bunny pooping love everywhere, I have to tell you something with love:

Writers talk to other writers too much. We must talk to readers more.

Let’s make this go down easy by using an example from another industry.

When massage therapists try to figure out their businesses, they ask their peers and senior massage therapists for their opinions. They want to drink from the well of experience. It’s a good notion that frequently goes awry. Their peers are often as clueless as they are and senior therapists either don’t have the same problems or their advice is out of date. Take pricing, for example. They’ll set fees based on what they’d pay. But many massage therapists would never pay for massage. They don’t have enough money or they swap treatments with other therapists. Massage treatment is for people with real jobs and insurance coverage, not us.

Stick with me and hold my hand, because this is about to get uncomfortable.

Writers need to listen to readers more.

Sadly, writers often don’t have much money to spare so we use libraries or search for free a lot. Most of us buy books when we can, but with budgets as tight as they are, we’re often not your audience. As a result, many of our industry’s book prices are artificially depressed. We’re asking the wrong audience what we should do. (I’ve taken this advice. I just raised prices on some of my books and generally, the trend will be up.)

A veteran writer who’s “made it” (whatever that means) often doesn’t know all the variables that contributed to his or her success. If someone coasted to indie success from a high in traditional publishing, they can’t tell you much about the current scene. Precious few people attribute any of their success to luck. It had to be their sheer brilliance. However, many of us are brilliant and we’re still eating boot soup.

So, what not to do?

If you don’t tweet others at all, you may as well be on Mars.

If you rarely check your direct messages, you’re in the bubble.

If you only check your mentions on Twitter, you’re screaming into the echo chamber.

If you follow three people and two of those are your other Twitter accounts, you’re only hearing yourself plus you’re a raging narcissist (and not in a good way).

If you only have conversations with people who don’t buy books, you’re surveying the wrong people.

If you only speak to people who “buy” free books, you’re engaging the wrong audience. (Readers who buy with money instead of a click are often suspicious if your book is priced too low, for instance.)

If you don’t take new information in and seriously consider change, you’re for slavery. (Your own.)

If you do have conversations with readers from time to time and you talk about them, you’re on a smoother path.

If you don’t cultivate supportive friends, you’ll be alone, surrounded by fiends and without a fire ax or holy water.

If you only attend conventions with other writers instead of fans, you’ll have a great time talking to people who agree with you: “Wow, it sure is hard to connect to new readers!”

If you never get out and talk to real people in the real world and only connect with people on a safe and cyber basis, who will you learn to hate so you can kill them in your next novel?

If somebody says, “I prefer paper books,” and you reflexively say, “How Amish of you! Ebooks are the only future!”, that was kind of funny, but you should be listening instead of cracking that same joke open again. It’s rotten on the inside.

If you say all this social engagement is too hard and it takes away from your writing time, I’m sorry. I thought you were writing to be read. Get a calendar or time management software. At least tweet or email during commercials.

If you immediately dismiss everyone with whom you disagree, you’ll never learn the secret to…well, anything really. Plus, you’ll come across as a jerk.

I’m not suggesting you allow me or readers or reviewers or anyone else to run your life. I am saying that if you recognize yourself in this list and it gives you that squirmy squirts feeling, adapt accordingly. Listen.

You should listen to me. I’m a writer.

Filed under: author platform, getting it done, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Rant, readers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Triberr: Problems and Solutions

A kronosaurus, the prehistoric sea monster, ate my blog traffic. Many blog subscribers will already have seen the wonderful and helpful posts listed below (even if I say so,

Kronosaurus queenslandicus

Kronosaurus queenslandicus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

my own damn self). However, due to some technical glitch with Triberr, a lot of people missed these ChazzWrites.com posts (and crucial extras, like links to my new book sites, ThisPlagueofDays.com and onlysixseconds.wordpress.com or tap the grooviness at CoolPeoplePodcast.com or hear a reading at AllThatChazz.com).

Disaster

I discovered the other day that my Triberr marketing teams haven’t been retweeting my blog posts for quite some time. Curses! Foiled again! What to do? And why is Triberr so important for bloggers, marketers, authors and, ultimately, readers?

Woe

My blog traffic and Twitter mentions had slowed remarkably. I blamed myself for a lack of awesomeness at first, of course. I mean, self-loathing? That’s just what I do! However, I put my head down, close to the keyboard, and tried to double up on the awesome. When that didn’t work, I began to look for other reasons for the aching distance between me and the popularity of Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World. Perhaps the new cologne wasn’t working out? Then I discovered the Triberr problem.

Frustration

I’d been diligently retweeting the best of the tweets from my tribes (and I’m in awesome tribes with wonderful bloggers and writers). However, my blog posts weren’t getting sent out to their followers in turn.

As soon as I discovered the problem was somewhere in Triberr settings, I tried to solve it myself. Result: Failure.

Then I asked for tech support from Triberr. I received no response.

I waited several days, became impatient, sent another plea for help and…still didn’t hear from tech support.

Then I figured out what was missing and finally fixed it myself yesterday.

However, I come to praise Triberr, not to bury it.

This is not an indictment of Triberr, but when it didn’t work recently, the social media marketing tool certainly showed me its value. Good posts get more hits, anyway, but they get even more traffic with a boost from Triberr. Without Triberr, I’m not spreading the word as effectively. With Triberr, my reach is, theoretically, 6 million people plus whoever the 6 million retweets to. That’s a lot of eyeballs coming here to taste my flavor, fall in like, buy some books and tumble into full-force love. 

Now that the problem is fixed, my traffic stats are bouncing back up. My Twitter connections are ablaze again. Soon, this very post will be sent out through the cyber-ether by my tribes and who knows where it will land, or how many new subscribers and Twitter followers I’ll gain? (Crosses fingers, strangles a mime for good luck.)

People appreciate value and boy, do I try to give it. However, hiding our lights under  cliched bushels and waiting for it to happen magically and organically doesn’t help new readers discover us quickly. Triberr gives more people the chance to fall in love with what we can provide. Where else are you going to read about publishing and mime-stangling? See? I’m so unique.

Triberr helps.

And usually? Triberr works

.

In case you missed my redesign of this blog, thoughts on optimizing books and sales, podcasts, announcements and changes in publishing strategies, here are some those articles. Also, please enjoy the odd mime-strangling. (Don’t do it every day, though. If it’s every day, it’s not a treat.)

Odd and Unfamiliar Literary Genres

Book Marketing Problems and Solutions

Amazon Goodreads. Mostly? So What? 

How to End a Chapter: Shorter Chapters, Better Books

On Writing Well: The Challenge of the Slow Open

Ebook: What Makes a Good Cover? What Makes a Bad One?

Rebelmouse: How I got all my blogs and podcast on one glorious page

The All That Chazz Podcast: More Fury

Amazon Throttled

Getting a Bigger Boat: Adapting to be a More Effective Publisher

Writers: Shorter is Better

Blog Comment Rules and How to Become Batman

What Jedis Know About Fear

Author Platform: Problems, Solutions and Stuffed Speedos

Filed under: blogs & blogging, book marketing, ebooks, publishing, Rant, Triberr, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In writing dialogue, what sounds real?

This week, as I listened to some NPR folks talk about writing on a podcast called Culturetopia, I found myself getting agitated. They were coming down hard on Diablo Cody for her dialogue in Juno. The

Diablo Cody, writer of the film Juno

Image via Wikipedia

complaints were variations on a theme: teens don’t talk like that. They grudgingly admitted that some of the dialogue was funny, but added it was the actors’ charm that sold dialogue that wasn’t “real.” (Whatever this reality thing is…but that’s another post in which I discuss quantum physics, multiple earths and Twinkies.)

How charming do these critics imagine actors can be if they’re mute? Do they really believe the charm oozes off the screen just because actors walk onscreen? (In my experience, that only happens in porn where dialogue is tertiary. Primary? Looks. Secondary? Action (and, equally, the presence of umbrellas open indoors…but that’s my fetish.) In so-called real life and on film, actors have to speak the lines in the script (and possibly throw in some improv) to sell a performance. JK Simmons is a great actor. But if he played the dad in Juno as a mime bereft of Cody’s dialogue, I would have to kill him. (As is my mission with all mimes.) What I’m saying is, Juno as a silent movie wouldn’t work nearly so well for me.

There are so many lines from that comedy I loved:

“It’s a pilates machine.” 

“Great! What’s it make?”

And the teenage mother played by the wonderful Ellen Page tossing off the reaction of her peers to her advancing pregnancy:

“They call me the cautionary whale.”

Cody’s critics were even cheering her “failure” with her second movie, Jennifer’s Body, to teach her humility (presumably so she can write another, more banal movie that’s not so threatening to their self-image and worldview.)

There are three answers to this line of attack on Diablo Cody:

1. It was a comedy. Lighten the fuck up.

2. “Teens don’t talk that way”: Really? All teens? Everywhere? Ever? Every teen and every adult must conform to one sound, one point of view, one CLICHE?! Ellen Pages’ character was a smart, glib kid who spoke in one-liners. Sometimes I speak in one-liners and the only writer working for me is me. Maybe the critics don’t know any smart people who are funny at the same time. They need to meet more comics because that’s what some of them can sound like on and offstage. Maybe after giving up her baby to Jennifer Garner, Juno went off to work the Comedy Store. Or she took up particle physics. Funny and smart at the same time is possible, at least in the form of Juno.

3. Critics: Don’t be so damn churlish. I’m thinking of two words. The second word is “you.” The first word is not “thank.”

Filed under: publishing, Rant, Rejection, reviews, scriptwriting, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , ,

Book Promotion: To spam, or not to spam

no spam!

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday I posted a too-long comment in reply to a post at The Taleist. (I recommend The Taleist heartily. Love his blog and bought his Kindle formatting kit, too.) However, I felt some despair at a guest post that seemed to imply it was awfully easy to offend people. The guest blogger, Norman W Wilson, is a Professor Emeritus, so what do I know? Still, my heart cried out, “What would you have us do?” Zip over here for the original post and below is my reply from the comment thread, reposted for your consideration. (Yes, I might very well be in the minority on this one.)

Often these strategies are not effective with many people. But they are effective with some people. I often get phone calls and email solicitations etc.,… and I, too, wonder, who would be interested in that, or who would fall for that? But spam must work in some small percentage of cases or the strategy would have been abandoned long ago.

My concern is that all that hectoring gives rise to cynicism. So an author asked you to buy his or her book in a place that offends you. I get that it offends you, but “inexcusable”? That’s an overcorrection. We excuse many offences that are far less egregious. Similarly, anyone with a new book is excited about bringing their baby out into the world. It’s the most natural thing in the world to make your cover into your avatar. What’s the real harm in that (except for a sensitive minority)? I skim right past that if I’m not interested. Are you offended for yourself or is this a perception that we just can’t take any more advertising? Some people really do like the taste of spam.

I’m not advocating tantrums and sedition in your forums. I’m saying let’s keep perspective and have some compassion for our fellow artists. When I get spam, I don’t get offended. I just ignore it as most people do. My book isn’t pollution in your space. It’s an option and an invitation you are welcome to ignore. (Who knows? You might love it.) I agree that aggression isn’t the answer for book promotion, but neither is obsequious timidity. No one ever succeeded hiding their artistic  lights under bushels of shame.

I especially worry that new authors who could have been helped are getting scolded instead. One example cited: Typical lines go something like this: “I just finished signing a contract for my new novel No Name with XYZ Publishing and would like to know how to set up a book signing.” That could easily be a genuine request for input from an excited, nervous newbie who looked to her more experienced peers for assistance.

I have no doubt your heart is pure, sir. However, too wide a net and too dim a view can catch  up innocent authors and batch them with the rabid spammers. It is not spam that has turned me off several Linked In groups (where I lurked but never posted, by the way.) I clicked “leave group” because of what I perceived as chronic incivility from veterans in the field who posted with their own sense of entitlement. Not all posters were impolite, of course, but enough were so cranky and cynical that I turned to bloggers because they have a vested interest in being sweeter to the less informed. I believe that’s how the less informed become better informed.

Filed under: blogs & blogging, Books, Publicity & Promotion, Rant, , , ,

Is your fiction “just made up”?

Recently I heard an author complain about a poet because she hadn’t done any research. The poetry was about prostitutes, their struggles and how they reacted to being raped. No interviews! No research! Worse, the poet had made the (hyper)critical error of not actually being a raped prostitute herself. The poet simply made up a story for her poem based on her own imagination. No, I haven’t read the poems, but I don’t think I need to know the details of particular human tragedy to extrapolate the feelings of violation that must entail. I’ve read a lot of fiction that was clearly “just made up”, but the writers I love still strike a common chord of humanity that spur me to cry, get angry and get engaged.

The writer was disgusted with the poet because she “just made up” her fictive poetry.

“Beyond the pale!” she said.

I’m skeptical of proponents of research, especially if it falls into the category of “exhaustive.” It’s not that knowing your stuff is a bad thing. It’s that knowing your stuff can often lead to recording instead of creation. (Sometimes military thrillers beat you over the head with the research so hard, you’d think the serial numbers on the missile casing is more important than the nuclear warhead exploding over Miami.) For me, the authenticity of the enjoyment of the writing — the feelings stirred — trump the details of the particular brand of cigarette available in certain cities at certain times. Which is a fancy way of saying I don’t give a shit as long as the story is plausible within its own world. For instance, do all prostitutes read Proust? It’s probably not required reading, but you could easily convince me one prostitute reads Proust if you can write a convincing context.

Is it necessarily better fiction because it springs directly from the real world? Kevin Bacon went back to high school for a day before filming Footloose, for instance. Do you think that was crucial to performing what was already in the script? And if the writer of the script hadn’t grown up in a repressed town that outlawed dancing, would Footloose be any less awesome? (I refer here, of course, to the original Footloose. There’s a remake, but I decree it shall not be discussed and anyone associated with that abomination can go shoot themselves in the face…I digress.)

There is a dangerous trend in fiction that many writers think is required. It goes like this: If you’re going to have anything to write about, you have to go have a lot of experiences, many of them bad. That’s the dry, sterilized version. In practice, it’s more like this: You can’t write about rehab unless you’re an alcoholic or a junkie first. Terrible life choices make for great writing, assuming you don’t kill yourself in stage one of the writing process in which you’re actively pursuing bar brawls each night. Unless you’ve experienced what you’re writing about, it’s not authentic enough.

And I call bullshit. It’s fiction. Make it up but make it seem real enough that I can suspend my disbelief. We all have human experiences and we can imagine pain and transfer it to the page. You’re experience doesn’t have to be exactly what you’re writing about. Otherwise, you’re not even writing fiction. That’s memoir.

About fictive memoir (since this case inevitably springs to mind): Some people bought into the overhyped nonsense around A Million Little Pieces because James Frey fictionalized some of his “memoir” of addiction (after first shopping it around as a novel.) Nobody gives David Sedaris a hard time for doing the same thing to very humorous effect. Also, a lot of people also said that A Million Little Pieces helped them kick their addictions, even though some of it wasn’t real. Placebos often work on people, even when they know it’s a placebo, so what’s the harm in a book that’s 80% correct to the facts of one junkie’s life and 100% true to the feelings of thousands?

I have censored myself when my fiction didn’t pass my personal standard for believability. I admit I have recently dumped two short stories involving military personnel because, though I grew up around the military, I’ve never been in the military. I just wasn’t confident enough that I had the details quite right. I was writing about people, but I didn’t think the environment they swam in was there to deftly suspend disbelief. However, I have written stories from the perspective of old Asian men, a little girl, an autistic boy, adult women and a gay dinosaur.

For the record, I have never been a gay dinosaur

(not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

A few years ago a group within PEN Canada insisted no one could write about the minority female experience except minority female authors. I think that idea kind of fizzled because of the unrealistic limits (and ghettoization) such a policy could lead to. First, it was censorship, which most writers are against and (Thank Zeus!) there wasn’t a way to enforce the decree, anyway. Second, its logical conclusion was that black women could never write about white men. We would all have to conform to our stereotypes and human beings are way more variable than our stereotypes. After a short hullabaloo, the idea lost traction. Shakespeare, after all, was not Italian and never saw Verona.

We’re often told “write what you know.” That would leave a lot of sci-fi and fantasy out of our lives. Instead, I suggest you write what you care about. Write what you can make me believe. If someone doesn’t think you did a good job of recreating their real experience, they can go ahead and write their memoir so the heroine smokes the authentic brand of cigarette (good for Writer 1, but I’m fairly certain I still won’t give a shit.)

Fiction is a work of the imagination.

It’s our job as writers to make it believable.

It’s our job as readers to get into the spirit of the art instead of looking for things to bitch about.

Filed under: authors, censors, censorship, movies, Poetry, publishing, Rant, Rejection, writing tips, , , , , , , , ,

Your No Apologies Tour: What’s your Twitter ratio?

Follow me on Twitter logo

Image via Wikipedia

Many people on Twitter make a big deal about unfollowing anyone who tries to sell them something.

That’s screwed up.

I wish I could remember where I saw it so I could give the glory to the Google+ person who came up with this powerful observation:

“I’m amazed at the number of people who don’t understand what spam is,” she said. “The definition seems to have expanded to include anything you don’t want to read.”

Some people have a problem with being asked for something (even when there’s no obligation to read, to buy or even to acknowledge the attempt to sell a product or service.) It’s not enough for some people to simply refuse to read the commercial link. They get self-righteous and announce they are unfollowing anyone who dares try to sell them something.

That attitude casts aspersions on my intent. The first salesperson who trained me told me two things I’ll never forget: He said “ZZ Top is right. Girls do go crazy for a sharp-dressed man,” and “I’m not here to sell anyone anything. I’m here to help them buy.”

Okay, let’s grant that I’m a pig if all I do is pester you to buy, buy, buy! Agreed. But what’s the corollary? What’s your responsibility? I propose that you’re an ungracious snot if you can’t tolerate anyone who gives you the opportunity to check out something you might like (or even love.) 

If you say you value reading but get pissed if an author tries to get you to look at their book, that’s unfair. Not interested? Just don’t read it. Why get angry that someone tried to share their work with you? No one’s polluting your timeline. Just choose what you pay attention to without the drama. I don’t care for Carrot Top’s comedy. That doesn’t mean I have to hate his guts and declare a fatwa. I just change the channel (quickly!)

Does that mean Twitter should only be commercials? No, that wouldn’t be effective. Eventually you’ll tire everyone out. Some misguided fools use trickery or even make the mistake of trying to extort attention through Twitter and alienate people who could have helped them (see Eden Baylee’s weird experience below.) But if we can find a reasonable Twitter ratio of fun/information/helping others/even shameless self-promotion, there will be no need to apologize. Unless you’re royalty or a lottery winner, everybody serves somebody and we’re all selling something.

If you’re such a delicate doily that you can’t handle the mention of a blog post, a book or a service, just unfollow…just about everybody. Use Twitter as quick email among your friends and leave it at that (or don’t use it at all.) Don’t feel you have to announce you’re going, just go. The rest of us will take part in the world and try to feed ourselves off the proceeds of our labors.

What’s your Twitter Ratio?

How often do you tweet your blog link before you let it go? How much of your feed is commercials versus fun and informational? How often are you tweeting about other people’s work to help them meet their dreams? We give  and we get. If you resent it when someone asks for your attention, maybe your expectations are screwy. 

Maybe those people you despise aren’t pigs. Maybe you’re just dealing with reality poorly.

Filed under: Rant, Rejection, self-publishing, Social Media, Twitter, , , , ,

TOP 10: People (who are not fans)

Old marketing decreed:

Get everybody! Your sales quota must include all sentient species with a credit card in the known universe!

New world marketing responds:

Nope. Establish a base of just a bunch.

But the bunch has to be rabid and slavering for your next masterpiece, book, song, film, poem, service, comic, or sex toy.

In short, you need fans (as in fanatics.)

For self-publishers, everybody in your fan base starts out as a reader, but they won’t all join you on your journey and buy in to your revolution. A lot of people can’t even be bothered to cross the street to spit on you. Something I learned a long time ago was that I am not everyone’s cup of pee. (Note to non-fans: that’s a joke and a point, not a typo.) I learned that to build successful businesses or loving followings, I had to focus on the people who appreciate me and ignore the rest. Oddly, everyone knows the 80-20 Rule, but how many apply it to their lives?

Critics will sap you of time and energy if you pay them too much attention. A fellow writer got one bad review recently. All his reviews were overwhelmingly positive except for that one. That burned like a cigarette in the eye. That’s the key to understanding the dark side of Internet marketing. Yes, you can spread the word faster about a good thing. However, negative reviews can get a lot of attention, too, mostly from the author who serves as the critic’s target. In fact, several authors have observed a bandwagon effect among some reviewers and book bloggers. One bad review can lead to more bad reviews. Ironically, as Reena Jacobs observed recently, it may be worse not to be reviewed at all than to receive negative reviews. If readers love or hate your book, at least you’ve spurred a reaction. If you ignite no fire at all, that may be a bad sign.

Here’s what to keep in mind when you read something negative about your work:

1. People (who are not fans) are nastier on the net than they would ever dare in person. They aren’t talking to you as a person with feelings and aspirations. They’re having a conversation in their heads with the idiot they imagine you are. Cyberspace allows distance, anonymity and depersonalization. Your nice neighbour, that little old lady who gets your mail for you while you’re on vacation and bakes cookies at Christmas? If her favorite author kills off a regular series character, the old dear’s mind can curdle into that of a serial killer when she writes an Amazon review.

2. People (who are not fans) mistake your work for you and judge you along with the work. If one of your books, blog posts, comics etc.,… is not as good as the others (and inevitably that will be so) critics will make assumptions about you and your mental state. Don’t you mistake all of your work for you though. They’ll make it personal, but don’t fall for that trap. Unfortunately, because we wrap up the author’s persona with his or her book to sell it, we foster an absurd inseparability in people’s minds. For instance, when Deepak Chopra was on the road selling a natural health book and had the temerity to drink coffee (OH-MY-STARS-AND-GARTERS!) a reader tried to shame him for it. That little old lady was pissed.

3. People (who are not fans) are more likely to write something negative than positive. Look at all those letters to the editor in the newspaper. Not so many saying, “Good job!” are there? Now think of the five best books you’ve ever read. Go to Amazon. See those negative reviews of the books that changed your life? Are you starting to see the weight you should give negative reviews yet? This is a subjective business. Repeat that until it sinks in. (I’m still repeating it, too.)

4. People (who are not fans) say things for their own reasons that don’t necessarily have anything to do with you. Maybe they made a bad day and want to export it. Maybe junior high was tough and the Internet is where they get even with strangers. Review the beginning of the movie Wanted. Remember the “I’d feel sorry for you if you weren’t such a bitch, Janet” speech? Repeat as necessary. (If you’ve ever worked in a cubicle farm, that scene alone will make you leap off the couch and spill your Cheetos all over the floor.)

5. Maybe you gave the person (who is not a fan) a negative review and it’s payback time. Yes, this happens. Maybe you friended them on Facebook, but you weren’t fast enough about getting that friend confirmation done and they took offence. Who knows? Everyone take everything personally because we are all the stars of our own movies. This has nothing to do with your work, but your work gives an opportunity for nasty people to say something shitty. Some authors don’t read reviews at all because, they argue, “If I believe the good ones, I’d have to believe the bad ones, too.” These are very mature people I can’t relate to. I don’t personally know anyone with that much self-control. I envy their sagacity.

6. Negative reviews are easier to write than positive reviews. Snark is easy. Snark is even funny sometimes, but mean’s no good. And if you’re going to be at all mean, you better be twice as smart as you are mean. For instance, I enjoy listening to Slate’s Culture Gabfest podcast….but sometimes I wonder, “Do these people ever like anything?” People (who are not fans) enjoy being clever at your expense. That does not necessarily equal constructive criticism. Maybe it’s just bitchy. Or stupid or wrong. Or all three. In this part of the equation, it’s not about you or your work. It’s that some people’s only creative outlet is criticism. Some fleas think they are driving the dog.

7. People (who are not fans) hope you’ll fail so they can feel better about their failures…or that they failed to try at all. Doing nothing at all is a great way to avoid criticism. Except for that pesky self-loathing and the long darkness before dawn when the demons come to torture your dreams and stifle your soul’s breath. (Yes, I’m saying that being a loser is like sleep apnea and all the implied dangers of heart disease but without the medical attention and sympathy from friends and family.)

8. People (who are not fans) don’t have enough going on in their lives, but they’ve got lots of time to focus on you. Otherwise, why the hyperbole about how bad your book is? I love books, but it’s just a book review, not the Nuremberg trial. The way some reviewers go on, you’d think trying and failing to entertain or educate or pass the time was a hanging offence. Another friend got a bad review recently. The ebook she gave out was free. The level of criticism did not match the critic’s financial and emotional investment. This author was wise enough to ignore the naysayer because she knew the guy wasn’t in her fan base and never would be. So what? There are plenty of readers out there to be converted to your peculiar brand of evil jocularity.

9. People (who are not fans) may be right. Maybe you do suck. But you can’t think that and succeed. You can only try to do better. Forgive yourself. You are a work in progress. “Books are never finished,” Oscar Wilde said. “they are merely abandoned.” Only listen to the people you trust. There are too many variables in the skulls of strangers who are not your fans. Write to please yourself first and don’t listen to input from writers too much. To write is to do your thing. That’s one reason so many people keep writing despite insufficient recompense, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and their parents’ bitter disappointment. (On the other hand, if every review is negative except the one from Mom, rethink.)

10. People (who are not fans) can be fickle. Tim Ferris, author of The 4 Hour Body, observed that a fan base has two extremes. At the top are the people who will follow you down the mouth of a cannon. At the bottom are haters who want to fire you out of said cannon. Ferris feels that the people at the extremes can switch places. Do something too different and some former fanatics will resist the new direction and even become haters. Be unexpectedly nice to your enemies and a few may come around to decide you are a worthy human being after all.

Or you could say “Screw ’em!”,

focus on the people who do get you

and move along briskly.

If you read all the way to here and hated the post, why did you read this far? It was too long a post for that nonsense. I will never understand that about haters. Don’t they have shit to do?

If you loved this post and it came at just the right time and you couldn’t have done without it…thank you. I love you for a selfish and stupid reason: You love something I wrote.

Filed under: publishing, Rant, Rejection, reviews, self-publishing, web reviews, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!: My Night with Obama

I had all the answers.

President Obama was visiting my parents. I was a kid, maybe fourteen, living on a Kennedyesque estate (but without the accent). I somehow convinced the president I knew what to do. I called in emergency help.

Two jets and two helicopters later, the team arrived.

1. Rachel Maddow appeared in the doorway, confused that she’d been called to the Hamptons for a secret meeting with the president. I told her to explain her genius idea to the president. All the Republican candidates took TARP funds for their states and took credit for creating jobs while condemning the same funding. Spending is frozen, but as Miss Maddow explained, they still want to fund their pet projects to create jobs by fixing bridges and highways. “So say yes.” Maddow said. “Michelle Bachmann is first in line. She wants a bridge fixed. Say yes, Mr. Obama. Say yes to all of them. The USA needs infrastructure, so say yes. They won’t say no to that. They already asked. We have the documentation. Rebuild America like Truman did.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I got a guy coming who will make sure the Republicans don’t steal the credit. But first, have you met Mr. Maher?”

2. The secret Service ushered in Bill Maher, stoned, flanked by two models. “We had to take him by force, even after we explained who was asking,” a big Secret Service agent shrugged.

“Mr. Maher, we need your patriotism. You said, ‘The problem is we have one party with no brains and one party with no balls.’ Mr. Obama needs a life coach. Be the balls, Mr. Maher. Be the Cheney, but with a heart in your chest instead of The Pulsing Stone of Pure Evil. We need a Cheney in the administration, but with blood instead of bile. Your country needs you.”

Mr. Maher refused immediately, of course.

I looked over to Mr. Obama. He nodded.

“He’ll legalize it,” I said.

For the cause, Bill agreed to help, with the proviso that he could handle all the renegotiation on his own (and that clouds of marijuana smoke would be pumped into Congress during all debates.)

“New Rule!” Maher said. “No more golf with Boehner! You sit with him in a room with the doors locked, don’t let him have any cigarettes or booze and nobody gets to go to the bathroom until we fix the country because the bathroom is for closers! And Mr. President? You’ll be wearing Depends.”

3. Jon Stewart walked in chewing a bagel and cracking up the Secret Service. He had the air of a guy who always knew it would come to this and it was about fucking time he was called in.

“Mr. Stewart, Rachel’s the brains, Bill’s the muscle. You’re the mouth. We need a press secretary who can effectively mock stupid ideas. Do what you do. Get the Democrat’s message out there. And destroy from the podium like you’re on stage at the Comedy Store on a Saturday night. When the press tries to say ‘On the one hand, on the other,’ mock them until they cry. Shame them until they admit crazy ideas are crazy and the truth isn’t always in the middle. Bring along John Oliver, too, if you want. He’s fun.”

Stewart replied by doing a spit take and rubbing hits eyes in exaggerated comedic gestures as if he was Buster Keaton in a silent film. Stewart made that work and even the president allowed himself a grim smile.

4. I turned to Mr. Obama. “With respect, sir, you’ve got to stop showing so much respect. We know your internal monologue is, ‘I can’t believe I have to put up with this shit.’ Bill’s going to show you it’s okay to say that. In fact, people will love you for it. All the stuff you don’t say? That’s what he’s going to show you how to do. Be a more of a dick.”

Mr. Maher shrugged his agreement. “Call them on their shit. That’s my whole career, actually.”

“In fact,” I said, “I suggest we get the president a copy of the pussy/asshole/dick speech at the end of Team America: World Police.”

5. Next: While we waited for the last guest, I had more suggestions. “US forces are in 150 countries and they are all coming home. You know those YouTube videos where everybody gets choked up when soldiers show up and the family rushes in and hugs them so glad they’re alive? For the next month, there’s not going to be a dry eye in America. Everybody comes home and the military does two things: A. Help with natural disasters and build new bases in New Orleans and Detroit to revivify. B. Defend the borders. With everybody home, it’s going to be safer than Switzerland. From now on, you’re going to handle anti-terrorist strikes the same way you got Bin Laden. In and out and nobody stays. The United States is the only war-ravaged country where America needs to do  nation-building.”

6. Next: “Close tax loopholes and tax the rich. When the Tea Party and the Republicans cry foul, tell them the rich aren’t just “job creators” with untaxed private jets. They are patriots and patriots pay taxes. Mere Clinton era taxation will cut the deficit in half, not just shave it back over many years. When they whine about it, question their patriotism. When they keep whining, call them weak. When they say you’re a tax-and-spend Democrat, tell them you’re a tax-and-save-the-middle-class Democrat. And raise the debt ceiling with the constitution, not negotiation. When they complain about that, tell them you’re saving the country.

7. When you get flack for all that, pull a George Bush. “Tell them God told you to do it,” I said. “Mr. Stewart will handle burying them in ‘What would Jesus do?’ jokes while making funny faces and doing his Italian mob guy accent. Make sure to say it was the Christian God to head off Fox News. God trumps all objections. Really surprised you kept that in your holster this long, sir.”

8. One last thing. Doctor Brown? An old man with wild, white hair and a lab coat entered. Mr. Obama stood, looking at him curiously. His jaw dropped. “Is that?”

“Yes, sir. A fiction based in reality,” I said.

The old man extended his hand and gave a craggy smile. “Just call me ‘Doc’. Marty and I have rebuilt the DeLorean. It’s parked out back by the pool. We’re going back in time to get you a new policy assistant. The assistant will work with you and Mr. Maher to get some things done, like really shutting down Gitmo. Stuff like that.”

Mr. Obama’s eyes widened. “You mean?”

“That’s right!” Doc Brown explained. “We’re going back to 2007 to pick up the Hope and Change Obama to bring him BACK TO THE FUTURE!”

I woke up.

And waking up was disappointing. I didn’t have the solution after all.

Filed under: Rant, , , , , ,

The Trampled Author’s Curse upon nasty reviewers

It’s time to say “yes” to something. Maybe even “YES!” 

Art is about saying yes. Making it, consuming it, enjoying it. Enjoying anything means saying yes to it. Whatever your art, it is a hopeful thing. Art affirms possibility. It may not be for everyone, but it is for someone.

This morning I read an article extolling the virtues of five self-published books. There were some nice comments and some lukewarm comments. What shocked me were the truly vile comments. I’m not kidding. Numerous commenters, no doubt bolstered by the anonymity of the Internet, went after the chosen indie books with a vehemence I’d expect for child molesters. Full of bile and blanket condemnations, quite a few whined about how bad the typos were or how only traditionally published authors were worth their time. (I can think of numerous traditionally published authors I’d never read, though I can think of none I’d condemn so harshly. That would make me the bad guy and a drama king.)

They weren’t just saying “No” or “No thanks.” They weren’t even saying “We’ll see.” They were knocking down the attempt. How dare theses people write their books and offer it on the market for 99 cents! One perversely claimed that these authors should pay the reader for their books. Considering anyone can read a hefty sample of any ebook before they buy it, the answer to that is a two-word answer. “And those two words are not “Thank you.”

People of No. They don’t interest me. They’re not passionate about literature. Passion yields sweeter fruit than this. That’s not conviction I’m smelling. Maybe those commenters are simply haters who enjoy trying to make others feel bad so they can feel good. Maybe they need therapy. Maybe they need a hug.

I love books. I don’t love all books. But I don’t hate the authors of the books I don’t like. That’s not a flaw in books. That’s a flaw in reviewers who take their comments too far. I just wanted to get this post up and out there before I have my ebooks available. I want the record to show I put this up before anyone tore into me. When I see such rudeness, I won’t be replying. I’ll just be sending a link to this post. And a mental hug for the sad perpetrator.

They’ll never make art of value because art is a creative juice, not poison.

They’ll never bring joy to others or allow it in themselves.

And that is The Trampled Author’s Curse upon our transgressors.

Filed under: authors, DIY, ebooks, Rant, Rejection, reviews, Writers, , , , , , , , ,

Don’t listen to writers too much

The phrase that pays.

Image by pirateyjoe via Flickr

When I first graduated from massage school, I visited new massage therapists all the time. Too often, I didn’t enjoy the experience much. I was too evaluative of each therapist to just lay back and receive the treatment in the spirit in which it was given. I wasn’t concentrating on the feeling of the massage, but on the mechanics. It took me some time to get past that mindset.

You see the same thing with editors sometimes, too. A bad editor jumps straight to corrections too fast without reading for story first. Typos are the last thing you correct in the story construction process. You need to look at the big blocks in the structure first to see how it holds together. Developmental editing always happens before detailed copy editing.

You shouldn’t listen too much to other writers for similar reasons. They see your work through a prism that doesn’t necessarily match ordinary reader expectations.

Writers are great people, but they usually aren’t your market. We sometimes forget that there are a lot of people in the world who have no literary ambitions. They don’t want to write a book. They just want to read a good story.

Writers are readers, but they aren’t typical readers. Writers look at your work differently. Writers are not  the average reader.

Among writers, there is a higher percentage of people who will pick apart your mechanics. Any grammatical variation from what they expected (and there are variations) will provoke more irritation than may be warranted. They will be the readers who skip from irritation at your typos to outrage, indignation and threats to take away your writer’s license and livelihood. Some will want to burn down your house.

Writer friends and editors can help you develop your work, improve and self-publish. But because of the way we are wired, we might not enjoy your work as much as typical readers will.

BONUS: 

I’m networked with a lot of great writers who help me a lot. I like them, appreciate them and thank them.

However, you’ll run into some writers who are so competitive, they do not wish you well.

Either through jealousy or the misconception that your success takes something away from them, they want you to fail.

Watch out for the hypercritical, the rabid grammarians, the perfectionists, the haters and snipers. They mistake their subjective taste for law all the time.

By the way, I wish you every success.

Filed under: publishing, Rant, Rejection, writing tips, , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

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Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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