About Writers, book promotion, Stories, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

The Quantum Soul

What do you get when you ask science fiction authors to write short stories that answer the question, “What is life?”

Victor Acquista, in Soul Mates, wonders if adding back what a dying person loses will reanimate the corpse.
In New Year, GD Deckard wants to know where are we when we’re not alive?

Claire Buss, in Patient Data, explores what might happen if medical robots know a patient is alive or dead only after the fact. CB Droege imagines what freed ‘bots do, once freed, in The Dream Miner’s Drill. In Rob Edwards, Shepherd of Memory, an Alien encounter changes a man but he can’t remember in what way he is now different. Darran Handshaw’s engineer finds a girl in an Ancient pod in The Machine in the Mountain. If you assume all intelligent life forms are animal, Brent A. Harris’ The Trees of Trappist will delight you. For that matter, “Are we alive or are we the A.I.?” is the question in Greg Krojac’s Pixels. And when we do meet an alien intelligence, linguistics just might be the most crucial skill we have, as it is in Leo McBride, Second Contact.

Learn what an autobot might think about in his dying moments in Jeanette O’Hagan, Project Chameleon. Probe other’s dreams in Lyra Shanti’s The Endymion Device. Enjoy ways strange can be wondrous in E.M. Swifthook’s Wondrous Strange.

Cindy Tomamichel has Sci-Fi fun When Words Are Not Enough. “Are created people, people?” may be answered by Ricardo Victoria in What Measure is a Homunculus? And why not create a “people” to travel the light years through space for us, as Jim Webster does in Aether Technician.

What do you get when you ask science fiction authors to write short stories that answer the question, “What is life?”
You get the SciFi Roundtable’s Anthology, The Quantum Soul.

Released today on Amazon.

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Uncategorized, writing technique

Raise Your Voice… uh, Voices!

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I am not a sarcastic person. Sarcasm strikes me as mean — snarky condemnations passive-aggressively issued by arrogant people desperate to feel superior to those they ridicule. Those who are not the target may think it’s witty, but maybe they’re just relieved and smugly enjoying the fact it wasn’t aimed at them. After all, does anyone really deserve such ridicule? I’m inclined to give all* people the benefit of the doubt, and accept their occasionally foolish, irritating, mind-raspingly stupid behavior as an entitlement every human may claim. Even I could claim it if I were ever foolish, irritating, or stupid. None of which, of course, I ever am.

That’s the reason Romero Russo was such a revelation. More than two years ago, Romero started writing a book called Sarcasm Font. My first public view of him was on Inkshares during a marketing contest. After completing the first five chapters of his ambiguously fictional story, he started blogging. People found his writing funny and thoughtful:

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Here’s the thing. I am him.

 

That’s right. Following an unexpected series of events leading to my brain slurring two words into a word you won’t find in the OED, a fit of whimsy took over. I began writing Sarcasm Font in a voice so unfamiliar to me that I couldn’t even claim author credit. Romero Russo was born. He had a life of his own. He didn’t speak to me; he spoke through me. No doubt other authors have had the same out-of-voice experience. I suspect they would agree: it’s freeing.

Version 2

The elusive Romero Russo (Photo credit: S.T. Ranscht)

 

Like many authors, I’ve written characters who say sarcastic things. Readers have commented that each of my characters has an individual, identifiable voice. But writing and living from inside a character whose voice differs drastically from your own is more like acting. If you allow that person to tell the whole story, the writing experience is more like watching the story than creating it.

When Romero went public on Inkshares, the circle who knew about the two of us was small: two of my sisters and my son. They were kind enough not to share Romero’s secret, but they weren’t shy about letting me know they thought it was kind of creepy that I talked about him as if he were real. He and I shared a Venn diagram overlap of followers, and we followed each other. Why wouldn’t we? We were marketing separate works by separate authors.

But when we started blogging, we were sharing our “selves” with strangers. That’s when it became a hoax. No one questioned it. Why would they? He said things I would never say. It was just so darn much fun to be Romero Russo.

After the 2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge, Romero went silent on WordPress. I was still working on Sarcasm Font, and planned to promote it under his name. I began to question the practicality of that when I wrote the short story behind one of his… um, life events, and entered it in a contest. Entry required a bio and a photo. I had those, no problem. But on the chance — however remote — that it won a cash prize, or was short-listed to be published in the anthology, wouldn’t I want the cash and/or credit to be mine? Yes. Yes I would. I submitted it under my name, and while it didn’t win any cash, it was published in the contest anthology. I got all the credit.

I also gave myself up. Someone — I leave the choice to acknowledge this to him — who follows both Romero and me procured a copy of the anthology and read my story, which I, appropriately though perhaps indiscreetly, called “Sarcasm Font”. He allowed that I might merely have appropriated Romero’s premise, but he also suspected that we might be one and the same, despite the difference in voices. When he asked me directly, I couldn’t bring myself to resort to “alternative facts”. I confessed.

My hope is that others may take some inspiration from this tale. If you haven’t yet written an out-of-voice story, I highly recommend it. It will open your mind to discover voices you didn’t know you had. Ideas that have never occurred to you before will flow. You might find your very own Romero Russo.

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*(Except for one person to whom I gave a chance, but whose consistently reprehensible behavior has depleted my ability to tolerate. I might need Romero to speak for me for the next four years.)

fullsizeoutput_174 S.T. Ranscht lives in San Diego, California. She and Robert P. Beus co-authored ENHANCED, the first book in the young adult Second Earth Trilogy. She is currently submitting their baby to literary agents, determined to find the one who is their perfect match. Her short story, “Cat Artist Catharsis”, earned Honorable Mention in Curtis Bausse’s 2016 Book a Break Short Story Contest, and is available in its anthology, Cat Tales. “Sarcasm Font” appears in the 2016 To Hull and Back Short Story Anthology. Find her online: on WordPress at Space, Time, and Raspberries, Facebook, Twitter @STRanscht and Instagram @stranscht. You can follow ENHANCED on Facebook, Twitter @EnhancedYASyFy, and Instagram @secondearthtrilogy.

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blogging, book promotion

On Extending Our Reach.

I’ve brought this up previously and gotten no response, neither pro nor con, from anyone but Curtis. I’m willing to work on our look, but so far I have to assume that you all think it just fine.

The Writer Coop Annex page I’ve created as an experiment on my own site, is it too slick for you? Curtis says too much work. Yes, it is more work than what we have at present, and I am not eager to dive in, but what we show here does not say, to me anyway, we’re in this game to win.

We have had a few folks put up a post and disappear. Do they see us as a waste of time? They obviously do not want to chat, they want a site with activity, that they can market to and through. That means numbers, which we ain’t got. I put Tom Wolosz in this category, and the guy with the riddles.

We have great, wide-ranging content, we need a better presentation, a front page slate of offerings, where people will see plenty going on, plenty to be excited about, that makes them eager to jump in.

I get emails, so-and-so liked your comment, names I don’t know. Why do few of you speak up? I’m damn curious.

Let’s take a survey: Why are you here? What do you like about this site? What don’t you like?

Are you a wanna-be (published) like me, or are you already in (trad/ebook) print? What tactics have you used to get out the word?

I consider Writer Coop to be grand entertainment. Do you? (It’s fun to read, even more fun to write for.)

Facebook has a number of groups where you can cry your wares. Writers do, in droves, hit-and-run appeals, and that gets tedious real fast. This site is more of a soft-sell marketing magazine with feature-length articles. And, literary-leaning, I love that. Do you?

Those who apparently have no time to prepare a piece for us, who are, presumably, busy with the blog tours and such, good luck to them. How’s that going?

Those who proudly proclaim, my book is #425 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Paranormal & Urban, give me a break. That’s a load of crap and you know it.

Hey, break it down even further: Yada > Yada > Paranormal & Urban > Alien Comedians. (There you go, GD.) You select a category narrow enough, of course you’re going to sound good. I would guess that not many of us, at this point, fall for that. How many books have you sold/given out, in the hands of readers, the start (theoretically) of a fan base?

Marketing is exposure, that’s a given. It’s also seduction. The best way to seduce me is to demonstrate your facility with language. And where better to do it than on here? We have no rules here, except perhaps, no bullshit (except in fun), and don’t bore us. Are you up to that?

Lurkers! How’s about, everybody into the pool. Start at the shallow end, the comments section. Get your fanny wet there.

I’m all-in on this, in case you haven’t noticed. But I’ve got my own site (in progress). When it’s ready, I’ll be pushing it gangbusters. So this effort isn’t make-or-break for me. But it’s a tool in my toolbox, and I want to see it succeed.

I bow to the majority will. If you’re happy with our as-is, I won’t bring it up again. Isn’t it worth an on the record yea or nay to shut me up? Everyone admits the need for a professional-level cover on a book. How is a website any different?

What does our DIY-feel format say about our marketing sophistication? Are we an enjoyable writer hangout, a place to recharge our batteries, marketing one of many topics we tackle, or the reverse, a small start on a marketing think-tank, stylish, smart schmooze our (tasty, if I do say so myself) bait?

Am I over-focused on cosmetics? Networking, that’s a vital strategy. Mentions scattered around the web may pay off. I announced our presence yesterday on Book Country. The result so far: 57 views, no replies.

Do we have a way to track visits? One site I followed had a visible daily tally. The owner turned that off fast. It was embarrassing how few dropped by. She’d set up shop as a web designer, but her effort on behalf of her most important client, for herself, fell way short. (That’s what I worry about here.) She targeted small business owners because small business owners, in my experience, don’t know good work from crap. When her domain name came up for renewal, she let it lapse, a wise decision. In the fifteen years I knew her, she never produced a piece I admired.

I could insert our link in the comments section of the YouTube publishing/marketing videos that I comb relentlessly for ideas. Do any of the big-name sites, Jane Friedman for instance, have the equivalent of letters to the editor? I am ready to try all of this, but first I think we need to reconsider our personal-blog style presentation.

I’ve dropped the term Glabelhammies into my remark on a Mark Knopfler video, and advised viewers to google it up. The hit on the search result brought me straight here. Guerrilla Marketing! Channel Hunter S. Thompson and get to work. That’s why we need a really exciting front page, so our accidental tourists are persuaded to peruse, and perhaps bookmark for a return visit.

Give us more neat words, GD. I’ll disperse them, here, there, in ways that (seem to) make (some kind of) sense. Write us a blog-post full of wonderful invented words and I’ll skip, tra-la, tra-la, from Facebook to YouTube to Twitter, Gretel-like, judiciously dropping my bread crumbs. I love new words. I’m always looking them up. I can’t be the only word-nut around.

Craigslist! Is there a category on Craigslist for us? If not, can we make one up? I’ve said it before. I say it again: NO STONE UNTURNED.

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Here’s a screen shot of my latest try. This is built in Wix. I would look for something of this nature in the WordPress templates.

The blue and dotted lines are there because I took the screen shot in the Editor. A header and footer would display on all pages. And, of course, a menu.

A template, where you would have your features set up and only have to plug in new copy, I don’t think that would be too much work.

What you see below is real easy to do in Wix. The time consuming part is, you have to tweak everything. Every item impacts what sits beneath it. Any increase in depth on nearly anything, what lies below bumps and jumps around. Annoying as hell! A locked in place template is definitely in order.

FYI: From dotted line to dotted line is the recommended width for a standard screen. To accommodate a decorative edge right and left, I would have to skinny up the guts.

If I were working in Wix, I would create a spare, random repeat/motif of the symbols as a background, to liven up the empty side space on a big screen. I don’t know if you can do that with WordPress.

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book promotion, reading

What’s Your Plan?

I am riled by (the info in) Atthys’ latest post: readership is down (we knew that), and self publishing is way up. A lot of folks who would formerly have been reading are too busy, having been inspired by Hugh Howey and Amanda Hocking to try their hand at it.

He’s right about writers, to a certain extent. I have many books I want to dig into. I nibble, here, there. It takes something really special to lock me in. It doesn’t mean I don’t admire a piece, but I have things I feel I need (as opposed to want) to read. Much of this is research. I confess, I am one of the recalcitrant readers.

But there are still plenty of not-booked-up book lovers around. How do we reach them? How do we convince them that our book, in the vast array of choices, is the one they want to read? How do we get ourselves noticed in the first place?

We need a marketing plan. A robust marketing plan. Putting your thing up on Amazon, doing an interview on someone’s blog, planting an announcement here or there, buying an ad on Google, we see from testimony given here, this doesn’t begin to suffice.

Number one, you need a website. I’m working on one, as most of you know. Curtis wonders why it has to be so elaborate. Why can’t I just post my novella, hand out my bumper stickers, and get back writing?

I consider graphic style to be a hook as important as a dynamite first paragraph. (Well, natch. I’m a designer.) Everyone I manage to herd to my site who doesn’t have his/her socks knocked off one way or another, I’ve had my shot with them and blown it. I aim to tantalize with fun graphics and patter, holding their interest long enough to get them to read a bit of story, hoping they decide that my squirrely thing is for them.

Only days ago I inserted Mr. Peabody into the mix. The Mr. Peabody. He performs a specific mechanical function for me, but I’m sure I’ll find other use for him. He is, you’ll recall, a history buff, possessed of a rare breadth and depth of information. (How can I pass up this astonishing opportunity?) He’s spent the past forty years earning his Ph.D. Like my ex-sister-in-law did, changing schools and/or fields multiple times, because she could. She ran through a large inheritance in the process. She’s now forced to sell land that’s been in her family for generations. Dr. P has depleted his own money (from his hit show) and, broke, the poor guy lacking a considerable remnant of once massive farmland to surrender, he’s coming to work for me. I believe I’ll give him an advice column on my site, poor baby.

I may call it Ask Dr. P. Will people think I’ve got Dr. Phil on board? Phil-style babble, references to a TV show, they may. Should I exploit that somehow? Something to think about. I’m beginning to wonder if Peabody wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Dr. Phil show, and they accepted it to get him out the damn door.

When I’m all tuned up, ready to roll, I’ll promote my web presence aggressively:

This is a bit out-there, but I may try it: In a bookstore, poke your business card into books in your genre, way in the middle. Readers will most likely not find the Rogue plug for some time. If they’ve bought used, they’ll think it was left behind by the previous owner.

We have several small second hand bookstores in our area, and one rather renowned independent, the Hickory Stick in Washington Depot, CT. Might they let a local author put up a poster? The area is full of weekenders up from Manhattan. Who knows what eye I might catch.

Kent is a movers-and-shakers summer haven. I will set up on the main street on a big summer weekend. (In summer, all weekends are big, but some are extra big.) I’ll grab a prime parking spot early in the day and publicize Sly out of my car.

That’s for someday. Back to now: I pick up valuable information in the several writer/web design groups on Facebook. Here’s a tip I found just today: Google has a new search algorithm that gives priority to mobile-ready sites. I have debated making my .com site a pared down mobile-friendly portal to a full site. (As opposed to a supplemental thing.) After reading this, I am convinced a simplified feeder to the big bass drum (Booth led boldly with his big bass drum, that line sticks with me from tenth grade, fifty-five years ago) seems to be the better way.

More street level shenanigans: Can you get yourself profiled in your local paper? My cousin Jim Meirose has had several pieces done on him. He’s made himself a name, at least in Central Jersey. Have you thought about posting a flyer in laundromats? I’ve perused many a bulletin board, waiting for my duds to dry.

I’m wondering, seeing all the political frou-frou on my way to work, how about yard signs? I’m considering knocking on doors, offering twenty-five bucks a month for permission to spear a placard into someone’s turf. Near a stop sign, where drivers sit in line.

That thin flexible vinyl bumper stickers are made of? I wonder if I could get an over-the-shoulders front/back billboard, turn myself into a walking advertisement. My husband might want to pretend he’s not with me but I can deal with that.

For all of this, you need an on-line home, where you: Talk up your book(s). Collect email addresses. Offer premiums. Post dates and locales of personal appearances. (Craft shows, etc., especially if you have hard copies to sell. I’m thinking here of my eventual paperdoll.) On Facebook you can place a link in any number of groups. Some percentage of viewers will take you up on it. I investigate sites all the time, to see how others handle them.

A website is your best tool. Create a hybrid, op-ed content in addition to the show-and-tell for your story so that, having coaxed folks on, you might keep them coming back.

Tell me your plan. Could be you have great ideas I’ve overlooked. I would love to hear them.

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blogging, book promotion, Stories

Writing DaysZ 6

The TV news team is telling me that one presidential candidate sold state department favors and the other plans internment camps for immigrants. Neither assertion is true, of course. They’re just straw man arguments. But a vigorous debate follows in which both candidates are trashed as though the assertions were true. Straw Men. They’re everywhere, like alien bug-eyed-monsters, grabbing our attention. Which is what straw men do, grab attention. “Straw man n. 2. An argument or opponent set up so as to be easily refuted or defeated. – American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition.” It’s the first step of spin.

Bob vs the Aliens
To read Writing DaysZ 1-5, go to ROFLtimes.com/BvA.pdf

Debatable Arguments

+++They found the railroad handcar under an overhang behind the waystation. Bob and Piper grunted frantically, trying to inch it to the tracks before helicopter gunships could roar overhead. Old Spice rummaged through a wooden chest, tossing out items apparently deemed useless.
+++Piper dodged a wrench. “Spice!”
+++“Give us a hand,” Bob said urgently, quietly, “They’re coming!”
+++“No they’re not. The helicopter noise has stopped. Oh-” He held up an oil can. “Look!”
+++“So they landed in the town. In a few minutes, they’ll be airborne again and headed here.”
+++Spice began squirting oil on everything about the handcar that looked like it might move. “It’s Never Too Late to Prepare for an Emergency!” He smiled at them. “That’s my family motto.”
+++Bob repeated the phrase and squinted at Spice, “That’s the dumbest motto-.” The handcar lurched, screeched and began rolling. The three of them manhandled it onto the tracks and Bob and Piper pumped the seesaw handles while Spice squirted oil on every part that moved. Ahead, Bob saw a heavier stand of trees that promised shelter. Behind, he heard a helicopter lift off in the distance. The car gained speed to about twenty-five or thirty miles an hour and became easy to pump. But it was hardly escape velocity. He felt trapped in a slow-motion video. Trees blocked their view just as the helicopter approached the station behind them. “Keep going! They’ll overfly the track after they don’t find us at the station.” To ease the tension, he told Piper, “Spice was a doofus back home. Weren’t you, Spice?”
+++Spice looked up from something he was fiddling with. “Doofus?”
+++“An incompetent person,” Bob winked at Piper, “Foolish or stupid.”
+++She winked back. “Ignore him, Spice. You don’t have to talk about your family.”
+++Spice sputtered and stood. “That was not my fault! Really,” he implored. “It was the genetic alteration that I underwent for the Earth Mission. I was just trying to let her down easy.”
+++“Who, Spice?” Piper soothed. “Who were you trying to let down easy?”
+++“My fiancé,” he told her in a somber voice. “She deserved to know that my new body found her repulsive. So, I sent her a message. I followed all of the appropriate protocols for use of the family communicator, too. It is expected that the recipients of a personal message from my family will know who wrote it without a signature.”
+++Bob chuckled. “You sent her a message?”
+++“I chose my words carefully.”
+++“Oh, Spice! Is that’s how she found out you were breaking up with her?” Piper shook her head in dismay. “You texted her?”
+++“I wish.” The Alien slumped. “I accidently sent the message to the wrong person. But my fiancé, at least, knew who wrote it when she read it in the news.”
+++“Oh, Spice! Who did you send it to?”
+++“My father’s mistress. She was, how do you say it? Pissed at him.”
+++In the silence that followed, Bob rolled his eyes heavenward to see a helicopter flying in whisper mode arcing over the trees at the railcar. He grabbed the ray gun from his pocket and held it pointed skyward against his mouth and licked it frantically as ropes dropped around them and they were rushed by armed men dressed in black bulky outfits making loud, guttural, sounds. Abruptly, the helicopter veered away, trailing behind it one man still clinging to a rope.
+++“Where are you going?” asked one of the three men who had made it onto the railcar.
+++The answer came over his harness speaker. “Going for a beer. That was a roadhouse we passed back there. Coming?”
+++“Hell yeah man. We’re in.” The men jumped and rolled smartly to a standing stop behind the railcar. As the helicopter landed to pick them up, they turned and waved goodbye with their guns.
+++Bob looked at the ray gun but it was already fading away in his hand. “Wow,” he breathed.
+++“See.” Spice beamed at him, “I told you it would make attackers stop bothering us.”
+++“I just wished it had a trigger. Firing a ray gun by licking the red spot is stupid, Spice. I was too stressed to remember where the spot was. I had to lick the gun all over!” He made a face and spit.
+++“Don’t be trigger-happy, Bob.” Piper smiled at him like she was proud of him. “You saved us.” That made him happy. They spent the day taking turns, one keeping lookout while two pumped the handcar. No more helicopters came at them and although easy enough, the pumping was eventually exhausting as none of them were used to prolonged physical exertion. At dusk they were happy to see the lights of a small town.
+++“That’s New Haven,” Spice said. It’s not on any of your maps yet. But it popped up last week on our planet survey as a fast growing town. We can find accommodations there for the night.”
+++The lights in the town resolved into campfires, cars and people; adults, children and dogs, even some livestock. Where the rails crossed over a small stream, they were waved to a stop by men with fishing poles. “Hold on there,” one called in a pleasant but firm voice. He helped them to stop the handcar before it rolled onto the trestle.
+++“Thanks, friends.” The man held out his hand. “That contraption would make such a racket going over the bridge, the fish might stop biting. I’m Andy.”
+++Piper hopped down and shook his hand. “Glad you were able to help us stop in time, Andy. I’m Piper. We would like to spend the night here.” She turned and introduced Spice, who landed beside her, and Bob, who stayed on the cart. “Spice here is an Alien and Bob back there,” she pointed with her thumb, “Is Bob.”
+++“I see,” the man glanced at Bob before warmly shaking Spice’s hand. “Welcome! It is a pleasure to have you with us.”
+++“I thought all you Aliens left,” one of the fishermen said.
+++“That’s Skeeter.” Andy waved the man over. “Skeeter’s our Sheriff and resident greeter. Say,” he grinned at them, “You’re just in time for the debate. Let Skeeter get you a bite to eat and settled in.”
+++After some eating, greeting and refreshing, they watched older kids pile wood on one of the campfires to turn it into a communal bonfire. Early fall chilled the air. Overhead, star swarms lit a clear night sky. People gathered, some climbing up onto a vehicle. “Declared debaters,” Andy informed them, helping them climb up with him onto a flatbed truck. He raised his hands for attention. “The subject of tonight’s debate is, ‘What Happened?’”
+++“Is that an Alien?” a woman asked.
+++“Yes, and by the rules of New Haven, he is accepted like everyone else.”
+++The woman sounded agreeable, “Well, OKAY I guess.” To the chuckling of others, she added, “We accepted my ex-husband.”
+++“Back to the point,” Andy acted as the debate moderator, “What happened?”
+++“Well,” a thick looking man began, “I know we accept him and all and I do, but.” He paused and looked around. “You all know the collapse began when the Aliens arrived.” Bob loosely estimated maybe a couple hundred people watched the man point out Spice. “I’d like to hear what he has to say about that.”
+++With tense eyes turning on him, Spice seemed to shrink. He whispered into Bob’s ear, “Correlation is not cause and effect.”
+++“Excuse me,” Piper stepped forward. “We are Piper and Bob, Alien Companions. Due to the subtleties of the English language, and given the importance of clear communication in tonight’s debate, the Alien has asked us to translate for him. Allow me to introduce Old Spice, Earth Mission Commander of the Aliens.”
+++Spice genuflected as best a spherical being could, holding the pose longer than expected. Only when the crowd went silent did he rise to his full three-foot height, somehow making it all seem majestic. The thick man gave him back a short bow.
+++“What did he say, Bob?” Piper prompted.
+++“The Alien says their timing was unfortunate and unrelated to the circumstances on Earth when they landed.”
+++“Use his name, Bob!” To the amusement of the crowd, Piper kicked him. “Damn, man! Try to make him sound human.” They laughed at her. “Well, people, we need answers, not scapegoats. What do you really think happened?”
+++“You can’t fool me!” a man screamed.
+++“Ignore the screamer,” Andy told Bob, “He’s crazy. He’s not screaming at us. Herb screams only at himself.”
+++“Take your hands off that!” the screamer demanded.
+++Bob winked at Piper, “He’s talking to himself.”
+++“We already know what happened.” A young man spoke from the roof of his SUV. “My family lives in this car because the rich stole everything away from us. Away from all of us! The top one percent sucked up all of the oil with their planes and their helicopters and their yachts and moved their companies overseas and we’re left with no jobs and no homes and cars with no gas to live in.”
+++“Counter?” asked Andy. “Who wants to argue differently?”
+++“Scapegoating,” said Spice.
+++“What’s that mean?” the young man retorted.
+++“The word is from a Yom Kippur ritual,” Bob explained. “The high priest would symbolically lay the sins of the people on a goat’s head.”
+++“So?” the man huffed. “I know what I’m talking about. I listen to public radio.”
+++Stepping in smoothly, Piper said, “Spice is saying that blaming a group is no answer.”
+++“Scapegoating a group is just a way of setting up a straw man argument,” Bob elaborated. “Meaning, anyone in the group can be attacked for supposedly sharing the groups’ alleged sins. It’s a way of saying, ‘Politicians are greedy liars and can’t be trusted. That lets you attack anyone who is a politician.”
+++“Exactly!” The thick man nodded and smiled. “It was the Koch brothers!” He rotated slowly, nodding to the crowd, arms extended with palms up to bring them to his understanding. “They’re greedy billionaires. You can’t trust ’em! And we all know they are lying Republicans.”
+++“That’s plain crazy talk!” shouted a woman. “What about that billionaire George Soros? FOX News already exposed him as a Democrat. You gotta be crazy to trust a man who’s both, in the top one percent and a Democrat.”
+++“Stop that!” Herb screamed. “You can’t pee here.” That caused a slight commotion as people next to Herb drew back.
+++Spice seemed confused. “Scarcity drove up the price of oil,” he told Piper and Bob, “And you people kept buying it anyway. Now, not enough is left to power your needs. It was all very human and predictable. Why the blame?”
+++Bob shook his head, “Bad arguments, they’re everywhere. Let’s get out of here.” On the way out, they passed a sign someone had posted next to the fire, “Debate Tonight, Beware of Trolls.” In the distance, Herb screamed, “Time’s up!”

Yesterday was “National No Texting Day.” In what bubble in whose mind did that make sense? Makes me wonder how many people texted the info to their friends yesterday. That’s the thing about mind bubbles. They hold ideas that make sense when you think about them but burst when exposed to the real world.

Mind Bubbles
 … to be continued
(Follow Writing DaysZ to read Bob Vs The Aliens as it is being written. To read Writing DaysZ 1-5, go to ROFLtimes.com/BvA.pdf)

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blogging, book promotion

Styles of Promotion.

In terms of promotion, what works?

In the marketing groups (there are many) on Facebook, there’s so much schmaltz: “Amid the burning chaos that has become his life, Saro finds a solace he never expected, eyes filled with understanding and a smile that steals his heart even though he’s only begun to trust.”

Your eyes start to glaze over.

Here’s a restrained pitch: “Discover a love so deep it defies a 40-year family feud.” One short sentence, and there’s a cover, with no tits and no muscles, amazing! I guess that works if you’re known. Another Gage! He’s great! I’ll read anything he writes. 40-year feud. Sounds fascinating!

One guy is offering – for five dollars – to post your book on his personal book promotion group:

I will promote your EBook by posting your ad on my HUGE Social Media Network. You get massive exposure! This Facebook group has 114,000+ members and adds almost 1,000 new members per day!!! All of these members WILL SEE YOUR ADVERTISEMENT.”

114,000 members? (Hard – damn hard – to buy.) Most of whatever number probably inactive, like on any site. No thanks.

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Most of the marketing groups are closed groups, you have to ask to join, but permission to join comes almost immediately. I doubt that they turn anyone away except (maybe) folks pushing extra nasty porn.

I’ve seen thoughtful entreats, but way more gush. I’ve come to the conclusion that it makes no real difference. Nobody pays much attention to any of it. (FYI: I’m my own guinea pig.)

I’ve asked a dozen promotional geniuses (Ladies! You’re not going to believe how hot this is!) how their various styles of tout are doing (I asked nice, I swear) and have had no replies.

Jim Meirose is one I followed up on. He sounds like he’s arrived, like he’s successful. (He is, with shorts. I don’t think he’s got his novels off the ground yet. His novels on Amazon are down in the million-plus with the rest of us.)

He has a long list of credits for stories published in some well-known magazines. I read one of his shorties and liked a whole lot about it. I will definitely read more of him. I found him by accident. He happens to be married to a cousin I’ve been out of contact with for decades. I recently joined FB. Long lost relatives are coming out of the woodwork.

Facebook is useful. I’ve gotten some good advice on there. (Nothing astonishing, that I didn’t know or couldn’t have figured out.)

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Tim Flanagan in the group Marketing for Authors says:

Hi Mimi – I’ve just had a look at the writercoop website. I like the idea – authors should always support other authors. Have all the authors got their own independent mailing lists and websites and social media pages? If not – that’s the first thing you should ALL have, separate to the coop website. If you have each got your own platforms you should have all that information on the coop website.

I notice a few of the authors have their own websites but they’re not particularly engaging or visually interesting from a reader’s POV. You should also be cross promoting each other on your own platforms. Use each other’s mailing lists. Add links to each other’s books in the back of each others books. Put a box set together -one book from each author.

Your greatest strength is in cross promoting between each other. Alternatively, improve your coop website so that it appeals to readers rather than just explaining who you are. Set up a mailing list for the coop as a whole. Give away a small starter library featuring a short story from each writer in exchange for a reader giving you their email – build a coop following that each writer can tap into.

Separately, have a short story on amazon for promotional purposes only – each other can use their 5 free days every couple of weeks so there is more exposure for that author, but also the others in the coop. There’s lots you can do but it depends how serious you all are as individual writers, as well as a cooperative. Message me if you want more information.”

Crap! That’s a job of work there. But we have to implement at least some of these suggestions if we want to flourish. I have my hands full with my own site, but as I learn, I’ll pass it on.

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Here’s a piece off Scribophile:

I’ve just discovered that there’s a thing called debut author classes (class as in class of 2017, not as in lesson). Basically, all the debut authors with books coming out in a certain year (and usually from the same genre/age group) form a group where they help promote each other. They also have a blog that showcases all of their members, their books, and blog posts. Members have to contribute blog posts, read and review a certain number of their peers’ ARCs, promote their peers, and do a bunch of other stuff. I’m following some of the members on Twitter, and seeing all the camaraderie and conversations and shoutouts and shameless promotion of other people’s books is really cool. Unfortunately, you have to be traditionally published to join. Is there anything like this for indies? Not a typical book blog, the focus not to promote a *book*, it should be book-themed entertainment to subtly hawk your wares.

(Isn’t that what we’re trying to do?)

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Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 12.58.01 PM.png

I like this, clear, lots going on, front and center links.

I think our best immediate move is to punch up the layout of our site, have a prominent list of previous features, the front page presenting a lead article and a roster of additional titles and links.

Here’s a screen shot of a site that caught my eye. This will be a lot of work to set up. But it may be easy to maintain.

We have great content, for a certain audience. (Not for the Ladies-this-book-is-hot-hot-hot crowd. Thank God.) But we must boost our visibility, and our vitality.

Can we get our articles accepted on other sites, with links to us? Everybody is hungry for striking content, and we certainly have it.

 

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blogging, book sales

This blogging biz

When I first started blogging, some 16 months ago, I was fortunate enough to be advised by Steve Jobs (OK, don’t ask – just a little gift I have). Naturally, our conversation, which you can read here, turned to branding. Steve was kind enough to give me a couple of tips to get me started, because an author these days needs a brand. Otherwise, as Kristen Lamb cogently puts it here, you’re invisible. And the brand is part of your platform, which is basically your presence on social media.

So where am I now, 16 months down the line? Well, one thing I can say is I wouldn’t have lasted more than a week at Apple. I mean, Steve, as you know, is pretty short-tempered (and in that respect, I’m afraid to say he hasn’t improved in the slightest). But at least he was ready to listen to my power point presentation about blogging, which in my case is a central part of my platform.

ppt jobs

Being the one and only Steve Jobs, though, he cut me off barely five minutes in. ‘Hang on. You say you’ve got two blogs?’

‘Yes. Journey of a Blogvelist and CurtisBausseBooks.

‘Why?’

‘Well, the first is just sort of miscellaneous stuff, you know, to build up a following. Because if you blog about your books all the time, it turns people off. So I’ve read, anyway. And if other people are like me, I can well believe it. But then I thought I wasn’t blogging enough about the books, so I set up the other one. But now we’ve got the Writers’ Co-op, which is about books as well, so now I’m making CurtisBausseBooks more miscellaneous and stopping Journey of a Blogvelist.’

‘Jesus, Bausse!’ Steve’s sigh of despair reverberated all round heaven. ‘You spend all that time building up a following and then quit?’

‘But building a following is one thing. Selling books is another. Look at this next slide.’

graph

Even Jobs was slightly shocked at this. After a quick calculation, he said, ‘That’s about one book sale for every 15 hours of blogging. If that was a bricks and mortar outlet, you’d be out of business in a month.’

‘But it’s not, is it?’ I retorted. To be honest, he was beginning to get on my nerves. ‘OK, it’s a lot of effort for hardly any return. But without it, I’d have nothing to show at all. And the thing is, you don’t blog to sell books, you blog because you enjoy blogging. And I quoted Britt Skranabek, who reached a similar conclusion on her own blog: When you write a blog post, don’t worry about its success—number of shares, views, likes. Write what you want to write from a beautiful place inside, then release it into the world. When you write a novel, don’t worry about its success—number of units, sales, dollars. Write what you want to write, not what you think others want to read.

Steve Jobs thought about this for a moment. Then he said, ‘Bausse, I wish you the best of luck. But one thing I can tell you is, if you want to get rich, you’re in the wrong business.’

‘Gee, thanks, Steve,’ I said, ‘but I knew that already.’


It might seem that this is another post about what doesn’t work rather than what does. But I would argue that the main purpose of a blog isn’t to drive sales – it’s to build connections, have discussions and showcase your writing. Indirectly, sales will (or might) follow, but a blog that’s too heavy-handed is likely to be counterproductive. That said, there are certain basic guidelines to an author blog (as opposed to just a blog) which Kristen Lamb points out here. And of course, you can save a lot of time by doing it right straightaway instead of following my example.

Every writer’s blog has a unique style: it’s your personality out there. And a couple of links to writer blogs that I follow will show just how different they can be: Kevin Brennan and Dan Alatorre couldn’t be further apart. Restrained, thoughtful, extrovert, wacky, humorous – all a matter of personal taste. At the end of they day, though, they’re trying to do the same thing.

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