I Don’t Want to be One of Those

I have often thought of myself as the kid in The Emperor’s New Clothes.  You know, the one who points out the emperor’s buck naked?  I look at things that others take for granted and ask WTF.  This does not aid my popularity.  Most people don’t want to be pointed out as fools, no matter how the fairy story goes.  I’m about to open my mouth again, so get ready for the tar-and-ruffled-feathering.

I signed on to Facebook back in December of 2010 for the sole purpose of using it to promote my writing.  I had nothing published at the time, but I figured I’d require some time to adjust to social media.  I adjusted, and not quite a year ago I established a page for my series, Lisen of Solsta.  Dropped like a dead balloon.  An initial rush of 18 likes and then nothing for many moons.  I let the page languish, occasionally posted bits of news and then moved on, remaining active on my personal page.

About a month ago, after posting a comment to Anne Rice’s page, I was contacted by a wonderful man who edits books for a living and who, even after I declined his offer of editing my next book, shared my page with others and invited them to like it.  I got to 30 likes within a couple of days.  This opened up the world of Facebook’s analysis and various data on the activity on my page.

Over the next several weeks, I got to 49, but I’ve been stuck there for a week.  Can’t get one more person to like my page to get me up to 50, and I’ve been somewhat of a pain in the butt about it.  How come all these other writers are crowing about 300 likes, 400 likes, and I can’t even get to 50.  Yeah, how come?  I don’t know the answer, but I do know something and I’m about to dress down the emperor.

Here’s how I likely got most of likes 19 through 49.  Message to my page:  “Hi, just liked your page.  Please like mine.”  With appropriate link to get me there.  Dutifully I would comply.   I was networking, and this was great.  Making friends with other writers.  What a rush!  What I didn’t know was a page cannot like a page, so all those pages liking my page didn’t count towards my quantity of likes.  Nor did my like count if I got there directly from my page.  (Check it out; you don’t even have to like it.)

But I digress, ever so slightly.  My point is this.  Anne Rice has over 700,000 likes.  Her “People of the Page” are readers of her books, fans of her books, hence fans of hers.  They didn’t make a deal with her that if they liked her page, she’d reciprocate by liking theirs.  She earned those likes because she is a writer who has written multiple best sellers and influenced these people’s lives to the point where they wanted to share some little part of her by participating on her page.

Not so with my likes #19 through #49.  I had to barter for their love.  Are any of them actually interested in what I’ve written?  I believe one or two have bought my book, and maybe they’ll read it one day.  But the rest?  A deal struck between two attention-starving artists.  How can that be right?

And more.  Most of these writers with their multiple hundreds of likes pound out one book, seek out little or no counsel on what they’ve written, maybe edit it once, maybe—just maybe—proofread it once, then toss it up onto Amazon for Kindle publication.  Because that’s all there is to writing, right?  Who cares if the grammar and punctuation suck?  Who cares if the sentence structure is shit?  Who cares if the formatting looks entirely unprofessional?  Writing is writing, right?

Wrong.  Writing is a craft, a skill honed over time.  Like a blacksmith with a sword, a real writer pounds the steel once and calls it a first draft, then folds it over on itself, often  many, many times, until  she can offer up a weapon which in its unity is much stronger than its components (in this case, the words, the sentences, the paragraphs, the scenes and the chapters become a work of art known as a book).  She allows others to beat the steel so that her weaknesses get worked out of the metal by the strengths of others.  Writing is a craft, and it is work.  Making up a story isn’t writing; it is merely mental masturbation.  It is in the execution that mastery can shine, but only if one is willing to give over large chunks of her soul.

I know I’ve gone on long enough for a single blog, but here’s the thing.  All those likes for writers (many of whom do not respect the craft) from other writers (many of whom do not respect the craft) are empty.  Just a popularity contest.  Yeah, the more likes you have, the more attention Facebook pays you, but they signify one thing and one thing only—how many asses you had to kiss to get them.  These people aren’t your fans; they’re bartering partners.  I’d rather my likes came from my fans.  And if that number remains at 18, I can live with that.  Because those people can’t wait to read my second book, and I don’t want to disappoint them.

Check out my web site which will connect you with, amongst other things, my Lisen of Solsta Facebook page.

The Prize

Months ago I began my first “official” post to this blog by talking about my adventures in self-publishing and why I’d taken on such a daunting task.  It was a multiple-choice question, with “All of the Above” being the correct answer.  One of the answers (answer B, I believe) encompassed in that All of the Above was “I wanted it read, in its entirety, by someone who felt no imperative to like it.  No imperative to hate it either.”

For some reason I can’t fathom, I’ve put off sharing the results of that adventure on my blog.  I’m shameless in shouting it from the rooftops (irritating as well), but I’ve said nothing here.

Cue the drumroll….

I received my review from IndieReader the beginning of this month, and although I didn’t win, I did get a 5-star review from a reviewer who mirrored back everything I’d stuffed into my little 304 page tome.  She GOT it!  Not only did she get it, but I know now that my vision manifests on the page with such clarity that it remains intact once it reaches the reader .

Do you know how amazing to me that is?  I’ve been living with this vision for over 30 years.  Its ultimate fulfillment does, admittedly, remain incomplete until I’ve finished the last book in the trilogy.  (Do people even refer to them as “trilogies” anymore?  Or do they just use “series” to cover all contingencies?  Hmmm.)

There is a key to this reaching, and my reviewer even mentioned it.  A few years back, I made the decision to send Lisen, the hero of the piece, to spend a few years on earth.  Important years, ages 10 through 17.  Now we view a large part of the story and the strange, nonsexist world in which its characters live through the eyes of someone who knows us as her own.  She may be Garlan, but she often steps back to study her world as we as humans would, giving the reader a sense of accessibility that had previously been lacking.

I did it.  I wrote my best.  I rewrote my best.  I formatted for publication my best.  I designed a “professional” cover even though I’m anything but an artist.  I put every bit of best that I possess into Lisen and into Fractured, and it worked.  I hope one day that the borders of Lisen’s niche expand to include many more readers than she currently has nipping at my heals for volume 2 (Tainted, due out late this year).  In the meantime, I take pride in the fact that although I didn’t win a prize from IndieReader, to me I won the whole damn lottery.

The Big V in the Sky (a rant)

I write because I can’t not write.  I transcribe radiology reports from home because I can’t not eat.  Both are independent pursuits, and both depend to one degree or another on the internet.  The former not so much; the latter, very much.

So last week while downloading jobs to transcribe from my employer, I discovered that my download speed had reached the point of sloth.  (Don’t get me wrong; I think sloths are cute, but they do move awful slow.)  Finally on Monday, I called tech support at work, and the IT guy ran several tests, cleaned out my cache (cookies, history, etc.), ran more tests and pronounced the problem not with them but with the connection between my computer and my ISP (internet service provider for those not computer savvy.)

My ISP shall remain nameless, but its signature color is red and it used to have a guy who’d ask if the person on the phone could hear him now.  I dreaded having to call my ISP.  I had very good reason to believe the tech guy from work; he had logical explanations for why the data he’d acquired in his testing pointed in the direction of my provider.  But would my ISP agree?

Today I made the call and reached a woman with a name which led me to believe she couldn’t have been over 30 and was more likely under 25.  (You know, “Jennifer” became popular in the 70s, “Tiffany” in the 80s, this name probably in the 90s?)  She ran a speed test.  Everything looked fine to her, but I pointed out that 30 Mbps did not reflect the actual download speed I was experiencing, like 55 Kbps or about 0.18% of 30 Mbps.  That’s less than one-fifth of 1%, people.

She ran another speed test.  And another.  She tested the line, continued to find nothing wrong, then asked me if I had any other equipment drawing on the WiFi.  Laptop turned off, phone turned off, Kindle turned off, smart phone turned off.  Only other draw was the cable box they also are in charge of.

“Is your phone off?” she repeated.

“The phone I’m talking on is wireless but is a landline.  Do I have to turn that off, too?  Because I already told you the cell phone is completely off.”

“Oh, no.  You can stay on the phone.”  Duh.

She never even had me do anything with the router/modem.  I asked her if it might be the modem.  Or that stupid box for the fiberoptics in the closet.  I guess there wasn’t a page on all of that in her reference manual.

Eventually she pronounced that it had to be my computer.  I protested.  My computer isn’t even a year old.  No excuse for the computer.  What was I supposed to do?  Pay premium price for 25 Mbps and get 50 Kbps forever?  She had no answer except to offer me the increased speed of 50 Mbps they’re currently offering at the cut-rate price of $10 more per month.  I thanked her, sarcastically of course.  Told her I appreciated “all her help” and hung up on her.

Ah, but it doesn’t end there.  Contacted tech support at work again.  By this time I was crying.  “What am I supposed to say to these people?  I can’t go on like this.”  Nice lady in support got me connected with a very knowledgeable techie by the name of Joe (yeah, his name I’ll give you because he was great).  Before he got on the phone with me, he talked to the guy I’d worked with on Monday so he had all the back story.  He ran some tests, did some pinging, and lo and behold, there it was.  A time-out in the pings.  And that’s the rub.  The answer.  And it has nothing to do with my computer.

Short story.  Rebooted the modem/router per his instructions and have much improved (though not as good as they should be) speeds.  If at any point I take on the big V in the sky again, I can count on my employer’s tech support to make it a 3-way call if I can’t make the V “hear me now.”

Oh, and one more thing.  The big V called me twice this afternoon, but when I picked up the phone, their system hung up on me.  First time they woke me up from a much-needed nap.  I hate that.  The second time, I dialed them back, went through their impossible system yelling “I want to talk to someone now” each time the lovely computer-lady voice asked me to punch in numbers for what I needed.   Spent another 20 minutes on the phone with some Bozo who had NO idea why I’d been called.  All I wanted was for them to stop calling me, and when he said, “I haven’t been able to determine why they called you yet.  Can I call you back?” I lost it.  “I don’t want a call back.  I don’t want any calls at all from you people.  Don’t you get it?  Good-bye.”  Bang.

While talking to a friend a short time later, the V called me again (go ahead, drag out your lizard tongues and eat me raw; I don’t care anymore).  I let it go to voicemail.  And when I listened to the voicemail later, the computer-lady actually spoke.  I guess when a machine answers, especially one of their own (those V are such a closed society), they don’t hang up.  Turns out they wanted to know if the person I had spoken to earlier had solved my problem.  “Press 1 for yes, 2 for no.”  It was a message; I could press nothing.

Be afraid, be very afraid.  They don’t hear us anymore.

Piecemeal or Whole Cloth?

It appears that one of the ways to find readers and get exposure is to upload multiple chapters of your book(s) to various websites geared towards this.  I just don’t know.  I realize that many authors in ages past serialized their works—Charles Dickens, for example—but keep in mind, they got paid for doing so.  We indie writers don’t.  The reason others do this is to garner fans, but me?  Not so much.

Maybe I’m old fashioned.  Maybe I’m paranoid.  But here’s the thing.  If you share chapter after chapter, you may get read and receive critiques from what may, perhaps, be a growing audience, but what do you sacrifice in the meantime?  I like to tell my stories.  I’m bursting with the ending of Lisen of Solsta.  I can’t wait to offer it to the world.  But uploading chapter after chapter?  They say it’s a way to get the attention of agents and publishers, but how well does it really work?

And then there’s plagiarism, a devil who reared its horned head this weekend in a fellow author’s blog.  Apparently it’s rife amongst those who frequent these sharing websites.   Especially the fanfiction sites.  The raptors swoop in, carry off anything they choose, change a word, a name, a this-or-that, and then pass it off as their own.  And the actual author of the piece has no idea unless and until someone familiar with their work spots it posing as another’s creation someplace else.  Ouch.

So, much as it might help to further Lisen’s progress in the world, for now I think I will avoid such sharing.  The positive feedback could certainly prove helpful in my quest for worldwide domination, but I suspect that goal is a bit out of my and Lisen’s range.  For now I’ll keep my chapters to myself until after publication of the book.  Minds change, and mine could, but in the meantime, look for Tainted, book 2 in Lisen of Solsta, in the early fall.