Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Social Media and Me

A former pastor, Dr. Bruce McIver, used to tell me that the hardest part of his job wasn't preaching to the unchurched, but keeping the churched from leaving. I thought of this recently as I considered what it takes for an author to get and keep readers. And the hardest part isn't writing. It's not crafting a synopsis or back cover copy. It's not even getting a contract or arranging for indie-publication. It's keeping up with social media. What made me think of all that? This YouTube video, wherein the speaker talks about leaving social media altogether. I highly recommend that you watch it.

For writers, of course, this is heresy. We're told we need a "platform," whatever that is, and have to be on every form of social media in order to "get our name out there." Yet pull most folks in the publishing industry aside where no one will hear, say you won't quote them, and they'll admit that the best advertising is word-of-mouth--and the most effective way to get that is by writing excellent books. So where should we spend our time--building a "platform" or writing?

On my walk a couple of mornings ago, I thought about the time spent writing this blog, finding posts for my FB fan page, checking occasionally for comments on my Goodreads page, and sometimes visiting the pages I've established at Pinterest. All of this is time that I could spend working on my next novel.

So here's what I plan to do. I'm taking the month of December off from posting on this blog (unless I have something important to say). I'll probably post on my FB fan page occasionally, but not necessarily every day. My visits to other social media sites will continue, but they'll be limited. And I intend to spend the time I save on the planning and thinking that goes into writing a good book...maybe a couple.

I'll see you again in January...probably. Meanwhile, try limiting your own social media involvement. You may like it.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Writing: Interview With Author Marji

I'm hosting author Marji Laine today at the Suspense Sisters blog. Click here to join us.

See you again on Tuesday, with a rather important announcement.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


Today is Thanksgiving. The day means different things to different people. To some people, it means turkey, dressing, and Mom's sweet potato casserole. For others it's a day spent in front of the TV set watching football. To many, it's a day to be with family.

Unfortunately, for some it's another day of wondering where they'll sleep, what they'll eat, how they'll stay warm and dry. We are blessed people. Give thanks, but also plan to do something for someone less fortunate. Pay it forward. You'll be glad you did.

May I wish you and yours a wonderful and meaningful Thanksgiving. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


The late Blackie Sherrod used to do a column which he titled "Scattershooting while wondering what ever happened to..." (fill in the blanks).  I've stolen...er, borrowed that line before, and I thought that on this Tuesday before Thanksgiving I might give it another try. Here goes:

Was I the only person who thought that political social media posts would become less frequent and even gentler after the election? Obviously, I was wrong.

Did anyone this this was the year the Cubs would not only play in, but win the World Series?

Football fans, are you still reeling from the record of the Dallas Cowboys at this point in the football season? And they've done it with a third-string quarterback taken in the fourth round of the draft.

Have you wondered why the stores begin putting out their Christmas stuff before Thanksgiving? Now if you haven't done your shopping by this time in November, whatever you decide to give is probably back-ordered.

And so it goes. What are your random thoughts? Want to share them with the readers of this blog? I look forward to reading them.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Writing: Worst Advice For Authors

Some time ago, author Michelle Gagnon, on The Kill Zone Blog, published the worst advice she thought  a newly published writer could receive. Remember these "dos and don'ts" are her opinion, not mine, but I thought it would be interesting to share some of the negative ones:

1. Send a quirky mass mailing to every independent bookstore
-Bookstore managers get so many of these, they fill a wastebasket twice a week.

2. Flog that book on the social networks like it’s a half-dead mule carrying twice its body weight up a mountain.
-Many of the people on these networks are other authors flogging their own books. A grand total of 4% of book purchases are credited to Facebook and Twitter.

3. Hire a publicist

 -Michelle’s experience was a disaster. Unless you have the cash to hook up with a serious promotional firm (five figures), it’s a waste.

I agree with the first on the list, but I'd amend it to say it IS worthwhile to make the acquaintance of the people who talk with customers every day, just not in that way. These people can go a long way toward getting the word out about your writing. And cookies or similar foods for the break room are always appreciated.

The second admonition brings up what I've heard called the 30/70 rule of social network posting: mention your book in 30% of posts, but devote the other 70% to subjects that will interest your readers and let them know you better. I don't know where the 4% figure of book sales attributed to social networks comes from, but I'm pretty sure the true figure is low.

My reaction to the third one will vary, depending on 1) how much marketing effort your publisher is willing to put into your novel (if you get a conventional contract), 2) the experience and performance of the publicist. Thus far I've been fortunate in #1, so I have no experience in #2, but I have my eye on a couple of potential winners if it comes to choosing one.

So there they are. What would you add as the worst advice an author can receive? I'd like to know.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Ask More Questions

The reason this blog is posted a bit late today? Because I didn't know what to write.

We've all been caught up in the recent election. I'd write about it, but then I might have people milling around outside my house, chanting, carrying signs, perhaps... well, never mind. Let's just say this has been as fractious an election cycle as I've gone through in my recollection. I thought we were done when we voted, but obviously I was wrong.

What about the holidays? Well, some of the stores began putting up Christmas decorations, even playing songs of the season, right after Halloween. Folks, we haven't had Thanksgiving yet! But the merchants are anxious to start moving merchandise. I'm frustrated with the way the holidays are beginning to jam together, although it is nice to see one retailer announce that they will be saying "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays" this year. Perhaps eventually we'll see a revival of the real reason behind our celebration.

And so it goes. Finally, I decided to ask you, my readers, what you'd like to talk about. So go ahead. The comments section is yours--just keep it civil, if you would. I'll read all of them, and respond where appropriate.

Thanks. Tweet with a single click. "What's on your mind today?" Click here to tweet.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veterans' Day, 2016

First, congratulations to my daughter and son-in-law on their tenth wedding anniversary. Cassie, I hope you realize how great your parents are.

I'm writing this post on the morning of the 2016 election. I'm doing that because I want to focus on the importance of this holiday, not the divisive, vitriolic, antagonistic campaign just finished. There will be winners and losers, but I pray both groups will be gracious in either victory or defeat.

Today is Veterans' Day in the US. It was originally celebrated as Armistice Day, the anniversary of the cease-fire on the Western Front in World War I. Now it's a day set aside to honor those who have served or are currently serving our nation in the uniformed services--the living and the dead.

I'm proud to be a veteran, having served three years in the US Air Force. I salute my fellow veterans, and give special thanks to those currently serving. Sometimes the sacrifice involved seems so little. At other times, it's the ultimate sacrifice.

I consider our national anthem to be symbolic of the dedication of these men and women, and I will always stand at attention as it's played. To do otherwise is, at least in my eyes, disrespectful of the service of so many.

May God heal our land, and may we work together to make this once more "One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all."

If you appreciate your freedom, thank someone serving or who has served in the armed forces. Click here to tweet.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Election Day

Today is election day throughout the country. Kay and I have already voted absentee, as have many of you. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm writing this post a week before the fact. I'm doing that for two reasons: facts, accusations, innuendos, pleas, and all kinds of things to influence voters continue to come out. Tomorrow, some of us will be pleased with the result, others dissatisfied. This had been the most fractious election campaign I can remember, and most of us will be happy its over.

My post isn't asking you to vote for or against a particular candidate, although I've let it be known indirectly who we support. It's simply encouraging you to vote, if you haven't already done so. Because not voting is, in effect, voting.

And remember that whoever is declared the winner and loser after the dust settles, there's still one Power in control of the whole world. I take comfort in that.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Writing: Don't Be In A Rush

I still remember the thrill of finishing the very first novel I wrote. I was ready to send it out immediately, and had visions of immediate acceptance by an agent, followed by a "rich and famous" contract from a publisher. But the advice I received--good advice, but very hard to follow--was "not so fast."

"But I've written a book," I said.

"Yes, and that's a good start. Now let it sit for bit. Edit it. Polish and smooth it. Finally, when it's as good as it can be, submit it. You only have one chance."

That was good advice then, but I'll admit I found it hard to follow...then. Now I do. Over a period of four years,  I wrote or revised four novels, submitted them and received forty rejections. Finally, when I had written a novel that reflected my true voice it was submitted by just the right agent at the proper time to the correct editor--and I became an overnight success.

Actually that's not true, since I still consider myself a mid-list author, but it was nice to look at my bookshelf the other day and see my name on the spine of ten novels, two novellas, and a non-fiction book. And it all took place because I didn't pat myself on the back and expect what turned out to be the first draft of my successful novel to be the best work I could turn out. Which brings me back to my advice for someone who has written a book.

"That's great. But you've just started your work."

Have you read books that an author could have improved had he or she taken the time and effort for one more editing pass at them? Do you think the advice I received and have passed on is good, or do you think it's unnecessary? I'd like to hear.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Post-Halloween Thoughts

Yesterday was Halloween. Some families don't observe Halloween, saying the holiday is steeped in superstition. Others (whether or not they have children) enjoy it. Which is right? I'm not going to get into that. That's an individual thing for families to decide. 

I'm not comfortable with high school-aged kids going door to door in regular clothes, ringing the doorbell and saying "Trick or treat," as though the night was one when everyone owed them candy. On the other hand, I enjoy the children whose eyes light up when given a treat, and the parents who accompany them. If the woman of the house answers the door, she usually asks, "And what are you supposed to be?" Husbands, on the other hand, might paw through the bowl of candy at the door and give out the ones he doesn't like, figuring that if there's any left over he might as well enjoy it

But Halloween is over, and the next big event is the election, which comes in a week. Please, please, please vote. You may or may not agree with me on who the best candidate is, but remember that staying at home is essentially a vote against everyone...including yourself.

Tweet with a single click: Looking back, how do you feel about Halloween? Click here to tweet.