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Posts tagged ‘Facebook’

Another ‘this-and-that’ post

  • This week’s thriller (my escapist reading) was The Terminal List by Jack Carr. It’s one of the most high-pitched novels I’ve read in a while. It’s hard to say anything about it without spoiling the story. Suffice it to say, when a SEAL team walks into an ambush, the bad guys turn out to be Americans out to make a buck rather than ISIS or the Taliban. The LCDR in charge of the team is more than ticked off about the loss of life and who’s responsible for it. Written by a SEAL, a few parts of the story are blacked out because the powers that be thought he gave away too much.
  • My editing changes for an upcoming book of short stories called Widely Scattered Ghosts have been sent to the publisher. Now we’re waiting for a proof copy to see if any fixes need to be made before the book is released. You can see what it’s about on my website’s Spotlight Page.
  • I’ve also been working on a rather dark story about a man who was put in a rest home because his kids thought he was spending all the money they “deserved” to inherit. This story has been sent off to a magazine that’s very hard to get into, but I always remain hopeful about these kinds of things.
  • I seldom unfriend people on Facebook. I did today because, in a thread about rape, she said it’s not up to women to fix the rape problem. I didn’t disagree but suggested that while we’re looking for ways to change the rape culture, more women could at least take advantage of defense courses. She said women shouldn’t have to. After more back and forth about that, she said I wasn’t a real man and needed to respect women. I finally lost my patience when she got into slamming me as a person rather than debating the issue.
  • Speaking of websites, I’ve spent some time lately trying to make my website more interesting. I see the visitor counts going up, so perhaps some of the new pictures and copy are luring people back for multiple visits. Now, we’ll see whether any of those people buy my books which, of course, is the point of having an author’s website.
  • For reasons unknown, my old post about fairy tale structure still gets more visits every week than most of my other posts combined. Those of you who like fairy tales might enjoy this new collection of re-imagined fairy tales by Dora Goss. I’m enjoying it. I’m a long-time fan of her writing, including The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter and its sequel European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman.
  • I tend to post quotes on my Facebook profile at the end of the day. My current favorite comes from musician and poet Joy Harjo: “The creative act amazes me. Whether it’s poetry, whether it’s music, it’s an amazing process, and it has something to do with bringing forth the old out into the world to create and to bring forth that which will rejuvenate.” Frankly, I don’t know how the creative act works. That’s why I said in my last post that I get bored reading or talking about it with other authors. We all do what we do without the need for theories.
  • Now, I’m looking for a new story to tell. When an author finishes a story, s/he suddenly feels empty because all the characters have left. It’s like the end of a summer romance. You know it’s going to happen, but you’re never ready for it.

–Malcolm

This and that–because I don’t have a wonderful post for today

Not our real yard. Stole some clipart

I planned to take a car full of stuff to the recycling center this morning but the fog is so thick I can’t see the car.

 

Yes, I’ve used this graphic before!

A lot of my friends are taking Facebook vacations. Primarily, they’re getting tired of all the people posting duelingpolitical memes. Some people must not have jobs because their blogs are filled with links to news stories and essays for one party or the other. This stuff probably isn’t changing anyone’s opinion.

None of the ghosts in my book live in the outhouse.

I finished a book of short stories yesterday and sent the manuscript off to my publisher. They’re all ghost stories, some old, some new. We already have the cover ready. It was done last fall before my wife and I decided to take off for a week at Thanksgiving and see my daughter and her family in Maryland. We took side trips to Alexandria and Mt. Vernon. So, the book had to wait.

Most of the original cast members have moved on.

According to the news, the medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy” has not been on longer than the medical program “E.R.” which had the record for longevity up to now. As we watch “Grey’s Anatomy,” my wife and I wonder if real doctors and nurses: (a) race into linen closets and empty exam rooms and urgently rip each other’s clothes off several times a day for sex, and (b) talk about daycare, shopping, and their dating problems while performing difficult surgical procedures.

 

Their Corpse Reviver cocktail was tasty.

We enjoyed finding fun places to eat including the Columbia Firehouse Restaurant in Alexandria. It used to be a real firehouse. I was a bit distracted by the blonde who sat at the next table, not because she was a blonde but because she ordered a salad and tore into it with a knife, chopping the while thing up into little pieces in a frenzy. We were taught that you’re not supposed cut a whole plate of food up like that unless you’re serving a child or an old person. I wish I had a video of it because she really looked angry while she was doing it. The video would have gone viral on Facebook.

Malcolm

 

Reminding Readers About Your Previous Books on Facebook

When a small-press or self-published author announces a new book on Facebook, s/he has a reason for posting information about it. When early reviews come in, there’s an opportunity for more posts. So, too, later on if the book is a finalist or a winner in a competition. Giveaways and book sales also help get the word out.

But once a book is several novels or poetry collections into the past, it becomes more difficult to think of relevant things to say that don’t sound like SPAM.

My publisher, Thomas-Jacob Publishing, has helped fix that problem by creating Facebook cover pictures that display all of an author’s titles. Sometimes the book covers are arranged with an interesting background; sometimes they appear on shelves. These covers can sit at the top of an author’s profile or page for weeks or months, keeping previous titles in the public eye during times when there’s no legitimate news to post about the older titles. Or, as in Melinda Clayton’s cover photo, you can use a quotation from an earlier book.

Here’s the batch for the holidays for Malcolm R. Campbell, Smoky Zeidel, Robert Hays, Sharon Heath, and Melinda Clayton:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Midweek Musings, (AKA random stuff)

  • My latest book Florida Folk Magic Stories is now part of an Amazon giveaway. Go here for a chance to win.
  • Sometimes I think the so-called, all-important “writer’s platform” looks more like a gallows.
  • Right now, I can’t tell whether my discomfort from an inflammation is coming from the disease or the antibiotic.
  • I’m discouraged when long-time online friends leave Facebook because, as they see it, the site has become toxic. I admit that I try to avoid most political discussions there because I’m more of a moderate than a hardcore Democrat or Republican and feel like I’m getting beaten up by both sides. One can avoid that by not talking politics.
  • Dang, I accidentally bought a new copy of a James Patterson book that I’d already read. Unfortunately, it’s one of his weaker novels. It has a trick ending and there is no excuse for it. It’s called The Store. Forget about it.
  • I keep wondering if the female contestants chosen to be on “Survivor” are those with the most cleavage and the skimpiest bathing suits. So much for women being considered equal when they dress like that.
  • When I look at a lot of news sources, I see many things going on that aren’t covered by either CNN or FOX. Those two networks seem obsessed with running talking heads show of “experts” who are really liberal or really conservative. Unfortunately, a lot of people believe the opinion shows on both networks are gospel.
  • Minnesota is suing “big pharma” for an exorbitant increase in the cost of insulin. It’s sort of like buying a pair of pliers one year for $12.00 and then a few years down the road seeing the price jump to $120.00. There’s no excuse for that kind of price gouging.
  • Writers aren’t immune to the debates going on in the country. Some writers have found a way to speak out in those debates through their poetry, novels, and essays. Not all of us can do that. It doesn’t mean we don’t care. It means that the kind of writing we do doesn’t lend itself to work focused on the latest issues. We always hope what we write will make a difference, even if that difference is indirect.

Malcolm

That Elusive Writer’s Platform

Big name writers have writing platforms called the big name writer’s platform.

When James Patterson comes out with a new book, you know who he is and what kinds of stories he tells, so he doesn’t need to go on blog tours or work in a hardware store to stay solvent.

If your name is Joe Doaks, are 43 years old, and live in your parents’ basement where you play video games and hack into the dark web, you only have a writer’s platform if you write a tell-all book about the dark web, especially one that the FBI tries to get banned. Otherwise, you can send the best novel in the universe to a big New York publisher and they probably won’t take it on because you don’t have a platform. That is, nobody has heard of you and you aren’t maintaining a business of some kind that will draw readers to your books.

Most of us who write self-published or small-press books need a platform. Nonfiction is easier than fiction, because our books can be an outgrowth of a strong, nonfiction website that gets thousands of hits a month. That is, if you maintain a popular website in which you provide the real stories behind major crimes, your novel will be seen as part of this and will probably sell well.

If you’re on WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, and Pinterest, and have lots of followers and comments, you’re better off than those who have no online presence unless you have a high-profile teaching position or other offline work that has made you widely known to many people.

Many of us imagine our writer’s platform looks like this:

When, in reality, it looks like this:

 

But then, for example, after hearing a lot of positive comments on, say, Facebook about a new novel we’re about to release, we realize after it’s been released that very few people on our friend’s list actually bought a copy, and that of the small number who did, few (if any) of them posted an Amazon review.

There have been–and still are–a variety of authors’ networking sites. My experience with these is that most authors are there to sell their own books rather than to buy the books of other unknown authors. While “networking” on the authors’ sites, those people are buying James Patterson, Donna Tart, and John Grisham novels rather than fiction nobody’s ever heard of.

Many small-print and self-published authors depend on Amazon. Some books–mostly nonfiction, it seems–have made a lot of money there. Most fiction by unknown authors doesn’t sell well there because most people never see it and those who do would rather buy books from known authors. While Amazon helps self-published and small-press authors to some extent, it’s still a business that makes more off James Patterson than Joe Nobody.

As others before me have said, those of us who don’t have platforms that get the attention of Oprah’s Book Club or a New York Times reviewers basically have to be content to write in the shadows and earn our money from other jobs. Over time, we may be able so build platforms that attract more prospective readers. My last three novels, for example, were about hoodoo. If I were a hoodoo practitioner (I’m not), then my hoodoo site would be a natural place to promote my book. The same can be true for any other field where you have credentials and a following. Those who have come to your site for facts, are likely to enjoy fiction based on those facts.

You can also build your platform by submitting short stories to literary magazines, including those who only pay in contributor’s copies. The credit line at the end of the story that says something like “Bob Smith is the author of the Andromeda Series of fantasy novels” is a good way to spread your name around to prospective readers. Needless to say, magazine credits, including any where your short story or poem won a contest, give your website something to mention.

I remain skeptical of the paid-for-reviews from the well-known sites who provide these because the reviews are expensive and when published, you cannot be certain those reviews won’t be segregated into a “self-published reviews” category. Labeling them like that pretty much negates the value of the review. Also, if you look at the statistics about the probable sales of a self-published book, the cost of that paid-for-review may wipe out all your profits. So far, I haven’t been willing to roll the dice on reviews or book-of-the-year contests that cost a lot of money and/or advertise the awards are for indie books.

Unfortunately, blogger reviews seem to be of limited help because those blogs don’t attract a lot of attention when compared to the value to a review on a mainstream, traditional newspaper or site. A review from “Bob’s Blog” isn’t really something that’s going to lure a lot of readers away from your mainstream competition. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t solicit such reviews, only that you recognize going in that they aren’t the New York Times or The Christian Science Monitor.

You can, to some extent, widen your platform by engaging with readers and writers on sites like Facebook. It’s easy to log on to Facebook and upload the same old stuff every week: notices about your books, shared pictures of animals, jokes, and an occasional political rant. It takes more time to go to the sites of those on your friends list an actually say something there rather than simply clicking LIKE. The same is true of the bogs you read where you can click LIKE and also read a comment. When you find books and viewpoints you like, you are building your platform by leaving comments so that the writers/bloggers start recognizing your name.

If you’re on Pinterest, you can post links to your own blogs and the sites you like about subject matter that may interest others. You can also PIN some of the links other people share that fit into the various niche areas that fit your interests and your novels. The thing here is: engage with the users about things that interest them.

Many authors think their novels require and “all about me” approach to promotion and interaction on blogs and social networks. Really, they’re an “all about you” kind of promotion. Talking about why you wrote those books is not nearly as important as showing prospective readers what’s in it for them to read those books.  Your platform needs to be an invitation rather than a memoir about you and how hard it was to write your novel.

Malcolm

 

 

 

 

Should I be writing about political issues?

Arts, publishing and books websites are showing us a large number of links about writers and politics these days. Some writers are speaking out (from one side of the aisle or the other) at rallies, via letters to Senators and Representatives, and posts on Facebook profiles. Others are writing poems, entire poetry chapbooks, essays, book reviews, short stories and novels that reflect their concerns about a wide variety of political, economic and social issues that became part of the very polarized national debate during the Presidential campaign.

Somebody–I forget who–once said that all fiction and poetry is at one level or another political. Perhaps so. My contemporary fantasies can’t help but show sadness over a world that relies more on technology than spirituality. My two Florida conjure novels shine a light on the racism of the 1950s. Nonetheless, my primary intent with these novels was telling stories I was passionate about rather than creating “message novels.”

When I think about the folk songs of the 1960s–and a lot of the poetry and fiction as well–I remember them as being intensely political, about “the military industrial establishment,” segregation, poverty, and the Vietnam War. We seem to have come full circle back to writings of protest and resistance against conservative policies as well as writings suggesting that that previous liberal policies created a mess that needs to be cleaned up.

Of course I have opinions about the issues. One opinion of longstanding favors a better approach to the environment, conservation, protection of wild areas and natural resources, and more care about not polluting the environment. Since these views go all the way back to the days when I was in the Boy Scouts and first began to participate in conservation organizations such as the Wilderness Society and the National Parks and Conservation Association, I will keep writing about this–and referring to it in my stories.

While I respect writers and others who feel a need to speak out for or against the issues that now threaten to further divide this country into camps that refuse to work toward consensus, I’m not going to do it. For one thing, I have no credentials that give me any special insight into whether we should be doing ABC or XYZ.  For another thing, much of the debate in both the news media and the social media is being driven by biased or skewed news, sensationalism and other misleading information, and voters on both sides of the issue who approach discussion with a “my candidate right or wrong.” All of this divides us further and makes the truth harder to find.

So my “voice” is going to stay focused on environmental issues and in writing fiction even if the two things get stirred up together a little bit. None of the rants–even those I basically agree with–on Facebook and elsewhere are changing people’s minds. Why not? Because they’re skewed toward the far right or the far left rather than a more centrist approach where people can really discuss the issues sanely rather than throwing gasoline on the fire with dueling wisecracks and graphics.

I welcome those journalists and other writers who do their best to look past the hysteria and tell us the facts and/or to carefully analyze the practicality, ethics, and legality of the issues in their news stories, features, essays, poems, and fiction. Anything else is pretty much spitting into the wind.

–Malcolm

 

There are days when I wish I hadn’t logged on to Facebook

We call Facebook social media, but it’s often anti-social media.

It offers us a chance to keep up with people–often old friends we haven’t seen since childhood or college–and to hear about new ideas, general news, books, blog links of interest, and a lot of other things that according to communications theories are supposed to bring various cultural groups and nationalities closer together through enhanced knowledge and understanding of each other.

assbookI’m not surprised when people use Facebook and Twitter to disseminate facts, ideas and opinions about causes such as the environment, the treatment of women in Muslim countries, military vs. diplomatic methods of resolving conflicts, and the current Presidential race.

In this country, we’re supposed to be champions of free speech. Among other things, that means defending the right of those who express opposing views to express those views. But somehow, that’s all gotten so polarized that people ignore the facts–or don’t spend time looking for them.

What’s changed?

Perhaps nothing, depending on how old you are and what you’ve experienced growing up through many decades of changing priorities and value systems. My feeling is that people aren’t doing their homework. So, when they feel moved to say something on Facebook, they often opt for a graphic or a video prepared by a biased source. Many of the things quoted during the Presidential race either were never said by the candidate or were taken out of context so they appear to mean something quite different than the candidate intended. Yet this stuff is posted as the gospel truth.

As a former journalist and journalism instructor, I not only think many news outlets have gotten warped, but that they are using their agendas to create public opinions that would be much different if those courses were making every effort to be objective. This skewed, highly managed sound bite “journalism” makes its way onto Facebook in all kinds of ways. Truth is the first casualty here. Oddly enough, if you point out to the person who posts a political graphic that the graphic is incorrect, their solution is to believe it anyway. It’s simply easier!

While I almost never post political statements on my Facebook profile, I often “see red” when I see a graphic or a poster’s opinion that twists a real event into something it wasn’t. Even if I say that I heard the speech the person is quoting and that they’re not reporting what s/he said, they don’t care. What they’re posting coincides with their opinions and the facts don’t matter.

Sometimes people ask me what my sources are. When I answer, some people say, “Oh, well I only listen to news sources I agree with.” Ultimate stupidity. You’re not supposed to agree with a source because that source is supposed to be neutral. If they’re not neutral, they’re not a real journalist. I despair when I see the Fox news aficionados and the CNN aficionados screaming at each other about objectivity when both of those news outlets are very biased. Yes, I know, it’s just easier to be led around by a figurative leash by sources who tell you what to think, but that approach hurts all of us.

I know I shouldn’t comment on those kinds of posts, but it’s hard to resist. The result: a lot of time is wasted and nobody’s opinion is changed. What a waste of time.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s new novel “Eulalie and Washerwoman” will be released Friday, October 14th.

Seriously, why do I need to know everything right now?

We’re living in a right now world.

Of course, it’s always now.

But the now I care about is the now I can see, hear, taste, touch and smell.

  • skunkIf I’m enjoying smelling the roses in my side yard, I don’t really need an “urgent” text message from a friend saying, OMG I just ran over a skunk on Interstate 75. (Unless the skunk or the smell of the skunk caused a car wreck, this information can wait until later–or possibly never.)
  • When I turn on CNN, I see that the words “BREAKING NEWS” are always on the TV screen even if the news happened a week ago. The primary breaking news on CNN is that a bunch of talking heads are telling me what they thing about the news rather than covering actual news. (I got fooled by this at first and though some hideous events were happening over and over again.)
  • Looking for interesting posts on Facebook, I don’t need to see status updates that look like this: “Good one.” “Oh no, look at that chick’s ugly dress.” “What a bunch of crap.” “Yikes, the killer is getting away.” (I took me a while to figure out that the people posting these updates weren’t necessarily crazy–though that’s possible. They were making comments about some TV show they were watching, you know, like were were all watching it together.
  • When I’m busy defusing a bomb that somebody left under the hood of my car after watching the movie called “Speed,” I don’t really want to get a slough of voice mail messages from you saying stuff like this: “Hi Malcolm, this is Bob, just calling to see if you’re still alive.” “Malcolm, I know you’re not dead, please pick up.” “If you don’t answer your GD phone when I call you, why do you have a GD  phone?” (Bob, the Earth circles around the sun rather than around you.)
  • When I’m watching an exciting episode of NCIS, I don’t really want my local network station to preempt the the show with five minutes of emergency “JUST HAPPENED” commentary about a dead skunk on the Interstate with on-the scene coverage from reporters saying, “This is Bob Smith standing next to a dead skunk a mile south of the Highway 53 exit for Calhoun. It smells really bad. Back to you at the station, Susan.” (Meanwhile, I missed the stunning conclusion of my program and have gotten back to the network feed in time for a Preparation H commercial.)
  • Let’s say I just ran over a skunk on I-75. You send me a text message: “7132 hh lol”  (First, I need to remind you that looking at text messages while I’m driving is illegal in Georgia. Second, I need to remind you that I hate text messages because typing is a lot more trouble than actually talking. Finally, I have no clue what that gibberish means anyway and think maybe you’re a troll or a hooker.)
  • I try to avoid Twitter because most of it’s gibberish from people who think I care about what they’re doing right now as opposed to what I’m doing right now. When you say, “fantastic sex with my hooker BF is happening while I tweet,” I want to respond with “TMI.” (Actually, I don’t want to respond at all and will assume you’re insane, arrogant, or are having lousy sex that leaves you time to be on Twitter.)
  • If you just discovered minutes ago that a Hollywood star most of us thought had been dead for years has just now passed away, it really means you just now heard of it and think that my life will be changed forever if I don’t know about it immediately. (As it usually turns out, the breaking news in this information is the fact you just heard about it even thought it happened last week.)

There are days when I want to throw away my cell phone, swear off Facebook and Twitter, and stop listening to the so-called breaking news that isn’t breaking.

If you just discovered something, please don’t call.*

–Malcolm

*Unless you think I just ran over a skunk and want me to know there’s a bomb in my car that will go off if I don’t keep going at over 55 mph in spite of the smell.

 

 

Trick Falls wonders: ‘Is trailer trash talk the new normal?’

There’s a certain reality show (I won’t say which one because I don’t want to get sued by anybody) that I believe intentionally recruits contestants that use a lot of in-your-face -profanity, are arrogant and full of themselves, and generally behave like the worst trailer trash on the planet.

Ratings, ya think?

Wikipedia photo

Wikipedia photo

Even so, I assume these people act on the show the way they do in real life. If so and if this is the new normal, then our country’s in worse shape than I thought.

This comes to mind today because a Facebook discussion got started on a friend’s thread about whether people hanging out on the social media should simply expect to the discounted about anything and everything. My answer was no. I thought it was out of line for people to come out of nowhere and randomly criticize people’s clothes, hair, eyes, career choices, and various other personal attributes because (hopefully) they wouldn’t do that kind of thing in person and remain friends.

Others said that if you do anything (or are anything) on the social media, people are going to comment. I think personal attacks there are out of line, but agree that if one posts something about politics, religion, current events, and a variety of other issues, there will be a lot of commenting. That’s why those posts are put there unless people think they’re just preaching to the choir and that everyone who sees the post will click LIKE or say AMEN and move on.

I see a lot of libelous material on Facebook and often wonder why that’s necessary to “win” an argument about whether ABC is better than XYZ. Many of the comments sound like they’re from people who talk like those on the reality show I’m thinking about. But God help us, these are (I assume) regular people. Those of us on Facebook weren’t selected by central casting to come out there and stir things up to increase Facebook’s ratings.

Of course, trash talk is easy. If somebody makes a political point, it’s easier for somebody to say, “well, you’re an asshole” than to come up with anything factual and relevant to say in response. And, should anybody ask where you got your information, it’s easier to say, “those bitches at that place are all f_cked up.” I’ll wondering, of course, when it became okay to use the word “bitches” as a synonym for women and if the people that do think they’re winning any points in the discussion with the “F” word as well.

Sounds like a lot of high school posturing to me. But it’s coming from adults who, somewhere along the line, decided that talking like an immature juvenile in the middle of a temper tantrum was good for their jobs, their friends, their lives and their country.

By the way, if you happen to live in a trailer and don’t talk and act like the people on that reality show, you’re in the clear. If you call me an asshole on Facebook because I’ve just found a factual flaw in your political argument, you’re not in the clear.

My dear old daddy used to say, “trailer trash ain’t never going nowhere no matter how they strut around the block because they end up back where they started.”

I used to agree with him. Now I’m thinking times have changed.

–Trick

A resident of Two Egg, Florida, Trick Falls made a killing in the gigolo business before going into the philosophy business.

 

 

Facebook Suffering Typewriter Infestation

It begins subtly.

There’s a small ad in the right-hand column from a nostalgia stock photo agency showing a guy with a pipe writing the great American novel on an ancient Underwood typeriter.

typewriterclipartA few days later, a woman is shown in a sponsored post typing her memoir, or perhaps journaling, via a somewhat more modern (but non-electric) portable.

Few people notice.

The following week, typewriters begin to appear in book promotion posts, inspirational status updates about the myth of writer’s block, and in pleas from publishers asking us to send them our best work (albeit in a DOCX file).

So far, the Centers for Disease Control appears not to have noticed the infestation.

Speculation from conspiracy fans is rife: (a) Those who distrust writers want to hypnotize us into using outmoded equipment, (b) there’s been a security breach at an Area-51 lab experimenting with sending hexed typewriters to third-world planets, (c) Somebody found an abandoned warehouse filled with typewriters and is trying to unload them on aspiring writers before they (the writers) learn there’s no place to buy typewriter ribbon.

Is Facebook’s typewriter infestation innocent nostalgia, an on-gong “Throw Back Thursday” of yesteryear images, or just a lot of overworked copywriters copying each other?

Perhaps.

I don’t have any proof yet, but I suspect the glut of typewriters appearing on Facebook is more nefarious than we can imagine and that if you look closely at any of Nostradamus’ more obscure prophecies, you’ll see that he said this was going to happen.

If you’re a writer, run for your life.

–Malcolm