Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Getting Rid of Poopyhead Meanie Faces

I'm lucky, I guess. I've not had to deal with trolls too much.

Not on-line anyway.

In real life, I have known more than a few poopyhead meanie-faces. And I knew a fella who said, when such folks started stirring shit up, "Cut 'em out of your life like the cancer that they are."

It isn't easy to do, especially if those toxic people are supposed to be friends, or--worse--if they are family. If someone is constantly a source of contention or of negative emotions, its time to evaluate the pros and cons of severing ties. If they are growing on you, sucking up your resources and giving nothing back but dis-ease...cut 'em out of your life. (Again, I know that in cases where the person is family this is sooo much easier said than done. And in cases of family, it is surely worth trying other avenues first. Such as learning how to spot their tactics and diffusing them. A good counsellor is worth your time in such situations.) That blocking feature on Facebook and on phones exists because, as KAK so delicately put it...Assholes happen. Listening to these people gives them power--the consideration of your mind. Don't give them that. Don't even read a text or an email. Email marked as spam never sees the light of your inbox and you aren't tempted.

I've done this. It isn't easy. They try to worm their way back in. You want to give them the benefit of the doubt because, well, you're nice. And they know that. 'Nice' makes for an easy target. But don't stop being nice and being you, because that would in a way let them win. Just educate yourself, as in learn to recognize the tactics of toxic and manipulative people, and put up the buffers.

Then live your life...happily. It's the best revenge anyway. :)

A couple of links:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dealing with the Trolls Among Us

Once upon a time, in an era when milestones were measured by the number of households adopting a strange new thing called the "internet," I worked for a trailblazing company managing online communities. I was paid, as one boss put it, to "keep those crazies away from him."

In those early days, everyone had an anonymous username, but everybody in the community knew who they were. Oh sure, the home address might not have been posted, but members of the community were known. The annual in-person get-togethers would put the antics of Comicon to shame.

Guess what? There were trolls back then too.

The ratio of assholes to normal people hasn't changed now that every developed and developing nation is online. What has changed is that one's online presence is no longer an escape; it's an extension of your very real everyday life. Societies are adjusting to no-barrier connections. Where to censure? What to censure? How to censure? There is no such thing as "behind closed doors," and privacy is more of an illusion than it ever has been. Individuals are still learning to cope with shrinking boundaries. The constant connectivity offered by smartphones and wireless networks expands our prisons of availability.

As individuals, we are being forced to redefine our Safe Place.

It is hard. The Web makes it worse. For all of its the vastness, it is not temporary. We cannot cross the street to avoid the acerbic wit who feels entitled to demean anyone in his or her path. We cannot decline the invitation to drinks with the whiner, the bitcher, or the brute. The Web surfaces all the dreck, and delivers it in a neat bow. It's there waiting for us in our email boxes, blog comments, Facebook feeds, or Twitter timelines. 

Then there are our expanded personal networks of tattletales and search results. Even when we make a concerted effort to distance ourselves from the negativity, it finds its way to us. That snarky comment in a forum you know nothing about? It's now a screen capture sitting in your mailbox.  That book reviewer who posted she'd rather slit her wrists than read another page of your work? Cross-linked and feed-fed into multiple mainstream outlets. Now it shows up whenever you promote your book.

Assholes happen. Online and offline. 

As artists, we writers proactively place ourselves in the public awareness. "Public" includes the nutterbutters, the narcissists, the sociopaths, and that mean girl from the yoga studio.

What can you do when they lash out at you? Ignore them. Acknowledging them in any way feeds their need for attention and drains your positive energy. Yes, I know, we all want to be liked. Yes, I know part of you wants to punch them in the face, while the other part wants to hide under the covers. Yes, I know the negativity hurts. Yes, I know that if you never developed the coping skills when you were younger it is going to be hell to do it now.

But you must, must learn that how you perceive yourself is the only thing that truly matters.
And you must learn to see yourself in a positive light.

As James said yesterday, we're professionals. We focus on the work. We focus on what we can control.

We cannot control the trolls.  We can only control how we react to them.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Someone was MEAN TO YOU????

My entire philosophy regarding nasty comments from readers referring my works comes down to the following three statements:
1)      You can’t please everyone. Ever. Period.
2)      Sometimes reviewers hate you, sometimes they love you. They are entitled to their informed opinion.
3)      (insert the sound of a “raspberry” here.)

Sometimes, however, you might feel the need to respond. My advice? Don’t. Below are a few articles regarding the basics of WHY you should not respond. They come down to one word: Professionalism. I’m here to write stories, sell stories, and hopefully, make a living, the rest of it is just part of the business. I DO actively look at reviews. Now and then they are useful. Sometimes not so much.

I’m going to go over one of my favorite subjects yet again. Oh, we’ve visited here before, you and I, assuming of course that you bother to read what I write here. Still, some places need to be seen more than once, don’t they? Some subjects seem to need a fresh viewing from time to time.

Not all that long ago a few of my peers were talking about one of the big boys. Mostly what they had to say was pleasant enough. A few people seemed puzzled by the gent’s actions, but not shocked. The person in question had turned them down for blurbs.

Yes, you in the back with your hand held high? ‘What’s a blurb?’ A blurb is that little sentence or two that writers ask their peers and those they admire or envy to give to them regarding their latest books. Just what their value is seems to be a very serious question to a lot of people, but the basic notion is that these little quotes could potentially help sell books. As a point of fact I’m exceedingly fond of selling books, so I recommend that if you can get blurbs, you do so.

Now, I’d like to put this into perspective if I may. If we work under the assumption that the level of popularity and sales attained is a quantifiable issue, and we then work under the belief that this issue can be studied and used to our advantage, then it’s safe to assume that someone like Stephen King, Dean Koontz or J.K. Rowling are likely to get substantially more requests for blurbs than someone like yours truly. Why? Because they are household names. True, not every person on the planet knows who they are, but millions do and that says something substantial. Thousands might know who the hell I am, which means that using the earlier assumptions, the aforementioned authors probably get (to keep with my so far scintillating numerical analogy) butt loads more requests for blurbs than I do. I get enough that I have to regretfully turn down far more than I can accept. It’s become a necessity. I have to write, you see, and I have a day job, and a family and, well, a life. I can’t spend all of my time reading, much as I might want to, and I insist on actually READING anything I might be asked to blurb. Damned rude of me, I know, but there it is. My point here being that the folks who do the asking of some of the bigger names run the same risk of getting a “so sorry, no time right now” as anyone else.

But I digress (maybe). We were talking about politics.

Oh, now I remember.

I made a comment amidst the very small and private group. I pointed out that I was fairly certain the author they were discussing pretty much didn’t like me. A few others clarified who they knew that this author likes and doesn’t like.

And here we go. According to most sources, there is only one other writer that this particular writer actively dislikes. Examples were given. I nodded and listened.

Now, I bet a few of you are annoyed with me because I haven’t mentioned a single name regarding this conversation. In fact the only names I’ve mentioned at all were three that I used to show the difference in magnitudes between my success and that of authors who have become “name brands.”

Guess what? That’s the best you’re going to get out of me.



I don’t like them. I never have. They merely make things murkier than they need to be. I may not like an author. An author may not like me. It doesn’t matter. We don’t have to collaborate on a novel any time soon and even if we did, I think the professionals would set aside egos and differences long enough to get the job done.

See? There I go again, pointing out that this is my job. My career. Like that should make any difference at all.

It does, of course. I’m in it, as the saying goes, to win it. Yes, I love writing. Yes, I would still write if I never sold another piece. I will, however, do my damnedest to sell every piece that I write, or barring that, I’ll figure out why I couldn’t sell it. Just like other professional writers do. Just like comic artists and actors and even the occasional poet does. It’s called professionalism.

There are probably a lot of people who can say things about my writing that are negative. Hell, a lot of them already have and unless a miracle occurs, a good number more will in the future. There are a lot of folks who could probably debate my personal grooming habits and whether or not my deodorant fails in the height of the summer should they be bored enough.

Most of the time, however, what they can’t legitimately accuse me of is saying anything nasty about my peers. (Hey, I’m not a saint. I’ve slipped up a few times).

So, while skimming over my usual haunts on the internet, I ran across a header that referred to “hating your readers.” I was between paragraphs and composing the next part of a YA proposal in my head at the time and I decided I’d go ahead and look it over. The board in question was and the subject was, for a change of pace, exactly what it claimed to be. A writer who believes that if you don’t hate your readers, you are somehow doing it all wrong.

Actually, to be fair, I’ll quote the writer in question: “Hating the reader means not writing to/for a favourite group of people. Hating the reader means not writing to his/her expectations of your current saleable standing or reputation. Hating the reader means writing from your very centre.” Mike Philbin

Okay, fair enough. He redefines a few times, but I can see where there might be a seed of logic or two in the argument. It’s the hatred part that gets in the way of this making sense to me.

I can’t hate my readers. First, they help pay my bills. Second, while I fully believe in writing for yourself first, even if I didn’t I have to tell you, the reader doesn’t really come into the equation until the book is done. Oh, and third, some of them send me e-mails and tell me that my writing is fun. That alone would guarantee a certain level of affection, believe me.

I write for me. I always have, and I always will. Let me explain that to you. It’s my story I’m telling. It’s my imagination that I’m using. If I start second guessing what other people might think about how I’m telling it, I can guarantee it’s going to fall apart long before I’ve finished telling the tale.

As I’ve said before, writing is a business for me. that means that when it’s all said and done, I want to sell my works to a publisher who will kindly pay me money and take care of all of the uglier parts of the job, like making certain that everything is just so and spending money I certainly don’t have on advanced copies for reviewers, and maybe even a little actual advertising.

My job isn’t finished, not by any stretch of the imagination. There’s proofs to read, edits to go over, arguments to be had about the format, etc. That’s all part of the work part of being a writer and all of that, like worrying about the readers’ desires, comes after I’m done writing the story.

First, however, I take care of the fun part. The initial tale to be told. Again and with feeling and possibly even with apologies to a few who might be offended by the notion, when I’m writing, it’s all about what I want. Do I want the protagonist to get the girl? Maybe. Will my main characters all come out of the conclusion unscathed/ Not bloody likely. Those decisions have to be mine when I’m writing. Otherwise, I’m not writing for me anymore and something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.

I understand what the man who started the thread was going for, but even with the decision to leave the initial draft of the book in my own hands, I can’t fathom the notion of hating the reader. That’s like loathing your parents for giving you a roof over your head and nurturing you for the first part of your life. And yes, I know there are a few exceptions out there, but for the most part, the average parent doesn’t abandon us at birth and leave us to manage on our own at the age of two, or beat us black and blue and lock us in closets. If yours did, I’m rather surprised you have the time to read this between therapy sessions.

I write for myself. I don’t try to predict the market, or choose my subjects based on the latest growing trend in paperbacks. Dear Lord, what a waste of time. You’ll never, ever get it right. By the time you’re aware of most trends, it’s too late to catch them, and even if you do, I don’t honestly believe you’re doing yourself of anyone else a favor by trying to catch up on what was written two years ago.

At the very least, calling the idea of writing for yourself “hating the reader,” is a poor choice of words. At the most, it smacks of preposterous arrogance. That’s just my two cents.

James A. Moore

On a side note, I just finished the signature sheets for this one. Should be a LOT of fun! And since October is almost here, it seems appropriate. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Trolls and Toxicity - Battle Strategies for Dealing

Our topic this week is Managing The Trolls: How you handle it when people/readers are talking about you...and not in a nice way?

Well, Ursula, warrior and Heir to the High Throne of the Twelve Kingdoms, featured on my fabulous new cover above, has her way of handling things.

The rest of us have to come up with something not involving the sharp edge of the blade. Alas.

This topic is timely because just yesterday I was talking with a friend who asked me for advice on ridding herself of lingering nasty feelings. A family member struggling with childhood issues had dumped a huge load of poison on her. Part of that was resentment that my friend has moved on, put the past behind her, and the family member has not. Two days later, she still felt the toxicity of that emotional upheaval.

So, though we're ostensibly talking about how to handle it when people talk about you in a mean way, I'm looping in dealing with people who want you to wade into their emotional cess pools, because it's the same advice for both.

It's not easy, but it's the best advice I have.

Don't go there in the first place.

Seriously, cut it off before you ever get close.

Now, this is difficult for a number of reasons. Top of the list is curiosity. Humans are curious people. We WANT to know what's going on. Click bait and all kinds of marketing is based on this simple truism that once our curiosity is piqued, we really want to know what it is. What IS #7 that you couldn't believe? Who ARE the Top 10 Best Beach Bodies - and can we see their pictures? Milas Kunis is pregnant with Ashton Kutcher's baby??

Another reason is that we're particularly curious about terrible events. We see this all the time. People cause wrecks on the highway because they slow down to rubberneck OTHER wrecks and don't pay attention. We're particularly drawn to the tragic, the horrible. Murders, rapes, abuse. Someone held captive in a basement for fifteen years? We can't look away.

This is why trolls have power. They play on both curiosity and the tragic. So we're doubly drawn in. And, like the trolls of mythology, they feast on our attention like so much rotten flesh.

People who want to dump their emotional toxicity, like my friend's family member, are doing much the same thing - they feed on this attention. And they depend on yet another reason it's difficult for us to cut them off - people are also kind.

Yes. People are kind. They WANT to help.

I know, everywhere you look someone is saying how awful and cruel people are and how the entire world is going to hell in handbasket, but most people - the vast majority - really do want to be helpful. Particularly if we're asked. So turning a cold shoulder on someone who's asked for help, particularly someone we care about, is enormously difficult.

So in trying not to go there in the first place, we're fighting two things: our drives for curiosity and kindness.

I learned a lesson about this in my mid-twenties when I met and fell in love with a man who had two children. The divorce was fairly fresh and had been hard on everyone. I'd never planned on having stepchildren, but I wanted David and they came with him. (Twenty-four years later, that's still the case.) We really struggled with creating a calm and peaceful life, for ourselves and for the times the kids lived with us. Differences over the divorce and financial resolutions took years to resolve - and frequently involved tremendously toxic fights between the exes. These battles would wreck David for days and my own peace of mind would be collateral damage. We finally decided we couldn't continue this, so David cut off contact with the ex, except as mediated by professionals or the courts.

It made a HUGE difference. I think it's not going to far to say it turned our lives around.

The decision took a great deal of resolution on David's part. After all, one is supposed to amicably work with one's ex where children are involved. People judged him for it. More, his ex hated that they no longer had that connection, unpleasant though it was. One day, when the kids came to stay for the weekend, they brought a letter from their mother to David, for him to read.

If this scene were in a novel, that envelope would have been steaming with green nasty smoke.

Remember the two things? Curiosity and kindness.

David threw the letter away and it sat there in the kitchen garbage, muttering to itself, unopened and unread.

My stepdaughter stared at it with her huge blue eyes and asked, "aren't you going to read it?"

David said no, he wasn't. She asked didn't he want to know what it said? and he said no. She got all teary and told him her mom wanted him to read it.

All these years later, I remember that moment vividly, both the impulses to make her happy and satisfy my curiosity. I imagine it was ten times worse for David. But he persevered and that was the turning point. Things changed after that, gradually becoming better and better.

So, this is all a way of saying that the best, cleanest and most effective way to deal with the mean things people say about you - and they will! no one escapes that - is not to look in the first place. Resist the curiosity, the temptation to rubberneck. Know that your innate kindness will prompt you to offer help.

Then go do something positive for somebody else. Something of your own choosing.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

More on Marketing???

Whoops, I already partially addressed this topic last week, by mentioning some of the paid promotion I either enjoyed the heck  out of doing (a group ad in a weekly national magazine) or which I felt really did work for me (genuine papyrus bookmarks) or a combination of fun and possibly effective (book trailers).

I like doing Goodreads Giveaways (which are free to me except for the cost of my books and the postage). I've found Goodreads ads to be useful, in moderation. Which reminds me, I need to go set one up for Mission to Mahjundar.

I didn't find boosting Facebook posts to be a worthy use of my funds (40,000 people have seen your post! Two of them Liked it! Some of them may not even be real people!) and after receiving a bill from FB that included someone in South Korea's $575.00 ad, I quit doing ads or boosts there. I will say FB acknowledged that my erroneous bill was a glitch on their part and fixed it immediately. Efficient and much appreciated, FB!

My business cards and bookmarks are essential; hand them out all the time. I bought magnets of my science fiction romance covers to put in a goody bag, not so convinced that was useful. Additionally, the first time I ordered them I was a bit careless on the details and they arrived in the size of the actual paperback! (Not a marketing professional here, folks, don't even play one on TV.) Now THAT is a magnet with impact  LOL. Dominates the refrigerator. Good thing my cover models are so good looking.

Oh, I had little candy mummies to hand out at RT during the book signing and those were a hit but probably didn't do much for my books because there was no association with me or the books. Except, you know, Egypt. Because you see a blue candy mummy and will immediately think of VERONICA SCOTT. Right??? And buy All The Books. Of course you will.

What other promo adventures have I had? Let me think....oh, did a group ad in the DragonCon program one year and I definitely saw a sales spike on my science fiction romances after that. Someone else organized that ad buy and I was lucky to be included.

I did one paid blog tour, for my very first novel, and learned a great deal from that. Now I set up my own informal ones, with authors I know and/or who have hosted me in the past. A formal tour was also overwhelming to me, writing all those different posts in a short period of time.

NEXT year, I may try to be all organized and really plan promo things out...but probably not. I am kind of a whimsy of the moment person.

I did an ad in EReader News Today (ENT) in conjunction with a reduced price on one book and that was wonderful. I would do that again, or Book Bub.

Night Owl Reviews is one of my favorite places to put ads when I have a new release. I love the Big Splash Banner...

I also love seeing my book in an ad in RT Booklovers Magazine, but I really have to budget for that to happen. And think ahead due to the print deadlines. No spur of the moment there!

I've done giveaways in connection with blog hops - gift cards, books, Titanic mug replicas and real shards of coal from the wreck site...I don't do those much anymore. You do get many lovely people stopping by and leaving terrific comments but I've never seen much of a resulting sales boost.

OK, I think between last week's post and now this week, I have nothing more to ad. I'll leave you with the trailer for my 2014 National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award Winner Escape From Zulaire:

PLEASE tell me next week's topic isn't marketing LOL.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Don't Know Marketing

Don't Know Marketing
Do you ever feel like you're only barely qualified to talk about something? Yeah. Me and marketing.  It is a gaping black hole in the speckled galaxy of 'stuff Marcella knows'.

Solution: learn.
My current 'favorite' paid marketing is actually a class on marketing I just started taking. Not that I intend to turn it into a business or anything - this is a base layer so I can understand how marketing works.

Marketing is about relationships.
If you are authentic, you build organic and lasting relationships with people who think like you do. See? My classes are paying off already. Before two weeks ago, marketing was just selling something. Maybe it's no surprise, then, that my favorites are about relationships.

Relationship the First and the Free
Feline-L. These are people I've known for years who are members of a Feline Fancier's Listserv. We may be techno-dinosaurs (those should totally be a thing), but we have members in Turkey, Israel, France, the UK, South America, Canada and the US, all of us bound by our appreciation for felines. Our members encompass people from all walks of life. Scientists. Veterinary professionals. Artists. Techies. You name it. Fellow sci-fi/fantasy author Noel-Anne Brennan is a member. She even coached me through a few things when I was first published.

Several of my friends of Feline-L have come over to Twitter. Several of us have a 10% pact - 10% of what we make goes to charity whether it be animal welfare, environmental causes, or any other charity. We Tweet that we're donating and to whom, but dollar amounts never go on social media. We're interested in being accountable. Not in boasting or being jerks.

These folks buy books, talk about books and they leave the best reviews. To this day, I have a file folder full of pictures of their cats with my books.

Relationship the Second and the Paid

World of Warcraft.

Laugh if you like. While you laugh, I will sing songs of raids conducted in imaginary, animated dungeons by groups of like-minded geeks talking to one another live in real-time via Ventrilo. Or Mumble. These are people from across the world, techies, mostly. Your main tank may be an IT tech for the US military in real life. The lead healer may be a cyber-security expert from Down Under. One of the hunters is a programmer who lives just down the street from you. Sure. A few of the raid members are still nerds living in Mom's basement. Most of them aren't, though, cause the ones who can't afford to move out can't afford the monthly pay to play. Almost all of them will bend over backwards to buy a book from that little gnomish fire mage with tragic fashion sense. One of my fellow raiders ended up joining the guild I belong to so I could talk him through working on his own book and getting it ready for submission. This is my other group of friends from all over the world. These people whisper me in game demanding to know when the next book is coming out. The guild leader posts my releases in the guild message of the day and leaves it up for a week. We host real life guild events that pull people from all over and my guildies bring their copies of my book for me to sign. When we hear a guildie is coming in from out of town (or from out of country) word goes out and we meet up. These people buy and consume books like they weren't addicted to an aging massive multiplayer online roleplaying game. They write awesome reviews and twist their friends' arms to read my stuff.

Getting to be friends with your readers, does it get any better?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Putting Yourself On The Market

More than once, I've had people speak to me of "marketing" like it was something separate from "promoting".  I'm a writer, not a marketer or promoter or advertiser, so I did the most sensible thing.  I went to the dictionary.

marketing |ˈmärkitiNG|noun
the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.

Well, that's no help.  I mean, "promoting" is right there in the definition.  Pressed, I'd argue that "promoting" is about awareness, and "marketing" is about sales.

With the books coming out next year, at least at the moment the main thing I have to market is myself.  To actually sell something, I more or less have to convince people I'm someone worth noting.  So I've got to rely a lot on charm and personality, and being able to use those traits in a public venue with a suitable target audience.

Fortunately, I've got a venue for such a thing this weekend.  I'll be at FenCon!  You can check out my whole schedule right here.  If you have the opportunity, come on over.  I'll be on panels on geography, technobabble and series that go on too long, all topics I should be able to say clever and intelligent things about.  Plus I'll be reading from Thorn of Dentonhill.  Hope to see you there.

In the meantime, I've got to get down in the word mines.  Always more to do down there.