A Little Binger to Brighten Up Your Day

I never truly appreciated Jim Davis' genius until I read Garfield Minus Garfield where another (much smarter) artist removed Garfield from his own comic and revealed Jon Arbuckle to be the wholly psychotic person that he is.

Following in that line, some other genius has taken classic Peanuts frames and replaced the text with actual Tweets.

The end product will make you laugh so hard, you will pee yourself.

The Destruction of the Cloud

I have been a long-time Twitter follower of GalleyCat (an arm of Media Bistro that focuses on publishing) until they posted this article on Monday. Now, as GalleyCat expands its number of contributors, I have found the quality has become more circumspect. This is always a risk with expansion. But said article pushed me over the edge. The stupidity of such a premise offends me to such a degree that I cannot stomach to see their name appear in my Twitter feed any more, so I unfollowed.

If you don't feel like subjecting yourself to the article (and I don't blame you if you do), betting that new technological concepts can be easily exploited by a fear-inducing headline, GalleyCat published an article about Apple's announcement about cloud storage. (Not necessarily a shocker given their pre-announcements and that Amazon and Google are doing the same thing.) GallyCat's statement: Keep your novel on hardcopy because an EMP could destroy the cloud.

Now for you non-science fiction readers, an EMP is an electromagnetic pulse. Did you see the first Clooney Oceans Eleven movie? Don Cheedle sets off a device in a van that blacks out Las Vegas? That's an EMP. They have them in the Matrix too. They're around...in concept.

In reality you create an EMP as part of the effect of a nuclear detonation. I'll write that again: nuclear detonation. In addition to the actual blast and a wave of radiation, there's also a pulse that fries electronic gizmos, power grids, and the like. Blackouts, hard drives wiped, etc. A study shows that an EMP could destroy the cloud!

No shit. An EMP could destroy most anything electronic. That's like saying a nuclear bomb might destroy your house. Telling people to keep a copy of their manuscript on hardcopy because of the risk of EMP is Chicken Littling new technology and not worth my bandwidth. There are two really important facts to keep in mind about this whole premise:

1) Major companies like Apple and Google do not have only one tier of servers and multiple tiers are not kept in the same location. If the servers should fail (a much more likely event than an EMP), back-up servers at a different location take over. So even if someone detonates a nuclear bomb in the atmosphere and EMPs the cloud servers, other cloud servers spin up and you continue doing what you do.

2) A FUCKING NUCLEAR BOMB WAS JUST DETONATED IN THE ATMOSPHERE! I don't know about you, but I have more important things to worry about than my manuscript. Like armageddon.

Measuring Progress

On my website, I have a page named the Queue where I list all the ideas I plan on pursuing to completion. This includes novels, short stories, plays, etc. My current wip will have a general word count (I don't update it every day) and those works I've finished will be struck through with a final word count (usually of the first draft).

I modified it today and removed the word count on everything except my current work in progress. I only work on one story at a time and with the exception of HOSNR, all of them would be restarted when I get to them. So having a word count there--especially a word count that hasn't changed in years--makes me look like I'm scatterbrained and/or unable to finish work I start on.

So it's all gone. Now, only 7Sac has a word count. I think the page looks much better, cleaner, more focused. It's a laser! bzzzzrrrzzzzzzzz!!!!!

Stuff Stolen from Other People

Eric at Pimp My Novel retweeted this blog post that has a great quote:

“An absolutely necessary part of a writer’s equipment, almost as necessary as talent, is the ability to stand up under punishment, both the punishment the world hands out and the punishment he inflicts on himself.” – Irwin Shaw

I'll try to keep that in mind next time the query process is thunder punching me in the junk.

Le R. at The Rejectionist posted a You Tube video sent to her by Maine Character. You will find value in what it has to say, so I repost it here for your edification.

Maximizing Social Media (Part 2)

Maximizing Social Media (Part 2)

This is a continuation of the previous post I made on maximizing social media. That one ran into problems shortly after it was posted because Facebook made some changes to fan page construction. It has been partially fixed. For a Facebook fan page to export to Twitter, the update has to be posted to the Wall (not just the Notes tab). That functionality was disabled but is now restored in the Notes settings (when you're in settings, look at the top of the Notes Settings selection box and you'll see a second tab option that will bring up a checkbox for you to choose to post your Notes to your wall). Facebook is still having trouble maintaining subscriptions and there's no rhyme or reason as to which pages are affected. When you list a URL for subscription, Facebook should check every few hours to see if new posts have been made. Some pages (like mine) drop the subscription, so I essentially import posts manually. But otherwise the trifecta process works.

One of the reasons I switched from LiveJournal to Blogger was to see if it was a matter of platform. LiveJournal is a dinosaur in terms of social media and perhaps it simply couldn't keep up with Facebook's quickly evolving interface. Now that I've attempted the same trifecta with Blogger and run into the same problem, I know the issue is with Facebook.

That brings us to today's topic, Understanding Social Media.

To properly utilize social media, you need to A) Understand the best uses for said medium and B) Understand the expectations others have for that medium.

This post discusses three media: Blogs/Journals, Facebook, and Twitter. For the purposes of this post, podcasts and video casts are lumped in with blogs/journals. They are outside the Venn diagram of this post and much of the blog conversation can apply to them, so there we go.


Blogs and journals are similar in that you can use the same platform to deliver either. You can use blogger to deliver a journal. You can use LiveJournal to deliver a blog. It's a matter of content that separates the one from the other.

So, before we begin, we will assume you are not a New York Times bestselling author with a built-in fan base that will come find you regardless of where or how often you post. For the mere mortals in writing, there are some guidelines you need to keep in mind regardless of whether you're blogging or journaling.

Frequency. A blog has a set release schedule: once a week, three times a week, five times a week, seven times a week, etc. Whatever schedule you set, keep to it as best you can. If you're only posting once every six months, there's no reason for people to make the effort to remember your blog (even if you think, "Hey, just throw me in Google Reader and forget about me," that's still space they have to dedicate to you the person that isn't actually capable of posting more than twice a year, so really why are you worth that space?). While a journal may not be on such a rigid schedule, the concept is the same. If you don't give people content to read, they will not spend the time looking for what you have to say. A blog that posts rarely is not a blog at all. It's a zombie walking along and occasionally spouting out blog-like things but really all it wants to do is eat your brains.

Platform. There are a lot of options for blogging and journaling out there. Blogger, LiveJournal, MySpace, Dreamwidth, and a number of other derivatives that come and go. While you should find the one that works best for you, be cognizant of what a platform can offer you. Simply by moving from LiveJournal to Blogger, I've quadrupled my posting views and participation. People don't like clicking through. The more clicks they have to do, the less likely they are to do it. So sometimes it's to your advantage to post where the most people are, even if that means moving platforms every half-decade or so.

So there are the similarities. What are the differences? It's the intent that distinguishes the two. A blog has an expected topic focus and an expected release schedule. You will give advice, comment on the subject matter, or otherwise provide a review of the subject matter that is either newsworthy or instructive. Even the slice of life stuff is instructive. See what I had to go through? You're not alone! You can do it! and/or Don't make the mistakes I did! And you'll do so on said schedule you determined.

I'm cautious to list examples for this one. A lot of the old guard that made literary blogging such a big deal are starting to or have faded (Kristen Nelson, Moonrat, etc). Nathan Bransford is still going strong. He talks about agenting and writing and the business and he does so once a day, five days a week. That is a blog.

If that seems too stressful, consider a journal. A journal is similar but much more laid back. Topics can be as instructive or as flippant as you want, and you can post as frequently or as infrequently as you want. (Remember, it's better to have an empty page and an account you use to view/comment on other people's work than a handful of posts throughout the year. Much like having a self-published credit versus no publishing credit at all.) You want a good example of a journal, check out George R.R. Martin's aptly named "Not a Blog." You're more likely to find George talking about football than you are A DANCE WITH DRAGONS.

Whether you're using a blog or a journal, the delivery is the same. You write a self-contained mini-essay or rambling exposition on whatever you want and put it up for people to read. There is a comments section where they can choose to comment. The initial thought is self-contained. In my opinion, the more dangerous place for a writer isn't the post itself but in the comments section. That's where the back-and-forth exchange occurs. That's where the sycophantic praise happens (don't let it go to your head) and that's where the trolls come. It's easy for genuine disagreement to be drowned out by all the people who say they agree with you. It's easy to take dissent as a flame because of trolls who show up for no other purpose than to be rude to you. Be sure to listen and treat all posts--good and bad--fairly. Be calm and be careful. In the end, this blog/journal is your space and you set the ground rules. You establish the tone, and you decide what is and what is not displayed.

(Incidentally, despite the tone of recent posts, this is a journal and not a blog. When I get busy at work, posts will slow down, and when I see something inspirational like a good play, I'll probably comments on it as well. For me, I have other outlets for that kind of stuff which is why the content here is better defined to a general topic of writing and the challenges of trying to become a published author.)


Facebook is what made social media a part of our lives. It's likely most people reading this already have a Facebook account, so I'll keep the description short. It's a networking tool where you make friends and list your status. You may involve yourself with old school/childhood friends, family members, coworkers, or what have you. How strict or how loose your friending policy is your discretion.

If you have a Facebook account and you are using that for writing purposes as well, stop. Facebook puts a limit on how many friends you can have, so as soon as you are successful, you'll have to ask all those writing followers to switch. Best to do it right from the beginning so you don't have to inconvenience anyone. Also, it can get frustrating for a friends list who are personal acquaintances and those there for your writing to put up with status updates for the other half. Go create a fan page for yourself and steer all your work-related content there. It'll save you a headache later, and will provide you an outlet to properly present yourself as a professional.

You've seen a fan page whether you realize it or not. XXx friend likes "xxx show" That show is a fan page. Anyone can make a fan page. It does not require you to make a new account (in fact, it'll be linked to your personal account as you'll be the administrator of that page). A fan page allows you to post status updates like a normal account does. You can also make Notes (longer blog-like posts) or import Notes from a blog/journal. You can post pictures and links and your fan page can have its own list of people of whom it is a fan. It's almost like a second account except you can limit how much other people participate. You can prevent them from commenting or you can make it so their comments are there but don't immediately present themselves. It gives you an administrative control over normal Facebook functionality.

But best of all, it allows you to keep your life separate from your work. Facebook has millions of members and becoming a fan of something is incredibly easy. Every person that likes your page has that "xxx likes xxx" show up in their news feed. That means everyone who is a friend of that person sees your page and so on and so on and so on. It's institutionalized viral marketing.

(If you've heard of or experienced Facebook's privacy debate, keep an eye on Diaspora which I am hopeful will present a great Facebook alternative in 2011.


No one thought Facebook could be stopped when Twitter first came along and boy was that proven wrong. Twitter is the place to be right now. Does it make a difference? There's no measure to be sure, but it generates the most activity of the three. With 140-character comments, you can have conversations, post, and be reposted, created searchable hash tag discussions (such as the inimitable #amwriting). Twitter is growing into a community for various writing genres, such as YA. This is because unlike Facebook and blogging, where the poster maintains a degree of control, Twitter is fully open. It is voyeuristic socialization. As soon as you make a post, there's nothing you can do about it. Anyone can see it. Anyone can respond to it. Anyone can retweet it (unless you block an individual, typically reserved for spam and trolls or protect your posts, which completely defeats the purpose of using Twitter to expand your online visibility).

Here's how twitter works. Anyone with a twitter account can follow anyone else. They then see the comments of everyone they follow (assuming those comments are not directed to another person they do not follow). The more people you follow, the more posts you see, both their original comments and their conversations and responses to one another.

It can be disorienting given how different Twitter is to more controlled environments like blogs. At any given time, someone can respond to what you're saying. On Twitter, you are never having a conversation with another person. You are having a conversation with everyone who is watching you. It's just a matter of whether they choose to respond.

As an aspiring professional writer, it's important to have an online presence (as you will be told often), and social media is an effective way to spread word about yourself without an advertising budget. Others like what you have to say and they pass that along. Their friends see it and pass it on and so on. It's the fundamental tenet of social media, "pass it on." You need to figure out which of these best fits how you want to interact with people and how much involvement you want to put forward.

Be aware of where you're posting and the expectations and opportunities of that platform. It doesn't do you any good to have a blog you don't update or try to maintain privacy on Twitter. These are tools, a hammer, a screwdriver, and a wrench. Each has different functions, but all can help you build a bookshelf for your eventual best sellers.

Know Your Footprint

This was originally going to be part of my "Maximizing Social Media (part 2)" post, but that thing is already flipping long and at some point, you just stop reading super-long blog posts. Since it's the weekend (when fewer people read blogs, statistically speaking), I thought I'd post this part here as a preamble to the forthcoming behemoth.

There was a comment made in response to Suzie Townsend's blog post on the Perils of Social Networking. (I do not remember if the comment is in the comments section or was on Twitter.) In her post, Suzie says, "DON'T compliment people's pictures when you don't know them. It ends up sounding either condescending ("I'm usually fun and you look chipper") or creepy...or both. @shallremainnameless: I saw your beautiful agent photo. I hope i get to meet that smile in person one day.

This is good advice, advice that can be hard to follow if you were raised in certain areas of the country (Midwest or South like I was) and compliments are a standard part of conversation. Given the illusion of friendship social media can create, a positive comment on someone's appearance would seem on face value to be a nice gesture. Given that social media often constrains our statements to the point that context is lost, best to err on the side of caution.

That leads me to..."the comment," and I really wish I could link to it. Rushing to agree with the poster (as so often does on blogs...except for mine where people seem to be shaming me a lot), someone commented on how silly it was to compliment someone having only seen their user icon. Ignoring regional cultural differences (and now working in Boston for four years, I can absolutely guarantee you there is a difference between Midwestern manners and East Coast manners) or the fact that professional pictures can make the most average person look stunning, this still seems an incredibly short-sighted comment.

Know your footprint. Catalog all the different social media you participate in and don't stop at ownership. Every blog you've guest-posted on, every blog post of a friend that included pictures where you were involved, every forum that you've added a personal user icon to, every Facebook upload that was viewable by other people, every Twitpic and Yfrog of you being goofy in line at a [movie/bookstore/coffee shop/whatever, every dating service you've mistakenly signed up for because your friends insisted it worked for them (thanks Luke...jerk). All those pictures add up. Not only do they add up, they can then be downloaded and reposted by anyone else on the internet. You may be appearing in blogs you're not even aware of. So...

The most obvious and important lesson, be careful what you put on the internet.

The less obvious but equally important lesson, be slow to judge. When you presume people don't know what you look like outside of your professional picture, it's very possible that they do. Be cognizant of how much of your life you share with people and whether you unintentionally (or intentionally) foster that illusion of friendship with strangers.

Another Transition

What? What? What?

What is this guy doing on Blogger? He's been on LiveJournal since 2003? What does he think he's doing here?

To be honest, I'm not sure whether I'm staying. The last time I fiddled with Blogger was for work three years ago. Things have certainly changed since then. A lot. Things have changed for LiveJournal over the years as well. There was plenty of drama and mass migrations, but that never concerned me. I had my personal account and then later I had my professional account. I like the functionality that LJ offers and kept with it over the years just for that reason. The catch is, I use it only for professional journaling. I don't do a lot of personal posts. (I also don't have the same drama I did when I was 25. :)

As a professional tool, LJ seems to come up short. There is a larger presence on Blogger, and that's what I need to tap into. So I'm going to experiment with this here blog--though it will continue to be a journal as I have no intention on doing daily posts!--and see whether I should take the plunge and move over here entirely.

Do you have any thoughts on the subject?