A Fortnight without Facebook

Day 1

I have a social media addiction. I love the little happy burst I get when someone replies to my posts. It is a sweet cyber-hug that tingles my whole body with joy. Sounds great. But when I am sad, I try to make myself feel loved by posting on a social media sites and them obsessively staring at it all day. If I don’t get the right number or type of responses, I get sadder. Sometimes I will be having a great day and then not getting enough Facebook or Google+ love can ruin it. This often happens on story posting days. I will post a story on here and then push it to my social media. None of my friends read the story, which is fine of course; no one has to read my stories. And yet, I get so sad. I feel like that lonely little kid I used to be, sitting behind a tree listening to the other children play, wishing they liked me.

I can get the same happy brain chemicals by completing chores and tasks, by writing stories, working in my garden, actually talking to a friend. But once I get stuck in the “no one loves me” zone, I can’t seem to do anything but beg for social media attention.

This is not healthy for me. This is repeating old patterns that I felt I had long since moved past.

So starting today I am on a 2-week social media fast. I wish it could be more, but as an indie author, social media is important to letting people know about my books. I am still going to blog, which is in my opinion a higher-value use of my time.

Right now I feel panicky. Sick to my stomach. Before I closed Facebook and Google+ I posted a status update about this. Are people replying to it? Are they asking me questions? How many likes do I have? It has only been 30 minutes, and I want to go check it.

The important thing for me to keep in mind is the time I am getting back. These are a few of the things I can do with my extra 4 hours every day:

Write more stories
Read a few books
Practice the piano more
Get the house really clean
Work on my garden
Take a walk
Paint
Bake
Talk one-on-one with friends
Plan a party
Exercise
Scrapbook
Knit
Take naps
I will post here from time to time about how life is different without social media.

Wish me luck.

People Farming

veggiesEveryone on the writing sites, blogs and communities are talking about “fans”.  Some say that social media is the way to get them; others talk about the “million fan fallacy”.  Some talk about “true fans” as opposed to people who just ‘like’ your facebook page.  You can find countless people talking about the correct marketing strategy to get all these fans.

It occurred to me today that this is farming, with people as the crop.  When you friend as many people as you can on every social media site possible, start a blog or Youtube channel you are planting the seed.  When you comment here and there, show an interest in other people life/work/family, write blog posts, read blog and comment, make a new video or put your stories up as podcasts that is the fertilizing and watering.   The idea is that if you do this enough you will get “fans” who are harvested when they buy your books.

If your books are good then the “fans” will buy each new book.

I am doing this.  There is a good chance that you are doing this.  Many of the blogs I read are those of other writers.  Most of my communities are for writers.   All of us say we are there to learn new skills and make friends, but really we are thinking “I am a reader, I read tons of books, all writers must be readers, I bet writers will buy my book”.

But there might be a big problem with this theory.  I don’t think about buy and selling at the same time. This is not like going to a WoW merchant, where you sell all your old stuff and buy new stuff in the same window.  I don’t often think of reading as work/research.  Sure, each time I read a book it sparks my imagination and helps me be a better writer.  But when I am “working” I am not actively looking for the next book to read in my leisure time.

When I am farming for people that is work.  Marketing is the most worky work I can think of involved with writing.    So far, I think I have only bought two books while doing people farming; one because the book looked interesting and the other because I liked the blogger.  So, it can happen, but I have looked at the pages of maybe a few hundred people, so don’t hold your breath.  I don’t think a single person I have met from writing communities or blogging has ever bought my book. So far people I know in person buy it. Some of them just because they want to support me emotionally, not because my writing interests them.

I have two goals that don’t play well together:

-Find my future “fans” when I market and convince them to give my work a try.

-Find the best new writer each time I finish reading a book.anne-geddes-cabbage-kids

There are people out there who would love my stories or want to be my “fan” because of how awesome I am.  I am a fan of lots of people, but honestly very few of them are indie writers. I know there must be indie writers out there I would love, but I mostly read popular, established writers because it is easy to find the ones that matches my tastes.

Here in lies another problem; the soil in which we plant our seeds.

You might not ever be a fan of my writing, and I might not ever like yours.  You can market to me all day about, a Christian romance novel or a sports related mystery, and no matter how good it is I will not buy it.  Ever.  If you don’t like sci-fi, fantasy and feminism you will never like my books.

The big publishers marketing works for them, because they can throw so much advertising out that some of the seeds will have to germinate even if they don’t try to find the right soil at all. They put up posters of their new books in the book stores, we can’t do that.   They send their author’s out on book signing, advertising it on the radio and newspapers. I don’t even have a physical copy of my book to sign.   They send their authors to conventions, where I am just possible person to farm.  They make deals with movie people and famous readers.

As indie authors we don’t have their reach or resources to do that sort of throwing to the wind marketing, and yet we try so hard, wasting our efforts.   But there must be something we can do.  I can’t think of anything right now to try to make you love me (other than be lovable  which I am rocking), but I do have an idea of how to maybe find some indie authors I might like.

My mind is fertile soil, come plant your seed.

Off the top of my head my favorites you have heard of are Terry Pratchett, Jim Butcher, Christopher Moore, Susan Collins, Neil Gaiman  Octavia Butler, Lovecraft, Douglas Addams and Poe.

I like fantasy and sci-fi with a nice amount of action, but not all action.  I like humor thrown in as well as the strange or absurd.  I am a big fan of YA novels, especially with strong female characters.  I like urban fantasy, steam punk and weird westerns.  Creepy and dark, without being gory torture porn, is also a favorite.

I don’t like the type of fantasy that is centered on romance/sex.  Some romance and sex is great, but if that is the main plot then I am not your audience.   I don’t dig non-consensual sex especially  or women being abused.   I am not a big fan of books where sadness is the goal.

If you like at least half of the above authors and you think your work or something you have read is what I am looking for then comment here.  I will check you out.  If I buy your book I will review it honestly.  So don’t try to trick me.

Thank You to My Tens of Fans

First off, I have been out of town for the last week in Chicago, so I have been too busy having fun to post to my blog. Also sadly too busy with the fun to get much work done on my novel, which I am about 5000 words behind on. But don’t worry, I will work hard and get caught back up soon.

Today, what with Thanksgiving being tomorrow, I wanted to write a little thank you note to some people who are making this becoming a professional writer thing a lot easier. A huge thank you to everyone who has bought my book or told people about it. I can’t express how much your support means to me. I have wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember. In fact my first memory of it was a summer night when I was ‘swimming’ in the above ground pool my mom had just gotten. It was a full moon that night and I wrote a poem while I floated around. Of course my little poem when I was 8 was not very good, but I still have it around here someplace. It was that night that I first thought that someday maybe people would want to read my thoughts and care about the things I make up.

Anyway, since I was 8, I have been writing and dreaming of someday having people read my stories, and even better of being able to make a living off of people reading my stories. When I was 11, I got a type writer for Christmas (not a useful tool when you are a horrible speller). But until this year I have always been too afraid to actually give being a professional writer a a try; afraid of rejection, afraid of not being very good, and afraid of losing the dream forever if the reality was that I could not do it.

Something changed this year. I think the first change was when I realized that sometimes people write stories and books that are not “masterpieces” and they do just fine. I don’t have to write something so OMG amazing that it rocks the world. I just have to write.

The second thing was that I can publish my own stuff. I don’t need any “professional” publisher’s approval to be awesome. I can be awesome any time I want, no waiting.

So between giving myself permission to not be ‘great’ and the ability to self publish, my last fear was just that I might lose the dream. Fuck a whole bunch of that. What is the point of a dream if you never even attempt it? It was time to stop waiting around for someone or something else to convince me to write and publish. It was time to take control and do it.

So I did. I worked hard and I wrote something. Yay! But some of that fear was still there. What if no one read it? What if everyone thought I was being dumb and made fun of me? What if it just sits there on the internet getting cyber-dusty? What if this is it, no one buys it, and I lose faith in myself and the dream really does die?

But then people stepped up and bought my book. Most of them are my friends in real life, supporting my creativity. But some stranger has bought “Treacherous Nature”. Friends and strangers alike, it has meant so much to me. Each time I sell a copy I feel so happy, and I feel the urge to keep going. I even sold a story to a publisher. I am writing a novel. I am submitting several stories every month. I am getting paid to write. And I don’t think I would still be working so hard if it were not for all the wonderful people who have bought my book, asked what I was working on, told people about me, commented on my blog, and just said “Good Luck!” or “You can do it” when I needed it.

I don’t want to sound too cosmic space bunny here, but this process is not just about writer and words. The reader is just as important. So, if you are reading this  — Thank You! If you have read my book THANK YOU!!!!!!

My Life Rocks Game

My blog is called weaving reality, because it is about the things I put my determination and energy into making.  Up until now it has mostly been about tangible  holdable, viewable things.   Like pictures of my garden and the food I cook from it,  directions on how to make a rainbow skirt, or my musing on writing, publishing and marketing my work.

But things you can hold are not the only things I make.  I have a vision of the world I want to live in, and I do things all the time to make that world happen.   I can’t change it alone of course, but I can make a little change here and another one there and weave in little threads of my reality into yours and everyone else’s.

Part of the way I can do this is to talk about what I want to change and how.  I can talk about the sort of social system I would like to live in, the sort of government that would make me happy.  I can tell you when I see injustice and how best to combat it.  I can talk about fighting racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia,  fat-hate, poverty, and meanness.

I don’t want to do it in a “this things sucks” sort of way and leave it at that.  I want to tell you how I deal with a situation and try to make my world a little better.

Today I want to talk about something I am calling “the tragedy game” or the “my life sucks game”.    This is where one person says something bad that happened or is happening to them and then you have to one-up it, then someone else has to one-up you, and so on.   This game works on the principle that in our society it is OK to talk about things that are bad in our lives.  It is OK to reach out and try to get support and sympathy.  And it is. I 100% agree that if you are having a problem or you need help, you should reach out to a friend or family member.  As humans we are social creatures; we form tribes and we help each other.   But this game sometimes goes too far, because we all want attention.  If one person is always getting attention by being hurt, sad or broken, then I think we tend to rummage around until we can throw something into the pot.

For example, I had a rough childhood.  But I have dealt with the bad things that have happened really well.  I don’t often think about it; I talk about it even less.  It is depressing, it is in the past, and I am mostly healed emotional and physically.  Talking about it has no profit for me.  Until we start playing “the tragedy game”.  I have found myself in groups of people I hardly know telling them very personal things, just because “my horrible abusive childhood” somehow became the topic of the game.     By the same token, I have found myself telling people about my illnesses or emotional problems, just because that is what we were doing.   This is especially bad when the person who starts the game does so with something that is way less horrible than something that has happened to me or is happening.

And that is the problem with this game. The very first rule is that we have to rank other people’s suffering.  For example, I once had a woman tell me this story about why she does not wear shorts.  Once when she was young, her father hit her with a belt so hard on the back of her legs that it left huge red marks for a few days.  To me, to the person I was then (about 10 years ago) this seemed so little.  Compared to some of the things that have happened to me, her experience was cotton candy.  But now I get it.  I get what she was saying.  She was trying to tell me about the lack of control she felt, about the humiliation, about how someone else took her body and hurt it and marked it. She was telling me that even years later as an adult, in some way her legs still did not belong to her.   So I said, “well, you think that is bad? Once my mom….” or whatever I said I don’t remember now.   But I one-upped.  I tried to get social points by having been abused.

People play this game with all sorts of things.  Mental illness,  physical illness,  discrimination, lack of money, bad relationships, abuse, etc.

I don’t want to play this game anymore.  I want to be the sort of person, who when someone tells me something bad I want to just listen and be supportive.  I will give them attention, and then when I can, change the subject to something more cheery.  I don’t want to sit around talking about all the horrible things in a person’s life or mine, unless we are looking for solutions. I very much don’t want to listen to people tell me all the things they can’t do because of their problems.  This does not make their lives better and it does not make me happy.

At the same time, while it is acceptable to talk about how hard something is, or how broken and substandard you are,  it is not OK to brag.  Sitting around talking about how great your life is, how wonderful you are, how hard you work to get great things in your life, or just how naturally amazing you are is not OK.  We are supposed to be modest.

Fuck that!  I don’t want to be modest.  I am fabulous.  I don’t want to talk about the bad things that have held me down.  I want to talk about how I kicked those bad things’ asses and climbed over them to reach my goals.  I want to talk about how my experiences have made me strong, smart, or creative.    I want to talk about all the great things I am going to do.   I have problems, sure, but I can work through or around all of them to do what I want.  And that is what I want to talk about.   I want to brag, and I want you to brag.   I want you to tell me something amazing about you.

My first brag in this round – I am so confident.  My life experiences have led me to be the sort of person who thinks she can do anything she sets her mind to.  I often think things I do are great and I love showing them to people.

Please, one up me!  Tell me something amazing about you.  Tell me why you are worth knowing and worth having my attention. Tell me how you have overcome something or your plans for overcoming something now.

All Hallows Read

A few years ago Neil Gaiman came up with the idea of giving away scary stories at Halloween. I wanted to write a new story, but it is turning out to be a tough one so there is very little chance I will have it live by tomorrow. So I have lowered the price of my book from $2.99 to $.99. Yes, I know that is not free, but that is as low as Amazon will let me go. So think of it like this – you buy one story I will give you 4 free. :-/ And at this price point I get so little that unless there was a miracle and 500 copies sold I would not keep any of it, all the money would end up going to local art, music and theater.

Here is a link to Gaiman’s explanation of all hallows read and info about the story he is giving away:

http://neil-gaiman.tumblr.com/post/34321545955/download-a-free-unpublished-halloween-scary-short-story

I love the idea of giving away stories this time of year for lots of reason.

One of them is trick and treat.  As kids we got to go around and get candy.  It was a little scary and fun all at the same time.  With the other people wearing costumes, all the decorations and often walking around after dark the world was a alien place.  Walking from shadow to light as you went from house to house leaves a special memory in my mind.   I remember at first running to get out of the dark areas quicker, because that is where the monsters were hiding in wait for me.   Then after a while, lingering in those dark spots, no less frightened but now also intrigued, curious.  I wanted to see the horrors that hid behind decorative hedges and old tool sheds.

Another is community.  Up until this point most of the people who have read my stories are people I know, but most of the stories I have read are by people I don’t know.   It is like a web, connecting me to all the authors of all the stories I have ever read.  Also to you, who are reading these words now.  We are not community in the sense of sitting down to dinner together or helping each other raise a barn.  But we are community in other ways.  Maybe you love fantasy or horror, maybe you like to homestead.  For some reason you are reading this so we likely have something in common. I want to be able to gift my stories to you, in this sense of community.

I guess the last is a more complex and does not have an easy single word to describe it.  As a writer I want people to read my work.  I want to get paid for it to, but that is secondary to wanting it read.   I want my words in your eyes, my ideas in your brain.  I want you to see something like what I saw when I wrote the stories, but colored by your experiences and feelings.

So go here: http://www.amazon.com/Treacherous-Nature-ebook/dp/B0098N9CGI/

And here for the PDF version:Treacherous Nature PDF

Pick up my book, read it, tell me what you think.  Or don’t, it is just there if you want it.  The price goes back to $2.99 next week.

 

Post Publishing Doldrums

For the last few months putting out this collection of stories was my main goal as a writer. I did some other writing too. I submitted and got rejected for an anthology and worked on a novel idea. But now the book has been released and I feel sort of flat.

What now?

I don’t expect this book will do well. So far I have sold 7 copies, which I have to admit hurts my feelings a lot. I am trying not to let it, but it is hard. I am a big supporter of the arts where I live. I spend more money than I care to calculate right now on plays, local music festival, my friends’ art and their artistic endeavors. I go to art auctions and give donations to local groups. I am not saying I expected these people to support me, not exactly. But I expected some sort of boost. I know, I sound like Earl in “My name is Earl” – “You do good things, and good things happen”. And now I feel sort of stupid for having these expectations.

I am trying not to take this personally, but it is really hard. Sure, lots of people might not like the sort of stuff I write. And that is ok. I give time and money to the thing I do because I like them and think the work they do is good and worthwhile. I wonder how many people think what I am doing is worthwhile?

I need to think about my next moves? Should I start submitting short stories to anyone who will take them? Should I work on a novel? Should I take a break and get a real job? Should I try to save up money and go to a writer’s workshop like Clarion West? I could use the pointers and practice, but I could use the contracts even more?

To the people who read my blog who have some success at selling their work, do you have any advice? How do I get my stories to the people who would enjoy them? What is a good balance between traditional publishing and self-publishing?

This is Cheese-Burger taking a nap. This is about how I feel right now, but that is ok. After he sleeps like this for a few hours he is full of energy, so it must be a restful way to be.

Homestead Food 3

So I said I was going to do this every Friday or Sunday.   You might notice that today is Tuesday.   Friday it got put off because a friend wanted to come, but the friend ended up not able to come.  It got put off on Sunday because I just did not want to do it.  And that is a good thing in a way.   The goal of this is to make me sort of understand what it would be like if this was my only food supply, and on Sunday I got a bit of an idea about that.  I ended up having a salad from the garden that day but instead of a full garden/local/community meal I had steak and mashed potatoes.  Because I wanted it and because it is so easy to go to the store and get anything I want.   Had the food in my yard been the only food supply I would have been very unhappy.

There is so little to eat right now, so very little variation.  On Sunday when I put it off I got this crazy idea in my head of doing it Monday and it would be better.  Then on Monday I went out for tacos, about a mile away.  So today I said enough stalling.

The Ingredients:

Omelette:

  • Eggs (Gift from Erik)
  • Salt (Gift from Lori)
  • Chard (Garden)
  • Oil (Exempt)
  • Sauteed Onion (Garden)

Grits:

  • Local Grits (Farmer’s Market, single bought item)
  • Water (Tap)
  • Salt (Gift from Lori)
  • Butter (Exempt)

Peach Chutney (Exempt, canned by us)

  • Local Peaches (picked and processed by us)
  • Raisins
  • Some other fruits (I don’t remember what)
  • A ridiculous amount of vinegar

I did not want eggs and chard again. Temper Tantrum Did Not Want.  This is very similar to what we had last week, but switched around a bit.  When I look out in the garden there are unripe strawberries, little tomato plants, small peaches, tiny blackberries, and 2-inch high corn.  I want those things to be ready and I want to eat them.  I want foods that I like better, like squash, green beans, and black eyed peas.  It is also a little annoying that I can’t just throw in some French bread or beef broth whenever I want.   I have some pretty strong food insecurity issues because of a very poor childhood, and having to eat only what I have is really making me have to deal with those issues.

Knowing I was going to have to eat eggs and chard today has made me so motivated to work harder.  I know I could not do anything about the dinner tonight, but I am sure going to try to have a better one this weekend or next week.  The last few days I have done lots of planting, weeding, and transplanting.

I am also thinking about community more.  I am actually thinking about people I want to invite to dinner;  not just Erik, who did not join us tonight because he fears grits.    I am thinking about joining some meetup groups and actually going to their meetings.  I am thinking about how to be nice to the friends and family I do have so they will please bring me food.  I am thinking about how I can help the people around me survive, and how they can help me survive.  Yes I know that sounds very dramatic.  I am a rather dramatic person.

Another upside to my annoyance at today’s dinner is that I know that my pleasure with each new food as it becomes ready to eat will be even greater than normal.  My mouth is watering thinking about how amazing some fresh strawberries would be right now.  I could deal with more eggs and chard if I could just have a bowl of berries to go with it.

Now with all of that drama out of the way, the meal was actually pretty good.   The egg part of the omelette was delicious and the chard was OK at the beginning.  By the end the chard tasted a bit too bitter to me, and I did not want to keep taking bites of it.  The grits tasted like grits and butter, so there is nothing wrong with that.  The peach chutney was better than I remember it being.  The peach flavor was very bright and fresh; the pepper was just right, giving only a hint of spice, and the vinegar was not quite as overpowering as I remembered it.  The chutney matched well with the omelette.