Tag Archives: Facebook

Writers: Stop Constantly Taking and Start Giving

This is a topic that has been on my mind for a few years, but one that I’ve been reluctant to discuss. Perhaps I was concerned about the reaction or that it might burn some bridges, in which case I won’t be the one holding the flamethrower. I’ll leave that to whomever I offend here, because if you take umbrage at what you’re about to read, that’s on you. Honestly, I don’t care anymore. I’ve had enough.

In the seven years since I entered the professional writing arena with the publication of my first novel, I have connected with hundreds of other writers through writers group meetings, writers conferences, book signings, and social media. This is very similar to my experience in science fiction fandom. Since I began attending conventions on a regular basis in the late 80s, I‘ve made an enormous number of friends. Many have gone, but others have remained to become my family.

I genuinely value these friendships and connections and I enjoy working with many of my fellow scribes on various projects.

However, there are some writers that seem to have developed a habit of asking and taking while never giving back. When they have an upcoming release, they blast out requests for promotional help and I’ve happily obliged, repeatedly.

Yet, there has been very little reciprocation. When I’ve had a new release, or asked for reviews on my books that I’ve given or traded with them, the response from these same writers is little more than a “Like” on Facebook, maybe the infrequent “Share,” or in some cases dead silence—until their next release and then it’s “Hey, Phil! Hope all is well with you. Can you help…”

Yeah, I can help you again—for the fourth time—but I won’t. So fuck off. Where were you when it was my turn?  Funny, unless you need help from me, I never hear from you. It’s as if I’m insignificant or irrelevant and not worth your time.  When I’m releasing a new book, you completely ignore me. So please explain why I should keep being your good little drone?

If you consistently request help from other writers, you should be willing to give back once in a while. Perhaps you feel that you’re too busy and don’t have time, or that your time is more valuable than that of your peers, or maybe you’re so arrogant you even think that you’re a better writer than your peers and as such, you expect them to take the time to read your “amazing” work, but you can’t be bothered reading their “drek.”

Newsflash: You’re full of shit. Everyone is busy. Everyone’s time is valuable and you are no goddamn better than anyone else. If I slap you in the face, it’s going to hurt and some of you need to be slapped. So climb down off that fucking pedestal you put yourself on. You want others to make time for you? Try making time for others.

Now, you might be asking, “OK, Phil, so when have YOU taken time to help other writers?” Well, let’s review:

Over the past five years, I’ve read about two dozen novels and novellas from various writers, by request, and left honest reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. In fact, I’ll be reading another one in the next few months. On some occasions, those reviews were accompanied three-star ratings, because those reviews were honest. I’m not handing out four and five-star reviews like candy just because you’re a friend. PERIOD. Fortunately, most of what I’ve been asked to read so far has ranged from good to excellent.

I created a speculative fiction anthology called the Middle of Eternity series for Firebringer Press. I also edit and manage each volume. The entire purpose of this series is to showcase the work of as-yet unpublished writers with a few stories from myself and one or two other established writers. Two volumes have been published, we’re working on volume three now.  They are my way of paying forward what was done for me by the various small presses that published my work. Aside from my own new releases, there is no better feeling for me than watching a new writer autograph a book for the first time.

Whenever an editor, writer, or conference organizer asks me to take postcards, rack cards, or bookmarks to other conferences or conventions, I am all to happy to place them on my autograph table or the flyer table that many conventions set aside for just that purpose.

As a member of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group, I volunteered as conference chairman of their 2015 Write Stuff writers conference and this year, I volunteered as a content editor for the group’s annual anthology. I’ll probably volunteer as editor again. Conference chair? Not so much. I don’t recommend it if you have a high-stress full time job.

I also frequently agree to critique and proofread manuscripts as a favor to other writer friends (and they do the same for me).

I do these things because I enjoy helping people. Do any of these activities cut into my writing time? Of course they do. In fact, editing and project-managing the second Middle of Eternity anthology kept me so busy in 2016 (in addition to other responsibilities), that I put aside a SF novel-in-progress for eight months. Instead, I focused on writing several short stories in between everything else. My writing time was constantly disrupted and I knew my novel would only suffer as a result. Only in the last month have I returned to writing the novel—just in time to start editing my third and final volume in the Eternity series. This is a labor of love and I knew sacrifices would be needed.

Have I ever said “No?” On occasion, absolutely! I can’t do everything and I’m certainly not advocating that you should help everyone at the expense of your own writing time or sanity. Sometimes, you will need to turn people away, but at the same time, don’t just keep expecting other writers to do for you constantly without reciprocation. No one likes to be used or taken for granted. There are many nice people out there who can’t say “No.” They want to please everyone. Coming from an IT support background, I used to be one of them, but not anymore.

I realize that most writers are a self-obssessed, conceited lot. I get it, we’re all looking to advance our own careers, but all too often, we don the blinders and disregard our peers.

I’m not your promotional “go to guy.” I’m not just a cog in your marketing machine. I’m also a human being and a fellow writer deserving of the same respect I afford to you.

You want help? Be prepared to give it once in a while. Besides, that leads to good karma…




Blogging, Sanity, and Social Misery…er…Media

Goodreads is kind enough to send a weekly email alerting me to recent blog posts from some of my writer friends. With my project load and generally frenetic schedule for the past four to five months, it’s been a struggle to maintain my own blog, let alone keep up with everyone else’s.

However, today I took the time to read the latest three posts from Kristen Lamb on her Warrior Writers blog. The first one caught my attention because it’s something that’s been on my mind for more than a few years: Is Facebook Dying? What’s Killing It? In her analysis, Kristen posits that when social media was new, it was FUN and people enjoyed connecting with one another. Further, most people maintained a friendly rapport, but then we became comfortable with this novel method for connecting (and in many cases reuniting) with others.

We all know that it doesn’t take much to ruin a good thing, and if the human race excels at one specific skill, it’s destroying almost everything we touch. Additionally, it only takes a few to ruin it for the majority.

Spend a just minutes on any social media platform and you’ll see what I mean—posts and comments replete with hatred, racism, threats, abuse, derisiveness, and good ol’ fashioned ignorance—especially during election years and most especially during this one. As the old adage goes, there ain’t nothing new under the sun. Humanity has always found a way to quickly turn every method of communication ever invented into a shit show.

In the case of social media, just as it was in the case of bulletin boards back in the 90’s, it’s easy to talk trash when you’re sitting at a keyboard, using your favorite movie, TV, or comic book character as an avatar and posting under a fictitious name.

With anonymity comes ersatz courage.

Here’s an episode from Harlan Ellison’s Watching from the early days of the Sci-Fi channel, when they actually knew how to spell “Sci Fi”. In this segment, Harlan discusses the appalling behavior of computer bulletin board users (remember those days?). Ignore the inane vampire novel ad in the middle of the episode.

Just goes to show, this behavior ain’t new, folks! Technology may change, but human behavior is a constant. Today, people continue their proud displays of disgusting ignorance on Facebook and Twitter (and other social media sites that I do not frequent and probably never will) with increasing fervor.

Kristen compares this adolescent stage of social media to the petulant and volatile demeanor of teenagers, something I’ve often pondered, considering how even allegedly mature adults conduct themselves like juvenile-goddamn-delinquents!

Internet Opinion

The question is, will social media ever mature beyond this? Probably not, and honestly, I don’t have time or patience for it.

Kristen concludes her post with a theory that Pokemon Go might actually be the next level of social media, and one that could kill Facebook—or at least deliver it a solid punch in the gut. One cannot argue that Pokemon Go is drawing people out of their houses and into the wild. It’s forcing people to interact face-to-face (y’all remember how to do that, right?), providing physical activity, and returning “social” to its original definition.

Now, I’m a child of the 70s and 80s. I don’t need an online game to get me outdoors. I love the outdoors. I love walking, I love fishing, I love the beach, I love state parks. Get me outside as often as possible! However, if Pokemon Go is what inspires the troglodytes to vacate their caves for a few hours, then I’m all for it because most people have a tendency to mind their manners when face-to-face than when face-to-screen.

Kristen follows up her post about the imminent demise of Facebook with Breaking Facebook Dependence–How to Create an Enduring Author Brand. In summary, Kristen explains that social media sites may come and go, but a good blog is forever. She encourages writers to post their thoughts and experiences on blogs rather than social media sites. Not only do blogs “offer an intimacy with authors second only to the books they write”, not only do they “make us leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner at what we do: writing”, but the reach of social media is limited and anything you post there is ephemeral. Most of it is invisible to search engines and it’s gone in a few days after all of your friends and contacts have “Liked” and commented on it and have moved onto the next 50 captivating posts-du-jour from their other social media friends.

Yet, blog entries, if properly titled and tagged, are searchable and will remain as long as the Internet. People can and will continue to find and/or stumble upon your blog posts years later and could potentially become subscribers or readers who purchase your books.

Now, please don’t take this as a string of excuses, but in addition to writing and editing, I work full time in the IT industry. When I come home, I often have a few hours of chores and errands to complete and possibly a 60-90 minute workout to destress and keep myself in shape before I can sit down to work on the current writing project. I’m often up until midnight, and no, I’m not waking up at 3:30 or 4AM to write when I already need to be up at 5AM for work. The only other activity that gets me out of bed that early is fishing.

So I cannot always make the time to blog consistently. I do not blog “two to three times per week” as some experts recommend. I blog as often as I can. Look, if you asked me, “How would you like to use this next hour or two—make progress on your current writing project or write a blog post?” My answer will ALWAYS be “work on the current writing project”. EVERY TIME. It is far more important to me to finish the the next short story, the next scene, the next chapter in the novel, or to research something for a story, than it is to write a blog post.

While I agree with Kristen that blogging makes us write “leaner, meaner, faster, and cleaner”, so does short story writing, so does flash fiction writing, and so does a few rounds with an experienced editor over your novel.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not at all against blogging. After all, you’re reading this missive now.  I blog as often as I can and I enjoy it. In fact, I’m writing this blog post over my lunch hour, when I had originally planned to start my next short story, because Kristen’s comments struck a chord.

My point?  In order to maintain sanity as writers, we should prioritize our workload. This is nothing revelatory, you all know this. That doesn’t make it any less challening, though, does it? Or any less frustrating.

For example, over the winter, I finally outlined a science fiction novel that had seen minimal progress over the past five years, while I wrote and published other books and stories. Excited that I now had a fully developed plot, I wrote the first four chapters from January to April—then put the project aside as my publisher and I were prepping a new anthology to be released on August 1, but the pre-launch was scheduled for July at Shore Leave 38. It went very well and you can read about it here

Elsewhere in the Middle Eternity is the second installment in a speculative fiction anthology series that I created. I
am not only the editor, but the project manager as well which means I work with the writers and the artist to bring stories, cover art, and interior illustrations together. We financed the project through Kickstarter, so I had to record the video for that, write the blurb, and create the reward levels.

Elsewhere in the Middle of Eternity

What’s more, it was spring, which always brings with it yard work and one or two home renovations and yes, spending time outdoors!

I didn’t completely put aside writing during all of this. For the past few years, I’d wanted to enter a story into the annual Rehoboth Beach Short Story contest sponsored by Cat and Mouse Press. Rehoboth Beach is a quaint coastal town in Delaware with the feel of an old neighborhood rather than a resort town. I consider it my second home—if only I could afford a house there! Well, this year, the contest’s theme matched a story that had been percolating in
the back of my mind for a year or more so I finally wrote it in April and submitted it in May. Winners will be annouced on August 1, the same day Elsewhere in the Middle of Eternity will be released. Should be an interesting day so stay tuned!

During the month-long Kickstarter campaign in May, my blog was active with semi-weekly author interviews for our anthology, which generated spikes in donations. Since then, I’ve been promoting the book on my blog, of course, but I also heeded Kristen’s advice and began blogging about “high concept” topics like vacations, day trips, museum visits, and even this post about social media and, yes, blogging. At the moment, I have a fair number of followers, but I’m working to build my audience here.

Addtionally, July gave my wife and I a scare as a family member was rushed to the hospital for life threatening complications and again days later as a result of a severe infection.

After all that rambling, have you forgotten about the science fiction novel I was working on? Wouldn’t blame you if you did. Well, I didn’t forget about it and now that the dust is settling on the aforementioned projects and emergencies, I hope to get back to it again…in between editing stories for the third annual anthology to be published by my local writing group next year and the final two Microsoft exams I need to take to complete yet another IT certification.

If it ain’t one damn thing, it’s another…or two…or three…

I’m burned out again just from writing about everything that’s been burning me out all year! As such, it was refreshing to read Kristen’s latest post, Stress & Burnout—How to Get Your Creative Mojo Back, where she explains how and why your mind and body react to stress and what to do about it. I already practice some of the advice offered, such as freewriting. Don’t overthink it, just break away from your current project and write something different. For example, I did that back in June over another lunch hour, and then revisited the piece earlier this week. After some revisions, it resulted in a lovely vignette that will be my submission to the aforementioned writers group anthology.

This was probably the longest blog post I’ve ever written. My apologies, but I hope I’ve directed you to some useful information on Kristen’s blog.

Book Review: Rise of the Machines by Kristen Lamb

There was once a time when an author’s only true concern was producing the best quality manuscript.

Over the last decade, that has changed drastically with the advent of social media and blogging. Now, writers are expected to have a platform—including a strong online presence—well before their first book is published.

What’s more, unless you’re of the stature of Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, no longer can published authors simply sit back and let others do the work of promotion and marketing. These days, the onus is ON US.

Enter Kristen Lamb, social media Jedi and author of Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World. I had the pleasure of hosting Kristen as the keynote at the 2015 Write Stuff writers conference in Allentown, PA where I purchased her book. I was curious to learn more about how to properly leverage social media and my blog to bolster my platform.

In her book, Kristen divides her lessons into five sections, providing a brief history of the publishing industry, the changes that have occurred (and are still occurring), and fascinating insights into human psychology and communication. She also explains why the traditional marketing methods are no longer effective today.

Before delving into specifics about social media sites, Kristen leads the reader through very focused chapters and sections about identifying your short term and long term goals, creating your writers platform, creating your brand, the types of friends and followers who will help writers with these efforts, and what it means to “go viral.”

With those concepts understood, we then delve into specifics about a few of the hottest social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. In addition to providing advice on how to manage your time and content, Kristen also offers tips on social media etiquette, how to avoid conflict and potentially sensitive topics, and handling internet “trolls” who insult and harass rather than politely disagreeing with something you post.

Along the way Kristen’s humor and anecdotes provide entertainment along with education that held my attention and prevented the material from becoming “dry”.

Although I have worked in the IT industry for over 20 years and have a solid grasp of technology, and although I am a published author who is active on social media, I came away from Kristen’s book with insights on how and where I need to improve my approach, especially to blogging.

I only wish I had known about Kristen before I published my first novel in 2009!



Three Quick Ways to Support Your Favorite Writers – Without Spending a Dime

In an age where the gates to publishing have been thrown open, or possibly ripped from their hinges, discoverability for new writers is extremely challenging. According to statistics I’ve quickly researched online, there are approximately 300,000 new books published per year in the United States alone.¹

That’s a daunting number to new writers, especially those publishing through small presses or taking the DIY route. I envision writers standing shoulder-to-shoulder, pressed against one another, all holding their latest book over their heads hoping to be recognized by the reading community. A cacophony of voices, each one drowned by the other 299,999. Even the best writers can become discouraged and quit after a time. It has happened.

How do we stand out? Recommendations from readers are one significant way. We appreciate the fact that you spend your hard-earned money on our books. The best of us want to provide you with the highest quality reading experience, and if we succeed, we hope that you’ll spread the word through one or more methods, such as…

Leaving a review and rating on book sites such as Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, etc. Ratings and reviews are important to any writer’s career, but they are critical to burgeoning writers. A high number of reviews–especially positive ones–typically generate increased sales and lead to new opportunities.

I’ve had readers tell me that they are not good at writing and thus, are reticent about leaving reviews. Even one line would be adequate. On Goodreads, a reader recently left a four-star rating for my first novel, Testing the Prisoner. His review: “That was one hell of a read. Very intense.” That’s all you need! If you’re investing a day or a week to read a book, why not go the extra two minutes to voice your opinion, even if briefly?

Sharing the love on social media. For example, if you are friends with some or all of your favorite writers on Facebook, or you follow their author pages, you probably click LIKE to many of their updates and announcements about new releases. Why not take the extra few seconds to also SHARE their posts? Perhaps add a comment such as, “Enjoy this writer’s books. Highly recommend!” Ditto for Twitter, Google+, and other social media sites.

Spreading the word. Word of mouth still remains the best of all recommendations. If there are avid readers among your friends or family, mention your favorite writers’ books. If you happen to notice that the writer is holding a book signing or a library talk, boost the signal even if you can’t attend.

Speaking for myself, I deeply appreciate your support of small press and independent writers.

As a new writer myself, I occasionally give away free books to other writers, book reviewers, Goodreads giveaways, charity auctions, etc. I will be thrilled to send a free copy of my latestSomewhere in the Middle of Eternity release, Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity, to a random commenter here on my blog. This is an anthology of SF, fantasy, and paranormal stories written mostly by emerging fiction writers and edited by yours truly. Click here to read more about it. 

The second volume, Elsewhere in the Middle of Eternity, will be released in July 2016.

Thank you!




¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Books_published_per_country_per_year and http://www.worldometers.info/books/

About This Writing Stuff…

As 2016 approaches, one of my resolutions is to resurrect a popular, semi-regular feature here on my blog that went dark in April 2015 as my life just became too hectic to maintain it.

“About This Writing Stuff” is a collection of interesting articles from the writing and publishing world. Most are instructional, meant to provide helpful tools for writers. Some are merely news or updates, but all are meant to inform with no bias on my part. In other words, I don’t always agree with every article, but I welcome your feedback and opinions.

I thought I’d start on New Year’s Eve, especially since I recently discovered a fantastic website for fantasy and SF writers called Mythcreants, from which came three of the articles below touching on creating memorable character moments and riveting fight scenes as well as unrealistic tropes to avoid.

From Writer Unboxed, Lisa Cron delves into backstory, while SF author Veronica Sicoe is completely out of order. Jami Gold breaks down the characteristics of a strong story. We also talk Facebook for writers and the renaissance of used book stores. The latter sparked quite a debate recently on social media over the fact that writers receive no payment for the sale of used books.  How do you feel about this?

Enjoy the articles and have a wonderful, healthy, and productive New Year!

What We’ve Been Taught About Backstory…and Why It’s Wrong by Lisa  Cron

Writing Out of Sequence – The Best Way to Write by Veronica Sicoe

How to Best Use Facebook as an Author by Teymour Shahabi

The Critical Importance of Crafting a Strong Opening and 8 Tips for Picking Meaningful Character Names by Jody Hedlund

Does Our Story Have Everything it Needs? by Jami Gold

Six Unrealistic Tropes and How to Avoid Them by Oren Ashkenazi

Six Tricks for Memorable Character Moments and How to Narrate a Riveting Fight Scene by Chris Winkle

In the Age of Amazon, Used Bookstores Are Making an Unlikely Comeback by Michael S. Rosenwald