Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial day

While Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, I prefer to think of it as its name suggests: a day for memorials, when we stop and to reflect on those we have lost. Generally this focus goes to those who have died to serve our nation either in its defense or in our local communities. For me, I think of my father, grandparents, and those dear friends who are no longer here.

All this becomes more poignant when I remember the genealogical research I did some weeks back. That trolling through web sites gave me a better sense of where I came from and how I am not just a city boy from Boston but I am part of a grand story involving my ancestors. I sit here now blogging and writing novels because my great-grandfather came to America in search of a better life than the one he had in Russia. I don't know if he ever found it but he gave his descendants a tremendous gift: the gift of freedom and liberty that America bestows on all her citizens.

Using that freedom I have been able to work hard and focus on my goals and finally achieve them. It is easy to forget this while cramming potato salad and hot dogs into my mouth, as I've done in years past. But I shall not forget again. In fact now that I see the arc of family history and it is clear to me that I have a duty to see how far I can go. How many books can I write and have published? What other opportunities will evolve from that effort?  Podcasts?  Movies?  T-shirts?  Translated editions?  Who knows?

I certainly don't but it is my job to find out; in this way I honor to hard work and sacrifice of my ancestors, which is no less important than that of those who died in defense of our country and our communities.

And this is what Memorial Day is all about for me.  I hope it means something similar to you.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Social Influence

A Facebook friend invited me to join Klout this week.  For those who don't know, Klout is a site that measures one's social influence.  They give you a score from 1 to 100 and then monitor the content you create or items you share and people's reaction to it.  The more you make and the more comments you receive the higher the score.

I'm not sure that's a valid assess of influence, however.  For example, will this post influence anyone?  I doubt it.  In fact, I have a hard time believing I influence anyone to do anything.  On the other hand, if I give an honest assessment of something, a software tool or a web site, for example, you are likely to believe me so long as I am unbiased. That could end up influencing you in some small way perhaps.

But if I make a pithy comment that generates lots of other comments, I don't see how I've influenced anyone at all and yet that is what Klout is targeting if I understand their site correctly.  Seems like a weak method for artificial intelligence.

Regardless, it is interested to watch and see if anything I do affect my score.  But it is like any other measure or score, a best guess.

Still, I was impressed by the number of social sites it takes into account.  Some I've not heard of.  As a result, I opened a foursquare account and have begun playing with that for a bit.  Not sure how important foursquare is exactly for my needs but I can experiment and see.

In the meantime, I'm planning to deliver the first third of Book 2 to the publisher for review next week.  And they apparently liked my storyboard for the book trailer.  "Very detailed," was the main comment.  I laughed.  For those who know me well, that's to be expected.  I am nothing if not thorough.

Keep writing, everyone.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Writing Novels is Like Owning a Small Business

I don't suppose this comes as a shock to everyone but I suddenly realized that writing and selling novels is like owning a small business.  I never really appreciated that until the other day.  I was giving my web site an overall when this thought popped into my head.

I wish I had realized this sooner.  I took no business courses in college.  I have little knowledge of running a business.  Still, I know a few things.  For example, I know I need to advertise my work.  That's what the  web site is for.  And the book trailer.  And what my Facebook Fan Page is for.

It is not why I blog.  That's to get my name out there.  Name recognition is a little different.  But I digress.

I suppose I should point out here that I don't have a book trailer yet.  I did the storyboards for it the other day.  The publisher liked it so we'll see what comes of that.

Like all businesses, I have inventory.  At the moment, these come in the form of my published work.  Since all my work is self-published, there is no warehouse with stories in it.  However, that will change when the publisher prints my first novel.

I also have inventory of unpublished work.  This ranges from work I'm holding for one reason or another to ideas that need developing.

And like all small business owner, I tend to mine on a regular basis.  Whether I'm revising of scene, writing a new chapter, following people on Twitter, or considering how to market my book, it all contributes to the business in a small way.

Eventually it should all add up into sales.  That's the hope and the goal but I can't be sure until the book is available for purchase.

Personally, I'm thinking that when the book trailer is posted, a lot more people will sit up and take notice.  I certainly hope so.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Job Security

I love writing.  I always have.  That's why I became a writer and why all these years later I'm still doing it.

I'm not like other writers.  Most focus on one type of writing -- creative fiction, technical instructions, scientific articles, journalism -- and that's their life.  I've always felt that to be writer I needed to explore all types of writing.  And that has kept me going when other writers grouse about have a dead-end job or a lack of advancement.

Yet I hear these concerns and agree with them.  In many ways writing is a dead-end job.  Advancement comes not with a promotion but with years of experience doing the job.  The young writer, the novice, makes mistakes that the seasoned writer does not.  The problem is we don't reward seasoned writers.  Hell, I'm not sure we even appreciate them.  This is why many people I know who started out as writers went on to other jobs.  And I understand why these people made those choices and changes.  But that's not for me.

Perhaps, I've too romantic a notion about what writers do to give it up.  After all, writers are responsible for much of our culture.  All the poetry and theatre of the ancient world was written down.  Even today, your favorite TV show (excluding reality TV, which by the way is the greatest insult to the public -- but that's another post ...) is written and scripted.

Through writing ideas are communicated, preserved, and passed along.  Characters come alive, reborn with each new reader.  News and information are also transmitted.  Yet writers are not exalted publicly the way athletes are.  I'd love to see a set of bubble gum cards with the faces of great writers on them.

But I digress.  The point here is that writers are responsible for more than people realize and yet they are undervalued.  Part of this, I suspect, is because we live in a visual society, one that is addicted to film and video and less on the written word.  That wasn't true as late as the 19th century.  But now with all the things bombarding us who can keep up with all the books we should read and follow all the sources of information we should track?

Where does that leave the writer in the future?  I don't know, but I'm glad I've been exploring all parts of the field.  It helps with what little job security there is.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Writer's Work is Never Done

I've been saying my work is never done as a variant on the one adage for years.  But it turns out to be true.  My publisher tells me they want to review Book 2 now.  I just sent them Book 1 for edits and such. And they want to see Book 2.

I really have to get moving then because it can't go the way it is; it's too messy.  And since it is over 100,000 words it will take me a bit of time to wade through it.  So much for a relaxing summer.

On the other hand, I really need the feedback on Book 2, but not so soon.  Guess, I'll stop tinkering with my web site and focus more on writing.  But my revision process can't be rushed.  It requires time so I can think about the scenes I'm revising.

I'm hoping they'll accept a partial submission.  I should have about the first twenty chapters revised soon.  If not, then they'll have to wait a bit because I really can't let the book out without one more revision on my part.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Software Review: Hootsuite

I've begun using Hootsuite to manage many of my posts to social media sites.  For those who don't know, Hootsuite is a web site that lets you aggregate your social media accounts into one place and then manage your posts to them.  It handles Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Foursquare, WordPress, MySpace, PingFm, and mixi.  It does not handle Blogger, Goodreads, Scribd, and a few other places I post content.  You can install an app so that you can integrate Digg, but Delicious, Pinterest, and Google + are missing completely.

Despite these limits, the site is good because it lets me manage Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  I started posting to LinkedIn about a week or so ago and people I know there have been responding to the posts.  Who knew that would work?

One nice feature of Hootsuite is I can schedule a post.  I've not used this feature but I assume it works.

I am using the free version.  If you want to pay money, you can get reports that analyze your effectiveness.  Frankly, I don't know that I need that.  I only started using Hootsuite to be more efficient with my time.  Now that I know I have a series of novels in my future, I wanted to be as efficient as I can be getting the word out.  If one post on Hootsuite covers the majority of the sites I need to cover, then that's a win. So is the Hootsuite app for my phone. It let me send updates as they occur to me or as my schedule permits.

And for the sake of completeness, let me also note that there are other applications that do much the same thing as Hootsuite.  Socialoomph is one.  TweetDeck is another.  I prefer Hootsuite because it seems more complete.  All it needs is connections to more sites.

Friday, May 4, 2012

It's Surreal

I've been having this surreal feeling more and more as the realization of what I've accomplished sinks in.  I've only had these feelings a few times in my life.  Once, while trying to get home from the graduate school, I called for a taxi to time me to the airport.  But the phone in my room wasn't ringing so I missed the call.  So I called back and they said they had called to confirm but got no answer.  So I hung up and about two minutes later I picked up the phone again, on a whim and the taxi company was on the line calling to confirm.  Now the phone hadn't rung I just picked up the phone.  And if I hadn't, I would've have missed my flight and very likely Thanksgiving with my family.

This is nothing like that time because it is the fulfillment of a dream.  I envisioned this moment since maybe I was 15 in high school and it turned out to be nothing like I imagined.  But after so much rejection (and I mean a lot) I figured I would never get the book published.  And yet ...

It is not often that I surprise myself.  Sometimes it happens when writing; I see something or make a connection that fits and it opens up a whole part of the story.  But in my daily life, it is far more rare.  In fact, I can't remember the last time I was surprised by what I did.  But having my book publishing has done it.

I'm sure this feeling will wear off but not for a while because I'm in a strange new world.  I've many new experiences ahead of me and I will be working with people that I barely know or who I've not met yet.  So it should be an interesting ride.

In the meantime, there are a few lessons from this whole process that I can now put into words.  But I'll save them for the next post, I think.

Keep writing, everyone.