Winter Wonderland

Our weather has taken an uptick the past couple days, which meant the start of a new holiday tradition: mini golfing! The kids had never been before, and they loved it.

I’ve also managed to get in a couple nice walks thanks to the cooperation of the weather:

1. “Stranded on a Sandbar” by Jimmy Buffett
2. “Argue” by Matchbox Twenty
3. “If I Could Give All My Love” by Counting Crows
4. “Bigger Than the Both of Us” by Jimmy Buffett
5. “Real World” by Matchbox Twenty
6. “Mrs. Rita” by Gin Blossoms
7. “Alison Road” by Gin Blossoms
8. “If You’re Gone” by Matchbox Twenty
9. “Unkind” by Tabitha’s Secret
10. “She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5
11. “I’m the Cat” by Jackson Browne

1. “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
2. “Heaven” by O.A.R.
3. “Love and Luck” by Jimmy Buffett
4. “Everything Will Change” by Gavin DeGraw
5. “It’s Not Right For You” by The Script
6. “Why Should I Cry For You” by Sting
7. “Rest Stop” by Matchbox Twenty
8. “Human” by The Killers
9. “All the Right Moves” by OneRepublic
10. “Luck” by American Authors

Yes, I know, a marked lack of holiday tunes. But for some reason “the cloud” won’t let me download my Andy Williams, and I never did upload my Bing Crosby or Jimmy Buffett’s Christmas Island. So the only Christmas song on my iPod is Rob Thomas’ “New York Christmas.” Which it played the other day in the car but otherwise has been MIA in rotation.

I do think it’s funny that I had “Fortunate Son” stuck in my head, and that was the first song my iPod pulled up today.

And my hawk friend joined me again today on my walk, too. I see him pretty regularly now. I take pictures, but WordPress is not letting me upload any for some reason, so I can’t share. Such a pain, and I’m not at all tech savvy, so . . . (I do also put them on Facebook, if you friend me there. Look me up as Amanda Langlinais Pepper. It’s a personal page, not an author page; I had an author page but couldn’t keep up with it, so I stick to this and Twitter for that stuff.)

Anyway, we’ve entered that Winter Wonder-wasteland in which one ceases to receive any email that isn’t the virtual version of a sales flyer. Sigh. I hope this doesn’t mean a cascade of rejections after New Year’s! In the meantime, I’ll try to enjoy the holiday break, even though I’m itching for [good] news.

Things We’re Sick Of

So in my last newsletter (and if you haven’t subscribed, you missed out, but you don’t have to—just sign up on the sidebar at the right) I listed a few things we all seem to be tired of:

1. Dystopian YA novels. (And the dystopian YA movies they spawn.)
2. Superhero movies. We may love some of them, but they’re all starting to look alike. They’re the fast food of film, and we’re starting to be hungry for a real meal.
3. Authors promoting other authors. It’s great that we want to help each other out, but it’s like preaching to the choir. And does having 20 blogs all reveal your cover on the same day really get you anything? Except people who are sick of seeing it after the fourth or fifth time?

Then I asked people to e-mail me what they’re sick of. The answers included:

1. Football. Even though the season has only just started! Well, and with all the bad news the NFL has been generating . . .
2. Click bait Facebook posts. You know the ones. They all end with “. . . and what happened next will amaze you!” (Or, alternatively, bring you to tears—but what’s bringing us to tears are all these damn posts.)
3. Quizzes on Facebook. Okay, I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for these things. Guilty as charged.
4. Facebook in general. Because so much of it has become ads, and the rest of it are quizzes and click bait. No one has anything interesting to say.

Honestly, I think we’ve come to a place where social media is all advertising and no content. And the advertisers are trying to make their ads look like content. That’s the latest thing. But—and I’ve said it before—the Internet has become a lot of people shouting and very few listening. It’s kind of depressing.

So, for those of you who didn’t get my newsletter or else didn’t e-mail: What are you sick of?

SFWC: Building a Web Presence

This session was run by Karma Bennett, Francis Caballo, and Anne Hill. I was hoping to learn some new stuff, but a lot of what they said seemed like common sense to me. Maybe this session was really aimed at older authors, people still trying to wrap their brains around all the newfangled technology and social media.

The first thing they said was basic encouragement: Believe you have a story worth telling, but don’t think you know everything. Be open to new information and to learning new things. Social media is meant to cultivate friendships and help you stay connected.

I don’t know if I entirely agree with that sentiment, since to me social media mostly seems like a lot of people standing in a room and each one is shouting, hoping to be heard over the others. But that’s the cynic in me talking. Certainly I have made a number of great online friends. And we’ve helped each other with our writing and in promoting each other’s work. It can be done.

The next thing the ladies told us was that if there is some kind of emergency that is going to take you offline for any length of time—if you’re going to be absent from your blog and Twitter and Facebook feeds—try to let your followers know. Because if they check your site every day, or even a couple times a week, and it seems abandoned, they’ll probably stop coming altogether. But if they know it’s only temporary, they’ll come back when you do.

And then they gave the usual spiel about how you shouldn’t only use your blog, or Twitter, or whatever social media you choose, to market and promote your work. In order to get people to read your blog or pay attention to your tweets (and maybe retweet them), you should “add value.” That’s a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, but it means you should have useful and interesting content on your site(s). They suggested that you only ever have about 20% personal stuff (and that includes stuff about your book) and the remaining 80% should be other content, which can include you promoting others’ works or whatever.

They all said Twitter was the best for marketing, though.

Facebook pages were badmouthed all weekend because Facebook makes it so difficult to reach fans. The algorithms are problematic; most of the people who have liked your page won’t see your posts unless they visit your page directly. This is because Facebook wants you to pay to advertise and to “boost” your posts.

It was suggested you post at least four times a day on Twitter, spaced widely apart so as to grab the most eyes. The “life” of a tweet is a mere two hours. So if you tweet something on Monday morning, consider tweeting it again come Wednesday afternoon and Friday evening. Space it out and cover a lot of various time slots. Else your tweet will just be lost.

That said, of course don’t just tweet the same thing(s) over and over. You need fresh content on a regular basis. For fiction writers it was suggested you blog or tweet about: other books, content related to whatever kind of writing you do (romance, sci-fi, whatever), pictures (but be sure to cite sources), whatever inspires your writing, what your writing process is, your characters’ backstories. You can probably think of more, but these are places to start.

Finally, be natural. Act like yourself. Don’t introduce yourself online and immediately try to sell your book. Would you walk up to someone new and say, “Hi, I’m So-and-So, buy my book!”? I hope not. Instead, get to know people. Interact. Leave regular blog comments so people start to recognize you online. Help others promote their work so when you’re ready they’ll be more likely to help you in return.

While this is stuff a lot of us may know already, I hope I’ve still “added value” to my site by sharing it—and the whole of the conference—with you!

Yea, Yay & Yeah

I just want to go over something with you guys. I love you all, but this keeps cropping up (mostly in FB posts), and it’s starting to peeve me. So let’s break down the differences between yea, yay, and yeah.

Yea (prn. “yay”) is used in the sense of it being the opposite of “nay.” Vote yea or nay. It is a formal version of “yes.” In the King James Bible, Jesus says, “Yea, verily,” a lot, meaning, “Yes, I very much emphasize [whatever it is he’s preaching at the moment].”

Yay should generally be followed with an exclamation mark. It’s short for “hooray” and is meant to denote excitement and/or pleasure at a turn of events.

Yeah is pronounced differently from the two above and is an informal version of “yes.” It also has many colloquial uses, such as in, “Oh, yeah?” (a substitute for, “Oh, really?”) and, “Oh, yeah!” (like the Kool-Aid guy says).

And as my geometry teacher used to say, “Clear as mud?” I used to laugh when he said that; all the other students just continued to look confused . . .

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve seen this error mostly in FB posts, which are hardly a bastion of good spelling and/or grammar. But I figure if we start here and spread the word, maybe people in general will become more aware of the appropriate spelling and usage of these three little words.

W4WS (Writers for Writers) & The Letter “M”

W4W-1

I’m honored to be one of the featured authors for W4WS. If you’re here to grab some Tweets or Facebook statuses to share, there is a selection of them below. Some are for my contemporary fantasy novel The K-Pro and some are for my novella St. Peter in Chains (which has been my A–Z theme for April). Thank you so much, fellow authors, for your support!

TWEETS FOR K-PRO

What can the girl who makes dreams come true give the man who has everything? THE K-PRO paperback & ebook: http://tinyurl.com/cdlnrgv #W4WS

Should Andra let sleeping gods lie? Or take a chance on setting one free? THE K-PRO #fantasy paperback & ebook http://tinyurl.com/cdlnrgv #W4WS

What David doesn’t know can hurt him . . . And others. THE K-PRO #fantasy ebook only 99 cents this week! http://tinyurl.com/cdlnrgv #W4WS

TWEETS FOR ST. PETER IN CHAINS

Intelligence agent Peter Stoller falls in love and faces the consequences. ST PETER IN CHAINS ebook http://tinyurl.com/cmht8nw #W4WS

It’s “Mad Men” meets John le Carre: ST PETER IN CHAINS ebook http://tinyurl.com/cmht8nw #W4WS

The screenplay won an award. Now read the novella: ST PETER IN CHAINS http://tinyurl.com/cmht8nw And look for the sequel in June! #W4WS

FACEBOOK STATUS UPDATES FOR THE K-PRO

Greek and Roman gods in human form infiltrate a modern-day movie set in this twist on the traditional fairy godmother/genie story. Beta readers likened it to “Neil Gaiman for girls.” THE K-PRO by M Pepper Langlinais. Read the first chapter free at http://thekpro.com – @Writers4Writers

Praise for THE K-PRO by M Pepper Langlinais: “A charming, well-written, well-plotted book” & “the characters are easy to fall in love with.” Visit M’s site at http://pepperwords.com for more! @Writers4Writers

FACEBOOK STATUS UPDATES FOR ST. PETER IN CHAINS

No one has ever made an impact on Peter’s heart the way Charles does. But what will be the ultimate cost? As an Intelligence agent, Peter’s work is sensitive—and secret. So when Charles is accused of espionage, Peter must decide whether to let his heart or head lead him. Read the novella from which the award-winning screenplay was adapted: ST PETER IN CHAINS by M Pepper Langlinais: http://tinyurl.com/cmht8nw And look for the sequel coming in June! @Writers4Writers

You’ve been reading their A–Z travel adventures on PepperWords.com. Now see how they met and fell in love. Just 99 cents on Amazon this week! ST PETER IN CHAINS by M Pepper Langlinais: http://tinyurl.com/cmht8nw And then be ready for the sequel in June! @Writers4Writers

Grab ’em and go! And thanks again!

Oh, and THE E-BOOK VERSION OF K-PRO & ST. PETER IN CHAINS ARE 99 CENTS ON AMAZON THROUGH FRIDAY!

Twitter Makes You Boring

I’ve come to the conclusion people were far more interesting before Twitter and Facebook allowed me to know every little thing they think and do. Take for example Neil Gaiman. I used to read his online blog/journal each day, always hoping for an update. And then he was on Twitter, so of course I had to follow him. And “like” him on Facebook. And then I quit going to his online site because I really didn’t have any reason to. And I began only skimming his tweets and mostly scrolling past his Facebook posts . . . Because suddenly he was everywhere and yet somehow not all that engaging.

Here is where celebrity breaks down, I think. The more access we have to “personalities” the more they become just people. Which is what most celebrities have said they want. “I’m just a regular guy!” But when we start seeing past them and through them, when they no longer get quite as much focus because the attention becomes diffuse . . .

True, some of them recoil at having to interact with the unwashed masses. (These are the ones who refuse to respond to fans—but then why have social media at all? Except a manager told them they should.) Still others panic and scramble, trying to stay in the spotlight. But the more they stay in our faces, the less we care. The truth is, no one has something interesting and profound to say every minute of every day. Not even the Dalai Lama. This celebrity idea of giving the world more of you (because that’s what the world professes to want, or it’s what the actor/author/singer likes to think the world wants) ends up backfiring. There IS too much of a good thing.

It’s important for anyone, celebrity or not, to cultivate the art of only speaking when one is sure, and when one has something truly useful and interesting to say. People learn to listen more closely when they know at least 90% of what exits your mouth will be relevant, or at the very least entertaining.

So don’t tweet and retweet every little thought that crosses your mind. And don’t post on Facebook something about stubbing your toe. Save all that up for a good blog post or something. Make it compelling in a way everyday life seldom is.

I’ve since quit following Neil on Twitter, and I’ve found this has caused me to begin visiting his online journal again; I check it once or twice a week. Suddenly he’s far more interesting again. Quality versus quantity and all that.

Facebook & Twitter

Today I was out for a bit, and when I got back to my desk, I found myself thinking, It’s gonna take forever to catch up with my Twitter feed now.

And then I had to ask myself: what difference does it make?

It would be one thing if I received major information from Twitter. And while I do follow a lot of people in my industry and a few news sites, it’s mostly people I don’t know and have never met. Or friends who, if it were something really important, would send an actual e-mail or call me. (Except my closest friends wouldn’t really call me because they know I hate telephones and mostly refuse to use them. So they’d text instead.)

So what, then, was I so in a hurry to catch up on? I really don’t know.

The same seems to be true of Facebook, though the dynamics are different. On Twitter, one collects a rag-tag group of people, usually based on shared interests or occupation. You may or may not know the majority of the people on your feed. (You have to love that they call it a “feed,” as if you’re being spooned it, or even having it shoved down your throat. Or maybe it’s more of an intravenous thing.) Facebook, however, is for people you know. Or used to know. Or had a passing acquaintance with a decade ago. Or that friend of a friend you met at a party and, because you weren’t sure whether you’d ever run into them again, you accepted their friend request to keep them from feeling rejected and talking bad about you to mutual buddies.

Of course, I have a personal Facebook account and then my professional page. That’s something else again.

Anyway, regardless of whether it’s Facebook or Twitter or some other social media site, the bottom line seems to be that the founders of these sites have created a “fear of missing out” in society at large. And so people check in repeatedly, partly to avoid falling behind or getting buried under a few million updates, but in large part to feel like they’re participating in something. A broad conversation of some kind perhaps. Except there’s precious little back-and-forth. It’s like having a bunch of people standing in a room, each shouting something different. A “retweet” is the equivalent of someone actually having heard what you said and sparing a second to shout it, too, before going back to whatever they were yelling about before. Some people are louder—celebrities, you know—but it more or less amounts to the same regardless.

I was thinking about what I used to do before I had Twitter and Facebook to check every hour or so, and I’m guessing I was probably more productive. Or focused, rather. I think I produce the same quantity of work as ever (maybe even more), but it takes me longer because of my frequent social media breaks.

I’m not saying Twitter or Facebook or these other sites are bad. If I thought that, I wouldn’t use them. (Well, no, I probably would; they’ve shown in studies these things are addictive.) But it helps to take a step back and really think about what we give and get from them. From Twitter I get the sense that I’m not alone in my work and endeavors. But I also sometimes get the feeling others are doing so much better than I am that I can get depressed for a couple days at a time, thinking I’m a failure. That’s not helpful; I must guard against it. From Facebook I have the satisfaction of finding out what happened to that guy I went to high school with. It’s sort of a reunion without the awkward dancing and bad punch. And you can decide who attends. It’s also a way to keep in touch with family members who live far away and/or those you wouldn’t normally bother to write a letter to (distant cousins, great-aunts). In that case, it’s a reunion without them getting drunk and fighting before they pass out on the lawn. Not at all a bad thing, though it removes some of the human touch. No number of posts reading “((hug))” can stand in for actual contact.

I resolve, then, seeing as we are coming toward the end of the year and resolutions are on the horizon (and I have a whole other discussion about the arbitrariness of calendar years as “new starts” but that’s something else again), to be less worried about what I might miss when I’m away from my MacBook or iPhone. If it’s something I really need to know, the information will find its way to me one way or another. If I’m not first to know, well, a decade ago or so I wouldn’t have been, either, and so what? Ignorance really is sometimes bliss. And some things I can go my whole life without knowing . . . It’s not as if I’d be the wiser.

Now you must excuse me because @big_ben_clock is about to tell me the time . . .

Negative “Fans”

Anne Rice is having an interesting sort of discussion with her Facebook followers about how the Internet world enables obsessive negative “fans” to launch sustained attacks against authors they dislike. Rice asks the question, “Why bother?”

Authors deal with a lot of criticism; it’s part of the package when putting your work out there. In a way, criticism is good. For one thing, an open-minded author might learn a thing or two, or at least have something to think about when reading reviews of his or her work–whether the reviews be good or scathing. And of course you’ve heard that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. People criticizing your work means someone is reading your work. Always a good thing. And even hurtful reviews might garner interest, so that other people are tempted to read your work themselves and form their own opinions.

Okay, but then there are these singular individuals (though the bigger the author, the more of these there seem to be) who make it a sort of mission to berate an author’s work. These are the negative fans Rice talks about. These are the people who send letters and e-mails to the author detailing everything that’s wrong with every book–even if the fan hasn’t read them. Not one letter but dozens or even hundreds. The fan might also write about the author’s personal life, might take the author to task for any number of his or her life choices and so on. This person starts websites that are designed to slam the author, they go on chat boards and leave nasty comments, or they write long-winded Amazon.com reviews about how awful the books and the author are.

“Why bother?” Rice asks, and there are as many reasons why a person might do this as there are people who do do it. Some people simply can’t stand to see something they disagree with succeed; they have a sort of allergic reaction to what becomes popular and mainstream. They feel a need to show they are different, somehow more selective (elite) than the average person. Some of them–I’m sure in Rice’s case–have “religious” reasons for antagonizing a writer whose books they feel are somehow agents of evil. Some of them like the idea that they have a platform and are getting attention. It gratifies something inside them.

I studied fan psychology as part of my screenwriting degree (that probably seems strange, but there’s actually only so much screenwriting one can do in college, so I had to have an additional focus). As a fan myself, I found it interesting on a variety of levels. And certainly, as Rice posits, the Internet has made it all that much easier to latch on to something, whether it be pro or con. It’s easy to start a site or a blog, easy to search and find others who like or dislike something or someone, easy to form or join groups, etc. But the flip side is that there’s that much more for authors to sift through, too, and what’s funny is how these negative fans start to feel like they’ve made a connection when, realistically, the author they are hounding may or may not have noticed at all. Or even if she’s noticed, it’s just as easy to discount the ravings of one person online in the clamor of all the other “voices.” So while the Internet works for the negative fan, it also works against him.

I should know, since I spent a year writing letters to Rob Thomas and Matchbox Twenty on my old site Letters to Rob. I did it as a lark, mind you, not because I really had any particular beef to pick with any of them. In fact, I very much like their music (as unpopular as that makes me with my friends). It’s strange because you have to really like something or someone–or want to like them–to be able to feel betrayed by them. So negative fans must have had some expectation that was not met, some disappointment, in order to generate the kind of hostility involved. Though sometimes the perceived betrayal is that a friend, or many friends, or the whole world likes something that the negative fan cannot embrace, and so that person lashes out in frustration. The fan feels misunderstood and wants to enumerate the reasons he or she cannot be brought into the fold, the circle of fandom, that everyone else seems to inhabit.

I didn’t read Harry Potter for a long time, even though everyone else was insisting it was wonderful, I must read it, etc. And of course the more people told me I had to, the less I wanted to. But I didn’t start writing letters to J.K. Rowling about how she was ruining the world with her stupid wizard books. (I’m sure someone did, but it wasn’t me.) The negative fan that takes that extra step–some kind of switch flips inside them and they feel that need to go after whatever or whoever is irking them. Whether it’s that “God told them to” or they just hate that something or someone is more successful than they are–these fans are the people who often say they “could have written something better”–who knows? I would tell them not to waste such energy in fighting someone who has no interest in fighting them. I would tell them that if they really could write something better, do it. Why not try to be successful in your own right instead of detracting from someone else’s shine.

But as ever, it’s easier to ride the coattails of someone else’s hard work. These negative fans are still riding the author’s train, even if they are sitting in the very back.