Sunday, August 24, 2014

Playing the Hate Card

It seems to me you can't turn on the TV, open the paper, or click on your favorite news web page without seeing hate everywhere. I'm not going to mention particular countries, counties, or cities, but you all know where I mean. I live near one such place and it's disturbing. As a writer who tries to understand all sides of the issue, I can see the point the different sides are trying to make. I don't agree with the tactics of how any of them are handling the situation, but that's another issue.

What bothers me the most is the conclusion I've come to: every child everywhere is taught to hate someone. Yes! Even the most open-minded, kindhearted parents and teachers and mentors teach hate every day.

I said it.

I mean it.

Watch me prove it.

We start out our journey as little children learning opposites. Up and down. Left and right. Yes and no. It is part of the learning process of the brain to start dividing things into categories so we can understand what fits and what doesn't. That's how the brain works.

The next step is more subtle. We learn that one of those two things is BETTER than the other. Up is almost always better than down. Right historically has always had a better connotation than left. Yes is soooo much better than no.

When master these two concepts--categorization and elevation--and start combining them, then we start applying that code of learning to EVERY ASPECT of our lives. That's part of the learning process as well: applying past learning methods to new situations.

When we encounter new people--different people--we start categorizing them. Notice the word "them." I've already done it. I've already put someone in a category. I've already placed a barrier between me and my potential opponent. How awful! That someone, that PERSON, could have been the best friend I've ever had, yet because of the way my brain works in categorizing "same and different," "us and them," I've made someone a "them." I've just played the hate card out of my life deck.

Whoa there, Cannon! You didn't say you hated them. You just said you put them in a different group than your own.

Yes, but that's how it starts. When we see people as groups, as stereotypes, as masses, we forget that each individual is...well...an individual. When we forget that, we start down the path of hate.

We all have a life deck of cards in our virtual hands. We have plenty of cards we can play in the game as we meet, greet, love, and learn. Why do so many people choose to play the hate card again and again?

  1. It's an easy play. You always "win" if you hate first, because you feel you have the power over the other person. Little do you realize you're wasting your cards because hate only breeds hate back.
  2. Hate garners attention. How many celebrities have flocked to certain places this past week to get their share of the attention? They don't care about the cause. They want the eyes. The accolades.
  3. Loving others is hard work. Helping others takes time, money and resources. Getting to know a person as a person is much more difficult than simply hating them and everything they represent.
Notice, my friends, I haven't mentioned any sides, any colors, any affiliations, any religions, or any political parties in this post. Every single person in this world--including me--is guilty of playing the hate card. It's horrible and I wish as a HUMAN RACE we could grow up and realize that up and down, left and right, yes and no does not apply to placing people into categories where we judge the character of their person by the groups they affiliate with or the color of their skin or the departments they work for or the political party they choose to vote for or which religion they choose.

What does this have to do with writing? EVERYTHING.

As a writer I want to change the world. I want my books to show people that stereotypes CAN be broken. That the norm ISN'T the norm and that's a good thing. I want happy endings and hope and even in the darkest hour, I want someone to believe they are not alone. 

People are people. Get to know them. They might surprise you.

It's time to become an adult, world. Revise your thinking.

Any other reasons you can think of that people play the hate card? I'd love to hear from you.


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Next main course on Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold: 
Sci/Fi vs. Fantasy: YES, there IS as Difference!

Also look for my articles on Walrus Publishing’s website. 

Like Ghost Stories? I’m published in Rocking Horse Publishing’s






Sunday, August 17, 2014

When Reality and Fantasy Have a Baby...

Why is it that some of us prefer to read science fiction and fantasy over literary or modern fiction? Why are we not satisfied with the weird of the every day? Seriously, some of the real-life stories out there are pretty strange. Like the teacher who showed up drunk and took off her pants on the first day of her job. (Yeah. True story.) Or the epic shipwreck in 1997 that sent millions of Aquazone Legos (including octopuses [octopodes if you get Greek on me] and dragons) into the ocean which are now washing ashore in all sorts of crazy places. (Talk about ironic!) And what about the man who tried to impersonate superman by flying on a mattress? (Scroll down to Redneck Chronicles. Does that surprise you?)

For some of us, real-life strange isn't strange enough. Fiction escapism doesn't take us far enough away from the drudgery or misery or depression of our lives. We need space ships and wizards, hortas and fairies, stargates and unicorns to set our hearts on fire and our souls on a path of literary ecstasy.

But why?

I have theory. And it isn't bunnies. (Sorry. Had to.)

Those of us who think out of the box also need to imagine out of the box. Those of us who are seeking more out of this life than a 9-5 job, a life-mate, kids, and a mortgage want MORE out of our reading material, too. Science fiction and fantasy provide not only hyperbolic settings that ramp up the emotion, the visual impact, and the action, they also spur us to think deeply about the heart of the human condition. We question ourselves, our society, and our culture through science fiction and fantasy whereas in traditional "literature" it's not as layered. (Although it can be. Don't get me wrong. Great fiction writers *can* do it, but most modern writers don't. That's my point.)

What do you think? What's your theory as to why many of us choose sci/fi and fantasy over literary or modern fiction? I'd love to see your comments.

Revise my thinking. I'm open for opinions.

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Next main course on Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold: 
Playing the Hate Card

Also look for my articles on Walrus Publishing’s website. 

Like Ghost Stories? I’m published in Rocking Horse Publishing’s




Sunday, August 10, 2014

Writer's Platform Part IV: Blog Niche Blues

So...as all the resource books will tell you, writer's platform is the key to getting noticed if you're going to be marketable among the myriad of media available. (Oooh. Alliteration!) In previous blog posts I've discussed public presence and web presence. In this installment, I'm going to tackle publishing presence including what to put in your blog.

This week's resource suggestion, APE: How to Publish a Book (Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur), is a free PDF download if you can find it on special, $10 on Kindle (and worth it) if you buy it off of their website, but you can also buy the hardback, or audio book. This concise manifesto gives you the down-and-dirty basics of what program to use/how to set up your text to write your book, what resources to use to publish your book, and how to sell your book. It has a huge section on platform. It's one of the shortest I've read but like Strunk and White's Elements of Style short packs an awesome punch. I'd recommend this one especially to those of you who want to go straight self-pub instead of indie or trying to snag a bigger publisher. Straight self-pubing is a tough road, but if you follow their advice and work hard, you will see results.

In the mean time, for those of us who are still building, building, building that platform, there's a third component most people don't think about: publishing presence.

Wait a minute! I thought platform was supposed to HELP me get published!?!

Yes, true. Platform is to help you get the major novel, major screenplay, major ???? published. Along the way, though, you have to prove you can put letters together in logical order to make words, then put those words into logical order to make sentences. Add logical punctuation. Throw in a little plot. Scenery for the visually-driven reader. Characters are nice. A few literary devices if you like. Post-modern questioning of truth. References to Shakespeare, Weird Al, or the New York Times. (Personally, I like to add Princess Bride quotes.) Then some of that has to get seen by the public and vetted by some publisher or contest. Make sense?

The following is what I have done so far. No, I'm not saying this is THE way or the BEST way. It has worked for me, it might work for you, or it might give you ideas that will help you. That's the point.

For the past few years, at least 12-20 times a year, (about once or twice a month as the opportunity arises) I've entered a contest, written an article for publication, or submitted a story for publication. I've received a HUGE number of rejections. I've decided to create a quilt (you can transfer paper designs into iron-ons) with all of them so when I'm a famous novelist I can snuggle up in it and take comfort in the fact that I didn't let the nay-sayers win. They'll get to keep me warm! Hehe.

Anyway, from all that effort, I have a nice selection of fiction and non-fiction publications I can show to any agent, publisher, fellow writer, reader, etc. to prove that yeah, I can write and yeah, I'm decent at it. And I've listed them on my website for all to see, some with links where you can read the stories: Writing Credits

That's all well and good, but writers also need publishing credits that reach out and touch more than just a few people that find their website or pick up the anthology where they're published. They need (evil sounding music) A BLOG!

Yes, for some people, a blog can be intimidating. However, consider these facts:

  • A blog that is consistently published will keep your name in the minds of your readership.
  • A well-written blog will attract more readers because of word of mouth (or clicking and sharing. ;-) ).
  • Sometimes you the writer need a break from writing on your main project and a blog is a great way to do that.
  • A blog is a published artifact. Yeah, seriously. If you post something online, it's published.
  • You can share your expertise through a blog. You learn more from teaching than from listening!
The question remains, how do you pick your topic?

That is one of the biggest hurdles to jump. With so many blogs out there, how do you pick your niche? How do you make yours unique? How do you platform your platform? (Whoa! Yeah, that's what you're doing.)

Here are a few things to consider when trying to pick you blog niche:
  • Pick a topic that is of interest to YOU. If you have no passion for the topic, you won't want to write about it.
  • HOWEVER, your topic should provide content for the reader. They don't care about your vacations, what your children drew, your grandchild's first words, or your "writer's journey." Give your readers something they can use or information that makes them think. (It's okay to mention some of the above so people get to know you on a personal level, but don't write an entire blog post about your life.)
  • The topic does NOT have to be directly related to your book. Some people choose tangents related to their book, some people don't. The key is to choose a topic that excites you AND provides something useful to your readers.
  • The topic should be FOCUSED and have a unique point of view. "Cooking" is not a good blog topic. You can find literally thousands of blogs on cooking. However, if you wanted to start a blog on Japanese/Southern American Fusion cooking, THAT would be unique. (By the way, I did a quick search and didn't find one, so, if you're interested, go for it!)
  • Once you think you have a topic you want to blog on, do some research. Are there blogs out there on that topic? If so, how can you spin yours so you can approach it differently?
After you have your topic, then you have to decide on how often to post. Make a schedule and STICK TO IT! Once a day, once a week, or once a month, but be consistent.

Then how do you come up with content? Find books on the topic and review them. Find people who know about the topic and interview them. Make lists. Explain how to do something. Write a series of blogs on one topic so you get people coming back for more. You can find more content by asking yourself, "What would I want to know about this topic?" and Googling your keywords.

Study successful blogs that are similar to yours. What type of content do they include? What do they NOT include? Here's a successful music blog by Swiss composer Adrian von Ziegler. Here is a popular agent's blog that helps writers, often on what NOT to do: Pub Rants. Like to read opinion columns? Here's a guy who's not afraid to share his even if you don't agree: Matt Walsh. Whether or not you like the websites, they are all popular because they've targeted their market, provided solid content, and stayed consistent.

How do you know when you are starting to have a successful blog? I've seen the term "1,000 subscriber milestone" bandied about on several websites. Not "viewers" but "subscribers." This is a daunting number, and it does seem to be more of a wall at times, but if you can get 1,000 committed people to view your blog every time you post, it's likely you're going to grow exponentially faster after that.

Am I at 1,000 yet? No. Not even close. ;-) But I will tell you that I've doubled my hits and my subscribers in the last couple of months simply by using the programs already know more efficiently and expanding my horizons to keep things fresh. 

By focusing on all THREE pillars of platform--public, publishing, and web presence--I've balanced my pre-writing career on a steady foundation. I'm almost ready to go. Now all I have to do is publish the book. 

Oh. Did I mention I'm getting ready to do just that? 

Shadow of Redemption, where monsters under the bed protect children and tooth fairies are no longer settling for leftovers, is still in editing and will be sent to my beta readers early next year. I'm so excited! Stay tuned.



Revision. It works for fairy tales, too. Bwahahaha!

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Next main course on Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold: 
When Reality and Fantasy Have a Baby...

Also look for my articles on Walrus Publishing’s website. 

Like Ghost Stories? I’m published in Rocking Horse Publishing’s



Sunday, August 3, 2014

Writer's Platform Part III: Web Presence

The past few weeks I've been blogging about writer's platform: how we writers can stand out in the midst the crowd so people know our name, know our "brand" (genre/quirks/unique qualities), and know that we have a product worth buying, i.e. our books, stories, presentations, etc. I've also been listing resources you can consult for more information.

This week's resource is Christina Katz's Get Known Before the Book Deal. In plain, easy to understand steps she explains what platform is, how to build one, and gives lots of great advice. She's also written a number of other helpful books and offers writing services from her website. I met her at a conference and she's another very personable, helpful writer that knows her business! One of her big topics is a web presence.

A web presence is usually what people think of when the term "writer's platform" is mentioned. That's only one piece of the puzzle. You also benefit from having a public presence and a publishing presence which I've discussed in previous blog posts (links above).

In this post, I'm going to briefly tackle that huge monstrosity we call a web presence, then run away and hide. Why? Because building and maintaining a web presence is not only overwhelming, it's time consuming and a little dangerous. (cue flashback music)

Three years ago I was teaching Internet safety to children. (I still am, but that's off topic.) One of the things I stressed to them was the importance of keeping their identities and pictures OFF off the Internet. Everything is traceable. Everything is permanent. Every clue you leave is one more piece of the puzzle that Internet predators can use to track you down, find you, kidnap you, and hurt you. Do not start a Facebook page. Do not share your email address with strangers. Do not chat with people you don't know. Never, under ANY circumstances, agree to meet Internet friends in public. And on and on....

And the good teacher I was, I modeled my lesson. You could search for HOURS on the Internet and not find my phone number, my address, my name, my email address.... I had purposefully kept everything off of the public record and intended to keep it that way.

Until...

Lo and behold I went to a writer's conference and I found out that if I wanted to be successful, I had to (cue scary music) THROW myself onto the spit of Internet and roast my screaming carcass as often and as fast as possible over the fires of social media if I were to be taken seriously as an author. There was this thing called "platform" I was supposed to be building and so far, I had next to nothing.

Terrified yet determined, I started with mincing baby steps onto hot coals, then jumping over pits of flame, juggling fiery batons, and even tried breathing fire. I have asthma. That didn't end well. But over three years the process continued until I gradually felt more comfortable in the heat of the spotlight and knew what and how much information to put out there so I could both remain safe yet findable. It's a delicate balance.

So what was I doing? First I started a Facebook account and learned how to use that as a marketing tool rather than a time waster. Then I tried Twitter and found I'm not a Twit. (It works for some people but not for me.) Initially I failed to attract attention with my blog, but eventually I learned how to do it RIGHT and now I've learned how to double and sometimes triple my hits by picking the right topics and the right audiences. I started a web page. I surf and use Google+ communities (LOVE Google+!) Recently I've been dabbling with LinkedIn. And that's just the tip of the iceberg of what's available for authors to use to build platforms. Other possibilities include:

  • Instagram
  • Pintrest
  • Flickr
  • Tumblr
  • Vlogs/YouTube
  • Book review sites
  • Genre specific chat/web sites
  • ...and others too numerous to list

Now the question is, after having NO web presence three years ago, what have I accomplished?

When I go to Google.com and type in "Janet L. Cannon writer", the first five websites feature something I wrote: articles for the independent press I work for (Walrus Publishing), a guest blog I wrote for a cool website that supports writers (WOW! Women on Writing), my personal website, and an Amazon.com review I wrote that got a lot of "this was helpful" clicks. There's also a sixth entry later on of a post from a chat website about science fiction and fantasy.

If you click on images, the first two are my picture and on the first page are SIX other images from my blog and my website, some picked up from re-postings of my blog from my Google+ followers.

You get different results if you type in different variations of my name, but I still get at least two or three top entries in both web and images in all cases.

Wow.

Does it take three years to build a platform so that you're the top five listings in Google? No. Absolutely not. I made a bunch of mistakes including the fact I wasn't consistent with my name. I didn't put as much time into it as I could have, and I had no idea what SEO (Search Engine Optimization) was until recently. However, this is still not an overnight affair. You're building personal relationships. You're learning new programs and new protocols. (I got a post deleted last week due to the fact I didn't read the fine print. Ouch! It happens!) Learning takes time. You're looking at six months to a year depending on what you already have in place.

Don't let that depress you. Let it spur you to work hard to prove me wrong. ;-) Google yourself right now. Write down or print the results so you know where you stand. Then start by looking at what media you're using now to figure out how to optimize your results:
  • Do you have a Facebook account? Start using it as a marketing tool instead of a time waster. How? #1: QUIT PLAYING GAMES. Sorry, but seriously, I know from experience how much time I've wasted playing stupid games on my tablet that I could have been using productively. If you need brain breaks, find something short and sweet and TIME yourself so you can get back to work ASAP. #2. Write short paragraphs, post motivational posters or pictures that fit with how you want others to see you i.e. your "brand" so that people start to view you as a unique individual, not just another person on Facebook. I like motivational posters about running because I'm a runner, but they also apply to writers and life events, too, so I pick posters that apply to a number of people. I also post silly things about myself so people can laugh and pictures of me so people can identify with me as a person.
  • Do you have an e-mail account? RIGHT NOW you need to go to Settings and add a Signature with your author name, contact information (preferred e-mail address, web address if you have it, Facebook account if you have it, links to any books you've published, organizations you belong to, etc.) This is one of the BEST ways to advertise yourself.
  • Do you have a web page? If not, make it your goal to set one up in the next six months. You can pay to have someone do it for you, but with free services like Wix and Weebly, for most folks, you don't need all the bells and whistles.
  • Do you have a blog? If not, start one. This article from PC Magazine might help get you started choosing a service. Most of them are free. (Don't pay for a blog!) Make a commitment to post on a regular schedule and STICK TO IT. You may only be able to post once a month, but post once a month. What should your topic/niche be? THAT'S in next week's blog. ;-)
What about other options? Here's my advice for whatever it's worth. About 80% of your time, spend it on maximizing your results with what you're already using. About 15% of the time, try something a little out of the box but not so much so that you feel stressed about it. Then every few months (5% of the time) try something crazy just for kicks and see what kind of results you get. It might work, it might not. However, that 5% will help you expand your comfort zone so you can get better results in your other categories.

And guess what? It's okay to fail. I tried Twitter and totally bombed. I hated it. I didn't understand it. The interface bothered me. The feed of information was too fast. Overall it didn't fit with how my brain works. So I quit. And I STILL succeeded in building a great platform. So don't feel bad if you try something, hate it, and try something else. That's okay and natural and the only way you're going to learn what works for YOU and what doesn't.

One more thing: don't trust offers to sell you "likes" or "viewers." Yes, they will most likely produce people to click the button and inflate the numbers on your pages, but will those people come back again to view your content or are they only going to click the button once and collect their money?

In conclusion: a web presence for your writer's platform doesn't happen overnight but some of you have more of a foundation to build on than others. Optimize what you already have then step out of your comfort zone to make it bigger and taller. A tall platform is one of the best ways to get noticed by readers AND by agents and publishers!

Revision. It's not just for writing.

(Oh, and BTW, do you like my new background? I'm learning how to use PhotoShop. I call this piece "Underwater Susans." PhotoShop is the ultimate in Revision, don't you think?)


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Next main course on Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold: 
Writer's Platform Part IV: Blog Niche Blues

Also look for my articles on Walrus Publishing’s website. 

Like Ghost Stories? I’m published in Rocking Horse Publishing’s




Sunday, July 27, 2014

Writer's Platform Part II: Public Presence

Last week I started a series on writer’s platform based on a breakout session I presented at a conference. (See this link for last week's article.) One of my resources was The Shy Writer Reborn by C. Hope Clark. I had the pleasure of meeting this amazing lady at two conferences and spoke with her for several minutes at one of them. She is a master at public platform despite the fact she is an extreme introvert (as many of us writers are!) and has successfully built herself a quiet little empire with public appearances, Funds for Writers--a newsletter that helps writers find contests, grants, conferences, etc.--her Facebook network and so much more. For those of you who have the introvert gene in spades, this is a book to help you work past that fear to bolster your public presence.

Because, you see, public presence is a key element of platform that a lot of writers don’t want to deal with. Or they don’t think it’s as important as a web presence. I beg to differ. If you’ve ever been in sales or known anyone in sales they’ll tell you: person to person contact is the BEST way to close a deal, NOT calling, emailing, sending reminder fliers, etc.

My job as an educator has forced me to adopt an extrovert persona. I admit that it is a persona. When I’m in public and I’m “on,” I’m bubbly, friendly, I joke around, I make sure to introduce myself to everyone and make myself stand out in the crowd. “Life of the party” comes to mind. However, after a few hours of that, my “social energy” is depleted and I need some alone time to recharge. It isn’t that I’m not bubbly, friendly, and a punster in private, but I have to work harder to do so when in large groups of people I don’t know or don’t know well. This public persona is necessary for my writer's platform when I teach, when I present workshops, when I attend club meetings, and when I socialize so others see me and get to know me. Remember, writer's platform is a stage you build to stand above the crowd so others easily find you among the myriad of other choices, so when I'm out in public, I'm on stage whether I like it or not!

And as Hope Clark’s book will tell you, this public presence is essential to building your platform strong and steady. You have numerous options including:

  • Teaching classes 
  • Presenting workshops at conferences 
  • Recording radio or TV spots/commercials 
  • Writing for local magazines/newspapers 
  • Writing your own newsletter 
  • Joining local clubs and/or holding leadership positions 
  • Joining writing clubs and/or holding leadership positions 
  • Getting to know more people 
This list isn’t a limit and you shouldn’t try to go out and do all of them THIS WEEK. Goodness! We have lives to live right? Pick one that’s just out of your comfort zone, get that one generally mastered, then start on the next.

Does this work? Yes. And here’s an example.

I’m a member of a runner's club in my area. I meet different groups and run with them. I shop at the locally-owned runner's store. (They are, by the way, much better than the chain stores in every way, shape and fashion, but I am a little biased. When you walk in and EVERY employee knows your name, THAT'S customer service. Or it means I buy too much. But I digress.) During my runs and while I'm socially hanging out with runners, we talk about anything and EVERYTHING including the fact I'm a writer. No topic is taboo. Nothing. It's kinda like Vegas, though. What's discussed (and what happens) on a run stays on the run. And if you're a runner, this will make you smile because you know exactly why.

I hang out at races and cheer on everyone, not just my friends. That's the kind of community we have in this area. As a mid-packer (someone who is faster than the average bear but not someone particularly speedy) and someone who's injury prone, sometimes I'll show up at a race and merely take pictures to post for everyone else.

I'm also a member of the local Facebook page for runners in my area. I post several times a week about running. Sometimes I post silly things, sometimes I post articles, sometimes I mention the fact that I’m a writer. I NEVER try to sell anything because that’s not the point of the page. They would kick me off. But the things I post are intended to fit the brand--the persona--I wish to show the community.

What do I get out of this besides a whole bunch of new friends, a great support group for my running (and my mental stability! LOVE THOSE GUYS AND GALS!), and new shoes every six months? (I swear I pay more for shoes that women with closets full of designer stilettos.)

A few weeks ago I walk into that locally-owned running store to sign up for a race and a TOTAL STRANGER comes up to me and asks, “Are you Janet Cannon the writer?”

I nearly passed out.

Because I am part of the community of runners, I was recognized for my platform. Yes, part of it was from Facebook, but if I hadn’t had that public aspect of hanging out with runners, I don’t think she would have recognized or talked to me.

Public presence is ESSENTIAL to your writer’s platform.

Now your job is to find ways to expand your public presence. You already have something. What can you do to build on it? Are there clubs that fit your interest? Are you an expert at something and can write articles or record a radio or TV interviews? Are you willing and able to share your expertise at a local career center? Are there other ways you can think of to expand your circle of influence?

There are literally thousands of ways you can start putting your name in people’s minds so that when your book is finally published, they’ll see it, think, “I know that person!” and buy it BECAUSE THEY KNOW YOU.

People judge a book by its cover and a person by their public persona. Do you need to revise yours?

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Next main course on Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold: 
Writer's Platform Part III: Publishing Presence



Also look for my articles on Walrus Publishing’s website. 
Currently: Adverbaholics Anonymous


Like Ghost Stories? I’m published in Rocking Horse Publishing’s


Sunday, July 20, 2014

High Heeled Shoes, Oil Rigs, and Writers, Part I

I'll admit, I'm a little exhausted this week. After a few days of physical illness, an all-day writers' conference that I helped coordinate, a 14 mile run, and a migraine headache, I'm ready for a few days of rest. This is my last week before I have to start seriously planning for the fall semester of teaching, so I'm going to enjoy it.

That means I'm going to take Chuck Sambuchino's advice and steal from myself for the next three weeks. For those of you who don't know, Chuck is a successful author, speaker, and edits for Writer's Digest. I met him at a writers' conference this year. Really nice guy and someone you should listen to if you're a writer. Why? Because he's a VERY successful writer. He didn't get that way overnight: he worked for it. He built his platform from the ground up and he knows his business. He even wrote a book about it which I reviewed in the newsletter for our state writers' guild. It's called Create Your Writer Platform. My only quibble is the numbering is off from the table of contents to the actual pages, but it's close enough you can find what you're looking for. It's probably an update and no one thought to update the TOC. Go figure.

In any case, I used this book and a couple of others to do a presentation on creating a writer's platform for the conference I helped coordinate. In that presentation I came to the following conclusions:

1. A writer's platform is a stage you build to stand above the crowd so others easily find you among the myriad of other choices.

2. A writer's platform is constructed of three basic parts: your public presence, your publishing presence, and your web presence.

3. If you don't start building your platform early--as in months to years before your book is published--you won't have a leg to stand on for publicity and marketing when you book does launch.

So in the next couple of weeks I'll be sharing parts of my presentation with you and hopefully you'll find the information helpful. The books I used as references, at least, should be full of gold. I don't get any royalties off of selling them, but I do like to pass along helpful information.

Buy Chuck's book. Read it. Follow his advice. It helped me triple my blog hits in three months. I had to work for it, but that's when you know you're doing something right.

If something's not working, revise what you're doing. Who says jumping horses mid-stream is a bad idea?

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Next main course on Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold: 
Building Writer Platforms Part II




Also look for my articles on Walrus Publishing’s website. 
Currently: Adverbaholics Anonymous

Like Ghost Stories? I’m published in Rocking Horse Publishing’s Spirits of St. Louis: Missouri Ghost Stories. Check it out!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Gender Issues: SF vs. Fantasy

Okay, so, nerd that I am, I’m perusing through my copy of the 1998 version of The Encyclopedia of Fantasy by John Clute and John Grant (Don’t judge. You know some of you do it, too.) and found the following entry:


“GENDER: Fantasy as a genre is generally perceived as more hospitable to women than SCIENCE FICTION and HORROR, and more flexible in the choices it offers than historical fiction or romance, yet the standard patriarchal bias imposes limitations which are seldom subverted or even questioned. Whereas sf as the potential to question gender roles and try to envision new ways of living, fantasy looks to the past, seeking out patterns and archetypes.” (Clute and Grant p. 393)


Hmmm. Interesting. I’d never thought of looking at the genres that way. In fact, my first thought was to disagree and say modern speculative fiction on all spectrums has opened up to all sorts of new views. Some I agree with, some I don’t, some more mainstream than others. Especially with the boom in self- and indie publishing, my instinct is strong female characters are making a charge to the forefront of literature.


Twenty to thirty years ago it was difficult to find strong female characters in either sf or fantasy. You could find them if you looked, though.


All of Anne McCaffrey’s female characters, although some might argue a little stereotypical, were strong. Her books (mostly in one universe, by the way) are sometimes more “science fantasy” than science fiction. Dragons? Yeah, genetically modified lizards bred to telepathically bond with and fly around with a human. Cool. Did she look to the past for patterns and archetypes or did she question gender roles and try to envision new ways of living? Dragon-riding women leading raids on brimstone from a rogue red planet? A woman whose brain lives in and runs a ship? A singer who fails to graduate from school but instead becomes someone who runs ships? Definitely envisioning to me.


But she was a female writer. What about a male writer from that same time frame?


Piers Anthony, on the other hand, may have a few strong female characters in his Xanth, Apprentice Adept Series, and Incarnations of Immortality series, but they’re hidden beneath his male characters’ misogynistic, sexually explicit (and sometimes disturbing) attitudes toward them. Don’t get me wrong. As a kid I loved reading the first 10 or so of the Xanth series and the first set of the Adept and Incarnations series. However, when I go back and look at the text I’m shocked at the attitude displayed toward women: objects. In the Adept series the “love interests” were robots and animals. Literally. Worse, his later volumes add another level of “ick” (I’ll let you research that on your own if you wish), receiving more negative reviews in Amazon than positive (which is disheartening for me because I grew up loving his work!)


So, in his fantasy and SF worlds, Piers Anthony definitely used old patterns and archetypes.


But what about today’s speculative fiction?


Well, I hate to fall back on the popular, but let’s look at J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Hermione Granger. Definitely fantasy, here.


First, she wasn’t the “chosen” one, but she was always saving the day. Why? Because she was clever, smart (two different things!) and persistent. She hung in there when everyone else, boys and girls included, ran screaming like banshees, and was truly one of the great heroes of the story because of who she decided to be, not because of who she was BORN to be. And in the end did she cave to the stereotype and marry Harry Potter? No!


Definitely envisioning a new world in fantasy land.


And as for modern SF, let’s slip on over to cyberpunk and Neal Stephenson’s Snowcrash. The two main female leads, Y.T. and Juanita, both have amazing hacking abilities to help Hiro Protagonist (If you haven’t read the novel you should and yes, that is the main character’s name.) He relies on both of them to do their job to save the world from a Sumerian herpes-like disease that affects both the physical and ‘net physical beings. It’s a trip and so are his women.


Snowcrash is definitely a new world, his female characters strong, yet he relies a lot on patterns and archetypes, but it's for a reason and not with a negative attitude toward them in any sense.


So...do I agree with the definition? No. As with most generalizations, the definition can be true about some works and not about others. Since it was written 16 years ago, it may be invalid altogether. However I still think it’s worth considering the message we’re sending as we pass books into the hands of our children. What’s the message we want to send? Read it first, then decide if it’s appropriate.

Revision. You gotta read it first before you can revise.


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