Why Can’t We All Just Play Nice?
So this one’s a bit of a rant. If you’re an author, you may have been following the recent story[…]Read more
A Blog for Readers and Writers of Mystery, Crime, and Suspense Fiction
So this one’s a bit of a rant. If you’re an author, you may have been following the recent story[…]Read more
I never got the hang of Twitter though I’ve been on it for years. I’d tweet occasionally and once in a[…]Read more
It’s not really a mystery I got a new job on the East Coast which meant I had to relocate[…]Read more
It is a truth universally acknowledged that an intelligent woman who turns to Twitter for information will soon find herself[…]Read more
I’m in a love/hate relationship. With social media. I love connecting with people on various platforms. As an extreme introvert, I find too much face-to-face contact exhausting. Social media provides me with the distance I need to make social engagement engaging, instead of an exercise in “put on a happy face”. Social media also lets me keep in touch with geographically dispersed friends. Neither my budget nor my schedule let me go visiting all over the world. And, as much as I cherish handwritten letters, social media accounts tend to change less often than physical addresses. Finally, social media lets me connect with readers and reviewers. I have a day job so extended book tours are not an option for me. Social media is vital in promoting my books and building my audience. But, I hate the way a constant diet of social media makes me feel. Instagram’s not so bad; it’s mostly pretty pictures. However, a week of ingesting negative news and caustic comments on other platforms leaves me feeling worse than a corn dog-and-fried-Twinkies binge at the State Fair. Despite my good intentions to only post, and respond to, funny Episcopal Church memes and heartwarming stories of animal rescues and Mike Rowe, I get wrapped up in the stories of injustice and bigotry and discrimination and cruelty. I get angry at the state of the world and the unkindness of humans. My cynicism goes into hyperdrive and I end up feeling helpless at my inability to “fix” things. My ire paralyzes me. When I reach the righteous anger saturation point, I have to find a way to reset. Otherwise, I can’t function. I accomplish nothing. My to-do list goes ignored. Pent up frustration leads to restless, purposeless futzing. This past weekend was one of those times. I hit a wall. Fed up with humanity, I wanted nothing more than to crawl into a back corner in my closet and rock back and forth. Luckily, the community center came to the rescue with a screening of “Casablanca”. Watching an iconic story of self-sacrifice and redemption play out against a backdrop of ultimate evil convinced me—or, rather, reminded me—that even the most cynical among us may be harboring a “rank sentimentalist” inside and will manage to do the right thing when it counts.
How do you detox from digital negativity? Did you sign off from social media? Do you limit yourself to certain platforms or type of posts? Block comments like a defensive linebacker?
Once upon a time, if a writer wanted to find an agent, they’d have to send a query letter—in the mail at that! Although querying is still by far the most popular way to get a mentor, I’m happy to say that it’s not the only way. Now, to the joy of everyone—except maybe the Post Office—you can also find your agent through online mentoring programs and even Twitter! In fact, New York Times Bestselling authors like Angie Thomas and Tomi Adeyami both got their agents through these untraditional methods. Angie pitched her agent on Twitter and Tomi was a 2016 mentee in a mentoring program called Pitch Wars. Here’s a list of several fun alternatives to finding your agent through querying, including a couple I’m thrilled to say I help organize. Pitch Wars What is it? An annual program that pairs more established writers—aka mentors—with mentees, aka those emerging writers still looking for an agent. If selected, the mentors and mentees spend months polishing the mentee’s manuscript for the Agent Showcase—where, after reading a pitch and first 250 words, agents comment requesting more pages I was a 2014 Pitch Wars mentee and got my agent, Michelle Richter from Fuse, from the contest. In addition, my Pitch Wars novel was actually Hollywood Homicide (though under a different name), which was released last year by Midnight Ink. I believe in Pitch Wars so much that I’m Managing Director this year. When is it? Our Mentor Blog Hop, where mentors share exactly what type of books they’re looking to mentor is going on now. Our submission window runs from August 27, 2018 through August 29, 2018 at 10 PM EDT. Where can you find more info? PitchWars.org or visit the #pitchwars hashtag on Twitter. #PitMad What is it? #PitMad is a pitch party on Twitter where writers tweet a 280-character pitch for their completed, polished, unpublished manuscripts. Agents and editors make requests by liking/favoriting the tweeted pitch. It’s run by the same committee that puts on Pitch Wars. When is it? Our next #PitMad is September 6, 2018 from 8 AM – 8 PM EDT Where can you find more info? http://pitchwars.org/pitmad/ #DVPit What is it? A two-day Twitter pitch even for marginalized authors and illustrators. Like with #Pitmad, agents and editors can like/favorite pitches they want to see in their inbox. It’s hosted by super-agent Beth Phelan. When is it? You’ll have to check the site to find out the dates of the next event. Where can you find more info? http://dvpit.com/ Nightmare on Query Street What is it? As the name suggests, it’s a Halloween themed contest run by Michelle Hauck, Michael Anthony, and usually another agented/published writer. Mentors help unagented writers revise their query letter and first 250 words of their manuscript for agents to requests. Sticking with the theme, contestants must answer a Halloween-themed question in their submission. When is it? October! Obviously! Where can I find more info? Visit the website: https://michellehauckwrites.com/contests/nightmare-on-query-street/ or check #NoQS on Twitter Query Kombat What is it? Another amazing contest from Michelle Hauck, Michael Anthony, and company. It’s such an interesting concept that I’ll just paste from the site: “Query Kombat is a bracket style competition where 64 query letters and first pages are matched against each other until only one is left. There are six rounds of competition that last the entire month of June and our expert judges leave notes and determine the winners. Agents request from the entries between the 1st and 2nd round, but there’s a catch. No agent requests are revealed until an entry is knocked out of the competition. Entries are known by their fun nicknames. Surviving entries are allowed to revise twice over the six rounds.” When is it? They just wrapped their 2018 contest. Submissions will probably open around May of next year. Where can you find more info? You can find more info on Michelle’s site here: https://michellehauckwrites.com/contests/query-kombat/ #AdPit What is it? Much like #PitMad and #DVpit, #AdPit is a Twitter pitch event—except it’s just for Adult and New Adult manuscripts. When is it? You’ll have to check the site but the most recent #AdPit was in April. Where can I find more info?You can find more details on Heidi Nerrod’s blog here: https://heidinorrod.wordpress.com/adpit/ Kellye Garrett writes the Detective by Day mysteries about a semi-famous, mega-broke black actress who takes on the deadliest role of her life: Homicide Detective. The first, Hollywood Homicide, won the Agatha, Lefty and Independent Publisher “IPPY” awards for best first novel and is nominated for Anthony, Macavity, and Barry awards. The second, Hollywood Ending, released on August 8, 2018 from Midnight Ink. Prior to writing novels, Kellye spent eight years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for Cold Case. She now works for a leading media company and serves on the Board of Directors for Sisters in Crime as the organization’s Publicity Liaison. You can learn more at KellyeGarrett.com and ChicksontheCase.com.Read more
In June, the New York Times ran an article (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/29/books/review/david-lynch-elin-hilderbrand-best-seller.html) that started, “Though it probably gives their publicists heart palpitations, some best-selling novelists are choosing to enter the political fray on social media.” It went on to site Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and other best-selling authors. I wondered how mid-list authors who aren’t already on the New York Times best-sellers list were handling the same dilemma, so I asked my talented writing colleagues, the Miss Demeanors these questions: Are you giving your publicist/publisher palpitations by making political comments on social media? Whether you have decided to jump into the political waters or sit on the shore, what was the basis of your decision? If you’re neck deep in political hot water, do you have a strategy for containing your involvement? Do you fear offending readers? If you’ve chosen not to enter the political conversation on social media, do you have concerns you may be criticized or that? Michele: When I was an adolescent, I angrily challenged my father about why Americans seem to stand by silently during the Holocaust. He tried to explain how communications were different then and how later many people were horrified by their own ignorance and apparent indifference. That conversation lingers in my mind and is the reason I will speak about issues that affect the rights of human beings, especially children, on social media. I try to limit my comments to substantive conversations. Jabbing at someone’s hair color, etc. does nothing. I also try very hard to actively listen to what others are saying. I think the reason we are having so much discord today is because we don’t really take the time to listen to each other. Cate:I have lost followers when I have posted political opinions on Facebook. However, I think some issues (such as separating little children from parents seeking asylum in the U.S., the need for gun laws that prevent people with histories of violence and mental problems—often reported to police by family members—from legally purchasing semi automatic weapons, and the importance of having a functioning fourth estate) are too important not to say something about. Some things go beyond politics and are about who we are as human beings and who we hope other people are too. And silence can be interpreted as tolerance of things that are dangerous to our kids or flat out in humane. Paula:I do a lot of social media, but I stick to what interests me: books, writing, writers, publishing, literature, dogs and dog handlers, cats, wildlife, nature, yoga, the art of happiness, and to a lesser extent, architecture and interior design, as we’re remodeling an 18th century Colonial.I try to avoid politics, simply because for me it’s a rabbit hole I choose not to go down. I’m at my happiest and most productive when I’m calm and rational, and calm and rational do not describe the current state of political discourse. I’d rather read The Paris Review. Tracee:I agree with Cate, that surely there are many things which are beyond politics and in the realm of humanity. Unfortunately, in today’s environment, any comment about the news of the day will likely fall into the realm of politics. So be it. That said, I don’t think of my online profile as a place for politics writ large. I do comment occasionally and I’m sure people can suss out my affiliations and beliefs if they care to. I have a deep distaste for the politicization of everything. In the past how someone voted didn’t put them in a friend or foe box and I think this is dangerous and the political noise shuts people out to the words of those they feel are in opposition. I’d like to believe we can share beliefs and values and not always agree. Although I am am beginning to think that is nostalgia talking. Robin:I actually raised this with a publicist not too long ago. I do step into the fray on Twitter, particularly around issues involving cyber security matters in a post-2016 election world. I watched the run-up and see the aftermath happen in real time (I was one of many, many people who helped try to stop it before, and rectify it after). What I continue to find surprising is that I gain followers when I shoot my mouth off (via keyboard). The only followers I’ve lost have been bots. The publicist said what people are probably reacting to is my authenticity. So, do I go on long tirades? Not on Twitter, no. But, I’m not going to stay silent about human rights abuses, or keep certain bits of knowledge to myself if sharing can help keep people safe, or at least raise awareness. But it is a very conscious balancing act. Susan:I’m very active politically in person, but I tend to tone it down a bit on social media, mainly because I don’t think it does any good. Twitter has become so strident. It’s much more exciting to me when I connect with someone from a different part of the country and a different background and I can feel like maybe by having a conversation, I can influence her opinion. Vote by vote. My minister always says he’d rather make a friend than be right, and I subscribe to that. Susan Alexia:I try to keep my politics to my personal page. I use my author page to share news about topics related to my books (at least tangentially), promote my books and fellow authors, and share information about conferences and literary news. I’m used to compartmentalizing my life because my day job has certain limits on what you can and can’t do. My political views are personal so I feel my personal page is the place to express them. I also keep the politics to the personal page because my posts are limited (not public). Not because of fear of offending anyone, more out of fear of bringing the extremist whack jobs out of the woodwork. I’ve been (unpleasantly) surprised by some of the views expressed by people I thought I knew. I want to avoid the social media crapshow many people find themselves mired in. It’s counterproductive. When I find myself getting angry at the way the world seems to be moving, I can let off some steam on my “friends only” personal page then try to live a life that leaves the world a little better than I found it. I am so impressed with the intelligence, insight, and thoughtfulness of my fellow Miss Demeanors! Nice to hang out with smart women.MicheleRead more
More than 300,000. That’s how many new titles were published in the U.S. in 2013, according to UNESCO figures reported in Wikipedia. Add in all titles published in a year and the number doubles or triples. That’s a lot of books competing for readers’ attention. Authors have to create ways to gain notice. In this modern, social media-connected world blogs, newsletters, and Facebook pages have become standard ways to build a platform to attract readers. Posts and newsletters, brief pieces offering readers writerly advice, funny or poignant stories about the writing life, and insights into how one’s work speaks to the human condition, come out more frequently than novels or short stories. They require frequent trips to the creative well. Once in a while, the well runs dry. An idea for a blog post hits you then you remember you used the idea six months ago. You stare at the blank newsletter template and realize you have no news. You’ve already described your writing process, your inspirations, your journey to publication, your tips for completing a first draft. You’ve got nothing but a deadline. What do you do? The blog has to be posted, the newsletter mailed. A goats in sweaters video or cute cat photos won’t cut it. You pick up your pen or pull your laptop closer and borrow a page from Seinfeld; you write about nothing. Or you find an idea you’ve used in the past and rewrite it until you’ve said something new. You keep going, writing about nothing or reworking old news, until you’ve got a few hundred (possibly rambling) words that you didn’t have before. If you’re lucky, you’ll figure out how to tie what you’ve written to a picture of a goat in a sweater. How do you overcome a shortage of new ideas when confronted with a looming deadline?Read more
I follow several writers, some published, some unpublished, on social media. Many post news of book deals, tweet about signing with agents, and ‘gram photos of awards. Friends and followers like, “heart”, and share the good news over social networks. Some writers also share their disappointments. A series is canceled, a manuscript doesn’t sell, an agent query is rejected. Friends and followers virtually gather ‘round to show support, offer encouragement, and share advice. Fortunately, most writers limit themselves to these common uses of social media. However, a few writers take up their smartphones, not to seek congratulations or commiseration, but to excoriate those they blame for, in their view, thwarting their literary ambitions. You’ve read their posts: the “stupid” publishers don’t understand them, the “opportunistic” agents pass up the Great American Novel because it’s not marketable, the “idiot” editors insist grammar matters, the readers who leave negative reviews are—you fill in the epithet. These writers do not take rejection well. As they see it, their manuscript is perfect; everyone else is wrong. The “story” is the only thing that matters (they sneer at punctuation and spelling) and anyone who doesn’t agree their novel is brilliant enough to warrant the expenditure of 300,000 words is a “moron”. Or worse. Advice, or anything other than wholehearted endorsement of their vitriolic screeds by friends and followers is treated to the same burn as the offending agent (or editor or publisher) and to the ultimate social media act of retribution—a block. Please don’t be that writer. Nobody enjoys rejection. No one expects anyone to be happy about rejection. But letting the whole world (and posting to social media is akin to letting the whole world know, regardless of your privacy settings) is not the way to handle it. Rant and rage if you must but do it in the privacy of your home or car or broom closet. Make sure no one but the cat/dog/goldfish can hear you. They won’t talk; humans will. Pin the rejection letter to a cork board and throw darts at it. Stick any leftover pins in a voodoo doll with the agent’s name scrawled on it in blood. But don’t snap photos to post to Instagram. Keep your anger to yourself. Agents, editors, and publishers are on social media, too. They’re the original networkers. They networked before it was cool. You may not follow any of their accounts but at least one of your followers does. And publishing people follow each other. You know that caustic email you sent to agent X informing them how dense they must be not to recognize your genius? Well, agent X just tweeted a screenshot of your email to the Twitterverse, which includes agents A through W and Y and Z. You just been branded “difficult”. You’ve just been branded a lot of other things that aren’t repeatable in polite society. Think anyone’s going to represent you now? Nope. You think agents are morons; agents think you’re a toxic jerk. Editors and publishers agree with the agents. The same goes for your foaming at the mouth social media posts. A screenshot of a flame goes viral. Consider yourself quarantined. No one will come near you. They’d rather have measles. Are you really surprised people in the publishing business (business, not hobby, not charity) want a manuscript that’s marketable? As one writing instructor put it, agents live on commission and need to earn enough to pay rent in New York. Editors and publishers have to pay rent, too. And maybe at least one or two of them has a point. Maybe your novel really isn’t a good fit for them. Try someone else. Maybe your novel isn’t as perfect as you think. Even manuscripts that are sold need editing. Maybe no one appreciates your story because it’s harder to decipher than a teenager’s emoji-laden Instagram caption. Maybe you should listen when they say your 300,000 word thriller stopped being thrilling at 120K. Maybe you can look past your hurt and find the nugget of good advice buried in the “no”. If you can’t resist firebombing bridges and insist on refusing all advice? Self-publish.Read more