Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween and other Announcements

Happy Halloween!!! Yes, I know, I’m a day early. But I’m guessing any of you with kids will be having your fall parties today and running amok for the rest of the weekend. I will, too – we’ve got the kids class parties today, my daughter’s Halloween dance tonight, and of course, trick or treating tomorrow... mwa-ha-ha... so, I’ll be mostly running amok, myself, but I thought I’d stop and wish you all a Happy Halloween and update a little here.

I don’t know how many of you are doing NaNo, but it starts on Sunday!!! Holy crap, where did the time go? I’m not doing that one, actually, I’ve never done nano. But I hope everyone participating has a great and very productive time with it.

This coming Thursday, November 5th, I’ll be interviewing the very awesome Linda Weaver Clarke here on the blog. For those of you who don’t know Linda, she writes historical fiction and does workshops on genealogy and writing your family history. I’m really excited about this one!

Here’s the thing – I love historical fiction. In fact, it was one of my first favorites, from all the way back in grade school. Some readers go through phases where they read certain favorite authors continuously – I did that with time periods. American History has always captivated me, especially Civil War and Revolutionary War era novels, but I’ve gone on long stretches with other time periods, too...

And I have a backburner plot that’s historical... it’s been on the backburner for years, but I’m afraid to start it. Afraid I don’t have a good enough grasp of the history maybe or afraid I don’t have the chops for it. And that’s what we’ll be talking about with Linda. She’s going to give us some insights into researching for historical writing, as well as some ideas for those of you just looking to do a little research on your own family tree.

Linda will be around to answer questions in the comments section that day, as well. And I know there are a few other historical novelist that stop in around these parts, so don’t be shy – I’d love a great discussion on this one... mostly because I’m selfish and I’d like to learn more!!!!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Halloween Lite

Halloween is around the corner, and I don’t know about you guys, but my kids are really starting to get psyched over it. We’re going today to pick out costumes. It’s funny because I used to spend so much time letting them pick out exactly what they wanted, and making it perfect, but none of them seem to want that anymore – store bought is just fine.

When my oldest was in Kindergarten, she wanted to be the Lollipop Princess from Candyland... try finding that costume in a store... so I made it. My oldest son wanted to be Danny Phantom, also a costume that no one seemed to make... the outfit was easy but turning brown hair bright white is a challenge, my friend.

Littlest guy has never wanted me to make him a costume. I’ve asked every year, and every year he wants something store bought... well, last year he wanted to be a cubs player, which was pretty easy since he already had a jersey, hat and his own baseball pants... I had to draw the line at wearing the cleats to school.

So this year, we’ll see... they’re getting older and they don’t want to be cartoon characters anymore... well, littlest guy might. My daughter varies back and forth between Peter Criss (the drummer from Kiss for those of you who slept through the last four decades), and something store bought. Oldest son wants something really scary.

But there are so many rules now; it’s hard to even make the event fun.

First of all – there are no Halloween parties at school. It’s called a “Fall Party” (I don’t know what’s wrong with the word Halloween, but there ya go)... and the Fall party can’t have anything Halloween-esque.... not witches or goblins or scary stories... you can use pumpkins, but no jack-o-lanterns... oy.

And candy. No candy. We’re not allowed to give out treats to the kids’ classmates. I can buy pencils or small toys for the kids, but no candy... what the hell? I thought Halloween was ALL ABOUT THE CANDY!!!!

Oh, and costumes... No masks (okay, I get it, they don’t want the distraction).... nothing violent. Seriously, nothing violent. I don’t remember any costumes that weren’t violent when I was a kid... it was scary or slutty. Pick one. Personally, I really prefer my daughter scary, thank you very much.

And on the one hand, I get it. Some kids have allergies, or are diabetic... but every year it just seems to get a little more extreme with what we’re allowed to do or say. My daughter had her Kiss costume all planned out, but now she’s thinking of store bought... because there’s no jewelry allowed except stud earrings... nothing shiny with sequence (because they might fall off and be a ‘slipping hazard’ – I’m not making this up, either!) No belts with studs no chains... you know, nothing fun. Basically, she’d be a kid dressed all in black with a cat face, and she doesn’t think that’s nearly as cool.

So how about you guys? Are you doing anything fun to celebrate Halloween? And what was your favorite costume as a kid... or even as an adult?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Social Media vs. Ethics - Death Match 2009

In a lot of ways, this social media thing is like the Old West, and we’re all basically out in the wilderness, cutting our own paths where there are no roads, or trying to follow the barely worn trail of an explorer who’s come before us. Hello, Lewis and Clark.

Entrepreneurs, small businesses, and even the big corporations are eager to utilize the power of social media. It astounded me that all of my time fooling around online can now be considered experience on my resume. Web 2.0 has quite the cache.

While they can point to examples of marketing online that have boomed businesses and brought about coveted results, there’s really no fool proof formula. It’s not a tangible, why this worked for this person and the same thing fell short elsewhere... and that’s part of the allure of web 2.0 skills – it’s too wide open, too creative, too much of it says you have to be innovative to get noticed... so regular business folks are hiring other people to handle their facebook and twitter and blog accounts.

Ghost blogging’s been around forever. I’m not sure how many people were aware that there’s a large market out there for marketing and pr people (or writers who just need a little extra income) to step into this ghost social media market. Really it’s ideal for someone with a fiction writing background. Capture the voice of the company or person and speak as them online.

But how ethical is it?

Like everything, it depends on the exact scenario. For me, blogging or tweeting as a representative of a company is fine. I could do that, using my own voice or even someone else’s... what I can not do is pretend that I’m another living person.

I think readers or followers on twitter and facebook use these venues specifically because it opens up a window to talk to the actual person. If I knew that the editors and agents I follow weren’t the real people tweeting and blogging, that they passed it off to ghost web 2.0 people, I probably wouldn’t follow them. The point for me is the insider perspective into the industry and the ability to actually converse with people whose opinions and knowledge I respect. And hey, maybe their ghost tweeters would be just as knowledgeable, buuuut it smacks as unethical to me in that the readership is largely based on who you are and what you know.

The same would hold true for me with authors, or actors, and any specific person’s online persona. And I get the draw, there’s only so much time in a day and staying on top of your online platforms can be a pretty time-consuming job, more so if you have a lot of followers. But my answer to that would be not to use platforms that give the impression the reader is talking to you when they’re really getting your pr team. And the other thing I think it’s important to note – from what I’ve seen, pr teams suck at online marketing. Yes, they really really do. Tweeting and facebook and linkedin and even blogging – they don’t work for the hard sell. You can’t run a twitter account by constantly running 140 characters of infomercial. Nobody wants to spend their time there.

And that’s the thing. These venues work for personal interaction, or at least the illusion of personal interaction. When you take the person out of it, your readers can usually tell.

I think I might be too honest for a career in marketing. But I don’t see why marketing can’t be honest. Like I said, might not be the perfect spot for me.

So how about you guys? Would you consider blogging as another person or tweeting or any of the other social media stuff? Would you feel the same way if one of your favorite professional bloggers, authors or whatever, turned out to be ghost written?

See, it’s an interesting question for me because there’s such an odd fine line – I don’t have any problem with work for hire writing, that’s most of the writing I’ve done professionally. I don’t have any problem with ghost writers who do autobiographies or any other type of work really, but for some reason the social media thing crosses the line for me... maybe because the reader doesn’t expect interaction from the author of a book or article... How about you? Where’s your line – and how are you liking the wild wild west?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Words, Words, Everywhere Words

Anyone ever heard of Wordle? If you’d like to see mine, it’s right here Don’t you love it? Basically, you punch in the url to your blog, and the site gives you a word jumble, kind of like a tag cloud, based on highly used words in your blog. To get your own, go to

The thing that struck me with this one was the phrase (of sorts) that ran across the wordle, “really just One writers VOICE”. Well, isn’t that a pretty nifty way to describe this blog. And that led me to jump to yet another fiction writing topic – perspective.

If you take any little section of the wordle, you can find words or phrases that take you to a different place, give you the start of a new story. I did a couple different versions, and in one (which I printed and will be framing, it was so cool) The word “VOICE” is all in caps and in very large print. The word “talk” is inside the “O” and the word “love” is inside the “C”. How perfect is that?

It depends on the way you look at these things. Are you taking a small section to concentrate on? Or is it the picture as a whole? And I think it’s the same thing with any art form. Georgia O’Keefe created beautiful paintings centered on one, single poppy, in the midst of an entire field of them. She might concentrate on the light and shadows through the curve of one small section on an animal’s skull. She did other, larger picture paintings, too, but you see what I’m saying here – the end product, the message your reader or viewer takes away, is largely dependant on the perspective you’re showing, the portion of emotion or story that you’re bringing to the forefront.

So what are you concentrating on in your writing? Is it a large picture or big theme that you’re most emphatically trying to get across? Are you concentrating on the minutia of character and feel of place in order to give a very detailed picture that plays into the overall themes? Or are you leaving the smaller descriptives for the reader to fill in and concentrating instead on the motion? What’s your perspective? Oh, and what cool words and phrases pop up in your wordle?