Promotion ad Nauseam

Self-promotion is my least favorite aspect of writing, and I know I am not alone. I’ve done it wrong before, but I am trying to get better. I have read articles on dos and don’ts and secrets and no-nos, and coupled with my Internet Dinosaur badge (1988… that makes me a young dinosaur) let me suggest the following:

If it feels wrong, don’t do it.

Twitter

If you automate twitter posts to recur so many hours, I am not going to follow you or follow you back. Because I want to follow people, not town criers or newsfeeds. If all you post is essentially an RSS feed, I will instead follow your blog using my RSS reader. There is no magic number, but I try not to post a link to Protectors more than once a day, usually less often. In the past, I was not as polite, but I learned my lesson. There are twitter tools to find when the most of your followers are active. Share it then. Automate it, even. It’s once a day, who cares? As long as you communicate like a human, it won’t be obvious that you’re like a classic rock station playing “Layla” at precisely 4:32 every day.

A wiser writer than myself said that most people who follow you already buy your books and read your stories. Make them aware of new ones for a brief time, in small doses.

Do NOT send direct messages, especially canned sales pitches like “check out my webpage” or “thanks fr the follow my new book comes out next week RT plz” … this is SPAM. No one likes it. Plenty of people block folks who do this. I unfollow, even writers who I want to follow. Because I know what’s coming next, the spew of self-promotion. Do not feel compelled to follow people back. Are they interesting? Do they simply RT stuff? Listen, this isn’t a circle jerk. If you follow me just to get a follow back, please unfollow me now.

Facebook

Facebook is less onerous, because if you talk politics or update your wordcount every few hours, I can unclick “Show in News Feed” and mute you. I know writing feels like hard work, but we really need to stop acting like punching in another 2000 words is worthy of discussion. Writers write. Do you write? Great, you’re a writer. We don’t need reaffirmation of this. If you need a daily affirmation- Lawrence Block stresses their importance- read his fantastic guide Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, or the excellent Break Writer’s Block Now! by Jerrold Mundis. Both will teach you how to write in an organized manner, which won’t make a few pages seem delivering a breech birth.

Only make an author page if you also are not friending everyone in sight. Pages are good for keeping personal and professional life separate. There is no point (other than ego-stroking) to invite friends to Like your author page. Friends who like your pages get to see your posts repeated 3-5 times, and again when you share them with Groups. It gets overwhelming and annoying. Also, don’t make a page for every book you write. That’s just silly, it dilutes your fan base. I made this mistake, by making an author page. If we’re friends, please feel free to unlike this page. I have a separate page for the Protect anthologies- this allows people to be alerted of a new charity anthology without having to “be friends” and share personal info with me. That is the only reason for a page on Facebook if you have fewer than 5000 friends (the max).

Mailing Lists

Mailing lists are great. But you know what? E-mailing your entire contact list, or a hidden list of writers and friends is NOT A MAILING LIST, IT IS SPAM. It’s passive-aggressive as hell, because to ask to be removed, the recipient has to tell you they don’t want to hear about your latest story/interview/baby/book/puppy fart video. You want to be a pro, act like one. Use a mailing list service. Mailchimp is one the pros love. It forces you to follow all the anti-spam laws and readers can subscribe and unsubscribe with a click. It is also free. You have no excuse. It asks for your address, so get a P.O. Box. Take some advice from pro Briane Keene’s “Writing Full Time” speech and get a P.O. Box anyway. You will want the privacy it affords you.

Blogging

Blog every day! Actually, don’t. I did for years. I’d sit around thinking of what to blog. I reviewed every movie I saw. It was boring for me and for readers. Blog when you have something to say. A few times per week. Daily if you aren’t rehashing stuff you’ve said a thousand times before. I blog about a new band, a movie, a dining experience, books, and I try to interview someone at least once every two weeks. The interviews take the most time, I come up with the questions on lunch break, and I edit them and make them look pretty on another lunch break. Blogging is writing- it will sap your creative energies- but it can also inspire you and kickstart you into writing on days when the fingers just want to scratch your ass instead. (NOTICE: all employees must wash hands before writing)

Goodreads Contests

I haven’t done one of those yet, but people sure love them. I don’t see a downside unless you spam about them. Don’t auto-DM people about this or your Kickstarter. They will see it in your feed when you post about it incessantly.

Well That’s Just Like Your Opinion, Man

Yes, it is. These are my opinions. Some people are better at ignoring bad Internet etiquette. And some people go on rampages to destroy people with bad ‘net manners. You don’t want them on your back. The more popular you get, the bigger chance you’ll piss one of them off.

Writers Who Do It Right™

Here are a few writers, both new and established, who in my opinion do it right: Lawrence Block, Andrew Vachss, Christa Faust, John Scalzi, Stephen Blackmoore, Karina Cooper, Christopher Moore, Roxane Gay, Ray Garton, Dan O’Shea, Mat Johnson, Charles Stross, David Brin. I have conversed with all of these writers. They don’t answer every tweet or FB comment, but they interact with writers and fans alike. They do not use their fan base as “minions” or ask questions that could be answered with a Google search. They do not spam you about their new releases, but they make you aware of them. They treat people with respect and thus get it in return. They do not circle-jerk and promote you for promoting them, or reek of desperation.

We all get excited about our work and yes, the best way to get the word out is on the Internet, but let’s do it right and not give writers a bad name. We don’t want to be lumped with Real Estate Agents at parties, do we? Are you looking to buy a house? I can get you a great deal on a mortgage *BLOCK*

Salami out.

Five Big Things (safe for work)

The 5 people I tagged last week for The Next Big Thing have posted their posts:

Jen Conley talks about her novel NIGHTMARE.

Lynn Beighley at her aptly named site, Should Be Writing talks about her anthology to benefit folks hit by the superstorm, Oh Sandy! An Anthology of Humor for a Serious Purpose. You should submit a story.

Josh Stallings… Bueller? I know Josh is working on his next Moses McGuire novel. Hoping for a tease. The big lug’s birthday was yesterday, so I hope he’s sleeping late after a great evening.

Chad Eagleton talks about his ’50s greaser noir anthology HOODS, HOT-RODS, AND HELLCATS. I can’t wait to read this one. I have a story in it, and Chad’s sounds like a doozy.

Steve Weddle at Do Some Damage keeps his cards close to his chest and goofs around.

Feeling Flushed- Uncle John’s Book Giveaway!

The good folks at Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, one of the most consistently amusing and beloved book series, have given me a copy of their latest book to use in a giveaway:

Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Presents Flush Fiction: 87 Short Short Stories You Can Read in a Single Sitting


 ( Amazon * Barnes & NobleWatchung Booksellers )

My story “A Glutton for Punishment” appears in it, with stories by Darren Sant and 85 other people who want you to read their work with your underpants around your ankles. Now, you know I like a good poop joke. And so do you. Go ahead, wrinkle your nose, pretend to be above it. I know from the number of page views, retweets, Facebook likes and shares that CACA is KING. Everyone poops and everyone thinks it’s funny.

I’d rather have a story in Uncle John’s Reader than the New Yorker. You know why? Because I know a story in this publication is going to be read. I’ve got a captive audience, comfortably enthroned in the only room in the house a reader can get any quiet or privacy. A writer strives to share an intimate moment with a reader, and only Uncle John’s ensures it.
Do you want a copy of this landmark publication in the realm of flash fiction? Of course you do. To get it, you need to:

a) live in the United States
b) have a butt you have pooped out of
c) Leave a comment with your favorite word, phrase or story involving bathroom humor.

Oh, and to kick it off, the first poop joke I remember was a fake book title. My mother loves wordplay and did not discourage potty humor, to say the least (as a kid, I watched Buddy Hackett, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and Dice Clay on HBO with my grandmother). My entry to the poopstravaganza is:

Brown Spots on the Wall, by Hu Flung Pu

Winners will be chosen randomly one week from today when I first visit the toilet. Let the game of thrones begin!

© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

Carry on my Native Son

Eva Dolan has been hosting an excellent series of blog posts by crime writers reviewing classics that have an element of crime to them. Crime & Punishment, MacBeth, and Heath Lowrance wrote a terrific one on Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood. I was toying around with a post on A Confederacy of Dunces before settling on Richard Wright’s inflammatory and brutally unflinching classic. The link is below:

Criminal Classics: Native Son

© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

We Wrote a Zoo

Patti Abbott put forth a challenge last month- 1200 words, set at the zoo. More than a dozen writers, including Patti and myself, responded. Albert Tucher, Sandra Seamans, Todd Mason… check them out. Patti’s was hilarious, and I hope, historically accurate…

Zoo Stories

© 2012 Thomas Pluck
I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

The Ten Thousand Pound Banana

This story was written for Patti Nase Abbott‘s A Day at the Zoo challenge:

The Ten Thousand Pound Banana (featuring Candle)
Me and Nige were in the shop talking about potassium when Cy told us we had to break a bloke’s legs.
That’s code for rough him up. If you break a man’s legs he can’t work. He can’t work he can’t pay. Which works cross purposes to the whole point of smacking him around.
I’m good at that and not much else. Cy don’t let me drive no more on account of losing the battery on a bank job.
Codgers. Don’t trust them.
It’s a long story.

Nigel sat on the counter eating a banana. He’s a wee bastard, but he’s not a dwarf. He carries a cosh for fellas who joke about his height.
So don’t do it, if you know what’s good for your kneecaps.
“You ought to eat more fruit, Candle,” he says. “Nothing better for you. You need your vitamins, you know.”
I prefer to get mine from a porterhouse and a pint. Two of the former and a dozen of the latter, but I don’t say so. Nigel usually holds a conversation better by himself, but he’s looking at me to say my piece, start an argument over it, break the afternoon monotony.
Thank heaven Cy roars in and saves me the trouble.
Cyrus is a whiskey barrel with legs, and a mouth like a train whistle. He rushes in the door, slapping his newspaper on the dusty shelves.
He sells novelties. Of an adult nature. But no one comes here, they get it all on the Internet now. It’s all cover for his less than legal activities, and I like it better without the perverts wandering the aisles. We had to sell them the odd item to look legitimate, and I didn’t like taking the bills from their grubby hands. I kept a pair of tweezers for it.
“Candle, get your pet monkey off the countertop, he’s scaring off customers.”
If someone else said that, Nigel would cosh him for certain, but not the boss.
“Cyrus, I was telling Candle here he ought to eat more fruit.”
“What, you think it will stunt his growth? Look at him. He barely fits in the door as it is.”
Cy swats the banana out his hand with the newspapers.
Nigel looks down at the severed bit of banana. “That’s a waste of good food.”
“You’re a waste of food, you idjit. Take the bananas out of your ears and listen. You’re going to break this fella’s legs. He’s two weeks behind, and Calloway tells me he just spotted him at the dog track.”

The fellow’s name is Ellis and he’s a haberdasher. When he wanted to expand, he approached Cy for a loan. Which is all fine and good. When he’s late on a payment we all get new hats.
On the drive, Nigel crunches away at an apple he found under his seat. “They keep the doctor away, you know.”
The dog track’s across from the zoo. I wonder if sniffing the lions makes them run faster. I haven’t been to a zoo since my father took me. Good man, he was. He liked the apes. Said they reminded him of people.
Nigel takes a harsh turn into the car park and his apples careen off my ankles like billiards. He picks a fedora from the pile in the boot, a green one with a purple feather, and we shoulder our way in.
It’s between races. Some are buying for the next, rest are cashing in.
“I’ll take the seats, you look by the ticket counter,” Nigel says.
I’m a head above the crowd. But I don’t see nothing but a positively rotund child cracking candies between his teeth. His piggy eyes follow Nigel’s hat.
I know what he’s thinking. Nige looks like a leprechaun. A leprechaun eating a banana at the dog races. That’s pretty funny, but I’ve got other things to worry about.
I remember Ellis when he measured me for my suit. You don’t find my size on the rack. He reminded me of a squirrel, how he darted around the shop. With stubby little fingers. Wondered how he held onto the pins.
It was those fingers I saw first, shuffling notes at the payment window. Then I noticed the whole squirrel. Bouncing on the toes of his shoes, the fancy kind with tassels on.

I’ve have trouble hiding behind a giraffe, but Ellis was all caught up in his winnings. He bounced right past. I followed him toward the exit and figured I’d pick him up by his little neck until he passed out, and deliver the goods to Cyrus. Get on his good side. Maybe get to drive again.
Then Nigel goes and ruins it. When he spots Ellis, he drops his banana peel. Then he slips on it. Right on his arse. Knocks his hat off, which rolls on its brim in a circle.
The fat kid runs up and grabs his cuff. “Give me your pot of gold!”
The crowd laughs and points, and my father’s right. They do look like monkeys.
Then Ellis spots me, leaps three feet straight up, and bolts for the car park.

The crowd slows me but I manage to spot him fumbling with his keys. I shout a few choice words and charge. He drops his keys and runs cross the road, dodging traffic. Right for the Zoo. He hops the turnstile, and I nearly get flattened by a bus.
Nigel catches up to me, his little legs pumping. We meet at the turnstile. The ticket lady is out of her booth, having none of it.
Nigel pays for us both with a tenner. “Don’t tell Cy about the banana.”

The place is near empty but Ellis has a head start. I find myself looking up the trees, like he’s a real squirrel. Then Nigel sees a family pointing, and we run over.
It’s by the monkey house.
The apes have a pit, real nice down there. Lots of grass and a playground to climb and swing around on. The gorillas are all riled up. Pounding on their chests, like two blokes over a bird.
And Ellis, squatting in the middle of them. His suit’s all torn up, and he’s clutching his winnings like his favorite acorn.
Me and Nige look down, then at each other. What was our boy thinking?
“Job well done then?” Nigel says.
“What if they tear him limb from limb, what do we tell Cyrus then?”
“Well, you go in. They’re practically relations.”
Right then, I get an idea. Not often that happens. I pat Nigel’s pocket. “Hand it over.”
“It’s my last one, Candle.”
“Don’t be a prat.”
I climb over the meager fence and hang down, waving the banana at our little squirrel among the apes. “Nice fat envelope you have, Ellis. Care to trade?”

And that’s why I drive the car, now. Still smells like a fruit stand, though.

Fin


© 2012 Thomas Pluck

I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page

Smooth Criminals

The Smooth Criminals challenge: You read 8 books next year in the categories specified, and review them. Here are my choices:

Hardboiled Classic
I, the Jury  by Mickey Spillane
I bought the paperback for a buck. Spillane gets a lot of love and a lot of hate… for a measly 150 pages I think I ought to make my own decision.
Noir Classic
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
I’ve never read this. I saw the movie with Elliot Gould. Shame, shame. I’ve read The Big Sleep, though. I wanted to stick David Goodis in here, and I might read and review him instead.
Prison Book
Slammer by Allan Guthrie
I’ve heard so many good things about this, from so many trusted readers that it was the first to come to mind. And how can I resist that cover? One of my favorites in a long, long time. Allan is a fine writer and I look forward to this one.
Book by a Crook
Just Like That by Les Edgerton
Les has done time and he writes great fiction, so I’m jumping on his latest release. I recommend you read all you can by him. He’s the real deal and has a broad and encompassing talent with stories.
Psychopathic Protagonist
By Reason of Insanity by Shane Stevens
Chad Eagleton is on a mission to find Shane Stevens or die trying. I performed some minor research for him at the local library, and became intrigued by the reclusive author. This is his most famous book, and involves a psychopathic killer. It is believed to have inspired Thomas Harris and thus the entire serial-killer book industry. I’m not terribly interested in psychopaths. After the initial discovery of what makes them tick and having read every FBI profiler’s memoir, the fascination faded. They are banal. I was going to choose a Patricia Highsmith, but wanted to give Shane a shot.
Gothic
The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James
Another slim paperback that’s languished on my shelves without being read, time to tackle this tiny classic.
Classic that Revolves Around a Crime
Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Yup, English major hasn’t read this either. Might as well go for a biggie.

Why the Hell Am I Reading This?

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Totally cheating here. I’m 250 pages into this post-post-modern doorstop and really don’t like it. But I will finish it for this challenge. I like DFW’s essays but his fiction drives a spike through my head.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck