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Analytics Opinion Social Media

Jell-O on the Wall: Social Media Perfection is Fleeting

Jell-O on the Wall: Social Media Perfection is Fleeting

Is social media perfection out there?

Maybe.

Every few months or so, a new study comes out which provides what are purportedly the perfect times to post on various platforms.

Jell-O on the Wall: Social Media Perfection is Fleeting
The Damsel of the Sanct Grael, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti: medieval romance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Or it might outline the perfect number of words or characters or images. All of this relentless pursuit of social media perfection is, of course, is for the Holy Grail of social media, the conversion.

I don’t argue with the idea. Certainly everyone wants to minimize time spent and maximize conversions which, presumably, lead to profit or fame or some other personal or corporate milestone or achievement.

What amuses me, though, is that sometimes the advice is a bit conflicting.

Social Media Today posts a lot of articles like this, and here’s an example.

Articles

So back in May of 2014, four great and interesting (certainly helpful) articles appeared on that site. Let’s look at how they stack up.

Ideal Lengths

The Ideal Length of Everything Online, Backed by Research – this rather helpful article indicated, for example, that the ideal blog post is 1,600 words long. This figure puts it into more or less direct opposition to Yoast’s Social Media Plugin for WordPress, which, if all other conditions are ideal, starts to mark blog posts are having good SEO at 300 or more words in length. Now, the Social Media Today article is more about engagement, so I understand that this isn’t exactly apples to apples. But regardless of how ‘ideal’ in length a post is, it’s still got to be found. Fortunately, these aren’t mutually exclusive conditions.

In addition, that article lists perfect tweet length as 71 – 100 characters.

Twitter

The Perfect Tweet  – speaking of perfect tweets, this article, posted four days after the first one listed above. And it spelled out that tweets with images are ideal. Again, it’s not a true contradiction, but it is a bit of an inconsistency, particularly as this article didn’t talk about tweet length at all.

Yet isn’t ideal length a part of tweeterrific perfection? It seems like it should be.

Quick Management

How to Manager Your Social Media in 34 Minutes (or Less) a Day – this article did a good job in outlining the basics. And it added a bit of a reminder to try to engage the audience, provide good content, etc.

However, they didn’t include time blogging. And perhaps they shouldn’t have. Because if you prepare a 1,600-word blog post (or even a Yoast-approved 300 word wonder), you won’t write it in less than 34 minutes. At least, you won’t be doing so if you want to (a) include images, tags, and other extras and formatting touches and (b) credit your sources properly. Furthermore, you don’t want to even inadvertently commit plagiarism.

The idea of using HootSuite, Buffer, and/or Facebook’s own post scheduler is, of course, a smart one.

Marketing Campaigns

9 Fresh and Effective Ideas for Your Social Media and Content Marketing Campaigns  – this article provided some quick tips on how to change things up. And this included an idea about engaging in a debate with competitors, and another about collaborating on content with customers.

I wish I knew how to do that in 34 minutes or less.

Let’s Update That Research

Ideal post lengths change.

Facebook

According to a 2020 article from Sprout Social, the ideal length for a Facebook post is 40-80 characters. And the ideal length of a Facebook ad headline is 5 words.

Hmm, maybe I should change the titles of some of these blog posts?

Twitter

For Twitter (per the same article), the ideal length is 71-100 characters. This makes sense as it adds space to comment when replying. But make no mistake about it – having to go under 100 characters forces you to be concise.

Instagram

Caption length should be 138-150 characters. Not as concise as Twitter, but you’re still not writing a Russian novel.

Interestingly enough, the article also says that the number of hashtags can be 5-10. There’s nothing on Facebook or Twitter hashtags, but usually in those instances, less is more.

LinkedIn

The ideal number of characters in a LinkedIn status update is 50-100. So in this case, Twitter comes off as looking more like The Lord of the Rings or any other long novels you may prefer.

However, the reason for this is that usually a LinkedIn update is a caption/status and then a link. And… that’s it.

YouTube

Per the article, there doesn’t seem to be a bit of social media perfection when it comes to the length of YouTube titles or the like. Instead, these things are evidently defined by the software itself. If the limit on video titles is 70 characters, then your ideal YouTube video title is going to be 70 characters or fewer.

Social Media Perfection: Takeaways

Be that as it may, we are all pressed for time these days, and it’s only going to get worse. Undoubtedly, a new study will come out soon enough with new standards and ideals and concepts that are touted as social media perfection. Will they be? Maybe, but probably not forever.

In the meantime, don’t beat yourself up if your stuff is imperfect. Hey, it happens. And you may find that your character lengths are on the bleeding edge of the next ideas of social media perfection.

Categories
Career changing Community Management Facebook

Facebook versus Forums

Let’s Look at Facebook versus Forums

What hath Facebook wrought?

It’s a Facebook versus Forums smackdown!

Facebook, as anyone not living on a desert island knows, is a juggernaut of massive proportions. According to Oberlo, Facebook has about 2.80 billion monthly users and 1.84 billion daily users.

In contrast, according to Worldometers, 1.439 billion people live in China, and 1.380 billion live in India. The US has a bit over 331 million in population.

Hence, daily Facebook usage is the entire population of China + the entire population of the United States. And another 7 million people on top of that. So, Paraguay.

It is the 800 pound gorilla of the internet. And it is rapidly changing our interpersonal interactions, both on and offline. So one of those areas is in the area of internet forums.

Facebook and a forums site like Able2know

Facebook hits all forum sites and not just A2K. For years, I have been seeing drop off on a lot of different sites. It doesn’t seem to matter whether they are large, generalized places like Able2know, or small niche sites devoted to something like Star Trek. In addition, I hear about this same kind of drop off in other areas.

Facebook has its fingers in a lot of pies, and it is only trying to get into more and more of them.

Everybody get in the pool

So there are two generalized kinds of interactions (there are more, of course, but hear me out, okay?). One concerns the shallow end of things. You trade information about weather and generalized health inquiries. It’s political sound bites and the zippy pop song.

The other side of things is deeper. Because here is the in-depth political discussion where you really get to the heart of the issues. It’s the detailed information on a health condition or even how to make a soufflé or plant an herb garden. It is the symphony. And online, just like offline, it is a far rarer bird. For you need time to develop that kind of trust. Furthermore, truly, you have to devote some time in order to have such a conversation in the first place.

Swimming with Facebook

Facebook fulfills the shallow end of online interactions extremely well. It is very, very easy to catch up on a superficial level with high school classmates or the like. A Star Wars groups, for example, might ask basic questions like “Who was the best villain?”

George Takei has mastered these kinds of interactions (although, in all fairness, he also writes occasional longer notes). Because these constitute the quick hits that people can like and share, all in the space of less than a quarter of a minute. It works very well for mass quantities of information.

Facebook versus Forums – where Facebook Wins

Topics about one’s favorite song go better on Facebook than on forums as they are a quick hit and posting YouTube videos is simple. It’s colorful and, just as importantly, it’s pretty easy to pick and choose when it comes to interactions there, despite changes in privacy settings.

Other basic interactions (remember a/s/l?) are seamless or don’t need to happen at all. Partly this happens due to Facebook’s real names policy. Also, more people tend to use their real photograph and their real (generalized) location and age than not.

Facebook versus Forums – where Forums Win

What Facebook doesn’t do so well is the deeper end of interactions (the extensive political discussions, etc.), and/or it does not do them well for a larger group of people or over a significant period of time or for a longer or wider discussion.

All of the deep discussions go unsaid. Topics about elections outside the United States (particularly if Americans participate in said topics) are handled poorly, if at all. When it comes to the deeper end of the interactions pool, Facebook is just not a good place for that at all. Another consideration: even now, a lot of people still find that Facebook moves too quickly for them.

Swimming with Forums

For the deep end, it makes sense to collect into forums. You need to get to the heart of the matter. Arc of a Diver Facebook versus ForumsAnd that takes time, a luxury that Facebook often does not afford, as it scrolls by in a blur. Instead of mass quantities, forums can fulfill a very different niche by instead concentrating on quality interactions.

Forums offer, even for people who use their real names and are fairly transparent about their interactions, a chance to use a persona.

This is because Facebook far too closely parallels to our real lives. There’s just so much posturing you can do about being a famous rock star when your high school cronies are also there, and they remember holding your head when you had your first beer.

The Endless Online Christmas Brag Letter

And Facebook, while it can be a refuge for people to truly show they care for each other (in particular, in the groups, or using notes or chat), is more often a place where people instead get a chance to preen and show off. Like something? Then hit like! Don’t like it? Then either scroll past it or click to hide it, or even report it as spam or as being threatening. And apart from the latter, the person posting the image, anecdote, status, etc. is none the wiser when it comes to your reaction.

But with the forums, even if you do not use your real name, your opinions are still out there, for all to see, whether it’s about global warming or the Designated Hitter rule.

Facebook versus Forums: the Future

My crystal ball says Facebook is only going to get larger and more complicated. And advertising and other ways of keeping forums open is only going to get harder. Unless Facebook finds a way to take a deep dive into topics – and make it easier for people to find their way back after a day or two – then I fear a form of interaction may eventually be lost forever.

That is, unless Zoom calls and the like can rise to such a challenge. In and among the fluff and Zoombombing and other annoyances and weirdnesses, perhaps that’s the way to go. Because I fear that forums are going to bite the dust before 2030, if not sooner.

There is room for both types of interactions. Facebook versus forums doesn’t have to pick a winner. The internet is a mighty big tent. But economics and sheer numbers might award a prize anyway.

Categories
Book Reviews

Self-Review – The Resurrection of Ditte

A Look at The Resurrection of Ditte

The Resurrection of Ditte came to me in a rush. I think it is one of the best things I have ever written. For sure, it is one of my best ever short stories. Yes, it is that good (in my opinion).
Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | The Resurrection of Ditte width=

Background

I have written Holocaust era stories before. And I have even written them in a science fiction setting. Untrustworthy in particular is a science fiction style of the Holocaust (more specifically, Kristallnacht). But this setting is so different and I hope it hits home.

Plot of the Resurrection of Ditte

On December 8, 2041, a girl named Ditte sees a train come to her village, which is also named Ditte. And no, that year is not a typo. You’ll see what it means.

Characters

The characters are the narrator, who writes in her diary. Also Anna, Levi, and the narrator’s parents, who have no names. The narrator just calls them Papa and Mama.

Memorable Quotes from Ditte

But I should start a little at the beginning. My name is Ditte—well, it’s really Edith, but no one’s called me that ever. I got this diary two years ago when I was eleven. I guess my grandmother thought a girl would want to write down her secrets. The diary has a lock and key and everything. But nothing has ever really happened here that was worthy of recording, until now.

My name is the same as the village—Ditte. We are near Görlitz, on the German side of the border, near the Lusatian Neisse river. Our village is small—a square with houses around it, a church on a hill, some shops, that sort of thing. And a railway crossroads.

The railway was supposed to bring in jobs. At least, that’s what Papa says. And he’s always right, you see.

Rating

The story has a K+ rating. While the violence is never shown “on screen”, there are plenty of references to it. And in the second version of events, the language is particularly nasty.

Upshot

It was so great to see this one published in Unrealpolitik.

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Community Management

Community Management – Wandering off Topic

Let’s Look at Community Management Tidbits – Wandering off Topic

Is wandering off topic ever a good idea? Surprisingly, yes.

Even the most literal-minded among us rarely remain perfectly on message all the time. It’s hard to express yourself quite so linearly.

Wandering off Topic
English: A image related to Edvard Munch representing topics, associations and occurrences and the two layers of the Topic Maps paradigm: the information layer and the knowledge layer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It doesn’t just include how we interact with our fellow human beings.

Most conversations meander; otherwise they become dull. And there are just so many ways one can talk about the fact that there’s a 40% chance of rain over the weekend, even if you’re speaking at a Meteorologists’ Convention. Even very specific programs, such as This Week in Baseball or This Old House jump around. Our human attention spans aren’t what they used to be, but there’s more to it than just that. It’s also about creating a memorable presentation. A little memorable off-topic talking can save an otherwise limited conversation.

Communities Start Wandering Off Topic All the Time

The same is true with communities. You make and promote conversations. Because no one is writing scholarly papers. Or advertising copy. Seriously, put down the company’s vision statement and step away.

Picture this: you’ve just started a forum, with a modest group of users. But after only one or two topics, or five or so posts, they leave. Now, there will always be people who join a forum for one small, specific purpose and then depart. In addition, you will always have a healthy percentage (it can be a good 90%) of lurkers, no matter what you do. They are a part of every community, and they are a sign of health. Don’t worry about them!

But right now your issue is that there’s no traction. Users come in quickly, may or may not get satisfaction, and then disappear. And because they are not engaging with one another, there isn’t enough momentum to create cohesion among them.

Fixing the Problem

Here’s where targeted off-subject conversations can work. Let us assume that your forum is about water softening. It may seem to be an esoteric topic. You probably won’t get people too emotionally engaged. Most will come in looking for a dealer, a part, a catalog or some quick advice.

Wandering Off Topic Helps

But there are targeted, related topics you can try. Your users are virtually all homeowners (some may be landlords or superintendents), so which topics do homeowners typically discuss? There’s mortgages, appliances, pest control, landscaping, and purchases and sales, for starters. The landlords in your community will inevitably have tenancy issues. Expand what you consider to be on topic to some of these areas by adding a few feeler topics like these.

Humor

Consider humor as well. Humor can fall flat, and it is easy to misinterpret. In addition, people from different countries, religions and cultures will find disparate things amusing (or offensive). Hence there are risks involved. However, in the water softening forum example, you can offer a topic on, say, a humorous battle or competition where the course is changed (the tide is turned, perhaps) on the presence of softened versus hard water. Absurd humor does seem to work better than other types, so this kind of a topic can offer a little less risk.

Recognition

Another tactic: begin recognizing great topics, posts and answers. Promote people who draw in more users – you can spot them fairly quickly. This can take the form of badges, up votes, sticky topics and special user titles. Mail them company swag if the budget allows (tee shirts, baseball and trucker caps, note pads, branded flash drives, whatever you’ve got). Give these people a little more leeway than most when they do go off message.

Corporate may want you to stay on message, all the time, but that’s simply not realistic as it ignores normal human interactions. Furthermore, it tends to drive away users as they only hang around for the length of a few topics. But give your users more topic leeway, and they will be more inclined to stay and become customers – a trade-off that any Marketing Department should embrace with ardor.

Next: Superstar Users

Categories
LinkedIn

The Conquest of LinkedIn – Your Network

The Conquest of LinkedIn – Your Network

You know that your network is important. Don’t you?

So you’ve decided to join LinkedIn. Or, maybe you were pushed into it. No matter.

And you’ve even posted your resume. That’s great! Now what? What do you do about your network?

This is icon for social networking website. Th... Your Network
This is icon for social networking website. This is part of Open Icon Library’s webpage icon package. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You may have already received an invitation or two to connect. Or you may be starting to realize that having a resume out there isn’t enough. You’re right. You need to forge bonds with others.

So, who should you link to?

The short answer is: everyone.

The long answer is also: everyone.

Two Schools of Thought

Now, there are people who will disagree with me, and such is their prerogative. However, the truth is, when you’re looking for a job, you tend to need all the networking help you can get. Your dentist. And your former college roommate. Your brother-in-law.

You see, a traditional network goes beyond just former colleagues and classmates. It branches out and eventually begins to include people who are friends of friends. The same is true online.

Finding Connections Among People You Know

So one thing you can do is, open up your address book to LinkedIn and allow them to send a networking invitation to the people in it. Your present and former colleagues are probably either already on LinkedIn or are contemplating joining. Most will be receptive to your invitation. And as for your family, they will probably also be fairly receptive to linking.

Even if your cousin is geographically remote and in a very different industry from yours, that does not mean that the connection is a complete waste of time. As for the other names in your book (your babysitter, perhaps), use your own judgment. Personally, I think you should ask everyone. But I can see where someone might balk at asking everyone they’ve ever known to link to them.

And that’s all right, but you may have unnecessarily cut yourself off from potential opportunities. So, what’s next?

Growing Your Connections List

Beyond the people you know, there are not only the people they know, but also people who you want to link to but you don’t know them yet.

What? You don’t want to meet new people?

Then, with all due respect, why are you on a networking website to begin with?

I don’t mean to sound flip. But the concept behind networking is to, well, network. So that means you need to meet people you don’t know, and go outside your comfort zone a little bit.

Objections?

But, you say, they’ll know my name and address. Your name, yes. As for your address – no, not unless you’ve got it in your online resume. And you shouldn’t have it there, although at least your general location can most likely be inferred, given where much of your network lives. Plus, people will figure out your general location from your employment history.

Yet to that I say, so what? Your address is on your mailbox, and in the telephone directory. It can be found in tax records and vote registration rolls.

It is not hard to find. And you are neither hiding it nor better preserving your identity or your privacy in any way by not opening yourself up to this kind of linking.

So, link. Indiscriminately? Not exactly. Avoid known spammers. And, if someone you’ve linked to turns out to be a spammer, drop and report them. You don’t need to be tarred by that.

LIONs and the Like

What’s a LION? It’s a LinkedIn Open Networker. This used to signal to people that you were open to networking with anyone but a spammer. However, it’s become a kind of shorthand for spamming these days. This doesn’t mean you can’t open yourself to connections.

But the term LION has essentially become obsolete. Spammers really ruin it for everyone, eh?

Targeting Connections at Target Companies

Who else? Try connecting with people working at companies you’re targeting. And, if it’s a very large company, try narrowing your connection requests to just people in the departments, and/or with the job titles or descriptions, that you are directly targeting.

The Art of Asking for a Connection

How do you ask for a connection? There is a ready-made note that LinkedIn pops up for you. It’s fine, but you should modify it. First, call the person by name! I don’t want to positively respond to a generic note – do you? So, call me by name! What else? Make sure you thank the person.

Anything else? One last thing – tell the person why you want to link with them. It can be brief, just one sentence is fine. You want to link to me because of my work at a particular company? Then say something like, I’m interested in linking to you because of your work at ___ company. Want to link to me because of a job I’ve had? Then write something like, I’d like to link to you because I’m looking to become a ___, which I see you’ve already done. Understandably, these notes are not too terribly exciting, but they are short and to the point and they get the job done.

Downsides

Be aware that, if you are dinged enough times by people who say they don’t know you, you’re going to have a much harder time trying to link later. So, proactively go out to link with the following people:

  • Friends and family
  • Current and former colleagues
  • Known open networkers and
  • People in companies you want to get into, but only if you send them personal notes and do so sparingly.

Who should you allow to link to you? That’s easy – anyone but a known spammer.

Grow your network. Here’s an area where size really does matter. Quality matters, of course, but quantity is going to open a lot of doors as well. Like it or not, an impression is made by a large network. So go plant those seeds!

Next: Offline Meetings.

Categories
Community Management

Community Management – Corralling Cats

Community Management Tidbits – Corralling the Cats

A look at Community Management Tidbits – Corralling the Cats – Oh, they can be the bane of your existence, particularly when you’re just starting out. You want them to zig, they zag. Or you want them to go off topic, they stay on it. You want them to return to topic, and they continue digressing. They are the cats.

Community Management Tidbits - Corralling the Cats
my cats (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (not mine; I’m allergic)

And you, you lucky Community Manager, you! You have to herd them.

Don’t Feel So Bad; We All Get This

There is an ebb and flow to natural, organic conversations. The problem is, online communities and forums aren’t, truly, natural or organic conversations. There is, at bottom, some form of a purpose to them, even if that purpose is simply to get your users comfortable with one another.

Therefore, in order to strain the ebb and flow metaphor so far as to break it, the best way for you, as a Community Manager, to keep from tearing your hair out, is to go with the flow. But you must have a plan in the background.

A Fer-Instance

So let us assume that your site covers German Shepherd dogs. Your users talk about care and feeding, but they also go off on tangents where they discuss what they’re having for lunch (your users, not, presumably, their dogs). You can either get upset about the lunch topic, provide other, more appropriate topics as alternatives, direct the lunch subject back on topic (kibble for lunch, anyone?), or scrap the subject altogether. Or, you can join the subject.

Your Move

What you do is going to depend upon not only how much on-subject content you’ve got, but also on your relationship with your users. What sort of tone has been set? If your relationship is a relaxed and whimsical one, then adding to the topic or directing it back on message can both work. If your relationship is more authoritarian, you may find yourself either deleting the topic or restricting user access to it. And users may leave for good over this. Regardless of what your relationship is with your users, use this kind of nuclear option sparingly.

If your relationship is somewhere in the middle, redirection to other topics can work. Creating on-message topics (or encouraging your super users to do so) has the added benefit of adding keyword-rich topics for the purposes of promoting SEO.

It is best to use all of these options. And, get an idea of just how much overall off-message chatter you will permit. If you are going to allow 40% of your topics to be off-message, then that is four out of every ten topics. Some days it will be all ten. Others, it will be one or two, or even none.

Keeping Users Happy

Allowing for these kinds of natural variations will go a long way toward keeping users happy. And it will add to a more organic rhythm and flow on the site. If the percentage of off-message topics goes too high, you can always pull users back by making good, keyword-rich, on-message topics. Not all users will go. These are volunteers and you cannot make them stay on topic. Some people will never go on topic, let alone stay there. It is up to you to decide whether that is tolerable. You may need to cut your losses with some of them.

The more you let the cats decide where they want to go (or, at least, the more you let them think they are deciding such things), the easier they are to herd. They decide where to go; you won’t need to convince them.

As the Community Manager, some times you just have to be the shepherd.

A Last Thought on Corralling

Communities which are 100% on point aren’t communities at all. They’re advertisements. If you truly want your community to attract users and not be thought of as just being a pure marketing endeavor, then guess what? You have got to allow for off-topic discussions. While you probably shouldn’t let the cats win, at the absolute, barest minimum, you should let them have their fun.

Next: Freshening up a stale forum

Categories
Writing

Self-Review – Killing Us Softly

Review – Killing Us Softly

So Killing Us Softly came from one hard to resist idea – that the alien invasion would come with neither a bang nor a whimper,

Rather, it would come with a sigh.

Of love.
Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | Killing Us Softly

Background

As far as I can tell, there haven’t been any stories about hostiles essentially killing us with kindness and love. Hence Killing Us Softly (named for the Roberta Flack song) follows that conceit.

I originally called the story The Callade Love Us. But the Flack song made a ton more sense to me.

Plot

When we finally get a signal from SETI, it’s from the Callade. And they are so friendly we let our collective guard down quickly. And that’s when things start to go downhill.

Fast.

Characters

The characters are General Susan Sheffield, President Talia Brookfield, and President Elmer Davis, along with Marshall Porter. Sheffield and Porter are scientists at SETI. Of course Sheffield also has a military background.

Memorable Quotes

Susan stared up at the night sky. The view was off-the-charts spectacular, with more stars than she could possibly ever count. It was one of the perks of being stationed in the middle of the Australian continent.

The downsides were the abysmal shopping and dining choices, but sturdy drones and a trusty helicopter – which she flew herself – fixed all of that. She even had a tiny airfield at her disposal, in case anyone wanted to fly in but choppers gave them the willies.

The new president was gaga over anything to do with space. And so General Susan Sheffield’s agency, SETI, was more handsomely funded than it had ever been in its history.

She had her Bluetooth earpiece in her ear and was listening to a bit of late night radio when she heard the SETI ringtone. It was one special tone, directly linked to the array.

Rating

The story has a K+ rating. While there is nothing explicit, you do know what’s going on. And what is going on is none too pleasant.

Killing Us Softly: Upshot

I was so happy Killing Us Softly found an audience. It is published by Corner Bar Magazine. They also published Darkness into Light.

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Writing

Writing Progress Report – Second Quarter 2021

Progress Report – Second Quarter 2021

How great was second quarter 2021? So I spent second quarter 2021 working on planning Nanowrimo and some short stories.

Second Quarter 2021 Posted Works

Second Quarter 2021
First of all, I continued working on a number of new short stories. A lot of these had been drafted on paper and so I spent some time fixing and polishing them.

Then on Wattpad I posted on the WattNaNo profile and nowhere else.

Milestones

Also, I have written over two and a half million words (fan fiction and wholly original fiction combined). So right now my stats on Wattpad for wholly original works are as follows:

  • Dinosaurs – 323+ reads, 9+ comments
  • How to NaNoWriMo – 22,775+ reads, 308+ comments
  • My Favorite Things (like kibble) – 972 reads, 133 comments
  • Revved Up – 59,320+ reads, 530+ comments
  • Side By Side – 10 reads, 0 comments
  • Social Media Guide for Wattpad – 14, 070+ reads, 591+ comments
  • The Canadian Caper – 485 reads, 37 comments
  • The Dish – 250 reads, 24 comments
  • There is a Road – 189 reads, 28 comments
  • WattNaNo’s Top Picks 2018 – 1,855+ reads, 45+ comments
  • WattNaNo’s Top Picks 2019 – 1,551+ reads, 10+ comments
  • What Now? – 2,471+ reads, 104+ comments

More Published Works

Also, I am amassing quite the collection of published works!

Untrustworthy, which is my first published novel. So yay!

A True Believer in Skepticism, to be published in Mythic Magazine.

Almost Shipwrecked, a story in the January 2019 edition of Empyreome.

Canaries, a short story in the March 29, 2019, edition of Theme of Absence.

Complications, a story in the Queer Sci Fi Discovery anthology. So this is an anthology where the proceeds went to supporting the QSF website.

Cynthia and Wilder Bloom, stories in the Longest Night Watch II anthology.

Props, a story in the Longest Night Watch I anthology. So this is an anthology where the proceeds go to Alzheimer’s research.

Surprises, a story in Book One of the 42 and Beyond Anthology set.

The Boy in the Band, a story in the Pride Park anthology. So this is an anthology where the proceeds go to the Trevor Project.

The Interview, the featured story in the December 14, 2018 edition of Theme of Absence. So they even interviewed me!

The Last Patient, a story in the Stardust, Always anthology. This was an anthology where the proceeds go to cancer research.

The Resurrection of Ditte, a story in the Unrealpolitik anthology.

This is My Child, a short story published in the April 8, 2019 edition of Asymmetry Fiction.

Three Minutes Back in Time, a short story published in Mythic Magazine.

Killing Us Softly, a short story published in Corner Bar Magazine.

Darkness into Light, a short story published in Corner Bar Magazine.

WIP Corner

So my current WIPs are as follows:

The Obolonk Murders Trilogy – so this one is all about a tripartite society. But who’s killing the aliens?

The Enigman Cave – can we find life on another planet and not screw it up? You know, like we do everything else?

The Real Hub of the Universe Trilogy – so the aliens who live among us in the 1870s and 1880s are at war. But why is that?

Mettle – so it’s all about how society goes to hell in a hand basket when the metals of the periodic table start to disappear. But then what?

Time Addicts – No One is Safe – so this one is all about what happens in the future when time travel becomes possible via narcotic.

Time Addicts – Nothing is Permanent – this is the second in this trilogy. What happens when time is tampered with and manipulated in all sorts of ways? It’s the ultimate in gaslighting, for one thing.

Time Addicts – Everything is Up For Grabs – coming in November 2021!

Prep Work

So currently, my intention, for this year’s NaNoWriMo, is that I am writing the third novel in the Time Addicts/Obolonks universe. But I need to iron out the plot! So a lot of this year has been spent on that. I have called this one Time Addicts – Everything is Up for Grabs.

Second Quarter 2021 Queries and Submissions

So here’s how that’s been going during second quarter 2021.

In Progress

As of second quarter 2021, the following are still in the running for publishing:

Publisher Title
A Thousand One Stories Soul Rentals ‘R’ Us
Adbusters Justice
Gemini Magazine I Used to Be Happy
RAB Mettle
Sonder Review Who Do We Blame for This?

All Other Statuses

So be sure to see the Stats section for some details on any query statuses for second quarter 2021 which were not in progress.

Stats

So in 2018, my querying stats were:

  • 68 submissions of 19 stories
  • Acceptances: 4, 5.88%
  • In Progress-Under Consideration: 3, 4.41% (so these don’t seem to have panned out)
  • In Progress: 10, 14.71%
  • Rejected-Personal: 14, 20.59%
  • Rejected-Form: 24, 35.29%
  • Ghosted: 13 (so these were submissions where I never found out what happened), 19.12%

So in 2019 my querying stats were:

  • 23 submissions of 11 stories (so 6 submissions carry over from 2018)
  • Acceptances: 4, 17.39%
  • In Progress-Under Consideration: 0, 0%
  • In Progress: 11 (so this includes 2 holdovers from 2018), 47.83%
  • Rejected-Personal: 4, 17.39%
  • Rejected-Form: 3, 13.04%
  • Ghosted: 1 (so these are submissions where I never found out what happened), 4.35%

2020 Stats

So in 2020 my querying stats were:

  • 37 submissions of 12 stories (so 9 submissions carry over from 2019)
  • Acceptances: 3, 8.11%
  • In Progress-Under Consideration: 0, 0%
  • In Progress: 7, 18.92%
  • Rejected-Personal: 12, 32.43%
  • Rejected-Form: 4, 10.81%
  • Ghosted: 11 (so these are submissions where I never found out what happened), 29.73%

2021 Stats

So in 2021 my querying stats are:

    • 5+ submissions of 5+ stories (so 5 submissions carry over from 2020)
    • Acceptances: 0, 0%
    • In Progress-Under Consideration: 0, 0%
    • In Progress: 5, 100%
    • Rejected-Personal: 0, 0%
    • Rejected-Form: 0, 0%
  • Ghosted: 0 (so these are submissions where I never found out what happened), 0%

It can be pretty discouraging and hard to go on when nothing new comes up which is positive.

This Quarter’s Productivity Killers

So it’s work and the pandemic, what else?  But we also spent the end of the first quarter clearing out my mother-in-law’s apartment. Second quarter 2021? Dealing with the rest of it.

I fear second quarter 2021 will not be the end of that!

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Book Reviews

Self-Review – This is My Child

A Look at This is My Child

A child is born. And that kid is not human.

This is My Child puts together just what it would be like if we humans ever had to save a sentient alien species.
Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | This is My Child width=

Background

In truth, this story was written as a wholly original version of some fan fiction. While the exact plot was not from fan fic, the scenario is most definitely from there. But otherwise it is rather different and I did not carry over any names or species or the like.

The Plot of This is My Child

In some future time on Earth, we become allies with a dying sentient species. So in order to help save their race, human women volunteer to become surrogate mothers.

Characters

The characters are the narrator and, eventually, the baby she bears. So there are no names, not even a name for the alien race. Hence the reader just has to take it on faith.

And all we learn is the eyes of the baby are gold and violet. So you will have to use your imagination for this one!

Memorable Quotes

I never planned on becoming a mother. I never met anyone I liked, and I just didn’t want the pain and the heartache and all of the work it would have entailed. If that makes me selfish, then call me selfish. I am, or at least I was.

Rating

The story has a K rating.

Upshot for This is My Child

I have loved this idea for quite a while. It is an exceptionally intimate act. And for us to do this for an alien species would have to be based on a strong alliance and kinship.

For it is not just an alliance. Instead, it is a lot more like love.

And it was published! Many thanks to Asymmetry Fiction!

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Book Review: Stephen King On Writing

Book Review: Stephen King On Writing

For my social media writing class at Quinnipiac, we were required to purchase Stephen King On Writing although it turned out to be an optional work. I think the work was decent.

But… I’m not overly ecstatic about it. Stephen King on Writing

A lot of people seem to fall over themselves with praise for King. Me? Eh, not so much. I would say, though, that this is the best thing I have read from him.

Nuts and Bolts

One area that I feel he handles well: the question of how meticulous attention to detail needs to be. On Pages 105 – 106, he writes,

“For one thing, it is described in terms of a rough comparison, which is useful only if you and I see the world and measure the things in it with similar eyes. It’s easy to become careless when making rough comparisons, but the alternative is a prissy attention to detail that takes all the fun out of writing. What am I going to say, ‘on the table is a cage three feet, six inches in length, two feet in width, and fourteen inches high’? That’s not prose, that’s an instruction manual.”

Agreed, 100%. I see far too many fiction writers getting into far too much detail, and it’s maddening. Readers are intelligent (generally), and can follow basic instructions. However, the writer needs to provide the framework and then let the reader run with it. Otherwise, it’s an instruction manual, as Stephen King states.

And the corollary is also true – for writing which requires meticulous instructions and step by step information, woe be unto the writer who decides everybody knows what a flange is, or a balloon whisk, or EBITDA. Or any other term of art known more to insiders than to the general public.

Stephen King also exhorts would-be writers to read a lot and write a lot. Basic information, to be sure, but it makes good sense. Without practice or comparisons or even attempts to copy, none of us would learn how to properly craft prose.

What the Hell Did Adverbs Ever Do to You, Steve?

Here’s where we part ways.

King writes, on Page 124, “The adverb is not your friend.” On Page 195, he clarifies his statement:

“Skills in description, dialogue, and character development all boil down to seeing or hearing clearly and then transcribing what you see or hear with equal clarity (and without using a lot of tiresome, unnecessary adverbs).”

It’s funny how he makes the above statement with the use of the adverb clearly.

Show us on the doll where adverbs hurt you.

I see his point. But I’m not so sure that a lot of aspiring authors do. The gist of it? Make sure to choose your words well. A part of this is what editing is for, but it’s also to be able to best get across your point(s). You can write –

She waited nervously.

Or

She waited, drumming her fingers on the table until her brother told her to cut it out or he’d relieve her of the burden of having fingers.

The second example is more vivid. It shows, rather than tells. But sometimes you just want to cut to the chase. There’s nothing wrong with that. Adverbs, like passive voice and other parts of speech and turns of phrase, are legitimate writer tools. You can still use them.

In all, a decent work, albeit a bit redundant in parts. I didn’t want to read the memoir portions of the work although I can see where they would interest others.

I bet this guy is going places.

Review: 4/5 stars.