Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tuesday Twaddle: Focus!

In the late 1990s I got a job with a major corporation as part of their new Internet division. They hired me to handle search engine optimization, never mind that nobody at the time knew what defined SEO, especially me. The Internet was this shiny new amazing thing that people valued well into the billions of dollars, though the higher-ups in the parent company came from an older industry. They didn't understand the Internet, so naturally they didn't like us. However, they needed us to stay with the times.

As the company's lone SEO person, my job was to make sure people found our websites on such dynamic and integral search engines like Hotbot, Lycos, LookSmart, Webcrawler, Ask Jeeves, and AltaVista. They sound like discounted models of cars. Basically my job amounted to registering URL after URL into these engines and hoping to Ged their crawlers favored us. I oversaw optimization of websites geared toward two dozen-plus markets - where the parent company had various interests.

We were all over the map. Our company within a company set up each site to act as a portal for that geographic market,: news, classifieds, entertainment. Also, people could sign up for free email, chat online, and set up mini-pages for their communities and organizations. As I think about it now, our company was trying to achieve the social network on a regional scale - little Facebooks for various metropolitan areas. It might have worked, but it didn't.

Three reasons: 1) They, like everybody else in the pre-dot bomb era, probably threw too much money at everything. Search engines were sold for billions and probably weren't worth it at the time. 2) We were doing too much too soon. At a company retreat, a speaker came to talk to us about focus, and how we might excel doing one thing well instead of several things at once and having it all flop. She cited a major retailers as an example: As a store focusing on a specific product, they crushed the competition. When they divested and opened a chain of stores selling something else, they lost their focus.

When the lady left, we might have snickered and swore to prove her wrong, that we could be everything to everybody. Then reason 3) 9/11. It wasn't a direct cause, but it didn't help. Over the next several months, the parent company gradually shrank our division until pulling everything back into the main company. All the surplus people, including me, were laid off.

It was sad. I had hoped to stay with that company through to retirement. Sometimes I wonder what we'd be doing now. It would have been nice to tell new hires what it was liking working there before Google existed.

What does this have to do with anything? The lesson today is FOCUS. I'm not doing it. As a writer I should write, though I have to make time to promote myself. Over the last ten years people have told me to do X, Y, and Z to be seen. You need Twitter, you need a Facebook page, you need a Pinterest board linking to everything that inspired your book. You need a YouTube book trailer. And guess what: all this promo is FREE!

Well, it is and it isn't. I don't have to pay to use Twitter or Pinterest, but it comes at the expense of my time. You know what Pinterest is like, too. While you're looking for a picture of the Chinese restaurant that inspired a scene in your book you instead find multiple boards dedicated to Benedict Cumberbatch holding a puppy. Then it's next week and you haven't written anything.

Therefore, I plan to focus. One network for promotion, and it will be this blog. I'm taking down my Facebook page - nobody sees what I post there anyway, because FB wants to monetize pages so you have to pay for eyeballs. I don't have it in my budget right now, and not everything I post there is worth the ransom. I'm not saying all Facebook pages are worthless, but if you don't have a strong following you basically shout in the wind.

I will keep G+ and Twitter active, though if you see anything there it will be the links to this blog that automatically feed into them. Everything else goes into a document for a book.

Wish me luck.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fright Night Blog Hop

Thanks for stopping by my post on the Fright Night Blog Hop! Stick around for the giveaway, and read on to see how to enter.

I'll read pretty much anything. It's been a while, though, since I read a good horror epic. Recently I did finish "A Good Marriage" by Stephen King, but it's more a novella than one of his brick-thick books, like IT. By the way, I couldn't get through that one, and the Tim Curry miniseries makes me uneasy to this day.

Nontheless, I'm willing to set aside the heebie-jeebie to talk about the books that scare the crud out of me. Speaking of King, I'd have to cast my vote for The Shining as the scariest I've read. Many of his stories focus on gradual, psychological meltdowns of characters, and you don't see it better than in this book. I understand King wasn't thrilled by the original film version, and the book is different. It's worth a read if you can stand it.

The book that really gave me nightmares, though, is James Ellroy's Blood on the Moon. It's about a serial killer and it's gorier and gritter than anything else I've read by him, and if you know Ellroy's work that's saying a lot. It's not for the weak of heart.

What's the scariest book you've read? Comment below and I'll draw a winner for a $10 GC to Amazon, ARe, or B&N. If you like non-scary books, visit my website for what I have to read.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday Twaddle: Love Me, Hate Me, Just Spell My Name Correctly

You still here? I'm so glad.

The publishing world has spun off its axis of late. A publisher sues a blogger, a world-renowned author may or may not have defended pedophiles, and now an author brags about stalking a reviewer. I consider myself normal, such as it is. I read all this and feel I've missed the boat - I'm not cray-cray enough for a big book contract. What watchtower do I have to climb to get some attention?

Look, I appreciate reviews of my books, good and bad. They are not for me, but for other readers. I read books, too, and will review as I see fit. If you don't like my books, don't feel afraid to say so. Just get my name right, is all I ask. People have misspelled it for 40+ years.

My most recent book: Technically, I guess the book I've not yet published is now one I can discuss. I have submitted Busted! (the title may change) to a few publishers that accept sweet romance and novella-length stories for digital-only imprints. Too early to tell, but if nothing pans out I'm giving serious consideration to lengthening the story to at least category length, something suitable for a sweeter Harlequin line. I wouldn't be afraid of sexing up the story, but the plot doesn't plausibly call for it. Anyway, I'm mulling that over now. 

In the meantime, you can read what I have available at Amazon. If you enjoy hilarious (intentional) thrillers, I have 'em.

Reading Stuff: I'm still on the same four books as last week, making little progress. Lately I find reading exhausts me, and I think it's because I have not had much time for it. I'm eager to finish these books, but I have an hour before bed and I'm dozing after I turn a page. Sucks getting old.

Watching Stuff: I'm going back and forth with the Third and Twelfth Doctors right now. If you read my other blog, you'll see what I mean. I find it's a good way to binge, adds some variety to watching and I can tell if any Twelve stories are recycled plots are not. It may be too early to tell on that front, but the more I watch the more I suspect it was the case with Ten.

Food: I've been thinking about subscribing to one of those snack box deal thingies. You pay twenty bucks a month for nuts and goji berries, etc. It sounds neat, but from experience I know it's a pain in the ass to stop a subscription. This past week I went to The Fresh Market and bought some snacks to keep by my chair - wasabi rice crackers, chocolate covered cashews, dried mixed berries, and something called World Peas, BBQ flavor. I thought they were chickpeas, but I picked up green peas instead. They are pretty good, and something nobody else in the house will eat, so I'll see if this lasts the month and will make up another "box" in November.

Writing: Two thousand words recently, but they are for myself. I'm giving more thought to doing that for a while. Ditching personal social media and just kvetching on paper (as Leslea Newman called it) until inspiration strikes.
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