One Author’s Attempt to Create an Online Presence – Part II

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Here’s the nice thing about social media. If you ask for help, people respond. That’s exactly what happened after I revealed the challenges I faced while establishing an online presence (see my post on 10/22). Within a day of that post, I received many useful social media tips from people who know a whole lot more than me. This included comments from an old boyfriend, now a social media expert, whom I haven’t seen in twenty-five years. You gotta love Facebook!

 

In this post, I’ll discuss my experience of building a website. A few years back, I had decided, mistakenly, that the only way I could understand the Internet is if I built a website from scratch. Conversely, I live in a house I didn’t build, I eat food I don’t grow, and though I have no working knowledge of engines, I still drive a car. Yet for some reason, I insisted on the “from scratch” method when building a website.

 

I purchased a three-year contract from GoDaddy that translated into over 1,000 days spent harassing their customer service agents. My finished product, an awkwardly designed website, looked like a pre-school Lego project. By the end of my contract, all I wanted to do was tell daddy where to go.

 

Two important learning points: 1) I’m not able to manage and execute all aspects of my writing career and 2) I am responsible for controlling and maintaining my online image. On the outside chance a potential reader found me, the reader’s experience had to be positive, and my homespun site was telling the wrong story. So I went back to the Internet to find someone to help me use the Internet. I identified three local web designers. My final choice was based on my inability to function fully in a virtual world. Joe Tartaglione from OutBoost Media came to my home, sat at my kitchen table and patiently let me draw my web vision with a pencil and paper. Amazingly, Joe was able to translate my chicken scratch into a working website.

 

Next I had to tackle site content. As much as I love Katrina and the Wave’s pop tune “Walking on Sunshine,” I didn’t want to be a one-hit wonder, a single-page site featuring a single book cover. I wanted readers to linger long enough to get a sense of my voice and the many aspects to my work. And for that, I needed to create content.

 

Luckily, I had a few short stories worth repackaging, and for that effort I sought Lois Karlin’s expertise. Lois transformed my word files into professionally formatted eBooks and then uploaded the finished products to online retailers like Smashwords. Partnering with retailers turned out to be extremely beneficial: it increased the Google search results for my name. Now when a reader searches for “Deirdre Verne,” the resulting entries fill an entire page. Suddenly, I had an online presence.

 

Did all of this cost money? Yes, but it gave me a sense of control that I can now extend through many social media channels. My current challenge is to integrate my online touch points, like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit etc., in such a way that readers receive a consistent and hopefully appealing message about my books each time they land on a page featuring my work. I’m not there yet, but I’m hoping this post generates more good advice.

Drawing Conclusions

What’s Scary? Time on My Hands, No Excuses, Gratuitous Styx

deathClockWhew! I haven’t posted in 2 weeks. Perhaps I should say something substantive as if my absence has been spent in the deepest, most profound contemplation or finishing a manuscript (as I know at least a few, and could even be more WoM have been busy doing recently, and big thumbs-up to them!). But this has been one of those periods when I’m busiest wrapping up older business, like you’d handle the fall clean-up for your lawn and garden.

I joked with a friend of mine that my office is so piled with paperwork it looks like Georgia Pacific got an aggressive case of turista. Unsavory comparisons aside…

I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do next. I have a few cool writing projects in-process (and I’ve mentioned a couple here) and once my time is my own, I may return to one or more of them and try to get them done. I have a few more multimedia-type projects in mind, and I might tackle those. Once you’re I’m free to work, the next specter you I will face is that of performance anxiety, of artistic failure, of all the miscellaneous gripes and frets creative people put themselves through on the way to making something new. I’m not looking forward to that personal thresher, but if the pot of gold is through the swamp, I’d better get on the waders. Part of understanding how my own creative process works means knowing I don’t have to panic when it gets painful, because it will, but then, if I persist, the work will get better and I’ll feel better. And better still, until I’m done. And being DONE is as close to nirvana as I’ve achieved in this life. That moment when you can sit back without guilt having accomplished something worth doing.

By the time I’m past Bouchercon–I can’t believe it’s only 2 weeks from now, eek!– I think my schedule could get downright reasonable. I’m glad I didn’t know it was going to take almost all of 2014 to unspool some of the many worthwhile tasks I’d knotted myself into. I wouldn’t have made such rosy predictions about my personal projects had I known, but then again, foolish hope looks good on me. And sure, there will be the onset of the holiday season after Murder on the Beach, but I’m one who really enjoys that annual spectacle, and doesn’t get driven crazy by it. By 2015, seriously this time, I think there’s the whisker of a possibility that I can dedicate the majority of my creative time to my own work.

That’s going to be a thrill. And completely frightening. Boo!

And because I’m a rock hack from way back, I can’t think the phrase “time on my hands” without thinking about this… and I don’t know what to do…

Pointy guitars rule!

Our Own Tribe

Isn’t it great to belong to a writing community? I think we mystery writers have one. While writers are not necessarily the most social of personalities, they do, necessarily, spend their working hours being completely non-social. Just them and page, or screen. (Well, yes, there are also all those imaginary friends…) So for a lot of us, writer activities and networks are the substitute for the office water cooler.

These musings are provoked by my going last night to an event at Mysterious Bookshop. I don’t get to these events as often as I would like, and usually it’s for a friend, but last night it was for a fellow Poisoned Pen author, Clea Simon. We’d never met. She was in from Boston and I had said I’d try to be there for support. I was not the only Poisoned Pen author there, either. Not that she needed it; she had a nice crowd.

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So I introduced myself, we chatted, she appreciated I’d come out and made a point of saying she had good bookstore connections and a guest room, so I should think about doing something in Boston for the next book.

Have I offered my guest room to other mystery writers? Sure. And I’ve gotten together with other writers occasionally as I have traveled, too. It always seems so comfortable, because we are a tribe. There’s no secret handshake – at least I don’t know about one!- but we always kind of “get” each other. How great is that?

That’s what we do, help each other. Are there people who are rude, selfish, stuck up, all- around obnoxious in this community? Of course! But on the whole, not a lot. As Annamaria Alfieri, aka Pat King, former MWA/NY president, always says from the podium “We help each other succeed.” Poe-1081x200

MWA was not always so welcoming, I think, but that has changed a lot over time. And Sisters in Crime has always been dedicated to putting out a hand to others.

BRAZEN HUSSIES

So, two stories. Many years ago, in my first life as a mystery writer, I was asked to be a last minute replacement on an MWA panel. As I recall, I had just published my second book with Walker, I was replacing Carol Higgins Clark, and Lawrence Block was on the panel. He might even have been the moderator. Do you need to ask me if I was nervous? And he could not have been more gracious. I told him this recently and he said, “Are you sure that was me?” Yes, it was him.

And here’s the other. The scene is Bouchercon in DC and I went out for dinner with an old friend, a scientist, who lives in the area. The hotel bar is in the lobby. Coming back, she sees a bar packed with people wearing B’con badges and having a grand old time and she saya, “ A biology conference is nothing like this. Boy, you mystery writers know how to have fun! ”

Very true.

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For Jerry Healy: Service Dogs for Wounded Veterans

From Brendan DuBois:

I’m *so* very pleased to announce that through the efforts, suggestions and recommendations of Sandra Balzo, Andi Malala Shechter, S.J. Rozan and her terrific sister, Deborah B. Rosan, that a means of commemorating Jeremiah Healy’s works and life has been established.

Besides his work as an attorney and an author, Jerry was a U.S. Army vet, and was also a lover of dogs. We have therefore reached out to a service dog organization in Maryland that trains dogs to assist wounded veterans, and they will be thrilled to receive donations in Jerry’s name.

The group is called Hero Dogs, and is based in Maryland. Their website is here. They are an IRS approved 501(c)(3) organization and operate entirely on donations. You can donate via their website, or by sending a check to Hero Dogs, P.O. 64, Brookeville, MD 20833-0064. But *please* ensure either by writing on the memo section of your check, or using the form on their website, that you’re making this donation in Jerry’s name.

That way, Hero Dogs can track how many donations come in, so that they can be used in some way to keep Jerry’s memory alive in years to come.

Please donate what you can, and please share this link. Thanks to all of you who were friends or fans of Jerry’s.

Terrie here: I don’t know of any fledgling writer who ever spoke to Jerry Healy for as little as ten minutes (although it was hard to have that short a conversation with Jerry) who didn’t come a way with some great advice, solid support and an invitation to get in touch anytime. He was a mentor to all the newbies and a friend to everyone he met.

He will long be remembered.

Terrie

One Author’s Attempt to Create an Online Presence

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Three years ago, I took a sabbatical from my teaching position at a local community college. I’d been teaching business classes for ten years at the time, and while I had been holding a piece of chalk, this thing called the Internet had been invented. It appeared I was hopelessly out of the loop.

With my sabbatical approved, I applied for an internship at an internet-based company. Imagine the hiring manager’s surprise when I showed up for the interview. If you haven’t guessed, I’m not a college co-ed. Whether it was pity or simply shock, I’ll never know, but I did get the job.

I’m happy to report that I caught on as fast as expected for a 40-something technical Luddite. On my first day, my boss recommended the quick read, Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media and Blogs, by Halligan & Shah. I read the book in one sitting and was immediately intrigued by blogging and its marketing power.

I decided the best way to jump into the blogosphere was to pick a topic where I had some expertise — because that’s exactly what Halligan & Shah recommend in their book! As the theory goes, blogging about your product is essentially an ad, and no one wants to read an ad. Instead, the authors recommend creating an Internet presence that showcases your expertise. This expertise, if genuine, will quickly build credibility in your industry.

Here’s what I know – a college classroom. So in May 2012, I launched my college blog (www.deirdreverne.com/blog) where I post all the crazy things I’m thinking but not saying to students in class.

Do I know you’re cheating? Do I care what you’re wearing? Does your incessant texting bug me? Can I be bribed? For two and half years, I’ve been posting regularly, and I love it. I’m not sure this makes me an expert in anything but annoying the administration at my college. I have, however, learned a tremendous amount from the process.

From a teaching perspective, my blog has helped me connect with my students on a more personal basis. As a writer, it’s allowed me to exercise my voice. It’s also forced me to build an online network of Internet experts. I’ve met web designers, search engine gurus, copy editors and freelance photographers. As my virtual network has grown, I’ve started to feel more comfortable creating and managing my online presence.

Then of course, I got a book deal. Now it appears my Internet dabbling has become a business necessity. Yet another challenge! How to translate what I’ve learned into building an audience of mystery readers?

In my next post, I’ll talk about my effort to create an online presence without the aid of an expensive ad agency. I’m hoping you can pitch in and give me some advice as I am far from an expert on this topic.

Drawing Conclusions

Lascaux Review, Submission Reminder

lascaux-newsite5-browndropThe Lascaux Review, a showcase for emerging and established writers and artists has announced a call for submissions for its short fiction contests, The Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction. Submissions opened October 1st for previously published or unpublished stories. Prize of $1,000 to the winner. The winner and the finalists will appear in the 2015 Lascaux Prize Anthology. Deadline is December 31st.

Also, the are still accepting manuscripts for the Christine E. Eldin Memorial Fellowship, an inaugural contest for unpublished middle-grade fiction which opened for submissions on September 1st. Prize of $1,000. Deadline for submissions is December 31st.

For more information and complete details on all the contests, click onto The Lascaux Review.com/contests

Ebola Outbreak, Life Imitating Art

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This is why we write, okay, one of the reasons we write.

Outbreak, the 1995 movie, smacked of truth. The fear of pandemics, the mutated viruses resistant to antibiotics from overuse, in particular, in intensive animal farming, for years we’ve heard and read about these medical concerns.

With the recent Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, which is spreading at an unprecedented rate, one of the authors, either Laurence Dworet or Robert Roy Pool, was interviewed stating this was exactly what they had in mind when they wrote the story.

In Outbreak, a fictional Ebola-like virus called Motaba, outbreaks in Zaire and later in a small town in California. Sound familiar?

With regards to the real outbreak, researches say “The genomic sequencing also offers hints as to how the Ebola “Zaire” strain at the heart of the current outbreak — one of five types of Ebola virus known to infect humans — likely ended up in West Africa in the first place. Researchers said the data suggests that the virus spread from an animal host, possibly bats, and that diverged around 2004 from an Ebola strain in central Africa, where previous outbreaks have occurred. The New York Times, September 28, 2014.

Of course the movie veers into a sinister plot, but Its primary settings are government disease control centers and the CDC. We’ve had our share of mis-steps by the CDC and the Texas hospital.

When we write, we reflect the human condition, and/or foretell the future. The nearly two decade old movie, Outbreak, is a great example of both.

 

 

 

 

Virgil’s Working on Deadline

Deadline by John Sandford is the eighth Virgil Flowers novel, and the quirky detective continues to put the pieces of some truly challenging jigsaw puzzles together. What sets these books apart is Sandford’s trademark humor and interesting police procedures.

51o81BLmPEL._AA160_Virgil is visiting his old friend, Johnson Johnson, who asks a huge favor of the BCA agent. Some scoundrel in the town of Trippton is kidnapping dogs. Though this hardly seems like a case for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Virgil starts investigating with the hope of avoiding trouble from the gun-toting citizens who are searching for their prized hunting dogs and valued pets.

In the midst of this curious investigation (and it is a strange one), Virgil is called in to check out the random murder of a local reporter. Like most of Virgil’s cases, the murder is the tiny tip of an iceberg. Much of what he needs is hidden well below the surface.

I feel Sandford scored another winner with this one. There was lots of humor, some good fight scenes, and an interesting case study. We know who the bad guys are, but it’s interesting to watch Virgil struggle to bring all the pieces of the whole together.

There’s a lot of hillbilly lingo and local slang in this one, but Sanford handled it well. It’s a small town, with small-town problems, and small-town people who think they can get away with, among other things, murder. As always, it has the perfect recipes: secrets, lies, and family squabbles.

Check out Deadline, especially if you’re a dog lover!.

Story Writing from an Expert

On August 7, I posted a blog here about writing short stories. No big secrets about how to do it –if only! – just my musings about how I couldn’t do it at all, and then I could. Now Sisters in Crime-NY has published the brand new anthology, Family Matters, edited by Anita Page. The older two were reissued with spiffy new covers thanks to new publisher, Glenmere Press and Lois Karlin.

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So, when the chapter had a meeting with SJ Rozan speaking on the topic of short story writing, there was a lot of interest. A lot. We had a packed house last night.

SJ Rozan has won just about all the mystery world awards, including an Edgar for best Novel AND an Edgar for best short story. She is a genuine expert, though I doubt she would say so. Myself, I’ve heard her speak before and know it will always be interesting and always be fun.
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She read us a recent very short story and took us behind the curtain to see how she made it work in such a constrained structure.

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Some takeaways: short stories are an opportunity to experiment with style. They are also an opportunity to work on getting every word exactly right. They should be like a liquor store robbery- get in and get out, fast. (She added that a book more resembles a long con, which may or may not work) The focus for a story is on the reader. How will it appear/ affect/ intrigue that person? The limitations of form and, often, topic, provide excellent exercises for our writing chops.

Personal note: “Eldercare,” my story in Family Matters, is decidedly creepy for me. Yes, it was a good exercise to change up my whole approach.

She talked a little about the practical side of writing stories, pointing out that there is a lively market. She had a few useful tips, the first being one of the oldest for any writer: know your audience. In other words, don’t send the cute cat story to Akashic, where they love noir! She recommended introducing yourself, without pitching, to anthology and magazine editors at mystery events. While they may not remember you, it gives you a little hook to contact them later. Ah. Calculating but in a good way.

And then we did a mini-workshop. Ten random words from the audience, and write a short story using all of them, right there, right now. So we tried. Some used all the words but didn’t quite get to the end, the payoff, of the story. That would include me. But I surprised myself by maybe getting the beginning of a real story. Some actually wrote a complete short-short on the spot, maybe using all the words, maybe not. Everyone learned something from the exercise.

In the Q & A, SJ told us she always has the end of the story in mind, which is not true for her books, but admitted she does not always know how to get there. It was encouraging to hear that even an expert has trouble with the evil middle! And one more piece of advice to remember: don’t write what you know; write what you want to know.

A Lot About Sam McCain and A Little About Terrie Moran

My life is fluctuating rapidly between family issues and some personal medical tests and treatments this month, so technically I am not supposed to be posting, BUT, I had to stop by to tell you that one of the great advantages of medical issues is that in between stupid stuff, there is an occasional  chance to read. So when issue Number 136 of Mystery Scene Magazine  showed up in my mailbox on Saturday, I was ecstatic when I saw one of the cover articles was titled “Small Town Hero: Ed Gorman’s Sam McCain novels.” Now everyone knows I love Sam McCain. I talked about the latest and final *sob* *sob* Sam McCain novel, Riders on the Storm over on Criminal Element a few weeks ago.  So I couldn’t wait to read the fabulous article by Tom Nolan in which he talked about mystery readers’ introduction to Sam in The Day the Music Died (1999) right up to this month’s publication of Riders on the Storm.

cover_LizardsArdent_525wAfter reading Tom Nolan’s article twice, I turned to the place I usually start reading, the short story review section written by Bill Crider. I read along enjoying Bill’s take on some excellent collections and anthologies. Then I saw a cover picture of The Lizard’s Ardent Uniform, the anthology David Cranmer put together to honor his nephew Kyle J. Knapp. And without blushing I print here exactly what Bill Crider wrote:

And speaking of out of the ordinary, the award for strangest title goes to The Lizard’s Ardent Uniform, edited by David Cranmer, who explains the book’s origin and purpose in his introduction. The stories are a mixture of crime, noir, and the “new weird.”  Terrie Farley Moran’s excellent dark crime story, “Dust to Dust,” is reason enough to buy the book, but all the other stories are fine and strange.

So, pardon me if I smile.

Terrie