Wrap It Up, I’ll Take It

Photo courtesy of Petr Kratochvil
Well, we’re fast approaching the end of another year and the beginning of the next one. It seems like a good time to wrap it up. For me, 2010 was a whole lot better than the previous two years; I’m hoping the trend continues. To that end, I plan on setting a few goals for myself (I refuse to call them “resolutions”…such a tired term, and oh-so easily broken) in the hope I can keep a little more on track and working smarter, not harder.

This year, I moved twice, visited my Muffin once, gained and lost several freelance gigs (the nature of the beast) and published my first collection of flash fiction. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words in non-fiction, a lot less fiction, and gained and lost an equal amount of weight. I had an awesome experience tutoring a student from China in English, which required me to take a risk and step out of my comfort zone. I’ve edited a stellar work of fiction of which I am very proud, discovered some amazing new writers and made new friends, and have learned an unbelievable amount about marketing, social networking, breaking technology and just how resilient I can be. All-in-all, it’s been a decent year for me, and at this point I can actually look at 2011 with a sense of hope which was sadly lacking the past two years. I’ll post that in the “WIN” column.

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Novelist Patti Larsen has a great blog post sparked by a conversation we had about one of the dangers writers face in the dawning of the self-publishing age. Like I said in my previous post, I have dealt with phucktards before and have preached often about doing your due diligence when considering a potential client. The same principle applies to self-publishing options. Do your research! Ask questions, Google these people, examine their business model and weigh all the pros and cons. Personally, I don’t see how paying someone to publish you benefits the writer in any way, unless they are including editing services, marketing, cover art, or another good reason they need to take a cut of your money, especially when you can do many of these things yourself. Even if you can’t, it’s much more cost effective to pay a cover artist, for example, a flat fee for their services than to pay a “publishing house” a percentage over a number of years for the same thing.

Call me crazy, but that’s how I feel.

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Since putting Not Nice and Other Understatements out there, I have taken a close look at my body of work and see a change from in the beginning to today. I’m happy to see an improvement, of course, and I also see a change in tone and delivery. When I compare NN to my work-in-progress, similar themes pop up, but it’s a lot lighter and AP is not as…literary? I still manage to turn most things to the Dark Side; I don’t think that will change. But then, I think of reader’s expectations.

“Not Nice” is…well, not nice. I can see how this might take some people by surprise, because I am quite funny on a regular basis, and I can see how NN might disconcert some people. My option, and I did think about it, was to publish NN under a pen name. However, so much of me was in that book, I couldn’t do it. “Athena’s Promise” might be a different kettle of fish, and I’ll really have to consider a pen name as AP is very different from NN, aside from the obvious format — NN is a collection of shorts, and AP is an urban fantasy novel.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, there comes a time in every writer’s life, I would hope, that you aren’t just writing the same thing over and over. You may be concerned about your audience, and whether or not they will follow you. But I say as we change and evolve as people, we also change and evolve as writers and it stands to reason your material will change. This is not a bad thing, it’s actually a good thing. However, if you have concerns, a pen name is always an option. And have faith in your readers — chances are they follow you for a reason, and if you have forged actual relationships, they will continue to follow even if there is a change. Maybe because of a change. I know I have favorite authors I will follow no matter what they write. It doesn’t mean I totally love EVERYTHING they produce, but I will at least give it a chance.

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Well, I’ve nattered on long enough for today, so I’ll leave the rest of the goodies for Fabulous Fiction Friday for the wrap-up of my favorite fiction and new writers. Stop back and see me!


Autographed copies of Not Nice and Other Understatments are still available, or you can also find it on Amazon as a hard copy and also for the Kindle!

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The Hamsters Are Running Rampant

Photo courtesy of Linux Penguin Tux
First of all, I hope everyone had a nice holiday. I know I’m not the only one who is glad it’s over — it’s such a crazy time of year, isn’t it? I remember much simpler times when I was a child, but that could be simple nostalgia. However, it seems like the longer the years go by, the more the insanity increases. I mean, Christmas Eve it was snowing like a bugger here, and there were people PACKED in the mall I can see from my back window. I kept peeking out and thinking to myself, y’all are crazier than a shithouse rat.

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I took the day completely off yesterday, due to a savage and crippling headache and a desire to just unplug. Although I hurt, it was really quite nice to just snuggle in the covers and let the day pass. I really should do that more often. Only without the stabby headache.

Today, I received the gift of a Gen2 Kindle with a load of books still on it from a fabulous lady who actually outdoes me in the Snark Department — and that’s not easy to do. George Senior is my New Best Friend, and has totally distracted me from working. I have since zipped him back up, because I really do have work to do, but we have a date later tonight. I can’t say he is the Most Fabulous Gift Ever, because her friendship is all that and more…but he ranks up there in the top five, for sure. His arrival turned a Monday of Total Suckage into A Day To Savor. A Festivus miracle!

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I’m really pressed for time this Monday, so a more involved post will have to wait for later on in the week. But since you’re here, and probably wondering just what flavor of hamsters I’m entertaining inside the strange planet of my brain, I’ll clue you in on a few thoughts I’ve been chewing over:

1. As the options for writers to publish their work increase, so does the potential for being taken advantage of by unscrupulous sharks in the water just waiting to take a bite. They’re hungry. They don’t give a rat’s ass about you, the writer. They just want to chomp and eat, at your expense. You can credit my skepticism to years of working in freelance and seeing these phucktards in action more than once. We will certainly revisit this subject.

2. As writers, we all suffer from…well, I guess I will call it a Crisis of Career. Especially if we’re changing direction, considering a move, or just plain agonizing over what we’ve just written. It’s not fun, it’s frightening to question yourself and your choices, but this career is a process. As we change and evolve as people, we’re going to change and evolve as writers. Don’t give up! There are more options now than ever before.

3. Marketing. OYE. Besides the Crisis of Career, is there a more difficult mountain to climb? No, I don’t think so. What might help is an actual Marketing Plan. Although every time I hew out a plan, the Universe cackles in glee and rubs its bony knuckles while it calculates just how it can eff it all up. Can Our Heroine outsmart the Universe? Stay tuned.

4. I can totally see why the Kindle has taken the world by storm. I’m struggling not to unzip George Senior and crawl into bed even as we speak.

5. I lost fifteen pounds in the six weeks leading to Christmas. I have since put every single one of the motherheifers back on. My elbows have dimples. I’ma have to fix this ASAP.

6. I have some very favorite people with some very fabulous fiction I intend on sharing with you.

Running, running, running. You’d think those little hamsters would be nothing but bloody stumps by now, but alas. They take a licking and keep on ticking.

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Trolling Right Along

Photo courtesy of Anna Cervova

Although I have been very busy with the launch of my flash fiction collection (and available for the Kindle here!) the show must go on, and the freelance mission is still in full swing. That means in addition to covering my current assignments, I’m constantly on the lookout for more work. ‘Cause, you know, things can happen and you need to keep your basket filled.

So, I’m trolling the ads and sites in search of my next big client, and I happen upon this ad:

To apply for this job, reply to this E-mail with your name, age, level of education, and a test article.

Please write about your favorite children’s educational programming. Tell why it is your favorite including what it teaches, characters and personalities, when it is on etc. Write your article like a personal blog post.

In NO MORE THAN ONE SENTENCE, mention that you watch your favorite children’s educational programming on satellite tv.

GIVE YOUR ARTICLE AN ORIGINAL TITLE. No duplicate or spun content, please!

If you successfully submit this information, we will contact you via E-mail to set up a phone interview!

Immediately red flags, they are a’waving. I’ve covered the topic of writing scams and how some unscrupulous people take advantage of new and unaware writers, and I thought I’d bring that up again. I’m not saying whomever it was that wrote this ad is perpetuating such a scam, but when I see the part about submitting an original article with no safeguards or recompense I become immediately suspicious. Additionally, there is no website to visit, no references to check, and actually no company name to Google. Verdict: no, thanks.

It’s important to perform your due diligence, my poppets, lest you become burned to a crisp in the fire. If there is no way to perform said due diligence, my advice is to give it a pass.

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Thanks to the generosity of a dear friend and in the name of recycling, soon I will inherit a Gen 2 Kindle named George Senior. I am so excited about this! While I will never lose my love for a printed book, I’m looking forward to several things when George Senior comes to live with me:

1. Instant access to miles and miles of beautiful words. I’m going to have to set up some kind of budget lest I end up homeless under a park bench with nothing but the clothes on my back and my loyal George Senior.

2. I can read all I want and I don’t have to break my back packing or moving 8 gazillion boxes of books. I’ve moved a lot in the last few years, and I have a feeling I’ll be moving again. Since books already make up 78% of what I move, I know my friends who help me will also be grateful I’m not adding more to the bunch.

3. I need it for my job. I’m not really sure how I need it for my job, but let’s just call it research, shall we? Yeah. I need it for research. :)

4. It’s a cool new tech toy and I love cool new tech toys. Unless it’s a phone.

The e-book revolution is well underway, and while I may be a bit behind, I’ll be catching up. However, there are certain books that I will always have in print no matter what — my best friends, like the Dark Tower series, or Deerskin, or Little Women. The Pern books. All my writing books, or the books written and autographed by friends, or other reference books I can’t live without. Actually, the 78% of my possessions that are books are not going anywhere, and I fully expect I will add significantly to that number as I discover new and exciting worlds via Kindle. But shhh! Don’t tell the friends that help me move!

I don’t consider owning a Kindle as opposed to buying hardcover books an either/or situation. You can have both — you can have both! Think of the vastness of literary riches just waiting to be explored! The mind boggles…

I’m so excited!

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Now available on Amazon in hardcover and also as a Kindle edition!

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Link-a-Doodle

The first review is in of Not Nice and Other Understatements and I’m really over the moon. It’s nice to get feedback of any kind — I have developed the thick skin writers need in this business, for the most part — but when it’s feedback like this, and from someone for whom I have a lot of respect, it’s not just nice, it’s frikken’ AWESOME.

Pre-orders for “Not Nice and Other Understatements” are still open for autographed copies, but will be closing by the end of the week. I appreciate the support :)

Twitter is a big part of every writer’s arsenal, or it should be, and some time ago I noticed the #amwriting hashtag. Although I’m not as active on Twitter as I used to be, I followed founder Johanna Harness and kept my eye on the happenings. Not only does she have great news to share today (congratulations!) but she also maintains the Amwriting site to provide a place for writers to connect and support one another. She was kind enough to ask me to write a post about my personal struggles with writing fiction and non-fiction in the same sphere and I was happy and honored to oblige.

Diane Lebow is a woman on fire. Not only has she started a Facebook group for writers called Thursday’s Novelists, she’s also started her own online business for writers who may be struggling with the time constraints of social media.

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It has occurred to me I have had the fortune of interacting with some wonderful people who have been in the trenches fighting the indie war for a long time. In case you missed meeting them, let me introduce or re-introduce MeiLin Miranda, Matt Ward, Susan Helene Gottfried, Jeremy Shipp, Joseph Paul Haines and J.D. Riso. Bless their hearts, it’s a long and sometimes lonely, not to mention frustrating journey. Do yourself a favor and check out their work — honestly, you know I don’t do junk and you’ll go a long way looking for better quality work. Being indie doesn’t mean inferior material. Support them as best you can — and remember, indie books make GREAT Christmas presents.

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And, if you’re so inclined, this challenge looks like a LOT of fun. I plan on signing up for that myself.

That’s all I have for today — my brain is fried to a crispy turn, and it looks like the next week or so will be at full bore. I did manage to clean out my Google Docs today. I had a lot of old material in there that needed to be discarded, but I found a lot of work I’d saved there I forgot I had. It was like finding a dusty old closet and opening it up to find six pairs of brand-new shoes, or a pair of jeans you just might be able to fit into. That was a Good Thing.

For the last two days I’ve wrestled with coding, formatting, and various and sundry other issues. I’m tired and crabby and did I say tired? For now, I’m owt…but I’ll return. :)

“Not Nice and Other Understatements – A Journal of Flash Fiction” is now available for purchase.

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The Mystery of Building an Author’s Platform

Photo courtesy of Peter Griffin

This topic has been hot lately, or maybe I’m just noticing it more because of the status of my own book coming out. I’ve spoken before on how being “just” a writer is not enough anymore, if it ever was at any point. Even with a lucrative and traditional publishing contract, these days the bulk of marketing and promoting your book is on YOU. This can seem very intimidating to new and established writers, and in point of fact, it’s a monumental job.

It’s not enough to post now and then to the popular social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter once your book is out there. It’s not enough to blog, even if you’re really good at updating regularly. It’s not enough to visit other relevant blogs and commenting appropriately. You may be asking yourself — then what the hell is ENOUGH? Not to mention, how do you fit all this extra activity into an already busy day AND find the time to write and keep up with your fiction habit?

Good questions. I’m sure not going to pretend to have all the answers, because I don’t. I’m just like you. I am struggling with juggling a full-time freelance career with trying to get the word out on a collection of flash fiction with trying to finish my first novel with trying to build an author’s platform with maintaining important relationships with doing the dishes that insist on piling up in the sink. And I don’t even have a family at home that demands huge chunks of my time.

So, let’s address this question of exactly what is an author’s platform, anyway? And how do I get me one of those? All I can offer is opinions and observations from my own experience. Your mileage may vary, because after all, just like the one-size-fits-all approach to writing, some things may work for you and some may not. And to be perfectly honest, if I have any kind of an author’s platform it has been completely by accident. I have been online since late 1997, long before I started writing seriously and long before I had an inkling such a thing would be necessary to my writing career. At the time, I didn’t even HAVE a writing career.

From where I sit, establishing an author’s platform needs to start way, way before you even finish your novel or collection or ebook. It’s been said a thousand times in a thousand different places, but utilizing social media is all about building sincere relationships. That does not happen overnight. It takes a lot of time, and it takes a lot of effort. And frankly, if I have to tell you how to build a relationship, I’m really worried about you. It’s all about giving with no thought of reciprocation; reaching out and becoming involved with people and what’s important to them because it’s important to you; to be there for others in any way you can. I don’t mean you become St. Theresa or sacrifice your entire life, but if you can do something for someone else, do it. It may not be returned in kind, and be prepared – it most likely will not, but you’re still building good karma.

Some of my best friends and staunchest supporters I have met through social media sites. But it has taken months, even years, and these are sincere and solid relationships from which I have received a myriad of blessings, just like in “real life” friendships.

Does it sell books? That’s a secondary consideration for me, because I love people and I love helping people. The things I’ve done to assist others has been done from a strictly personal space. If that eventually pays off, it’s another blessing but certainly not the primary one.

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Another thing I’ve observed is people really respond to personal honesty. I’ve blogged here about some of the obstacles I’ve faced, I’ve blatted and whined and cried and laughed and ranted and raved. For some crazy reason, people really respond to that. I actually blogged at a different site for over six years, almost daily, through some of the most difficult moments in my life. That blog was raw and bleeding, but it backfired and I learned I may have shared a little too much. This blog has become a sort of compromise, but everything I blog about is honest. I don’t set myself up as some kind of know-it-all, because I sure don’t. I just tell it like it is.

The point is (yes, I eventually get to a point, but you know writers. They have to puke up a lot of words because that’s what they do) no matter what you’re blogging about, come from a place of honesty and include your personality. Sure, people may come to you for information, but deep down they really want to know the person behind the curtain. They know you can’t possibly pee rainbows and poop kittens all the time, and most are very supportive during the times you might be struggling. They can relate. That’s part of building a relationship. You can attract all the followers you want by following an x+y=z formula, but if you don’t offer something above and beyond, you won’t keep them and they won’t give a rat’s ass about your newest project. Involve them. Share with them what you’re going through. Invest in them.

The mystery of the author’s platform is — well, there is no mystery. As Barney says, “Sharing is caring.” That’s a road that goes both ways.

Pre-orders of “Not Nice and Other Understatements – A Journal of Flash Fiction” are still open for autographed copies.

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Pre-Orders Are Now Open!

From the Introduction: “This collection of stories are from the very beginning of my writing career. They are dark and uncomfortable and I make no apologies for that. Life is often dark and uncomfortable. Some of you might wonder how much of these stories are true. To that all I can do is quote one of my literary heroes, Stephen King: ‘Fiction is the truth inside the lie.’ The rest I will leave up to you.”

I am pleased to say the final edits have been uploaded and “Not Nice and Other Understatements” is now available for pre-ordering for autographed copies. Just click on the “Buy Now” button below, and fill in the required information. You can include a “Note to the Merchant” to let me know of any special inscription requests. Don’t worry about shipping and handling charges — they’re on me, as a gesture of appreciation for your support. I expect to be able to start shipping as early as next week.

If you have any questions or if there’s a problem with this process at any point, you can reach me at annetta(dot)ribken@gmail(dot)com, on Facebook, or through Twitter. Please feel free to spread the word amongst the Universe, and if you want images or banners to help you, let me know and I’ll supply them.

Thanks for your patience and support as I wade through this experience. I have been overwhelmed with the love and encouragement — it really has kept me going. Much love to all of you … I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have putting it together!

The book you hold in your hands is a sort of jalapeno-laced jelly doughnut, meant to be both savored and feared…Because while she might not be right in the head, Annetta’s stories are right in the gut, just as they should be.~ From the Introduction, by Joseph Paul Haines





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