Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Scope/Research/Logic

by Daddy X

Is ‘scope’ even a tool? Whatever. It’s a quality I look for in a read. When I engage with a book, I want more than just the story. I want to know what the story implies in a larger sense, how it relates to fundamental cause and effect.

When our mind wanders, one thought follows another, establishing a kind of sense to us, a logical progression incorporating our own knowledge and ideas. Problem is, to someone else our so-called logical progressions may not make sense. Plotting a path of logical thought can be a quite personal thing. If our reader knows something about a subject, it is perfectly possible for them to fill in connective blanks by supplying their own knowledge. But how do we supply just enough correct information to lead the reader to his/her own conclusions?

Perhaps a few examples will more effectively explain this tie-in of scope and logic:

When I read Simon Winchester’s “Krakatoa”, a non-fiction work, not only did I learn how big the explosion was in 1883, how it reckoned to be the loudest noise humans have ever experienced. I also learned that blast was heard in Australia, all the way from Indonesia. It affected the skies for years, creating lower worldwide temperatures. The eruption launched eleven cubic miles of the planet into the atmosphere. I learned that there was no dawn in the area for three days

I also learned the workings of the geological structure of the inner earth, below the crust we live on. How currents of molten metamorphic rock constantly flow in predictable patterns over millions of years. How these destructive vents we call volcanoes, though devastating in violence, are actually relief valves, periodically releasing pressure that if not checked, would result in much bigger cataclysms.

I learned that the eruption of Krakatoa could have been connected to the first known act of Islamic extremism. The notion that the world was ending made earthly matters no longer relevant.  How it all fits together. Logical cause and effect—backed by history and research.

Winchester does his due diligence. Research, research, research. In this case, research is certainly an indispensible tool.

Another book, this one fiction, “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” was a mixed read for me. Popular back in the 90’s, they made a film (which I didn’t see) of the screenplay. Although I read it at least twenty years ago, the conflicting impressions are still clear.

“Smilla” by Peter Hoeg began as an all-encompassing read. The first person MC, an immigrant female investigator, is working a murder in Denmark. While relating her story, the history of her mother’s native land and people comes alive with facts and anecdotes about the Greenland culture and how they fare socially when transported to Europe. Her people are described to fit within the sturdy genetic and cultural stock of our far northern Inuit tribes.

(See the village in “The Highbottom Affair”, available in “The Gonzo Collection” for a fuller, more fanciful description of these people.)

Those tangential drifts didn’t detract from either the flow of the story or a reader’s attention. Hell, it was one of those books that one resents any time not spent reading. The book had scope. Everything happening on the ground coincided with the MC’s drifts of whimsy. In the first half.

Unfortunately, at one point, the story turned around on its face. It was as though another writer (a not-too-bright one) had pushed the author away from the word processor and took over, turning the story into cheap sci-fi deep-core earth bullshit run-of-the-mill pap.

 If it sounds like I’m angry about that—I was. Although I got over it—at the time I felt as though something had been stolen from me. A stellar read had been bastardized and I still don’t know why. Maybe they ran out of info? Not enough research to get through the book? So they piled it all up front and filled in the rest with crap for readers with a double-digit IQ? Man, was I pissed!

Donna Tartt’s “Goldfinch” really did deserve its Pulitzer. Not only was the story wondrously compelling, her research seemed faultless. Being in the antiques trade, I saw that her impeccable references to art history and enlightened attention to aesthetics appeared to represent a tremendous amount of knowledge.

But did it really? Can authors, using selected and sometimes subtle facts and hints, fake that knowledge? Can we give ‘em a little that seems like a lot? Give the reader enough so their own logical thought progressions will provide veracity? This is fiction, after all.

The idea of research is daunting, and for me, not much fun. Writing is fun. But what constitutes the correct level of inside info to convince a reader? Yet not get weakened by inaccuracies or omissions? How to work those subtleties to our advantage as a writer? I know there’s no substitute for knowledge, but can we fake it in fiction? Is there some fine line that can be walked? Anybody have a process?

What would one even name that skill?

Maybe it’s a tool.





Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Writer's Tools by Suz deMello (A Brief and Limited Look)

The size of our toolbox has increased in the last few years in a very pleasing manner.

It used to be that our tools were simple: pen, paper, and the words we put on said paper using said pen.

Maybe a hundred years ago, the typewriter started to replace paper and pen, though many were never convinced.

The next "Great Leap Forward" came about twenty years ago, when personal computers had become affordable. This time, most were won over, except that many us prefer to use paper and pen, Though I do most of my writing on my laptop, I needed focused effort to make this transition, but I'm happy I did. However, when I'm blocked, it's useful to take my journal and change scenery, perhaps to a Starbucks. That will often joggle loose whatever's got me stuck.

Still a fave!

Perhaps the most useful tool, and the most dramatic change in book publishing, came with the explosion of direct self-publishing that started in 2007 with Amazon's introduction of Kindle Direct Publishing, followed by the founding of Smashwords in 2008. While self-publishing existed before with services such as Lulu (2002), Amazon, with its massive customer base, quickly became the online favorite while Smashwords, with its easy publishing platform and user-friendly approach, is an author favorite (well, it's this author's fave. I like Mark Coker. He's very approachable.).

The stigma attached to self-publishing rapidly diminished as authors decided that we deserve the lion's share of our royalties rather than the measly 6-10% earned through traditional publishers. Even best-selling authors have suffered due to publishers' anti-author policies. I found traditional publishing to be a choice between incompetence or outright thievery, and vastly prefer to go my own way. Although promoting my books remains a mystery, I prefer to sink or swim on my own.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Mother of All Tools

Sacchi Green

What a marvelous device! A tool that can grasp, lift, turn, reach out, withdraw: move with force and speed enough to be a weapon, or move slowly and gently enough to handle tiny, fragile things. A tool that can manufacture other tools, even robotic replicas of itself, sometimes to reach where it cannot safely go, sometimes to perform surgical procedures requiring even tinier, more precise movements than it can manage itself, in spaces where it cannot fit.

And a tool that can challenge any sex toy ever made, most of which require its help to function. Ropes or gags cannot tie themselves. Clamps do not generally open and close themselves. Vibrators have off/on buttons, and even electric wands must be held and directed. Dildos and other penetrative gadgets need to be fixed in harnesses or manipulated manually (with the exception, I‘ll admit, of a few outrider contraptions of a roughly “saddlehorn” nature.)

Manufactured. Manipulated. Manually. All words derived from the Latin for “hand.” Admittedly “tool” is understood to mean something used by the hand to perform tasks, if not directly, then by means of other tools dependent on hands at some point in their construction. I’m stretching the theme to the point of cheating to represent the hand itself as a tool. In fact my point is more that the hand is the source of all tools, and  sometimes the prototype, in the sense that many tools were first developed to extend what the hands could do. If hands could throw objects, a sling could allow the hand to throw them farther and harder.  If hands could, with difficulty, open a clamshell, a sharp stone could be used by the hand to do it more easily. If hands could pull strips of leather through slits in hides to fasten them together, an eyed needle made from bone could let the hands do finer work.

Still, calling a body part a tool is, as I admitted, a stretch. The alternate definition of “tool” that the Merriam-Webster dictionary gives so coyly: “d. often vulgar :  penis”, is a common usage, but irrelevant here.  I did learn something from exploring definitions, though; I’d always assumed that calling someone a “tool” was like calling him a “dick,” whereas it turns out that a more specific definition from The Urban Dictionary says, “One who lacks the mental capacity to know he is being used. A fool. A cretin. Characterized by low intelligence and/or self-esteem.” In any case, this too is irrelevant, except to display my own ignorance.

But there are some legitimate arguments to be made in favor of seeing the hand as a tool. Consider communication. If the pen is a tool for written communication, as is the typewriter, and now the computer, what about this?


In sign language, isn’t the hand a tool for quasi-written communication? And then there are all those hand gestures that make an unwritten point.
I won't try to make a case for that sort of communication as representing a tool, though. Well, maybe the Merriam-Webster definition "d" kind.


Moving along to the matter of sex toys. If one considers a sex toy as something that gives sexual pleasure without being the standard equipment for procreation, the hand is right up there. Ask any lesbian. Not that men don’t know that, too, and not just in the context of the traditional “hand job.” At least they’d better have figured it out. Men can learn a lot from reading good lesbian erotica. Just saying. There are ways in which the hand can do things even the “tool” in definition “d” can’t manage, and do it for longer. If they sometimes require added lubrication, well, so do a vast number of other tools.

Hmm. I suspect I haven’t really made a case for the hand as a tool, but I did say “The Mother of All Tools” in my title, and it’s true—almost true—that without the hand, there would be no tools. I say “almost true,” because there are a few birds who’ve learned to do things like holding sticks in their beaks to probe for tasty grubs, and octopi have been observed manipulating things around them in ways that could be interpreted as using tools. Maybe it’s just as well that octopi stay pretty much under water. With all those talented tentacles they might learn to out-tool humans if they were terrestrial. It doesn’t bear thinking of. Especially when it comes to sex toys. (Don’t think about that. Just…don’t. Although there have been stories written…)



   




Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hands On Experience

Obviously, with a subject like tools, there is the obvious “sex toys” option I could take, especially in relation to BDSM. Thing is, I don’t really write much in that style. Toys are awesome and all, but what I love most is flesh-on-flesh contact, and that’s what I tend to write.
So what other tack could I take, I wonder?
Hmm…
Well, as one of history’s great indoorsmen, I admit I’m a tad useless with talking about tools in the most literal sense. Sure I could snigger away with the schoolboy definition but of course as a 46-year-old man I grew out of that kind of thing hours ago.
Having said that, I’m in the early stages of branching out into other genres of writing. Genres which will require me to have a passable understanding of many tools, from screwdrivers to semi-automatic weaponry. There’s no doubt this information would also be handy if I were to write Sucked Off by the Sub-Contractor or some such smutty tale as well.
I was actually born into a tool-friendly family. My father began the journey to being a carpenter when he was only 15 years old, and he picked up a metric butt load of other skills in his time working in the building industry. Even in his 70s now, he will pretty much work with anything but plumbing and electrical—both of which he can do with more than a little aplomb but for reasons of safety chooses not to.
My problem is, by my estimation, the amount of skill which passed on to me is approximately 7%. So, while I’ve seen building-style tools in use, and have used them, I have no affinity with them. A theoretical understanding is all well and good, but human beings tend to develop a physical and verbal shorthand for anything they understand intimately. A worker and their tools can have a relationship much like two people can. And none of that comes from reading the instruction manual. Heck, I understand what a surgeon does—makes a hole in you, rummages around, patches shit up—but would you want me taking out your gall bladder?
My lack of affinity is kind of a shame, really, because any tool which can be used for building can also be theoretically used for destroying. And both of those aspects would be pretty handy for the stories I’m starting on.
More than all of those, though, I need to gain some working knowledge of firearms. I have some basics in place, like “this is the bit whut fits in yer mitt” and “that there’s the part whut makes a big loud noise”. I understand that, for example, you can’t put a .303 rifle cartridge into a .22 pistol and hope for anything good to happen. But that’s a matter of logic and mathematics. It would be too thick for the hole (which is something I’ve been tempted to write a few times in my erotic stories, fnarr, fnarr…oh, wait… I outgrew that kind of thing hours ago. Damn.)
Why this particular aspect gives me the willies (fnarr, fn– er, never mind) is because there are so many people out there who are, indeed, firearms enthusiasts, and a lot of those folks read the kind of stories I’m talking about. And I get the feeling they’re not backward about pointing out errors.
So I guess I can pick my dad’s brains about the construction/destruction tool side of things. But it might be that I need to contact my local gun club (and this being Australia, they’re actually a tad thin on the ground here) to see if I can download some info directly from someone’s head. Or even… actually fire some weapons.
If the idea of Willsin plus weapon doesn’t scare you… well, I assure you, you’ve never seen me try to screw.
I meant with a screwdriver!

God, you people are immature.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

My Substitute for Love

by Giselle Renarde

My latest release is an anthology of literary fetish erotica. Don't be fooled by the darkness of the cover art--it's actually full of fun and quirky fiction. (It's also absolutely FREE this week from most ebook retailers, as a thank you to readers and in celebration of my tenth anniversary as a writer. I'll provide links and stuff at the end of this post.)

I vaguely recall studying fetishes at university. If I flip through the Cultural Anthropology text on my bookshelf, I'm sure I'll find the photograph of one virile young man seated on the shoulders of another virile young man. The one man's head becomes a substitute for the other man's penis. That's what a fetish object is: a substitute for something else.

(At least, that's what I learned in school.)

Consequently, I find my book of fetish erotica full of... things.  Tools of pleasure.

Vanilla sex gets a bad rap, and you won't find any in this book (even though I happen to think vanilla can be very spicy), but it occurred to me just tonight that most vanilla is just sex without tools.  Add a tool or two (okay, or a body or two) and you've got kink.

The stories in Giselle's Best Fetish Erotica were selected from among hundreds I've written for various anthologies over the past ten years. On top of those, there are a handful of originals.

In my story Night Nurse, the tool of our couple's arousal is a kinky costume.  The wife convinces her husband to get all dolled up as a naughty nurse. The fetish wear is a tool of their arousal. They don't NEED it to get turned on together, but if something as simple as a nurse uniform can take their sex to the next level, why the hell not?

Actually, this anthology contains a disproportionate number of stories about happily married people and loving couples. You know me--I usually write a lot of adultery and deceit. There's very little of that in here. These characters trust each other.  Maybe that's why they're so comfortable treading into fetish territory together.

One of my favourites is a fairly recent story called Must Love Dolls, which I wrote for a Rachel Kramer Bussel sex toy anthology. I watched a documentary about love dolls during the submission period, and I was instantly fascinated. The idea of putting a "normal" married couple together with a gorgeous sex doll was just too tempting. Somehow inviting the doll into their bedroom as a third in a menage made a fetish that many people can't wrap their heads around seem more approachable.

Other tools of sexual pleasure that pop up in this book include sex toys, panties, heels, ropes, food... the list goes on. Fourteen stories in total. Introductory price of FREE.* Really no reason not to grab a copy! That's a lot of tools for no money. ;-)

Find Giselle's Best Fetish Erotica free at:

BN: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1123729141
Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/ebook/giselle-s-best-fetish-erotica-14-kinky-sex-stories
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1108057138

All Romance Ebooks: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-giselle039sbestfetisherotica14kinkysexstories-2029278-354.html

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/632503
Excitica: http://www.excitica.com/index.php/giselle-s-best-fetish-erotica-14-kinky-sex-stories.html


*except at Amazon and Google Play, where it's super-cheap.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"A Place to Stand": A Toolish Story


She knew by the tone and timbre of the rap on the wooden door, that this visitor had come for her father.  The sharp, seeming reproachful sound, three strikes, evenly spaced, like the tolling of a warning  bell filled with a quiet dread.  She felt sure this would only be the first of many, ending in some terminal knock from the Church.

If not already.

She straightened her apron and lifted the latch.

The man at the door was older than her father's age, old enough to be going to seed but more fragile.  A man with the black stain of feather quill ink on his right hand's fingers.  "Signore Crinimoni," she said.  "Good evening to you."  She held the door and stood aside.

"And how is your father tonight?  In good health I hope."

"He doesn’t sleep much.  Mostly in the day."

"I've come to see him."  He lifted his thick cloak, folded it on his arm and looked for a place to lay it.  She took it from him.

"Shall I call to him?"

"Yes, please."

"Will you have a cup of small sack?"

"Yes, please."

She disappeared with the cloak.  Crinimoni looked down at his boots and sighed.  He felt a quiet thrill as though visiting a mistress.  It was rare that he was invited to see his old friend the mathematician anymore.  The old boy had become a recluse since returning from the Netherlands.  No one had seen him, certainly not at church mass which was the usual place to look for someone.  A night breeze lifted the curtain bringing the scent of the jasmine vines that covered the tall old house, with its timbers and garden trees that seemed to reach to heaven.

"There you are," said a voice.

The man in the door of the kitchen had a windblown look, and a flush to his thickly bearded face as though he had been burned by many suns.  There was a patch over his eye.

"What happened to you, old friend?"  Crinimoni pointed at his own eye.

"I was looking at the sun."

"Should know better," said Crinimoni.

"Yes," he said.  "I couldn't resist."

The young woman returned with two pewter cups and passed one to each of the men.   She did a small curtsy and made as if to leave when Crinimoni said "How is it your Celeste is not married?"

"Well."

"I've seen suitors gather like flies."

The other man and the girl looked at each other.  "I've been helping my father.  I think it’s more exciting than marriage."

"Really?" Said Crinimoni.  "What a way for a maid to speak.  You'll be one of those dried up old nuns anyway, soon.  So."  He sipped the honey wine in the cup and smacked his lips.  "What is this work?  
May I know it?"

"You’re the first," said the man.  "I want to get your opinion on it before I publish."

They sipped their drinks quietly as the girl stood by.

"So what am I about to see, then?"

"The eye of God," said the man.

The way up to the roof was a simple barn ladder, used to bring wet laundry mostly to dry in the Italian sun.  The man went up first, followed by the springy legged girl, and then Crinimoni, puffing and struggling.

The night air was warm and steamy, filled with flower scent and the sound of night birds.  "On nights like these poetry is made," said Crinimoni.

"Or history," said the girl.

Crinimoni snorted.  "She certainly has a high opinion of your eye of God."

The man turned away, reached down in the dark of the starry night and lifted something that gleamed faintly in the moonlight.  He held it up.  "The eye of God," he said.

Crinimoni was disappointed.  "What?  In there?  A common length of plumber’s pipe?"

The man passed it to him.  It was light and delicate as a clock work.  A length of brass tube, like a pipe organ piece but adjustable at one end.  Crinimoni held the end to his lips to blow through it when the moonlight winked on a disc of glass.  He turned it in the weak light and there was a larger, thicker glass disc on the other end.  "How do you play it?"

"Do you know your Archimedes?"

"My Archimedes, and my Aristotle too."

"Archimedes invented the lever.  He said, give me a place to stand and I will move the earth.  This is my lever.  This is where I stand." He spread his hands wide.  "Here, I will move the earth."

Crinimoni ignored him, held the glass to his eye and looked down at his feet.  There was only dark.  "I don't understand, Signore Galilei.  Is it something modern?"

"You're looking through the wrong direction," said the girl.  She pointed to the sky.  "Look at the moon.  There."

He lifted it and slowly moved it back and forth.  The girl came up behind him and he felt her heady scent in the air with the jasmine.  Oh, to be twenty again, he thought.  She took the brass pipe from his hand sited it on the moon and held it steady as he approached.  He put his eye to it.

"Devils!" He cried.  He took his eye away as if he had been poked, looked up, looked at the man.  Saw the girl's white teeth in the moonlight and dark. 

"Look again," she said.  "Isn't it marvelous?"

Crinimoni looked again.  "You've brought the moon down, Galileo" he said.

"Come see," said Galileo.  He took the brass piece and brought it to the edge of the roof.  He placed it on a frame made of wood, adjusted it, tipped it. Looked again, silently panting, looked again and sighed with pleasure.  "Come see," he said.  "You will be the second and only man besides me who has seen this since the beginning of the world."

Crinimoni came over, quietly shuffling his feet, feeling his way along in the dark.  "Don’t touch it, just look." Said Galileo.

In the piece of glass was a white disk with two cup handles, one on each side.  A closer look showed tiny white spots spread around it.

"That is the planet Saturn," said Galileo.  "The way it really looks."

"It looks like a tea pot," said Crinimoni.  "They'll burn you for this."

"Why?" Snapped the girl.

“I didn’t invent this.  A foreigner in Padua brought one which I studied. I’ve made mine stronger. I ground the lenses myself.  There’s no limit to how strong you can make this.”

"Where does it say in the Bible or in Aristotle Saturn should have horns?"

"I'm not sure what they are yet," said Galileo.  "But I believe they’ll be rings of some kind.  If Mars had risen I would show you that.  A red light with some green.  I don't know why.
"
"Why will he burn for this?" Said the girl. 

"The glory of science has been built for two millennia on Aristotle and the shifting influences of the stars and planets.  That dammed Copernicus with his loud theories that the earth rides round the sun, and the sun may be one of many worlds and stars.  Man is the Lord and jewel of creation and you mean to up end this?"

"But if it isn't true, it has to go!" 

"And aren’t you your father’s daughter.  This is not the eye of God," said Crinimoni, “This is the eye of destruction.  This is the tool that will burn civilization.  You cannot, you must not, speak in public of this."

"You cannot stay knowledge," said Galileo, "you cannot remove it once found, any more than you can uproot the trees of the Garden of Eden.  What is true remains.  I made this tool.  I ground the lenses with my hands.  I fixed them in the tube.  What I did, you can do or pay someone to do.  And somewhere, someone is already trying to make a better one.”

"No!  Listen Signore Galilei – listen for your own sake. Science, beautiful science, is built on tradition.  On Aristotle.  And the church, the beautiful church.  The belief – no – the fact – that man is the noblest jewel of creation, the Lord of the earth.  If you do this, someday someone will prove that man is only a forked beast among many beasts.  Our planet is only a planet among many planets, our sun only a miserable star among many stars.  And then what will there be left to dream for?  What will man be capable of when he is reduced to a beast instead of God’s favorite birth?  What weapons will he conceive that kill from a distance without pity, killing thousands only with science and without honor?  Then death will become easy.  This is not a lever to move the world, Galileo.  This is Pandora’s cursed box.  And where you stand, is at the gate of Hell.  Would you fling open that gate?’

“The gate is already opened, my friend.  There is nothing you or I can do to shut it.  If not me then someone.”

“Then hold off your hand!  I beg you, wait a little.  I’m old.  I’m not long.  Man’s greatest minds have made this structure of learning and I have lived my life in service to it.  Don’t take it away so quickly.  Stay your hand until I’m gone. Don’t poison these last few years of my life by proving that everything I’ve lived for is false.”

“If there is poison in truth, it’s already inside you.  You’ve looked.  You’ve seen.  If there is sin here, you have tasted it.  Look again.”

Galileo, lifted the tube and held it out to him.  Crinimoni took it, held it lightly.  “I could smash this fragile egg, right on that ledge.  Break it.  But you would only build another.  I would have to kill you too.”

“Me or someone.  If you murder me, my daughter Celeste here would build a dozen just to avenge me.  It’s done.  Aristotle has lost.  He will go on losing to the ages.  It’s begun.  Look again.”

The old man hesitated in the dark, breathing hard.

"Knowledge is no sin," said Galileo.  "What is a sin is denying truth.  You have found a secret of God and the heavens, and all you did to earn it was to dare to take a peek.”  He held out the tube.  

Crinimoni took it and put it to his eye.

He moved like a child in the moonlight with a toy, finding the moon, looking away with silent shame.  A light came on in the house next door.  Movement in the upstairs window.  Crinimoni could not bear to look at the sky.  He pointed it at the window instead.

A woman.  A man.  A bed. They were naked.

The young woman, round bellied, full breasted as a milk maid, her nipples in the glass eye of the tube visible distinct and clear, peaked.  More beautiful than the mountains and pock marks of the moon.  The man’s stiffened phallus more brazen than the ringed handles of Saturn.

How old he felt.  How the years slipped away to his wedding night and his wife, Belinda, long passed away.  How like her this woman was as she reclined on the bed, her arms raised over her head to lift up her breasts to her lover’s pleasure.

The wonder of how the candlelight fell on her dark and wooly framed treasure as her thighs fell open to welcome him.  How much like an oyster it looked.  He could see it distinctly, almost each hair of her cunt.   And to look and see what he had only dimly remembered as a much younger man.  What wondrous magic woman is, he thought.

The man was not handsome; his chest was thick and his shoulders wide.  He turned his back to the window, the light on his buttocks as he hovered over her, taking up the masculine posture between her thighs, somehow ridiculous and primal. The man descended.  She adjusted herself to take him in. 

The young man settled over her, slipping his arms under her, hugging her tight, pressing his face into her neck, his strong body tensing.  His hips began their long slow undulation.  Her lips moving as she said something only he could hear.  Her fingers on his back, digging in, spurring a frantic sauce of pain into his efforts.

A cloud passed over the lens, blurring the act.  He pulled it from his eye with a thrill of shame.  The hot steam of his breath had clouded the lens.

He knew that Galileo and his daughter were watching him, had somehow caught him in the act of an old man’s lust.  “What a discovery.”  He passed the tube back to his friend.  He sighed in defeat. 

“Now it begins,” he said.




Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Tools of Twitter

Like pretty much every present-day author, I market my books through social media.  And, like many erotica authors, I have multiple pen names.  I currently have three pen names and for marketing I have one Facebook page, one Mailchimp newsletter, one Pinterest account, three Tumblr accounts, and three Twitter accounts (plus two more Twitter accounts for other things).  It’s gotten to be a bit much and is overtaking my writing time.

To be 100% honest, I actually have an assistant I hire once a week to do some of these things for me. Primarily, I have him going through my Tumblr accounts and finding smutty pictures to reblog, and then I let him go crazy on my Pinterest account.  I used to have him also manage my Twitter accounts, but it was becoming unwieldy for him.

So… here are the tools I use for Twitter. Some are free and some cost money, so some may be of use to people reading this and others might not be applicable.

Tweetdeck



This is my main go-to for Twitter management.  Tweetdeck is made by Twitter, so it’s an official app and it’s free and safe to use.  From this, I can create columns for all the things I want to track — my newsfeed, notifications, direct messages, lists, my pen name’s Twitter feed, and various hashtags — allowing me to see everything all at once.  (Whereas on Twitter this requires clicking through to different pages to see everything.)  You can also install multiple accounts on Tweetdeck, allowing me to manage everything in one place.

What I like most about Tweetdeck is that I can schedule tweets to appear at a certain day and time.  So, what I was originally doing was having my assistant take all my promo tweets and scheduling them to appear at certain times throughout the week.  Peak times tend to be before work, after work, and late evening.  This requires a lot of effort, but in setting it up, I can then not worry about Twitter for the rest of the week.  (I used to do this on a day-to-day basis, logging in first thing in the morning and setting up tweets for the day.)

It doesn’t allow you to schedule identical tweets, though.  So if you’ve got a new release and you want to tweet about it several times on your release day, each tweet needs to be slightly different or it will reject all the repeated tweets.  (And “different” can simply be changing a hashtag or a punctuation mark — changes that don’t take much thinking.)

Tweet Jukebox



This is one of my newer Twitter toys.  When having my assistant schedule tweets became unwieldy, I investigated apps that would take care of Tweets for me.  With Tweet Jukebox — which has a free plan with limited ability (but I find it does exactly what I need) — I throw all my promotional tweets in a “jukebox,” and then at pre-determined times, Tweet Jukebox posts a random tweet.  When it’s cycled through all of the tweets, it starts over again.

Unfortunately, you can’t set it to tweet at truly random times.  The scheduling option allows you to set tweets to appear at certain intervals during certain times on certain days.  So, for the most part, I have tweets appearing roughly every three hours between before-work-time and midnight-ish.  By making each day's start time different and making it roughly, but not exactly, three hours between tweets, the timing appears somewhat random, rather than being at, say, 8:00, 11:00, 2:00, 5:00, 8:00, and 11:00 every day.

Crowdfire



This is, admittedly, one of those apps that people dislike being on the receiving end of.  After someone follows you, Crowdfire sends them a direct message (DM) within a day.  You can set this DM to say whatever you want, and you can have multiple DMs set up and it will send a random one.

These automated DMs can direct new followers to your latest release, your catalogue on Amazon, your website, your Facebook page, your newsletter, or anywhere else you want your fans to go.  For one pen name, I direct them to my newsletter, and for another pen name, I direct them to my latest release on Amazon.  (In the picture attached to the TweetDeck section, you can see the direct messages that Crowdfire sent out to point people toward my newsletter.)

Automated DMs from Crowdfire are like pop-up ads on websites — everyone hates them, but they work.  I’ve had an increase in newsletter subscribers since I started using Crowdfire, and for the other pen name I’ve had people reply and tell me they’ve bought the book or they're checking out my website.

Tweepi



This is my newest tool, and I only use it for one pen name (not this one).  With that pen name, I’m experimenting on getting aggressive in following people, in the hopes that they will follow back.  This tool has a small cost associated with it, but one I’m willing to shell out.

Tweepi allows you to put in someone’s Twitter handle and it will show you a list of their followers.  From there, you’re able to sort the list using a ton of handy tools and filters.

I filter the results so that they have a followback ratio of 60% to 140% — this is a number that rates their likeliness of following you back.  (It’s just a calculation of their following divided by their followers, I think.)  I also filter out anyone who follows more than 1,000 people, with the reasoning that someone following thousands upon thousands of people will not see my tweets, as they’ll be buried amongst all the others.  And, finally, I filter out anyone that hasn’t tweeted in the last seven days, with the reasoning that if they’re tweeting, they’re online and active and likely to see my tweets.

Tweepi lets you follow 950 people every twenty-four hours — so I max it out every day.  I later follow it up with unfollowing anyone who hasn’t followed me back after seven days — and Tweepi lets you unfollow 500 people per day.  There are other limits imposed by Twitter, like you can’t follow more than 5,000 people unless your number of followers is within 10% of the number of people you’re following.  And Twitter may ask you to change your password when you start using a tool like this, as it assumes that a sudden change in your Twitter behaviour means you’ve been hacked.

I’ve been using Tweepi for a little over a week and have more than doubled the number of people following that account. Have I seen a huge increase in sales?  Not yet, but I have had some new followers tell me they’re going to check out my stuff or say that they just went and bought my newest book.

Marketing through social media is one of those things that everyone says is necessary and successful, but in reality, it's difficult to do it effectively.  It's been a process of a few years to figure out my Twitter strategy, and while it hasn't led to a stellar increase in sales, it has absolutely led to somewhat of an increase and has led to wider engagement with and following from readers.