Rambling On

Anthony R. Cardno's Fiction and Commentary

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I had the brilliant idea a few weeks ago that it might be a nice year-end change-up to my regular interview posts to have my various nieces and nephews (both the ones related to me by blood and the ones who are kids of friends) quiz me about my writing, interviewing and reading habits. While I didn’t hear back from everyone (*cough*AlexDevinMaxA*cough*), I got a lot of good questions with only a few repetitions. Today’s post is the older batch of kids, ages 13 to 20.

niece Renee, my sister, myself, nephew Vinny

Anyone who has read THE FIRFLAKE has seen the dedication (“For Mom and Dad, who taught me how to believe, and for Buddy and Squirmy Worm, who reminded me when I forgot.”) Buddy and Squirmy Worm are our family nicknames for my nephew Vinny and niece Renee. Vinny’s questions start off today’s post, and Renee gets the lead-off tomorrow when the younger kids have their say.

VINNY (age 14): What inspired you to write?

ANTHONY: Comic books. That’s the short answer, anyway. The first stories I remember writing were all with Marvel and DC superheroes. I can remember a summer visit to the Cornelia cousins on Long Island, and using their house as the secret base in a story featuring a group of Marvel’s third-string characters (Marvel Man (now Quasar), Blue Streak, The Vamp, and someone else). I had to be in 5th or 6th grade then. I also remember being in the lunch-room at Mahopac Junior High and writing a story about Bat-Girl (the Barbara Gordon version), and trying to draw the logo they used for her in Batman Family at the time. Those stories are all long-since lost; they were all hand-written in loose-leaf binders and spiral-bound notebooks and who knows where they ended up.

VINNY: Will you ever venture into the horror genre?

That depends on what type of horror you mean. Will I ever write a slasher-flick like the Jason movies? Probably not. But the short story “Canopus” right here on the website is suspenseful-horror, and my mystery novel AMBERGRIN HALL has at least a few horrific moments (and a hint of the supernatural). And as you may remember, I’m still supposed to be co-writing a zombie novel with Aunt Nina if I ever get off my buttocks and work on it. (By the way, Vin, kudos for using the word “venture.” Haha)

LAURA (age 20): When you get a creative idea, what sparks in your mind and says “THATS IT! There needs to be a book about this!”

ANTHONY: Ah, the famous “AHA!” moment. I’m not sure I actually get those. I hear other writers talk about them, but my epiphanies are smaller. I get an idea and it’s not “OH MY GOD THIS HAS TO BE A BOOK” so much as “oh, there’s a neat idea, let’s see where it goes.” The moment a story “clicks” for me is usually well after I’ve started it, and then I get that “Oh, yeah, this works!” spark.

LAURA: Out of all of the places you have traveled to, which place gave you the most inspiration when it comes to writing?

ANTHONY: Inspiration always seems to be stronger in the places that feel like home. The scenery change can be subtle (the slightly different small towns elsewhere in northwest NJ / southern NY) or dramatic (an apartment in a city somewhere in the country), but when I’m closer to family I’m more inspired to write. Outside of NY/NJ, the places I get the most writing done are, in no particular order: Palmdale CA, Chicago IL, Portland OR, and Kenosha WI.

DANNY (age 19): How do you avoid repetition in your writing?

ANTHONY: Hire a good editor.

DANNY: How do you avoid repetition in your writing?

ANTHONY: Wow, déjà vu. You want a more serious answer? Being in a local writers’ group (“The Write Direction,” and thank you Marie Collinson, Rosemary Foley and Jessie Peck-Martin!) and having a few “beta-readers” via email — folks who are looking not just at story as a whole but for clarity of language and awkward repetitive moments.

DANNY: How do you avoid repetition in your writing?

ANTHONY: Yes, folks, Danny is the one who seems to have inherited my sense of humor. Or he’s bucking for a job as my editor. Alright, Dan, any OTHER questions?

DANNY: Yes. How do you stay confident with your own writing?

ANTHONY: Oh, good one. The truth is, I don’t. I’m not sure any writer ever does. It’s sort of like stage fright for an actor. Helen Hayes, near the end of her long and varied career, said “I get sick with stage fright. Noel Coward threw up before every show, he got so sick. God made stage fright.” Carol Channing followed that up with “She was right about that. God made stage fright. I’ve noticed over a lifetime those that do not have stage fright, are not that good on stage.” It’s the same for me. Doesn’t matter that I’ve got had non-fiction, short fiction, and a short novel published. Every time I write something, there’s always that “oh my god, does this suck bat-guano” question lingering in the back of my head. And even after it’s been published, it’s the same. Just this month, knowing Marianne Burnham and her talented family had a copy of THE FIRFLAKE, I was constantly thinking “what if these wonderful new friends of mine, who were so excited to buy the book, end up hating it?” They didn’t hate it, but that’s beside the point.

JAKE (age 20): Are you working on a follow up to THE FIRFLAKE and/or are you going to try to go in a different direction with your writing?

ANTHONY: Yes. Don’t you love when people answer “either/or” questions that way? Seriously, THE FIRFLAKE is pretty complete unto itself. As much as I love Papa Knecht, Mama Alvarie, Engleberta and the rest, I’m pretty sure (at least right now) that their story is complete. However, I do have another, longer, Christmas novel nearing completion. Where THE FIRFLAKE is a book meant to be read by parents to children, CHRISTMAS GHOSTS is aimed straight at the middle-grade / young-adult market. It’s about sixth grader Colum McCann, who is still hurting about the unexpected death of the older brother he worshipped, and how he discovers a secret about Christmas Eve that could give him the chance to say goodbye. Beyond that, I’d say my writing is constantly headed in other directions. AMBERGRIN HALL is a college-set mystery-thriller. I just sold a science-fiction short story. I’m working on a sequence of connected fantasy and sf stories. I never know what genre I’ll be writing in next. The authors I most idolize (Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Orson Card, Lawrence Block) all have the ability to write in more than one genre, and to write in more than one style.

JAKE: Is there a specific artist or genre of music that you like to listen to when you write?

ANTHONY: Generally speaking, no. In the past, I’ve gone from working in complete silence to working with only instrumental music in the background. IF I’m going the instrumental route, I tend to rotate between classical stuff like the Carmina Burana and Dvorak’s New World Symphony (both of which I’ve loved since high school, thank you Terry Wynne and Darrell Long respectively) and movie or tv soundtracks. For horror-story-moodiness, nothing beats Wojciech Kilar’s soundtrack for the Francis Ford Coppola version of DRACULA. Michael Giacchino’s LOST soundtracks to seasons one through three are frequently playing as well. When I write my annual holiday poem, there’s always seasonal music playing. In a broader sense, I draw inspiration from the music I love, whether I’m writing at that moment or not. Right now, that ranges from all-time favorites like Rosanne Cash, Jennifer Holliday, Styx and Supertramp to friends like The Dalliance, Casey Stratton, Burnham and Matt Johnson.

JAKE: How would you describe your relationship with Orson Scott Card? I remember my mom telling me he posted on your Facebook wall a while ago which I thought was awesome.

ANTHONY: Over the past few years, I’ve had a chance to interact with Orson a couple of times. Some of his books would easily make any Top 25 list I might put together (particularly Ender’s Game, Lost Boys, and the whole Alvin Maker series). I’ve learned a lot about craft reading his books, and he’s graciously answered my fan-boy questions about his work and even about the Mormon religion. He’s never been anything but polite and friendly towards me, and I appreciate that from any well-known person (meeting Neil Gaiman was equally as gratifying, for instance. And Jennifer Holliday and John Glover and Ellen Datlow, as well.). Orson has made some pretty controversial statements in the recent past about homosexuality and “hating the sin but not the sinner,” (that’s not a direct quote, it should be noted) that I obviously don’t agree with – but that doesn’t detract from my love of his books and how I feel about the times we have interacted. (In fact, I think the Facebook post your mom was referencing was my quote “Gravity doesn’t care who you fall for,” which Orson liked.)

JAKE: How have your past experiences working with children influenced your writing?

ANTHONY: Immensely. You’ve been in the audience when I’ve told campfire stories. There’s no denying that some of my current style is a direct development from that experience. I also think the child and teen characters I write are more realistic because of all the actual kids and teens I am proud to call my nieces and nephews. Whether you were aware of it or not, you and your brother and the rest were the testing ground for the voice I use in a lot of my short stories. And speaking of your brother…

GABE P. (age 16): As you know, I am a high school student, and often times I find myself, along with other high school students, frustrated with teachings about writing in English class. How much of what you learned in school applies to your current writing career, and since then what has affected your writing habits and style?

ANTHONY: I had some really great English teachers in high school: Chris and Eugenia DelCampo (no relation) and PJ Burgh specifically. I learned a lot about literary analysis from them. My love of Mark Twain is all Mrs. DelCampo’s fault. My love of the theater and Shakespeare comes from the other two. I know the basics of writing an essay that I learned in high school served me well when I was writing non-fiction articles for various company newsletters and for Camping magazine. But if I’m being honest: I don’t remember actually studying creative writing in high school, at least not in any of our regular classes. Jerry Hahn and I co-wrote an adaptation of Snow White our senior year of high school that was produced as the fall play, but that’s about the only school-assignment type creative writing I remember doing. All the super-hero stuff I wrote in high school was on my own. The first creative writing classes I took were at Elmira College: Creative Writing with Professor Kerry Driscoll, a Playwriting Directed Study with Professor Jerry Whalen, a Science Fiction class with Doctor Bruce Barton in which we built our own worlds from scratch. Also, being a member of the Super-Team Amateur Press Alliance (STAPA) since 1982, and being in various writers’ groups over the years.

GABE P: Many writers I have seen in the past have conveyed a bit of their personalities in their writing such as Christopher Moore with his wittiness, or Oscar Wilde with his pompous disposition. If there is a characteristic of your personality that you would want your readers to take away from your writing, what would it be?

ANTHONY: Well, I hope my punny, somewhat dorky, sense of humor shines through in most of my work. But I don’t think I intentionally put a characteristic of myself out there as part of the planning for a story. Another Elmira professor of mine, Malcolm Marsden, told me that he enjoyed reading every paper I wrote because I always revealed a bit about myself and my own search for identity as I was analyzing the book or author in question. I think that’s still true. In THE FIRFLAKE, it might be Engleberta’s insecurity about being the best Watcher she can be; in AMBERGRIN HALL, there’s a bit of my quest for identity and love of folk music and the theater in Garrett and in Ezra; in “Canopus,” well… there’s a lot of me in the narrator of that story. I’m still constantly questioning who I am and where I am, and I think that comes out in my fiction.

GABE P: Do you ever find yourself unintentionally emulating an element from another writer’s work, or are you always aware of where you are drawing your influence from at a given moment?

ANTHONY: Unintentionally, all the time. I’ll reread something I wrote and think “wow, that’s a bit of Stoker / Butcher / whoever right there, isn’t it?” Sometimes, of course, that means rewriting because I don’t really want to sound like anybody else … and sometimes it gets left in because that little homage is exactly what I want. Then there are the times when yes, I am intentionally emulating a style. AMBERGRIN HALL has some intentionally Gothic moments in it that recall Stoker, Conan Doyle, Bronte. THE FIRFLAKE is one massive homage to the classic Rankin-Bass claymation Christmas specials. CHRISTMAS GHOSTS is intentionally Dickensian, and “Canopus” has a bit of Lovecraft in there.

GABE P.: I can imagine that when you read, you read pieces from genres all over the map. Is there one genre that you are particularly drawn to?

ANTHONY: I do try to be as widely-read as possible. That being said, in 2011 I’d say at least half of what I read was firmly in the science fiction and fantasy realms. Part of that is because I started writing book reviews for ICARUS: the magazine of gay speculative fiction this year, and that’s two books every quarter that need to be science fiction/fantasy/horror. But it’s also because those are the genres I’ve always loved. Take a look at my home library one of these days and most of it is genre fiction, including mysteries and pulp-adventure.

And now, let’s hear from the 13 and 14 year olds…

GABE O. (age 13): When did you start writing?

ANTHONY: I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. Definitely by the time I was your age, but surely younger.

GABE O.: How do you beat writer’s block?

ANTHONY: With a rather large canoe paddle.

AIDAN (age 14): No, seriously, how do you cure writer’s block?

ANTHONY: It’s an ancient family recipe: salt and other spices rubbed in, and then you let the writer’s block sit and dry for a while, and then…

DANNY (age 19): I think what they mean is, what is your most helpful routine to do when you find yourself with writer’s block?

ANTHONY: Obviously, it’s to make jokes about it. Writer’s block is not so scary when you realize that everyone goes through it occasionally and the best thing to do sometimes is walk away from the project you’re blocked on and just do something else. Go for a walk. Work on a different project. Spend several hours playing Scrabble on Facebook, chatting on Twitter, etc. Or just read. At one point when I was blocked on a short story, I walked away and sat down with a book in a completely different genre and read for a little while, and that seemed to “cleanse the palette” so to speak.

EDDY (age 14): What gives you your inspiration to write?

ANTHONY: I talked early about what inspired me to become a writer. What continues to inspire me? Part of it is that I can’t imagine NOT writing something every day. Some days that urge is fulfilled by my day job (writing for the company newsletter, etc) and some days it’s fulfilled by conducting an interview with a writer, artist, singer, actor or other creative type I respect. And then some days, I’m inspired because I know you all enjoy reading what I write. Encouragement from family and friends helps me continue to enjoy writing, even if I never get published.

AIDAN: So where do you find and how do you come up with ideas for your next story/book?

ANTHONY: Everything, honestly, is capable of giving me inspiration. Sometimes it’s a physical thing: AMBERGRIN HALL has its roots in an old unused building on the Elmira College campus and “Canopus” is based in part on an island in the middle of Lake Mahopac. Sometimes it’s a person: “That Happy Kid” was based on a teenager I used to pass every day commuting home from work. Sometimes it’s a news article: my one-act play “Sneakers in the Sand” and my story “Invisible Me” were based on things I read in the newspaper. So there’s no one thing, really.

EDDY: How many books have you written/published?

ANTHONY: Perfect question to end today’s post on, Eddy! I have one book out there, THE FIRFLAKE: A Christmas Story, and folks can find it if they go up to this site’s navigation bar and click on the tab with the book’s title on it. I also have a short story coming out in the SPACE BATTLES anthology sometime in 2012, and sometime early in the year you should be able to see a music video I scripted for The Dalliance on Youtube. Hopefully, next year will see more of my fiction out there.

That was a much longer post than I expected! Tomorrow (Monday), I’ll post what the younger kids asked me.

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Worker Prince excerpt

Posted by admin under authors, guest posts

Earlier today I posted my second interview with author Bryan Thomas Schmidt, as the second stop on his Blog Tour advertising the publication of THE WORKER PRINCE, the first installment of the Davi Rhii Saga. Unfortunately, I somehow managed to leave off the wonderful excerpt Bryan sent me. So I present it to you now: one of many exciting scenes from The Worker Prince!

The Worker Prince front cover

* * * * * * * *

Davi and Tela followed Dru, Brie and Nila, as they weaved along a trail through the trees. The wind whistled past Davi, russling his hair. The air was fresh and clean. He enjoyed the sensation, the blur of the trees as they passed, and their spicy smell.

Dru and Nila delighted in swapping places on either side of Brie—one zipping in front of her, the other behind. Sometimes, they cut it a little close, startling Brie, who cried out.

“Hey! Watch it!” She would shoot them scolding looks as they slid back alongside her, and then all three would break into giggles.

Ah, to be young, Davi thought. He exchanged a look with Tela, who chuckled and shook her head.

“Try not to damage the Skitters, okay?” Davi called after them. This just led to more laughter as Nila and Dru swapped places yet again.

“I don’t think they’re listening,” Tela said, her blue eyes glistening with amusement.

“You got that idea, did you?” Davi said as she chuckled. “So much for military discipline!”

Tela laughed. “We have kept things pretty loose. We’d better start tighten-ing things up.”

The comms on the Skitters beeped as a red light on the comm panel began flashing. They exchanged a look.

“The warning beacons,” Davi said.

Tela nodded. “Better call in and see what they’ve got.”

The brush behind them rustled and they heard a noise, turning back to see four LSP soldiers slip behind them on armed Skitters. Davi and Tela exchanged looks of alarm, accelerating toward the trainees as the LSP men fired their lasers and the cedars exploded around them.

“So much for our early warning system,” Tela groaned as they sped up to catch their trainees.

Hearing the explosions, Brie, Dru and Nila turned around to look as Tela and Davi pulled alongside.

“Don’t slow down! Go as fast as you can. Follow me!” Tela warned them. She pulled in front and they sped up to follow her.

Davi hung back to protect the rear, dodging fire from the LSP soldiers. All around, he heard laser blasts and explosions as LSP soldiers engaged the other trainees. The smell of burning wood and leaves thickened the air as Davi flicked on his comm-channel.

“Attention trainees: do not go back to base. Lose them, and then hide until we can rendezvous.”

His private channel beeped and he switched over, steering sharply to dodge another laser blast.

Tela’s voice came over the headphones. “Right about now, I’m wishing we had armed Skitters, too.”

Davi reached down to the side pocket and pulled out his blaster. “I’m going to try and lay down some counter fire, but my blaster won’t do much against their Skitter guns.”

“Can you keep them occupied while I go help the others?” Tela asked, drawing her own blaster from the side pocket of her Skitter.

Without answering, Davi turned and started firing back toward the LSP soldiers, who zigzagged to avoid his blasts. Davi slammed on the brakes, and the LSP soldiers zipped right past him, their faces registering surprise. He slipped back in behind them and began firing at their flanks.

Tela fired two blasts from her blaster, then she and the trainees sped away, as the soldiers dodged more bolts from Davi’s blaster.

Davi managed to land a couple of hits on one of the Skitters, sending sparks flying, but causing more fear in the rider than damage to the machine. As the rider and his companions leaned back to inspect his Skitter, Davi ducked off onto a side trail.

In a few moments, the LSP soldiers slid back onto his tail again. Davi accelerated to full speed, zigzagging in and out between trees, jumping over rocks, diving under overhangs—keeping his target profile as small as possible. The wind buffeted him every time he emerged from the trees, forcing him to work harder to stay on the Skitter. Then he rounded a bend to find more LSP soldiers who joined the chase.

Great! Are they all after me? He hoped Tela was helping the other trainees. He was too busy to help them himself.

Around another bend, Bordox and his aide joined the chase. Bordox. No wonder they’re all after me. Davi smiled, waving, as he dodged their fire. Outgunned, he searched his mind for a new tactic.

Bordox sped to the front of the LSP soldiers, close on Davi’s tail. Davi, looked back over his shoulder as Bordox growled: “In the name of the High Lord Councilor, I order you to stop! You’re under arrest!”

Davi braked and Bordox’s aide wound up in front of him. Bordox remained alongside, as Davi fired several shots with his blaster at the aide, leaning close enough to Bordox to yell: “Give my uncle my regards!”

He ducked off onto another side trail as Bordox shot on past, cursing.

The other LSP soldiers followed Davi as he followed the turns of the side trail, staying just out of range of their lasers. He shifted in his seat, trying to stay comfortable but his sweaty body and uniform made that difficult.

As he shot into a clearing, he discovered Tela, Jorek, Virun, and four others waiting for them, blasters held at the ready. Davi spun his Skitter into a one hundred and eighty degree spin and slid in alongside them, aiming his blaster as the first of the LSP soldiers came into view.

Davi’s group opened fire and chaos erupted. Two LSP Skitters collided as the soldiers tried to dodge the blaster fire. Another slammed into them from behind, while yet a fourth ducked to one side and crashed into a large cedar.

Davi and Tela motioned, accelerating on their Skitters onto another trail with their trainees close behind. All continued firing blasts back at the LSP men behind them.

Tela took three trainees with her and split off onto another trail as Davi, Jorek, Virun and two others continued on the present course.

“They’re after you?” Jorek yelled, sounding surprised.

Davi nodded. “I told you before; I’m on your side.” A laser blast exploded near them and Davi keyed the comm-channel button. “Try and get around behind them.”

Tela’s voice came over the radio. “Hang on, Davi, we’ve got a plan.”

A plan? Who’d had time to make a plan? Most of the LSP soldiers stayed behind Davi and his group.

“Make it hard for them to lock their weapons on us,” Davi said, as his group zigzagged in and out of the cedars in varied patterns, never leaving more than one of them on the trail at a time. Their skills impressed him. They had made a lot of progress.

Jorek and Virun slid to a stop amidst the trees, watching several LSP soldiers zoom past, then accelerated after them, firing their lasers.

Davi heard a rebel yell over the comm-channel. “You two be careful! They outnumber us!” Davi warned.

Jorek’s voice came back at him. “Best training exercise ever!”

“Don’t get cocky. This is not a game.”

“No problem, Captain. We can handle it,” Virun said.

Davi wondered if he’d heard right. None of them had ever called him Captain before.

Bordox and his aide pulled back into the lead behind Davi, firing blasts which exploded on either side of him. Too close for comfort!

Tela and her group shot out of the forest, firing at the LSP. Two more Skitters crashed and two others were damaged. The LSP soldiers slowed down and dissolved into chaos as they attempting to avoid fire from the lasers.

Another group of trainees shot out from a group of trees and surrounded them, firing.

“When did you have time to get all this organized?” Davi said into the comm-channel, as he glanced back at Tela.

“Quick thinking is a military necessity,” Tela said. “They were all issued blasters with their uniforms, so…”

Davi smiled. “You’ve never been more beautiful.”

He braked, sliding in between Bordox and his aide. As they passed him on either side, he swung a foot out and kicked at Bordox’s Skitter. Bordox struggled to regain control but flew off to one side, as Davi slipped in behind the aide and shot at his Skitter with the blaster.

Bordox pulled alongside him again, his face a fierce grimace. “You can’t escape this time, Rhii. We outnumber you,” he called out with his usual menacing grin.

“You’re losing men fast,” Davi said as Bordox reached over grabbing for his controls. Their Skitters banged into each other as Davi struggled to push him away. His sweat soaked gloves barely maintained their hold on the handlebars of the Skitter.

“I always knew you were a traitor,” Bordox said.

“I always knew you were a pompous blowhard,” Davi said, freeing his leg and kicking hard. Bordox frowned as he spun off to one side.

Tela zipped up, firing at Bordox as his aide and another LSP soldier slipped in behind Davi.

Bordox corrected his course and charged back toward Davi, dodging Tela’s blasts.

Davi slowed, sliding upward, as Bordox’s aide and the other soldier flew right underneath him. Distracted, both turned, crashing into each other as Davi dropped down to fire on them from behind.

Bordox headed straight for Davi, who rolled his Skitter, dove off and landed on his feet in the dirt. He aimed his blaster and fired at Bordox, forcing him to turn suddenly and crash his Skitter into Davi’s. The impact sent Bordox flying off into the cedars. Both Skitters sputtered and smoked, amid a field of debris.

* * * * * * *

You can see Bryan’s next Blog Tour stop on Monday, October 3rd, at SFSignal. You can also see my first interview with Bryan HERE. And you can follow him on Twitter as @BryanThomasS, where you can get updates on the entirety of his blog tour, or you can find the full list of upcoming visits on Bryan’s website.

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The following is my first Guest Post, by my good friend Jason O’Donnell.

Image credit: (cc) Some rights reserved by Ford Buchanan

Following is the start of a conversation between me and my dear friend and published author, Mr. Anthony Cardno. I encourage you all to read through my comments to Anthony below and jump in the conversation with your own suggestions, insights, and experiences. This is, of course, a discussion, not the end all be all of twitter etiquette.

Anthony pondered on Twitter: “Wondering what I’m doing wrong that even when I ask for a RT, very few of them happen. Am I missing something RT-etiquette-wise?”

Not surprisingly, I have some very particular ideas about this specific behaviour (based on my experiences working in social business) and quickly replied with the following:

Jason to @talekyn Yes. Don’t ask. If your content is compelling, RTs will happen. Asking is seen as intrusive.
Anthony to @acdntlpoet Makes sense. And you know I very rarely ask. Which means apparently most of what I tweet is not compelling.
Jason to @talekyn kind of. Also depends on your audience, reach, etc… We can take this to a much more in-depth conversation 😉

Obviously, that’s no where near the end of the discussion. Simply said, there is no single answer to this question. People are making their living as consultants telling you how to to do just this. Not one of them has the right answer in a an easy to distribute formula; because the answer isn’t really formulaic.
As I noted above in my initial reply, the key to seeing your content re-shared is to put forward compelling contents. Oh, but if only the answer were so easy! While I can tell you at a high level what will get your content shared out, it all falls apart in the details and subtleties and actual implementation/ practical application; because not all content is created equal.

But let me step back for a moment and address etiquette before moving on into some best practices: Asking via Twitter for others to retweet you is seen as bad manners, neediness, and laziness. More to the point, it is a bit more indicative of immaturity in the space, or evidence of the size of your network (add totally inappropriate size queen joke at will). By immaturity in the space, I mean that coming from an individual I will see these requests in the same light as I see forwarded emails asking me to “keep the chain going”, or Facebook status updates asking to “post this to your status if you agree / just for one hour”, etc. From a corporate account, it just comes off as poor marketing strategy.

Exposing the size of your network isn’t really a big deal in and of itself (I can see your numbers in any space I play). Rather, asking for RTs presents the impression of a smaller and/or less engaged network, minimal confidence in your message, and generally short selling yourself. Now, I am not saying that asking for a RT is going to leave people with the impression that you are just a speck in the world, but I AM saying that it is one small action which builds how people perceive you when combined with other small actions and methods of presenting yourself.

Yes, I am talking from a more marketing centric approach, with a few assumptions in terms of how you use social media to connect with your audience and spread your message. The assumption is that you are a different type of user, one who is building a personal brand and using social avenues to build up your name and digital eminence. Obviously, if you are just using social media to stay in contact with friends and family, then the concern over perception won’t really apply. But, perception is big for driving and motivating others to share your content.

Rather than continuing to focus on the negatives of asking for RTs, let’s rather focus on what you CAN do to get people to share your content. There’s a great presentation here (http://nytmarketing.whsites.net/mediakit/pos/ ) on the psychology of sharing. From this presentation we can see that one of the biggest factors is determining how the information we are sharing will be useful to the recipient. Take this the next step and you can translate this into your own content by providing that clarity to the person you’re sharing with, so they can in turn re-share easily.

Let me take an example:
@talekyn: Two medical causes are important to me: Cancer and Juvenile Diabetes. Read my diabetes interview with 9yo Frank John:anthonycardno.com/?p=276
Good content here, and likely worthy of a retweet, but I have two problems:
1. It is passive… ok, so these are important to you. They are indeed important issues, but I am not compelled to RT immediately because there isn’t a real message here.
2. I have to click and read to determine if I want to RT. That is going to take some time, and I may lose the originating tweet before I am done with the interview.

Presuming the interview is compelling enough for me to want to RT it, I now need to go back to find the tweet to pass it on (or, one better, tweet/retweet from within the blog post itself). Most people won’t go back to twitter to retweet unless the content is REALLY moving. A well composed tweet that will compel a stranger to read your content will also be compelling enough to garner retweets with out specifically asking for them. Compelling content which resonates with others to the point where they want to share with their own network is what you’re looking for here; adding social sharing buttons in your blog will also help enable users to easily share out your content to the spaces and networks where they play.

Let me see if I can “re-swizzle” (yep, I said it) your tweet above to something which I may be compelled to click into and retweet:
@talekyn: How Frank John, a 9yo living with Juvenile Diabetes and fund raising for JDRF, is putting me to shame: anthonycardno.com/?p=276

Forgive the forced self deprecation, but I think this will work in your favour here: I switched it up a bit, made the reader curious as to what a 9 year old is doing better than you. Because if they can do it better than you, they can do it better than me too, so now I am intrigued and want to read more. It is a more active voice, but not demanding; compelling me to look further. Plus, the tweet provides me with the key points before reading more into the blog: this 9 year old is doing good work for diabetes awareness/cure. I am both compelled to read AND pass it on now, because there is a story here beyond the normal “please send money” charity call. It is interesting, much like your earlier tweet:

@talekyn #LifeWouldBeBetter if my 9 year old cousin didn’t have Juvenile Diabetes. Meet him on my site: anthonycardno.com/?p=276
The tweet above also has that hook, but unfortunately Tweeting this out at 11:30pmEDT on a Friday night means very few people in your particular audience will be seeing it, and you need visibility in order to glean retweets. So, now that you have the compelling content, let’s look at targeting the right audience…

Who are your followers? Are they cast amongst disparate time zones, or predominantly in one? What ages? Nine-to-fivers or in school? By example, I am at my computer from8amEDT until8pmEDT M-F, because of that, I am more likely to retweet something posted in that time frame than I am other times since my usage of twitter is heaviest during work. Weekends and other times when I am outside the house, I’m far more likely to miss content because I tend to turn off most social channels when not at work. Conversely, my fictitious high school aged neighbor may be more likely to see and subsequently retweet late on school nights when s/he is finally back home from school, extracurricular activities, and is “wasting time” on the internet. Not to mention that demographic has a much different usage style of social channels as direct, near-real-time communication and may not be as inclined to retweet blog content outside of some of the more viral types of content.

Having a sense of your follower’s schedules / behaviours / demographics will help guide you towards those ‘sweet spot’ times to post for the greatest impact and visibility. If you use bit.ly or some other URL shortener, or use google analytics on your site (WordPress makes this stuff very easy), you can track some basic metrics and see when when your audience is most active and more likely to marketing out your links. Also, keep promoting your content (with appropriate pauses in between duplication) until you see a drop off in click-throughs. Duplicating content isn’t a bad thing on Twitter as most people don’t see everything unless the spend time going back in their timelines up to the last time they logged in. Unless your users are all like me with a stake in the social business game, they are most likely missing a ton of stuff posted when they aren’t watching. Heck, I even miss stuff, and I am watching like a hawk and make a point to go back in all my timelines to ensure I don’t miss things!

Here ends the first round answer as to why you aren’t seeing a good amount of retweets, even when (or because) you request them. With your following of 490 users on Twitter, I’d predict you’d garner maybe around 10 retweets for some good content if you market it more than once. Until you are a celebrity and people hang on your every word, I’d not expect more than that…. unless of course you happen to stumble on that next bit of viral content and it spins out of your control… but we can only hope for that 😉

Yes, this was a rather lengthy post, and not intended as the end all be all to explaining social behaviours. I am sure many of my own readers have their own ideas and experiences to share, which I fully encourage! Please feel free to comment here, or in any of the other channels which you may have found this post shared out… the key to being social on the internet is, of course, engaging in good discussion! So whether you agree or disagree, please let me know 🙂

You can comment on this post (although it may take a while before your comment to show up, since I moderate all comments), or you can go to Jason’s blog and comment there.

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