Rambling On

Anthony R. Cardno's Fiction and Commentary

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Wow, that title sounds fancy, doesn’t it?

With Jennifer Holliday, a 2011 highlight

It’s December 31. I am hanging out, as I do every New Years Eve, with my college friends/adopted siblings. Jon & Cindi (and their son Xavier) are hosting, as always. Scott & Margaret are here with son and daughter Jared and Morgyn. Peggy is here with her son Max. Plus there are two dogs, a cat, a rabbit. Assorted local family and friends will drop in, too. It’s always a dual celebration, as Jon’s birthday is January 1.

Typically, this is not the ideal setting for long rambling thoughts about the past year. But we’re having a lull at the moment. Three of the four kids are reading quietly. So are half of the adults. So now seems to be the time.

I’ll admit it’s been a rough year. Car problems, financial problems, lots and lots of work travel bouncing me all over the country (especially these last few months). I’ve been a real cranky-pants at times, so the first order of business is thanking everyone who has put up with that crankiness, and everyone who helped me deal with what at times felt like insurmountable problems. They are too numerous to list here: if you are among them, you know who you are and I thank you.

On the writing side of things, the year was a mixed bag. I didn’t manage to complete either AMBERGRIN HALL or CHRISTMAS GHOSTS, my long-simmering novel and novella. Both are so close to completion it almost hurts, and I’ve made progress on untangling the plot knots of the first and filling in the hole in the plot of the second, but still … didn’t finish them. That is a goal for 2012. On the positive side, I sold my first genre short story, a science fiction tale for the SPACE BATTLES anthology edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and due out mid-2012. That felt terrific. Also, it seems like this year’s sales of THE FIRFLAKE were better than last year’s. This is an guess on my part, but it feels like I had more emails and tweets telling me “I’m buying your book” this year than I did last. It might have helped that I joined Goodreads in an effort to help advertise the book, and that I spent more time posting on the book’s Facebook page.

Reading-wise, having joined Goodreads has helped me keep even better track of what I read and what I thought (although I’m still behind on writing reviews of some of what I read, and likely won’t get those done before tonight’s festivities start). I’ll wait until later this week to post my “Favorites of 2011” final list. Between office and on-line bookclubs, and writing book reviews for ICARUS and CHELSEA STATION magazines, I’ve also read a lot of authors I’d never read before as well as revisiting old favorites.

Probably the biggest accomplishment of 2011 has been the increased use of this website. I added a second short story (“Canopus,” joining “Invisible Me”), and I made the decision to start blogging regularly. When I made that decision, I had no idea I would end up developing an almost-weekly Interview feature. It’s all Anthony Garguila‘s fault. Although his didn’t end up being the first interview I ran (that honor went to author Evelyn Lafont), it was meeting him at a high school band reunion he attended with his mother that instigated the whole “interviewing creative people” thing. I’ve had the honor of interviewing up-and-coming authors like Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Linda Poitevin, Chad Helder and Christie Yant; genre pros like Jay Lake and Jeremy C. Shipp; friends Dennis Miller and Joseph Pittman; and career authors like Lawrence Block. I’ve interviewed artists (Lynn Bennett-MacKenzie), editors (Ellen Datlow), webcomics creators (Namesake, School Spirit, Cura Te Ipsum, Multiplex), actors (Brandon Tyler Russell) and musicians ranging from indy artists like Casey Stratton and Matt Lande to teen pop-rockers Burnham and Hollywood Ending. I’ve learned a lot about interviewing, and I’ve learned a lot about the creative process as it manifests in different fields.

2012 looks to get off to a good start for interviews as well. Carolyn Gray (author of A Red-Tainted Silence and Long Way Home) and actors Austin MacDonald and Sarah Desjardins and Brad and Todd Mann are all due up in January. Author Kaaron Warren, editor John Joseph Adams and singer Jennifer Holliday will be along in February.

What I’m loving about the interviews is that they’re fun. This isn’t my day job, it’s a hobby I’m enjoying quite a bit. One of the things that has helped me interview so many interesting people has been Twitter. I’m grateful for the friends I’ve made through that site, including but not limited to the folks named in the preceding few paragraphs, as well as Marianne Burnham, Helen MacDonald, Desiree Russell, Leigh Geraghty, Nina Diamond, Tomatito Adams, Sabrina Vourvoulias and too many others to name them all.

Bringing things full circle: despite the rough patches of the year, my health has been largely good and the travel has enabled me to spend far more time with the friends and family scattered around the country than I would have otherwise. As always, I end the year thankful for my health and for the love that continues to lift me up. Whether you’re a friend for decades or someone I’ve just gotten to know thanks to social media: thank you.

Here’s to a 2012 that is full of love, fun, health, peace and prosperity for all of us. Catch you next year!

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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 šŸ˜‰

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 šŸ˜‰

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 šŸ™‚

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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I’m switching, and that’s all there is to it. It’s time for a change. I’ve made up my mind, you can’t talk me out of it, there’s no turning back.

Switching nights for my Interview posts, that is. Why, what did you think I meant?

I’ve been posting interviews (in the weeks when I have them to post) on Wednesday nights, but Wednesday nights have become increasingly crowded for me. If I make it to a computer in time, I try to check in on the weekly live ustream that Forrest, Andre and Alex Burnham do at 7pm (who are they? Check the links to the right, music lovers!). Then at 9pm the #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Chat) session starts on Twitter, and I hate missing that. So by the time I’m really ready to start putting the post together, it’s late and I’m cranky and it creates more stress than it should. This interviewing thing is supposed to be fun, right?

Tuesday nights in my world are less busy (at least currently) and therefore I have more time to polish the interview posts before I hit “publish.” So, Tuesdays it is. I also intend to increase the non-interview post frequency — on subjects writery, musicy and fundraisery. (No, those are not really words. I’m a former English teacher. I can make up words if I want.) — to every Friday evening.

Tonight’s interview, which will be up in the next hour, is with Luke Herr, aka Koltreg, the writer behind SOCIALFIST and CHANGELING.

Next week: author Chad Helder (THE VAMPIRE BRIDEGROOM, THE POP-UP BOOK OF DEATH).

After that? I’ll be chatting with author Jay Lake (MAINSPRING, GREEN, THE SPECIFIC GRAVITY OF GRIEF, the upcoming ENDURANCE), and author BRYAN THOMAS SCHMIDT (THE NORTHSTAR SERIAL PART ONE, the upcoming THE WORKER PRINCE) will be back for a second interview. Webcomic writer-artist Allan Wood (ALLAN, BLUE CIRCUS) is upcoming, as well as pop culture reporter Joshua Estrin (Celebbuzzz on Twitter), author Neil Ostroff (AFTER, DEGENERATES, THE DROP OUT), and … well, that’s probably enough teasers for now.

Check back in a little while for the Luke Herr interview, and please go back and revisit my earlier interviews!

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Writers, Advice Please!

Posted by admin under website

Yesterday during my Daye Jobbe, I tossed in my usual off-handed mention that I met my cousin who works for the Coast Guard when she came to a book-signing I did two years ago. Occasionally, students will pick up on that and ask me during a break or after class what the book-signing was all about, and I get a chance to advertise my book THE FIRFLAKE without feeling like it’s a conflict of interest (advertising my book while doing my Daye Jobbe). No one mentioned it yesterday (which is what usually happens, honestly), so I assumed no one had picked up on it, or if they had they were not interested in hearing more. Today towards the end of lunch, I was back in the meeting room checking email and one of the participants said, “I enjoyed reading your short stories last night.” My immediate answer was, “oh, thanks!” And then I looked at her and said, “Wait. Short stories? Which ones? Where did you find them?” I know I’ve posted one or two here on LJ over the years, but I’m pretty sure I locked those posts. She said, “there were three of them on a website. One of them was about a bank robber.” I’m pretty sure the issue of Willard & Maple magazine that includes my story “Invisible Me” is not available online. “I found them just by googling your name.”

So of course, I immediately googled myself. Sure enough, there’s a link … to the “test run” of the website page my friend EJ Flynn was designing for me. I had given her an author bio and three of my stories (“Invisible Me,” “Navarre,” and “That Happy Kid,” the latter of which has been revised since I sent it to her) to see what the site might look like in final form. I had thought that test page was locked off for only she and I to see, and the project sort of fell through the cracks as she went on to other work and has spent less time designing websites (especially for free as she was doing for me). A month or so ago, my buddy Darrell and I got the actual www.anthonycardno.com finally up and running, with the intention that I’d probably eventually add a Story tab to the site once things were tweaked to where we want them.

So, the question is: should I leave these stories posted / open to being found on her site? Two of the three are unpublished in any kind of print form, and one of those is fairly substantially revised while the other I’m considering revising. I’ve heard that many editors (of print and online mags) will not look at stories once they’ve been on a website of any kind (be it a personal site or a blog like Livejournal or Blogspot). If that’s true, can it hurt to leave these three on the web since they’ve been out here for over a year without my knowledge that they were visible to the general public? Should I move them to my website, leave them in both places, or take them all down? I’m genuinely unsure of the best route to take.

Thoughts are appreciated.

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