Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Literary Festival, anyone?

*NB June 2015: One of my first blog posts, back when I was persuaded by fellow Twitterly writers that I really had to have a blog...  I'm amazed I had to be persuaded now, it's like a fifth limb!!*

One of my lovely new online writer friends suggested to me that we might meet up some time at some Literary Festival or other, as we are, at the moment, only friends via Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and email.  I thought this was a most excellent idea; I'd love to meet in person some of my fellow Twitterers!

I mentioned this idea to my husband.  He said. "A Literary Festival?  What happens at one of those, then?  Do you all sit around on the grass, smoking dope and swigging cider while someone reads from 'Jane Eyre'?  Do you stand in your wellies in the mud, holding up your cigarette lighter in the dark, during the first chapter of 'On The Road'?

You can just see it, can't you?

"I missed the last half of 'Great Expectations' because I was chucking up after eating some under-cooked lentils I bought from one of those veggie food stands."

"I'm getting too old for these gigs, I'd rather listen to 'Catcher in the Rye' on audio book than wade around in the mud for three days"

"I thought 'A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu' was rubbish live.  Didn't enjoy it half as much as I did the book."

"Aye, but you were pissed when the fella was reading it.  You were trying to chat that bird in the denim shorts up.  The one with the lemonade bottle full of vodka, remember?"

"Nah, Sebastian Faulk's 'Birdsong' ain't half as good as it was last year.  Anyone want a bang on this?  It makes it sound better, honest."

"Who's headlining this year?  Some dude in glasses reading the best of W Somerset Maugham?  Far out!" 

Can't wait, sounds like a blast!

...and let us look at Glastonbury, 1970 style and then... 2014

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Free Sex and Money! Here!

I read a very interesting blog today by an American author called Toby Neal entitled "Is anyone reading blogs anymore?"

It was about the endless round of author interviews and guest blogs, etc, she did when promoting her first book - now, about to release her second, she wonders if she can be bothered to do it all over again.  Her question was, does anyone actually read them?  Apart from those who know the author, anyway.  My initial answer was 'no'.  My point being that most of them are all the same (some aren't - Tracie Banister's is a bit different, has more interesting questions).  Also, there are hundreds of thousands of bloggers, hundreds and thousands of indie authors out there - yes, your book and what drove you to write it is fascinating to you, your family and some friends, but not of THAT much interest to everyone else.  I highlighted my point by saying that although I had seen Toby's name up and down Twitter for ages, I hadn't actually investigated anything she wrote until she wrote a blog with  a title that caught my eye.  Now I know about her and the name of her book.  Blood Orchid.  See, I even remembered it, an hour later!  I might even check it out!

Hence the title of this blog post.  Did it make you read it?  Well, perhaps not.

Then I thought about the subject more (I do tend to leap in, it has to be said).  Whereas doing an author interview may not get 100 people going "hey, this girl is OUT THERE! I must buy her book, review it and recommend it to all my friends!", it is all a part of the interaction with people and goodwill thing amongst the writer community.  Also, it might get both you and the blogger new followers, who you might really like/start helping each other out....  as another writer had commented on Toby's post, it's a slow thing.

One of the other problems with this blogging thing is that there are so many zillions of them out there that you can miss a good one; I read about 3 a day, I think, ones that particularly catch my eye - if I like a post by someone, I might read another of theirs.  If I like that, too, I might spread the word about the blog as a whole.  Quantum of Thought.  That's a good one.  (No, nothing to do with me, it's not a self-plug!)

Before I became part of the Twittersphere I used to post blogs (occasionally) on Facebook and MySpace.  They always got a stack of views and comments, but on Twitter there are so many being posted that they don't stand out.

To sum up - give your blog post a title that will make people look at it!  Maybe not like this one, though...!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Social Networking Differences

A few people I've met on Twitter have said to me lately that they don't really 'get' Facebook.  In the old days (3/4 years ago, eons in social networking) when 'MySpace or Facebook?' was the big question, alot of people said they didn't 'get' MySpace.  People on Facebook say they don't 'get' Twitter.

This is not a 'how to use' guide for the sites - I would never presume to write such a thing about a subject upon which I am not an expert; these are just my impressions of the purposes/functions of sites I use/have used, which may or may not be helpful/of interest to some.  I may have missed out several important points, but cut me some slack; I am writing this at a quarter to four in the morning because I couldn't sleep.

1. Twitter

I used to not 'get' Twitter - which has led me to believe that you only really get to know a site by using it a lot.  It's only recently that I've started to use hashtags, even, and I still forget (and feel slightly self-conscious when I use them).  For the first two months I kept thinking #whatthe #f**k #isallthiscr*p, and wondered if it was some secret code.

Before I had my books on Amazon I thought the idea of Twitter was to say frightfully witty things, so everyone would think you were frightfully witty and follow you - which I thought seemed a bit pointless, and, anyway I couldn't think of several frightfully witty things a day to say.  When I actually did start to tweet I thought it was just a lot of people posting sales links.  Then it clicked.  I shan't go into how it ought to be used; this has been said before by so many, and it is not my place to do so, anyway.  I would just like to say that I have met so many nice, interesting, amusing, helpful people since I've been using Twitter - who would have thought that would be possible, in 140 characters?  Some of these have become people I email with, or correspond with on Facebook, too - who knows, one day I might meet one or some of them!  I've also, of course, discovered so much good stuff to read on this site.  So glad someone's suggestion that I needed a Twitter profile if I was going to flog my books has led not only to that, but a whole bunch of other stuff, too.

To sum up - the best promotional tool in the history of the world, and so much more!

2.  Facebook

Facebook is a social networking site.  The main pages are not promotional tools.  They are for re-discovering those with whom you had lost touch, easy interaction with current friends and family, and the making of new friends - the last part tends to be a delightful by-product of the first two.  Via Facebook I have got together again with people I haven't seen for years.  Without Facebook they would largely be a part of my history; I've moved around a bit and who the hell bothers to write letters, these days?  Sad, but true.  I've also met new people - I don't know how, it's just happened. Maybe we played a game of Scrabble, or made each other laugh on someone else's status update.  Or had a similar interest, so met via a group.  Anyway, some of these people who live in the computer have now become 'real' friends.  Like, we've met.  Lovely.

People do not go on Facebook because they want to be sold to.  It is not Twitter, and it is certainly not ebay.  If you have a business/book/band, you can 'create a page' for it, or you can join a group for people who might be interested in your product, but the pages/groups with the most followers are not the ones that just post constant links to whatever it is the user wants to bring to your notice.  Trying to flog stuff on a constant or 'in your face' basis is more likely to get you unsubscribed from, unliked or 'defriended' than get your stuff flogged.  This does not include, of course, groups/pages that are there for the purpose of bringing you offers/news of free stuff.

To sum up - it's for keeping up with the old and current, and, if you want to, making friends with the new.  Facebook is about social interaction - FORGET the rest!

3. Goodreads

What a marvellous site!  It's for people who love books.  It's also for authors and readers to interact, and for authors to help other authors.  Because of those things,  authors also get to sell books via it.  Very nice indeed.  Things I love about Goodreads:
  • From an author's point of view, I love that I can see who has written me a good review/given me lots of stars, and thank them.  How frustrating is it when you get a lovely review on Amazon but don't know who the hell it's from, so you can't thank them?
  • It's very hard to 'hard sell'.  People do try - you know, the ones who manage, during whatever discussion in which they are participating, to turn the subject round so they can post all their book links, but I doubt it does them much good, anyway!  
  • You get to be reminded of all the wonderful books you have ever read, and recommend them to others, and be really boring about how great they are.
  • Again, from an author's point of view, you get your books known, but in a way that is not so full on - people see that someone else is reading/about to read it, and have a look at it, read the reviews - and hey, they might even buy it! Even if they don't, they have now heard of you.  It's how it should be.  It's a lovely online library.
  • As with the other sites, you get to know new people on there - readers and authors alike.  It's an obvious follow on from lumping people with the same interest all together!

4.  MySpace

The best of the lot, and sadly no more.  Well, it's still there, but few use it - it's changed out of all recognition from the site I first joined in 2006, when someone told me that my richly vocal and beer swilling toy rabbit (no, I'm not being rude) ought to have a MySpace page.  The site has since changed ownership, is difficult to use and doesn't even look the same. Very sad indeed.  The people who I met on there (some of whom have become my closest friends) and I still mention the glory days with nostalgia at times. There's the 21st century for you - we talk about the passing of a social networking site, not a pub we all used to use!

It was fab.  You could design your own page, call yourself what you wanted, and when people clicked onto your page they could hear your choice of music playing.   There was room for all the creativity you wanted; for instance, I used to have a page on there called 'Serial Killer of the Week'. If you find that sort of things distasteful, stop reading now.  Please.  If you're still reading, I researched them well and each week I would change the background and the bio and introduce, say, John Wayne Gacey.  He would put out a bulletin (on the Bulletin Board, that everyone could see all the time) and say "Hi, I'm John, and I'm pleased to have been chosen for SKOTW', etc.  At the end of the week I would have the judges from The X Factor/American Idol assessing each one; Simon Cowell would say "I don't know, for me you're just a one-trick pony", or Randy Jackson would say "Hiding 'em in the crawlspace?  No, that just ain't workin' for me, dude", and stuff like that.  It was VERY popular.

You could blog on there.  Your favourite books, films, videos were all on your page. Then, for some strange reason, people stopped using it and started to use the far more bland Facebook; I dunno, maybe it's just that the more bland will always be the more popular.  On the other hand, maybe it's good, because I've put all that creativity into writing novels instead - I certainly wouldn't have the time to do a Serial Killer of the Week, now, anyway!  During a short period when I was living alone and too broke to go out, MySpace became a large part of my social life.  One night, on the Serial Killer page, I got talking to someone I presumed was a young punk rocker.  He presumed I was a bloke - because middle aged women don't make up 'funny' pages about Jeffrey Dahmer, Les McKeown of the Bay City Rollers, and Coronation Street Lothario Ken Barlow, do they?

I got to know him quite well....

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Keep Your Kit ON!

*First posted in 2012, updated in 2014*

This morning I was half watching a Saturday morning cookery programme, and saw 1980s iconic punk princess Toyah Wilcox showing us how to make an amazing recipe with pollock.

Of course, Toyah is now in her fifties - as is Kim Wilde, who regularly appears on gardening programmes.

Kim Wilde in the 1980s

Kim Wilde in horticultural mode, in recent years.

This made me wonder if, in decades to come, we will see Kimberley Walsh of Girls Aloud presenting 'Antiques Roadshow', or Jessie J fielding the two teams on 'Bargain Hunt'?       
Somehow, that doesn't seem as unlikely as it would have seemed, thirty years ago, to see uber-hip Toyah and sexy vixen Kim Wilde presenting gardening and cookery programmes.  Which made me think - were the female pop stars of the 1980s just so much more cool than they are now?

Take the beautiful yet delightfully homely Kimberley Walsh, above,  - very much the sort of girl you could imagine mucking around with bedding plants and fish stock.... opposed to 1970/80s Siouxie Sioux....

Leading on from this, I was watching an old edition of 'The Old Grey Whistle Test' a few nights ago, featuring Siouxie and The Banshees, and the first thing I noticed was:

Hang on a minute! She's

Think of not only Siouxie, Toyah and Kim, but also Bananarama, Chrissie Hynde, and even the lusted-after-by-every-man-in-the-world Debbie Harry.

Chrissie Hynde and Debbie Harry

They all wore CLOTHES. They were all cool and smart, sexy and edgy and 'street', which they managed to be without prancing around in their undergarments as if they were auditioning for porn movies..... 

Bananarama, compare their attitude with the writhing, acquiescent posturing of Rhianna, Christine Aguilera, Shakira, Cheryl Cole, to name but a few. What sort of role models are they for young girls today?  

The ever ladylike and classy Cheryl Cole...

They give out the message that in order to be successful, attractive and appreciated, you must be seen as indiscriminately sexually available.  And not only available, but positively gagging for it.
Forget all our mothers fought for - let's rejoice in being sex objects once more!

These days, even the older ones aren't much better. Madonna, the queen of cool and edgy when she first appeared on the scene, is never out of her hotpants. The glamorous and breathtakingly beautiful JLo seems to think she has to compete with the twenty year olds when it comes to her promotional videos. Come on, loves, put your crotches away! Sticking your fishnet clad arse in the air and simulating sex on stage looks a bit desperate when you're over forty, however great your figure is.  

     Sexy doesn't have to mean letting it all hang out - whatever happened to an air of mystery?