Social Media And The Dreaded Clique

I debated on whether or not to post this, but here goes nothing…

You’ve decided to do it. Everyone else seems to be doing it, so why shouldn’t you, especially if you need to get your name out there to promote <insert product or service>? Therefore, you decide to go ahead and set up that Twitter account, Facebook profile, Google Plus profile, and just about every other damn social media platform you’ve been told to try. After all, you have to get your name out there, right? How else are you going to peddle your product to a large audience?

So, you’ve established your profiles. Over time, you’ve met some people and everything seems to going well; you’re chatting, mostly about superficial things here and there and meeting other people through the relationships you’ve already established. You’re just freaking swell and chugging along on the little social media train. People genuinely seem interested in what you have to say…. Until one day you start noticing little things here and there. It’s all subtle of course. No one is overtly saying I’m not feeling you anymore or that your content sucks. Yet, you notice actions, or rather inactions. People aren’t reading your blog posts or sharing them anymore. People no longer comment on the silly memes or articles you’ve linked to your profile. Ah! Somewhere along the line, people you’ve regularly conversed with are fading into the abyss of the Internet. It gets worse though. Not only do they seem to fade away from you, but they also seem to regularly converse with the same group of people. You know what I’m talking about. They share and comment on each other’s posts, comment on each other’s silly memes about work and life. Hmm. That’s when that dreaded thought first crosses your mind. Dare I say that social media is cliquish?

Ha! Pretty much summed up my sentiments.

Let’s face it. Cliques happen. But why are people cliquish? Is it just the nature of the beast that we call human socialization? Maybe. Ok. So I know you’re probably thinking; Stephanie, cliques only exist in high school. Or, how could they exist virtually? Ha! Walk on any college campus and stay for a while. You’ll soon see that cliques are very real. You could argue that they are just remnants of high school and that they fade with each subsequent year of college. Yeah. Tell that to those people who go to a fraternity or sorority “meet and greet” or “open house” and don’t get selected to pledge. From what I hear, the answer (if any is provided) is that the “would be pledge” wasn’t a good “fit” for the organization. {Side note: Surprisingly, or perhaps not, I’ve heard of this happening after failed job interviews as well.} As far as virtual cliques are concerned, hang out on a social media platform for a while and I’m sure you’ll start seeing certain people interacting more with the same group of people.

Recently, I was chatting with a fellow blogger/indie author/cool person of the social media community. I asked if she also noticed that people tend to form cliques on various social media platforms. She commented that it’s a trend that happens and you soon get used to it [clique forming] and you’ll move on accordingly. Damn. I guess. However, that still doesn’t change the fact that it sucks.

And with that, dear reader, I continued to mull over social media group formations. The more I thought about it, the more I thought that perhaps my observations were too harsh and that clique wasn’t the right word, or rather description for what I observed on social media. After all, people naturally tend to be more friendly towards some more so than others, mainly due to commonalities. Furthermore, the more you have in common with someone, the more likely you are to repeatedly interact with that person and vibe with what they have to say. I don’t think that behavior is necessarily cliquish, but rather the natural progression of friendship once you get beyond the superficial layer(s).

As such, I decided to not dwell in the pit of social media despair. Instead, I thought my musings would make a great post on the blog. Who knows? Maybe there’s someone else out there who’s feeling similarly. I guess my fellow blogger/indie author/cool person of the social media community was right; you get over it and move on. I’m sure my words will gravitate to people who will connect with them.

Well, what are your thoughts about social media? Do you think that it promotes cliques? Groupthink? Harmony? Peace? I want to hear it all; the good, the bad, and the down right ugly. Leave your comments below.

Guest Blog Post

Love is love!

Hi everyone! I have great news! I was asked to guest post on fellow independent author, Dicey Grenor’s, blog. I interviewed her on one of my indie author interviews. You can check that out here.

Over on her blog, I was asked to discuss a topic near and dear to my heart; interracial relationships and the need for diversity in novels. Peep out what I had to say here: https://diceyblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/indiethursday-s-m-dahman-author-guestpostinterracial-romance-in-fiction

Music: The Muse Behind the Madness

It’s true!

Hello dear readers. I’ve been plugging away on the computer, pounding out the words to the Twisted sequel. If you’ve been keeping up with my previous posts, then you know that this hasn’t been an easy journey for me.

When I began the story, I had a certain trajectory in mind. I thought that there needed to be a “certain progression” to maintain story logic. However, I really wasn’t feeling the plot as it, well, progressed. It was almost like torture trying to get the story out. Therefore, I backtracked and decided to look at it from another angle. Once I made that commitment, the words began to overflow.

So far, I’m loving this “new” story in this “new” world! I feel that with the current rendition, I’m able to take my characters to places I previously couldn’t in the first version. I’m very excited by that. 🙂

With that being said, I am digressing (sort of) from today’s topic, which is… Music!

Music served as my muse for the current rendition of the sequel (currently untitled). I don’t like to listen to it while I write, yet I do prefer hearing music as I brainstorm. So today, I’ve come up with a list of 10 songs that have helped frame some of the current storyline. They are listed below by genre:

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Dancehall: This genre helped me to write the very first scene of the story, but it will probably go somewhere in the middle once I coalesce all the scenes (I don’t write in a linear fashion. I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work for me). I don’t know how familiar you, dear reader, are with this genre or the culture from which it derives. But if you ever get the chance to YouTube some of these songs below, you may be amazed at how the dancers move their bodies to the music.

Gimme Gimme by Beenie Man -> This was my jam when I used to run on the track and it brings back a ton of memories! If you ever need a good song to run to, this up-tempo beat is the one.

You’re No Good by Major Lazer -> has no official video, but I love beat.

We Be Burnin’ (Legalize It) by Sean Paul

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Rap/R&B: Basically, every song listed under this genre is associated with AJ is some shape, form, or fashion.

Fancy by The Dream -> Don’t want to comment on this one too much because I’ll give away a major clue of what’s going on in the story. However, I will say that it plays in my head when I write scenes with two particular characters.

So Fresh, So Clean by Outkast (hometown group!) -> Oddly, this song plays in my head whenever I’m describing something AJ is wearing or when he’s in his car.

When I See You by Fantasia

All I Really Want by Rick Ross

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Rock: or maybe alternative? Not sure of the differences between genres. Anyway, this genre fueled a lot of scenes between two particular characters. If you’re familiar with Possum Kingdom, then you’ll probably deduce that these scenes take a walk on the dark side. You would be correct.

Creep by Radiohead

Jeremy by Pearl Jam

Come As You Are by Nirvana -> one of my favorite songs in general

*Bonus Possum Kingdom by Toadies -> creepy song that also makes me think about vampires.

There you have it. I have no idea why these particular songs inspired the ideas or themes in the sequel but they have. Surprisingly, the number 1 song played in my iTunes did nothing for me (which is Kings of Leon’s Back Down South, I love Caleb’s slightly raspy voice and the instrumentation throughout the song. Plus I’m from the south).

Does music inspire your creativity? Or, if it doesn’t, what’re some of your favorite songs? Leave your comments below with the song title and the reasons why you like them.

Sequel Update: Dealing With One Pesky Bad Boy

Jax Teller

As mentioned in a previous post, I haven’t felt like writing anything pertaining to the Twisted sequel lately. I thought that if I got my suspicions on why I didn’t feel like writing off my chest that it would help me, well, write something. Lo and behold, within a day or two of writing that post, my mojo returned. Sort of. However, it wasn’t the maniac, free flow that I was hoping for. Instead, the flow trickled; a sentence here, finesse as paragraph there. After doing that for a while, new ideas and scenes flooded my imagination and I sketched them out as best as I could at the time. While in the process of doing that, I once again focused on one of my main characters, which is not AJ (teaser!).

He’s the new guy on the block. He’s the inspiration behind the bad boys post (I see him as a personality combination of T.I. and “Jax Teller”, hence why I used Jax’s picture above) and he is still monopolizing my time. Poor AJ can barely utter a word before rude, obnoxious, and pretty damn… demanding “mystery man” inserts himself into the conversation. After enduring hours of his pestering, I finally relented to his demands and told more of the story from his POV. Still, he’s not happy with the time I’ve given him. He’s arguing that I’m not portraying his character well enough to the audience (“What audience?” I asked him. He crossed his arms over his chest and replied, “Just wait. You’ll see.” I love his confidence.) He thinks the story would be more compelling if I tell it strictly from his POV, to hell with AJ. He had his time in the first story. When I counter that there are people out there who like AJ and would like to see what happens to him from his perspective, he shuts me down, demanding that I keep spilling his prose on the pages. It’s his turn to shine, so he says. Well damn! What’s a girl to do? I’m over halfway through the story (I think) and if I were to tell it solely from his perspective, I’d have to do some major scene reconstruction (and omissions). Honestly, I’m not sure if I’m down for that. I really want to be done with this first draft. With that being said, I’m sure the story would pour out of me faster since he’s so damn demanding. He’d surely yak my ear off until the story is finished.

Now, I’m faced with a dilemma: should I keep the story in its current form (alternating POV between AJ and “mystery bad boy”), or should I tell the story entirely from said bad boy’s perspective? I’d love to hear feedback, especially from those of you who have read Twisted. Don’t act shy. I know Twisted readers stop by the blog! Should I cave to the demands of the “mystery guy”, or should I give AJ space to tell his story as well? Leave your comments below or find me on social media.

 

Why?

For the love of all that’s good, why?

Y’all get a twofer today.

I don’t feel like writing. I don’t know why. I’m not having writer’s block; I can think of plenty of things I want my characters to do or say. I pretty much know what direction I want my story to go. Yet, for some reason, I really can’t seem to put words down on the paper (or tap letters on the keyboard). Therefore, I started typing this to see if I can flush out what’s holding me back from stringing together some words that will develop into subsequent paragraphs, pages, and chapters:

Pressure/Fear. Do I feel pressure that my sequel needs to match, if not surpass the quality of Twisted? Am I fearful that the few precious readers who bought and enjoyed my story will be disappointed in the follow up? Hmm. Those sentiments probably hinder the progression of my manuscript. A part of me thinks, that shouldn’t prevent you from writing. Just tell the story you want to tell. As long as you enjoy it, others will too. Ok. I think that’s true, however, if I want to do this for a living, having readers is obviously critical. So, of course I want my story to be good, regardless to how subjective “good” is. From this perspective, being a writer is analogous to an athlete not being able to preform under pressure. When the pressure is on, some athletes cave, yet others soldier through, effectively separating the good from the great. Damn. How does Serena Williams do it day in and day out?

Distractions/Procrastination. Why am I avoiding finishing the first draft of my sequel? Perhaps it’s because I’m finding convenient distractions everywhere I look. “Oh look, someone on G+ commented or posted something that sounds interesting. Better check it out.” Or, “someone chatted me up on Twitter, better respond instead of working on this story.” If it’s not social media diverting my attention, it’s something else. Time to work out. Should I venture outside, or stay indoors? It’s a good time to wash my hair. Did Djokovic really get pushed to a fourth set? He’s been damn near outstanding all year. Anything but focusing on what I need to focus on.

I frequently chatted with someone on Twitter. One day, he disappeared. Poof. Not a peep from him. When he finally reappeared, I asked him where he’d been. He replied that he took a break from social media to really hammer out his writing projects. Maybe I should take a page from his book and unplug until I get this first draft finished.

Not in the mood/zero motivation. Perhaps I’m in an extended period of just not wanting to write? It wouldn’t be the first time. I abandoned Twisted for a period of time before picking it back up (I think it was about a year). I don’t think this is uncommon for writers. We go through writing moods, or rather phases. Sometimes I can go on a tear and succinctly write what I’m thinking. Words and scenes pour out of me effortlessly. Other times (like now), I’m like a tennis player whose serve has abandoned her in the last game of the final set. I can’t get anything done and nothing hits the paper. Maybe I’m just in one of those slumps where I’m not feeling the story at the moment, AT ALL. If this is the case, I’m really hoping my mojo returns quickly.

Anyway, I’m sure my inability to barely craft a f*cking sentence stems from a combination of all three of these theories. Anybody have any suggestions on how to overcome pressure, reject distractions, and/or get motivated? Let me know here, or find me on social media.

Does Length Matter?

Now you know I’m talking about book lengths…

As someone who is new to this independent author thing, I really didn’t have a clue what the distinctions were between a novel and novella. Then one day, I stumbled upon this nifty post that really highlighted the difference between writing categories. Essentially, short stories are no longer than 10,000 words, novellas are no longer than 40,000 words and anything over 40,000 words is generally considered a novel. With that in mind, blog posts and articles that I’ve come across have a majority consensus that states the shorter the story, the less likely readers will enjoy it (Ouch! My little story is only 138 pages). Of course that got me thinking if that majority opinion was true. In order to validate this assertion, I did a quick cursory glance at the top 10 books on the New York Times Bestsellers list. As of the date of this post, the average length of the top 10 books is about 373 pages with the shortest length at 236 pages and the longest at 531 pages. That raised yet another question; do shorter narratives somehow cheapen the reader’s experience?

My very unscientific research suggests that readers do enjoy rather lengthy novels. I find this interesting, mainly because we live in a society where everyone is constantly on the go. If what you have to say can’t be conveyed in 140 characters or less, then people are less inclined to find out more about what you’re saying or trying to push (thanks Twitter!). I don’t know if you’re like this as well, but my attention span is so bad that I’ll even flip channels to another program during the commercials of the program that I was watching. When I shop for books, I’ll also tend to go for the shorter stories (but obviously I’m an oddball in that category). Although social media and other forms of technology have altered our attention spans, why do readers still appear to invest their dough in longer novels? I have two theories.

The first theory is the most obvious; people invest money in items that they deem valuable. Basically, you’re getting more bang for your buck; if the book is 700 pages long, then it’s worth spending $8.99 to purchase the Kindle edition because you’re sure to be entertained, right? Secondly, people read as a form of escapism. As such, the lengthier the novel, the longer the reader can remain absorbed in the fantasy world of the story, thus forgetting whatever issues may be going on in their lives. So, with both of these theories in mind, does this mean that (on average) shorter novels don’t stand a chance to reach the pinnacles of success like lengthier ones?

Surely, many other factors play a role in whether or not a reader will purchase a book (e.g. name recognition, marketing, en vogue genres, etc.), but what are your thoughts? Do you enjoy reading longer or shorter stories? If you’re a writer, do you prefer writing longer or shorter manuscripts? As always, leave your comments below or find me on social media (I’m now on Facebook, although I’m seriously considering shutting that down. It’s too complex!)

 

 

 

 

 

Targeting An Audience

You got those readers I need?

You got those readers I need?

Ok guys. If you’ve been following my independent author journey, then you know that the struggle is real! The biggest obstacle by far is marketing and trying to zero in on who exactly is my intended audience. Who in the hell would be interested in reading Twisted and how can I reach out to them?

I attended a Twitter conversation yesterday about branding yourself in the market. (I find the live Twitter conversations fascinating, but kind of hard to keep up with. Questions and answers are rapidly flying everywhere!) I asked the moderators what branding techniques authors could employ to promote themselves. One of the moderators asked who my audience is. That’s where I drew a blank. I have no idea! Initially, I thought it would be millennials who enjoy reading fast-paced thrillers (I’m not so sure it’s just millennials now). I told the moderator as such. She suggested that I whittle that down. Ok. Whittle it to what though? I honestly have no clue.

Therefore, dear reader, I’m asking your opinions to get more ideas on a target market. For all of y’all who’ve read Twisted or the free sample on the blog, who do you think would most enjoy reading this story? I’d LOVE to hear your comments here or on social media! Oh, and a big shout out and hugs to my teacher readers! I really appreciate the support and engagement!

For Those Dumpy Days…

The G.O.A.T.

The G.O.A.T.

We all have them. Those days where you just feel like nothing is going your way or nothing is working out like you want it to. That pretty much sums up my mood these past couple of days.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’m no marketing guru and trying to figure out how to market this little story I wrote is a massive pain in my ass. However, I don’t really have the luxury of paying someone to market this shit for me either. So, I’ve taken the last day and a half and I’ve just been dumpy, dumpy that my story isn’t being heard in a sea full of stories. Dumpy because I don’t really know what I’m doing. Dumpy that it seems tons of other books are promoted and discussed, but mine is in its own little corner of the market collecting cobwebs. Dumpy that I really haven’t tapped into a resource or network that I feel can truly help me figure all of this shit out. I was so down that I really didn’t felt like writing. Why bother? To hell with writing a sequel to Twisted if no one is going to read the first book anyway. That sentiment remained until I read the New York Magazine article about Serena Williams.

Everyone knows who Serena Williams is. She’s arguably the best female athlete of this era (I consider her the G.O.A.T.). With that being said, reaching that pinnacle of success doesn’t come without a bunch of shit. For example, she (and Venus) is constantly called a man, accused of juicing, slammed with racial slurs and epithets (hate is especially vehement on message boards) and every other negative comment you could possibly imagine. And yet, she (and Venus) perseveres on and off court. (I marvel at her mental tenacity on the court. It’s quite the sight to see.)

As the New York Magazine article stated, her mental fortitude and self-belief is off the scale. I agree. It has to be. In a sport where the majority is telling you that you’re not good enough and its pundits denigrating you every chance they get, you have no choice but to maintain a sense of inner belief. Upon reading that article, I felt inspired. I decided to stop wallowing in the dumps and try to tap into my own inner spring of resilience and self-belief.

Therefore, I pulled myself up by the metaphorical bootstraps and reminded myself of a few things: Twisted is a good story. Your book hasn’t even been on the market for a full month. Patience is a virtue. I need to persevere and keep seeking out methods that will help me promote my story and myself. It’s a big world out there. Someone is bound to think what I have to say is good.

So, with mindset anew, I’ve decided to start this day off with positive thoughts. Who cares if I didn’t do much preplanning in regards to marketing before the launch of Twisted? That’s in the past. All I can do now is learn from my mistakes and figure out what I can do from here moving forward. As Serena said in the article, “I don’t dwell in the past. If I do, I’ll be swallowed up my negativity.” Boy, if that’s not an accurate statement, I don’t know what is. If you have moments like what I shared in this post, remember that each day is new and different. If you stay mentally tough, focused, and patient, you’ll achieve your goal.

Graphic Artist or Nah?

Tale of Two Covers

Tale of Two Covers

Recently, I’ve seen discussions on various social media outlets that pertain to book covers. The main debate is between hiring a graphic designer versus doing what you can on your own. The argument for the former is that a professional can make your cover compete with the books produced by major publishing houses, which in turn can boost sales. The counterargument is that the cost of hiring a graphic artist can be out of budget, therefore if your have the skillset you should create your own cover. I see both sides of the argument.

Research shows that people shop with their eyes. As such, your cover should look professional and not like a 5 year old drew it in art class (unless that is what you’re going for). Your cover should convey what your story is about without being over or underwhelming. However, not everyone has the dough to shell out for a professional. In the first rendition of my book, I went to Fiverr. The Fiverr result is above on the left (I got nothing but love for Fiverr, just not in the case of this cover). When I decided to rerelease the book, I went a different route, and forked over a few extra coins.

I’m still undecided about whether or not a better cover improves the chances of someone purchasing your book mainly because I think other factors contribute to sales as well (e.g. knowing your audience and connecting with them). Yet, if you have the skills to create your own cover, there’s nothing wrong with saving a few bucks and doing it yourself.

What are your thoughts? Should indie authors hire graphic artist to create their covers or should authors utilize their own skills? Leave your comments here or find me on social media!

Thank You! :-)

heart-made-of-hearts

Many thanks to all those who stop by, read, and comment on the posts! It really makes me feel as though I’m not talking to myself! If you’d like to stay up to date on the sequel to Twisted and other little doodads going on in the world of S.M. Dahman, please subscribe to the mailing list below. Your privacy is important. Rest assured that your info will never be given to a third party.

 

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