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Is Social Networking Just a Marketing Tool?

I recently read a wonderful book, “Never Eat Alone and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time” by Keith Ferrazzi. The book was aimed at the business world – aspiring CEOs and entrepreneurs, but the lessons could be applied by anyone who wants to make some connections with other people. The goal is to create authentic and meaningful relationships in order to succeed in work and life.

The book made me think about my own personal relationships with people. Making friends in grade school was relatively easy just by proximity. In a room filled with 30 other people who are your same age, live in the same area, and are exposed to the same lessons and expectations, it’s simple to bond and form attachments. This observation isn’t meant to diminish my friendships made during those years. One of my very best friends I’ve known since kindergarten. I won’t tell you how long ago this was because the math is too difficult, but it was many years ago. (Ok, fine! It was 38 years ago. Stupid math.)

In a way, college was even easier. The campus was full of people who were there to meet others and to learn. Self discovery was paramount and there were many people with diverse backgrounds to help with this. Not needing to support myself thanks to my parents and scholarships (thanks, Mom and Dad!) I had a lot of free time to devote to friends and studies and projects. Some of my best memories and friendships were from college.

Ever since then, making friends has become much more difficult, and really most of that responsibility has to rest on my shoulders, because in the real world, making and maintaining friends is work. When things were easy in school, I didn’t need to learn how to meet other people outside of work and how to cultivate those meetings by connecting by phone, email, coffee meetings, etc. Fear of rejection was also a limiting factor, but Ferrazzi’s book shows that by making the effort to learn about others and by finding what interests them, you’re less likely to be rejected. Everyone likes to be liked, and when someone makes the effort to learn your name and shows real interest in what matters to you, it’s hard not to like them.

These lessons can be applied as well to artists and writers who are trying to promote and market their work. So many writers seem to scream at everyone they know to buy their just published book. “Buy! Buy! Buy!” What they should be doing is creating relationships online and in person, building trust and interest in their work. While quietly building support and an inventory of material, the artist will find people who like their work, who want to read or buy more, and who will share their interest with other people they know. Finding the niche markets will be more profitable in the end than lambasting everyone with marketing attempts in hopes of having a best seller. Yes, this takes some work and time, and many writers are shy and just want to live inside their books and the universes they create – but this is no longer possible in today’s world.

Yes, I will let my blog readers and Facebook followers know when new stories, novels and photographs are available. But I also intend to provide content that people will find interesting and share observations about my life that will bring you into my world a little bit and allow you to know me.  Hopefully readers and friends will comment and share their own observations and a community of meaningful connections will form. I’ll also work on cultivating friendships in my day-to-day life. Humans are meant to live in community, and while it might take a bit more effort in today’s hectic, fast-paced world, it will be worth it



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The Confidence Game

This writing game is all about confidence.  You have to believe that what you are doing is worth doing.  That people will want to read what you have to say, and maybe even pay for it.  If you don’t believe this, then why put pen to paper at all (or fingers to keyboard)?

There are those who use writing as a form of therapy and fill pages with their thoughts, dreams and worries.  But if you’re a story teller then there has to be someone to hear the story.  Whenever I write, I think about who my readers might be and what they will think and feel when they read my words.

Some people may call it false bravado, but last December I quit my library job after 20 years in order to follow my dream, to be a writer.  I know there’s many people out there who are writers while also working and raising families, and I’m proud of them, but I had trouble myself with getting the writing done after working all day and commuting two hours a day.

I’m sure I have a lot to learn, and for a few years I’ll be rather poor, but I needed to follow my dream and make the career change to story teller.  I hope you’ll follow along with me.

I’m getting some short stories published and will be posting links to them under the page tag “short stories”.  When the novels are finished, their links will also be posted under their own page tag.  My regular fiction and mysteries will be published under my own name, but the fantasy fiction will be published under the nom de plume, Erica Carnea.  (If you know latin and your plants, you’ll get the joke). Links to these stories and novels will be linked together under their own page tag.

Since today is St. Patrick’s Day, I have to let you all know that I am half Irish, I have been to Ireland and I have kissed the Blarney Stone.  Hopefully the Irish love of gab and their long literary tradition will serve me well.


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Happy Halloween

For your reading pleasure I have put up a short ghost story on the page “A Halloween Treat”.

Click the page to read the tale.

Enjoy!  I’ll be handing out candy to young costumed children the rest of the night.

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What’s in a name?

Choosing the right name for a character can be difficult for me and is something I think seriously about before continuing with a story.  I thought I had a name for one of my major characters in my current novel, and now that I’m almost finished with the book, I’ve decided I can’t stand his name.  And if I can’t stand writing his name over and over, then how will others tolerate reading it?

Most of the time when I’m reading a book, I don’t usually pay too much attention to the names of the characters unless the name is completely strange or hard to pronounce.  And then, the attention is usually negative.  For American readers who were discovering the Harry Potter books, the name Hermione was a stumbler.  Until the movies came out many people didn’t know how to say the name.  And when that happens, you can end up tripping over it every time it comes up.  (And yes, this is true too for those people not reading it aloud.  When there’s an unrecognizable or unpronouncable word, it breaks the flow of the story in your mind).

When a name fits perfectly you’ll know it because it is easy to remember and you can’t imagine the character being named anything else.  For you Tolkien fans think “Bilbo Baggins”, “Frodo”, and “Gollum”.  Of course, it helped that Tolkien was philologist and really understood languages. 

Names too can have symbolic meaning.  And this is OK as long as it isn’t too over-the-top and moving into the realm of allegory.  In his book “On Writing”, Stephen King talks about how he named his beleagured character John Coffey so that he would have the same initials as Jesus Christ.

More importantly, the name of a character has to fit in with their personality, the time, place and history of the setting, and with family background.  It would be difficult to get away with naming a character Keneisha when she is Irish and  living in 1800’s Ireland, and every other woman is named Mary.  This is one of the reasons I own three baby name books even though I don’t have any children.  When a name doesn’t fling itself out at me when I’m thinking up a character, then I’ll research one until I find something that fits.  It doesn’t always work, though, as demonstrated by my recent decision to change a character’s name.  I still don’t know what it will be and it is going to be a huge pain to fix it in the next edit.  Blech.


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What if Civilization Were to End?

This week I watched a couple of episodes of a new series on National Geographic called Doomsday Preppers.  Yes, the people were a bit odd, but this is usually the case with anyone who is actively passionate about a subject.  The reason I watched is because I have my own mild fascination with what life would be like after a natural or manmade disaster brings down our food supply systems.  (You may have already gathered this if you read my short story “The Sweetest Gift”.)

Some of my thoughts revolve around whether or not I would have what it takes to survive.  The answer is usually yes – in my own mind and not based on reality.  But what really interests me is the fascination humans seem to have with predictions about the end of the world.  I think we secretly wish for it to happen.  Somehow it feels easier to imagine a world where we only have to focus on survival and on finding food, water and shelter.  No more worries about our credit rating, our next performance review at work, whether or not we’re going to make our mortgage payment, and certainly not about whether or not some politician is morally corrupt for having an affair while still married.  Our complex world becomes more simple and focused.

We can imagine ourselves as being the best we can be when it means saving our lives and that of our families’.  But would anything really change?  As a writer, I enjoy exploring the motivations and neuroses of human interactions.  If a character is too lazy in the real world to follow through on committments and get tasks done, won’t he have the same problem after the apocolypse?  There would be a lot of work to do in finding food, fuel and shelter.  He might be more motivated  – it would mean life or death after all – but if he can’t manage  to get to the grocery store now, what makes him think he’ll be able to hunt down a deer later?

Another reason I like to imagine post-civilization scenarios for my characters is because when the world gets down to the basics of survival, I imagine our own character traits get simplified as well.  A backstabber in the modern corporate world would most likely be the kind of survivalist who steals food from others. 

If you are at all interested in this literary subject, some titles I would recommend are The Witch of Hebron by James Howard Kunstler, Into the Forest by Jean Hegland, and Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.  Enjoy. 

P.S.  For disaster preparedness, FEMA recommends that every household have enough supplies on hand to last 3 days.  Do you have enough in your own pantry?

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Wanted: a Personal Assistant

For the rest of this year I’m going to have to resign myself to the fact that my house is not clean.  If I’m going to meet my writing and work goals, I am going to have to let some things slide.  Last weekend I spent an entire afternoon doing car maintenance.  All I could think about was that I was not spending time on my computer.  The car things had to be done in order to commute to my day job, but I resented the time I needed to spend on it.

What I really need, I thought, is someone who can do these things for me.  A personal assistant to do my laundry, pick up  my groceries, run errands, do a bit of house cleaning and maybe even prep some meals.  Wait, maybe what I need is a house husband, and then I wouldn’t have to pay him.  Ah, the day dreams of the overworked.  I can’t imagine doing all of this on top of raising children.  To all you working mothers out there – I salute you!

I’ll stop whining now.  I’ve never been a fantastic house cleaner and maybe this is the excuse I’ve been needing to not have to do it.  “I can’t clean the bathroom right now, my heroine is in the midst of a dangerous situation and I have to get her through to the next chapter!”


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