#FridayFlash: Spikes High

#FridayFlash: Spikes High

by Tony Noland

Coming up on midfield, Kent moved the ball forward with a fast double-toe move. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the big striker from Westerville Central High, a blonde guy sporting number 21, moving up alongside him like a tanker truck.

All night long, that jerk had been kicking high, leaving big welts on Kent's thighs with his spikes, cheating with his size to make up for what he lacked in speed and footwork. He'd been doing it to the whole Asherton side, then smirking afterward. The referees were clearly in the Westerville pocket, since they not only hadn't carded him, they hadn't called him on it at all, not even a warning. Home field advantage my ass, Kent thought, more like a clear case of bribe-the-ref. Well, enough's enough; I'm gonna put a stop to it, even it I get a yellow. Hell, even a red would be worth it. Down 4-0 with two minutes left, things can't get much worse.

Kent got ready for the hit. The Westerville striker cut left, then started to jink back to the right, his knee high as Kent moved the ball across his quarter. Spikes up, Number 21's right leg came up for a snap kick, not at the ball, but at Kent's left thigh.

Instead of trying to avoid the slashing kick, Kent stepped hard and twisted back into it, kicking the ball away into empty space downfield. As Kent expected, his opponent was distracted by it long enough for Kent to plant his own feet, take the kick on his thigh and bring his elbow up into Number 21's chest, just left of center, as hard as he could. Kent braced his left fist with his right hand, so he was able to put the entire weight of his body behind the blow.

The pain that radiated out from his elbow was a shock, an electric bolt that made him fear for his arm and wrist. Number 21 went up in the air, lifted on the point of contact by the combination of Kent's explosive twist and by his own forward momentum. For a moment, he seemed to hang in the air, his bulging eyes locked with Kent's own, his lips flapped out in a ridiculous parody of exhalation as the air was driven from his lungs.

Then, he fell. Kent continued his twist, moving out from under the dumb bastard, pivoting his elbow out and away. His opponent hit the ground hard, like a big sack of wet laundry.

Kent snarled and spun away, sprinting after the ball, hoping the referee had missed the hit. When the ref's whistle sounded a moment later, Kent fixed his very best look of confusion and disbelief onto his face. The ref, however, ran past Kent without stopping to draw a card or even point a finger. Now genuinely surprised, Kent turned to watch him as he moved over to kneel by Number 21, lying motionless at midfield where he'd fallen.

The ref said something to him, then leaned in closer and said something else. As the ref straightened and began to motion to the sidelines, the Westerville coach and assistant coach were already running onto the field, followed by their trainer, carrying a big first aid kit. Kent panted, feeling the sweat bead and roll down his scalp. He watched the Asherton trainer, Mr. Mickton, also come running onto the field with a kit, soon joined by other officials and adults. Over the bent heads of the men surrounding the prone figure, the referees and both line judges stood close by, watching. After a moment, the Westerville assistant coach stood up and backed away, cell phone out and dialing. The trainers smoothly rolled Number 21 onto his back and began CPR.

From the silent, breathless bleachers, a woman's voice screamed a name. One scream, one shocked cry, then nothing. Over the PA system, the announcer said something that Kent couldn't understand, the blood pounding in his ears filling the world with a roaring, rushing wave.

The assistant coach was pacing, talking, shouting into his phone, his voice rising and falling in a running account. The big middle-aged men leaning over, the trainers giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, their bearded faces pressed hard against the smooth, slack lips of the blonde young man. They all hovered and moved around Number 21, kneeling, crouching, leaning, standing, looking like nothing so much as the cloud of moths that swarmed the field lights, dipping, swooping, circling, as though to find life-giving heat in the cold October night.

CPR, mouth-to-mouth. CPR, mouth-to-mouth.

Kent counted ten, eleven, twelve cycles before he heard the first sirens, and then, behind them, beneath them and above them, the heavy whup-thup, whup-thup of an approaching helicopter.

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Halloween fiction

Monica Marier (@lil_monmon) has a great story up for Halloween: DR. FRANKENSTEIN'S HOUSE OF PANCAKES. I played a minor cameo as writing prompt for this one, so check it out!

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Yet Another Caress of the Wind

This my winning entry in this week's 5 Minute Fiction, for which I've now thought up a title. The prompt was "Reverse", coupled with this photo:

"Yet Another Caress of the Wind"

by Tony Noland

The wind blew her hair forward into her face again. She let it come, the strands massing and waving over her, obscuring her vision, tickling her nose, catching on the flakes of skin on her chapped lips.

In a moment, it would reverse and she would be able to see again. See the old pickup truck back away from the wreckage, see the broken glass fly upwards and weld itself into a smooth, unbroken sheet. The man’s face would retreat backward, his blood rushing back into his scalp as he flowed back into his seat.

In the other car, the newer one, the smoke would hiss back into the window, and the airbag would contract, revealing the shocked face of the girl looking back down at her cell phone.

The accident would undo itself and the sun would shine on, until time reversed itself again, and she would be forced to watch again, until the wind covered her face again.

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Three Word Wednesday: fragile, rampant, tremor

It's Three Word Wednesday once again. Today's words are: fragile, rampant, tremor. Ahem:

Afire with fever so rampant
That tremor and ague were undampened
By compresses cold
Or remedies old;
A fragile soul, scared and abandoned.

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5 Minute Fiction: Winner

It was great to be one of this week's finalists, but even better to be this week's 5 Minute Fiction winner, with my (untitled) story based on the prompt "Reverse".

Thanks to @LeahPeterson, the 5 Minute Fiction host, and to my fellow finalists, @AislingWeaver, @RCMurphy, @_Monocle_, and @shells2003.

Pop over and check it out; I'd love to know what you think!

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5 Minute Fiction: finalist

I'm pleased to report that I'm one of the finalists for this week's 5 Minute Fiction, hosted by @LeahPeterson.

Take a look, cast a vote, then come back and let me know what you think.

It's 2:50pm right now. The winner will be announced at 9:30 tonight. Will update then.

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More thinking about projects

NaNoWriMo is looming. My plan was (and is) to use NaNo to extend "Just Enough Power" into a proper novel draft. However, I've been thinking more and more about "Verbosity's Vengeance", and how it could work as a middle-grade book, starring the Grammarian.

Needless to say, these two tracks are quite different from each other, and require the wearing of very different authorial hats. These are not the sort of books I could write simultaneously. I just can't switch from "R-rated sci-fi noir, psionic-enhanced assassin techno-thriller" to "PG-rated wordplay-heavy, funny romp of a superhero adventure" without a serious mental shifting of gears.

Must consider.

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Saturday considerations

Am thinking of doing a middle-grade book based on the adventures of the Grammarian. 30-40K max, written to be appropriate for 9-12 year olds.

This is a nutty, lunatic idea, but I can't shake the feeling that it isn't necessarily a BAD idea.

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#FridayFlash: "Verbosity's Vengeance"

"Verbosity's Vengeance"

by Tony Noland

"You'll never get away with this, Verbosity!" the Grammarian cried, fighting for breath as his bonds grew ever tighter. Pinned to the floor under the weight and complexity of words, he feared that this was the end.

Professor Verbosity laughed. "Ah, my dear Grammarian," he replied, "as you can see, I have already won, insofar as the first and most crucial step in winning is to render you utterly and completely helpless, a step which, even to a mean and narrow-minded perspective such as yours, must be as readily apparent as the cold concrete upon which you find yourself struggling, indeed, struggling mightily, but," he continued, "to no avail, for, as you know all too well, words have power, and this sentence, though perfectly long and complex enough to entangle you for the next eleven months while you try to parse out subject and object amid all of the subtending and supporting prepositional and participial phrases, is also perfectly correct grammatically, which renders you powerless to break free!" The Professor laughed again, a childishly high laugh of delight and glee.

The Grammarian struggled, hopelessly tangled in the thick ropes of words, trying desperately to find some flaw, some grammatical mistake that he could exploit. With all of his super-powered lexicographical might, he scanned and re-scanned the sentence, though it was blindingly painful to do so. If only there were an an inconsistent tense, a dangling or misplaced modifier, even an intransitive verb used in a transitive sense, but there was nothing! The sentence was grammatically correct in every way!

"Curse you, Verbosity! The people of this city will not stand for your circumlocutions!"

"Now, now, my valiant adversary, or rather, you defeated and broken man who once was a worthy adversary to my rhetorical skill and encephalitic eloquence... you mustn't try to -"

"AHA! An ellipsis! If only I can grab it in time!"

"- struggle so, for as you can see, my confounding concordances of verbal envelopment are employed without flaw, a condition which encompasses the little ellipsis you spotted, as well as the en dash you forced me to use - entirely against my will, but without consequence to the strength of the bonds holding you - as well as the em dashes I just threw in, purely as a lark, not in the sense of a bird preparing to take flight, which would be completely inappropriate in this context, given your utterly earthbound condition, but in the sense of a jest, a jape, a witticism at your expense, Grammarian, for you are now naught but an object of ridicule and mockery, the highest of the high made the lowest of the low, the mightiest of the mighty made the -"

With a tremendous explosion, the enormous and enormously complex stained glass window burst inward, cutting off the flow of words which was choking the life out of the Grammarian. An armored man, seven feet tall and powerfully muscled, did a graceful back-flip through the rain of glass shards and landed perfectly in front of the super-villain.

Verbosity recoiled. "No, not you, not when I was so close to -"

"Yes, Professor Verbosity, it is me, the Avante Guardian! With my faithful companion," he turned to wave a hand to his left, but there was no one there. "Ah, my faithful... um..." The champion of chic looked up, just in time to see a plump boy in an ill-fitting orange and gray leotard drop down from the window frame, lowering himself by a rope. The boy slipped the last couple of feet, landing on his shoulder.

"Yowza geez!" the boy cried.

The Avante Guardian sighed, then said, "My faithful companion, Idiot Boy! I mean," he said, embarrassed, "Idiom Boy!" The superhero struck a heroic pose. Idiom Boy did the same thing, but in his own, unique way. "We're hear to stop you're evil plans, Professor! Theirs no way to escape! At all!"

"Au contraire, you metal-clad buffoon, there are many ways to escape, the first of which is -"

"Stop wright there, Professor!" Punctuation marks erupted from the hero's silver gauntlets: periods, question marks, semicolons, exclamation marks, even a few interrobangs. They flew like a Pelikan blue-black hurricane into the face of Professor Verbosity, the great splash of punctuation raining down onto the enmeshed and prone form of the Grammarian. The venal viceroy of verbiage stumbled backwards, shouting a short, sharp sentence. The serpentine syntax on the floor began to break apart into discrete phrases and clauses as the terminal punctuation marks found their marks, the resonance echo of a bad piece of authorial wordplay causing verb forms to collapse from gerund to infinitive to simple, prepositions to fold back in on themselves and refer to their own subtending object.

"Yeah," Idiom Boy chimed in, "hold it!" He opened his backpack and took out a complicated contraption made of wires, rods and springs. "Once I diagram that sentence, you'll be trapped good! And by that I mean bad! Trapped bad!" On the floor, the struggling Grammarian choked on a cry of rage. "Badly! I meant badly!"

"No!" screamed the Professor, "You! Can't? Do this; to. Me!" With a final cry of frustration, the thwarted super-villain ran from the room, grabbing hold of a line, a very, very, very, very long line from his escape clause, which was, of course, filled with hot air. Hoist on his own petard, he flew off into the night.

"Ha ha!" laughed the Avante Guardian, "our cutting-edge stylistic weapons were no match for his pendantry!"

The Grammarian mumbled something hot and inaudible as he clawed the remains of a thorny, left-branching sentence from over his face.

"Eh? What was that, old freind?" The armored authorial smiled down at his fellow superhero.

"I said, it's pedantry, not PENdantry! Furthermore, he was no match for you, not the other way around, and for God's sake, is it too much for you to spell 'friend' properly when you speak?!"

"What? Did I mispell it? Ah, well, it doesn't matter. The impordant thing is, you're free!"

The blood rose in the Grammarian's face until he was nearly purple. He hissed his words out through clenched teeth. "It... ALWAYS... matters!"

"I dunno, I kinda like it the way the Guardian said it," added Idiom Boy.

"Yeah," said the armored hero, "if you spell something one way one time, this way another time, people know what your trying to say. I mean, it's the same difference, right?"

The Grammarian screamed with rage and dove for the Avante Guardian's neck, his powerful fingers outstretched.


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Stephen Fry on lanuguage

Presented, without further comment, by a recovering pedant who delights in a well-turned phrase.

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It's My Participle (and I'll Cry if I Want To)

"It's My Participle (and I'll Cry if I Want To)"

[With deepest apologies to Leslie Gore]

Nobody knows where my plotting has gone
Pacing left the same time
Why was he smiling so wide
When he was editing mine?

It's my participle, and I'll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to, cry if I want to
You would cry too if it happened to you

Slashin' my phrases, he's cuttin' all night
Leave me alone for a while
'Til editor's done cuttin' me
I've got no reason to smile

It's my participle, and I'll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to, cry if I want to
You would cry too if it happened to you

------ LEAD BREAK ------

Editor, publisher walked through the door
They sure look happy, alright
Oh what a birthday surprise
They turned it into "Twilight"!

It's my participle, and I'll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to, cry if I want to
You would cry too if it happened to you

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A poem about Tony Noland, but not by Tony Noland

I'm flattered today by Andy Hollenbeck (@4ndyman) with a limerick written, not simply in my honor, but about me personally.

For the record, my head is not really that big... it only looks that way on Twitter.

Many thanks to Andy for the limerick!

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And the winner is...

The winner of the Chinese Whisperings: The Yang Book anthology is...

Jax, @jacsmom on Twitter, and proprietor of Tangled Yarns!

Are you one of the contestants who didn't win? Don't worry, you can still get the Yang anthology, its mated anthology, The Yin Book, or both of them together. Pop over to the Chinese Whisperings book store for details.

Congratulations to Jax, and big thank-you to everyone who entered!

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Three word Wednesday: effect, immense, shimmer

The words for today's Three Word Wednesday are: effect, immense, shimmer.

The effect your words had was immense,
Refer to me now in past tense,
I shimmer and fade,
Now naught but a shade,
Sought death to escape your offense.

Purple poetry, to be sure, but why is the text purple? See here for the explanation. People shouldn't be driven to kill themselves simply for being who they are.

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Just Enough Power - 13

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The Koreans made their coffee strong and drank it black. It was pretty good roast, too. Lonnigan wondered how much of that was a deliberate attempt to distance themselves from the old country. One evening, just out of curiosity, she'd asked the kitchen staff for a pot of tea. They all scowled at her and said there wasn't any. She hadn't pressed it, but if a pantry that well-stocked had a gaping hole in its inventory, it was for a reason.

Everything has a reason, Simon used to say. What people did or said, how they did it or said it, or if they didn't do or say what they should have... all of these things have meaning. If you will only pay attention and think about what you've seen, they can let you read a man's mind, know him better than he knows himself. Not too long ago, Simon had enjoyed such a reputation as a mind reader that some of the old negotiating partners would refuse to do business with him in the room.

Lonnigan sipped her strong, black coffee and thought how far she was from Simon and his standards. She still didn't know what Kim was planning. He was as hard to read as anyone she'd ever met. There was so much she needed to know, and yet -

The door opened and she stood, setting her cup and saucer down on the side table as she did so. Wig and another man stepped out of Kim's office into the hallway. After a confused moment, she recognized the second man as Adams. His appearance had improved so much, he looked almost normal. He was tanned, bald-headed and clean shaven. Moreover, he looked merely thin rather than gaunt, and he moved without the twitchiness that she'd come to associate with high-powered Talents.

But it was him, all the same.

Lonnigan quashed the impulse to put a hand on her piece. She'd turned in the Glock when the job was finished; even if she'd been wearing a holster, it would have been empty. She had a pocket knife, but it was of the multi-tool variety, not the slit-that-fucker's-throat variety.

"Stand down, Lonnigan." said Wig. He'd taken a step forward, not exactly putting himself between her and Adams, but close. "Just don't say anything, OK? Don't say anything at all."

"What happened to you, Adams?" she said, ignoring him, "Finally decide to pop for the total makeover, you skeleton-faced fuck?"

To her astonishment, Adams' expression didn't change much. One eyebrow went up and a corner of his mouth curved into what was almost a smile. She felt as though he were trying to sort out how to respond, with his face put on autopilot in the meantime. He had the sanguine, dreamy quality of... of...

"Wig." Lonnigan's eyes never left Adams. "Is he drugged?"

A short, sharp sigh made Wig's entire frame shake. "Of course he's drugged. The boss needs him in good shape for the big job, but after what he did to you - or tried to do - there was no alternative. It was clear he was on the verge of collapse."


"So, he was sedated for a week, put on an intravenous drip that pumped fifteen thousand calories a day into him and given some sessions on a tanning bed. The drugs he's on now keep him calm and his Talent suppressed. He sleeps about twenty hours a day, doing nothing but absorbing calories and letting the electrostim build up his muscle mass." Wig turned to look at him, no small sense of disgust in the gesture. "He's like a grenade launcher or a plasma gun. A specialty weapon that you take special care of in-between uses."

"I resent that, Wig." Adams said, softly.

Lonnigan stared at him. He sounded so different from the mocking, arrogant tone she'd heard so often, both as a voice and as thoughts implanted directly in her mind. It was hard to believe this was the same man.

"Ah, Lonnigan. How... nice to see you again." Adams' eyes traveled down her body and up again, settling on her breasts.

Or perhaps not so hard to believe after all. Lonnigan ignored him and turned to Wig.

"So, was Mr. Kim pleased with my report?"

Wig smiled. "Of course he was. The stuff you brought back is like gold. Meng-Shiu Tong has already put out a reward for whoever knocked over his facility. This is precisely the kind of thing Mr. Kim hoped would happen."

"That's great, Wig! With that in mind, can I go in to see him? I want to ask him something."

"Ah." Wig's face fell. "Well, actually... no. You can't go in to see him. Look, Lonnigan, he knows you want the inhibitor collar off. Frankly, if it was up to me, I'd say go ahead, but..."

Lonnigan crossed her arms. "But what?"

Before Wig could respond, Adams said, "He doesn't trust you, Lonnigan. Despite how well you've behaved yourself, you don't trust him, and he can sense it. You still act like an employee, not part of the team. No loyalty. It's all about mutual trust, my dear." His voice was dreamy, his smile angelic. "No, he doesn't trust you, and neither do I. Right from the start, Lonnigan, there's been an angle you've been working. You can't fool me, I can tell. I don't know what it is, but -"

"Alright, that's enough!" Wig grabbed Adams' arm and made to shove him along the hallway. Adams allowed himself to be directed, then pulled his arm away in a flash of the old attitude. He turned back to Lonnigan.

"But even though your collar stays on, don't think your efforts are unrecognized." From his pocket, he pulled a small, brown object and lobbed it to Lonnigan. She caught it easily and looked at it.

It was a doggie biscuit.

"You're a good girl, Lonnigan," said Adams, using the high-pitched cooing one would use with a puppy being housebroken. "Who's a good girl? You are! Good girl!" He ignored Wig's attempts to silence him; his voice and laughter trailed off as he was frog-marched away.

In the silence of the hallway, Lonnigan's fingers slowly closed over the biscuit. Gently, deliberately, she put the biscuit into her pocket.

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Bowdlerization: why?

I just posted a sanitized version of a previously posted blog entry.

"11 Ways You Can Stop Pissing Me Off On Twitter" Profane, blasphemous version.

"11 Ways You Can Stop Ticking Me Off On Twitter" Sanitized, G-rated version.

Why did I do this?

For one reason: there's a need for it. "11 Ways..." is my most widely read post, hands down. The previous champ isn't even close. Many people forwarded the link to "11 Ways...", and said how funny and informative it was. I still get razzed for my inferred (and non-existent) dislike of all things cat-related.

However, one of the things that struck me in the response to "11 Ways..." was how many people said, "I'd forward this along if it weren't so profane." "Do you have a version using more professional language that I could send to my colleagues?"

I may be many things, but I am not a dope. I know that people in the corporate world can handle a little profanity, but from a corporate governance standpoint, no matter how badly someone might want his boss, co-workers or staff to read this, he or she may not pass the link onward to anyone, since a profanity-laced posting isn't necessarily appropriate for even a semi-official imprimatur. This relegates my little piece of heart-felt advice to underground status.

The same kind of restrictions go for many inter-personal relationships. "I'd love to forward this link to XYZ, but what will they think of me if they know that I find this profanity-laced rant so god-damned gosh-darned funny?"

Much like translating a story into German in order to sell the story in Germany, I'm not above adjusting the language to make it suitable for other settings.

Does this make me an opportunistic sellout, willing to use editorial shading to compromise my artistic integrity simply to gain audience share? Hell, yes. When I've had a string of NYT best-sellers and gotten a couple of cameos in movies based on my books, THEN I'll stop worrying about what the market wants.

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11 Ways You Can Stop Ticking Me Off On Twitter

We're all human, and we all make mistakes. (Except for me, because I'm not and I don't, but that's next week's blog post.) I know you didn't mean to tick me off on Twitter. I'm sure that ticking me off was the LAST thing on your mind.

Nevertheless, you did.

I'm a patient and tolerant guy. I let a lot of things slide without getting upset by them. It's only when people habitually make the same gaffs, faux pas, breaches of etiquette, etc. that I want to shake them like somebody else's 2-year-old and get them to knock it off.

So, as a public service, for your benefit and for the sake of my own blood pressure, here are 11 Ways You Can Stop Ticking Me Off On Twitter (which you can also regard as some simple rules for building your follower list or establishing a brand or whatever the hell else you want them to be, so long as you implement them):

11. Shut The Heck Up About Your Cats I followed you because I thought you'd have some interesting, informative or amusing things to say. Instead it's a constant stream of "Oooh, Mr. Fluffykins' litter box stinks!" or "Meow Tse Tung just walked on my keyboard LOL" or "Sparky is sitting in front of me." Shut up about them already!
What you can do instead Show some restraint! It's fine to make an occasional banal observation about your cats, your kids, your spouse or any other living being in whom you have an emotional investment. That tells me you're human. If you do more than one of them a day, though, what does that tell me? THAT YOU ARE BORING.

10. Learn How Twitter Works There are a bajillion blog posts out there devoted to how to use Twitter. GO READ SOME. Unless you're a newbie, you shouldn't be making annoying newbie gaffs, like RTing one of my tweets, but doing it as an @ reply. That means that the only people who will see your RT are me and you. I appreciate the RT, but it would be nicer if you hadn't messed it up.
What you can do instead You can pay attention. You can learn. You can invest 20 minutes in getting better.

9. Change Your Background Picture Are you kidding? You have 12,000 tweets, but still have the default green-bamboo-on-brown-background on your Twitter page? Even one of those tacky "www.TwitterBackgrounds.com" pictures would be better than that! What does this tell me? It tells me that you don't think much about your appearance. You probably have soup stains on your shirt, too.
What you can do instead This would be a PERFECT place for pictures of those stupid cats. Or of the sunset that convinced you that it was possible for you to be a writer. Or of anything you like or find interesting or inspiring. This is YOUR page... personalize it!

8. Act Like A Human Being A lot of big names are on Twitter because their publicists told them it would be a good idea. They don't need to interact because people will follow them anyway (I'm looking at you, @BarackObama). Their tweets are a one-way street. Send them a reply or a DM, you know what you get? Nothing.
What you can do instead Interact! Engage! Answer replies, get involved in discussions, be present. Look at how @SusanOrlean does it, and do that. Hell, I get more interaction from @StephenFry and @KarlRove than I do from some agents I follow.

7. Save The Knives For DM Guess what? If you are having a spat with someone on Twitter, it's like arguing on a street corner. I. Don't. Care.
What you can do instead If this is between you two, keep it between you two. Your argument shouldn't be an occasion for public spectacle. Unless you both LIKE the attention you get from arguing in public, in which case you are a couple of sad puppies who wouldn't listen to advice from me anyway.

6. "Americans Are Stupid" Oh brother, don't get me started on this one. You know what? Yes, we are, on occasion, stupid. And so are you, for an imperfectly overlapping suite of similar reasons. We are also, on occasion, a noble and gifted people whose ideals of liberty and ethos of personal freedom coupled with personal responsibility are an example to the rest of the world. I can't generalize about you or what kind of sterling qualities of goodness might be resident within your soul, but at least I know you like your cats a lot.
What you can do instead Be polite. Go look that word up if you have to.

5. Be Committed To Your Own Strangeness I find it weird when an author sets up a Twitter account so they can tweet as the main character in their novel, or as a time-traveler bouncing around from one historical period to the next. Weird, but not necessarily bad. Where this falls apart is when you break character to make an appeal for Haiti, or for prayers for your neighbor's mother, or whatever.
What you can do instead If you're going to play a role, is it too much to ask that you stay in character? This was your idea, after all.

4. You're Always So Annoyingly Upbeat "Hey, Tony", you might be saying, "what's wrong with being a happy person?" And I say, nothing. I'm glad you're so happy and cheerful. But you know what? Normal people have good days and bad days. If you're a uniformly happy person ALL THE TIME, I'm going to conclude that, in addition to being annoying as heck, you must be heavily medicated.
What you can do instead First off, send me a case of whatever you're on, or the name of a trustworthy supplier in the Philadelphia area. Failing that, just relax and be yourself. Let us see the clouds as well as the sunshine. We'll love you all the more for it.

3. You're Always So Annoyingly Depressed Look, if you can't see for yourself what's wrong with this, then it's going to take a lot more to help you than a list of 11 Things.
What you can do instead Cancel your Twitter account and go get some therapy. And try to get in touch with Mr. Happy up at #4 and see if he can hook you up.

2. You Make It Hard For Me To Promote You I am a sweet, generous, supportive guy who likes to promote and foster the success of others. I love you. You, yes, YOU! I followed you because I wanted to hear what you have to say. If you tweet something brilliant, funny, informative, insightful, etc., I want to pass that on so others can learn from you the way I have. So why you gotta make it so hard for me to RT you, huh? You've got a Twitter name that's 35 characters long! Even if I don't want to preface the RT with a mini-comment like "This!" or "Interesting" or "o.O", by the time I set aside 3 characters for "RT ", I don't have the space for your tweet.
What you can do instead If you write a tweet that you think (or hope) others might want to RT, make it easy for them. Here's a formula for you to use: GoodTweetLength = 140 - (chars in your username) - 3

1. Stop Pretending To Be On Twitter When You Aren't Really On Twitter I'm not a moron, OK? When I see that every single one of your tweets is an "informative link" posted via SocialOomph, you know what conclusion I draw? That back in February, you spent a day or two loading up your new SocialOomph account with tweets and links, then programmed it to spew out at a rate of 10 per day. You've turned yourself into a goddamn bot!
What you can do instead Have some self respect! I use SocialOomph myself occasionally, it's a great tool, but it's not intended as the Alpha and Omega of tweeting, you know? Do you really want to be such a cold, calculating drone that you turn your back on the opportunity to use this amazing social network to actually be social? Log on once in a while, interact, engage. You've got lots of followers, but don't you want any friends?

And that's it. Do these 11 things and you will not only stop ticking me off on Twitter, you will be a kinder, wiser, better person. Remember, all of this is not about me... it's about you. If you know anyone who could benefit from reading these, feel free to tweet the link.

Two final notes:

1) Sure, I could just un-follow you if I find you annoying. Believe me, I do un-follow people. But you? I like you and I want you to be a better person.

2) The other method of RT'ing, although it preserves the original tweet in toto, does not allow for any editorial commenting or prefacing as I described above. If you want to use it, fine. Don't bug me about it.

3) This version of "11 Ways..." is suitable for forwarding to your boss, posting on the company intranet, reproducing in the church bulletin or sending to your Mom. To read the original, profanity-laced version, please follow this link. Warning: the original uses profane and blasphemous language that may be too offensive for professional settings, family gatherings and the state of Alabama.

4) I'm kidding about Alabama.

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I successfully completed NaNoWriMo in 2006 and 2009. However, aside
from learning a lot about myself and my own writing process, I didn't
produce a lot of useable prose.

2006 was just loopy. I'd never even written a full short story before.
The 50K novel that resulted was a swiss-cheese pastiche of literary
styles badly cribbed from several of my favorite authors, not a single
one of whom would have been pleased with the unwitting homage. I was
horrifically pleased with it, though, because I didn't know any

2009 was different. I'd written enough to know how to produce decent
writing, and how to recogize it when I read it in other people's work.
I took it seriously in 2009, and ended up disliking the experience.
The first few days were little more than authorial throat-clearing,
the middle part was good running, the last part was lots of desperate

Not good.

2006 was fun, because I was writing what I wanted. 2009 was a slog
because I was writing what needed to be written to fill out my plot
outline. As I recall, the one day I had the most fun writing in 2009
was doing a parenthetical aside of a sex scene that didn't advance the
plot at all.

This year, I'm going to do things differently. I'm going to use
Novemeber to work on "Just Enough Power", my on-again, off-again
serial. I have a general plot arc for it, but it's not enough for
another 50K. Where will the rest come from?

I don't know.

For a Type A guy like me to strike out into the woods without a map,
GPS, cell phone and snakebite kit is astonishing, a RADICAL departure.
But I think I need to challenge myself by letting the plot go where it
wants to.

It's possible I've been doing this wrong, so I'm going to find out.
I'll let the words come, and see what happens.

One thing's for sure: since I have so much fun writing fights and sex
scenes, Patricia Lonnigan is going to get her ass kicked, get her
revenge, and get laid. A lot.

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#FridayFlash: Adventure!

FridayFlash: Adventure!

by Tony Noland

Adnan slept on the carpet, shivering as he had for seven times seven nights. He woke to the sounds of wind ruffling the tasseled fringe, and the low rumble of thunder beneath him.

He peeked over the edge of the carpet. Far below, whether ten farsakh or a hundred, enormous storm clouds towered. He tried to counted the heartbeats between the flashes and the thunder, so as to better estimate the distance, but the flashes were too many, the clouds too far away. It was a mighty storm, and he pitied anyone caught under it.

In the first ten days of his journey, he had delighted in pushing his hand out beyond the area of calm air above and around the carpet. At half an arm's length, his fingers were snagged and pulled, the wind whipping by more quickly than a sandstorm's breath. He was flying at a tremendous speed, and it had thrilled him at first.

After ten days, however, the wonder of the journey paled. He had tea and naan in the mornings; tea, naan and hard cheese for luncheon; tea, naan and almond cakes for evenings. The serving dish was magically filled three times every day, and every day with the same delicacies. The cheese was salty and rich, the naan was warm and soft, the almond cakes crunchy and sweet, and the tea was outstanding, the best he'd ever had. He was sick to death of all of it.

When he'd leapt on the carpet in the High Vizier's private treasury, he'd wished aloud for adventure and the chance to do mighty deeds, to conquer tyrants and woo fair maidens. The carpet lifted so quickly, he'd tumbled backward and gotten caught in the folds. When it flattened out so that he was able to stand, he was already high above the city, flying like an arrow to greatness.

That was seven times seven days ago. Adnan yawned and stretched, then reached for the serving dish.

He blinked. Instead of a serving dish, at his feet lay leather-strapped pieces of bronze armor: matched armbands and legbands, a breastplate and a half-helmet. Next to them were a wrought iron chain and a curved sword, as wide as his hand and as long as himself. In wonder, he bent to pick up the sword. Its hilt flowed into his hand, the silvery weapon so well balanced that it felt as light as a riding crop.

The carpet tilted downward. He was high above a mountain range, dominated by a massive central peak with sides as smooth as glass. Astride its apex, glittering in the sun, was a fortress bigger than any city he'd ever known or heard of. Even from this distance, the battlements of the city wall were frightening, spiked and bristling with the spears and swords of a vast army.

Adnan became armed and armored in an instant, he knew not how. To the central hall he flew like a falcon, there to alight on the highest balcony of the highest tower. He stepped from the carpet, to the gasps of a score of beautiful women, their long tresses and almond eyes wide with shock and hope at his presence.

A roar of hate made him turn. By the door stood a man fully twice as tall as he. Gripped in his bear-like fists, the handle of his wide, chipped battle axe was like a young tree, swinging over the giant's head as though uprooted in an angry storm. Adnan's mouth went dry and his stomach went cold. A single blow from such a weapon would kill him instantly. His strength was like nothing Adnan had ever seen; such a man could fight for hours, even for days without pausing for breath. There was no way to survive a pitched battle with him. Against such a foe, there was only a fast victory or a fast death.

His heart pounding, Adnan balanced on his toes and waited for the strike. It was not long in coming, as the man-mountain bellowed his rage and smashed the axe down in a whistling arc. Tiles shattered and sparks flew as the floor's mosaic was destroyed by the blow. Adnan's left foot was clear by barely a fingerwidth. Flashing downward with all his might, Adnan struck with the triple loop of chain in his left hand, not at the giant, but at the axe handle.

When his deadly foe yanked his axe back up for a true killing stroke, Adnan's arm was nearly torn from its socket. Pulled upwards by the giant's strength, he barely had time to angle his sword for the strike that would either save his life or end it. Flying forward, he twisted his right hand and gripped with manic power, bracing the hilt against the bronze legplate on his thigh. With every grain of force in arm and leg, he rammed the sword into the giant's right eye down to the hilt, his fingers stinging as it pierced bone and bronze.

The giant's roar of agony shattered Adnan's ears, and his own blood flowed from them to mix with the black rush from the around the sword hilt. Adnan stumbled back as the giant fell, scrabbling with insane, magical strength at the sword.

From under his breastplate, Adnan drew his own dagger. Though neither magical nor wondrous, it was as sharp as it had been since his father had bequeathed it to him as his sole inheritance. Again and again, Adnan slashed with it at the giant's neck, the backs of his knees, his elbows, anywhere the armor was weak and the veins thick.

At last, with a gasping death rattle that was chilling to hear, the giant stilled and lay dead. Though weary unto death himself, Adnan was no fool.

"Carpet!", he called. "Lift this body and take it out beyond the walls of the city. Set it on a high peak, there to be protected from the vultures if he be truly dead, and there to be no danger to me if not. Do this, then return to me."

Without hesitation, the carpet slid under the bloody mass, then flew out and away over the parapet.

Adnan felt a hand on his arm, and spun, dagger at the ready. There, arms filled with steaming washbasins, salves and ointments, the women smiled and waited, heads bowed in gratitude. The sweetness of their mixed perfumes was matched only by the distant, wafting aroma of fine tea and fresh, warm naan.

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Why change is good for you, and why I hate it so much

Yesterday was the day I threw my cap over the wall. I crossed the Rubicon, leapt off the cliff, kissed the girl.

I switched from my old computer to my new computer.

Of course, that doesn't mean I really switched completely, or that my new computer is ready to use. It means that I made the decision to start using this computer all the time. The old one is still on, still running.


Oh, don't be silly. You KNOW why. Even though I copied over all my files via an external hard drive, there are a bazillion things that didn't come over. Bookmarks for Firefox, saved passwords, AutoHotKey scripts, program files, drivers, etc.

These are all the little things that make my computer MINE. I customize my machines... a lot. Shortcuts, links, add-ons, widgets - all of these let me be more efficient in how I work, keep my files organized, keep my calender and contacts up-to-date, etc.

My new computer, though it is much faster and prettier than my old one, is a pain in the neck to use. I'm going from Win XP Pro to Windows 7, going from Word 2003 to Word 2007. Things aren't where they're supposed to be, programs aren't loaded properly, my habitual keystroke commands do nothing at all.

In short, my new computer sucks compared to my old one. It's frustrating to use.

And yet...

This is a chance to leave behind the programs I don't use anymore, to archive the files I don't need, to clear away the cluttering detritus of old projects. Aborted book projects, boring story drafts, collaborations that went nowhere, not to mention all of the old successes. I dwell on my old successes almost as much as I dwell on my old failures. Frankly, it's not good for my outlook or my productivity to have all that old crap staring me in the face every time I open the folders.

Plus, once I get things tweaked a bit, this guy will hum. I'll be able to use the power and abilities of this new machine and these new programs in ways I don't yet even understand.

It's a whole new day.

Fire destroys the habitats that support myriads of life forms, yet that same fire clears away the clutter and allows regrowth and renewal.

Now, if I could just figure out how to tell Windows to leave AutoHotKey in my Startup folder, I'd be in great shape.

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Three Word Wednesday: absolve, hiss, ridicule

The three words for today are absolve, hiss, ridicule.

In secret, his loyalties were dual:
"He spied for the Russians - uncool!"
Don't absolve Alger Hiss,
Of a crime such as this,
Uncle Sam cannot face ridicule!

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Win "The Yang Book" Anthology Contest

Peanut butter and jelly. Heads and tails. Love and marriage. Bacon and eggs.

They go together like Yin and Yang.

Here's your chance to win an e.book copy of the Chinese Whisperings, Vol.3 anthology, "The Yang Book", which includes my story, "Dogs of War". The winner can choose to get a copy of the book in .epub, .mobi or .pdf format.

To enter the drawing, just give me an example of two things that go together. Pitcher and catcher. Abbott and Costello. Gin and tonic. Reagan and Gorbachev. Pencil and paper. Salt and pepper. Kirk and Spock.

Be as commonplace or as creative as you like. I'll randomly select a winner from everyone who leaves a comment.

To whet your appetite, here's a teaser of my story:

The contest closes one week from today, at midnight October 19, 2010. This is a great anthology, so be sure to enter!

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"Dogs of War" - teaser

An audio teaser for my story in the Yang Book anthology. Enjoy, and enter a contest to win a copy.


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My thoughts on the Yang book

I'm collecting my thoughts on the Chinese Whisperings anthology, The
Yang Book. Thinking back over the process, how well Jodi Cleghorn and
I worked together, and the story we ended up with: "Dogs of War".

Look for something more substantial tomorrow or Tuesday.

Sent from my mobile device

Follow me on Twitter: @TonyNoland

Chinese Whisperings: The Yin Book

And lest you think that it's all about the guys, Chinese Whisperings: The Yin Book is an anthology of fiction by ten of the sharpest women around.

Available 10/10/10 as an eBook, December 2010 as a paperback. Price is $5.95 (US, CAD & AUS) or 2.99 (£ or €). The combined anthology, which has both the Yin and Yang books is $9.99 (US, CAD & AUS) or 4.99 (£ or €).

From the Chinese Whisperings website:

"In the international terminal of a large European airport, Monday morning is about to get a whole lot worse. At 7.35am Pangaean Airlines, one of Europe’s major carriers, is put into receivership grounding all flights, stranding thousands of passengers and impounding tonnes of luggage. But all is not as appears on the surface and the sliding-doors moment of one woman deciding to abandon her suitcase will ricochet through the lives around her."

Prologue Jodi Cleghorn (Ed)

The Guilty One Emma Newman
Excess Baggage Carrie Clevenger
Where the Heart Is Tina Hunter
The Other Side of Limbo Claudia Osmond
Freedom Laura Eno
Cobalt Blue Jasmine Gallant
The Strangest Comfort Icy Sedgwick
Lost and Found Jen Brubacher
Kanyasulkam Annie Evett
Double Talk Lily Mulholland

Epilogue Paul Anderson (Ed)

 eMergent Publishing, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-9807446-4-4 (eBook)

ISBN: 978-0-9807446-5-1 (paperback)

Editor: Paul Anderson

Contributing Authors: Jen Brubacher, Carrie Clevenger, Laura Eno, Annie Evett, Jasmine Gallanet, Tina Hunter, Lily Mulholland, Emma Newman, Claudia Osmond & Icy Sedgwick

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Chinese Whisperings: The Yang Book

I wrote one of the stories in this book, and I've read all the others. If you want the inside scoop on a great deal, here it is: this book is worth buying, for yourself or as a present for anyone who likes great fiction.

Chinese Whisperings: The Yang Book

Available 10/10/10 as an eBook, December 2010 as a paperback. Price is $5.95 (US, CAD & AUS) or 2.99 (£ or €). The combined anthology, which has both the Yin and Yang books is $9.99 (US, CAD & AUS) or 4.99 (£ or €).

From the Chinese Whisperings website:

"In the international terminal of a large European airport, Monday morning is about to get a whole lot worse. At 7.35am Pangaean Airlines, one of Europe’s major carriers, is put into receivership grounding all flights, stranding thousands of passengers and impounding tonnes of luggage. But all is not as appears on the surface and the sliding-doors moment of one woman deciding to retrieve her suitcase will ricochet through the lives around her."

Prologue Jodi Cleghorn (ed)

Three Monkeys Paul Servini
Three Rings Chris Chartrand
Dogs of War Tony Noland
This Be the Verse Dan Powell
Providence Dale Challener Roe
No Passengers Allowed J.M. Strother
Thirteen Feathers Rob Diaz II
One Behind the Eye Richard Jay Parker
Chase the Day Jason Coggins
Somewhere to Pray (Kurush) Benjamin Solah

Epilogue Paul Anderson (Ed)

eMergent Publishing, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-9807446-6-8 (eBook)

ISBN: 978-0-9807446-7-5 (paperback)

Editor: Jodi Cleghorn

Contributing Authors: Christopher Chartrand, Jason Coggins, Rob Diaz II, Tony Noland, Richard Jay Parker, Dan Powell, Dale Challener Roe, Paul Servini, Benjamin Solah and J.M. Strother.

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#FridayFlash: A Double Month of Dust in Whiskey Gulch

A Double Month of Dust in Whiskey Gulch

by Tony Noland

In the hot, slanting sunlight, the stranger came through the swinging doors of the saloon in a cloud of dust. Neither he nor the dust were remarkable. Him, because he looked like every other drifter working his way out into the territories. The dust, because there was always dust blowing in, at least of late.

Heads turned as he approached the bar, then looked away again. No one paid him much attention, not even the whores at the corner table. Indolent in the afternoon heat, they made the judgment in less than five seconds that this one wasn't worth extending an offer to. Maybe later, when business picked up in the evening, but not now.

He put his foot on the rail and called for a whiskey. It was when he asked for a tall glass of water on the side that a few folks turned back to him. Conversation in the bar dropped a fraction, then rose again, mixed with low snorts and chuckles.

"Sorry, friend," said the bartender, "our well's gone mostly dry. Come morning, I might be able to get a bucket or two up." He set a glass on the bar in front of the stranger, then picked it up again. He blew into it, wiped it with a cloth, then set it down again. "I don't reckon you'd mind a bit of dust in your whiskey, but I'll try to keep it to a minimum." He smiled widely at the stranger, inviting him to share the joke. Deep set, gray eyes looked back at him from a creased face, heavy with trail grime. The bartender's smile died away.

"Looks like you folks could use some rain."

The bar quieted, then fell silent as the stranger turned from the bar, whiskey in hand.

"Well, goddamn, you must be some kinda fortune teller, son." It was Long Bill Matteson, the rancher with the biggest spread, biggest herds and biggest mouth in the slope. "Or maybe you're half Indian? Must be something, cause that weather sense of yours is downright spooky! Damn, boys, the man says we need rain! Now how come we never noticed that?"

"Aw, leave him alone, Bill. He's just making conversation."

"Bullshit. He ought to know better'n to make light conversation about a serious subject." Matteson looked around the bar for support. Weary, dusty faces looked back. Matteson said, "Could use some rain... bullshit!", and sat down again.

The stranger, still holding his glass, watched him sit, then said, "How long's it been? Six weeks? Seven?"

"Forty seven days since the last rain," said a farmer. He spoke quickly, obviously to cut off Matteson. "It clouded over and cooled off a couple of weeks ago, but no rain. Now, even if it does rain, I can't see as what kind of crop I'll bring in. Never seen such a summer."

One of the ranchers sitting with Matteson said, "My watering holes have been dry for thirty days at least. I could get by with the wells, but they mostly dried up ten days ago."

"Lost mine last week."

"I've still got water in mine, but it's foul and brackish. Thirty head died after drinking it."

Around the saloon, men began to speak at once, comparing notes on how long they had gone without water, and speculating on how long they might be able to continue without it. They talked as though they hadn't already been talking this and nothing else for weeks and weeks. Matteson, who was losing more money each passing week than many of these men were worth, drank back his whiskey and said nothing.

"I can make it rain."

The room noise went on for a while, riding over the stranger's words. Those nearest to him stared, then turned to repeat what he'd said to their companions. After a few minutes, the mood in the room was bad and turning worse. Sixty-two men were angry and scared; every one of them had been living on the rough edge for weeks, been face to face with utter ruin. A few hands moved to pistol butts and knife handles. Matteson stood.

"So you not only got a keen weather sense, you can do a rain dance, too, huh, Indian-man?" Matteson's voice was high and brittle. "You gonna get out your beads and your feathers, dance around the fire for us, summon the Great Spirit? Shit, you're 'bout to get whipped if'n you don't get your stupid ass outta here, and do it right quick!" A growl of agreement swept the room, mixed with the scrape of chairs pulled back. Half the room was ready to do something ugly, the other half ready to help them.

The stranger didn't move, not so's you'd notice. Just shifted his stance, adjusted his heel on the bar rail. But there was something in it, some... power that made the room go quiet again. He drained his glass and set it on the bar.

"You need rain. I can make it rain."

Matteson's face turned red, and he breathed hard through his nose like a bee-stung bull. "Yeah?" For a moment, the word hung, waiting to be followed by more. No one had ever heard Long Bill say just one word. And no one had ever heard such a mixture of anger and derision laced with a thin trace of desperation and pathetic hope.

"Yep. For a price."

Matteson took a step towards the stranger. "Oh, here it comes, boys! For a price, the man says. And how did we know that was comin', I ask you! A price! What's it gonna be, you goddamn half-breed Indian charlatan? You gonna charge us five dollars a head to watch you do your rain dance, then watch you skip out of town before dawn?" Another step closer, Matteson's face turning red with rage. "Or were you hopin' we'd stake you to a night with a couple of Miss Betty's girls and all the whiskey you can drink? Come on, what is it? I got more to lose than any man here if this drought don't break, so come on, tell me, what's your price for making it rain?"

The stranger moved faster than a horse's kick, faster than a rattler's strike, faster than anything. In less than an eyeblink, he was in front of Matteson, gripping the rancher's shirt in two huge fists, pulling him in close to whisper in his ear. In an instant, it was over; the stranger let go and stepped away.

Matteson put a hand to his mouth and whispered, "No." He fell back, stumbling over his own feet. His head wobbled, then shook back and forth so hard his neck cracked. "No, that's too much. I won't pay that. No, you can't make me. No sir, no sir, not me." He bumped into his table, grabbed at the chair behind him. The terror on his face made him look as old as a sagebush.

Back at the bar, the stranger picked up the bottle of whiskey. He blew the dust off it and poured himself another glass. "I came in here looking for a volunteer." Hard gray eyes scanned around the room. "However, as you folks appear to be even more needy than I realized, perhaps it'll take two or three of you." Silence filled the still air, and stretched on like a scream.

"No volunteers?" The stranger drank, refilled the glass again. "Then I guess I'll have to choose among you myself."

A cold wind blew through the doorway, and brought in the rut-put-put sound of the first heavy raindrops falling into the dust.

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"How to attract readers to your website", Part II: Barack responds

A few days ago, in a post entitled "How to attract readers to your website, I referred to one of my tweeps by a pseudonym. Folks don't always like it to be widely known that they are asking advice; our culture sometimes fosters the lunatic view that asking for help is akin to clubbing baby seals, or something.

Regardless, before I posted the advice and suggestions which I'd sent as a string of DMs, I first sent the entire blog post (HTML and all) to Barack, with an invitation to write a guest post in response. Part of the deal was that I would post it unedited for content.

I'm now prepared to reveal "Barack"'s true identity as...

Janet Aldrich, aka tec4_cleveland on Twitter.

As promised, here is Janet's response to my advice:
This weekend, I watched my SiteMeter on my writing blog not move much (and after I wrote a Friday Flash story I was pretty happy with). It was particularly frustrating because I knocked out an ok haiku for Three Word Wednesday and got quite a few hits and comments.

In desperation, I sought out Tony Noland, who had been kind enough to Follow me on Twitter and who is a ‘friend’ on Facebook. I’d seen that Tony had success with getting people to read and comment on his work. I went ‘a-supplicating’ for advice, ideas, suggestion, even pity. I’m not proud.

Tony responded by sending me a series of DMs on Twitter explaining some of what he felt helped drive traffic to his site. His messages boiled down to expertise, duration and familiarity. There’s not much I can do about that in the short term; I’ve only begun writing again after a VERY long hiatus, just discovered #FridayFlash a little over a month ago and haven’t had the opportunity to get to know people in the writing community – although that has begun to change.

When it came down to writing and getting people to read my stuff, Tony gave me some good advice that would apply to any writer’s situation, namely to be personable in social media settings, to be sure that the product I was posting was good and to keep working to improve as a writer. I think his comments made me realize one of my weaknesses – maybe common to everyone who writes? – I’m not sure if I’m a good judge of the quality of my product. Perhaps that’s something time will cure as well, but I wonder how to get better if I’m not sure I’m any good in the first place.

I also speculate sometimes how much my personality will hinder me if I keep on writing well enough to try to publish. I’m not altogether comfortable with the self-promotion that Tony, for one, is good at and seems to take in his stride. Somewhere over the last 20 years, I turned into the person at the party who’s over in the corner scanning the bookshelves and having a conversation with the host’s cat. I can only do so much before I wind up saying “Heck with it. I’m not going to beg.” I think it’s why I was never any good at selling Tupperware.

I do want to thank Tony for answering my cry for help. That’s one thing I’ve discovered about the people I’ve met in the writing community as time goes by; many of you have offered help, advice and support when called upon, and I’m grateful for every follow, Tweet, FB post and comment on my blog and website. I’m not sure what I have to offer in return, but if nothing else, I’m a good listener. Just ask my cat.

You're quite welcome, Janet. I'm planning on responding in more detail to some of the topics you raise. Look for it in future blog posts here.

What do you think, folks? Aside from "practice, practice, practice", any other words of advice or encouragement?

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Three Word Wednesday: hint, lust, sheen

For today's 3WW: hint, lust, sheen

Humbert turned just a bit green,
His skin slightly slick with a sheen,
A hint of a bust
Inspired him with lust
"Lolita's a hot little 'tween!"

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You Are Here

 Some perspective from XKCD.

And some perspective from me.

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Poll results: background music for writing

A little while ago, I asked people what they preferred to write to. Disclaimer: I like things quiet, even earplugs quiet.

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How to attract readers to your website

Recently, one of my tweeps (whom I'll call Barack) sent me a DM, asking for some suggestions and/or advice on a topic near and dear to all of our hearts. I responded in a series of DMs. Upon reflection, I think that what I said might be of interest to others. So, before I paraphrase Barack's question and give you the same info I gave Barack, let me just note that there are a few differences between me and Barack.

1) I've been doing #FridayFlash for more than a year. Barack has not been doing #FridayFlash that long, nor has Barack been on Twitter as long as I have.

2) My Twitter stats can be found on my Twitter page - number of followers, number of tweets, number of lists I'm on, etc. Barack's numbers are rather lower.

3) I make no claims to be an expert on anything related to writing. I don't have an MFA or an agent. Knowing how to make a decent martini does not make one a bartender. However, just as martinis existed long before the invention of the swizzle stick, some truths are eternal and universally applicable.

Anyway, on to Barack's paraphrased Q & my A's:

Q: Less than satisfied at low readership for my #FridayFlash(s). Any suggestions as to how to attract readers to my website ... you're good at it!

A1: Not sure that my skill has a lot to do with it. Partly, it's that I have a longer history w/ #FridayFlash, so more people know me.

A2: Also, b/c of time, other activities, special events, tweetchats, etc., I have more followers, so I reach more people with my shilling.

A3: Finally, there is "the McDonald's effect". Where time is limited, people tend to flock to familiar vendors that reliably deliver quality.

A4: Am I dishing out the best fiction in #FridayFlash? Hardly, but I think people feel that time spent at my place won't be time wasted.

A5: How do you build a reputation for consistent quality? Patiently, and by always trying to be better this week than you were last week.

A6: I'm sorry, I wish there *were* a magic formula. Just work hard, be polite, be friendly, be *good* and above all be willing to get better.

Was I off-base? Did I miss anything? If Barack had asked you the same question, how would you answer?

UPDATE, 10:41pm: Before I posted this, I sent it to "Barack" and invited him/her to express an opinion about my advice, which I promised to run, unedited, as a guest blog post. Barack just sent me the response. Who is the mysterious Barack? What did he/she think of my suggestions? Stay tuned for more details!

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Minecraft stupidity

I could try to argue that this video has some kind of literary motif about fate and unintended consequences, but really, it's just funny, especially considering how many hours of time it took to build this house, including the gathering & processing of raw materials.

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Story published: "White Paper"

A story of mine appears in this month's issue of "Evolve". It's titled, "White Paper":
A knock on the open door.

“You wanted to see me, Mr. Ahern?”

“Yes, sit down, Wallace.”

A wave at a chair, a seat taken.

“Thank you, sir.”

“I’ll come right to the point, Wallace. Less than an hour ago, the Regional Director sent your team prospectus to me for my opinion.”

“But I only just… I mean, he sent it to you? For your… opinion?”

Eyes widened, face hastily recomposed.

“Tell me, Wallace, what is this?”
Read the whole story here.

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