10 Rules for Followingback on Twitter

Jeffe Kennedy and Carolyn CraneThis is me and bestie/CP Carolyn Crane at the Rita Awards ceremony in New York City. So fun to get shined up and celebrate her final!

The whole week of the RWA National Conference is a major whirlwind of activity. I try to post stuff online via my phone, but it’s really hard to keep up with replies. All those real-life people interfere with the online conversations! I also try to post nuggets of wisdom I hear in workshops and panels, mostly to Twitter. People really seem to love those and often begin following me on Twitter as a result. Which is lovely, of course, but it creates this backlog of follows for me to retrace and then decide whether to followback.

I know some people pay no attention to the follow notifications. Others automatically follow everyone back. I pick and choose via a shifting system that’s pretty subjective, but does follow a few rules. I thought I’d share them here.

1) How many followers vs. people they follow?

As of this writing, I have 3,958 followers and I follow 2,630. No way I keep track of everyone I follow. I use lists in Tweetdeck to see what I can, which the last statistics I saw indicated is around 200 people on average. Apparently that’s about as many as a human can really keep up with. So, when somebody follows upwards of 10,000 people? I’m dubious. If they follow just a few hundred more people than follow them, I’m HIGHLY suspicious. If they have huge numbers of followers and follow very few, I know they only want to collect my follow and will unfollow as soon as possible so they can broadcast to me. No. Just no.

2) Hashtags in the Profile

Easy decision. Makes me think they’re only in it to market. An instant decision for me there.

3) No profile.

Either lazy, a scammer or just wanting to lurk and view. No need to followback.

4) A plea to followback in the profile or the #teamfollowback hashtag.

No.

5) Lots of book titles in the profile.

This is a maybe. Lots of authors follow me and plenty do this. It’s not an instant no, but it’s a flag. I want to follow and support people, not be bombarded with pleas to buy their books. I don’t KNOW that they’ll do this, which is why it’s only a flag, but it increases the likelihood in my mind.

At this point, if I’m still a maybe – and a nicely done profile without follower/followee imbalances would already be a yes – I look at the timeline.

6) Is it full of thanks to people for following back?

Depending on how much, this is a no as I’m inclined to think they’re simply collecting followers.

7) Is it full of promo for something or other?

No no no.

8) Is it all output and no replies or conversations?

No. I’m not interested in reading a billboard.

9) Is it all retweets or inspirational quotes?

Eh. Nothing against that, but also nothing to interest me. No.

10) Did you unfollow me?

This comes much later. I get a weekly report from Tweepsmap that tells me how many followed that week, how many unfollowed and other metrics. For the most part I don’t look at it. Some of the maps are fun. I don’t look at who followed, because I already do that via notifications. I do usually look at who unfollowed, just to see if I still follow them. The majority – and I seem to get 15-20/week – are ones I did not followback, which is fine. They were either in it to get me to follow and quit me when I didn’t (or planned to do so on a certain schedule anyway), or didn’t like following me, which is also fine. But I don’t need to follow them. That isn’t to say that I don’t follow people who don’t follow me back – there are plenty of those. This is only people who followed me first and never gave any value back.

All of this said, I occasionally miss new followers – like when I’m crazy at a conference! – and the surest way to entice me to followback is to talk to me. Say something! When people reply to me I always look to see if I’m following and remedy that, if not.

Of course, there was that one guy who kept replying to me with annoying mansplaining, then would chide me for not following back, declaring his intent to give me EVEN BETTER content so I *would* followback. Yuck. He eventually went away.

So, what about all you Twitter people – any rules of thumb you use on deciding followbacks that I missed? Or maybe mine that you don’t agree with?

Learning My Own Lessons

MORWA workshop picA couple of weeks ago, I had the fabulous and fun privilege of flying out to St. Louis to teach a workshop to the Missouri Romance Writers of America (MORWA). They asked me to talk about structuring a serial novel, largely because of this terribly geeky blog post I wrote about it. (I think that’s a data point right there when people ask if writing blog posts is meaningful at all. Just saying.)

 In order to explain my method of structuring a serial novel, I started with the basic structure I use to structure any work. We talked quite a bit about the Three-Act Structure, where Act 1 is the first 25%, Act 2 is the middle 50%, going up to 75% through, with Act 3 being the final 25%. As with many RWA chapters – and one of the things I love about RWA – the members ranged from newbie writers stretching their muscles for the first time up to award-winning pros. So, as I was going over this structure pretty fast, in order to lay the foundation for the rest, I threw out that you know you’ve finished Act 1 because all the stakes are set. And that a solid first 25%, done correctly, will prevent the middle of the book from “sagging” or losing momentum. If you’re having problems with the middle 50%, go back and look at the first 25% and make sure you truly set all the stakes.

One of the newbies put up her hand and asked what that meant, to have the stakes set. Always a good reminder to me that stuff I take for granted at this point isn’t second nature to others.

I explained that the first 25% should introduce the characters, who they are, what they want and why they can’t have it. Some talk about the Three-Act Structure being that you get your protagonist up a tree in Act 1, throw rocks at them in Act 2 and get them down again by the end of Act 3. Setting the stakes is getting your hero or heroine firmly up in that tree.

 So, I’m back home and fully plunged into writing THE PAGES OF THE MIND, which is Dafne’s book, the fourth in my Twelve Kingdoms series. In order to meet deadline, I’ve set myself what is for me a fairly grueling pace of 2,200 words/day, six days/week. As I have a full-time day job, that’s about the most I can do consistently. Some days I do more in the time I have, some days considerably less. The considerably less days are the ones where I circle back and revise or add to previous scenes. (Adding is nearly *always* involved.) I write my books beginning to end, so I really hate circling back like that. It feels like I’m not making progress.

I was getting all frustrated with myself this week about it.

Guess where I’m at? Yeah – 26,000 words, which for those who don’t speak math, is right at 25% of what will probably be about a 105,000 word book. (Most novels are 80,000-120,000 words. Fantasies like this can be on the longer end of the spectrum.)

It hit me sometime yesterday, that OF COURSE I’m doing a lot of circling back, layering and tweaking. I’m setting the stakes for the rest of the book! Once my Act 1 is solid, the rest will fall into place more easily. I know this. I freaking taught people about this a couple of weeks ago.

How easily we forget.

I’m feeling much better now!

Speaking of The Twelve Kingdoms, we’re kicking off the blog tour (heh – I first typed “bog tour,” which isn’t nearly so fun) for THE TALON OF THE HAWK. Today there’s a very juicy excerpt – one of my favorite scenes! – at the Chosen by You Book Club. Let me know if you like it, too. Hee hee hee.

Also, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) is starting a bimonthly (every two months, not twice a month) newsletter of members’ new releases. I think it will be great! You can subscribe here.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Taking Time to Think about the RWR Cover

Sunset in Eldorado at Santa Fe by Jeffe KennedyAs the weather warms up in Santa Fe, the sunsets get more spectacular – double the blessings!

So, I seldom wax terribly feminist in writing. I’m sure more than a little of this is due to my Texas grandmother’s voice in my head reminding me to be pleasant, soft-spoken and not to ruffle feathers. Which I totally get is part of the problem. Still I tend to avoid conflict and sometimes I don’t voice my opinions for that reason. Of course, I have other, very good reasons for not voicing my position on some subjects, at least not publicly.

But this one has been bugging me for quite a while.

As you all may or may not know, I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and remain an enthusiastic supporter of the organization. RWA is the premier professional organization for romance writers, which means it’s composed primarily of women. There are no absolute numbers for this, as some men write under female pseudonyms, other writers consider themselves gender-flexible and, of course, there’s no gender-reporting requirement. Still, if looking around the room at the National Convention is any indicator, we’re probably talking over 95% female.

I frankly love that about RWA. There are very few arenas in my life where the community is so strongly female and – in the words of Cinderella from Into the Woods – it makes for a nice change. I think more people than I feel this way. Sure the male members joke about being outnumbered, but I figure, hey, welcome to the non-male experience. I embrace the overwhelming femaleness of RWA and feel that should be celebrated. Certainly that fact should be front and center in RWA’s branding.

So why isn’t it?

This is what has me riled up. (Hi Grandmother!) The cover of the April 2015 Romance Writers Report, our official magazine, looks like this:

RWR April 2015The lead article is “Master of Your Career,” which… okay, fine. “Master” is grammatically correct and we’re all supposed to be good with the word being gender neutral. It might look silly to have “Mistress of Your Career,” because that word doesn’t denote mastery of anything at all. Which is a sad truth, right there. I probably wouldn’t even have given it (much of) a second thought, except for that image.

Men’s shoes.

I mean, decidedly masculine shoes. Not even gender-neutral shoes, like sneakers or some such, that could be seen either way. Now, I know that probably Corn Creative, who does the magazine design, likely came up with this and didn’t give it a second thought. I think that graphic designer is female, too. It looks like she does work for many publications, including the Society for Neuroscience, which I can vouch from personal experience skews the gender proportion in almost the opposite direction. Maybe she didn’t think about it and just picked a strong image.

What I’m saying is, maybe we should think about it.

I’m saying this also coming off a call with Agent Connor where he (strongly) suggested that I reconsider some of the naming in this new fantasy series I’m working on, as it can be viewed as cultural appropriation. And yes, it irritated me that he said that and I might have replied that we all belong to the human race and that the Celts came up out of India and at which point do I have to stop retracing my cultural inheritance?

(I know, I know – send him a nice note for having to deal with me.)

I’m no less irritated about that now, but… in the clear light of day I’m seeing that he’s likely right. I needed to think about it and avoid causing that offense, if I can. Which I can because it’s really not necessary. And it’s an important courtesy.

These things ARE important. Ruffled feathers or no.

Writers Helping Writers

B-UQ3E6CEAAPVlUI’m kind of blue today. For the past few days, my bestie and crit partner Carolyn Crane has been visiting. We got up in the mornings and did “parallel play” – working our social media and indulging in dishing about it, in a way we never get to do otherwise. Then we wrote, sometimes silently, sometimes discussing. On the best weather day we went hiking around noon. Regardless of weather we headed into town around midday and indulged in long, delicious, boozy lunches. We used the opportunity to give each other live discussion feedback on our latest works – so much better than on the phone or via social media. And we talked about writing careers in general – both our own and people we know.

This morning I dropped her off at the airport and my world feels emptier for it.

We talk a lot about writing being a solitary profession, which it certainly can be. Worse, however, the various writing communities can be, well, less than fully supportive. There’s a lot of professional jealousy out there. Carolyn and I both started our writing careers in the literary fiction world and that’s one of the worst. One of those cases where the fights are so fierce because the stakes are so small. There is very little friendship in those particular trenches, with plenty of tail-sniffing, jockeying for position and plain mean behavior. The egos run huge and the competition intense.

Neither of us miss it a bit.

The romance community is SO unbelievably better that way! With a very few exceptions, the egos remain manageable in romance. Maybe that comes from writing a much-sneered at genre or maybe from it being such a predominantly female community. Or from the original friendly and supportive mindset of the organization’s founders. Regardless, I love my sister romance writers and greatly appreciate having that network. Still, even in my few years spent in this group (six – since 2008), closer friendships have come and gone. I mourn some of the ones that have fallen by the wayside, but the ones I’ve gained more than make up for the few losses.

I’ve long observed that friendships tend to develop among the people who are doing the same things we are. You know – in college we have our college friends, and among those the theater friends or the peer counseling people. After college, most of those friendships fade away. Not because anything goes wrong, but because all that energy that came from shared daily experiences evaporates into the ether. It’s more difficult when the largest energy in my life, the experience I have to share, is with people who are also my “competitors,” in some sense. It can take an active effort to combat that, to not let it get in the way of supportive friendship.

Carolyn is an amazing friend that way. Someone I love, admire and enjoy – and who always makes me feel like an important and precious part of her life in return. Last night we skyped for nearly an hour with Anne Calhoun, sharing this same kind of friendship. There are others, wonderful, nurturing friends, but for the moment I want to celebrate these two and give my thanks to the universe for bringing them into my life.

Love you gals!

How Writing 1st Person POV Gave Me Boy Cooties

B7BLQj7CcAAaPBYYesterday, at #LERANM, my local RWA chapter, I gave a tutorial on using Twitter. We had a great time and the lovely and viviacious Katie Lane snapped this pic as I was talking. And gesticulating. LOL!

I’m over at Word Whores, talking about perspective – as in first, second or third person point of view (POV) – which works best for us and why.

Talking to a Bunch of Romance Writers

George RR Martin and Kim HarrisonA week ago I got to go to George RR Martin’s theater here in Santa Fe, the Jean Cocteau Cinema. He’s doing really interesting things with it, having bought the old theater near the rail yard, rehabbing it and now, along with art house movies and screenings of Game of Thrones episodes, bringing in authors for signings and discussions. This was my first time to go, when Kim Harrison visited and George did a Q&A session.

VERY fun.

And so interesting. I had the best time.

As you can see from the picture, the venue is an intimate one and listening to these two superstar writers discuss the business totally rocked my world. George is a terrific interviewer and I got insights into his career as well. All in all, a terrific evening and I greatly appreciate what he’s doing for both our community and for writers everywhere.

That said…

Yeah, you knew there was a “but” coming, right?

A funny thing happened that’s been bugging me ever since.

After about an hour of Q&A, Kim went out to the lobby to sign books. Because it’s a very small, cramped space (like most of the older parts of Santa Fe), George asked us all to stay seated so she could settle and then he excused us by rows to go out there gradually. My friend and I were a number of rows back, so we sat a fair amount longer and essentially chatted with George. Which was so fun. People asked him questions and he asked us who else we’d like to see visit. That was like getting to ask Santa Claus for a pony – and believing he’d deliver.

One gal mentioned Stephen R. Donaldson and asked if he’s still writing and living in Albuquerque. George frowned and said he had no idea. Now, if you follow me on Twitter and Facebook, you probably know I recently met Steve at Bubonicon and, in my capacity as VP of Programs, subsequently invited him to speak to my local RWA chapter, LERA. My friend, also a LERA member, elbowed me, so I spoke up and said yes! Steve is writing a new book in a new series, that he’d visited our chapter in Albuquerque and read to us from it and it’s wonderful. (It really is.) It was a great program and everyone really enjoyed hearing about his process and career. I probably forgot to say anything about it here.

George looked confused and asked where this was again? I said, you know, Romance Writers of America? Kim had referenced it earlier, though saying she was no longer a member as she doesn’t write romance. And he said, yes, he knew about RWA, that he was just having a hard time picturing Steve Donaldson talking to a bunch of romance writers.

Yeah.

I mean, here I’m having a conversation with one fantasy-writer legend about another, in front of an audience, so I was a little flustered. I explained that I met Steve at Bubonicon, which had also been referenced, and how I’m VP of Programs for LERA and how I write crossover between fantasy and romance and so do many of our members and blah blah blah. It was only later that it hit me what he’d really said. That it occurred to me to wonder exactly what he had been picturing. What does “a bunch of romance writers” look like? Somehow I get this image of a group of women dressed in chintz, sipping tea and giggling. With the, supremely frustrating leisure of hindsight, I wish I’d said something like “Why? We write books, too.”

Don’t we?

I know what we’re talking about here and I don’t really mean to slam George Martin for this, because I think he simply and genuinely revealed a very common misperception. We all know that Romance is the least respected genre out there. Written largely by women, for women, there’s an idea that romance writers are somehow…not really writers. After all, it’s just formula, right? We plug in different hair and eye colors, maybe a new setting and a different order of sexual positions and BOOM – on to the next book! We don’t actually delve into the craft or anything.

 So, over the last week, the more I thought about it (read: brooded a teensy bit), the more it annoyed me. Why on earth WOULDN’T we have a major league writer come talk to us, regardless of genre?? Writing is writing. A writer’s career follows the same general landscape regardless of the actual stories we write.

*deep cleansing breath*

Maybe that’s not what he meant. Maybe he wondered what on earth we’d get out of hearing Steve talk. The answer is that we got tons out of it. For days after, we traded notes on what we most got out of Steve’s talk. Steve himself emailed me after and said how much he enjoyed our group and how he’d love to come back anytime. In fairness, he may have been pleasantly surprised to find such a savvy, smart, creative and amazing bunch of writers who really appreciated what he had to say.

I think, in the end, this is just part of the ongoing effort to bring romance out from under the bed, hidden by lacy dust-ruffles and tucked in next to the sex toys. Maybe by having these conversations, by inviting writers from other genres to speak to us, we’re doing the work of demonstrating that we are writers, like any others. We’re invested in our craft and our careers. We work hard to learn, grow and improve.

Maybe I’ll invite George to come speak to us next.

Why I’m Running for the RWA National Board

 IMG_4764 smallSo, the ballots have gone out for elections for the RWA Board of Directors.

And I’m running for one of the Director at Large positions.

Surprise!

Yeah, it probably seems out of the blue to some of you (hi Mom!), but it’s something I’ve been pondering for a long time. Really, I’ve had in mind that I would do this someday since I joined RWA lo these six years ago. Back then I’d been working as a nonfiction writer for a long time and knew those circles well. I’d been part of a crit group that did mainly literary fiction and creative nonfiction, was on my state’s Arts Council roster and participated in book festivals, etc. However, as I branched into fiction and tried to shop my (what turned out to be) fantasy romance novel, I discovered I knew very little about the romance genres and had no connections in that community. And shopping my novel turned out to be much harder than I’d thought. I clearly needed help.

True Confession: I joined RWA entirely for mercenary purposes to begin with. I became a member, immediately applied for PRO status so I could have higher priority in picking appointments to meet with editors and agents at the 2008 National Conference. I’d been on a day job trip in Ohio, flew from there to San Francisco, wandered the conference all day Thursday, pitched on Friday and flew home that afternoon. I knew no one, talked to only a few people (I scorned my First Timer ribbon, alas) and didn’t expect much more than my very targeted goals.

Except I was totally blown away.

Every panel, workshop and speaker luncheon I attended was amazing. The people I did talk to were lovely. I saw Nora Roberts in the bar and rode in an elevator with Linda Howard. For the first time, I saw Jayne Ann Krentz and Susan Elizabeth Phillips give their Secrets of the Bestselling Sisterhood. (Something I try to see every year.) I couldn’t believe these mega-selling authors were mixing in with a wannabe like me. More, the friendships astounded me. The lit fiction world tends to be fraught with competition and cold shoulders rule. I loved seeing these authors who’d been friends for 20 or 30 years, telling their stories with affection. After my successful pitches (I thought then – believing having requested pages meant I was in), I sat at the bar and had a celebratory glass of champagne – by myself – looked around at all the hugs, laughter and intense conversations and thought, “I want to be part of this.”

I mean, some random woman took a picture of my shoes! I had clearly found my tribe.

I haven’t missed a National Conference since.

Even then, listening to the luncheon speakers – Victoria Alexander and Connie Brockway that year – I was moved, inspired and knew that I wanted to come back for this conference every year that I could. I’d been on Boards before – sorority, Zonta, Association for Women in Science – and I believe in giving back to the organizations I belong to in that way. All along I figured one day I’d put my time in on the RWA Board.

And now feels like the right time.

My day job is less demanding. My fiction-writing career more steady. There are good incumbents for me to learn from and several people I admire and respect encouraged me to run.

Most important to me, the last year has seen several of my friends – stellar writers and amazing women – waver in their commitment to RWA. A lot of it comes from miscommunication and misunderstanding. Other pieces from policies that have led to them feeling alienated. Though it happened sooner than I thought, I realized that I needed to step up to do what I could to help preserve this organization that has meant so much to me.

So, that’s the long version of the short blurbs I put on the RWA Election ballot.

I’m happy to answer questions!

Mug Shots, Book Forts and Major Awards

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Last week I attended the Romance Writers of America (RWA) National Convention. My sixth, which is amazing to contemplate. As you can imagine, I’m sure, it’s begun to feel like a cross between a high school reunion and a grown-up slumber party. Many of these people I only see once a year – at this convention – and they are all my tribe. We spend an intense few days talking nothing but writing and career, exchanging all the gossip and pretty much going from one social event to another.

It’s unbelievably and wonderfully restorative.

 The above “conference mug shot” was the brainchild of writing friend Christine D’Abo. She had everyone at the Carina Press Author Breakfast taking them. Hysterical idea.

039I roomed again this year with my bestie, crit partner and all-around lovely person, Carolyn Crane. We took this selfie upon arrival, full of the delight at being in the same geographical location for once. 042

 

She was a finalist for the RITA awards this year, for her wonderful book, Off the Edge. Which means she got a pretty silver pin to wear on her badge.

 

 

045I signed again this year at the Literacy Signing, this time with print copies of both The Mark of the Tala and Going Under. Kensington provided me with an absolute TOWER of books to sign. So much so that one of my friends, Katie Lane, sent someone walking around with a white board telling people to buy my book and free me from my fortress.

She thinks she’s funny.053

 We also raised over $56K for literacy – so fabulous.

 

While I schedule in a lot of meetings, parties and meals, to make sure to see people, I also love to leave some things up to serendipity. For the keynote luncheon, I had no one in particular to meet up with, but happened to run into Ericka Brooks of The Bookpushers and lovely writer Nalini Singh. They made terrific lunch dates.

 

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The 060Kensington party was held off site at this amazing restaurant with probably the best anti-pasta I’ve ever had. (Aided by the fact that it tasted incredibly refreshing after the sweltering San Antonio heat and humidity. They also gave us the best party swag ever – mobile chargers. LOVE!

 

 

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FF&P‘s Gathering theme was Steampunk Cowgirl this year. Here’s the lovely Veronica Scott and local chapter buddy/aspiring author Anna Philpott kicking it up. Also, Rogue’s Possession won third place in the PRISM awards – such 059a wonderful honor when it competed with so many fabulous books.

 

 

 

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I, of course, attended the Harlequin Ball again this year, which was amazing fun as always. In the coming years, I’ll have to remember to do some training. The four hours of non-stop dancing took a toll on me this time and I limped around a bit the next morning. Also, rumors that I performed an exhibition dance of Beyoncé’s All the Single Ladies with RT’s Trent Hart are terrible, slanderous falsehoods. Besides it’s been days now and no video has cropped up, so I think we’re safe.

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I wrote about this already on the Word Whores blog, but the highlight of the week was being Carolyn’s date to the RITA awards. She dubbed this pic of us as “the Busty Twins.”

 

 

 

AND THEN SHE WON!

072I’m told she thanked me right off, though I was too busy crying and taking pics to really process it. Her achievement is made all the more spectacular because she’s the first to have a self-published book win what is our industry’s highest award. We spent hours in the bar afterward, during which she never let go of her trophy.080 Many members of the old guard came up to congratulate her on breaking the ceiling.

I couldn’t have been more proud and happy.

Or more revved for another exciting and successful year for us all!