Tag Archives: social media

Interview with Lena Corazon from the #writecampaign

Another post, and guess what… I have yet another interview from the #writecampaign. I’ve met so many fantastic authors through Rachael Harrie’s idea, I had to share them with the world and let you guys get to know them too. Without further ado, my latest interview was with Lena Corazon.

AnotherHeadshotLena is a doctoral student in sociology from California, a prolific blogger, tumblr, and tweet artist. She writes primarily fantasy and steampunk, with two novels-in-progress. I asked Lena a few questions last week. You can follow Lena on her blog, her twitter feed, or her tumblog.

Michael: You have a very active online presence with your blog, twitter, and tumblr. Do you enjoy social media? Is there a part of it that feels more like a chore than the rest? 

Lena: I have to admit, I adopted social media reluctantly.  I began blogging in May of this year, and my initial goal was to participate in A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge “that knows you have a life.”  ROW80 appealed to me because it seemed like a kinder, gentler version of NaNoWriMo, a challenge that asks participants to work towards measurable writing goals. ROW80, however, is also a blog hop, and so over the weeks I came to meet dozens of other writers and bloggers.

Overall, I don’t find social media to be a burden. For me, it’s a way for me to build much-needed community, to interact with others who understand the strange and bizarre writerly tendencies.  I’ve found that I use each online platform differently. I’m less active on G+ and Facebook than I am on Twitter, which is my primary means of socializing with my writing friends, running across useful articles, and uncovering fun tidbits. Tumblr is a recent addition to my online life, but one that I have come to enjoy. It’s the perfect balance between bite-sized tweets and the longer form of blogging. I use Tumblr as a scrapbook of sorts, where I collect interesting video clips and photos that serve as inspirations for my WIPs. 

The downside to social media is that it’s easy to get distracted from the real work: writing. It can be a lot more fun to chat with friends than to write, edit, and revise, and so I’ve been trying to limit my social time to a couple of hours each day.

Michael: What would you recommend to an emerging writer like yourself who is wondering how to start making his or her own online presence felt?

Lena: While there’s no “one size fits all” answer to establishing one’s online presence, there are three tips that I would suggest based on my experiences. First, get involved with online writing communities. My initial foray into the world of social networking was eased by participating in ROW80, where I’ve met friends who have been extraordinarily supportive of my writing goals.

Second, check out writing challenges and festivals. Participating in Lady Antimony’s flash fiction challenges served to jumpstart my creativity and expose me to the work of other writers who I now count among my circle of friends.

Third, I’d encourage writers new to the world of social media to figure out a spot that suits them best, and settle in for the long-term. Some people love using Facebook to connect with other writers, readers, and friends, but I’ve found that I far prefer using Twitter. It can be really easy to stretch yourself too thin and get burnt out by trying to develop countless online platforms if you’re not careful.

Above all, I think it’s important for writers to remember to be themselves and to have fun. Social media is incredibly valuable when it comes to promoting your work and connecting with readers, but first and foremost, it should be about building relationships with people. Some useful resources include Kristen Lamb’s blog, Nathan Bransford’s recent post on “being yourself” in social media, and Roni Loren’s guest post over at Writers in the Storm about dealing with social media burnout.

Michael: On to the most important part – your writing. Your site mentions your interest in steampunk and fantasy. What attracts you to those genres? Are there any others that you regularly read and/or write or want to write?

Lena: Ever since I was young, I’ve loved fantasy books. I grew up reading writers like Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Lloyd Alexander, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. To me, fantasy offers limitless possibilities where human stories — romance, betrayal, coming-of-age tales, quests — can be told against the landscape of wild and magical worlds.

My foray into the world of steampunk is recent, and it’s borne out of my interest in history, the 19th century in particular.  Steampunk allows us to re-imagine the past, and to also consider the impact that technological advances could have had upon earlier societies.  It also explores both sides of society: the drawing rooms of the wealthy, alongside the gritty underbelly populated by the downtrodden and cast-off.

Michael: What writing projects are you working on right now? Anything close to publication or completion? Do you plan to publish via the traditional route, or epublish?

Lena: Of the 3 novels in-progress I have listed on my blog, my steampunk romance/murder mystery, TELL ME NO LIES, is my primary focus. I’ve written the basic skeleton of the novel, but I’ve got a ways to go before it’s complete.

I’m keeping my options open when it comes to publishing. While seeing my work in hard copy has always been a dream of mine, having the ability to self-publish is incredibly liberating. I’ve been learning a lot, especially watching my writing friends’ ’experiences with self-publishing, and I think it’s something that I will definitely attempt at some point.

Michael: I noticed you have a lot of flash fiction on your site. Do you write flash fiction frequently? What do you like about it? What do you think makes for good flash fiction?

Lena: I jumped into flash fiction on a whim. I never thought I could tell an adequate story in short form, but after writing my first couple of drabbles, I was hooked. I like flash fiction because it provides me with an easy way to jumpstart my creativity. I can usually finish a 100-200 word piece in a couple of hours, so it’s a lot less time-intensive than a novel. 

The flash fiction that I like best are those stories that focus on a single moment, a single breath in time, ones that evoke an emotional response in the reader. I don’t know if I always succeed in doing this, but it’s my main goal nonetheless.

[ See Lena’s Flash Fiction here ]

Michael: You recently changed the name of your site, your twitter feed, and your public online persona. What inspired you to go with a pen name? What made you pick the name Lena Corazon?

The decision to adopt a pen name was a difficult one. I love my birth name, especially because it speaks to my biracial heritage. My mom is black and Native American, and can trace her family tree back to the Emancipation Proclamation. My dad is from the Philippines, and his family’s history is equally rich. However, when I took my professional life into consideration, I realized that it would be to my advantage to keep it separate from my writing life.  As a university teaching assistant and future professor, I’m not sure if my fiction-writing endeavors could be seen as a detraction when I’m on the job market, but I’d rather not take any unnecessary risks.

Lena Corazon is a name that hearkens back to my roots. I picked “Lena” after my maternal great-great-grandmother, and “Corazon” as my private homage to Corazon Aquino, the first female president of the Philippines.

Michael: Have you ever met a famous author? What did you take away from that meeting or learn from him or her?

Lena: I haven’t met a famous author, but I have been lucky to meet two poets over the years: Susan G. Wooldridge, who taught me the importance of using words and honing my creativity, and Alison Luterman, who encouraged me to use poetry to explore my sense of identity. While I write far less poetry than I used to, their lessons remain applicable as I work on my novels.

Michael: Last, what do you do outside of writing fiction? Your site says you’re a grad student (I’m a recovering graduate student myself) – but I didn’t catch what you were studying.

Lena: I’m just starting my 4th year in a sociology PhD program, so I spend a majority of my non-writing time

reading lots of books on social theory and feminist theory, grading undergrad students’ papers, teaching discussion sections, and working on my own research projects. Beyond those responsibilities, I tend to spend a lot of time at the beach, hanging out with friends, and playing video games.

Check out more of Lena Corazon at her blog, Flights of Fancy, her twitter feed, and her tumblog.

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Progress Bars and Time Shares

The last few weeks have been hectic in a good way, and now that I’m settling in to getting Bearers of Bad News ready to roll, it’s time to take a breath and reflect. The good news – I intentionally picked a day over a month away from the first issue’s publication, despite having most of the second issue complete. I did this because I wanted the third issue complete first before doing final edits on Bearers of Bad News. It’s given me a chance to make sure I don’t break continuity and that things are still flowing. It also means I’m going to hit my deadline, or possibly get it up there even earlier. September 24 is the big day.

The other reason I’m glad I gave myself so much room for padding is that publicity and outreach has cranked up to 11, and I’m glad of it. The #writecampaign has been a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. My Klout has jumped since I joined, and as I wrote about earlier, that’s one of the things I now have to care about. I like Klout because it gives you a simple score-based analysis of your social media reach, and I suppose that appeals to the gamer in me. You can even “level up” and earn new titles. It omits Google Plus, which I find tolerable since G+ is so new, but it also omits WordPress (i.e. the reach of this blog). Seriously, Klout? WordPress has been around since the beginning of modern blogging. How do you omit that major a platform? It’s not that difficult to analyze, or at least not any more difficult than Blogger, which you do use.

Enough of an aside to the good people at Klout… I just couldn’t ignore it. In any case, I have one short story, one book, and three serial issues (2 & 3 of TWDY, and 1 of Joyriders) waiting to be unleashed upon the world, and that means a lot of work getting them presentable. I both love and hate that work, but I’m excited that a lot of my new work is going to be out there in the near future. I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted when I pick a release date for TWDY Issue 3 (I should have cover art soon).

In the meantime, I’ve got a lot of flash fiction to read from the #writecampaign challenge (see my entry here), and a few hundred thousand more social media errands to run. Part time writing… such a blast. In all seriousness, I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it, and sales have been picking up, so I’m excited about that. Thanks to everyone who has purchased the first issue of TWDY. Issue 2 is on its way and even more exciting than the first (which is no reason not to read the first issue). I’ll be doing a post about the Argumentum section soon.

Incidentally, among my other social media errands was lightening the text on this blog. The color went from #666 to #AAA – if you noticed it, let me know whether or not you like it.

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Death by Social Media : A Primer for Part-Time Writers

September 4, 2011 10:39 pm by MRM in epublishing, Writing

So, you’re a new writer, publishing a few short stories and a few pieces on Kindle, and you want to get noticed? Join the club; there’s thousands of us out here, and everyone is struggling to get that breakthrough piece, the one that actually lets people know who they are. I’m there too; if you’re reading this blog, I’ve taken another step down that road (that apparently goes through the boat. Hooray for mixed metaphors). It actually takes quite a bit just to put yourself out there, even with the strides made by ePublishing companies, eReaders, and eBookstores. I’ve written about that before. This isn’t an article about how to publish, but much more crucially, what to do next. And by next, I mean before. Before and after; it’s all crucial, and there are a million little steps to take. The sad truth is that unless you’ve taken one heck of a plunge and gone all-in on writing, you don’t have time to do them all. Incidentally, I don’t recommend “going all-in” unless you know someone or are simply the best writer on the planet, and I still don’t recommend it if you only qualify as the second of those. Yes, the quality of your writing is the most important thing to worry about, but if you wrote the world’s greatest book and published it in Kindle and Smashwords and that was all you did, you’d be lucky to make 100 sales in a year. Unless, of course, one of your sales was the right sale.

I’m certainly not an expert in this field. I have yet to make my break, but I have taken a lot of steps and seen some very positive results. Feel free to comment if you have things to add; this is a discussion, not a lecture from up above.

Without further ado, here is my checklist of items to nail down, and my thoughts on the value and importance of each.

1. The first sounds easy, and it is – if you don’t mind doing it badly. Start a blog. It sounds simple, and yet making it an effective blog isn’t. You need a lot more than just your daily or weekly musings, and God help you if you can’t post to it weekly or biweekly at least. Write, even from the very beginning, as if hundreds of people are reading. I can assure you they aren’t, but one day they might be. Every sentence you post out on the interwebs is one that people can use to judge the most important question that will determine sales of your book: Is this an author? If you have something published in any form, the technical answer to that question is yes. But there is more to that question than the technicality. People are constantly asking themselves whether or not your work is worth floating to the top of the pseudo-infinite flotsam that exists in the online market. Is this an author, or is this some jackass who figured out how to push the “publish” button on Kindle direct publishing? The sad fact is that a lot of people fall into that latter camp, and readers are rightfully wary of buying eBooks by people they’ve never heard of. It’s much easier to pick up a physical book because a reader can have faith that at least someone at a publishing house thought this was worth printing. They have no such assurances when browsing Smashwords. If you’re lucky enough to get them to your blog, then you have a chance to convince them that you are worth buying from. Consider that with every sentence you post – a potential reader might check your archives and pick out a post that has an interesting title.

So you have your blog, but what else goes there?

Do you have something purchasable? Can you post a link to it? Do you have other pages, on Goodreads, Facebook, a Twitter feed, etc (also covered below)? You need more than just hyperlinks on the side; you need widgets that show you actually use your various feeds, that attractively encourage people to follow you or check you out in as many ways as possible

With regards to your publications – you need a “portfolio” page. There are millions of WordPress themes that include portfolios, but most of them are geared towards artists and photographers. If you click on the Books link on my nav bar, you’ll find mine.

Lastly, you should always have an About the Author page, as well as a way to get in contact with you. Some of the trickier bits about WordPress that I’ve found my way around.

  1. Buy a nicely customizable theme. The free ones are out there and good, but nothing eases your mind like having the support of the theme writers, and hardly anybody who gives one away for free gives out tech support. Note: this is not just a suggestion for the tech-illiterate. I am a software engineer. That doesn’t mean I want to spend the time to write all the wicked cool PHP plugins myself; it just means I’m not scared of getting my hands dirty to edit the code. I have used the crap out of the tech support for my theme; they even answer generalized WordPress questions. It’s the best $40 I’ve ever spent. Don’t tell them, but for the support they really ought to charge more. (Incidentally, this theme is called Spicy, and I love it. None of the samples look anything like this, but I’ve modified it quite a bit and it works beautifully).
  2. Pick a portfolio theme that minimizes the emphasis on visuals. This is actually kind of hard to find, and it was one of the key reasons I picked Spicy. I want you to look at my covers, but really anything I do is going to be text-heavy.
  3. Load up on widgets, but be sure to pick compatible ones. You’ll want to allow comments, but the first time you add a hyperlink, you’re going to have dozens of spammers hit you. Add an authentication scheme. Widgets are your friend.
  4. Remember that readability is paramount. You want your text to be inviting and simple to look at. Avoid high-contrast color schemes and keep the width of your text under control; this site is actually a little wider than is advised. Long columns of text are easier to read than the same amount of text stretched across an HD screen. Also, light text on a dark background is easier on the eyes than the other way around, despite it being the opposite of how you’re used to reading physical texts. Sans serif fonts tend to work better on the web.
  5. On the topic of fonts – I don’t care how cool Estrangelo Edessa looks to you; for your actual web content, pick something that is loaded in all browsers and is easy to read. You have a choice between TNR (serif), Arial (sans), Lucida (sans), and Georgia (sans). Don’t get fancy with your fonts unless you’re a typographer and know what you’re doing (and most of them would adhere to the no-fancy-fonts rule themselves).
  6. Remember that more people access the web with phones these days than do using computers. Make sure your site is navigable via a suitably equipped smartphone.
  7. Test your site in at least four browsers, and one of those had better be mobile. There is no excuse for not doing this – browsers are free and it takes ten seconds to navigate to your site and verify that the links work. Longer if you have a slow 3G connection, but I wouldn’t bother buying extra phones just to check it out in Android, iPhone, and WP7.
  8. Minimize the graphics on your page. They’re cool to play around with, but they cause longer page load times and nobody is coming to see your wicked cool graphics anyway (unless you are writing books about graphic design).
  9. Have a blogroll. More about this later.
  10. Above all, do what you can to make it look professional. This site is your main billboard to convince a potential reader that you are for real. Using the blink tag and comic sans is not the way to do that.


2. The second big item is to reach out to the communities you already have in writing online. And if you aren’t an active member of an online writing community, what are you doing on here? Go find one that you like and get going. These people are valuable resources of crit swaps, honest advice, and learning experiences. They are also people with whom you can build relationships based on your love of writing and reach out when you reach that point where you start publishing. They are very much comprised of people who are now or used to be in your shoes. There’s no way for me to tell you which ones are the best; just start looking. I’m on Hatrack quite a bit, the Orson Scott Card-sponsored site, and I used to be active on the Kelly Armstrong forums. I can’t promise that either of those will work for you, but they’re both great (Kelly Armstrong’s forum software is a bit more technically savvy, but then again she was a web developer). If you have an author that you’re a big fan of, go to that author’s site and look around. He or she will probably have a link to a writing forum; by and large big-time writers are pretty cool people and are big on encouraging others. If your favorite writer doesn’t have a forum, pick your second favorite, and just go down the list. If all else fails, use the powers of Google. It’s not that hard.

When you do get on forums, don’t crit-bomb them, asking for people to read your stuff. It’s rude. Do crits of at least five people before asking for one back. Prove that you’re ready to contribute before you start asking for contributions. You’ll get pieces from people that are better than you, worse than you, and some people you don’t realize are secretly more talented than you ever knew and you just didn’t know how to see it because they don’t write the stories like you would have… if you see all of this, don’t be afraid. That’s how crit groups work. And if you read three stories in a row that you think have no potential, be kind, give advice, and keep going. If you read three stories in a row that sound massively better than anything you think you’ll ever be able to write, don’t be afraid. Give what advice you can, and keep going. Writers’ forums are the best way to start out in the online world, and I’d honestly be surprised if you found your way here without going through at least one of them first.

Most forums have a place to announce publications. Whether you do it the traditional way or go online and publish yourself, go ahead and announce it there. Don’t overdo it. Post your piece, thank the people that congratulate you, and don’t forget to check that board and congratulate others. People who have been critting your work as you were writing it might be excited to finally see it in print. It can be an important first source of sales.

3. The third big item is to engage in social media. To some, this feels like pulling teeth, but unless your name regularly graces newspapers and headlines across the country (whatever country), you need to do this. The easiest way to start is Twitter. Don’t pretend you haven’t heard of it; if you aren’t on Twitter, you might have been avoiding it for a very good reason. You might think of it as a place where celebrities tweet what they had for lunch and overly internet-addicted people tweet their “philosophies” in 140-character bursts. Twitter is absolutely both of those, but there is a side of it that doesn’t suck.

Twitter can be a rapid-fire customized news feed. Do you have blog authors that you follow? Most of them will tweet-announce new posts. I do. And I like knowing when artists and writers I enjoy, like Felicia Day, Wil Wheaton, Scott Lynch, Kelley Armstrong, or Brandon Sanderson post something new. I follow newscasters I respect and get timely updates on other things I care about as well. I’m as embarrassed about it as the next guy, but some people I follow just because their tweets are funny.

As for how you ought to use Twitter – that’s the subject of much debate. Announcing blog posts is obvious, but you need to do a little bit more than that. You’re essentially replicating the work of a good RSS feeder if that’s all you do. Tweet about what you’re working on. Tweet about what you like. If an author or artist puts out something that interests you, Retweet it (there’s a button for that) or put out a personalized tweet referencing it. It’s as easy as it sounds. I’ve been guilty of ignoring Twitter for too long at times, and I always regret it. You even have a little counter of how well you’re doing, and it’s in your number of followers.

Now, this isn’t like Facebook “friends” where the competition is to have the most. You don’t really win anything by having a lot of Twitter followers, and that’s certainly not the goal, but I do look at it as something going right if I start gaining a lot of Twitter followers. The fact is that every person who clicks to follow you is someone else that, however fleetingly, knows you exist. That person might, might, buy your book. And you can’t ignore that.

4. Facebook. Oh hell, Facebook is here. I have mixed feelings about “The Facebook,” and the utility of pages. You absolutely need to have one, and I went ahead and created it: my page exists. I’ve gotten a few “likes,” but I’m not sure how much I care about this one. A lot of people use Facebook as their only portal to the internet, and that’s not something that a smart writer ignores. I love to use Facebook in my personal life. I love being able to see pictures of my niece, my friends’ kids, places they’ve been, and generally to keep up with what’s going on with people that I don’t necessarily get to see every day. To me, that’s the point of Facebook. It absolutely, positively, is NOT a place where I browse businesses, despite the tendency of every damn store I go into these days asking me to “like” them on Facebook. Why does my local Kerr Drugs want me to like them on Facebook?!! I’ve always partitioned my zones of the internet. CNN, Slate, and NYT for news, Facebook for social stuff, Cracked, XKCD, and Fark for humor, and Wired, Engadget, and Gizmodo for tech stuff. It has never bothered me to look in different places for all of these things, and I mostly scoffed from the sidelines as I saw Google and Facebook trying to become the center of something that clearly needed no center – the internet.

I, however, am not my target audience. There is a whole world of people out there, and I want all of them to read my books. I can’t ignore this audience, and I will work with the Facebook-is-life crowd, even if I don’t quite understand them (and I consider myself well-versed in the ways of the series of tubes). The saving grace here is that you can hook up your blog to automatically post to your Facebook page. I can’t emphasize this enough – it’s a free secondary page! Your blog shows up on your Facebook page. Add your cover art, add a few “action shots,” and call it a day if you feel as I do about the Facebook. This is such simple publicity that you can’t ignore it.

5. Goodreads is a fantastic place to find out about new fiction. I used Goodreads as a reader before I ever messed around with setting up my author page. It’s a fun place to talk about books that you like, find out books that your friends like, and just enjoy thinking about what you want to read next. I was very social networking fatigued when I first set up my Goodreads page, but I did this one as a labor of love, rather than a labor of obligation (see: Facebook). And Goodreads was even kind about it. They have a tutorial about how to set up your page, and they even allow you to link your Kindle-published works directly to your page as a way for people checking out your page to purchase them. You can sell directly on there! It’s actually a fantastic service, and to top it all off they also let you automatically feed your blog there!  It’s like they went out of their way to make it as easy as possible to use a service that you already love. The only catch is that this is one that you can’t do until after your book is purchasable from at least one of the major online stores, and Kindle is the simplest. Most of the rest of these you really ought to be doing and have in place well before you put something out there, and Goodreads you can’t. I don’t really fault them for that; it’s just a fact of how they work. Author pages are for authors. You want to join the club, right? So get going.

6. The last item is to engage your community of fellow writers. It coincides with #2 above, but in this item I mean to specifically talk about interacting outside of the boards. Right now I’m involved in the Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign. I’m meeting new people, getting involved and reading more blogs and interacting with fellow artists. It’s a fantastic opportunity and a lot of fun. It’s also a lot of work, and it’s the exact sort of thing that you’ve got to do. Find events like this – they’re not as rare as you might think, and the only way you find out about this sort of thing is by engaging in all of the above steps. Meet fellow writers, engage with them on Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook, and forums. Participate actively, and do your best to be a virtual social butterfly. It absolutely is exhausting, but if you really want to get your work seen, it’s a necessary labor, and you might even find it fun once you get started.

There are dozens of other communities, Goodreads-like sites, and social services out there. I’m on Google plus, and I dig it thus far. I don’t consider it an essential step yet, though if you want to be tech-savvy, you should be there. I’d be an embarrassment as a software-engineer if I didn’t have a presence there. The key to all of these different sites is this: if you’re in, you’re in. Do not dip your toe into a service. Every place that you have a web presence is a place where people might see you and might be basing their decision on whether or not you’re a promising young amateur or a hack that likes to put his stuff in ePrint. The decision is that close; do I click the button and wave goodbye to a few of my dollars or navigate away and forget I ever heard of this guy? Nothing screams “hack” as loudly as a half-finished page.

This isn’t even half of what goes into launching yourself, and by no means am I the definitive expert. I know just enough not to trip over my own two feet. I approach every foray into the social media as a chance to get myself noticed, and that’s all I can do. Every person who hovers over a link for half a second is another person that might hover over the purchase button. Every sale boosts my rank on Amazon. And every increase in rank makes it that much easier for me to get my name out there. If you’ve read this far, and find my musings on writing interesting, then check out Those Who Die Young Issue 1 – Shelter From the Storm on Kindle or Smashwords. After all, this is my blog, and I brought you here to check out my writing.    


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