A Whole Lot of Connecting Going On

pexels-photo-220067.jpeg I’ve had a fabulous week so far. Dance classes were wonderful. The people who spew negative energy (or maybe they just soak up all available energy, which feels like the same thing) were absent, so only those of us whose energies flowed together were in class. Yeah, I know — that’s not why most people take dance class, but for me, that energy is the real joy. I absolutely love dancing in a group when everyone’s steps match, when every arm movement is the same. It’s odd even for me to realize how much the independent iconoclast that I am can enjoy such an interconnected activity, but that could be why I like it — it’s not part of my usual hermitic life.

Another great thing that happened was that I finally figured out what to do with my Suspense/Thriller Writers group on Facebook. I’d come to hate the group — there were always problems, the most recent one concerning the image of my books on the header. Since I don’t allow promotions in the group, many people objected to my promoting my own books. And for some reason, there was an upsurge of such complaints yesterday. I finally got angry and said, “I have tried everything I can to accommodate people, but no matter what I did, there were problems. If could delete this group, I would. My compromise is the header. Anyone who objects can leave the group.” One sage woman responded, “I don’t see where there’s a ‘compromise’ in allowing only a promotion of the admin’s work. Maybe the page title should be singular, not plural.”

So that’s what I did — changed the group’s name to Suspense/Thriller Writer (meaning me!). And I very blatantly put up a new header to showcase all of my books. I also changed the group’s description to reflect that it’s a discussion group connected to my author page on Facebook. I don’t know why, but it makes me smile to think of reclaiming the group for my own. If anyone doesn’t like it, they can leave.

Today I tried hiking with a pack again. I wasn’t out long — only about an hour, but it felt good. It didn’t feel as if I were exacerbating whatever bit of my thigh I tore last week, but I’m glad I took it easy. The funny thing is, the pack actually felt comfortable, and it wasn’t until I got back that I realized I hadn’t used the sternum strap. The strap is supposed to help support the load and to keep the pack from shifting from side to side, but if most of the weight is on my hips, I’m not sure the strap is necessary. Still, I will experiment. It’s possible I need a strap, just not the one that comes on the pack.

And best of all, I’ve been writing! After all these years, I finally feel as if I am connected to the story again.

This post started out as a list of things that made me smile this week, but I just realized there is a better theme here: connectivity. Feeling connected in dance class, connecting my Facebook group to my author page, connecting the shoulder straps with the sternum strap and the pack to my body, and connecting to my writing. A whole lot of connecting going on!

Wishing you joy of your own connections.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Fodder For the Facebook Machine

I have a discussion group on Facebook, Suspense/Thriller Writers, that is constantly evolving because of the site’s ever-changing policies, and what was once fun, has now turned into a burden.

In the beginning, when I was new to Facebook, the groups were pretty much worthless. They were mostly discussion groups where no one discussed, but I found a way to make it work. At the time, FB had separate areas for links and promos and such. I was fine with whatever anyone wanted to post — I just wanted the discussion group. And it was a great discussion group. Each week I’d ask a different author to pose a topic, I’d email the group members, and we’d have an interesting discussion. I learned a lot from those people.

Well, Facebook couldn’t leave well enough alone. They changed the group format, and since our original groups didn’t fit in with their new format — we had too many members — they planned to get rid of all of us. Eventually enough people complained, and they let our groups remain, but they changed them completely — got rid of the discussion forum, took away the ability for Facebookgroup administrators to send messages to the group, and combined everything else into one huge mess on the wall.

Members of the group left in droves. They couldn’t stand the constant barrage of promotion. Finally, we decided to ban any sort of promotion from the wall and turn it into strictly a writing discussion group. (No publishing, formatting, or promotion questions are allowed — this is strictly a group to discuss the craft of writing.) It actually worked well. As a thank you to the members for adhering to our rules, I set up a separate event every Saturday. Well, FB decided there was something wrong with that, and took away my ability to set up events. So I set up a separate group for promotion.

All went fine for a while until FB decided to change things again. Instead of ignoring groups, they decided to promote them — and the groups with the most members got the most promotion. Sounds great, right? Wrong! Now every author on FB who has a book to promote is made aware of our group, and we’ve been inundated with new members. Members, I might add, who don’t pay attention to the group rules, which are pinned to the top of the wall for all to see. (It’s amazing to me how often someone will “like” the rules or comment about how great the no promo rule is, and then immediately post a promo. I guess people think rules apply to everyone else but them?)

I spend way too much time every day deleting promos and banning those who posted the promo link. I used to give people the benefit of the doubt, but if I didn’t ban them, they’d simply post something else. (Doesn’t anyone get the point of soocial networking? You don’t constantly beat people over the head with the links to your books. You get to know them and then let them find you.)

I realize that FB is not a public site — we are all fodder for the great FB machine, and are subject to whatever changes they deem necessary — but all these machinations are burdensome. Still, the group is worth saving. How often on the internet, and especially Facebook, do you find a group of people who help each other with the craft of writing? So I’ll just deal with the frustration and hope that eventually the gods of Facebook decide to turn their attention elsewhere.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Introduction to Beth Groundwater, Author of “A Real Basket Case”

When I first joined Facebook, like many new members, I hadn’t a clue what to do, so I became a moderator of an almost defunct writing group called the Suspense/Thriller Writers. Sounds ho-hum, doesn’t it? But it was that simple. I was trolling around the site, looking for groups that might interest me, and I stumbled on that particular group. It had eight members at the time. On the right sideboard was a button that said, “become a moderator of this group.” I was curious what becoming a moderator would entail, so I clicked the button. And that’s how I became the moderator of the group. To make it a viable group, rather than a typical Facebook group where people just posted book covers and other promotional bits, I decided to have weekly discussions.

Brazen me, I picked people from the group at random (after an active membership drive I had over 1,500 members because those were the days authors were signing up for facebook  in droves. Or do I mean signing up in murders — you know, like a murder of crows. What else do you call a convocation of mystery writers?) and asked if they’d like to host a discussion. That was my introduction to Beth Groundwater. Three years ago — November 13, to be exact — I asked if she’d host a discussion, and she said yes. (One of the many strangenesses of Facebook is that the email discussion about the discussion is archived for all times, which is how I know the date, but the discussion itself, which took place on November 18, 2008, has disappeared into the great maw of Facebook’s yesteryear.)

It was an apropos discussion, too, considering all the changes Facebook has made. To lead off her discussion, Beth said, “I’d like to see the members of this group help each other figure out how to effectively use the features of Facebook to promote themselves and their books without turning off members of the network.” Today, without the discussion board and the help we offered each other, any serious discussions rapidly disappear beneath the steady stream of self-promotion. So all we can do is post information about our books, probably turning off the members of the network in the process.

The discussions may have disappeared from the group, but Beth is still there and still a class act.

The title of this post is Introduction to Beth Groundwater, Author of “A Real Basket Case,” but all I did was natter on about me and my running battle with Facebook. So, I’ll tell you what — if you click the link below, it will take you to my other blog where I am interviewing Beth. And that interview is all about her. I promise.

Click here for an interview with: Beth Groundwater, Author of “A Real Basket Case”

Negative Reviews: Are they Always Negative?

My Suspense/Thriller Writers group on Facebook is discussing the postive aspects of negative reviews this week, and Roni Gehlke left a comment that’s worth passing along.  Roni wrote:
 
As a reviewer and a writer I have to say that there are all kinds of ways people can give you a negative review. As a writer I don’t mind hearing people give me constructive criticism, especially if they know what they are taking about. After ten years I’ve developed a thick skin, at least I hope I have. I still get disappointed when I hear someone didn’t like what I wrote, but as long as there are others who do, I push forward.

I cannot abide by people who just appear to be mean spirited, though.

For example, I have a favorite author who is constantly getting bashed on Amazon. It isn’t that she is a bad writer, obviously l like her and she’s been around for over 30 years writing novels. I believe there are some people who don’t like her style because they don’t hold the same values she does and because of that they criticize everything she writes. Sometimes I have to ask whether these people have even read the book or are just writing a bad review to be mean.

This particular author writes contemporary western cowboy romance novels, about strong alpha men and virginal women. Just because one believes that there are no longer virgins in the world and strong alpha males are bruits doesn’t mean that the stories are bad.

Because you don’t agree with the author’s topic of writing is no reason to give a bad review. If you don’t like gay books or ménage books, don’t read them and don’t force you’re values on those who enjoy them. When bad reviews are written for this reason it is unfair to the author and unfair to those who may wish to read the book but then follow the advise of the reviewer and don’t.

Since I started reviewing books I work carefully to check out all angles of a novel. If the subject matter offends me, and little usually does, I won’t read it or review it. Why waste my time or the readers who may follow my advice.

If the book has fatal flaws like grammar errors, even I as a novice can find, then I might mention it and shave off a few points of the end score, but it doesn’t mean it will get a bad review either. If the story has a good theme, well thought out characters and in the case of suspense and thrillers, keeps me reading until the very last page it will get high scores from me.

One final note: I read an author’s blog a few months back where she was very upset that she had received bad reviews on one of her books. This is a tough industry. People give bad reviews in ignorance, in spite and just because they can. Authors spend a lot of time and put a lot of themselves into their work. The first few bad reviews may sting, but keep in mind that you will always get bad reviews before you will get good ones. More people will complain then praise. It is just a fact of life. Try to look at the bad reviews as a learning experience of what people don’t want to see, balance it with the good reviews of what people do want to see and get right back in front of that computer and start again. If you are lucky enough to get published, that says everything right there.

Happy writing.

If you are a fan of romance and happy endings, check out Roni’s Blog: Romance Books Scene.