Monday, October 31, 2022

Podcasts: an Open Book blog post

Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

Today's question: Do you do podcasts? Either as the host or as a guest? How do you prepare for them?

Podcasts are something I wish I had more time for, both as a consumer, a guest, and a potential creator. But there are only so many hours in the day! 

I seem to do more video shows, which one could argue are just another form of podcast. For example, here's a panel discussion I participated in recently with B Cubed Press, the press that published my most recent short story "No Country for Young Women" in Post-Roe Alternatives: Fighting Back

And here's one from this spring on Women in Horror. 

So far as audio-only programs, I've had a few guest spots. I like audio podcasts a little better than video appearances, if only because I don't have to think about what I look like and worry about whether I'm making a derp face. 

Here's my appearance on "There's stories everywhere": 

and another on Women's Writes

Podcasts are also publication opportunities these days. I've started to submit my work for audio publication.  My short story "Poison" was featured on Manawaker Studio's Flash Fiction podcast: 

I really enjoy these opportunities. It really makes me feel like I'm in the future to be able to talk writing with people around the world without leaving my house. 

A lot of podcast and interview shows are spontaneous, so I don't necessarily do much in the way of preparation. After years as a teacher, I'm comfortable with speaking "on my feet" without knowing too much about's coming in advance. Of course, if I'm given a list of questions or a topic, I make some notes to make sure I don't fall into a long um………… while I try to remember the name of the book I wanted to cite or something like that. 

Sometimes, if there's a reading involved, I'll practice, both to make sure that my selection fits the time limits and that I can read it aloud smoothly. 

So far, I haven't done my own podcast, but I could totally see myself doing that in the future. Maybe when I get rich and famous and quit the day job (or more likely, after I retire). I do have a YouTube channel, where I put up video readings, poetry appreciation, and writing life talks from time to time. 

How about you? Do you listen to, record, or participate in podcasts? 

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Monday, October 24, 2022

What would you study? An Open Book blog post

Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

Today's question: If you could take a free class at a university, what course would you take?

I've had some great learning partners in the form of teachers in my life, and a great teacher has definitely made all the difference for me when I was studying something I found intellectually challenging, like when I took Transformational Grammar with Thom Stroik. He was so passionate about linguistics and it was hard to sit in his classroom and not become infected with that same enthusiasm.  

I'm not as interested in formal learning on someone else's schedule as I used to be, though. As much as I've loved school, there's something to be said for  auto-didacticism: building my own reading lists and choosing assignments that push me in the direction I wanted to go and are tailored to my own specific interests and strengths. 

image source

There's any number of things I'd like to study: additional languages, various eras and segments of literature, sociology, feminist theory, agriculture, business management, webpage design, anthropology, geography…pick. your "logy" or "aphy" and I could probably summon some interest. It all serves as fodder for my writing life, after all. And I'm at least a little interested in almost everything!

So, since I'm good at finding resources and teaching myself in a lot of ways, for me, it's not "what" I'd like to study, but "who" I'd like to study with. 

If I had the chance to study writing with Neil Gaiman, I'd pounce on it. I've almost bought his online master class more than once, but am not entirely convinced that it would worth it, without the personal interaction. Relationships are a big part of learning. Joyce Carol Oates is at Princeton. That would have to be worth the trip. 

Let's see, who else? I hear that Condoleeza Rice is teaching Political Science at Stanford. That would have to be fascinating. Or how about Andrew Ng teaching Computer Science, also at Stanford? Or a film class with Spike Lee at New York University? University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently lost the chance to have Nikole Hannah-Jones on staff through shenanigans, so I'd need to follow her to Howard University. 

How about you? Is there someone you're yearning to study with, or a topic you'd devote study to, given the time and resources? I'd love to hear about it in the comments! And don't forget to check out the other posts in the blog hop, by my fine colleagues of Open Book. 

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Monday, October 17, 2022

Marketing for Introverts: An OpenBook blog post


Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

Today's question:   Most of us (or maybe all of us) struggle with marketing. What are your top 3 marketing tips?

Hi! I'm Samantha, and I'm an introvert. In fact, I'm really happy that we're having this little talk here on the Internet, where I don't have to actually talk to you.

It's not that I'm not friendly. I bet I'd even like you. It's that I'm still recuperating after participating in a fan convention this weekend for my writing life.

Being a writer might seem like a natural job choice for an introvert. In some ways, it's an excellent fit.

Doing the work requires spending copious amounts of time alone.

The work itself is usually pretty quiet (just some keyboard clicking or pen scritching noises).

You can do the work wherever you are most comfortable.

On the other hand, if you want to make a career of writing, you can't *just* write. You have to put your work out there for others to read.

Then, there's the marketing, that second job of garnering attention for your work and being discoverable. That can be pretty painful for a introverted person, but I'm here to tell you that it can be done. You can make a career as a writer without undergoing some kind of alchemy and becoming an extrovert, and in some ways, introverts might be especially well suited to it.

So, here are a few things to consider if you're an introvert and trying to promote yourself and your work.

1. Take it slow: A lot of people seem to think that building a writing career and support network is a sudden quick movement, like sweeping the legs in a kickboxing match.

It's not.

Not even for extroverts.

Building contacts and relationships is the work of years, and luckily, it's the kind of work introverts are good at! We may not be comfortable standing behind the megaphone and calling for the attention of everyone in the room, but we're great one-on-one and when we get to know someone, we usually get to know them well. Our relationships are deep and strong and lasting.

When you are meeting new people, be reasonable in your expectations for yourself. I'm happy if I make one or two new initial contacts at any given event. I'm not trying to go home with my pockets bursting with business cards. I'm trying to make a few meaningful connections.

2. Pick your poison:  There are a lot of ways to put yourself out there as a writer. You can give readings, participate in discussion panels, teach workshops or classes, hand sell books from a table or booth at an event, make videos about your work, tweet cleverly, blog, etc.

Some of these things will scare the heck out of you, and some may only make you nervous. Pick something you feel like you can do and try it. You can push yourself a little at a time, and you don't have to put yourself out there on every possible platform.

Look at events carefully, think about your comfort levels, and plan accordingly. I enjoy doing fan conventions, for example, but I tend to stick to small and medium sized ones relatively near my home base.

I take my sister with me whenever I can because it's good to have someone more outgoing with you and someone who will help you take care of yourself when you need it. Even better if that someone loves you and understands your needs and limits.

I like panel discussions because they have a clear structure and don't require me to "make the first move" like approaching someone at a booth or table does. Someone will call on me when it's my turn to talk.

I ask convention organizers not to schedule me for late night programming because it's harder for me to be entertaining and clever and "on" when I get tired.

Over time, this has gotten more comfortable for me because I've gotten to know more and more people, so often attending an event means I'll be among as many friends as strangers. I find that VERY comforting.

Though Dragon Con is the BIG con near me, I have yet to apply, because I know how stressful I would find it to navigate the halls of such a large free-for-all event. Maybe I'll get there someday, or maybe I won't. We'll see.

For now, I'm feeling good about how much more comfortable I feel with what I'm doing now.

3. Self-Care! Everyone needs self care, but introverts may need to tend to themselves a little sooner and more specifically than other folks (I wouldn't know; I've never been one of those other folks).

For me, that means being as careful as I can be with my schedule: making sure there are adequate meal breaks and quiet time, packing some good snacks.

That might mean that I skip some networking opportunities and don't go to the bar with the other writers after an event, or decide to spend time alone in my hotel room instead of sitting at my table or booth for two more hours (even if I miss a chance to sell a book that way).

If I don't give myself space to recoup my energies, I'm not going to make a good impression or make good use of those opportunities anyway.

It also means that I try to give myself decompress time after an event.

I'm writing this on Monday and I got home from a convention on Sunday night. I had three different social invitations today, but I turned them all down in favor of sitting here quietly at my laptop. It was the right choice, especially since I'll have to be "on" again next weekend for another event.

So there are my thoughts on how to make a go of this if you're an introvert. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments! 

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Monday, October 10, 2022

Pizza, Anyone? An Open Book blog post

Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

Today's question: What toppings do you put on your pizza? Is pineapple a real pizza topping?

So at first this might not seem like an important question for an author to ponder, but writing takes fuel! And pizza has some serious advantages on this front--it's possible to get or make at low effort and cost, and it's flexible, letting you add whatever you want to your lovely round piece of bread and call it a meal.

Honestly, at this stage of my life, I'm not so much a pizza fan. I probably ate too much of it in my youth, as part of band, chorus, and tennis trips. 

Most of the pizza that comes into my house now is purchased for my teenager and the gaggle of other teenagers that come with them.  Teenagers have a reputation for being risk-takers, but in my experience, this doesn't apply when we're talking about food. They're practically still toddlers (as a group). 

So that means, in my opinion, pretty boring pizza: Domino's, plain cheese or with pepperoni. The fanciest they go is ham and pineapple. (And, yes, I do like pineapple on a pizza, especially contrasted with ham). 

image from the recipe site

My personal favorite, on the other hand, is a chicken tikka masala pizza (recipe here). 

By Indian cooking standards, it's a simple recipe, and really flavorful. Instead of using traditional pizza crust, I made mine using a store-bought piece of naan for the crust. It's aromatic and satisfying, and not boring. 

I've also enjoyed getting fancier pizza with some other unusual toppings. 

There's a Napoli place near us that offers interesting things like duck and bison on your pizza. 

And even chain restaurants like Blaze will at least let you have some interesting cheese and a vegetable or two. 

The truth is, I like pizza that is as little like traditional pizza as possible. 

So, that's my take on what I want on my pizza: something interesting, aromatic, and tasty! How about you? Are you a pizza fan? What do you like on yours? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. 

And be sure to check out the rest of the blog hop at this link!

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Monday, October 3, 2022

Writing Style: An OpenBook blog post

Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

Today's question: Does your writing style change depending upon what you are writing?

Since I largely write through a specific point of view, either first person (I) or third person close (s/he/they, with insight into their thinking), the writing style definitely shifts to accommodate those different points of view. 

The Menopausal Superheroes as rendered by Charles C. Dowd

Leonel "Fuerte" Alvarez, a crowd favorite among the Menopausal Superheroes, for example is a heart-on-the-sleeve person, always ready to talk about emotions and noticing how other people react. He's bilingual as well, so you'll find Spanish words and Mexican-American cultural references in his chapters.

The series changes point of view from chapter to chapter, and when I've done it well, my reader should be able to tell that I've changed point of view even if they skip over the chapter title. Patricia "Lizard Woman" O'Neill is much more practical and action-oriented, for example, and far less concerned with possible ramifications of her actions. 

In other work, especially when I'm writing in first person, word choice can become huge. In my Gothic romance (back burnered while I work on Menopausal Superhero #5, but still on my mind!), the main character is a late Victorian-era woman, and there is huge difference in her language and her perceptions of what is right and proper. 

image source

This is also a new genre for me: part historical, part romance, part ghost story. There are genre expectations for this sort of work. Readers will expect a different kind of detail in description, focused on clothing and setting, as well as more lyrical prose. 

So character, genre, and point of view will definitely cause changes in tone and style in my work. I'm always try to do well by the story, and make choices based on what the story demands or needs. And that's what makes it fun! 

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