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Writing Platforms Demystified December 31, 2009

Posted by techtigger in writing.

How many times have you seen posts like this on blogs and twitter?  (or have posted them yourself!)

“ZOMG!  Everyone says I have to have a writing platform and I don’t know what a platform is and marketing SCARES me and I am never going to sell a single book and I my writing career is GOING To dieeeee…”


Right about now, the Muse is patting your hand and offering you a nice, tall drink complete with floofy umbrella.  It’s okay, you’re not the first writer she’s had to calm down when the dreaded word, platform, is bandied about.   How can she be so relaxed about it?  Simple, all platforms involve some sort of writing.  And she’s got that down pat.

Sooo…what is a platform?  The answer is simple, it’s a method to connect with readers.  That’s it.  It can be anything, from a blog, twitter account, facebook page, weekly chat… any sort of social media that lets you talk with your readers is a platform.  And it does not have to be a flashy, high-tech website.  It can be something as simple as moderating a weekly twitter chat. 

Where does a platform go wrong?  What can I do to make it a success?

1: Keep up with it.  The only way to have a successful platform is to commit to it.  You can’t just start of strong and then wander off.  That’s instant platform fail.  Remember, this is social media, so you actually need to interact with people to make it work.  You are building a relationship with your readers, and they will lose interest and not come back if you don’t say a word for weeks or months.

2: Choose your venues.   Let’s face it, we all are very busy.  You will need to take a close look at how much time you have to commit to maintaining your platform.   Before you start something, spend time out on the various social media sites.  See which ones you are comfortable with. Find out which ones already have the audience you are looking for.  Then choose one or two, depending on how much time you have.  One of the biggest mistakes people make is over-extending themselves.   See point number one, if you can’t keep up with it, you end up with platform fail.  Quality over quantity is the key. 

3: Interact.   I know, I’ve said this, but it needs saying again. Pushing ads out at readers is not interacting. This is a mistake even big-time marketing firms make.  Old school marketing involves controlling the message, and shoving info at people often enough that they can’t avoid it.  Would you like some green eggs with that SPAM?  Sam I am?  Okay, seriously, don’t talk -at- people.  Talk with them.  If your platform is nothing but an advertisement, it will fail.  The name of the game is communication, and that will bring in more readers than any shiny, splashy ad.

4: What do I talk about?  Well, what is the topic of your book?  What writing subjects interest you? What other subjects intrigue you?   Make sure that you pick something you are passionate about, it will make keeping up with the platform just that much easier.   But don’t forget #3 – you need to allow your readers to interact with you, don’t just talk at them.  For example, don’t slap a video book trailer on your blog and expect the world to come see it.  Talk about the process of making it, what worked, what didn’t.  Invite other people to talk about their experiences with making trailers.  Hold a contest to see who can make the best video for your book, put together some nice prizes for the winning entry.  Get readers involved! 

Okay, there’s the worst boo-boo’s covered.  But I can hear you wailing, faintly, in the distance…  I don’t have free time!!!   Well, here are some ideas for busy writers.

1: Safety in Numbers.  Join up with other writers, take turns hosting a chat, posting to a blog., etc.  Find other writers in your genre and collaborate on a platform.  Or join a writing community.

2: Be a good guest.  Show up regularly at chats, offer to guest blog, put out some submissions to journals.  Get your name out there simply by being out there.  It won’t give your readers a specific website to go to, but it will give you some name recognition.

3: Create a destination.   Don’t let that word scare you off, all you are doing is creating a space for people to interact with each other.  A web chat is a destination.  A discussion forum is a destination. Think, what are you passionate about?  Set up a community to support that topic, then welcome others in to run with it. Give them a space to play. This means it’s not really your platform, it’s just a platform.  But it’s better than nothing at all.

If you’re serious about becoming a full time writer, you’ll eventually need to devote time to a social media platform.  You may even want to hire someone to create that cool, graphic intensive website, if you are not so tech savvy (or just too busy) to do it yourself.  But you don’t have to start out that way.  Start small.  Grow as you have time. Don’t over-extend yourself.  And remember, all of these platforms involve writing.  You and your Muse can totally rock the house when it comes to that.

I think I’ve gabbed enough, time to open the floor – any questions? Comments?  I’ll be happy to answer specific questions about Marketing, Platforms, Web 2.0, or any other buzz words you’ve had thrown at you.  🙂


Flash Fiction – Humbug December 24, 2009

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: , ,

The regular story will pick up again next week.  Happy Holidays! 
( Click Here to read the story from the beginning. )

Nox leaned back against Grimm’s side, a puzzled look on her face.  “I get the presents.  But who is this Christmas spirit they keep talking about?  Anyone you know?”

Grimm shook his head. “No.  But then, I’ve spent most of the past 2000 years in a graveyard, so that’s not too surprising.” 

Nox studied the packaging of the latest DeeVeeDee she had bartered for, which had ‘A Christmas Carol’ printed on it.  Her brows knit together.  “The guy gets tortured by three revenants, then dances around like an idiot and buys a goose.  Either things have changed drastically since my mother lived in that dimension, or we got sold a fake.” 

I believe it’s called a ‘humbug’, if this play is right.”

“Bah!” Nox said, and they both laughed.

“Well, I like the eating part of the ritual.”

“Hey, don’t drool on the couch!” she teased.

“I never drool.” Grimm said, playfully thwapping her with his tail. “Want to try this Christmas thing?  Maybe the spirit they keep talking about will show up.”

Nox grinned and pushed his tail away.  “Are you cruising for a date?”

“I somehow doubt the spirit is a dog.”

“Never know till we try.”  

“I suppose we could ask your mother about it.”

They looked at each other for a long moment, then spoke in unison. ”Nah.”

Nox sifted through the pile of discs.  “We’ve got at least three more of these stories to watch. I’m sure we can figure it out.”

“Or fake it. Shall we get dinner first?”

Nox scooted off the couch, out of reach of his tail.  “Sure, if you promise to keep the couch dry, oh mighty drool-monster.”

“Keep that up and I won’t get you any presents.”

Her face was a study in innocence. “But the Christmas spirit likes people who give things. You wouldn’t want to offend your date.”

“I think I’ll tell Loki about the mistletoe and kissing thing. He’ll be all over you like cheap cologne!”

She laughed and held up her hands. “Okay, okay, truce! 

“We should probably invite him anyway, he’s a very good cook. I still can’t figure out why you’re so bad at it. It’s chemistry. You’re a scientist. It should be easy for you.”

“I’m a gears, wires and energy field sort of scientist.  Besides, cooking is more of a soft science.”

“We’re definitely inviting Loki.”

Nox spent the next week carefully researching the Christmas ritual.  Like any summoning, she had to make sure that all of the conditions had been properly met.  The workshop had been completely transformed, all of the usual clutter tucked under the workbenches.  In its place were automaton birds that sang lovely melodies when activated, and crystals strung on silver wires were hung about the room, which Loki had filled with sparks of elemental fire. Nox had bartered with a forest sprite for a living pine tree that was now growing out of the floor, and she had covered it with snow and icicles and more of the crystal lights. 

Wonderful smells wafted out of the kitchen, and since Loki had banished the food-filching hound, Grimm was now helping Nox arrange the gifts.  He stayed motionless while she stood on his back, tacking fireproof stockings to the metal chimney of the pot-bellied stove she had acquired.  She hopped down to the floor to check her work.  “Stockings hung, check. Though how a big man in a red fur suit is going to get down that pipe I can’t imagine.”

“It’s a ghost, short-stuff.”

“I hope you’re right, or we’re going to have to find the hacksaw and crowbar to pry it out.” She said. “And I’m not short, I’m petite, dammit. Puh-Teet!”

Loki poked his head out of the kitchen. “Fight nice children, or this spirit will never arrive.  It seems to have a thing for good behavior.”

Nox gave a theatrical sigh. “We’re doomed.”  

Grimm just snickered, and nudged the gifts into a more pleasing arrangement.

They were just sitting down to eat when the doorbell rang.  Nox hopped up to check the security monitor, and was appalled to see her mother on the doorstep.  “Oh no…”

She opened the door and plastered a false, bright smile on her face.  “Hello mother, come in, we were just about to have dinner.”

Serenna swept past her. “I was in the area shopping for Kel’s wedding, and thought I’d,” she paused, and looked around.  “stop in?”

Grimm and Loki stood up and bowed respectfully, and Nox quickly poured her mother a drink. “Don’t worry mother, the summoning didn’t work, so no harm done.  I think the Christmas spirit only shows up for full humans anyway.”

Her mother turned completely around to view all of the decorations.  “You thought you were summoning a ghost?”  She covered her mouth, and then, much to everyone’s shock and surprise, started laughing.  “Oh, dear, the next time you want to know something about humans, you can just ask me.” 

Serenna smiled at Loki. “I do hope you didn’t let my daughter cook. I’d hate to have one of my healing spells wasted on something as mundane as food poisoning.”  

Loki gave her an elaborate bow. “The feast was all my doing.  And just as well, I’ve seen Nox ruin toast.”

“Hey! I haven’t done that in weeks!” Nox said.

Her mother patted her on the cheek.  “Well, I’ll just leave you to your party. I wouldn’t want all of his hard work to go to waste.  Joyeux Noel.”  She gave her daughter a hug, nodded to the others, and with one last amused look at the decorations, she left.

Grimm shook his head.  “Serenna smiled. She even laughed!  This Christmas thing really does work miracles!”

Nox sat back down at the table. “Well, at least all of our work had some positive results.”  She raised her glass in a toast. “To the holiday spirit, wherever or whomever it may be.”

“To the spirit.” 

“To Christmas.”

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Flash Fiction – First Snow December 18, 2009

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: , ,

This story is part of a series. Click Here to read from the beginning.

(years ago, on a chill winter night…)

All was quiet in the graveyard.  The first snow of the year had fallen, blanketing the tombstones in white. Grimm paced silently between them, leaving no tracks to mark his passing.  In the distance, he could just see the lights in the mansion, and if he listened closely he could hear the murmur of the people gathered inside.  Every year his master held a grand ball to celebrate the changing of the seasons.  And every year Lucien would come out to the graveyard to greet him, and bring him a gift.  Last year it had been a bottle of scotch. Something to warm the old ghost up, he had said, with a rare smile.  He had even poured the drink for Grimm, into a fine crystal bowl.  The empty bottle and bowl still decorated the mausoleum where the ghostly hound kept the few possessions he owned.

Grimm had expected Lucien to come out long before now. It was late, and the party at the mansion was winding down. He sighed, and laid his head down on his paws.  Much as he would have liked to join the festivities, his presence tended to make the guests nervous.  All he could do was wait, and hope his master had not forgotten him.

He was just about to give up and go back to his mausoleum when he heard footsteps crunching in the snow.  There was no way it could be his master, the steps were too light.  As he crept invisibly towards the intruder, a child’s voice called out his name.  Or at least, tried to. 

“Grimmalycann, Grimalla…. Oh, phooey.  Grimm Grimm Grimm!”

To his surprise, he felt the tug of a true summons.  Whoever this was, they were related to his master. Only one of the bloodline could call him.  Grimm materialized as he walked around a tombstone, and found himself looking down at a tiny little girl.  She had Lucien’s dark hair, dark blue eyes and the pale skin so common to ice elementals.   The stubborn set to her jaw was all Serenna though, and he sighed inwardly.  “Go away, child.  I am not a toy to be played with.”

“Nope, I’m not gonna go, cause daddy said you’d tell me to go but I was not supposedta cause someday you’ll work for me and I gotta be able to call you so I did and now you hafta tell me a story.”

Grimm blinked. He hadn’t realized anyone could talk that long without taking a breath. Extraordinary.

“Ooh, I almost forgot!”  She took off her mittens and pulled some slightly crumbled cookies out of her pocket. “Daddy says you hafta pay to call you but I don’t want you to hurt anybody so I brought some cookies ‘cause I like cookies and I thought maybe you’d like cookies too.”  She took a breath. “So, here’s some cookies and now you can tell me a story.”

Grimm blinked again, dumbfounded.  He tilted his head to the side, thinking furiously.  There was nothing that said there had to be blood shed to command his service. Only that a price be paid.  His nose twitched.  The cookies smelled good, they were covered in icing and sugar.  He lay down so the child could quit craning her neck to look at him.  “What is your name, little one?”

“My name is Nox and I’m five years old.  Are you gonna tell me a story or not?” she said, setting her hands on her hips.

Grimm gave her a solemn nod.  “The payment you brought is acceptable. A short story though, I somehow doubt you’re supposed to be out this late.”

A sly smile crossed her face, but she quickly remembered to look serious again.  It was all Grimm could do not to laugh at her careful dignity, as she set the cookies ceremoniously down in front of him.  He noticed she kept one for herself.  To keep him company while he ate, no doubt.

“Once upon a time….”


Much to his dismay, she fell asleep halfway through the story, her head pillowed on his side.  Normally he would never call out to his master unless there was an emergency, but if Serenna caught the girl out here she’d have both of their hides. 

Lucien strode out of the darkness a few minutes later.  “I suppose it was only a matter of time before she ended up out here. I’m only surprised she waited this long, I told her about you this morning.” 

“Your daughter is fearless. “ Grimm said, laughing quietly.

A brief, proud smile crossed Lucien’s face. “You have no idea.  Do you know she tried to fly last week?  She heard some story about the House of Winds, and was determined to re-enact the whole thing.  We found her in the top branches of a tree in the garden.”  He shook his head.  “I think fighting a war was easier than raising a child.  I actually had some control over that.”

Grimm laughed along with him.  “Well, if she wanders out here again, I’ll keep an eye on her for you.”

Lucien reached into his pocket and pulled out a book. “For you.  We were so busy tearing the mansion apart looking for her, I almost forgot.”  He brushed the snow off the top of a gravestone and set it down.

Grimm’s tail thumped happily, he loved to read. “Thank you!”

 “Well, I’d better get her back to bed.”  Lucien took the half-eaten cookie out of Nox’s hand and retrieved her mittens before picking her up.  “Good night, old friend.”  He carefully cradled his little girl in his arms, and headed back up the hill to the mansion.

Grimm sat and watched them go.  That little imp was going to be no end of trouble.  He chuckled and snapped up the last of the cookies, making sure not to miss a single crumb. This wintertide had certainly turned out to be a memorable one.

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Flash Fiction – No Mercy December 11, 2009

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: , ,

This story is part of a weekly series, updated every friday. Click Here to read from the beginning.

Grimm’s howl drove the cultists to their knees.  The sound ached with despair and the dread certainty that all things end.   Death had been given a voice. 

The water elementals who had been flooding the tunnels outside were the first to fall. The ghostly hound moved through walls and under doors, slunk through darkened rooms and hallways.  The only warning his enemies had was a slight chill in the air, and a glimpse of brimstone-red eyes before the end.

Loki followed as best he could, though he had to take a more conventional route.  He shoved a door open and stepped over the bodies that had blocked it. There was no doubt which way the hound had gone, he was taking a straight line towards Nox.  Loki slipped quietly to the end of the hallway, careful to keep the dagger he had shaped out of flames concealed behind him.

 In the room beyond, Grimm crouched, snarling, his hackles up and claws digging into the concrete floor.  A group of New Dawn cultists huddled together on the far side, their frantic chants generating a shield made of light.  One of them grabbed Nox by the throat.

 “Stay back, beast, or I will snap her neck!”

Nox hung limp in his grasp, her face bruised and bloody.  For a moment Loki thought she was still dazed by the chloroform, but she was looking straight at Grimm.  Her eyelid drop in a slow wink, and Grimm’s tail twitched in response. Then all hell broke loose.

The electric blue energy of Nox’s aura flared up in a loud CRACK where the man’s hand touched her skin, sending him flying backwards.  Grimm leapt over her as she fell, taking down the two men nearest to her.  Loki flung his dagger into the throat of another cultist and sprinted into the room.  A burst of flames leapt from his hand and shaped itself into a rapier, which he slashed across the eyes of a cultist.  The man spun away, screaming.  Loki skidded to a halt near Nox.  His sword flickered downwards, and the ropes binding her parted with a hiss.

Grimm’s mental voice sounded strange, almost sinister. “Get her out of here, fireborn.”   He took down another attacker with a single swipe of his paw.

“Nox, can you run?”  Loki asked.

“No, I can barely walk, I landed hard when I fell through that portal.” she said.

Grimm’s voice cut painfully through their minds. “GET HER OUT!”  He ripped the throat from the last cultist standing.  Before the body even hit the floor he had turned, and started pacing towards Loki.

“Oh no, it’s the curse, he can’t stop!” Nox cried.  “Loki, stay behind me. And whatever you do, don’t move!”

Loki turned pale as he realized what was happening. “Oh bloody hell.. we need to leave, now!”

Grimm’s voice was almost unrecognizable. “Too late for that, mortal.”  His form started to blur as he stalked towards them. “I told you that there was a reason Lucien never set me free.  Once the blood curse is invoked, I can show no mercy.”  His eyes were locked on Loki, who had plastered himself back against the wall.  “Everyone in this room must die.”

Nox limped forward, her face set in a stubborn scowl. “If that’s true then you’re going to have to kill me as well.  I’m injured, I can’t run.  I’m so damn tired I can’t even focus enough to keep a shield up.  So there it is.” She stood face to face with the hound. “Either kill me, or control it.”

He let out something between a whine and a growl. “Please go. It was only your father’s will that kept the curse in check. I thought I could control it on my own, but I was wrong.” His eyes darted back and forth between her and Loki. “If I kill him first, you should have time to get out.”

She put her hands on either side of his muzzle and forced him to look at her. “I’m not going anywhere. You’re my best friend, and I ‘m not giving up on you. You can beat this thing.”  As she touched him, his aura ignited – but instead of being balanced equally between black and gold, it was mostly dark.  “Now you can see the real enemy.” she said.  “That curse is going to kill me.  Defend me from it.”

There was a flicker of hope in his eyes.  She had just set the two sides of his nature against each other, guardian and destroyer.  “Clever girl…”  The gold in his aura flared up, and started gaining ground on the black.  The curse laid on him was ancient and strong, but he had been a guardian long before that. And he could not be defeated while defending his chosen one.  A blinding flash of golden light filled the room, and when the glare finally died down, Grimm had changed back to a normal hound.  He eyed up the dark bruises on Nox’s pale skin. “You look like a dalmatian, short stuff.”

Nox laughed and threw her arms around his neck in a hug. “I knew you could do it. I knew it!”

Loki let out the breath he had been holding. “Is it safe to move now?”

Grimm nodded. “Yes, it’s safe. I’m sorry.”

“No harm, no foul.” Loki said, and slid down the wall to sit while he waited for his legs to quit shaking. 

Nox limped over to him, and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you, for coming to help save me. That was a brave thing to do for someone you barely know.

He blinked in surprise, then smiled.  “We’ll call it even.”  He accepted the hand she extended to help him stand up.

Grimm pointed to a door with his nose.  “Fresh air, that way.  Let’s go home.”

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Flash Fiction – Blood Curse December 4, 2009

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: , ,

This story is part of a weekly series, updated every friday. Click Here to read from the beginning.

Loki dropped down through the portal and landed in a crouch, his fiery saber extended before him at the ready.   The tunnel was pitch black beyond its flickering light, and there was no sound other than an intermittent sizzle as drops of water hit the blade.   He dimmed the flames to allow him to see any heat signatures in the gloom, but there was nothing.  “Sorry, it’s too damp down here, Grimm. I hope you can track her.” 

Grimm landed silently next to him, nothing more than a vague, hound-shaped shadow.  He lifted his muzzle to the air, then sneezed and shook his head.  “Chloroform.  No blood though, which is good and bad. She’s here somewhere, and unharmed, but I had hoped their casualties would slow them down.”

Loki cursed beneath his breath.  “It’s a two-stage portal.  The cutters are probably miles from here. If we hadn’t dropped down the same hole as Nox we’d probably have a welcoming party waiting for us.”

“We may still get one.”  Grimm put his nose to the ground and cast about for a minute before pointing to the right.  “This way.  We need to move fast, these are the storm drains below the city proper. Any traces they left won’t last long.”

They headed down the stone tunnels at a run, Grimm only pausing briefly at each intersection to check for tracks.  It was like a waking nightmare for Loki, the close, damp tunnels and steady drip of water brought back memories he had long been trying to forget.   He clenched his fist around the hilt of his saber until his knuckles turned white.

Grimm’s rumbling voice echoed in the back of his mind. “Ah, now I know why you seemed so familiar.  You’re the boy we found in the cistern.  Been trying to figure that out all week.  You were so waterlogged when I pulled you out I barely got a scent off you.”

“I remember Lucien pulling me out, I think I’d have recalled seeing you.”

“Who do you think dragged you up high enough for him to reach you?” Grimm said.  “You were pretty far gone after treading water for a whole day, I’m not surprised you don’t remember clearly.  I am sorry about your family, we got there too late.  All I could do was to ease their spirits down the long road.”

“Let’s just focus on finding Nox.”  Loki said, his voice strained.  “We should have run into them by now, they didn’t have more than a few minutes head start.”  He put a hand on the slimy wall.  “Can you feel that?  It’s like a freight train going past. “

“That’s not a train!” Grimm turned into a gargoyle and flattened Loki against the wall.  “Take a deep breath and hang on!” 

Loki only had time for one deep breath before the wall of water hit them.

Nox awoke to the familiar thrum of the river beneath her parents’ mansion.  She tried to sit up and clear the cobwebs from her head, but she couldn’t move. That’s when reality hit her – she wasn’t home, she was a prisoner of the cutters that had been after Loki.   Nox managed to sit upright by pushing with her feet against the floor and twisting to brace her back on the wall.   The room was dim, only lit by a few emergency lights in the hallway outside.   She sat, panting to catch her breath after her efforts and waited for her eyes to adjust.

Footsteps echoed down the hall, and a blocky figure entered the room, silhouetted by the light.  “Take it easy, girl.  If we wanted you dead we wouldn’t have wasted the binding spell on you.”  The man sounded like a chain-smoker, but there was no smell of nicotine around him.  “Hope your friends can swim. “  He let out a gravelly laugh.   

Nox squinted at him. “Wait a minute, I know you!  My father hired you once, you’re that mercenary.  What was it, Hawk, Raptor? ”

“Shrike.  I liked working for Lucien.  Paid well, and on time.  But business is business, you do understand? This is nothing personal.” 

“I understand, but I don’t think Grimm will be as forgiving.”  Nox said.

He laughed again.  “That’s why we didn’t harm so much as a hair on your pretty little head.  Wouldn’t want to go bringing the blood-curse down on us.” He waved at the wall.  “I think you can hear the water. Even he can’t track you without a scent.  The young duelist isn’t going to fare too well either, I imagine.”

Another mercenary came into the room and whispered a message to him.  “Ah, looks like our clients have arrived.” Shrike said. He stepped into the hallway and waved.  “Right this way. She’s alive, and completely unharmed. I’ll expect payment in full, now, if you don’t mind.”

“After we inspect the merchandise.”  Three members of the New Dawn cult entered the room, dressed in long, crimson robes.  The one who had spoken pushed back his hood.  “We need to make sure this is the abomination, and not some fake created as a decoy.”

Shrike narrowed his eyes.  “That bloody hound of hers killed ten of my men.  She’s real enough.”

The cultist crouched down beside Nox, and grabbed her chin in a gloved hand.  She smirked at him. “You don’t need the gloves, nimrod.  Humanity isn’t contagious.”

“If you are, indeed a demi-human, and not some blasphemous construct like that creature you command.”  A cruel smile crossed his lips.  “We have a whole series of experiments planned to determine just that.”

Nox spit in his face. “Get bent, you sawed off, mouth-breathing, ass..”

The cultist backhanded her so hard her head bounced off the wall.  “Silence!” He pulled his arm back for another swing, but Shrike stopped him. 

“You idiot, you’ve just killed us all!”

Nox spit blood out of her mouth, and smiled.  “I’d run, if I were you.”

Outside, an unearthly howl echoed down the corridors…

(to be concluded…)

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