Tag Archives: writing

The Facebook Bait-and-Switch

How Facebook’s changes have made it tough for an author to build a following.

The Facebook Bait-and-Switch

Introducing the Facebook "Pay" button the only way authors can reach anyone
Introducing the Facebook “Pay” button the only way authors can reach anyone

In the past, Facebook provided a great free service for authors. Allowing us to create fan pages to reach our readers, it let us keep separate accounts for our friends and families. Choosing to “Like” our pages, audiences got updates on projects, saving our other accounts for personal status.

As brick and mortar book stores crumbled at the feet of e-readers, social-network-self-publishing seemed like a viable option. Author pages became a yard stick for agents to measure the worth of a client. Traditional publishers changed their contract criteria. Now it wasn’t about how many awards a writer had won, or how many short fiction collections they’d been featured in, it was about how many smiling icons they had at the bottom of their profile page.

Social media gurus preached, “The keeper of the publishing gates will look at how many followers you have and judge you accordingly.”

We thought we were paying Facebook, by keeping the social network relevant. As far as we knew, money was exchanging hands. Advertisers were paying to reach users outside of the ones who’d “Liked” their product, while we ground along winning ours one by one.

When we shot trailers for our books, Facebook was where we premiered them. Our revenue came from iBooks and Amazon, but Facebook was where we made our sales. Not limiting us to 140 characters, we filled our elevator pitches with the details that gave our stories meaning.

Writers put everything they had into their author pages. Some used them as a substitute for a blog. Why not? Instead of linking readers to an off site destination, Facebook could make that connection. Livelihoods depended on what they were offering.

Facebook gave authors a broad reach, then they chopped off our arms. Why? So they could sell us all prosthetics. They hooked us on a free service. Made it crucial to our business, then made us pay for what it once was.

It’s a classic bait-and-switch grift.

The Facebook Bait-and-Switch
The Facebook Bait-and-Switch

In the span of a month, my posts went from reaching half of my followers, to five percent of them. Rather than entice me with membership only features, they’re charging for ones they used to give away for free.

Why not pay? Because I don’t trust their brand. I could shell out the cash to reach 100% of my followers, but next month they could throttle me back and ask for a larger chunk of change. I’m just building a following, I haven’t even tried to sell anything.

Recently, I wrote an article on how the hate group leader Fred Phelps accidentally struck a blow for gay rights. Despite having nothing to do with the type of fiction I write, I want all of my followers to see the piece. Still, I’m not going to pay to boost it.

I’m not going to pay Facebook to promote my author page either. Why, because I want to represent myself on social media, finding readers through a direct connection. I don’t want to depend on an impersonal algorithms recommendation.

I’ve considered abandoning my Facebook author page in favor of posting on my personal one. It’s a broader audience, a few friends with shared interests are among them, the rest are relatives, classmates, and coworkers. This is a temporary solution that might cost more “Friends” than it gains. I’ve already written about getting flack for it.

Embracing Facebook’s monopoly on networking, we let it step all over us. While social media gurus still sing its praises, this author has been priced out of it.

Face Palm

Authors should consider which social media plates to spin and which ones to let come crashing down. It’s hard enough to balance life and work with writing. Social networking can eat up even more of that time. You need to be selective about which services you invest in.

At this point, I’d tell new authors that building a following on Facebook is like building your house on sand.

Eavesdropping Advisory (Audio Blog)

Eavesdropping

(If SoundCloud is down, download the track)
(Download the instrumental version here)

Writers feed off of rude people. Their grinding gears are music to our ears. We serve their words to hungry paper. We steal their souls with our typing fingers. When we’re around, they ought to keep their behavior in check, because there’s always an eavesdropping advisory in effect.

Who needs to shadow interesting subjects, when there’s the general public to draw from? Who needs to research villains, when we can just go out and cast one? Why fret over the words that break our hero’s routine, when there are so many rude people giving away free dialogue?

Crowdsourcing scenes, we set our buckets beneath brainstorms. Derailing conversations, we guide trains of thought into our stations. They want to give us a piece of their mind, they don’t care how we use it. They’re never going to demand creative control. Delivering line after line, they’ll never ask for script approval.

Charity begins at the checkout counter. We’ve gone out into the world to find ourselves some donors. We know that wherever the staffing is short, they’ll be there. Wherever the wait times are over an hour, they’ll be there. Wherever there are captive audiences in uniforms, they’ll be there.

When they cut us off in traffic with a harsh gesture, we get to play interpreter. When they emit hot air into our atmosphere, we get to play dehumidifier. When they sling vulgarities, we get to play catcher.

When they ask to speak with a manager, we’re tempted to step up, even if we don’t work there. When we can’t get close enough to hear anymore, we’ll lip read from across the store. Their subtitles are in caps lock, all we have to do is highlight, copy, and paste.

Eavesdropping Advisory is my most liked and commented on entry to date (it doesn’t hurt that it was featured on WordPress’s Freshly Pressed page). Many writers have confessed to sharing my process, a process I’ve put to use several times since.

For the audio version I wanted to harness that same aggressive attitude. Laying down a driving hip-hop beat, I mixed an collage of angry voices, and topped it off with a distorted melody that occasionally goes full dubstep. Despite the song’s bombastic push, it maintains a subtle creepy undercurrent. Check it out.

On Sherlocking

Writers, are you looking for a crutch to improve your characterization, a trick for easy subtext, and a way to enshroud what you’re foreshadowing? What if you could learn all of this as part of a game? Interested? Then let me ask a few more questions.

Clark Kenting

On Sherlocking: How to Use the Deduction Game to Improve Your Writing

Do you find yourself mirroring movements? Have you walked into a pedestrian’s path, pivoted in the same direction, and paused to break the connection? At the bar, do you find yourself raising your drink in unison with other patrons? In conversation, do you cross your legs at the same time as your friends? Do you scratch your cheek when someone else starts itching? At the end of the night, do you finish other people’s yawns?

Are you so in tune with your surroundings that you can see bathroom breaks coming?

Do you bless sneezes before they happen? Anticipating farts, do you switch seats before you’re caught down wind? Do you look up in time to make eye contact with people pretending not to look? Are you a social psychic?

Can you read reactions? When you watch someone lean back in their chair, do you see relaxation in your runes, or withdrawal in your crystal ball?

Can you eavesdrop from across the room? Are you a telephoto lip reader, or do you have a fluency in body language? Watch the couple across from you, can you tell if this is their first date or their anniversary? From their posture, can you tell if this is going to be an early night, or a late one?

If this foreknowledge sounds familiar, then you’re ready to play the game. It’s called Sherlocking; the game of deductions. Once honed, this skill will greatly improve your writing.

Pointing

Let’s set the board. This is an open world game, not in that you can do whatever you want, but that you have to play it in public. Coffee shops are good, as are campuses, clubs, or wherever else people congregate. Stake out a position with a view. We’re going to give you something to do with all your excess intuition.

Eavesdropping is a skill worth developing, but for the sake of this exercise I recommend going at it with headphones on. We’re refining one sense at a time. The aim is not to confirm our suspicions, it’s to keep us looking.

Absorb what you observe. We’re gathering points of reference to be used later. We’re researching the human animal. Ignore the extreme examples: the tell-offs speeches, the overtly rude people. Today we’re looking for something a little more subtle. This is advanced people watching. We’re reading between the lines of faces, keeping a log of nonverbal cues, gathering tells for our readers to peruse.

Eating

Over my shoulder, I watch a middle aged man buzz around a college girl’s table without landing. His hips can’t find a position to settle in. His fingers keep trying to find his waistband. She takes off one headphone. Nods a couple of times, slips it back on. He says one last thing. She slips her headphone off, but he’s already spun around. Turtling up, she gets back to typing.

On the far side of the counter, a man sits with no accessories besides his tea; no newspaper, paperback, memo pad, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. Laying his hands on the counter, he rests his eyes and bobs his head. For two hours, he says nothing to anyone. He never checks his watch, never looks to the door for anyone. He nurses his tea and moves on.

Take a close look at the variables. Make your covert calculations, show your work. Draw a connection between what you see and what you think you know. Solve for X. There may be more than one solution.

The guy to my right is tracking an iPhone on his computer. Compulsively refreshing his browser, he watches it move across the Mississippi through downtown Minneapolis. Nibbling his nails to nubs, he shifts in his seat. His movements can be felt along the bar. Clicking on his tabs, he checks a Facebook page. The user’s name is the same one attached to the phone in the map tab.

Recognize the patterns? Make your deductions.

A girl on the couch watches a man in a tattered jacket enter the coffee house. His beard does little to conceal the frost bite at his cheeks. Weaving through the customers at the counter, he makes a beeline for the men’s room. She moves her computer up her lap. When she has to go to the ladies room, she brings her laptop with her.

Don’t default to stereotypes, flex your imagination. There’s the obvious reason this happened, but what if there was another one? Play with your audience’s prejudice, turn it into a red herring. Gather up these visual cues and toy with their expectations.

Burnt

Sometimes the cure for writer’s block is a little risk. Sherlocking adds danger to the process. It puts the spark back into the romance.

I’m recording a first date from my front row seat, documenting deep sighs, and nervous ticks. Hanging on long pauses, my fingers tread the air before they resume typing. I’m live-tweeting a missed connection as it happens, catching more out of the corner of my eye than either of the participants.

The boy hovers over his seat before committing to standing. He’s in a sweater, dress shirt, and jeans. His date has a cocktail dress on. Opting for the hand shake instead of the hug, she smiles with her cheeks, but not her crow’s feet. Setting her phone on the table, her fingers walk toward it during lulls in conversation, a game of red light green light played with just one hand.

I know where this Match.com meet up is going before the couple can pronounce each other’s names. Neither of them have caught me rubber necking.

Close Up

There’s a line between reality and the game. Not everyone is roleplaying, they’re actions can’t always be explained. There might be a science to deduction, but for our purposes we’re treating it like an art form.

You’ll find your powers limited when you go out looking for affection, even more so if you’re trying to catch someone cheating. This isn’t about calling out liars, taking tells to task, or hurling accusations at lovers. If polygraphs are a junk science, you’re not about to break any cases with your ability to read faces. Your formula for recognizing patterns isn’t as strong as sodium thiopental.

You’ll never know exactly what anyone is thinking, so just chronicle the things they’re doing.

This is a game, if you add stakes, you’re playing it wrong. It’s about collecting mannerisms to be used later. If you can reverse engineer these deductions, then you know how to build subtext into your scenarios.

Let people give you character description that goes beyond clothing, traits to help your readers with their imaginary casting. They’ll give you actions to replace “said” before dialogue. They’ll give you expressions that contrast their words. Good characters aren’t what they say, they’re what they do. Great characters betray banter with bad behavior. Jumping from scene to scene, you can juxtapose their cool exterior around company with their burnt interior when they’re alone. Plant your setups in their awkward moments. Their expression can be the last notes for your chapters to go out on.

If you want your words to feel authentic plagiarize from real life. This doesn’t mean copying and pasting your journal into your work in progress, finding and replacing your name with that of your protagonist. It means replicating these little things, the observations that infer meaning.

The truth is only fun when it’s subjective. Good writing invites readers to sit in the jury box. It gives them all the evidence, but doesn’t draw their attention to the right exhibit until just before it becomes relevant. It deceives them by making appeals to their emotions, lining up a collection of red-herrings. Exposition is a bad witness, their testimony is hearsay, robbing the reader of their epiphany. Planting payoffs, good writing gives the reader several opportunities to have their own “Ah-ha!” moment.

By the time the author makes their closing remarks, the reader should feel validated for what they knew all along.

Writing Process Blog Hop

Demon Dog

Last Monday, I was invited to answer some questions on my writing process by @West1Jess. Check her entry on her answers at Write this Way.

1) What are you working on?

I’m writing a story about an abductee forced to aid her captors in hijacking her online identity. Cameron is one of many college students corralled into cages, marched out whenever her captors need information. She suspects they’re intercepting money transfers from the students’ parents, staging murder suicides when they’ve tapped all their victim’s funds.

What her captors didn’t realize when they took her, is Cameron is an aspiring author. She’s been hyper-blogging, tweeting up a storm, building up a massive following, a following that requires constant maintenance. Looking at all of her accounts, they realized they’ve bitten off more than they can chew.

Forced to pose in couple selfies, Cameron is paired with a boy who’s lied about his sexual orientation online. He hopes the friends he’s confided in will see these photos and know that something’s wrong. Cameron realizes her captors are staging this relationship for her followers. They’re using it as the reason to explain her shrinking online presence, and to setup her inevitable end.

Together the mock-couple conspires to screw up their captors’ plans.

2) How does your work differ from others in your genre?

Writing horror and urban fantasy, I’m not interested in using ready made monsters. Zombie stories are a dime a dozen. Vampires have been devalued, shelves are filled with books by different authors that use the same lanky cover models. Abandoning Victorian era villains, I aspire to invent entities for the age we live in.

3) Why do you write what you do?

I write the kind of stories I’m hungry to read: Twilight Zone fan fiction. I’ve always been attracted to heightened realities where symbolism is made flesh. Sometimes I use fantasy to cope with real world problems. Rather than approach subjects directly, I come at them askew. Anyone can write a journal entry about being lonely, but it takes a twisted imagination to write about an NSA agent using their tech to stalk someone.

I write a lot of what-if scenarios like:
What if a landlord tried to evict a tenant who was possessed?
What if the boss from hell didn’t realize he was interviewing an ancient Sumerian Demon?
What if someone’s future memoir started narrating their life in the present?

4) How does your writing process work?

I’ve stopped drafting. I used to write character bios that answer questions regarding their religion and their upbringing, now I like to discover those things. I call this “Writing Commando.” It’s writing without the tight binding underpants of scripted events. This method keeps me interested. Sure, I have an idea where the story is going in the back of my head, but that idea is fluid. You’d think I’d get writer’s block going at stories like this, but whenever I get stuck I ask myself, “What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen?” Conflict usually does the trick.

Hate to break the blog chain, but I’ve been too busy to reach out to too many folks. If you’re interested participating in the Blog Hop on March 4 drop me a line in the comments, include your bio, post your answers to these 4 questions on your blog, and I’ll edit this post to point folks in your direction.

Begging for Hits

Facebook's latest upgrade exclusively for content creators
Facebook’s new button exclusively for content creators

Introducing the Facebook “Beg” button, for when you’re not “Liking” or “Sharing” something you’ve discovered, but “Begging” for hits for something you made. Simply click the “Beg” button and your followers will see this message:

(your name here) asks if you have any spare attention for their link, God bless.

The “Beg” button gives your followers something to turn away from, while they spend their time clicking on Buzzfeed lists, misleading Upworthy titles, and misattributed celebrity quotes.

As insensitive as this analogy is (there’s no comparing those with passion projects to the truly needy) self-promotion can come across like panhandling. I wrote a blog about the feeling called “Every Little Hit Counts.” Here’s the premiere of the audio version.

(If SoundCloud is down, download the track)
(Download the instrumental version here)

As a blogger, I’m willing to do what it takes to direct traffic to my site. I have faith that if readers see my work, a few of them will enjoy it. My end goal is to sustain myself writing. Not fame or fortune, just the ability to do what I love for a living. This means I have to build a brand, to sell my work by selling myself.

Lacking a blueprint, I can never get the balance between humility and vanity right. I come across as a passive aggressive narcissist. This has more to do with my fledgling marketing abilities than how I see myself. For authors in the information age, embarrassment is part of the process.

Regarding this uncertain future, Neil Gaiman put it best, “Try everything. Make mistakes. Surprise ourselves. Try anything else. Fail. Fail better. And succeed in ways we never would have imagined a year or a week ago.”

Aspiring authors have to build up an audience before abandoning our books on Amazon. We can’t be too proud to beg.

So I put my hand out, “Every little hit helps.”

Twitter has been generous, most writers understand that tweeting the occasional link is part of the self-publishing process. Facebook has been less forgiving.

Twitter followers, with shared interests, embrace my goofy Photoshop self-portraits, while my Facebook friends require an explanation. I have supportive followers who comment on my entries, and a few proximity acquaintances who don’t care for me clogging up their feeds. Fair enough, you can always select “Hide all” or “Unfollow.”

This is why writers have separate Facebook author pages, that way users have to “Like” the page to see our links. The problem is that Facebook’s algorithm pushes my posts to less than a third of my followers, while links from my personal account get twice as many views. It’s a catch twenty-two, damned to obscurity if I don’t share, declared a self-obsessed self-promoter if I do.

I’m curious how the rest of you handle this. Have you had to lose followers to gain followers? Have you found a magic number for weekly links you can get away with sharing, or do you leave your website in your profile and hope people will discover it? I’d love to hear your answers in the comments.

I Wrote A Bad Article

Has this ever happened to you? You felt like posting a controversial opinion online, but feared the fallout from your followers. You could’ve let the whole thing go, but you wanted to say something, so you came at it from an awkward angle. You chose to be confusing instead of controversial. The greater your social media presence, the more eyes of judgement are upon you, so you vague-booked. You blogged ambiguously. You committed crimes against clarity. You reached out with oven mitts on, because you were afraid of getting burned.

I’m just as guilty of these lies of omission. This is my confession.

Tie in Mouth Cover

I Wrote A Bad Article

I had a sensational headline with a hook that guaranteed it would go viral, but for all my promises of heated debate, I’d written a tepid article. Expecting their triggers to be set off, the reader would find themselves shrugging. For all my big bold print and explanation points, my title was misleading. It was edgy in tone, but not in content. Rather than go to bat for my cause, I played it safe. Rather than tip the scales, I barely weighed in on the subject.

In my mind, coworkers were reading over my shoulder. Dating prospects were crossing me off lists. Relatives were filling up on conversations for next Thanksgiving. I saw my social media followers scattering. This wasn’t my usual platitudes with attitude. It wasn’t inspiring, it was alienating. I found myself revising more than I was writing.

My literary voice cracked. My writing persona got stage fright. I bit my tongue, I choked on it. I wasn’t about to showcase my untested material. I wasn’t about to go dropping any microphones.

Afraid to let my controversial idea slip, I reported the controversy. Sighting polarizing extremes, I said there were two sides to every story. Then I implied they both had equal validity. I was a shepherd, shaming my readers toward the center. I walked my flock down the middle of the road, because I thought it was safer there.

It turned out my muse had centrist views.

My position didn’t support the facts. My neutrality was a non-reality. I tiptoed around the issue, and lied about the topography. I built a straw man, not to misrepresent the opposition, but to obscure their identity. Careful not to name names, I went after their behavior, and ignored the cause of it. I condemned easy targets like I was the only one brave enough to do it. I was a voice in a choir of condescension, pretending to be the most outspoken. Meanwhile, a grave injustice passed by unchallenged.

I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t the message that mattered, it was the wordplay. My readers wanted wit, not truth in jest. Piling on pointless alliteration, I spruced up the form to conceal the function. I turned prose into poetry. I distorted a clear picture into an abstract painting.

Rather than acknowledge the opposition’s argument, I addressed the logical fallacies in how they presented it. I didn’t go high or low, I took the off road. I sidestepped the issue. Rather than attack a dangerous claim, I lashed out at how it was said, putting semantics before substance. My fallacy was thinking that pointing out the opposition’s deceptions proved them wrong.

I was afraid to make a statement until the court of popular opinion had rendered a verdict. I wanted to take a stand, but I was afraid I’d be crushed beneath the bandwagon. Those big wheels keep on turning. They have to pass before Captain Hindsight can say something.

As I typed, I saw the rebuttal editorials forming. I saw the trolls frothing. I didn’t feel like curating the comment section. I didn’t feel like I owed everyone an explanation. I wanted to speak my piece, not have a conversation.

I saw myself seated at the misfit table at the next wedding. I saw my classmates avoiding me at the next reunion. I saw future in-laws, armed with confrontation ammunition.

While other causes are finally coming out of the closet, my lobby isn’t exactly making a lot of friends. Our delegates come across as elitists. They’re not winning hearts and minds so much as getting the rest of us condemned. When speakers list different groups to celebrate a diversity of opinion, we’re rarely mentioned.

I couldn’t find a mouthpiece to hide behind, a source to quote that said exactly what I was thinking. So I laundered my opinion through a complicated analogy, hoping that no one would see my words for the story. Afraid to talk politics and religion at the dinner table, I peppered them into a different conversation. I made ambiguous allusions, so I could get off on a technicality. I made noncommittal statements in case I needed to shrug off my beliefs.

I wrote a bad article. It compromised the truth in the interest of fairness. It compromised my journalistic etiquette by being politically correct. It committed a wrong by not fully addressing another wrong. It omitted evidence in the interest of balance. It looked down on the reader from the middle ground. It turns out the half way point between the truth and a lie, is still a lie.

I’m a liar liar, and I burn my pants in penance.

Panicked

10 Statements

portrait

I wrote 10 Statements for Karen Oberlaender’s author interview series. My answers are as quirky as anyone who follows this blog might expect. They’re up on her site now. Check them out and follow her on Twitter @okiewashere.

How to Get More Hits By Baiting the NSA

How far are you willing to go to gain new readers? My plan for getting on the bestsellers list through the watch list.

Tinthumb Proper Formatting

As an aspiring author, I’ve done some shameful things in the name of self-promotion.

Convincing someone I dropped a capsule in his drink, I told him the recipe for synthesizing an antidote was on my main page. Of course, the crucial ingredient was blacked out, until he signed up for my mailing list. One fifth degree felony later and I’d scored a solid hit. Not too shabby.

Calling in an anonymous tip, I said there were glitter bombs planted throughout the city. Thousands of citizens would have to explain why they looked like they had just come from a strip club. I said the only way to find my powder kegs of pixie dust was to listen for clues hidden throughout my podcasts.

Breaking into the morgue, I slipped letters under corpses’ fingers. I kept reloading my stat counter, waiting for the pathologists to spell out my web address. Shopping for a lawyer, I hoped to drag the trial out with the old “alternate reality game” defense. Spending the afternoon with my mother, we put together an outfit we felt a jury would really like. Alas, there was no arrest, no national news coverage, no excuse to model my fancy new duds.

Desperate for a retweet, I played Russian Roulette with one of my followers. Too bad I didn’t realize a victory meant he couldn’t deliver on his side of the wager.

Okay, maybe I didn’t do any of those things, but those are the claims I need to make to attract my target audience.

I’m drawing out people who scan for keywords like lives depend on them. There’s more than one way to grow your SEO. That’s why I’m baiting the NSA to investigate my blog, in the hope of gaining new readers. The patriot act guarantees me a captive audience of inadvertent promoters, provided I use just the right words.

Pie Chart

Sure none of my threatening language has any teeth, but it’s not like the government’s surveillance has produced any solid leads.

Isn’t it about time someone found the rainbow at the end of the PRISM program? Isn’t it about time someone gave those agents a break from playing World of Warcraft all day? Isn’t it about time someone Rick Rolled the government?

Getting on their radar is phase one of my master plan. I’ll have to hook them with national security-centric stories. I have a number of social media shorts in the pipeline. If I can get them to comb through my words, a few might find my writing compelling. If a small fraction of the agency starts following me, I’ll skyrocket to the top of everybody’s WordPress feed.

Most bloggers would think I’d be better off putting out quality work, but they’re just jealous because they didn’t think of this first.

Many Ties

With the explanation out of the way, I’d like to address those of you who are members of the National Security Agency directly. Before you go crying, “Obstruction of justice” remind yourself who’s stepping on who’s fourth amendment rights here. Now that I’ve got you searching and seizing, I might as well show you something. I’m not committing a crime. I’m not wasting your time. I’m taking the initiative. I’m thinking outside the box. Way outside the box.

I figure, if you’re sifting through everyone’s emails, then you’re bound to know a few publishers. Could you put in a good word for me? Sure, I believe that speech should be free, but I’ll leave a PayPal donation button incase you feel like paying a fee. Check out my Amazon wish list while you’re at it. When you’re done transcribing my posts for the record, don’t forget to hit “Subscribe” while you’re here.

If I can turn my pursuers into promoters than I’ll have a street team with more reach than anyone.

I’m taking the tape off my webcam, the gum off my microphone. I’m dialing the operator and leaving the phone on. Talking to myself, I’m letting you in on the plot. I’m waving “Hi” to my Playstation Eye. See anything that you like? Ignoring the flashing red light in my shower head, I’ll strut around naked wearing nothing but a smile and a tattoo of my web address. I’ll leave my iPhone on my pillow in case anyone wants to watch me sleep.

Privacy is dead. We live in public. I’m not hiding my shame, I’m inviting you to look at it.

You can listen to me sing If I Only Had a Heart in my tinfoil hat. Watch me try to fashion my tie into a pinwheel knot. Watch me lip sync Lorde’s big single. This is your intelligence empire, and we’ll never be royals in it, but maybe you could grant an audience to one of us commoners.

In the graph

Waiting at the bus stop, I expect to see well dressed men, reading newspapers, constantly itching their ears. I expect to see reel to reel equipment carted into the neighboring apartment. Watching the ceiling, I’m waiting for drill dust to fall into my hand.

I hear snapping, but I don’t see a fiber optic lens.

I expect indiscriminate delivery vans all the way up the block. Peaking through the blinds, I expect to see red dots on my chest. Taking the dog for a walk, I expect to see drones circling the apartment.

If you can’t be bothered to break out the surveillance scope, then I’ll get the megaphone. If your satellite doesn’t have a clear view, I’ll bust out the chainsaw and make one for you. If you can’t put a tail on me, then I’ll give you FourSquare updates for everywhere I’ll be. This is the information age people. How hard is it to stalk someone?

Come on! Haven’t you been reading my search history? I’ve been looking up, “How to turn napalm into orange juice concentrate.” Why isn’t anybody investigating me? My mom says I’m surveilable.

I’m calling in an anonymous tip on my sparkling wit. How many Guy Fawkes masks do I have to order to get some attention around here? How many times do I have to say, “Snowden” in front of the mirror to get an audience to appear? I’m yelling “Crowded theater” in the middle of a fire. I’m threatening bombs with wire cutters. The president and I, are threatening Death with his own scythe (the bald personification of Death as seen in The Seventh Seal and Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, not the condition).

If that paragraph doesn’t get your algorithm’s attention, nothing will.

Good Numbers

Come on and get your snoop on. I’ll even give you a reason. The First Amendment has limits, and I’m skating on the edge of them. The time has come to settle up my tab with the Bill of Rights. My stories meet all the requirements for my freedoms to be regulated. Watch I’ll prove it.

I direct hate speech, at colorful adjectives and purple prose. I show religious intolerance, to warlocks from parallel dimensions. I issue true threats, to fictitious characters. I use inflammatory language, to describe the swelling of their limbs. I bring about a condition of unrest, as a plot device. I use words that wound, beloved supporting cast members. Treasonable talk, comes from my villains’ tongues. I use sexual harassment, as a cheap trope to get my audience to root against underdeveloped men. I use slanderous, obscene, fighting words, in my dialogue. My verbal attacks, often come without character attribution so I don’t have to break up the pace. Imminent lawless action, gives me a great cliffhanger to end my chapters on.

I’m exactly what the Supreme Court had in mind when they rendered that decision (for those of you who didn’t major in Constitutional Law and English Literature, the preceding paragraph had a lot of inside jokes in it).

Tinthumb salute

I will wave to my oppressors. I will link bait Big Brother. I will troll the secret service. My path to the bestsellers list will start with the watch list.

I’m putting in a surveillance request on my novel, bug that thing inside and out, and then tell me which parts you liked the best. You can be the Gawker Media to my Quentin Tarantino. Take a sneak peak at my first draft. You have the technology to give some feedback to me. I mean, what else are our tax dollars paying for?

May my review section light up with glowing endorsements like, “This book is a clear and present danger to your free time.” I aspire to write intelligent stories for the intelligence community. Something so good, rogue agents will prefer it to stalking ex girl friends.

Many of you intelligence operatives are artistically inclined. You can be my legion of ghost writers. If you can take over my keyboard, I’m open to suggestions for my Highlander fan fiction. If there’s a copy editor among you, feel free to correct me when I use “heel” for “heal” or “decent” for “descent.” Hunt down my adverbs, and take them out with extreme prejudice.

Maybe I harbor a fear that you might take me up on all this, broadcast my shower cam, and send in Seal Team 6 to wash my mouth out with soap. Maybe you’ll have my citizenship revoked, and ride me out of town like Jonathan Swift, just for few modest proposals.

That may be the case, but I say satire that doesn’t take risks is ridiculous.

So to my fans at the NSA, who might black bag me for a private signing, I might go and cry on the shoulder of the ACLU, but at the end of the day you know I love you.

Besides, if you do detain me that could be great publicity.

Eavesdropping Advisory

Weather DrewA warning to rude people, on behalf of writers everywhere. We’re issuing an eavesdropping advisory: if you don’t have an indoor voice, expect to end up in one of our stories. If your temperance drops, and you put a shrill into the air, you’re begging for a role in our next adventure. If you blow white noise conditions out your molar vortex, we owe it to future generations to make a record of it. If you’re a severe weather friend, letting out an arctic blast every time you vent, we’ll be there to chronicle it.

To those who suffer from line blindness. Who steal spots because they feel entitled. Who complain about having to wait, when they couldn’t be bothered to make an appointment. When you say you want to give management a piece of your mind, we’re the ones who really take it.

We welcome you line cutters, you unsatisfied customers, you unexpected guest lecturers. When we need a character’s bile to come from a real place, we eagerly await what spills from your face. It might be toxic, but we won’t let it go to waste. We write what we know, and we learn from people like you.

To the megalomaniacal moviegoers, arguing with actors on screen, we’ll make sure that your dialogue gets to the right place.

To those who throw temper tantrums at tech support, we’ll pay special attention to how you’re wired, to where your screws are loose. We’ll find your glitch. Check your terms and conditions, we reserve the right to do whatever we want with this information. Your call may be recorded for training, quality, or entertainment purposes. Your anger may find its way onto one of our pages.

When you scream, “Am I just talking to myself!” We’re all ears, writing your soliloquy into our screenplays. When you feel like you’re shouting at a brick wall, we’re on the other side building a monument in your likeness.

If there’s a big book tallying up all of your sins, who do you think is keeping score? Never piss off a writer. We’re Santa’s little helpers. We decide who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. We decide who gets shown in a positive light. If we see that you’re always in the red, that’s how you’re going to be painted. If you ignore other people’s perspectives, we’re not going to see your good side.

When you pose statements in the form of questions, with valley girl up speak, we’ll be there to note the inflection. When you lob back handed compliments at your friends, we’ll be there to catch every last one of them.

When you drop F-bombs on civilians from coffee shop couch cushions, gossiping about the other members of AA, we’re the ones writing the flight manifest of your Enola Gay.

You’ve crossed the line, from annoying to entertaining. We went from shutting you out, to tuning you in. It’s not in our interest for you to calm down. We want to egg you on. It would take a boardroom full of comedians, working several months, to punch up lines of dialogue to your level of crazy. You’re doing all the work, and we’re grateful for your charity.

If the potential for conflict is visible, we aspire to make it audible. Conflict is the heart of drama. Be a drama Queen and you will rule our scenes. Be a diva and we’ll give you a place to sing. Every opera needs a prima donna. Every story needs an antagonist.

Send your minestrone back three times in a row. Ask to speak with the chef. Hand out reprimands with your demands. Remind your server that she’s working for tips. Read your nasty Yelp review out loud just incase the staff doesn’t think to search for it. Bravo, you’re perfect!

Drive your knees into the bus seat. Choke the life out of your cellphone. Shout into the receiver until you’re sure your voice is distorting on the other end. Point a finger at a person who isn’t there to see it. We’re casting for The Terror of Metro Transit, and guess what? You just got the part.

We’re the lurkers, the creeps, the ones with records to keep. We’re the quote bookers. We face away, because it makes it easier to hear what you say. We’ll be the ones to accept the awards for your tell off speech.

It’s your audacity that gives our voices authenticity.

If you can’t say something nice, then say it to our faces. You’re an expert quip handler and we’re here to take your tongue-lashings. Thank you mistress, may we have another? We’ve been bad. You should give us a talking to. You’re a control freak, so dominate us. Rake us over the coals. Break us down. Break our writers’ block while you’re at it.

You are rife with material. Take it out on us. Scold us. Berate us. Take us to task.

Good, we can feel your anger. Strike us down with all of your hatred and your journey to the quotation mark-side will be complete.

Now your cruelty belongs to the ages.

Pointing

Author Interview: Drew Chial

@akmakansi did an interview with me on her website. I get very candid on the sins of self promotion. Check it out:

Author Interview: Drew Chial.