Just had a book signing this last weekend, and anyone who's hung out with me at any book events knows the deal: If readers sign up for my newsletter during the event, they get entered to win free reads from yours truly!
Big thanks to Jackie for a great conference and book signing. It was great meeting lots of new readers and reconnecting with some author buddies I hadn't seen in a long time.
As promised, our winner from Rust City Book Con's book signing is: Lisa A!!!
Lisa, I'll be emailing you with the information. Feel free to pick out any book I've written, and it's yours in digital format of your choice. Thank you and all of the readers for supporting authors at events like this!
So I thought about naming this post “How To Make Your Tweet Go Viral”, after my (in)famous pool float/women’s menstrual pad tweet hit over 8 million impressions. But then I realized that I had ZERO idea what the hell happened and could speak with zero authority as to how to reproduce these results.
Instead, we're going to do a postmortem on the insanity generated from this one itty bitty, flippant, off-the-cuff tweet.
First of all, let’s provide some background for those of you who don’t know me. I try to navigate the fine line between promotion as a developing author, but also avoid totally outing my physician self. Why the secrecy? Because most physicians are now employed, and their respective Big Brother (BB) employers are increasingly becoming too involved in their non-physician lives. Case in point, an ER doctor colleague who finally “came out” with her real name on Twitter. Turns out she was writing thoughtful, patient-care focused, and status-quo challenging blog posts. No HIPPA violations, no snark, nothing inappropriate to any objective observer…except her employer. Dismissed without due process or recourse. Just because they didn’t like the hint of being challenged, and rather than deal with patient care issues raised, they preferred to fire the physician instead.
Over a week’s vacation from Day Job recently, I had one of my hardest running weeks, probably ever, as I’m training for a trail marathon. In case you didn’t know, trail marathons are just like regular road marathons except muddier, buggier, longer, and nastier than their refined road-based counterparts (which are also no cake walk). During that same week off, I had one of my toughest writing/editing weeks in a very long time. Given that one of the training runs was over four hours long, I had time to think. A lot of time. Too much time.
Seems that marathon training and writing aren’t that much different, after all.
Before I leap into the analogy, I need to make myself crystal clear on both topics. Full disclosure. I am in no way a great athlete. This chunky bod is getting dragged 26.2 miles (hopefully) because, well, the challenge is there. I’ve wanted to do a trail marathon for >15 years. Now is my chance, and you bet your left bunion, I’m downing the biggest bag of Cheetos + a Blizzard after I finish/collapse/die as I cross the finish line in dead last place. Also, I will not be setting any land-speed records. In many respects, that’s like my writing career. I’m not a bestselling anything. The writing happens because I need to/want to/enjoy it and I want to always improve. You can bet that writing consumes a huge amount of time and it’s exhausting. Also, Cheetos.
Pull up a chair, my friends. I’m going to tell you a story. It’s the story of how Hubs and I met. Pretty much encapsulates our entire lives together.
It was a cold but sunny February day in a cold area of the country, and I was skiing that day while on call because…I like to tempt fate. (Hey, at reckless speeds, I could go from the top of the mountain to the hospital in 25 minutes, so…close enough.)
As per usual, I got in the “Singles” line of the ski lift. You know, the line where you’re skiing alone? Fine. Also, the Singles line because, a few years earlier, I had gladly jettisoned Bad Decision from my life. And had no intention of attempting any more Decisions for a long, long time.
So, this guy also got on the lift with me because…singles line. He had a snowboard attached to his foot. Strike one. He was wearing a Hawaiian shirt over his thermal shirt. (It >was< a sunny day, but really? Hello, overkill.) Strike two. A helmet and reflective goggles completed the ensemble. Okay, I’d spot him those items, because…safety first.
You guys, I’m super stoked to be giving two talks at ECWC this October. If you haven’t heard of it, this is a fabulous writer’s conference. I’ve been lucky to attend for the past 4 years now.
The very first talk I attended as a writer – ever – was Cherry Adair’s master class, given at ECWC. The title of her talk escapes me, but her course involved spending several hours learning about character development. It was frankly, life changing relative to my writing process. (If you ever have a chance to hear Cherry speak, don’t ask questions. Just go.) The other (writing)life changing piece was her advice to use medicine as part of my author platform. You see, I’d gone into that first conference thinking that no way would I share with anyone that I’m a physician because #1) writing credibility reduced and #2) privacy. So basically, yes, I was clueless.
Cherry took all of ten seconds consideration before saying something to the effect of “Honey, that’s your platform. Use it.”
As it turns out, blending medicine and writing? Not so difficult, since there is zero way I can completely separate Dr. Jill from writer Jillian. And once I figured out the privacy piece, I feel a lot better about the blend. But what I did this year with the workshops at ECWC takes that blending to a scary new level. This where I put it all out there, together, and see how it goes…
A few weeks back, I was reading a chick-lit sweet Amish story* with lots of police procedural elements. Totally got immersed in the world and believed every detail that author dished out. Why? Because I had zero clue otherwise. My life is the exact polar opposite of “police procedural”. And legal stuff? I can’t tell the difference between “so moved” and “sustained”. Lordie help me if someone wants me to define a tort. (If I’m not mistaken, that’s a lovely lemony treat, right?)
Then in that same novel, something medical happened where stuff like guts or blood or bones or some anatomically gross thing happened. Of course, I’m eating all of that description up like…well, like a yummy torte…because of my Day Job. (I kind of dig blood ‘n’ guts.)
But then it happened. The author tripped and fell down. Like, total swing and a miss. This awesome, immersive experience grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and hurled me out of book. Kind of like when in one of the Star Trek episodes they get thrown out of warp and how jarring that was with space-time and atoms splitting and stuff? Like that.
Recently, I was cleaning out my email in-box and ran across contest entries, emails, and queries that I sent, way back when the world was good and pure, and the possibilities for becoming an author were endless. One thing became super clear: I didn’t have a single clue what I was doing.
Now? Still learning, but I do have a better grasp on what I am supposed to be doing and what seems to work in my little nook of the universe.
#1) Time management = everything. Especially for those of us working full-time jobs. A day or a week off is GOLD. Give me a few post-it sheets for my to-do list and I will set the world on fire. (Not literally. That would be super bad.)
#2) Let editors know your time frames. Because of my weird work schedule, I am on call for 7-10 days at a time. During that time, my writing brain pretty much shuts down and I live in on-call doctor mode. It’s not in anyone’s best interest for me to have deadlines or interviews or projects due during that period. I do my best to let folks know this information in advance, or will try to pre-emptively complete projects early when I know these blocks are coming. I’ve been caught out a few times where I didn’t give enough lead-time on my time limitations. Like many professional areas, I need to work more on time transparency.
#3) Marketing still kind of stinks. There’s no magic bullet. There’s no one thing to do that will make a book visible. And social media will eat up all of my time, if I’m not careful. Over time, I’ve cultivated some marketing sites that seem to work for me. For right now. Things change constantly.
It’s been 12 years since I wrote that first (awful) manuscript. Wow. Looking back, it’s clear I had no clue about publishing, and very little clue about writing. That’s not to say I didn’t >think< I knew a lot! Ugh.
Here’s a mishmash of what I’ve learned. Maybe it will help other writers or writers-to-be. Hopefully it will keep others from making the same mistakes that I’ve made.
Image via despair.com
#1) Overnight success isn’t overnight. Marketing/social media makes it appear like it’s overnight. Rarely is this true. I don’t know if I can claim the robust definition of “success” yet, but I wrote my first book in 2005. My first published book (which was NOT my first book written, BTW), was printed in 2015. That was a goal achieved, even if a small one.
#2) If you’re going to be clueless, at least be pleasant. I didn’t know beans about publishing and etiquette, and thus I kind of Mr. Magoo’d into asking for something. And got it. (Stars and planets had to have aligned that day. No other explanation.) That conversation could have gone either way, and frankly, I got lucky.
Recently, I responded to a series of colleague’s tweets regarding the way an intern was treated. https://twitter.com/CadenceDO/status/823300940895842311 The intern was part of a team that cared for a young adult in the ICU, and they had to withdraw life support. (I know nothing of the situation, but withdrawing life support generally occurs when brain activity is not present.) So, one of the most gut-wrenching events to experience not only for the family members, of course, but also for the medical personnel caring for the patient.
The tweet story went on to explain that once care had finished, the intern asked to step away for a few moments in private and collect himself. (Or herself. Interesting side question: would this story play differently if the intern were male or female?) The intern was then given a negative evaluation comment by the attending physician because the intern displayed emotions.
Because there are times when when I get drained and need to recover, this story generated a ton of thoughts and concerns.
#1) Are there instructors out there teaching our medical students/residents to “not feel”? Let me be clear: if medical professionals lose their humanity, then health care is no better than being treated by a robot. Quite frankly, I don’t want to be treated by people who have zero emotional response if I live or die. And also, I don’t want to BE a treating physician who has no emotional response to my patients’ situations.
#2) Let’s talk burnout. There is a direct correlation with suppressing emotional distress/stress and the development of burnout. There are papers upon papers written on this subject. People have developed freakin’ CURRICULUM about how to “talk through” these stressful times with peers, family, or counselors. Training a doctor to suppress the very thing that makes them human? Cruel. Destructive.
Okay, roll up the sleeves, it’s year two of the judging adventures for RWA’s 2017 RITA awards! Cannot wait for my packet of books to arrive. It’s really like Christmas! I talked about my first experience of judging RWA around this time last year and how, well, not super duper qualified I was to judge the contest.
So, from that basement, there's nowhere to go but up this year! How am I going to up my scoring game for this year’s RITA’s? As I described in the March 2016 post, there’s really no consensus explanation of how to score or what the numbers really mean. What does a 6 mean? What does an 8 mean? Is Judge A's 9 the same thing as Judge B's? I don't know. I haven’t even tried to figure out decimals, and therefore, we will work on that later when I arbitrarily award decimal bonuses. Yeah. I said it. Decimal. Bonuses.
Author, daydreamer, and practitioner of trying very hard to duct tape folks together and help when I can.
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