This marks my 1010 blog post. When I started this blog in September 2011 it was recommended as a way of enlarging one’s audience for relentless self-promotion. There was talk about how a blog would generate a vast following of eager fans & one’s life would the talk of the world. I quickly realized that only happens for blogs about kittens & puppies.
Over the years my following has slowly built to 200. People follow me because they want to not excuse they want me to follow them back so they can spam me with their posts about kittens & puppies. Perhaps spam is too harsh a word. I follow a fair number, some of which I actually read & sometimes comment on. What I read regularly has to give me content I enjoy & not just another simpering poem about their girlfriend.
I’ve added photos, nearly always my own, which lead me to my Tumblr photo blog. I started slowly with reviews of poetry shows, theatre I’d seen, my travels & workshops I was taking. Gradually my focus expanded & contract at the same time. The blog is ultimately about me me me & how I see the world. As it became more structured it started to write itself. As it became more regular – at least 5 posts a week – it was easier, if a bit more time consuming, to keep it up. I love getting hits from around the world & for surprising places – one day over a dozen from Kuwait! North & South Korea! It’s become an effective, if limited, tool for sharing what interests me. I say limited because I have yet to go viral – most hits for a single post is about 150 – I know some people who get thousands of hits but I’m just not willing to do posts about kittens & puppies 🙂
What is your working title of your blog? TOpoet.ca
Where did the idea come from for the blog? a short course at UofT that looked at increasing one’s audience via electronic media.
What genre does your blog fall under? mixed – poetry, spoke-word, writing, short-story, stage – something just me opining from my ancient queer point of view – plus my photographs or photos of me performing.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? John Garfield.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your blog? Toronto-based poetry vulture/social bloggerfly shares his arts/culture/entertainment adventures, with random photos and cynicism thrown in.
Will your blog be self-published or represented by an agency? self-published – as will be any of my literary expressions. Though I wouldn’t say no to being paid $750 a week to blog as I do either 🙂
How long does it take you to write the blog/how much time do you put into it? The blog is ongoing – I post 3 times a week and a single post can take up to about two hours just to write. Wednesday is usually my yak about poetry post, Monday, Friday review of spoken-word shows I’ve been to – I always include some of my fiction or poetry. I always include photos I’ve taken around the city – lost, discarded items or things that catch my eye.
What other blogs would you compare this story to within your genre? Too many to list.
Who or what inspired you to write this blog? Partly to raise my online presence. Life With More Cowbell inspired me to write about the poetry scene – something that wasn’t being covered – the non-slam poetry scene.
I also saw that blogs that hold my interest have a general focus – arts or writing. So I wanted to give mine more of a focus.
What else about your blog might pique the reader’s interest? You never know what might show up – a review of a flea market, a trip to Stratford, another serialization of one of my novels – glimpses into the life of an old bald gay guy – who could resist that?
When I set out to upload my novel, City of Valleys, I didn’t realize it would take 70 excerpts and seven months to do the job. It certainly filled up my blogs pages and the number of ‘actual’ hits I got has steadily increased, even some new followers, and subscribers. Some get email copy of each post which only count as hits if they click through the blog (as opposed to just reading the email).
The next step will be a proof-read edit. Then I’ll contract it out for the final preparation for smashwords. I’ve read the style guide and could probably do it myself but I’m lazy. If it were as simple as uploading my present Pages version I’d do it, but it has to be formatting in some non-Mac program with all the Mac coding stripped out – too much work for me
Plan is to get it ready for October. I’ll have to delete all the excerpt first though because Amazon price point always equals the cheapest on line – so if I have it free here they’ll automatically price it free as well.
Last Friday I got out to my first writer’s group meeting – most of whom are writers I know from Loyalist. Felt good to be with such an attentive, tough bunch of fiction writers. I’ve tried to get into a couple of groups before only be told there’s waiting list in such a way that it was clear they didn’t think I was worth their effort – ditto for some of the poetry workshops around – by invite only apparently & no one thinks I’m worth inviting. Such is life 🙂
The writing sample, rough draft, is first part of the piece ‘Compound’ I submitted to the writer’s group. Part 2 Monday.
The hostages were unhappy. Even I could see that but what was I to do? Overseeing captives was new to me, a promotion in fact. It had come quite unexpectedly. I’d been in the security branch of the service corps for several years. Kept my nose clean. Did my job, did what was asked without question.
I was proud of this advancement, more responsibility meant more respect, more money. The day I got notified I was Overseer, I couldn’t wait to tell my lover. He merely nodded. He never really approved of the corps, even though he found the uniform erotic. It was dark red with blue piping in the pants – blue stripes on the arms for each small advancement, then gold florets that equaled five stripes. I had five stripes but wouldn’t get my first floret till I had a sixth.
I flourished my arm with the the five stripes. Good things were bound to follow. That finally I was a son any father could be proud of.
My lover, as I said, wasn’t as pleased as I was. He said only war could follow. Did I want war, people to die, so I could get gold florets.
When we made love that night he was distant and mechanical. I didn’t tell him he’d regret this coldness if I died in war. Guilt never leads to passion.
The hostages were sullen. Grim faced they walked the perimeter of the exercise field, scowling up at the cameras as they passed them.
My second-in-command suggested we try talking with them again. The hostages refused speak our language and acted as if they did not to understand us. Each time I had tried to talk with them had ended up with them slouching into the dark corners. Even when our linguistics experts spoke to them in their language they acted as if they didn’t understand. There was no way to reason with them.
There were nearly two hundred captives in our compound. Each bore a random number. No names were to be used. I had a troop of twenty-four under my command plus my second-in-command. All good men and women. None of whom could communicate with the hostages. We had tried everything – mime, writing in the ground, pictographs, hieroglyphics.
Each attempt made the hostages more fearful. Blame was clear in their eyes, as if it was our fault for not trying hard enough. As if communicating with them was our job but it wasn’t nor was it our job to make them happy or comfortable.
We merely had to keep them alive till their nation met our demands.
My lover snickered at my frustrations. The fact that the war wasn’t my idea didn’t soften his attitude. Not that I cared, in fact, his indifference challenged me when we made love. I strove with a new found passion that left him limp and gasping when I was satisfied.
The hostages were restless. They paced their compound fast for a few laps, then slow, then they would stand huddled in groups of two or three in each of the corners. One of them in each group looking sullen at the cameras that followed their every move. We used sound sensors to pick up their conversations, to find out what, if anything they were plotting but I didn’t feel any threat. Well, I did sense a threat but knew that anything they tried to do would be an exercise in futility. But they never spoke, not even to each other. Even though my orders were to confine and protect them – to see that no harm came to them I wouldn’t hesitate to kill to one keep the others in line. Besides, after two weeks, they still hadn’t spoken.
We had had no word from Capital City for several days now. Communications lines were staticy and even when they worked would stop in mid-transmission. Our enemy had damaged our communications system with their bombs and their ultra high frequency jamming devices. Some days even the Internet wasn’t working.
I would go home after my day at the compound and look for some sympathy from my lover. He would snort and tell me that I shouldn’t act so dismayed, this is what life with captives is like. Both keepers and captives pay a price. My price was to be drained. I asked him why he was so bitter, told him it wasn’t my fault we were at war, that we had to do what was necessary to protect our fragile economy. After making sweet love he rolled away from me in the bed with barely hidden disdain because they hadn’t drained me of everything.
I lay in the bed beside him looking at the moonlight on the wall as it moved, dimmed and brought in the morning while I counted his breaths, my ears snuggled into his quiet sighs as he rolled unaware that I was wanting his touch once more. A touch that would make this war all worth while. What difference did it make to me if it didn’t make any difference to the ones I loved. The ones we were supposedly protecting yet who felt only a sense of discomfort when we tried to tell them what this war was like.
There had been no supplies from Capital City for over a week now. We were running short on water and food for the hostages. We had taken to rationing. I could tell they were unhappy. They stood in doleful clumps in view of the security cameras. Their eyes wide and glaring up at the lenses, through the lenses at us, pleading for something but unable to tell us what it was.
Perhaps they are thirsty my second-in-command suggested. I cursed at her that there was nothing I could do. We had barely enough water for the troops. I was taking water home to my lover to keep him happy too. The village’s water supply had been tainted in the last uprising and this war had come so fast on its heels we hadn’t had time to set it right. It wasn’t my fault. It had happened before we were stationed here. I explained this to my second-in-command who was no more understanding and sympathetic than my lover.
My second-in-command had children to worry about. Her babies, she told me. I knew this but chose to ignore it. I told her that she shouldn’t act so dismayed, that is what life of captives is like. Both keeper and captives pay a price. She toyed with the handle of her pistol and glared at the monitors as the hostages loomed at the security cameras.
Some of the hostages began to hover in front of the security cameras blocking our view of the compound. The operator was forced to swivel the cameras gently which caused the images to break up, smear across the monitors. We knew they were up to something.
I stationed guards along the perimeter of the chain-link fence to keep human eyes on them. The hostages would gather and stare. Hatred and frustration glinted from their dusty, dirty faces. This was the first time we had come face-to-face for several weeks. Even when food and water was delivered we merely put it in the eating room of their compound while they were in the open air yard.
The smell was so unpleasant when we did this that our sympathy for them was diminished. Who could feel compassion for people who didn’t wash themselves. Even with limited water it was possible for them to keep clean.
Once again I attempted to communicate with them. I stood at the gate and called out a solemn hello. At first they paid little heed to me. Then two of them walked warily over to the gate.
With crusted eyes and dry voices they made noises at me. I explained slowly that there was a problem with the supply route, that even my own men were suffering from the same lack as they were. That I had to decide between water for them and and water for my men. It was unfair to all.
They looked at me blankly. They didn’t understand. Or they refused to understand. One of them spat at me and turned away. The other stepped closer with an apologetic shrug. He was unshaved. Unwashed. There was something familiar about his eyes.
He smiled weakly. Blood ringed his teeth. He fell to his knees with with a sob. One hand reaching out to me palm up for something. What could I give him when I didn’t understand what he wanted.
I had the gate opened and two of my men picked him up and brought him out. His eyes were rimmed with red.
The hostages shuffled quickly to the gate as it was locked shut again. Fear and dread in their eyes. I assured them that we wouldn’t hurt this man. But perhaps I was lying. I didn’t know. They wandered off.
At Cabaret Noir we celebrated Cate McKim’s (Morecowbell) birthday. Cate’s blog is one of the ones that inspired me to keep on bloggin’. Not that I would have stopped, but her reviews of local arts, exhibits, live theatre & cd’s launches, showed me there was a place for that sort of grass roots stuff. There are enough blogs reviewing books, movies, TV etc. – but, as far as I could tell, no one was writing about local readings.
People read reviews to decide what they want to see or read so who wants reviews of what are essentially one time events? The participants for starters, & people who have missed the event. So I took up the challenge & have been enjoying that structure.
Another blog that has been an inspiration for me is Wide Awake But Dreaming. Cassidy blogs nearly daily about the travails of writing. Often funny & always insightful – Cassidy’s book ‘Her Demonic Majesty’ is a great read, too.
I suffer from a social medial disease that leads me to expect more than can be delivered. When I see fifty rsvp accepts to a FB invite I learned not to anticipate all fifty showing up but nor do I even expect any of them to show up. I don’t quite get this sort of people pleasing – afraid not to accept the invite but then not caring to show up at all?
Since bumping up to high-speed a couple of years ago I was able to increase my social media presence with FB, then WordPress, and Twitter. All on top of my various email accounts, YouTube, Yahoo Groups. Over 200 FB friends merely means more status updates than I can keep track of, endless invites to events I’ll never go to – but I do say no rather than fake yes or maybe. That way if I show up it comes as a pleasant (I hope) surprise.
I have some 40 likes for my City of Valleys FB page, over 4o subscribers to my WP blog, 40 twitter followers – yet rarely do I get more than 20 hits for my WP page – except when I do a spoken-word review.
But I suppose that’s better than no on-line presence at all. No publisher will accept an author who does not have a web page of some sort – many publishing contracts now include that as a must. So I’ve done that and have learned how to comport myself. Unlike some I don’t pester my few twitter followers with constant reminders about my web pages or flood their feeds with a endless the same # anything that eventually covers everyone on my list as some do regularly. Keep simple.
My social medial disease immunity has built up some. I know that being on line is merely being on line – it isn’t a real connection with everyone on any given site. Many of us are only connected so we have numbers not friends, so that we have numbers and not even an audience, we have numbers not sales. Such is life.