What I Learned This Summer

The computer people lied to me in high school.

Old classic computer

I'm a child of the 70s and 80s, and when I started high school, I was told that everyone was going to need to learn the programming language BASIC and COBOL. "Just to get through your day, even if you're a businessman," my computer teacher told the class, "you're going to have to know programming. Everyone is going to be programming."

Halfway through the year, he admitted that he didn't actually believe that.

He was also my typing teacher, except we didn't have enough typewriters or computers for the entire class. Those of us who weren't blessed with a keyboard were given a photocopy of the image of a keyboard and sat there twice a week poking the paper. At the end of the semester, he would stand behind me and watch me finger slapping a picture of a keyboard.

"You're not improving, Brantington," he missaid my name. It was the first time he'd ever spoken to me directly. Then he pronounced my grade based on how accurately and quickly he thought my sweaty fingers had moved. "C-."

So I've always been a little distrustful of the whole computer thing.

I spent this summer turning around 25 years of conditioning. Okay, 30 years of conditioning. My good friend Sunny has guided me through small press promotion for mysteries, so I've been engaged in a crash course. I've been putting in long work weeks writing, which has been great. It's helped to keep my mind off some personal sadness Annie and I had lately. I'm to the place that I understand some things, and I don't think I'm going to have to work constantly to keep up.

In fact, I was in Morro Bay this last week, and I've been keeping up with it all in between moment of extreme relaxation.

(This is as far as Ann will go into the ocean.)

Anyway, here's short list of what I've learned about computer networking and what can be done when I don't have the whole summer.

1. Blogger sites like authors.com, bookblogs.com, wanatribe.com, and crimespace.com are easy and fun if you like to blog at all. Great potential for promotion and they're filled with like-minded people. Some of the conversations are boring but many are good. There are a number of really negative people on these sites, but 98.554% are not.

(This is as far as Archie will go.)

2. You (or maybe just me) must time how long you stay on these sites or they will eat your life away and leave no time for writing or reading. Hence the egg timer. I spent 8 hours one hot summer day chatting and blogging and posting and reposting and I didn't even realize that I'd done it.

3. Most blogger sites will allow you to write blog posts and delay their publication dates. I'm set up for blogs through December and I have a bunch more to put up. This is future promotion without any work for me when I will be most busy.

4. People like my own blog when it's short and interesting. Well, I suppose that's obvious.

(Morro Rock -- Also the site of one of my favorite Huell Howser episodes "WOW! This is high!")

5. Other bloggers are looking for content. Guesting on blogs is a great way to create content.

6. If I have insomnia in a motel, I can send out about 50 stories and poems in a long night to publishers. Not a bad idea, and it's better than sitting there watching a rerun of Maud. For years I've advocated sending out one a day, but I've learned to use my insomnia for me.

7. I need to write about more than just promotion  on this blog. I'm going to start blogging about my research too. What kind of research do I do? Most of my stories (and the sequel to my mystery novel) happen in national parks and natural wilderness area. I research through trips into the wild. This is my research and coming soon!

Anyway, I learned much much more in my long summer of re-education. This isn't all of it, but these are the main reasons I will be able to keep going in the long months of frantic teaching coming up. I can do promotion in about an hour a day, and really keep going well.

What about you? Have you learned anything about promotion for busy people? I'll tell you what -- let's make this a give away. I have an old, used copy of a Nero Wolfe novel that I will give away to the first person who posts a good idea for low-impact ways to promote your work.