Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Favorite words

I've got a long list of favorite words and phrases; I'm sure I use them all the time when I'm talking. They pop up in all my first drafts. The short list:

needless to say
as a result
per se
vice versa
furrowed brow
on the other hand
I think not
that (I find "that" everywhere in my drafts!)

It was fun looking through a first draft and picking out my pet words and phrases. I'm a "pantser": I blurt out everything I can think of in the first draft, globs of backstory, disconnected events, notes to myself,  text in different colors where I've inserted notes about the notes about the notes. No one but me can make sense of the first draft, nor the second. It's often not until the third draft that I have a story with a beginning, middle and an end.

And punctuation. I've been known to type long passages with no punctuation so I can get an idea on paper.

But I can be blind to my pet phrases; before I send my work to an editor I search for pet phrases using the search function in Word: occasionally a page with light up with yellow highlights when I thought I'd done a terrific job of excising the devils.

Want to see more? Squidoo has a list of commonly overused words. And my favorite, Lake Superior State University's list of banished words and phrases.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


I should have known that you can buy Twitter followers. Celebrities real and manufactured are paid to turn up at functions; the fan magazines of yore were filled with studio-generated stories, and yet, I was fascinated by the sheer number of companies that sell Twitter accounts (two dozen or more). How does that work?

From the article Fake Twitter Followers Becomes Multimillion Dollar Business in the New York Times:

"...fake followers were typically sold in packages ranging from $1 to $1,000 for 1,000 to one million accounts. For instance, Fiverr sells 1,000 Twitter followers for $5.

Those fake accounts can be sold to multiple buyers — in fact, buyers prefer that the accounts follow others to make them appear more authentic. Web tools that try to tell fake followers from real ones often look at an account’s inactivity or its following-to-follower ratio. The more people they follow and the more active they are, the more authentic they appear.

'There is now software to create fake accounts,' Mr. De Micheli said in an interview. 'It fills in every detail. Some fake accounts look even better than real accounts do.'

The most coveted fake accounts tweet (or retweet) constantly, have profile pictures and complete bios, and some even link to Web sites that they claim belong to them. But in many cases, a close look reveals that some of the accounts were set up purely to retweet material from specific sites."

Are you wondering where the fake accounts are coming from? Doesn't someone somewhere have to fill in at least the basic info? There is name-generating and automatic form-filling-in software; but what about the more sophisticated sites?

In 2011, there was a flurry of headlines about Chinese prisoners forced to play World of War Craft to build up virtual credits that the prison guards would sell to gamers for real money. I imagine Chinese prisoners feverishly creating Twitter accounts; or a virtual maquiladora in Mexico or perhaps a sweatshop in the USA. I've seen a couple of interesting Craigslist data entry at home job offerings that fall that could be create-fake-accounts.

However, fake accounts may be the ultimate best way to make money on Twitter, to wit:

--$1 million: how much fake-account businesses claim they can make in one week.
--1,000: A typical batch of fake follower accounts is sold between this and one million.
--$18: the average price for 1,000 fake followers.
--$30: the highest amount some sellers brag they make per fake account.
--125: how many daily retweets you can get for $150 a month. On the cheaper side, $9 will get you five retweets a day.

The funny thing about me musing about Twitter is that I don't Tweet. I know I can have an account and see what my friends are Tweeting. I am intrigued with the 140-characters-at-a-time poems, stories, novellas and novels. And no doubt I'd be tweeting away if I still lived in town and had a cell phone... but there you go, live on an island...

Monday, April 1, 2013

Stage IV

What your cancer story?
When did you realize something was awry?
Did you find it yourself or did your doctor tell you?

And what did you do?

I'm working on a story in which multiple characters are diagnosed with cancer and I those voices must be authentic.

The crux of the story is a friend who knew she carried both BRCA 1 and 2 and who had many women in her family of breast cancer. Grandmother, mother, sisters, cousins, a daughter.

She ate well, exercised regularly, raised her family, and tried to live each day to the fullest all the while knowing that she might be diagnosed herself the next time she was in the doctor's office. Her diagnosis of Stage IV breast cancer -- came when she was 55. She opted for no treatment. After seeing so many women in her family through chemo and radiation she decided it wasn't what she wanted. She lived for three years after her diagnosis, a year longer than any of her family members who had treatment. (Which is another story.)

She asked me to write her story, and I agreed. My first step is to listen to the stories of other people who have had cancer: all of you who are willing to share.