Social Media engagement is crucial, but what works and what does not?
Last week’s post about how I see my blogging numbers decline seemed to have hit a nerve with writers. It’s been very well ready by colleagues and several have made very valid comments. Many of you rightly point out that blogging alone isn’t a good strategy. Blogging needs to be part of a greater social media strategy. I completely agree, and I’ve mentioned some of the things I do. Yet here’s the challenge with social media: it’s a bit of a moving target, and I don’t see it move in any predictable pattern (am I wrong?), which makes it difficult to choose what to do and when. In this post, I’m trying to show what I do, what works and what doesn’t, while also asking you to continue to add your voice to the discourse, so that we all may learn and improve our approach to getting word about our works out there.
Why blog and use social media in the first place?
I began to blog and use social media long before I began to write professionally. Originally, for me anyway, my reason to be on social media were purely personal, and egotistical. I am a social being. However, as an author, I need to get the word about my books out to people, because I want my books to be read, not just because I’d like to make a buck off of it, but also because I actually (weird, eh?) believe that my books have a message and should be read. Yeah, I know, not very humble, am I?
And since I can’t afford to buy shelf-space at book stores or advertising space next to the New York Times bestseller list, I have to make due with other ways of reaching out to potential readers. Needless to say, I’ve tried most. I have tried advertising in literary magazines, I have paid for ads on Google, Facebook & even “Gollumreads”. The challenge for me has been (and is) that I can’t really see the ROI of it all. I’m shooting blind, because I’m not a self-publisher, and I can’t bother my publisher to give me up to the minute sales numbers to see how an ad is doing. I wish I could, but their time is at a premium, too.
One of the wisest things anyone has ever said to me, years ago, when I started was this:
Your next book is your best advertising for your latest book.
You have to be in this for the long haul.
I don’t have any data or insights to disprove of this. I’ve been writing professionally, more or less since 2013, so this is my fifth year, and while my very first book, Jonathan’s Hope still is my bestselling novel (which sort of proves point 1), I’m not sure I’ve been in this long enough to really know about point #2. Besides, in this very time frame, reading has continued to decrease, and particularly in my genre, reading has been slashed by several ugly fights on “Gollumreads” in Gay Romance related groups, which ultimately affect those of us who do not write mainstream even more, as gay fiction is a stretch to read even for avid gay romance readers.
Professional v Personal
When I began to write, I had a Twitter account, and I had a personal Facebook account, and I blogged. Most visitors to my blog came from my Twitter account, thanks to Triberr (a blog sharing aggregation tool). Over time, I added an Instagram account, a Pinterest account, and – finally – opened a dedicated Facebook page for my author self. I’ll briefly address the various channels separately, but one of the things I’ve always felt challenged about was the line between personal and professional, and how to use #hashtags properly.
I’ve always been very WYSIWYG, I have few secrets and my personality shines through. I can even discuss private matters without blushing, so my take on the above subheading has always been Professional AND Personal. I don’t see them as contradictions. I think you can be personal while still being professional, in how you express yourself. In this, I try to apply the age old adage:
if it’s not fit to be said publicly, don’t say it (online).
Sometimes I fail at that. I am only human, but overall, I think I do a pretty good job. Because here’s the thing, and I’ve said that to countless young people I’ve spoken to over the years: once posted online, it CAN become public at any given point. Just because you think you’ve sent it to a friend doesn’t mean they can’t share it, copy it or even take a screen dump. Heaven knows I’ve made quite a few screen dumps myself…
I also think that readers in general prefer us to be human beings rather than automatons who only share about the professional aspects of our lives, book readings, conventions, signings, writing. Readers, in order to connect with us, want to see that human aspect. Frankly, I can’t blame them. I am no different in how I relate to other public figures, actors, singers etc.
Facebook, the one social medium who rules them all?
I resisted Facebook for a long time, holding out because of privacy concerns. But when my husband turned thirty, and I tried to throw him a surprise party, I knew he had many friends on Facebook, from university etc, people I didn’t know. When I joined, I had over forty requests from old friends and people I hadn’t been in touch with for years. I was instantly hooked.
My use of Facebook has changed over the years. Nowadays, most of the people on my “friends” list are probably readers. I say probably, because I simply don’t know them. Mind you, I’ve become pretty good at vetting and no army major in Afghanistan and no plastic bosom passes by my argus eyes. However, when readers friend me, and I don’t know them, they are placed in one of my lists and unfollowed. Why? First of all, I only have so much time. I can’t be bothered to read about the grand-child or someone I don’t know, while I miss the death of a loved one to a real friend in my overflowing news feed. That happened once and it was awful.
When my writing turned serious, I resisted the Facebook page for the longest time possible. Many of my author friends have separate profiles for their author selves, and I just couldn’t. I don’t have a pen name (I do have a pen age instead, much smarter) and I would go nuts trying to keep the parts apart. Besides, it’s not really kosher with Facebook policies, and I’m one of those people who don’t really like to break rules unnecessarily.
Eventually, in order to see what posts “work” (i.e. are being read) and to be able to advertise, I did open up a page, but yeah, I’m not big enough to matter to people. I have almost 1,700 friends right now, but only 650 or so who’ve liked my page. For a while, I stopped updating my page, but recently I’ve been posting there again, to make sure it doesn’t wither and die completely. I’ve also done some advertising for my most recent novel, and had good “click through” results, but whether or not that impacted on sales I won’t know until July, when I get the numbers for Q2.
For me, Facebook is where I spend most time. I do so because most of my friends around the world are there, not primarily because of my writing. As soon as I start to think about “I should post a writing something”, I feel awkward and “salesy”, and that just isn’t me. But as far as i’m concerned, Facebook is at the core of my social media activities.
I once dubbed myself the first retiree from Twitter, and just possibly the first one to come out of retirement, too. Today, I’m approaching 8,5K followers, followers I’ve gained organically. I’ve never paid for followers, because I fail to see the point, even though such accounts follow me regularly. I rarely tweet directly, it feels a bit like standing on a mountain top, screaming into the void. Yes, someone might hear you, but yeah, the likelihood isn’t big. And at 140 characters, it’s just not my tool for discourse. It’s more a shouting and screaming match when things get heated, not really allowing for a balanced discussion. I had a wee shitstorm a while ago, when writing about minorities, and let’s just say I’d rather not do that again.
Triberr, used to be a great tool, to share great content with your Twitter followers and get our own stuff out. Today? Mostly broken. Fewer users, and people not sharing any more.
In conjunction with Triberr, Twitter used to be a great tool, but sadly, so many of my friends (some of the people I’ve met on Triberr years ago are really good friends now, and our relationship stretches far beyond just the T&T) having had their Twitter accounts blocked because of “suspicious automated tweeting” that many have given up on Triberr. Even I had my Twitter account frozen recently, while I was in the U.S. using my U.S. phone number so that I couldn’t immediately recover it. It’s annoying and I can definitely tell that fewer people use Triberr now than a year or two years ago. People share less, and yes, they post a lot less, too. I recently stopped paying for my Triberr account, after having spent over $1,200 on it annually. I just can’t justify the ROI any longer. For now, I’ll continue to use Triberr, and I have no reason NOT to use Twitter. It’s great for searches on hashtags and for special events like #ESC2017, to get really close to the action.
I began using Instagram because “everyone else” was. Or so it seemed. I have less than a thousand followers, and unlike Twitter where people seem to follow back to gain/keep followers (I’m being very selective), I only follow accounts when they have great pictures, i.e. pictures that interest me. Yes, I do see too many cats on Instagram, and I prefer to see nature photos, and I personally try to emphasize photos of natural settings, intermixed every now and then with a funny family photo. I just can’t with people who only post selfies. I just don’t have the time for it. Once every few months, sure, but daily? On Instagram, I get comments and loads of likes when I use great hashtags, more so than anywhere else. I try to not overdo it. Some people use 15-20 hashtags, and when they also share it to Facebook, it gets really annoying. But alas, I guess they have a reason to. I go on Instagram once or twice a day, more to relax for a minute than to post. I sometimes go days without posting, and I’m sure that’s “bad”… But hey, I have a life.
What for? I tried. I really did. I had many boards, and I pinned and re-pinned, and I still didn’t get it. This is the one social network that has always eluded me, and given that most of my author friends are in gay romance, the number of pins with half-naked men was just too much. I don’t regret not using it any more. I understand from comments that some people really love Pinterest, but it wasn’t for me. I loved the images of nature, but I get those in Instagram, too, and they’re not as tied to links and commerce as they are on Pinterest. And don’t get me started on all the memes…
Oh my… Why did I ever agree to replace my daily blog posts with a weekly YouTube video? But I try to keep it up, as difficult as it is, because of 2) above. But yeah, compared to fashion and make-up tips, the Author Cave isn’t exactly aimed at a large audience… LOL And yes, my book trailers are posted there. I guess YouTube is more a hobby than anything else. I just like to play with Final Cut and video editing. Does it sell books? I wouldn’t know.
Tumblr, Snapchat and others
I had an account on Tumblr for a month, to make a point to a young friend. But I never posted and I don’t use any other social media outlets, although there are dozens of them. I tried Snapchat once, when it was new, but yeah, it was more of a “show me your dick here” safely, because it’ll be gone in 24 hours, and I didn’t have that particular need. And when I see all the many filters people use, all the anus kissing faces etc, I realize I’m probably 35-40 years too old for that particular medium. I gave up years ago.
Goodreads, Meet your next favorite troll…
Same with “GollumReads”. I go in every now and then to approve new contact requests and check messages, but yeah, I don’t read reviews or engage. GR is like the darknet of writing and reading. So much hatred, so many trolls. I just can’t be bothered with it. I post reviews there for the books I read, but that’s it. Sometimes, I do a giveaway and I’ve recently advertised a bit on it, but alas, the results won’t be clear until Q2, and then the question is, will I be able to know how it relates back to GR?
I know many authors like it and that’s why I keep sharing reviews there, largely because I know most authors I review and Amazon is bitty about that aspect. I also have an account on G+, and if anyone ever figures out what the use of that thing is, I might use it for more than just spreading my YouTube videos there…
With social media you just have to focus. We only get so many hours to spend every day, and while it’s a generous amount, a third goes away for sleep (at least in my case), and I also need time to cook, eat, look after the house, family and work. My social media allowance comes partially from the “work” aspect, but also from my spare time, which is limited as it is. I’m not going to waste it on unessential stuff.
A moving target
Am I missing any great new medium out there? What’s the next big thing? It’s my impression that Facebook is still the “rings to rule them all”, and using the right hashtags on Twitter and Instagram is the way to go. It’s how I search for stuff, and I don’t think I’m that much of an oddity. But yes, using social media is difficult, and I was caught by surprise by the swift decline of Triberr and thus Twitter for my blog. While my blog posts used to be shared 150-200 times by other bloggers on Twitter, that number is now less than half. Even a post as successful as the one last week has only been shared 111 times. Well below the average I had a year ago.
So what’s next? Will Twitter have a resurgence? Will anus kissing selfies on Snapchat and floral hair filters be replaced by serious book snaps? Will Instagram flatline? Will the next update to the Facebook algorithm drive people away? Apart from my personal challenges in measuring my sales, not being able to tie them to a specific source, I also try to stay grounded and not focus too much on “likes”. Then again, without counting likes, how do you know what works and what doesn’t?
What’s your take? Is there a next big thing in sight? Do you measure your social media impact on sales? Are you able to trace results back to the source? If so, willing to share how?
Thank you for reading this, and if you liked it, subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or feel free to interact with me on social media: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram.
Maintenance: to keep your author site up to date, and other little chores we all have to do
Good morning. It’s been a weird week for me. I’ve had handy men in the house every day this week, and I just didn’t get a chance to sit down and actually do any writing. Go figure! So I did maintenance on my authorship. Well, mainly my website, but you know what I mean. But before I jump into that, let me go back to last Saturday:
I finally got to meet Michael Bakkensen at my table at the Rainbow Book Fair. Great guy!
New York, the city that doesn’t sleep. I arrived timely on Friday night and went straight to my lodging to basically go to sleep. My host, Brent Cope, is also an author, his debut was published in December, so that was a bonus. I slept for a few hours (you know what jet lag and a new bed is like) and was up early enough for my day: Rainbow Book Fair. To meet lots of old friends, like cartoonist Greg Fox, Michael Murphy, Johnny Williams et al.
I also, finally, got to meet the man who narrated my first audio book, Family Ties, Michael Bakkensen. Great guy and we had breakfast the next day up where he and his gorgeous family live. Quite the treat! I can’t wait to work more with this talented actor. The day went by in a haze. It was scorching (for a Swede) hot that Saturday and yeah, not as many people attended as I could’ve expected, but I sold a few books and only carried home three. So that was really good.
So difficult to choose a shot of New York, but I really did enjoy seeing this part of town with the Brooklyn Bridge looming in the background. Photo: Private
Andrew, a New Yorker in training (his words, not mine), and I spent Saturday night in the company of the hosts of GayTalk 2.0, the ultimate (it is!) podcast, having a great dinner. Sunday was sightseeing, and I don’t think I ever walked this much in one day. We started out downtown, at the new subway station slash shopping center, the Oculus, rode up to the top of the Freedom Tower, before we began to walk through downtown, down to the piers on the east end by Southport, over the Brooklyn Bridge into Brooklyn and Dumbo (an area between the Brooklyn foundations of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges), walked back to Manhattan on the latter bridge and finally walked all the way up to the 14th street subway station via Christopher Street and the Stonewall Inn (I had actually never been there before). Phew! I was exhausted that night.
On Monday, I met with another person who’s been following my writing career for years, photographer and artist Alina Oswald. We’d first met after she’d written an amazing review in A&U Magazine for my novel The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, and we became friends in the years since. She was the first to highlight the HIV component in the novel. Not that I wasn’t aware of it, but I never saw it as an HIV novel, yet given that Haakon is positive means a lot to a community who doesn’t have a lot of role models that are described in a positive way.
Anyway, we had brunch and then she took some new photos of me. She did an amazing job, and Central Park basking in sunshine were the perfect backdrop. Here’s just one example:
Photographing author Hans M. Hirschi in Central Park, NYC. May 1, 2017. Photo: Alina Oswald
After that it was time for me to head home to Sweden, and you guessed right, maintenance and handy men. They came Tuesday, an hour after I reached the house, and immediately went to work, tearing down parts of the tiled wall, redrawing water pipes etc. Let’s just say they’re still not done. The installation of the bath tub proved more complicated than they thought… They’re coming back today, one last time, I hope.
Meanwhile, when not serving them coffee or checking in on progress, I spent time working on my website. I tweaked the look and feel, and replaced the static images on the book pages with a neat little Amazon plugin that allows readers to get a preview of the text and buy the book straight from my website. Neat little feature!
I also added a plugin from a site called Authorgraph. I know it sounds “wrong”, but alas, that’s the name of the site. It is geared toward ebooks, and allows readers of ebooks to get autographs for their cherished possessions. You should check it out. I’ve uploaded all my works. It doesn’t add the autograph to the book, but if you have a Kindle account, it will add the page to your Kindle. I can personalize the greeting and – once I get my hand on an iPad large enough, I might even be able to personalize the signature (signing with my fat digit just feels weird and looks yikes!)
Did I ever mention my “Donation” button? I added that a while ago. Now I’m not expecting to make a fortune through it, but if you like my work, if you appreciate my blogging or my videos, or my books, you have the possibility to support me with a voluntary donation. Why am I doing that? Since I can’t make a living on my writing, this is just one way to possibly earn a few bucks extra. I have been considering a Patreon account, but given my obscurity and how “unknown” I am, the extra work to fulfill all the promises you have to make to get funding, I just don’t think I will have the time to do it. Who knows what the future holds.
Anyway. It’s Friday, the week is almost over, and hopefully, after a week of mostly maintenance, I’ll get back to writing next week. I have a novel to finish in time for GRL this fall. But not today. The sun is shining, and I just need to get those workers focused and out of my house so that we finally, two weeks late, get our new bathroom…
Have a wonderful weekend, and if you like what you read, subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or feel free to interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram.
My name is Ayla is a much needed story about honor or what honor is not
Two Novaks in one month? The girl is productive. Just a couple of weeks ago I reviewed her novel Love of the Game here and it’s already time for a new release from this productive Gothenburg author. My name is Ayla was originally commissioned as a Holidays short story, with a Christmassy feel to it, but once Phetra got going, it developed into something else entirely. My Name is Ayla is a novella I wish every high school kid would read, particularly if they live in a city like ours, Gothenburg, where people from over 130 cultures live together, mostly peaceful, but yeah, not always.
And a pretty cover it is… Ayla looks stunningly androgynous and the main canal of Gothenburg so peaceful. But don’t let the calm deceive you!
I once wrote a blog post about honor, and how what many cultures consider honor is the very opposite thereof. Young men and women are locked up, locked in, abused, and sometimes even killed in the name of preserving their family’s “honor”. I have to use quotation marks, because there is no way that family “honor” can ever be used without that. I had an incident last year, where I made sure that my family compensated an elderly woman after a minor (!) traffic accident where a relative of ours handled the situation below par. I felt it was the honorable thing to do. But make no mistake. This wasn’t about the Hirschi Family honor, this was more about me being able to look myself in the mirror. I felt very sorry for the old woman and wanted to make it right. Now, point two here: no violence. Not like I sought her out to take her lights out. Quite the contrary. We sent her flowers and chocolates and a nice card apologizing for the emotional trauma the accident had put her through. Afterward she called my uncle (I did this in his name) and she was very happy.
But to keep people from loving the person they choose or fell for? NO, that’s never honor. That’s cowardice. To claim that a woman’s virginity (which biologically doesn’t even exist) is what upholds a family’s honor? Says more about the men in that family… But it’s not about honor. It’s about misogyny and cowardice. Phetra dives right into that. Now I know Phetra, she’s a great friend and I know she really, really cares about these issues, and she would probably singlehandedly save every single boy, girl or person threatened by their family. But alas, how? And who?
My Name is Ayla is a story about educating people about the risks of the so called “family honor”. Ayla is a trans woman who is almost beaten to a pulp at the beginning of the story, and I got to read an early ARC to facilitate my honest (as always) review. I didn’t know what to expect from this book. The cover looks so innocent, the cover model androgynous and beautiful, the view of the city peaceful, but this book is anything but peaceful. The pace is fast, a lot happens in the 40K or so the story comprises. And it’s hard to talk about the story without giving away the plot. But needless to say, you’ll need plenty of tissue before you’re done with it. This story will shred you to pieces emotionally, because the story of Ayla, while fictitious, has far too many parallels to the real world, from Fadime Şahindal to countless others, in Sweden and around the world. Often, such cases never even make the light of day, because victims and perpetrators hide behind the veils of their cultures.
Here’s the odd thing about “family honor”: our western societies, where we’ve mostly left this shit long behind us, do not understand what is going on, how girls suddenly disappear behind veils, or are locked up after school, we often choose to ignore the shiner under their eyes or their bodies. Even deaths are often mislabeled as suicide, because we just don’t expect a mother to push her daughter over the balcony on the fifth floor. Instead, it’s an accident or suicide. Worse, it is really difficult for anyone to talk about this. Given the tensions between the western world and the Middle East, the refugee crisis, the terror by ISIS etc. anyone who criticizes people from the Middle East for their actions or deeds (or culture) is quickly labeled an islamophobe. However, and this is really the crucial thing here. This is about culture, not about religion. And it’s not limited to the Middle East. This occurs within Christian families as much as it occurs in Jewish families or Muslim families (Shia or Sunni), and the Middle East is home to orthodox Christians in several countries, from Turkey, to Syria, Egypt, There are pockets of Jewish populations in Iran, too.
I couldn’t agree more! Phetra is an extremely talented writer with a heart the size of a small town!
Ayla’s family is Persian, and they’ve lived in Sweden for a long time. Ayla’s parents were born here, so you assume they’re well “integrated” (a cultural buzzword here) or even assimilated. They even celebrate Christmas, even though they are Muslim. But when Ayla comes out as a trans woman, all hell breaks loose. My Name is Ayla is a story you do not want to miss. You will be touched by it, and at the end of it, you, too, will want to do something about this.
I can’t recommend this story enough, even though it’s still painful to think about it. My Name is Ayla is published by “Cool Dudes Publishing” and releases today May 1, so head on over to Amazon to get your copy!
Have a wonderful week, and if you like what you read, subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or feel free to interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram.
My annual royalty statement is a disappointment, although not much worse than last year’s
My publisher had a little surprise for me yesterday. My annual royalty statement. Now I get my statements (and payments) from Amazon every month, but since I only have one 99c title left, there’s never more than cents trickling through. All my other books (novels and my short stories) are published by Beaten Track Publishing. I’d been sent the Q1 statement but had long ago forgotten about it (repressed?) When I got my statement, at first I was glad, the numbers looked nice. I’d sold more than I thought.
But then I went back and looked at my Excel file, compared numbers to 2015. I’d done a BookBub (lucky me?) then and managed to get over 15K copies out to people. Sadly, it didn’t help me at all with my sales. So discounting that, I’d sold about three books per day in 2015. In 2016, the numbers shrunk, Q1 was still okay, but the rest of the year? Overall, I didn’t even sell two books daily. Yeah, that won’t pay any invoices for sure. I got an invoice for an ad in a literary magazine this morning. It’s almost the same amount as my royalty payment for last year. It’s the fourth time I pay that amount… Or you could compare it to one of my five installments for my GRL sponsorship, or the fact that it’s less than I pay for my B&B this weekend in New York.
Which makes you wonder: WhyTF am I doing this? Why am I still investing in trying to sell my books since obviously so few people buy them? One thing’s for sure, it’s not the financial aspects, it’s not because I get rich. The genre I write in (LGBT) and the fact that I’m not writing (fluffy) romance, were originally not conscious decisions, but still.
My latest novel, one I’m particularly proud of.
Okay, rant over! 🙂 Luckily, I only get this reminder once a year. LOL If I look at my Amazon author profile, I can still see that there are millions of authors who sell less than I, and they obviously make even less than I. Readership is decreasing, piracy is increasing, and I would just like to add this to the thirty or so who will read this post: please don’t pirate books. It’s not just about the theft of our hard labor. It’s also about cyber security. When you get something for free (like a book or a movie), don’t fool yourself into believing you get it for free. You’ll also get malware, trojan horses and what not, used by really bad people in DDOS attacks or to spy on you or others. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Just remember that!
Will I see you tomorrow?
So, as crazy and as much of a waste of money it is, I’m flying to New York today, to participate in the Rainbow Book Fair (provided I get into the country tonight…) From noon tomorrow Saturday until six p.m. hopefully thousands of visitors will browse books and talk to us authors, maybe even listen to a reading. I’ll be reading from my latest novel Last Winter’s Snow. I just need to finalize the selection. If you are in the tri-state area, please consider a visit to New York. To set up a book fair like that isn’t easy work, and relies on a great many people’s hard (unpaid) work. See you there?
I’ll keep writing. When I read about the horrible situation in Chechnya, where the leadership under Ramzan Kadyrov promises to exterminate (!!!) the entire LGBT population before the end of May (when Ramadan will begin), my blood freezes in my veins. We haven’t seen this sort of persecution since World War II and the recent killings in Uganda. But I also see how priests in the U.S. want to see us killed, how LGBT rights are questioned even where progress has been made. I see the beautiful images on my Dubai screen saver (compliments Apple), yet I know I can never go there with my family, as the very existence of my family is punishable by death! Just imagine that. So no, no Dubai for me. But i will keep fighting for my siblings, whether they’re gay, bi, lesbian, trans or intersex, queer or otherwise, for our right to happiness, our human and civil rights. I fight for myself, and for my son, for his right to grow up into a better world than the one I grew up in.
There is no amount of money you can place on human rights, so I’ll keep fighting, even though I lose ten to fifteen dollars for every buck I make. #ImWorthIt #Resist
Have a wonderful weekend, and if you like what you read, subscribe to my monthly newsletter with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or feel free to interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram.
Those two words “thank you!” can hardly be used too much…
Yes, thank you.
I mean it. I was just talking online to my self-appointed vPA Tracy about the negativity online, and she does have a point. Seems we have a propensity to not only put our feet in our mouths, we go to great lengths to shove the entire leg down our throats. Trust me, not how deep throating was meant to be done… shrug
There is so much negativity, so much bickering and infighting, and I’ve been reminded of just how vicious we can be in the LGBT community. We fight about what letters we should use, who belongs under the rainbow, who doesn’t, what an ally is, how they’re to behave (or not), and who was the first to march under the rainbow. yawn
It gets really old, really fast. Instead, why not show some gratitude. Here’s a few of things I’m grateful for (in no particular order):
- Amazon. Yes, I know, a bit of a love-hate relationship, but without Amazon, I would sell one less book a day. So I’m grateful for the fact that they’re around for us indie authors.
- Facebook. Oh yeah, I could write books about the time I waste on this place, but every now and then, there’s a post that makes my cry, laugh or – like a few minutes ago – a post from an old friend who’s flying to town. Yes, Facebook does help me stay connected to my friends, no matter where they are, and when we meet IRL, over coffee, it’s all the better.
- My talent. No, I’m not cocky. I know the limits of my talent. But I’m a passable writer and I love the stories my brain concocts. Even better for me, I happen to have a publisher who thinks those stories are good enough to be published for a global audience. I mean, come on. Out of 7.5 billion people, only about 10 million are published authors. I’m part of this 0.13% of the world’s population. A tiny minority, really, but one I’m proud to belong to.
- My family. It’s easy to be proud of your loved ones, of course. I love my amazing husband, a smart, intelligent, accomplished and wise man who makes me proud, every day. And I love our son, this most amazing of accomplishments of ours. But our family is so much more than that, there are parents, bonus parents, grand parents, aunts and uncles, people who have shaped who I am, my beliefs and convictions, my core values. I wouldn’t be who I am without them.
The sight of this cover made me cry, that’s how great it is. I captures the essence of the story perfectly.
- My friends. I don’t know how many friends I have. Define friends? But I have enough people around me to fall back upon if I ever need any help, if I need to unload, vent, cry or crave hugs or laughs. There’s always someone, and that’s good to know. Thank you all. <3
- My co-workers. The friend above is actually a former co-worker, a supplier of mine even. And I look forward to seeing her again. She’s an amazing person. I’ve worked with some of the most amazing human beings you could ever imagine, people with a wide array of interests and fates, intelligent, caring persons from all walks of life and from all over the planet, each and every one of them shaping me, nudging me in new directions I couldn’t have imagined without them. Imagine… Right now my co-workers are all remote from me: my editor and publisher Debbie, who’s just “wow”, for lack of a better work. Always challenging my pre-conceptions, not taking bullshit from anyone, least of all me, this woman is a force to be reckoned with, and that is the best that could’ve happened to me. My cover artist lives in Edmonton, smack in the middle of fucking-nowhere on the North American continent, a place scorching dry in the summer and freezing cold in the winter. That’s where Natasha creates some of the most amazing cover designs I’ve ever seen, covers that at times had me weep. No kidding.
- My readers. An author without a reader is really just a writer. It’s the audience that brings our writing to life, turns it into great stories. I don’t know how many readers I have. I have met about thirty of forty of you, and I love each and every one of you, for your kind reviews, your words of encouragement and love, the amazing things you say about my work. Without you, I wouldn’t keep doing what I do. And even though I count the number of books I sell a day on one finger, whenever one of you takes the time to write to me to tell me how a book of mine touched you (or helped you touch yourself in the case of Ross Deere), those letters are the best letters any man could ever wish for, except for the letters from the bank saying someone deposited a million bucks on my account… Guess what kind if get more of? 😉
- Volunteers. Whether your name is Reese, Marc, Ethan, Carol, Dani, Jonathan, Elin, Charlie or whatever, the people who organize the events we get to go to are just the best. Pouring virtually thousands of hours into these events, making sure we authors get to meet our readers and fans, in beautiful and safe surroundings. There are no words to do you guys justice. You are simply the best! Thank you.
- My colleagues. I learn from my author friends and colleagues. They are smart, witty, some are incredibly intelligent (despite the feet and legs in their mouths at times), and not only do I enjoy their stories immensely, they also inspire me, and they do teach this ole’dog new tricks.
- My trolls/fiends/haters. Yes, believe it or not, I’m grateful for them, too. As weird as it is, they show me how I never want to be, ever. And your trolling reviews add cred to my mostly raving reviews, so fuck you and thank you for that, too! 😉
- GayTalk 2.0. I’m “thankful” for my girls Trish, Chris and uncle Tom who couldn’t help themselves but mention their hunger & desire for my wiener on their podcast. Horniest (or is it corniest?) and most clever pick-up line ever. Get in line boys. There’s plenty for all three of you to feast on. But they do owe me a new appearance on the show, for sure… And does that mean I finally get laid?
So much to be grateful for. Yes, I am an optimist, I smile and laugh a lot. Thank you for giving me many reasons to.
Tracy. I gotta say thanks to Tracy, my personal lady-in-waiting, the Lady Sorry AssHair. That’s her faghag name. Don’t ask. It’s a thing. And while I wish she’d limit the number of times she’s sorry for the world’s state of affairs to maybe ten times a day, that girl has more heart than is healthy for one woman. I’m so grateful for all the work she’s taken upon herself, and how she helps me out, without pay or compensation. I try to make it up to her every now and then, but yeah. I fail miserably. Sorry Tracy. 😉 And thank you! <3
So yeah, lots to be thankful for. And thanks to Tracy I managed to write a reasonable blog post. More thanks in place. Thank you.
Have a wonderful weekend, and if you like what you read, subscribe to my monthly newsletter with giveaways and competitions, or feel free to interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram. Like I said – and I really mean it – I like to interact with my readers, and since you’re not in the hundreds, I still have the time to, so take advantage and reach out…
Love of the Game will have you crying, laughing and horny, maybe all in one chapter, most certainly before you’re done reading!
The fair Lady Phetra warned me, repeatedly, before sending me the ARC of Love of the Game:
“This is not a book for you Hans. It’s about hockey and BDSM. You don’t have to read it!”
She’s like a mom, you know? Never knows when to quit the hovering and protecting. Y’all know how much I like a challenge, right? So of course I insisted on reading it, even though Phetra used her best tricks to delay the inevitable, including sending the ARC form a server where she must’ve known that the .mobi file would be removed as a potential threat to public health and safety… I had almost given up before I finally had it in my hands! Alas, now I’ve also read it. And yeah, as you’d expect, this review is entirely based on my own views. Trust me, you’ll see why when you read it… Phetra’s going to kill me!
The cover of the book. Created by Ian Brown, IB Art Studio
So, yeah. Another venture into BDSM (whiny ‘yay!’), but like Caraway Carter’s masterpiece 7 with 1 Blow which I reviewed last fall, this is not your run of the mill BDSM novel. I’ve read a few of them by now, and the more I read, the more I learn. In Love of the Game Ms Novak explores the differences between “domination” and “abuse”, and I think it’s fair to say that I agree with her distinction. Caraway made the same one as the premise for his book. He just took off in a very different direction. I don’t claim to fully understand BDSM, nor to know how it feels to have that urge, that need to dominate someone or to feel that need to submit, sexually or otherwise. I guess that unless you feel it, you can’t really understand it, and no matter how much I read about this, I will always be at a loss, at least to a degree.
I understand that Charlie, one of the protagonists of the book has gone through hell. That’s abuse. I also understand that part of the allure of submission is the release of control to your master or dom. Marc and his husband Luc are the poster boys for a happy dom/sub couple in the book. I have always understood that, I just didn’t get the perks, the benefits of it. And make no mistake, this isn’t Ms Novak’s fault, quite the contrary. Seems it took for me to read her book to connect some of the dots in my own life (which doesn’t mean I crave BDSM, quite the contrary). Some of the key aspects of domination are “control” and “trust”. And I look into myself, I look at my own marriage, and I wonder, how is this different from being “vanilla”, which is how I’d define myself?
Falling in love, for real, with someone is (imho) all about relinquishing control. I know so many young people who are afraid of “letting go”, of trusting their hearts. Their relationships keep failing, because they just can’t let go, afraid to be hurt.
But to really love is to trust someone else implicitly with your heart and soul (and all that comes with it).
I trust my husband implicitly, and I know he feels the same. Yet we are not in a BDSM relationship, because we don’t do the whole submission thing (mentally or sexually), nor the pain thingy: the spanking, the toys and the bondage and whatever else people into that lifestyle toy with. Pardon me if I need to stay personal for a moment longer, but there is one (sexual) aspect where I personally experienced the aspect of “letting go”. As I grew up as a “little gay boy”, I would always top, never bottom. And this wasn’t about being a better man, some misguided machismo or that sort of bullshit. It was the fear of what could happen if the roles were reversed, and abused. People who bottom and the het ladies out there will understand what I mean, what it implies to “let go”, to trust someone enough to have that someone else physically enter your body: it can mean utter devastation or an orgasm the like of which you’ll rarely experience (to put it bluntly).
I wish I could get her to turn around, but she’s camera shy, our Phetra. You should check out the video from which this shot is taken though, when Phetra and I were talking about her books and writing.
Once I had learned to trust a guy with that, and was able to relinquish that control, trust him not to hurt me, that’s when I began to enjoy sex both ways. TMI, I know. My apologies. I’m learning from my reading.
In a nutshell, that is what Love of the Game is about. For Hannes and Charlie to find that place of implicit trust. It’s easy for Hannes, but given Charlie’s abuse, that’s a different beast. Yes, there are additional aspects being explored, including the sexual “pain” aspects, mostly philosophically, although there is one scene, where Hannes and a friend get up close and personal, and while I normally skim sex scenes in books (I prefer to watch), squirming about the weird language used to describe one of the most basic human endeavors, that scene left me squirming in a different way. I was so horny that I thought my pants would burst! Great writing Ms Novak, and I’ll send you the dry cleaning bill… But yeah, I still don’t get it. Pain and pleasure are two centers in my brain that just don’t want to be connected…
On the surface, Love of the Game is constructed like a traditional romance novel, an ice hockey story, playing out around a tight-knit Canadian NHL team. The protagonists meet, there’s a spark (first turning point), there’s separation, a chance (fated?) reconnection, and plenty of stuff happening before finally, after the second dramatic turning point, the two get to skate off into the sunset, together (for now). Within the premise of that, Ms Novak tells a riveting, sometimes very funny, sometimes tear-jerking story of young Swedish NHL rookie Johannes Alm, his first season in Montreal, and journalist Charlie Morin, who is battling the demons of a really bad and abusive relationship.
Ms Novak is not one to hide her convictions under a rock, and she’s found a great spokesperson in Hannes, the young hockey pro. The scene at his first press conference is one for the history books. If only the real NHL coaches had as much cojones as Hannes’s coach. But alas, in real life, being out and proud in the NHL is still “fiction”. Hopefully it’ll be a reality sooner rather than later.
Author Hans M Hirschi reads quite a few books and has published ten novels. He also reviews books on this site, regularly from a personal point of view.
If you like BDSM stories, you should definitely read this. No dungeons, no prolonged sex scenes with nipple or cock torture await you though. If that’s your fancy, look elsewhere. And if you cringe at the mention of those four letters, like I do, you should still give this story a go. Maybe you’ll finally be able to “get it”, the way I have after reading it. While it’s helped me understand some aspects of what attracts people to BDSM, I still don’t understand the whole submission or the pain aspect, probably never will, even though Caraway did a great job at explaining it in his novel. Phetra’s story doesn’t quite go that far.
Love of the Game is an unusual book, and boy do we need more of those. Great job Phetra!
Love of the Game is published by Beaten Track Publishing and is available for purchase on Amazon et al.
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Have a wonderful week,