Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Guest Post: Down & Dirty Social Media Tips

Today I'm welcoming Jennifer Lovett Herbranson, author of Social Media for Authors: Book Marketing for Writers Who'd Rather Write. Jennifer is a marketing whiz. She's used it in her military career, and has long helped with social media aspects of marketing for Pikes Peak Writers. I highly recommend her book. As a preview, she's given us some social media basics.

My down and dirty social media tips
  •  Pick one. Instagram is hot right now and about as happy a place as you can find on the Internet. Use up to 30 hashtags but rotate their usage so you don’t seem like you’re spamming those categories.
  • Stories. Best use of Instagram right now is Stories. If you’re a storyteller, these are made for you! Post one a day or every other day.
  • Groups. Best use of Facebook right now is Groups. Organic reach on a Facebook Page is abysmal unless you pay for ads. However, with Facebook’s algorithm change, they are prioritizing friends, family and groups. If you have a street team or want to start one, use Facebook Groups to do it.
  • Tweet away. If you’re looking for industry professionals to connect with, get on Twitter. #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) is a quarterly agent ask for specific types of manuscripts. Check them out. They just might want what you’ve written.
  • Content calendars will save your life! I know planning is a pain but if you do it, you’ll give yourself so much time back in your day for writing your book. Use paper and pen or a scheduler like Buffer to help you plan that content.
  • Email is gold. Yes, it is. 25-30% open rates can’t be beat anywhere. Just don’t spam your subscribers with crap. Give them good progress reports, updates and fun news about you, your public persona and the world you’re building. 
Check out “Social Media for Authors: Book Marketing for Writers Who’d Rather Write” in ebook and print on Amazon. Jenny gives you permission to throw the traditional marketing playbook out the window and develop your own using these principles:
  • You do not have to be on every social media outlet.
  • You do not have to post every single minute of every day.
  • You need a plan. Plans create efficiency. And effective plans grow your readership and give you time back in your day.
Get it on Kindle Unlimited at

Follow Jenny!
On Instagram @writernationjen
On Twitter @writernationjen
On Facebook @Writernation

What do you think about these tips? Interested in the book? 

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Human Trafficking: Not What You Think It Is

I attended a RMMWA (Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America) meeting last week on human trafficking. The information was eye opening. Some of it I knew, but much of it I didn't. So I thought I'd pass it along since I keep talking to people who say they're including some aspect of human trafficking in their books/stories. Be aware that it's a heavy and depressing topic.

The presenter was Brittany Austin, from LCHT (Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking.)

Her initial definition of human trafficking: A severe form of exploitation for labor (including sex) through the use of fraud, force, or coercion. 

There are three categories:

1. Those under 18 involved in commercial sex acts (probably the one we hear most about).

2. Those 18 and over involved in commercial sex acts through force, fraud, or coercion.

3. Those forced to perform labor and/or other services in conditions of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery through force, fraud, or coercion (the one I think fewest people consider when thinking of trafficking.)

An incident must involve one of the following (not one from each category, just one of any of these) to qualify:

Action: Recruit, Harbor, Transport, Provide, Obtain
Means: Force, Fraud, Coercion
Purpose: Commercial Sex Acts OR Labor or Services

Some examples that you might not think of in terms of the means are things like threatening to deport someone, threatening to hurt a family member, or even using a type of blackmail where you threaten to reveal something private and/or embarrassing.

**Sex acts can include stripping and other similar acts, not just prostitution.**

Trafficking often uses a person's needs that are not being fulfilled to coerce them. (Examples: "I'll be the mom you've never had," "I'll marry you so you," "We'll be your family.") Teens/kids will do something to help their single mom, as another example. Those silly ads we see on lamp posts that offer excessively high pay for a mystery job are often targeting youth.

Some simplified examples of how they use a person's needs to get them to perform labor, etc.:

1. Someone suffering from abuse/neglect will fall for the offer of a relationship of some sort.

2. Someone who is homeless will fall for offers of food, shelter, and family.

3. Someone with a marginalized identity can be coerced with acceptance.

4. Someone with an inability to access the job market can be coerced with offers of income.

**Marginalized communities are especially vulnerable**

Immigrant labor force makes up 22% of Colorado's labor force.

Many people know or have some manner of relationship with their trafficker. Interfamilial pimping is a big thing. Arranged marriages can also be examples of human trafficking in some circumstances.

Trafficking tends to come across as being about young females, often white (the white slave trade, etc.). This is what is most often depicted in fiction. However, it is young and old, male and female, white and people of color. It can be anyone.

Sean Crumpler was a human trafficker caught in Colorado. He ended up sentenced to 50 years. He had ten to fifteen LGBT+ boys between the ages of 16 and 21 in his home. Some of them had disappeared from California. In exchange for food, shelter, and gifts, they had to capitulate to his sexual needs.

Ski resorts, agricultural areas, and construction sites are places where immigrants are often recruited directly from their country and brought up to Colorado to be forced into a type of indentured servitude. Often, they get here with promises of a job and somewhere to stay, only to discover their wages are garnished for the transportation, the building they're required to stay in, food, etc. As they continue to work there, they continue to rack up dues, never making enough money to be able to escape. In one local case, the only time they were allowed out of the disgusting building they were being kept in was for work and church attendance on Sundays. A nun noticed their degenerating conditions and reported it, which is how they were found. Not only were they being held due to debt, but their families were threatened. When the perpetrator got out, he kept good to his promises, and traveled to Mexico to go after family members.

Something I've dealt with personally is teens that answer those mysterious ads promising tons of money. They are then transported somewhere for "training," only to discover they're now far from home, often unsure of where they even are, and that they owe money for the transportation and training after the fact. These are the teens you see knocking on doors and selling things like magazine submissions that are not for a local school (for example). They are typically being dropped off in neighborhoods, and must make a certain amount of sales if they want to eat that night. They will be picked up many hours later and taken to a hotel room or similar place, where they all stay in one room. They often have no means to try to reach out to family (or have no family to reach out TO). I've seen these kids selling in my area before, and when I looked up the company they worked for, this exact situation was described. All I knew to do at the time was ask the boy if he was okay. I wish I'd known more about this and had offered to call someone for him or get him to safety somehow.

Here are some red flags and indicators:

- Unexplained injuries
- Evidence of prolonged infection or untreated injuries
- Repeated bacterial, yeast, STI infections
- Dental issues
- Exposure, repeated motion injuries
- Cardiovascular and respiratory problems
- Tattoo branding (there are Denver tattoo parlors that have contracted with people to brand the people they are trafficking, and this likely exists all over the U.S.)
- Evidence of sexual trauma
- Not making eye contact
- Individuals not in control of their own identification documents
- Someone claiming to speak for or on behalf of a victim
- Individual has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story and/or exhibits a loss of sense of time or place
- Individual claims to be visiting, but has no real understanding of where they are or even where they're from
- Youth having relationships with older unexplained adults
- Individual with no idea when his/her last last medical/dental checkup was
- Individual exhibiting PTSD symptoms
- May be in crisis or downplaying injury/illness
- Confused/out of it

Some additional facts:

25% of children worldwide are victims of modern slavery

Women and girls make up 71% of modern slavery victims

Debt bondage affected half of all victims of forced labor imposed by private actors.

In Colorado, you can call 866-455-5075 or text 720-999-9724 to report suspected human trafficking. LCHT.

Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance: 303-861-1160.

You can visit the website for the National Human Trafficking Hotline for more information, including stats in your own state.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline can be called at 888-373-7888 or texted at 233733.

Now for some links. Please bear in mind that I'm not endorsing them, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Dragon Soul Press has a number of anthologies open for submissions. The one closing soonest is Organic Ink: Volume 2. No theme, just poems. Pays in royalties. Deadline September 30.

Backpacker is seeking off-the-trail stories from true lovers of the wilderness. There are many categories freelancers can break into. Pays $.40 to $1.00/word.

Funicular Magazine is seeking "quality fiction and poetry that shocks, surprises, moves, and tickles us." Pays $25/piece to $10/printed page, depending upon submission type.

Flash Fiction Magazine is seeking flash fiction of 300-1000 words. Pays $40 per story in their anthology, but nothing for those published online.

Dream of Shadows is seeking fantasy and horror short stories. Up to 1500 words. Pays £20 per piece.

Did you learn anything new about trafficking? Did you know how widespread it was? Any submission links of interest to you? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

New Releases!

Really, NEW should be in quotes. I haven't updated available stories recently, so figured that now was a good time, because one of them is available to read online for FREE!

You can click HERE to read "Dearest" for free at Tales From the Moonlit Path.

Before that came out, I had the following releases:

My story "Where I Woke Up" is in The Desperate and the Damned. A woman wakes up in a house with no escape. Even worse, she has no memory of who she is.

"Tent City Horror" is in the second issue of the newly  relaunched Sanitarium Magazine. What happens when a creature stalks the homeless populace in a tent city? And who might be responsible?

Finally, "Shelter From the Storm" is in Vagabond 002: Apocalypse Edition. Finding shelter in a post-apocalyptic world filled with caustic air is tricky. Especially when something dwells beneath the sand.

Now to get update the website. Oy. I'm falling behind!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

IWSG - Kkkkkkk, brrrr, ding (Modem Noises)

It's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group!

(Unfortunately, I'm using hotel wi-fi since I'm on a trip, and after waiting ages for the picture loading page to load, I've given up, so no image!)

Created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the IWSG is a venue for writers to both seek and give support to other writers. Anyone can join. Simply click on Alex's name above and add your blog to the list then post and visit others from the list.

The optional question of the month is If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

This one's hard, because there are so many places I'd love to sit and write, but I'm going to narrow it down to two basic places. A cottage overlooking the Oregon coast or a cabin in the Colorado mountains. I don't need to go to another country or somewhere fancy. I'd just love a small place with either the sounds of nature and the smell of pine trees or the sound of waves crashing nearby and the scent of the ocean drifting by. And I'd need a window, so I could gaze out while thinking or taking a break.

~Contented sigh~

(Oooooh, the pictures I would post right now if the internet wasn't being a jerk face.)

Because the internet connection is super wonky, I'm going to end this here and skip over my usual links and submission updates until next month. I'll be going home Thursday night, so will visit folks then unless I have a better connection tomorrow!

Where would you most like to write? What are your insecurities? Are you submitting? Any news to share? Know of anywhere accepting submissions?

May you find your Muse.