Eric B. Thomasma


I must warn you that I will not be keeping any schedule with this blog.  There may be more than one entry a day, or there may not be one for weeks.  There is also no theme.  I'll write about what I want, when I want, and how I want.  You, on the other hand, bear no responsibility.  You are free to read any and all entries, or not, but if you want to comment on them you have to become a member.  Now that seems fair, doesn't it?  Membership is no longer required to comment.

I have decided to create categories for my blog posts.  "My Writing" is for entries directly related to, well, my writing.  "Reviews" is for my comments on movies I see or books that I read.  "Ramblings" is for rants commentary, just to "get it off my chest" so to speak.  Each entry will be assigned to as many categories as I think it fits in to.

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New Book Release

Posted on July 7, 2014 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (0)

At long last, I have finally released the fourth book in the SEAMS16 series, SEAMS16: Friends and Foes.

Strange things are happening on Space Equipment Authority's Maintenance Station 16 (SEAMS16). The new bay supervisor comes with an exemplary record, but he can’t get along with anyone. An abduction where the victims are left unbound and unguarded, no perpetrators claim responsibility, and no demands are made. The discovery of a bomb with the only evidence incriminating the most unlikely of perpetrators. These confusing events and more blur the line between good and bad...right and wrong...friend and foe...

Join Charlie and Susan in their search for answers in SEAMS16: Friends and Foes

Now available at the following on-line retailers:

Amazon Kindle

Amazon Print

Smashwords - multiple ebook formats

Barnes & Noble Nook

CreateSpace Print

Apple iTunes iPad/iPhone

New Website

Posted on June 19, 2013 at 8:05 PM Comments comments (0)

I'm pleased to announce a new website dedicated to my children's books. When I created my original website, I had not yet written any children's stories, so naturally I designed it around my Sci-Fi novels. It still serves that purpose well and for now I intend to keep it as it is, however it is not exactly kid friendly. Not that there is inappropriate content, it's just not attractive to kids or parents looking for children’s books. The new site is designed with kids in mind. The colors are bright and cheery, the layout is simple to navigate and the focus is primarily on my guiding aphorism: Read To Your Children Awaken Their Imagination. You'll find fun activities for the kids to download and enjoy, on-line samples of the books, links to retailers where the books can be purchased, and more. Visit the new site at Take a look around, peruse a book sample, download a coloring page, check out the Books in the Wild photos, and most importantly, have fun.

2013 KART Kids Book List Award

Posted on April 8, 2013 at 9:45 PM Comments comments (0)

The KART Foundation has released its Kids Books List for 2013. I'm told they had over 2000 entries that they whittled down to just 27 titles. I'm pleased and honored to say that The Wizards of the Body Shop was one of those selected. This is the second time that one of my books has been honored with this award, (the first being Sam and the Dragon in the 2011/2012 list). The Kids Are Readers Too (KART) Foundation is the philanthropy division of PediNatural®, dedicated to promoting children's literacy. They also host an internet radio station broadcasting family friendly programming 24 hours a day. You can learn more about them at

Here is the full 2013 KART Kids Book List:

The Adventures of Mopey The Mini Horse

Andy-Roo The Birthday Surprise!

Animal Sound Mix-up

Are There French Fries In Heaven?

Buddy Finds A Home

The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book

Echoes Of Kansas Past (A Travel Through Time)

Gabriella And Her Bouquet of Friends

Hannah The Hedgehog Goes To Heaven

Horace Helfin's Horrifying Halloween

I Love The Changing Seasons

I'm 5

Instant Preplay

KUSHKA Visits The Zoo

Leon Chameleon PI And The Case Of The Kidnapped Mouse

The Little Rose

Luminous Mountain

Maybe You Can Sleep Like...

The Moose At the Manger

Ode To Icky

Outside With Lil Boo

Santa's Sugar

Sleep My Child

Stella and Tulip: A Home For Us

Tired Of Being Different

Were You Born In That Chair?

The Wizards of the Body Shop

Read To Your Children. Awaken Their Imagination.

Posted on December 20, 2012 at 4:55 PM Comments comments (9)

A little girl tries to climb into her father’s lap as he sits reading in his favorite chair. It’s a big, overstuffed chair with a wide seat, high back, and cushy arms. He pretends to ignore her as she makes the attempt first on one side, then on the other. On many past occasions she has made the climb without hesitation or difficulty, but this day her attempts are thwarted by the book she holds in her hands. Unwilling to let go, and after several attempts, she looks up with pleading eyes.


No longer able to keep up his pretense, he sets his book aside, reaches down and lifts her easily, placing her comfortably on his lap. He takes the book from her hands and examines the cover. Is it an old favorite, read a hundred times? Or something new, as yet unexplored? It matters little, for the importance is in the experience. A bond forms between them, a bond of shared learning, shared exploration, and shared adventure. The kind of bond that lasts a lifetime. He opens the book and begins the adventure. The two of them gaze intently at the open book, the room around them soon lost to the world contained within the pages.


And yet, not contained. For while each page may contain a static picture and a few sentences, the picture is but a skin, and the words, bone. It is the sights unseen and the words unsaid that are the real meat of the story. The mind fills in the details, enriching the experience, bringing the story to life in ways sometimes unforeseen by an author and illustrator. This is the real magic of reading to a child. You’re not just spending time, you’re sharing an experience and awakening their imagination.


So, read to your children, and awaken their imagination.

A good start is with my newly released children's book, Yeti In The Freezer. Available in both print and ebook formats.


Backup, Backup, Backup!

Posted on November 19, 2012 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (0)

My brother and I have been working hard putting the finishing touches on our latest children’s book, Yeti In The Freezer, and I had hoped to release it on Black Friday. That’s not going to happen now. On Friday, just after uploading the source documents for the print edition, I attempted to delete one of the many sub folders of illustrations from my hard drive, but ended up accidentally deleting the main project folder. Everything I’d prepared for both print and ebook versions...gone! Everything for adverts, my website, the Facebook page...wiped out!


No, it was not in the recycle bin. I did a hard delete. Now, this is not the first time I’ve done something like this and I typically keep backups on a thumb drive that I carry with me. However, in this case I didn’t. You see, there wasn’t enough space left on the thumb drive to hold this project, so I put it off, figuring I’d get a new, larger thumb drive. But, of course, when I’m at the store I’m thinking of other things and keep forgetting to get one. So I had no backups.


Like I said, I’ve done this kind of thing before, so I also have recovery software and as soon as I realized what I’d done, I pulled the battery and power cord from my laptop to keep anything else from being written to the drive. I pulled the hard drive from the laptop and hooked it up as an external drive on one of my other computers and started a recovery scan. I don't know if you've ever run a recovery scan, but it takes a long time, so I let it run overnight. I checked the next morning and it looked like most of my files could be recovered, so I went through the process to do just that. I was able to recover a few things, but much of what the software said was recovered, wasn’t. At least not completely. Most of the documents were corrupted enough to be unusable. Some wouldn’t open at all, some would open, but much of the data was missing. It was really depressing how little data was actually recovered.


So I was left with the process of rebuilding. Fortunately, I was able to re-download the last set of illustrations, and some of the conversion software I’d used left copies of the working documents in other folders on the drive, so I was able to piece together all of the items necessary to recreate what I’d done before, and I’ll be working feverishly to get that done.


But more importantly, I have now installed software that automatically backs up my data to a network drive on a daily basis. No longer will I rely on remembering to manually backup to a thumb drive. (Much less remembering to buy a new thumb drive for it to fit on.) The software I’m using is called SyncBack. It’s a freeware package from 2BrightSparks. I’ve only been using it a couple of days, but I’m quite happy with the results. It was straightforward to set up, and the execution has been flawless. It’s nice, each morning, to be greeted with a status report that assures me that my data has been safely stored away, in case I pull another boneheaded stunt like I did Friday.


And with that process in place, I’d best get back to work getting Yeti In The Freezer out. Watch for it soon.

I Miss Them

Posted on October 30, 2012 at 6:55 PM Comments comments (0)

They don’t come around here anymore.

There was a time when we had to prepare. To stock up on provisions and clear the area of potential obstacles and dangers. A time to make repairs, replace burned out light bulbs, and lay out welcoming decorations. A time to let the world know that this is the place to come to find what you’re looking for. And we welcomed them all. All sizes, all shapes, male, female, even different species. All were welcome at our door. But alas, that time has passed.

It’s been many years since we’ve seen so much as a single traveler, when we used to get so many. They used to come alone, in pairs, but most often in small groups. We, donned appropriate accouterments, exchanged the traditional greetings, heeded the dire warnings, and ultimately made friends of the potential adversaries.

But time has moved on and the neighborhood has changed. What was once a young and vibrant place, has aged. With grace, of course, as the landscape has evolved into a comfortable, living, and lived-in state, with a beauty worthy of quiet contemplation. But in this world of sound bites, videogames, increased internet use, and diminished attention spans, what once was thought a comfortable distance, is now considered too far to travel, at too great a risk, for limited reward.

Where the travelers of old had a wanderlust, and the greatest of prizes went to those with the highest endurance and drive, today they gather together in appointed places at appointed times, and willingly accept the portions of generosity in equal measure. It’s a safer option, different, but still fun.

I’m told there are places where the old ways are still practiced. Where the quest is still paramount and the rewards are gained all along the journey.

But not here.

No, they don’t come around here anymore.

Birthday Book Giveaway Winners

Posted on July 6, 2012 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (0)

First let me say thank you to all 264 people that entered to receive one of only two copies of my children's book, The Wizards of the Body Shop. Through Goodreads magical selection process the winners are:

Shana from Bronsen, MO and Sunny from Chesapeake, VA

Congratulations to you both! I mailed out your books a little under an hour ago, so you should receive them sometime next week. I hope you enjoy the story.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Posted on June 26, 2012 at 8:20 PM Comments comments (0)

My birthday is coming up and I've decided that the best way to celebrate is a book giveaway! So, from July 1st until my birthday (July 6) you can enter to win one of two print copies of my latest children's book, The Wizards of the Body Shop. Full details are available at Goodreads (Click Here).

Additional Rules for Self-Published Authors Who Wish To Post On Amazon Reader Forums

Posted on June 18, 2012 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (0)

The terms of service for the Amazon reader forums forbid authors from promoting their books anywhere but their "Meet The Author" corral forum. Unfortunately, many new authors either don't read the terms of service or ignore them. In almost every category, there is one or more discussion threads devoted to reminding authors not to promote their books, yet everyday, self-promotion occurs. This has led to an extreme prejudice against self-published authors, and a hyper-vigilance among the forum members. Even if you’ve never engaged in self-promotion activities, you are still tainted by the actions of others, so following are the Additional Rules for Self-Published Authors who wish to post on Amazon reader forums.

1. You are not a reader, regardless of how many books you've read and plan to read, once you publish a book, you are no longer a reader. Your opinion of someone else's writing is not enhanced by understanding the process. On the contrary, your opinion is now biased by jealousy, hero-worship, or association with other authors and cannot be trusted.

2. Never ever recommend a book by a contemporary author. (See rule 1.) If you want to recommend a book in a reader forum, make sure the book is at least as old as you are, or that the author is dead, thereby reducing the impression that you have a personal relationship with said author.

3. Your book never, I repeat never, meets the criteria for anyone requesting a suggestion on a book to read. It doesn't matter if your book fits a point-by-point description of what they're looking for, it still doesn't meet the criteria. Don’t mention it.

4. "Recently Published" does not include your book, regardless of when it was released. As an author, you cannot make recommendations in a "recently released" discussion. (See rule 2.)

5. Never mention that you are an author in any discussion. You may only have that information in your profile for anyone interested enough to check.


You may think these additional rules will make it next to impossible to get your book discovered, and you’d be right. Even though Amazon’s KDP Tips For Merchandising include “post on message boards, join user communities,and promote your book on sites across the Web”, that doesn’t include their own forums.



Released - The Wizards of the Body Shop

Posted on March 13, 2012 at 1:10 PM Comments comments (0)

All files have been uploaded, converted, and released for publication. My latest children's book, The Wizards of the Body Shop, is immediately available at Smashwords for ebook formats and CreateSpace for print. It should become available at Amazon by the end of the week for both Kindle and Print, and available in other online ebook bookstores in the coming weeks.

The Wizards of the Body Shop

Repairing a crumpled fender is pure magic. So when Cindy's Daddy's car gets damaged, she goes along as Daddy takes it to...

The Wizards of the Body Shop.

CreateSpace - Print

Smashwords - Multiple Ebook Formats

Amazon - Print

Amazon - Kindle

Smashwords Read an Ebook Week Sale

Posted on March 5, 2012 at 4:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Smashwords Read an Ebook Week Sale
March 4-10, 2012

Wow! I'm already almost 2 days behind getting this out there. It's time for the annual Smashwords promotion "Read an Ebook Week" sale. It started yesterday and I've decided to include all of my books but one. 

SEAMS16: Arrival, And So It Begins..., the award winning Sam and the Dragon, and Billy's Family  are all being discounted by 50% with the Smashwords special discount code REW50. That means, instead of the normal $2.99, you can have these for only $1.50 each. With Smashwords, it doesn't matter what type of e-reader you have. There's a format available for any of them. Even if you don't have a dedicated e-reader, you can read them on your desktop, notebook, or tablet computer using application software. Get in on this special while it lasts and Read an Ebook this week!

SEAMS16:A New Home isn't included, but it's still only 99₵.

Illustrations are here

Posted on February 27, 2012 at 8:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I have the illustrations from my brother and I've been working on formatting my new children's book, The Wizards of the Body Shop. I shared one of the illustrations on Facebook today, and thought I should share a few of them here.

I have to say, I'm really pleased with these and all of the illustrations that Lanin has come up with for this story and the others before it. They really help bring my stories to life.

Happy New Year!

Posted on December 31, 2011 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (1)

It's December 31. Tomorrow will be the beginning of a new year and tradition has it that it is a day to make resolutions. Some see it as a time to resolve to stop smoking, drinking, overeating, or a myriad of other negative vices. Some see it as a time to set a goal to work towards, a better job, a new business, a bigger house. Still others compile a wish list, more money, a new car, fancy clothes. And some see it as just another day, a day like most days, nothing special, ordinary.


At one point or another in my life, I have fallen into each of those categories. Sometimes looking forward with anticipation, sometimes with dread, and sometimes with complete apathy. Looking back, none of my New Year's resolutions came to pass. Even the times when I set a goal and developed a plan of action, failed for one reason or another. Sometimes due to circumstances beyond my control, sometimes not.


I have made changes throughout my life, and some of the things that I named as New Year's resolutions have happened, but not as a result of my declaration on a December 31st. I resolved on several New Year Eve's to quit smoking, but that's not why or when I quit. I quit smoking the summer day I looked out the window and saw my preschool aged sons imitating me with straws in their mouths, pretending to smoke. I quit drinking as a financial decision. When the choice was buying that beer, or feeding my young family. I changed jobs when my employers could no longer support me, or I could no longer support them. Indeed, change has happened many times, but not because of the changing of the year.


So tonight, I won't be making any resolutions. No grand schemes, or promises. I'll spend a quiet evening at home with my favorite person in the whole world, my wife, Therese. We'll stay up until midnight, share a New Year kiss, then turn in for the night. A perfect celebration.


I hope you find your New Year celebration as enjoyable.

Happy New Year!


An Honor and a Privilege

Posted on October 14, 2011 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (6)

Yesterday, I received word that my first children's book, Sam And The Dragon, has been selected for the 2011 KART Kids Book List. The Kids Are Readers Too (KART) Foundation is the charitable giving branch of PediNatural® Books. From their website: "The KART Foundation believes that introducing books at an early age will allow children to naturally master the developmental milestones that are essential to solid learning foundations." I couldn't agree more.

I'm told there were over 1000 submissions and only 32 were chosen to be included. I feel honored and privileged to be included with the likes of:

Swimming Along
by Lisa Herbertson

This Fish, That Fish, Even a Hat Fish
by David A Forgensi

In Moderation
by Antonio Braccioforte

Daddy Did I Ever Say?
I Love You, Love You, Every Day

by Daryl K. Cobb

Harry the Hairless Wonder Dog
by Melanie Hughes

Grady the Gray Cat Gets Adopted
by Lori Moore

Mrs. McGee's Garden
by Lan Nguyen

Brush Barry Brush
by Linda Valderrama

The Leopard and The Mouse
by Marilyn Briant

Check them all out, (each cover image is a link to the Amazon book page), and don't forget
Sam And The Dragon

I Do Not Write Young Adult!

Posted on August 12, 2011 at 1:10 PM Comments comments (2)

I Do Not Write Young Adult! 


At least, I haven’t so far.  I've written for adults and I've written for children.  Nothing in between.  My children's books are just that.  Books that children will enjoy reading, or enjoy having read to them.  And I like to think that the adults reading them to their children get a kick out of them too.  But there seems to be some confusion about my novels, the SEAMS16 series.

I like to say that these stories are about adults, for adults, but without “adult” content.  The central characters are around thirty years old, with friends and acquaintances of varying ages.  One of my favorite characters is a young teen girl, and another is a man in his sixties.  There is some nudity in my books, but the sex is behind closed doors.  Swearing is kept to a minimum, and you won’t find my characters engaged in heavy violence.


What you will find are stories about people.  Good and bad, right and wrong, honest and deceitful.  You’ll find mystery, romance, crime, action, technology, suspense, aliens, intrigue, sports, and business.  People living their lives the best they can, in the constructed environment of a station in space.

When I started my first novel, SEAMS16:A New Home, I did not have a target audience in mind, I just wrote the story as it came to me.  I wrote what I wanted to see in a Sci-Fi novel.  Stories about adults, with adult problems and adult solutions.  I think it's unfortunate that the term "adult" has become synonymous with "sexual content", because it confused the people I submitted it to for publication.  They didn't know how to categorize it.  Based on content, they wanted it to be Young Adult, but that meant it would have to be rewritten with younger characters.  Alternatively, I could have put in more explicit sex and harsher language.

To me, these changes would have been a distraction from the story I enjoyed writing, not an improvement.  So I chose to keep it as it is and continue writing stories that I enjoy telling, in the way I enjoy telling them. 

But they're not Young Adult.


Twitter - my morning shoutouts.

Posted on June 23, 2011 at 8:01 AM Comments comments (2)

Twitter - my morning shoutouts.


Yesterday, after I completed offering my daily alliteration to the tweople on the Morning Shoutout lists and responding to a couple of tweople, I received a message from Twitter that I had reached my limit for tweets and that I wouldn't be able tweet again for several hours.  This is disappointing and unexpected.  Some time ago someone mentioned being put in "jail" for so many tweets so quickly, assuming the process was automated, but since I paste and click "Send" for every tweet, I never received any warning about that.  


But this is different.  This is a warning about reaching the maximum number of Tweets allowed per day.  This means, for all intents and purposes, that I have reached the limit of people that I can send a daily alliteration to.  No longer will I be able to continue adding writers to the list to offer an alliteration to make you think, or smile, or occasionally look up a word you aren't familiar with.  No longer will new additions be able to look at the people they are grouped with, and find wonderful people, (mostly writers) to follow.  No longer can I continue to help build a group of friendly and supportive writers for you to follow and tweet.


This saddens me, not only for myself, but for the untold number of writers that I haven't yet found, or that haven't yet found me.  I think it's completely unfair and wrong that they have to be excluded.  When I made the decision to use my daily greetings in support of my fellow writers, I decided that it was not up to me to decide who should or should not be included, and that anyone who claimed the title "writer" was worthy of being added to the list.  I still feel that way.  Last Friday, I tweeted "Final Friday" to signify that I had accomplished my goal of providing a daily alliteration for a full year without any repeats, but I think it is now the last Friday alliterative shoutout, and that this is the end of the daily shoutouts.


For now...


I have an idea.

But it's just an idea.

I will need some time to turn it into a plan.

But I'll be back.

Operation eBook Drop

Posted on June 21, 2011 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (0)

I'm pleased to report that I am now a participant in Operation eBook Drop, a program that provides free eBooks to our troops abroad.  This is a worthwhile cause and the brainchild of fellow author Edward C. Patterson.  In a nutshell, Ed collects email addresses from service men and women who sign up for the program, distributes that list to participating authors, and the authors send the troops emails with links to where their ebooks can be obtained for free.  In most cases, (and in my case), this means providing coupon codes for 100% off at Smashwords.

I was never in the military and can't pretend to understand the stress and anxiety our troops experience, but I hope my stories can provide the entertainment and escape our brave men and women seek while deployed to defend our country.  Thank you to our troops, and thank you to Ed for providing this means of giving back.

From the Imagination and Graphic Artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman.

Formatting Apologies

Posted on June 11, 2011 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (0)

It was brought to my attention yesterday that the formatting on my novels at the Amazon Kindle Store left much to be desired.  I mentioned my books in a discussion forum and this person went and downloaded the sample to check it out.  He said not having first line indents made it hard to read because the paragraphs all run together.  This surprised me somewhat because I remembered putting first line indents in.  I went back and checked my source document and sure enough, there were the indents.  So I downloaded the sample and like he said, the indents were gone, so Amazon stripped them out.

Now, don't misunderstand, this is my fault, not Amazon's.  I should have done a better job of following through to make sure that what I sent is what the customer receives.  At the time, I did not own a Kindle and did not know about Kindle4PC.  (I don't even know if it was available then.)  The advice I was given, and the method I used, was to prepare my document in MSWord for Smashwords and once it came through the "meatgrinder" OK, I used the same document, changed references to Smashwords to refer to Amazon/Kindle, then uploaded to Amazon.kdp, having been told that it will be fine.

Turns out, that is not really very good advice.  Without going into too much technical detail, as I understand it, the Smashwords Style Guide prefers that as much as possible, you use the "Normal" style for the bulk of your text.  This works great for Smashwords and the conversion does an amazing job of maintaining the formatting sent into it.  Amazon, on the other hand, seems to ignore the "Normal" style and only pays attention to other defined styles.  Any text that isn't assigned to these other styles, by default is assigned the "Normal" style and falls back on Amazon's default formatting, which seems to assume the "Block" paragraph format.  (No indents, extra space between paragraphs.)  But while it removes the indents, it does not increase the space between paragraphs. 

Now, I also should mention that uploading your MSWord document to Amazon.kdp is considered experimental by the KDP team and even if you prepare your document correctly, it may still not come out as you intended.  I have discovered that if you have successive short paragraphs (as often happens in dialog) the formatting will be changed to a format similar to bullet points, without the bullet point symbol.  I tried working with the Kindle support team to address this issue, but the bottom line is that it may never get fixed. 

KDP's preferred method is that you upload a .prc document produced by Mobipocket Creator.  On the surface, this is a straight-forward process, but apparently only if you use the latest version of MSWord.  The process advises saving the document as "clean" HTML in MSWord, then importing the HTML in Mobipocket.  My version of MSWord does not have an option for "clean" HTML, (does that mean the HTML my version outputs is "dirty"?), and Mobipocket has some difficulties working with what mine puts out.  I spent a lot of time dealing with this for my children's book, Billy's Family, and figured out what I have to do to "clean" up the html for use with Mobipocket.  The upside, though, is that you can test the output from Mobipocket in the Kindle and see exactly how it will appear.  As I understand it, the only change KDP makes is to add their proprietary crap to tie the purchased ebook to the person who bought it and the formatting goes untouched.

Anyway, I said all that to explain that I have gone through the process to reformat my novels and have uploaded them to KDP.  They should filter through to Amazon in the next few days, so if you bought my books before and had trouble with the formatting, I believe you should be able to download the new version.  I apologize for my lack of attention to detail and please, if you ever come across a problem in my books, be it formatting, spelling, grammar, plot errors, or anything else, don't hesitate to let me know.  I want to put out the best work I can for you, my readers.

Finale Friday?

Posted on June 10, 2011 at 7:51 AM Comments comments (0)

Finale Friday?


For today's alliteration on Twitter I posted "Finale Friday".  In my previous post about Twitter I said that my goal was to go an entire year without repeating an alliteration.  As of today I have accomplished that goal.  Over the past year I have posted every day.  It didn't matter if I was sick, hurried, or on vacation, I posted anyway. 

I intend to continue with the morning shoutouts, and as much as possible, continue to try to find alliterations I haven't used before, but from now on I will take the occasional break.

If I'm vacationing and staying where there is no internet connection, I will not hunt one down to do the shoutouts. 

If I'm feeling too sick to get out of bed, I'll stay there until I feel better. 

If I'm in a hurry, I may re-use an alliteration that I've used before.

I may even give a shoutout that isn't an alliteration.  

Okay, that last one is just crazy talk.  



Posted on June 4, 2011 at 8:22 AM Comments comments (0)
(Or how I tweet a daily alliteration to over 500 people a day.)

As a result of this earlier blog post, I've been getting questions about the software I use to process my morning shoutouts on Twitter, including whether I have considered making it available or not.  The answer to that question is no.  I have been developing it solely for my own use, and as such, it does not have any of the niceties, protections, and documentation that are necessary and expected in commercial software.  That's not to say that those things couldn't be included and that it couldn't be cleaned up and made distribution ready, but it would take time.  Time that I'm not willing to spend on it, as that would take time away from my novel writing.


Other questions I've received revolve around what the software does and how it works, so let me explain the development process.  I call the software TweetGreet and I developed it using Microsoft's VisualBasic 6.  The progression of the development I'm outlining here may not be in strict chronological order, since I'm relating this from memory, but it should give you an idea of how things went.


When I started using Twitter, I knew nothing, so I followed the example of others and as I met new friends, I started saying good morning to them.  As the list of friends grew, it became difficult to add the names to the morning greetings, so I started keeping a list on my computer that I could copy and paste the names from.  Now as you probably know, Twitter only allows you to use 140 characters in a single tweet and selecting the right number of names to go with the greeting didn't always work right so I would often have to try two or three times to get it right.  So, TweetGreet's original purpose was to allow me to go through a list of tweeters and based on how many characters were available after the morning greeting, select the next group of names.  For example, if the greeting was 16 characters long, then that leaves 124 characters for the names.  The next 124 characters from the list of tweeters seldom ends at the end of a name, so it backs off until only full names are included, then marks that spot for the next tweet.


So in it's original form, TweetGreet had an interface to add and remove tweeters to the list, edit the morning greeting (not yet alliterations), a "Next" button to prepare the next tweet, and a textbox for the tweet so it could be copied and pasted to Twitter.  I want to mention here that TweetGreet does not interface to Twitter and does not make use of the Twitter api.  So when I click "Next" in TweetGreet, it combines the morning greeting with the appropriate list of names and (now) copies that to the "clipboard".  I then go to Twitter, paste the clipboard into the "What's happening?" textbox and click "Tweet".  That part of it is a manual process so every morning, those tweets come from me, not some computer program that mindlessly carries out it's assigned duties whether I get out of bed or not.


The next step was to add advertisements for my books.  Afterall, that's one of the reasons why I'm on Twitter.  I altered TweetGreet so that when I click "Next", it alternates between the list of tweeters and the list of advertisements.  So I had to add an interface to add/delete/edit a list of advertisements.  I also included feedback to indicate how many characters were used/left to make sure it didn't go over Twitter's 140 characters.  I think it was at this time that I had the tweet automatically copied to the clipboard, so all I had to do was click "Next", paste on Twitter, then "Tweet".  


Then I came upon the idea of the daily alliterations for the morning greetings.  I wanted to use a new one every day and I set a goal to not repeat an alliteration for a full year.  This, of course, meant that I had to alter TweetGreet to keep track of the alliterations, and show me the one's I've already used so I don't repeat.  So I programmed TweetGreet so that as I enter a new word, it displays the list matching the letters as I enter them.  (This is incredibly easy thanks to the tools in VB6.)  


Early on, the list of names included both writers and non-writers, but when I decided to use my tweets in support of other writers, the new additions became exclusively writers.  So the number of non-writers is small, but they're still there.  This presented a problem on Writer Wednesdays since I did not want to affix the #WW to the tweets to Non-writers, so I expanded the formatting of the list to include whether they were "writers" or "others" and added an option to include just writers, just others, or all, and I automatically add the #WW hashtag for the writers.


Not everyone understands or appreciates what I'm doing and on occasion I've been asked to remove them from the list.  In most cases, once I explain why I do what I do, they change their minds about being removed, but sometimes they want to be removed anyway, and I do so with no hard feelings.  On one occasion, the person in question didn't think she was worthy of being included because she was a self-described aspiring author, but hadn't published anything.  I explained that writers write, and that it didn't matter to me if she was published or not, the fact that she writes is enough.  She still wasn't comfortable with being included every day and suggesed that she'd be OK with it if it was only a couple times a week.  So I once again expanded the parameters of the list and modified TweetGreet to include the capability of designating which days to be included in the list, so I could include her on Writer Wednesdays and Follow Fridays.  Since then I've had one other person make the same request.    


The list continued (and continues) to grow and that allowed for more advertisments to be inserted, but I had pretty much covered all the ads I needed to do for my books, so I thought, why not advertise some other books?  Most of the books I've added were written by authors I consider friends, and some of them are just books I liked, but please don't ask me to advertise your book.  The list of tweeters that I give a shoutout to has grown to more than the 500 members Twitter allows you to put in a list, so I can't advertise for everyone. I'm not offering a service, I'm just trying to help some fellow writers.  If I get to know you and/or your work and the fancy strikes, you might see a plug for your book(s) added to the list, but I don't want to feel obligated, and I don't want anyone to feel slighted because their book didn't get included.  And in the interest of full disclosure, the ads I link to on Amazon include my affiliates code so if a purchase is made as a result of that link, I get a commission.  It's typically not much money, since books are low dollar items, but the important thing is that it allows me to see how many times the ads are clicked, (a lot) and of those clicks, how many convert to sales (very few).  


One day, one of the tweeters on the list pointed out that even though the alliteration was different every day, the posts were always the same and she no longer even looked at them.  So I went back to the drawing board and programmed TweetGreet to randomize the order of the names every day.  This means that every day, each tweeter is grouped with a whole different set of tweeters from the list.  Giving them a chance to meet and follow a new group of people.  I also decided to randomize the order of the advertisements too.


Somewhere along the way, I wrote a blog entry about why I do what I do, (remember that link at the beginning of this?) and when asked, I would refer new people to it rather than trying to explain in 140 character chunks.  My latest revision to TweetGreet added the ability to recognise new additions to the tweeter list and after the daily alliterations, send these "newbies" a message with the link to that blog entry.  Doing this has increased the traffic to my website, although most just read the blog and leave.  Some, however, stick around and look at some of the other pages, and that's really cool.


Anyway, that's an overview of TweetGreet, the software I use to help me track and send out my morning alliterative shoutouts.        




The Wizards of the Body Shop was recently announced as a Winner of the 2013 KART Kids Book List Award

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Eric B. Thomasma's books on Goodreads




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ratings: 2 (avg rating 5.00)




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