My parents brought me up to be polite, and most of the time that’s stuck.
I automatically hold doors open for people, write thank you-letters, and let other drivers out into traffic. And if I’ve never actually helped a little old lady across the road, that’s only because I’ve never encountered one who needed — or would have welcomed — such an impertinence.
Don’t get the idea from this that I spend my evenings sitting at home polishing my halo — far from it. I’m sure there are plenty who would tell you I can be as stubborn or downright bloody-minded as anyone else. But being simply pleasant to people creates a kind of calm. It gives me a sense of balance in an otherwise mad world.
Maybe this is a result of having done self-defence training. Knowing that — as a last resort — I could take somebody on physically makes me less inclined to prove it by doing so.
But I also find these days that I am much less inclined to take somebody on at the ancient art of Black Catting.
Never heard of Black Catting? Well, I’m not surprised if the name is unfamiliar, as I believe it may well be something my sister invented, but even if you don’t know the name, you’ll recognise the concept.
We all know Black Catters. We come across them every day — and not simply because they cross the road in front of us. (Old lady optional at this point.)
Black Catters are the ones who just HAVE to get one over on you, no matter what you say, or what you have done, or where have been. They’ve always done it first, faster, bigger, more expensively. Or occasionally you meet reverse Black Catters. “You’ve been ill? Well so have I, and my illness was FAR more serious than yours …”
In other words, “My cat’s blacker than your cat. It is, it is, it bloody is. So there.”
The internet, sadly, is overflowing with Black Catters of all types.
Sometimes I think social media should be renamed socially awkward media, with its false intimacy and anonymity. Throwaway comments can be so easily misjudged because we lack the additional markers of facial expression, body language, and tone of voice. Someone once told me that there are six ways a person can read a letter, from joky or sarcastic to downright offensive. I know I shouldn’t use so many smilies (as opposed to similes) when I post or comment, but it’s the only way I know to show people I have my tongue firmly wedged in my cheek most of the time.
On the social media sites, when someone Friends or Follows me, I try to find out a little about them, visit their website and/or blog, before I follow or friend them back. Not only does this allow me to decide if I’d like to be friends with — or followers of — these people, but I’m then able to make some kind of relevant comment, too. (Usually tongue in cheek.)
I do not say, “Thanks for Friending/Following me. Now go check out my book and BUY IT NOW!”
Amazingly, this is exactly what some people do.
I can appreciate that, as an author, my job is to sell books—
No, that’s not true. While it may be part of my job to sell books, my ‘core activity’ (Gawd, don’t you hate management-speak?) is to write books. And, more specifically, to write the very best books I can possibly craft.
I am not a writer from choice. I am a writer by nature, by obsessive compulsion, by instinct and because I cannot envisage ever letting go of the urge to connect with people through the images created inside my head and blurted onto the page in a swirl of words and ideas, dancing together in the spotlight.
I write not because it is what I am.
I write because it is who I am.
So, if I occasionally neglect my Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads pages, or don’t respond to email like a swinging door, that’s probably because I’m clinging for dear life to that basic tenet.
Nevertheless, I am constantly surprised and delighted to receive emails, posts and messages from people who have read and enjoyed my work.
Last week I came across Judith Baxter’s excellent blog in which she discovered Charlie Fox through FIRST DROP and wrote about how much she’d enjoyed the book. How lovely is that? So, naturally, I posted a comment to thank her. When I stumble across these mentions, I always try to post a response. Not to do so would be rude, in my opinion. But this was obviously something that not many authors do. Judith was so delighted by this that she posted a follow-up blog. And when I commented on that, too, Judith’s reaction was to post another review, this time of HARD KNOCKS.
I’m absolutely blown away by this enthusiasm and generosity.
Now, I know there’s been a lot of talk on Murderati lately about marketing your work — and particularly marketing your digital work. How you have to make social media work for you, but I honestly didn’t have that in mind when I responded to Judith’s blog(s). I was genuinely over the moon that she loved the series enough to say so, and because that was the way I was brought up. It’s completely ingrained.
I know personally that I will go a long way out of my way for a simple thank you.
And it would seem that others feel the same.
But the other side of the coin is when I Friend or Follow or Like someone only to be subjected to the immediate Hard Sell I mentioned earlier before I’ve had a chance to take my coat off.
I confess that Hard Sell tactics bring out my stubborn side.
Or I find their only posts are their five-star reviews or links to Buy My Book pages. Yes, it’s lovely to blow your own trumpet occasionally. But if that’s all you do then it starts to hurt people’s ears!
What are your views about the Hard Sell and Modern Manners, ‘Rati?
Oh, speaking of blowing trumpets, I’m happy to blow other people’s FOR them, occasionally, particularly writers of the calibre of our own Gar Anthony Haywood, whose Aaron Gunner novel, IT’S NOT A PRETTY SIGHT has just been released by Mysterious Press/Open Road at the bargain price of $3.99 until Tues, July 17th.
And another author friend, the excellent historical crime writer Michael Jecks (he’s also a Morris Dancer, but you can’t hold that against him) has just released a short story anthology, FOR THE LOVE OF OLD BONES — which you can buy in the UK, or US.
If you’ve never read Mike, you’re missing a treat!
And finally <shuffles feet awkwardly> might I mention that the UK mass-market paperback of FIFTH VICTIM: Charlie Fox book nine is hot off the press with a spanking new cover design, and is Allison & Busby’s Book of the Month?
Right, I’ll put this trumpet down now …
This week’s Word of the Week is exoculation, the action of putting out the eyes; blinding.