RED LEGION: Chapter 20 (Draft)

In Her Name: RED LEGIONThis is a draft of Chapter 20 of IN HER NAME: RED LEGION. If you have any feedback on it, feel free to leave a comment(s).

Enjoy!! – MRH

The platoon leaders and sergeants gathered around Ortiz and Stalin after their return from the battalion briefing. Reza was there, too, at Ortiz’s order. They occupied one of the corners of Marine Country where the Marines bunked down, while the rest of the company was arming up.

“Okay, folks,” Ortiz began. “This one is a little more nuts than what we’re used to, if you can believe that.”

“Sign me up!” Davis said with idiotic enthusiasm. Walker threw him a look, and he clamped his mouth shut.

“Here’s the situation,” Ortiz continued. “A miner was going about his business out in the system’s asteroid belt, and came across a bunch of enemy warriors clustered around a big hunk of rock. No ships, mind you: just warriors. The miner wasn’t sure what they were doing, but his best guess was that they were digging for something. There was definitely some sort of below-surface facility there.” She looked at Reza. “Any ideas?”

Reza paused a moment, then said, “That is indeed strange.” That was true, as far as it went. It was not a lie, but it also was not the full truth. Two possibilities had instantly flashed through his mind. The first, that his sisters were converting the asteroid to the black matrix material used by the builders, he quickly dismissed: the Empress would never risk builders near an enemy, and there was no reason for them to come this far from the heart of the Empire to do it. Plenty of lifeless rocks were strewn throughout the Empire that could more easily serve as fodder for the mysterious black substance that was at the core of the builders’ art.

The second possibility was only slightly more likely: that some clue had led a group of warriors to that asteroid in hopes of finding the tomb of the First Empress. But had such a clue been any more substantial than a breath of wind, the Empress would have sent an entire fleet of the Empire’s most powerful warships, not a group of warriors.

He could think of no reason the fleet would deposit a war party and then depart, leaving them with no ships. Even the most far-flung garrisons and outposts, even the worlds that were hostile hunting preserves, had at least one ship attending them.

It made no sense to him. Unless…

“It is a trap.” The words passed from his lips as soon as his mind made the connection.

“For who?” Asked one of the platoon leaders in a tone of undiluted skepticism. She was from one of the other tattered detachments that had been scraped together to form the company, and was not well known to Ortiz’s people.

“For whom,” Davis said quietly, following his remark with a long-suffering sigh.

Walker hissed a curse through bared teeth.

“Us, of course,” Stalin answered, his eyes locked on Reza. “But why? Why make a trap when they could just as easily land warriors like they normally do? Why not just attack this planet?”

“I do not know,” Reza said, and that was the complete truth. It puzzled him. Why would a leader of warriors set a trap, using her own warriors as bait? Why not just attack? He knew they did not attack every human planet, nor were the attacks random, although they often appeared so from the perspective of the humans. The human core worlds, like Earth, were sacrosanct, as were worlds like Quantico where young warriors were trained. But beyond that, even he did not know the reasoning behind which worlds were attacked and which were left alone: that was determined by the warrior priestesses in the name of the Empress.

This was different somehow. But why?

“It doesn’t matter why,” Ortiz made a dismissive gesture with her hand. “What matters is that we’re going out there to kick their asses. If it’s a trap, we’ll spring it, then we’ll still kick their asses.”

“How many warriors are out there?” Walker asked.

Ortiz shrugged. “The info the miner provided was sketchy, but battalion intel estimates a company’s worth, maybe more. It doesn’t really matter so much, as we’ll be backed up by the guns of the Pegasus and two tin cans.” The cruiser currently had two destroyers in company. “The entire Marine detachment in all three ships, plus a reinforced company from the surface, will be coming to our little party, so we shouldn’t be short on firepower.”

“This doesn’t make any sense,” the leader of the third platoon interjected. “Why don’t the ships just cream the asteroid? Why do we have to go in at all?”

“Because the task force commander and our battalion commander, both, want to answer that little question of ‘why.’ The brass doesn’t like it when the enemy doesn’t do what they’re supposed to.” She frowned. “I don’t like it, either. For what it’s worth, I asked the same question, and I’m going to tell you what the brass told me: gear up and get ready for battle.”

She looked around at the others, her gaze lingering a bit longer on Reza, before she went on. “Looking on the bright side, the op is fairly straightforward. We’ll be divided up into four roughly equal companies, dropped by assault boats on the far side of the asteroid, and then we’ll come at the bitches from four different directions, with us bounding ahead of the other three companies. We have the job of drawing the enemy’s attention and hopefully enticing them out of their little hole. Once that happens, the other three companies will come at them from the flanks and rear and wipe them out. Or so the theory goes.”

“Jesus,” someone muttered.

“Hey, don’t bitch,” Ortiz snapped. “The other companies have to send some poor assholes downstairs to explore that base, or whatever it is. I was just as happy we didn’t draw that particular straw. I’d rather have a stand-up fight on the surface in near zero-gee any day.”

“Sorry, ma’am.”

“Any chance of getting some powered combat suits for this one?” Walker asked.

Ortiz nodded. “Oddly enough, yes.”

There were hoots of joy. The powered suits were a godsend in battle, but they were so expensive that only a handful of regular Marine units had them. They were almost never available to detachments of the Red Legion.

“Don’t get too excited,” Ortiz said, and the others fell silent. “The garrison dirt-side has some. But each company is only being allocated two suits.”

Walker stared at her. “Two suits? Per company?”

“You heard me right,” Ortiz told her. “Two.”

“So how are you going to decide who gets them?” One of the newcomers asked.

“I’ll do all your laundry for the rest of your life if you let me have one,” Davis interjected before Ortiz could answer. Walker punched him in the shoulder.

“I’ve already decided who’ll get them,” Ortiz said. “One’s going to the Marine who’s logged the most combat time in one.” She nodded toward Stalin. “The other…” She turned to look at Reza, “…is going to the other Marine I think may be able to make the best use of it.”

“I am honored,” Reza said, bowing his head.

A few mouths hung open at that, but only among those who had joined Ortiz after Carillon. The old hands who had come to know Reza well wore satisfied looks on their faces. None of them were happy that they wouldn’t be getting a powered suit, but every one of them knew that Ortiz had chosen the best Marines to use the ones they would have.

“Any questions?” There were none. “All right, then. We’ll be getting a final intel pass-down on the boats on the way out. We’ll be boarding at fourteen-hundred, so we don’t have time to screw around. Get your people briefed and ready, then let’s get this shit done.”

***

While the suits were a godsend, they were also something of a curse in terms of tactical operations when used in a hybrid unit where not every Marine had one. Much more heavily armored than the standard Marine combat vacuum armor, the powered suits carried more weaponry and were fitted with maneuvering jets that could be used both in zero gee and on a planet’s surface. Battles had been fought where a single Marine in a powered suit had held off a small army of enemy warriors, but the suits were not invulnerable. Even if not damaged or destroyed by enemy fire (or by sword: the devilish Kreelan blades could cut through the joints of the suits), the suits did not have an endless supply of ammunition or power.

After discussing the matter with Stalin while Reza listened, Ortiz took Stalin’s suggestion to keep him and Reza together as a strike team, rather than portion them out to the platoons.

“You must keep the powered armor together,” Stalin had said, holding up his hand and curling in his fingers, “like a fist. Individually they are powerful. Together, much more so. Let the other Marines do most of the killing. We,” he nodded to Reza, “will kill any that bunch up or try to flank us.”

“And if they do spring a trap,” Reza added, “we will be ready.”

Again, Stalin nodded.

Now, the two men stood in their armored hides, massive shoulder to massive shoulder, in front of the rear ramp of the assault boat as it maneuvered through the field of rocks, great and small, toward the asteroid that was their target. Stalin and Reza would be the first out.

“I heard you were almost killed in your only drop in one of these,” Stalin said on a closed circuit that only Reza could hear.

“Yes,” Reza told him. “I believe my academy company commander sabotaged it, although that was never proven. Eustus and a mutual friend of ours saved my life.”

“That is good. I just hope you remember how to use it. It is a complicated weapon.”

Behind his reflective armored faceplate, Reza smiled. He had inherited the ability of Kreelan warriors to understand weapons on a near-instinctive level. While he did not care for the suit, much preferring his Kreelan armor, he knew everything about it, probably more than Stalin. “I remember well.”

“I hope so. Neither of us must die today. You and I have unfinished business.”

Reza wished he could have looked the older man in the eyes. “Our business, as you say, was concluded the moment you saved my life on Carillon. You could have killed me then. If you wanted me dead, that was your time to act.”

Stalin snorted. “To kill an opponent who is unconscious, helpless? No. That would not do. When I kill you, I want to watch the life fade from your eyes, which I suspect will be wide with surprise.”

“I do not understand you,” Reza told him, his heart heavy with frustration. “I am not your enemy, and I do not want to kill you.”

“Your understanding is not necessary, and not wanting to kill me will prove your undoing. Just stay alive today.”

Their conversation was interrupted by the boat’s loadmaster on the override channel. “Ten seconds!”

The ramp opened, revealing a rock-strewn star field that whirled as the boat’s pilot twisted his craft in flight, pointing its stern at the target. The boats would not actually be setting down for this assault, but would be sending the Marines on their way using momentum.

“Five…four…three…two…one…GO!”

Together, the two enemies leaped from the ramp, their suit jets flaring, followed by the rest of the company.

***

“They come.” Hayan-Tir, the leader of the warriors who were the bait for the trap Syr-Kesh had set, watched the human attack craft as they wheeled overhead. While warriors normally gave an enemy even terms or better, this particular battle was intended to draw out the Desh-Ka warrior priest, Reza. As on the Homeworld when hunting a genoth, warriors were granted the right by honor to stalk and trap such a mighty beast. While sacrifice was in the code by which Her Children lived, sacrifice without honor was an empty waste. A scout ship had followed the human cruiser from the planet where the landing party had encountered Reza; Syr-Kesh had known it was him by the intensity of their Bloodsong when they faced him and died by his sword. He was far more powerful than any genoth, and she would give her own warriors fair advantage against him and his human companions in a battle.

Not knowing how the humans might attack, Hayan-Tir had spread small war parties across the surface of the asteroid, in addition to the main force in the underground cavern that had been hastily converted into a temporary garrison. She had fully expected the humans to simply launch a bombardment from their ships, but Syr-Kesh’s intuition had been prophetic: the humans were victims of their own curiosity, and could not help but investigate what they could only perceive as anomalous behavior on the part of their enemies.

While she could not sense Reza in her blood, Hayan-Tir knew that he must be among the attackers that were now falling like rain among her concealed warriors. Surely the humans would not leave the most powerful among them behind?

She would know soon enough. “Be prepared, my sisters,” she said through the communications device of her suit. She despised the primitive apparatus in which she and her warriors were encased, a relic that the keepers of the Books of Time had found that approximated the level of technology of the humans, and which the builders had in turn replicated. But to use anything more advanced would take unfair advantage, and that would simply not do. “Let them land, then let us see what they would do.”

Silence was her only answer over the communications channel. But she did not need to hear any of their voices; the ferocious anticipation in their Bloodsong told her all she needed to know.

***

“Alpha Company, in position,” Ortiz reported to the battalion commander, who was with one of the other companies.

“Proceed,” came the terse reply.

Ortiz scanned the visual display in her helmet, noting with satisfaction that her platoons were all where they were supposed to be. “Company,” she ordered on the unit channel, “in wedge formation, advance.”

Response indicators winked on her display from each platoon and from Reza and Stalin. The platoon on point, led by Walker, moved out, with the two other regular platoons moving out to the flanks of the wedge. Ortiz, who was at the center of the formation, kept abreast of them. Behind her came the heavy weapons platoon, with Reza and Stalin bringing up the rear.

She grimaced at the terrain around them. The asteroid was a huge gray rock that looked like it had originally been blasted from a volcanic furnace. The surface was made up of ridges and spikes of rock that were both uneven beneath their feet and sharp as razor blades. Pillars rose here and there, along with what she could only imagine were the rims of craters where meteors and other asteroids had slammed into the surface. “Watch your suits on this damn stuff,” she cautioned. While the rock could only scrape the armor, she had no doubt it could slice right through the more vulnerable material that made up the flexible joints.

While all of them had trained in both gravity and zero gee environments, movement here was an awkward in-between. The asteroid was large enough to create a perceptible gravity field, but it was so weak that she could have easily launched herself free of it with a modest jump. Moving forward was accomplished with shuffling jumps, each time praying that her feet didn’t snag on something to make her fall face-first into the nest of natural razor blades on the “ground.” The flip side, also not good, was that when the shooting finally started, the Marines wouldn’t be able to dive for cover quickly, like they would on a typical planet.

“Ah…shit. Uh, some help?”

She looked off to her left, toward where the faceplate display indicated the transmission had come from. One of her Marines had jumped too high and was sailing off into space.

“I have him,” Reza’s voice came over the channel before she could tear Chou, who was now tumbling ass over teacups over the formation, a new asshole. Ortiz paused, watching Reza’s powered suit maneuver with economical movements to intercept the hapless Chou, then return him to the ground.

“Watch your footing, everybody,” Ortiz said. “Reza and Stalin have better things to do than wrangle your asses back to the ground. Reza, I assume you didn’t see anything?”

“Negative, captain. I could see what should be the entrance to the enemy mine, or whatever it is, over the next ridge.”

“Roger.” Ortiz was starting to get impatient. It wasn’t like the Kreelans to just let the humans walk into something. “Flankers, keep your eyes peeled. And Reza and Stalin, watch our asses.”

“Affirmative.” Stalin’s gruff reply offered her some reassurance. She knew the old bastard wouldn’t let them be caught unawares from behind.

As they approached the rim of the crater that was the last obstacle obstructing their view of the mine, Ortiz opened a channel to the company and said, “If they —”

She was cut off by a cry from a Marine in the platoon on the left flank.

“Contact!”

***

Reza’s mouth compressed into a hard line as threat icons exploded into life on his helmet display. He instantly understood the enemy’s strategy, for it was one studied by every warrior tresh in the kazhas across the Empire: how to kill a genoth. He and Esah-Zhurah had killed a genoth, from which they had taken the eyestones that were inscribed with the rune of the Desh-Ka and now were affixed to their Collars of Honor. But that had been a fluke; by all rights, the two of them should have died in that horrific battle. In the ancient times, when hunting the genoth had been a necessity of survival, the great beasts were stalked and killed by warriors from ambush. The beast was drawn in by one or more warriors, fleet of foot, who lured the monster into a kill zone where the other warriors would attack. Even then, the contest was hardly even. More times than not, the warriors would be wiped out by the enraged beast.

This, he thought, looking at the numbers on the display, could very well turn out the same. The enemy warriors had been well camouflaged, somehow evading the thermal and radar sensors of the powered suits. Now, breaking from their concealment, he saw there were hundreds of them, with small war parties completely surrounding their formation, as well as some inside the company’s perimeter. Some of the warriors fired weapons similar to the rifles carried by the Marines, but Reza knew this was largely a distraction while the bulk of the warriors closed to sword range. In some cases, that was barely a single leap.

Marines quickly began to die.

“Open fire!” Ortiz’s order boomed over the company channel, although the Marines hadn’t waited for her permission. Crimson and emerald lances of energy already criss-crossed the deadly terrain of the asteroid as the Marines defended themselves.

“Choose your targets wisely,” Stalin cautioned as he and Reza simultaneously opened fire. Stalin blasted a warrior who appeared like magic almost directly beneath him, her sword swinging at his leg, while Reza killed a pair who were sailing at Ortiz. The suits containing their dead bodies tumbled past her.

Unlike the Marines in their standard vacuum armor, Reza and Stalin had more than one primary weapon. Leaping high to get a better vantage point, Reza switched from the integrated pulse rifle to a rocket launcher, sending a round into the midst of a group of warriors moving toward the platoon on the left flank. Not wasting any time, Reza used his jets to zoom back to the surface. Remaining exposed like that was deadly, and his suit registered three grazing hits from pulse rifle fire.

“Stay low, you fool,” Stalin growled as he moved close to Ortiz, who was trying to gain control of the chaos.

“Kill the damn warriors inside the company perimeter,” she snapped. “Platoon leaders, square formation!” Ironically, modern warfare against the Kreelans often used tactical formations employed by the Greeks and Romans, thousands of years before.

Reza and Stalin went to work, shooting, lobbing grenades, and sometimes smashing opponents with their armored fists, trying to clear the inside of the defensive formation Ortiz was trying to form.

“There are too many,” Stalin said in a private channel between himself, Reza, and Ortiz. “We need support from battalion.”

“That’s not going to happen,” Ortiz said in a gasping voice. She had been hit twice by pulse rifle fire, and one of the hits had superheated a patch of armor that was now searing her skin through the flexible pressure suit in between. “The rest of the battalion has its hands full.” She paused as she blasted a warrior who was trying to cut Walker’s head off. “Even the battalion reserve was ambushed. And hundreds of these bitches are streaming out of the mine.”

Before Reza could reply, he saw a swarm of warriors closing in on Eustus and the survivors of his squad. “Eustus, beware!” Reza called, but it was too late. The red icons converged on the four blue ones.

Without thinking, Reza launched himself like a missile across the surreal landscape, his jets flaring. Ignoring, Stalin’s curses, he flew toward Eustus’s last position, cutting down warriors left and right as he went. After a moment, he saw that Stalin was following him. Reza’s lips twisted into a grim smile. You must keep the powered armor together, like a fist.

***

“Back to back!” Eustus cried as he frantically ejected the spent power pack from his rifle and inserted a new one. His squad had become isolated from the rest of Walker’s platoon as it fought its way toward Ortiz’s position. The damn warriors had just appeared out of nowhere, right out of the ground, and must outnumber the Marines by at least ten to one, if not more. Eustus was shocked that any of the Marines, himself included, were still alive.

A warrior slammed into him, sending him cartwheeling across the deadly surface of the asteroid. Both his rifle and the fresh power pack he was trying to ram home went flying into space.

As he tumbled, he saw that the warrior was coming right after him, launching herself from a nearby pillar of rock like some sort of alien acrobat. She flew straight at him, her sword extended like a spear, the tip aimed right at his heart.

Training overcame fear, and he drew his sidearm and shot her in the faceplate, sending fragments of her helmet, gobbets of blood, and other organic bits he didn’t care to dwell on exploding into vacuum.

Before he could savor his victory, the gun was knocked from his hand by a rock outcropping, which also sliced through his pressure suit at the gap between the armor at his wrist. A pressure warning began to blare in his helmet.

“Dammit,” he hissed. He would have liked to grab a patch to seal his suit, but three more Kreelans were coming for him, so he drew his combat knife instead and rolled to his feet. He didn’t have any illusions about the outcome of this coming fight.

Just as the enemy trio came into sword range, three crimson bolts took each of them in the head in the span of half a second. Their bodies, carried by inertia, tumbled and rolled past him as a powered suit set down in front of him.

“Reza,” Eustus breathed as he and Reza knelt down behind the rock, taking cover from the maelstrom around them. With shaking hands, Eustus took out a patch kit and applied it to the tear in the wrist of his suit, then silenced the warning.

“I am sorry I took so long,” Reza told him.

Another suit briefly touched down. “Here.” Stalin shoved a rifle into Eustus’s surprised hands. Then, grabbing hold of the pack on Eustus’s back, he turned to Reza. “We go!” Without another word, the jets of Stalin’s suit ignited, and he hauled Eustus off toward where the rest of the company was still fighting for its life.

Pausing just long enough to kill some warriors who thought to try and hit Stalin and Eustus with their shrekkas, Reza leaped after them, his suit jets flaring.

Introducing Sunsets and Sangria on Youtube

Sunsets and Sangria Travel Channel

As you may (or may not!) know, my wife, Jan, and I are gypsies at heart and love traveling. Now that retirement isn’t too ridiculously far away, we decided it was time to start sharing more about our travel experiences. Well, actually, I wish we had started this a long time ago, because we’ve had the opportunity to go to so many places and see and do so many things, but we didn’t document them for the benefit of others as, looking back, we would have liked.

So, if you enjoy travel or just would like to hang out with us as we explore, check us out on our Sunsets and Sangria channel on YouTube!

To get you started, here’s our first episode:

2019, the new year: Looking back, Looking ahead

USS Arizona Memorial

So, here we are again: a new year is upon us! As we recover from our New Year’s Eve hangovers, for many it’s a time for a bit of reflection on the past year and contemplation of the coming one.

For me, 2018 was, like 2017, a year of major change. I went back to work full time in early 2017 after book sales fell to the point where they couldn’t sustain us financially any longer (more on that in a later post), which required us to pick up and move from our home in Sarasota, Florida, back to Maryland.

As part of that decision, however, my wife and I knew that we weren’t going to stay in Maryland any longer than necessary, since we’d already spent the better part of thirty years there. I have nothing against Maryland, but for people who are gypsies at heart, that’s a long, long time.

Our cat, Nina, getting in some lap time before moving out of the apartment in Maryland
Nina, getting in some lap time before moving out of the apartment in Maryland

So, earlier this year — no, dang it, LAST year, in 2018! — I managed to land a job in, of all places, Hawaii! The processing and logistics took forever, but at long last we — myself, my wife, and our cats, Sasha and Nina — landed in Honolulu on 7 December (and yes, I’m aware of the irony!) to begin our new life as islanders. We’ll be here for at least three years, and if a job doesn’t come open somewhere else at that point in a place we really want to go, I’ll just extend another year and retire. Then we’ll pack up, head back to the mainland, put our stuff in storage, and live full-time in the RV. But that’s a ways off yet!

Getting back to 2019, I’ve got my list of New Year’s Resolutions that I wanted to share with you:

  1. Write consistently. I’m aiming for a chapter per week, which for me is around 3,000 to 6,000 words. We’re going to set up a dedicated space in our apartment that’s just for my writing, and every night I’m going to plant my butt in that chair and work on my next book, whatever it may be.
  2. Reengage with readers. I have to apologize for this, because over the last few years I really fell off the wagon in terms of interacting with folks. I’m not going to offer any excuses for it, but am going to find ways to restore that sense of community. That was one of the most rewarding parts of my writing career. I’m going to do a separate post on this soon, as I’d like to get some ideas about where folks stand with social media and the like.
  3. Eat clean. This is the year that my wife and I stop eating a bunch of crap. Now, we have certainly eaten better the last couple years than we probably have in a long time, but I’m determined to shift us over to a much healthier way of eating to help us stay healthy longer.
  4. Get my fat butt in shape. I know that this, along with #3, is sort of a perennial item on many New Year’s Resolution lists, but it’s gotta get done. I could stand to lose about 20 pounds and need to get in much better cardiovascular shape. Jan and I used to run half marathons, and I’d like to get back to that level of fitness.
  5. Explore, explore, explore! We came to Hawaii for a variety of reasons, but first and foremost (well, after choosing a place where we’d never have to freeze our butts off!) was to see as much as we could see in the time we’ll be here. We’re on Oahu, where there’s already tons to explore and do, but we also want to explore the other islands, as well as venture to other destinations like Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and hopefully other places like Japan, South Korea, and maybe even China. Who knows?

So, that’s what’s on my list. What’s on yours? Let me know in the comments section, and have a Happy New Year!

Happy new Year – Welcome to 2019

New Year’s 2019 at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor

While the fireworks haven’t started yet (still several hours to go for that), I just wanted to take a moment to wish you a Happy New Year for 2019 from where we’re enjoying a bit of time here at the Navy Lodge on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. I’ll fill you in more on that and more later, but I just wanted to drop you this quick note before I get back to working on Red Legion (In Her Name, Book 10).

Again, Happy New Year!

Chapter 18 of RED LEGION is Now Available

I know that it has been a RIDICULOUSLY long time since I’ve posted anything OR added a chapter to RED LEGION. My apologies for that, and I’ll try to explain why in a subsequent post. But for now, I just wanted to let you know that the draft of the latest chapter – #18 – of RED LEGION is finally done! 

In Her Name: RED LEGION

For those who have been reading along on Wattpad, you can find the latest chapter here. If you’re waiting for the completed book to come out (and yes, I’ll be publishing it through all the regular distribution services like Kindle, Nook, etc.), it’s still got a ways to go, although I have the very general outline of the plot sorted out for the rest of the book. 

So, have fun reading the latest chapter, and I hope you enjoy it!

Are There Still Real People On Twitter?

Twitter

I’ve been away from Twitter, at least as a regular user, for a long time, probably a couple/few years. After becoming annoyed with Facebook, I decided to return to the Twitterverse for a little social interaction. Let’s just say that I was a bit shocked by how things are now versus how they were back then (whenever that was).

Let me start off by saying that back in 2011 when my books, led by Season of the Harvest, finally “broke out” and started selling oodles of copies (grossing over well over $150,000 that year), I had focused on building up a big Twitter following prior to the release of Season of the Harvest that February, and I feel like the platform played a significant – nay, major – role in boosting sales.

I also invested in TweetAdder, a program to automatically follow/unfollow users according to a variety of filters, and that really helped build up my following to over 80,000 users before that and other programs like it were banned by Twitter. The nice thing about TweetAdder was that I could focus on people who, at least based on their profiles, were interested in reading and books.

Despite using the automated approach, I still tried to directly engage with as many people as possible, particularly with those who tweeted to me or DM’d me (excluding spam, of course!). I made a number of really good friends on Twitter during that period, and wasn’t just blasting out a bunch of promo crap without engaging with real people, which is what made things fun and rewarding.

But then, as with most things, people went totally crazy. Authors (looking at my particular niche) went ga-ga with marketing on Twitter, with many, if not most, just sending out endless streams of promo tweets and little else. It was at that point that Twitter’s value to me, at least as a promotional platform, fell off to near zero. I’m guessing that was maybe in 2015 or so, give or take a year, and that’s when I stopped using Twitter on a regular basis.

Sasha The Cat
Sasha after looking over my Twitter feed…

So, just a week or so ago, I decided to jump back into the Twitter pool, hoping to rekindle some of the fun social media interactions I used to have back in the day. I started going through my feed, really looking at the posts people were making, rather than just skimming through, and was aghast. What the hell was I thinking when I followed so many of these accounts?

Of course, the answer was “follow-backs.” I don’t know what the convention is now, but it used to be that if someone followed you – particularly if it was any sort of business concern – they wanted you to follow them back. That way you can get oodles more followers! They’ll retweet your stuff and you’ll retweet theirs! Your sales will explode! Gaaaaaah!

That sounded fine on the surface, but in retrospect was a really idiotic approach, especially if, like me, you also wanted to use Twitter as a venue for actual personal interaction. Looking back on it, why in Hell would I want to follow anyone whose feed was packed with tweets that I wasn’t interested in? Was I ever going to retweet their stuff? Hell, no. Were they ever going to retweet mine? Hell, no! And doubly so, why would I follow someone who didn’t tweet in a language I could understand? Aside from a user who maybe posted images I found fascinating (which is certainly possible), what’s the point of following when I can’t even understand what they’re saying? Duuuuuuuh!

And then we get to the retweets. Okay, yeah, RT’s have been a thing since forever. But now it seems like a huge amount of the Twitterverse is just a massive echo chamber of accounts (many of which I’m sure aren’t even used by living, breathing people anymore, if they ever were) retweeting crap. Some, I swear, seem like retweets of retweets of retweets! I mean, sure, if you want to share something you found that you like and think your followers might like, that’s great. But if you look at your stream and the only things you’ve tweeted the last half dozen to a dozen times are RTs, you’re likely going to find yourself on my growing list of accounts to unfollow.

So, speaking just for myself here (well, obviously, since it’s my damn blog), I’m interested in what you have to say. I can get news direct from the news sites if I want. I can scope out products I may be interested in by following the brand or company accounts. I don’t need to follow anybody to get that stuff. Heck, I can even get loads of cat pictures – which, of course, was the whole reason for the invention of the Internet – all on my own. But I probably wouldn’t see a picture of your cat, or know the funny (to your followers) story about how he tore down the drapes while chasing after a fly. I won’t know from anyone else if you scored a great new job, or if you got hit by some sort of crap and could use some words of encouragement, or something you cooked in the Instant Pot today that I’d love to snag the recipe for. While some folks may not think so, everyone has unique and interesting interests and things going on in their life to share.

Anyway, I hope that gives you some food for thought. Make your social media presence – whether on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. – about you. You don’t have to make yourself “more interesting” by retweeting tons of stuff from someone else. And if you want to say hi to me on Twitter, just click here and give me a shout!

Farewell to Facebook

Facebook

I know many people have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, and I’m no different. While I generally like the engagement on my personal Facebook page (although Facebook seems determined to find endless ways to annoy us), the “Pages,” like my author page, have become all but useless, unless you’re willing to shell out a lot of money to boost – advertise – your page posts. If you’ve liked my page, or someone else’s, there’s an increasingly small chance that you’ll actually see anything I post, because Facebook simply won’t show it to you.

I’ve tried boosting posts on a few occasions, but even with the amount of money Facebook recommended (ha!), it still only reached a fraction of the people who liked my page. Gah!

What I’ve decided to do is just post links on Facebook to posts I make here. So, if you see it on Facebook, great, but I’m hoping you’ll sign up for notifications here on the site so you can have more direct interaction.

So, what do you think about Facebook pages, or Facebook in general?