Randy Ingermanson has published six novels and received about a dozen awards for his writing. He holds a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from UC Berkeley and is the entire software department for Vala Sciences, a San Diego biotechnology company. Randy is the inventor of the "Snowflake Method," used by novelists around the world to design their novels. He the publisher of the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, the world's largest electronic magazine on writing fiction. More than 1000 novelists read his daily blog, the Advanced Fiction Writing Blog. Randy's goal is to become Supreme Dictator For Life, and he may have already succeeded. Visit his site at www.SupremeDictatorForLife.com.
All A-Twitter by Randy Rooney
aka Randy Ingermanson
“Explain to me again why you aren’t using Twitter,” my editor said.
I tightened my grip on the phone. “Explain to me again why I should.”
“Well, it’s supposed to be a great marketing tool for writers. It’s the new hot thing. That’s what everybody says.”
“Right, and two years ago, everybody said real estate was going up and up forever. Everybody says lots of things. Once in a while, one of those things even turns out to be true, but—”
“Well, look, can’t you just give it a try?”
I sighed. “And can you tell me my return on investment for Twittering?”
“Um . . . well, it’s got to be better than doing book signings.”
“Anything is better than doing book signings, but that really doesn’t—”
A loud rapping on my office door startled me. I rolled my chair back to the door and opened it.
My wife rushed in. “I-need-the-phone-right-now,” she said, all in one word.
“Hang on just a second,” I told my editor and then punched the MUTE button on the phone. “What’s up?”
“The toilet’s leaking. Pretty bad. I think you’d better call the plumber.”
I unmuted the phone. “Um, gotta run. Major plumbing disaster.”
“See, you could Twitter about that,” she said.
“Right, I can’t imagine anything cooler than Twittering about a leaky toilet.” I hung up and went to survey the damage.
The back part of the toilet—the part that holds the clean water—had a hairline crack. A puddle of water had pooled around the base of the toilet. I was instantly sure that this exceeded my fix-it skills. “Looks like a case for Sam the Plumber.”
My wife wrung her hands. Sam’s been a bit of a drain on our checkbook lately.
I went back to my office and dialed Sam’s number from memory.
Sam answered on the fourth ring. “Sam’s Plumbing Services! Can you hold for one second?”
“I . . . suppose.”
The line went quiet.
I waited for several minutes before Sam came back on. “Sorry. “Busy, busy. But you know how it is, being a famous author, I bet you’re doing it too.”
“Spreading the love. Keeping up with your following.”
“I’m not following you.”
“You ain’t? Well, you’re about the last person on the planet, and that’s the truth. You can follow me at www.Twitter.com/SamThePlumber.”
I shook the phone several times to make sure something wasn’t wrong with it. “Sam, did I hear you correctly? Are you Twittering now?”
“Course I am. Best thing I ever done. Business is booming and I’m building tons of rap port with my customers.”
“Rap port?” I said.
Sam laughed. “Can you hold one second? I gotta tweet about that.”
“You have to what?” But the line was silent. Sam had put me on hold again. While I waited, I logged on to Twitter.com and created an account. I did a quick search and figured out how to follow Sam the Plumber.
The most recent entry said, “Big shot author don’t know what rap port is! Too funny, huh?”
The entry before that said, “Getting phone call from client who can’t never seem to fix nothing and always complains about price.”
“Hey, I’m back,” Sam said. “Bet you can’t guess what I was doing.”
“Sam, are you aware that rapport is one word and has a silent T in it?”
“I ain’t sure I see your point, but anyway, what was you calling about? I got a business to run. Can’t be spending the whole day jabbering on the phone.”
“Right, when you could be Twittering.” I wondered if he could hear the chill in my voice. “We’ve got a leaky toilet. Can you look at it today?”
“Sure can do. Busy, busy, but I’ll be there in a few hours.”
“Like, how many hours?”
“Just keep an eye on my Twitter page. That’s how all my customers keep up on me. Hey, gotta go. Talk to you later. Busy, busy!”
The line went dead.
I jammed the phone down and started working on edits for my latest chapter, keeping a window open on Sam’s Twitter page. It said that he had over 380,000 followers. That had to be a mistake. Why would that many people be following a plumber on Twitter?
Within seconds, a new update appeared: “Just got off phone with worst client. Want to guess who? Yeah, him again. Sheesh!”
My heart did a funny dance in my chest. That was really . . . uncalled for. I picked up the phone to shriek at Sam.
Just then Sam tweeted again. “Back to work cleaning out shower drain at Miller place on 14th Avenue. You won’t believe what’s in there!”
I waited, wondering why anyone wanted to know what was in the drain at the Miller place on 14th Avenue.
Two minutes later, Sam gave a follow-up. “Lordy, lordy! Hairball size of a possum! Guess what color? Whatever you guess, you’ll be wrong!”
I couldn’t believe that I cared, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to find out.
Five minutes ticked by. Then: “1/3 long blond hair, 1/3 real long red, and 1/3 super duper long black! More in a minute!”
Another tweet: “Miller guy lives alone and is bald as bowling ball! Says sisters visit often. Must be tight family.”
I leaned back in my chair wondering what kind of family had daughters with blond, red, and black hair. For Sam’s sake, I hoped this Miller guy wasn’t following Sam on Twitter.
Ten slow minutes ticked by while I waited for Sam’s next installment.
Finally it came in: “Crazy, crazy! Blond babe beating on front door, screaming awful things. Miller won’t answer. What’s that about, huh?”
By now I had abandoned all hope of writing until this soap opera had played out. I didn’t have to wait long.
Sam tweeted again: “Hot redhead out front trying to scratch eyes out of blond babe. Maybe family not so tight?”
His next tweet followed within seconds: a picture of two women rolling on the ground tearing at each other’s hair. They didn’t look like sisters to me.
By now, I was hooting so loud that my wife heard me and came into the office. “What’s so funny?”
I showed her the column of tweets.
A minute later, she was laughing so hard she had to sit on the exercise ball in the corner.
Another tweet came in within a minute: “Asian bombshell just arrived and joined cat fight. Miller ran out back door. Weird family.”
I waited impatiently for the next tweet. “Finished job and left invoice. Added extra to bill for scratch from blonde. Driving to big shot author’s place.”
I leaned back in my chair. “Looks like Sam’s heading our way.” I thought about that for a minute, then said very slowly, “I wonder what he’s going to say about us?”
My wife scanned down Sam’s tweets for the past week. “Good grief, look what he said about the bathroom color scheme at somebody named Smith. And he tweeted thirty-five times about the smell of kitty litter at the Brown family, whoever that is.”
Cold sweat condensed in a sheet on my back. “We don’t have a common name like Miller or Smith or Brown. I have a very bad feeling about this. Not that we have anything to hide, but—”
My wife picked up the phone and shoved it in my hand. “Call Sam right now and tell him not to come.”
Sam picked up on the second ring. “Hey, good news, I’m halfway to your house.”
“Sam, great, great, GREAT news. We’re good. I mean, the toilet’s good. Toilet’s great, in fact. Never better. So we’ll, um, not be needing you.”
Sam let that hang in the air for several seconds. “Look, Mr. Big Shot Author, maybe your time ain’t worth nothing, but I’m a working guy and I just drove halfway to your house.”
“Um, can I pay for your gas?”
“Hold on while I tweet about that.” He laboriously spelled out the words. “Rich author too cheap to pay decent cancellation fee. What’s he hiding?”
“Sam, don’t tweet yet!” I shouted. “What would you consider a decent cancellation fee?”
“About a hunnert. I know that ain’t nothing to you, but my time’s worth something, ain’t it?”
“Right, Sam, a hunnert,” I gabbled. “Just send me an invoice.” I couldn’t believe I was paying a plumber a hundred dollars not to show up.
“Oops, gotta call coming in. Busy, busy!”
I hung up and watched the Twitter page to make sure he cancelled the tweet.
Seconds later, a tweet from Sam came through: “Recession over? Business booming! Would be overwhelmed, but 1/2 of clients eager to pay cancellation fee. Busy, busy!”
My phone rang. The caller ID indicated it was my editor.
I scooped up the phone. “Look, maybe there’s something to that Twitter thing after all. Can you believe my plumber has over 380,000 followers?”
“Forget Twitter. I just discovered that Twitter’s out. There’s this cool new marketing thing that all the hot authors are using.”
“Great, tell me all about it.” I opened up the chapter I’d been editing. “I want to hear every detail. This sounds too good to be true.”
“Okay, open your browser to www.ShamSlam.com. Here’s how it works . . .”
I set the phone down on my desk and began typing. The tiny, tinny voice of my editor tickled my desk for about thirty minutes. I got most of the chapter revised before I heard the phone get quiet. Very quiet.
I picked up the phone. “Wow, that is way cool. I’ve never heard of anything like it.”
“I’m glad to hear you’re finally getting serious about marketing. This is going to be the Next Big Thing. I just know it.”