Marketing

An Open Letter to Doritos- “But is it yogurt flavored?”

Dear Doritos,

I imagine right about now you are asking yourselves what happened. Why has your glorious decision of soft-ish chips, directed towards the females of the planet, been targeted by trollish harassment and mockery since its announcement. Somewhere, I imagine there is an R&D specialist who is gazing woefully at the trending hashtags of #LadyDoritos. They lurch every time the phone rings, expecting the call to be from their immediate supervisor, alerting them of their immediate termination over what can only be described as a social and cultural misstep that fails to recognize the needs of specific user groups and imposes values and desires on a specific group without proper consideration.

Somewhere, that R&D specialist is weeping into their bag of chips, making them soggy, gazing malignly at a bowl of orange mush vaguely resembling Donald Trump’s face in both skin and, I imagine, texture, wondering how did we get it so wrong?

                Was it the concept of soft Doritos? No. I know plenty of people who detest the sound of crunching chips. They equate it to a leaf mulcher eating human bones. To them, it is worse than finger nails down a chalkboard. There are others still, who hate the feeling of your equilateral products scraping the delicate corners of their mouths, cutting in like a foodie’s Glasgow smile. Some of us hate the feeling of chip bits falling down our shirts, getting caught in our bras or man girdles. We all have our neurotic likes and dislikes when it comes to our snack foods, but I’ll let you in on a secret for the general population…

Never once, when discussing my snack food choices with my coworkers, loved ones, or strangers on the train, have we ever considered semi-raw potatoes rolled in fake cheese and sodium as an appropriate alternative to our chip problems.

You know why, Doritos?

Because no one fucking cares.

Look around you. Look at the state of the world. Have you seen who the President of the United States is? Did you notice that there is still war and famine across the globe? Did you notice the opioid epidemic on your streets or take into account the rate of homelessness around you? You probably did, but like most corporations, you saw it as a by-product of the time and instead opted to focus your research and energy into a literal half-baked scheme that no one asked for.

                Least of all women.

And there’s your second issue right there. I’m not sure. Maybe your R&D group is a bunch of old white men raised on some cotton farm in southern Alabama where women still wear petticoats and do declare things with appropriately subdued enthusiasm, but the ladies I know are not marching for softer chips for our delicate lady palates.  Unless your Doritos are going to be extra absorbent when it comes to dealing with my period blood, or, I don’t know, fucking yogurt flavored (because apparently we are really into yogurt too), I could quite literally not give a single shit about the crunchy level of your product. I’m too goddamned busy worrying about, and coming to terms with, sexual harassment in the workplace, and the fact that my male coworkers are paid more than me, and the assholes that think me smiling at them is an invitation for them to call me things like “sweet cheeks” and “sexy” that, hey, if I don’t return in kind, suddenly turn into alarming forms of aggression and derogatory comments like the goddamned c-bomb or even fucking grabbing at me

                Who, just tell me who thought women wanted softer Doritos? Who thought, in an age marked by struggles for equality among gender and sexual orientation and race, it would be a great idea to market fucking slightly softer Doritos to an entire group of people. Are you shitting me? No, you’re not, though an over-indulgence in your product would certainly lead to plenty of distressing shits that I wouldn’t wish on my greatest enemy.

Here’s a better question for you.

Who asked you for this? And, follow up question, did they also ask you if you really think you should be vaccinating your kids? Because I’m guessing someone who shows the passion for one probably has enough time to waste on the other.

I understand as a snack product you need to stay on top of things. You have to keep up with trends and constantly be producing the next best thing. In a market saturated with delicious treats and snacks, it is vital that you are always in. Here’s an idea. Try a new flavor. Goddamned novelty flavors are all the rage. People love trying new, stupid flavors that they know will only be around for a short period of time. Hell, Japan has made a name for itself offering up weird-ass chip flavors that we can’t even dream of here in North America. You can be damn sure that if Doritos put out a Seafood Jazz Dorito or Cheesy Enchilada Dorito flavor people would eat that shit up. Again, literally. Lays has made a name for itself having contests about chip flavors! Doesn’t that seem like a good idea? That seems like a good idea to me.  Much better than trying to market an insulting snackfood to half the world who, just to remind you, never asked for it.

Times are changing, Doritos. You have to use a measure of social intelligence and recognize the values of the culture in which you are trying to market your product.

Spoiler alert: our current top ten values do not, and I would guess will never include slightly softer chips.

Sincerely,

Kathleen Sawisky Esq.

Photo by Nancy Wong, 1977

Let’s Talk About Cults

Or more, let me introduce you to my new favorite obsession. Three years ago it was biker gangs, last year it was viruses. This year is the year of cults, and I am so giddy that my astral cocoon is fit to burst!

I’ve been busy working on Book 3 (reminder, you can buy books 1 and 2 on Amazon), but as always I’ve also been working through replotting book 4 (because writing a series, let alone one nine novels long requires a bit of foresight on my part.) And as with all the previous books, something about the plot of #4 just wasn’t sitting right.

And then I listened to Cults, a comedic investigative podcast that looks into various cults throughout history, their activities, recruitment methods, all that fun sort of jazz. As hosts Paige Wesley and Marie Bello explain on their inaugural podcast, they’re interested in cults because they live in California and cults are literally everywhere. Oddly enough, that was the same thing Gregg Hurwitz said in an interview about his second Tim Rackley book.

I love comedy. I love cults. If there were a cult based around the Marx Brothers, I would probably join. (The password is always Swordfish). As it is, I live in Canada and the only Cult I have access to has a history of cutting off people’s arms and I need mine for writing purposes (Hello, Ant Hill Kids.) Therefore, I live vicariously through the work of people like Paige and Marie who are deeply ensconced in the cult-scene and, on at least one occasion relayed to listeners about a weekend visit to a farmer’s market for a massage (which might just be the most hipster thing I’ve written in the last few months) about how they were nearly swindled by a cult.

The point is, knowledge is power. I have a notebook chalked full of notes thanks to these two lovely ladies about the cult that will be dominating book 4, and I am excited to see where it takes me.

However, as with all things in life, they couldn’t have expected to poke the hornets nest for so long before something came out to sting them. A couple days back a message was posted on the Cults Facebook page regarding the removal of Part 1 of a particular episode. It doesn’t take a backrub peddling pontificator to know that someone got a little uptight about being called a ‘cult’ and didn’t appreciate having their presumably very white, identical pants and shirts all laid out to bare for the public to see. It looks like they have avoided litigation, at least for now. But that sort of subtle threat against your creative work can be a serious downer, and word can spread and sometimes impact that potential audience you are trying to reach. That’s why I’m encouraging all of you to go to your favorite podcast provider and give Cults a listen.

Okay. Maybe not the first few episodes. Pre-Armando episodes, or Pre-Mando episodes as I will now call them. Armando, their hilarious sound guy, was sorely needed in those early days. But don’t bring it up to Paige or Marie. They know their sound was crap. If you can deal with ratcheting your sound up to eleven, they’re still worth checking out. I promise, there are no audible jump-scares to ruin your hearing.

Cults are fascinating. They’re all around us (some more than others, I guess. Stupid, lame Canada with its lack of interesting cults.) They prey on the weak and most vulnerable in society and manipulate them into acting outside of the social norm. They are awful, but sort of cool, but really actually awful, but also, like, sort of really cool in a sick sort of way.  I have a lot of different feelings, but given my history of writing explosive, violent scenes, I suppose an interest in cults isn’t that unusual.

The point is, go listen to it. The crimes of these cults and leaders aren’t exactly friendly jaunts through fields of daisies. Paige and Marie are dealing with dark, uncomfortable topics on a weekly basis, and interjecting an overtop level of humor that a person could argue reflects the overall nature and response of general society when we hear about people getting caught up in cult activities. Ha ha, look at those chumps! This could never happen to me! That’s about as academic as I’m willing to get on the topic at the moment given the high levels of morphine currently in my system.

Anyways, give it a listen. It’s well worth it. Also buy my books. Those are also well worth it.

Or don’t. See if I care.

(I do.)

Header Photo by Nancy Wong, 1977

Fractals

She was built of fractals that continued to break down, leaving behind smaller halves of the same person.

Several days ago I finished the second draft of Book 2 of The Code Series. It was a little surreal. I’ve spoken before about earworms, and how some idea can get nestled down into your skull and refuse to leave until you rewrite your entire manuscript. The original draft of book 2 was a bit different. I finished it and didn’t feel satisfied. It felt disjointed and not the least bit cohesive. Whether or not that was true, it’s hard to say. I generally go with my gut on these things, so I took a couple days away from the draft, figured out where I went wrong, and deleted 70k words. And while I shed a bitter tear for all the words lost, I knew that it was the right thing to do.

Now with the second draft finished I feel much better. I have the same stomach squirm (elusive cousin of the ear worm) that is telling me this is it. Now I’m on the right path. This is a draft I can, and will, work with.

Enter my favorite part of the process. Not rewrites, because screw rewrites. No one likes them. No, this is the part where I go through the manuscript and begin to develop the ideas that were half assed. Increase that, add more blood to that, throw in another explosion here, more drama, less mystery, more ghosts. Any and all of it. It is essentially a full rewrite, but I start with major changes (13 at last count) that need to be addressed. And these changes are what give the story an air of mystery. They are the pieces of thread that connect all the stories together.

love this part of the process.

And yet, while I’m busy writing, and moving, and dealing with a huge barrel of drama at work (and the barrel is full of bees and the bees are on fire) I have mistakenly forgotten that marketing is a valuable part of the whole process. If I want people to read Book 2, I really need them to read book 1. I am no good at marketing. I get into slumps where I’d rather read or write new things. Anything than create another tweet that says “Hey! Look at me!”

Okay, story time…

The other day at work I got a call. Usually when people call me at work it is to ask about consignment which I, bizarrely, agreed to take over when the Consignment Manager left. This time, however, the phone call was for me, Kathleen, the author. The woman on the other end explained her son had bought my book and wanted to come in to introduce his Grandma to me, who had been reading the book with him over the last few weeks.

I knew this kid, because he was there at my signing and bought the book while I nervously looked at my mom, telepathically screaming to her What do I do oh my god this isn’t appropriate for someone his age oh my god oh my god oh my god!

Since my signing, the kid, Yago, has come to see me at work a couple times. We’ve had lots of fun talking about the book and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. On the day his mom called I was having a brutal day. I was miserable from all the drama and getting accused of things I hadn’t done. I was tired of being part of the rumor mill and just wanted to go home. Getting to see Yago again would be a highlight so obviously I enthusiastically told his mom to bring him on over.

A few hours later I was standing at the front, being introduced to his grandma, who slyly told me that Book 1 was the only time she would ever say those words around him. (Oh my god, how many times did I drop the F-bomb? I’m so sorry, Grandma!) I explained that I was having a miserable day until they showed up, and how happy it made me to see them. I gave Yago my card so we could email if he wanted to.

He wasn’t happy that [Spoilers] died, but he liked the book all the same.

It was an amazing experience. My first real fan. The first person who has no real reason to care about my writing, and he liked it. It was remarkable and heartwarming and made me feel like, despite all the mistakes of the first one, it was still a palatable book and was worth the marketing effort and the exhaustive hours and the tears and struggles. That the fact the series is going to be 9 books long isn’t ridiculous – it’s worth it, because it is a good story that is worthy of being completed.

It felt like a renewal. It sparked the flame again. It was marvelous. Now, with only 9 days until we move, I’m saying screw it to packing for a while, and I’m going to sit down and edit the hell out of Book 2. Because someone out there is waiting eagerly to see what happens next, and I don’t want to disappoint him.

Fun reminder! You can buy a copy of my debut novel, The Code: Book 1 – Between Fire and Pines, from Amazon right here or read an excerpt here!