Well. So it’s been a month since I sent the first newsletter out, and I intended to be doing this at least twice a month! But I assure you that I have an excellent excuse ?

I was hoping that the next newsletter would be The Big Announcement. But every time I get to an item on the to-do list, that item turns out to be comprised of 5-20 subitems, some of which are either quite complex, or just complicated because it’s my first time doing these things, and everything has to be set up or just figured out.

So I’m going crazy wanting to get this Big Announcement done, but I am committed to doing it at The Right Time, which means after I finish all the items on that list. So, I’m afraid that we shall all have to be content with a newsletter which does not yet have Big! Exciting! Thrilling! News!

My name’s Raven Belasco, and I’m a dark fantasy writer. These newsletters are about my work and that #authorlife. Updates out bimonthly to subscribers. Feel free to send your friends to my Beehiiv, where they can read the most recent letters and subscribe.

If you don’t want these getting lost in the spam filter, please add ravenbelasco@gmail.com to your email system’s address book or contacts.

In the interim, let me babble about Creole and Cajun food. As you know from the last newsletter, I spent ten wonderful days in New Orleans last month. I had planned to eat my way through all the classic dishes down there … but most of the places who made gumbo and other dishes guaranteed gluten free (which I need if I don’t want to experience debilitating migraines) were generally to be found in the French Quarter, and the whole place was so crawling with tourists, that after one adventure there to get Calas (rice fritters like beignets) I decided I basically wanted to go to any part of the city that wasn’t the French Quarter. Which I did, and had some amazing meals. But they were not those classic N’awlins dishes.

(Here’s a really cool article on how Calas helped some slaves to become free )

So the minute I got home, I started menu planning. The first dish I planned on was Jambalaya. And then I found out how different the Creole and Cajun versions were, so I had to make first one and then the other. Results are on my Instagram 

This week it was Gumbo. Which I had made before, but without quite as much research into the filé/okra/roux debate. My partner doesn’t like okra, so I settled on doing filé gumbo, and making oven-fried okra on the side, so I didn’t feel like I was missing an opportunity to put okra in my mouth ?

It was perfect—the spot was hit. AND, I learned about “seasoning ham

Instagram Shenanigans

So, some of you may have noticed that I created a new Instagram account in the past month. There is a story behind it.

When I set up my author Instagram account it was very early in my getting published, and I was calling my vampire series, “Sex & Blood & Ancient Scrolls”, which was a pun on the seminal Ian Dury song, “Sex & Drugs and Rock & Roll” and I was very proud of myself for how perfect the pun was ?

But as I went to do my very first post about the first book in the series, I careful wrote up my text, and put the title of the series—of which I was so proud—in that text.

I went to post it, and Insta came up with a warning, that I was using an unacceptable word in my post.

That word was “sex.” Yes, really. It may be a perfectly acceptable word in the English language—in the dictionary and all!—but I couldn’t use it in a post, even though it was simply in the name of my book series.

I couldn’t believe it. And I certainly didn’t accept that one could discuss the film “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” or the song I was referencing, but I couldn’t post the amusing name of my book series. “This is ridiculous,” I thought, and I posted it because I figured if I had any trouble I could just explain the situation to someone and get it sorted out.

So, yes, I brought it on myself. It was, honestly, because I couldn’t believe they were serious; that I was going to be censored like that. I wasn’t swearing, or using violent language, or using derogatory terms. I was being told I couldn’t use a word that has a whole section of your science class devoted to it when you’re in fifth grade.

When I went ahead and used it, I was told I could not do any advertising on Instagram. “Whatever,” I thought, “I will just do normal posts, I don’t even want to pay Instagram money, I’m just trying to build a natural following.”

However, no matter how I used the right keywords and hashtags and followed the latest advice, I mostly got about 60 likes on my posts, when similar accounts were getting over 200, even 1000 likes every day. Following best practices, my account never grew.

That penalty was not just disallowing advertising, my account was being treated differently.

So I tried to get a review. I explained the situation, and further explained that I had very much learned my lesson, and I would be the most well-behaved Meta user henceforth, with every post since that first one as an example of my reformed character. I had even removed the “Sex &” from the title of the series, and it’s been just “Blood & Ancient Scrolls” ever since.

For years, Instagram just let my requests sit in a queue, unread. Finally, a few weeks ago, I submitted my request again … and in their infinite wisdom, they decided that I was indeed a nasty character, accused me of having repeated offensive posts (Huh? I always followed the rules perfectly after that first mistake!) and they pronounced the “decision is final.” Judge, jury, and executioner.

I made one beginner’s mistake, followed by four years of following the rules perfectly. But regardless of that, my Insta account was now tarred with this crazy brush, and I cannot use it to market my perfectly reasonable vampire series, which has a lot less objectionable material than many books I’ve read. (There was one paranormal romance I checked out from the library in all innocence, which had a threesome between a vampire, witch, and a werewolf … and let’s just say that the wolf didn’t stay “were” the whole time…! I can’t say I was shocked, but I was quite surprised! ?)

I had to build a new account from scratch, which is a super great use of time for a chronically ill person who is already desperately trying to keep up with everything that an author needs to do to try an succeed in a very difficult industry.

Everything seemed to be going really well with the new account, so I checked my Facebook account, and there was no penalty associated to that account; Facebook was perfect content to take my money for advertising. So I linked the new Instagram account to the Facebook account (to make posting to both easier) … and BOOM, the new account now had all the penalties of the old Insta account immediately applied to it, even though I have not done anything wrong in the few weeks I’ve had that account open.

So now I have to do all sorts of complicated gymnastics to try and get this sorted out. I have spoken to some people who have more experience with such things, and there is a plan on what to try next, although it’s not certain how things will work out. I may have to create a whole ‘nother Instagram account in the future. I wish I could just tell the whole platform to fuck off, but sadly, “Bookstagram” can really build an author’s audience, so for now it’s actually a problem I have to solve. I will keep you updated with my woes (or, possibly, with a success story…but don’t hold your breath!)

I’ll try to get the next newsletter out to you in two weeks, but until the next newsletter hits your inbox, stay well, and be good … or be good at it! ?

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