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Ratha on Twitter 01

By rath8325 - Posted on 12 August 2009

Beginning on March 14, 2009, a new experiment in Y/A fantasy fiction appeared on Twitter. “Ratha's Island”, a novelette designed specifically for the micro-blogging service's 140 character format, ran twice daily in blocks of 6-10 sequential “tweets” or short posts (Twitter's logo is a little bluebird, so it's messages are called “tweets”). Twitter's designers imposed the 140 character limit to enable cellphones and other wireless devices to receive the messages.) Ratha's Island ran faithfully every day, with the exception of a one-weekend break, and drew over 1000 followers to my @rathacat Twitter stream.

It's main intent was to entertain people on Twitter, get them interested in the Ratha series, and to publicize the newest novel, Ratha's Courage, published by Imaginator Press.

The project started when my friend and publisher of Ratha's Courage, Sheila Ruth of Imaginator Press, noted Twitter's early explosive growth. She began to use the site and suggested that I experiment with it to publicize the Ratha series. At first, like many new Twitter users, I wasn't sure why I was there, or what the service was really for. I noticed other authors trying out various types of fiction, ranging from compressed and punchy “micro-fiction” to complete novels, tweeted line-by-line. Reaction to these was mixed.

At the time I joined Twitter, I found one Y/A author tweeting comments from three characters in her recently published book. She had set up three different user-names and had the three tweet back and forth to each other. I liked that idea, but for some reason I couldn't figure out how to set up different usernames, so I used the single @rathacat account I had established.

How then to distinguish the character tweets from my personal posts? I began by simply adding a short, attention-getting preface. First I tried “RathaTweets” , then “ClanCatTweets”, but neither had the unique quality I wanted. Everyone else tweeted. I wanted my cat characters to do something different.

Cats, both large and small, make many other sounds other than the traditional meow, purr, growl, or hiss. Cheetahs, on which which the Named are partially based, make a chirping sound to call their young. Well, chirping is like tweeting, so my preface word became “ClanCatChirps”,which then got shortened to “ClanChirps”. Not perfect, but good enough to start with.

The first Chirp appeared at 12:39 AM, August 26, 2008. Sheila was tweeting about raising monarch butterfly caterpillars and how to deal with their excreta. Ratha made a typical feline suggestion, which was to her caterpillars to use a litterbox.

After that, the Chirps tumbled out.

ClanChirps - Fessran says "I'll bet getting Courage to the printer was more work than herding three-horns!" 06:57 PM August 26, 2008 from TwitBin

ClanChirps - Bira says "Yes, cats can chirp. Ask any cheetah." 07:02 PM August 26, 2008 from TwitBin

The early ClanChirps varied a bit, but finally I settled into a format using the preface, a dash, the character's name followed by a colon, and then the speaker's dialog, indicated by quotes. This was an variation on screenplay format, but it worked.


ClanChirps – Ratha: “Yarrrr! Chirp!”

It quickly became evident that the Named weren't going to confine their remarks to their own world or their own experiences. Here's Ratha's opinion of her biological classification in the human world.

ClanChirps - Ratha says "Nimravid? Yarrr, I look like a cat, I walk like a cat, I smell like a cat, I sound like a cat, so I am a cat!" 09:49 PM August 26, 2008 from TwitBin

Here's a brief and abortive experiment in Twit-dapting an early chapter of Ratha's Courage.

ClanChirps - Ashon (from Ratha's Courage). "Ok, you face-tailed thing. You ARE going to back up. Quit throwing mud at me!" Splat... 10:41 AM August 31, 2008 from web

ClanChirps - Ratha, watching Ashon and the face-tail, thinking, "If he gets scared and backs down, we may lose a good herding student." 11:32 AM August 31, 2008 from web

Maybe I should have continued in that way, but the Named got distracted by a human event, the 2008 Labor Day weekend. Discussion began about the exchange of virtual food (cookies), and moved to speculation about the clan's ability to hold a celebratory barbecue. Thakur provided a suggestion for barbecue sauce, but Fessran quickly took the lead.

ClanChirps - Fessran and the Firekeepers are digging a barbecue pit. They'll put green twigs over it, and hot coals underneath. 01:56 PM August 31, 2008 from web

ClanChirps - Fessran: "Fireekeepers, bring more wood to the pit and be careful you don't fall in. We don't want to bbq you!" 03:51 PM September 01, 2008 from web

As blogged in the Scratching Log, the Named clan cats began chirping about anything and everything, even venturing into the human world of holidays and politics. ( see “ClanChirps – Ratha on Twitter” - From random snacky comments to Sheila Ruth and other Twitter users, and more snarky remarks to each other, the clan set out exploring the strange world of Twitter.

I wondered how far I should let the clan cats wander from the established “cannon” of the printed Ratha books and stories, but the Named gang had already made their decision. They wanted to interact with the human world. Ratha made that clear with the first Chirp about Sheila's butterflies. I could only follow where she and the others led.

Encouraged by the fact that people on Twitter enjoyed these exchanges, I decided to do something more elaborate. To publicize Ratha's Courage, I began a little prequel to the book in dialog. In order to make more sense, I blocked the chirps in sequences. Sometimes as few as two appeared together, sometimes six or even eight.

Here's a description of the first Twitter story from The Scratching Log blog's“ClanChirps – Ratha on Twitter” posts.

“The Chirps also include a little ongoing tale, done in dialog, which is a prequel to Ratha's Courage. Featuring Bundi, from Clan Ground, and Mishanti, from Ratha and Thistle-Chaser, this little Twitter-playlet relates how the rumblers (indrotheres) Grunt and Belch came to be among the clan's herdbeasts and how they got their names. Composed directly on Twitter, this Named Twit-improv (Twitprov?) is coming directly from the kitty's mouth, so to speak, and not even the author knows what the Named will do or say next.”

This time, since this Twitter play introduced Ratha's Courage, the Miocene mob stayed within their setting and time.

In order to help orient readers who were unfamiliar with the series, (and encourage them to actually read the books!) some Chirps included links, especially at the beginning. For example, this first story tweet named the character and linked to the book where he first appeared.

ClanChirps-Bundi (Clan Ground, ):"Those poor rumbler babies are starving." 10:51 AM September 03, 2008 from web.

Here is Mishanti, warning Bundi to be careful while getting a threehorn milch-doe from the herd to provide milk for the rumbler babies:

ClanChirps- Mishanti: "Not get kicked in head, else you talk like me and Thistle. Kicked in furry butt, maybe OK." 10:18 PM September 04, 2008 from web

The tale got interrupted by several very “non-canon” escapades where the cats assumed the ability to teleport through time and peer into human activities, including the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, and, of course, the 2008 Presidential election.

See The Scratching Log post, “The Named Are Being Twits Again”

The tale did not so much end as wobble to a finish, but this Chirp helped bring it to a close.

ClanChirps-Thakur: "You can keep Grunt and Belch, and the milch-doe. You do have to take proper care of the deer, and I will check on that."12:13 PM Dec 11th, 2008 from web

So, the Named had gotten their paws wet in the Twitter stream. Both they and their fans on Twitter wanted more.



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Join other Named Series fans on the Ratha Series Forum.  Hunt up information in the Fire Den, read the new Twitter creation, "Ratha's Island", or strut before the clan to introduce yourself in the Fire Dance.

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