The Weary Writer

It’s been a long day. Well, actually it’s been a long couple of days.

It’s tax time here in Canada and between procrastinating, something I’m very good at when I want to be, and being genuinely busy, the deadline has crept up on me. So half my weekend was devoted to rounding up receipts, adding up figures and alternating between madly scribbling down numbers and scratching my head.

Today wasn’t much less hectic, work-wise or personally, and I’m tired. Pooped. Zonked. Drained. Done in and done for. Beat, dog tired and drooping. Get the picture?

I still need to write my blog post to stick to my schedule, albeit a self-imposed schedule, because it’s important to follow thru. It’s important to meet deadlines and it’s important to be accountable to my readers.

But, I don’t feel like writing. I really really really don’t, and if I had just a bit more energy, I might consider throwing a tantrum like a two year old child and throw myself on the floor. But if I did that now, someone would have to help me get up off the floor, or they could just leave me there and maybe toss me a pillow and blanket?

Ever have days like that?

So, I’ve downed a bottle of water to rehydrate myself. Sometimes that helps wake up my brain. At this time of the day I don’t dare try caffeine or I’ll never sleep when I actually do get to hit the sheets.

And, I’m here, at my laptop, staring at the screen trying to think of something fascinating to say, or witty if I can’t manage fascinating, or boring if I can’t manage either of those, but if the latter at least I tried.

Can’t bat a thousand every time, but maybe I can still score an “A” for effort?

So, what can I learn from this?

  1. I’m human, not a machine, and there will be days when I struggle to do it all.
  2. It’s more important to try than to walk away and throw your hands up in the air.
  3. You’re not going to bat it out of the park every time, but with practice and determination there will be more homeruns than foul balls.
  4. When I get tired I start using sports idioms like I know what I’m talking about. Anyone who knows me can tell you how funny that is.

And, now I’m going to bid you adieu and go to bed.

Nite, nite…..

ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

Photo credit: Pixabay

Four Ways to Backup Your Files

Have you ever tried to access a file on your computer only to discover that it was somehow corrupted and won’t open? Has the hard drive of your computer ever crash beyond repair? You know where this conversation is headed, don’t you?

We’ve all heard the horror stories of computer files disappearing, never to be found again, because of hardware or software problems, or user error, a brain fart that resulted in hitting the delete key by accident. And, nowadays with our devices becoming more portable, it’s very easy to imagine losing your laptop, tablet or phone or for someone to pick it up and walk away—with ALL your data!

Can you imagine how devastating that would be? Losing your whole manuscript? Or, if you’re a photographer, losing all your pictures?

A Bit of an Aside

A couple of months ago, I found a memory card in a puddle in the parking lot at Walmart. It wasn’t a card format that I’d ever used before so I wasn’t sure that I would be able to view the files on it, but I picked it up and thought that I would try to identify the people on the card and return it to them.

I was convinced that it might be someone’s precious baby pictures or maybe even some hundred year old granny’s birthday party pictures, and that the family would love to have these pictures returned to them. It was going to be my good deed for the day.

The memory card went from my coat pocket to the kitchen countertop and sat there for weeks and then eventually migrated to my desk where it sat for several more weeks. And, then suddenly, for some reason yesterday when I booted my computer, I realized that my machine did indeed have a slot that could read the memory card. So, I popped it in and did a virus scan on it and in full Nancy Drew mode, I proceeded to open the files.

There were in excess of 500 files on the card. This was early in the morning, before breakfast or coffee, and I wasn’t too awake. I viewed the files on the smallest possible setting for images so I was staring at these 500+ images as eensy teensy thumbnails where little could be deciphered without opening the pictures for a better look.

No sweet babies or dear old grannies I’m afraid. I clicked on and quickly closed a couple of the images and based on the background colours of the images viewable from even the thumbnail sized images, I’d guess that the first 30 or 40 images were homemade porn. Yep, you read that right. I started my day yesterday with an unsolicited porn show. There were other, family-rated, pictures on the card, too. This is how my luck often runs. If there’d be 50 memory cards scattered around that parking lot that day and 49 of them had precious baby and old granny pictures on them, I would find THIS one!

Now my predicament is that I’m not sure what to do with this memory card. I could delete its contents and just keep it here for backup, or I could just hold on to it, but even, if by some miracle, I figured out who owned it, it would be very hard to keep a straight face when I handed the card back to them! And, knowing my luck, if I just threw it in the garbage, the bag would split open on the street and one of my neighbours would pick it up and pop it into their computer and wonder why I had THAT card in my garbage!

Backing Up Your Files

So… getting back to the main point I wanted to make.

Whether it’s your manuscript, your pictures or other important files, and whether your files are corrupted, stolen or lost in a Walmart parking lot, it’s probably a good idea to back them up, don’t you think?

Here’s four ways you can back up your digital files:

  1. Put your files on a cloud. The term “cloud” has been around for a while now basically it means online storage that you access through the internet. This article lists 33 free cloud storage options. I use Google Drive and Dropbox. They’re two of the most popular options. If you decide to use cloud storage, check for reviews from other users, and review the terms and conditions for the site to understand your rights and get a feel for how secure your data is.
  2. Copy your files onto CDs, DVDs, Blu rays, memory cards or flash drives.
  3. Buy an external hard drive. External hard drives come in various shapes and sizes, speeds and operating systems. Do your research or ask the questions at the computer store when you purchase one to make sure it is compatible with your machine.
  4. Simply use the Backup/Restore feature if you’re using Windows. While this option isn’t ideal if your computer is stolen, it offers some protection for files that become corrupted.

As an added layer of protection, you might want to store a copy of your backups off site and/or in a fire-proof safe, too, so that in the event of a theft or fire, your data is protected.

Do you have any other suggestions for backing up files? If so, let me know in the comments.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Book Promotion: Are You Clueless or Desperate?

Book Promotion: Are You Clueless or Desperate? describes how not to promote your book using email and lists ways to properly promote your book.

I manage the Inbox for a client of mine who is an indie author. Almost every day this person gets at least one email announcing the launch of a new book and most of the time my client doesn’t even know the author.

These emails usually start out with a distribution list of about a thousand email addresses, not entered in the BCC (An old world term that means blind carbon copy.) field, but staring every recipient of the email right in the face.

It looks as if the person sending the email has been collecting email addresses for years in anticipation of this huge event (their book launch) and they’ve copied in every single person in their contact list including their veterinarian, dentist and the guy who emailed a quote about fixing their roof.

Is this a case of being desperate or clueless?

The email then proceeds to excitedly announce the publication of the brand spanking new book, or e-book, or audio book or whatever.

Now keep in mind that these books are often from very unique genres with topics like exotic encounters with ghosts or how to embroider mobile phone cases, and what the sender and presumed author never quite gets is that their book, their pride and joy, might not be something that the guy who fixed the roof lies awake at night salivating about in eager anticipation of its release let alone the veterinarian and the dentist.

There are many definitions for desperate, but I like this one from Merriam-Webster online dictionary: done with all of your strength or energy and with little hope of succeeding.

And clueless? Merriam-Webster defines that as not having knowledge about something : unable to understand something.

I believe many of these authors think, or perhaps hope or pray, that everyone who receives the email will either buy the book, or forward their email aimlessly out to everyone on their contact lists who will buy the book. I’m guessing. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of strategy put into sending out these emails so I’m really not sure what the thought process is.

First, let me be clear on something. I am not criticising and I really don’t know if the guy who fixes the roof is on the list though I could find out as all the email addresses are there to be seen. I’m telling you about this because I don’t want you to make the same mistake.

How Should You Do It?

  • Do market research well in advance of (months or maybe even years before) the publication of your book to determine who will read your book and then announce its release to only those people who are going to be interested and, perhaps to your family and friends who will want to congratulate you.
  • Establish an author platform (again, months or maybe even years before the release of your book) through a blog/website and sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. and create a network of potential readers and other people in the industry through your author platform who are likely to want to know about, spread the word about, read and/or buy your book.
  • Start a subscription list on your blog so that you can contact your subscribers with the exciting news of your book’s release. Sign up for an account with MailChimp or Aweber or another similar site to manage the list for you and send your announcements through your account. These people have already expressed an interest in what you’re doing so it’s acceptable to contact them with your book news. They are likely to share your enthusiasm and might be inclined to forward it to some of their contacts, unlike the guy who fixes your roof!
  • Send out book review requests but only to those reviewers who welcome and review books in your genre.
  • If you have to send an email to multiple recipients to promote your book or for any other reason it is good form to use the BCC field to protect the privacy of each individual by not making their email address available to everyone on the distribution list for the email.

It’s not rocket science but it is work, a lot of work. And, it’s your book’s best shot at success!

Photo credit: Pixabay

Who Would You Pick If You Could Channel a Writer?

Who Would You Pick If You Could Channel a Writer? If you could contact a deceased writer for guidance with your writing, who would you pick? Shakespeare? Agatha Christie? Charles Dickens?

Last weekend I had an intuitive reading. An intuitive reading, if you’re not familiar with the term, is the same as a psychic reading or a medium reading.

The whole idea of spiritualism, spirit guides and guardian angels is something that has interested me for a long time. I don’t buy into it 100% but I have had a couple of things happen in the last year or so that have me believing more than ever that there’s something to all of this stuff and I’d like to learn more before making up my mind conclusively.

I know a lot of you will think I’m completely nuts, and that’s okay. There are days that I would agree with you!

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading a book entitled Ask Your Guides by Sonia Choquette which explains the differences between guardian angels and spirit guides and how communication with them works.

According to the book, it’s perfectly acceptable to call upon a deceased expert in a field where you want help or advice.

So, for example, if you’re having an electrical problem and you had an electrician in the family who has passed on, you can still ask for their help and guidance with fixing it. So keep all of that in mind and let’s discuss your favourite writers. Are you a big fan of Ernest Hemmingway? How about Shakespeare or Emily Bronte or maybe Agatha Christie?

Just imagine for a minute that you could channel your favourite deceased writer and ask for their guidance. Come on, we writers have imaginations, well at least fiction writers do, so I know you can do this. Close your eyes and just imagine the chance to have a chat, perhaps telepathically, with Laura Ingalls Wilder or maybe Charles Dickens. Even if you don’t believe in the possibility of any of this happening, isn’t it an interesting thought?

What would your favourite writer say to you? How would she or he evaluate your writing? Would they be impressed or would they suggest major changes? Maybe they’d be in awe of your efforts? If you could ask them anything, what would it be?

Who Do You Write Like?

Maybe you already write like somebody famous? Check out I Write Like. If you copy and paste a sample of your writing a box on this site and click on the Analyze button, it will tell you who you write like.

I copied this blog post into the Analyzer and apparently I write like H. P. Lovecraft. Why not copy one of your own blog posts or a section of your book into the Analyzer to find out what it says about your writing? Let me know in the comments. And, if you’ve channeled a famous writer, I’d love to know about that, too!

9 Reasons to Keep a Journal

9 Reasons to Keep a Journal lists nine benefits and reasons for keeping a journal.

Do you keep a journal? I used to regularly write in a diary when I was a teenager. In high school the first 10 minutes of our English class was always devoted to writing in our journals. This is something that I want to do again.

There are a lot of benefits to keeping a journal, including:

  1. Reduces Stress

    There is something so relaxing about being in a quiet place and concentrating on just your thoughts with pen in hand.

  2. Explore Your Thoughts and Feelings

    It can be cathartic to write down what you’re thinking and feeling if it’s for your eyes only knowing that you won’t be judged by others.

  3. Feel Less Alone

    There’s a reason people often start out writing their journals “Dear Diary.” A diary or journal can be like confiding in a friend. If no real friend, (or cat or dog in my case) is nearby to hear you if you need to pour your heart out, a journal is a great way to do it.

  4. Develop Your Writing Skills

    Journaling is a great way to develop your writing skills and even your writing style. Like an athlete in training, you’ll build “muscles” and might surprise yourself at how much you can write at a time with practice.

  5. Track Symptoms of Illness

    Sometimes symptoms of illness can be subtle and it’s only with reflection that we recall past indications of health issues. Along with writing how you’re feeling mentally, maybe track anything that’s a bit off with your physical health as well in your journal?

  6. Create a Record of Events

    Logging information about big family gatherings, what gifts were received for a birthday or Christmas, and that sort of thing, to record specific memories that might otherwise be forgotten over time.

  7. Create an Heirloom

    Having spent a lot of time over the years doing genealogy, I would love to find a journal kept by one of my ancestors, wouldn’t you? If you keep a journal, you could create such an heirloom for a future generation so that they can know you through your writing.

  8. Write a Memoir

    If you think you might ever want to write a memoir, start writing a journal. The task will be much simpler if you can refer back to your journal.

  9. Win Arguments

    I’ve thrown this one in just for fun. My daughter publishes an annual scrapbook-like book full of family pictures, photos of their calendar pages where all events are noted, and paragraphs about accomplishments, celebrations and other events that have happened throughout the year in the family through Blurb. She swears that whenever there’s a dispute between her and her husband about when something happened, they refer back to the book—and she’s usually right!

Just some thoughts on journaling. Is this something you do or think you might want to start doing, too? Let me know in the comments.

Photo credit: Pixabay

5 Twitter Hashtags to Connect With Writers and Market Your Book

5 Twitter Hashtags to Connect With Writers and Market Your Book suggests several popular hashtags used by writers to connect with other writers and to market their books.

I must confess that I rarely use hashtags on Twitter but I know that I should.

Think of a hashtag as a subdirectory on Twitter or a file folder in an old fashioned filing cabinet. When a hashtag is added to a tweet, it can be accessed along with all other tweets with that hashtag very simply by searching for that hashtag.

To see tweets with these hashtags, log into your Twitter account and then click the links below.

  1. #amwriting – You can also try #writing, #writelife, #WritingTip or #WriteTip
  2. #author – You can also try #AuthorLife, or #Authors
  3. #selfpub – You can also try #selfpublishing, #indie, #indieauthor, #indieauthors or #indiepub
  4. #bookmarketing – You could also try #bookbuzzr
  5. #novelist – You could also try #fiction, #nonfiction or #poetry

More Examples of Hashtags for Writers

100 Twitter Hashtags Every Writer Should Know

205 Author Hashtags

Hashtags for #writing in Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr

102 Hashtags Smart Writers Are Using to Build BIG Brands on Twitter

Twitter Hashtags for Authors and Book Marketing Pros

44 Essential Twitter Hashtags Every Author Should Know

Do you have a favourite hashtag for writers? If so, tell me in the comments.

Photo credit: Pixabay

10 Ways to Gain a Fresh Perspective on Your Writing

10 Ways to Gain a Fresh Perspective on Your Writing — Consider these ten suggestions if you need a fresh perspective to see where to make changes and improvements to your writing.

Yesterday was a warm and sunny day, the warmest of the year so far and we spent a great deal of time working outside in the yard, trimming bushes and the dead stalks from perennials that we hadn’t managed to do before winter and that sort of thing.

It’s always interesting to see the yard after the snow has melted, to see what survived the cold temperatures, and what plants are already poking above the surface with new growth. We have a huge yard, nearly a third of an acre, in the suburbs and I love walking around it at this time of year, envisioning how lovely the gardens will look and making plans for changes and improvements—a new plant or tree here, maybe a trellis with a climbing rose bush there, etc.

Springtime offers a fresh perspective. It’s almost like seeing the yard for the first time.

How Writers Can Gain a Fresh Perspective on Their Writing

A fresh perspective is important to see where we need to make changes and improvements, but, as writers maintaining blogs and cranking out books, how do we gain that?

Here’s some ideas that might help:

  1. Read it out loud.
    Sometimes we can hear the errors and weaknesses in our writing easier than we can see them.
  2. Read a book about writing.
    For example, if you’re writing a thriller, read about how to write thrillers. You might find some advice that you can implement or recognize a weakness in your own writing that you need to correct.
  3. Take a writing course.
    Learning new things can alter your perspective and as an added bonus, build your enthusiasm.
  4. Work with beta readers.
    Feedback from others can be very helpful and can provide you with a fresh perspective.
  5. Walk away from your writing for a while.
    You don’t have to physically walk away from it of course, but put it in a drawer or close the file on your computer for a while—a day, a week, a month—whatever it takes for you to gain a fresh perspective.
  6. Have your writing read to you.
    There are numerous text-to-voice apps available. Many of them are free. Microsoft Word offers this with its latest versions. Find one that works for you as some of them sound more natural than others and listen to your book.
  7. Review your writing in a different environment.
    Sitting in the same spot, at the same computer, can be like wearing blinders. Shake things up a bit and take your laptop into a different room before reviewing your text.
  8. Review your writing on a different computer or device.
    Your writing will look somewhat different on a different device and sometimes that subtle difference is enough to give you that fresh perspective.
  9. Print out your writing.
    I don’t like to review things online for errors and I will often print out my documents and grab my trusty red pen to mark them up.
  10. Change the font, text size or line spacing in your document.
    It’s amazing how much of a difference something so simple can make!

Well, I hope that gives you some ideas for gaining a fresh perspective on your writing. If you have more ideas that you’d like to add to the list, please leave them in the comments.

5 Ways to Get Blog Post Comments

5 Ways to Get Blog Post Comments suggests ways that bloggers can build their audiences and attract comments.

This morning I reviewed blog posts for a client’s roundup blog post. I do this fairly regularly and every so often I stumble across a post that has attracted a huge number of comments. While we all strive for this level of engagement with our readers, very few of us actually achieve it.

So how do some bloggers manage to reel in so many comments?

  1. SEO and social media savviness

    In a recent blog post Kristen Lamb amassed 170+ comments. Kristen refers to herself as a “Social Media Jedi” and has written a book on how writers can use social media. If the number of comments on this blog post are any indication, it would seem she knows what she is talking about.

    Writing our posts is one thing, and our regular readers will find them, but getting the word out that the posts exist and attracting new readers is where search engine optimization know how and social media skills kick in.

  2. Longevity

  3. If you offer something of value and blog consistently, over time your audience will grow. They’ll hang around and feel comfortable with you, comfortable enough to voice their thoughts and leave comments.

    Author and blogger JA Konrath has been in the business a long time. He’s written 24 novels and 100+ short stories and he’s been blogging for over 10 years. This post drew over 230 comments.

  4. Good topics

    We’ve all seen them, and some of us may have even written them without realizing it, but some blog post topics are done to death. But, when we write about something fresh, or something that people really want to know about, we’ll attract readers—and comments.

    As an example, check out this post by self-publishing advocate Joel Friedlander on The Book Designer. ISBNs are a subject that a lot of people struggle to get their heads around and there’s not a lot out there about them written in layman’s terms so it’s easy to see why this particular post got so much attention.

  5. Controversial topics

  6. Topic that rile people up often draw a lot of comments. Take a look at this post by David Gaughran. The trick to this type of post is to try not to offend anyone because the internet never forgets and even if you delete your post later, online cache files could haunt you forever.

  7. Dedication

  8. In addition to all of the above points, blogging takes dedication and each of the bloggers I’ve mentioned in this article have proven their dedication to the task time and time again. They’re not alone. I could add a very long list of other dedicated bloggers.

    A dedicated blogger knows:

    • or learns about SEO and social media
    • that developing an audience won’t happen overnight and is prepared to be in it for the long haul
    • understands his or her audience and picks topics that will appeal to them
    • if or when, and how to use controversial topics

Do you have other ideas for ways to get people to leave comments on your blog? If so, tell me in the comments.

Photo credit: Pixabay

WordPress Themes: Assessing the Options

Wordpress Themes: Assessing the Options explains where a blogger can find themes for Wordpress.org and what information is available for each theme.

I’m searching for a new blog theme compatible with my self-hosted WordPress blog.

I’ve just begun my search. I’m currently using Thesis, a theme developed by DIY Themes and I might consider the updated version of that. As you may have noticed this blog as it stands now, isn’t particularly user-friendly on a mobile device, particularly something with a small screen like a phone so that will definitely be part of the criteria for a new theme. Thesis is a commercial theme that I bought a licence for.

Free WordPress.org Themes

Did you know that WordPress.org has a massive directory of free themes?

You can search for these themes by:

  • Featured which currently lists 15 themes
  • Popular which lists all of the 1777 free themes available on this site according to popularity which is determined by the number of downloads.
  • Latest which lists the free themes from newest to oldest.

You can create a filter to search for particular features in a theme if you’ve got something specific in mind.

Filtering options include:

  • Colors – Black, Blue, Brown, Gray, Green, Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, Silver, Tan, White, Yellow, Dark and Light
  • Layout – Fixed Layout, Fluid Layout, Responsive Layout, One Column, Two Columns, Three Columns, Four Columns, Left Sidebar and Right Sidebar
  • Features – Accessibility ready, Blavatar, BuddyPress, Custom Background, Custom Colors, Custom Header, Custom Menu, Editor Style, Featured Image Header, Featured Images, Flexible Header, Front Page Posting, Full Width Template, Microformats, Post Formats, RTL Language Support, Sticky Post, Theme Options, Threaded Comments and Translation Ready
  • Subject – Holiday, Photoblogging and Seasonal

If you place your cursor over the sample pictures for a theme you can click on the “More Info” button that appears and go to a detailed description for that particular theme. On the right panel of the pages describing the individual themes, you can:

  • opt to preview or download the theme
  • see the ratings for that particular theme given out of a potential of 5 stars
  • see date of the last updates to the theme
  • access the link to the support forum for that theme
  • see the list of tags for that theme that correspond to the Features Filter
  • see the number of downloads per day and overall number of downloads for that theme

For example, on the Homepage of the Twenty Twelve theme, we can see that:

  • it was last updated on December 17, 2014.
  • it has a 4.5 out of 5 stars rating with a total of 119 reviews
  • there have been 1,732,253 downloads of this theme overall

WordPress.org Commercial Themes

WordPress.org also offers a directory of commercial themes. These themes are not free but may offer features and stability that some of the free themes may not offer.

I need to compile a list of my criteria for a new theme and then check out the possibilities and make some decisions.

What do you think? What features do you think are important for a writer’s blog? Is there a particular theme that you like or can recommend? Tell me in the comments.

Photo credit: Pixabay

5 Reasons to Write a Book Series

5 Reasons to Write a Book Series explains the benefits of writing a series of books versus writing a single novel.

In recent years we’ve seen several book series become very successful and even go on to the small or big screens.

Examples:

And, let’s not forget:

These are just some examples I could think of without straining my brain too much. As readers we know why these series work. We get to follow the exploits and adventures of beloved characters for longer than we could do if they only “lived” in a single novel.

Why Write a Series?

  1. You can reuse and build upon established characters and settings.
  2. You have the opportunity to develop secondary characters easier than you usually can do in a single novel.
  3. You can build an audience that will theoretically grow over time with a series versus the audience that one novel is likely to attract because each book has the potential to draw a reader to the other in the series.
  4. A series is easier to promote, market and sell because:
    • You can offer special prices, bundles or giveaway early books from the series to increase sales of new books in a series.
    • Readers hooked on the first books in the series are going to want to buy the new books.
    • It may be easier to get book reviewers who liked the earlier books to review the new books.
    • You can potentially sell all the books in your series for not much more effort than selling a single novel.
  5. You can establish your brand because:
    • Your book covers can carry over certain recognizable cover and interior design characteristics making them easy for readers and buyers to distinguish.
    • Your website and social media accounts can carry over design aspects and colours from your books.

Do you have any suggestions to add to the list? If so, tell us in the comments.

Photo credit: Pixabay