Social Media for Writers

Vaughn

For the past few years when asked for marketing or PR assistance from my publisher and (yes) my former agent , “Use social media,” seems to be the mantra. I fully understand the importance of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Of the three I believe Twitter to be the most useful. One reason is that I’ve broken myself of the Facebook addiction of late. For eighteen months I couldn’t pick up a newspaper, listen to radio, or watch television news without having one politician or another lying to me (I believe that we should ignore anything they tell us in an election campaign–all they’re doing is telling us what they think we want to here. Once the election is over they push their own agenda–which usually means finding ways to enrich themselves–until the next election that is.). After November 4, 2016 I breathed a sigh of relief erroneously believing that the election was over. Well, on Facebook it isn’t. I have started to unfriend that portion of my friend’s list who continually post politics; I don’t push my political philosophy on you, so please return the favor. The election is over, for God’s sake, move on! (While we’re at it, please stop trying to make me feel guilty by posting pictures of unfortunate children and those annoying posts that tell me if I don’t share it I’ll have bad luck. If you’re truly my friend you’ll know that I don’t share those things so in reality you’re putting a hex on me.) Still as a writer we cannot afford to completely ignore the power of social media.

Personally of the three I find that Twitter meets my needs the most for the following reasons:

  1. You can reach all of your followers for FREE. Facebook will prevent a percentage of your followers from seeing your posts–unless you pay to promote your post. If your followers are logged on to Twitter, they’ll see your tweets.
  2. You can tweet as often as you like. Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm score suffers the more you post.
  3. Engage your readers right now. Tweets are like micro-blogs and Twitter users are accustomed to receiving information at a rapid-fire pace. It is therefore the perfect way to spread news about what’s happening in your writing life at this very moment.

What to tweet and not to tweet (for Authors)

– Do not sell your book!
Nothing annoys your followers more then asking them “Please buy my book”, “Please, read my book”, “Now only 99 cents” etc. Followers are quickly annoyed and will call this ‘shameless’ self-promotion. And you might think the same when reading only these kinds of tweets from people you are following and might decide to not follow these Tweeps anymore.

– Make yourself as Author interesting
Tweet about your writing and the progress of your new book project. Having received an amazing review, award, etc. Share the publishing process, provide tips for others. Share sale success etc. If you make yourself/your book interesting enough  your followers will probably investigate and buying your book and/or reviewing your book. (soft sale)
Let your followers know if your book has been featured, or you’ve done an Interview or a guest-post. Let them know about reading or signings, how to get freebies, etc.

– Get involved in discussions
You’re seeing your followers discussing interesting topics – get involved. Or ask a question to start a conversation.

– Re-tweeting
If you see interesting or helpful tweets from others you’d like to share – RT (Re-Tweet) it to your followers. This helps interesting posts to get a wider audience. Your followers will RT your Tweets as well if they are interesting for them. Don’t ask for RT’s – your followers will re-tweet your tweets if your posts are good (interesting, helpful) enough for a RT.

– Using Hashtags (#)
Use Hashtags – so Tweeps who search for for a category or genre can easier find your tweets, like #thriller #para #ya #WritingTip etc. Don’t overuse them – else tweets can be more difficult to read with to many hashtags.

– Build relationships with other writers
“Thanks for the RT” doesn’t exactly build relationships. If someone retweets your tweet or mentions you, take the extra two minutes to check out their Twitter profile, see what they write, and comment on it in a tweet with a ‘Thank you’ included.
Fellow writers are mostly also readers and are great to have relationships with to share tweets, writing tips, found a beta reader group, etc. Do NOT use these relationships trying to sell them your books. (This can be seen a lot on Twitter)

To get the most out of your Twitter Account I highly recommend you purchase a copy of Twitter for Dummies.

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Tools of the Trade

Jessie: Peering out my office window over a sun-blotting snowbank.

One of the many pleasures of being a writer is a sort of carte blanche regarding  stationary supplies. During difficult days spent staring at a blank page I sometimes wonder if guilt-free access office supplies is what makes any of it worth the doing.

Now that I’ve started writing historical mysteries I find the flames of my interest Even more wildly fanned. My characters use  manual typewriters, fountain pens, and reams of foolscap. In the interest of research, I  hardly be blamed if I feel I must try these things out for myself. How could I possibly describe the heft of a fountain pen or the scratch of its nib against a creamy sheet of heavy paper if I had not used one myself?

What started as research has turned into a guilty pleasure  of the finest kind. At present I would prefer not to report the number of pens I feel fondly towards. Things have gotten to the point I am considering  sophisticated storage methods.

Notebooks, and boxes of stationary chomp at the heels of my pen obsession. Used notebooks filled with story ideas and outlines and things I meant to remember sit cheek by jowl on a shelf in my office. Their unsullied neighbors awaiting their own turn beneath the inelegant ministrations of my pens give me chiding glances whenever I attempt to squeeze my latest spontaneous purchase in next to them on a already crowded shelf.

Thus far, I’ve managed to resist the siren song of blotting paper and wax seals. But I won’t lie; I doubt I can hold out much longer. Jetpens.com, Gouletpens.comLevenger and even Amazon offer up temptations every time I visit their sites. Trips to bookstores with stationary sections are similarly kitted out with an necessary yet almost irresistible writing tools. The only thing I can say in my defense, especially at this time of year, is that these  purchases are tax-deductible.

Readers is there anything you find especially hard to resist? Do you love pens, notebooks, jars of paste?

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Maine House Dreams

These days, I hang my hat in a lovely home in a little neighborhood off Mere Point Road in Brunswick, Maine. Ben and I are renting the place for the year from a couple of professors who have taken a year-long sabbatical to California with their two young children. Yeah, the same California that’s currently underwater and may never recover. Possibly not the best timing there.

It’s worked out well for Ben and me, though. There are quiet roads where I can walk my boy Killian, and the neighbors are dog savvy enough that they don’t let their pooches run wild – thus ensuring that my pup does not eat them. Which is good. The basement has been renovated, which means Ben’s fourteen-year-old son has space of his own when he comes to visit, and I have an office overlooking our quaint Brunswick street. In other words, life is good. The house is good.

It’s not our house, though. It’s not our art work on the walls, and our cooking stuff has to compete for space with all the stuff the home owners left behind. We can’t have bird feeders because we’re only going to be here a short time, and don’t want the owners to come home to songbirds accustomed to getting a daily handout. Thus, we’ve decided that our best next step would be to buy our own place once the lease is up here in July.

Which means we’re house hunting.

I’ll let you in on a little secret:

I love house hunting.

It turns out that it is more challenging, however, when you’re not just daydream house hunting but actually, actively looking for a home. And that much harder when you have two minds trying to agree on a single vision. Ben and I, as it happens, have different ideas of what constitutes the perfect house. I like places that require a little imagination (I once lived in a Kentucky elementary school, and I’m hooked on that HGTV show You Live in What?). Energy efficiency/green building is good. Outdoor space for chickens and gardens and, possibly, goats. And I’ve been mulling over the idea of directing my creative energies toward building funky bunny and guinea pig habitats wherever we end up (I’m not sure what that’s about, but I suspect the current administration may have broken my brain). I like light. I don’t care for neighbors.

Ben likes stately old Victorians, with grand staircases and gorgeous architectural details. He’s okay with less land, though he does agree that chickens and goats would be pretty cool. In-town is fine with him, depending on the town. Ben also has a day job in Portland, so he’s looking for a daily commute of a maximum of 45 minutes each way.

Suddenly, I’ve become part of one of those annoying couples featured on House Hunters (another HGTV show – are you sensing a theme?). “We have $150,000 and would like five bedrooms, four baths, at least two acres, a pool, and an animatronic lawn jockey to carry our children from room to room.”

Our budget is a little more substantial than that, and Ben’s son is perfectly capable of walking, so an animatronic lawn jockey really isn’t necessary… but you get the idea.

Happily, we do have common ground, though. We’re both agreed that we don’t want to break the bank with this house, though chances are good we’ll be staying there for a while. That said, neither of us is up for major renovations, so a fixer upper is not really an option. We both love cooking, so a kitchen with good light, quality appliances, storage, and lots of counter space would be ideal. A good bathtub is a must – the place we’re in now has a giant jetted tub, and I would kind of like to be buried in that thing. If we’re going for a smaller footprint, a fenced yard would be great for Killian; if not, a barn for goats would be lovely. Reading nooks, built-in bookshelves, pantries and half-baths and a walk-in closet… These are the buzzwords that sing in my head now.

It wasn’t so long ago that it seemed utterly fantastical to think I might be a homeowner again, after the debacle with the elementary school in Kentucky. The fact that we’re this close isn’t something I take for granted; hell, just living this idyllic suburban existence in Brunswick often seems like a dream. Now that the moment to move forward is almost upon us, I just need to keep reminding myself what really matters: A peaceful, happy home with a little space for a garden.

And, just maybe, a jetted tub.

What about you? Are you living in the house of your dreams already? If so, what do you love the most about it? If you’re not there yet, what’s the feature you fantasize about the most? Comment below with your thoughts and/or words of wisdom. I’d love to hear from you!

Jen Blood is the USA Today-bestselling author of the Erin Solomon Mysteries and the Flint K-9 Search and Rescue Mysteries. To learn more, visit www.jenblood.com

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Boring Can Be Bliss!

Dorothy Cannell: My husband Julian and I have taken to drink. Well, somewhat truish.

Perhaps you’ll sit by a cozy fire?

At Christmas time I usually make hot wine punch, mostly because it makes the house smell nice, but this time, either because it tasted better than usual or because we told ourselves we were coming down with colds, I kept replenishing the pot. At first saying ‘this is the last batch,’ then ‘just while it snows,’ until the present when we are talking of a ‘moratorium in June.’

Could have put this confession another way as in ‘Julian and I have been enjoying a cup of hot wine punch of an evening during this winter season,’ but I didn’t think that would have made for the arresting opening sentence which is one of the basic writing requirements. That’s the problem with writing from a personal experience perspective, it often requires some embroidery to make it passably interesting reading when life is going through an uneventful patch.

Nothing else of a current nature springs to mind deserving of even a second paragraph, so (with apologies) continuing on is the self-indulgence of keeping my arthritic fingers nimble. Today started exactly the same as yesterday, the day before yesterday, the day before the day before the previous yesterday and the day before the previous, previous yesterday. I awoke at six thirty to the stealthy sounds of Julian leaving to exercise at the Y. As always I wondered if he might be sneaking off for good into the arms of a statuesque, or buxom blond, whichever is the irresistible sort these days. But inevitably there was no ‘don’t try to find me’ note pinned to the pillow.

Not Dorothy’s puppy, but another dog eager to become someone’s pet

For three and three quarter minutes I contemplated a brief lie-in, but before I had closed my eyes half way the dogs Teddy and Watson roused as if having thawed back to life after lying buried in a crater since the last ice age. Here is what follows:

  1. Put them out in fenced area
  2. Fill their food bowls and place in separate areas to avoid one of them insisting he is the only one entitled to eat
  3. Make coffee
  4. Bring them in and cajole each into his food station. Closing doors behind them
  5. Pour myself a cup of coffee
  6. Turn on the news
  7. Release dogs
  8. Fill their water bowls
  9. Turn off news, to avoid an attack of depression over state of world affairs
  10. Pour myself another cup of coffee
  11. Have bath and dress
  12. Boil an egg and toast an English muffin

And so it continues with one dull doing activity after another, but out of concern for anyone who has continued reading on in hope of gaining sainthood through martyrdom, but is beginning to think being boiled in oil preferable, even cheering, I’ll leave it there.

Well, not quite. There is a point, inadequate though it may be, for my dwelling on the trivial and it’s this: As a writer I am fueled by mindless activity, it allows me to go inside myself to work out the next scene in current book, think up ways of fleshing out a character, come up with a slice of dialogue, make a discovery such as realizing the person I had designated at the murderer didn’t do it.

I have written books during times that weren’t tranquil – when life was filled with grim realities, and in those cases I endeavored to find strength in continuing with the ordinary. Grounding myself in the mundane. To have the luxury of not having anything better to focus on than whether to add another stick or two of cinnamon to the hot wine punch, or engage in similar blissfully boring endeavors.

Note to readers who have enquired whether I am going to write another Ellie Haskell book, I’ve been working on one in my head and plan to get on with it while replenishing the hot wine punch, etc.…

Happy reading,

And here’s the recipe: 2/5th of sweet red wine; 32 oz. of orange juice; cup of light brown

Something to read while you imbibe?

sugar; 6 cinnamon sticks; 12 cloves stuck in a slice of orange; a tablespoon of ginger; dash of nutmeg; bring to a boil and simmer for half-hour.

When taken at night encourages nodding off to pleasant dreams.

Dorothy

Posted in Dorothy's Posts | 10 Comments

Bikes of Key West

Hi. Barb here. Unfortunately I’m in book jail. Deadline near and far more writing road to travel. Then a proposal and a short story due after that. Like planes stacked up over an airport with a single runway open.

Fortunately, my husband, Bill Carito, has stepped up to fill the void. We’re in Key West until April 1. While I pound the keyboard every afternoon, he roams the town, looking for the right shot.

Bikes are the preferred method for navigating Key West. The island is compact and flat and the parking is terrible. The highest point, laughably called Solares Hill, is 18 feet above sea level. I have walked over it many times, and you don’t even notice an incline.

I share some of Bill’s photos of bikes with you today. Enjoy!

[All photos in this post are by Bill Carito. If you like them and want to see more, you can friend him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bcarito and follow him on Instagram at billcarito and bill.carito.colorphotos.]

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