Category Archives: Social Networking

WordPress Impressed: Where do you blog?

My sister-in-law and I were talking the other day about websites. She has started a business with a talented girlfriend of hers and commented that they needed a website, but couldn’t afford one right now. As a writer with two names for my two types of writing, I know my way around blogs/websites. I’ve been on them (hit and miss) for nearly five years now. I’ve also helped other small businesses design user friendly sites of their own.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not the world’s most-or-even-close-to tech savvy gal around, but I do know a thing or two about what makes some servers more user friendly and/or professional than others. It’s because of this familiarity that I recommended WordPress for all her small business needs.

And before I hear a chorus of, “But you haven’t been blogging for eternity”, I would like to say that re-immersing myself with the social media world in the past weeks has actually made me appreciate the intuitive nature of WordPress all the more. In fact, one of my favorite aspects of WP at the moment is their new posting feature that allows me to hop back and forth between my kid blog and this blog so easily. LOVE IT.

“But wait,” you say. “You said website. What you have is two blogs. NOT the same thing.”

I can assure you that because of my YA writing, I am very familiar with WP as a static website and absolutely adore my webpage for it’s clean professional look that is easy to update when necessary. And yes, I have a different website for my kid books through Wix which isn’t nearly as easy to navigate–for either the designer or the viewer–as my WP one is. I also blog on two separate blogs with blogger and have a hate/hate relationship with them.

So, while I haven’t been the most consistent social media guru in the past six months, I do have some practical experience with the cyber realm of websites and blogs. Hands down, WordPress wins.

But don’t just believe me. If you’re looking into all web options, please consider this: the powers that be at AgentQuery Connect advise writers that the most intuitive and cheapest services out there is none other than WP–all without compromising on quality and professionalism.

So, what’s in your cyber wallet? Who do you blog with and where do you park your permanent dot com? Feel free to share the things you hate or love about the different servers.

Curious minds want to know.

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Stepping Up and Stepping Out: introducing my kid blog

Social media has a big mouth. In fact, I wonder who even uses the Yellow Pages anymore when trying to track down garbage companies, book stores or city offices. Instead, we turn to Google and let our fingers do the tapping. I have to admit that as a writer, this can be both daunting and unbelievably useful. In fact, I was recently contacted by a coordinator looking for authors to present at a young writer’s conference. She found me online. 

It was great, but it would have been better if I’d been keeping up with my social media like we authors are supposed to. And that’s the daunting part. Social media can take up lots of time, and its easy to run out of material. Which got me thinking. I am a kidlit writer. I love writing for kids. So why don’t I have a kid blog?

To answer, blogs take time. Blogs require maintenance. Successful blogs require readers. Do kids even read blogs?

Good question. And I suppose the answer is, we will see.

As I begin booking speaking gigs at schools and libraries in anticipation of the release of my middle grade novel, I thought now would be a good time to have a cyber spot for kids to land. Hence, I took a monumental step and created a blog for kids: Cat 4 Kids.

My goal is to fill it with quick, yet important stuff for middle grade kids (which translates in the literary arena to ages 7ish through 12ish) depending on maturity and interest level. I hope to blog three or more days a week, all while keeping kids needs, fears, worries, wants and desires as well as core classroom curriculum, in mind.

So, if you are a kid, know a kid, love a kid, teach a kid, write for kids or just like kid stuff, you can hop on over to catwoodskids.com. Please feel free to share my link with other parents, teachers or librarians who might like a fun cyber place to send their kids.  

Also, if you’re a teacher, librarian or coordinator who hosts authors, please keep me in mind.

  • Teachers: do you follow any blogs in your classroom that are written for kids? If so, which ones?
  • Parents: how do you help your children find sites that are not only game-focused, but also educational to get them in the habit of reading and learning on their own?
  • Writers: have you tried a kid-specific blog for the younger age group? If so, how has it worked for you?

Curious minds want to know.

 

Frivolous Friday: Greasing Palms…er, Pans

So, this morning I made muffins. No matter how many tried-and-true methods and products I’ve used, my muffins always stick tot he pan. Always. I buy good pans. Sticky. I buy “the best on the market” oils and greases and sprays. Sticky.

Let me tell you, it gets frustrating to always have chewed-on looking muffins.

Bad looking muffins=new product or method.

Finally, I found a cake grease that actually works. If I use a lot of it. Which I didn’t for two of my poor muffins today. And it got me thinking that in life, we are always greasing the way for things to go smoothly.

Some call it networking and some call it…well, this is a family friendly blog, so I won’t quite go there. But the point is the same. You behave a certain way, or do certain favors to gain a foothold in this tenuous thing called life.

As parents, we may suck up to other parents so our kids get invited to the coveted birthday party of the season or play on a specific baseball team or start as quarterback. As employees, we may butter-up our bosses to get that promotion. Students brown-nose while politicians glad-hand.

We’re all guilty on some level of playing the greasy-palm game.

Writers, you are too. Ooops, we are. It’s how we make ourselves marketable. We may glom onto the twitter queen in hopes of garnering half her followers just by association. Or, we schmooze at conferences when we’d rather poke our eyes out with a sharp stick.

Life is greasy, and sometimes those who get the dirtiest get ahead.

Alas, however, the case cannot be said for my poor muffins. My poor sad muffins who now taste like grease instead of poppy seed, and fill my hands with a slimy residue I can’t get rid of.

I guess greasing palms and pans can have some serious consequences, too.

So, what do you think? Have you greased any palms lately to get ahead in your life? If so, did it work? Has a greasy-palm plan backfired for you? Or, are you the hard-working, quiet muffin that looks a little rougher for the wear, but is really delicious inside?

And what, pray tell, do you use to get your muffins out of the pan without altering their inherent goodness?!?!?!

Curious minds want to know.

Messages from Spam: I am the Swiss Army Knife

I’ve been having a rough couple weeks.  My house (to steal a phrase from my nephew) is a bizaster.  First came the painting in which every upstairs room had a furniture migration to the middle of the floor…for a week.  Then came the storage room purge.  I won’t even tell you what that looked like.  But I’ll show you!

This was day two and roughly fifteen hours before I found out my father-in-law was coming to spend the night on his way to a business trip.  Talk about a mad scramble to sort, trash and repack.  Every item in every box that has been stored for nearly eight years was touched by me personally in two days.  The after picture is amazing.  You’ll have to trust me on that.

Anywho…then came the carpet–which I prepared for on Monday by moving my boy’s beds into the master bedroom along with half their toys and putting the rest on my dining room table.  Yeah, finding clothes in drawers stacked on other furniture is more fun than I can handle.  Finding the floor in the basement den is impossible, as that’s where they decided to camp out until the new carpet is laid.  Today the living room furniture will somehow have to squeeze into the dining room and entry way.

Next will be storing my kitchen cupboard stuff on the dining room table and the brand new carpet on the living room floor while my countertops are put in.  Lord have mercy.  My house is a bizaster.

Add to that baseball practices, proms, bullies and graduation menus and I’m a bizaster.

And my internet pooped out on me.  Again.  So, after an I’m-sorry-we’re-experiencing-longer-than-normal-delays-in-answering-your-call-please-stay-on-the-line service call to the cable company, I decided to clean out the 47 spam messages before tackling the living room shuffle.

This one made my day: “Your website is the electronic Swiss army knife of the cyber world.”

Aaaah.

I needed that, even if it was spam.

But sometimes it doesn’t matter where the message comes from or how it reaches us.  A tiny hug that lets you know you’re on the right path at just the right moment can give you a much-needed boost.

So today, as I sort through the bizaster of my house, I shall loudly proclaim myself The Swiss Army Knife.  I can.  I will.  I shall.

Dear readers, what kinds of unexpected messages have you received?  Have you ever said or done something so small you thought nothing of it until someone later told you it made a difference in his life?  Can we plan these spam messages to boost others around us, or is there some kind of cosmic force that delivers them at the right time to the right people?

Curious minds want to know.

If only I’d had my Swiss Army Knife complete with built-in turbo shovel for the storage room…

 

Social Media…The Death of Us All?

While discussing the downfalls of social media with my big kids last night, Eldest commented that technology would be the destructive force that takes down mankind.

I think he’s right.  Orwell’s 1984 has never been more present than now.  And it’s not necessarily the government we need to fear.  It’s ourselves.

We put so much of ourselves into the vast world of technology that we no longer have any sort of privacy (says the blogger who connects nearly every writing post to real life).  It’s dang scary.

And while I occasionally get opinionated and loud about certain issues, my motto is: If I can’t say it to my mother, my mother-in-law or my pastor, I have no business saying it online, because inevitably, anyone from my kids to their teachers to the mayor to the president can feasibly read what I write or ogle every picture I ever post.

That’s fine.  President Obama doesn’t care that my dog eats socks and sleeps on her back in her kennel.  Or that I think kids get by with bullying because adults are too afraid to step in.  Or that our inability to address early literacy issues as a preventative measure literally condemns thousands of children to an adult life in poverty or prison.  That we spend far more money incarcerating adults who had potential but lacked the ability to read well, instead of helping them as at-risk kindergarteners learn to succeed is one of the greatest tragedies our country has ever created.  Economically, emotionally and socially.

The Pres doesn’t care about me and my thoughts.  But somebody does.  Actually, lots of somebodies potentially do.

They like every new account I create, every website I visit, every purchase I make, every hot button word I say, every picture I post.  They like it because it’s information.  And information, if used correctly, can cause damage.  It can destroy job security, rip apart marriages and financially cripple individuals who aren’t careful.  Heck, even those who are.

Every picture of that beer can in your underage hands can keep you from attaining that coveted scholarship.  Every snarky word you type into cyberspace can influence other’s opinions and decisions about you, including a judge’s should you get busted for spouting off about your illegal gun supply.

We are the guilty parties in Cyber Space 1984.  We want to be heard so much that we forget what not to say.  We rail against agents as we email query letter after query letter.  We snark off about certain authors and their less than stellar books only to later realize when our own books arrive on the shelves, authors are reviewers too.

We take pictures of naughty parts and pen less-than-pure prose as captions to our lovers, never believing our spouses may find them.  We threaten others every day with hate-filled words, never believing someone will use our prejudices to take us down.  We destroy our own integrity in a constant battle to be seen and heard by our friends, never really understanding that it’s not just our friends who hear us and see us.  It’s the entire cyber world.

And that world is a very big place.

I urge everyone, regardless of age, race, gender or profession to carefully consider the long-term impact of their cyber footprints before setting anything loose into the vast and unforgetting realm of social media.

Our words count.  They add up.  They create a picture of what we look like to the outside world.  And sometimes, that picture ain’t pretty.  Don’t hang yourself with your words.

My favorite saying of all time comes from William Backus.  “”The concept behind personal integrity is wholeness. When a person is the same without as within, when what others know about him is the same truth he knows about himself, he has integrity.”

So, if you believe yourself to be a kind and gentle soul, your words should reflect this.  If you’re crass and crude and selfish on the inside, then so be it.  Present this truth to the world.  Just remember, we alone are responsible for what we say and how we say it.  The sandbox/lunchroom/break room has just gotten bigger.

How do you feel about social media as a whole?  What responsibility do we have to ourselves to set clear rules of social media engagement?  And what might those rules look like?  What types of behaviors spell certain social media death?

Curious minds want to know.

 

Guest-imate Lists for Book Sales and Graduation Celebrations

Eldest graduates in two months.  I’ve been making lots o’ lists recently–the biggest and most important being the guest list.  This is followed by the food list, which will be followed by the grocery list, which is directly impacted by the guest list guest-imation.

What is the Guest-imation?

That estimation of which guests will and will not attend the celebration.  For example, graduation occurs on Memorial Weekend.  The First weekend of summer in our  neck of the words.  The First opportunity to hit the lake.  The First holiday in many moons.  I don’t expect all of our camping-loving guests to show up.

Likewise, my big sis (and her family) is counted with the Will Nots.  We will send her an invite/announcement, yet we know full well she will not be trekking 21 hours NorthWest on the very day her own Eldest graduates.

Guest List 4.

Food List 0.

When creating lists for book signings, release day parties and general estimations in sales (particularly for self-pubbed authors) we must keep in mind the Guest-imates.

Aunt Edna may love us, but will she really buy our violently steamy Paranormal Romance Horror novel?  Eh, unless your Aunt Edna is cooler than mine, her name is firmly etched at the top of the Will Not list.

Yet, we often fail to wrap our brains around this.  We find ourselves carried away by sheer numbers.  I have 2,170 Facebook friends and 185,000 twitter followers, 164 this, 4,001 that, 12 + 907 + plus plus….*

Guestimate what?  These peeps will not all buy my novel.  Period.  They will not all attend my Release Day Party–cyber or otherwise.  Neither will they all care.  I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true.  Just because we know someone doesn’t mean s/he will financially support our endeavors, provide a toast for first-born novel or eat from my dessert bar for Eldest’s graduation.

And that’s okay.  Perfectly, happily okay.  But, we need to accept this as fact.  We need to prepare ourselves for the reality that a guest list or friend list or twitter list or blog list does not automatically translate to sales numbers.

We also need to keep our cool when Aunt Edna–holding the number one slot on the Will list–actually does not.  Just because she passes on divine chocolate cheesecake or that fabulous historical novel written in the time period when she herself was a child, doesn’t give us a free pass to skip her 108th birthday celebration and snicker behind our hands when she’s not looking.

Bitterness and hurt feelings have no place at graduation parties or in the writing realm.  Life is not tit for tat.  It is not a tally of favors owed and favors received.  It is not a book purchased simply as insurance for a future sale of our own.

So be smart.  Create a Guest-imate list based on real life and not one on feelings.  Hopefully that will get my grocery list to a manageable level and your sales expectations more in line with reality.

How do you create your guest lists?  Have you ever grossly under or over estimated them?  How has this impacted you in the writing world or in real life?  What tips do you have for creating future lists or guest-imating the Wills and the Will Nots?

Curious minds want to know.

*I don’t really have this many friends–real or imagined.

(Un)Healthy Writing 4: Addiction

Addictions start out small.  A sip here, a puff there.  A tasty treat that turns into a binge eating session.  “Just another minute” at the keyboard that turns to just a few more hours.

My question: can we include writing in a list of addictions that afflict people across the globe?

I honestly don’t have an answer for you on whether or not writing can consume your time and attention in such a way that it can be classified as addiction.  I do know that writers can spend a disproportionate number of hours at their desks.  I know that some writers spend virtually every free moment in front of the screen.  Or dreaming of being in front of the screen.

I know that clothes go unwashed, kids are left to fend for themselves and all real life social activities taper off into nonexistence.  I know that significant others complain that writers have better relationships with their characters than with them.

But does this qualify as a writing addiction?

I suppose it could if one is actually writing or performing some kind of writing task while letting real life dribble off into nothingness.  However, I assume this isn’t necessarily the case.  I assume that other activities invade writing time and the proposed addiction may not be writing itself, but some form of socializing.

Angry Birds, anyone?  Facebook, blogs, AgentQuery, research, chat rooms…?

Are you an effective writer, or one whose writing time borders on social addiction?  Is it possible to be addicted to the writing process itself?  If so, how does an aspiring author break the addiction yet still be productive?  How can writing dreams interfere with real life priorities, and how can we be more efficient in fewer hours?

Curious minds want to know.