Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Emoji blog postLike many other writers on the internet I’m busy trying to create awareness of my book, and in doing so, hopefully build a fan-base. ‘Marketing, marketing, marketing,’ that’s all I’ve lived and breathed leading up to the launch of my latest novel, Saving Anna. I’ve read blog posts on how to become the best blogger, Twitterer, Pinterester, Facebooker and Instagramer: none of which comes naturally to this hermit-like author. It’s a challenge, but it’s also a call of duty. Valiantly I have pitched into battle, fighting the inner demon called shyness with vigour and determination.

As a photographer as well as an author I recently decided to try my hand at Instagram, a new platform for me. I’m @Listansus First I had to learn how the app functioned, then I had to decide what kind of photos to post. Everyone says that an author is supposed to sell the author and not the book. Hmm, tricky. I hate having my photo taken (Yeah, I know, seriously weird considering I’m a photographer), so selfies are out of the question. Okay, so what about photos of my books? Lots of authors and review bloggers do this, and their Instagram feeds are truly delightful and very creative, but there are only so many times in a day that I can get excited about seeing the same book cover over and over again.

The other marketing tool on Instagram, which appears to be very popular, is to post an image with words – lots of words! They take the form of a short poem or a passage from a novel. These posts take time to read, whereas a photo is instant gratification. I love words, I write thousands of them, but on a visual platform I prefer an emotive photograph, or informative words, such as an inspirational quote from an author. Here’s one that writeHackr magazine, which will launch next year, posted today: “You create the world, blink by blink. It is entirely yours to discover and yours to create,’ by Sophia Amoruso. I like this, it inspires me.

So, what images am I posting? Apart from a sprinkling of book promotions, I’ve chosen to post photographs that I’ve taken, especially scenic ones that relate to locations in my novels. The question is, does anything I post inspire or interest other people? At first I was uncertain, but recently I’ve had loads of likes per photo, and an increasing number of complimentary comments, which has boosted my confidence.

Some of these comments have come via the universal language of emoji. Yes, you guessed, I’m a newbie at emoji as well as a newbie at Instagram! This is a steep learning curve and a very high mountain. What do these symbols mean?

Laughing Crying EmojiRecently ‘face with tears of joy’ was voted by the Oxford English Dictionary as the word of the year. Word!? It’s a symbol, and believe it or not, I’d never seen it before it hit the news and had to read up on what it meant. It’s a completely new language to me.

Emoji symbols

On Instagram I instantly understood the thumbs up, the clapping hands and the smiley face, but stupidly posted a symbol believing it meant ‘water’ when in fact it’s officially ‘splashing sweat symbol’ used in comic books to show that someone is working hard or stressed. Ooops!

Night sky emojiThis is one of the loveliest comments I’ve received. It’s from a guy whose photos are technically amazing, hence to receive an emoji from him meant a lot to me. I don’t speak Turkish, and he probably doesn’t speak English, yet we found a way to communicate and complement each other’s work. Now, when you’ve finished laughing at me, thinking, rightly so, that he’ll never read my books, let me outline the bigger picture. For every comment on Instagram, even an emoji, my profile rating goes up. This is good. I’m also feeding all of my photos through to Twitter, via a clever app, and this has helped strengthen my Twitter profile and gained me more followers. Even though I’m posting photos, my hashtags say #amwriting and #writerslife, which has encouraged people to add me to their Twitter lists of interesting writers. This is a win-win situation and is boosting my social profile.

I haven’t acquired many followers yet on Instagram, and I refuse to cheat and go and buy false friends, but the people I am connecting with are genuine and we’re building a warm rapport with each other. If you’d like to come and join me, I’m @listansus

To my amazement people have taken this photo to their hearts, if you like it, heart me ❤


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Once upon a time Booktrope came along and changed everything…they offered me a publishing contract. With Booktrope we do what is termed ‘team publishing,’ in that we create a team consisting of author, editor, book manager, project manager, proof reader and cover designer, all working together to generate the best book possible before it goes to press. But today I’m not here to talk about the specifics of an individual project, I’m here to talk about the much larger possibilities that Booktrope offers its authors.

Montana Book FestivalBooktrope itself is one large family, with everyone helping each other out and flagging up opportunities. Maybe what’s on offer is as simple as someone offering to buddy-up over a coffee (Or virtual coffee via Skype) because they work in a particular industry and have insider knowledge that will help you perfect a scene, or maybe it’s a chance for visual exposure to the industry, such as being asked if you’d like to share table space at the Montana Book Festival. On my own I would never have heard of, thought of, or even dreamt of having my novel Visiting Lilly represented at the prestigious Montana Book Festival. After all, I live in the UK, not America.

Visiting Lilly at Montana Book FestivalSo, when Booktrope’s highly talented author Paula Marie Coomer sent round a message inviting fellow Tropers to take part in the Montana Book Festival, I was eager to be involved. My enthusiasm stemmed not from anticipated book sales, but a deep understanding that to display my novel to a wider audience offers traction to becoming a recognised author.

PMC at Montana Book FestivalI caught up with Paula on her return and asked how the festival had gone and what she’d brought away from the experience that she’d like to share with other authors.

Here’s Paula’s excellent report.

First, I’d like to thank Guy Pace  for joining me. We had such a fun time chatting back and forth and talking to all the wonderful folks who came past our table. Guy was relentless! He is a great front man who would not let people not talk to him. It was a wonderful thing to see. Also have to give a shout out to Barb Drozdowich Jae Carvel Massimo Marino  Kandi J Wyatt Allan Ament  Tess Thompson Toni Allen  for providing books and swag. We didn’t sell too much, but we talked to lots of people about Booktrope, gave out most of the handouts about the Booktrope website, and talked to a number of authors looking for a literary home.

PMC Montana5What events like this always remind me of is how much writing is being done out there, how many writers there are, how many ways of approaching the writing life and task of writing, how many different goals writers have, how many different types of books and publishers, and just how alive and well and buzzing the world of books is. I ached for those authors out there roaming the world looking for a publisher. We all remember what that was like.

Guy Pace at Montana Book FestivalIt was also my first time to be on the vendor side of things. I have previously only attended writing and book conferences as an author or presenter. I’d never considered setting up a vendor table as an author. In this case, I registered as Booktrope since we had a number of BT authors represented. What I didn’t know is that the name and logo for Booktrope would be published far and wide. It got me thinking about name recognition and how setting up at festivals like this might be quite a boon for new book authors who are trying to get their work and name out there. One of the most interesting moments was talking to a physicist from New Mexico about Massimo Marino’s trilogy (Massimo is a physicist). The man didn’t buy a book, but I’m guessing he won’t forget the conversation he had with Guy about it. My point is, what are the chances of connecting with someone like that? If Massimo had been there, I’m sure the man would have purchased the book. (Hmm. Maybe having authors standing by on Skype or Facetime next time? Very 21st century.) We connected with him because of what he does for a living. It made me think about the fact that I have a book about a nurse, but have I ever reached out to the nursing community around it? No! Why is that? Why wouldn’t I think of doing that first?

Barb at Montana Book FestivalIt made me realize, once again, that hands-on selling may be expensive, in terms of what it takes to get us out there in the world, but it is an adjunct to online promotion and can, in fact, give new direction to our online promotions. Maybe we need to think more deeply about the populations represented in our books. Who are the outliers? Who else might we have missed? (I’m thinking in my first novel, also, of how much a part the natural world plays, yet it now dawns on me that I’ve never once thought to introduce the book to a group of naturalists interested in our well-studied geographical region.)

Jae Carvel at Montana Book FestivalAlso, what about groups you identify with? Guy has a passion for Harleys, so he’s been talking up his book to a Harley group he’s connected with online. How brilliant. A Harley rider who wrote a book. Anyone who rides Harleys or loves motorcycles might perk up an ear. It makes complete sense.

Allan Ament at Montana Book FestivalGuy also knew enough about the White Sands proving grounds to be able to take the conversation down that road a ways–engaging that physicist further. Who’s to say the man didn’t go right home and order Massimo’s book? In fact, several people wrote down names and titles of several books. Speaks also to the value of swag–bookmarks, handouts, drop cards–all of it serves a purpose. Getting yourself in front of people and making a memorable impression–it’s as old as marketing itself, but you can’t put a price on that human connection. One woman I talked to at the table reached out to me later and ended up telling me a huge piece of her life. I was able to say something that made her see that piece of herself differently. She started to cry. Came back to my table and bought a book. Humanness sells books twice as fast as tricks and flash and fast-talking. It comes down to making connection. None of this is new, but I was so impressed by this over and over again.

Lastly, the people selling the big numbers of books were the people selling and presenting, so you know I will be putting my proposal in for next year. I’ll also have a Booktrope table, too, however.

All of this is to say–when you see a call for proposals for a book festival or conference, don’t be shy. Get together with some other authors and share the cost of a table.

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Editing - Fun or Fire?Building a reputation as an author who’s worth reading doesn’t happen overnight. I continuously work at it, but there’s little point in going to all of that effort if I don’t have a quality product. I like to think that I can spin a good yarn, captivate my audience and create interesting, credible characters, but that’s as far as it goes.

I goof and make errors when writing. My spelling isn’t atrocious, but at times it can be most peculiar. You mean that isn’t how you spell it? Hmm, very odd. Then there’s punctuation and grammar: as hard as I try to get it right first time, second time, or even third time, there’ll always be something I’ve missed, or simply don’t know how it’s supposed to be professionally laid out. Of course, we also have those places in the manuscript where I’ve decided to swap a couple of paragraphs around, only to later discover that I didn’t cut and paste, I copied and pasted, resulting in two identical paragraphs creating a sandwich around another paragraph. It happens!

Do I notice these things? Of course not. I’m a writer. A wordsmith: my imagination alight with the creative process. That’s why I have an editor.

I’m very fortunate to have the most wonderful, brilliant and patient editor: Cindy Wyckoff. My publisher for the Jake Talbot Investigates series is Booktrope who are based in Seattle, and yes, my editor is American. When editing my first novel in the series, Visiting Lilly, we had to decide whether to maintain its Britishness, or change certain words for an American audience. After much discussion we decided to keep my very British Detective, Jake Talbot, in character, and only compromise on a few words or phrases which would have been confusing, and therefore interrupted a reader’s understanding and enjoyment of the story.

One example of Br English versus US English is that we call the end of a spent cigarette a dog-end, while Americans call it a butt. I was allowed to use dog-end, because in context it was easy enough for an American readership to work out what I was talking about.

To read the excerpts properly, right click and select open in new tab.

Sa editing  UK US exampleTo the British a pot plant is an innocent flower in a pot on the windowsill; to an American it’s growing an illegal substance. Oops! Any self-respecting police officer should definitely not have one of those in his home. We opted for house plant. As you can see, this change in no way inhibits my creativity, but what it does do is avoid an American reader stopping short and questioning what the hell is going on.

Editing isn’t all about comma, comma, full-stop, semi-colon, question mark. To show you all of that part of the process would be tedious and turn this into an article on grammar and punctuation. The nudges, niggles and hiccups are what we smooth over – ironing we call it. We want the reader to have a silky ride, with no little bumps along the way.

Here’s an example of where I’d used the words procession and proceed very close to each other. It’s all become a bit poetic, so needed to be changed.

Funeral processionThis is an example of repetition needing to be changed.

RepetitionAn even worse example of repetition!

Even more repetitionThen we have sentence structure and the conundrum of who, or what, is making the action. Yes, I often have the wrong object doing something. I know what’s happening, but will the reader?

Shaking handsOn rare occasions I slip out of genre, and the description I use doesn’t fit with the concept of a mystery novel.

Out of genreAnd lastly, we have a laugh, peppering comments with smiley faces and lots of LOLs!

SA Ducati editing sampleBelieve it or not, editing is fun. Love your editor, love the process, and enjoy the ride. The more you put into it, the more pleasure your readers will gain when reading your book. Never forget that happy readers help build your fan-base.

Cindy Wyckoff is Freelance Seattle based Technical Editor and Writer, Fiction Editor and Proofreader.

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Goodreads giveaway Visiting Lilly

Imagine yourself sitting there with a lovely cup of your favourite brew reading a copy of Visiting Lilly. From now, right through to October the 15th, there’s a copy up for grabs in my Goodreads Giveaway. The Giveaway is open to US and UK residents. The restriction is purely to keep costs down as it’s a paperback I’ll be sending out.

Visiting Lilly introduces Detective Inspector Jake Talbot, a man with a deep sense of justice and a personal tragedy that haunts him, especially at Christmas. Talbot can’t understand why a man at a Surrey police station should go ballistic because someone tries to visit Lilly, his elderly grandmother. He’s intrigued, and this little puzzle might serve to distract him from sorrows of a Christmas past.

Soon he’s entangled with Frankie, an odd young man who claims to have met Lilly in her youth. Talbot dismisses the notion of time travel, but then discovers the Ministry of Defence has been monitoring Frankie since his childhood friend disappeared ten years previously. Forced to work with the MOD, Talbot unearths family secrets and betrayals. The families act ruthlessly to prevent him from discovering the facts, colluding to ruin him.

If Frankie is innocent, Talbot won’t let him be victimised. An uneasy understanding grows between them as they follow the evidence, for only the truth will allow Frankie to visit Lilly.

Visiting Lilly is a story of mystery, murder and a question of time travel.

Why not enter the Goodread Giveaway right now.

Book 2 in the Jake Talbot Investigates series, Saving Anna, is due for release this October.

Detective Inspector Jake Talbot hates working undercover. Yet, when ordered to Dorset to observe a sinister cult for the Ministry of Defence, he accepts, because the group’s beliefs pose a direct threat to his sister Anna. How far will Jake go to save his sister?

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I’m very fortunate to know Barb Drozdowich, author of ‘The Author’s Platform,’ a must read book for every author. Here’s what it’s all about.

Creating buzz for your book and your career as an author just got easier.

The Author's Platform by Barb Drozdowich‘The Author’s Platform’ will help you create, understand and use a powerful author platform to sell books.

Social Media and WordPress Consultant Barb Drozdowich will steer you through the technology behind book marketing without all the techno-speak. She has helped many authors just like you build an author platform that engages readers and builds sales.

This book will help you decode the mystery behind building a powerful author brand and navigating the social media platforms essential to publishing success.

‘The Author’s Platform’ teaches you why you need the various facets of the author platform to build visibility. Barb uses a simple analogy, Operation Book, to help you understand the steps to successful book marketing in the media age. She covers:

• The Difference between a Website and a Blog
• The Important Items Your Blog Should Contain
• The Nine Essential Social Media Platforms
• Newsletters
• Amazon’s Author Central and many more

With simple-to-follow steps, Barb will help you create, understand and use an Author Platform to support your career.
Grab a copy today.

Excerpt from ‘The Author’s Platform’

Website or Blog

Let’s start with the hub of your author platform—your website or blog. These words are often used interchangeably but can actually denote separate things. Let’s define.

Usually the word “website” refers to a static site on the Internet containing information that isn’t changed frequently. A programmer or web designer versed in HTML coding usually makes the changes on a per-change or hourly basis. Many authors view websites as expensive, and they certainly can be.

I’m rather frugal and prefer not to spend money. As a result, I’m not fond of static websites. Yes, they serve a purpose. However, I don’t think the average author must make the investment.

Static websites pose another problem. Because new and exciting information doesn’t appear in a timely fashion, these sites don’t attract the attention of Google and therefore often don’t rank very well in a Google search.

Think of Google as a toddler with a new toy. Those of you who have had exposure to toddlers know the toy doesn’t stay new long and, before you know it, the toddler is on to other toys—always looking for something new and different. If the content on a website is rarely updated, Google won’t pay much attention either.

Why should you care about this? As an author in need of visibility, you must rank as high as possible during a Google search. If you have an uncommon name such as mine, ranking on Google is a slam-dunk. Search my name and you’ll discover I own the first page of Google in a name-based search.

If you have a common surname like Smith or Jones, or share a name with a celebrity, you’ll probably never own the first page of Google. A client of mine shares his name with a moderately successful country singer. That’s a tough row to hoe. Ranking higher on Google than a famous person is difficult, but it is possible—as long as your name isn’t Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.

Why do you want to rank high on a Google search? It’s true that the majority of your readers will come from word of mouth. But not all. If a potential reader wants to find you quickly, or they’re looking for books in a specific genre, they frequently perform a Google search. They’ll glean the first entries found, but rarely look beyond the first few pages delivered by Google. Make it easy for readers to find you by ensuring you rank high on a search.

Tech Hint: I have lots of people tell me they “Google” themselves or search for themselves on Google all the time and they rank really well. Google is a responsive search engine. In other words, it learns. The more you perform a certain search, the better Google gets at finding what you want. If you Google yourself all the time, Google will get really good at finding you. Go to the local library and do the same search without signing on to your Google account. You will likely see a very different result. You likely don’t rank as high as you think!

Let’s return to our discussion of websites versus blogs. If websites feature static content, blogs offer a constant stream of new information. To my mind, blogs offer a second benefit: an author can maintain a blog with minimal paid help. Most important, a blog’s fresh content ensures it will rank higher in a Google search. (Remember the toddler example.)


During the 1990s, a blog was known as a weblog, indicating that it was something found on the Internet as a serial recording of information—a diary, if you will. Today, blogs are quite different, personalized and modified to display information in a variety of ways. But ultimately, a blog is still a serial collection of information.

In my experience, most blogs are designed by highly technical people with little understanding of the needs of authors. Even if your first blog seems a technical wonder, it is likely to change once you decide how you will use your blog. Please use the information below to make informed choices about your initial direction, or to modify the blog you’ve already developed. Whether you are a new or seasoned blogger, I hope that by the end of this section you will have a better sense of the components required for a successful blogging experience.

This brings me to an important point: regardless of your web designer’s opinion, ultimately your blog must be easy to use and tailored to your needs. If you have a blog that is too complicated for your skill level, ask for help. Make sure that help is qualified and is used to working with authors. We are a niche group with unique needs.

There are many different platforms for blogs including Blogger, free WordPress (also known as WordPress.com) and self-hosted WordPress (also known as WordPress.org). Each platform has positive and negative aspects.

As of this writing, a self-hosted WordPress blog costs no more than $100.00 a year. There are some additional startup costs. For example, how much you spend depends on the graphics selected for your blog.
For a nominal charge, you may also register a domain for your free WordPress or Blogger account. Doing so allows use of your author name unless the domain has been registered by another writer with the same name. For example, I own the domain barbdrozdowich.com and it is attached to my author site.

Do you care if you register your own domain? Only you can answer that question. In my opinion, you should.

End of excerpt


Barb Drozdowich has written a comprehensive, yet quick, simple guide that is a must-have, must-read, must-keep-handy reference. It’s invaluable for not only new authors, but also experienced writers. It should be on every author’s bookshelf!
~ Taylor Fulks, author of My Prison Without Bars: The Journey of a Damaged Woman to Someplace Normal

Barb Drozdowich AuthorBarb Drozdowich

Social Media and WordPress Consultant Barb Drozdowich has taught in colleges, universities and in the banking industry. More recently, she brings her 15+ years of teaching experience and a deep love of books to help authors develop the social media platform needed to succeed in today’s fast evolving publishing world. She owns Bakerview Consulting and manages the popular blog, Sugarbeat’s Books, where she talks about Romance – mostly Regency.

She is the author of 6 books and over 20 YouTube videos all focused on helping authors and bloggers. Barb lives in the mountains of British Columbia with her family.

Author Website: http://barbdrozdowich.com
Business Blog: http://bakerviewconsulting.com
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/BarbDrozdowichAuthor

Twitter: http://twitter.com/sugarbeatbc

Google+: https://plus.google.com/110824499539694941768/posts

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/sugarbeatsbooks/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7234554.Barb_Drozdowich

Barb Drozdowich YouTube Channel
Tech Hints Newsletter
Barb Drozdowich Amazon Author Page

The Author's Platform by Barb Drozdowich

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A few weeks ago I was delighted to receive an invitation to write for Luna Luna Magazine, a digital diary for creative thinkers, individuals, dreamers & darklings. I shall be writing for them once a month. My first article is a preliminary look at Sex & Tarot, in which I outline some of the basics.

Sex & Tarot by Toni Allen

Even if you’ve already read my book Sex & Tarot do pop along and have a read, because I’m always coming up with new insights and adding additional information which isn’t in my book.

If there are any tarot topics you’d like me to write about in future articles, either here or at Luna Luna, please leave a comment.

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Pink GrasshopperOne of my favourite pastimes is going off on a macro safari. The meadows become my jungle and I hunt through the grass and flowers for any creep crawlies I can find. Over the years I’ve learnt that there’s little point in going out with the intent of capturing a specific species, because they’re bound to be somewhere else on that particular day. I always to take photographs of whatever I see that captures my interest. It’s what’s here right now, so it becomes my subject.

I hasten to mention that I know absolutely nothing about insects and spiders. I’m a photographer, not an entomologist. But I do have this enormous encyclopaedia called the internet, so I take my photos, then try and name the bugs when I get home. The fun of macro photography is that you get to see things that aren’t visible with the naked eye, and it’s that detail that never ceases to interest and amaze me.

Last weekend I went off with my camera to a local meadow which I thought might be rich pickings for a few butterflies and dragonflies. Now, what did I say about never anticipating what you’ll see? Hardly a butterfly in sight, but I did find half a dozen different grasshoppers and crickets! I’d never seen so many different species all at the same time. By chance I’d managed to go macro-hunting at exactly the right time of day, between 5 and 7pm, and they were all busy going about their business of feeding. Most of the species I recognised from earlier photo shoots, or summer walks, and they were comfortingly familiar as an everyday sight in the English countryside during the summer months.

It wasn’t until I got home, downloaded my photos and started to trawl the net in an attempt to identity one of the grasshoppers that I realised she (or he) didn’t exist. Not officially! Most grasshoppers and crickets are green, brown, a little bit of a pinky-blush, a stripe, patches of black, creamy brown – but not this crazy lady – she’s cerise pink! Isn’t she fabulous! I’d never seen anything like her before.

Pink Grasshopper

My internet research turned up this article from the Telegraph in 2009 in which an 11 year old boy found a rare pink grasshopper that is identical to the one I photographed. They reckon that it’s a female common green grasshopper.

I’m lucky in that I happen to have a friend who’s a conservationist, and he’s taken a copy of a couple of my photos to discuss with his colleagues who specialise in entomology. So far they believe that my pink lady in quite young, and a rare variation. I’m now waiting for further feedback from other experts. From what I can gather I’ve caused quite a stir in my friend’s office, where they’re all busy discussing my pink lady.

I must admit that it’s rather fun to have seen and photographed something unusual. There’s a mystery to be solved, and the sense of the hunt goes on: only this time it’s the hunt for answers.

If you’ve haven’t tried macro photography then give it a go, you never know what you’ll find when least expecting it. Most cameras have a macro setting, it’s the one that usually has an image of flowers on it, next to the one of the mountain. All macro means is close-up. The trick is to take into account that once you start moving in closer that any tiny wobble can shift your subject out of focus, because with macro there’s such a fine line between being in and out of focus. For this reason it’s best to take several shots of the same thing, thus hedging your bets. For any animal or insect your main point of focus needs to be the eyes. When the eyes are in focus it helps us to connect emotionally and so our subject naturally feels more alive. This will give your photo more human interest and appeal to others.

Never worry about not getting the perfect shot: photography isn’t always about technical expertise, it’s about capturing an image with wow factor.


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