Achieving Balance… Slowly.

As a poet, I am always inspired by the beach and the sea.

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I posted recently about needing to write some positive poetry to balance the number of dark and melancholy poems that I’ve written, so that my next collection isn’t entirely moody, angry and defiant.

On Wednesday evening, between a meeting and a theatre company rehearsal, I grabbed some dinner and headed to one of my favourite spots – the beach. It was an unseasonally mild evening for early May— still 24 celcius when I got there— so I took off my shoes and grounded myself in nature with some deep breaths and my bare feet on the earth. It felt so good to find quietness and solitude there, just the sea, a few gulls and me.

While I sat on the foreshore and pondered the scene before me as evening fell, the beginnings of a poem came to me. Now that it’s finished, I’m pretty happy with it. I love the sensuous, joyful feel of a lovers’ reunion, and I think I’ve captured the moment well.

Consider me encouraged.

 

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Thank you to everyone who took the time to encourage or inspire me with ideas, whether as a comment or in a private message. It means a lot to me that you would do that, and that you’re interested enough in my writing to help me in that way.

 

Joey'sMapleLeafTatt

 

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I’d also appreciate any feedback on the poem. 

Thanks in advance, 
WNB

The Thrill of the Chase.

This week, I did something I haven’t done in quite some time: I put an item I really wanted on my “watch list” on eBay. That set in motion the next chain of events: checking in daily– or more often, as the end drew nearer– to see if anyone had placed a bid, choosing the precise time at which I would place my first bid so that nobody else could click the “Buy It Now” button, waiting with anticipation as time ticked away, and then moaning about how slowly time moves in that last half hour.

Honestly, that last half hour of an auction for an item you really want is like walking through glue. After a whole week of saying, “Far out! How is it 4pm already?”, yesterday afternoon d r a g g e d like you wouldn’t believe.

By the time there were just ten minutes left, I was poised like a cat watching the proverbial mouse. I was ready to bid if someone else outbid me. I was prepared for that battle of one-upmanship that often happens in the last five minutes, yet still breathing the mantra “nobody see this… please, nobody else see this.” The tension gripped my shoulders and I had to work to keep my breathing steady. When the auction finished without anyone else bidding, relief washed over me like a wave, right before the excitement of winning put me on a high for the rest of the day.

You may think I’m exaggerating, but this is a scene that is all-too-familiar to people accustomed to buying things on eBay and similar auction sites. It’s the thrill of the chase and a cat-and-mouse game, without even leaving the room. It can be quite addictive, although I only indulge occasionally.

Sure, I use eBay now and then for everyday items that my local stores don’t carry. Most of those, you can just buy casually because they always have more than one set of stainless steel drinking straws, for example. What I’m talking about here is the one-off item that you don’t want to miss out on.

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The last big thing I bought like this was a set of antique books – a complete set of Charles Dickens novels published in 1911, that I snapped up for $76. I’m pretty sure that whoever sold it didn’t know what they were selling, or how to list it properly, because that was an absolute steal. But hey – there it was, and there I was… what’s a book-loving girl to do?

Yesterday, the item in question was an out-of-production collectable teddy bear by Charlie Bears, a UK firm who make the most adorable bears ever. Their faces are ever so expressive, and every bear is just a little bit individual.

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I have a number of these bears already, but there’s always room for one more. As my husband says, “Some women buy shoes. Some women gamble. For Jo, it’s books and bears.”

This is Percival. He is super cute, and was listed for about a third of the retail price. Again, what’s a bear-loving girl to do? It just wouldn’t be right to leave a poor little bear all homeless and alone, would it? Just think of me as one of those altruistic animal rescuers, giving otherwise miserable bears a new chance at life in a sanctuary with others of their own kind.

If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram, you will most likely have seen some of my bears posing with my books. It’s a marketing angle I’m trying out since Facebook and Instagram in particular seem to favour posts that major on visual appeal rather than advertising value. In a social media world where everyone needs to find their own niche for marketing, “A Book and A Bear” is mine. People seem to enjoy the posts and respond very favourably, so I’m running with it.

 

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Now that the auction is over, the next phase begins.
We just have to be patient and wait for Percival to arrive. It’s fair to say that Diesel is as excited as I am.

 

 

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April is National — or, more correctly, International Poetry Month.

Poetry Month is a great opportunity to enjoy great poetry.

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National Poetry Month started as a national celebration in the US back in 1996 as an initiative of the Academy of American Poets but has become something that is celebrated more and more internationally, with not just publishers but bookstores, schools, libraries, and poets themselves joining in the celebrations. As you know, I’m a poet, so I’m absolutely in favour of all of that.

As the month progresses, I’ll be sharing some of my poems with a bit of context about why they were written and how I went about crafting my initial idea into a poem that delivered the message I wanted to put out there.  I’ll also be sharing some of my favourite poems that I’ve loved for a long time, and introducing you to some new poets that you may not yet have heard of.

If you’re not into poetry, don’t worry – my blog posts won’t be exclusively poetry related. I hope to share some more insights about writing and social media for authors, too.

To encourage you to get involved in small ways, I have compiled a list of ten ways in which you can celebrate Poetry Month this April. Choose one, or choose all– it’s up to you.

  1. Read a poem that is new to you.
  2. Memorise a poem, or part of one.
  3. Support a poet by following their blogs or websites. Follow my blogs – here and at WordyNerdBird Writes where you can read my new writing, including recent poems and one or two from each of my books.
  4. Support a poet on social media by following and sharing their posts. I’ll be posting some more suggestions in the coming week about where you might like to start, but for now, my social media links are at the bottom of the post!
  5. Support a poet by buying a book of poetry. I’ll be posting some suggestions in a day or two, but you can check out last year’s suggestions here! They’re all really good.
  6. Participate in the Dear Poet project, even if just by enjoying the fantastic videos on the website.
  7. Subscribe to Poem-A-Day, where you will receive a brand new poem  and some insights from the poet each day.
  8. Put the National Poetry Month poster image on your social media, website, notice board, shop window or anywhere else you think it might make a good impression.
  9. Write your own poem for someone special.
  10. Listen carefully to songs on the radio. You might be surprised how many of them are poetry set to music.

 

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How To Avoid Blocked Hashtags On Instagram

Did you know that you aren’t allowed to use the hashtag #books on Instagram?
Until today, I certainly didn’t.

Instagram have been blocking some terms – mostly to do with sexism, sexual content, body shaming and bullying, or so I thought. It’s called a shadowban: posts using blocked tags are less visible than others, and repeated use can result in more definite blocking of posts or accounts.

Surely there’s nothing offensive about #books though? Yet it’s one of the hashtags that will cause your posts to drift into obscurity.

As an author, reader, book reviewer and all-round book nerd, that’s a trap I’ve fallen into more than once, but thankfully my love for tags like #bookstagram and #booklover has been saving my bookish hide more often than I ever realised.

I did find a rather extensive list of hashtags banned by Instagram, courtesy of the great people over at Instavast.com, but I don’t really want to go and consult another site and spend my valuable time reading through horrible words – and some of them are horrible – in order to find out if something relatively innocent is also blocked.

I’d rather be able to check quickly and easily inside the app itself. And that is quite do-able, even if you’re a novice.

Follow these handy and simple instructions to discover if a term you want to use is acceptable without consulting a long list somewhere that may even be out of date by now.

1. When you’re using the Instagram app, click on the search icon. It’s the one that looks like a magnifying glass.

2. Type in the hashtag you want to use. A list of possible tags will come up. So far, it looks like #books is okay.

3. Next, click on the Tags tab of the search window. #books is still there and still looks alright. However…

4. Tap on that tag in the list and scroll down, you will find only a few images, followed by a message that says the tag has been banned because reports have been made regarding inappropriate content.


If you go ahead and use the tag, nobody will see your tag because they can’t find posts using that tag, either. And your other tags might also end up being blocked. So might your account.

Nobody wants to end up there.

So, as authors and book lovers, we need to tag our posts differently so that other book lovers will find our posts.ScreenHunter_439 Mar. 13 19.13

When you click on a tag that is not blocked, you’ll see some further “related” tags that you could use in your posts. Notice, though, that this does not exist for #books.

I’ve slogged through a whole bunch of these “related tags” to find some great hashtags with good popularity that you can use safely – for now, anyway.

Try some of these great tags for your bookish posts:
#bookstagram
#booksofinstagram
#bookworm
#book
#booklover
#booklove
#instabooks
#booklife
#bookish
#instaread
#bookblogger
#bookaddict
#bookphoto
#booknerd
#booknerdigans
#bookstagrammer

If you’re posting images or reviews of books you’ve enjoyed, consider some of these:
#ilovereading
#epicreads
#amreading
#bibliophile
#lovetoread
#bookaddiction
#readingbooks
#readabook
#igreads

My final piece of good news is that if you have been using a blocked hashtag, you can rescue your posts and make them fully visible again.

1. For each post, click on the three dots to the right of your username.

2. Choose edit from the menu.

3. Scroll to your hashtags and change or remove the banned one.

4. Click on ‘done’ and your post will be back to full visibility.

 

Handy hint: if you “like” your own post once you’ve changed it, your post will re-enter the general Instagram feed.
It’s a good idea to do this one or two posts at a time, not all at once, so you don’t flood your followers’ feeds.

How to Achieve A Visually Attractive Twitter Feed.

Just because you can use 280 characters, doesn’t mean you should.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a lot of people commenting on how they love the new 280 character limit for Twitter. I’ve also noticed a lot of people writing long tweets with no line breaks, and barely any space in them to take a breath.

My message here may be unpopular with those folks, but it must be said: just because you can use 280 characters, doesn’t mean you should.

Remember, people are basically lazy. They don’t want to have to work to figure out what you’re saying, and they don’t want to wade through thirteen hashtags to do so, either.

When it comes to writing tweets, I’ve always assumed that the rule of “less is more” applies. I want my message to be short, easily understood and digested, and easily acted upon.

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I’ve always tried to keep my tweets to well under the 140 characters, as short as 100 characters if possible. A short, effective message is more attractive to people than a slab of text.

As an author, I’ve heard more people than I care to try to count tell me that they don’t like reading. (I know, right? I don’t understand it either.) However, it’s something that I’ve taken to heart when writing anything promotional. Any ad, tweet, or invitation is completely ineffective if it puts people off before they even really look at it.

I always leave a line of space between my main message and my hashtags. It breaks up the tweet so it looks more accessible. I also think that it makes the hashtags a bit more obvious, given that some people might take notice of those before the actual message.

When it comes to hashtags, I wrote a few months back about ‘How To Avoid Hashtag Hell’ in social media. I advised then to use two well-chosen hashtags, and no more. Given the increased word limit, I’m about to start experimenting with using three to increase the discoverability of my tweets, but that would be my upper limit. This isn’t a rule, as such, but simply my desire to keep my tweets looking simple and attractive. I’m no expert in advertising or design, but I go by what I experience myself: when a message is easy on the eye, it’s going to get more attention.

On that same assumption, I always include an image. People are very visually oriented and will, more often than not, look at the picture before the text. I try to make the image relevant to the post, and will often superimpose text and web addresses on the image in a way that won’t detract from the visual effect I hope it will achieve. Where appropriate, I use logos that will build familiarity with my work. Otherwise, I use my own images or stock images that are copyright and royalty free, so that I’m not infringing on copyright, either. There are lots of places that offer them, but I find pexels.com and pixabay.com to be excellent sources of quality images that are free for reuse for any purpose.

ScreenHunter_437 Feb. 20 21.33I use a link shortening service so that half the tweet isn’t taken up by an enormous web address or link. Bit.ly is free, so are many others. I use Buffer to schedule my tweets, and it shortens links automatically, so that’s a double win!

A further advantage of using Buffer is that it enables me to recycle my tweets so that I don’t have to spend hours each week coming up with new content. I regularly change the hashtags and messages on a reused tweet so that I’m not just giving people the same old thing time after time.

When it’s done a few rounds, I’ll rest a great tweet for a while, and pick it up again down the track if it’s still relevant. I save them in files in Evernote, so all I have to do when I come back is copy and paste it into a new message, attach the image, and off I go.

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Some of my tweets don’t have links. This is a deliberate decision on my part – sometimes I just want to offer a thought, a joke, or a compliment to my audience without asking them to do anything in return. That’s not a rule either – it’s just how I like to do things.

Finally, mix it up. If all you tweet is ads for your book or service, or quotations from your work in progress, it can get a little humdrum. I keep things varied by tweeting about great books, free reads, short reads, book reviews, magazines, great blog articles, and interesting tidbits of history, science and general interest far more than I tweet ads for my own books. My books are worthy of advertising and attention, and I would love to find more readers, but I don’t believe in shoving them in people’s faces at every opportunity, either.

I know all that seems like a lot of work, but being active on social media does take effort and thoughtfulness if you’re going to have something meaningful to offer.

Since I have been following these guidelines, I have had new followers every day. I started 2017 with just over 300, and now I have 3000 more than that. It’s slow growth, but it’s organic growth – my audience actually wants to be my audience! And that is worth far, far more than being able to fit a bunch of stuff in one tweet.

A Conversation Between A Romance Lover and a Horror Writer.

Me? Writing romance? Not anytime soon.

Today I commented to a friend that I’d written a story for Valentine’s Day.

She smiled and said, “Oh Jo! I didn’t really pick you for the romantic author type! How lovely!”

I laughed. “Just because it’s a Valentine’s Day story, doesn’t mean it’s romantic.”

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She looked at me as though she were waiting for a punch line.

“No, really. This is not a romantic story. This is a story for anyone who has had their heart broken, who knows the sting of rejection—” I shrugged.

“It doesn’t end well, does it?” she asked sadly.

“That depends entirely on your perspective!” I replied.

 

If you’re one of the anti-Valentine’s Day crew, or if you just like creepy stories, check out my chilling little tale: A Curious Valentine’s Day. It’s free to read at WordyNerdBird Writes.

 

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Focus: Looking Beyond The Cloud In My Silver Lining.

It’s time to focus my time and energy on what really matters: writing.

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A week of camping by the river has given me opportunity for reflection about the past year, particularly in terms of my writing. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished – two new books of poetry, two deliciously macabre horror titles, and two reinvented fairy tale novellas in a completely unique and absolutely gorgeous anthology collection. I’ve also had poems included in a couple of themed anthologies and a number of magazines. I have received emails and messages when something I’ve written has moved or helped someone else in a powerful way, which gives me confidence that what I write is actually pretty good. At this point, I’m highly motivated to move on and write more.

There is, however, a cloud in my silver lining. In my experience, the biggest downside of being an Indie author is that the demands of social media can be a whirlwind – marketing, promotion, teasers, creating new material to keep up momentum, engaging so that others don’t think you’re only there to push your own stuff… It’s easy to get sucked into that vortex and start to believe that marketing is the be-all and end-all of your writing career.

Yes, marketing and promotion matters. I want to find readers who will be interested in my books. But it’s not the most important thing. The most important thing for me to invest my time and energy into is writing.

The time has come to redirect my focus. Of course, I will still engage in social media and promote my work there, but I need to do it differently so that I spend more time each day writing than I do trying to leap across people’s screens to get noticed. I’m going to work out how to use Facebook‘s mysterious algorithms, which are set to change yet again, to my advantage instead of the other way around. Furthermore, I’m not going to give them one cent to achieve that. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing on Twitter, as that’s working well for me thus far. My blogs will see some revision, and hopefully some renewed focus there will have good results.

There are so many stories and poems I want to write. Some of the stories are planned and outlined. Some are just ideas at this point in time. The poems happen when the muse overtakes me, but I have quite a few ideas written down so that they can simmer away on the back burner of my mind, developing slowly until they’re ready to go. A renewed focus on bringing my ideas to life on the page for others to read will serve me well: writing is the most satisfying and therapeutic thing I do.

 

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ScreenHunter_434 Jan. 16 23.45Find out more about my books here.

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2017: My GoodReads Year in Review

There are a number of things I quite like about Goodreads.

 So, I enjoyed looking over the page of stats they collated for me about what I’ve read in 2017.

As a reader, I enjoy Goodreads as book-nerdy social media.

I like being able to organise and “shelve” my books so that others interested in those sorts of books can find them easily.

I like being able to leave a review and a rating for those books so that people who find them can know more about them and hopefully choose to read them.

I like the goalsetting element of the “Reading Challenge” where you set a number of books that you plan to read in a year, and then the website keeps track of them for you.

I like it that my connections there can see what I’m reading and when I’ve left a review.

And I like being able to recommend a book I’ve read and enjoyed to friends with similar interests and tastes.

 So, I enjoyed looking over the page of stats they collated for me about what I’ve read in 2017.
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I have read a wide variety of books this year – short and long, popular and… less well known, from a wide range of genres. Historical fiction, adventure, horror, romance, mystery, thriller, contemporary, fantasy, sword and sorcery, magical realism, urban fantasy, kids’ books, Christmas stories and humour… they’re all represented. I’ve found some new all-time favourites and broadened the horizons of my knowledge and imagination.

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Reading through the highlights and looking at the great cover art of the books I’ve read gave me a lovely sense of achievement and brought back some great memories of books I really enjoyed.

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If you’re on Goodreads and would like to connect, you can find me there at

Check In: Goodreads Reading Challenge 2017

Are you doing a Goodreads Reading Challenge this year?

Are you doing a Goodreads Reading Challenge this year?

 
I set myself a goal of 40 books, because I have a day job and a burning need to write things.
So far, I’ve read and reviewed 44 books, so I’m pretty happy with that!
 
How are you going with yours?
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Feel free to follow me as an author on Goodreads.

What’s on your list?

What’s on your list?

I’d love to hear your ideas!

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I just found that I have a follower on Twitter called “Buy Followers”.
 
Weird.
I haven’t bought that one, or any other.

 
Which leads me to wonder… why would someone even bother?
In a world full of things I *would* buy if I had the cash, followers on social media isn’t going to be among them.
The top three things on my permanent list of things I’d like to buy are:

1. Another, longer trip to Canada.
2. Books. More books.
3. Another Labrador puppy.

What’s on your list?
I’d love to hear your ideas!