Starting The Year Well.

I’m starting the year well: with great books and reviews behind me, and my pen in hand. 

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Indie Badge 2017

At the end of last year, two of my books were included in the ‘Top 20 Books of 2017’ on Amy Shannon’s Book Blog. This was something that readers voted for, so to have two books make it to #7 and #8 respectively was a huge shock to me.

This has led to each book being featured this month, having received a fantastic 5 star review from Amy Shannon, who states on her book blog that “ratings of 5 stars have to be earned to impress me, and I just don’t give 5 stars to anyone’s work. ” That makes it even more exciting!

Her review of ‘Nova’ calls it “masterpiece poetry”. ScreenHunter_434 Jan. 17 09.43

 

Her review of The Passing Of The Night is equally enthusiastic.

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What a great way to start the year! It’s rewarding to read reviews like this, but it’s also highly motivating.

So, I’m starting the year well: with great books and reviews behind me, and my pen in hand.

My New Year’s Resolutions for 2017: How Did I Do?

An honest response to the list of resolutions I wrote for myself a year ago.

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Lots of people are talking today about New Year’s Resolutions. I haven’t always set a lot of importance upon them, but at the beginning of this year I did make some resolutions.

Today, I thought I should revisit them and evaluate my “performance”.

 

 

#1. Get 500 followers on Twitter.
Check! I started the year on about 317. Today, I have just over 3100.

#2. Write a review for every book I read.
So, there were two books for which I did not leave a review. They were… how do I say this nicely? The reviews would not have been positive, nor would they have helped to sell any further books.
I did, however, email both authors with my responses and comments. Hopefully they made some changes, hired an editor, and improved the quality of their book.
Goodreads tells me that I read and reviewed 68 books, so that’s a fair effort!
I’m checking that one off, too.

#3. Develop my book blog.Book Squirrel Reading TSF
This is something of which I am very proud. Book Squirrel has spent the year featuring books, authors, new releases, and book reviews. On December 15th, Book Squirrel announced the inaugural Golden Squirrel Awards for Indie books of excellence.
This is a definite check!

#4. Publish two more books.
Done! In fact, I added five (Five! How the heck did I manage that?) more books to my author’s shelf, two in a new genre for me, and two novellas in a wonderful collection of reinvented fairy tales. I also have two poems published in two different anthologies, one on forgiveness and one on fairy tales and folklore. Whew!

#5. Be nicer to people.
In all honesty, I’ve tried. I haven’t always succeeded. But when I wrote this on my note almost a year ago, I had no idea just how much grace or forbearance I was going to need in order to survive some of the treatment I’ve received this year, either.
I want to give this a check, but with a “work in progress” disclaimer.

 

All in all, I think I’ve done okay. Some of these will feed into my resolutions for 2018. I’ll be posting about those tomorrow!

If you have suggestions, or reflections on your own resolutions, I’d love for you to leave a comment below.

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

WordyNerdBird’s Top Three Podcasts of 2017

In the past, I’ve nominated my favourite podcasts in various genres.

Today, I give you my top three podcasts of 2017.

Promo Top Five English Podcasts PlainOver the course of a few weeks earlier this year, I nominated my favourite podcasts about history (to which I added two more later on),  Shakespeare,  and the English language.

Now that the year is almost over, I’m willing to narrow it down to my favourite three podcasts of 2017.

My criteria for these choices are simple: they’re enjoyable, entertaining and interesting.  I never scroll past them to see what else is on offer in the 20+ various podcasts I subscribe to. Truth be told, I probably should unsubscribe from some of them – perhaps that’s an idea for a New Year’s Eve cleansing ritual or something.

So, without further ado, here are my top three podcasts of 2017:
Rex Factor Podcast1. Rex Factor In this absolutely brilliant podcast, the kings and queens of England followed by the kings and queens of Scotland are reviewed, ranked, and rated according to the qualities an ideal ruler should have. It’s both historical and hysterical. Don’t try to listen to this in the hope that it will lull you to sleep. It won’t. https://rexfactor.podbean.com/p/about/

 

Lingthusiasm Podcast2. Lingthusiasm   This podcast explores different aspects of the English language in just over 30 minutes for each episode. It’s interesting, word-nerdy, and fun.
twitter: @lingthusiasm
http://lingthusiasm.com/

 

british-history-podcast.png3. The British History Podcast A chronological history of Britain with a focus on the people and how they lived and died. It’s well told by a knowledgeable host with a very nice voice. Hey… it all helps.
https://www.thebritishhistorypodcast.com/

 

If you have a podcast you really enjoy, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

 

 

Movie Review: ‘Wonder’ (2017)

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Today I accompanied my school’s Middle Year students on a trip to the cinema to see ‘Wonder’, a new film based on the bestselling book by the same name about a boy who has facial differences.Jacob Tremblay plays August Pullman, alongside Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson who play his parents. The stage is set when the Pullmans decide that Auggie should start 5th Grade in a mainstream school, having been homeschooled by his mother until then. Mandy Patinkin plays a very wise and empathetic school Principal, Mr Tushman.

What a sad world we live in when a kid gets less attention walking through the city or a park wearing a space helmet than he does when wearing his own face. It’s human nature, I know, but that doesn’t make it okay. This film challenges that “default setting” in a very compelling way.

Auggie’s teacher, Mr Brown, challenges the kids to ask themselves: What sort of person am I?
This movie challenges every audience member to ask themselves the same question. How do I deal with difference? What does my face tell them? What kind of friend am I? What monuments do my deeds leave?

The audience feels sympathetic to Auggie long before they see his face. When he says, “I know I’ll never be an ordinary kid ordinary kids don’t make others run away from playgrounds” it’s like a punch in the stomach that leaves you winded.

As the movie rolls on, we also see that the “regular” kids like Auggie’s sister, Via, have their own challenges with acceptance and friendship, even without the extra challenges that some kids face. Over and over, this film reminds me again just how cruel kids— and people in general— can be, in so many ways.

The journey of discovering who is real and who is not is often painful and traumatic. Together, Auggie and Via realise that they are each other’s best friends, and lean to rely on each other for the support and love that they need to get through each day.

The development of genuine friendship reminds us that looking past the surface to really see someone is what makes a crucial difference to anyone, but especially those who are so aware of that surface. There is also a painful reminder that even the nice kids can make mistakes when they focus on appearances instead of who someone really is.

This movie delivers so many powerful lessons about accepting others and even more about accepting ourselves. In both cases, we need to learn to live according to the precept established by Mr Brown in Auggie’s first lesson in 5th Grade: “When you have.a choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”

It sounds simple— perhaps too simple. But is it?

The hardest part may be in finding the willingness to step out of our comfort zones and open our own minds to each other and the possibilities that our differences bring.

Everyone old enough to understand the difference between kindness and judgement should see this film.

Top Four English Language Podcasts

If you’re someone who takes knowing the difference between “your” and “you’re” seriously, if you experience a secret thrill when someone uses a semi-colon or an Oxford comma properly, or if you just want to know more, these podcasts could be for you. 

Promo Top Five English Podcasts Plain

Pleasantly surprised by how popular last week’s post on my top five history podcasts proved to be, I decided to share a little more of my podcast-loving joy with you this week.

It’s common knowledge that I’m pretty nerdy about words.

I love them. I love the way they work. I love knowing where different words and phrases came from. I love using them to write and communicate ideas in interesting ways. I love knowing which words are related to each other, even when they don’t actually sound much like each other anymore, like long-lost cousins who bump into each other when they leave home to go to university, and discover their common history that the family has been hiding in the dust and cobwebs behind the skeleton in the closet.

So, it should come as no surprise that I enjoy listening to podcasts about the English language, its roots and evolution, and how it works.

If you’re someone who takes knowing the difference between “your” and “you’re” seriously, if you experience a secret thrill when someone uses a semi-colon or an Oxford comma properly, or if you just want to know more, these podcasts could be for you.

So, without further ado, here are my four favourite word-nerdy podcasts.

#1. The History of English.  This podcast gets into the down and dirty of where the English language and many of the words and phrases we use came from. If you suspect that Mr Webster didn’t just go out into a cabbage patch and find a newborn lexicon crying for its mother, give this podcast a try.
twitter: @englishhistpod
http://historyofenglishpodcast.com/

#2. Lingthusiasm. This podcast explores different aspects of the English language in just over 30 minutes for each episode. It’s interesting, word-nerdy, and fun.
twitter: @lingthusiasm
http://lingthusiasm.com/

#3. The Allusionist. This podcast focuses more on lexicon and how we use words to craft and deliver meaning in particular ways. The episodes are a bit shorter than the first two placegetters, staying under 20 minutes a shot.
twitter: @AllusionistShow
www.theallusionist.org

#4. The English We Speak. This podcast from the BBC World Service explores those words and phrases we use every day in episodes that last about three minutes each. This might be a good place “to cut your teeth” if you don’t want to “go the whole hog”.  You’re catching on. Cool.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/features/the-english-we-speak

 

I’d really appreciate it if you would leave a comment.
And click “like”.
And if you shared my post, that would be almost like Christmas.

Almost.

WordyNerdBird’s Top Five History Podcasts.

Who doesn’t love a good history podcast?
Today, I give you my top five, along with some honourable mentions.

Promo History Podcast Top 5


Who doesn’t love a good history podcast?
Today, I give you my top five, along with some honourable mentions.


#1 Rex Factor.
In this absolutely brilliant podcast, the kings and queens of England followed by the kings and queens of Scotland are reviewed, ranked, and rated according to the qualities an ideal ruler should have. It’s both historical and hysterical. Don’t try to listen to this in the hope that it will lull you to sleep. It won’t. https://rexfactor.podbean.com/p/about/

#2 British History Podcast. A chronological history of Britain with a focus on the people and how they lived and died. It’s well told by a knowledgeable host with a very nice voice. Hey… it all helps.
https://www.thebritishhistorypodcast.com/

#3 History of England Podcast Another chronological history of Britain, yet quite different to the BHP – David Crowther delivers the history in a bit more of an “English” style, whatever that is.
https://thehistoryofengland.co.uk/

#4 Rum, Rebels and Ratbags Presented by David Hunt, author of ‘Girt’ and ‘True Girt’, and Dom Knight, this podcast explores the early years of European settlement in Australia. It’s insightful, irreverent, and irrepressibly Australian.
https://soundcloud.com/rum-rebels-ratbags

#5 History of Byzantium Podcast by Robin Pearson. This podcast picks up where the History of Rome podcast left off and explores the story of the Byzantine empire, based in Constantinople, from 476 to 1453 AD.
www.historyofbyzantium.com 

 

Honourable mentions: 

  • History of the Crusades by Sharon Easthaugh
  • Myths and Legends by Jason Weiser.
  • In Our Time by Melvyn Bragg
  • Russian Rulers History Podcast

Facebook Page Ratings and Reviews: The How and Why.

How did I not know that this existed?

How did I not know about this?

Even though I’ve been on Facebook for about a squillion years – I was an early adopter – I’ve only just discovered the feature called ‘Reviews’. It has been around for years, but I’ve never used it before.

Then again, I’ve not really had a page apart from my personal profile until late-ish last year when I emerged onto the world stage as a budding poet with many important things to say.

As an author, the way I’ve learned to use Facebook is entirely different than the “look at me” and “look at my selfie” way I used to drive the social media bus. These days, I don’t want people to look at me. I want them to look at my work, discover my books, and tell their friends about them, too. I want to be read, not noticed.

That’s where Facebook reviews and ratings come into the picture.

Facebook reviews and ratings help by leading potential customers to trust your brand or products.

According to Review Trackers,  71% of people say they “somewhat” or “completely” trust what they read on Facebook. At the same time, 66% of consumers regularly share feedback, thoughts and opinions on their purchases using social media.
In short – if someone likes your work enough to leave a review or rating, that’s going to be an encouragement to other people to try it for themselves.

Reviews can also help by increasing your engagement with your audience.
If a new visitor sees that you’ve responded positively to your previous visitors, that will also encourage them to trust you and your products. The more you engage with your audience, the more likely they are to become return customers.

How to add the Reviews tab to your page:

1. Navigate to your page
2. Click on ‘Settings’ at the top right-hand side.

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3. Click on ‘Edit page’.


4. Under Templates, scroll down to where it says ‘Add a Tab’.ScreenHunter_418 Apr. 24 19.12

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5. Click on ‘Add a tab’.

6. Click ‘Add Tab’ on ‘Reviews’, then on the ‘Close’ button.

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7. Rearrange your tabs by clicking on the icon that looks like three little lines next to the title of the tab and dragging up or down.

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I have rearranged the tabs so that the Reviews tab is at the top, immediately under ‘About’ and above ‘Likes’ so that it’s always in a prominent place and easily seen by visitors to my page.

When you’ve completed these steps, visitors to your page will be invited to leave a review.

There is one catch.
If someone leaves a negative review, you can’t delete it. Only the reviewer can delete a review.

You can, however, report it and have it removed if you can show that it is not a fair review.
Having a bunch of positive reviews and interactions on your page is your best resource in that situation.

If it turns out that you don’t like the Reviews feature, or if it’s not working for you, you can simply disable the reviews by removing the Review tab, following a similar process to that used to add the tab in the first place.

Leaving Reviews.

Leaving a review is easy. You choose how many stars out of five, and leave a short comment. The minimum length is 40 characters.  It can be as simple as “Your book covers are fantastic. I love the colours and design.” This would work perfectly well as a positive review.
This means that helping a small business or Indie author/musician/whatever  by leaving a positive review could take as little as 30 seconds out of your day.

If you’ve read the book, heard the song, received a beautiful hand-made card or eaten a delicious meal at a restaurant, leaving a review is a great way to acknowledge the work that went into bringing you pleasure.

My Commitment.

I’m going to spend some time over the next weeks leaving reviews and ratings for the Facebook pages for authors and books I’ve been reading and appreciating lately.

I’m going to make this an ongoing thing. In conjunction with the reviews I write and post on Amazon, Goodreads and my Book Squirrel blog, I’m going to make a point of leaving a review on the author’s and/or the book’s Facebook page.

The Challenge:

It would be fantastic if you would do that for the writers and other Indies you know, too.

Not only will that brighten a writer’s day, it just might help them sell a book or two.