Social Media – The Baby Elephant is Doing it Wrong

I’ll admit that I’m not the ultimate guru at maintaining my social media presence.  I don’t spent countless hours reading and responding to other posts, I don’t tweet, or even post on Facebook all that often.  With that in mind it’s no surprise that I don’t have tons of interaction with my blogs. You get what you pay for.

The goal of having these platforms is spark the interest of my fellow readers so that one day when I finish my *%#$ book I’ll have a few friends that might be interested in reading it.

With that in mind I attended a Facebook for Authors class. According to the teacher I first need to pay for ads so that people come and see my stuff.  This is a great idea for those who have product that they are ready to sell.  When I get to that point perhaps I will.

The other bit of advice was to follow the 15-15-70 rule. That is, no more than 10 – 15% of posts on Facebook should be asking anyone to buy anything. Around 10 – 15% should be asking people to go read something, like this blog, and the other 70% of posts should be engaging with other people on the site.  If you look at my feed right now it’s more like 100% please go read my blog posts.  Oops.

Then we had a lengthy discussion about what should be discussed on blogs and Facebook.  This he called finding your culture.  What kind of people am I looking to attract? What topics would they want to talk about? What would I be interested in talking about?  This is one area I can improve on this blog.  Frankly, not everyone is interested in hearing about my adventures in parenting land.

Last but not least, he also told us that having a picture with a person in it will result in more clicks.  Which means poor baby elephant has been doing it wrong!

I best remedy this –

cuddlyelephant

Baby elephant wants to cuddle!

Inspiration Online

With everything else going on in my life, chances are I’m not going to be able to take a flight around the world anytime soon to seek out inspiration from places that are similar to the settings featured in my book. Medieval castles and villages are hard to come by here in the West.  The oldest things around here are indian cliff settlements which while fascinating, aren’t what I need.

I’m lucky in some ways, mountains and forests do feature prominently in by book and I happen to live within one of the most stunning mountain ranges in the US. They don’t call them the Rocky Mountains for nothing.

For everything else I’m stuck with the wonders of the internet and I have to admit I’m getting pretty good at finding pictures and videos that help me better envision the places my characters find themselves.

If you would like to check out a few of the things that inspire me, check out my Inspitation for Writing Pinterest board.

Here’s one of my favorite finds:

Hambye Abbey

Hambye Abbey – I love the pillars and the play of light across the grass.

 

Petroglyphs at Parowan Gap

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The clan. You can see some of the petroglyphs on the rock on the left.

For a moment this weekend the past and present collided as my family visited the petroglyphs over in Parowan, Utah.  This remote place has been essentially untouched for hundreds, if not thousands of years.  No one is sure what the meaning behind the pictures are although some have made guesses.  They could be instructions to hunting grounds or nearby settlements.  They could be accounts of important events. Parowan Gap Zipper Petroglyph

Whatever they are, they must have been significant and special.  There are miles and miles of rock in the area and yet the petroglyphs are only found in this one very localized place.

parowanpetroglyph

I can’t help but think what stories are hidden within these cryptic drawings.  It gives me all sorts of cool ideas for my own stories.

Unlikely Things in Unlikely Places

Not my garden. Heck, a girl can dream can't she?

Not my garden.  A girl can dream can’t she?

There’s nothing more breathtaking than a garden created and kept with care.  I’m talking about gardens with flower beds overflowing with harmonious color, wandering pathways, and secret nooks that beg for someone to come and hide away with a good book.

My garden is still a work in progress.  The few flower beds I have spring up with weeds the second I’m not looking and are home to a bizarre variety of plants that have made their way to my home over the years.  It’s an eclectic mix of pinks and purples that isn’t entirely unappealing, but it has the potential to be so much more.

In comparison, my neighbor across the street has a gorgeous garden. I try not to let it ruin our friendship, but it’s hard not to be jealous.  I suppose if I had her life with no kids and working as a photographer, I might manage to get my flowerbeds in better condition as well. She was smart enough to move into a house that faces south which gives year round sun for the plants in front and shade for the patio in the back. The front of my house, on the other hand, is engulfed in shadow year round. While this makes for pleasant shade on summer afternoons and I can watch the kiddos play and not die of heat stroke, it also means that come winter our entryway turns into a solid sheet of ice.

Nature is a wild thing and my garden reminds of this fact every day.  There’s nothing like discovering a baseball bat sized zucchini hiding in the garden or a six-foot tall weed in a neglected corner. This spring we found yet another family of voles living in the grass.  If it’s not voles, it’s gophers, or wasps, or gutter birds.

Last week I found something entirely out-of-place.  Out near the front entryway in the shadow of the house I found a tomato plant hiding among my petunias.  I can’t fathom how it got there or how it was able to grow.  We grow tomatoes in a vegetable garden clear in the back of the backyard and even then we have to buy plants instead of starting seeds, the growing season is too short.

Hey, that's not a petunia!

Hey, that’s not a petunia!

I haven’t decided if I will let it stay there. Tomato plants don’t stay small for long and I’m sure someone will notice it doesn’t belong where it is.  I’m not saying that produce can’t be among the petunias, but tomatoes are a bit of a stretch.

 

Daily Prompt – Worldly Encounters

Today’s Daily Post Prompt asks bloggers about what book, movie, or song they would recommend to a friendly visiting extraterrestrial that explains what humans are all about. While I hesitate to speak on behalf of humanity, heaven knows what might happen should I choose incorrectly, I’ll have a go.

My recommendation: Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings

lotr

While this seems an odd choice, allow me to explain myself.  To understand human nature, we must explore humanity in all it’s fullness.  In the Lord of the Rings we have characters that iconify different types of people.  There’s the reluctant and noble Aragorn, the arrogant Boromir, the megalomaniac Saruman, the humble and naïve Frodo, the manipulating Wormtongue, and the wise Wizard Gandalf to name a few.

Their quest is one that humanity has fought since time began, the epic battle of good verses evil.  Frodo and his fellowship are charged with destroying the One Ring, a tool of great power that is linked to the dark lord Sauron.  In their efforts to do so they encounter resistance that takes many forms.  Armies march against them, their own turn upon them, friends die, and they fall into states of hopelessness, fear, and reluctance.  Against the odds they continue time after time to sacrifice and sweat and bleed toward their goal.

The writing contains passages that encapsulate vistas of both breathtaking beauty, and astounding ugliness.  If anyone has managed to expound on the majesty of an impressive view, it’s Tolkien.  He also manages to capture our love/hate relationship with technology and industrialization.

People might argue that a fantasy novel can’t be used to explain humanity, but they haven’t considered that it is human nature to dream and imagine impossible realities.  Leaving out this fact would be to forget the most vital part of what it means to be human, which is to exercise our creative powers to make both the new and the wonderful.

 

My Distractions are Bigger Than Yours

For all those who are anxiously waiting for another episode of Mike Finnegan, I apologize. He will be making his next appearance next Friday when I have had time to write another episode.  For now, I only have time and energy for a brief update.

I’ve had my novel on my mind constantly these last few weeks and it’s been driving me crazy that I haven’t had any significant undisturbed time to really dig in and build up my characters.  It’s not that I can’t work with the little ones around, I can.  It’s just that the quality suffers.  I read through a few passages that I’d written while being besieged with requests and even physically pulled away from the keyboard every few minutes and found that although the writing is okay, the characterization really suffers.  When I can’t focus, I can’t get inside my character’s heads and live the scene through their eyes.  And for me, one of the most vital requirements of a great book is that the reader feel fully immersed in the characters.

For first drafts this isn’t as big of problem, but now I’m deep into near final drafts where I’m trying to hone and refine all the different aspects of the story, the inability to find that laser focus and actually work on it is driving me crazy. I’ve played with the idea of starting a small contest called “My Distractions are Bigger than Yours” and feature pictures and videos of all the crazy things that happen when people are trying to work.

This would be the first submission –

Creepy Baby HandYes, that’s a hand reaching through my desk and touching my screen. At least she can’t reach the monitor power button from there, the hand itself is distracting enough, having the screen turn off and on would be the last straw.  Sometimes I keep goodies like jelly beans that I can offer the hand, sometimes the hand brings me gifts like small toys.

On rare occasions I get dual hands, there is a second hole in my desk on the other side meant for cables and baby D will come and play along.  Sometimes the hands want to play catch with each other and get angry when it doesn’t work.

Where there are little hands there are also little bodies trying to sit on my feet.  The way this is going I’m not going to finish the book until my youngest starts going to school!

What are your worst distractions?

 

Everything is Awesome

We all love Mondays, right? No? Why are you all looking at me that way? Put down the pitchforks and hear me out.  

For most, Monday mean a return to the drudgery of work and school and the unending cycle of stuff that must be done.  It symbolizes the end of the weekend, a time we have psychologically set aside to recharge our batteries. It means schedules, to-do lists, and responsibility.  

When forced to look at it that way, I want to go back to bed. 

Then I remember, I’m a mom AND a writer, two occupations that don’t get weekends or holidays off.  Monday isn’t a return to anything because I haven’t left anything.  The only change is that hubby dearest must go back to work and the kids have to go to school. The process of getting everyone up and fed and dressed is more urgent on Monday morning but it also means that when I finish I have fewer people here to mother when I finish.

For that reason I kinda like Mondays.  

For me Mondays are a fresh start to a new week where I can, at least in the first few hours, pretend that I am a responsible go-getter and feel like I’m on top of what needs to be done.  It’s a brand new start to a brand new week where goals can still be reached and dreams are still possible.  I get more done on Monday than on any other day of the week.

Today I feel like I can conquer my to-do list.  I’ve already done the initial getting to school scramble, and even with a 15 minute “Ooops, it was Daylight Savings wasn’t it?” moment of panic delay – one child is already out the door, dressed and fed. So far, so good.  Now for the rest of the day!

For a happy dose of good attitude, here’s a feel good song to get your Monday back on track.

Everything really is Awesome!

 

 

Fulfilling Promises

Awhile back I held an open mic where you were welcome to submit questions and I would ask them as honestly and candidly as possible.  In return I promised that I would feature these questions and answers in a new header for this blog and help each of you promote your blogs as well.  For those that did submit questions in the last round, I’d love to put a picture next to your question.  Send me a link and I’ll add one!

Today instead of a long-winded random post I’m fulfilling that promise.  If you look at the header there is a new tab called FAQs, go and check it out.

microphoneAlso, I will be answering questions in the comments today so feel free to send them in, I’ll do my best to answer quickly!

As promised before, those questions will be added to the FAQ page with a link to your blog or other social site – so you can consider this shameless self promotion.

Charging the Creative Batteries at ANWA’s Time Out for Writers

I spent the last weekend enjoying the warm clear air in Arizona while attending the annual Time Out for Writers conference hosted by the American Night Writer’s Association (ANWA).  I had hoped to be able to write another installment of Mike Finnegan while traveling for last Friday’s post but instead spent my time madly polishing up my query letter and sample chapter to be ready for the workshops.

I received some great feedback from my readers at the workshops and can’t wait to sit down and make a few edits to clean up and clarify my material.  

Then, there were two full days of excellent classes covering everything from descriptive voice to how to write a thriller suspense novel.  I swear my head is so full right now, it just might explode.  There is so many good ideas and great information that I can use, now I have to decide what to apply first.

Most important of all, above the classes and workshops, are the new friends that I made. All are wonderful writers in all stages of the process of being published.  Some have several books out, some are just getting started, all are fabulous people that I can’t wait to see what happens next in their careers.

After being immersed in the writing world for a few days I’m finding it hard to be home again and to readjust back to the life of being a mom first, writer second.  As much as I’d love to dive right in and work on my manuscript for even an hour undisturbed, I simply can’t and it’s super frustrating.  

Here’s to hoping that Baby D takes a nap today!