books, indie author, indie books, indie writer, Instagram, journaling, writing

Lost in the Land of Instagram

1027191702So, a year and a half ago, I finally decided to check out this social media I had heard about so much. I was loathed to take on another account or a program and build a new following all over again. But I was told it was the land of gold if I wanted to sell books.

Wanting to boost my following, I learned quickly NOT what to do. For instance, don’t “heart” every post. Especially the ones with the pretty pictures that say, “sponsored.” You will get instantly spammed by every salesman on Instagram.

The algorithms on Instagram are quick to pick out what you “heart” or do not like, so choose wisely. Before I knew it, my feed was running a plethora of puppies, kittens, flowers, and Vikings, which was fine, but where were the readers and authors hanging out?

I learned not to instantly follow someone that followed me without checking out their profiles. Especially men. The universal pick up line is “Hello beautiful.” Really? You got to be kidding. I also learned that if the account was private and showed a smiling, older male, head for the hills.

Then I found my first “loop.” The program was challenging, but ten apps later, I learned how to design a reasonably normal-looking post. Suddenly I had an outpouring of followers. I decided I needed to create a formula for who I would and would not follow.
First, go to the profile. Second, read that profile. If it said they were an author, but all the posts were of them posing, there was a good chance they weren’t doing much writing. I’m a nice person, and I hate to be rude. But when scantily clad people started showing up on my feed, I soon learned how to block, hide, and un-follow.

Still, don’t understand the follow and un-follow thing. By my math, I should be close to the same number of who I follow and who follows me. Interesting enough, there is always about a 500 difference, usually on my side. I’m thinking, why am I following more than is following me? I have decided it doesn’t matter because in all the profiles I have visited, it seems to be an everyday thing on Instagram. The only time you will get un-followed from me is if you use crude or hateful speech or choose not to wear clothes.

The other thing puzzling to me is the push for huge followings. I understand to a site like Bookbub or a publisher; it seems you have a lot of fans. But really? How can I possibly know 10,000 followers? I can’t even begin to get to know the 1,700 followers I have now. I was raised to be polite to my acquaintances, family, and friends, but giving attention to 1,700 followers is going to be a challenge. Even if I could connect with 100 a day, it would take three weeks before I would be starting all over again and spending 3 hours a day “hearting” posts.

I have learned that while perusing a new invitation to follow if I go down through their posts and read through a few, “heart” a few, and comment on a few; they will now cycle through my feed. Because I want to be a support to that new follower, this is what I do. When they pop up in the feed and are fully clothed, I find I usually want to “heart” it.
I did try a few ads but found it to be a waste of time and money. That is where I probably picked of that odd 500 missing in action followers. They were all people who figured out, like me, to not “heart” sponsored ads.

Instagram is based on pictures, and I have found that my best images involve (can you believe this?) cute dogs, cats, flowers, and landscape. The loops I follow do a lot better if I use my pictures from the vast store I have, with a caption.

I still do not profess to be an expert with Instagram, but I have found it to be a more friendly place to visit than Facebook. Reminds me of the good old days on Facebook when you posted pictures of dogs and cats, and everyone enjoyed seeing pics of the family, but there was not the word spats that now create a hostile environment there.
So, a shout out to all 1,700 of my followers. I hope to “heart” more of you in the future. Meanwhile, I need to get back to my Instagram feed. I got a great pic of my dog I need to post. 😊

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Amazon, book industry, books, historical romance, indie author, indie books, indie writer, Reviews, self publishing, stories, writing

An Honest Review Versus a Bad Review

Let me get straight to the point. I don’t like it when we term a book review “bad.” I think of it as someone speaking their honest opinion. I know we don’t like it when someone says the book is horrible. It doesn’t feel nice, that’s for sure. But we discount the person who was at least willing to leave a review.

I am more apt to leave a negative review than I am a positive review of something I like. It seems to be human nature to be critical. You have probably encountered a boss like that. Never compliments what you do well; only points out your faults.

Well, this isn’t Unicorn land. We wrote a book. Not everyone is going to like it period.

Now granted, there are those who seem to enjoy being mean, but that is their problem. We all can spot those reviews on products. They are pissed off at the world, and you just made them madder. But then we have an honest review. I love honest reviews.

Just as there are good writers and poor ones, so you have reviewers. Some know the right words to use, and others don’t. But that doesn’t necessarily make them bad. If you eat dessert all the time, and nothing else, you won’t be healthy for long. If you eat dirt all the time, the same thing goes. A balanced diet is healthy and allows you to grow.

An honest review states what a reader did and did not like. Remember, in this day and age of consumerism; the reviewer looks at your story as a product. It must meet their view of what that product should be. And it is a chance for you the author, just one chance, to make a change. It shows where you might be able to do better. Granted, you can’t please all the people all the time as I said before. And you still must consider the percentages on your reviews. For instance, if you have five good ones (and they are all family) and ten negative ones (who aren’t family and friends), there is a problem. But an honest review gives you direction.

You, as an author, know when it’s an honest review because it reveals a spot where you were unsure of like in plot or advertising. I recently had a review that showed me what I feared; I am promoting my story in the wrong genre. It gave clarity to where I need to list it and how to advertise it. I did this by overlooking the general dislikes the reviewer stated, to understanding this person was saying they had bought a product that didn’t fulfill their needs as a reader. It was not as the advertising lead them to believe. It was only one little review, but they nailed it. I want more reviewers like that. They aren’t good or bad; they are honest.

I am not afraid of hearing you don’t like my story; it grows me as a writer. That is why I send my book to copious amounts of beta readers. Then drag it through edit after edit. I want the best I can produce for those readers who are looking for this particular genre. I’m the same way about my cooking. Why waste my time and food if it’s not going to be palatable?

And yet, hell yes I’m into praise. We all are! I love the “likes” and the “wonderful job” comments. Who doesn’t like a tasty dessert? But I can’t be healthy on that diet. I need honest reviews: honest beta readers, honest editors, and honest customers.

If for you, it’s only about the dessert, the kudos, the Atta girl, find something else to do. It is tough to compete in the book field. Writing is personal, but to become a great author, you need the criticism, just as an athlete needs a good coach. Always try to take the bad and find something useful. None of us are perfect. I’m a fair writer, but I want to be the best writer I can be. I have read other people’s writings and wonder why I even try. There is real talent out there. I recognized that in my teens when I dreamed of becoming a concert piano player, it never was going to happen because I didn’t have the talent. I also feared I’d never make a living as an author, so I worked jobs that honed the skill everyone told me I had for writing. And while I may never have a best seller, that doesn’t mean I’m going to quit trying. And without honest reviews, I will never succeed.

So please readers, friends, family, editors, and customers don’t be afraid. Tell me the worst. I appreciate it. Thank you!

Feel free to leave a comment. Have you ever learned anything from an honest review? I would enjoy hearing your opinion. 🙂

Amazon, book industry, books, indie author, indie books, indie writer, journaling, self publishing, stories, viking, vikings, Vikings, writing

Promoting Yourself

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So, imagine you are in a bustling city, and you are asked to walk down the street naked. Just cringed, didn’t you?

That’s what I feel like every time I finish a book and start advertising it. In this age of information saturation, to sell a book, I have been instructed to make a brand, not of my storytelling, but of myself.

I enjoy taking everyday happenings and like clay, forming it into a story. My imagination knows no bounds. There isn’t just one genre that calls to me, but many. In my head are about ten stories all the time, and writer’s block is only prevalent when I work to make that story into a readable manuscript.

But the curiosity a reader may have about me, well that makes me want to hide behind a pen name, and a made-up story about my life. I don’t understand why I like to create with the written word. It’s just images and moments are stored, then my brain gets full, and I move some of the stuff out onto paper. While doing this I have a little fun rearranging it into even better moments. I feel a little self-conscious when I share it. Like, who in their right mind thinks up things like this? But then, there is this strange happiness that fills me when someone actually enjoys my creations of imagination. It’s the same feeling I get when someone likes the slop I call cooking!

Some of the things people want to know confuse me. I’m boring. I don’t live anywhere glamorous. I scrape by like everyone else. My habits, good or bad, are average. My inspirations are relatively low key

When I find a story that captivates me (for I like to consume stories as much as I love to create them) I must admit I only want to know if the author has written other stories I can scarf down. Call me narrow-minded or self-centered, but I have never had a desire to know anything further. As a private person, their lives are their own. It is, after all, just a story.

I suppose there is a curiosity about how a story comes about. What made someone think of vampires, murder motives, science fiction, etc? But the answer is right there. Curiosity. A thing we all have in common as a species. Maybe we love stories because we can escape from our own humdrum existence of paying bills, going to work, and trying to survive. For a moment we can step into fantasy and leave behind the real world filled with its problems.

For the author, it could be the same thing. I create a world that I have control in, and I dictate the outcome. Having a whole lot of pride and control issues might help with the creation of imaginary people, worlds and events. Or maybe I just wish I could control the chaos around me, so I create my own little happy world. Who knows, I don’t always understand my own compunctions.

But does knowing where I live, what I wear, what I do or what I had for breakfast really matter? As some wise person once said, “it’s about the story, silly.”

I have been told it is healthy to voice frustrations in journals or diaries and from what I have read in memoirs and blogs, it has been going on for a long time. I guess blogging is another form of that. And for me personally, writing a story does help me to learn to work things out, and sometimes gives me insight into a problem I have at hand.

Every writer has reasons for the story they develop. It is a personal journey that some are more willing to share than others. I can only hope that if you are a writer and reading this, you realize that you are normal. If you are a reader who has no desire to write, but happily consumes stories, I hope I have given insight into why I’m a writer, but not a very good promoter.

Otherwise, I hope you enjoy my quirky little foray into self-pity for not having any privacy. But then again, why would I whine about that? I should be used to it. After raising five kids, enjoying seventeen grandkids, plastering myself all over the internet, and writing about bloodthirsty Vikings, you’d think I wouldn’t mind walking naked down any street!

And feel free to comment. Wouldn’t mind hearing about you, the reader. 🙂

 

 

 

Amazon, book industry, books, indie author, indie books, indie writer, self publishing, stories, writing

Pulse of the Book Industry

For several years I have followed Kristen Lamb’s blog. I have found her commentaries filled with witty, humorous self-help tips and noted she has definitely a finger on the pulse of the book industry. The link below will take you to her blog post that gives a bird’s eye view of the ever-changing landscape of Indie Publishing and gives hope for the future of the business. I encourage you to read it today!

https://authorkristenlamb.com/2018/01/book-business/

 

books, Hacking, indie books, indie writer, stories, writing

Having Fun with Hackers

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So, I opened my email and there was a notification from Facebook. It said that someone had opened my ten-year-old Facebook page. At the beginning of Facebook if you forgot your password, you couldn’t get back into your account. I had created another account. A few years later Facebook asked me if I wanted two accounts and gave me the ability to close one. I was smart, I had used two different emails to open them, so I knew which one it was.

I thought maybe this happened after I had tried getting on Facebook during a period when they were down. Either way, it said click here if I was not the one who had done this. Of course, I clicked, and it took me to a page that said it couldn’t pull up that account. Then it asked me to check in to Facebook with my regular account.

Thinking that doing this would bring me to the original notification, I did. Except it only took me to my current account. In fact, nowhere could I find this notification. Nor could I find anywhere that I could contact Facebook. I did spend an hour chasing my question and reading a lot of self-help for navigating Facebook. Finally, I found an obscure area where you can inform Facebook of a problem. Which I did. And got a polite canned ‘thank you’ for my input.

I’m very suspicious of anything like this because I have encountered many a ‘phishing’ scam. At this point I was worried it was a trap to get my real Facebook information. I waited two days to hear anything back. Then I decided if Facebook wasn’t going to do anything, I would. So, I began to think like a hacker.

I knew where they got my old email. It had been hacked some years back when my phone apps had been open when I crossed into Mexico. A few password changes fixed things, but someone had gotten some old information. Experian had informed me last year that some of my personal information was on the dark web.

While thinking like a hacker, I knew that if they truly had re-opened my account on Facebook, all I really needed to know was what email they used. I went to Facebook and simply told it I had forgotten my password. A few minutes later my new password was verified. Sure enough, there was a new page under my old name. I had re-married since then and it wasn’t my new married name.

So, I had some fun.  392530_463065353734398_408935834_n

I noticed first off there was no picture of me in the banner. They had filched an old picture of my granddaughter on a show horse, and it was in the timeline. It had been put up the day the Facebook had notified me. Also, interestingly enough, only five of my friends were listed there. The ones I had had ten years ago when supposedly Facebook deleted the account. To protect them, I went and unfriended them.  Then I noticed I had thirty-one new friends who had suspiciously sounding Russian names. No joke. So, I unfriended all of them!

Next, I checked for personal information. Again, nothing current. It was a bare-bones account. Like they were still building it and adding to it. I wiped it all clean. And I changed the name of the account to my deceased husband. He had never been a computer person and never had an account on Facebook. He would have found it extremely funny. Just for fun, I also changed the password!  To something like “Satan Be Gone”. If they were ever able to crack it, they would get the hint. But I highly suspect if they are serious about trying to use it again, they would just do what I had done and request a new password.

Then I went and deleted the account all over again. Not sure if that will help, since Facebook gives you thirty days before they supposedly permanently delete it. This is so you can get pictures and information off it. And remember, they said they had deleted it once before!

166070_578733068837720_1553312875_nIn all my research I couldn’t find anything the hacker had put out there yet on this account. But hopefully, I messed things up well enough they know I’m on to them.

This taught me several things. You can’t contact Facebook directly, period. It is all canned response and content. And all it takes is someone knowing what email you use to be able to get into your Facebook account. Since Facebook makes it so easy to get in when you forget a password, a hacker can easily make a dummy account. Also, nothing, and I mean nothing, is safe on the Internet. You may have security and firewalls, but note how easy it was for me to think like a hacker and find a way in. Last but not least, it proves that nothing is ever non-retrievable on the web. Even old, outdated or deleted material can be resurrected.

My biggest mistake in all of this was assuming that the notification was really from Facebook. Even though it was my email, it was not addressed directly to me. When Facebook sends me notifications about my changing my password, they always include my name. That wasn’t in the message I received and so I’m still not sure if Facebook sent it or what the hackers were after exactly. I did change my passwords for all my email and Internet accounts just for added protection.

I just hope sharing my experience can be of help to someone.  Be careful out there in cyber space.

 

books, historical romance, indie writer, stories, vikings, writing

Birth of a Dream

 

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What would you do to accomplish a dream? You hear stories about it all the time. One advertiser cleverly took a twist on that and asked what would you do for a Klondike bar? Obviously we hold the goal of dreams high.

I know I did. When I first learned how to read I remember it was a great joy to be able to read the signs that went by on the highway. It seemed a wonderful secret that I was let in on. To this day, I prefer to communicate by the written word. To me, words are a tool, an art form. My mother could create rhyming poetry off the top of her head. My sister could draw and paint anything. Dad was a wizard of self-learning and mathematics. All I seemed to be able to do was read a lot.

As I got older and perfected the ability to communicate through the written word, I found another exciting mystery. I could create stories too. My teachers encouraged and gave me the hope that it was actually something I could do well.

Then, I was out on my own and raising children, working and keeping up a house were my sole focus. I kept my love of literature close, and quite often would escape into a good romance or two. At work, my writing skills were once again put to the test, as I wrote business letters, hospital policies, memos, advertising material, and even sent a few letters to senators.

Through it all there was a nagging thought at the back of my mind. It became a dream. I wanted to write a romance story. And not just any romance. I wanted to write about Vikings.  Why would a quiet housewife and hardworking business woman be interested in Vikings? Well, have you ever worked in business? It truly is dog eat dog world, or, one Viking warrior against another!

I was fascinated by a lot of things and history was one of them. Loved the Egyptians, but the fierce, independent, wild and savage profile of a Viking caught my greatest curiosity.  How did they survive in the barren north that could be more brutal than they could? What drove them to burst upon the world and take it by storm, not to conquer, but to find farmland? What made them so tough, independent yet have a code of ethics in battle that gave them hope their eternity would be filled with drinking and fighting? And yet this same ferocious, hardy people would become some of the most devout Christians and help in its spread.

They were a mystery and conundrum to me. I thought a romance between them could be a fascinating read. So for twenty years a cast of characters lived in my head. During long drives, long nights sitting beside sick kids, and any moment I could take to day dream, I would create scene after scene of a story that just wouldn’t go away,

So when I got a chance to retire and spend time with my husband, I took to social media, learned Word programing and started to finally live my dream of writing.  I discovered I had waited long enough to realize a writer’s dream, the age of independent authors. No longer would I have to travel the road of rejection, but could write, edit and produce my own dream.

I was also smart enough to know it would still be a long road. I knew nothing about editing, formatting or how to promote. So I joined a few writer sites and started to learn, listen and write. I created a romance story based on something I knew about.  Then I found a very talented editor.  I was fortunate enough to find a formatter who could help me realize my dream by getting the book into Createspace. I studied Amazon and the mysterious algorithm, and then went on to Goodreads and finally the world of blogging.

Since I have started my journey I have seen the rise and fall of a plethora of media sites and learned what does and does not work for a writer. I have seen major changes in the book industry from the chant that the physical book was dead, to changing digital readers that morphed into smartphones which do it all now.

My first two books were done to learn the ropes. Now I got serious.  Research files were created to be at my fingertips for referral. I built a library of physical books, filled with tags on certain subjects and timelines so I could quickly review. I spent a year at the computer ignoring the world around me as I created and freed the world I had trapped in my mind for many years.

Characters took on lives of their own. The plot changed and grew as they did. The original plot became buried under the will of my strong characters. And when that book was done, I realized the prologue was actually a story unto itself and was the start of it all. So I began to write a series, backwards.

Then life interrupted. My soul mate, encourager, supporter and lifeline in life, passed away from cancer. The real battle that had intruded into our marriage after only five years of being married, finally won twenty years later and Darrell was its casualty. His death took my heart, my will, my direction, and any desire to do anything, let alone achieve a lifelong dream.

He had been such a help in writing Norse Hearts. Many of the insults he had invented. We acted out sword play like two little kids so I could get a feel of how the body would have to move. He had patiently listened to each chapter as I read it out loud to catch any errors. Then when it was finished, he sat down and spent two weeks reading it, though he didn’t like to read because he was a slow reader.

The story was finished and had been edited by friend and editor. Yet is lay hidden in my computer as I went about putting my life pieces back together. But family, Facebook friends, life friends and an editor and widowed friend, would not let me quit.

More edits, formatting, beta readers and life coach, would eventually help me do CPR on my languishing world of Vikings. It was their very strength and stubborn will that help me to come back to this dream and move on.

In the wee house of 8-26-18, a weary formatter put in the last keystroke on the manuscript and Norse Hearts was born.  It went right to the printer to be approved.

What does it take to realize a dream?

I don’t know.  Determination?  Stubbornness?  Talent?  Money?  Time?  Blood, sweat and Tears?  Education?  Passion?  Family and Friends?  Well, I would have to say all of these have been part of the journey, but none of these would have been enough on their own.

I think its Perseverance. That is the one ingredient at the root of achieving any dream.  And who taught me that? Well in all those hours of studying the Vikings, it is the one thing I found most fascinating. They persevered all the time, against the elements, against the world, and against each other. They persevered, and now their DNA is spread all over the world.

So if you think it’s only a dream,  and you can’t achieve it, I want you to look up the word perseverance.