Okay, I admit it…

…I am terrible about the blogging thing. Part of it is that my computer time is seriously limited with a two-year-old running under foot, and when I do manage to get the computer and a little quiet time to myself, I’m so busy trying to get my characters’ words down, I neglect my own.

 

I need to be better about blogging, I know. For one thing, I’m letting my sons’ lives go undocumented, something I know I’ll regret as they get older and the memories of these days become dimmer.

 

The problem is that I’m never sure what to write about – I know a lot of other writers blog about the writing process, but that’s not something that’s ever interested me. Writing is a very solitary thing – like Neil Gaiman says, we writers like the quiet, we like the dark. There’s a Monty Python radio sketch where an audience and commentators watch a writer start a story like it’s a golf tournament. It’s absurdly funny because of course watching someone write a story isn’t half as interesting as reading the story afterwards. (At various points, the writer doodles, scribbles his name, scratches out everything he’s written, and starts daydreaming. The only reason he doesn’t go on Tumblr is because Tumblr wasn’t invented at the time of the recording.)

 

Anyway.

 

At the moment I’m preparing two books for publication in the next couple of months. I’m very pleased and excited about both of them. I’ve been having fun writing to various tropes lately, and both of these books fit the mold. The first book is about a prince, an arranged marriage/bonding, and a secret pregnancy. It was a lot of fun to write, and I’m more than in love with the secondary characters who might end up stealing the show.

 

The second book is the summer camp book I wrote too late last summer for a reasonable release. I’ve held onto it until now, and it’ll go out sometime in June or July. When I finally picked it up for a re-read a few weeks ago, I was delighted to discover that it was just as much fun as I remembered it – and one of my main characters, Jim, is a hoot and a half. I am so looking forward to introducing everyone to him.

 

Maybe writing to the tropes is a bit more conventional than I’d otherwise intended – but they got me over a writing slump at the end of last year. Well – that and a hefty dose of binge-watching Yuri!!! on Ice. There are few things in this world that adorable romances between adorable boys cannot solve.

 

I have two months left before the end of the school year, and then my life will be in upheaval again as the boys and I head back to the States to stay with my parents for the summer. It’s a better option than staying here, where there aren’t any activities for kids over the holidays, and it’s too hot and humid to venture outdoors. At least this way, the 7yo can go to camp, and the 2yo can play outside without getting heatstroke. (And I’ll have Grandma and Grandpa to help me entertain.)

 

In the meantime, it’s rounds of final edits and coordinating with designers for the book covers. I’m writing the summaries for the books now, and when they’re ready I’ll post them on Goodreads. One good thing about having the summer camp story written so early is that I can maybe do a really good push on it, pre-publication, for a fantastic release. That’d be nice – I’ve never managed to do it before, so it’ll be an interesting experience to say the least!

 

That still leaves what to write here though, and apart from occasional excerpts from upcoming books, I’m not sure what to write about! What kinds of posts do you enjoy reading? What would you like to see me put here?

Five Ways to Help an Author (Without Writing a Single Word)

Tomorrow is The Omega Nanny‘s Release Day! (I keep thinking it in that sing-song way one says “Groundhog Day”, which is really appropriate, since both days are largely inconsequential to 99.9% of the general public.)

groundhog_day

Drive, Phil, Drive!

I keep feeling like I’m forgetting something – no idea what, though. I mentioned this to my husband last night, and he gave me a very serious look and said, “Pen – did you forget to write the book?

I’ve reblogged and retweeted and created the Goodreads page (and there’s even a lovely early review for Omega Nanny!) I’m feeling extremely positive about my out-of-nowhere little book – which is such a pleasant feeling!

Ω Ω Ω

It’s kind of a given – if you like a book, the best way to help an author is to write a review of that book in some visible location, such as Amazon or Goodreads. And this is true – readers love reviews that give them an idea of whether or not they’re likely to enjoy the book too.

But what if you don’t want to write a review? What if you can’t write a review? What if you turn into a frozen block of self-conscious ice upon seeing that blinking cursor at the top of a very, very empty text box?

blinking_Cursor(Don’t worry. It happens to authors, too.)

It’s okay. There are other ways that you can help – all without having to write a single word.

(You might have to click the mouse button a few times, though.)

Rate the book. Amazon Kindle even makes this easy for you, if you’ve downloaded the book from them. Once you finish, they’ll pop up a screen that asks you for your rating. If you’ve got a Goodreads account, they’ll even post the rating in both places for you. Click on your favored star rating… and they’ll do the rest. No writing necessary!

Vote on other reviews. Both Goodreads and Amazon have a system to “vote” on previously written reviews – for Amazon, it’s that little “Was this helpful?” question that follows every review. For Goodreads, it’s the more blatant “Did you like this review?”

Why is this important? Well, reviews with the most votes are more likely to be the first shown when someone navigates to that page – regardless of whether or not the reviewer liked or disliked the book. If you liked a book, and there’s a review already written that you agree with – vote on it! The more votes a review gets, the more likely it is to be at the top of the page – and the more people will see it. Plus, they’ll even be able to see how many people agreed with that review – which just gives it more weight. All without having to write a word.

Reblog/retweet on social media. “But how can I blog about something without writing a word, Pen?” Easy. Most authors, to some extent, are egotistical. (Some more than others.) At some point after a book’s release, though, we’ll have made a comment about it, or shared a link where to purchase it. Some will even provide links for you in the body of the ebook itself. Click on those links – reblog or retweet those posts – and you’ve just shared with all of your followers that great new book you finished reading.

Amazon provides links for you to reblog/retweet on their website – if you navigate to the book’s page, you’ll see a handy row of them under all of the purchasing information on the right-hand side of the screen. Click on your preferred social media platform – press “Post” – and you’re good to go!

“But I only have six followers! And one of them’s a chicken!”

reading chicken

“Whatcha reading, Maude?”

That’s okay. They’re five people who might not have known about the book before. And maybe the chicken will like the book, too. Thing with social media – it’s not about how many followers you have, it’s about who’s online watching at any given time.

Shove the book into someone else’s hands – literally. Buying the book for someone else is the obvious route – and don’t let me dissuade you from that course. But lending it is equally good. (Some ebooks can be shared for a limited amount of time, if the author has allowed for that.) I know it seems a little counter-intuitive to lend a book – after all, the author doesn’t get the proceeds – but really what you’re doing is trying to convert another person into a fan of that author, which will in turn make it more likely that they’ll buy the next book. Trust me. Authors are really good with that concept.

And if you can’t find a friend (or co-worker, or unsuspecting person who sat next to you on the bus that one day) who wants to read it – consider donating a copy to your local library. Most libraries love free books, and who knows? Maybe it’ll find a dozen new readers that way. (Check with your local library first to see what their donation guidelines are.)

Join your favorite author’s mailing list or follow them on social media.Assuming you aren’t already, of course. Authors may traffic in words, but numbers are super important too – and knowing there’s a certain amount of people who are more or less signing up to read literally every word we put out there is a gigantic egotistical boost –  which in turn is going to spur us to write even more. (And hey – more is exactly what you want from the authors you love, right?)

 

So there you have it – five super easy and fast ways to help an author you enjoy, all without writing a single word. Of course.. feel free to write a few words too. (Even just a simple “I liked this” is a great way to get started, and very nice to hear. We aren’t picky, trust me, and we aren’t going to judge you on lack of verbosity.)

I’m sure there’s other ways to help writers without writing a word – but it’d take writing them here to let me know. 🙂

Social Media Frenzy?

Every time I think I have a good handle on time management, I realize I’ve forgotten to include some necessary task. Generally, the task involves cleaning the bathrooms, making dinner, or emptying the cat’s litterbox.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy the tasks I’m ignoring – okay, I can think of about a thousand things I’d rather do than clean out the cat’s litterbox – but it’s just so much easier to ignore them in lieu of other things. Like writing. Or playing with the baby. Or having lunch with a friend. I mean… the bathrooms aren’t going anywhere. The 6-year-old is totally content with pb&j for three meals a day. And the cat spends a lot of time outside anyway.

One of the pieces of advice I’ve seen over the last couple of months is about maintaining a social media presence online – generally speaking, via Facebook, though Twitter comes up fairly often as well. (Tumblr and Instagram are a bit lower on the social media totem pole.) While the details of the recommended method of participating in those sites varies – the fact remains that just about everyone, their publishers, agents, and kid brothers, wants authors to be online.

Which is fine. I get that. I even get the difference between selling books (which nearly everyone admits a Facebook profile or page cannot do) and selling yourself (which is absolutely what Facebook does do, whether on a professional or personal level).

What amazes me are the number of authors out there who run not only a Twitter account… but also a Facebook, and a website, and a blog, and still have time to produce books every couple of months. (Oh, and some of them also raise children, have another part- or full-time job, and presumably do not hire housekeepers, cooks, or professional litterbox emptiers.)

I really, really want to know their time management secrets, so I can steal them.

My own solution to time management is based solely on how long the baby naps – and he’s never been the best of nappers. He started to cut down to one nap a day when he was ten months old, and he still doesn’t sleep through the night. (And recently, he’s decided that 2am is an excellent time to play with his brother’s toys, since his brother is sensibly sleeping at 2am and cannot defend them.) On a good day, I’ll get around 2 hours. On a fantastic day, I’ll get nearly 3.

On a really horrible day – like last weekend? One hour. And he wakes up so crabby that I kind of want to murder some dinosaurs and drive around in circles until he goes back to sleep.

What happens is this: the baby goes down for a nap. I gently lay him in his crib, whisper a loving wish that he have a lovely long nap, tiptoe out of the room and softly close the door.

And then I hightail it downstairs, turn on my laptop, get my water and the baby monitor, and write like the wind without stopping for about 45 minutes or until I hit a stopping point or until the baby wakes up, depending on the day.

Most moms use that time for dishes, for cleaning, for mental health, for making dentist appointments, for… oh, I don’t know. Whatever other moms do. I use it to get my characters naked. Hey, it’s a living.

I have to do the writing first. (The only thing that trumps writing is washing the dishes.) I’ve found that if I do anything else on the computer before I start writing… I end up not writing. And that includes Twitter, Tumblr, LJ… anything.

And when I do use those… I have to limit myself, or I end up spending hours on them and then the baby’s waking up and the bathrooms are gross and I haven’t taken anything out of the freezer to defrost for dinner and the cat? She’s not even speaking to me, probably because the whole house smells like litterbox. I can’t say I blame her.

So I get five minutes on Twitter, and five minutes on Tumblr. (Not for the whole day. Just at a time.) And I’ve found… that’s kind of all I need. I can usually get a queue running in that time, look at what other people are saying, mark out articles I want to read later. It works.

I could probably expand that to include Facebook… I’m not sure I want to. I had a Facebook, years ago… and I hated it. I deleted it that day that my feed was full of pictures of everyone’s lunches. (Friends, I love you, but I do not care about your lunch box.) It took me a few months to get the hang of Twitter, and even now I’m still only so-so with it. It took me about a year to really start to like Tumblr (but now I adore it).

I’m still not entirely sold on how much of any of that is necessary.  Whereas I’m fairly sure that if I don’t clean the bathrooms, I will inadvertently create new life forms, or possibly rediscover penicillin. If I don’t make dinner, my children will develop rickets from too many pb&js. And if I don’t clean the cat’s litterbox… okay, probably not much will happen that doesn’t already occur from time to time, if I don’t clean the cat’s litterbox.

It just might happen on my bed, instead of next to it.

Do you split your online time across various social medias? How do you decide what goes where?