My, How Time Flies

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It’s been a year this month that I began this whole ‘blogging thing’. I while I have a terrible memory and cannot remember the exact date, this month still marks my Blogaversary!

I didn’t know what to expect when I first started blogging. Maybe I’d have something to say. Maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe somebody would read it. Maybe they’d even leave a comment and tell me what they thought. Maybe I’d meet some cool people and hear what they had to say too. As it turns out, all of those things have happened and so much more.

The last year has been a crazy ride for me as I jumped both feet into the cyber world and released my books out into that same big, bad world. I’ve had my moments, lots good, some bad. But no matter what, I wouldn’t go back. It’s not always easy to ‘put yourself out there’ but every one of you who has taken the time to read my ramblings and support me on this adventure, has made it worth it. Thank you.

Sometimes You Gotta Jump

You may have noticed that there have been some changes around here. I figured since I was a year old now, it was time to grow up. And with the help of my super fabulous ‘haven’t met in real life yet’ friend, Natalie Hartford, I have a whole new look. Natalie has her own kick ass blog, and if you haven’t read it yet…well, you’re missing out. It’s hilarious.
Natalie put up with a lot of, “Can you make her hair darker?” And. “Can we try a different shade of red on the pony tail?” Type of comments. We’re still friends. Like I said, she’s amazing. So what do you think of the new look around here? I would love to hear your thoughts.

But no Blogaversary would be complete without a giveaway and since I’m sure all of you have read all of my books already, right?! …Well anyway, I thought I’d giveaway someone else’s book, and as it happens another super amazing friend, Diana Murdock, is launching her fabulous new book, Souled, today!

I had the honor of reading an advanced copy of Souled a few weeks ago and I couldn’t put it down! This book will suck you in and have you clicking pages fast to see what happens next! You’ll love it, I promise. Here’s the blurb:


What 17-year-old boy wouldn’t be tempted by the promise of power and control – no matter what form that promise came in?

Seth knew exactly what he would do with power and control. He’d be well on his way to a wrestling scholarship, his dad could stop working so hard to make ends meet, and he’d forever have the heart of his girlfriend, Sandpoint High’s most beautiful girl.

For Seth, the temptation was much too strong to resist. And why should he? The way he saw it, he had everything to gain.

But when he unknowingly invites another soul to share his body, Seth discovers that not all power is good – especially when it was never his to wield. And when the soul reveals its true intentions, will Seth have the strength to fight it or would death be less painful?


AND…if you leave a comment on this post…you’re automatically entered to win a Kindle copy of Souled from me!
If you don’t win, seriously go buy it. You won’t regret it.

And if you like free books, (who doesn’t?) head over to my Facebook page where I’m getting ready to do a draw from all of my followers for a free book. All you have to do is be a fan of the page. So click that ‘LIKE’ button, and you’re automatically entered.

It’s been a great year, with so many new things happening. And there’s more to come! This summer I will be releasing my latest Castle Mountain Lodge Book, and this Fall you will be able to get both it and Unexpected Gifts in paperback. If you haven’t done so yet, sign up to get my newsletter. I only send out messages when there’s some new exciting news, and you don’t want to miss out!

Thank you SO much for being part of this with me! I can’t wait to see what’s coming next!

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into the contest for Diana Murdock’s Awesome new book!

Managing the Social Media Beast with Natalie Hartford

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Today, while I’m on vacay, sipping rum punch and digging my toes in the sand (don’t hate me),my good friend Natalie Hartford agreed to come over to my blog digs and entertain you with her antics. She’s a writer just starting out in the adventure of novel writing and she’s been blogging for about a year and a half. She posts on her blog 4 days a week with posts such as my metrosexual hubby made me realize the power of clothes that fit (no matter the size), Twisted Tuesdays (with stuff like sunglasses that rock my beer! or the new trailer hitch stripper pole), and her Urban Word Wednesdays (where she teaches us words like masturcising and vajazzle) always keep me laughing! Take it away Natalie!

I am so excited to be here Elena. Thank you for hosting me and allowing me to give your readers a little taste of my style.

Today I thought I’d talk a little bit about an elephant in the room; social media. I’ve come across a couple blog posts lately where writers are talking about feeling overwhelmed and ill-prepared for the mass amount of social media platforms that are out there right now not to mention the accompanying learning curve.

Do I need to be everywhere? Should I sign up for StumbleUpon, do I need a vision board on Pinterest, how do I work Twitter, do I need an author page on Facebook, what in God’s name is Triberr, how do I blog twice a week/once a week/three times a week, read and comment on blogs, write a damn fine book, and master all this…stuff? It’s overwhelming to say the least.

Now, let’s be clear. I am not saying I am a social media expert, not by any measure. I have definitely not mastered all the platforms out there nor can I answer most of your “how do I????” questions (people, just google your tech questions…seriously it’s that easy) but what I can share with you is my approach and tactic to social media and maybe…just maybe…it’ll help take some of the pressure to be all things on all platforms off.

I am tech challenged to so if I can do, you can do it!

Keep in mind, I am just like you. I am tech-challenged. It might not sound like it but you can ask my IT guru hubby. He believes I have an electromagnetic force field around me that literally sets everything off and in all the wrong ways. He claims he’s never seen someone who has such a love/hate relationship with all things technology. But even given my aversion to electronics, I still love all things techie especially new software (even if it means swearing a lot). I love the challenge and I love learning.

Take the pressure off!

I met Elena when we both signed up for Kristen Lamb’s blogging to build a brand course in July 2011. I have to say, the absolute best advice I got from Kristen was this (embed this into your brains): when it comes to social media, as a writer, yes you NEED a presence. But, you don’t need to be on everything. Do what works for you and do that well. If you hate Facebook but enjoy blogging and Twitter, stick to that. If you prefer Facebook to Twitter, enjoy that. You don’t have to be on everything but you do need to be out there somewhere. So let the pressure to be everywhere go.

One thing at a time people!

My approach is to work at learning one social media platform at a time while asking myself “is this something I will enjoy; does it fit in with my target audience; and is this something I can/want to maintain with my already full schedule?” Most importantly, I do not start playing around with something else until I feel like I have mastered the one in front of me (no matter how shiny, change-my-world, must-have-immediately, everyone-is-doing-it, you-are-missing-the-boat, easy it sounds). One thing at a time people!

Learning a new social media platform

In learning a new social media platform, I research it like you would a new man you are dating or a new story world you are building. I scour the Internet, read every FAQs and all the help files (if there are any), search for and watch dozens of tutorials, and read tons of blog posts etc. I sign up for an account and start clicking every button, link and file to see what does what. You can’t be shy here. You gotta jump right in with both feet and take an assertive role in your learning. You can’t let the fear of making a mistake stop you from clicking every little button and playing around. Go wild. Go nuts. See what this platform is all about, what it can do, how it could potentially work for you. My experience is the more I learn on my own by playing around, the more I retain.

Is it for you?

Once I feel like I’ve mastered it (and seriously, don’t cheat yourself here), I ask myself objectively if I think this is something I enjoy, feel is useful in my overall objectives, and want to continue. If not, I let it go and move on. If times change and said platform grows in much greater popularity, I can always revisit it knowing I will have an easier time picking it up again. Time invested in learning is NEVER wasted!

Because trust me on this, as you learn different social media platforms, you start to become more comfortable and adept at trying new things with a greater understanding of how most Web-based platforms operate. This means that the learning curve gets smaller and smaller with time. Groovy!

A few of my current social media favs!

Facebook (author page vs personal page): My personal Facebook page is for people I feel I am friends with. I don’t mind them seeing my Dominican bikini pictures, my crazy status updates, or my personal pains. They know when I am home sick fighting the flu or having a tough day at work. My author page (which I will start someday soon), will be for author-only stuff; fun status updates to keep readers engaged about books, upcoming promos, blog posts etc. I will want my reading fans (who are essentially strangers) to go there as opposed to my personal Facebook account where I am not likely to accept a friend request from a stranger. So yes, I see the usefulness of having two Facebook accounts.

Blogging: I think everyone can agree that as a writer, having a blog is pretty much a must. For the first year that I blogged, I flailed around terribly. I posted without consistency in my schedule or my content. Readers would have had no idea what to expect from me day to day. How would I build a steady, loyal following with that? Think clothing store. If I went into a clothing store that one week featured high-end women’s fashion, the next week pre-teen clothing, and the next week men’s fashion, it wouldn’t be long before I’d outright avoid the store. Same with a scattered brain blog!

So, I took Kristen’s course and applied her concepts like the gospel. I implemented her technical suggestions: my own name blog URL, coordinating email and Twitter account, developed and launched a new theme and header that matched my blog voice (hire an expert if you have no graphic abilities), and ensured I had black text on white background. I implemented a consistent posting schedule (4 times a week now) and introduced theme days (which actually made finding blog content WAY easier). I think my readers now have a very good idea of exactly what to expect from me and when, which rocks. Most importantly, I embraced blogging as not only an extension of my fiction writing but fuel for it and the inspiration and fun has been exponential.

From blogging, I moved to Twitter. I signed up and started following people. I started following hashtags like #mywana #row80 and my #wana711 crew. I try to keep Kristen’s 1/3 rule in mind (1/3 tweets are information you are pushing out, 1/3 of tweets are RTs of other people’s important stuff, and 1/3 of tweets are conversational/connection). I sometimes struggle with the balance but I strive towards it.

TweetDeck: TweetDeck is an application I use to manage and streamline my Twitter account (a lot of people also use Hootsuite). I installed it and went on a watch-a-million tutorials mode. I also started playing around with it clicking buttons. My natural curiosity of “I wonder what this does…” really helps! Using TweetDeck, I now have all my important hashtags of interest in columns so they are easy to follow. That way I can jump in on conversations in real time. My @mentions and DMs (direct messages) are each in their own column so I never miss a beat when someone’s trying to connect with me or when someone’s talking about me. Just recently I learned I can connect my Facebook and other social media platforms into my TweetDeck so I’ll be learning about that next.

A few months ago, Jenny Hansen introduced me to Triberr. I gotta say, at first, I was skeptical because the learning curve to Triberr seemed a little extensive. It’s works with a different lingo and I believe when I first joined the developers were still tweaking the application so it didn’t always function properly. That being said, Triberr is a wonderful tool that helps me streamline the promotion of bloggers I love across all social media platforms from ONE PLACE. Imagine?!?! I will say the Triberr FAQs suck hard so I rely heavily on YouTube tutorials, blog posts, google, and just playing around to master this beast. I am still learning but I am totally pumped for what I think it will do for me. My next step with Triberr is to create a couple new tribes.

Next on my social media must-learn list is: stumbleupon (I have an account but I am under utilizing it) pinterest, goodreads, and google+. I also have to learn more about Klout and google analytics.

Well, that’s my approach to social media and how I use a few tools right now. I hope if anything, this post has helped ease the pressure you might have put on yourself to learn too many things at once time. And if it’s inspired you to venture outside your comfort zone to check out some new tools, then that’s just gravy!

Thank you again for having me Elena! It’s been fun wreaking havoc all over your blog digs!

Social media can be extremely overwhelming; what is your approach to managing it? What tools do you use and what do you find the most effective in meeting your objectives?**

_________________

Thank you for swinging by my blog and sharing your experience with my readers, Natalie. I know when I got started in this big crazy world of social media, it was VERY intimidating! You break it down nicely AND I love your advice of mastering one thing before you move onto another.  Also, I think we share the same ‘freaky technology’ gene. DH also swears I have a weird electro magnetic field…eerie.

If you want more of Natalie:

Visit her at: http://nataliehartford.com
Talk to me at: natalie@nataliehartford.com
Follow me on twitter at: @NatalieHartford

**(If your comment does show up right away, I swear I’m not ignoring you, I’m totally offline.)

Sailing Off the Grid

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Tickets – Check

House Sitter – Check

Bags Packed – Sort of Check

Guest Bloggers Lined Up – Check

Work Finished – Check

Computer Powered Down – Nooooo!!

It’s no secret that I have deep love for my laptop. His name is Mac (original, I know) and I love him. He goes everywhere with me. When I am with him, my fingers move on their own, they fly across his shiny keys and magic happens. Okay, I exaggerate. But not really. I do love my laptop. DH says I have a huge minor addiction.

But for the next two weeks, Mac and I will be separated. It’s a trial separation, and I assure you, one not entirely by choice, but by necessity. We’re going on holidays. And as a family, we need this time together. DH hasn’t taken a holiday in almost two years. And the last time we went, well…he was recovering from a massive accident and was still fairly very broken. Not so much fun. BUT…this time we’re all in one piece. (Barely, but the boy has healed and is now cast free!)

It isn’t safe for Mac to come along on our sailboat adventure. He doesn’t know how to swim, and he is most definitely a land lubber not suited for the high seas. It’s best to leave him home with the house sitter where he will undoubtedly be bored, but dry.

I don't think Mac knows how to swim

In his place I will take my beat up, five year old, got it for free at the bank, net book. Nettie isn’t as flashy or as magical, but she’ll do a fine job of recording my ideas and writing projects. And if she goes overboard? Well, it wouldn’t be quite so tragic.

So, in just a few days I’m outta here and will be mostly off the grid. I expect a bit of separation anxiety from the internet and my iPhone. But I’ve been assured that there are various internet cafes in a few of the ports, so I’m sure I will check in from time to time over the next few weeks. While I’m gone, I’ve lined up some of the best bloggers around to take over my blog digs. So watch for them and show them some love.

On February 14th Jillian Dodd will be stopping by with some last minutes Valentine’s ideas.

On the 16th, watch for Natalie Hartford who will be breaking down the mystery of social media.

Steena Holmes will be here on the 21st to talk about what Passion means to her.

And last but definitely not least, Diana Murdock is stopping by on the 23rd to talk about Cyber Friends.

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Tell me. What would be the one ‘thing’ you’d have to have on a deserted island?

**photo courtesty of http://wendell-communitylit.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-literacy-workers-shouldnt-blog.html

Hanging With Natalie

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It’s Monday, and while the start of the week can often bring the blues, I’m very excited to kick off my week by hanging out with my good buddy Natalie Hartford.

She’s been generous enough to host me over at her very blingy blog, AND we’re doing a giveaway!!

Check it out. And while you’re there, spend some time reading through her hilarious posts. This girl is fun-n-ny! I’m very proud to call her my ‘Sista’.

Now, what are you waiting for? Go visit Natalie’s Blog!