Plans for 2011

I’ve never been one for “resolutions” but I do believe in setting goals. I have quite a few goals this year, some relating to my personal life, and some writing related. I think most of them would bore you to death — I mean, come on, doesn’t every writer make a goal or resolution to “write more”? But there are some decisions I need to make that I’d love to have your input on.

Efficient seems to be my buzz-word for my goals this year. Most days this year I’ve ended up spending at least 15 hours per day at my computer. Maybe 6 to 8 hours may be writing or editing, but the rest is writing blog posts or doing the marketing dance. So I need to figure out a way to be more efficient about everything in order to get me away from my ‘desk’ and give me time to stop and smell the proverbial roses. (They have to be proverbial because I kill any plant I own with my black thumb.)

How can I be more efficient writing-wise? When it comes to my word count goals, I learned in 2009 and solidified that belief in 2010 that I need to plot out a story before I write it. Otherwise I end up writing 150,000 to 200,000 words to end up with a story that’s 50,000 words.  By efficient, I mean follow the plan I’d set out without hopping down any of those tantalizing bunny trails that lead no where. It doesn’t mean I cannot allow myself to wander off the path at all, sometimes that’s when I have those epiphanies of where the story needs to go. But I’m going to be looking more at how I advanced the story each day more than worrying about that cherished 2,000 word per day count. (It doesn’t make a damned bit of difference if I write 14K a week if I end up chopping out 10K of it.)I have so many stories I want to write, and deadlines, some self-imposed, some not, that I need to write as efficiently as possible.

How to make myself more efficient when it comes to marketing and promotion? Well, I have two releases in May this year, so I need to figure out the best way of getting the word out about them without wasting a lot of time and energy. I am not a marketing genius so figuring promotions out is a real challenge. Some marketing methods work with one book that totally fail with the next. Do blog hops work? Because frankly I’m finding less and less people have the time to go around and visit blogs. I know from personal experience I use Google Reader to keep track of my favorite blogs and if the title or first line on the preview doesn’t grab me, I don’t read it. I imagine you’re the same. If you see “Oh, it’s just another author promo post” you probably skip over it too. So I’ll put the question out to you — after word-of-mouth, how do you find out about new-to-you authors? Got any tips?

I know a lot of people say it’s all about social marketing these days — Facebook, Twitter, etc. I love Twitter. I love the access it gives me to my friends and also to strangers in the industry, and all the hints, tips and gossip, along with the sheer randomness of some tweets. I’ve discovered new authors that I’ve come to love and have become auto-buys for me, and have made notes about the industry that hopefully will help my career in the long run. Plus it’s sometimes just a welcome change to be able to “talk” to people who get what it’s like in this usually solitary career. I often use Twitter as my reward after a writing sprint so I may talk for 10 minutes then disappear for a half hour …or a half week if I’m on a real deadline. If you’re on Twitter feel free to follow me, I’m at and don’t hesitate to say hi when you’re online.

Facebook is more of a conundrum to me. I can see its attraction. Somewhat. It’s sort of like Twitter where you can friend people and see what’s going on in their world while not being limited to 140 characters. I love that people can connect with their favorite authors, but while I have over 1200 “friends” on my personal profile, I know about 5 of them in person. It also allows strangers to spam me with a constant barrage of invitations and notes about their upcoming book or..well, try to use the social networking aspect of it for more personal connections. I know I write steamy romances but in real life I’m married and happily, at that. But an awful lot of men don’t seem to care about that. Frankly some of the requests I’m getting these days…well, they leave me more than a little creeped out. And they’re starting to outnumber the spammy “buy my book” plugs from strangers.

So I’m going to be making a change on Facebook in the next few weeks. I currently have my regular profile, and a fanpageLater this month, I’m going to set my personal profile to family only and ask that people link to my fanpage (I still wish I could call it my “professional” page as fanpage sounds so…not me.) I will be sending out an announcement through Facebook, but if I unfriend you from my profile, please don’t be offended. I’m still there–find my fan page and like it or friend it or whatever they’re calling it these days. I’ll be posting to it as well, so you’ll still be up to date.

Finally, you may have noticed that my guest blogger list on my sidebar is rather spare for the coming year. I’ve done that deliberately. This blog will also be undergoing some changes in the near future and I didn’t want to commit to too much until I know just what direction it’s going. I should have more news for you on this later this month. Do you like the guest’s blogs and being introduced to possibly new-to-you authors? Or do you skip them as blatant promo?

*Twitter and Facebook icons thanks to

Twitter 101 part 2

Wow, this twitter post has been kicking my butt all week. The night after I wrote the first one I was up half the night making a mental list of everything I wanted to talk about, but every time I sat down to actually write it, I ended up deleting everything.

I’ve tried taking screen shots, and wanted to do graphics with arrows and highlighting – yeah, I’m not a graphic artist and Photoshop drives me bonkers.

So … you’ll have to bear with me.

Last week I talked about the various terms within Twitter.  There are a lot of other bloggers who can do a much better job than I can – @mashable for one. Toronto cartoonist, Debbie Ridpath (aka @inkyelbows )  has some really great posts on it on her blog – look at the bar that says “backlist favorites.”

Most people start off using their Twitter webpage to read their tweets.

Okay, this is a screenshot of my page – I’m using my Mac Powerbook, so it’s got a small screen – notice how my background is too small?  On my big 23 inch desktop monitor, that’s not a problem, LOL.  (I still have to figure out how to deal with that.)  I’ll leave how to do Twitter backgrounds to someone else, but there are applications on the web that will set you up with some lovely pre-made backgrounds.  (You can use a simple one Twitter provides in the Twitter settings.)

The problem with reading Twitter on this webpage, is that it doesn’t automatically update. If you want to refresh your screen you have to manually do it, either by clicking at the top of the page or you can hit refresh.  You can reply to people’s tweets, but you can’t retweet from the web without copying and pasting the person’s tweet to the entry bar at the top of the page.  Personally I find using the webpage as my main tweet viewer to be too difficult.  There are various alternatives thankfully.

I’m only going to talk about three I rotate between (I actually have a fourth one for emergencies, that is on my iGoogle page – TwitterGadget, but I tend to use that only in emergencies as the tweet screen is too small for the number of messages I get.)

My favorite is Tweetdeck which works both on my PCs and my Macs. Tweetdeck divides your screen into three columns so you can see the posts from “All Friends”, the messages that reply specifically to you, and any Direct (Private Messages) you receive. (The screenshot below is from my 23 inch screen, my laptops don’t have the big empty space to the right, the three columns fill the entire screen.)

You’ll see at the top left that you can link Twitter to your Facebook page as well as your Myspace, which can be a HUGE time saver.  Down at the bottom right you’ll see a status message – keep an eye on that if you notice anything weird happening, that’ll tell you if Twitter’s having problems.

The big bar at the bottom is where I type in my own posts, you can choose to have it at the top or the bottom of your screen, or not show at all.  The column on the left is the posts from all the people I follow (at the moment’s it’s a humungous list of over 500 people)  The second column contains any posts in which people refer to my twitter name @LeahBraemel and the third column is for those private/direct messages (I’ve blanked them out to protect the innocent. *Big Grin*

At the bottom of each column are ways to control what appears in that column. From left to right, they’re “Show what’s popular” (never use it myself), “Filter this Column” (Use it a lot), “Mark all as seen” (Useful if you’ve set Tweetdeck up to only display unseen tweets), “Clear Seen Tweets” (pretty obvious purpose), “Clear all” (again, that’s pretty obvious) and “Move column to Right”, in case you want to shuffle the column placement around.

Sometimes there’s so much stuff that I don’t want to see, is there a way I can filter it out? Yup!  Use that second button, the Filter button.

The default filter is set for Text but you have other choices as well. If you click on that little down arrow, you get a menu offering other other choices – like name, source or time. So if you don’t want to read a specific person’s tweets, you could specify them to be filtered out (use the minus sign – instructions below). Or maybe you ONLY want to see that person’s tweets. (Use the plus sign then) I have no idea about the source one, and the time is obvious as well, though I’m not sure why you’d want to use that one. Beside the plus sign is another pull down menu, to change it to a “-” sign – which is what you use if you don’t want to follow a specific person/chat.  For instance, if there’s a specific chat going on you don’t want to follow you can filter them out by filtering it out via the hashtag they’re attaching. So if you don’t want to follow #writechat, click on the filter, choose the – sign, then type in #writechat and those messages will no longer appear in that column.

But say you’d like to follow #writechat but are just having trouble seeing them amongst all the other clutter. Easy peasy. Up at the top by the Facebook and MySpace symbols is a search button. Search for #writechat and all the tweets with that hashtag will show up in their own column, even those by people you don’t follow.

You can create columns that’ll show tweets from whomever you specify – say you want your favorite authors to be in their own column, your favorite celebrities in their own, you can do it.(See below for the user menu – you can add them into a specific group there.)

Here’s a close up of an individual tweet.  At the start @Christine_dAbo tells you that’s who I’m replying to – only people who follow my tweets will see that, Christine’s followers won’t see my reply – they’ll only get half of our conversation.  If you want it to be public, you can reply by putting her name later in the tweet. I could have reworded it as “I’ll have to considering going next year, @Christine_dAbo, when Personal Protection is in print”  That would allow everyone to read my post. Or you could simply put a “.” in front of her ID. One character or many, it would have the same result. (You used to be able to specify you wanted to follow those replies, but Twitter ticked off a lot of people but removing that ability a while back claiming it overloaded their servers.)

Not sure who someone is, or maybe you want to know more about them – you can click on their ID in the bottom line and depending on your Tweetdeck settings, you’ll get a column with their ID and bio, or you’ll be taken to their Twitter page.  Also, I have turned on the number of followers people have. yes, I have 571 followers – that goes up and down by the hour as people follow and unfollow me depending on what I’m chatting about, or how many porny ppl follow me.  I find this handy when I’m tweeting about my guest bloggers.  I especially keep an eye on the number of followers of people who retweet my posts, that way I have an idea of how many other people might be seeing my information.

So, you see a tweet and you want to know more about it, maybe you aren’t sure what I’m replying to there.  To follow the thread of the conversation, simply click on “in reply to” in the bottom line and a new column will appear to the right of the other columns with the tweet I replied to, and any others if we’d been going back and forth.  (This only works if I clicked on Christine’s tweet, if I manually typed in her ID, you’d be SOL.)

 Aha, that leads me to “How the heck do you reply to someone then?”  Hover your mouse over the person’s avatar (their picture) and you’ll see four little icons appear. Reply (the curving arrow), Retweet (the straight arrow), Direct message (the envelope), and “Other” which gives you a second menu of User and Tweet.

To reply, click on the Reply button and Tweetdeck will automatically add the person’s user id to your posting bar.  Retweeting will copy not only their ID but their entire post (along with appending RT in front of it.)

If you want to add a link to your post, Tweetdeck will automatically shorten it with their latest versions (v. 30 and above) Simply copy and paste the link into your post (don’t worry about the length), Tweetdeck will automatically shorten it for you.

The User options is helpful if you want to follow them (or unfollow them).  AND most helpful of all? If they spam you, you can block them and/or report them with one click!

(Did you notice this screen looks a little different? I took this screenshot on my Mac which has a different color scheme apparently, LOL.)

Oh, and if you make a mistake in your post – you can’t edit it once you’ve hit send, so double check. (I usually realize it AFTER I’ve hit send *rolls eyes*) However, you can delete a post you’ve made, but don’t forget that the post is still out there for people to see, it’ll only be deleted on those who haven’t yet loaded it. (Everyone’s programs load at different rates and times.)  Click on the Tweet option (it’s right beneath the user option above) and you can delete the tweet – but be quick about it. But you can only delete your own posts, not someone else’s (see how in the screen capture below, “delete” is grayed out because I’m not the owner of that post.) (Oh, and you can do this on the webpage too – click on the garbage can at the right side of the post.)

One major drawback to both Tweetdeck AND Seesmic?  You cannot adjust the size of the font. You can change font colors and background colors, but you’re stuck with that teeny tiny font. I keep bugging @Tweetdeck to change it, but so far, no go. 


Seesmic is essentially the same as Tweetdeck, though you can’t see the number of followers a person has.

Here’s Seesmic’s menus – you can see they’re a little bit different than Tweetdecks, but essentially they do the same thing. You can add a user, follow a user, unfollow a user, or block a user and report spam, you can view all your friends posts, your own or your private messages in separate columns. I haven’t found a way to filter the columns though (yet). So it really comes down to what you like.

There is one last program I use on occasion if Tweetdeck’s misbehaving (yes, it does on occasion) and that’s Twhirl which is made by the Seesmic people.  However, Twhirl has a single column set up and I have trouble following the number of posts I get at a time.

Along the bottom is a menu bar where you can flip between the general posts, your replies and your direct messages, but you can only view one column at a time.  The window is stretchable so you can make it as wide or as narrow as you want, and you can view or not view the avatars (photos) as well which some people like. (personally I rely upon those avatars see who is who)
Oh, avatars. There’s a whole ‘nother post, in fact someone did one today on icons and how people get upset if you change them because your followers will identify you by you avatar like a brand. I’ll have to see if I can find that again.

Other programs – the best way to find out what to use is to look at the bottom of people’s posts – it’ll tell you what they use. For me that’s the best recommendation you can get.

One you can use is specifically for Mozilla’s Firefox — it used to be called Twitterfox but they changed it to Echofon for some reason.

If you have a smart phone, you can view your tweets on your phone too – if you have a smart phone like an iPhone, you can even download Tweetdeck, Tweetie and a whole host of others. But even if you don’t have a smart phone, if you can send a text message, you can send a Tweet. For Canadians you send your text message to 21212. Americans and others? I cut and pasted from Twitter’s support page:

  • US: 40404
  • Canada: 21212
  • UK short code: 86444
  • New! New Zealand short code: 8987
  • Germany: +49 17 6888 50505
  • Sweden: +46 737 494222
  • All other countries: +44 762 4801423

Okay, what else have I forgotten?  I know there’s a ton of info still to be covered … so I’ll turn it over to you. Do you want any more posts like this?

Do you have any questions, things you want to know how to do or if you can do?

Twitter 101

On Friday, I received an email that one of my followers Elaing8 was now following me on Twitter. As I welcomed her to that strange and wonderful world, I realized that it takes a little getting used to. So I figured for those newbies out there, I’d do a short introduction to some of the terms and ways of

First, choose a name to use. It can be your real name or an alter-ego. Since I want my fans/readers to be able to find me easily I use my name LeahBraemel as my Twitter ID. Others, such as Inez Kelley use a funny name – hers is @iamachiapet (I am a chia pet – her avatar is even a head with the chia herbs growing around it, which she says she resembles.) Don’t make it too long because when people reply to you it’ll cut down the number of characters they’ll be able to use. Shorter is better.

So I’ve decided upon a name and signed up. Now what?

Now you need to figure out who you want to follow:

Following:  These are the people whose tweets you want to be able to see when they post them. They may be your friends, or people whose blogs you follow such as Jane from @DearAuthor or Sarah from @SmartBitches.  They may be writers like me @LeahBraemel or @VivianArend (or the ones I’ve mentioned in the #FF section below). Even the big names are there @JKRowling recently joined the ranks, though she’s not sure how much she’ll twitter. Or you can follow people in your industry. For authors, we tend to follow editors such as my former editor (I miss her) @AngelaJames or my new editor @TeraK *waves*, publishers such as @avonbooks, or reviewers such as Coffee Time Romance @CoffeeTimeRoman or All Romance eBooks @allromance.

You can follow your favorite celebrity — I’m sure you’ve heard about Ashton Kutcher’s  attempt to reach a million followers. (he’s @aplusk by the way) or his equally famous wife, Demi Moore (@MrsKutcher) You can follow news people such as Anderson Cooper (@andersoncooper) or Ann Curry. Or news groups such as @BreakingNews or maybe you’d rather follow a local news station or program (I follow City’s Breakfast Television – @BTtoronto In fact I replied to BT once and they put my twitter page (that includes my covers) up on their morning program. Score!) You can follow bookstores and corporations, you name it.

By the way, for the more famous Twitterers, such as Ashton or Demi or JK, look for a blue check mark beside their name – that tells you that Twitter has proven that it is the real person twittering, not someone who is twittering under an assumed name. Which is the reason JK ended up joining Twitter because other people who posting as if they were her.

Then you’ll want to have your own Followers:   A follower is very simply someone who follows your tweets (in other words, they can see what you tweet.) A fan if you will. They find you by various methods – maybe they’ve seen someone they follow reply to you, or they’ve clicked on someone else’s twitter page and gone through the list of who that person follows.  (That’s how I started off, I found people I admired, or friends, and looked to see who they were following and picked and chose from there.)  Another way you can get followers (and these usually aren’t ones you want) is people who follow the general twitter stream – yes, everything you tweet is out there for anyone to see if they follow the main twitter stream. That’s how you end up with people trying to promote their latest get-rich-quick scheme or their Britney porno videos.Yes, even twittering garners you spammers. The thing is, just because they can see your tweets doesn’t mean you can see theirs. Some people block them automatically, some people don’t because they can’t see their tweets. The choice is yours.

You may also gain twitters because you’ve mentioned a keyword that someone has searched for.  I once mentioned I was rendering a video using Final Cut Pro while I was making a book trailer a while back. Within minutes I had a whole whack of video editors following, along with the Final Cut Pro people. I asked a question about insurance and had an Australian insurance company follow me. I mentioned I’d taken a BDSM course and … well, yes, I ended up with a half dozen professional Dominatrixes following me. (Or is that Dominatri?)

If you don’t want someone to follow you – that Britney porno video pervert for instance, then you can choose to “block” the follower from seeing any of your tweets. (Twitter will send you an email saying someone’s following you and give you a chance to block them there, or you can go to the person’s profile page and on the right hand side bar you’ll see

Note:  It is possible to “lock” your account so only people who follow you can see your tweets – they won’t be put on the public stream. And they can’t follow you without your permission. (People do this to limit the spammers.) However, just ask @HockeyVampiress how that can affect your entries in Tweet contests. If someone’s tweets “The first 5 people to Tweet me win a copy of (insert book here)” and they don’t follow you – they will not see your Tweet no matter how many times you send it. It’s extremely frustrating.

Do I have to follow someone because they’re following me?  Nope. You definitely don’t want to follow the porny gals, or the “Get Rich Quick” people. Well, maybe you do, I don’t. If you take a look at Ashton Kutcher’s account, you’ll see while he’s got 3,688,808 followers (at least he did at the time I wrote this), he only follows 220 people. There are people who will autofollow anyone who follows them. I don’t. I can’t. I already follow over 500 people and the stream is getting unwieldy.

Don’t forget you need to Tweet:  The main rule here? Your message can contain no more than 140 characters. (I believe because that’s the limitation imposed in text messaging on a cell phone.) So you end up using a lot of short forms. Srsly, Ppl, U may need 2 shorten Ur msg. Oh, and no, once sent, you can’t edit your message. You may be able to delete however. But it has been sent so anyone who has already received it … yeah, they’ve seen your error in all its glory.

Your tweet can be personal:

eldest son came home and said “why’s it smell like maple syrup in here” Um, that’s the burnt coffee pot 🙁

Or maybe you want to offer the Twitterrealm a recommendation:

Finished @CatherineWade‘s Another Time Around. A wonderful classic contemp romance (no sex) Read it with tissues handy

You’ll need to Reply (sometimes called a Mention) to other Twitterers (Twits?): When you want to reply to a person’s tweet, you need to draw their attention to your post – they’ll be able to see it whether they follow you or not if you put in their id.  It’ll look something like this:

@Christine_dAbo I’m editing, I’m supposed to be cutting OUT words, instead I keep adding, LOL. @jkcoi

That’s a reply I made to author Christine d’Abo. Notice that I have included JK Coi’s twitter ID there too as it was a three-way conversation. If I hadn’t included JK’s ID, she may not have been able to see my reply to Christine. What’s that again? If you’re following Christine’s posts but not mine, you won’t see my reply to her. Or vice versa. So often conversations can appear one-sided. This can be avoided somewhat by putting another character as the first character in a tweet. Some people do it by simply putting a period in front so it would appear “.@Christine_dAbo I’m ….”

What’s that RT in front of a message mean? That stands for ReTweet. It means the tweet is important enough that someone’s felt it necessary to repeat it, to pass it on to their followers.  It might be a news announcement – there were a lot of retweeting of death announcements in June 🙁 Or maybe it’s a warning about a virus being spread around.

RT Interesting reading @mashable 4 Teens Sued for Obscene Fake Facebook Profile – (via @eHqnKatherineT)

Or you may have seen me talking about retweeting my posts about my contest. Here’s one that’s going on right now by Toronto Romance Writer Eve Silver. 

RT @Eve_Silver: 1 wk left 2 enter my Sept SEDUCED BY A STRANGER website contests! 2 contests. 2 chances to WIN!

What’s with those funny URLs? Because you’re limited to 140 characters, and some web links are so long, Twitterers use programs to shorten their links — or tinyurl for instance. (I use Tweetdeck which autoshortens the URL for me. I’ll post more on the various programs you can use tomorrow.)

What’s a DM?  It’s a Direct Message – it’s a way of sending a message directly to a person without anyone else seeing it. It’s a place where you really can screw up if you’re not watching what you’re doing. You may think you’re DMing someone when it’s actually a reply and everyone will see. So like all things on the net, be really careful what you put out there.

Oh, and DM’s? You can only send a DM to someone who is following you. For instance, I can send Ashton Kutcher an @reply which he could see, but since he doesn’t follow me, I can’t send him a direct (private) message, nor could he send me one because I don’t follow him.

I keep hearing people refer to Hashtags, what the heck are Hashtags?:  It’s a way of grouping responses so others can easily find your tweet by attaching a title starting with a # sign. For instance, there are authors who want to talk about the writing process and get together every Sunday afternoon. They will add #Writechat to their tweet, and then others will set up their various programs (again, I’ll discuss them tomorrow) to search for that “hashtag”.  Twitter will also keep track of the number of hashtagged conversations and list them in the “trending topics.”

What are all these #FF posts? (or #FollowFriday): A hashtag that is used every Friday for tweets recommending people to follow. The best #FF posts have WHY you should follow them.  For instance I might say

#FF @inkyelbows because she draws some hilarious comics about writing and the web.

But I also might just post a whole bunch of suggestions:

#FF @jkcoi @kimberchin @Christine_dAbo @WylieKinson @ruttanamy @Maya_Banks @LaurenDane @iamachiapet

Well, you get the idea. But see how the first one has more power – you know why or if you’d want to follow them, whereas with the second one you might not realize they’re all authors. And no, you don’t have to follow all of them, you pick and choose which one to follow from that list.

Okay, that’s given you a basic idea as you get sucked into the Twitterverse. Tomorrow I’ll give you a brief preview of the various programs you can use to make it easier to follow the tweets you’ll be seeing. (TweetDeck, Seesmic, Twitter Gadget, and a couple others.)

Then, next week maybe we’ll look at getting you a Twitter intervention – because you can very easily be sucked into the void and lose all track of time as you Twitter.