How Does the Muse Strike You?

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If you’re a writer of fiction, and you’ve gone as far as to put a couple of the stories you’ve written out in the public realm, it won’t be long before you’re faced with an awkward question. Someone is going to ask – where did this story come from?

People want to know why we wrote a particular story, where we got the idea. If you’re anything like me, when this inevitable question pops up, you’ll stand there with a blank look on your face while you’re mind races for an answer. It isn’t grade school anymore, and you won’t get away with saying, “I don’t know, I just thought it up.” Though there is certainly truth in that.

Lately, I’ve had two ideas for future novels. I know . . . two ideas! That doesn’t seem fair, does it? But lucky for us writers, the number of ideas out there is endless.

The first idea came about when I read a name somewhere – Renard. It stuck in my mind. I rolled it over my tongue again and again as I did my daily walk, and before I knew it, a second name came along. Renard Charbanneau. To be named is to become real. I could see this man, and I had a glimpse of his life.

I had been tossing around the idea of a novel set at a university. Renard found his way into that setting before the end of my walk. A few hours later I had a number of characters and the outline of a major conflict.

The second idea was two strands that came together in a flash. We had been invited out to dinner last week. Our host kindly offered to take us on a boat ride down to the end of the lake. I’m not a fan of boating and to be honest it isn’t boats as much as boat operators that make me nervous. But our host was a man who could be trusted behind the wheel of any moving vehicle.

We zipped around the small islands and coves and played lookie-lou as we came upon a dozen or so cabins tucked in here and there, some long deserted. We also stopped to stare in amazement at a couple of slides that have come down the mountain in recent years.

The next day I happened to listen to a podcast about survivor’s guilt on CBC radio. Something clicked. All of a sudden I had a setting, a background experience the main character was running away from, and a dramatic event.

I end up at the keyboard when the muse shows up the way it did for these two ideas. A few quick notes are usually all it takes. I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot better when I have a few story ideas hanging around. There is nothing like running out of “the juice”, as our old friend Ernest Hemingway used to say, to strike fear into a writer’s heart and soul.

The kind of experiences I’ve described above used to happen to me all the time. I’ve always played around with the juxtaposition of ideas. The only difference now is that I have wholly embraced the wild and crazy reality of being a writer, so I take note.

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I’m big on garden walks and lake views when it comes to inspiration. Where do your story ideas come from? How do you play around with what the muse offers?

1000+ Followers. Cause for Celebration? Maybe not!

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I was planning a big blog party when I reached 1000 followers. Well, the milestone has come and gone. I decided against the celebration for a couple of reasons. The blog has just gone through a month long anniversary extravaganza. How much partying can my blog followers stand? One can take a good thing too far, right?

My second reason has to do with the subject of my last post – taking a sober second look at my social media platforms. I got to thinking about how WordPress follower stats are arrived at. This passing the 1000 mark may not be the source of celebration I once thought it would be.

WordPress adds up WordPress members who have actually gone to my blog and chosen to follow, with people who have gone to the blog and followed by asking for email notification of new blog posts, with Facebook followers, with Twitter followers (the last two groups may have never visited my blog), to come up with a grand total.

Here is how the numbers break down for me:

  • WordPress – 428
  • Facebook (author page) – 203
  • Twitter – 429

Facebook author page

I used to get around 2 new likes on my author page per week. There was lots of time for me to check out the people who liked me and see if I liked their pages. It was mostly authors liking authors, but I also had friends of friends and the occasional total stranger. It was all good. Over the past weekend, I have had 40 people like my page. Cause for celebration? Cue up the happy dance music?  Not so fast.

I am currently running a Rafflecopter draw for two $25.00 Amazon Gift Certificates to go along with the Blog Tour I’m doing. I checked out at least 30 of the new people who had liked my Facebook author page and they all had Facebook pages entirely devoted to entering various contests. A fine diversion if you have the time and who is to say they aren’t also avid book readers. Still – that wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I ran the contest.

Each new blog entry I do is posted to my Facebook author page, so all those who have liked me do see that notice in their newsfeed. That is if they haven’t blocked info from me the second after they liked me. Who knows? My point – this Facebook stat (203) probably means very little when it comes to my blog.

Twitter

Twitter followers go up and down daily. I don’t follow everyone who follows me, so I often get dropped, which is fine by me. I look at Twitter as a means of fast-paced social engagement. The simple truth is that I don’t want to engage with everyone.

Including Twitter followers as part of a global blog follower count doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Like Facebook, my blog posts are automatically tweeted out to my followers. There is exposure. But just because someone follows me on Twitter is no indication that they will want to stop by and read my blog.

WordPress Followers

This number has grown slowly but steadily over the last year. It’s the number that seems actually to mean something, but even this stat can be misleading. An average post on my blog might earn anywhere from 12 to 32 likes. A far cry short of 428 and these likes often come from bloggers who don’t actually follow me. Obviously, not everyone who follows me stops by to read my posts and that’s fine. We’re all busy.

I know my true followers through their comments. I think that the only stat that matters is the number of comments on the blog over time. People who take the time to comment are engaged with the material I’ve written, and that is the definition of a follower – for me, anyway.

Moral of the Story

I take the stats that people display on their blog, related to the huge number of followers that they have, with a grain of salt. I ask you to do the same with my blog. The value of social media is to engage with other people on topics of similar interest – to create an ongoing dialogue.

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What are your thoughts on the whole issue of blog stats and followers? Let me know what you think. I’d love to get into a dialogue with as many of you as I can.

Reassessing a Social Media Platform for Book Promotion

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“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” (Leo Tolstoy)

I’ve been doing some thinking about the massive amount of time and effort book promotion through social media takes and weighing that against the so-called results. Hmmm . . . It is clearly time to reassess.

Considering the above quote, I have to admit – social media as a way to promote myself as an author seems like much ado about nothing. It often feels manic and not like me at all. I need to break the whole thing down into its components and see which ones work for me and which don’t, because the package deal is getting more than a bit overwhelming.

What do I like?

Blogging – definitely! When I have the time . . . lately, with going away and having company and the demands of summer, (eeekkk – I love the garden, but geez, I’d love it more if it would rain only at night and I didn’t have to water!) I feel as though I’m not putting my best foot forward. Blogging takes a lot of time if you’re going to do it well. I’m seriously thinking about the slow blog movement. Better to write one blog per week that is well thought out, than three slapped together pieces because I don’t want my stats to suffer. And I want the time to develop real relationships with those who interact with me on the blog. That means reading posts and commenting and taking the time to be present.

My author Facebook page – I love sharing tidbits on this page, and the opportunity it provides to interact with people in a different way. What I hate is anything to do with following that stupid little chart that says interest in me is plummeting and then feeling as if I need to boost myself. Fancy way of saying – pay for more exposure. I’m also finding that I want to be careful when it comes to getting involved with too many Facebook groups. A couple of well-chosen forums are more than enough. Unless I have the time to be present in a group, there is no point in being plugged in at all.

I have come to realize that Twitter is almost a complete waste of time. I’m now at the point of following around 500 people with 400 people following me. At any given moment, when I have a chance to check the Twitter feed, I’ll probably see tweets by a handful of people – the same thing over and over and over. If I look back through my own tweets, I’m just as guilty – only on a smaller scale. I tweet far less than most. It all boils down to the same thing in the end – my book is great, buy it! How boring is that?

To be honest, I don’t even check out the other platforms (LinkedIn, Pinterest, Goodreads) on anything like a regular basis. I don’t have the time or inclination.

So – where does all of that leave me when it comes to promoting my book through social media?

I have read more than a couple of posts and articles over the last month (I’ve been too busy to jot down links – I think that’s a bit unforgiveable!) that stress the idea that indie authors need to think more about gaining readers (here is where the patience and time parts come in) than about sales figures. We win over readers one by one. And a reader won over to my book will attract other readers. (I have Linda Gillard to thank for that idea.)

More and more recently, I’m coming back to the idea that selling myself as an indie author is a marathon, not a sprint and anything that feels like sprinting is not for me. I just want to turtle may way through the social media whirl. I’ll do the things I know mean real connection and leave the rest by the wayside. And believe me, I know the difference. The loyalty many of you have shown to me in the blog world since Disappearing in Plain Sight was published has stunned and overwhelmed me! I don’t know how to thank all of you. It’s been like having my own cheering section 24/7.

I think the best thing to do is simply send out sincere thanks. Which I do! And a commitment – I will remain true to myself. What else really matters?

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Summer Promotion for Disappearing in Plain Sight

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Soon after Disappearing in Plain Sight was published, I decided that I wanted to pay for one quality ad. I chose BC Book World. Founded in 1987, this magazine has over 900 distribution outlets. The quarterly magazine can be found in bookstores, libraries, schools, and is given away free of charge on the BC Ferries. It reaches 100,000 readers per issue. BC Bookworld is Canada’s largest circulation independent publication about books.

The magazine recently opened up what they call  Quickie Ads – A Community Bulletin Board for Independents. These ads are small but priced right for independents. The ad designers are awesome. I gave them the info and they went to work to create a beautiful ad for me.

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On my recent trip over to Vancouver on a BC Ferry, I picked up a free copy of BC Bookworld and flipped to the last page. There larger than life was my ad. The experience was totally thrilling. It made me feel like I had arrived as a BC author.

June Blog Anniversary Contest Results

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The draw was quite the exciting event. A few hours to prepare and a few seconds of mayhem. Now the results are in.

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I assembled my very able assistants to help me draw the winning names.

 

 

 

 

The winner of the guest appearance on my Disappearing in Plain Sight blog is Elizabeth Wheatley.

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  The winner of the Amazon $5.00 gift certificate is Jo Robinson.

 

 

 

 

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And finally – the winner of a signed copy of Disappearing in Plain Sight snail mailed directly to an address of your choice is Julian Sherman.

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Congratulations to all the winners. I’m off to research how to contact each of you. If by chance you read this post and are a winner (which all of you are, of course!) please contact me at guenettefrancis@gmail.com and we’ll arrange all the details of getting the prizes delivered in a speedy fashion.

Thanks so much to everyone who made the anniversary month so much fun.

On another front, my blog tour continues along with the Rafflecopter draw for two $25.00 Amazon gift certificates. Check out my guest post on Bunnysreview and a guest interview at the Book Professor. Disappearing in Plain Sight is getting some nice exposure on these great blogs and I’m getting to feel a bit more experienced with the whole blog tour process.

Blog Tour and Jelly Fish

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My first blog tour for Disappearing in Plain Sight started yesterday (July 3rd) with a kick off on Peace for Pieces, Pandora Poikilos’ blog.

Doing this blog tour isn’t what I thought it would be – so far. I have to qualify that because it is early. I am getting quick responses to my numerous emails, so that is definitely something. It’s a bit of a learning curve, figuring out links and schedules and being part of a Rafflecopter draw.

Today (Thursday, July 4th) you can look for me at Mommy Adventures with Ravina for an author interview. I’m quite a ways down the page – something I wasn’t expecting, but still – the interview is good. I was hoping the Rafflecopter draw would be promoted, but I can’t find it. You can follow the direct link above to take part.

Update to this post: The Rafflecopter draw link was on the post all along but for some reason, no matter how many times I checked, I couldn’t see it. Obviously something to do with my server or system. It is also not uncommon for popular blog hosts to post several times per day, so it makes sense I was further down the page. My sincere apologies to Mommy Adventures with Ravina for the false information and for the fact that I sounded like I was complaining. I thought I was getting the hang of this whole touring thing, but back to the drawing board for me.

The tour lasts all week and there are suppose to be different appearances each day. I’ll keep you informed as we go.

On the subject of my own June blog anniversary prize draws, the entrants have been listed, each name put on a small square of paper and deposited in the appropriate pink bowl (whew – that was a lot of work, folks). I will set the actual draw up today and you can look for winners to be announced in my next post, with pictures of the actual draw process starring granddaughters – Emma and Brit. Should be cute and fun for the winners.

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Who doesn’t love jellyfish? Right? Check out the Jelly Fish tanks at the Vancouver Aquarium this summer.

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