Friday, 31 October 2014

Private Twitter accounts and why they're missing out.

Do you use Twitter? Twitter is that cool social network that has people arguing about whether it’s better or worse than Facebook.

I know people who hate Facebook with its proprietary big brother antics but love Twitter for its lack of enforced two-way relationship building.

Similarly people love Facebook because they can converse with like minded people while Twitter all feels like a big mass of people shouting to get attention.

The thing with any social network is that if you have a purpose for using it then how you use it changes.

If you’re going to use Twitter to follow celebrities and see what’s happening in the world then you can enjoy Twitter without ever gaining any followers. If you have nothing to say then fine, just be a follower, a casual observer. Maybe you don’t want followers so you set your account to private so you can manually approve every follower.

But as soon as you say something that you want the world to see, you have got to make your account public. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t protect your tweets but then expect that one tweet you write asking people to buy something or promote a gig or fill out a survey to actually be seen by anyone. Asking for an RT on a private tweet is ridiculous because private posts can’t be retweeted. And expecting people to manually copy the tweet and post it from their own account goes against the point of using Twitter as a means of sharing a message.

We live in a world of immediacy. Twitter is fast paced, your tweet might have a shelf life of twenty minutes if you’re lucky. People are busy writing their own tweets, they’re not going to waste time rewriting yours.

You want your tweet shared? Make it public.

Private accounts miss out on a whole heap of fun. Suppose you go to a gig and decide to tweet about it, copying the band or singer to let them know what you thought… No, even though you mentioned them they won’t see that, you marked your tweets private, remember, unless someone is following you they can’t read it.

Composing a tweet that says ‘hey Twitter, I need your help… RT’

From a private account isn’t going to reach the Twitterverse. It’ll go to the same 35 people that all your other tweets went to, those tweets that document what you had for breakfast and wish your friends a goodnight sleep.

There’s something really exciting about getting retweeted, but those private account holders won’t get that satisfaction of knowing something they said was considered worthy of sharing.

The irony is that while users with private accounts have to manually approve every follower, they could just as easily block every follower from a public account. It’ll take up the same amount of their time. But at least they’ll be enjoying the full experience that Twitter has to offer.

Now okay, I do understand if you only want people you know to see what you say… In which case Facebook is probably the social media for you, it’s more about relationships and less about sharing your thoughts with the whole world.

I know lots of people who are scared of Twitter, but it’s great fun if you use it properly. It gets tedious of course when all you read is a stream of tweets saying “buy my book, here” or “5 stars for my book, buy it here” without ever getting to know anything about the author. I hope that my followers are enjoying my cat photos and the evidence of my procrastination while I’m writing that difficult second novel. I know for a fact that any tweeted links to buy my book have fallen on deaf ears if my first royally statement is anything to go by!

I guess what I’m saying is that if you’re not going to use a social network the way it was intended, why bother at all? Life’s too short to be stuck behind a computer keeping a bunch of profiles up to date anyway. Stick with one you feel comfortable with and use it properly.

And if you really want to keep your tweets private, just set up a separate profile and make it public for those occasional tweets you want to share with the whole of Twitter!

Private Twitter accounts and why they're missing out.

Awesome Lady: Charlotte Pingriff of Perfectly Cast

Pleased to add my first lovely unlikely nerd to the wall of awesome. The first newsletter from Perfectly Cast included instructions for turning yourself into a zombie for Halloween… and my Nerdar went beserk! Charlotte Pingriff is an ex-special effects make up artist who now helps women feel good about themselves by turning their bodies into art. So welcome to the nerd watchlist, Charlotte…

Hey Charlotte, thanks for talking to me, let’s dive straight in, what gave you the idea of turning bodies into works of art?

I trained as a special effects make-up artist, and casting was part of our degree. In special effects, you create casts in order to sculpt prosthetics, or build appliances to custom fit a particular person, but I also loved the creative aspect of body casting, using the human body to create beautiful sculptures that could be used as a canvas for any finish you desire. The possibilities with casts are endless! I love it when a Perfectly Cast client wants a bespoke finish, as it allows me to spread my wings and create something really unique for them.

How’s this for a unique canvas!?

I love the idea of you creating the canvas on which to work, making every canvas unique. You’ve talked about a client with a distinctive scar. Did your finished piece change the way she felt about it?

Yes! She said she had always hated her scar, but that I had made her see it differently. It is her badge of honour, a reminder that she survived something life threatening. Something to be proud of!


How important is body image to you and what advice would you give to women who feel they need to live up to an ideal portrayed by the media?

As a women who has run the gauntlet of body issues, and self esteem issues, myself, it’s hugely important to me. I love clothes, shoes, beauty treatments, and make-up as much as the next girl, but it’s also crucial to me that I accept my body, quirks and all, and that I do all I can to feel positive and good about myself in a healthy way. This is something that has not come easily to me, and I still have off days, like everyone. So I can relate, and empathise with ladies. But I can honestly say that I’m happier with myself now, than I have ever been (some of that has come with age, and some of it has come through sheer hard work). With regards to the advice I would give, it’s such a complex topic, and one that I aim to address through my work and my free ‘Quirky Beauty Brigade’ newsletter, so it’s hard to condense it into one piece of advice – particularly as every woman is different. But if I had to give one piece of advice, it would be to remember that even those women that you idolise, likely have their own issues and insecurities. Remember that these women have carefully cultivated images. They have a huge team around them, and countless thousands of pounds to look the way they do. On top of the endless hard work they put in to look that way, it’s worth reminding yourself that it’s not their natural state. Even those women don’t look like those women. I don’t say that to run them down, but rather to point out that the media ideal is not real. It’s all smoke and mirrors!

When you’re not working, how do you relax?

This is one of my favourite pieces of art by Charlotte.

Well, this is a good time to confess that I probably work way too much! But I do love what I do, and it is a trait a lot of business own

ers share. But when I do stop working I love to read, I love to hang out with friends and drink wine (!), I LOVE to eat good food and I also love watching trashy TV – it’s my way to switch off! Oh, and I’m also starting to discover the merits of meditating, something I never thought I’d get into!

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Haha, see above, trashy TV! Also cheesy music – particularly 80’s, and watching beauty tutorials on YouTube – I love that! It inspired me to set up my own channel too through Perfectly Cast, it’s where I post all the vids for my Quirky Beauty Brigade.

Have you ever had a catfish moment?

Not to my knowledge! I say that, because I have a lot of friends who I only know online, so I guess they may not be who they say they are! But I

have been really lucky so far that everyone I’ve ever met in real life, after first meeting online, has been perfectly lovely in real life too!

Are you a crazy cat person or a barking mad dog lover?

A crazy cat person definitely! There are such funny, entertaining creatures! Though I do love dogs too!

Tell us what you have up your creative sleeve.

I have loads of plans in the pipeline for articles and videos for my Quirky Beauty Brigade, and lots of ideas for the casts (including a very important exhibition that I’m planning with another artist that will tackle serious issues that women face). I’m particularly excited about the Probbles – cute and quirky little pebble creatures that customers can adopt! It’s an idea I toyed with for ages, and it just buzzed around my head, like a crazy fly, and wouldn’t leave me alone. So now that they have been

born, I have a million ideas for them! So watch this space – or rather watch Perfectly Cast’s space!! Hehe. Oh, and I have an ebook coming soon too…..! An adult fairytale/parable. That is something not many people know about, so you read it here first!

Oooh, I’m looking forward to reading that! Huge thanks to Charlotte for stopping by and answering my questions.

You can find out more about Perfectly Cast by visiting the website

Or through the usual social media channels

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Awesome Lady: Charlotte Pingriff of Perfectly Cast

Friday, 24 October 2014

Is there a right way to write?

I consider myself to be something of an expert when it comes to procrastinating. There are times when I’ve put an unimaginable amount of energy in to doing something else just to avoid the much less complex task at hand. If you’ve been on Twitter recently, around the time that I’ve been trying to write, you will have been subjected to a commentary on my procrastination. Last week I spent a good half an hour on Spotify compiling a playlist of music that I can listen to while writing. Instrumental/orchestral music from movies and video games is currently my writing soundtrack of choice. I’m developing a soft spot for classical music where I would normally have turned my nose at it and dismissed it as boring…and dare I say it, for nerds!

Ironically, the easiest way to distract me from writing would in fact be to listen to music I love, because then I would have to keep stopping to chair dance and sing along to my favourite songs, or tell the air how brilliant a song is… maybe even go tell the internet what I’m listening to.

So that half an hour was time well spent if it provided me with hours worth of non-distracting music.

Since then, it’s become part of my routine: load up my account on the mac, open Pages, wait for iCloud to sync my novel from wherever I last wrote some of it, open Spotify, start playing the theme music from Lord of the Rings and churn out a few thousand words.


But the top way I procrastinate is by sleeping. Seriously! I get into bed, get all cosy and I think about what my next chapter will be, I picture the scene, I imagine the conversations and once I’m happy with it I can just get in front of a computer and write it. Except, just as I’m starting to picture the scene, the inevitable happens. I fall asleep. In fact, planning scenes for my novel has become the top of my list of ways to get to sleep. Maybe it’s something to do with concentrating the mind onto a single focus. Or maybe my novel is just really boring, I don’t know.

One of the reasons I think I procrastinate so much over my writing is that I don’t have a definitive plan. My plot and timeline is pretty vague. With Inspired I had a definite plan that I was working to, but a lot of the parts that tied the story together just happened, often catching my by surprise as I wrote them. With Molly Flockhart I have very vague plans that are starting to get a little more defined as I’m writing, but my characters seem to be telling me the story and some days they’re just not sharing their plans with me.

A friend of mine asked recently, how I went about writing. Did I know exactly what was going to happen before I started writing? The answer is no. I have a theme or a premise and I start writing and see where it takes me. Often I’ll try and plot out a vague timeline or I’ll make notes about characters, names, locations, particular plot twists and then sometimes I’ll skip to the end, work out what the conclusion will be and work backwards a little bit. But there’s always a gaping hole in the middle where I have no idea what is going on and just trust that my characters will tell me when they’re ready to.

I don’t know if that is the right way to do it, or if there even is a right way to write. But I like it because it means that even though I’m writing the story, I can still immerse myself in the world and be surprised along the way.

I’ve joined several online book groups recently, not that I have time to read much – and I don’t read at all while I’m writing because I find other authors start infiltrating my subconscious and it confuses my writing voice – and one thing readers often say, and I can completely relate, is that when a novel comes to an end they feel sad because they’ve been immersed in a new world and they find it hard to leave it. Perhaps this is why so many trilogies and series are being written, so readers can make return visits to that universe.

Avid readers that feel that way should definitely try writing. Creating that world lets you really immerse yourself into it. Creating characters, developing their personalities, their relationships, and the world they inhabit. And as the author you can pop back in at anytime.

Fellow authors: How do you write your novels?

Is there a right way to write?

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Announcing the Wall of Awesome

For too long the term nerd has been a derogatory term used to bully and hurt the feelings of people who are actually destined for more success than their cool, probably attractive, but let’s be honest, stupid, school peers.

And while the nerds have taken the phrase back to wear as a badge of honour in these times when technology is the cool thing to do, it still has a negative image.

Picture a nerd and your mind probably jumps to the kid who wore glasses, the optional school blazer and got straight As in subjects like Maths and science and always had a note to exclude him from sport.

Or you picture an overweight, greasy, guy with thick glasses and bad teeth sat behind a computer.

Well… No more. I’m going to create a section on this website dedicated to all the awesome people who I believe fall under the definition of nerd while going against the stereotype that has plagued us for decades.

There’ll be profiles, interviews and guest posts.

So watch this space.

Announcing the Wall of Awesome

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Thank you Asda for restocking Cream Soda!

So after a terrible week or two with no soft drinks by other half found himself in the fizzy pop aisle at Asda and there before him was a new rebranded 4 pack of Cream Soda. He sent me a photo and then bought 24 cans!

I was worried. What if the new brand means a new supplier, what if it doesn’t taste the same. What if we’ve got 24 cans of super sweet liquid with a nasty after taste?

So I left my office, ran over to my local Asda across the road and I bought a pack for myself…

And it was just the same as the old cans! What a monumentous relief!!

Like Popeye gets his power from Spinach, I get my power from CreamSoda! Like Popeye gets his power from Spinach, I get my power from CreamSoda!

Now you might think I’ve made a fuss about nothing. But I put it to you – you may have a preference between Pepsi and Coke, you’ll notice the difference. You probably notice the difference between diet and the full fat full sugar kind too. And whichever your preference, while you might be willing to drink the other brands, it’ll never be as nice your favourite. Now imagine they go out of business and stop making that brand completely. Sure, you can put up with the other brands but it’ll never be the same. You might even drink less as a result. Or try a completely different flavour of soft drink all together.

When I went on my writing retreat last month, I took a 6 pack of cream soda with me. I drank it on the train while I travelled, I drank it while I was writing.But when they stopped selling it, I didn’t write at all.

This week, since I restocked my fridge with my favourite fizzy pop, I’ve written approximately 8000 words.

So you see: Asda Diet Cream Soda is integral to my work-life balance, making me happy and more productive.

Thanks, Asda, for not depriving me of my diet pop fix!

Thank you Asda for restocking Cream Soda!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Keeping social media sociable

I’ve been using social media in my job for a long time but it was only when I created my author accounts that I really started thinking about what I was doing.

Buy my book, it’s great, some people said so![/caption]

We’ve all done it. Tweeted a link to buy our book and then sat back and expected everyone to immediately descend on Amazon.

But when that doesn’t happen and we consider how quickly our tweet got lost amongst the millions of tweeters all shouting at the same time, we go the other way and start mass tweeting, scheduling random tweets daily, hourly even, with a link to buy the book.

Occasionally we throw in a quoted positive review basically saying:

hey everyone, someone said I’m great.

Which makes us look like an arrogant self-absorbed asshole!

Coz I got a book out… You can buy it on Amazon… Just saying.

As authors, shouldn’t we be capable of composing an interesting tweet that would spark some interest, a RT or even a response? I’ve made several Twitter friends with whom I engage with daily and if it wasn’t for them I’d find Twitter very dull, because by the time I’ve skimmed past all the tweets vying for my attention, trying to tell me how awesome people think their novel is, there’s very little left except the tweets in which I’ve been mentioned.

Social media is one of those what it says on the tin, things. It’s social, it’s about interacting with people. Sharing information and then engaging with the feedback. Otherwise what’s the point?

I don’t want to be sold to. I want to follow people with something interesting to say. As soon as we start to recognise the Twitter habits we hate in other people, we should look at whether we are guilty of the same.

If all I ever do is ask people to buy my book and tell them how great other people think it is, then I’m basically the Twitter equivilant of a cold caller who gets constantly hung up on because real people don’t want their time wasted listening to me trying to sell them something they don’t want!

Look in your list of follows… If you’re an author, I bet you followed loads of other authors in the hope they’d follow you back and retweet your tweets to all their fans?

But you know what those authors are doing? Trying to sell their book. They’re not even reading your tweets. Chances are they don’t even go on Twitter, probably just use Buffer or HooteSuite to bulk schedule tweets for a week in advance. Variations of “my book is now available here…” Or “5 stars for my novel, buy it here.”

Joining groups on Facebook and Goodreads that offer authors space to promote their books, is also pointless, because again, it’s just a group of authors talking about their own book but not paying attention to anyone else. A waste of time.

Book clubs constantly complain about people joining just to promote their novels. They don’t engage or discuss books in general. They just publicise their book then disappear again. Job done.

Social media is about being sociable. Engaging with your readers and potential readers and allowing them to get to know you and your writing style.

[caption id=”attachment_624″ align=”aligncenter” width=”200″> LEMay1000 This is actually me! Here I am.

If authors put a little of themselves into their characters then surely allowing potential readers to get to know them is the best possible publicity for their fictional world and its inhabitants.

I tell my clients all the time: if you’re not going to do it properly, there’s no point in having an account. Stop viewing Twitter as a marketing tool and start getting to know some people.

What’s your experience of Social media? Share your thoughts below.

Keeping social media sociable

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Do books still get judged by their cover?

That’s a slightly misleading question, but I do like to use a well known phrase in a title occasionally.

I’ve been trying to promote my novel in a variety of ways, last week I did a book signing at my local book shop and I’ve written a few guest blog posts for other writers and bloggers.

Book signing at Pritchards Bookshop, Crosby. Book signing at Pritchards Bookshop, Crosby.

But what I really want is reviews. I’ve given away a fair amount of free ebooks in competitions in the hope of getting a review out of it and I’ve sent press releases to local press, all with no bite from the journalists.

This week I was turned down for a review, which on the one hand I appreciated the response, but was disappointed all the same, mainly because I was given two reasons: aside from having a to be read list longer than both arms the reviewer said that I write in a genre she’s not very familiar with and she wouldn’t want to give it a bad review just because it wasn’t her thing.

And that upset me a little because I realise that the Xcite Books logo screams erotica, and I appreciate that erotica isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But I couldn’t help feeling like I was being judged for writing, basically, porn and that it’s not worth reviewing.

Because those of you have that read Inspired by Night, will know that, although it does have a fair share of sex scenes, it’s about as similar to porn as True Blood. There’s probably more sex in an episode of Game of Thrones. My story has a realistic amount of sex in it, for the tale it is telling.

The irony with my novel, is that fans of Xcite books, may in fact be disappointed by the lack of sex!

I’m not a fan of erotica, which surprises a lot of my fellow Xcite authors, I don’t have any intentions of writing any more because I didn’t really plan to write adult romance in the first place, I just told a story and that’s what unfolded.

One of the reviews I’ve had so far said:

The book has some hot and raunchy scenes in it, from cybersex to the real thing, so if you are looking for pure gushy romance, look elsewhere, this mixes up the two really well. It’s not pure erotica, it’s not pure romance, it’s a sexy romp of sorts! Anyway, it’s really good.

There are some really funny moments in the book that made me laugh out loud too and it makes the book really down to earth, tangible and real. I think a lot of ladies will like this book.

Another said:

It was a refreshing change from the usual hot, sexy, rich, male CEO wooing the female. I laughed and cried reading this book.

So the reviews seem to focus on the parts of the novel that I have been promoting myself: fun, nerdy and romantic. The sex scenes are just there because, sex is a normal part of life, everyone’s doing it so why wouldn’t my characters?

I can’t help feeling that reviewers, journalists and anyone else that I’m trying to promote my book to, won’t see past the publisher and even read the jacket blurb.

Yet there are countless books just like mine, blending romance with sex, being published by major publishing houses and no one gives it a second thought.

Seriously? In 2014. Are we really still judging books by their cover?

Do books still get judged by their cover?

Saturday, 4 October 2014

No, Doctor Who Hasn't Become Too Scary!

Yeah, I read a tweet on Twitter this morning “has Doctor Who become too scary?” and did a double take. What a ridiculous question.

Doctor Who had always been scary, except for when it stopped being scary for a bit while the Doctor was all young and handsome and fun and charming.

Again, I love David Tennant, I know I keep sounding like I don’t, I do. I had a massive crush on him and there’s this is my kitchen…


And I love Steven Moffatt too and some of the Tennant/Moffatt stories were awesome. Also Steven Moffatt wrote Coupling and Sherlock so anyone that keeps moaning about him lately in relation to Doctor Who should just zip it and show some respect! (in my opinion)!

But there was a time when people used to hide behind the sofa when the Daleks were in town. The Cybermen in Patrick Troughton’s era were absolutely the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen on television, and if you’re not scared of the weeping angels then I don’t know what kind of badass super hero you are, but you’re not normal that’s for sure!

So the new Doctor is a bit angry and Scottish… Just because the doctor isn’t all swoony and silly like a cartoon character doesn’t mean the show is too scary!

It’s always been scary!

No, Doctor Who Hasn't Become Too Scary!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Guest Post: Skeleror's journal of evil

When Skeletor asks you to write a post for his blog you don’t say no!

So my post is all about nice guys and handsome guys and whether the two attributed are mutually exclusive.

Read it here.

Guest Post: Skeleror's journal of evil

The great Cream Soda disaster

I can’t remember the last time I was this upset at discovering a much loved item was no longer available to buy.

Asda has stopped selling their own brand diet cream soda cans.

The best cream soda ever made

Well this is just a disaster. It’s not just cream soda that’s been bumped off either, oh no. All their canned soft drinks have gone. Dandelion and burdock, another firm favourite of mine and my other half’s favourite, ginger beer.

I can’t believe it. I know it sounds silly to be so upset… Asda isn’t the only supermarket to sell fizzy pop. But it’s the best.

I’ve searched long and hard for the perfect cream soda and finally I found it. I can honestly say I’ve drank at least one can of Asda diet cream soda every day for the last 2 years. I buy six packs in my monthly shop.

I tried the Tesco one once, yuk, it was so sickly sweet it left a nasty after taste. And I tried the bottled Asda cream soda but it tastes of plastic and is flat before it’s even finished fizzing. There’s nothing worse than flat fizzy pop!

I’m so upset about it. I went into my local Asda today determined to buy all the remaining cans of pop – all they had was four packs of ginger beer – so at least him indoors is sorted for a few weeks.

imageThe last time I was this upset about a drink being unavailable was when they stopped making Schotts Vanilla Heist. There was a bar I used to drink in purely because they sold it. But then they stopped making it. And why was that my favourite drink you might ask? Well, it was basically alcoholic cream soda!

I love cream soda but since I found the perfect cream soda, all other brands taste horrible to me. I’m so upset about this.

Next they’ll be banning pizza and telling me they’ve made tea illegal.

Have you been affected by a favourite food or drink being unavailable? Share your woes below.

The great Cream Soda disaster