Going Like Gangbusters

Dear Reader,

This was a GOOD week for Round of Words. Not only did I copy over my entire plot for The Rebel’s Hero over from sticky notes into the computer (you can see it on my fan page), but I also wrote character bios for half of my characters, and wrote another 1667 words on top of that initial 750 words, thus completing the first drafts of chapters two and three!

And then yesterday, while working in a coffee shop, I realized something awful. The Rebel’s Hero continues to change and morph away from Catching the Rose. So much so that it feels weird using the same character names. So I changed all of the character names and have finally broken free from Catching the Rose. The Rebel’s Hero is still technically a rewrite, so there might be a similarity here and there, at least between character relationships… Anyway, I think this is for the best.

Oh. And I made the cover for The Rebel’s Hero and unveiled it Friday evening on my fan page. If you’re a subscriber to the newsletter, you got a larger version in your inbox. As a bit of housekeeping, from now on I will be releasing book information first to the newsletter subscribers, then to Facebook fans, and then on the blog. That makes sense, right?

I updated the website home page, so if you haven’t visited in a while because you have an RSS reader, hop on over, if you please.

Now as you might have guessed, I’m exhausted. Because on top of all that, I worked full-time last week where I wrote a 32-page report that had a ton of diagrams (ok I’m cheating, I took two weeks to write that). And last night, I was swing dancing until midnight.

Belinda iz ded nao.

I’ll check in next week with a brushed up excerpt from chapter two, I think. Or maybe not. Not sure. My brain hurts.

All the best,

Belinda

Plotting with Strangers

Dear Reader,

In March, I wrote the first 14 chapters of The Rebel’s Hero. Within this first week of April I’ve discovered a problem: I don’t know why my characters are doing what they are doing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know their motivations better than when I wrote Catching the Rose, so much so that I was able to write the first 14 chapters without a problem.

Still, after reading the first two books of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, and absolutely loving (as always) his well-developed subplots, twists, and surprises, I looked at my manuscript and sighed. I have work to do.

In a fit of creativity during my lunch break at work on Monday I sketched out a table on a scrap sheet of paper with the column headings: Character, Initial Goal, Roadblock, Recovery, 2nd Roadblock, 2nd Recovery, 3rd Roadblock. The rows of this table are the main characters, whose goals, roadblocks, and recoveries complement and clash.

When I came to one of the supporting characters, I realized I had no idea why he had his initial goal in the first place. To get outside my head, I posted a question on Facebook and got so many wonderful answers and theories that I feel totally inspired.

If you missed out on the conversation, that’s ok. I have a new question for you.

Why do YOU think someone would risk their life to free a slave?

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This post is part of the ROW80 bloghop.

Goodies Galore

Dear Reader,

Man, that illness took me out last week! I’m still sleeping an inordinate amount of time, so I’m keeping this blog post short.

I had a guest post at Indie Horror last week where I talked about how Mr. Trentwood, my ghostly father in Haunting Miss Trentwood surprised me time and again… even though I created him! Check it out, it was fun talking about how my character got away from me in the best way possible.

Happy eBook week! Starting March 6, get a 50% discount for Catching the Rose and Haunting Miss Trentwood with coupon code RAE50; and 100% off Mad Maxine with coupon code RE100 at Smashwords!

Also, Stacey Wallace Benefiel is discounting her books, so you should scoop those up as well. She’s tons of fun to read, and I know, because I read her Day of Sacrifice short and really enjoyed it.

That’s really all the writing I had energy for… my apologies. Enjoy your discounted books!

Best,

Belinda

Creating Custom Tabs on Facebook Pages

Dear Reader,

Last week I talked about how I finally got a Welcome tab up on my Facebook fan page, and was asked to write a tutorial about how I navigated the murky depths of Facebook HTML editing. And so I shall, gladly.

The default for a Facebook fan page is for it to load on the wall tab, i.e. the list of activity that’s happened on the page.

This isn’t so great for branding, though, especially when trying to appeal to newcomers. What we want is a welcome tab where we can put our welcome message, maybe an image or two.

Good thing we have the option to use the Facebook Static FBML app, amiright?

Sure, once you figure out how to use the stupid thing.

Assuming you have a fan page and know how to edit it (click “Edit” below your page’s photo on the left), you should be familiar with this list of options.

When you click edit, you will see this list of options on the left. Your editing options will be in the center, and the typical Facebook ads will be on the right.

We want to go to the apps tab so we can customize our page with the additional functionality afforded through the Static FBML app.

Static FBML stands for Static Facebook Markup Language. When I saw this originally, I thought, “But I just want HTML. This is stupid. Why would Facebook make their own language?”

Turns out, you use this app for HTML as well. It will accept images, text, and tables. It won’t accept embedded media such as videos, as far as I’ve tried.

Anyway. At the bottom of your apps page, you might see an option to add the Static FBML app to your page. If you don’t see that, search “Static FBML” using the search field at the top of the left options menu to find it.

The app in the list of search results should look like this. Click it, and follow the directions to add it to your page.

Once the app is installed on your page, you will have no idea what to do next. Logically, clicking “Settings” would take you to a page that allows you to edit this random tab that is now appearing on your page, right? Wrong. But you are right to think that.

Facebook is stupid and actually makes you click “Go to App” in order to make edits. It’s ok. I can say Facebook is stupid from a heuristic standpoint: it’s my day job to find the weaknesses in a web design and point them out for the next iteration to improve the design. Are you listening, Facebook??

You should see a blank text box waiting for your HTML magic, like so pictured left. I made a 500 pixel wide x (??) pixel tall image that I threw in there for the welcome tab. Just to see what it would look like.

I noticed at the bottom, there’s a link that says “Add another FBML tab” or something like that. Don’t do that until you’ve saved your first tab.

Essentially, you can create as many customized tabs as you can think of, using this app. It’s pretty useful once you get to this point.

I made two tabs: a Welcome tab and a Buy a Copy tab. The latter is a simple 2×2 table that has the images of my books, descriptions, and links to where readers can buy them. Simple and straightforward.

From here, you’ll want to make your new Welcome tab the default landing tab. To do this, you need to choose the Manage Permissions option in the left menu.

There will be an option on this page to change the default landing tab from the Wall to your Welcome tab. Go ahead and do that. Or make the default landing tab something else.

Whatever floats your boat, I’m not the boss of you.

In the end, you will want to log out of Facebook to ensure that the landing tab is the one you specified. It took me an hour or so to realize that it didn’t matter how many times I refreshed it, I would always see the Wall tab as the landing tab because I’d liked the page.

The default landing tab, when made to be the Welcome tab, only appears first when you haven’t liked the page yet. So it’s kind of perfect. Welcome me if I’m new, but give me the juicy stuff if I’ve been around for a while.

So if you haven’t liked my fan page and are coming to it for the first time, you should see something like the image on the left. Otherwise, you will see the wall tab like in the first image of this post.

Ta-dah! Now you have a snazzy welcome tab. Hopefully you have some awesome content to throw in there.

Ask questions and provide additional suggestions in the comments!

All the best,

Belinda

Unexpected Progress

Dear Reader,

I’ve made unexpected progress. Unexpected, because it doesn’t have to do with writing, sadly. Once again not following through with my ROW80 goals. I once again have taken a break from the writing, but instead made progress on some of my web presence issues.

Maybe I should change my ROW80 goal altogether. To something like, “Do it. Whatever it is, if it takes you one measurable step forward this week, do it.”

You see, I have a Facebook Page, but have struggled with what to do with it. Even though I have a computer engineering degree, the FBML app just confused the crap out of me that last time I tried to work with it. I was over-thinking it like CRAZY, which isn’t a surprise. That’s kind of my modus operandi, to be honest.

That said, I finally buckled down yesterday and worked on two graphics for the fan page: a large banner on the left, and a splash image for the welcome tab. AND, I figured out how to get the stupid FBML tabs to work so I can throw in my HTML. So now we have a “welcome” tab and a “buy a copy” tab. The content from “buy a copy” came straight from my Bright Bird Press website. Easy peasy. What took me so long?

No clue. But I credit ROW80 for making me do something about it. Check out how everyone else is doing, will you?

All the best,

Belinda

The Cost of Self-Promotion

Dear Reader,

Once again I reflect upon the idea of self-promotion, something which leaves a dour taste in my mouth and flags my spirit, making it difficult for me to be creative and write. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how I was cutting out social networking for a while, which in essence meant I was cutting out all marketing (other than my AuthorBuzz subscription through fReado).

I have been concerned about my sales. Everyone has been bragging about their sales, which eclipse mine to the point of it no longer being depressing, but laughable. I read the blog of Zoe Winters, paranormal romance author, regularly and am inspired and jealous of her success.

Here’s the thing: I’m amazed and more than a little frightened by how much Zoe does. The promotions, contests, videos, book trailers, blog tours… So you have no idea how relieved I was when she wrote her post “No Shortcut to Awesome.” The content of the post was a comparison between her two writing names, Zoe and her pseudonym. Zoe goes crazy (literally) over promotion. Her pseudonym focuses on her writing; other than posting on social networks and in her blog that she’s released something new, she doesn’t go overboard.

Get this: they are making the same amount of sales, roughly. Wait. What?!

Man oh man, did I need to hear that. Yes, it is good to be available and connected to readers. No, it doesn’t help to freak about numbers in any format: Twitter followers, Goodreads friends, Facebook friends, Facebook fan page likes, Kindle sales, NOOK sales, blog subscribers, etc.

I was watching all those numbers. And then some. I don’t even like numbers. I hate numbers. Numbers have, on occasion, made me break out into a cold sweat because they make me nervous. Which makes it even more amazing that I graduated with an engineering degree. Give me variables any day.

Watching Zoe’s process and seeing the similarities in my own is giving me the permission to do what I want to do, which is write. My friends and family keep reminding me that I do this because I love it, not because it’s my day job. I have a day job to support my writing. I don’t have to kill myself to make my writing a day job in itself. The goal of self-publishing, for me, is for my writing to be a self-sustaining hobby.

As long as I keep that in mind and stop peeking over the shoulders of other indie authors, I think I will regain my sanity and sense of well-being. I also bought a sun therapy lamp last week for work to combat my seasonal affective disorder. Both items, I’m sure, will be beneficial in the long run. In the meantime, I’ll continue to write, or not write, whichever feels right at the time.

All the best,

Belinda

Worderella Gets Synchronized

Dear Reader,

No, I am not talking about synchronized swimming. Rather, I am talking about the attempt to synchronize my on-line goings-on. You see, I can be reached at a number of places on-line, including…

That is a lot of places on which to keep tally. I’m certain I’ve forgotten a couple, too.

How do I keep up with all these profiles?

Luckily, applications like Google’s Feedburner allows me to automatically tweet when I post a blog topic or add links to my Delicious account. It also provides you, dear Reader, multiple options to subscribe. You can choose the RSS reader of your choice, or you can receive an e-mail digest of this blog, Worderella Writes.

Facebook allows me to import my blog posts as notes, so those of you keeping up with me there have the opportunity to stay involved. Facebook also automatically forwards all of my tweets from Twitter to be a Facebook status update.

I am trying a new WordPress plugin that should allow Facebook comments on my notes to be ported back to the blog and vice versa, so everyone can be a part of the conversation.

Goodreads allows me to import my blog posts as well.

I embed my Scribd documents on my website. When I read something on Scribd, I can “readcast it,” which is like broadcasting, to my Twitter and Facebook accounts. Likewise, when I upload a new document, I can broadcast it to Twitter and Facebook.

I keep up with the  Twitter and Facebook statuses of friends through a Firefox plugin called Yoono.

Moral of the story? Start poking around your on-line profiles. See which ones will link automatically to the other so you don’t lose your hair trying to keep up with all of the trends. It makes life so much easier.

What are your methods of dealing with on-line profile management and marketing? I’m always looking for new tricks.

All the best,

Belinda