A Warning on Image Copyright and Wikimedia Commons


Trying to get free, or affordable images for blog posts is a giant pain in the derriere. Kristen Lamb started using Wikimedia Commons images on her site, so I followed along very happily and made sure I double checked copyright. All was dandy.

Then I sent an image to my husband as an idea for a project he was working on. Now my husband is a savvy dude, (I am not being bribed or coerced to say that.) He works in IT, likes gadgets and needless to say, he used his favourite whatsit to check the image. You don’t need a drumroll, you already know it was someone’s stock photo, (purchase required), that had been illegally placed on Wikimedia Commons. *sigh*

How did he check? It’s a very simple, free web site called Tin Eye.


You upload your image and it sees where else it lives on the Internet, enabling you to find the original source and save your hide.

Now don’t be put off. Wikimedia Commons has masses of useful images, so don’t shy away from using it. Just be careful. You see Copyright notices on every post I put out, and they always include image notices. I never want to get a nasty email from iStockphoto or Canstock telling me I am in breach of $$$$$$$$. It pays to look after yourself.

Oh and by the way… read Creative Commons codes carefully. They have differing requirements and one logo isn’t just a free for all. I vary between ‘do what you like,’ and ‘no adaption, but free to share,’ which is what this post is coming under today. Face it, never put anything online you’re not prepare to lose or have hijacked. It will happen one day.

P.S. sorry, but comments are off for the rest of the week as I prepare for NaNoWriMo.



Creative Commons License
This work, created and Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2015 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Wikimedia Commons and Tin Eye logos are their property.


Aussie-isms and Novel Writing: It Gets Tricky!

20g Koala Unit 3D2When my Canadian husband first came to Australia, he had to learn the language. It sounds odd, doesn’t it? Canada and Australia are both English-speaking, Commonwealth countries. However, whenever the Census comes around, I am now tempted to put myself down as bi-lingual. We took a walk through a supermarket picking up fruit and vegetables and comparing the names. You have no idea how many differences there are, in that area alone!

In Australia, we have a lot in input from other countries. I should be classed as tri-lingual as I was bought up watching American shows, British programmes and at that time, the Australian tv industry was much smaller, so there was less Aussie content. (Note the three changes in language, in just that sentence.) I had heard about Twinkies, long before I ever saw an image of one. But do you know what a Tim Tam is? If not, I feel bad for you, because they are one of the most awesome biscuits known to mankind! Ask any Aussie ex-pat. I know who Barack Obama is, but can you tell me who the Australian Prime Minister is? We’re oddly isolated down here.

product_timtam_classicdark_5845_largeI can read American and British novels without any hassle and love them, but in writing The Dragon Tree, I had to often stop and review whether phrases I used in dialogue, would be understood outside our borders. Except for Steve Irwin’s tendency to say it, the word ‘crikey’ went out of fashion about eighty years ago. There is a great deal of misinformation about our country and culture and there are many Australian names and phrases, that would have you scratching your head and reaching for Google. They are so common to me, I wouldn’t even notice I’d put them in the book. I have a glossary of terms, but I never think I need everyday sayings in it.

When my husband started work in Australia, he’d text me questions like, “what’s a sanger?” It’s a sandwich. “What’s arvo mean?” It means afternoon. “Someone said Woop Woop was near us, let’s go there.” *sigh* No, there is no Woop Woop. It just means somewhere out the back of nowhere, that is really boring. You know, like the Canadians refer to Dodge. That got me in trouble. Apparently, Dodge is a real place and he thought I was having a go at him – ha, there is another Aussie-ism “having a go” at someone, which means, teasing or telling off. That is how easy Aussie-isms are to write in and I never notice I’ve done it. To end my tale, my husband pointed out that Australia has a Woy Woy and a Wagga Wagga (yes, we do,) so why not a Woop Woop? How do you argue with that? (Enterprising souls have been smart enough to name their winery Woop Woop, so now you can go somewhere. People like me owe them thanks.)

So in pre-emptive self-defence (Aussie spelling there folks), my novel has a place in it named Wollongong. I wrote it in, as it is entirely appropriate and then realised, people will think I made a name like that up. I didn’t, truly. Just click on this link.

Do you have any writing challenges like this? What are your localised ___isms?

P.S. Sorry, comments are now off on this post, as I prepare for NaNoWriMo



This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2014. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without Cate’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using her work if it is for a commercial venture. 

Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Cate is the attributed Author.

NaNoWriMo, Should You or Shouldn’t You? A Balanced View

My current planning for my next novel. I need time to put in all those plot points which are mapped out. I just can't get this, work and health commitments all in sync and completed in a month!
My current planning for my next novel. I need time to put in all those blank plot points which are mapped out. I just can’t get this, work and health commitments all in sync and completed in a month!

Each November, my blog visit stats drop as everyone focusses on their plans for National Novel Writing Month. Then later in the month, the visits pop up again as the dream of winning NaNo is abandoned or hijacked my real life. So should you sign up? I won’t be. I tried it a few years ago and stressed right out. I need more flexibility. Some of us need a push to get into gear, some of us need creative time and space. I am the latter.

Last year I wrote a post on how to assess whether or not initiatives such as NaNoWriMo are suitable for you, individually, or not. If you want an alternative to NaNoWriMo, try the links below. They are far, far less stressful and will suit those of you who don’t fit the “full steam ahead, hell or high water” mould.

Don’t forget that October is OctPoWriMo, October Poetry Writing Month: http://www.octpowrimo.com Write 31 poems in 31 days.



ROW80Logocopy~ A Round of Words in 80 Days: http://aroundofwordsin80days.wordpress.com There are 4 rounds of 80 days a year. Rounds start in January, April, July and October, but you can participate in as many as you wish. ROW80 is the challenge that champions the marriage of writing and real life where you post your own goals, check-in twice a week and can change your goals as needed. Join at any time.

~ Creative Every Day: http://creativeeveryday.com This is a low pressure, all-inclusive, year-long adventure for bloggers. You can join at any time.

~ #writemotivation by K.T. Hanna. http://www.kthanna.com/category/writemotivation/roll-call/  This initiative runs periodically through the year. You need to sign up, make a realistic list of blogging goals for the month, check-in once a week and visit your team mates to encourage them.


November also has these two challenges:

LeNoWriCha: a “rank-and-reward system is to provide an escape from the “success/failure” paradigm that seems to evolve from NaNo.” Started by David Shelverman Grimes and accessible through here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/david-shelverman-grimes/lenowricha-an-upgrade-to-nanowrimo/10151561140712496

WNFINNOVWrite Non-Fiction in November: http://writenonfictioninnovember.com “Challenges nonfiction writers to spend the month of November writing and completing a work of nonfiction. It also discusses nonfiction writing and publishing and provide a way for nonfiction writers to comment on their writing experiences during November each year. This is not a contest!”



Caught in the Prologue Cross Fire? When to Hit Delete and When to Save Them

iStock_000018797284XSmallEveryone tends to like things to be done a certain way, generally their way! That’s not necessarily problematic, it’s a matter of placing your own mark on what you’re achieving. Some of the best novels have broken the rules, some of worst ones have decimated the rules. Fashions governing what is acceptable also change over time, leaving writers sitting in the middle of raging arguments, wondering which direction they should be taking and what it will do to their sales.

One of the debates I’ve been reading up on, is “forget about writing prologues, no one reads them anyway. They are just a frustrating delay.” I can see the point, but I am still scratching my head and considering that to be a sweeping generalisation, rather than solid advice. Could prologue bashing be part of the reason why are turned off them? If we keep seeing them reported as bad writing, the force of repetition can lead to us adopting the same negative view, whether it is biased, erroneous, or not. We need to think for ourselves.

A well-written prologue can be an effective story hook. I always read the prologue and epilogue. I’ve always liked them. They can set the scene for a story and contain gems of information I can’t understand the book without. I particularly like the ones which talk about a future event, that motivate me to dive into the novel to see how it comes about. My curiosity is aroused. Please note the words well-written. Actually, note them again. Poor writing is the entire basis of the prologue problem.

Have a think about this further. Television programs, such as The Big Bang Theory, are structured to include parts that act very much like a prologue and epilogue. If you are an avid television watcher, you are being conditioned to expect that structure. There is a ‘prologue,’ or teaser at the start; the front credits roll and then the body of the episode begins. At the very end, there is a small, comedic part you never want to miss, which works as an epilogue. Every episode is the same. You expect it to be.

The quickest way to determine the effectiveness of a prologue, on a fair book-by-book basis, is if you can give just your prologue to a reader and they start to care about the characters and want to read more to see what happens or happened, it’s working for you.

Below is a summary of all the arguments about prologues so you can determine your own fate.

Pro Prologue

  • You can put specific events under a spotlight to emphasize their importance.
  • You can talk to the reader from a different point of view than the rest of the novel is written in. For example, instead of third person, you may speak from first person as an onlooker, or one of the characters.
  • You can start to build solid characterisation, motivation, suspense and plot with a focus on one pivotal element.
  • If, like me, you are a science fiction and/or fantasy writer and need to world build, a prologue can familiarise your reader with place, science and customs. Just keep it interesting and adding benefit to the story. Don’t info dump! If there are parts of the world you can’t introduce through dialogue, this may be an effective way to set the scene.

Anti Prologue

  • They can be used as lazy information dumps, rather than building proper story. For example, you can write far too much about a character’s past, bypassing show don’t tell and boring your reader. Try a glossary or build these elements into your story properly.
  • IMG_0182If it doesn’t make you care about the characters or get you interested in the story, cull it!
  • If you can understand the story without the prologue, you don’t need it, you are wasting time and paper.
  • Due to the abuse of prologues, many traditional editors may reject your work as you have included one.
  • If you put in plot points which leave the reader hanging for a very long time before the answers are revealed, you can divide their attention and frustrate them.


Effective Prologues

  • Keep it short and write in active voice, not passive terms. Prologues can be a single paragraph or a single sentence. Length is up to you.
  • It must be written in the same spirit and style as the novel, or it looks out of place.
  • It was stated in one article that it should read like a short story, but without an ending. The ending is your novel.
  • Both the prologue and chapter one must hook the reader in, just as powerfully. Both have to work hard, or they don’t work at all.
  • It must be distinctive from the rest of the novel in terms of time or point of view, otherwise it’s a chapter you stashed in a silly place.

So what parts of a novel do I skip? Prefaces, Forwards, Dedications, Acknowledgements and most Introductions, especially lengthy ones. They have no story value and unless I adore the author and they can teach me more about them, I skip over the pages. I’ve always seen them as the part that is written for the Author’s benefit or as a courtesy. But that’s just me…


This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2014. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without Cate’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using her work if it is for a commercial venture. 

Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Cate is the attributed Author.

Alternative Words to Said and Physical Characteristic Descriptions ~ Resource List

Finding alternatives to words like said, replied, answered and all the usual cliches has become my current life’s work… as has writing effective place and character descriptions. I have trolled the Internet for inspiration and while these goodies are in my head, I will share them with you.

Alternatives to said:

  • frdgtge3438fwefhSPW books has a great list in a table form and also
    links to other useful materials in the side navigation bar.
    Raid the list at: http://www.spwickstrom.com/said/

I seem to be writing in waves, adding in layers over the plot and characterisation. Right now I am into description, including body language. Some of the most helpful resources found are listed below. There are also dozens on my Pinterest board for all genres of writers, so I’ll place that link here as well.

Physical characteristic descriptions:

  • Angela Ackerman’s blog also has brilliant information on skills and talents and why your character needs them. http://writershelpingwriters.net/author/angela/ Her books, The Emotional Thesaurus, The Positive Traits Thesaurus and the Negative Traits Thesaurus are a goldmine for authors. I have never heard a negative word about them. Angela’s work is well written and researched. (No, she hasn’t asked me to say a word, I’m just a fan.)

Please add your suggestions in the comments. I highly recommend chasing resources like this down, they have blossomed out my word count! After too many years writing non-fiction, I have learnt to write too tight. This new venture is doing me good.

Happy hunting!


This blog post by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You are free to share and adapt it.

All clipart used here is from Openclipart.com

Eye Strain Reducing Editing for Writers – #amediting #amwriting


The amount of time we spend hunched over computers, tablet devices and ebook readers isn’t good for our eyes, necks, shoulders or wrists, but it’s essential. I have noticed a steady increase in the number of migraine sufferers I have met, who are writers. I am wondering if this is an occupational hazard, rather than an accident.

In writing and editing the first drafts of The Dragon Tree, while trying to cope with my frequent migraines, I stumbled across a few tips which may also help you, whether electronic screens give you headaches or not. These methods have given me much more writing time.

The biggest problem is the harsh contrast between black text and a white page. Of course, turning down screen brightness helps, but that is not enough. I found that a soft green or a blue text colour, was much easier on my vision. Also, changing colours between drafts gave my brain a shock. I was able to pick up many hidden errors, such as ‘or’ not ‘of’, ‘become’ not ‘became’… all those things that the spell checker misses.

The examples shown here are deliberately fuzzy as this is my WIP, but you can see how the colours affect your own eyes. When you are staring at text for hours, a simple select all and font colour change can help you enormously.

format edit exampleI got to a point where I had messed up my formatting with so many edits, that I needed to turn on the dreaded show all characters. I have always found this savage on my sight. I needed just the markers, not text and on experimenting, found that changing the text colour so the contrast was high, made the character marks pop out. One less headache… yes!

Another hint I picked up from a web site was to never edit with justified text. The extra spaces between the words make proof reading impossibly hard. Double spacing is critical for proof reading, or you wind up reading one sentence on top of the other! For a great post on the difference between proofreading and editing, please visit the Writers in the Storm blog.

For ease, I began writing on my iPad, as I was able to get hold of a word processor app with a darker background. It helped, but the sheer number of spelling mistakes generated lost me masses of time in needless correction. This is all the space I had to work with and it drove me crazy. Most tablet word processors are similar, so in the end, I abandoned their use, except on the worst days.

Update: thanks to Patricia de Hemricourt ( @epublishabook)  for sending me to this post on Computer Vision Syndrome. It’s exceptionally helpful.

Textkraft EN is available through iTunes.


Creative Commons License
This work, created and Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2014 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

#Search Engine Optimisation for #Indie Authors: How Far Should You Go?

Sculpture by Jeremy Mayer. Source: http://technabob.com/blog/2008/10/04/jeremy-mayers-typewriter-robots-will-blow-your-mind/
Sculpture by Jeremy Mayer. Source: Click to access web site.

There are many bloggers out there who still don’t know what SEO is. That is and isn’t a good thing. SEO is Search Engine Optimisation and for best practice, it is supposed to have a very large say in how you write book titles, web pages and blog posts. (There is an infographic explaining it at the base of this page.) A great idea? Yes, if kept in balance. There is one major worry with getting too carried away with it: you stop writing as yourself and allow yourself to be told what to do by a robot. Think about it…

Digital computations determine how easy it is for us to have our books found on Amazon, our Page posts read on Facebook, our web site or blog found on Google… They are awfully frustrating and if you want to claw your way to the top of the pile, you have to work – hard! You must sprinkle your keywords through your post, use meta tags on web pages, sprinkle matching keywords through your web pages, tweet, status update, Like, Plus 1, retweet, share and comment until your fingers fall off and your brain goes numb.

I did this asiduously throughout 2013 and got to the end of September and simply burnt out! I wasn’t tired of blogging, writing and people. It was those robotic demands that did me in. So I spent far less time on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. After reading a massive, endless stream of SEO and social media how-to posts, I came to the conclusion that as writers, we are possibly far better off writing in the attic, away from the computer and all this “wonderfully good advice.” Any available time I had in my week, was spent assuaging the gods of rank. So I quit! I’ve noticed that since I began to pull back in September, my visit stats and book sales didn’t drop much. They are growing.

1238999_450639671718505_835016741_nSo here is how I am now surviving online. I hope it inspires you and if you have further suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

  1. I will automate as many blog posts and shares as I can, so I can take time to see the sunshine and not be spending hours manually on social media. “I’m sorry Hal, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
  2. I will not read any more SEO and social media how-to posts or books: instead I will be myself and stay tapped into my innate creativity identity.
  3. I will not get trapped in worrying about my statistics. If I get 2 Likes on a post and someone was inspired: I aced it! That is my main goal: encourage, equip, empower. Not rack up fat numbers.
  4. I will write the blog posts which are close to my heart, regardless of what posts pull in the greatest number of readers.
  5. I will market my books with titles that make sense to the content of the book and are not used elsewhere. I will not calculate words on what sells.

In business, if something does not pull in sales, you stop doing it. Yet online, many of us tend to jump feet first into the latest and greatest next thing, perhaps in the hope it will propel us to stardom? That doesn’t work. It simply chews away more of our time and sanity.

It is all about sanity. If I have to mutiny against binary calculations, the numbers game and everyone’s marvellous advice, then I will. Join me… your creative soul is worth more than this.

If you want to know more about SEO, check this infographic from nerdyface.com



This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2013 and adapted in 2014. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without Cate’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using her work if it is for a commercial venture. Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Cate is the attributed Author.

Reading Challenges of a Visually Impaired Writer in the Digital World: Guest Post by Kerry Kijewski

Cate Russell-Cole:

This is an awesome post. Next time Dreamweaver nags me about some aspect of my site not being accessible, I will listen.


Originally posted on change it up editing:

I recently met author Kerry Kijewski on my Facebook page. She commented that she really enjoyed the writing- and publishing-related posts on my page, but she couldn’t always access the links because she is blind. After some back-and-forth discussion, I learned that if I just added the links to the comments section, Kerry could access them with her reading software.

That conversation got me thinking about the other accommodations a blind reader/writer might need, so I asked Kerry to share her thoughts with us. Before I met her, I’d never considered how technology helps or hinders the creation and consumption of digital content. Now I know a bit more, and so will you:

I was born blind, but I had enough sight when I was younger to read and write large print. In the beginning days of computers I could use large print magnification programs. That seems like another lifetime to me…

View original 1,036 more words

What is Nagging for Book Sales, What is Marketing? The Difference…

qqffb_1285058022796Trying to get the balance right in promoting blog posts and book sales gives me nightmares. I have looked at what Twitter recommends and what the social media marketing people recommend and there is a notable discrepancy. It seems Twitter wants to keep spam and server overload to a minimum, whereas the marketers understand the need to stand out from the crowd. Here is the balanced middle ground:

1. Only Tweet 7-20 times a day: no more or fingers will itch over that Unfollow button. All Twitter makes an interesting point about over-tweeting. Which proves that tweet nagging will knock you out of the game:

TrackSocial took a look at the tweets from top brands to determine whether brands who tweeted more saw more retweets. And the findings are interesting… we begin to see a “sweet spot…” When they tweet 4 to 5 times per day, brands see over 300% more retweets per tweet than when they tweet just once. But the percentage of retweets per tweet drops when brands tweet more than 5 times per day…”

2. Mix your content! I unfollow anyone who tweets the same promotion multiple times a day, every day of the week! Post relevant videos, images, interact with people, promote your blog posts with quick content quotes in them etc. Have a series of different tweets for different books that you rotate over weeks.


3. There are many different opinions on what time of day is the best time for Twitter. It depends on your time zone, type of followers… you will slowly get to know what works for you. If like me, you work Internationally, there is no easy answer.

4. Talk to people, be genuine and be a real face online: not just a hard core seller. Twitter recommends you cover behind the scenes information too, not just sales and marketing. Tell people a little about how you work, what you like etc. Don’t err on the side of putting your personal life out there too much, but be human, not just “buy my stuff!”

6. Be professional. If you are selling your work, Twitter is not a good place to list your writing battles and insecurities. You can appear completely incompetent!

7. Follow about 10 new people a day to build your presence without spamming. Never or rarely mass unfollow people who don’t follow you. That is identified by Twitter’s watchdogs as spam activity. New research also shows that paying for followers achieves nothing: as do using gimmicks which guarantee follow backs. They just add you to their numbers, they don’t “see you.”


Infographic Source:


This blog post by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You are free to share and adapt it.

Blogging Survival: Get Ahead

Click to go to post.

With blogs, there are times when you have to hit the pause switch for the sake of sanity. But how? Around Thanksgiving last year, a fellow blogger put up a post asking, “should you blog through the holidays?” It was interesting to read how many people said yes, said no… or said no and then gave into temptation and pressure and blogged anyway! There are weeks when my husband has to refer to our family photos to remember what I look like, as I can’t be separated from the computer.

There is one technique which I have been using for the past two years to save my sanity and cater for those disruptions life puts in your way: scheduling. Writing ahead, even by a week or two, saves last minute “what will I post” panic attacks; stops multiple posts being sent out on one day; ensures you DO have time to go back and edit that dodgy bit you’re unsure about and gives you planning space. As I work in WordPress, here is how you do it.

2013-12-02_13-31-29While you are editing your post, on your right you will see the Publish box. On a new post it will come up as Publish Immediately. Click on Edit and you get this box where you can control exactly when your post will come out. The post I am writing now was written on the 2nd December last year. I am not bragging. As a migraine sufferer, I lose too many days on heavy painkillers and being forced into scheduling has been a great bonus! It does improve the quality of your blog as you have time to think.

If, like me, you are in an inconvenient time zone, scheduling also allows you to post in the zone where you get the best readership. With Twitter, Facebook, Triberr and Networked Blogs automatically sending out new post promotion live, I get the luxury of being asleep when my posts go out: between 1am and 2am my time. It’s bliss! No racing around multiple social media to spread the word. I love it! Use that Publicize feature and pre-hashtag post promo… it works.

Also be aware: I ran a weekly series in 2013 which I planned ahead, then added other periodic features plus my usual write-ahead posts. When I reached 100 scheduled posts, WordPress sent me an email saying STOP! They need you to save posts as drafts if there are a large number.

Keeping a blog running is a mammoth task: particularly if you like to post more than a few times per week. To stay productive you need to take time out. Like any muscle in your body, creativity needs to be rested so you can refresh. Without that you run out of ideas, enthusiasm and your blog becomes a major pain! Try scheduling as a painkiller. You have earned your time off and it will save you agony!


This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2014. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without Cate’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using her work if it is for a commercial venture.

Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Cate is the attributed Author.

Guest Posting as Advertising: How To Be Professional and Be Asked Back

guest series logo

Getting a guest post on someone’s blog is a bonus. It’s essential advertising you can’t put a price on… However, many bloggers will not allow guest posts and for excellent reasons. Having taken guest posts for two years and being used, abandoned, over-worked and given the run around, I have recently changed CommuniCATE’s policy to protect my time and blog quality. Don’t go looking for the sign up page, I shot it.

I should warn you, this post may sound a tad annoyed in places. I’ve had 33 “guests” to work with in 2013. It’s been a loooooooong year… and far less than 33 posts went up on the blog through no-shows.

R.I.P. guest post guidelines page. I wonder if I will actually miss you?

Here are the elements that will make you a great guest poster, one that I will lay out the red carpet to have back.

  • Read the guest post guidelines and if you don’t fit them, decline politely. If your post offer has nothing whatsoever to do with writing, then I know you don’t read this blog and are using me: I will say no.

I have a theme. It’s up there in the header you see on every guest post. I will promote your books if you give something to other writers, by way of sharing a writing lesson you’ve learnt. Simple barter. Find out what other bloggers want and think before you ask anyone for a spot.

  • Include your blog, social media and web site details so the blogger doesn’t have to waste time chasing you around the Internet. This includes book links.
  • Include a thumbnail photo of you and small images of your book covers.
  • Write a one-size-fits-all bio about yourself and send it out with all queries and posts. I wind up wasting a lot time going to people’s “about” page to do them justice.

Lissa BryanSee those last three points: they are the difference between professional marketing and not knowing how to package yourself. All writers need to learn how to do this. I have it all in one file and it’s ‘copy and paste’ into the document or email. Lissa Bryan is a great example of how this is done. Her posts on Choosing a Book Cover and Learning Curve: Editing and Publishing are worth reading.

There is another point: a good blog host will keep promoting the guest and will send them a thank you e-card or free book. The guest has done you a service. A thoughtful thank you is appreciated.

  • Bio-234x300Never, ever, ever do a blog tour, cover reveal or guest post and then not link back to the hosting blogger in some way and promote their post on social media liberally. Author Sandra Nickolai is a wonderful guest for this. It is months later and she still promotes her post. I love her. She knows the benefit to me, is a benefit for her. Sandra, thank you! Please read her posts Coping with a Cynical Critique and Lessons I Learned from Writing My First Book.

If you’re doing a tour: stagger dates and make sure you promote that post on the bloggers site. More promo for you: more promo for them. If you can, alter the heading and a little of the content on promo posts so readers don’t tune out. Everyone wins.

I had one guest who signed up a dozen people, had her promo go up and never thanked or promoted any of them. I went back and checked her feed and she had used and abandoned us all. I removed her post from my blog, then a year later she was back asking for more help. When I politely explained to her why I was reluctant to host her a second time, I never heard from her again.

  • A ridiculous number of guest posters who have deadlines and arrangements go missing, never to be heard from again. If you have made a commitment, put it in your diary! Scrawl it on the bathroom mirror in red lipstick to remind you… it’s free advertising, don’t underestimate the value! A survival tip for bloggers: I schedule my posts ahead and don’t leave room for guest posts because of these let downs. When one does actually come in, I move my work to make room for them.
  • Do not ever send out work which needs editing. You are submitting the equivalent of an article to be published online which becomes part of your public work portfolio. Be professional. I don’t mind tossing ideas around with writers by email, I am very happy to do that, but if I need to correct your grammar and your work looks thrown together, I will be very unhappy.
  • KP_003 smallerIf asked to, send photos/illustrations to make the post attractive and make sure they don’t breach copyright. Kathy Pooler is great with this!
  • Kathy’s other great example is check the blog post for comments about your work and reply to them. You will gain new followers.
  • If you need to submit late, that’s fine! Just let me know. I am flexible and most people are.

I truly do love to have guests. They come up with ideas I had never thought of and I want this blog to be inclusive. I enjoy sharing. However, the number of hours I have wasted is ridiculous. I don’t want to stop guest posts, but I am going to be very careful about how I go about it in 2014. From January 2014 guest posts are by invitation only. If I follow you, know you’re a great writer and know you’ve got your head on straight, you’ll hear from me. The best posts I have had are the ones I have asked for.

If you would like to read the awesome guest posts I’ve had the pleasure of sharing, just click on this tag link and enjoy: http://cateartios.wordpress.com/category/writing-lessons-from-the-writing-life/


This blog post by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You are free to share and adapt it.

Lessons I Learned from Writing My First Book, by Sandra Nikolai


Bio-234x300The leap into publishing can be an unnerving journey marked with a steep learning curve. Not only do writers have to understand the specifics of the trade, but they also need to wear a variety of hats when handling the different aspects of the business as it evolves.

Some of the lessons I learned while writing and promoting my first mystery novel came from how-to books that still line my shelf. The other lessons I learned came from hands-on experience. From these lessons, I set up five guidelines that would come in handy the second time around. I’d like to share them with you now:

1. Above all, be true to yourself. Write in a genre that is familiar to you. Don’t attempt to write stories about vampires and wizards just because they’re trendy. Write what you know best and write to please yourself—not everybody else. Use a style of writing that comes naturally. It will help you find your author’s voice. Accept who you are as a writer. Trust your instincts and make choices that you won’t regret later on.

2. Organize your time. Most writers agree that writing is a priority, but so many other things begging for attention can be a drain on your time and energy. Writing calls for discipline. Reinforce good writing habits by maintaining a schedule, even if it’s only a couple of hours a day. It’s surprising how much you can accomplish when you’re under pressure! If you encounter a setback one day, keep on going the next. Tomorrow offers a chance to get things back on track. Reward your progress with a good book, a movie or more family fun time in the evening.

Click on cover to order book.

3. Understand the give and take of social networking. The more time you spend online, the more it takes away from your writing schedule. Try to limit your daily visits online to three sessions of twenty minutes each. Use this time to build up your network, promote your work, and support fellow writers. Walking away from your writing helps to refresh your mind, so these short breaks play a dual role.

4. Hire a professional editor. Your software program might not spot the distinction between there and they’re in a sentence, but a copyeditor will. Feedback is important, and an editor who has expertise in structural or developmental content can be an invaluable asset. If you’re on a tight budget but happen to belong to a writers’ group, you can ask another member to review your manuscript in return for the same service. At the very least, get someone with an excellent knowledge of grammar and punctuation to proofread your work.

5. Promote early. Don’t wait until your book is published. Ask one or more authors to read an advance copy of your book and provide reviews for promotional purposes. Offer to read and review their work in return. Create a buzz about your book months before the release date. Once you have a final book cover design, promote it through social media. Many sites offer free or inexpensive services that help promote authors. Do your research and choose sites that work best for you. If you’re publishing paperback copies, bookmarks with a link to your website or retailer is an economical way to spread the word about your book. Find out which bookstores support local authors and sponsor book-signing events. Some coffee shops hold author events too. It pays to ask around.

1174793_518133394929463_11253479_nFollow Sandra

Website and blog: http://sandranikolai.com

Twitter: @sandranikolai

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SandraNikolaiAuthor

False Impressions on Amazon US

Fatal Whispers on Amazon US


Sandra Nikolai graduated from McGill University in Montreal and worked in sales, finance, and high tech before devoting her days to writing. She is a member of Crime Writers of Canada and has published a dozen short stories online and in print, earning Honourable Mentions along the way.

Fatal Whispers follows False Impressions in a mystery series featuring ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott. When not plotting mysteries, Sandra shares her thoughts and experiences about the writing world on her blog and has been a frequent guest writer on other blogs. She lives with her husband near Ottawa, where she is currently at work on her next novel in the series.


This blog post is Copyright Sandra Nikolai 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without the author’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-use if it is for a commercial venture.

Recapturing Your Creative Flow, by Andra Watkins

Digital Detox. Two little words that, when placed side-by-side, sound like something that might happen at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Yet, for the past couple of months, I have been experimenting with a version of digital detox, my own release of the shackles of constant connectivity. I embarked upon this journey because, as a writer, I found my creativity zapped by the glowing screen. When my mind should have been wandering to find the next epiphany or chewing on the next plot point, I was lazy. I opted to text/e-mail/blog/Google+/Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr.

mouse n padDigital detox was my way to try to recapture my creative flow. It isn’t a complete divorce from social media or the internet. Instead, it is a structured schedule that rations my use of the online world. Once in the morning and once in the evening, I’ve given myself time to be online.

My plan might not work for everyone, because the key to my digital detox is control of my schedule.

I work for myself. Therefore, I have more control of my schedule than some readers. I also don’t have children, which may prohibit a few readers from adapting some of these techniques. Still, even for a long weekend, I think almost anyone could do what I did, because………

I went somewhere without access to the internet.

A friend has access to a family cabin in the mountains of North Carolina, and she graciously reserved a week for me. It was built, Swiss-chalet style, in the early 1970′s, and the family opted to keep it rustic. Hence, no internet connection.

Because it was on the back-side of a mountain, I also had practically no phone signal. It drifted in and out, leaving me little choice but to put the thing away and focus on what I went up there to do, which was:

  1. Walk aimlessly without being mowed down by a car; and
  2. Write.

Because it rained three of my five writing days, I had even more time to write.

to do clipsHow I changed my habits at home:

  1. I have scheduled one hour in the morning and one in the evening to deal with all things internet, except on Mondays, when I have commitments that keep me online for several hours in the afternoon.
  2. I made a timed checklist of tasks that I must complete online during each hour. You can download a copy of it by following this link: Andra’s Digital Detox Lite Checklist.
  3. At all other times, the internet will be turned off at its source, and my phone will be set to silent to focus on offline tasks. I thought about simply disabling my wifi on my computer, but it is too easy to turn back on.
  4. In the past, I worked at my desk with multiple online tabs open at once. I probably lose an hour a day just going back and forth between tabs every time something new shows up. No more. I now work with one tab open at a time, and I finish what I was doing before checking anything else.
  5. Other than Foodspotting (to which I am horribly addicted but only share food pics there), I will not take my phone out at the table. More often than not, I now leave it in the car.

My Digital Detox Lite is a work-in-progress. It requires me to be kind to myself as I stumble. Still, my mind is much less cluttered than it was before I started. I write more and make better creative connections. I don’t feel the crush of stress that I once did. My program has reintroduced balance to my life.

Perhaps, it will do the same for someone else. Good luck!


419857_391651470846996_1187025248_nAndraʼs Digital Detox Lite Checklist

Every Morning: 1 Hour

• Respond to blog comments (10 minutes)
• Post blog to Google+ (with photo, not link) (2 minutes)
• Post blog to Pinterest shared boards (2 minutes)
• Share out Triberr posts for day (5 minutes)
• Post daily quote on Google+, Tumblr, LinkedIn and Twitter (2 minutes)
• Read and respond to emails (10 – 15 minutes)
• Read blogs, comment and like (20 minutes)
• Miscellaneous wild time (4 minutes)

Every Evening: 30 Minutes – 1 Hour, depending upon volume

• Respond to blog comments (10 minutes)
• Respond to social media comments (10 minutes)
• Thank social media folks for shares (10 minutes)
• Read and respond to email (10 minutes)
• Read blogs, comment and like (20 minutes)

Other than the times designated, the internet will be turned off at its source. The phone will also be set to silent, except during the above-outlined times.


Follow Andra

Please visit Andra’s blog: The Accidental Cootchie Mama

You can follow her via: https://twitter.com/andrawatkins and http://www.facebook.com/andrawatkinsauthor


Copyright Andra Watkins 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using this work if it is for a commercial venture. Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Andra Watkins is the attributed Author.

Except for Andra’s photo and blog header, the images on this post are Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2013. No images on this blog may be copied, captured, or altered for your own purpose without Cate’s prior, written consent.

Surviving Blogging and Writing Challenges: Wise Choices


The aim of this blog is to equip, encourage and empower writers. I pass on as many resources as I can, including writing and blogging challenges which appear sound.

We have NaNoWriMo, OctPoWriMo, NaPoWriMo, JuNoWriMo, Camp NaNoWriMo, the Wego Health Bloggers Challenge, the A-Z Blogging Challenge, Story A Day, Script Frenzy, NaPoBloMo, ROW80, NaNoEdMo, Story of my Life Blogathon, Word Count Blogathon, Creative Every Day, #writemotivation, Blog Blitz, Write Non-Fiction in November, more Wego Blogging initiatives, commercial authors such as Jeff Goins have their own… and each time I look at Twitter there are more!

There is something for everyone and that’s not a bad thing… however… exhaustion and creative burnout beckons: the time requirements are absolutely deadly on some of those challenges. When considering getting involved in these challenges, don’t follow the crowd. Please ask yourself:

  • blog post ideasWhat are my time, family and energy constraints?
  • Is it flexible enough to encompass the goals I need to work on.
  • Is the “encouragement” given in this challenge cracking the whip too hard, making me feel pressured or guilty?
  • Is the stated time period without rest days? (This is deadly to your mental and physical health: ask any counsellor, psychologist or balanced life coach.)
  • Will this take me away from my work in progress which is my top priority?
  • Will this actually increase my skill as a writer? Am I just ticking a box that I blogged?
  • Will this make me feel good or bad at the end, as I aced it or failed miserably?
  • Can I take the inspiration and do my own version, at my own pace?
  • Are the social requirements too much or too tempting as a distraction?
  • Will the time it takes to read other’s posts and check-in be too much time away from what I actually need to be doing?
  • If you are not feeling motivated to write, are you using this challenge as a crutch to get motivated? If so, don’t use the challenge as a magical remedy to put you on track. It won’t. Especially if your issue is lack of confidence, time shortages or exhaustion.
  • Am I relying on other’s around me in challenges for affirmation, rather than working on my own self-esteem as a writer?

Sometimes when we feel exhausted as writers, it is because we simply need a break to re-charge our batteries. Like any body part, your mind needs rest. If you over-use any muscle in your body, it will become strained, painful and you won’t be able to work. If you are simply over it, maybe the best remedy is time-out before you burn out. Don’t get to the point where you go months without writing again.


This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without Cate’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using her work if it is for a commercial venture. Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Cate is the attributed Author.

NaNoWriMo: Planning and Tracking Tools


I was involved in NaNoWriMo last year. These are some of the most useful tools people were looking for in the lead up to the big month. I hope you find them useful.

If you’d like inspiration on novel planning, here are two excellent Youtube videos from writer, Johanna Harness. I loved the second one, but both are inspirational and full of useful ideas. Please visit her at: johannaharness.com

This blog post by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You are free to share and adapt it.