Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Moving Soon! Part 2

Hey everybody! I'm back. The busyness is now over and I am so happy and excited that I now know where I will be this coming summer! :)

So here's the news: we're going back to the small Ontario town we lived in prior to moving to Winnipeg. Not too shabby. Wine country, driving distance to most our friends and family. And here's the best part: Not only we will be in spitting distance (all right, actually an hour and a half drive) from Toronto but we'll also just have a little eight hour jaunt to New York City. I am overjoyed that I'll be so pleasantly situated between the two major literary centers on the continent, and (arguably) two of the biggest in the world.

And in terms of artistic centers, there's also Ottawa and Montreal not too far. I foresee trips into the city for settings research. I foresee trips to the symphony and actual proper nuit blanche. And camping and cottaging in a land with actual real elevation and proper, fast moving rivers that have rapids (a thing that does not exist in Manitoba). Cheap produce! Everything, everything. Too much loveliness to list here. Ontario seems so bland when you've been raised there. It seems so middle of the road when you've lived there your entire life. But then you leave and realize what character it has, what loveliness that isn't actual reproducible. I've missed my home province! We'll see you again in April or May! :)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Happy. One phase of life over. Happiness!

I'm going to admit to you now that although I committed to a publishing schedule of once every week day, this next week is going to be spotty. I also won't be able to post Chapter 8 of RoboNomics until Monday, March 3, unfortunately. Between cleaning and preparing for guests for are coming in for the graduation celebrations and those celebrations themselves, I'll have no time for line editing. In the meantime, however, I can leave you with the news.

My love is finished his training! After three and a half long years of constant exams and another six months before that of just waiting -- the stress is finally over. And so a little look back at what he has (and I have by proxy perhaps) gone through over these past three years of extended torture:

That a video a course who went through last winter made, featuring a couple of our buds.

I can barely believe that it's over! And now we get to go to a big, fancy formal dinner and party! Yay! Okay, friends, I will catch up with you next week! :)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Be it Resolved

Hey! Guess what came in the mail the other day? Yay! Well, that round out my collection to five post-secondary educational certificates. Not exactly the Ph.D. I had originally imagined, but hey. Dreams change, right?

So I thought I'd take a moment to check in on how my professional, writing goals for the year are progressing. As you might remember from my New Year's resolution post, these goals are:

1. 1000 words a day
2. each day
3. A blog post every weekday
4. Read at least 20 novels by the end of 2014
5. Complete an iTunes Writing course
6. Finish reading my writing how-to books
7. Finish Posting RoboNomics on wattpad
8. Complete Draft 2 of "Otherwordly"
9. Start a writing critique group.

Resolution #1 is my most important one. And yet, it is the one that I have been terrible at so far. The fact that it is so low on my daily priority list is why it's so important to me. It's just the same as exercising use to be for me. I spent the day not only doing other things, but making up excuses about how conditions are not appropriate to work on it. It is silly, I have it in my mind that I have to have certain music playing. I have to be in the right mind frame. I have to have enough time and have already have at least a spark of an idea that can send me on my way. It is a stupid way to think rather than just carving out what few minutes I have in each day to complete the task. Efforts must to be redoubled.

Number 2 is well on its way. I've got it down to every weekday. Now if only I could break through that barrier of weekend and make the thing a habit.

Blog posts -- done. There's something to said for very public accountability to oneself.

Reading -- well on the way. Nearly finished Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrel and Vanity Fair -- the two hard slogs that were impeding my reading progress. It helps when you trade TV for reading. Reading my how-to books proceeds in much the same way.

#5, #8, and #9: later in the year.

And RoboNomics, well that goes well. I am thinking of perhaps posting only Book I on wattpad. But then again it is Book II that needs more work and reader feedback after all.

I am proud of what I accomplished during 2013, especially when I think about where I was when that year dawned. I ended the year having learned more about the art of writing fiction than I had in all the previous years of my existence. So that's a thing. A happy thing.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Resolutions Update

Hey there everybody! So, it's been almost six weeks since New Year's, and so I thought I'd just write a little update on my healthy eating/exercise resolution. Maybe I'll write something about my writing/professional resolutions later this week.

So, I did a four-week, 4% body weight loss diet bet for the month of January and I won! Yay! So there's that. I lost 6 pounds for the bet (please don't do the math), and in total so far I've lost 7.5 pounds. Not too shabby. I ended up winning about $10. It is a tiny amount but for some reason I found the entire experience extremely motivating. It was probably more the thought of losing $30 of my hard earned bucks that really made me what to win, more than the prospect of making money. But either way, I made a little profit! And I stuck to a work out schedule for a month straight! That's the first time in over three years that has happened!

Since I was so motivated, I've decided to sign up for the Transformer on the dietbet website. It starts tomorrow! The goal is to lose 10% body weight over six months and the psychological stakes, for me, are higher. $25 each month. So I could lost out on $150 if at any point I quit. I am actually really excited about this because it means that I am going to stick to eating healthy and exercising for six months! One month, and I've got a habit. Hopefully after six months the habit will be so entrenched into my life that I will never want to stop eating right and especially exercising!


So, I just wanted to describe the routines I established during January that seems to be working for me so far. My dayjob sometimes starts as early as 7 a.m. (8 a.m. EST) and so sometimes I have to get up as early as 5 in the morning to fit in my workout and breakfast. It's not as hard as it sounds. I'm  naturally a morning person and as long as it's not before 5 I do just fine. Besides, it means that I head up to bed for 8 p.m. to read instead of what I did with my evenings before Christmas: sitting watching tv and munching until 11 p.m.

I've been following the routines on blogilates. I enjoy Pilates -- as much as I can 'enjoy' exercise. And even though I find the routines difficult, they have been helpful. Two caveats. The creator, Casey Ho, is a little too...positive...for me. Perhaps it's my continental heritage coming out but I really don't think I need to work out and be happy about it at the same time. It is too much to ask that a personal trainer tell me how to work out without the tough love or peppy attitude? I'd like a personal trainer who wears all black all the time and talks at length about existential ennuie or something over remixed pop tracks or more likely death metal. Because if I'm going to throw my body around in awkward ways in order to build muscle, there's really no way to make me be happy about it.

The other thing about blogilates is while it's amazing for gaining muscle definition...I find it a little lacking in the cardio. So I've added my own. Half hour on this old stationary bike that's sat in my basement and before that my parents for probably 15 years. Ain't pretty but it gets the job done.

And eating. Following the 17 day diet at the moment, phase one. I never seem to be able to make it to the second phase...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Social Media, Part 2: Automating Posts

Once you've collected content for tweets and posts on social media, what do you do with it? I use to just post an article as soon as I came across it. But I've discovered some tools that have made my social media engagement a lot more efficient.

1. Followerwonk: First I use followerwonk to track my followers' activity. There is also functionality on the site to do this for the folks you follow as well. I don't really care about most of the charts other than the activity times bar graph. It tells me when to tweet! Another such site is Tweriod, but I didn't find that tool as useful. You have to wait around for an emailed analysis of your followers' activity, rather than just having one almost instantly with followerwonk. Of course, you can also sync a schedule of tweets directly from followerwonk or your Tweriod report to Buffer.

2. Buffer: This is an amazing tool and I'm glad that I discovered it. Basically you set a schedule for posts. You can do this across all different social media accounts, and the schedule can be different across each account. Which is good, since activity on each site varies according to how people use them. The goal is to get as many people to see your posts as possible, right? And the goal of that, for me at least, is to increase exposure of my original works such as this blog or my wattpad novel RoboNomics. So timing is pretty important. You can tweet a bunch of stuff for an hour straight but if no one uses twitter during that hour, it's just going to get lost in their timelines. And no one wants that. So that's where Buffer really helps. And it's especially helpful to have the chrome extension, so that you can add posts to your 'buffer' whenever you see something interesting on the interweb.

3. Hootsuite: Likely you've heard of Hootsuite, a hub of social media management. Buffer has a limit of how many posts you can upload without having to pay for a premium account, so when that happens to me I use Hootsuite to schedule extra posts at appropriate times. I also use it to write and schedule posts that promote my own works specifically, and then keep those posts consistent across different social media accounts. Hootsuite also has a chrome extension, so that I can compose and schedule posts right from the site that I want to promote. It also helps when I want to retweet something with that nice 'RT' attached!  

Those are the major tools that I use for managing my social media. I am fairly new to automating tweets and other posts, but I find that it is really helpful in terms of time management.

I also wanted to mention that using hashtags and mentions in tweets can really help with exposure. Perhaps that's why I prefer Twitter to any other social media site. It is so easy, with # and @, to find people who share your interests. And that's what all of this social media is for, right? Exposure, making friends, and making connections! :)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Social Media, Part 1: Obtaining Content

Ever since I wrote the post concerning Facebook, I have been thinking a lot about my social media efforts. Whether one wants to be a traditionally published or self-published author in this day and age doesn't matter when it comes to social media. Either way, you need a platform.

I thought that since it's on my mind lately and because I have started to actually track the numbers on clicks, engagement, and other quantifiable bits, I might share some of my endeavors. I am going to refer to Twitter for most of this article as well as Part Two since it, along with Wattpad, are my main social media hubs. I also have an account with Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook. But I find that these sites are not as powerful for me as Twitter tends to be.

The first part of social media, for me, is obtaining content that can be read, shared and engaged with. I could have a Twitter account for a single purpose: that of practicing my 140 character witticisms. But for a professional platform, that's not exactly the best way to attract future readers. And so I tweet about topics that surround my works. Those currently include robotics, artificial intelligence, automation, the business of writing and the writing life.

Here are my best tools for finding things to tweet about:

1. Blogger: A little on the obvious side. One way to fill up your twitter feed is to produce your own content. And in case you haven't noticed, I produce a hellava lotta content. My publishing schedule is one blog post -- no matter what the size -- either on this blog or my other one every week day. I may or may not write those posts on the day I publish them. Usually I write when inspiration hits and pop out two or three at a time. But however I get it done, I find that such an extreme publication schedule means that I have more engagement and more folks reading what I have out there in the world. And that's what writing is for, right? Having it read.

2. Feedly: I used to have Google Reader as my repository of other people's blog posts. And when Google announced that they were terminating Reader, I was as panicked as the next information addict. But then I saw an ad somewhere for Feedly. Not only did it replace Reader with a better interface, but it also automatically loaded all my Reader feeds directly from Google. Feedly saved my life! And it continues to save my life as a great place to read up on relevant posts that I can share. Yay!

3. Google Alerts: I've been using Google Alerts probably before I'd even heard of Google Reader. You basically enter terms that are relevant to the topic you want to tweet about and get a daily email with the best of the internet that corresponds to your search term. I've also found that there's an upshot to this tool. For instance, when I first set up my alerts for "robots" and "artificial intelligence" years ago the results I received were from fringe, nerdy magazines. Now my results often come from the Economist and the New York Times. In other words, it's an easy way to track the zeitgeist!

4. StumbleUpon: I'll admit it, I don't use StumbleUpon as much as I could or perhaps should. Sometimes I remember to explore it when I get a random email from my StumbleUpon account. What I do know for sure about the tool, however, is that it is a trove of content. It may not necessarily be current news, but it is good for perennial content.

5. Swayy: This is a tool that I've just discovered in the last week or so. Swayy basically hooks up to all your social media accounts and uses an algorithm to figure out what you're most interested in. You can then refine those interests and you'll be presented with a bunch of articles from around the web to read and share with your buddies and followers. You can schedule posts and tweets, but I don't really use that functionality. I have a whole suite of tools that I use for posting, tweeting and scheduling. Those tools will be the topic of Part 2 of this little two-part series on social media tools.

It's good to have these tools at my fingertips. But despite it all, one of the richest sources of content, I find, is my tweeter feed itself. Never underestimate the power of a re-tweet! :)