Friday, April 29, 2011

British Slang

In honor of the royal wedding--yeah, I'm pumped about Kate and William!--I'm sharing a fun link I ran across at Webster-Mirriam's website, Top Ten Favorite British Words. The words are fun, but you may have to navigate several annoying pages of pop-ups to get to each.

Buckingham Palace
Photo by dominicspics

I giggled and secretly vowed to use these words as I read them. Here's a recap:

1. Prat (a foolish person)
2. Twee (adorable)
3. Knackered (tired)
4. Jiggery-pokery (nonsense)
5. Plonk (cheap wine)
6. Chunter (mutter, mumble)
7. Whinge (whine)
8. Gormless (stupid)
9. Boffin (scientific expert)
10. Pukka (authentic)

Naturally, I must create a sentence using one or more of these delightful gems.

Ah, the twee babe is knackered, not from plonk, but from all the jiggery-pokery whinging over the pukka, but gormless, boffin.

Are you watching the royal wedding? Care to create your own atrocious sentence using British slang?

Have a terrific weekend!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Ralene Burke!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or a best-selling author--all have made an impact on my life.


Thank you for joining me in welcoming...Ralene Burke!!
 
 
 
Ralene and I met online a few years ago, and I was drawn to the fellow stay-at-home-mom's encouraging blog, her goal-oriented approach to writing, and her funny comments. Ralene writes inspirational suspense novels. I know it's only a matter of time before I can find Ralene's books on store shelves!
 
 
 
 
 
 

Let's get to it!

1. Beverage of choice?

Diet Coke. I'm addicted, it's sad really. I should drink something better like water, but well, I don't like water.

2. Any pets?

I'm allergic to just about everything under the sun, so we don't tempt fate by keeping animals around the house. Though, I've told hubby that we can get the girls some fish for Easter--as long as he takes care of them. :)

3. Dream vacation?

Italy. I've always been in love with the architecture, the history, the culture.

4. What are you listening to right now?

My girls are watching some cartoon on TV that I don't remeber ever seeing, and I'm listening to the sound of my sweet son's breathing thru the baby monitor.

5. What's for dinner?

That's up for grabs right now as I forgot to set something out last night. Hubby and I are on a diet...determined to lose weight before the unit ball in August. Go team!

Thanks, Ralene, for being my guest today! And your answer to what you're listening to now is, hand's down, the best--is there anything sweeter than the sound of a sleeping baby? I don't think so! I love Diet Coke too. And regular Coke. Bad me! My sister used to live in Italy and I've always wanted to get there. Maybe someday? Thanks again!

So, what's your weather like today? Sun and warmth appreciated!

Born a military brat, it is no surprise that Ralene married an Army soldier almost 8 years ago. Today, boring is an unrecognizable term in her vocabulary. With two feisty daughters and a baby boy, her days as a stay-at-home mom are full of fun, love, and never-ending energy (at least on the part of the kids). She also aspires to be a published author and spends many of her evenings plugged into her laptop, cranking out stories of suspense and Faith Without Limits. Each night, though, she takes the time to thank her Lord and Savior, not just for the blessings of a wonderful family and a passion for the ministry He's given her, but for the precious gift of life--something she knows not to take for granted. 

To learn more about Ralene and her writing, head to Ralene's website, check out her blog, Faith, Hope, and Suspense, be friends with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.


Have a fantastic Wednesday!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Just Spreading the Love

Hope you all had a lovely holiday weekend! I certainly did! I'm keeping it casual here all week and wanted to spread the fantastic news of a few of my writing friends.

Smile!
Photo by foxypar4

First, Rosslyn Elliot's debut novel, Fairer than Morning, releases this month! This inspirational historical romance, published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, is the first in the trilogy called The Saddler's Legacy. If you get a chance, stop by Rosslyn's website or her blog, Inkhorn Blue, to check out her book and congratulate her!

Second, Julie Jarnigin's debut novel, Canyon Walls, comes out through Heartsong Presents this month! Julie writes inspirational contemporary romance novels, and you can check her books out at Julie's website. If you have a minute, stop by her blog, Julie Jarnigin, and congratulate her!

Third, Cynthia Herron just signed with agent Mary Keeley of Books and Such Literary Agency!! Congratulations, Cynthia!! Please stop by her blog, Cynthia Herron, and congratulate her!

Do you have any good news to share? I'd love to hear it!

I'm guest posting at Maumee Valley Romance Writers of America today. If you're a reader and have ever been intimidated to contact a favorite author, be sure to check out my post, "3 Benefits of Reading Author Blogs."

Have a delightful Monday!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

                  Wishing you all a restful Good Friday and a Happy Easter!

Sun on cross
Photo by Zonie

May we all look to the cross this weekend.

Blessings!
Jill

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Jody Hedlund!!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or a best-selling author--all have made an impact on my life.


Thank you for joining me in welcoming…Jody Hedlund!!



Jody and I met online a few years ago--she was one of my first followers, and she generously helped me feel welcome to the blogosphere. We're fortunate to live in the same state and, trust me, she's as inspiring in person as she is online. In fact, this weekend we were able to catch up at the debut meeting/conference of Great Lakes ACFW, a new chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. What a blessing!


Let's get to it!

1. Beverage of choice?

Most definitely Starbuck’s Dark Roast coffee. Very strong. No cream. No sugar.

2. Any pets?

Pets by choice: 2 enormous, over-fed but very friendly cats

Pets because I love my kids and I’m too weak to say no: a Golden Retriever & 2 hamsters

3. Dream vacation?

England and Germany to visit castle ruins. And of course to do research for future books!

4. What are you listening to right now?

Pandora. I have several stations that match my moods. And I usually land upon a new station for each new book that I write.

5. What's for dinner?

Whatever my husband or daughter decide to cook! No, really I’m not a gourmet cook. In fact I tend to make rather simple, kid-friendly meals in large quantities. Tonight: A double batch of tacos.

Thank you, Jody, for participating today! I'm shaking my head in horror at the thought of not adding a healthy dose of cream and sugar to coffee, but I'm nodding in complete agreement with your vacation choices. I would love to head to England and tour the countryside. We could road-trip it and stay in any number of cool castles on the National Registry! Oh, and on the pet front, we have a guinea pig for the kids' sake--what's the average life span again? :) Thanks again, Jody!

Jody's award-winning, debut novel, The Preacher's Bride, is available now, and her next book, The Doctor's Lady will be available in September!

So tell me--what are your Easter plans?


Jody Hedlund is a debut historical romance novelist who was a double finalist in the 2009 ACFW Genesis Contest. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Midland, Michigan, with her husband and five busy children.


She’s represented by agent Rachelle Gardner and her debut book, The Preacher’s Bride, released in Oct. 2010 and is available online and in most bookstores. Stop by her blog, Author, Jody Hedlund, where she chronicles her journey to publication and dispenses more of her two-cent writing wisdom. Also, for more information about Jody and her books, stop by her website, find her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Nurturing the Fragile Writer's Ego

Most writers have dual egos about their writing--the "I'm writing a best-seller" side vs. the "this book swam up the sewage river" side. When we query or submit our work, another side erupts--the vulnerable one. As much as we want the agent or editor to fall madly in love with our words, all too often we deal with silence or rejection.

Fragile
Photo by bb_matt

Continuous rejection can damage our fragile writer's ego--if we let it.

I believe it's vital to find and utilize methods to strengthen our vulnerable ego, or the danger to quit presses too closely. Instead of focusing on our writing, our brains jot off on tangents. "Maybe my query stunk?" "I know there was an extra comma in that paragraph." "Is it the character? The writing? The concept? Me??"

Instead of letting my mind whirl on a merry-go-round of useless what-if's and why's, I evaluate why I'm doubting. If it's because I got a rejection, I study the letter to see if there are any clues as to what went wrong. If an editor gives advice, I give a lot of thought to what is said.

Sometimes I grow doubtful for no reason or for weird reasons. Usually, I'm just scared that it will never happen for me--that I've wasted years and hours and tears and brain cells for a poof in the air. That none of my writing will be available for others to read--a devastating thought.

Whatever the reason, when my ego plunges and doubts swirl, I force myself to focus.

Focus? Great! That helps...not at all. How do I focus when my skin feels paper thin? I'm already focusing too much--on what went wrong. What do I focus on?

Focus on your writing. Focus on your work-in-progress. Focus on improving your grammar, tightening your prose, nailing your characters. When we put our focus on the actual writing, the doubts slip away because we're having fun again. The career side of writing pales with the sheer pleasure of creating.

Never let a blow to your ego kill your dreams. Focus.

How do you nurture your fragile ego?

On a let's-hear-it-for-good-news note--Julie Musil landed an agent!! She's now represented by Karen Grencik of the Karen Grencik Literary Agency! Pop over to her blog, Julie Musil, and congratulate her!! Congratulations, Julie!!
Also, Tess Hardwick's debut book, Riversong, is now available! For more details, head to her website, Tess Hardwick. Congratulations, Tess!

Have a fabulous Monday!

Friday, April 15, 2011

How the Winklevoss Twins Can Help Your Novel

Last year the based-on-true-events (ahem, fictional) movie, "The Social Network," about Facebook made a huge splash. Two of the main players in the film and in real-life were the Winklevoss twins who claimed Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, stole their idea and code after agreeing to work on a similar website for their company ConnectU. The twins then sued Facebook and eventually settled in 2008 with $20 million in cash and $45 million in Facebook stock.

Bitterness
Photo by seabamirum

Well, the twins are at it again. According to "Winklevoss Twins Can't Back Out of Deal on Facebook, Judge Says," by Scott Morrison in the Wall Street Journal (article is linked), the duo feel duped out of money based on the valuations of the company. Since they agreed to the settlement in which they signed a release of all claims against Facebook, they will not be entitled to more cash. Naturally, their lawyer will seek a rehearing with the appeals court bench.

Forgive me for not feeling sorry for these two. Sure, the movie portrayed them as upstanding, moral citizens who trusted the wrong guy, but in my experience, real-life doesn't usually work that way. It's difficult for me to buy that a couple of brilliant Harvard guys really just slid their extensive plans for a social media site to some random computer programmer--without expecting him to sign any sort of legal agreement. I'm not saying Mr. Zuckerberg didn't maximize on their idea or that he has a clear conscience, but I'm also not saying anyone involved was blameless. Only the people involved know the truth.

What I do know is that some people don't know when it's time to let go, and that's how the Winklevoss twins can help your novel.

Does your character have an unreasonable hold on a past event? Something she just can't let go of but should?

The W twins have gotten their piece of the Facebook pie. From what I understand, they sued over the loss of their concept and possibly computer code. They did not put any time into actually creating and running Facebook as it exists today. Without a brilliant founder, Facebook would have crashed and burned long ago. There's no question Zuckerberg and the other leaders of Facebook constantly work on improving and expanding the site. So do the twins really deserve more money? More stock?

Why can't they let this go?

We've all been betrayed. But at some point we must move on. We can't keep returning to a past event with the hopes of it turning out differently. It won't. It's over.

But that's the great part about fiction--we get to watch someone else stew over past events. We can feel the bitterness, the rage, and even the petty self-involvement as they focus on what went wrong. And hopefully, we get to watch them let go, move on, and hope for a better future.

I hope the Winklevoss twins can move on. They aren't ever going to get from Facebook what they really want--to be the founders, creators, and managers of their social network dream.

If you're a writer, do your characters ever hold on to something for too long? If you're a reader, do you enjoy books where a character refuses to let go of something from his past?

Enjoy your Friday!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Keli Gwyn!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling authors--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming… Keli Gwyn!!



I met Keli through her amazing blog, Romance Writers on the Journey. When Keli graciously interviewed me, it was a highlight in my writing career! Since then, Keli has finalled in major contests such as the Golden Heart. Last year, she accepted representation from Rachelle Gardner of Wordserve Literary, and she recently announced the fabulous news that Barbour Publishing bought her book.

 Let's get to it!

1. Beverage of choice?

 Sweet tea. My mom grew up in Texas, and I was raised on tea that could qualify as syrup. I’ve got a glass beside me now, although I’ve cut back on the amount of sugar these days.

2. Any pets?

We have two long-haired orange and white cats, Sandy and Dandy. Sandy is my writing buddy, but his brother much prefers to hang out with my hubby.

3. Dream vacation?

A driving tour of the East Coast during the fall colors. I’m a California gal who would love to get a taste of the other coast and an opportunity to dip my toes in the Atlantic.

4. What are you listening to right now?

A CD called Songbirds by the Stream. One of the characters in my WIP has a thing for birds and can recognize many birdcalls, so this is mood music.

5. What's for dinner?

I’m a lousy cook who would be happy eating at Taco Bell most nights, but after 23 years of marriage I’ve not been able to convince Gwynly to appreciate a burrito the way I do. So, I’m making meatloaf tonight, one of my few specialties. Since we’re now Empty Nesters, this makes enough for two or three meals. Let’s hear it for leftovers.

Keli, cutting back on sugar? Say it isn't so! Your kitties sound delightful. I miss my Himalayan, Cookie, another long-haired beast! And I am with you on the road trip to the east coast. We'll stop at every Taco Bell and McDonald's. Who else is in?

Thank you, Keli, for participating! I'm so excited for you and can't wait to read your debut book, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, which will be available July 1, 2012!

So, tell me, what are you sipping today?

Keli Gwyn is a writer of historical inspirational romance represented by Rachelle Gardner; the wife of a British sports car enthusiast; the proud mother of a college student; and a serious Taco Bell addict. Her debut novel, a story set in the heart of California's Gold County, will be published by Barbour Publishing in the summer of 2012, a fact that still makes Keli giddy—and very grateful—when she thinks about it. You can learn more about Keli at her website and blog, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, April 11, 2011

What Would You Do With...?

What would you do with an extra hour today?

romance, elegance and easy to do
Photo by kitkaphotogirl

Would you curl up with a tantalizing book?
Watch the television show you always miss because you're trying to put your kids to bed?
Lace up your running shoes and fit a long-neglected workout into your day?
Jump in bed for an extra hour of sleep?
Call a friend?
Read the Bible and pray?
Take a long, hot bubble bath?
Plan a romantic hour with your loved one?
Squeeze in a couple errands?
Play catch with your dog?
Listen to a favorite CD?
Daydream about a vacation?
Catch up on Twitter or Facebook?
Write another scene?
Sketch a picture?
Knit a few rows?

Just curious. If I had an extra hour today, I would throw in a John Coltrane CD and finish the Susan May Warren book I've been reading for over a week.

But you know, if I chop five minutes off my usual tasks, I might be able to find that elusive extra hour. Hmm...

Susan May Warren here I come!

What would YOU do with an extra hour?

Happy Monday!

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Long Term Approach to Author Platform

In three years of creating an author platform, I know one thing. I don't have the same amount of time every day for social networking. I'm sure you don't either. Maybe some of you started out fast and hard, finding and following new blogs regularly and getting involved on Facebook or Twitter. You may have been exhilirated, scared, or both.

Candy
Photo by terren

Six months later, a year later, two years later...are you social networking with the same intensity as when you started?

I can only speak for myself, but in some ways yes, in others no.

Last year, I cut back on my social networking. I read fewer blog posts. My blog readership went down and I added few new followers. But I sensed a deep need to focus solely on my writing, and I don't regret it. Also, I found myself often feeling sad when I went to blogs, Facebook and Twitter. All of the wonderful success stories depressed me. Not that I didn't share in my friends' joy--I did--but it didn't change the fact I felt stuck in one place, like a child trying to climb up a "down" escalator.

Sometimes letting your platform stagnate is the best thing you can do for yourself.


The extra time spent on my writing helped it flourish, and, as months passed, I longed to grow my platform again. Since I never disappeared from my networks, I found it fun and easy to increase my web-presence.

Here are my tips for successful, long-term social networking.

1. Acknowledge there will be periods of time when you will have less time to interact online.

2. Come up with a plan on how you will stay connected with your various networks during your busy months.

   In hectic phases:
   - I read fewer, if any, blog posts.
   - I check in every weekday on Twitter and Facebook, but I spend less time socializing and I share fewer links.
   - I don't actively find new blogs.
   - I DO continue my blogging schedule.
   - I try to respond to each comment on my blog, but I give myself permission to pop-in with a quick comment if I'm too busy.
   - I keep in touch with my closest online friends either through e-mail, direct messages, or leaving a comment on their blogs.

3. Recognize the less time you spend on social networking, the less benefits you will receive.

   - I get less blog hits, less new followers, less Twitter interaction, less new friends on Facebook, etc...
   - I do not panic over this. I know that when my life settles down, I will spend more time networking and will reconnect with everyone.

4. Realize the drop in your "popularity" does not reflect on you personally. Your blogging friends still like and support you, they're just busy too. We all respond to people who reach out to us the most. When your life settles down, go back to their blogs and leave comments. You'll be back in the loop before you know it.

5. Maintain visibility on your networks. Dropping out is not good for your platform. You can drastically cut back, but by no means should you disappear completely. You've worked hard to build your platform. Support it.

   - If you have a blog, find a way to post regularly. Maybe your posts will be shorter, but make sure they're there.
   - Find five minutes to check in with Facebook and "like" the comments your friends leave. You know the Friend Suggestions in the sidebar? Send a friend request to two of these each day to continue growing your Facebook presence.
   - Find five minutes to check in with Twitter and respond to mentions or say hello to your friends. Chances are your friends share #WW (writer Wednesday) or #FF (Follow Friday) lists. Add two or three new people they suggest and your Twitter presence will continue to grow.

6. When the busy time ends, double or triple the amount of time you spend on social networking to increase your online presence. This might last a week or two, whatever you can afford, but every minute will be time well-spent.

7. Published authors: Ramp up your social networking at least two months before your next release. Try not to wait to reconnect with your networks until a few weeks before a release because you will be heavily promoting your book. Social networking is a conversation, so take extra care to chat with your networks before heavily promoting your book. Remember, people buy books from people they like!
Anyone working on an author platform will have to adjust to the commitments it brings. Try not to feel guilty at not being able to keep up with everyone equally and at all times. Building an author platform means we're going to follow many more people's blogs, Facebook updates, and Twitter feeds than we could ever keep track of. Let go of that burden. Do your best to interact with your closer online friends and new contacts.

Do you have long-term strategies to nurture your author platform? Care to share them?

Have a fabulous Friday!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Brenda Minton!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or a best-selling author--all have made an impact on my life.

 Thank you for joining me in welcoming… Brenda Minton!!

I met Brenda at the RWA National Conference in Washington D.C. and was immediately charmed by her red hair, soft voice, and sassy humor. She's been a wonderful friend to me, and I'm thrilled to have her here. Brenda writes Christian romances with loads of cowboys for Steeple Hill Love Inspired.


So let's get to it!





1. Beverage of choice? Haha, Coffee of course. I'm drinking a cup as I type.

2. Any pets? My sister calls my house a kennel. 4 dogs and a cat.

3. Dream vacation? Europe for a month.

4. What are you listening to right now? The pug snoring next to me.

5. What's for dinner? Chicken soup at church.

Thanks so much, Brenda, for sharing with us today. Got to love those Lenten suppers, right? And I'll join you in Europe for all the coffee they can give us! I'm very excited to read your upcoming book with Gail Gaymer Martin--talk about a dynamic duo!

Here's my question for you. What are YOU listening to right now?

Brenda Minton writes from her home in the Missouri Ozarks, usually with at least two dogs on her lap and at least one kid asking questions about dinner. She writes cowboy romances for Love Inspired and doesn't plan on going anywhere anytime soon. Her new series COOPER CREEK will debut next November in a two-in-one with author Gail Gaymer Martin. Stop by Brenda's website and friend her on Facebook.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tired of Hot/Cold Publishing News?

I've been immersed in all of the publishing industry news lately. I guess that's why they say money talks. I see sensational headlines, and I have to read them!

Flowers
Photo by ektogamat

But, as with any publishing news I've read over the last five years, I get to a point where I shrug and turn away. My manuscript calls me, as it does every day. I read, revise, read it again, send the new opening to my critique partners (you ladies rock!), revise it more, and print it off for a final read-through.

You see, publishing news, while fascinating, has little impact on my life right now. I'm not planning on self-publishing, so I don't need to research Smashwords and Amazon, or find the best artist for my cover or hire a freelance editor to edit my book. But I don't have a contract with a traditional publisher either.

This leaves me exactly where I stood before the hoopla over self-publishing verses tradional publishing erupted. An aspiring writer convinced my books will reach a wide audience one day.

And I like where I'm standing.

So I'll strain my eyes, chew on the words of that pesky sentence, spend countless hours thinking about my story, until I finish the book and move on to my next project.

I'm a writer. What can I say?

It's important to stay current with publishing trends, but it's also vital not to stress too much about it.

Sometimes being an aspiring author can be lovely. I'm enjoying today, grinning at the sheer joy of loving my manuscript, and thankful to swim and dive in my passion.

Do you have days where you just don't care about publishing in general? Where all that matters is your book? Try it! It's delightful!

Have a fabulous Monday!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Twitter 101: Beginner's Tips

Okay, you have a Twitter account. Now what?

If you don't have a Twitter account and want to set one up, refer to Twitter 101: Creating an Account for step-by-step instructions.

Spring flowers P3280094

Photo by soekfoto

Before we get into details, it's vital to understand what you want out of Twitter. If your co-worker is urging you to join and you have no agenda, you'll have a different experience and approach than I do.

I use Twitter to connect with people and this builds my fiction platform. Since I want to connect with a large audience and I don't need to be considered an expert in my field, my goal is to follow a wide range of new people. People buy fiction from authors they like. Readers want to connect with authors, so fiction authors are wise to avoid being exclusive on Twitter. What do I mean by exclusive? I mean only following friends. Look, no one can keep up with a thousand followers' tweets, but no one expects you to. That's what lists are for. We'll talk about them later.

If you are a non-fiction writer, a publishing professional, or in a field where being considered an expert will help you, by all means be exclusive. The quality of your connections count. But also, be friendly and share quality links often.

It's a good idea to decide now what types of followers you will follow back. I wrote a post about this a few weeks ago, Twitter Limits.
A quick recap: I don't follow back--
a. businesses unrelated to publishing
b. anyone with a provocative profile picture
c. anyone who doesn't tweet in English
d. anyone with an egg for a profile picture (usually spammers) and
e. anyone who's profile includes "social marketing expert," "help me help you," or any other keyword that sounds like a sale's pitch. Your list might look different than mine--that's fine.

So let's get started!

When you sign into Twitter, your home screen will show up. Across the top will be a search box and buttons for Home, Profile, Messages, and Who to Follow. The upper right hand corner will have your profile picture and a drop-down menu to edit your settings and profile.

The Home button is a link to your main Twitter page, Profile takes you to a list of all the tweets you send, Messages is where you read or write direct messages (the Twitter equivalent to e-mail), Who to Follow suggests people to follow.

Below this is your Twitter feed. The tweets of people you follow will continuously update in the Timeline, the main tab above the feed. Next to it is a tab named Mentions. If you click on it, any tweets directed to you will show up here. For example, my mentions all have @jillkemerer in them. The tweet may have other names too. You want to check this tab whenever you check in.To make the most of Twitter, be friendly and if someone initiates a conversation, you'll see it here. If you move your browser to the tweet, a few buttons will show up below it. You can set the tweet as a favorite, you can retweet it, or you can reply. To continue a conversation, click on reply. A pop-up box will appear with the person's username. Type in your reply and click Tweet. Easy!

The Retweet tab allows you to see retweets by you, retweets by others, or your tweets retweeted. If someone says something funny or shares a terrific link, go ahead and retweet it. Doing this does two things: promotes the person who originally shared the link (promoting others is a key component of successful social networking, aka building a platform) and it gives your followers information. If you consistently retweet great content from other sites, you'll find more followers.

The Searches tab brings up all of your saved searches. Hashtags (#) group conversations. For instance, if you type #amwriting into the search box (at the top of the screen), a list of tweets will show up with people talking about writing. This is a great way to connect with other writers. You can follow interesting people, reply to them, and type in your own #amwriting tweet. Hundreds, probably thousands of hashtags exist.

The Lists tab shows all of the lists you created. It took me a while to create a list because at first I only followed people I knew from blogging. But as my network grew, my friends' tweets got lost in the shuffle. I quickly added them all to a list. Then my network continued to grow so I made more lists. Whenever you follow a new person, you can add them to a list by clicking on the button that looks like a lined piece of paper. Either "create new list" or check the box next to an existing link. Of course, you can uncheck the box at any time.

Lists do three things for me. 1. Keeps me connected to my friends. 2. Allows me to connect regularly with new friends. 3. Helps me share quality information with my followers.

**A quick note about lists. I try to share links from publishing industry professionals to keep others informed of interesting news. I created a Business list where I add agents, editors, top information authors like James Scott Bell, Donald Maass, and Michael Hyatt, as well as NYTimes, and WSJ (Wall Street Journal). All I have to do is check this list, scan for interesting topics, click on the link and read the article to decide if I should share it or not.**

On the right side of the screen, you'll see your profile picture, number of tweets, a link to who is following you and a link to who you are following. It's good to regularly check to see who is following you. This allows you to follow back anyone who interests you. It also alerts you to any spammers. You'll also see a link for Listed. This shows you that others have added you to their lists.

If you do get a spammer or someone who just seems off to you, feel free to either Block them or Block and Report for Spam. Click on the picture of the gear next to their name for these options.

Now that you know your way around Twitter, you can start finding people you know to follow them. On your Home page, look at the right side under the Followers and Following links. You'll see a list of Trends and next to it, a list of Who to Follow. Below Who to Follow is a link to Refresh Suggestions (a new group of people will appear), Browse Interests (type in an interest and anyone else who has tweeted about it will show up), or Find Friends.

Click on Find Friends and a new screen will appear. You will be given the option to find friends through an e-mail account. It's entirely up to you if you want to grant Twitter access to your e-mail contacts or your Linked In account. You can also type in a name at the top of the screen. Anyone with the name or one similar will show up. I do have difficulty finding people with this method because Twitter is very picky about spaces and such, but I've found many friends this way.

Another great way to find fellow bloggers is to go directly to their blog and click on the social media buttons to follow them. Bloggers who use any social media site with the intent to build a platform SHOULD PROVIDE LINKS to their accounts on their blog.

A brief mention about etiquette. If someone mentions you in a #WW (Writer Wednesday) or #FF (Follow Friday), reply and thank them. If you like their tweets, follow them back. If someone retweets one of your blog posts, thank them. They are actively promoting you by doing this. How many people actively promote you? Show them some love!

I know this is a ton of information, but I assure you, actually using Twitter takes little time once you know what you're doing.

When you move beyond the beginner phase, consider downloading a free service such as TweetDeck or HootSuite. These services streamline your Twitter experience and allow you to see several lists, mentions, direct messages, and so forth on one screen. I love TweetDeck for the ease of keeping track of people I follow. It's also a snap to retweet things and to reply to several people at once. I can't recommend this site enough.

Any questions? I'm no expert, but I'll answer anything to the best of my knowledge.

Have a wonderful weekend!