The Magic of Blogging by Email

I’ve been practicing posting by email to make it easier to blog when my only access to the internet will be my phone. It wasn’t as difficult to post by email as I thought it would be.

The first thing I needed to do was to get a special email address. To do this, go to your dashboard and click on “my blogs.” The easiest way to find “my blogs” is to go to your blog, hover your cursor over “my site” on the left navigation strip, then click on “WP Admin.” You should see “My blogs” on the left sidebar close to the top.

Click “enable email” for the blog you wish to post to via email. That will give you a special email address. I input the email address in my phone so I don’t have to ever think about it again, and now it’s ready whenever I need it.

To post by email, go to your email on your phone and open a new message. The recipient, of course, is that secret email address WordPress assigned to you. The subject line is the title of the blog. The body of the email is the blog itself. An attached photo will show up on the bottom of the email. Apparently, as of now, there isn’t a way to align the image via email. If you want to realign it — to add it to the top of the blog or to wrap text around it — you have to edit the post on your computer.

There are some really cool aspects of email blogging, for example, the shortcodes. [category a,b,c] will post categories. The categories must already be ones you use on your blog. The brackets are part of the shortcode, and there can be no space before the word “category” or after the last category you use. (In this case, the letter c.) You don’t even have to use the whole word, just the first few letters, but I haven’t yet tried out that tip.

For tags, use the shortcode [tags a,b,c]. Again, no space before the word “tags” and after the last tag. Be sure to separate tags with commas. New tags will be automatically generated; they don’t already need to be in use on your blog.

If you attach more than one photo, they will show up as a gallery. If you want each one posted individually, use the shortcode [nogallery].

These three shortcodes can be placed anywhere in the email and it won’t affect the text of your post.

Magic!

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Testing 4 5 6

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

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Yesterday I tried out the post by email feature on WordPress but forgot to add tags and categories. so today I need to try to do that too. I’m disappointed that the photos appear at the end of the post rather than at the beginning or in line with text, but I’m pleased that I can post at all. The main problem is that the photo appeared after my signature line, so I’m experimenting with putting the signature line first. If it’s too annoying let me know and in future posts by email I’ll just leave it off or just not worry that the photo is tacked on as an afterthought.

I’m also trying to do this without wifi because obviously if I’m out in the middle of nowhere I’ll be lucky to have a signal of any kind and definitely no wifi.

I took my last walk in the neighborhood today, and then ended out in the desert. I’ll miss that easy access to the wilds, but there will be more wilds in the future. This is an interesting time in my life, that’s for sure.

Testing 1 2 3

I figure since my internet access might be a problem, I should learn how to blog by email. I read the tutorial but there is no way to find out if I learned anything unless I test myself. Okay let’s do it. Abracadabra! Post!

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Posted via phone. Since this smartphone is probably more intelligent than me, blame any mistakes on the phone.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Nothing to Do

It seems strange to have nothing to do. The house is empty except for small pockets of the clothes and accoutrements of my life. The furniture is gone and my possessions are stored, which means no movies to watch, no books to read. Just my computer to use. Normally having only a computer wouldn’t be a problem since I frequently spend most of the evening online, but the only seat left in the house is a kitchen stool that is not kind to my tailbone. I could go for a walk, but after two hours and forty-five minutes of dance classes today in addition to the mile walk there and back, I’m ready to relax. But there’s nothing to relax with.

miningWhen I first mentioned my idea of an epic walk, a friend asked what I would do with all that time. I had no answer but it’s a valid question. What does one do with time? We fill our time with the chores and piddling tasks of tasks of living, and the time that’s left over, we fill with movies, television, books, magazines, lunches and dinners out with friends. But what does one do if one can’t do any of these things? Since I can’t walk for more than two hours a day especially if I am carrying a pack, there will be a lot of empty time. I could write, of course, but it’s hard to write with an increasingly untamed mind. (Many authors can sit down and watch the story unfold before their eyes, but I have to excavate every idea, every word from the morass at the bottom of my mind, and at the moment, I seem to have misplaced my mining equipment.) Would I be bored? I suppose it’s possible, but it’s just as possible that time will do what it always does, expands or shrinks to fit the available tasks. (The less you have to do, the less time you have to do it in.)

Tonight is easy. I’ll finish this blog, sign a friend up for a March of Dimes walk, download and install the available computer updates for my machine, play a few games of solitaire, and then suddenly, the evening will be gone. But what if I were out by myself somewhere, sitting in a tent, doing . . .

I don’t know. What do you do when you have nothing to do, nothing you can do? If I’m lucky (or unlucky?) someday I’ll find out. Meantime, I hear a game of Spider Solitaire calling my name.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Countdown To Homelessness

Such a very strange time in my life — this countdown to homelessness. Strangest of all is that I, a world class worrier, am calm — even happy — about the whole thing. I do have occasional brief moments of panic and just as many moments of excitement, but mostly I think my situation is . . . amusing. Yes, that’s the word. Amusing.

I find myself musing about the future. I find myself bemused by the chain of events that lead me here. I find myself smiling in amusement at the possibilities of an uncertain life. And the necessary research keeps me amused for hours.

desertOddly, I am quite content with the thought of living nowhere in particular, but the truth is, as long as I am alive, I do have to be physically present somewhere, and that does give me pause. There is no place I really want to be, and the thought of being anywhere in particular spooks me.

The main conflict right now comes from my desire to continue taking dance classes, but unless I find a place to stay here, I will be heading out. (Maybe just for the summer or until I can find a place here. Thanks to the internet, every place is everywhere, so I don’t have to be present to continue looking.) I have offers of places to stay in an emergency, and I will probably take people up on their offers since I have promised to continue taking classes until June. (We have a performance at the end of May — a Hawaiian War Chant and a trio of Tahitian Apurimas. I love both these pieces. Energetic and so very exotic!)

I am leaving future to the fates, God, the universe . . . whatever you choose to name the Great Unknown. If I find a place, I stay here in the desert. If I don’t, well, I have friends to meet all over the country, and actually, all over the globe. But specifically, I have offers of places to stay temporarily in Northern California and Texas. Invitations to hike in Door County. Lunch in Ohio. A dear friend in Louisiana to connect with. An old friend near Tucson to reconnect with. A friend to meet in Quartzsite (and maybe even a place to stay if she hasn’t sold her RV.) An invitation to visit a friend in New Zealand. Plans to meet a friend in Australia. (If you want to be added to this list, please let me know!)

To be honest, considering the state of my finances, I should get a job, but there’s nothing much I’m suited for except looking after the sick, old, and dying (it’s all I’ve done the past 10 years) and I’m ready for LIFE.

I’d considered getting a van and turning it into a camper, considered getting a larger car that I can sleep in, but somehow (not sure how, exactly) I decided to get my ancient VW Beetle restored. It started with my wanting a paint job so I wouldn’t look like a bag lady living in a decrepit car, but no place would paint a car with rust even if I signed a waver, so the rust had to be removed, and if I did that, I might as well have the dents fixed, and if I did that, I might as well . . . see? Somehow it all just happened.

And somehow, my future will just happen, too.

I do love the idea of traveling around the country in my bug, visiting my online friends, camping out in remote and not so remote areas, getting a feel for the world and my place in it. (Maybe preparing for some sort of epic walk while I’m at it.) Since I have no experience camping and have no gear, there is a whole new realm to get to know. Where can I tent camp for free or almost free? I don’t want to be around RVs, won’t need the same sort of amenities, and wouldn’t really be a part of that culture, anyway. And I definitely don’t want to camp in the middle of a busy campground. So I’m researching tent campgrounds and camping equipment. I covet the eight-person tent I saw — multiple rooms, plenty of space, even a closet! — but it seems a bit impractical. There are wonderful camp toilets, but the practicality ends with the cost of the liners and fillers. They would be fine for a week or two, but months? No. Way too expensive. So, lots and lots of research!

Whether or not I ever do any of this — camping, traveling cross-country, taking a freighter to New Zealand, staying here and continue taking dance classes — it’s a true experience rethinking what is necessary for both my comfort and safety. The internet is a necessity, of course, but I can use my phone to post my blog (which I would do whenever I could find a signal) and use truck stops and other public places when I need to use the computer.

If I’m traveling in my car rather than on foot, I’d have no problem carrying enough food, water, shelter, pillows whatever I need for comfort and cleanliness. But safety? Eek. I just read about a guy sleeping in a tent who had been bitten in the head by a black bear. Oh, that is so not on my agenda!! Nor are ticks and miss-quits (as a friend calls mosquitoes because they never miss and never quit). So more research needed!

Do you see what is most important to me? Internet, comfort, safety, in that order. Hmmm. Don’t quite know what to think about my priorities. Might have to research that too.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

The Internet, Twitter, and Other Frustrations

Frustrations abound, the most significant one being a spotty internet connection for two days. It took almost the whole day yesterday to post one not-very-interesting article. Today I’ve been trying to research Twitter and the best way to use the site. I can’t see Twitter as a way of making friends like I’ve done here on this blog and on Facebook, but several people have told me it’s a good way for an author to sell books. Of course, they have also told me I won’t sell books via Twitter because my books are not sold as cheaply as self-published books, so who knows if Twitter will make any difference in my life, but it’s worth a try.

chickenSo many things are confusing when it comes to Twitter. For example, you can only follow 2,000 people, yet the most active people on the site follow more than 10,000. (Apparently, at some point, the cap is lifted.) The limit has something to do with keeping out robot accounts and controlling spam, but it doesn’t make much sense because the number of tweets a person can tweet a day is capped at 1000. I don’t care who you are. Posting 1000 times a day constitutes spam in my opinion!

The most confusing thing is that Twitter will tell you what you are doing wrong, such as unfollowing too many people in a day, but they won’t tell you how many people you can unfollow. I can see the bewildered look on your face as you wonder why you would want to unfollow someone you followed. Well, once you hit 2,000 followers, apparently you can’t add more until you have approximately that many following you, so if you want to follow someone specific, you have to unfollow someone else.

There used to be a service called TwitCleaner that would tell you who unfollowed you (a lot of folks will follow you, hoping you will follow then back, and once you do follow them, they unfollow you) but Twitter changed their API (application program interface), making the service ineffective and it went out of business. Now, though, you can do some of it yourself. If you go to your twitter page and click on “following” you will see all your followers and if they are following you back. If they don’t follow you back and they aren’t someone you are interested in, they are safe to unfollow.

Another thing that is so very confusing is that you can set up your blog and various other sites to post directly to Twitter, which is what I used Twitter for — a place to automatically link my blog posts in the hope of getting someone interested in my articles. But — and this is a big but — what Wordpress posts is the title and link and your name (and theirs), and you get almost no views that way. People like color, graphics, hints of what the blog is about, hashtags (hashtags are like tags on wordpress; they give people a way of finding your posts) and if your blog post is automatically posted on Twitter, all of that is missing.

It’s like hootsuite.com. A lot of people use sites like that to post articles and comments to all their sites at once, but anything posted from hootsuite is posted outside the parameters of (for example) Facebook’s algorithms. Those algorithms are what dictates who and how many gets to see what you post, and they reward those who garner a lot of interactions. But if you post via a secondary site rather than directly to FB, your “pebble” leaves no ripples.

Then there is the egg situation. If you don’t post a photo for your profile, the empty space where your photo would be looks like an egg, hence the name “egg” for those with no profile picture. Very few people want to deal with blanks, so the general consensus is to ignore eggs. And yet, sometimes eggs are simply those with no time to fill out the information. So do you follow eggs or not?

Lots to think about while I’m waiting for the internet provider repairperson to come. And that, of course, will add to the frustrations, because you and I know the truth. When they get here, the internet will be on one of it’s “up” cycles.

But it’s all part of the game. I’m just glad I’m able to play it, frustrations and all. Maybe someday I’ll even figure out how to make all this information work for me.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

 

Pinning Interest in Pinterest

In a recent discussion about promotion for writers, someone asked what the benefit of Pinterest would be for authors.

I answered: I’m not a fan of Pinterest, so I can’t really tell you the benefits. I do know authors post all sorts of things related to their books, things they are interested in, quotes, whatever. The truth is, though, that anything you do on the internet helps get you noticed, which is a good thing. The secret is to do what is fun for you. Me, I prefer blogging, with a bit of Facebooking. I mostly use Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ and Linkedin to post blog links. I also used to be a major presence on a couple of now defunct social networking sites that I enjoyed.

Sherrie Hansen does a lot with Pinterest. Maybe she can help answer your question. Sherrie? Sherrie? Any thoughts about Pinterest?

I’ve known author Sherrie Hansen for several years now (online only so far), and she is someone I have grown to admire tremendously. By day, Sherrie operates the Blue Belle Inn B&B & Tea House and tries to be a good pastor’s wife. By night, she writes. I don’t know how she ever manages to do anything else, but she also keeps up with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and probably all the other networking sites, too. And she posts a perfect blog every month for the Second Wind Publishing blog. She uses many lovely photos, tells a bit about her life and how it intersects with her novels, and ends with an inspiring message. Can’t get much better than that! Question Marks and Other Things That Make You Think by Sherrie Hansen is her most recent post. Check it out.

Sherrie kindly posted the following response to my question:

I agree with Pat completely when she said, “Do what is fun for you.” I love Pinterest and think of it as a big file cabinet with color-coded folders for fun things – except that I don’t have to dig through a bunch of papers when I want to go back and find what I need.

One fun way to use Pinterest is to make a folder for each of your books and use them like a story board – pictures of people who look like your characters, links to the location where your story takes places, sites you’ve used for research, clothes of the period or style your characters would wear, basically whatever you want handy when you’re working on your book, and whatever gets you in the mood to write or helps you to visualize people and places important to the story. I’ve also tagged the style of font and photos I want to use on the cover.

On a personal note, I use Pinterest to pin things that I like – songs I want to learn so I can play them with my music group, ideas of things to make with my nieces and nephew, places I’ve traveled to or want to see one day when I’m rich, recipes to use in my tea house or at church events, garden and landscape ideas, and of course, my love of rainbows. If nobody ever sees them but me, that’s fine, because I like using it to organize the things that are important to me and to keep track of things I don’t want to forget about. If someone looks at my pin and thinks – I have a lot in common with this person, or hey, we like almost all the same things, or wow – this lady has great taste, and wants to give my books a try, that’s wonderful. And I have had that happen.

When you pin things, you can click a box to have them shared simultaneously on Twitter and or Facebook. The general rule for social media is to post 80% personal posts so that you are building relationships (which is what social media is all about), and no more than 20% business posts designed to promote yourself or your books. When it comes to sharing personal things or what’s going on in my head, or the bigger scope of my world, it’s a lot easier to quickly pin something than it is to stop and try to think of something clever to say about my day. Both are windows to your personality. Both are important… but it’s nice to have variety – and pictures for those of us who are visual learners and relaters.

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Thank you, Sherrie. You’ve even got me interested in playing around with my still mostly empty Pinterest site.

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Sherrie Hansen writes romance. Her novels, Shy Violet (coming soon), Blue Belle, Wild Rose, Thistle Down, Love Notes, Night & Day, Stormy Weather, Water Lily & Merry Go Round are available from SecondWindPublishing.com.

“You’re Not a Writer”

I have a writer’s group on Facebook with a very narrow focus. I say right up front in the description: “This is a discussion group for the sole purpose of sharing writing tips and techniques so that we can improve our writing.” Nothing but discussions about the process of writing are allowed in the group — no promos, no links to blogs, no sharing regardless of how inspiring the shared photo/article might be, no pleas for “likes”, no discussions of how to self-publish or how to get published or how to sell books. Just writing.

bookAs people try to change the focus of the group to meet their own agendas, the list of “no”s gets longer to keep the basic intent, but there really aren’t rules. Just that single focus — sharing writing tips and techniques so we can improve our writing.

I really hate policing the group — deleting inappropriate posts and remarks. Actually, no I don’t. Since this is a group for writers, one would think they also know how to read — specifically, read the description of the group — so I do feel righteous about banning those who post promos or indulge in self-aggrandizement. Also, since this isn’t a typical online forum but my personal group, a group I’ve kept going for more than seven years, I don’t see any reason to retain discussions that have outlasted their use — for example, when someone asks a question related to their work or when the comments get personal or too repetitious. I don’t particularly like deleting these discussions, but I consider such culling good for the group — keeps it focused on what matters. Writing.

What I do hate, however, is when someone who has interesting ideas tries to subvert the group in ways that are too subtle for me to point out without my coming across as a termagant.

One such writer recently joined, and although the discussions he started were lively, his comments were geared toward his writing career. I deleted one discussion that talked about his achievements, agent, and publisher, more out of irony than anything else. He had posted a nasty comment about a promo that I hadn’t deleted fast enough to suit him (I have a life, folks! Well, dancing), and his discussion itself was a barely concealed promo.

He emailed me, demanding to know where his discussion went. I explained that this was a group to discuss writing, not the business side of publishing. I mentioned that many discussions were left up only a short time, and that in fact, I often deleted my own discussions in the interest of fairness. Things settled down for a while until I noticed an appalling response he left for someone else. Another member asked for help in finding the motivation he needed, and this fellow wrote: “If you can’t sit down and write, it’s because you’re not a writer.” Oh, my. That sure got my dander up.

So I posted a new rule to the group:

I’m adding a new rule, which should have been able to have gone unstated: any member who discourages or tries to discourage another member from writing will be removed. This is a group for all writers, from the wildly prolific to those who struggle for words, from professionals to those who are still dreaming of writing.

He commented: “That’s one more rule than I can keep up with.” His parting remark to me was that my group was like “free speech day in Red China.”

I responded: In the world out there, people may be free to say anything they want, but in here, we are kind, even if it kills us. And if it does kill us, well, there are thousands of writers here who could write a book using kindness as a weapon.

I just checked the group membership list. He’s removed himself from the group. Can you tell I’m relieved?

It’s funny that I have such a strict policy about being kind to other writers because I’ve lost respect for writers as a group. It was different for me when books seemed to be an organic thing that just appeared out of nowhere, but this whole “author as entrepreneur” movement has destroyed that illusion. I get to where the sight of book promos turns my stomach. Making matters worse is the issue of the poor editing I so often encounter regardless of who publishes the books, authors or major publishers.

And yet, and yet . . .

The process of writing is available to all, regardless of what I or anyone else thinks. No one has the right to discourage someone from writing. Besides, by keeping the focus of the group tightly on the craft of writing, I am doing what I can to improve the quality of writing in today’s books.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Fishing for Life in Sacramento

I’m going to turn off my computer for the next forty-eight hours and take myself on a fishing trip. Not to fish for fish, of course — such a hobby is only peaceful for the one fishing; the poor fish are scared, hurt, and fighting for their life — but to fish for life. See what happens when I am disconnected from my usual online pursuits. (The last time I took time away from blogging, I was spending all my time with computer tech guy trying to fix a program that hogged my CPUs, so it wasn’t much of a disconnection from my computer.)

I’m planning on selling my books at a conference in Sacramento with an author friend. I’ve known her so long, it’s strange to think I’ve only visited with her once before. (We met online through our mutual publisher.)  Should be fun, just taking off for a couple of days. Seeing what I can see. Feeling what I can feel.

If you want to contact me, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you in a couple of days. Or whenever.

fishes

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Are Online Friendships True Friendships?

A few weeks ago, an offline friend expressed reservations about making friends online because she thought we don’t really get to know people online. An online friend also wondered about the trueness of online friendships, though she admitted she considered me a friend. And another online friend (she’s probably more of a mentor since she offers me more support than I offer her) wrote a blog about the meaning of friendship and how that applies to online friends.

digital lifeSo can you have a true relationship online? Of course, though to be honest, I rarely interact with the vast majority of my online “friends”. At one time, I thought it was important promotionally to have a lot of connections, but that doesn’t seem to hold true. Still, it is possible to make real friends online.  In some respects, these real online friendships are based on something deeper and more meaningful than offline friendships because (sometimes) we can connect directly to the mind, heart, or soul of each other. We are basically electronic beings, masses of focused energy, which is sort of what a computer is. We do have a tendency to show our best side online, but that’s not a bad thing. Besides, through numerous blog comments or facebook discussions, the truth comes out.

I have never met some of my best friends. I hope I will meet them someday, of course. (Although some of my hopes for an epic adventure are fading in light of the realities, taking a trip to meet these friends is still possible.) One drawback to such friendships is that it’s hard to hug an efriend, so such friendships to endure might have to go offline. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s enough to celebrate the wonder of knowing someone who lives on the other side of the country or even the world.

The few times I have met an online friend, there wasn’t a bit of awkwardness. It was as if we’d known each other for a long time, which was no surprise because we had known each other for a long time online.

A few years ago I met one such online friend. She came here for a book showing (I call it a showing instead of a sale because we sold so few books) and we got along well. Not only were our attitudes similar, we even dressed alike. Next weekend I will be returning the favor by going there for a book showing.

Friendships of this online/offline variety are not the neighborly sort where you run next door to borrow a cup of sugar or a pinch of salt, but I’ve never had any friends like that. Nor are they the kind who could visit you in the hospital or take you to the airport (though I’m sure they would if they were in the vicinity.) But they are still real friendships. And they are probably longer lasting than other friendships because if they move or if I move, we are still as close as the internet.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire,andDaughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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