About a Girl: The Abridged (no, really) Autobiography

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READER BEWARE: I ENJOY TALKING ABOUT MYSELF.

The Origin Story

I got my start, as so many of us did, roleplaying via instant messenger and message boards online. I started my first novel circa 2000 on the family desktop computer(it was about dragon-themed magical girls), only to have it gobbled up by an unannounced hard drive reformatting. After my father learned what had happened, he was so upset that I shortly after got my own computer, so that at least next time it wouldn’t be his fault if my work were erased.

He was always a huge inspiration and encouragement to me in all of my artistic pursuits, making sure I always had the tools I needed to pursue my interests in music, art, and writing. I also owe a great deal of that creative talent to him, a very gifted musician and artist himself.

In high school, I played percussion in marching band, bass guitar in a garage band, and dabbled in drama. I also worked with our school librarian in a grassroots movement to revamp the summer reading program. We took a languishing program that offered students the choice of reading one of two dry classics over the summer, and turned it into a contemporary program that included works by new Young Adult authors, Stephen King, and Harry Potter, just to name a few. It was a huge hit, and made students dread summer reading less, which is always a success in my book. I presented the program in a speech to my entire high school, designed and drew posters for each book we’d added to the program, and gave talks on the book 1984 to rotating groups of students as part of a book fair day to drum up interest.

Rise To Power

In university, whilst pursuing a bachelor’s in history and a double minor in French and English, I began branching out into tabletop RPGs, cutting my teeth on White Wolf’s New World of Darkness system. From there I would end up dabbling in Dungeons & Dragons Exalted, All Flesh Must Be Eaten, Doctor Who: Adventures In Time And Space, Firefly, and After The Bomb, as well as blowing my money on that quintessential cardboard crack, Magic: the Gathering. My first and foremost love, however, will always be Werewolf: The Forsaken.

When I wasn’t procrastinating on homework in these noble endeavors, I worked as a one-on-one tutor. I also cut my editing teeth, helping students plan, research, and proof their papers. Here, I discovered that my strongest ally in teaching was humour. People pay attention if you tell jokes, and then you can always bait-and-switch them into learning something as well.

Before relieving my school of my presence, I managed to appear in a production of The Laramie Project, present a paper entitled ‘The Futility of War Against the Intangible’ at a symposium on the sociology of terror, become vice president of our local chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, and write a Valentine’s Day themed story for a creative writing class that was so brutal it became legendary within the English department as ‘The Screwdriver Story’.

I later went on to haunt the halls of another unfortunate institution whilst I pursued an MA in historical studies. Here, too, I tricked people into listening to me give a riveting presentation on my research. With both degrees, my dissertations were about eugenics. At the undergraduate level, I wrote about public opinion of eugenics in Germany. My master’s level dissertation was a comparative analysis of eugenics in the US and UK.

Renaissance

Post-matriculation, I moved to the blasted wasteland of the American Deep South™. I commenced work at a small railway museum, where the staff stretched thin. Thus I wore a lot of hats for this institution. I ran special events, negotiated and managed film productions, and ran the library and archives with an iron fist. I also drove locomotives for our passenger operations and after hours switching operations. So I can also now say that I’m an engineer.

It is now that my writing career really starts to flourish. In addition to this, I write short stories and flash fiction on Wattpad and for submission to various literary magazines.

I attended Publish15, the Atlanta Writing Workshop, and TLC’s Writer’s Day. In addition, I have trawled the lectures, panels, and workshops by agents, publishers, and authors at various conventions such as CONjuration and Dragon Con.

Going Mainstream

As of 2016, I’m now back in the UK and permanently settled, both into my new country and also into my professional writing career. My first independent published piece was with Who Writes Short Shorts? and I started hosting workshops, the first of which was an introduction to poetry.

These days, you can find me amongst the throngs of people on most Twitter pitch parties, as well as participating in writing tags. It’s a great opportunity to get involved with the writing community and share the darlings you didn’t manage to kill.

I’ve also participated in regularly scheduled, round table critique groups before, and run my own. I’m available as a critique partner who will absolutely tell you when your science is bad. If you’re interested in using me as an editor, beta reader, or critique partner, just drop me a line.

Monthly Update – March 2018

monthly update march 2018

Monthly update – March 2018!

We’re really picking up steam now, and I think it’s showing. However this monthly update is gonna be a little sparse. The fact of the matter is writing is a bit of a slow slog, and this is one of those hurry up and wait months. I’ll be getting lots of feedback I imagine, and April will be jam packed with news.

I renamed the website as Ash and Feather (and explain why here), and am working on a URL migration. There may be a few minor tweaks, but don’t worry, oiseaudefeu.net will redirect to the new URL, ashandfeather.com. And in other news, Ash and Feather got over 100 unique visitors last month! Woohoo!

Also, con season is upon us! I’m getting started with Sci-Fi Weekender in north Wales, immediately followed by StabCon in Southampton. I’m hoping to also hit up the Winchester Writers Festival and the Young Adult Literature Convention this summer. I went two years ago and had a blast.

I’m still looking for opportunities for freelance writing and editing, so if you like the feel of my writing, please drop me a line.

Reviews!

While the reading and thus the reviews may have slowed a little bit, I’m looking to ramp that back up, starting with The Hate U Give tomorrow.

As always, please note that my buy links in my reviews are Amazon Associate links, so if you make a purchase I may get a little kickback from that. It doesn’t increase your prices, just helps to support the site.

I’m also continuing my series on social media scheduling reviews. SocialPilot and Social Booster are behind us, and up ahead lies TweetDeck.

Writing News!

This is the month I hope to start hearing back from the handful of competitions I’ve entered, including NYC Midnight’s Short Story Competition. I’m pretty sure I’m going to get raked over the coals for missing the brief, but I’m very happy with the story I wrote. So there’s that.

I bit the bullet and added a lot of content to the Writing page. It’s now much more of a well-rounded portfolio showcasing my ability to easily genre-hop. This is important because more and more eyes are on this page and it’s important that it’s showing me at my best.

And what does all that mean?

It means COSPLAY. And hopefully more writing as I continue to put myself out there via competitions and submissions. I also have a few super secret projects in the pipelines I’m hoping will come together. And of course, if there’s anything you’d like to see here, let me know!

Daily Prompt: Lecture

Make sure you use the appropriate pencil
Don’t draw freeform, use this stencil
Armed police keep you safer than a fence will
Dress for Jesus, and don’t be sinful
We don’t want you led astray, we’ll blur out those pixels
That’s a fire hazard, now take down that tinsel
There’s a war on Christmas, it’s as clear as crystal
Remember, it’s not hate if it’s official
You don’t need medicine, just take fish oil
Always respect authority; it’s just that simple
You should love America; we’ve the biggest missile
Stop and Frisk isn’t profiling if they’ve always got a pistol
Learn to respond promptly at a bell or whistle
Children should always be polite and cheerful
Never talk back, protest, nor so much as bristle
No matter what, your clothes and skin mustn’t wrinkle
You need to compromise; we won’t meet you in the middle

Now forget everything you’ve learned; we’ve a fire to kindle

via Daily Prompt: Lecture

Read more of my poetry here.

Monthly Update – February 2018

Monthly update!

One month into the new year, and things are already gaining momentum. I couldn’t be more excited to be able to expand my creative output and I have so much to tell you in this monthly update. I’m also looking for opportunities for freelance writing and editing. If you’re looking for a writer or editor, check out my work. And if you like the feel of my writing, please drop me a line.

Reviews!

When I said last month that there would be a lot more reviews, I didn’t realise how right I was. It’s been a blast discovering new books and incentivising my reading habits. I’ve really learned to make time and I’ve read some incredible books as a result. I’m so looking forward to what the rest of the year brings.

I’ve got three types of book reviews planned at the moment: Hot Reads, which I’ve already kicked off, Irrelevant Reviews, and Independent Thoughts. The first deals with recently released books, the second with older publications, and the last with any work by an indie author. Also please note that my buy links in my reviews are Amazon Associate links, so if you make a purchase I may get a little kickback from that. It doesn’t increase your prices, just helps to support the site.

Additionally, I’ll be continuing in my appraisals of alternatives to Hootsuite. Last month I took a closer look at SocialPilot, and this month we’ll be looking at Social Booster.

Writing News!

We’re in the midst of NYC Midnight’s Short Story Competition now. My prompt is a romance story that incorporates a building demolition and an exotic pet owner. So hopefully I’ll be able to whip something together the judges will like! I’m also waiting to hear results on a couple more competitions I’ve entered. Do you think a curated page of writing competitions would be useful? Let me know in the comments below.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there’s been a lot more poetry popping up like so many mushrooms all over the site. It’s something I’m thoroughly enjoying. Poetry is a nice challenge, mentally stimulating but still artsy enough to be fun. I’ve also developed a few more novel ideas, but I’m hesitant to update my Writing page because I don’t want to look like I can’t finish anything.

And what does all that mean?

I’m developing myself as a writer. It’s part of a larger trend of spending more time on myself and prioritising myself and my ambitions. All of my goals fit nicely together, and working towards one works towards all of them, so I’m very excited about what the future holds. And of course, if there’s anything you’d like to see here, let me know!

Monthly Update – January 2018

golden glass of champagne with a black background

It’s the first monthly update of 2018!

I’ve given up on finding funny and/or clever titles for my monthly updates. I just simply have better things to be getting on with. But the format is also going to change. Rather than being a summary of the previous month’s going-ons, these regular monthly update posts will now be a snapshot of what content you can expect to see during the coming month.

Reviews!

There are going to be a lot more reviews, for starters. Book reviews, for starters, one a month. Additionally, I previously mentioned Hootsuite and how I use that to manage my social media, and how they changed their post scheduling limits for the free accounts. This means shopping around for alternatives, and the first of those alternatives’ reviews will be out this month.

Writing News!

I’ve joined NYC Midnight’s Short Story Competition again. Last year was a complete disaster, so I’m hoping for a better result this year. The first round kicks off on 26 January! There was also a plot epiphany for my WIP, Nushada, so I’m hoping to have that rough drafted by springtime and ready for querying this year. You may also start to see more regular flash fiction on here, as I intend to start writing more of that. I also hope to get back on a regular update schedule for my WattPad WIP, The Survible.

And what does all that mean?

This site is slated to be far more active going forward. You’ll be getting at least one book review a month, in addition to the usual once a monthly update post. As time allows, I’ll be looking to add more content, and for the next few months you can enjoy an ongoing feature where I help writers find the social media scheduling assistant to suit their needs. And of course, if there’s anything you’d like to see here, let me know!

Happy holiday season from Oiseau de Feu!

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I got lots of holiday prizes today, and hope that you and yours have a fantastic end of the year.  No doubt you’ve noticed the lack of posting here. There’s a reason for that, with lots of behind the scenes plotting and planning. I’ll be passing along the abundance in the new year, so stay tuned for an update in about a week!

And the end is near.

rural road at sunset

The end of the year, that is.

Writing News

It’s another year of me not officially doing NaNoWriMo, and yet, through Itchen to Write, this is probably the most involved I’ll have been to date. I’m also planning to attend the local NaNo events, and do some writing. This is largely because I’m on track to get Nushada finished by the end of the year, which is pretty exciting.

I’ve been playing around with HootSuite alternatives recently, so hope to have some reviews to post soon. You can also find an interview I did with Jillian Kent over on her website.

On the personal front…

Something that’s been on my mind more and more is the need to pull back. I’m more and more of the opinion that I’ve overstretched myself on commitments. I currently attend at least one writing workshop a month, run an average of three writing meetings a month, plus play D&D every Tuesday evening, attend a creative writing class every Thursday evening, and work a full time job doing social media, blogging, and event planning. This month I have an awards dinner immediately followed by a trade show exhibition. Most of my weekends end up full as well. And it is exhausting.

I read some time ago an article about JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out) and it resonated with me more than FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) ever did. I’ll be trimming the fat in regards to my social commitments in an effort to free up some of my energy. I want to focus on doing a few things really well, rather than half-assing lots of things out of a sense of dread and obligation.

And what does all that mean?

Ideally, it’ll mean you’ll see more content here, because my writing will be one of my primary focuses. It’ll mean working my way through my stack of WIPs, and getting to the querying stages. It’ll mean tackling my TBR list, and working on improving my health. All good things!

“What do you wanna be for Halloween?” “Asleep.”

candles, pumpkins, animal skulls

Towards the end of September, I had another bit of a slip-up. Relapsed after a good solid run of committing to my goals and my writing. So currently October is being devoted to rebuilding my routines and habits and trying really hard not to think about NaNoWriMo because frankly it’s an awful lot to consider at the moment. Oh, and founding a writing group!

Writing News

The biggest news is starting a creative writing course and a writing group for the Southampton area. Since the class isn’t terribly interesting to any of you, I’ll move along to the group I started.

It’s called Itchen to Write, and you might’ve noticed the link at the top menu for it. Primarily, I want it to be about helping writers make a career of writing. I’m a terrible role model for this, but the tools involved could help others. I’m basing it largely off the writing group I attended in Atlanta, formerly 10 Days Before, and now called Atlanta Writes. It’ll involve a number of different meeting formats. Primarily group critiques but also focusing on writing, querying, and mock agent pitching. I also want to try storytelling games, to flex the creative muscles and force people out of their comfort zones.

In other news, I finished linking up the Twitter Tags page on here. While it’ll always be under construction, it’s complete enough to keep me on track with the Twitterverse. Maybe it’ll even help a few people discover new outlets for their writing and for building a community.

Going forward…

So for this month I’d honestly just like to get ship shape from a routine and general life maintenance perspective, plod along on Nushada’s rough draft, read Frankenstein, and see if I can get an author interview posted on here.

I also have an idea in the pipes for a regular research feature, which I hope will help others as well as myself. And as HootSuite have just severely limited their post scheduling for free accounts, and their first paid account is way more than I need and way more than I’m willing to spend, I may also be reviewing HootSuite’s alternatives from a writerly perspective. Watch this space!

 

[Obligatory Green Day Reference]

Monthly update dropping like these crisp autumn leaves

Except I would hate to miss the end of September – it’ll mark five years married to my partner! So the end of the month will be a wash, because we’ve got anniversary plans, followed by my first trade show, and then possibly a friend visiting.

I really have barely written anything this month, but it hasn’t been wholly unproductive. There’s been lots of site updates, little tweaks here and there, including a reference sheet for keeping track of the various writing Twitter tags. I also added a freebie: an up to 10-page critique for new followers!

Work has been hectic, planning two trade shows and an awards dinner simultaneously, while we’ve also been interviewing for a new team member. I can’t wait for them to start, because it’ll make life so much easier on that front. In addition, we’re still unpacking and settling into life here, which hasn’t helped.

So while there’s very little to report for August, it’s been a much more easy going month, which I think I definitely needed. September is bringing a lot of challenges and big events, including the next round of NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge! I’ll be looking forward to seeing how I fared last round, and squaring down a new prompt next month.

How Hootsuite helps me maintain platforms come hell or high water

Being everywhere on social media is a tall order!

I’m tired. Frequently, mentally, insurmountably…tired. My theme song is that burlesque number from Blazing Saddles.

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Okay, maybe not that kind of tired.

And that’s why I’m here to talk about post scheduling. There’s a deluge of articles about author platform and marketing. There’s also a glut of articles and guides on social media. And the message is consistent: engage, engage, engage.

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So what about people working jobs where they can’t manage their social media on the fly? Where a visible mobile device is a write up? What about people with mental illness, or other chronic conditions that throttle their emotional, mental, or physical bandwidth? That’s where post scheduling is a godsend. It lets you remain on people’s radars, continue to share your passions with the world, and if life rears its uglier head once in awhile, you don’t need to worry about losing traction with your fan base. It also means you can spread your content out evenly instead of busting out 5-10 tweets, posts, or blogs in the hour after you get home from work. This is important for hitting multiple time zones (Hello, GMT!) and not flooding followers’ feeds.

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There does seem to be some push back about post scheduling, mainly citing lack of authenticity behind scheduled content. That’s great, I’m really happy for them that they’re able to organically maintain a highly active social media presence. I, for one, am not currently there. I still have days where I don’t even make the bed (and I’m usually pretty good about this–I have the habit trackers to prove it!), or come home, land on the couch, and barely budge from it until it’s bed time, or later. I’m working on letting these transgressions slide (albeit while trying to prevent them in the future), and that’s easier knowing that at least my Twitter and Instagram are still ticking over from that high energy day a few weeks ago where I busted out a month’s worth of scheduled content.

So what does that look like for me? It looks like a very busy Hootsuite dashboard:

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The first three tabs are my own content: my content streams; my scheduled content; and any messages, mentions, etc. The next three tabs are all about that essential engagement. They’re Instagram, Twitter photography and travel, and Twitter writing tags I want to monitor, curated into an easy to browse interface. It’s easy for me to take a few moments on my phone to scroll through these streams, commenting and liking posts that catch my attention rather than trying to always keep an eye on my feeds.

The rest are the tags I schedule for. A tab for every day’s regular writing tags, plus the recurring Twitter contests, and each tab contains all the relevant hashtags I’m aware of for that category. In the morning, I use the day’s tags as a checklist, making sure I’m participating in all the ones that make sense for me. At my leisure, it becomes a browsable curator, much like my more general monitoring tabs.

It’s not a perfect system, and my engagement isn’t perfect. I still have lulls and missed opportunities. But progress is progress and it’s better than the radio silence of the latter half of last year and first part of this year. It helps me overcome some of my personal stumbling blocks and that makes it A+ in my book.


I’m building a personal reference sheet of Twitter tags related to writing and editing, which you can find here. Is your favourite tag missing? Let me know! I’d also love to hear how you work around life and mood swings to maintain a constant presence online. Do you schedule, or use a different set of tools?