Monthly update!

Let’s start with the biggest news: I was made redundant. I’m hoping that years later I’ll be telling people in a keynote speech about how this was the turning point, and when I really started to thrive as a writer. I’ve also got other opportunities in the pipelines, so in no way whatsoever am I counting this as a defeat!

Additionally, I broke my finger, which I did whine about a little bit on my Twitter, but we’re all mended now. It was my first broken bone in my entire life! I must admit feeling a little underwhelmed.

I have a fresh perspective to make the most of this opportunity, so hopefully you can look out for some big things going forward. I’ve been unemployed before and utterly failed to capitalise on a wide open schedule. Working again has shown me how I took for granted my time, and this time around, I’ll be able to really put out some good writing.

Reviews!

Between various things, my reading’s slipped quite a bit. But I’m hoping to recover on this front along with several others. It’s gonna be a huge exercise in learning to better structure my days.

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.

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

Writing News!

Well, as expected, I bombed out of the first round of NYC Midnight’s Short Story Competition. actually really liking my story. But there’s nothing stopping me submitting my story elsewhere, and I think it’s strong enough to do well outside the constrains of prompts. I’m also waiting to hear results on a couple more competitions I’ve entered.

In more positive news, I was featured on Who Writes Short Shorts? with a short sci-fi story, which you can read here. Additionally, on the 19th of March I had the great pleasure of being a guest instructor on a creative writing course. I taught a two hour lecture on poetry, which went down a treat. It’s looking to become a more regular thing, and may lead to more writing workshops, probably falling under the Itchen to Write umbrella.

Speaking of Itchen to Write, it has its own, standalone website now. So you can find my Hampshire, UK, based writing group here, on Meetup, and on Facebook. With my newfound free time, I’m really looking forward to growing this group!

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!

Go on. Try it.

Maybe start with a word. The most lovely word. Your favourite, in fact.

Describe its colours. Describe its sound. Tell us about the music it forms in your mind.

Set that paragraph into a context. A scene. A moment. A memory.

Put someone in that context. Maybe you, maybe not-you. Maybe not a person at all.

What do they do? Do they paint those palettes you created? Do they sing the music you wrote? Does their voice sound like that word? Do they reverberate with the same frequency?

What emotions do they have? Are they that of your word, or are they reactionary? What are their thoughts? Do they share your love of your word?

Think about the world they live in, a world of your word. In an instantaneous moment, it sprang forth from a seed that you cultivated. Are you not a god in this act of creation?

You have created from nothing, in defiance of all the known laws of the universe.

How mighty you are, how powerful and wise.

Carry this knowledge of your strength, your wisdom, and your vision, in a special place within you.

Draw upon it in your hour of need, and nurture it in your times of triumph. Keep it hidden, but easily accessed. The world you inhabit fears the dark, but it fears the light even more. We praise it in its absence but seek in terror to snuff it out in its presence.

Guard your light. Guard your nugget of truth. So that you can share of it with the world, linking it up to all your infinities.

social media scheduling tweetdeck

In this third instalment of my social media scheduling series, we’ve got another well-known contender. We’ve covered SocialPilot and Social Booster. Next up is TweetDeck. This review is being done with authors in mind.

Overview:

Focused purely on Twitter, this site allows you to schedule, monitor, and analyse your social media presence. It offers a clean, easy to navigate UI and just enough features to be useful without a lot of clutter you don’t need.

What fired me up:

I love the UI, and the ability to search hashtags and set up columns to monitor them. It’s not quite as organised or broad in scope as Hootsuite (for example, you can’t have different tabs to organise your streams) but it provides more oversight than either SocialPilot or Social Booster. It was also quite easy to schedule several

What fizzled:

The obvious initial hurdle is that it’s only for Twitter. If you wanted something to juggle multiple platforms, this isn’t the site for you. Additionally, with their hashtag monitoring, the stream updates in real time, which means you can be reading content and it’ll suddenly jump down the feed, buried by an avalanche of new tweets. A minor annoyance, but if you already have any sort of difficulty scrolling content, this isn’t going to win you over.

I also wish it was a bit tidier and organisable. But that’s probably more down to personal preference than anything else.

Verdict:

If you only use Twitter, this is a great way to corral everything you need. Excellent for someone that’s just beginning to dive into the world of social media marketing, and needs a little help staying on top of things. However I feel it would be easy to outgrow TweetDeck and need something meatier.

getstarted

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!

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!

social booster social media scheduling

This is the second instalment of my series about social media scheduling. My first candidate was SocialPilot. And now we’re moving on to Social Booster. I’ll be exploring the free options, as well as trialling their entry-level paid account. This review is being done with authors in mind.

Overview

Although to a lesser extent than SocialPilot, Social Booster is still set up for someone working in an agency managing social media for clients. You get this feel from the emphasis on teams and analytics, as well as the less than robust free version. The design is minimalist and uninspired and not terribly intuitive.

The lowest level paid version is very affordable at $86 a year billed annually, slightly more if you’re month to month.

What fired me up

SocialBooster has a greater ability to let you monitor your feeds for content and responses. It’s not as comprehensive as Hootsuite’s, but it’s significantly better than SocialPilot in this regard. You have an inbox of Twitter mentions, posts, and replies. This makes it easy to see at a glance what you need to respond to. However, it still doesn’t seem to have Hootsuite’s hashtag monitoring features. Their paid versions do offer keyword tracking.

You can also set up a schedule that automatically slots posts into the next available time slot. this makes it faster to do a daily post, for instance.

I also liked that it would occasionally email me with new responses to my posts.

What fizzled

The free version only allows ten (!) scheduled posts. This limitation is exactly what I was looking to avoid in shopping around, so it’s a huge black mark against an otherwise decent piece of competition. The lower ranks of the paid versions only allow 50 scheduled posts, which still feels limited for a paid service.

The UI can also feel a bit labyrinthine to navigate, and it isn’t always obvious how to access various bits, especially if you’re just starting out with it. It isn’t as clean as SocialPilot, but it also has more to show. And it doesn’t give you the unnecessary or hide what you’re working on based on your mouse location, like Hootsuite.

There is one thing I found aggravating about the auto schedule feature. If you delete an autoscheduled post, it will bump them all up. This resulted in several posts going out a day too early.

Verdict

It’s pulling ahead of SocialPilot quite easily, at least in terms of a personal account. The same features that give it an edge in this realm probably also make more sense in a professional environment. However it still falls short of replacing Hootsuite.

“Annie! Annie, are you up yet? I’m taking the kids to school!”

Avery’s voice carries well throughout the house and reminds me of home. I’m awake, but have yet to rise. I have to now.

First stop is the bathroom. I see to Mother Nature’s necessities and then my own. In the mirror, a woman with average length hair in a boring colour stared back. Her eyes peer passively back at me, and her flawless skin doesn’t reveal her age.

As I brush my hair and apply just enough makeup, I wonder if thinking of myself in the third person is normal. It’s not important, unlike breakfast, which Avery’s prepared for me.

I have enough time to say goodbye to my family. My two children, Summer and Jim, are good kids. They’re well liked, and rarely spoken of. Sure, they could be smarter, or more attractive, but they’re solid B students and that’s what really matters.

My stalwart husband, Avery, is as average as his children. He tries to stay in shape but it’s hard to fit it all in, between helping me with the kids, church responsibilities, and his job as an accountant. He has a car in the garage that doesn’t run but he swears it will one day.

As for me, as far as most people are concerned I’m a meek, boring housewife. But it makes for a good cover as the neighbourhood’s number one option for the dirt on Mr. Next Door. That’s right, I’m Mrs. Body, the person behind the Busy Body Private Detective Services.