Welcome to the Real World

My last post saw me reflecting about the use of social media in our lives, and even questioning the reality of it all. Since then, I’ve been taking a bit of a breather from Facebook and Twitter. I’m basically checking things out in messenger each day, but that’s about it. What I was finding is that I wasn’t being as productive as I wanted to be. It was far to easy to get caught up reading posts and comments, keeping up with those on my friends list just to see what they’re doing. Have I used it as a stall tactic to keep me from dealing with some of the other things in my life? Maybe. I’m sure most of us have found ourselves caught up in that a time or two. Procrastination has been my friend on more than one occasion.

And so for some of those reasons, I’ve decided to spend more time in the real world. I think, many of us can benefit from a break every now and again. Who knows perhaps I’ll have more time to devote to my blog, certainly my writing. And, this is big– I may even devote more time to doing housework.

I’m not saying that social media is all bad, because it isn’t. As one person pointed out in the comment section of my last post, social media is what helped her get through the pandemic. I agree with what she had to say. I’m sure many people had that same experience during the pandemic when we were holed up in our houses for weeks and months. It did help me stay connected to my kids during that time. Some days, I lived for those video chats and photos of what the grandkids were doing. It was a pretty scary and solitary time for most of us.

I also agree that there are some lovely people out there to be met, people we would never have connected to without social media. Some people I then went on to meet in real life. Right Sue? And it is the very people we encounter who help enrich our lives on many levels. The world around us is changing. There’s no denying that.

So, as I take some time to reflect upon the direction I want my life to go in, I plan to enjoy the beautiful fall colours and spend more time in nature. Fall is my absolute favourite time of year for a variety of reasons.

I believe life is a balance. Exactly what is that balance? That’s up to each of us to decide. There’s no right or wrong. Truthfully, I think whatever that balance is for us, it can change from week to week, month to month, or maybe even day to day. If you’re feeling the way I am, it’s probably time to take a bit of a breather from social media as well. If you’re feeling totally good about the time you devote to social media, then that’s wonderful. You’ve found what that balance is for you.

I’ll leave you with this lovely rose blooming in my garden. An October rose–how about that?

Too Much of a Good Thing

I’ll be honest, lately I’ve been feeling tired of social media, tired and disappointed. It’s not a new thing for me. I’ve felt it coming on for some time now. The pandemic might be playing a big role in this–all the negativity out there, all the misinformation that sometimes helps fuel that negativity.

These days, anyone and everyone has an opinion about pretty much everything, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What tires me out is the way some people choose to express that opinion. I’m tired of the anger and frustration that I see, people lashing out, determined to be angry at others. Sometimes people are simply downright mean. They will say hurtful things about people they don’t even know. I’ll be honest, I’ve never understood why. Well, I do understand that it’s far easier to type words than to face a real person. Social media is renown for that. What I mean is, I don’t understand why anyone would purposely want to be mean–what is the purpose, the reason? It actually says much more about the person lashing out then the people they’re attacking.

People have always had a difference of opinion. I don’t see that as a bad thing. Different opinions and different ideas can help us keep an open mind and maybe help us consider something we’ve never thought of before. That can be exciting. It’s how we find out about new things. One thing I am certain of, that as a society we will never all agree. It’s impossible. Nor should we all agree.

Social media outlets have us clamouring to collect “LIKES” and comments for the things we post, to seek that instant validation from others. Most of us lap that up. I think that deep down all many of us want is to feel as though our lives matter, that we matter as a person and we look for that outside ourselves. We allow the opinions of others to carry more weight than our own. But this is the thing–those likes are not real. We often forget what we’ve hit the “LIKE” button for. We read so many posts in one day our brains go into overload.

I’m sure many of us have fallen into that trap from time to time. But social media isn’t real life. It’s artificial to the extent that we even have to question the sincerity of some of the comments we see. Yet many of us buy into it. We’re allowing Internet communities to replace the real people in our lives. That frightens me on many levels. When I was a child, a big highlight for me was the pie sales and dances held at what we called “the hall.” The hall would be filled with people, real people, who talked and laughed. They shared the latest gossip. You could feel the energy.

Remember when people called to have a chat, they dropped in for coffee, wrote letters and sent cards, they gave hugs, real hugs, not just a word encased in asterisks in the comment section? Remember that? Now we drop a few words on their social media posts. We text. Forget the use of proper sentences, that’s all gone. Now we leave behind a string of words for others on our “friends” list to decipher. Forget punctuation. What the heck is a comma, a semi-colon, a question mark, capital letter, a period placed at the end of it all? But this is our new reality.

We live busy lives, at least that’s what we tell ourselves. But people have always lived busy lives. Modern conveniences have freed up more time in our days, time that many of us choose to replace with social media.

I think probably the main thing is to find that balance in our lives and not allow the internet to dictate to us. Unplug from time to time and spend time with real people.

While I didn’t intend for this post to come out as a rant, it seems to have rant-like qualities and I apologize for that. I’ve just been reflecting upon some things as I take time to appreciate the REAL people in my life this Thanksgiving weekend. Perhaps my next post will about the positive aspects of social media–yes there are some positives.

Happy Thanksgiving Day. I hope this will be a day for you to pause and reflect upon all the people in your life that you have to be grateful for.

Basil the Bootlegger

IMAG2423Years ago people used to comment all the time on what a small world we live in. That was back in the days before social media and the Internet, when you could travel to another county in the province or even a whole other province and cross paths with someone who knew a relative or neighbour from your little community. It seemed a big deal. A little serendipitous, a little uncanny that you should stumble across someone who shares that connection with you—enough to make someone declare what a small world it is. Usually here in Dalhousie, you’d meet someone who was acquainted with an old fellow who used to bootleg. Seemed no matter where you went in Canada, and mentioned you were from Dalhousie, his name would come up. I swear he’s East Dalhousie’s most famous person which is exactly what Cammie had to say about her aunt Millie in Flying With a Broken Wing. But seriously, that’s the truth about these little communities in Nova Scotia—the bootlegger holds near celebrity status. And now just look, there’s a blog post even named after the bootlegger from Dalhousie. Yup, people still remember him from back in the day. I should only hope for the same recognition with my books. Hmmm, maybe I need to rethink this writing career of mine!

These days our world has been made even smaller via the Internet and social media sites. Now, we’re stumbling across people from all over the world. I can promise you though, not one of them has heard tell of Basil the bootlegger. Well, maybe now if you’re reading my blog. With all the social media sites out there we’re privy to information we’ve never had before and our world just keeps getting smaller. Some of you might remember that I was contacted last winter from someone in the US who wanted a picture of an ancestors tombstone here in Dalhousie. I snapped a photo and sent it off…Super cool. I was happy to oblige.

If you’re an author, the world has also become smaller with all the different sites at your disposal. A Google search of you or your book will bring up reviews as well as all the sites your book is listed on. You can read what others have to say about your book on GoodReads and what rating they give it. A site called WorldCat.org will show you the libraries around the world where your book (print and digital) is available. How cool to know that “Flying With a Broken Wing,” is in a library in Perth, Australia, and that someone in Singapore can sign out a copy of “Bitter, Sweet” and read about life in little old East Dalhousie, Nova Scotia—my backyard yet a totally different world for them.

An author can even track their book sales (print and digital) on a site called NovelRank that allows you to track your book on any Amazon site around the world. Novel Rank tells me that someone in France downloaded a digital copy of Flying With a Broken Wing. Tell me you don’t think that’s cool! There’s also a site called “Author Central” that tells you areas in the US that reported sales of your books, as well as the number of copies and how your book sales rank. Copies of my books have sold in Ohio, Colorado, New York, Minneapolis, Washington and Boston. (I believe this site keeps track of, not only Amazon sales, but other sales as well.)

And if all that doesn’t have you falling over with adulation for the Internet, you can become involved in promoting your own book through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or by starting your own blog through WordPress or Blogger. Whew! I’m exhausted just writing this. Some might say we really don’t need all these tools at our disposable, and that might be true, nonetheless they’re here. Like it or lump it. I prefer to like it, but also to pick and choose how much time I’ll devote to any one of these sites. Let’s face it, if your book makes a peep anywhere in the world you have the ability to know about it. Wonder why some days the Internet can make us feel like a spy?

To prove my point about how small the world has become I just did a Google search on Basil the Bootlegger and a whole page of links came up. Seems he’s more world famous that I previous thought! Okay, so I’m just joking with you, but I bet I had you fooled for a second.

So, I’m sure you’re curious to know—was Basil actually related to me or just someone from the community? You bet he was a relative, a distant cousin a few times removed. Wow, never thought I’d be boasting that fact. When all is said and done my claim to fame might not be the books I write at all, but the fact that I have a connection to the once infamous bootlegger of East Dalhousie. Go figure!

The only thing now that could bring Basil world wide recognition would be if this post went viral. Now wouldn’t that be a hoot?

What are you thoughts on the small world we live in today? Is it good, bad, scary or do you fully embrace it? More importantly, do you know who Basil the bootlegger was or were you related to him?


I’m Keeping it to Myself

Pray for me people, quite possibly I’ve angered the Facebook Gods. I know, I know, this is serious business. I mean Facebook, right?

Secret messages have been turning up in my inbox— friends who have updated their status, uploaded photos, invited me to “like” pages. It’s a conspiracy of sorts, a cleverly devised plan to lure me back. I’ve been ignoring them all, closing my eyes and shutting it all out. Delete…delete…delete… I’ve been sending these Facebook messages into oblivion.

These days, I’m taking a bit of a Facation— a little break from Facebook if you will— because I sometimes find it a bit intruding. Don’t get me wrong, I love Facebook (kind of) and keeping up with my family and friends, but it’s far too easy to pop on for what you think will be a few minutes but ends up being much more. When that nosy factor kicks in I sometimes can’t help myself!

I was going to mention in a status update my intention to take a bit of a break but kept putting it off. I thought I’d let others know that I’d probably still update my author page but  they shouldn’t use Facebook as a way to contact me if something needed a timely reply. I thought it would be the polite thing to do, but I didn’t get around to it and so I didn’t start my intended break. Hey, I can procrastinate with the best of them!  But sometimes procrastination gives us time to reflect, a time to rethink our intentions. And low and behold, a few days ago someone’s status update had to do with this very same subject. Cool, right? Hmmm, maybe not.

To paraphrase the status it was something along this line: If you’re going to take a break from Facebook just do it. Don’t bother announcing it because no one really cares.

Oops! For a second I thought they had read my mind! But no, it was just my social media insecurities getting the best of me. Needless to say I didn’t bother to mention my intended break. Yet I couldn’t help wondering if people really do feel this way or if this was just one person’s opinion. I have often read status updates, especially from other authors, letting us know they were taking a break but I didn’t find it upsetting in the least. I actually thought it was a smart idea, not only the break but letting others know.

One of my beefs about Facebook lately, has been the sponsored ads that keep coming up into my news feed from people and companies I’ve never heard of.  Also the fact that some people really show a lack of caring. I don’t particularly like to read negative status updates. But they’re there. Disgruntled people with gripes galore. While I do understand that people are sometimes frustrated by life, and the behaviour of others, I don’t feel as though Facebook is the right forum to discuss that frustration. However, it’s their prerogative. Luckily, I have no one on my friends list who are downright belligerent. I might be forced to eliminate them from my list if that were the case. And no one likes to be eliminated. Anyway, I’m planning to make myself scarce from FB for the next little while, not being dramatic or anything, but I’d really like to spend more time blogging. Oh yeah, and writing. I am a writer, right? Two books and about forty + short stories says I am so who am I to argue? At least not today. Maybe I’ll keep that argument for another day!

Do you take breaks from social media from time to time? Do you agree with my FB friend that you should keep your intended break to yourself and simply disappear? Do you think it’s a matter of courtesy to let your friends and followers know that you’re not simply ignoring them?

Let the Competition Begin!

“Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, and riches take wings. Only one thing endures and that is character.”
~~Horace Greeley

These days it’s almost impossible not to compete on some level. Whether or not we consider ourselves competitive or not, the world seems bound and determined to rate us in one way or another. It’s like that in many areas in life and it certainly exists for the writers out there. Maybe we set ourselves up for this the moment we set foot into social media arena and yet……

While we might not openly admit to this competitiveness, I’m here to say it exists as sure as I’m sitting here writing this post. Granted, we might not necessarily compete against anyone in particular, sometimes the competition is self-induced, a means of striving for more and more. More what you might ask? More blog followers, more comments in our comment section, more likes on Facebook, more followers on Twitter…And the more, more, more continues until we start to lose the enjoyment these very same social media sites once provided us with.

I recently noticed a new option on my Facebook author page. This is kind of what prompted this post in the first place. Here’s what it says on my administration page:

“New! Pages to watch. Track the progress on any Pages you want to watch. You’ll see how many likes they get so you can keep up.”

This darn near knocked my socks off when I saw it. Really? Now they want us to try and “keep up” with the popularity of other pages? Kind of feels like we’re back in elementary school here. Now, I really shouldn’t knock Facebook. I do like it. It’s fun and allows me to keep up with what my friends and family are doing. There are plenty of benefits to it but, as with anything out there, it comes with a certain amount of criticism. And we do love to criticize in one way or another. I’m sure many of us could list our complaints if we wanted to be picky.

I’ll admit, it feels good to have that validation whenever we update a status or publish a blog post, but we also run the risk of becoming too involved, too needy, too wanting of other people’s opinions and comments, instead of allowing things to unfold naturally. What will be will be. There’s no fancy way of putting it so far as I’m concerned. I’m not ready to jump through hoops in order to gain popularity. Speaking of popularity, I just received a notification the other day stating that my Klout score just went up. Do I care? No. Should I? Maybe. Maybe not.

Seriously, I like my author page, but as for tracking the progress of other pages I’m just not interested in turning it into a competition. I feel as though I spend as much time on social media as I dare, maybe more than I should at times. If I don’t actually write then the author page seems a bit pointless. Not to mention I have people already asking when the next book is coming.

What are your thoughts on social media? Do you feel the competition in the air whenever you venture out there? Do you have a Facebook page or do you think they’re pointless?

Blogger, Where Art Thou?

I can’t help thinking that life around the blogosphere had been a little ho-hum lately. Truthfully, I’ve been adding to that ho-humness myself by remaining a little quiet over the past year. I thought it was just me, and the fact that I’m having problems keeping up with all the great blogs out here, but I’ve heard the same from a few other bloggers.

Where have all the bloggers gone? Kind of sounds like a song to me.

As I check out the blogs in my Feedly.com I see more and more have not been active for a very long time, or else are only blogging sporadically. I’m not criticizing, just wondering what the heck is going on. Are we all becoming bored with our blogs or is it simple too time consuming for what we get out of it. I can honestly say, there isn’t a mad rush to get on over to my blog as soon as I publish a post. Doesn’t much surprise me since I’m really not all that interesting. I’ve been saying that for years! Sorry, but I’m just stating facts here. Believe me if I knew how to be more interesting I would, but then that probably goes for many of us.

If you’re a blogger or simply follow blogs, I don’t have to tell most of you that blogging is a huge big commitment. It’s not simply a matter of putting a post up and waiting for people to come hurry on over to read your latest masterpiece and splatter comments all over the place. It involves getting to know other bloggers around the blogosphere, checking in on their blogs to see what they’re up to, interacting with them on some level and generally getting to know who they are. That’s the “social” part in social media. I have to say I’ve met some pretty nice people through blogging that I otherwise wouldn’t have. I like meeting people. I only wish there was more time for that. But my first love is writing fiction and that’s of far greater importance to me right now. I have a bit of time off work at the moment and I’m hopeful that I’ll be out there visiting more often than I have in the past, maybe getting a few more posts up at the same time. I can’t make any promises, however, I’ll just hope for the best and see how it goes. I’m sure you can all appreciate that I’ve been busy promoting my new book this past while, but I haven’t forgotten you.  So that’s my hope at the moment, and with a little luck I’ll be able to keep my end of things up. I’m working on another writing project that I’m excited about and I have high hopes that my first draft will be completed before Christmas. Mind you, I did say “high” hopes.

How about you, have you found people are generally blogging less than they were a few years back? How about you, are you devoting as much time to blogging and other social media?

Tweetless in Dalhousie

When it comes to twitter I’ve yet to understand what all the fuss is about. That could have something to do with the fact that I haven’t tweeted in months or my oh-so-slow dial-up connection that I’m helpless to do anything about. (No pity please it’s just one of the fallbacks from living in rural Nova Scotia)Tying up your phone line while you tweet your little heart out is annoying to those who actually want to speak to you in person. Just ask my kids. Not to mention you spend ridiculous amounts of time waiting for these sites to load.

Let me be honest: maybe I don’t understand what’s so fabulously great about twitter because I’m the lamest tweeter on the planet. Oh, yeah, I’ve thought about that a time or two.

But wait, I can’t be THAT bad. Twitter’s been trying to reel me back in for months now with little messages that arrive in my inbox. @_____________just retweeted @____________. I also get lists of people who are simply tweeting. So thanks, twitter, for pointing out the obvious. You’re twitter. People tweet. I get that. It’s how it was meant to be. Not to be mean twitter, but I’m not really interested in missed tweets—not to be confused by those who are mistweeted because mistweeting others is definitely NOT cool. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

On the other side of the coin, with the little bit I’ve been on twitter in the past, I’ve actually met some pretty cool people. Some of them have gone on to become facebook friends. Imagine the potential if I was tweeting on a regular basis! I know people who absolutely LOVE twitter. When they’re home they stayed signed in all the time. The moment something happens they’re letting the rest of the world know.

I sometimes think I spent too much time in the world of make-believe. I’ve committed to spend more time writing this year in an attempt to increase my productivity. Right now that seems to be where I need to put my time. Some people seem able to do it all–tweet, blog, facebook all while churning out spectacular novels. Sometimes I wish I was one of those people, but I’m not. I’d have to stay up around the clock in order to keep up. There are SO many online sites these days, I’m simply not able to keep up with them all. But I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. That just wouldn’t make sense.

I’ve got to be honest though; those little reminders from twitter might actually be working. I’ve been thinking of logging in just to see what’s up. That doesn’t mean I’ll sacrifice my writing time. Maybe it’s a matter of finding the right balance if in fact that “right balance” even exists, but for right now you can be sure I’m still tweetless in Dalhousie.

Are you regularly on twitter? If you’re a writer do you find it a struggle to find the right balance between social media sites and writing? Or like me, are you tweetless for the time being?

How Much Is Too Much?

With social media these days authors can easily make themselves visible to the public in ways never dreamed of in the past. As fans we can seek out our favourite authors, follow them on twitter, read their blogs, visit their websites, friend them on facebook.

But is there a point where an author can make themselves too visible?

Recently a friend of mine commented that she was so tired of seeing a particular author on facebook that she considered hiding her from her news feeds. Don’t ask me why but her statement sent me into a giggling fit, maybe because I’ve often wondered the same thing about myself. Do people get tired of seeing my updates on facebook? Do they cringe when they see that little gavatar of mine pop up into their line of vision? When I publish a new blog post on facebook do they moan and groan, and want to stick their head in a sock? Do they hide me from their news feeds? Or do they simply ignore me and go happily on their way ‘cause let’s face it I’m just not all that fascinating? 😉

As with anything in life we have to find a balance. Deciding what that balance will be isn’t as easy as it might sound. Finding the perfect balance, the one that will make everyone happy is impossible. Just as we cannot satisfy all the readers of our books, neither can we all agree on how much social networking is enough.

The interesting thing about my friend’s comment the other evening was, although we are mutual friends of this same author, this author’s presence on facebook and twitter has never annoyed me. I enjoy seeing what this particular author is up to. So there you go. A perfect example.. I did say perfect, didn’t I?

What I take notice of more often are those people whom we never hear boo from until they have a book about to be released then they’re all over the place promoting and wanting us to support their work. I come from a small Nova Scotia community where we like to support people we know. I’m more willing to spend my money buying books from author’s whom I feel I know. Getting to *know* an author through social media takes time, and a certain amount of interaction on the author’s part. Putting posts and updates out there and then disappearing might not be enough. What I do know is that getting to know an author through social networking has certainly prompted me to buy books in the past so I guess it works. Most of us like to support those we know and like.

Perhaps I’m more of a social butterfly, but I do like interacting with my facebook friends. And nothing tickles me down to my toes more than getting to know people through facebook, twitter, and my blog. I’ve met some pretty nice folks these past few years. Now, I know all this social interacting is time consuming, and we can’t spend all of our waking hours getting to know people. Well, we easily could, but other important areas of our lives would certainly suffer like our family, our jobs, our writing life. And let’s not forget, in order to call ourselves writers we do actually have to write. In a perfect world we could stretch a day out for a long as we needed to get everything done, but we already agreed that perfection is a very subjective thing.

So I’m wondering how the rest of your feel.

Do you have people on your facebook and twitter who make themselves too visible? Or do you think it’s every author’s right to promote their books in whatever way they see fit and the rest of us need to accept it and get on with it? And have you found a balance when it comes to your own social networking time?

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