Category Archives: blogging tools

Are ya’ PINNED yet?

 

In my mother’s teen years, if you got “pinned” you received a pin from your boyfriend and were going steady.  It might be from his frat house, one of his clubs, or a pin from his letterman’s jacket. The pin proved YOU were the one he chose above all the other girls and he was willing to publically display his commitment.

In “The Telephone Hour” in Bye Bye Birdie they sing about the teenage ritual of getting pinned.

Have you heard about Hugo and Kim?
Did they really get pinned?
Did she kiss him and cry?
Did he pin the pin on?
Or was he too shy?
Well, I heard they got pinned
Yeah! Yeah!
I was hopin’ they would!
Oho!
Now they’re livin’ at last,
Goin’ steady for good!

cool tools 008

Pinterest is the same thing, only different. It’s a Cool Tool that can improve your blogging.

Today getting pinned still means you were chosen – picked out of a crowd.  Someone liked your idea and displayed it in their inspirational corner of cyberspace – Pinterest.

If you’re not a crafty, kitcheny person, you might think it’s a waste of time. Think again. There’s an explosion of talent, ideas and inspiration useful to everyone.

I know, I know, one more thing to learn.  One more thing to take time away from everything else you don’t have time for. 

image

One more thing to drive traffic to your blog.

In case you can’t read that little number, in the short time that I’ve limped along learning how to pin, 638 people have clicked to my blog from Pinterest.

I blogged for years before I added social media to my writing life.  My blog grew slowly. Followers were added one at a time by visiting blogs, leaving comments and creating relationships.  Some of these women became true friends and I’ve even met them in person. It’s been such a blessing! This is the best foundation for a blog, good internet relationships.

However, when you are trying to build a platform as a writer, you need to increase your audience.

I created a Facebook author page in February and started Pinterest in the spring. Prior to this,  I had been using my personal Facebook page to promote blog posts, so the stats aren’t just from this year.

The impact social media can have on your blog traffic can’t be denied.

 

You can create a board for the various topics areas you write about. When you pin from your blog, the title of the blog is in bold print and you can add a one-liner to entice the browsers to learn more. When people click on the image, it will lead them to your post.

If people like your visuals, they will pin them into their own Pinterest boards.  You get pinned and sometimes repinned. Being on Pinterest will also inspire you to have great visuals in your blog posts, visuals  worthy of being pinned.

.

(Each icon is hyperlinked to a blog post.)

image        image        image

MARRIAGE

 

image         image          image

PARENTING

 

image           image          image

INSPIRATION

          image           image      image

WRITING   INSPIRATION

image     image    image

COOL TOOLS FORBLOGGING

There’s a lot of great bloggers out there, but having Pinterest-worthy visuals could give you an advantage in driving traffic your way.

Are ya’ PINNED yet?

WHWButton#2

Upload Blog Photos Easily with Photo Gallery

If you’re already  blogging and uploading digital pictures for visuals, you might ignore this post.

DON’T DO THAT!

I mean, “Please, don’t do that.” I do have some manners.

A few free Microsoft programs have changed my blogging life.

 image

I used pictures, but they weren’t  enhanced, bordered, or watermarked. There were few options for fonts or headings.  My blogs were pretty boring.

I’ve already blogged about Staying a Live Writer, giving you 9 great reasons to blog with Live Writer, and Picture Your Blog with Live Writer, showing easy ways to enhance your pictures.

Amsterdam View

You can Piece Together a Photo Panorama using the tutorial I gave you using Live Photo Gallery.

cool tools 008

Today’s Cool Tool will again focus on Live Photo Gallery.  I know it’s already Thursday and you were looking for my advice yesterday, but life happens.  Oh, you didn’t even notice I was off schedule?  Why am I such a Tryhard then?

Photo Gallery is a free photo organizer  to view, manage, share, and edit digital photos and videos.  The compatibility with Windows Live Writer will prove there is always a Happily Ever After.

image

If you tag your pictures right after you upload them, it’s easy to find them.  I know, I keep nagging myself to do that, too. You can also retrieve according to person, location, subject.  It’s like tagging a blog post.

image

Click on the pic to go to Microsoft website to download Photo Gallery.  Gotta’ love the FREE part.

image

Start in My Pictures and decide which pictures you want to use in your blog post. Then click on image to open up Photo Gallery.

image

I edit pics usually by adjusting detail, color and contrast. There are many fun options, click around and explore.

image

When I was done, highlighted them all, CONTROL A.

They should all be blue, but you shouldn’t be blue in the face at this point, it’s that easy.

image

Look for this little icon under the CREATE tab and click it. It opens a new draft in Live Writer and drops your photos in.

image

You’re one click away from completion, choose if you want your pics in the post
or in an album.

Back in the day when I was uploading directly in Blogger or WordPress, I could only upload one at a time and then could barely move them around.  It was so frustrating.

Upload four pictures at a time?  Piece of cake!

image

The new blog post was created with the four pictures dropped in order.

image

Now you can jazz them up even more with the options in Live Writer.  I LOVE using  the watermark feature. It makes me feel like a Big Girl Blogger.

image

I take so many pics, I can forget what I planned for a blog post.   It helps to edit pics and drop them into a draft after I dump the pics off my camera.

Microsoft’s Photo Gallery a free and simple way to store, edit, and upload your pictures.  This TOOL will make your life COOL.

Put the Grammar Girl in Your Writing Toolbox

 

Many writers were weirdos in high school, the kids who got their high underlining the noun once and the verb twice. I hated dissecting stuff, (Sorry, Dad, you probably figured out I wasn’t really sick that day you dissected frogs in your Biology class) but enjoyed tearing apart a sentence and diagraming it.  I didn’t even ask why we had to learn it.  I did it just because I could.

We weirdos also did our homework in study hall, duh, so we could read for hours at home.  We even liked helping others with their homework.  We also were slightly obsessive about grades.  If we received an A-, we didn’t see the “A” we saw the “-“.

Now the stakes are higher.  We aren’t writing for a tired teacher with too many papers to grade, so will skim ours and give us an “A”, we’re writing in public.  We’re writing blog posts, social media blurbs, articles and books.  Those grammar rules so articulately spittled by my teachers in high school  slowly decayed into blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah in my brain.

I’m forgetting. It’s easier to restructure my sentences than try to use a semi-colon.  What if I use it incorrectly?  Would it effect my blog stats or ruin the affect of my social media presence if I used affect/effect incorrectly?  Answer me now, are you dying to get to the comment section to correct me?

cool tools 008

I know some of my readers hang on the edge of their seats, bite their nails to the quick, writhe in agony, and pace the floor waiting for another Cool Tool to inspire their writing and make them geniuser, or would that be more genius?

Today, I introduce my new BFF, a girl who made being smart totally cool.  She critiques my writing, reminds me to use visuals , and smiles at me all the time.  We’re just like thisFingers crossed. Yep, there’s nothing better than a BFF, even when you’ve been out of high school for, well, a few decades. 

 

image

So, here is my secret grammar weapon Cool Tool, Mignon Fogarty, The Grammar Girl.

Actually, she’s not really my BFF, we’re only Facebook friends. 

Well, not exactly Facebook friends, because she didn’t like me back, but I  liked her.  But, I’m pretty sure if we’d ever had study hall or English class together we’d be BFF,  even though I’m old enough to be her teacher.

She combines English Teacher and Social Media to take the pain out of learning to whom we could affect with our improper language and punctuation, usage and not make the mistakes our English teachers warned us of.

(Click on graphic to find article.)

image

Doesn’t your heart pound in admiration and envy when you hear someone correctly use whom?  Now I can speak English betterer!

She covers word usage like gray/grey, affect/effect and lay/lie. Since my husband once told me he needs a wench on the front of his Jeep, I sent him her advice on using wench/winch.

image

The one we wish everybody would read, the tutorial on apostrophes and plurals.

Seriously, peoples, get those apostrophe’s  and plurales straight!

image

Endless worksheets didn’t eliminate the need to review those simple punctuation rules.

image

If  you’re a Word Nerd, her articles about the origination of words are worth losing sleep over. (Note to self – Check her website to see if we can end a sentence with a preposition yet.)

She defines Ghost Words as “words that weren’t real to begin with—they came about because of an error or misunderstanding—but they made it into the dictionary anyway.”

And since I’ve outgrown that high school obsession of not sharing my friends, you can be Grammar Girl’s BFF, too.  Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and YouTube.

 

image

And since we’ve outgrown passing notes, you can sign up for her newsletter.

image

If you keep up with the modern generation, check out her podcasts.  Now my daughter has a brilliant substitute teacher for her homeschool English course.

If you miss homework, buy her books.

 image  image   image  image

 

Make sure you add the Grammar Girl to your Cool Tools Toolbox. She’s your grammar’s BFF.

Free Tool to Keep Writing Dynamic

 

Writers are busy people.  We’re busy drinking coffee, avoiding phone calls and trying to recapture the brilliant thoughts of inspiration we had while falling asleep or waking up.

“Writer” isn’t a static title, it’s a dynamic lifestyle.  The gift and talent must be cultivated to grow. If you’re a writer, it may go dormant for a season, but it will never die. 

And since most writers are also avid readers, that time issue comes into play.  There isn’t enough time in the day to write all the stories, blogs and novels swirling around in our heads, nor is there enough time to read all the books stacked on the floor in front of overflowing bookcases and on the nightstand.  And I’m telling you to study the craft of writing?  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.

 

cool tools 008

This week’s Cool Tool will come right to your inbox.  You won’t have to work for it or look for it. You can read it in your pj’s, nobody will ever know. It will be our little secret.

morning coffee 004

It pairs very well with coffee. Yes, my desk is always messy.  I used to be a Neat Freak, can you believe it?  Me neither, or would that be either?  I haven’t finished that cup of coffee yet, so the neurons aren’t firing and I’m having a hard time staying on track.

 

image

Ready for the Cool Tool that’s free and easy?  Writer’s Digest Newsletter, by Brian A. Klems, Online Editor. He’s smart, he’s funny, he learns me a lot of stuff. Smile  Even grammar. Read other articles here.

image

It gets even better. When you follow the link to their website, you find other FREE stuff. Writers like FREE stuff because we don’t make a lot of money. Sure, we dream about buying a lake home, a boat, or paying some bills, but usually only writers we write about make a lot of money.

image

The newsletter includes a weekly writing prompt, as well as other resources, workshops and webinars, when you’re ready to financially invest in learning the craft.

image

I’ve almost finished my coffee and my blog so I’m almost ready for the day.  Whether you’ve finished your coffee or not, click here to register for this Cool Tool, the Writer’s Digest Newsletter. It will cultivate your gift and keep your writing life dynamic.

 

National Geographic Cool Tool

Between traveling and  mourning, I’ve taken some time off from blogging.  Now, I’m having a hard time getting back into routine.

cool tools 008

My Cool Tools are  easy-peasy and free ways to improve your writing.  Today’s tool is almost free, it cost me a quarter. In today’s day and age, a quarter is almost free, so I’m gunna’ show ya’ what I’m enjoying.

 

July 97 NG Roman Empire1

These gold-covered magazines that fill shelves at thrift store are my secret research weapon.  In fact, some thrift stores won’t even take them anymore.  Their loss.  They’re one of my favorite ways to learn  history.  I get all the words and the pictures I need from a reliable source, all in one package somebody else didn’t want.

Of course, like the rest of the plugged-in world, I love the internet and can waste hours researching.  Sometimes I end up researching things I didn’t even know existed, or things I didn’t know I needed to know, and things I didn’t know I was interested in until I got lost on a mouse-clicking bunny trail. I have been known to forget to look at what I intentionally started researching…

Anyhoo, my current WIP (work in progress) takes place in Rome, so I’ve been catching up on history.  I had to make a special trip to the thrift store that has stacks of these golden beauties.  YEA!

Augustus
A beautiful marble bust of Augustus, with a succinct explanation of Pax Romana.

July 97 NG Roman Empire 
How can you describe where your characters are walking, shopping and bathing,  unless you have an accurate map of the city and the buildings from that time period?

 

Roman Woman bust 
Of course, women’s fashion is always crucial to the story of any time period.  Oh my, now I have to figure out how they made those Medusa like ringlet curls without an electric curling iron.

 

Dec 53 NG Jericho1

The December 1953 issues featured the archeology of Jericho, the oldest known city at the time of publication. It supplied some valuable information on how people lived during early Bible times, and although this timeline shows it was several hundred years before the founding of Rome and the eventual conquering by Rome, it still gave me a feel for the climate and the terrain.  Bunny trails don’t happen only when researching online!

Dec 53 NG Jericho

You know how you can’t always trust Internet sources?   No need to research the resource, you know National Geographic is reliable.

Coke Ad Dec. 531

Click on the page to read it fully.  Paragraph 9 states:

“Our expedition hoped to illustrate the Bible’s account with confirmation of the town’s destruction by the Israelites.  Literary evidence points to a date somewhere between 1400 and 1250 B.C. for the collapse of the wall before the Israelite assault.

Jericho  NG December 1953

You may click to enlarge the pic, but the text reads as follows:

“At least 35 centuries old when Joshua conquered Jericho, these sculptured heads were found beneath a Neolithic ruin in the oldest known walled town.”

Not if Joshua conquered Jericho, but when. They state it as a fact. This made me love my old National Geographics even more!

Jericho NG December 1953

National Geographic has always been known for their talented photographers. Arab women at Elisha’s Fountain.

Kodak Ad 1953

I especially love the old ads. 

Coke Ad Dec. 53

Who doesn’t love the old Coca-Cola Christmas ads from the back cover?

Jerusalem  NG April 1996

So, there ya’ go.  National Geographic is today’s Cool Tool that will make your research golden.

 

 

 

How to Make It Easy for Pinners to Visit Your Blog

Last week my guest blogger, Kim Vandel, introduced the Pin It Bookmarklet. It was awesome to learn a new Cool Tool by reading my own blog!  Gentle Readers, today she has a tip in using Pinterest to gain readers, not just pinners. 

imageKim Vandel is a writer and voracious reader from the Seattle suburbs, and she’s the Public Relations Coordinator for Northwest Christian Writers Association. She recently became a finalist in the 2013 Cascades Writing Contest in the Unpublished Young Adult fiction category. You can find her at kimvandel.com.

cool tools 008

Most writers want more readers, but the question is how to draw those readers to our blog or website. There are so many blogs out there that it can be hard to get noticed.

One of the reasons I joined Pinterest was the chance to connect with my target audience. Pinterest boards are a simple but effective way to share my point of view with potential readers. What do I mean by point of view? I’m talking about how I see the world. My interests. The things that grab my attention. The things that make me laugh. People who connect with my point of view are more likely to be interested in what I have to say and check out my blog.

I created a board for my blog when I joined Pinterest, but it wasn’t exactly a success. In other words, I didn’t have any referrals from Pinterest. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Discouraging, yes, but I soldiered on. I’m an observer and thinker, and sometimes it takes a while for my ideas to make their way to the surface.

I was getting plenty of likes and repins of my quotes, but I didn’t like the fact that Quozio and Pinstamatic were getting the credit. I want people to find me and my blog, not a quote-making website, so I decided to try another tactic. Instead of posting a quote straight to Pinterest, I downloaded it to my computer and then uploaded it to my board. A better option, but all the pin said was that I uploaded the quote.

Then I found my new best friend, the Pin It Bookmarklet. I could pin from pretty much anywhere, so why not my blog? Instead of uploading those quotes to Pinterest, I started adding them to the Media Library on my blog and used my handy-dandy bookmarklet to pin them to my Inspirational Quotes board. Since I started pinning quotes from my blog, I’ve gotten more referrals from Pinterest than anywhere else—Google, WordPress, Facebook, or Twitter.

So my Cool Tool for today is really more of a Cool Tip: How to make it easy for "pinners" to visit your blog.

First you’ll need last week’s Cool Tool, the Pin It Bookmarklet. Then check out Mindy’s blog on turning a quote into a masterpiece if you missed it. Use a site like Recite This that will let you download your quote masterpiece to your computer. (It should automatically go to the "Downloads" folder.)

For WordPress users, you’ll find the Media Library on the sidebar menu of your dashboard.

media 1 (3)

You’ll see two options when your cursor hovers over "Media." Click on "Add New."

media 2 (2)

This will take you to the "Upload Media" page. Click on the "Choose File" button and select the quote you saved in your Downloads folder (Step 1). The name of your file will show up next to the "Choose File" button when you’re done.

media 3

Now click on "Upload" (Step 2).

The next screen will be your Media Library. Three options will appear when your cursor hovers over the title of your quote. Select the "View" option.

media 4

It will take you to a page with your quote.

media 5

Now click on your bookmarklet icon.

pin it 3 (2)

Choose the picture of the quote.

media 6 (3)

The "Create a Pin" window will pop up. Select which board you want to pin your quote to and edit the description if necessary.

media 7 (2)

Here’s the quote on my Pinterest board. It even encourages a visit to my blog!

media 8 (3)

I want to make it as easy as possible for potential readers to find me, and with my blog only a click away, there’s a much better chance they’ll check it out.

Social media can be overwhelming at times. (Or if you’re like me, it’s overwhelming on a daily basis.) Part of social media is figuring out where and how you make the best connection with your readers. It’s a lot of experimenting to find what works for you and what doesn’t. It’s doing a lot of little things that slowly add up to something bigger. Hopefully you now have one more little thing to help you attract readers.

I’d love to hear how this Cool Tip works for you or what Cool Tip you’ve come up with!

Your New Best Friend: The Pin It Bookmarklet

 

I try to stay in tune with the social media trends, but get a little lost.  The world invented itself around me and I don’t see the landscape I grew up in of the 70’s,  console television sets with rabbit ears and 20 pound rotary phones with 20 foot curly cords.  I’m blessed to have friends that are not only great writers, they navigate the world of social media so well, they  make it recognizable and useful to me.

Today’s Cool Tool is brought to you by Kim, a friend with great talent and abilities.  She brings calm to my frantic, wings to my ideas and kindling to my flames of inspiration. After reading her post, I hope you have the same head-slapping reaction I did, “DUH? It’s that easy?!?” 

 

 

imageKim Vandel is a writer and voracious reader from the Seattle suburbs, and she’s the Public Relations Coordinator for Northwest Christian Writers Association. She recently became a finalist in the 2013 Cascades Writing Contest in the Unpublished Young Adult fiction category. You can find her at kimvandel.com.

cool tools 008

For writers, Pinterest is more than a virtual corkboard for recipes and DIY projects. It’s a fantastic way to gather research, collect writing ideas, and find inspiration for both writing and life. If you haven’t tried the Pin It Bookmarklet yet, then get ready to meet your new best friend. This handy little tool lets you pin from almost anywhere you go on the web, so no more despair when you can’t find a "Pin it" button on the page you’ve fallen in love with. You don’t have to bookmark a bunch of pages, and you don’t have to worry about "stealing" pictures or trying to remember where you saw the article you need. The bookmarklet automatically links your pin to the website where you found it.

To get started, go to the Pinterest Goodies page and scroll down to "The Pin It Button." You’ll have two options. If you’re using Google Chrome, select install now.

pin it 1

For other web browsers, select the "Pinterest Bookmarklet" link.

Drag the red "Pin It" button to your toolbar to install the bookmarklet.

pin it 2

When you get done, you’ll see the red Pinterest icon on your toolbar. That means you’re ready to pin!

pin it 3

I’ll give you an example of how it works. I found a picture I wanted to add to my Visual Writing Prompts board, so I clicked on the icon. It gave me several picture options from the page. The "Pin it" button appeared when my cursor hovered over the picture.

pin it 4

When I clicked on the button, a window popped up, and I was able to choose which board I wanted to pin the picture to. I also had the option of editing the description.

pin it 5

I then clicked on the red "Pin it" button, and the picture was added to my board with a link back to the website.

pin it 6

My Visual Writing Prompts board is one of my favorites. I’m a speculative writer (fantasy, science fiction, etc) and some pictures instantly spark a story idea for me. Other pictures, like the one in my example, provide inspiration for an idea I already have. It helps me visualize the futuristic world I want to create, and I’ll be able to come back to the image when it’s time to describe the setting. Studying the details—the sense of speed, the play of light against dark—will allow me to create a vivid picture in the reader’s imagination.

Maybe you don’t need to build a futuristic story world. That’s okay. (I won’t hold it against you.) Whatever you write—fiction or non-fiction, blog articles or epic novels—the Pin It Bookmarklet will give you the freedom to roam the web and gather inspiration and ideas wherever you find them. So get pinning already!